Medical News Today: Can simply naming vegetables differently increase healthful eating?

How do you encourage people to eat their greens? A new study shows that naming vegetable dishes with adjectives that promote their flavor increases positive thinking about healthful eating.

woman reading menu
New research examines the psychological effect of food descriptions.

For some, a healthful diet means having to tolerate eating bland tasting, unsatisfying foods, which can seem like a punishment rather than an enjoyable eating experience.

New research, appearing in the journal Psychological Science, shows that giving healthful dishes a more enticing description can significantly increase the uptake of healthful options.

In the long term, this means that people are more likely to maintain good eating habits, leading to a sustainable, healthful diet and a better quality of life.

Using previous research findings

A few years ago, researchers from the University of Stanford, CA, teamed up with Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises to trial a new approach to healthful eating.

They removed the adjectives that described unhealthful foods and devised a system of naming healthful foods according to the flavors in the dish.

For example, they used “twisted citrus glazed carrots” to make carrots sound tastier to eat, believing that most people prioritize tastiness over healthfulness in the moment of choice.

From this experiment, the researchers learned that decadent-sounding food labels encouraged people to eat vegetables more frequently than if these same foods had neutral or health-focused names. They published the results from this initial study in 2017.

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Taste-focused labels affect eating choices

This year, the same group took the research further, extending this approach to university students. For this new study, they used a randomized, multisite intervention involving 57 colleges and universities in the United States to assess the effect of taste-focused food labeling.

Over a period of 185 days, the team analyzed 137,842 decisions about 24 types of vegetable in 71 dishes with healthful, neutral, or taste-focused names.

The researchers found that giving vegetables a taste-focused label increased the uptake of the meal by nearly a third (29%) compared with using a health-focused label.

There was also a 14% increase in the uptake of vegetables when they had taste-focused names rather than neutral names. Overall, when the researchers analyzed the consumption of healthful food by comparing the initial servings with the amount that the diners discarded into compost, they saw a 39% increase in the weight of vegetables that the participants consumed.

Alia Crum, an assistant professor of psychology and senior author on the paper, says that taste-focused food labeling works because “it increases the expectation of a positive taste experience.”

“In particular,” she says, “references to ingredients such as ‘garlic’ or ‘ginger,’ preparation methods such as ‘roasted,’ and words that highlight experience, such as ‘sizzling’ or ‘tavern-style,’ help convey that the dish is not only tasty but also indulgent, comforting, or nostalgic.”

Describing foods using nonspecific positive words, such as “absolutely amazing,” did not increase uptake because they were too vague.

According to the researchers, the fact that college students in the U.S. are the age group with the lowest intake rate of vegetables means that people should not underestimate these increases in healthful eating.

Limitations and future research

There is a limitation to this research, however, in that the researchers do not mention cost as a factor that may influence healthful eating.

Indeed, if healthful foods are generally more expensive than unhealthful foods, it stands to reason that dropping the prices of healthful foods to be more in line with those of unhealthful foods might further boost the increase in the uptake of healthful foods with taste-focused names.

This issue may be something that researchers will want to look into in the future.

The two studies together have shown that emphasizing tasty and enjoyable attributes increases vegetable intake in a world where these healthful meals are competing with more overtly tempting options.

In the long run, the research team hopes to enable real-world change and have a broad effect on eating habits.

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Medical News Today: Exercise especially important for older people with heart disease

Exercise especially important for older people with heart disease

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Medical News Today: Slow walking speed in midlife linked with faster aging

New research finds that people who tend to walk more slowly at the age of 45 present with signs of premature accelerated aging, both physically and cognitively.
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New research suggests that a slower walking speed in midlife may be a marker of accelerated aging.

Walking speed may be a powerful predictor of lifespan and health.

A recent study, reported on by Medical News Today, found that the faster a person walks, the longer they may live, with older adults benefitting the most from a brisk pace.

Medical professionals have long used gait speed as a marker of health and fitness among older adults, but the new research asks a slightly different question: Does a slow gait speed in midlife indicate and predict accelerated aging?

Line J. H. Rasmussen, Ph.D., a researcher in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, in Durham, NC, and colleagues set out to answer this question by examining data from 904 study participants.

Rasmussen and the team published their findings in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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Cognition, overall health, and gait speed

The researchers assessed participants’ data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a longitudinal cohort study of people living in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The participants have undergone periodic testing for most of their lives. The researchers have been tracking the participants’ general health and behavior, with assessments beginning when participants were 3 years old.

