Diet and lifestyle factors effect 70pc of deaths study finds

Bad diets and unhealthy lifestyles have become the biggest threat to life expectancy- fuelling seven in 10 deaths, a major Lancet study has found.

Bad diets and unhealthy lifestyles have become the biggest threat to life expectancy- fuelling seven in 10 deaths, a major Lancet study has found.The research on almost 200 countries found that increases in life expectancy – achieved thanks to improvements in sanitation and immunisation – are being eroded by the global obesity crisis.

The Global Burden of Disease study gathered data on 249 causes of death, 315 diseases and injuries and 79 risk factors in 195 countries and territories between 1990 and 2015.

While deaths caused by infectious diseases such as malaria and flu have fallen sharply, the proportion of fatalities fuelled by lifestyles have soared.

In total, 71.3 per cent of deaths last year were caused by non infectious diseases, the study shows – a rise from 57.6 per cent per cent in 1990.

These include conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, all of which are affected by diet and lifestyle.

The research found high blood pressure – which is fuelled by obesity and lack of exercise – was the top risk factor for deaths, contributing to over 9 per cent of global health loss.

This was followed by smoking (6.3 per cent), high blood sugar (6.1 per cent), and high body mass index (5 per cent).

And although UK adults are living longer, millions are finding their later years blighted by poor health, the study found. On average, women can expect to spend their last 10 years in ill-health, the report says, while men will spend their last nine year suffering from health problems.

The findings showed that healthy life expectancy had increased steadily in 191 countries, adding an average 6.1 years to people’s life spans over the course of 15 years.

But overall life expectancy had risen further, by 10.1 years, suggesting that by 2015 people were spending a greater proportion of their lives in ill-health.

The research shows that health gains from progress on infectious diseases were cancelled out by a rising tide of illness, disability and death linked to lifestyles.

Britain’s obesity levels are the second worst in Europe, with six in ten adults obese.

Poor diet is fuelling diseases such as type two diabetes, with a 60 per cent rise in cases over the past decade, and obesity is on course to overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer.

Overall, life expectancy in this country is now 82 for women and 79 for men, the new study shows.

But the research shows that the last decade is spent battling ill-health and disability, with women only having a “healthy life expectancy” of 72, while for men it is 70.

In the UK, heart disease is the leading cause of death, followed by Alzheimer’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Chillies- good and bad for your health

There are is a growing body of research into the effects of chillies on our health- both good and bad.

There are is a growing body of research into the effects of chillies on our health- both good and bad.
The potential for both health and harm has always been a defining characteristic of chilli peppers, and among scientists, doctors and nutritionists it remains a matter of some dispute.

A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, seemed to indicate that a diet filled with spices – including chillies – was beneficial for health.

A team at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences tracked the health of nearly half a million participants in China for several years. They found that participants who said they ate spicy food once or twice a week had a mortality rate 10% lower than those who ate spicy food less than once a week. Risk of death reduced still further for hot-heads who ate spicy food six or seven days a week.

Chilli peppers were the most commonly used spice among the sample, and those who ate fresh chilli had a lower risk of death from cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes.

While the health-promoting properties of chillies may not be fully understood, at least we have a good idea where to look to find the source of them. Cut a chilli open and you will see yellow placenta-like fronds that attach the seeds to the inside of the fruit. In most types of chilli, this is the location of the spice’s secret weapon – capsaicin.

It is capsaicin that makes chillies hot. The heat is measured in Scoville heat units, which is the number of times a sample of dissolved dried chilli must be diluted by its own weight in sugar water before it loses its heat. For a green bell pepper this is zero. But habanero peppers have a Scoville value of between 100,000 and 350,000. For pure capsaicin the figure is 16 million.

While the Satanic-red horns of chillies seem to hint at their throat-scorching potential, extracted capsaicin is an odourless and colourless substance.

More importantly for humans, chillies also evolved to repel microbes. Chillies kill or inhibit 75% of such pathogens.

It is sometimes said that people in hot countries use more chilli because it makes them sweat, which cools them down. But in 1998, researchers at Cornell University pointed out that the greater use of spices in countries such as India, Thailand and China was likely to be linked to their anti-microbial function.

This correlation with climate, and the attendant risk of infectious disease, was greater than the link with the right growing conditions for the spices. In other words, humans in dangerous climates developed a taste for chilli which probably saved them a lot of death.

We now know that chillies are also a good source of antioxidants. Forty two grams of the spice would account for your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. They are also rich in vitamin A, as well as minerals such as iron and potassium.

