Male Health News
Fasting may have a future role in treating diabetes
As reported by BBC News, and published in the journal Cell, scientists from the University of Southern California put mice on a fasting diet. This is comparable to a specialised human diet of 800 to 1,100 calories a day for five days. This is followed by 25 days of eating normally, which therefore causes the body to react to a ‘feast and famine’ approach. This experiment appeared to cause the regeneration of specific cells within the pancreas that detect sugar in the body and control insulin release in response. In short, the research showed that diet could be used to reverse diabetes symptoms in mice.
BBC News quoted Diabetes UK saying the findings were “potentially very exciting”, but Dr Valter Longo, lead researcher for this study, made clear that people should “not try this at home [as] this is so much more sophisticated than people realise”. Further research is needed to test whether this approach could be effective in humans.
For more information on diabetes signs, symptoms and treatment, see our information pages, or sources such as Diabetes UK and NHS Choices If you have diabetes, do not make significant changes to your diet without consulting your doctor.
(February 24th 2017)
Benefits of multivitamins questioned by Australian Medical Association
As reported by the Guardian, AMA President Michael Gannon said that while multivitamins may help people with specific nutrient deficiencies or need, in most cases this leads simply to “very expensive urine.” Adjunct Associate Professor Ken Harvey from Monash University’s epidemiology and preventative medicine department was equally forthright, saying that “what you need is a good diet, you’re pissing the money down the toilet for no benefit.” Professor Harvey outlined that there is little evidence to suggest multivitamins improve health other than in cases where clear health deficiencies existed, such as anaemia. The AMA has also been concerned that many products gain legitimacy simply by being sold in a pharmacy, despite little evidence that they work.
Whether or not you use multivitamins at present, any health concerns should be directed to a doctor for medical advice on what you should or should not take. But what is clear from the AMA’s comments is that maintaining a healthy diet is one of the key means of keeping well. If you are looking for more information on healthy eating, there is information and advice from sources such as NHS Live Well and the British Heart Foundation.
(17th February 2017)
Light therapy promises big change for early treatment of prostate cancer
Almost half of patients involved in a clinical trial went into complete remission following new treatment for localised prostate cancer called vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy (VTP).
As reported by Medical News Today, the clinical trial was run by Professor Mark Emberton at University College London and colleagues, and published in The Lancet Oncology. 413 men with early stage prostate cancer participated in the trial, with half receiving the new VTP treatment, which involves the injection of a light-sensitive drug called WST11. When activated by laser light, the drug destroys prostate cancer cells. 49% of the patients treated found that their prostate cancer went into complete remission. For the patients treated with VTP but whose cancer did not go into remission, this treatment also appeared to reduce the need for surgical treatment, as well as slow the progression of the cancer.
Professor Emberton described the results as “truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment.” VTP is currently being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency, but it is likely be a number of years before the treatment is available to patients.
Over half a million people susceptible to heart disease due to faulty genes
Coronary heart disease has a range of well-established causes (see our information). However, increased research into genetic susceptibility to developing heart conditions has identified faulty genes that can have a significant impact, causing heart disease or heart attacks, often with little warning. As reported by BBC News, this has enabled the development of genetic testing services for people at high risk, but many people have no idea they carry these genes. Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation medical director emphasised that more research is needed “to better understand these heart conditions, make more discoveries, develop new treatments and save more lives.”
If you’re concerned about your risk of heart disease, or if you would like more information on how to check your genetic risk, see the British Heart Foundation.
(3rd February 2017)
Longer life link with spicy food
As featured in the Telegraph, data from 16,000 US men over a period of 19 years were included in the study. Over that time, 34% of the men died, but when cross-referenced for chilli pepper consumption, the percentage fell to only 22%. The researchers hypothesise that this may be related to capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, which creates the feeling of ‘heat’ when eaten but has also been applied in medicine as a painkiller and treatment for arthritis.
Dr Benjamin Litternberg, co-author of the study, pointed to the results of a larger study of 500,000 Chinese participants which showed a similar impact on longevity, and drew attention to the relatively low rates of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in the group which consumed chilli peppers regularly. Dr Litternberg emphasised that the University of Vermont study showed only correlation, rather than causation, and so more research will be required. He added: “There’s a whole bunch of better, stronger, more convincing ways to improve your health than to go on a chilli pepper diet.”