At the time, a pediatric neurologist used standard intelligence tests to assess the children’s neurocognitive performance, including their receptive language, motor skills, and emotional and behavioral regulation.

The researchers had access to data such as IQ scores — including processing speed, working memory, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension.

The researchers evaluated the now-adult participants’ walking speeds under three conditions: usual gait speed, dual task gait speed — wherein the participants had to walk as usual while reciting the alphabet — and maximum gait speed.

The team also evaluated the physical function of the adults by asking them to self-report in a survey and complete a series of physical tasks that tested their grip strength, balance, and hand-eye coordination, among other factors.

To assess accelerated aging, the team looked at a variety of biomarkers, including body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness, total cholesterol level, triglycerides level, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, creatinine clearance, blood urea level, C-reactive protein level, white blood cell count, and gum and teeth health.

The researchers also evaluated the adults’ brain health using MRI scans.

Additionally, the scientists brought in an independent panel of 8 people who assessed the ages of the participants using standardized photos of their faces at age 45.

Worse health, faster aging in slow walkers

The MRI scans revealed that slow walkers, at the age of 45, had a smaller brain volume, more cortical thinning, smaller cortical areas, and more white matter lesions. In other words, their brains appeared to be older than their biological age.

The independent panel also tended to assign an older age to these participants, based on their facial appearance in the photographs.

Overall, the cardiorespiratory health, immune health, and gum and teeth health of the slow-walking participants also fared worse than those who walked faster. The correlation was particularly evident in the participants’ maximum walking speeds.

“The thing that’s really striking is that this is in 45-year-old people, not the geriatric patients who are usually assessed with such measures,” says Rasmussen, the study’s lead author.

Interestingly, the scores for IQ, receptive language, motor skills, and emotional and behavioral regulation of the children at age 3 also predicted walking speed. Those who would become slow walkers as adults fared more poorly on these measures.

“Doctors know that slow walkers in their 70s and 80s tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” adds senior author Terrie E. Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane University professor of psychology at Duke University and senior author of the study.

But this study covered the period from the preschool years to midlife and found that a slow walk is a problem sign decades before old age.”

Prof. Terrie E. Moffitt

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Medical News Today: Can more vegetarian options tempt carnivores away from meat?

Can more vegetarian options tempt carnivores away from meat?

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Medical News Today: What are neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the body. Their job is to transmit signals from nerve cells to target cells. These target cells may be in muscles, glands, or other nerves.

The brain needs neurotransmitters to regulate many necessary functions, including:

  • heart rate
  • breathing
  • sleep cycles
  • digestion
  • mood
  • concentration
  • appetite
  • muscle movement

The nervous system controls the body’s organs, psychological functions, and physical functions. Nerve cells, also known as neurons, and their neurotransmitters play important roles in this system.

Nerve cells fire nerve impulses. They do this by releasing neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that carry signals to other cells.

Neurotransmitters relay their messages by traveling between cells and attaching to specific receptors on target cells.

Each neurotransmitter attaches to a different receptor — for example, dopamine molecules attach to dopamine receptors. When they attach, this triggers action in the target cells.

After neurotransmitters deliver their messages, the body breaks down or recycles them.

Key types of neurotransmitters

a person pointing to neurotransmitters on a model of a brain.
Many bodily functions need neurotransmitters to help communicate with the brain.

Experts have identified more than 100 neurotransmitters to date.

Neurotransmitters have different types of action:

  • Excitatory neurotransmitters encourage a target cell to take action.
  • Inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease the chances of the target cell taking action. In some cases, these neurotransmitters have a relaxation-like effect.
  • Modulatory neurotransmitters can send messages to many neurons at the same time. They also communicate with other neurotransmitters.

Some neurotransmitters can carry out various functions, depending on the type of receptor that they are connecting to.

The following sections describe some of the best-known neurotransmitters.

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Acetylcholine triggers muscle contractions, stimulates some hormones, and controls the heartbeat. It also plays an important role in brain function and memory. It is an excitatory neurotransmitter.

Low levels of acetylcholine are linked with issues with memory and thinking, such as those that affect people with Alzheimer’s disease. Some Alzheimer’s medications help slow the breakdown of acetylcholine in the body, and this can help control some symptoms, such as memory loss.

Having high levels of acetylcholine can cause too much muscle contraction. This can lead to seizures, spasms, and other health issues.

The nutrient choline, which is present in many foods, is a building block of acetylcholine. People must get enough choline from their diets to produce adequate levels of acetylcholine. However, it is not clear whether consuming more choline can help boost levels of this neurotransmitter.

