x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Health briefs: from tracking tantrums to junk food's effect on memory

Our weekely round-up of health news.

All lights out

A new study by researchers at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, has found that using an electronic gadget such as a mobile phone or tablet for two hours before bedtime can cause sleep problems.

“Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22 per cent,” said Mariana Figueiro, an associate professor at Rensselaer and the director of the LRC’s Light and Health Programme.

Melatonin is the chemical that controls our body clock and Figueiro says that stimulating the human circadian system may affect sleep among those who use the devices prior to bedtime. It is thought that teenagers are particularly susceptible to the problem.

Tracking tantrums

A study from Northwestern University, US, has found that frequent tantrums in infants could be a sign of early mental health problems. Researchers developed a questionnaire – the Multidimensional Assessment of Preschool Disruptive Behaviour – designed to distinguish between the typical misbehaviour of early childhood and more serious misbehaviour.

The results of the study, answered by the parents of about 1,500 children of ages 3 to 5, allowed researchers to rate children along a continuum of behaviour from typical to atypical. An atypical tantrum is one that occurs “out of the blue” or is so intense that a child becomes exhausted. When these atypical tantrums occur regularly, they become a cause for concern.

The questionnaire enables early identification and treatment of emerging mental health problems, which is key in preventing children from developing chronic mental health problems, according to the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Fatty foods hurt memory

Junk food could give you dementia through high blood pressure and cholesterol, which interrupt blood supply to the brain, according to a report.

Studies on animals suggest that high levels of fatty and sugary food could damage the brain by interrupting its supply of insulin. Insulin is required to regulate brain chemicals key to memory and learning, to make and strengthen connections between brain cells and to maintain the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood and oxygen, the journal New Scientist reports.

Rats developed Alzheimer’s after being fed a compound that prevented their brains from using insulin, according to the Daily Mail. When researchers fed healthy men and women fatty and sugary foods for a month, levels of insulin and beta amyloid rose. The Alzheimer’s Society’s director of research, professor Clive Ballard, said: “One in three people over 65 will develop dementia. Research like this points us in new directions for treatment development.”