Green tea drinkers show less disability with age

NEW YORK: Elderly adults who regularly drink green tea may stay more agile and independent than their peers over time, a large study of Japanese adults suggests.

Green tea contains certain antioxidant chemicals -- particularly a compound known as EGCG -- that may help ward off the body-cell damage that can lead to disease. And researchers have been studying green tea's effects on everything from cholesterol to the risk of certain cancers -- with mixed results so far.

For the new study, Japanese researchers looked at a different question: Do green-tea drinkers have any lower risk of frailty and disability as they grow old?

Following nearly 14,000 adults age 65 and older, they found that people who drank the most green tea were the least likely to develop "functional disability" over the next three years.

Functional disability refers to problems with daily activities like going to the store or doing housework, or difficulty with more-basic needs like dressing and bathing.

In this study, almost 13 percent of adults who drank less than a cup of green tea per day became functionally disabled. That compared with just over 7 percent of people who drank at least five cups per day.

That alone does not prove that green tea keeps you spry into your golden years.

But the study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, did account for a range of factors that could explain the connection.

Green-tea lovers generally had healthier diets -- more fish, vegetables and fruit -- as well as more education, lower smoking rates, fewer heart attacks and strokes and greater mental sharpness.

They also tended to be more socially active and have more friends and family to rely on. (Studies have found that older adults with more "social support" are less likely to become disabled.)

But even with those factors considered, green tea itself was tied to a lower disability risk, according to the researchers, led by Yasutake Tomata of Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine.

People who drank at least five cups a day were one-third less likely to develop disabilities than those who had less than a cup a day. And people who averaged three or four cups a day had a 25 percent lower risk.

All of that hints at a real effect of green tea. But ultimately, Tomata's team writes, definitive proof can come only from clinical trials testing the effects of green tea, or green tea extracts, on disability risk.

If green tea does offer a buffer against disability, it's not clear how.

But one recent study found that green tea extracts seemed to boost leg muscle strength in older women, notes Tomata's team, who could not be reached for comment.

In general, green tea is considered safe in moderate amounts. But the tea and its extracts do contain caffeine, which some people may need to avoid.

Green tea also contains small amounts of vitamin K, which means it could interfere with drugs that prevent blood-clotting, like warfarin. Since many elderly people are on multiple medications, it's wise for them to talk with their doctors before using green tea as a health tonic. (Reuters)

Brain analysis can help predict psychosis: study

LONDON: Computer analysis of brain scans could help predict how serious or long term a psychotic patient's illness may become and help doctors make more accurate decisions about how best to treat them, researchers said on Monday.

In a study in the journal Psychological Medicine, scientists from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry and University College London's computer science department found that using computer algorithms to analyze MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans can predict a patient's outcome. (Reuters)

Virus to blame for rise in throat cancer: study

NEW YORK: Cancer of the back of the mouth and throat is on the rise, primarily because of more cases stemming from a viral infection called human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a US study.

The number of people who were diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancer in 2004 was triple the number diagnosed in 1988 -- due largely, researchers suspect, to changes in sexual behavior that have helped spread the virus.

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and certain cancers, including of the cervix, anus and penis.

"The whole relationship between HPV-related head and neck cancer completely changes our ideas of who is at risk, how to treat the cancer, the prognostics of the cancer, and prevention," said Maura Gillison, at the Ohio State University, who led the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Gillison and her colleagues examined oral cancer tissue collected from 271 patients over a 20-year period.

The type of cancer they examined, called oropharyngeal, originates in the back of the tongue, the soft part of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils, or the side of the throat.

They checked the samples for evidence of HPV infection and found that the HPV-related cases became more and more common each decade, while those samples that didn't test positive for the virus became less common.

From these results, they estimate that HPV-related oral cancers afflict 26 out of every million people in the United States, compared to eight out of every million people in 1988.

Tina Dalianis, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who did not take part in the study, said she believes the increase in oral cancers "is due to an HPV epidemic."

"We believe sexual habits have changed, and that there is an increase in sexual activity earlier on in life, with an exchange of many more sex partners in general," she wrote in an email to Reuters Health.

The current study confirms what Dalianis had found previously in Sweden -- that HPV-related oral cancers were becoming the dominant form of the disease.

