Healthy Bits December 2015: The Science Behind Health and Wellness

By AFM Staff – December 1, 2015

The Coffee Crusade

If you’re a coffee addict trying to kick the habit, you may want to reconsider. A new study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health found that a daily cup of joe may boost longevity. The researchers found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower risk of premature mortality compared to people who didn't drink coffee. Although not everyone’s body processes or reacts to caffeine the same way, it’s been reported that about two cups of coffee (or 200 milligrams of caffeine) is the optimal amount to enhance mood and cognitive function. Although there are still many more details to explore in the association between coffee consumption and longevity, extensive research shows that in moderation, drinking coffee can lead to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic disease (such as Parkinson's) and suicide.

​Therapy in the Digital Age 

In a society that is heavily dependent on technology, we are becoming more open to the conveniences of digital aids in our lives. Therapy and counseling services can rack up a hefty bill (as well as a certain stigma), so more and more people are turning to online services to save money. But how effective is it? A study published in The BMJ examined the differences between in-person care versus computer-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and discovered that it was no more effective in treating depression than the usual care patients receive from a primary care doctor. A team of researchers from the University of York conducted a randomized control trial with 691 depressed patients from 83 physician practices across England. The patients were split into three groups: one group received only usual care from a physician while the other two groups received usual care from a physician plus one of two computerized CBT programs, either "Beating the Blues" or "MoodGYM." Over four months, the participants using the computer programs showed no improvement over patients getting usual care from their doctors. Researchers noted that while these findings were unenthusiastic, online CBT programs may prove to be beneficial for people with mild forms of depression rather than those with more severe diagnoses.

Busting the Beer Belly 

Although many men and women strive to attain an abdominal 6-pack, there is often a struggle to get rid of the residual effects of one too many 6-packs of beer. A new analysis of data from a large national study published in Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that carrying fat around the middle of the body greatly raises the risk for heart disease and death, even for those of normal weight. Rather than look at the Body Mass Index to assess obesity levels, doctors conducting this study focused more on the waist-to-hip ratio, Examining health from this perspective presents a different, and possibly more accurate, picture because it accounts for central obesity, or visceral fat, the fat stored around the internal organs. The results of the study revealed that a man of normal B.M.I. with an abnormally large belly has an 87 percent higher risk for death than a man with the same B.M.I. but a normal waist-to-hip ratio. Pot-bellied women of normal B.M.I. have a 48 percent higher risk than women with normal B.M.I. and normal belly fat.


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