Popular Posts

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making music can help overcome depression

It might not have worked for such legendarily gloomy composers as Beethoven, Schumann or Morrissey, but according to academics making music can help overcome depression.
Researchers found that adults who were given music therapy sessions, in which they played drums or instruments such as xylophones, showed fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety than those who just had standard counselling.

They suggest that it helped patients express their emotions as well as well as being a pleasurable activity in its own right.

Professor Jaakko Erkkilä, who led the study at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, said: “We found that people often expressed their inner pressure and feelings by drumming or with the tones produced with a mallet instrument. Some people described their playing experience as cathartic.”

Prof Christian Gold added: “Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care including medication, psychotherapy and counselling, helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety.

“Music therapy has specific qualities that allow people to express themselves and interact in a non-verbal way – even in situations when they cannot find the words to describe their inner experiences.”

The clinical trial, the results of which are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved the study of 79 people aged between 18 and 50 who had been diagnosed with depression.

Of these, 46 received anti-depressants, psychotherapy and counselling while the other 33 were also offered 20 music therapy sessions.

The hour-long sessions involved a trained music therapist helping the patients make music using an African djembe drum and a digital mallet instrument, with their tunes recorded so they could be listened to later.

The participants in each group were followed up afterwards, with the researchers finding that those who had the music therapy had “significantly” fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety three months later.

Differences remained after six months but they were no longer statistically significant.

The fact that most of the music group attended 18 out of the 20 sessions they were offered suggested they were interested in it.

In an accompanying editorial Dr Mike Crawford, Reader in Mental Health Services Research at Imperial College London, said: “This is a high-quality randomised trial of music therapy specifically for depression, and the results suggest that it can improve the mood and general functioning of people with depression.

“Music-making is social, pleasurable and meaningful. It has been argued that music making engages people in ways that words may simply not be able to.”

Men are more prone to type 2 diabetes than women

Researchers say they have discovered why men may be more likely than women to develop type 2 diabetes – they are biologically more susceptible. Men need to gain far less weight than women to develop the condition, study findings suggest.

The Glasgow University team found men developed the disease at a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than women.

They believe distribution of the body fat is important – men tend to store it in their liver and around the waist.

Women, meanwhile, have greater amounts of ‘safe’ subcutaneous fat stored on the thighs and hips, for example.

This means women need to accumulate more fat overall than men to develop the harmful fat deposits linked with diabetes, the researchers explain in the journal Diabetologia.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by too much sugar in the blood which occurs when the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels in several different organs becomes disturbed. The condition is linked to excess fat in some of these organs such as the liver and muscles.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, who led the research, said: “Previous research has indicated that middle-aged men are at a higher risk of developing diabetes than women and one possible explanation is that men have to gain less weight than women to develop the condition.

“In other words, men appear to be at higher risk for diabetes.”

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 51,920 men and 43,137 women in Scotland with diabetes, taking into consideration body weight and obesity using the BMI measurement based on height and weight.

The results showed women developed diabetes at a heavier BMI than men – the mean BMI at diabetes diagnosis in men was 31.83 but 33.69 in women.

The researchers say this helps explain why men have higher rates of diabetes in many parts of the world.

Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “It is worrying that men develop type 2 diabetes at a higher rate than their female counterparts. Research like this will help us understand reasons why and provide greater insight into what we can do to improve prevention of type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes UK is calling on both men and women to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by losing any excess weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet and by taking regular physical activity.”

Men biologically wired to care for children

In a blow to the nanny state’s view of fatherdom, new research has found that there is a biological reason why so many men suddenly discover their caring side when they become fathers. A study found that men’s testosterone levels fell by around a third in the days and months after their partner gave birth.

The more caring side of a man’s character emerged as levels of the hormones fell, said scientists, who believe that the process is nature’s way of trying to ensure that fathers stay for the long  haul of child–rearing.

They found that men with higher testosterone levels – associated with dominant and aggressive behaviour – were both more likely to secure a partner and father children.