Previously, tobacco had been the primary cause of oral cancer, and most oral cancer cases were HPV-negative.

Gillison's group found that HPV-negative cancers have been cut in half since the 1980s. HPV-positive cases, which had made up just 16 percent of oral cancer cases in the 1980s, comprised more than 70 percent in the 2000s.

The good news is that people diagnosed with the HPV-positive form of the cancer have a better prognosis, and the cancer is more responsive to treatment, Gillison said.

There is also a potential opportunity for prevention using an HPV vaccine that is approved to prevent cervical and anal cancer, she said. If the vaccine can prevent these HPV-caused cancers, perhaps it can work for oropharyngeal cancers too.

Gillison and her colleagues have received research funds or consulting jobs through the companies that sell HPV vaccines, and one of the companies is a financial contributor to an organization that helped fund the study.

The vaccines are not proven to prevent oral cancer, and Gillison said it will be important to test whether they are effective for this increasingly common form. (Reuters)

WHO raises stipends for polio teams in Pakistan

KARACHI: World Health Organization (WHO) has increased stipends of all polio teams working across the country, sources informed PPI.

They said stipends have been increased from 20 to 100 percent along with fuel charges.

Sources told that stipends of Zonal Supervisors had been increased to Rs. 350 from Rs 300, Area In-charge Rs. 270 from Rs. 170 earlier, Rs. 250 for mobile and transit teams against previous amount of Rs. 150 while Rs. 50 had also been increased in stipends for drivers to Rs. 150.Besides, petrol allowance for zonal supervisors has also been increased upto Rs. 1100 from previous Rs. 680, while similar allowance for the Area In-charge has been increased to Rs. 420 from Rs. 240.Sources further informed that new changes will come into effect from this month. It may be noted here that anti-polio drive is scheduled to commence from September 19 to 21.

Scans to spot Alzheimer's likely to be available from this year

 NEW YORK: Brain scans that detect early warning signs of Alzheimer's may be available in the United States as soon as this year, researchers reported this week.

However, it may be too early for the scans to be of much help for those with the disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the number of deaths has risen in recent years.

Researchers just released studies that reveal the effectiveness of PET scans that search for signs of a protein in the brain called beta-amyloid. It essentially gunks up the brain and causes senility.

In one of three new studies, researchers from University of Texas found that levels of the protein, as detected through a PET scanner, were higher in those whose brains took longer to process things. In older people, they linked higher levels to memory problems.

Physicians who find signs of senility in people who undergo brain scans have limited options to help them. There's no cure for the illness, and drug treatments have not proven to be very effective.


Scientists tout momentum in race to solve AIDS

WASHINGTON: The race to end AIDS has picked up momentum in the past two years as scientific advances offer new hope of halting the spread of the disease nearly three decades after the epidemic surfaced.

Human immunodeficiency virus is well known to attack the body's natural defenses, but it has proven such a wily foe over the past 30 years because of the way it transforms, replicates and hides inside the body.

Scientists are learning more about how the virus infiltrates cells, and how to harness the body's own natural defenses to guard against it in the hope of closing in on new vaccines, strong prevention treatments and possibly, a cure.

"We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel," said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a longtime leader in the fight to end AIDS.

According to Seth Berkley, president of the International Aids Vaccine Initiative, the "last two years have been the most exciting" because researchers have made the "biggest advances" in vaccines and preventions.

High on the list is work on broadly neutralizing antibodies, potent antibodies made by about 10-20 percent of people who are simply born with better natural defenses against HIV.

Scientists have now isolated 15 of these antibodies, and they are working backward to find ways to force the human immune system to produce them. When two are combined, they have been shown to block 90 percent of known HIV strains.

"The idea is if we could identify a strategy for the human host to be tricked into making broadly neutralizing antibodies, that is a huge step toward making a vaccine," said Myron Cohen, a leading AIDS researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cohen.

The use of drug therapy as a way to prevent HIV transmission has also gathered steam with a series of important clinical trials.

Infant deaths fall, life expectancy rises: WHO

GENEVA: Infant deaths fell across the world during the first decade of the century, dropping twice as fast as they did in the 1990s, partly thanks to higher spending, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The health body said there had been an equally impressive rate of decline in the number of women dying from complications in pregnancy and childbirth -- and a rise in the average life expectancy to 68 years in 2009, up from 64 years in 1990.

