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Sweet-toothed children 'may have depression

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While most children like sweets, those with an extrasweet tooth may be depressed or at higher risk of future alcohol problems, researchers say. The US team report in the journal Addiction that certain children are especially drawn to very sweet tastes. These were children who had a close relative with an alcohol problem or who themselves had symptoms of depression. But it is unclear if the preference for the very sweet is down to genuine chemical differences or upbringing.

Sweets may boost 'reward' chemicals in the brain, experts believe

The researchers say sweet taste and alcohol trigger many of the same reward circuits in the brain. Lead author Julie Mennella said: "We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good. "In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to the intense sweetness due to their underlying biology." Experts say alcoholics tend to have a sweet tooth. But the link is less clear in children. Other US researchers have shown that a preference for the sweetest drinks was found in the ones undergoing growth spurts. In the latest study, the scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center asked 300 children aged five to 12, of whom half had a family member with alcohol dependency, to taste five sweet water drinks containing different amounts of sugar. The children were asked to say which tasted the best and were also asked questions to check for depressive symptoms. A quarter had symptoms that the researchers believed suggested they might be depressed. Sweet tooth Liking for intense sweetness was greatest in the 37 children who had both a family history of alcoholism and reported depressive symptoms. The taste difference may be explained by differences like It may be that even higher levels of sweetness are needed to make depressed children feel better Lead researcher Julie Mennella

but that it was hard to make firm conclusions or generalisations from one study alone. said the findings were interesting. The study. reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. However. which is equivalent to about 14 consumption teaspoons of sugar in a cup of water and more than twice the level of sweetness in a typical cola. . Cardiff University's Professor Tim Jacob. These patients were less worried about financial losses than the normal volunteers they were compared with. the problem is that sweets and sugar are addictive. Taste expert Professor Tim Jacob This was a third more intense than the sweetness level preferred by the other children. because the activation of these reward circuits causes opioid release. and with time more is needed to achieve the same effect. "While it is true that sweet things activate reward circuits in the brain. "But the taste difference may be explained by differences like parental control over sweet consumption.24% sucrose.past studies have suggested sweets may help act as analgesics as well as mood lifters.These children preferred the drink containing the most parental control over sweet sugar . the extra sugar did nothing to the depressed children's pain threshold. The amygdala is associated with fear The scientists say this could translate to how people make decisions in fields ranging from politics to game shows. The researchers then decided to test whether the children's taste difference had any impact on their reaction to pain or discomfort . an expert in smell and taste." Patients with amygdala injury 'unafraid' to gamble Californian scientists think they may have discovered the part of the brain which makes people fear losing money. They found non-depressed children were able to tolerate keeping their hands in very cold water for longer if they had a sugar hit. looked at two patients who had damaged their amygdala. He said the findings could be down to brain chemistry. but might also be explained by behaviour and upbringing. deep within the brain.

you'll win £1 million.000. "The vast majority of people would take the 'loss averse option' and walk away with £500. "You've just answered the £500.000. and losses. It looked at two women who had a rare condition which produced lesions on their amygdalae but no other brain damage. income and education. carried out by scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). such as the monetary loss aversion . you'll drop back to £32. The authors say that a fully functioning amygdala appears to make people more cautious. even when accompanied by equal or much larger gains. The two women were each matched with six control volunteers who had similar age. "It may be that the amygdala controls a very general biological mechanism for inhibiting risky behaviour when outcomes are potentially negative. This is a novel and exciting study. Game behaviour Lead author. Professor of Psychology at Cardiff University "If you get it right. recognising or feeling fear. Gambles The participants were offered a series of gambles to test whether the chance of losing money affected their willingness to gamble.000 question correctly and have moved on to the final question." This study. John Aggleton. Dr Benedetto De Martino. The study found that healthy volunteers would only opt to gamble if the potential gains were one and a half to two times the size of the potential losses. if you get it wrong. The lesions prevented them from perceiving. and afraid of losing money. "You're down to your 50:50 lifeline but don't know the answer. London potential loss was greater than the potential gain. and one sometimes played even if the University College. It may be that the amygdala controls a very general biological mechanism for inhibiting risky behaviour when outcomes are But the patients whose amygdalae were damaged would potentially negative play even if there was a much poorer ratio between gains Dr Benedetto De Martino. set out to find out if the amygdala plays a role in causing loss aversion.'Loss aversion' describes the avoidance of choices which can lead to losses. explains: "Imagine you're on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