Choline is available as a supplement, and taking high doses can lead to serious side effects, such as liver damage and seizures. Generally, only people with certain health conditions need choline supplements.


Dopamine is important for memory, learning, behavior, and movement coordination. Many people know dopamine as a pleasure or reward neurotransmitter. The brain releases dopamine during pleasurable activities.

Dopamine is also responsible for muscle movement. A dopamine deficiency can cause Parkinson’s disease.

A healthful diet may help balance dopamine levels. The body needs certain amino acids to produce dopamine, and amino acids are found in protein-rich foods.

Meanwhile, eating high amounts of saturated fat can lead to lower dopamine activity, according to research from 2015. Also, certain studies suggest that a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to low dopamine activity.

While there are no dopamine supplements, exercise may help boost levels naturally. Some research has shown that regular exercise improves dopamine signaling in people who have early stage Parkinson’s disease.


a laughing senior black woman.
The body may release endorphins during laughter.

Endorphins inhibit pain signals and create an energized, euphoric feeling. They are also the body’s natural pain relievers.

One of the best-known ways to boost levels of feel-good endorphins is through aerobic exercise. A “runner’s high,” for example, is a release of endorphins. Also, research indicates that laughter releases endorphins.

Endorphins may help fight pain. The National Headache Foundation say that low levels of endorphins may play a role in some headache disorders.

A deficiency in endorphins may also play a role in fibromyalgia. The Arthritis Foundation recommend exercise as a natural treatment for fibromyalgia, due to its ability to boost endorphins.


Also known as adrenaline, epinephrine is involved in the body’s “fight or flight” response. It is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.

When a person is stressed or scared, their body may release epinephrine. Epinephrine increases heart rate and breathing and gives the muscles a jolt of energy. It also helps the brain make quick decisions in the face of danger.

While epinephrine is useful if a person is threatened, chronic stress can cause the body to release too much of this hormone. Over time, chronic stress can lead to health problems, such as decreased immunity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

People who are dealing with ongoing high levels of stress may wish to try techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.

Anyone who thinks that their levels of stress could be dangerously high or that they may have anxiety or depression should speak with a healthcare provider.

Meanwhile, doctors can use epinephrine to treat many life threatening conditions, including:

  • anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction
  • asthma attacks
  • cardiac arrest
  • severe infections

Epinephrine’s ability to constrict blood vessels can decrease swelling that results from allergic reactions and asthma attacks. In addition, epinephrine helps the heart contract again if it has stopped during cardiac arrest.

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Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a mood regulator. It has an inhibitory action, which stops neurons from becoming overexcited. This is why low levels of GABA can cause anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” are drugs that can treat anxiety. They work by increasing the action of GABA. This has a calming effect that can treat anxiety attacks.

GABA is available in supplement form, but it is unclear whether these supplements help boost GABA levels in the body, according to some research.


a father and son enjoying a sunny day on a hill.
Exposure to sunlight may increase serotonin levels.

Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It helps regulate mood, appetite, blood clotting, sleep, and the body’s circadian rhythm.

Serotonin plays a role in depression and anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can relieve depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes symptoms of depression in the fall and winter, when daylight is less abundant. Research indicates that SAD is linked to lower levels of serotonin.

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) increase serotonin and norepinephrine, which is another neurotransmitter. People take SNRIs to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia.

Some evidence indicates that people can increase serotonin naturally through:

  • being exposed to bright light, especially sunlight
  • vigorous exercise

A precursor to serotonin, called 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), is available as a supplement. However, some research has found that 5-HTP is not a safe or effective treatment for depression and can possibly make the condition worse.

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Neurotransmitters play a role in nearly every function in the human body.

A balance of neurotransmitters is necessary to prevent certain health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

There is no proven way to ensure that neurotransmitters are balanced and working correctly. However, having a healthful lifestyle that includes regular exercise and stress management can help, in some cases.

Before trying a supplement, ask a healthcare provider. Supplements can interact with medications and may be otherwise unsafe, especially for people with certain health conditions.

Health conditions that result from an imbalance of neurotransmitters often require treatment from a professional. See a doctor regularly to discuss physical and mental health concerns.

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Medical News Today: Can bowel movements lead to weight loss?

When a person has a bowel movement and then weighs themselves, they may see a small change in weight that tends to be equal to the weight of the stool. If they do see this change, it is rarely significant, and it does not amount to long term weight loss.

Health professionals do not recommend relying on bowel movements to lose weight. Instead, a person should try to adopt a healthful diet that contains lots of fiber.

