Medical News Today: Why even slim people may benefit from calorie restriction

Even slim people may benefit from restricting their calories; reducing daily calorie intake by around 300 per day can significantly improve markers of cardiometabolic health.
green lettuce on a plate
Restricting our calorie intake may yield signficant benefits regardless of our weight.

This is the main takeaway of a randomized controlled trial that lasted for 2 years and included 218 people, ages 21–50, without obesity.

Dr. William E. Kraus — a cardiologist and distinguished professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, NC — is the lead author of the new study.

Dr. Kraus and colleagues explain in their paper that some cardiometabolic markers — such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar — can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death even when they are within ranges that healthcare professionals consider to be normal.

On the other hand, numerous studies have suggested that calorie restriction benefits both a person’s health span and life span. However, are these benefits due to weight loss?

The researchers started their new study from the hypothesis that it isn’t just losing weight, but also some other, more complex molecular mechanism that explains the benefits of calorie restriction for cardiometabolic health.

So, they set out to test their hypothesis, and they have since published their findings in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

How caloric restriction aids metabolic health

All the trial participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of between 22 and 27.9. To begin, the researchers randomly assigned them to one of two groups: one group reduced their caloric intake by 25% (the intervention group), and the other group did not change their caloric intake (the control group).

The participants in the intervention group ate three meals per day and were free to choose from six different meal plans. They also “attended group and individual counseling sessions for the first 6 months of the trial.” The study started in May 2007 and continued through to February 2010.

During this time, the remaining participants — those in the control group — continued to follow their regular diet.

Not all the participants in the intervention group managed to maintain a 25% calorie reduction throughout the study period, but they did reduce their intake by almost 12%, on average.

After the intervention, the participants in this group lost and maintained the loss of 10% of their weight — 71% of which was fat mass. The calorie restriction resulted in significant cardiometabolic benefits.

Specifically, “Calorie restriction caused a persistent and significant reduction from baseline to 2 years of all measured conventional cardiometabolic risk factors,” write the authors. This included changes in low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Also, “calorie restriction resulted in a significant improvement at 2 years in C-reactive protein.” This is a marker of inflammation that scientists have linked to heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. Insulin sensitivity and markers of metabolic syndrome also improved.

The benefits remained robust after Dr. Kraus and team conducted a sensitivity analysis that adjusted the results for relative weight loss.

This shows that even a modification that is not as severe as what we used in this study could reduce the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that we have in [the United States].”

Dr. William E. Kraus

“People can do this fairly easily by simply watching their little indiscretions here and there, or maybe reducing the amount of them, like not snacking after dinner.”

“There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,” he adds. “We have collected blood, muscle, and other samples from these participants and will continue to explore what this metabolic signal or magic molecule might be.”

In an interview for The Lancet‘s podcast, Dr. Kraus said that this was the first long term study to examine the benefits of caloric restriction in humans.

Dr. Kraus also makes it clear that his study examined biomarkers for a person’s health span, and he says that he and his colleagues were “impressed” by the “dramatic” improvements and “remarkably” positive effects that caloric restriction had on waist circumference, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, glucose control, and blood pressure.

Medical News Today: Could the common cold ‘revolutionize’ bladder cancer treatment?

Current treatment for some forms of cancer does not work as well as researchers had initially hoped. But a new virus-based treatment has shown promising results.
woman sneezing
New research suggests that the common cold virus can help scientists devise the next treatment for a widespread form of bladder cancer.

Using viruses to treat cancer has long been of interest to medical researchers. One type of virus in particular — oncolytic viruses — can kill tumor cells.

But so far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one of these: a genetically modified form of herpes to treat melanoma.

The reason that viruses can target tumors is pretty simple. Cancerous tumors are invisible to the immune system, allowing them to grow and spread.

But when a virus enters a cancerous cell and replicates itself, this allows the cancer to be seen, prompting the immune system to treat the disease as it would a common cold.

Melanoma is not the only type of cancer that viruses can affect. Researchers have recently tested a similar treatment on brain tumors.

A new study has found promising results in a form of bladder cancer.

Researchers, many of whom are from the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom, have investigated the impact of a strain of the common cold virus on non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). Their findings appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Current bladder cancer treatments

Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer among males and the seventeenth most common among females. Between 70% and 80% of bladder cancer diagnoses fall into the NMIBC category at the time of diagnosis.

