HEALTH BITES

India’s deadly air pollution almost as bad as China’s, causing 1.1 million premature deaths per annum, says new US study

Storing fat around your middle could indicate proclivity for serious health conditions; and losing weight might be easier in colder weather

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 5:02pm

India’s air now rivals China’s as the world’s deadliest, according to a new study published on Tuesday, amid warnings that efforts to curb pollution from coal will not yield results any time soon.

India’s notoriously poor air quality causes nearly 1.1 million premature deaths every year, almost on a par with China, concluded a joint report by two US-based health research institutes. But whereas deaths linked to air pollution in China have steadied in recent years, the rate has soared in India, where smog readings in major cities routinely eclipse safe exposure levels.

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India has recorded a nearly 50 per cent increase in early deaths linked to fine airborne particles known as PM2.5 between 1990 and 2015, the report found. These microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs, and have been linked to higher rates of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and heart disease.

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“India now approaches China in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5,” said the report, by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Together, the two Asian giants accounted for more than half of all global deaths related to PM2.5 exposure, the report said.

Agence France-Presse

Genetic tendency to belly fat could mean higher risk of type 2 diabetes

People who are genetically predisposed to storing belly fat, or having an apple-shaped body type, could face a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The study in the Journal of the American Medical Associationsuggests a person’s genetic make-up may cause health problems down the road.

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“People vary in their distribution of body fat – some put fat in their belly, which we call abdominal adiposity, and some in their hips and thighs,” said senior author Sekar Kathiresan, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “We tested whether genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity was associated with the risk for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease and found that the answer was a firm yes.” Previous observational studies have uncovered a link between belly fat and type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but fell short of proving cause and effect.

To investigate further, researchers examined six studies conducted from 2007 to 2015, including some 400,000 participants whose genomes were analysed. Previous research had identified 48 gene variants associated with waist-to-hip ratio, resulting in a genetic risk score. They found that people with certain genes that predisposed them to higher waist-to-hip ratio also had higher lipids, insulin, glucose and systolic blood pressure, as well as a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“These results illustrate the power of using genetics as a method of determining the effects of a characteristic like abdominal adiposity on cardiometabolic outcomes,” said lead author Connor Emdin, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. Since researchers did not find any links between body type, genetic risk score and confounding factors such as diet and smoking, that “provides strong evidence that abdominal adiposity itself contributes to causing type 2 diabetes and heart disease”, he added.

Emdin said the findings could one day lead to the development of drugs designed to target belly fat, and perhaps lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Agence France-Presse

Study links colder weather to successful weight loss

Freezing temperatures are no excuse to give up on fitness. As it turns out, you might stand a better chance of losing weight when it’s cold. A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that people trying to shed pounds had the best results when the temperature dropped. The more inhospitable the weather, the more conscientious people became about keeping track of their meals and calories.

“Climate-related factors can directly change a person’s behaviour, and these factors can have a certain impact on intentional efforts to lose weight,” said Sang Youl Rhee, who led the research team at Kyung Hee University Medical Centre in Seoul. “In addition, various climatic factors can lead to a significant change in the level of energy expenditure in the body.”

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Researchers tracked the weight loss of 3,274 people under 42 throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia with Noom Coach, a fitness app that can pinpoint the location of users. They then used a meteorology service, called Weather Underground API, to monitor conditions, and discovered that colder temperatures and lower dew points as well as higher wind speed and precipitation were all linked to the app users’ weight loss.

On average, people logged into Noom 110 days during the year-long study, or roughly every three days. Men tended to use the app more frequently than women and were more likely to lose weight. People who logged their meals regularly, especially dinner, lost the most weight.

Other studies have explored the relationship between cooler temperatures and burning fat, including one in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism that said spending time in the cold can boost calorie burn by up to 30 per cent. Yet those studies primarily examined the molecular breakdown of fat, not the behavioural connection between temperature and weight loss.

The Washington Post