If everyone was to achieve . The authors conducted a very elegant and neat experiment. and also in monkey behaviour. who is currently a visiting researcher at University College. writing in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.which shapes our everyday financial decisions. financial markets. said: "This is a novel and exciting study. Gallstones are common but only 30% of cases have symptoms and complications." said Dr Benedetto De Martino. UK researchers have found. said one reason might be reduced cholesterol levels in the bile. "The amygdala is an area of the brain that is important for normal emotional responses and for how we perceive our environment." Exercise 'cuts risk of developing painful gallstones' Doing lots of exercise drastically cuts the risk of developing painful gallstones. London. all of which could contribute to the lowered risk. politics.000 men and women found those who were the most active had a 70% reduced risk of those complaints. They said exercise also raised levels of "good" cholesterol and help improves movement through the gut. Professor of Psychology at Cardiff University. he said. "It plays a subtle role in helping people to learn the attributes of good things and bad things. He added that it was helpful to understand its basic biological mechanisms so that policymakers could design policies to address it. Gallstones are common but some go undetected The team. A University of East Anglia study of 25. It probably derives from "a basic evolutionary defence mechanism". this "loss aversion" disappears. "Most people have been found to have a bias against losses. but this study shows very clearly that when the amygdala is damaged. He pointed out that loss aversion has been shown in many settings including high stakes game show decisions. 'Elegant experiment' John Aggleton.

" Dr Charlie Murray. Moderately active .Sedentary job plus more than 1h exercise daily. Consuming two units a day cuts the chance of developing gallstones by a third. the earlier study showed. .sedentary job. standing job plus 30 min exercise or physical And almost 50. gallstones could be reduced by 70% They worked out that if everyone increased the amount Dr Paul Banim. or physical job with some gastroenterology said: "It is difficult to prove a link between lifestyle and disease but we weren't surprised to exercise see these results. the impossible and do the same amount of exercise as those in the most active category. gallstones could be reduced by 70%. It is thought that around one in three women and one in six men get gallstones at some point in their life but they are more common in older adults. no exercise Moderately inactive . "The study does not however tell us how much exercise is effective in prevention of gallstones as this would require specific recording of exercise activity. nor the mechanism by which exercise is protective. Active . a clinical lecturer at the job plus more than 30 min University of East Anglia and a specialist registrar in exercise. rapid weight loss and some medications. said the study seemed to show a direct protective effect of higher levels of exercise. Other factors which increase the chances of them forming include pregnancy.000 people have to have their job gallbladders removed every year in the UK. "If everyone was to achieve the impossible and do the same amount of exercise as those in the most active category. ACTIVITY LEVELS Inactive . secretary of the British Society of Gastroenterology.sedentary job inflammation and infection and jaundice. plus 1h exercise daily. standing Study leader Dr Paul Banim.Those taking part in the study were split into four groups depending on how much exercise they did and the researchers found that those who did moderate amounts of exercise also had a lower risk of painful symptoms from gallstones than those who were the most inactive. Cholesterol Gallstones form in the gallbladder from bile and are generally made up of hardened cholesterol. Using the same data the researchers had previously discovered that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is protective against gallstones. study leader of exercise they did by one category 17% of gallstones that need medical treatment could be prevented.sedentary Many people who have gallstones may never know they job plus 30 min exercise daily or standing job but no exercise have them but for some they cause severe pain. obesity.

