Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at the happiness-boosting effects of working out, why vitamins won’t extend your life, and how scientists are moving beyond the microbiome to the “mycobiome.”
Sweat vs. the almighty dollar
You know that movement puts you in a better mood, but did you know that it’s more important to your mental well-being than your net worth?
According to a survey of 1.2 million Americans published recently in The Lancet, those who worked out regularly tended to feel mentally unwell for only 35 days a year on average versus 53 days for nonactive participants.
The Yale and Oxford researchers conducting the survey also found that those who worked out and engaged in regular physical activity were just as happy as those who were inactive but earned an additional $25,000 a year. In other words, you’d have to earn quite a bit more to equal the happiness-boosting effects of regular movement, according to this article in Business Insider.
That said, piling on the workouts didn’t equate to even more happiness. According to study author Adam Chekroud, Ph.D., of Yale University, the relationship between sport and mood was U-shaped, with the sweet spot landing at three to five workouts a week of between 30 and 60 minutes. The mental state of those who worked out for longer than three hours was actually worse than those who were mostly inactive.
The biggest mood booster of all was team sports with its high degree of socializing, followed closely by cycling and other types of aerobic fitness.
Vitamins won’t solve the problem
If you think you can overcome a bad diet with vitamin pills, think again. A study of 27,000 U.S. adults by researchers at Tufts University covered by NBC News found that vitamins didn’t extend life, and in some cases, they shortened it when taken at higher levels.
“Based on the totality of evidence, it’s becoming more and more clear that the regular use of dietary supplements is not beneficial in reducing the risk of mortality among the general population in the U.S.,” said study co-author Fang Fang Zhang, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
Zhang and her colleagues examined the impact of vitamins on health and compared them with the effects of nutrients found in food. Only adequate intake of certain nutrients from food was associated with a lower risk of mortality and cancer, not vitamin supplementation.
During the six years of follow-up, 3,613 participants died—945 from cardiovascular causes and 805 from cancer.
Zhang and her colleagues found a lower risk of death among those who consumed sufficient amounts of vitamin K and magnesium, and a lower risk of cardiovascular death from recommended intakes of vitamin A, vitamin K and zinc.
Excess consumption of calcium from supplements—not food—was associated with a higher risk of death from cancer.
The bottom line: To get your vitamin fix, turn to whole foods. Vitamin K can be found in dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Greens and legumes are a good source of magnesium, beans are a good source of zinc, and eggs and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin A.
The fungi among us
You’re probably not aware, but the same organism that causes dandruff might also cause digestion problems.
This interesting story in The New York Times looks at the emerging study of fungi and their link to inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease and a host of other illnesses. While much attention has been paid in recent years to the study of your gut microbiome, the next frontier is the “mycobiome,” or understanding the hundreds of thousands of fungi living in and on your body.
One type of fungi, for instance, Malassezia, can cause dandruff and acne in some people, and when it turns up in the digestive tract, it can cause Crohn’s and irritable bowel syndrome. There’s also some preliminary evidence that fungi play a role in prostate cancer.
This research, scientists say, may soon facilitate the development of better, less expensive treatments for many chronic conditions.
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