But the world's health services were still weighed down with the "double burden" of infectious ailments and lifestyle diseases, like heart conditions, it added in its latest annual World Health Statistics Report.

"Much more has been done after the year 2000 and it's paying off," the WHO's health statistics director Ties Boerma told reporters.

He linked the progress to higher spending on health care, immunization programmes, education and other factors.

"It's a combination of health intervention and social and economic improvement," he told.
The report called for still more funding for health services, particularly in poorer countries.

It estimated per capita health spending in low-income countries at $32 or about 5.4 percent of gross domestic product -- against $4,590 or about 11 percent of GDP in high income countries.

The WHO found child mortality had dropped by 2.7 percent per year since 2000, twice the rate of decline seen in the 1990s. Deaths among children less than five years old fell to 8.1 million in 2009, from 12.4 million in 1990, according to the statistics.

The number of women dying from complications in pregnancy and childbirth fell by 3.3 percent a year since 2000, compared with a decrease of 2 percent during the 1990s, it added.

Chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes have reached global epidemic proportions and cause more deaths than all other diseases combined, the WHO said last month. The conditions are exacerbated by tobacco use, obesity and other risk factors, it added.

About four in 10 men and one in 11 women smoke while about one in eight adults is obese, according to the statistics in the latest report, to be presented to health ministers from WHO's 193 member states who are meeting later this month.(Reuters)

Chronic fatigue rare but serious in teens

NEW YORK: A new survey of Dutch doctors and their patients suggests that chronic fatigue syndrome affects only about 1 in 900 teenagers - but takes a heavy toll.

Among those teens diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, more than 90 percent had at least missed "considerable" school in the last 6 months, with some saying they had not attended school at all during that time.

CFS "is a condition with severe implications for school participation etc, necessitating adequate diagnosis and treatment," study author Dr. Sanne Nijhof of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands told Reuters Health.

The impact is felt by many more people than the patient, said Dr. Katharine Rimes, who was not involved in the study.

"Missing substantial amounts of school can potentially have profound effects on their educational, social and emotional development," explained Rimes, based at King's College London. "It also has potentially serious impact on the family. If the child is off school, one parent -- usually the mother -- usually has to stay at home to care for them, and often give up their job altogether. This can obviously have adverse financial and psychological effects."

CFS is a long-term debilitating condition of disabling physical and mental fatigue, poor concentration and memory, disturbed sleep and muscle and joint pain.

There is no cure for CFS and scientists don't know what causes it. Many sufferers say they think their illness started after a viral infection, but suggested links to a virus known as XMRV were shown in a recent scientific paper to have been based on contaminated samples in a lab (see Reuters Health story of December 20, 2010).

This estimation of the rate of CFS among teens, published in the journal Pediatrics, is considerably lower than previous estimates of CFS among adults. In one Dutch study, 1 percent of adults said they had the condition.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans have CFS, perhaps 80 percent of whom may not realize they have it.

Nijhof explained that trying to understand why his estimate for teens is lower than previous ones for adults "would be speculative," since his study did not include adults, and different studies use different methods.

To get a better idea of how many teens in the Netherlands are affected by CFS, Nijhof and colleagues sent questionnaires to a group of general practitioners and reviewed a national registry of pediatric disorders, in which pediatricians report new cases of disorders affecting their patients. The researchers also mailed surveys to patients asking about the condition's impact on their lives.

Less than half of general practitioners returned the survey. Based on their responses, the authors estimated that 111 out of every 100,000 teens, or 0.11 percent, were diagnosed with CFS. Records from pediatricians suggested that 12 out of every 100,000 teens, or 0.012 percent, were newly diagnosed with CFS every year.

Patients were an average of 15 years old when the illness began. Half experienced symptoms for at least 17 months before they were diagnosed. In one-fifth of patients, the illness began after a severe infection. CFS occurred in five times as many girls as boys.

Of potential concern, the authors note, is that the condition appears to be "under-recognized" by primary care physicians. Only half of all general practitioners who agreed to participate in the study said they accepted CFS as a distinct diagnosis, versus 96 percent of the pediatricians consulted during the study. And nearly 75 percent of teens with CFS were not diagnosed by their general practitioners. This lack of awareness probably stems from the condition's infrequency, said Nijhof. "The average GP will not have a CFS patient in their practice."