forties and even fifties.including birth abnormalities in the baby. 40s and even 50s can end in an unplanned pregnancy. Aimed at women aged 35 and over."It does however demonstrate that as with the prevention of many disease processes. shocked this has happened to them. There are many reasons why some women opt for an abortion . it is often overplayed FPA Chief Executive Julie Bentley But FPA says its anecdotal evidence suggests some of the abortions are because women wrongly assumed they Readers' comments could not get pregnant because they were too old. the FPA's new campaign 'Conceivable?' reminds women to stay vigilant about unplanned pregnancy and to keep using contraception until after the menopause if they do not wish to become pregnant. figures for England and Wales show. "Our helpline receives calls from such women. both of these groups had an abortion rate of four per 1. Although fertility does wane. In 2008." Once is enough She said women should realise it is entirely conceivable that just one night of unprotected sex in your late 30s. exercise improves your chances of staying healthy. which are more common when the mothers are older. Chief executive of the FPA Julie Bentley said: "Whilst the message about fertility declining with age is an important one. "They thought their age would protect them from becoming pregnant." Unplanned pregnancy warning to older women over 35 Experts fear older women are ditching contraception in the mistaken belief that they cannot get pregnant past a certain age. Abortion rates for women aged 40 to 44 match those for the under 16s.000 women. "It sends an inaccurate message to women and society that only the young fall pregnant and is leading older women to believe their fertility has gone long before it actually has. Whilst the message about fertility declining with age is an important one. alongside disproportionate messaging about unplanned teenage pregnancies." . The Family Planning Association (FPA) believes the message on infertility and age has gone "too far". women can still get pregnant well into their thirties. it is often overplayed.

People carrying the variant had differences in the "biological clock" within all their cells.many assume that their irregular periods are due to menopause. may be a factor in this. While doctors know that as people age they are more at risk from diseases such as Alzheimer's. What our study suggests is that some people are genetically .000 women. "It is vital that women of all ages are provided with the information. Parkinson's and heart disease. part of the chromosomes in every cell that carry genetic code. and are surprised to learn that they are in fact pregnant. Researchers from the University of Leicester and Kings College London say the finding could help spot people at higher risk of age-related illnesses. some people fall prey to these at an earlier age than expected.1 to 12. figures from the Office for National Statistics show.000 live births to women in this age group in 2008. Women aged 30 to 34 continue to have the highest fertility rate . Telomeres One theory suggests that biological timers called "telomeres".113. Emily James of Marie Stopes International said: "Many experts warn older women facing an unplanned pregnancy are completely shocked to find themselves in this position . support and advice they need when deciding whether or not to continue with an unplanned pregnancy. Age alone is not a contraceptive." Genes reveal 'biological ageing' Gene variants that might show how fast people's bodies are actually ageing have been pinpointed by scientists. Telomeres at the end of chromosomes shorten with age The British Heart Foundation said the findings could offer a clue to ways of preventing heart disease.She said in general all methods of contraception were suitable for the over-35s.6 per 1.000 women. But the rate among women aged 40 and over has more than doubled since 1988.1 live births per 1. from 5. and there were more than 26.

or treat." Premature birth gene clue found DNA differences which appear to affect the risk of giving birth early have been found by US scientists. "Alternatively. which part-funded the study. He said: "Understanding how our cells age is an important step in our quest for better ways to prevent and treat heart disease. that they looked at more than 500. It is thought they may play a role in controlling immune Identifying mothers is vital responses which could theoretically trigger labour if they become too powerful.and end up several years biologically older or succumbing to more age-related diseases. genetically susceptible people may age even faster when exposed to proven 'bad' environments for telomeres such as smoking. heart disease would be to use an 'anti-ageing' approach for our arteries. in people carrying them. Nature Genetics.From birth. from King's College London. every time a cell divides. may be at higher risk from age-related illness. The US National Institutes of Health study found the variants in both babies and mothers. said it was not yet clear whether telomeres did contribute to an increased risk of disease. associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. either because they diminish more quickly or because they were born with shorter versions. King's College London The researchers say in the journal. They eventually located a number of variants located near a gene called TERC which. programmed to age at a faster rate Professor Tim Spector. said: "What our study suggests is that some people are genetically programmed to age at a faster rate. seemed to be equivalent to an extra three or four years of "biological ageing". . "Perhaps in the future one of the ways we try to reduce the risk of. obesity or lack of exercise . the telomeres get shorter and there is some evidence that people with shorter telomeres.000 genetic variations across the entire human genome to see which variants cropped up more frequently in people known to have shorter telomeres. a US conference was told." Professor Jeremy Pearson. Bad lifestyles Professor Tim Spector.

