Medical News Today: Higher risk of alcohol- and suicide-related death in diabetes

A new study uncovers a worrying association: people who have any form of diabetes are more likely to die by suicide, causes related to alcohol consumption, or due to an accident.
closeup of sad person
Mental health problems linked with diabetes may lead to a higher risk of death by suicide in people with this condition.

Researchers at the Universities of Helsinki and Tampere, and from Helsinki University Hospital — all in Finland — conducted a large population study investigating the relationship between diabetes and the risk of death due to factors such as alcohol, suicide, and accidents.

Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes place people at a heightened risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, as well as cancer and kidney disease.

All of these related health conditions can lead to premature death. However, other factors may also shorten the lifespan of people with a diabetes diagnosis.

One study published in the Journal of Medicine and Life in 2016, for instance, discovered that the occurrence of depression in people with diabetes is two to three times higher than in other individuals.

People with diabetes have spoken out about the toll that this disease takes on their mental health. For example, one even declared in an interview that “diabetes and depression are like bad twins.”

In the new study paper, Prof. Leo Niskanen and colleagues suggest that the mental health issues that may come to accompany a diagnosis of diabetes may also be the culprits behind the higher risk of death due to suicide, alcohol, or accidents.

The researchers’ findings appear in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

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Disease management impacts mental health

The team looked at the data of more than 400,000 people with and without diabetes and scanned for instances of death caused by suicide, alcohol-related causes, and accidents.

They saw that people with a form of diabetes were much likelier to die from these causes than people without diabetes.

The individuals with a form of diabetes that required self-injecting insulin on a regular basis were particularly exposed.

“We know that living with diabetes can lead to a mental health strain,” notes Prof. Niskanen, adding:

Having to monitor their glucose levels and inject themselves daily with insulin has a huge impact on [the] daily life [of people with diabetes]; simply eating, moving, and sleeping all affect blood glucose levels.”

“This strain,” he adds, “combined with the anxiety of developing serious complications like heart or kidney disease may also take their toll on psychological well-being.”

He also says that the new findings suggest that people living with diabetes should receive more effective mental health assessment and support.

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“This study has highlighted that there is a need for effective psychological support for people with diabetes,” says Prof. Niskanen.

“If they feel like they are under a heavy mental burden,” he explains, “or consider that their use of alcohol is excessive, they should not hesitate to discuss these issues with their primary care physician. There are many ways that these problems can be managed, provided they are communicated.”

The next step from here, they say, is to look into the underlying risk factors or mechanisms of this heightened risk in order to come up with better preventive strategies.

Also, the team explains that it is important to assess the potential impact of antidepressant drugs, as well as that of health complications such as low blood glucose, on the individuals at risk.

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Medical News Today: What is wryneck and how is it treated?

Wryneck occurs when the neck muscles twist beyond their usual capacity, causing the head to tilt. The condition is also known as torticollis or loxia.

Wryneck may develop over time. It can also occur after an injury to the area, or because of a reaction to medication.

A person with wryneck may find it uncomfortable or painful to put their head up straight or bend their neck to the unaffected side.

Wryneck in infants is common, with some sources reporting that it affects 3 in every 100 babies. In most infants, the condition is easily treatable.

Benign paroxysmal torticollis of infancy (BPTI) is a much rarer medical disorder in infants where the baby experiences recurrent episodes of the head tilting to one side.

In this article, we take a look at the causes behind wryneck, along with the possible treatment options for this condition.


Woman holding her neck in pain due to wry neck
An injury or infection can cause wryneck.

In adults, there are several reasons why wryneck may develop, though doctors are often unable to specify a reason.

Some of the common causes include:

  • injury to the neck or spine, causing the muscles to spasm
  • infection of the head or neck, where inflammation causes the muscles to contract
  • abscesses in the throat or upper airway
  • infections of other parts of the body, such as ears, sinuses, jaw, teeth, or scalp

Less common causes of wryneck include:

  • scar tissue
  • arthritis of the cervical spine
  • vascular abnormalities
  • drug misuse that causes a lack of muscle control
  • use of certain medication
  • tumors

Wryneck in children

Children, infants, and newborns usually develop wryneck because of congenital muscular torticollis (CMT), meaning they are born with the condition.

CMT develops when a muscle on one side of the neck called the sternocleidomastoid muscle is too short.

Other causes of wryneck in children include:

  • trauma during birth
  • flat head syndrome, where an infant keeps their head in the same position whenever they sleep
  • inherited diseases that cause problems with the muscles and nervous system

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There are several different types of wryneck. These include:

Temporary torticollis

Temporary torticollis will usually only affect a person for 1–2 days before disappearing. People with temporary torticollis may need to rest while keeping their neck as still as possible. They may not require any specific medical treatment, however.

Temporary torticollis can occur if the lymph nodes become inflamed after an infection or cold, or if a person has a neck injury that makes the joints between the neck bones swell.

Fixed torticollis

Fixed torticollis occurs because of an underlying problem with a person’s muscles or bone structure. It can also develop if a tumor is growing in the spinal cord, putting pressure on nerves in the area.

In children, fixed torticollis may cause their features to look unbalanced or their face to have a flattened appearance. Children may also experience a delay in their ability to use their facial muscles correctly.