Research suggests that fiber-rich diets are good for long term weight loss. They can also cause a person to poop more often. This makes them a good option for constipation relief.

Constipation causes stool to build up in the bowels, creating an uncomfortable heavy or bloated feeling. This can make a person feel as though they are carrying extra weight.

This article looks at how much weight a person might lose after a bowel movement, and how much stool the body usually contains. It also looks at how weight loss diets can affect bowel movements and lists some tips for relieving constipation.

Bowel movements and weight loss

and person pulling off some toilet paper and wondering do you lose weight when you poop
When a person has a bowel movement, they may lose an insignificant amount of weight.

A person may lose a very small amount of weight when they have a bowel movement.

How much weight this is differs for every individual, but in general, it is not significant.

As the body passes stool, it also releases gas. This can reduce bloating and make a person feel as though they have lost a little weight. However, it is important to remember that many factors affect weight. It is not simply a measurement of what goes in and out of the body.

The weight loss associated with having a bowel movement is temporary. This is because the body is constantly processing food. Also, people will gradually replace the waste matter that leaves the body as stool by eating more food.

The amount of time it takes for the body to completely digest food and pass it from the body as stool is hard to estimate. There are two reasons for this: It is not easy to track the passage of food through the digestive system, and every individual and type of food is different.

As an estimate, for a healthy adult eating a standard meal, it takes around 4–5 hours for the stomach to empty and around 30–40 hours for the matter to pass through the colon.

Acids and enzymes in the stomach break down food. It then enters the gut, where bacteria break it down further. The body absorbs useful nutrients and passes the rest as waste.

Stool is not just undigested food. It also comprises:

  • water
  • food that the body cannot digest or absorb
  • bacteria
  • dead cells

That said, the makeup of a person’s stool will vary depending on how much fluid they consume and what they have eaten. Incorporating plenty of fluids, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in the diet can make for a softer stool.

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How much stool does the body usually contain?

a woman enjoying a bowel of cereal.
A person’s fiber intake may affect the weight of their stools.

It is not possible to determine exactly how much stool is in the body at any given time.

As an estimate, the average amount of stool an adult produces per day is 128 grams. Every person is different, however. Also, if a person has a bowel movement two to three times per day, the average weight of each stool is likely to be lower.

Some factors that can affect the average weight of a person’s stool include:

  • their diet, particularly fiber intake
  • frequency of bowel movements
  • body size
  • fluid intake

Including more fiber in the diet tends to increase stool weight.

People who are taller or weigh more are likely to have heavier stools. In addition, drinking more fluids increases the weight of a stool, as more fluid leaves the body through bowel movements.

Waiting to pass a stool can make it drier and heavier. It is best to pass a stool as soon as the urge is there. Softer stools with a higher liquid content tend to pass more easily from the body.

Do you poop more when on a weight loss diet?

Healthful weight loss diets usually include lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These are all high in fiber. Including more fiber in the diet can increase stool weight and encourage more regular bowel movements.

Because of this, a person following a weight loss diet may have bowel movements more often. However, it is important to remember that any weight loss they see is primarily due to other aspects of the diet — not the increase in bowel movements.

Many weight loss diets suggest eating more protein. Meat is a common source of protein, but it can be more difficult to digest than other foods.

Also, these diets may not include as much fiber as the body needs. Fiber helps bulk out a stool, and without it, the stool may be loose and runny. A lack of fiber can also give rise to constipation.

Weight loss diets that are high in fiber and may increase bowel movements include:

Weight loss diets that are low in fiber and may decrease bowel movements, or not affect them, include:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend following a balanced diet and a healthful eating plan as the best way to lose weight.

A balanced diet should include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. It should limit saturated fats, processed foods, and high amounts of salt and sugar.

Eating only as many calories per day as the body needs, and trying to exercise every day, are effective ways to maintain a healthful weight.

Getting an accurate measurement of weight can also help when following a weight loss diet. To get an accurate reading, step on the scales at the same time each day, without clothes on and ideally after having a bowel movement.

Tips for healthy bowel movements

a senior couple having a gentle jog in the park.
People can help encourage bowel movements through gentle exercise.

Relax and take time to have a bowel movement. Trying to have a bowel movement at the same time every day, such as after breakfast, can help keep things regular.

However, not everyone will have a bowel movement every day. A healthy range is between three times per day and three times per week. However, traveling, stress, pregnancy, medication, and illness can all affect usual bowel movements.

It is important to listen to the body’s signals. Be sure to go when needed, and not to force the body.