Capsaicin has even been touted as a potential weight-loss tool. Research conducted this year by the University of Wyoming on mice that had been fed a high-fat diet found that the molecule increased metabolic activity in the animals, causing them to burn more energy and preventing weight gain. In another study, published last month in Plos One, researchers at the University of Adelaide found that the receptors in the stomach that interact with capsaicin play a role in sensing when we are full. Previous studies on humans seem to back the idea that eating spicy food seems to curb our appetite.

The recent study in China found a correlation between the consumption of spicy food and lower rates of death from those diseases – and laboratory research from the last 10 years suggests some possible reasons for that too.

In 2012, a team of nutritionists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, working with hamsters, found that capsaicin helped break down so-called “bad” cholesterol which might have clogged up the animals’ arteries, but it left alone the “good” cholesterol which helps remove it. There was a second benefit for cardiac health too – the capsaicin appeared to block the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, restricting blood flow.

Several studies have also indicated that capsaicin has powerful anti-cancer properties. It has been found to be helpful in fighting human prostate and lung cancer cells in mice, and there are also indications that it could be used as a treatment for colon cancer. It may also improve drug resistance for bile-duct cancer sufferers.

“There are a lot of reports that say that capsaicin may be good for human health, especially with cancer,” says Zigang Dong at the Hormel Institute of the University of Minnesota. “However, there are other reports that show totally the opposite result.”

Dong is the co-author of a 2011 review, published in the journal Cancer Research, titled The Two Faces of Capsaicin, in which claims about the spice’s benefits for health are laid alongside a long list of counter-claims, pointing to negative effects.

The report details six studies on rats and mice in which the animals developed signs of cancer in the stomach or liver after their diet was changed to include more capsaicin. Meanwhile, studies examining the effects of capsaicin on the human stomach have delivered wildly divergent results. While one showed visible gastric bleeding after consumption of red pepper, another showed no abnormalities, even when ground jalapeno peppers were placed directly in the stomach.

“Probably it is harmful in the stomach or oesophagus because capsaicin itself can cause inflammation,” says Dong. “And if anything can cause inflammation or so-called burning effect, it must cause some cell deaths and therefore the long-term chronic inflammation is maybe harmful.”

Capsaicin – and the chilli pepper – remains enigmatic. But whether it is a friend or foe, we’re exposing ourselves to it more and more. Between 1991 and 2011, global consumption of dry chillies increased by 2.5% per year, while our per capita intake increased by 130% in that time.

But after being over-stimulated the neurons stop responding, killing the pain. This process involves the release of endorphins, which can give us a “rush” not dissimilar from the feeling of having exercised well. This may explain why some people believe that hot food is addictive.

Healthy lives may prevent dementia

The number of people living with dementia is levelling off- possibly due to healthy lives.

The number of people living with dementia is levelling off- possibly due to healthy lives.The University of Cambridge study shows the proportion of elderly people with the condition in the UK has fallen, contrary to predictions that cases would soar.

Improvements in health and levels of education might be protecting people from the disease, the scientists said.

The report, in the Lancet medical journal, analysed twinned dementia studies that were conducted in the same way, but decades apart.

Data from five studies from the Netherlands, UK, Spain and Sweden showed that the proportion of people with the condition had stabilised over the periods covered by the studies – which ranged from nearly 20 years to almost 30. But in the UK and among Spanish men, it had fallen.

In the UK, the data from 1991 suggested that 8% of over-65s would have dementia in 2011, yet the team in Cambridge said the figure was in fact 6%.

It means there are around 670,000 over-65s with the condition rather than the 810,000 figure regularly cited.

An ageing population should have led to more people living with dementia. However, lead researcher Prof Carol Brayne said the expected rise “had not occurred”.

“Effectively it has stabilised rather than gone up. The age-specific prevalence has gone down so even though the population has got older, the number of patients with dementia has stayed the same.”

She said the findings suggested there may be a “preventable component within individuals, and across whole populations”.

“It may be possible that we can defer dementia rather than prevent it entirely – it’s very unlikely that we can prevent it entirely.”

The exact reason why rates have fallen is uncertain, but improvements to the health of nations are the most likely. Risk factors for dementia include:

diabetes
vascular disease
stroke
hypertension
depression
smoking
little exercise

However, it said there was a “new and emerging” picture showing that dementia might not be increasing as rapidly as previously thought.

It said the condition was already a huge social and economic problem, with a quarter of hospital beds filled with dementia patients.

Meanwhile, Dr Matthew Norton, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the findings were encouraging, but the risk factors for dementia were “not yet fully understood”.

He also warned: “Current trends in risk factors such as obesity and diabetes mean we should not be complacent. But measures to help people adopt healthy lifestyles now could have a real impact on the numbers of people living with dementia in the future.”