“[NMIBC] is a highly prevalent illness that requires an intrusive and often lengthy treatment plan,” says Hardev Pandha, Ph.D., lead study investigator and a professor of medical oncology at the University of Surrey.

“Current treatment is ineffective and toxic in a proportion of patients, and there is an urgent need for new therapies,” he explains.

One treatment that removes any visible tumors has a high tumor recurrence rate (between 50% and 70%) and a high progression rate (between 10% and 20%) over the course of 2–5 years.

Immunotherapy is another option, but this has no effect on one-third of patients and can cause serious side effects in another third.

Replicate and attack

For the present study, the U.K.-based team decided to look to a strain of the common cold called coxsackievirus, or CVA21, for short.

The researchers gave 15 patients who had been diagnosed with NMIBC a dose of CVA21 one week before surgery to remove their tumors.

Nine received the CVA21 alone, via a catheter into the bladder, while the final six received CVA21 combined with a low dose of a chemotherapy drug called mitomycin C.

Each patient gave urine samples on alternate days and the researchers obtained tissue samples after the surgery.

The urine samples showed that the virus was able to copy itself and attack and kill cancer cells in the majority of patients. The tissue samples indicated that the virus was only successful in attacking cancerous cells, rather than healthy ones.

“Reduction of tumor burden and increased cancer cell death was observed in all patients,” Prof. Pandha notes. The researchers believe that the virus was able to inflame the bladder tumor, kickstarting the work of the immune system.

What was most surprising was that, during surgery, one patient exhibited no sign of NMIBC. An additional positive result was that “No significant side effects were observed in any patient.”

The study may have only used a small number of participants, but its results could pave the way for future research into the CVA21 virus and cancer.

According to Prof. Pandha, the common cold strain “could help revolutionize treatment for this type of cancer.”

Nicole Annels, Ph.D., who is the first author of the paper and a research fellow at the University of Surrey, adds that “Oncolytic viruses such as the coxsackievirus could transform the way we treat cancer” overall.

She notes that the therapy could even “signal a move away from more established treatments such as chemotherapy.”

Our Favorite White Wine for Summer

Welcome to the Friday Wine Down! What a week it’s been – doesn’t a glass of wine sound perfect right about now? Here at GiftTree, we’re collectors, sippers and enthusiasts. And when we find a very special bottle, we just can’t keep ourselves from sharing! From white wine on a casual night out to a rare Pinot Noir for special occasions, every week we’ll feature a fantastic wine available in our gifts. Onward!

This Week’s Friday Wine Down: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier

About This Wine

Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge Vineyards was “just experimenting” when they blended two varietals together, creating the easy-to-love masterpiece (and this Author’s favorite white), Chenin Blanc + Viognier.

Tasting Notes

Crisp, bright, and vivacious, CB+V is an aromatic white blend boasting a bouquet of honeysuckle and orange blossoms along with tropical fruit aromas, green apple, lemon, and grapefruit. The entry is bright and fresh, exhibiting flavors of fresh lemon curd and Granny Smith apples. While this is a juicy wine, it has an incredible mid-palate weight with acidity carrying the flavors to the lengthy finish.

Serving, Pairing & Gifting

This medium-bodied blend should be served chilled. It makes a great companion for a variety of dishes, from light salads to seafood. Most notably, we recommend foods with a hint of spiciness, like Thai curry or Asian-inspired dishes, because the wine’s subtle sweetness provides balance.

Want to order Pine Ridge, or give it as a gift? Great! It’s in California White Wine Trio and also our Fine Wine Tote.

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Have you had a chance to try the Pine Ridge CB+V? What did you think? What’s your favorite Pinot Noir?

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Medical News Today: What to know about duct tape wart removal

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Medical News Today: Researchers devise a more ‘child-friendly’ test for autism

The current methods of diagnosing autism in children use questionnaires and psychologist evaluations. However, these methods can be stressful for those at a young age. New research now suggests an easy, more stress-free test that simply tracks the gaze.
child looking at a computer screen
Researchers have devised a new, less stressful method of diagnosing autism based on ‘how a child looks at everything.’

“The current approaches to determining if someone has autism are not really child-friendly,” notes Mehrshad Sadria, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Sadria and colleagues have been busy looking for an alternative means of diagnosing autism — which specialists refer to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — early on in life.