Muscular torticollis

Muscular torticollis is the most common form of fixed torticollis. It happens when the muscles on one side of the neck are particularly tight, or when scar tissue affects mobility.

During pregnancy, muscular torticollis can develop in the fetus, if it moves into an unusual position in the womb, or the fetus does not have enough room.

Klippel-Feil syndrome

Klippel-Feil syndrome is a congenital condition. It develops when the bones in the neck do not grow correctly, and the neck becomes twisted.

People with Klippel-Feil syndrome may not be able to hear well if the bones in their ears are also affected.

Cervical dystonia

Cervical dystonia, also known as spasmodic torticollis, is a rarer form of the condition than other types. Cervical dystonia causes the neck muscles to spasm.

People with cervical dystonia experience painful episodes where the neck muscles contract and the head twists to one side, forward, or backward.


quadratus lumborum pain lady with back pain sitting at a desk
People with wryneck may also experience back pain.

Symptoms of wryneck vary from person-to-person. The most apparent sign of the condition is the neck twisting or tilting to one side.

People with wryneck may also experience:

  • painful, tense neck muscles
  • neck cramps or burning sensations in the neck
  • an unwillingness to turn or bend their head and neck to the opposite side
  • their eyes looking up without control
  • their tongue sticking out without control
  • jerky muscle spasms and head and neck movements
  • back pain
  • headaches

In infants, the symptoms of wryneck include:

  • tilting of the head to one side
  • flattening on one side of the head behind the ear
  • limited movement in the head and neck
  • features of the face appearing asymmetrical
  • a small, soft lump in the neck
  • breastfed babies favoring one breast over the other
  • musculoskeletal problems, such as hip dysplasia

In cases of torticollis that develop after birth, a baby may appear tired, irritable, and may vomit during episodes of head tilting.

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A doctor will diagnose wryneck with a physical examination and by asking questions about family history. They may also inquire about any current medications the person is taking.

The doctor may request X-rays of the neck to work out whether the problem is due to a bone fracture or dislocation.

A CT scan may be necessary to diagnose wryneck caused by more hard-to-spot abnormalities or conditions. These can include degenerative arthritis of the spine.

In some instances, what may appear as wryneck could be something more serious.

If a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they should seek immediate medical assistance:

  • muscle spasms in the neck after an injury
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • problems walking
  • impaired speech
  • weakness or numbness in the arms and legs
  • difficulty passing urine
  • urinary or fecal incontinence
  • swelling of the mouth or tongue
  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • a headache

Treatment options

Icepack being applied to the neck due to wryneck
Treatments for wryneck can include medication and ice packs.

Treatment for wryneck depends on the type and cause.

Some instances of wryneck can disappear within a few days if the person rests and avoids moving their neck.

Treatments for wryneck include:

  • ice packs
  • medication
  • physical devices to keep the neck fixed in place
  • physical therapy
  • massage therapy
  • stretching exercises
  • surgery

A doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs for spasmodic torticollis caused by injury or as a side effect of medications.

In cases of chronic neck muscle spasms and cervical dystonia, botulinum A toxin, also known as Botox, may provide relief by preventing the muscles from contracting. Botox may also prevent the condition from progressing.

Surgery can help avoid further symptoms if other forms of treatment do not work. A surgeon may cut certain nerves and muscles to stop them contracting.

Around 10 percent of children who have wryneck from birth will require surgery to lengthen the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck. This surgery will likely take place once the child reaches preschool age.

Brain stimulation is a rare treatment option. A doctor can do this by inserting a wire into the part of the brain that controls movement and disrupts the brain signals. Brain stimulation may help with cervical dystonia.

People with wryneck can also try home remedies to help manage symptoms of pain and discomfort. These remedies include:

  • Sleeping and getting plenty of rest. Wryneck symptoms may disappear during sleep, so getting plenty of rest and lying down can help to ease symptoms and bring relief.
  • Using heat packs or ice packs. These devices can relieve pain and soothe tight muscles.
  • Touching the opposite side of the face, chin, or neck. Doing this can trick the body and could help to stop spasms temporarily.
  • Reducing stress. Stress can cause muscles to tighten and may worsen wryneck symptoms. Knowing what triggers stress and using stress-reduction techniques can help to manage symptoms.
  • Stretching exercises. These may include gradually trying to move the head in the opposite direction, further and further each time, and can help to improve motion and ease discomfort.

People may want to speak to a physical therapist before attempting any stretches for wryneck.

In infants with wryneck, stretching can also help. Encouraging the baby to turn their head in both directions can relieve tension and build strong neck muscles. Using stimuli, such as noise and lights, can also encourage babies to move their heads.

A physical therapist can perform more intensive treatment on infants with wryneck and can advise on stretches to try at home.

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Wryneck is not always preventable, but prompt treatment can cure it or stop it from becoming worse.

There are many treatment options for managing symptoms and reducing how often they occur, and the outlook for people with this condition is usually good.

Nevertheless, people can become disabled from wryneck, particularly if they leave the condition untreated. They may find they have difficulty doing daily activities, such as driving, and they might experience persistent pain and discomfort.

Early intervention and physical therapy can help successfully treat infants and children with wryneck and prevent the condition from worsening.

