Oxytocin—known as the “love hormone”—evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security when in the company of a significant other. A new study suggests that individuals with low levels of oxytocin may have less empathy for others. The study included 20 people with medical conditions that cause low levels of oxytocin and 20 healthy individuals. Researchers found that those with low oxytocin levels did much worse on tests of awareness of other people’s feelings. Society for Endocrinology, November 2016
New test may give insights into fetal health.
Experts say that abnormal fetal growth and birth weight are risk factors for chronic diseases later in life. A new study finds urine samples in pregnancy may soon help doctors assess fetal growth and help doctors provide more accurate recommendations for the newborn’s health. Using NMR spectroscopy, researchers identified a panel of ten urinary metabolites in the third trimester of pregnancy linked to greater fetal growth and increased birth weight. The metabolites included steroid hormones and biological building blocks called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that provide energy for the growing fetus. Study co-lead author Dr. Muireann Coen adds, “When we made comparisons with the lifestyle and environmental exposures of the women in our study we found that the variability between BCAA profiles of individual mothers could be partially explained by levels of physical activity, vitamin D, coffee consumption, and smoking exposure, suggesting them to be potential areas of intervention to promote a healthy birth weight.” BMC Medicine, November 2016
Drinking sugary soda daily boosts odds for prediabetes.
Consuming a can of sugary soda every day can dramatically increase an individual’s risk of developing prediabetes, a “warning sign” condition that precedes type-2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed 14 years of data on nearly 1,700 middle-aged adults and found that a person who drinks a daily can of sugar-sweetened beverage has a 46% increased risk of developing prediabetes. Journal of Nutrition, November 2016
Menopause “brain fog” is real.
Women commonly complain of forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly when going through menopause, often referred to as “brain fog.” In a new study, investigators used standard tests to gauge memory skills, along with functional MRI scans to track brain activity, in 200 men and women as they performed memory-focused tasks. The researchers found that women with lower levels of estradiol—a form of estrogen produced by the ovaries that naturally lowers during menopause—performed worse on tests involving memory. Journal of Neuroscience, October 2016
Can high cholesterol cause arthritis?
High cholesterol may harm more than just the cardiovascular system. Using mice, researchers have found that high cholesterol levels trigger mitochondrial oxidative stress on cartilage cells, causing the cells to die, ultimately resulting in the development of osteoarthritis. The research team also found that the development of osteoarthritis slowed when the mice received treatment to lower their cholesterol levels. The FASEB Journal, October 2016
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