HEALTH news in brief

Another reason not to eat on the go, and the bad chemicals in breast milk

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 August, 2015, 8:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 2:30pm

Eating on the go can lead to weight gain

Short of time and eating on the go? Don't do it. A new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology has found that people with this habit may increase their food intake later in the day. University of Surrey researchers examined 60 women who were either dieters or non-dieters and gave them each a cereal bar to eat under three different conditions - while watching television, walking or having a sit-down conversation. Participants then did a taste test involving four different bowls of snacks, including chocolate, carrot sticks, grapes and crisps. Results showed that dieters ate more snacks if they had eaten the initial cereal bar while walking around. "This may be because walking is a powerful form of distraction which disrupts our ability to process the impact eating has on our hunger. Or it may be because walking, even just around a corridor, can be regarded as a form of exercise which justifies overeating later on as a form of reward," says Professor Jane Ogden, the lead author.

Healthy mood spreads through social contact, depression doesn't

Misery loves company, but being in company with misery won't necessarily make you miserable, too. In a new study of more than 2,000 US high school students, researchers from the universities of Manchester and Warwick found that while depression does not "spread", having enough friends with healthy moods can halve the probability of developing, or double the probability of recovering from, depression over a six-to-12-month period. The researchers modelled the spread of mood using similar methods to those used to track the spread of infectious diseases. Dr Thomas House, one of the study authors, says: "This was a big effect. It could be that having a stronger social network is an effective way to treat depression. More work needs to be done, but it may be that we could significantly reduce the burden of depression through cheap, low-risk social interventions."

Breastfeeding may expose infants to toxic chemicals

A widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and interference with immune function appears to build up in infants by 20 to 30 per cent for each month they're breastfed, according to a study co-authored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The chemicals - perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFASs) - are used to make products resistant to water, grease and stains. They've been in use for more than 60 years in products such as stain-proof textiles, waterproof clothing, food packaging, paints and lubricants, and have been found in drinking water near production facilities in the US. These compounds tend to bioaccumulate and can persist for a long time in the body. The researchers followed 81 children born in the Faroe Islands between 1997 and 2000, looking at levels of PFASs in their blood at birth and at 11 months, 18 months and five years. "There is no reason to discourage breastfeeding, but we are concerned that these pollutants are transferred to the next generation at a very vulnerable age," says Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School.