In more severe cases, surgery on the nerves and muscles of the neck is an option, though the condition can still return.

In many cases, however, and with the right treatment, wryneck will go away within a few days or weeks.

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Medical News Today: Should people with GERD avoid caffeine?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease usually causes heartburn, as well as respiratory and digestive symptoms. Doctors often recommend that people with this common illness avoid drinking caffeine. However, the scientific evidence is not so clear.

In this article, we examine the effects caffeine may have on gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and investigate whether all people with GERD should avoid coffee and tea.

We also describe GERD and explore some dietary and lifestyle changes that can reduce symptoms.

Can a person with GERD drink coffee or tea?

Woman with GERD pouring coffee into tea mug
Coffee or tea may worsen GERD symptoms in some people.

Some people report that some foods and drinks, such as coffee and tea, trigger or worsen GERD symptoms. It is also common for doctors and health organizations to recommend that people with GERD limit or avoid the consumption of caffeinated beverages.

However, from the scientific evidence, it is not clear whether all people with GERD should avoid coffee and tea.

A 2013 study on the effects of coffee on GERD states, “Coffee use is often discouraged in patients with GERD, although little evidence exists linking coffee consumption and GERD incidence.”

Some people with GERD report that caffeinated drinks aggravate their symptoms, while others find that these beverages do not affect their symptoms.

In an interview for the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Lauren B. Gerson, an associate professor at Stanford University, discusses the effects of lifestyle changes on GERD and notes that no studies have determined the effects of avoiding caffeine on the disease.

However, Gerson suggests that a person with GERD try identifying and eliminating the foods and drinks that trigger symptoms. Recording meals and symptoms in a diary can help.

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What effect does caffeine have on GERD?

The effects of caffeine on GERD are unclear.

Though healthcare professionals often note that caffeine can aggravate reflux symptoms, little scientific evidence backs this up. In fact, guidelines on managing GERD do not recommend eliminating caffeine from the diet.

This lack of evidence that caffeinated beverages worsen GERD symptoms suggests that a person may not have to eliminate caffeine from their diet.

However, if a person finds that caffeine aggravates their GERD symptoms, they may prefer alternatives to coffee and caffeinated teas. Some other options include:

  • herbal or fruit teas
  • decaffeinated coffee
  • chicory coffee

Other dietary and lifestyle changes

Many people, including medical professionals, have identified specific foods and drinks that regularly aggravate GERD symptoms.

Some common triggers include:

  • chocolate
  • peppermint
  • tomatoes and tomato products
  • spicy foods
  • acidic foods
  • fatty foods
  • alcoholic drinks

However, as with caffeine, little scientific evidence suggests a strong association between these products and GERD symptoms.

Some people may benefit from cutting these foods and drinks from the diet, and every person with GERD should identify which foods trigger their symptoms.

According to guidelines on managing GERD, research indicates that other lifestyle interventions can reduce symptoms of the disease:

  • weight loss, for people who are overweight
  • raising the head of the bed by 6–8 inches with foam wedges or blocks
  • avoiding eating for 2 or 3 hours before bedtime

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) also recommend:

  • avoiding overeating
  • quitting smoking
  • wearing clothing that is loose, especially around the abdomen
  • remaining upright after meals for at least 3 hours
  • maintaining an upright posture when sitting
  • trying over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as antacids

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What is GERD?

Man with sore throat having trouble swallowing, holding glass of water.
GERD can cause trouble swallowing.

GERD causes stomach contents to rise into the food pipe, or the esophagus. This occurs if the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) grows weak or otherwise stops functioning.

The LES is a valve at the bottom of the food pipe that opens to let food and liquid into the stomach. If the LES fails to close, stomach acid can rise into the food pipe, causing symptoms of GERD.

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest. The symptoms vary in type and severity, and some people have few or none.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • an unpleasant taste in the throat or mouth
  • bad breath
  • tooth decay
  • a sore throat
  • chest pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • difficult or painful swallowing
  • respiratory problems, such as wheezing, coughing, chest congestion, or asthma

GERD is a common condition. According to the NIDDK, it affects around 20 percent of people in the United States.

Risk factors for developing GERD include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • being pregnant
  • smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products
  • taking certain medications


GERD is a common condition that can cause a range of symptoms. Some can affect a person’s quality of life.

Medical professionals often advise people with GERD to eliminate certain foods and drinks from the diet, including those with caffeine. However, little scientific evidence links caffeine with the disease.

If caffeine seems to aggravate symptoms of GERD, it may be a good idea to avoid it and see if symptoms improve.

Keeping a food diary can help a person identify the foods and drinks that trigger or worsen their GERD symptoms.

A range of OTC and prescription medications can treat GERD, and a doctor can advise about the best treatments.

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Medical News Today: Could this amino acid improve glucose control in diabetes?

The discovery of a previously unknown effect of the amino acid alanine on cell metabolism could lead to new drugs for short-term control of blood glucose.
Alanine amino acid
Could an amino acid provide clues to diabetes?

Amino acids are small building block molecules that the body uses to make proteins. Alanine is classed as a nonessential amino acid because the body can make it without having to source it from food.

Scientists at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, have now uncovered a new and unique role for alanine by studying it in laboratory cells and mice.