But after the birth itself  testosterone levels in these men dropped.

“Humans are unusual among mammals in that our offspring are dependent upon older individuals for feeding and protection for more than a decade,” said Christopher Kuzawa, a faculty fellow at the  Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Chicago, and a coauthor of the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Raising human offspring  is such an effort that it is cooperative by necessity, and our study shows that human fathers are biologically wired to help with the job.”

Lee Gettler, an anthropology doctoral student who also worked on the study, added: “It’s not the case that men with lower testosterone are simply more likely to become fathers.  On the contrary, the men who started with high testosterone were more likely to become fathers, but once they did, their testosterone went down substantially.”

It was the act of child care that seemed to reduce testosterone, he explained.

“Our findings suggest that this is especially true for fathers who become the most involved with child care.”

The biggest effect appears to be temporary, in the period immediately after bringing home the baby, with levels rising slowly after that, although not returning to pre–fatherhood levels.

The team studied 624 men in their twenties in the Philippines and followed them for four–and–a–half years. Dr Allan Pacey, a male sexual health expert at Sheffield University, commented: “To see  dramatic changes in response to family life is intriguing. The observations could make some evolutionary sense if we accept the idea that men with lower testosterone levels are more likely to be monogamous with their partner and care for children.

“However, it would be important to check that link between testosterone levels and behaviour to be certain.”

The study found that testosterone levels fell on average by 34 per cent when men became fathers, with the biggest falls in those most involved in childcare.

Dr Pacey added that, as high levels of testosterone were also associated with a strong sex drive, lower levels could reduce the chances of a man ‘straying’. However, he cautioned that the paper did  not prove that.

He added: ‘Testosterone is the key hormone that defines male physiology. We know that levels correlate with a man’s sex drive, his risk–taking behaviour and social dominance. It has also been suggested that it may increase his attractiveness to women and help him find a mate.”

Midwife shortages in England risking lives

Parts of England are facing big midwife shortages putting mothers and babies at risk midwives have warned. The Royal College of Midwives says a 22% rise in births over 20 years has led to shortfalls across England, but some areas are worse than others – it highlights the East Midlands and East.

The RCM wants 4,700 more midwives and says the prime minister has backed away from a pledge to raise numbers.

The Department of Health said record numbers of midwives were now being trained.

Midwives say births are becoming increasingly complex because of growing numbers of obese and older mothers-to-be, who often need extra support.

The Royal College of Midwives says the extra 4,700 midwives are needed across England to keep pace with the added pressures.

And it says a new analysis of midwife numbers across England reveals big variations – with limited shortages in some areas and serious shortfalls in others.

The calculations were done by measuring the number of midwives in an area against the number of babies born there. The RCM estimates that one midwife is needed for every 28 hospital births and 35 births in a midwife-led unit or at home.

The North East and North West of England had a shortfall of less than 10%.

But according to the figures, the East Midlands and East of England need 41% more midwives, and the South East is also more than a third short of staff.

The college says the disparity is down to different levels of investment in different areas; women living in places with bigger shortfalls are at risk of having less choice over how and where they give birth.

It says Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have midwife shortages at the moment.

“This is a real problem in England,” said Cathy Warwick, RCM General Secretary. “We believe women should have the same choice over giving birth wherever they live. Once you get to really critical shortfalls, maternity services won’t be safe.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by the head of midwifery at Wansbeck hospital in Northumberland, where they say they have enough staff to offer high-quality care.

Janice McNichol has delivered more than 1,000 babies in her career, and prides herself on making sure every mother has a positive experience.

“It’s about safety and quality of care,” she said. “Making sure midwives are there when mum needs them, to answer questions and help her through the process.”

The charity Action against Medical Accidents, AVMA, said the situation in some areas was desperate.

“Having a baby should be the happiest time in a couple’s life, but failure to deal with this problem is all too often turning it into a tragedy,” said AVMA chief executive Pater Walsh.

“Maternity services should be the NHS’s first priority for improving patient safety and having enough trained midwives is an absolute must.”