Gentle exercise may help encourage a bowel movement. As well as adopting a healthful diet, being physically active can help maintain a healthy digestive system and encourage regular bowel movements.

Other tips include drinking enough fluids and including enough fiber in the diet.

Constipation may need treatment with over-the-counter laxatives. Sometimes, an underlying health condition may be to blame. If constipation does not improve with changes to diet and exercise, seek medical advice.


If a bowel movement results in weight loss, it will be a temporary and insignificant change to a person’s weight. This is because the body is always processing food and passing waste.

As a result, people should not consider bowel movements as a weight loss method.

Including more fiber in the diet can encourage regular bowel movements. It may also help to lose weight. Heavier stools tend to be healthier, as they contain more fiber and fluids.

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Medical News Today: What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that causes pain in the heel.

A thick, strong band of tissue called the plantar fascia supports the arch of the foot. This tissue can become damaged or inflamed, causing pain and difficulty moving the foot.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, plantar fasciitis accounts for about 80% of cases of heel pain. An estimated 10% of people will experience this problem during their lifetime.

In this article, we provide an overview of plantar fasciitis, including its causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatments. We also discuss when an individual should see a doctor.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

a woman holding her heal because of Plantar fasciitis
Regular high impact exercise is a possible cause of plantar fasciitis.

The function of the plantar fascia is to absorb the impact of standing, walking, and running on the foot. This part of the body gets a lot of use, and too much pressure can damage the plantar fascia.

Plantar fasciitis will not necessarily have one single cause. Several risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the condition. These include:

  • age, as plantar fasciitis is especially common in people between the ages of 40 and 60 years
  • doing exercise, such as running, that repeatedly impacts the plantar fascia
  • having flat feet, high arches, or tight calf muscles
  • having overweight or obesity or being pregnant, all of which put more pressure on the feet
  • having certain medical conditions, such as arthritis
  • frequently standing for extended periods
  • often wearing high heeled shoes

Women are more likely than men to experience plantar fasciitis. It is not clear why, but it may be because certain risk factors for the condition — such as pregnancy and wearing unsupportive shoes — affect women more than men.

The condition usually develops with repeated impact or pressure, which, over time, can cause damage to the tissue in the foot.

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The plantar fascia runs along the sole from the toes to the bottom of the heel. Excessive pressure on this part of the foot can cause small tears in the tissue. This damage leads to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.

The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the plantar fascia. The focus of the pain is usually near the heel, where it can feel as though the tissue is tearing.

The pain may develop gradually over time. It can be worse after a period of rest, for example, first thing in the morning or after a long journey. Alternatively, the pain may worsen after exercise or activity.

Heel spurs are small, bony growths on the bottom of the heel bone. People used to believe that heel spurs were responsible for plantar fasciitis, but they do not cause this pain.

Home remedies

Stretches and exercises that work out the leg or foot muscles can help ease the pain of plantar fasciitis and encourage healing. These exercises include foot flexes, calf stretches, curling a towel between the toes, and picking up marbles with the toes.

Read about exercises and other remedies for plantar fasciitis here.

Resting the foot, applying ice to the area, compressing with a bandage, and raising the foot on cushions or a low stool can help. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce pain and swelling. Some people may find that foot massage also helps alleviate foot pain.

Recovery can take time. After a week or two of rest and home remedies, a person may be able to walk normally without pain. Most people will make a complete recovery from plantar fasciitis within a year.

Lifestyle changes

a man and woman looking at a shoe in a shoe shop
Investing in supportive shoes may help prevent plantar fasciitis from developing.

Some simple lifestyle changes can help the foot recover and prevent plantar fasciitis from developing again.

Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes can help reduce the daily impact of standing and walking on the feet. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons provide a guide to choosing the right footwear.

People should replace athletic shoes once they wear out. When the sole of a shoe becomes thinner, it does not provide as much support for the foot or absorb as much impact when the foot hits the ground.

It is also best to choose low impact forms of exercise to help prevent injury. Jogging on a soft surface, such as grass, puts less force on the feet and knee joints than running on the sidewalk. Swimming and yoga can both build strength and flexibility with minimal impact on the body.

Maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce the pressure that a person puts on their feet. Eating a healthful diet and doing regular gentle exercise are effective ways to manage weight.


The most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis is often rest and care at home. If home remedies do not work, a doctor may recommend additional treatment. Most treatments are nonsurgical, with doctors only recommending surgery if other treatments have not worked after a year.


