According to a recent study, maintaining a healthy weight while kicking the smoking habit helps former smokers regain the best possible lung function. Results of the study, published in The Lancet, indicated that weight gain might reduce the beneficial effects of smoking cessation on lung function, especially in men. Researchers found that weight gain cut lung function benefit by approximately 38 percent for men and by approximately 17 percent for women. Although weight gain had a less detrimental effect in women, researchers say the reason many women don’t quit smoking is that they fear gaining weight—a common side effect of cessation.
Eating more fish may lead to a healthier heart, but don’t plan that fish fry just yet. The New York Times reports that results of a study presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA) showed signs of hardened arteries in participants who consumed fried fish regularly. In that same group, researchers also found little evidence of omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy component of fish. The AHA still recommends a diet high in fish, according to the report, but only if it is baked or broiled. Researchers speculate that fried fish doesn’t have the same risk-reducing capabilities as baked or broiled fish, because commonly fried species are lower in omega-3s and because, in general, frying isn’t healthy.
Prayer and prescriptions are the best pain relievers. In a recent poll sponsored by Stanford University Medical Center, ABC News, and USA Today, approximately 60 percent of respondents reported significant pain within the previous month, and approximately 40 percent said they experience pain often. Nearly the same number of respondents chose prescription medications (60 percent) as chose prayer (58 percent) to remedy the pain. Although over-the-counter medications and home remedies (e.g., ice packs, heating pads, hot baths) were the most commonly used pain relievers, respondents said prescription medications and prayer were the most effective.
A soft-drink nightcap might lead to bedtime pain. Results of a study published in Chest suggest a link between nighttime heartburn and soda consumption. More than 25 percent of the 15,000 participants in the Sleep Heart Health Study said they experienced nighttime acid reflux. Those who drank at least one serving of a carbonated soft drink per day had a 31 percent higher risk for heartburn at bedtime compared with those who stayed away from soft drinks. Researchers say many sodas are acidic and contain carbon dioxide that can expand the stomach, which in turn can cause acid reflux.
Why is acupuncture a possible therapy for migraine sufferers? You can rule out needle placement, the fundamental element of acupuncture. According to a study published in JAMA, patients who received the ancient Chinese therapy had fewer migraine headaches, even though the placement of the needles didn’t seem to matter. Patients receiving placebo acupuncture (needles not placed in designated acupuncture points) also had fewer moderate to severe headaches. Both groups experienced headaches an average of three days per month after acupuncture, compared with five days per month before the treatment. Researchers say the relief may be attributed to the hands-on, repetitive stimuli of acupuncture or because patients believe acupuncture works—the placebo effect.
Weight Watchers is best if you’re watching your weight, according to Consumer Reports. The Slim Fast diet came in second in Consumer Reports’ ranking of nine popular diets. The ratings were based on pounds lost, nutrition, ease of compliance, and six-month and one-year drop-out rates. All of the diets required calorie intake low enough to produce results, but compliance was key to keeping the weight off, according to the review. Weight Watchers’ flexibility and motivational meetings helped the plan earn the top spot. The popular low-carbohydrate Atkins diet received good scores for short-term weight loss, but it came in last for retention rates and nutrition.