Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at some of the key benefits of giving up alcohol for January, the reason some people suffer more intense flu symptoms, and startling new estimates for America’s obesity rate.
Why giving up alcohol in January is such a great idea
After weeks of holiday toasting and indulging, giving up alcohol in January can be a great way to reset your habits for the new year, according to this story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Started in the U.K. in 2013, the Dry January movement now counts millions of members, hoping to boost their health and change their relationship with alcohol. It also pays other dividends, according to research.
In studying 800 Dry January 2018 participants, the University of Sussex determined that 88 percent of those who stayed sober all month saved money, 71 percent slept better, 67 percent had more energy and 58 percent lost weight.
Quitting alcohol even for 30 days also can boost your mood, as alcohol can be a coping strategy for anxiety and depression, albeit one that makes the symptoms worse.
But perhaps most important, even attempting to go booze-free the first month of the year has been shown to reduce the amount of alcohol participants consumed six months later, according to Sussex researchers.
And January is an ideal time, researchers say, because you will have the support—online and in person—from other people trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle for their New Year’s resolution.
This may explain why some people get worse flu symptoms
If you’ve ever watched your spouse suffer more than you from the flu and wondered why, science might just have found your answer.
It has to do with the first strain of flu you first encountered as a child, according to this article in Newsweek. The differences are influenced by what is known as immunological imprinting, a process in which the flu subtype a person encounters in childhood has a lifelong effect on the immune system’s memory and ability to protect against the bug in the future, according to the paper published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
This is helpful because it protects against certain strains of the flu related to the one you first encountered but perhaps at the expense of others.
“In other words, if you were a child and had your first bout of the flu in 1955 when the H1N1 but not H3N2 virus was circulating,” says study co-author Michael Worobey, Ph.D., of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, “an infection with H3N2 was much more likely to land you in the hospital than an infection with H1N1 last year when both strains were circulating.”
Researchers hope to use the information to develop more effective flu vaccines.
Half of all Americans will be obese by 2030
Researchers say that rates of obesity, defined as having a body mass index of more than 30, are rising rapidly, putting more people in the U.S. at risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint disorders and certain types of cancer, according to Time Health.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed height and weight data from more than 6.2 million Americans, cross-referencing it with in-person exam data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The statistics were startling: In 2000, no state had an obesity rate higher than 35 percent. By 2010, a full 27 states were over that mark. By 2019, every single U.S. state had an obesity rate higher than 35 percent, except Colorado, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
Ten states were over 45 percent, with Mississippi reporting an obesity rate near 50 percent.
Using current trends in weight gain in each state, researchers projected these gains into the future and found that by 2030, 1 in 2 adults in the U.S. would be obese and 1 in 4 would be considered severely obese with a BMI of 40 or higher. In 29 states, the obesity rate would be more than 50 percent.
The study underlines the need to find more ways to address diet, exercise and other factors that affect weight gain, experts say, including nutrition education and access to safe places to walk or exercise.
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