It appears that the amino acid activates an enzyme called AMP kinase (AMPK) that increases energy production in cells. This results in a short-term reduction in blood glucose that does not involve insulin.

A study paper about the findings now features in the journal Molecular Metabolism.

“AMPK,” says senior study author Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Patti, who is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center, “is an enzyme in cells throughout the body that is activated when nutrient supplies are low, or in response to exercise.”

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AMPK and metabolism

It is possible that the discovery about alanine’s effect on AMPK could eventually lead to a pill that a person can swallow before a meal to exert a temporary effect on glucose metabolism.

“However, this is early-stage research, and we need to test the concept both in mice and ultimately in humans,” Dr. Patti adds.

Scientists already knew that AMPK helps regulate metabolism at the cell, tissue, and systemic level in response to nutrient levels.

AMPK achieves this in several ways. In cells, for instance, when it receives the trigger signal, it switches on genes that ramp up energy production.

“AMPK is a good thing,” Dr. Patti explains, “and it also can be activated by a variety of treatments for type 2 diabetes, such as metformin.”

Type 2 diabetes develops from insulin resistance, a condition in which the body does not respond properly to insulin, the hormone that helps cells absorb and use blood sugar, or glucose.

Around 90–95 percent of the 30 million people in the United States with diabetes have type 2. Although type 2 diabetes typically occurs after the age of 45, it is becoming increasingly common in younger adults and children.

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Alanine ‘consistently activated AMPK’

Dr. Patti and her team wanted to find out whether any particular amino acids activated AMPK. They also wanted to understand how the trigger mechanism works at the cell and systemic level.

They started by screening several amino acids using rat liver cells. They used liver cells because the liver plays a key role in controlling glucose in the body.

“Alanine was the one amino acid that was consistently able to activate AMPK,” Dr. Patti notes.

In the next stage of the study, the team confirmed that alanine was triggering AMPK’s metabolic activity. They also ran tests to confirm this in liver cells from humans and mice.

All the tests showed that alanine triggered AMPK in rat, mouse, and human liver cells, regardless of whether the glucose levels in the cells were high or low.

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Alanine lowered glucose in mice

The scientists then ran tests on live mice. They saw that levels of AMPK in the mice went up when they gave the animals oral doses of alanine. They also found that mice given alanine before receiving a glucose dose developed lower levels of glucose.

Further tests revealed that the same mechanism was present in mice with and without obesity, even though glucose often metabolizes differently in under- and overweight mice.

In a final set of experiments, the researchers revealed that the changes in glucose levels were not the result of insulin and glucagon secretion. Instead, they were due to AMPK helping the liver use glucose and release less of it by changing a cell metabolism process.

All these data together suggest that amino acids, and specifically alanine, may be a unique potential way to modify glucose metabolism.”

Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Patti

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Medical News Today: Is sleeping too much bad for your brain?

The largest sleep study ever concludes that sleeping too little or too much has a negative impact on our cognitive ability, but not on our short-term memory.
Sleeping woman
How does sleep duration impact our ability to think?

As years of research mount up, we are steadily improving our understanding of sleep.

However, despite making up around one third of our entire lives, sleep still holds many mysteries.

The strains of modern life often mean that we sleep less than we might like.

Increased screen time, caffeine, and stress are among the many reasons why people do not get the sleep that they require.

So, as our sleep quality deteriorates, understanding the impact on health and performance is more important than ever.

To add to our growing knowledge of sleep, researchers from Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute in Canada set up the largest sleep study to date.

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The largest sleep study ever

Launched in June 2017, the online sleep study collected data from more than 40,000 participants in just the first few days.

As Adrian Owen, a cognitive neuroscience researcher at Western, explains, “We really wanted to capture the sleeping habits of people around the entire globe. Obviously, there have been many smaller sleep studies of people in laboratories, but we wanted to find out what sleep is like in the real world.”

The number and diversity of participants allowed them to compare the impact of sleep deprivation on people of different ages, professions, and lifestyles. Their preliminary findings, based on an analysis of 10,000 people, were published recently in the journal SLEEP.

To get an in-depth understanding of the people involved in this study, the team collected detailed data from participants.

As Owen goes on to explain, “We had a fairly extensive questionnaire, and they told us things like which medications they were on, how old they were, where they were in the world, and what kind of education they’d received because these are all factors that might have contributed to some of the results.”

This gave the scientists the opportunity to test a range of theories and gain an understanding of how sleep quantity might affect people. Volunteers underwent a battery of 12 well-established cognitive tests so that the amount of sleep could be correlated with mental ability.

About half of the participants slept for 6.3 hours or under per night, which is around an hour less than the study’s recommended level.

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Where are the deficits?

It took the scientists by surprise that getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night was associated with the highest cognitive functioning. Both shorter and longer duration of sleep caused a dip in performance.

Interestingly, this effect was constant, regardless of age. That said, older adults were more likely to have a shorter sleep duration, meaning that as a whole, they were impacted more by sleep deprivation than other age groups.

Both more and less sleep negatively impacted a variety of cognitive functions, such as identifying complex patterns and manipulating information to solve problems. It was verbal ability that was most significantly impacted.

One of the most surprising findings from the cognitive tests was that people who slept for 4 hours or under each night performed as though they were almost 8 years older.

