Weird but not always wonderful, these quirky health insights could benefit your wellbeing, says Helen Foster.
Exercising on a treadmill could cause diabetes; US doctors are sewing patches onto dieters’ tongues to help them beat the bulge; and faecal transplantation could be a lifesaving treatment – these are just some of the quirky health news items that have made us shout ‘WHAT?’ recently. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Electricity could trigger diabetes
A study by Dr Magda Havas from Canada’s Trent University found that when diabetics exercised outside their blood sugar went down – as it should do. But when they worked out on treadmills it actually went up. She believes that in sensitive people electricity could reduce the amount of insulin produced or change its molecular shape, reducing its ability to bind to the receptors it needs to enter to work.
Havas now believes some forms of electricity could be contributing to a form of diabetes she’s naming Type III. “Erring on the low side, it could affect three percent of diabetics. But if values are similar to those suffering symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity, it could be responsible for 35 per cent of cases,” she says. Havas suggests diabetics reduce their exposure to devices that give off so-called ‘dirty’ electricity, which include plasma TVs, dimmer switches, and compact fluorescent light bulbs and see what happens to their blood sugar levels.
A tongue patch may help you lose weight
US dieters are having patches sewn onto their tongues to stop them eating. It’s called the Chugay Tongue Patch and the idea is that the postage-stamp-sized patch makes chewing quite uncomfortable. Dieters who are using it stick to a liquid diet that not only makes them shed weight fast, but also helps them break bad eating habits that they’ve fallen into. Ouch!
Twitter might be affecting your brain
If you’ve ever had a Twitter feed running on your computer you’ll know it moves fast. In fact, much of the time you don’t have time to read the information before it’s gone.
You might think this doesn’t matter, but scientists beg to differ. They’ve identified a problem called ‘divided attention disorder’, which sees us losing our ability to concentrate for any length of time and blames the constant quick interaction of things like Twitter for its development. “The human brain is efficient. The neural pathways we exercise get stronger, the ones we don’t weaken. As our use of the Net intensifies, we can assume that we’re training our brains to become adept at skimming, surfing and multitasking, but sacrifice our facility for attentiveness,” says technology researcher Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember.
A good sports bra protects your joints
New research from the UK’s University of Portsmouth found that if runners’ breasts aren’t supported, their body weight sways to the side as their breasts move during a run.
Researchers found this interferes with the way you stride, causing you to land more heavily than normal. This sends an impact up through the body stressing the joints.
The good news is that a supportive sports bra changes everything.
Computers are altering the appearance of our face
According to British skincare guru Dr Michael Prager, staring at a computer screen is not only likely to cause wrinkles between your eyebrows as you squint, but he’s also seeing increasing numbers of women getting early onset facial sagging caused by computer use. The reason is that if your screen isn’t set at the right height and you look down upon it, “the neck muscles shorten and go saggy which eventually gives you a second chin”, he explains. Prager suggests ensuring your monitor is at a height where you’re staring straight at it – not looking down.
An asthma detector may prevent an attack
There’s a device out there that can detect if an asthma attack is going to take place – the day before it does. The new gizmo, created by Siemens, measures levels of a gas called nitrogen monoxide in the breath. This indicates the presence of inflammation in the lungs. “At this point there is no asthma attack present, but an external trigger like cold air might start one,” says Dr Maximilian Fleischer from the company, which hopes serious asthma sufferers will use the device to help fine-tune their preventative medication, stopping attacks before they start.
Not having babies is making our skulls thicker
According to a team of researchers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, the width of one part of the average female skull is increasing.
The part in question is located just between our eyes, and it’s believed growth here is triggered by increased exposure to oestrogen. Looking at nearly 1000 female skulls, the Tel Aviv team found that thickening of the skull is now 50 per cent more common than it was 100 years ago.
Exactly what harm this is doing to our body – if any – isn’t known for sure, but high levels of oestrogen are being linked to fertility problems, rising breast cancer rates and hormonal problems like PMS.
We can’t do much about the number one reason why exposure has risen (we’re not having as many pregnancies or breastfeeding for as long as our ancestors) but you can keep a healthy weight (fat produces oestrogen) and reduce exposure to artificial oestrogens in things like the Pill, tap water or plastic packaging.
Poo might save your life
Imagine, you go into hospital with a severe stomach upset and your doctor calls your siblings, parents, spouse or children and asks them to donate faeces which is then mixed with water and transplanted into your system via an enema. Within 24 hours you’re feeling better. It sounds gruesome, but Professor Thomas Borody from the Centre for Digestive Diseases in Sydney is just one of the doctors around the world using the technique to treat conditions caused by an infection by the superbug Clostridium difficile (CD). It works because the faeces contains good bacteria that rebalances the bacterial flora “and it makes antibiotic-like molecules which eradicate the bacteria causing illness”, he says. Eventually Borody would like to see it as the first line of treatment for infection with CD. “This is a serious infection. In the US, for example, 300 people a day die of it. Yet a single shot of this treatment cures 97 percent of sufferers,” he says.