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We would all do well to like it hot

Some like it hot, and a new study finds that folks who favor spicy foods might also have a lower risk of premature death. The study was based on a large multi-year food analysis. It found that adults who reported eating spicy foods — such as fresh and dried chili pepper — as little as three days per week were less likely to die during the study period than those who consumed such foods less than once a week.

“If you eat more spicy food, it’s better for your health and lowers the risk for mortality, especially as it relates to cancer and heart disease," said study lead author Dr. Lu Qi, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The findings were published in the online edition of BMJ. HealthDay Reporter. Read more here

Stress may sabotage diets by short-circuiting self-control

People are less likely to resist tasty, unhealthy foods when they’re under stress because the promise of immediate reward trumps longer-term goals to eat well, a Swiss study suggests. Using brain scans, researchers found that circuits in the brain associated with reward are amped up and those linked to self-control are dialed down in participants under stress. The more stressed people felt themselves to be, the stronger the effect. “We find that stress increases reward signaling and thus may boost a craving for getting the instantaneously rewarding option," which ties in with earlier studies of stress and decision circuits in the brain, said lead author Silvia U. Maier at the University of Zurich. “You could say it’s almost like stress is turning up the dial on signals about taste, and turning down the signal on health goals," she said. Read more at Reuters

Liberal or conservative? Blame it on your genes

Aristotle may have been more on the money than he realised in saying man is a political animal, according to research linking genes with liberal or conservative leanings. Or, to be precise, a specific variant of one gene that would seem to exert greater sway over women than men. Working with 1,771 university students of Han Chinese origin in Singapore, researchers compared answers to surveys -- including one tailored to hot-button issues in the city-state -- with the presence of a permutation of the DRD4 gene. DRD4 is one of several genes that determines the way dopamine -- a crucial neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger -- is released in the brain. What they found was a robust link between the presence (or not) of the variant and a split between liberals inclined to decry inequality, on the one hand, and die-hard conservative wary of change, on the other. Women, it was also shown, tended to be more conservative in general. Read more at AFP

Take that pill

The contraceptive pill has prevented some 200,000 cases of womb cancer over the last decade in rich nations alone, according to research published Wednesday.

A study in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology found that taking “the pill" over an extended period provided protection against endometrial cancer, which affects the womb. The researchers estimated that in total, over the past 50 years, some 400,000 endometrial cancers were avoided in high-income countries. Read more at AFP

Nutrition, not losing weight, key to good health

If you are watching what you eat, working out, and still not seeing improvements in your cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar, here’s some hope. A new report appearing in the August 2015 issue of The FASEB Journal suggests that inflammation induced by deficiencies in vitamins and minerals might be the culprit. In this report, researchers show that - in some people - improvement results in many of the major markers of health when nutritional deficiencies are corrected. Some even lost weight without a change in their diet or levels of activity. Read more here

Compiled by Pooja Chaturvedi

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