We at the BLF couldn’t agree more. By all means do work in a varied, healthy diet (possibly including chilli peppers), but it’s important to fit in regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, and limit alcohol intake among other things. If you are looking for culinary inspiration, why not check out a new recipe for this cold January from sites like BBC Food?
(January 27th 2017)
Huge step forward in prostate cancer testing
As reported by BBC News and published in the Lancet, a trial of 576 men was shown to dramatically increase the accuracy of cancer detection. Currently, testing for prostate cancer can involve a blood test and a subsequent biopsy (using needles to take small samples of prostate tissue) if high levels of a protein known as ‘prostate specific antigen’ (PSA) is detected. However, biopsies of the prostate can be inaccurate, missing cancer that may be there, or unnecessary if cancer is not present. Biopsies can also lead to unpleasant side effects such as infections.
The trial used a type of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, a type of scan using magnetic and radio waves, pictured) to map men’s prostates after blood tests. BBC News reports that these scans showed 27% of the men involved did not need a biopsy at all, and for those who went on to have a biopsy, using the scan to guide the biopsy doubled the success rate for detecting aggressive cancers.
Dr Philip Haslam, Chair of the British Society of Urogenital Radiology lauded the results as “a huge leap forward in prostate cancer diagnosis”. The NHS is now considering whether it is cost-effective to introduce the new screening approach.
More information on prostate cancer is available on our information pages.
(20th January 2017)
Brain’s reaction to stress key link to greater risk of heart attack
As reported by BBC News, the study focused on almost 300 people and was led by researchers at Harvard Medical School. A link between stress and a greater risk of cardiovascular disease has long been known, but the way stress might cause heart problems has not been fully understood. The researchers focused on the action of the amygdala area of the brain, which is activated by strong emotions like fear or pleasure, and prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’.
As outlined by BBC News, the research indicates that when stimulated, the amgydala directs bone marrow to produce additional “white blood cells, which in turn act on the arteries causing them to become inflamed”, which can then cause heart attacks among other issues. In other words, when stressed, this part of the brain’s activity could raise a longer term risk of heart disease.
Participants in the study who reported the highest levels of stress had both higher levels of activity in their amygdala, and more artery inflammation. The researchers were clear that more work is needed to confirm that this is how the body is working, but that the reducing stress could therefore improve heart health as well as mental wellbeing.
If you are concerned about your heart health, you can find information and support from organisations such as the British Heart Foundation. If you are looking to reduce your stress levels, there is advice and help available from organisations such as the Mental Health Foundation.
(13th January 2017)
Dementia may be associated with traffic pollution
As reported by BBC News, a Canadian study conducted by the University of Ontario followed nearly 2m people between 2001 and 2012. The study found a correlation between the number of dementia cases and living close to major roads, and the risk increased the closer people lived to the road(s). The researchers attempted to control the data collected for other factors that have been associated with dementia risk including obesity and smoking. Their final analysis was that 7-11% of dementia cases within 50 metres of a major road could be caused by traffic pollution or noise. Dr Hong Chen, one of the study authors, emphasised that more research is needed to understand the potential link between living close to traffic and dementia risk.
87% of middle-aged men are overweight, drink too much or exercise too little
As reported by BBC News and the Guardian, men are slightly more likely than women – 87% to 79% – to be overweight or obese, exercise too little, or drink consistently over the alcohol guidelines. Public Health England has continued its push to encourage people to improve their health with its One You campaign, which includes a ‘How are You’ quiz aimed to help people reflect on their lifestyles and receive supportive information, apps or other help.
Professor Sir Muir Gray, advisor to One You, emphasised that “busy lives and desk jobs make it difficult to live healthily. But just making a few small changes will have significant benefits to people’s health now and in later life.”
Given the serious long-term, and life-limiting conditions associated with obesity, inactivity and alcohol overconsumption including diabetes, why not turn over a new leaf for 2017 and see what positive changes you could make to your health?
(December 30th 2016)
‘Transformative’ treatment for early stage prostate cancer announced
A new surgical approach has shown significant results in eliminating prostate tumours, as reported by BBC News.