An orthotic is a support or device that can help with musculoskeletal problems, which are those relating to the bones, muscles, and ligaments. Wearing supportive shoes and using orthotics — such as cushioned inserts and heel supports — can help with plantar fasciitis pain. These reduce the impact on the foot when standing or walking.

A night splint

People usually sleep with their feet relaxed and pointing downward. In this position, the heel relaxes, which tightens the plantar fascia. It can also cause the calf muscles to become tight, which can increase arch pain. People can use a night splint to keep the foot flexed overnight.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can help stretch the muscles to improve the range of movement, reduce pain, and support healing. Massage therapy can help by reducing both pain and inflammation.


Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication. Cortisone injections into the tissue can reduce pain and inflammation. However, it is best to limit the number of injections to minimize the risk of side effects.

Shockwave therapy

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a nonsurgical treatment that may stimulate healing. It is low risk and noninvasive, but more research is necessary to confirm whether it is effective.


If none of these treatments are effective, a doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery for plantar fasciitis is low risk, but complications can include pain or nerve damage. There are two main options for surgery:

  • Gastrocnemius recession lengthens the calf muscles to increase the range of movement in the ankle, reducing stress on the plantar fascia. The surgeon will use either an open method or minimally invasive surgery, which may reduce recovery time.
  • Plantar fascia release involves a surgeon making a cut in the plantar fascia to reduce tension. People with a good range of movement in the ankle are better candidates for this procedure.

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When to see a doctor

a doctor examines a foot
A person should talk to their doctor if plantar fasciitis does not improve with home remedies.

If pain is ongoing and does not improve with home remedies, it is important to see a doctor. Ignoring plantar fasciitis can lead to ongoing pain and possible damage to structures in the foot.

A doctor will usually ask the individual about their symptoms and medical history, as well as any lifestyle factors that may have contributed to the problem. They may also wish to know the exact location of the pain and whether it is worse at certain times of the day or after exercise.

The doctor will then examine the foot to look for signs of plantar fasciitis. These can include:

  • pain or tenderness in front of the heel bone
  • pain that worsens when flexing the foot and applying pressure to the plantar fascia
  • a limited range of movement in the ankle

After making a diagnosis, the doctor will be able to recommend treatment options.


Plantar fasciitis can cause significant pain and difficulty moving the foot normally. However, most people make a complete recovery from the condition.

Treating plantar fasciitis with home remedies and simple lifestyle changes is usually effective. A person can reduce the risk factors by engaging in low impact exercise, wearing appropriate footwear, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

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Medical News Today: What to know about acetylcholine

Acetylcholine is a chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, that plays an important role in brain and muscle function. Imbalances in acetylcholine are linked with chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter discovered.

Imbalances in levels of acetylcholine play a role in some neurological conditions. People who have Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease tend to have low levels of acetylcholine.

There is no proven way to maintain ideal levels of acetylcholine and prevent neurological diseases. However, researchers are developing advanced treatments to help people with these health conditions live longer, healthier lives.

In this article, we look at how acetylcholine is linked with various health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, myasthenia gravis, and Parkinson’s disease. We also discuss treatments for acetylcholine-related conditions.

Acetylcholine and Alzheimer’s disease

a senior man looking confused whilst sat on park bench possibly due to low levels of acetylcholine in his brain.
People with Alzheimer’s usually have low levels of acetylcholine.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Its symptoms include severe memory loss and problems with the ability to think that interfere with daily life. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. However, they know that many people with the condition have lower levels of acetylcholine. Alzheimer’s disease damages cells that produce and use acetylcholine.

Certain medications can increase levels of acetylcholine. They do this by blocking the action of enzymes that break down the neurotransmitter.

The primary enzyme in this group is called acetylcholinesterase (AChE), and drugs that make these enzymes less active are called AChE inhibitors or cholinesterase inhibitors.

AChE inhibitors can help with symptoms related to thought processes such as language, judgment, and memory.

AChE inhibitors include:

  • donepezil (Aricept)
  • galantamine (Razadyne)
  • rivastigmine (Exelon)

AChE inhibitors may also help treat other health conditions. Some tumors appear to have an unusual level of AChE in them, according to some research. Scientists may find that AChE inhibitors can help treat certain types of cancer.

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Acetylcholine and myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune condition that causes muscle weakness, especially after a person is active.

Myasthenia gravis causes the immune system to block or destroy acetylcholine receptors. Then, the muscles do not receive the neurotransmitter and cannot function normally. Specifically, without acetylcholine, muscles cannot contract.