"Adolescents with severe and long-lasting fatigue should be referred to a pediatrician," agreed Rimes in an email.

Although only half of general practitioners responded to the survey, non-responders did not appear to be any different from responders, so the results from half the group likely represent the population overall, Nijhof said in an email.

It's an important study, despite its potential limitations, said Rimes, in part because CFS is not studied in teens nearly as often as adults. "The disabling nature of the condition has the potential to have a serious adverse impact on the normal cognitive, emotional, and social developmental processes that occur at this age." (Reuters) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Tech Disregard

Apple Inc. recently launched their tablet iPad 2, everyone seems to be talking about it. I received hundreds of tweets, messages and facebook share's about it. I asked a friend of mine who work on a website about the iPad and its launch, he didn’t seem much interested and at last when I asked him do you know what is iPad? he replied, "Yes, that's what you are talking about for last 10mins".

Second incident which was more thought provoking, I gave my twitter URL, to someone, when we met me a couple of days later he said "Your website" look like a chat room, a but it seems no one is talking to each other. He was talking about my twitter profile page and the tweets on the page.

It was a shocking moment and really depressing at the same moment, why people aren't aware of the technologies aurrounding them? What are the reasons behind this unawareness and lack of interest?

In Pakistan, most of the people don't know about the latest technologies, gadgets, websites, blogging and count those who use smart phones but don't know a thing about their smartness. There are a lot of factors, why people in Pakistan are'nt much aware of Internet and the new technologies around them. We watch News on TV but hardly we hear something about technology, newspapers also don’t showcase more of technology related news until it become a breaking news on international channels.

Let’s talk about what people are missing, Telecommunication is the most grown technology in recent years for Pakistan, mobile subscribers are more than 100 million as of Oct 2010, that mean millions of cell phones are in use, which is the most proud thing in Pakistan for technology enthusiasts like me. There are tens of mobile companies in Pakistan with their products includes Nokia, Samsung, SonyEricsson and LG are the largest amongst them, while Nokia has the largest market share in Pakistan, every 3rd person in 5 has a Nokia cell phone.

Google Android and Apple iOS, the two platforms emerged as the rising superpowers in the mobile world or smart phone market. Apple iOS is designed only for the world famous product iPhone as compared to it Google Android is competing from different platforms, Google Nexus One to Samsung Ace.
Nokia was heavily relying on Symbian OS for years, but recently they decided to switch it to Microsofts Windows 7 mobile OS, after watching the losing market share and the upsurge of the iPhone and android phones. First Nokia phone with Windows 7 OS is expected to launch in late 2011 or early 2012.

Microsoft's Blog Tag recently attempted to sum up this constantly changing space with a single infographic. It shows that people are spending a lot more time using mobile phones than ever before. 



 While most of us are down with sore throat and fever, thanks to the winters and seasonal changes, it's about time we learn what causes sore throat and how it can be avoided in the first place.

It goes without saying that throat infection or sore throat is always painful, not to mention annoying and often brings quality of our work well below norm. It imparts a scratchy sensation and pain that worsens on swallowing and talking and in some cases fever.

Caused by viral infections most of the time and in some cases bacterial, they usually don’t respond well to the antibiotics. And so, take a longer time to be cured. It may sound scary but prolonged and untreated throat infections (8-10 days) can lead to serious diseases of joints, heart and brain tissues especially in children between 5-15 yrs of age.

So, we have all the more reason to have a look at what causes throat infections and what measures should be taken to keep them at bay.


Throat infections are usually caused by:

1. Breathing through mouth when you have a stuffy nose as bacteria make their way inside throat without being filtered through the nose.

2. Poor oral and dental hygiene and more importantly not brushing your teeth just before going to bed as the bacteria get a plenty of time to multiply overnight in your throat.

3. Irritants like dryness or low humidity, smoking, air pollution, yelling and use of chilled beverages.

4. Sinus drainage –post nasal dripping. Accounts for how flue is followed by throat infections.


Truly said, prevention is better than cure. While all the pollution around makes us perfectly susceptible to throat infections, following a bunch of precautions can help us stay healthy for sure.

