You are what you eat, going by Harvard-led obesity investigation – dpa international

DUBLIN — Overeating does not always make you overweight, according to research published by Oxford University Press (OUP), which put the US’s “obesity epidemic” down to processed carbs prompting hormones to cause widespread metabolic mayhem. According to scientists and medics led by David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, gluttony is not really the problem. Instead the culprit is “modern dietary patterns characterized by excessive consumption of foods with a high glycemic load: in particular, processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates.”

Pandemic shows non-infectious diseases must be taken more seriously – dpa international

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted widespread use of sanitisers, as seen in these dispensers inside a Catholic church, but campaigners think more needs to be done to combat so-called NCDs (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The coronavirus pandemic has “intensified” needs to prevent and treat not only infectious diseases such as Covid-19, but “noncommunicable” illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, say health-issue campaigners. The pandemic “has brought about a greater recognition that the long-held distinctions between infectious and noncommunicable diseases are not as clear cut as once thought,” according to the Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Alliance and The George Institute for Global Health, who warned in a report that “those with chronic conditions have a significantly higher risk of hospitalisation or death from the virus.”
NCDs such as cancer and diabetes, as well as respiratory and heart disease, have recently perhaps become more widely-known as “co-morbidities” or “pre-existing conditions” that leave a sufferer more likely to get sick or die after a coronavirus infection. “The Covid-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for people living with NCDs,” said Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance.

All in the rhythm – US doctors claim asthma management breakthrough – dpa international

Asthma inhaler (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — An asthmatic can ditch the cigarettes, steer clear of pollen and dust, take regular pulls on a trusty inhaler, and top all that off with running, cycling, swimming – but in the end, all those good habits might not matter as much as previously assumed. At least not at night, because once the sun sets, according to US doctors and scientists, the body’s natural circadian rhythms “have a stand-alone impact on asthma severity, independent of behavioral and environmental factors.”

Coronavirus antibodies last at least 9 months after infection – dpa international

Outside a Dublin hospital (Simon Roighneen)

DUBLIN — Coronavirus antibodies last “at least” nine months after infection, according to Imperial College London and the University of Padua. Antibody levels “remain high” whether or not the infected person developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, the researchers found, after testing patients in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit regions at the outset of the pandemic. “The great majority of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infections, irrespective of symptom onset, develop antibodies,” according to the research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

Coffee in moderation lowers likelihood of deadly liver disease – dpa international

DUBLIN — Coffee not only takes bleary out of bleary-eyed, according to British scientists, but lowers the likelihood of liver disease so long as it’s no more than three or four cups a day. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton looked at health data for almost half a million people and concluded that “drinking any type of coffee was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee.” According to Oliver Kennedy, the lead author of the study, which was published by BioMedCentral, a Springer Nature journal, coffee “could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease.”

‘Pervasive’ privacy breaches found on mobile phone health apps – dpa international

Jogger in Dublin's Phoenix Park in early June 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Thousands of health-related mobile phone applications have “serious problems with privacy,” according to analysis by Macquarie University in Australia. Published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Sydney-based team’s research into more than 20,000 apps found “collection of personal user information” to be “pervasive.” Of the almost 5 million apps available on platforms operated by Apple and Google, around 100,000 are health-related, including increasingly-popular fitness monitors. However “inadequate privacy disclosures” often hinder users “from making informed choices,” said the Macquarie researchers, who compared 15,000 health apps with a sample of 8,000 others. While the health apps gathered less user data the others examined, around two-thirds of them still “could collect advert identifiers or cookies” and a quarter could “identify the mobile phone tower to which a user’s device is connected.”

Excess TV in middle age could cause brain decline in later life, US scientists say – dpa international

With millions of people told to stay at home as part of pandemic lockdowns, TV viewing numbers have increased (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — “Too much television is bad for you” is more than just an adage parroted by exasperated parents at heedless, homework-shirking teenagers, going by research carried out by US-based scientists. Using information gleaned from three surveys and studies involving more than 17,000 people, academics from Columbia University, the University of Alabama and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) said they believe “moderate-to-high TV viewing in midlife” contributes to “later cognitive and brain health decline.” Watching films, shows and other TV content, the researchers warned, “is a type of sedentary behaviour that is cognitively passive or does not require much thought.”

Ireland’s hospitals hit by ‘sophisticated’ cyberattack – dpa international

Sign for a coronavirus vaccination centre in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A cyberattack on Ireland’s Health Service Executive is “having a severe impact on our health and social care services today,” according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, with hospitals across the country battling disruptions. The University of Limerick Hospitals Group warned of “long delays” at its six facilities, while the Ireland East group said staff at its 11 hospitals were asking for “the public’s patience at this time.” Although emergency departments remain open, “delays should be expected while hospitals move to manual, offline processes,” the HSE said later on Friday. The National Maternity Hospital said “a major IT issue” would mean “significant disruption,” while Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda Hospital, said the attack forced staff to “revert back to old-fashioned based record-keeping.”

Plant-based antiviral said to be ‘highly effective’ against Covid-19 – dpa international

Vitamin D has been touted as beneficial in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The little-known drug thapsigargin has proven “highly effective” against Covid-19, according to a University of Nottingham research team, which said the findings are “hugely significant.” The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Viruses, found that the plant-derived antiviral “triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses,” including the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Though “more testing is clearly needed,” according to research team leader Professor Kin-Chow Chang, “current findings strongly indicate that thapsigargin and its derivatives are promising antiviral treatments against Covid-19 and influenza virus.” Several treatments for virus-induced disease have been deployed since the first wave of the pandemic, including the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody cocktail developed by the company Regeneron, which was used on former US president Donald Trump when he was hospitalized in October.

Estimate suggests health workers 7 times more likely to get severe Covid-19 than ‘non-essential’ workers – dpa international

Near the entrance of a hospital in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Health care workers in Britain face seven times the risk of contracting severe Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, compared to those in most other jobs. That is according to research published on Tuesday in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine and based on data from lockdowns imposed across Britain during the pandemic’s first European wave from roughly March to May. According to the journal, “occupational exposure” to the virus “is of great concern among essential worker groups, particularly health-care workers,” with defects in or and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) adding to their vulnerability.