We found that the optimum amount of sleep to keep your brain performing [at] its best is 7 to 8 hours every night, and that corresponds to what the doctors will tell you [you] need to keep your body in tip-top shape.”

Lead study author Conor Wild

He continues, “We also found that people that slept more than that amount were equally impaired as those who slept too little.” Though the researchers had expected to see cognitive deficits in those who slept for less time, seeing deficits in those who slept for longer was surprising.

When the scientists drilled down into the different types of cognitive test, they saw that short-term memory was relatively untouched by sleep duration; this is surprising, as sleep is known to be important for memory consolidation.

Previous sleep deprivation studies — where an entire night of sleep is missed — have noted drops in memory performance. The study authors wonder whether this might show that long-term sleep habits have a different cognitive effect than sleep deprivation over a shorter period of time.

However, just 1 night’s sleep seems to be able to reverse some of the deficits caused by sleeping for under 7–8 hours. The researchers found that those who had slept more than usual the night before taking the tests performed better than individuals who had slept their normal amount.

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‘Real-world implications’

The results show just how much difference sleep can make to the way our brains perform, which is important as more and more of us get less and less sleep. The authors give a rather stark warning:

“These findings have significant real-world implications, because many people, including those in positions of responsibility, operate on very little sleep and may suffer from impaired reasoning, problem-solving, and communications skills on a daily basis.”

The authors mention some limitations to the study; for instance, there are inherent problems with relying on self-rated sleep duration. However, because the study was carried out on such a huge group of people, these effects should have been minimized.

Also, this study is cross-sectional, meaning that it took a snapshot of each participant; this design means that it is not possible to definitively prove cause and effect.

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Medical News Today: How do dairy fats influence the risk of type 2 diabetes?

The debate on whether dairy and dairy-derived fats are good or bad for health has been going on for many years. However, recent data seem to suggest that milk, cheese, and yogurt may be more beneficial than harmful. A new international study corroborates evidence that dairy fats may lower the risk of diabetes.
various dairy products
Is dairy fat protective or harmful when it comes to diabetes risk? A new study evaluates international data.

Recent studies have been suggesting that the consumption of dairy products may have various health benefits.

For instance, one study covered on Medical News Today last month argued that full-fat dairy could help maintain cardiovascular health.

Still, not everyone agrees with these findings, and some countries — including the United Kingdom and the United States — have proposed dietary guidelines that encourage people to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

Now, an international research team led by scientists from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and from Tufts University in Medford, MA, has conducted a pooled analysis of various prospective cohort studies, looking at the relationship between dairy fat consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers analyzed the data collected from 16 prospective cohorts from 12 countries, including the U.S. and Australia, which amounted to 63,682 participants in total. Their findings appear in the journal PLOS Medicine.

In explaining why they chose to conduct this analysis, the authors write that the “effects of dairy fat on type 2 diabetes are not well established.”

“While dairy fat contains palmitic acid that could increase risk of [type 2 diabetes], it also contains several other types of fatty acids and further reflects specific foods, such as cheese or yogurt, that could reduce risk,” they note.

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Dairy fat levels and diabetes risk

The investigators studied the participants’ biomarkers of dairy fat consumption, considering how these correlated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.

None of the participants had diabetes at baseline, though 15,158 individuals developed this metabolic condition over the study follow-up period, which lasted more than 20 years.

By analyzing the data derived from all of the 16 studies, the researchers found links between people with higher concentrations of dairy fat biomarkers in their system and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, the scientists acknowledge that factors other than a person’s levels of dairy consumption could influence the levels of the biomarkers considered in this study.

Compared with participants with the lowest concentrations of dairy fat biomarkers, those with the highest levels had an approximately 30 percent decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the study authors note.

“Our results provide the most comprehensive global evidence to date about dairy fat biomarkers and their relationship with lower risk of type 2 diabetes,” says lead researcher Dr. Fumiaki Imamura.

“We’re aware that our biomarker work has limitations and requires further research on underlying mechanisms, but at the very least, the available evidence about dairy fat does not indicate any increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes,” he adds.

We hope that our findings and existing evidence about dairy fat will help inform future dietary recommendations for the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases.”

Dr. Fumiaki Imamura

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‘A need to re-examine’ dairy benefits

Senior study author Prof. Dariush Mozaffarian also believes that the current findings may call for a revision of dietary guidelines that encourage people to avoid full-fat dairy.

“While dairy foods are recommended as part of a healthy diet, the U.S. and international guidelines generally recommend low-fat or non-fat dairy due to concerns about adverse effects of higher calories or saturated fat,” says Prof. Mozaffarian.

“Our findings, measuring biomarkers of fatty acids consumed in dairy fat, suggest a need to re-examine the potential metabolic benefits of dairy fat or foods rich in dairy fat, such as cheese,” the senior author advises.

This topic warrants further research. However, any future studies will need to take some of the limitations faced by the current analysis into consideration.

The researchers explain that their results do not distinguish between different types of dairy products, though it is important to note that the consumption of different foods, such as milk versus cheese, may have a different impact on metabolic risk.

Finally, the current analysis focused mostly on white populations, which means that the findings may not apply to different cohorts. For this reason, future studies should aim to include more diverse populations.

