The latest studies that impact your health.
By Jill Case
Using Your E-Reader in the Hours Before Bedtime Can Adversely Impact Your Health
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a study comparing the biological effects of reading a printed book versus a light-emitting e-reader (LE-eBook). The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed reading e-readers in the hours before you go to sleep can adversely affect your overall health, as well as your alertness. It also affects your circadian clock, the mechanism in your body that synchronizes the daily rhythm of your sleep to external environmental time cues.
“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short- wavelength-enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” says Anne-Marie Chang, an associate neuroscientist in Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, and corresponding author. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.”
The researchers say these findings are important because the light from the devices has a very powerful effect on the body’s sleeping and waking patterns. Therefore, it may play a part in causing sleep deficiency.
“In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality,” says Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the BWH Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Since more people are choosing electronic devices for reading, communication and entertainment, particularly children and adolescents who already experience significant sleep loss, epidemiological research evaluating the long-term consequences of these devices on health and safety are urgently needed.”
Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Light- emitting e-readers before bedtime can adversely impact sleep.” ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com/releas- es/2014/12/141222131348.htm, accessed Jan. 22, 2015.
Working More Than 48 Hours a Week Makes People More Likely to Engage in Risky Alcohol Consumption
A new study published in the British Medical Journal states employees who work more than 48 hours per week are more likely to participate in risky alcohol use than people who work a standard 35- to 40-hour week.
Consuming more than 14 drinks per week for women and 21 drinks per week for men is considered to be risky. Drinking this much alcohol has been linked to increased risk for cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, liver diseases and mental disorders. This extensive study involved a cross section of 333,693 people from 14 countries, and the findings showed
longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11 percent. There were no differences noted between men and women, or in people of different ages or socioeconomic status.
The European Union Working Time Directive (EUWT) is trying to protect the workforce’s health and safety by ensuring that workers in EU countries have the right to work no more than 48 hours a week, including overtime. The study’s findings seem to provide support for this idea.
Source: British Medical Journal. “Long working hours linked to increased risky alcohol use.” ScienceDaily,sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150113204339.htm, accessed Jan. 22, 2015.
Withdrawing From Your Partner During Conflicts Could be Hurting Your Relationship
A study in Psychological Assessment, the journal of the American Psychological Association, found withdrawing when you have a conflict with your partner can be harmful to your relationship.
Keith Sanford, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, says withdrawal is “a defensive tactic that people use when they feel they are being attacked, and there’s a direct association between withdrawal and lower satisfaction overall with the relationship.”
He also says withdrawing when your partner criticizes you or complains is “more characteristic of unhappiness. Just about everyone does that from time to time, but you see more of that in distressed relationships.”
In addition, Sanford notes the research found that people were more likely to say they withdrawal if they are bored, disinterested or apathetic.
“There’s a desire to maintain autonomy, control and distance,” he says, adding that the research does not offer a solution. “It’s an issue both of being aware of when these behaviors are occurring and of finding an alternative, a more constructive, polite approach to resolve conflict. And at times, that’s easier said than done.” Source: Baylor University. “Couples’ conflicts: Withdrawal or expecting your romantic partner to mind-read hurts relationships, but in different ways.” ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150107131342.htm, accessed Jan. 23, 2015.
Step on the Scale Once a Week to Avoid Weight Gain
There are many different opinions about how often you should weigh yourself, but a new study in PLOS ONE found what may be the best answer. The research found that the more dieters weighed in, the more weight they lost. Research also showed participants in the study who went more than one week without weighing in gained weight.
While the study was observational and can’t prove causation, researchers found the average time their participants could go between weigh-ins without gaining weight was 5.8 days. In a previous study, the same research team found people’s weight naturally fluctuates throughout the week, and that most people weigh the least on Wednesday, so that might be the best day for a weekly weigh-in.
“The bottom line is: If you want to lose weight, it’s best to weigh yourself every day. But if you weigh yourself only once a week, do it on Wednesday because that will give you the most accurate reading,” says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design: Mind Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.
Source: Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “Weigh-in once a week or you’ll gain weight.” ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141217171430.htm, accessed Jan. 23, 2015.
Even if You Exercise, Sitting for Long Periods Increases Your Risk of Disease and Death
Sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health. A new review study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found the amount of time you sit each day is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even death, even if you get regular exercise.
“More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary—sitting, watching television or working at a computer,” says Dr. David Alter, senior scientist at Toronto Rehab, University Health Network and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk of heart disease.”
The study did find that the risks are more pronounced for people who do little or no exercise than for those who participate in higher amounts of exercise.
“The findings suggest that the health risk of sitting too much is less pronounced when physical activity is increased,” says Avi Biswas, lead author of the study. “We need further research to better understand how much physical activity is needed to offset the health risks associated with long sedentary time and optimize our health.”
Alter wants people to understand that it’s important to get exercise and avoid being sedentary, but simply exercising for 30 minutes a day is not enough if the remaining 23 and a half hours are sedentary. He suggests people try to decrease the amount of time they spend being sedentary by two to three hours in a 12- hour day.
“The first step is to monitor sitting times. Once we start counting, we’re more likely to change our behavior,” Alter says. “Next is setting achievable goals and finding opportunities to incorporate greater physical activity—and less time sitting—into your daily life. For example, at work, stand up or move for one to three minutes every half hour, and when watching television, stand or exercise during commercials.” Source: University Health Network and newswise.com.