An early diagnosis, the researchers explain, could help individuals identify methods of coping with symptoms that could affect their well-being from a young age, and this could ensure a better quality of life going forward.

“Our method allows for the diagnosis to be made more easily and with less possibility of mistakes. The new technique can be used in all ASD diagnosis, but we believe it’s particularly effective for children,” Sadria adds.

The researchers explain how they screened for a better diagnostic method and what this method entails in a study paper that appears in the journal Computers in Biology and Medicine.

The importance of a tell-tale gaze

In their paper, the researchers note that they conceived a new type of diagnostic method based on certain aspects that appear to be typical of autistic individuals. More specifically, autistic people appear to evaluate other people’s faces in a very distinctive manner.

“[T]he overt attention with which individuals with ASD orient and direct to faces, as well as the manners by which they visually explore faces and interpret gaze information, appears to exhibit characteristics distinct from [typical development] individuals,” the study authors write.

Starting from this premise, the investigators believed that they could use this specific mode of face evaluation to screen for autism traits early on.

To both develop this novel diagnostic method and find out exactly how autistic children might look at faces differently compared with neurotypical peers, the researchers worked with a group of 17 autistic children (with an average age of 5.5 years) and 23 neurotypical children (with an average age of 4.7 years).

“All parents or legal guardians provided their written informed consent [for the children] to participate in the study in accordance with the principles explained in the Declaration of Helsinki,” the authors note in their paper.

The team showed each child 44 photographs featuring different faces, each of which they displayed on a 19-inch screen that they had connected to an eye tracking system. This specialized system was able to locate where each child’s gaze went first and to which points of the face their gaze then traveled.

The investigators focused on seven key areas of interest that a child’s gaze might fix on when studying a face on a screen. These were: under the right eye, on the right eye, under the left eye, on the left eye, on the nose, on the mouth, and on other parts of the screen.

The researchers note that compared with neurotypical children, the autistic children who took part in this study spent a lot more time studying the mouth and significantly less time looking at the eyes.

Moreover, the team was able to come up with four different ways of assessing the gaze typical of an autistic child. They found it useful to look at:

  • the number of areas of interest on a face that the child looked to and from
  • how often the child’s gaze glossed over a third area of interest when looking from one area of interest to another
  • how quickly they looked from one area of interest to another
  • how important one area of interest seemed to be in their assessment of the face, judging by how often they gazed in its direction

‘It’s about how a child looks at everything’

The investigators argue that as a method of assessing for autism traits, a “gaze test” would be much less stressful for a young child than the current diagnostic preferences.

“It is much easier for children to just look at something, like the animated face of a dog, than to fill out a questionnaire or be evaluated by a psychologist,” says study co-author Prof. Anita Layton, who supervises Sadria’s work as a master’s student.

“Also, the challenge many psychologists face is that sometimes behaviors deteriorate over time, so the child might not display signs of autism, but then a few years later, something starts showing up,” Prof. Layton adds. This new diagnostic method, the researcher argues, is more reliable than traditional tests.

Our technique is not just about behavior or whether a child is focusing on the mouth or eyes. It’s about how a child looks at everything.”

Prof. Anita Layton

Private Label Product: Competition on Amazon

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Selling private label on Amazon has its rewards. But what if you could build a scalable PL sales model with only a couple of software tools and a few tweaks? Learn how to outsmart your competition on Amazon today.
Last week, we started talking about selling private label on Amazon. More specifically, we discussed sourcing for PL sellers. We also briefly talked about ways to defend your brand on Amazon. This week, let’s see what it takes to find and outsmart your competition on Amazon.

The PL Seller’s Competitors

1. Amazon PL Brands and Exclusives

Type “Amazon Brand” into your Amazon.com search box. Or click here to see the dedicated Amazon UK Private Label page. TJI research claims there are 135 such PL brands and 330 Amazon Exclusives or Own Brands. And the number keeps rising suddenly every Q1 and Q3, so right after the sales season.

As it streams shopping data from sales, Amazon can spot “unmet market needs” better than any seller. And what better time to learn about market trends than Prime Day or the winter holidays? And all the while, it’s promoting its existing PL Brands in the Top Rated section of a query result.

Top rated Amazon PL

Example of Top Rated Amazon PL offers

Analyst Keith Anderson of Profitero claims Amazon’s own PL strategy focuses on big market trends like sustainability and eco-friendliness. Being able to tap into these market needs led to last year’s PL sales. They were estimated at $7.5 billion. And analysts believe this figure will more than triple by 2022.