1. The best prevention against germs is to practice good hygiene, which includes oral and dental as well. So wash your hands regularly especially when around sick people. And gargle whenever you can.
2. Increase your fluid intake to keep your throat moist and to prevent dryness.
3. Avoid exposure to irritants such as smoke and fumes.
4. Rest your voice. Teachers and mothers should really stick to it.
5. Use nasal sprays to prevent stuffy nose.
6. Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses and utensils.
7. Avoid contact with people who have sore throat.
8. Try wearing masks while moving in crowded places.
9. Those suffering from sinus should take steam to clear the thick yellow or thin and clear nasal discharge.

Follow these and say NO to throat infections. AddThis Social Bookmark Button

High good cholesterol linked to long life in men

NEW YORK: Men who reach their 85th birthdays tended to have high levels of good cholesterol while in their 60s, a new study says.

Researchers found that men with the highest good (HDL) cholesterol were 28 percent less likely to die before they reached 85, compared to men in the lowest HDL group.

This paper, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, adds to the evidence that HDL is important for a long life, said Dr. Nir Barzilai, who heads the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and was not part of the study.

However, "we always have to remember that it's an association," and it does not mean that having high HDL increases life span, he said.

About 12 million men suffered from heart disease and stroke in 2006, but high levels of HDL cholesterol may reduce the risks, according to the American Heart Association.

Low levels of HDL, less than 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood for men, are known to increase the risk of heart disease, according to the heart association.

The researchers, from the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology and Research Information Center in Boston, looked at the medical records of about 650 veterans when they were around 65 years old, then grouped them based on HDL levels.

Starting with low levels of 40 mg/dL, they found that for each ten mg/dL increase of HDL, the men were 14 percent less likely to have died by 85. Overall, 375 survived to that age.

Also, fewer of the men with higher HDL were overweight, and they tended not to have more than 2 drinks a day. And fewer of them had heart disease or smoked, compared to the lowest HDL group.

These other factors might have had an effect on survival, Barzilai said. However, the researchers did account for this, and still showed a link between reaching 85 and high HDL levels, he said.

"It's difficult to change HDL levels," Barzilai said. Exercise might raise it a few points, but it isn't a very efficient way to improve, he said. "We need to get a drug eventually."

Merck and Roche are both working on an HDL raising drug, he said. Pfizer stopped its research into another such drug, torcetrapib, in 2006 because people taking it along with Lipitor in a study had a higher rate of death.

The B-vitamin niacin may raise HDL levels 15 to 35 percent. However, side effects can include liver damage and increased blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A three-month supply costs about nine dollars. Niacin is also found in dairy products, lean meats, nuts, eggs and fish.

However, it's unclear how much raising HDL will prevent heart disease, Barzilai said, so whether drugs might improve people's health remains to be seen. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Exercise cuts prostate cancer death risk

 Men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be able to reduce their risk of death not just from prostate cancer but from any cause by exercising vigorously for at least three hours per week, new research indicates.

A study performed by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of California-San Francisco examined the records of 2,705 men who had been diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer over an 18-year period in a project known as the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The men in the study reported the time they spent exercising on a weekly basis. This included running, bicycling, walking, swimming, other sports, and even outdoor work.

Non-vigorous and vigorous activity proved beneficial for overall survival, the study says. Men who walked less than 90 minutes per week at a normal to brisk pace had a 46% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to men who walked less than 90 minutes per week.

Men who reported vigorous activity for at least three hours per week had a 61% lower risk of a prostate cancer-specific death, compared with men who exercised for less than an hour per week.

“Our results suggest that men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer progression after a diagnosis of prostate cancer by adding physical activity to their daily routine,” study author Stacey Kenfield of Harvard says in a news release. “This is good news for men living with prostate cancer who wonder what lifestyle practices to follow to improve cancer survival.”

She says the researchers “observed benefits at very attainable levels of activity” and that the study suggests that men with prostate cancer “should do some physical activity for their overall health, even if it is a small amount, such as 15 minutes of activity per day of walking, jogging, biking, or gardening.”

She says, however, that “doing vigorous activity for three or more hours per week may be especially beneficial for prostate cancer, as well as overall health.”

