By JEREMY SINGER-VINE
Regular use of pain-relief medicine appears to increase men’s risk of hearing loss, especially among middle-aged men, according to an American Journal of Medicine study. Researchers surveyed nearly 27,000 men every two years from 1986 to 2004; about one-fourth of the men said they had been diagnosed with hearing loss. Men who used pain relievers at least twice a week were more likely than non-users to be diagnosed. Aspirin users were 12% more likely, those on ibuprofen-like drugs were 21% more likely and users of acetaminophen, 22% more likely. Men from 45 to 50 years old at the start of the study faced the greatest risk—a 33% increase for aspirin, 61% for ibuprofen and 99% for acetaminophen. Previous nonhuman research has found some substances in pain-relievers can decrease blood flow to the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that converts waves sound into brain signals.
A study finds a link between pain-reliever use and risk of hearing loss.
Caveat: Participants were health professionals (dentists, veterinarians, etc.) and predominantly Caucasian, so the findings may not apply to other demographics. Though the researchers controlled for a wide variety of factors, an unidentified underlying condition could be responsible for the connection.
Read the Study: Analgesic Use and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Men
Alcohol and Weight Gain: Women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol appear less likely over time to become overweight than nondrinkers, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers examined data on 19,220 healthy, normal-weight middle-aged women enrolled in a study of the effects of vitamin E and aspirin on heart disease and cancer. At the start of the study, the women estimated how much beer, wine and liquor they typically drank. After 13 years, about 41% of the women had become overweight or obese. Women who said they drank alcohol moderately, no matter what kind, gained significantly less weight on average—even after the researchers controlled for factors such as smoking, diet and physical activity. Women who drank 15 to 30 grams of alcohol per day (roughly one to two shots of liquor or cans of beer) were 30% less likely than nondrinkers to become overweight. The authors suggest several potential, unconfirmed explanations. One possibility: Unlike men, women burn more calories breaking down alcohol than an alcoholic drink contains.
Caveat: Few heavy drinkers were enrolled in the study. Previous studies on alcohol consumption and weight gain have produced mixed results.Subjects in the study were predominantly Caucasian, so results may not apply to women of other ethnicities.
Read the Study: Alcohol Consumption, Weight Gain, and Risk of Becoming Overweight in Middle-aged and Older Women
Sleep Duration: Too few or too many hours of sleep at night may promote abdominal fat accumulation, according to a study in Sleep. Earlier studies have found that high abdominal fat is among the strongest predictors of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Researchers in this study used CT scans to measure the amount of fat beneath the abdominal skin and around the abdominal organs of more than 1,000 African-American and Hispanic-American adults at both ends of a five-year interval. Subjects were asked whether they typically slept five hours or fewer, six to seven hours or eight-plus hours per night. Participants younger than 40 in the low-sleep group gained the most abdominal fat, followed by those in the high-sleep group and then those in the middle group. Subjects who slept the least consumed the most calories and exercised less, which could explain the greater fat gains.
Caveat: There was no correlation between sleep and abdominal fat gain among subjects older than 40. The study examined only length, not quality, of sleep. Weight gain could have caused the subjects to sleep more or less than usual, rather than the sleep pattern causing fat accumulation.
Read the Study: Sleep Duration and Five-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study
Honesty: Low lighting increases dishonest and self-interested behavior even when it doesn’t provide anonymity, according to a study in Psychological Science. In one experiment, researchers randomly assigned 84 college students to perform a math-based task in either a brightly or dimly lit room. The students earned more money the better they did, but they were allowed to score themselves. Though both groups performed equally well on the test, students in the darker room gave themselves scores nearly 50% higher than students in the control group. In another experiment, students divided cash between themselves and an online partner much less fairly if they performed the task while wearing sunglasses instead of clear glasses.
Caveat: Because the subjects were all college students, it’s unclear whether darkness has the same effects on older or younger people. It’s also unknown whether low lighting would have a similar effect without the cash incentives.
Read the Study: Good Lamps Are the Best Police: Darkness Increases Dishonesty and Self-Interested Behavior
Diabetes: Boosting levels of the hormone leptin instead of insulin in diabetic mice improved blood-sugar regulation without increasing body fat, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Insulin injections have long been the primary treatment for Type 1 diabetes. But the treatment has considerable drawbacks, including weight gain and a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. In this study, Type 1 diabetic mice treated with leptin for 12 days improved their glucose metabolism as much as those treated with insulin, and much more than mice on a placebo treatment. But while mice in the insulin group gained weight, primarily in body fat, mice in the leptin group lost both.
Caveat: It’s unclear whether leptin’s advantages over insulin are short-term or would continue throughout a patient’s life. Few studies have examined the effects of leptin treatment on human diabetics—and among only a very small subset of patients.
Read the Study: Leptin monotherapy in insulin-deficient Type I diabetes
Back Pain: Cognitive behavioral therapy led to sustained relief of lower-back pain, according to a study in Lancet. The researchers randomized 701 British patients into two groups. All patients received 15 minutes of advice about how to manage their lower-back pain—for instance, by avoiding excessive bed rest and using pain medication appropriately. But one group was also enrolled in six sessions of group cognitive behavioral therapy, led by trained therapists, that was meant to enhance compliance with the advice. One year after enrolling in the study, 59% of the subjects who participated in group therapy said their condition had improved, compared with just 31% of the advice-only group.
Caveat: Participants’ levels of pain and disability were judged by survey only, rather than by physiological or biological tests.
Read the Study: Group cognitive behavioural treatment for low-back pain in primary care: a randomised controlled trial and cost-effectiveness analysis
Sun Exposure: People whose jobs provide little exposure to sunlight may face a greater risk of kidney cancer, according to a study in Cancer. Previous studies have found that ultraviolet light exposure, likely by increasing production of vitamin D, reduces the risk of several cancers, including breast and prostate cancers and lymphoma. In this study, researchers compared the job histories of 1,079 Europeans with renal cell carcinoma—the most common form of kidney cancer—to otherwise similar control subjects. Using these data, they estimated how long the subjects had been exposed to the sun in their careers. Men in the top third for ultraviolet exposure were about 24% less likely to have the carcinoma as were men in the bottom third. Among only men with the highest exposure, there was little association between exposure and kidney cancer, suggesting that while vitamin D deficiency may be the culprit, more-than-sufficient levels confer little extra benefit.
Caveat: The researchers found no such correlation for women, for unknown reasons. The researchers based their estimates solely on occupational history and didn’t collect data about sunscreen use or other factors that could affect overall ultraviolet exposure.
Read the Study: Occupational Sunlight Exposure and Risk of Renal Cell Carcinoma