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Medical News Today: Is compulsive eating before a period normal?

Compulsive eating is common in the days leading up to a period. Several tips and strategies can help a person curb these cravings.

Compulsive eating, or binge eating, is an overwhelming urge to eat more food than necessary. It may involve snacking when not hungry or eating in secret. Some people feel sadness or shame after doing so.

An increase in appetite is common before a menstrual period. Some people crave specific foods, such as chocolate or french fries.

An increased appetite is often normal, but sometimes it indicates a more serious issue. Occasional overeating is not usually a cause for concern, but regular compulsive eating may indicate binge eating disorder (BED).

In this article, we look at why many people eat compulsively before their periods. We also explore some ways to prevent or reduce this behavior.

Is compulsive eating before a period normal?

Woman experiencing compulsive eating before period holding a sandwich
Compulsive eating is a potential symptom of PMS.

Many people experience specific food cravings or a general increase in appetite in the days leading up to their menstrual periods.

These are common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects over 90 percent of females at some point in their lives.

Other symptoms of PMS include:

For many people, food cravings and slight increases in hunger levels are a regular part of the menstrual cycle.

For others, BED and PMS occur together. If compulsive eating persists after the period ends, this may indicate an eating disorder, which requires medical treatment.

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Why does it happen?

Some research suggests that changes in the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone cause cravings for foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars before a period.

Carbs and sweet foods may also help relieve the low mood and fatigue that often occur prior to the onset of a period.

Sugars and starches both cause the body to release serotonin, a chemical that increases feelings of happiness. Also, eating regularly helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which may keep moods steady.

Compulsive eating before a period can sometimes indicate premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This more severe form of PMS affects up to 5 percent of women of childbearing age.

PMDD can cause symptoms of depression, mood changes, and food cravings or binge eating.

Some research also suggests an association between binge eating and menstrual issues, such as irregular periods or an absence of periods.


A person can try several strategies for preventing or reducing the extent of compulsive eating.

Many experience relief after making lifestyle changes, but others also require support or treatment from a medical professional.

The following steps can help:

Recognize the issue

A person should become aware of the amount and types of food they eat, before a period and at other stages of their menstrual cycle.

Using a food diary or a similar app can help a person identify times that they eat compulsively and how severe the issue may be.

Make healthful food choices

Mexican lentil with rice and avocado aioli in bowl
Lentils and brown rice contain complex carbohydrates.

It can be tempting to give in to cravings, for chocolate or pizza, for example. Simple carbohydrates, found in candy, cookies, and white bread, can release serotonin and fight fatigue.

However, complex carbohydrates, often found in more healthful foods, have the same effects. These also last much longer and do not cause sudden crashes in energy and mood.

A person can find complex carbohydrates in:

  • beans and lentils
  • vegetables
  • whole grains, such as brown rice and oats

If a person has cravings for sweet foods, fresh fruits and smoothies made with fruit and yogurt present a more healthful option than candy.

A person can also try chewing gum and filling up on water and herbal teas.

Some people find it helpful to eat a little bit of the food they crave, such as a square of high-quality dark chocolate. Denying the cravings completely sometimes causes them to persist.

Boost your mood

Eating is not the only way to lift the mood and reduce fatigue. Often, a brisk walk or another form of moderate physical activity causes the body to release “feel-good chemicals,” such as endorphins.

This type of activity can also boost a person’s energy levels.

If stress is contributing to a low mood, a person can benefit from relaxation techniques, such as:

  • deep breathing
  • massage
  • mindfulness and meditation
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • yoga

Seek support from others

Talking to other people about compulsive eating and other PMS symptoms may provide reassurance and a sense of relief.

It may help to speak to friends and family. Some people benefit from attending Overeaters Anonymous support groups.

See a dietician

A dietician can help a person fully understand the connection between compulsive eating and their menstrual cycle.

They may also be able to suggest specific strategies to help control cravings and moderate hunger.

Attend psychotherapy

People with severe binge eating symptoms may benefit from psychotherapy.

A therapist can help a person address the underlying issues, such as shame, poor self-esteem, and depression, that can drive compulsive eating.

Psychotherapy is available on a one-to-one or a group basis. Forms of therapy for compulsive eating include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, aims to help people change their behaviors by addressing triggering thoughts and emotions.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy aims to help people handle stress and negative emotions rather than turning to food for relief.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationships with others and works to improve interpersonal skills.

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When to speak to a doctor

Woman in doctors office
It may be helpful for a person to consult a doctor if compulsive eating causes emotional distress.

Lifestyle changes and certain strategies can often help a person curb overeating, as can opening up with friends, support groups, or a therapist.

However, a person may also need to contact a doctor for advice and medical treatment.

See a doctor if compulsive eating:

  • persists throughout the month
  • causes depression, anxiety, or other forms of distress
  • leads to significant weight gain

A doctor may recommend therapy, medications, or other additional techniques.

Recovering from BED will require a person to closely follow a treatment plan and seek support from others.


Changing levels of hormones often cause food cravings or a general increase in appetite in the days leading up to a period.

By adopting some strategies, many people can prevent or reduce these cravings. Others benefit from seeking support and treatment from medical professionals.