Moderate wine drinking may help weight loss

Drinking just a glass of wine a day may actually help weight loss researchers now believe.  In a study that will raise the spirits of anyone driven to stick to soft drinks for the sake of their waistline, academics say previous assumptions about a link between alcohol and obesity have been inaccurate.

Their analysis of previous research shows that although heavy drinkers are likely to put on weight, those who just enjoy an occasional tipple are unlikely to pile on the pounds.

In fact, connoisseurs of less fattening drinks such as wine may even lose weight as well as being at lower risk of developing diabetes.

“Light-to-moderate alcohol intake, especially wine intake, may be more likely to protect against weight gain, whereas consumption of spirits has been positively associated with weight gain,” says the paper by researchers at Navarro University in Spain, which has been reviewed by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research.

The paper, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, states that “alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain” as 1 gram of alcohol has an energy content of 7.1 calories.

But analysis of 31 studies published between 1984 and 2010 found they were “contradictory” and did not “conclusively confirm” a link between drinking and weight gain.

The papers that did find a link tended to involve studies of heavy drinking, so the Spanish researchers suggest: “It is possible that heavy drinkers may experience such an effect more commonly than light drinkers.”

They say more research should be carried out into the role of “different types of alcoholic beverages”. A pint of lager contains about 200 calories, twice as many as in a glass of wine.

“The type of alcoholic beverage might play an important role in modifying the effect of alcohol consumption on weight gain.”

Members of the forum, commenting on the new paper, agree: “While it is common for individuals, especially women, to state that they avoid all alcohol consumption because they ‘do not want to gain weight,’ data are very limited on this subject.”

They cite studies that show heavy drinking is linked to weight gain but regular drinking is not: “These results suggest that the frequent consumption of small amounts of alcohol is the optimal drinking pattern associated with a lower risk of obesity.”

Other research has suggested that moderate drinkers are at 30 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes, and that even obese people should not abstain from alcohol for this reason.

Moderate drinkers have also been found to be at between 16 per cent and 25 per cent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which in turn makes them more likely to have a stroke or coronary artery disease.

Research on the effects of alcohol on weight has also been complicated by the fact that heavy drinkers have traditionally also smoked cigarettes, which lower the risk of obesity.

Few studies have looked at diet, previous weight gain or loss or “binge drinking” among subjects.

Mollycoddled fed children develop allegies

Mollycoddling children who are allowed to become picky eaters could make them more prone to allergies later in life scientists have warned.

Mothers have traditionally been told to “mollycoddle” their youngsters by avoiding high risk foods during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to protect them from potentially dangerous reactions.

But now there is a growing belief that the best way to avoid allergic reactions is to meet the problem head on and expose children to foods like peanuts in infancy.

Three large studies are under way at King’s College London, Cambridge University and Duke University in North Carolina to determine once and for all the best way of protecting against harmful reactions to food.

Prof Gideon Lack, of King’s College, said that until recently the nanny state had told mothers to breastfeed for up to six months before introducing their babies to other food, and keep them away from possible allergens until the age of two or three.

The idea, he said, was to “wrap the infant up in a sort of immunological cocoon and not expose them to proteins that could launch allergic reactions.

“There is a possibility that we were achieving the reverse of our intentions through this avoidance policy,” he told the Nature journal.

A 2008 study which Prof Lack co-authored suggested exactly the opposite, showing that Jewish children in Britain are ten times more likely to have a peanut allergy than those living in Israel, who eat more foods containing peanuts.

The following year the Department of Health revised its guidelines on allergies to clarify that there is not enough evidence to prove a benefit of restricting the diet of either mother or child from pregnancy to infancy.

The study into peanut allergy being conducted by Prof Lack, along with those in Cambridge and North Carolina, could help explain whether giving children controlled but increasing amounts of peanut-containing foods over time could desensitise them.

Starting in 2006, researchers began following 640 babies, half of whom are judged to be at high risk of food allergies, to see if exposing them to traces of peanuts in their early years causes them to develop adverse reactions.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...