2. Top Search Results

But PL sellers don’t compete with Amazon only. They also face off with Amazon’s recommendations. The most eye-catching products are the ones with badges, such as Best Sellers, Amazon’s Choice, and BOGOF items. And some BOGOF badges are very similar to the ones Amazon uses.

Best Seller, Amazon Choice

Top query result featuring Best Seller, Amazon’s Choice, and BOGOF item

3. Other PL Sellers

Aside from Amazon’s own offers and other top search results, you should keep an eye out for paid ads. Headline Search Ads and Sponsored Products feature not only on the search result page, but also on your product page, and all over a buyer’s home page. Of course, it’s always a good idea to use the tools in our competitive analysis post to pin-point your main competitors too.

How To Stay Competitive on Amazon

Now that you have a pretty good idea of how to find and sort your competition on Amazon, how do you set yourself apart and keep your edge? You can promote your products using social media, paid Amazon ads, and the Amazon Vine Program. But only after you tick these boxes:

1. Optimize Your Listing

To outrank other PL sellers, you also need perfect listings. It all starts with finding good keywords for your SEO strategy and writing high-converting copy. You’ll find plenty of listing optimization tips and best practices on our blog.

You should also have engaging photos. The Amazon Imaging or Product Photography may be of help. If you’d also like to upload a compelling video, first check the Video Shorts page for inspiration.

Before anything goes live, you should carry out some A/B or Split testing first using special software. This enables you to run two tests for similar listings simultaneously and see which changes are the most effective.

2. Price it Right

You need smart tools to keep an eye on your sales and other PL sellers. With Sellery, you can keep tabs on the competition, designate the products you want to compete with, and reprice in tandem.

It’s a customizable “set it and forget it” kind of tool, and the only one that reprices in real-time. It can spot market changes and counteract their effect, so that sales and profits stay up. Simply look up some keywords and let Sellery know what product or PL seller you’d like to compete with.

Sellery competition

Designating and monitoring competitors with Sellery

One thing to keep in mind is that the higher your search rank, the more you sell on Amazon. But your search rank depends on your sales velocity. If you’re new to Amazon, you may need to bid more on PPC campaigns and sell at a loss for a while, just to build up that sales volume.

3. Keep Metrics Up

If you’ve registered your own brand, you’re probably not that bothered about the Buy Box. But the same performance metrics that increase Buy Box percentage for third-party sellers will drive sales for you, raise your IPI, and reduce your storage fees. So, take a few minutes to read up on them.

4. Rehash and Rewind

Amazon likes to mix it up and see what catches on. Take its Happy Belly trail mixes, for example. But two can play at that game. Repromote your product with new variations, product bundles, or with frustration-free packaging.

You may not compete with Amazon or other PL sellers for these new ASINS; at least not at first. But you can still use Amazon’s price as reference. Or check the top selected products page to find new potential competitors.

5. Build a Website

If you don’t already have a website of your own to help sell your product, don’t waste any time building one. Whether you’ve registered your brand on Amazon or not, there’s no reason to sell exclusively on Amazon. Unless you signed up for Own Brands, of course.

As more and more people sign up to Own Brands, Amazon’s brand family grows. So, more PL sellers will go toe-to-toe with Amazon. To outlast your competitors, you need a strategy for scalable sales. But you can’t have it if Amazon is your only sales channel and source of income.

In the meantime, make sure your customer service can cope with a rise in queries as sales pick up, without compromising on quality of service. Luckily, the Voice of the Customer dashboard can help pinpoint buyer issues in a flash.

That’s it for today, but please follow our blog for our next post in the series, where we’ll go into a bit more detail about pricing and advertising for private label on Amazon. Until then, stay tuned for our Prime Day Prep post with last-minute tips to boost your PL sales.

Melanie

Melanie takes an active interest in all things Amazon. She keeps an eye on the latest developments and keeps Amazon sellers up to speed

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Medical News Today: What to know about guanfacine for the treatment of ADHD

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Elevate Your Gift Giving with Towers

It seems that the “unboxing” is all the rage these days. We have to admit, it is so fun watching someone open up a box to the surprises inside. That’s part of the reason we love gift towers! When a gift basket feels a bit too buttoned-up, many gift-givers opt for our gift towers. Most of them are five (yes – FIVE!) boxes tall, and super fun to unpack one by one. Here at GiftTree, our collection of gift towers is awesome.  Here are just a few of our customer-favorites – see for yourself!