See if a doctor if compulsive eating persists throughout the month, causes depression or anxiety, or leads to significant weight gain.

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Medical News Today: Causes and home remedies for toe cramps

The toes and feet bear the weight of the body every day. People may squeeze them into tight-fitting shoes or subject them to pressure while playing sports, making toe cramps a common complaint.

When people experience toe cramps, they may be a mild annoyance or so intense that walking becomes difficult.

Toe cramps have many possible causes. In most cases, the pain is temporary and will subside without treatment.

In this article, learn about the possible causes of toe cramps and how to get relief with treatment and home remedies.

12 causes of toe cramps

Causes of toe cramps can include:

1. Tight or weak muscles

Holding toes due to toe cramps
A sedentary lifestyle or wearing ill-fitting shoes can lead to muscle tension and weakness.

Dozens of tiny muscles help the foot and toes move. Tightness in any of these muscles can cause muscle spasms and pain.

Sometimes the pain comes from another muscle. An example of this might be tension in the ankle or Achilles tendon that causes muscle spasms in the foot or toes.

Some common reasons for muscle tension or weakness include:

  • a new exercise routine
  • wearing ill-fitting shoes
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • not stretching before exercise

2. Muscle injuries

Injuries to muscles and other tissues in the feet, toes, or calves can cause toe cramps or soreness.

Sprains, which are injuries to ligaments, can cause weakness and pain in the toes. Strains, which are injuries to muscles or tendons, can also cause pain.

Some common causes of muscle injuries include:

  • overexertion
  • a fall or blow to the foot or leg
  • overextending a muscle, tendon, or ligament

3. Poorly fitting shoes

High heels, shoes that are too tight or loose, and pointy-toed shoes can put pressure on the toes and surrounding areas.

This pressure can cause toe cramps, especially if the shoes force them into an awkward position. Shoes that do not fit properly can also cause muscle injuries.

4. Dehydration

Dehydration sometimes causes muscles to cramp or feel tense.

Dehydration is especially likely to cause toe cramps when the muscles are already injured or overexerted, or when tight shoes hurt the toes.

5. Electrolyte imbalances

Electrolyte imbalances can cause the muscles to cramp and spasm. Sometimes, dehydration causes an electrolyte imbalance.

In other cases, an underlying medical condition may be the culprit. Tetany, which is due to low levels of calcium, is an electrolyte imbalance that may cause muscle cramps.

6. Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) can cause nighttime foot and leg cramps, odd sensations in the legs, and make it difficult for a person to fall asleep.

About a third of people over 50 years old experience RLS. Nighttime foot and leg cramps are also common when women are pregnant.

RLS is not well understood, and doctors are not sure what causes it.

7. Nerve damage

Neuropathy is when a person’s nerves are damaged. The condition causes pain, cramps, tingling, or numbness.

Uncontrolled diabetes is a common cause of nerve damage. People with diabetic neuropathy commonly experience pain, muscle spasms, numbness, and sores on the feet and toes.

Other conditions can also cause nerve damage, including Parkinson’s disease.

8. Poor blood flow

When there is not enough blood flow to the feet or toes, they may ache or spasm. Sitting for a long time, having diabetes, and crossing the legs for too long can slow blood flow to the toes and feet.

Peripheral artery disease causes arteries throughout the body to narrow, weakening blood flow. This condition may also cause toe cramps.

9. Arthritis

Arthritis is a group of diseases that cause pain and inflammation in the joints. For some people, the pain of arthritis feels like muscle cramps.

If a person is also experiencing joint pain, or if other joints hurt, such as those in the hands, it could be a sign of arthritis.

10. Dystonia

Dystonia is a symptom and not a disease. Dystonia is an ongoing involuntary contraction or spasm in a muscle or group of muscles.

Numerous medical conditions, such as Wilson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain injuries, or even a stroke can cause dystonia.

11. Organ failure

Problems with various organs can alter electrolyte levels, make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, and damage muscles and nerves.

Organ failure can cause pain, cramps, and spasms throughout the body. People at risk of kidney or liver failure should see a doctor if they are experience muscle cramps.

12. Rare infections

Very rarely, an infection can damage the muscles or harm the nervous system in a way that causes muscle cramps.

Tetanus, for example, can cause muscle spasms, though the spasms usually begin in the stomach or jaw.

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Home remedies

Walking can help with toe cramps
Light exercise can help treat some causes of toe cramps.

People can often treat minor muscle injuries and other causes of temporary toe cramps at home. Some potentially effective home remedies include:

  • Stretching: Try flexing and then extending the toes 5–10 times. Follow this by stretching the ankles and feet by rotating the feet and ankles clockwise then counterclockwise 5–10 times may also help.
  • Exercise: Light exercise, such as walking, can help strengthen the muscles of the legs, feet, and toes. Exercises that target the feet and toes may also help. Try placing objects on the floor, then picking them up with the toes.
  • Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE): Resting a minor injury, wrapping it, elevating it, and applying ice packs for about 20 minutes at a time may help reduce symptoms.
  • Heat: Heat can sometimes help with injuries and muscle cramps. For extra relief, try alternating heat and cold packs.
  • Massage: Massaging the feet, legs, and the ankles may help muscle spasms. Start with gentle massage then gradually increase the pressure.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Drugs known as NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can help with pain due to muscle injuries, arthritis, and other common causes of cramps.