A pan-European trial involving 47 hospitals showed almost half of the 413 men treated had no cancer remaining following the treatment. The technique involves use of a drug made from deep-sea bacteria, which become toxic when exposed to light. The drug is used in combination with a set of fibre optic lasers inserted into the prostate gland. When turned on, these lasers cause the drug to activate and kill the cancer, while leaving the healthy prostate cancer cells.
49% of men involved in the trial went into complete remission, with only 6% of patients needing to have their prostate removed subsequently (compared with 30% of patient who did not have the new therapy). Given the side effects of conventional prostate cancer treatments can include urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, new treatments which reduce these issues are highly sought. As reported by the BBC, the “impact on sexual activity and urination lasted no more than three months” after this treatment.
The treatment is not yet available to patients widely, but will be assessed by regulators at the start of 2017. If you would like more information on this treatment, or on prostate cancer more generally, please see sources such as Prostate Cancer UK. There is also more information available on our webpage here.
Regular exercise beneficial for sperm quality
As reported by Medical News Today, a research study from Uremia University in Iran sought to determine how varying exercise levels can affect men’s sperm quality. Various previous studies on the impact of exercise have had differing findings, with some showing that some types of exercise can improve sperm quality and others that intense exercise can reduce it.
The team split a team of 261 men into four groups who undertook varying levels of exercise for 24 weeks. At the end of the study period, men from all four groups had improved sperm quality, with the best performing group those who undertook moderate-intensity continuous training, in this case running on a treadmill for 25-30 minutes, 3-4 days per week.
While other factors may be at play (for instance, some men might have better sperm quality due to weight loss as a result of their exercise), the results “show that doing exercise can be a simple, cheap, and effective strategy for improving sperm quality in sedentary men”, according to lead author Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki. However, Maleki stressed that infertility in men can be the result of many factors other than sperm count.
(December 16th 2016)
Immune disorder may be cause of some psychosis cases
A new study in Lancet Psychiatry has suggested that some patients who have developed psychotic conditions may have developed their symptoms due to problems with their immune system.
As reported by BBC News, the UK-wide trial study involved taking blood samples from 228 people. For some patients, the research suggested that their antibodies were attacking the ‘NMDA’ receptors in the brain – in short, their immune system was disrupting the communication between brain cells.
Professor Lennox, study lead, suggested that this might offer an “exciting advance for psychiatry” and provide new avenues of treatment. However, these findings are controversial; the BBC quoted Dr Dalmau from the University of Barcelona who suggested that the proportion of patients affected in this way by immune system problems was likely to be very low.
Around 0.4% of the UK population is estimated to experience a psychotic illness. While men and women are estimated to have a similar incidence of these issues, men are almost 50% more likely than women to be detained and treated compulsorily as psychiatric inpatients (see Men’s Health Forum). This suggests men could both seek, or be offered, help sooner, when it comes to psychiatric disorders. If you are worried about your own mental health, or about someone else, there is help and support available from charities such as Rethink and Mind.
New experimental treatment believed to have ‘cured’ man of advanced prostate cancer
This is a novel treatment give that testosterone has been conventionally seen as ‘fuel’ for prostate cancer, and as such some treatments involve reducing levels of testosterone or its effects in patients. However, the treatment being trialed involves three cycles of “bipolar androgen therapy”, which “involves alternately flooding and starving the body of…testosterone”, as reported by the Telegraph. 47 participants with advanced prostate cancer were involved in the trial run by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, with many showing improvements following the treatment. While the researchers said that they were unclear on how the treatment was working, the study lead Professor Denmeade said cancer cells under this treatment “become like old men who sit around and tell stories but don’t make much trouble”.
To be clear, this treatment is under trial, so the research is a long way off proving that this will definitely be beneficial to, or even cure men with prostate cancer. Clinical trials are lengthy, evidence-based undertakings, and verified results can take years to emerge. Like all trials, this study is also focused on a small subset of patients, in this case of men whose cancer had become resistant to another treatment. However, this news does suggest this is treatment may be one of “many exciting new lines of attack against prostate cancer”, according to Dr Matt Hobbs, Deputy Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK.
For more information and links to support about prostate cancer, see our information pages.