Symptoms of myasthenia gravis can range from mild to severe. They may include:

  • weakness in the arms, legs, hands, fingers, or neck
  • drooping of one or both eyelids
  • blurred or double vision
  • trouble swallowing
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty speaking

Many people with myasthenia gravis can lead regular lives. A variety of treatments can control symptoms.

AChE inhibitors that doctors prescribe to treat Alzheimer’s disease may also help relieve symptoms of myasthenia gravis. When these drugs slow the breakdown of acetylcholine, they improve neuromuscular connection and muscle strength.

Acetylcholine and Parkinson’s disease

An imbalance in levels of acetylcholine may have an effect in people with Parkinson’s disease, too.

The body needs a balance of acetylcholine and dopamine, another chemical messenger, to control movements well.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that causes involuntary movements, tremors, and difficulties with thinking and mood.

The exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown. However, experts have discovered that people with the condition often have a decrease in dopamine that allows acetylcholine to take over. When this occurs, muscles become too “excited,” which leads to symptoms such as jerking movements and tremors.

For this reason, some medications for Parkinson’s disease block the action of acetylcholine. This allows dopamine levels to rebalance, which can help relieve some symptoms.

These medications are called anticholinergics. They can also help ease dyskinesias, which are excessive movements that can be side effects of other Parkinson’s medications.

Anticholinergics are not for everyone. Side effects may include confusion, memory loss, hallucinations, and blurry vision.

Experts also believe that many nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as memory problems, are related to reduced levels of acetylcholine.

Toxins, pesticides, and acetylcholine

man with headache on right side of head holding head and holding glass
A buildup of acetylcholine in the nervous system may cause headaches, weakness, and mental changes.

Exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides or certain nerve agents used in warfare can cause levels of acetylcholine in the body to rise very high.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that these chemicals lead to a buildup of acetylcholine in the nervous system, causing symptoms of:

  • wheezing
  • sweating
  • weakness
  • headaches
  • fainting
  • diarrhea and vomiting
  • mental changes
  • muscle twitching
  • convulsions
  • paralysis
  • respiratory arrest

A person can be exposed to these chemicals through the skin, through breathing, or through ingestion. In the United States, about 8,000 people a year are exposed to OPs.

Exposure is most likely to occur through contact with pesticides on crops — including apples, grapes, spinach, cucumbers, and potatoes — or through contact with household products such as ant and roach killers.

Can you boost levels of acetylcholine?

There is no proven way to increase acetylcholine levels. However, some evidence suggests that consuming choline, a nutrient, could help.

The body requires choline for proper brain and nervous system function. It is also necessary for muscle control and to create healthy membranes around the body’s cells.

Choline is also a building block of acetylcholine. People must get enough choline from their diets to produce adequate levels of acetylcholine.

Studies in animals have found that a high intake of choline during gestation and early development improves cognitive function and helps prevent age-related memory decline.

The Office of Dietary Supplements confirm that some animal studies have shown that higher intakes of choline could lead to better cognitive function. However, they caution, other studies have found it to be unhelpful.

Many foods contain choline, including:

  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs
  • beans
  • cruciferous vegetables
  • whole grains
  • dairy products
  • nuts
  • seeds

Most people do not get enough choline from their diets. The recommended amount of choline is 425 milligrams (mg) per day for women and 550 mg for men.

A person can take choline supplements, but high doses can cause side effects such as vomiting, a fishy body odor, and liver damage.

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Botox and acetylcholine

a man receiving botox to his face.
Botox injections may reduce wrinkles in the face.

Botulinum toxin, better known by the brand name Botox, can treat a variety of muscle-related conditions. Botox injections can also treat migraine headaches, excessive sweating, and certain bladder and bowel issues, for example.

In addition, Botox is the most popular nonsurgical cosmetic treatment in the U.S., according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Botox primarily works by interfering with acetylcholine in the targeted muscle. Injecting Botox into certain facial muscles, for example, can create a temporary reduction in wrinkles because Botox prevents the muscles from contracting. This causes the skin on top of the muscle to appear smoother.


Acetylcholine is an important and abundant neurotransmitter in the body. When there is too much or too little, a person may experience neurological problems, such as those that characterize Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

Eating a healthful diet can help a person get adequate choline, which the body uses to create acetylcholine. Ask a doctor before taking choline supplements, due to their potentially serious side effects.

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Medical News Today: Alzheimer’s disease: Brain immune cells may offer new treatment target

One hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the massing of tangles of tau protein in the brain. Now, a new study in mice proposes that a type of brain immune cell called microglia drives the tissue damage that is linked to tau clumping.
Older adult alone
Could deactivating microglia be the key to treating Alzheimer’s disease?

