LAB REPORT

Brief binges on fatty foods can cause health problems, 'breath prints' and stomach cancer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 April, 2015, 6:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 April, 2015, 6:05am

Even a short indulgence has consequences

Just a few days of eating fatty foods can cause significant changes to your body. In a new study in the journal Obesity, researchers from Virginia Tech university found that even only five days on a high-fat diet alters how muscle metabolises nutrients, which could lead to long-term problems such as weight gain or obesity. Healthy college-age students were fed a diet of about 55 per cent fat that included sausage biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and food loaded with butter. Their overall caloric intake remained the same as it was prior to the high-fat diet. Although the students did not gain weight or have any signs of insulin resistance initially, the manner in which the muscle metabolised glucose was altered. Eventually, the body could be unable to respond to insulin - a risk factor for diabetes.

Breath can be used to find potential stomach cancer

With an exhaled breath, a new technology can accurately identify changes in the body that could herald the development of stomach cancer. In the study, published in the gastroenterology journal Gut, two breath samples were taken from 484 people, about one-fifth of whom were diagnosed with stomach cancer. The first breath sample was analysed for volatile organic compounds. It turns out that patients with cancer have different "breath prints" to people without the disease. The second sample was subjected to the new technology known as nanoarray analysis. This was able to accurately distinguish between the different pre-cancerous stages, marking out a patient's risk of developing gastric cancer.

A large trial involving thousands of patients, including those with stomach cancer or pre-cancerous changes, is under way in Europe to test the technology's suitability as a screening method, one of the researchers says. But it is not completely accurate, so more work is needed before it is ready to be used in clinics.

Divorcées and risk of heart attack

Divorced women suffer heart attacks at higher rates than women who stay married, reveals a new study from Duke Medicine. (Duke University is in Durham, North Carolina, in the US.) A woman who has been through two or more divorces is nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with their female peers in stable marriages. And even if women remarry after the stress of divorce, their heart attack risk remains elevated.

The findings were based on the responses of a nationally representative group of 15,827 people aged from 45 to 80 who had been married at least once. Participants were interviewed every two years from 1992 to 2010 about their marital status and health. About one-third of participants were divorced at least once during the 18-year study.