Smoking responsible for hundreds of DNA mutations
As reported by BBC News, an international group of scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory sequenced thousands of tumour genomes to find a direct link between the number of cigarettes a person smokes in a lifetime and the number of mutations in tumour DNA. The mutations developed will last even if someone gives up smoking, and mutations were also commonly found in the larynx, mouth, bladder and liver along with the lungs.
Joint lead author Professor Sir Mike Stratton from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said: “By looking in the genomes of the cancers, we will find the archaeological traces of past exposures which have been responsible for generating the cancers and that may potentially lead to prevention.”
New Alzheimer’s treatment raises prospect of slowing mental decline
As reported in the Guardian, and published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers working with the pharmaceutical company Merck have created a tablet which appears to prevent the production of toxic proteins which in turn create ‘plaques’ in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. A leading theory is that these ‘plaques’ destroy neurons in the brain, leading to mental decline and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s. As such, medication which either destroys these plaques or, in the case of this experimental drug, prevent them forming in the first place could offer preventative treatment. Further clinical trials are planned, which should assess whether the drug has the effect of slowing or arresting mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
If you are worried about your risk of Alzheimer’s, or are worried about someone you know, there is a range of information available from sources such as the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
National Stress Awareness Day – 2nd November
Organised by ISMA, the International Stress Management Association, the event this year focuses on the workplace, encouraging employers to discuss stress prevention at work and address causes. Other charities are supporting this as well, for example Mind is providing free resources to emergency services to help them treat mental health problems as seriously as physical health problems.
Find out more about how you or your employer can be involved at the links above. If you are dealing with stress, anxiety or other mental health issues, there are resources available in our Mental Health information section, as well as in our blog.
Soft drinks may greatly increase diabetes risk
Drinking more than two 200ml soft drinks per day can double your relative risk of diabetes, reports the Daily Mail.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden correlated 2,874 adults’ intake of sugary or diet soft drinks with their development of diabetes. The consumption of more than two 200ml sugary soft drinks was associated with a 21% increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Contrary to common wisdom, the researchers found that the diet drinks were associated with almost the same results – an increase in the relative risk of type-2 diabetes by 18%. Lead researcher Josefin Löfvenborg suggested that artificial sweeteners may stimulate the appetite, and lead the body to become less tolerant of glucose (sugar), leading to type 2 diabetes.
The researchers made clear that more research on this topic is needed, as well as research into what would counter the risk. This was also a study of relative risk (i.e. the degree by which risk increase from its normal level) – rather than absolute risk, as explained in the Guardian. Likewise, this is less a slur on soft drinks per se than the sugar or sweeteners they contain, which are included in other products as well. However, it underlines the impression that these drinks should be considered treats rather than a staple of your diet, if you wish to stay healthy. It’s also worth remembering that a standard can of soft drink is 330ml, rather than the 200ml, meaning that you will have drunk 660ml if you have two cans!
If you’re looking to eat and drink healthier, why not check out the NHS Eatwell guide? And if you’re trying to fight your sweet tooth, have a read of our ‘Cutting down on sugar, one cube at a time’ blog.
Increased weight associated with higher risk of liver cancer
As reported by the Telegraph, a study undertaken by the American Cancer Society reviewed data from 14 separate studies which took into account information from 1.57 million US adults. The researchers also found that the risk of developing liver cancer is associated with increased waistline – almost 10% increased risk per every 2-inches of growth of the waistline. This research supports liver cancer’s inclusion as one of the cancers associated with obesity.
Given that liver cancer can show no symptoms until it is incurable, knowing and managing your risk can be crucial to help survival. Healthy eating and exercise are crucial to reducing your risk of many cancers, as well as other serious conditions like Type-2 diabetes. More information is available from sources such as NHS Choices and the Liver Cancer Trust.
World Mental Health Day 2016
Similar to physical first aid, psychological or mental health first aid is aimed at recognising and addressing the first signs of injury or illness. Training around mental health first aid has been offered by a range of organisations in the UK for several years, and the concept has been growing in prominence and acceptance.
For this year’s World Mental Health Day, the focus is on the impact of traumatic events on people’s own mental health, and what actions they can take to support themselves and others.
If you’d like to know more about mental health first aid, see MHFA England for more information. There are also equivalent organisations for the other UK nations.
(7th October 2016)
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