Brain scans of people with Alzheimer’s disease have revealed that the brain damage that accompanies forgetfulness and confusion becomes visible soon after tau tangles start fusing into a mass.

A recent Journal of Experimental Medicine paper explains how the microglia become active as the tau clumps begin to form.

The study authors also showed that eliminating microglia greatly reduced tau-related damage in the brains of mice genetically modified to develop protein tangles.

They suggest that the findings point to a new way to delay the dementia that tau-related brain damage causes in humans.

“If you could target microglia in some specific way and prevent them from causing damage,” says senior study author David M. Holtzman, a professor of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, “I think that would be a really important, strategic, novel way to develop a treatment.”

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Toxic protein and destruction of brain tissue

Alzheimer’s is a condition that destroys brain tissue. Although scientists are not sure exactly how this common form of dementia arises, they have two prime suspects in their sights: tau and beta-amyloid protein.

Autopsy evidence has revealed that most people develop plaques of beta-amyloid and tau tangles with age. However, those with Alzheimer’s disease seem to have many more of them. In addition, these proteins tend to amass in a predictable pattern that begins in memory areas of the brain and then spreads.

In the healthy brain, tau protein supports the function of neurons, which are the nerve cells that make up the brain’s communication system. The protein stabilizes microtubules, which are structures that help neurons transport molecules and nutrients.

However, tau protein can also behave abnormally and collect in toxic clumps that disrupt and kill neurons.

This occurs not only in Alzheimer’s, but also in other progressive brain conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is a condition that often occurs in boxers and football players following repeated head injuries.

The new study concerns the role of microglia in the tau clumping process. Microglia are immune cells that reside in the central nervous system (CNS) and guide its growth, development, and function.

The double edged role of microglia

In previous research, Prof. Holtzman and colleagues had already uncovered a relationship between microglia and tau that appeared to protect the CNS: They found that the immune cells have the ability to limit the formation of toxic forms of the protein.

However, what they saw also made them suspect that the relationship could be double edged.

It seemed that attempts by microglia to eliminate tau tangles in later stages of disease could harm neighboring neurons.

So, the team decided to take a closer look at the microglia-tau relationship using genetically altered mice that produce a human tau that easily forms into clumps.

These mice usually develop tau tangles at the age of 6 months and show symptoms of brain damage at around 9 months.

Some of the mice also carried a variant of the human APOE gene that increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 12-fold. The team had previously found that this variant, called APOE4, greatly increases the toxicity of tau on neurons.

When the mice reached 6 months of age, the researchers took some aside and supplemented their diet for a further 3 months with a compound that reduces microglia in the brain. They gave the rest a placebo so that they could compare the effects.

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Presence of microglia vital for brain damage?

When the mice reached 9.5 months of age, the investigators examined and compared their brains. They found that the presence of microglia made a considerable difference to brain shrinkage.

Mice with tau tangles and the high risk APOE4 gene that received no microglia-depleting supplement showed severe brain shrinkage.

This result suggested that microglia need to be present for brain damage to occur.

In contrast, the absence of microglia as a result of taking the supplement led to hardly any brain shrinkage in the tangle-prone mice with the APOE4 risk gene.

In addition, their brains looked healthy and showed little evidence of toxic tau.

The team also found that tangle-prone mice with a deleted APOE gene had little brain shrinkage and showed few signs of toxic tau.

Further experiments revealed that APOE appears to trigger the microglia. Once they are active in this way, the microglia then drive the development of the toxic tau tangles that destroy brain tissue, suggest the researchers.

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‘Microglia drive neurodegeneration’

“Microglia drive neurodegeneration,” says first study author Yang Shi, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Holtzman’s laboratory, “probably through inflammation-induced neuronal death.”

“But even if that’s the case, if you don’t have microglia, or you have microglia but they can’t be activated, harmful forms of tau do not progress to an advanced stage, and you don’t get neurological damage,” she adds.

These results suggest that microglia have a key role in neurodegeneration and could be a useful target in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Although the compound the team used to reduce microglia in the mice’s brains would not be suitable for use in humans, it could serve as a starting point for drug development.

The challenge will be to find a way to target the microglia at the point at which they begin to favor disease rather than health.

If we could find a drug that specifically deactivates the microglia just at the beginning of the neurodegeneration phase of the disease, it would absolutely be worth evaluating in people.”

Prof. David M. Holtzman

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Medical News Today: How blood vessel health may drive IBD

How blood vessel health may drive IBD

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