Home remedies can also offer temporary relief when toe cramps are due to a serious underlying condition, although they will not cure the condition, and relying on home remedies alone may allow the disorder to progress and get worse. If the cramps last for more than a few days, it is best to see a doctor.


A few simple strategies can reduce the risk of toe cramps. Tips for prevention include:

  • Keeping physically active. People who work at desk jobs should take frequent walking breaks.
  • Wearing supportive shoes that fit. Orthotic shoes and special shoes for different sports can help prevent toe injuries.
  • Stretching the muscles of the toes and feet every day. Consider joining a yoga or Pilates class for more sustained stretching.
  • Treating any underlying medical conditions. This includes making any lifestyle changes a doctor recommends and taking medication exactly as a doctor prescribes.

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When to see a doctor

A person should see a doctor if:

  • Cramps are so painful that they make it difficult to walk or function.
  • Cramps come with signs of an infection, such as a fever or a visible injury to the foot.
  • Cramps occur in a person with an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney failure.
  • Cramps do not get better without treatment within a week.
  • The feet are swollen or discolored.
  • The feet feel numb.

Medical treatment

Doctor looking at a foot X-ray
A doctor may order X-rays to check for injuries.

The right medical treatment for toe cramps depends on the cause. A doctor will do a thorough exam and may order X-rays or other imaging tests to check for injuries.

If the doctor suspects an underlying condition, they might order blood work or other tests.

Depending on the cause, the doctor may recommend:

  • medication to manage chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or arthritis
  • lifestyle changes, such as a low glycemic index diet for diabetes
  • surgery to repair injuries
  • orthotic shoe inserts
  • physical therapy


Toe cramps can be bothersome, but they are a common experience. They often go away on their own without treatment.

For toe cramps that get worse or do not reduce over time, it is best to see a doctor. A doctor can help diagnose the underlying cause and offer medical treatment and lifestyle changes that may help.

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Medical News Today: New risk factor for mouth cancer uncovered

In some regions, mouth cancer incidence has risen. A recent study uncovers a new risk factor that might help explain these increases.
Air pollution mask
A recent study investigates a new risk factor for mouth cancer.

In certain parts of the world, over the past couple of decades, mouth cancer rates have soared.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, rates of mouth cancer have increased by 68 percent. They rose from eight cases per 100,0000 in 1992–1995 to 13 cases per 100,000 in 2012–2014.

In the United States, mouth cancer and mortality rates have declined overall. However, when examined at a state level, the data reveal a more complex picture.

For instance, mouth cancer deaths have risen significantly in Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, Maine, Idaho, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Some known risk factors for mouth cancer include smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, human papillomavirus (HPV), and chewing betel quid, which is a mix of natural ingredients wrapped in a betel leaf that is popular in some parts of Southeast Asia.

In India, mouth cancers are the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men aged 30–69 years old. Scientists think that chewing betel quid could be responsible for many of these deaths.

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New risk factor for mouth cancer

Although scientists have confirmed some risk factors, there is still much to learn about how and why mouth cancer affects certain individuals and not others. Recently, scientists set out to investigate another potential risk factor: air pollution.

The researchers, funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan, published their findings this week in the Journal of Investigative Medicine.

In particular, the team focused on the impact of fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5. These are particles of liquid or solid matter that measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter or under.

Scientists already knew that PM2.5 has a negative impact on cardiovascular and respiratory health, but they wanted to find out whether exposure to higher levels of PM2.5 might also increase mouth cancer risk.

To investigate, they collated information from 482,659 men aged 40 years old or above. All participants had attended health services and given information about smoking and chewing betel quid.

The scientists next gathered data from 66 air quality-monitoring stations across Taiwan. By referring to the participants’ health records, the scientists could estimate each person’s exposure to PM2.5.

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Risk increased by 43 percent

The researchers collected the data in 2012–2013. During this time, 1,617 men developed mouth cancer. As expected, both tobacco smoking and chewing betel quid increased mouth cancer risk.

After taking a range of influencing factors into account, the scientists demonstrated that exposure to PM2.5 also increased mouth cancer risk.

The scientists compared PM2.5 levels of below 26.74 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) with those above 40.37 ug/m3. They associated the higher levels of PM2.5 with a 43 percent increase in the risk of developing mouth cancer. According to the authors:

This study, with a large sample size, is the first to associate mouth cancer with PM2.5. […] These findings add to the growing evidence on the adverse effects of PM2.5 on human health.”

Alongside PM2.5’s relationship with mouth cancer, the authors identified a correlation between higher levels of ozone and an increased risk of developing the disease.

The next challenge will be to understand how particulate matter might cause mouth cancer. Although this will require more detailed studies, some theorize that carcinogenic compounds found in PM2.5, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals, might be part of the answer.

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Because these particles have such a small diameter, the body absorbs them relatively easily, potentially causing damage as they travel through the body.

However, the authors also remind us to be cautious — this is an observational study, so it cannot definitively prove that pollution causes mouth cancer. Also, it is not clear exactly how much PM2.5 enters the mouth.

This interaction needs further investigation, but the large size of the current study makes their conclusions worthy of follow-up.

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