Five Fan Favorite Gift Towers

The Winchester Savory Tower

 Definitively savory, crunchy, chewy and sweet, this collection of cheese, crackers, snacks and candies is a celebration of tastes and textures in a tower of six gift boxes designed exclusively by GiftTree. A special occasion will be made all the better when they enjoy opening one box of delicious fare after another.

Good Times Candy Tower

Which candies do you remember loving as a child? From Pop Rocks to Big League Chew, Fun Dip to Bottle Caps, it’s all here in a tower of five colorful boxes, ready to surprise and transport them back to the good old days at the roller rink.

The Sweet Life

Sweets and treats abound in this beautiful gift tower that’s ready to uplift any special occasion. Tied up with a gold satin ribbon, your recipient will absolutely love opening each and every box to see what gourmet delight awaits them inside.

The Bear Hug Tower

Welcome the new baby and congratulate the new parents! Four adorable boxes (that spell B-A-B-Y) they’ll want to repurpose in the nursery are filled with gourmet snacks, cookies and candies for grown-ups, plus a super soft plush bear for the little one.

24K Gold Gratitude

Caramel and white cheddar popcorn, chocolate creme cookies, Almond Roca and zesty red chili peanuts are just a few of the delicious delights waiting inside this tower of thanks.

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What kinds of yummy treats would you like to see inside GiftTree’s tower collection?

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Medical News Today: Brain structure may play key role in psychosis

New research finds that having a larger choroid plexus, which is a vital brain structure, could be involved in psychosis.
brain illustration
Research finds clues about psychosis in a brain structure that scientists have not yet fully studied.

Variations in the structure of the choroid plexus, which produces cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), could play a key role in psychosis.

A team that Dr. Paulo Lizano — of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA — led has now investigated this vital structure.

In doing so, they found that there could be a link between its size and the development of psychosis.

The choroid plexus and its product, CSF, are crucial parts of the neurological system. CSF helps cushion the brain within the skull, and the choroid plexus forms a barrier between the brain and the CFS, which helps filter out toxins and keeps blood components from entering the brain.

It also allows some molecules to pass through, including those involved with the immune system.

This study — which now appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry — involved three groups of people: participants with a diagnosis of psychosis, one of their first degree relatives, and people with no history of psychosis (the controls).

Each participant underwent a structural MRI brain scan, and the researchers found that the volume of the choroid plexus was larger in those who had psychosis.

They also found that the volume of the choroid plexus among first degree relatives was larger than that of the controls but smaller than that of those with psychosis.

Additional findings

However, these were not the only significant findings from the group with psychosis.

The researchers also found that larger choroid plexus volume correlated with reduced gray matter, smaller amygdala volume, lower cognitive scores, larger ventricle volume, and lower levels of neural connectivity.

Although they cannot yet say with certainty, the researchers believe that these findings could also offer clues as to the pathology of psychosis.

The team also found that people with an enlarged choroid plexus had high levels of a signaling cell associated with the immune system, called interleukin 6 (IL-6).

IL-6 can cross the barriers between the brain, blood, and CSF. The results are noteworthy; the team explains that people who have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often have higher levels of IL-6. Dr. Lizano and colleagues conclude:

Our findings suggest the involvement of the choroid plexus across the psychosis spectrum, with a potential mechanism involving the neuro-immune system, which functions in regulating the brain and interacting with the body’s immune and inflammatory systems.”

What is psychosis?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychosis refers to a group of conditions that affect the mind when someone experiences a “loss of contact with reality.”

During a psychotic episode, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed. They may find it difficult to understand what is real and what is not.

Some symptoms of psychosis include:

  • delusions, or false beliefs
  • hallucinations, such as seeing or hearing things that others do not
  • incoherent speech
  • inappropriate behavior

Experts say that there is no single cause of psychosis. It can be a symptom of a mental health condition such as schizophrenia. There are also several other potential causes, including some medical conditions, drug and alcohol use, certain prescription medications, and sleep deprivation.

There were some scientific discussions in the 1920s about the possible role of the choroid plexus in schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However, there had not been much specific research on the topic before this study.

Although much more research is still necessary, this study suggests that there is probably a link between an enlarged choroid plexus and psychosis.