Bliss baby to term.is one of the biggest threats to a baby's future health. Baby threat Dr Roberto Romero. This was a good candidate gene because Interleukin 6 is produced by cells in response to infection and is involved in inflammation. Andy Cole. "In England alone.000 babies are born prematurely each year. welcomed the study results. the onset of premature labour appears to have survival value . said: "Our hypothesis is that the mother and/or the foetus signal the onset of preterm labour when the environment inside the uterus is unfavourable and threatens the survival of the maternal-foetal pair. In particular. High levels of Interleukin 6 in the amniotic fluid and foetal blood have been linked to the onset of premature labour. a third of these for no known reason. They narrowed the search down to a handful of gene variations found more often in the women who gave birth prematurely. "The development of a reliable test for identifying these mothers is vital in ensuring our most vulnerable babies have the best possible outcomes. The cord blood of the babies was also tested for these variations." he said." Artificial pancreas hope for children with diabetes . although infections and other medical complications are blamed in some cases. and their babies. The development of a reliable test for identifying these mothers is vital in ensuring our most vulnerable babies have the best possible outcomes The study looked at 700 DNA variants in 190 genes in women who delivered early.it would allow the mother to rid herself of infected tissue and preserve her ability to have future pregnancies.Premature birth . and those who carried their Andy Cole. babies who carried a DNA variant in the gene for the "Interleukin 6 receptor" were more likely to be born early. The causes of premature birth are poorly understood. 54.which accounts for 7% of UK births . "When there is an infection in the uterus. who led the study." The chief executive of charity Bliss.

. A trial found that combining a "real time" sensor measuring glucose levels with a pump that delivers insulin can boost overnight blood sugar control. Insulin injections are currently the mainstay of type 1 diabetes Experts said the results were an important "step treatment forward". 17 children and teenagers with Type 1 diabetes efforts to move the artificial pancreas from a concept in the took part in the study over 54 nights in hospital. The Lancet study showed the device significantly cut the risk of blood sugar levels dropping dangerously low. life threatening condition. in which the pancreas does not produce insulin . the glucose monitoring system and the diabetes insulin pump used in the study are both already widely used and commercially available. the researchers developed a sophisticated algorithm to calculate the appropriate amount of insulin to deliver based on the real-time glucose readings. Low blood sugar Testing was done in different circumstances . which delivers insulin at preselected rates. We need to redouble our In total. They then measured how well the artificial pancreas system controlled glucose levels compared with the children's regular continuous pump. which can lead to 'insulin stacking' or having done early evening exercise . Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation But in order to turn them into a "closed loop" system 'Pump has been really liberating' which monitors the patient's condition and delivers treatment accordingly.Scientists in Cambridge have shown that an "artificial pancreas" can be used to regulate blood sugar in children with Type 1 diabetes.the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.both of which can increase the risk of low blood sugar episodes known as hypoglycaemic attacks or "hypos".for example on nights when the children went to bed after eating a large evening meal. Karen Addington. clinic to a reality in the home of children and adults with Type 1 Individually. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic.

0mmol/l. research manager at leading health charity Diabetes UK.Insulin pump delivers the dose "Our study provides a stepping stone for testing the system at home. compared with nine hypoglycaemia events in the control groups.Data transmitted for the computer program to work out insulin dose 3 ." Dr Victoria King.the level considered as mild hypoglycaemia. said: "This is an important step forward in managing overnight blood glucose levels as well as in the eventual development of a full 'artificial pancreas' which could vastly improve the quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes and reduce the risk of the associated complications. 1 . which is defined as significant hypoglycaemia. Study leader Dr Roman Hovorka said: "This is the first randomised study showing the potential benefit of the artificial pancreas system overnight using commerciallyavailable sensors and pumps. "We need to redouble our efforts to move the artificial pancreas from a concept in the clinic to a reality in the home of children and adults with type 1 diabetes. chief executive of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. compared with 40% for the continuous pump.Continuous glucose sensor monitors blood sugar level 2 . who funded the research said the study provided "proof of principle" of an artificial pancreas." Karen Addington. the results showed the artificial pancreas kept blood glucose levels in the normal range for 60% of the time. It also prevented blood glucose falling below 3.9mmol/l .Overall. And the artificial pancreas halved the time that blood glucose levels fell below 3." .