Strength training could reduce tension headaches
There may be another benefit to strength training. According to the findings of a small-scale Danish study, strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles may help prevent—or reduce the pain of—tension headaches.
To conduct their study, researchers from the Danish Headache Center compared 60 adults with tension headaches to 30 healthy individuals. The participants’ neck extensor muscles were tested when they leaned their heads back. Neck flexor muscles were tested when they bent their heads forward. The strength of the trapezius muscle running down the back of the neck into the shoulder was also tested.
The healthy people in the study had 26 percent stronger neck extension than those with tension-type headaches. The participants without tension headaches also had more shoulder strength when they raised each arm out to the side.
Past studies have suggested that forward leaning head posture and weaker neck extension might be contributing to tension headaches. Also, according to the researchers, the frequent use of computers, laptops and tablets is increasing the time people sit with a “protruded head posture.” They noted that working a physical therapist or trainer to strengthen your core muscles may help you avoid using medications to treat tension headaches.
Fructose may boost cravings for high-calorie foods
Eating right is complicated. According to new research at the University of Southern California, fructose, the sugar found in fruits, honey and corn syrup, increases activity in the brain’s reward center and may actually ramp up our cravings for high-calorie foods.
The researchers had participants drink a 10-ounce glass of cherry-flavored liquid that contained two and a half ounces of fructose or glucose. However, before consuming the drink, study participants rated their desire to eat on a one-to-10 scale from “not at all” to “very much.” Then they drank the liquids and had MRI brain scans while looking at images of both food and neutral objects, such as buildings or baskets. As they did so, they rated their hunger using the scale. The volunteers were then presented with images of high-calorie foods and asked whether they would like to have the food now, or receive a monetary award a month later instead.
The results showed that compared with glucose, fructose seemed to produce greater responses to food cues in the orbital frontal cortex of the brain, which is a region that plays an important role in reward processing. The fructose drink also produced greater activity in the visual cortex when volunteers looked at images of food, which suggests increased cravings compared with glucose.
The researchers did emphasize that the results shouldn’t encourage people to cut fruit from their diets, pointing out that fruit actually has a low amount of sugar compared with processed foods and soda, and the amount of fiber in fruit is more important to the body than the few grams of sugar. Much better to stop drinking so much soda or fruit drinks.
Insomnia worsens chronic pain
New research in Norway suggests a strong link between insomnia and a person’s reaction to pain. The study, published in the journal Pain, found that people with sleep problems were more sensitive to pain than those who didn’t have trouble sleeping, and also that people who suffered from both chronic pain and insomnia had a particularly high sensitivity to pain.
Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health measured pain sensitivity in more than 10,000 adults who were participants in the Tromsø Study, which is an ongoing public health study in Norway that began in 1974. During the study, the scientists first asked the participants about their experience with insomnia, how long it took them to fall asleep and other sleep issues. Then the participants completed a cold-pressor test, in which people are asked to place their hands in cold water for a set period of time. This is a standard way to mimic chronic pain.
The results showed that 42 percent of patients who had insomnia took their hands out of the water before the 106 seconds were up, whereas only 31 percent of all of the participants did so. The researchers also noticed that increased sensitivity to pain was greater in those with more severe or more frequent insomnia. Additionally, the patients with both severe insomnia and chronic pain were more than twice as likely to take their hands out of the water early as people who had neither condition.
The researchers say the study should help increase awareness among doctors of the need to consider treating insomnia and chronic pain simultaneously.
Cutting out one sugary drink a day lowers diabetes risk
Just swapping out one sugary drink a day with water or unsweetened tea or coffee can lower a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the
European journal Diabetologia.
To conduct the study, researchers had 25,000 men and women living in Norfolk England, between the ages of 44 and 79, create a log of what they ate and drank for seven consecutive days. Participants were asked to include what type of foods they consumed and how often they consumed them, as well as if any sugar as added to to the food. Researchers then did an 11-year follow up, and found that during that time 847 participants were diagnosed with adult onset type 2 diabetes.
Researchers noted that by using a food diary, they were able study a range of different types of drinks. They were also able to pinpoint what happens when drinks such water or unsweetened tea or artificially sweetened drinks replace sugary drinks such as sodas or sweet teas.The results suggest that when a person’s total energy intake from sugary drinks increases by just 5 percent, the risk of type 2 diabetes can increase up to 18 percent. The study also found that using unsweetened tea or water as a replacement for just one daily sugary drink reduces diabetes risk by 14 percent, and as a replacement for sweetened milk, reduces diabetes risk by 20 to 25 percent.
This current study reinforces previous research that has linked high sugar beverage consumption with a higher type 2 diabetes risk.