If you want to quit smoking, just do it rather than cutting down gradually

Research shows likelihood of successfully quitting smoking is 25 per cent higher if you go ‘cold turkey’ than if you cut down bit by bit. Also in the news: maple syrup may ward off Alzheimer’s

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 1:56pm

Smokers who go “cold turkey” are more likely to quit smoking than those who try to gradually wean themselves off tobacco, according to research by Oxford University. Nearly 700 smokers who wanted to stop smoking were recruited. They were split into two groups: an “abrupt cessation” group (set a quit day and stopped all smoking on that day) or a “gradual cessation” group (set a quit day but gradually reduced their tobacco use in the two weeks leading up to that date). Both groups had advice and support and access to nicotine patches and nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine gum or mouth spray. Once quit day had passed, the study participants were assessed weekly for the next four weeks, and after six months. As well as asking them about how they were doing, the researchers measured the amount of carbon monoxide they were breathing out – an objective way to check whether people were actually sticking to their quit plan. At four weeks, 39 per cent of the gradual cessation group had kept off tobacco, compared to 49 per cent of the abrupt cessation group, meaning that the abrupt group were 25 per cent more likely to quit.

If you have a younger sibling, there’s less chance you’ll become obese

Becoming a big brother or big sister before they start primary school may lower a child’s risk of becoming obese, a new study led by the University of Michigan suggests. Researchers analysed 697 children across the United States, and found the birth of a sibling, especially when the child was between about two and four years old, was associated with a healthier body mass index by the time they started school. One possible explanation, the authors speculate, could be that parents may change the way they feed their child once a new sibling is born. With children developing long-lasting eating habits at about three years old, changing dietary habits may have a significant impact. The authors also note that children may engage in more “active play” or less sedentary time in front of screens once a younger sibling is born, contributing to healthier body mass indices. “If the birth of a sibling changes behaviours within a family in ways that protect against obesity, these may be patterns other families can try to create in their own homes,” says senior author Dr Julie Lumeng, a developmental and behavioural paediatrician. “Better understanding the potential connection between a sibling and weight may help health providers and families create new strategies for helping children grow up healthy.”

Could a pure maple syrup extract be tapped for better brain health?

Extracts of maple syrup from Canada have been shown to have neuroprotective effects in two new studies presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. While the tests were only preliminary and done on laboratory animals, the researchers say real maple syrup shows promise as a functional food for protecting brain cells against the kind of damage found in Alzheimer’s disease. One study, by the University of Toronto, found that an extract of maple syrup may help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells – beta amyloid and tau peptide. When cellular proteins fold improperly and clump together, they accumulate and form the plaque that is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. The second study, led by the University of Rhode Island, showed that a pure maple syrup extract prevented the fibrillation (tangling) of beta amyloid proteins and exerted neuroprotective effects in rodent’s microglial brain cells. Scientists have found that a decrease in microglial brain cell function is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.