The results are significant because prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men in the United States. Although more than 80% of prostate cancer patients are diagnosed with localized disease, the relative 10-year survival rate is 93% for all stages combined.

More than 2 million men in the U.S. are prostate cancer survivors. “We observed a significant risk reduction for prostate cancer mortality with increasing vigorous activity,” the authors write.

They say more research is needed to determine which exercise regimens are best for men with prostate cancer.

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Taking short breaks from sitting may help waistline and heart

That’s the advice from a new study that finds that people who sit for extended periods of time without taking short breaks are at higher risk for heart disease than those who take more frequent timeouts to stand up and walk around.

The cardiovascular risk that stems from remaining sedentary for prolonged periods of time (at the office, for example) manifests itself in the form of larger waists, higher blood pressure, higher levels of triglycerides, increased body inflammation and lower levels of “good” cholesterol, the authors noted.

What’s more, the negative impact of such lengthy bouts of inactivity seems to apply even to those who routinely go to the gym.

“These findings are not surprising,” said Dr. Murray A. Mittleman, director of the cardiovascular epidemiology research unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“In fact, the Surgeon General report recommends that individuals should accumulate activity incrementally throughout the day,” noted Mittleman, who was not a member of the Australian research team. “And this is really consistent with that.”

The team led by Genevieve N. Healy, of the Cancer Prevention Research Centre at in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Herston, Australia, report their findings in the Jan. 12 online edition of the European Heart Journal.

“Even if you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, what you do for the rest of the day may also be important for your cardiovascular health,” Healy explained. “This research suggests that even small changes to a person’s activity levels [as little as standing up regularly] might help to lower cardiovascular risk. These changes can be readily incorporated into the person’s day-to-day life (including the work environment). Stand up, move more, more often, could be used as a slogan to help get this message across.”

The authors pointed out that in developed countries people spend more than half of their day sitting, on average. At the same time, they point out that heart disease is the number cause of premature death in both the United States and Europe.

To explore the potential connection between the two, Healy and her colleagues crunched numbers taken from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data involved about 4,800 American men and women aged 20 and up who participated in the survey between 2003 and 2006.

All those surveyed had been outfitted with an accelerometer on their hip, to monitor a week’s worth of walking, running and sitting routines. In addition, the authors looked at measurements concerning a number of heart disease-related risk factors, including waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

At the extremes, the most sedentary participants were found to sit a little more than 21 hours per day, while the least sedentary sat just under two hours per day. The fewest activity breaks taken over the course of a full week amounted to less than 100, while the most weekly breaks registered at nearly 1,300.

The team found that, for white participants, the longer they spent being sedentary the larger their waist circumference. Racial differences did seem to play a role, as Mexican-Americans didn’t seem to be impacted by this association while blacks actually demonstrated the opposite dynamic.

Blood fat (triglyceride) levels were also found to be significantly higher among the most sedentary, as were signs of insulin resistance, often a precursor to diabetes.

Overall, those who took the most breaks from sitting (even if they spent a great deal of time being sedentary) were found to have the smallest waists: participants among the top quarter of break frequency had a 1.6-inch smaller waist than those in the bottom quarter.

Taking more breaks was also linked to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for problematic inflammation.

The bottom line, according to the researchers: people should be encouraged to take activity breaks.

For example, they suggested that while at work employees consider standing while on the phone or in a meeting, choosing to walk over to colleagues rather than e-mailing or calling them, and using the stairs to access their work area and/or bathrooms. “I think the recommendations they make for activity breaks all make sense,” Mittleman said. “We always advise people to take a walk during their lunch break, for example. And if they can’t go outside then walking up and down the corridors works just as well.

The point is that for most people basically any kind of activity helps.” Susan Finn, chairwoman of the American Council for Fitness & Nutrition, said that the research team’s take on the exercise issue “makes great sense.” “The point here is that setting up huge goals for people to get them to devote huge blocks of time during the day to exercise just doesn’t
work,” she suggested. “People won’t do it. Instead, getting people to engage in purposeful activity, trying to motivate small changes, is the way to go.” “And I think we’ve seen the sense of this over and over again,” Finn said, “whether we’re talking about reducing fat, reducing sodium or reducing sitting and taking the stairs. It’s all about making this stuff, these small changes, doable for people, and the workplace is a very good example, a very good place to start.”

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