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Checkup Medical Column for Aug 26

AAP logoAAP 26/08/2016 By Sarah Wiedersehn

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

GENE DISCOVERY MAY EXPLAIN COFFEE CRAVINGS

Researchers have identified a gene that appears to explain why some people can go without their mid-morning caffeine hit.

People with a DNA variation in a gene called PDSS2 tend to drink fewer cups of coffee, says a study by scientists at the University of Edinburgh.

It is believed this gene reduces the ability of cells to break down caffeine, causing it to stay in the body longer and therefore curbing their need for coffee.

The researchers studied more than 1000 people from Italy and found people with the DNA variation PDSS2 drank the equivalent of one fewer cup of coffee a day.

A similar result was found among coffee drinkers in the Netherlands.

Dr Nicola Pirastu from the university's Usher Institute says the results add to research suggesting our drive to drink coffee may be embedded in our genes.

"We need to do larger studies to confirm the discovery and also to clarify the biological link between PDSS2 and coffee consumption," Dr Piratsu said .

TOILET ANXIETY AFFECTS ONE THIRD OF PEOPLE

If the thought of using a public toilet makes you feel a little uneasy, you're not alone.

Research conducted at Swinburne University has found toilet anxiety affects up to 35 per cent of people.

Recently published in the journal of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, the researchers looked at anxiety associated with urinating in public, also known as shy bladder, and anxiety related to having a bowel motion, also known as shy bowel.

They found individuals with social anxiety were the most likely to report problems with shy bladder and bowel scores.

"Those who experience toilet anxiety will frequently worry about using a public toilet due to fears that others may hear or see them," lead author Dr Simon Knowles said .

He said this fear often led to people with shy bladder of shy bowel to avoid public toilets.

In extreme cases this public toilet avoidance led to gastrointestinal problems.

"For some of my patients, toilet anxiety is a major problem in their life and it can have a devastating impact on their ability to engage in many common activities we take for granted, such as shopping and going out for dinner," Dr Knowles said.

CHOCOLATE MAY HELP FIND YOUR WAY HOME

Neuroscientists believe they have figured out how the brain might solve navigational problems.

If there is a reward at the end of the trip, such as a chocolatey drink used in a study of rats, neurons in the hippocampus of the brain replay - in reverse - the route taken to get to the destination.

The greater the reward, the more often the rats' brains replayed the route and remembered important details about the journey.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say the findings, published in the journal Neuron, suggest the pause, or break, taken to enjoy the reward influences how well the hippocampus forms memories.

Associate professor David Foster says a lot more research is needed but their findings do indeed apply to humans.

He says the research suggests the importance of giving the brain frequent pauses, or breaks, from the "rat race" of life "since these replay events only occur when the rats paused long enough to enjoy a sip of chocolate".

FRIENDS ARE STRESS BUSTERS

The more people think of you as their friend, the less stress hormone you produce, says Harvard University research.

A study has found those named as a friend more often by participants had less fibrinogen in their bloodstream - a hormone that is part of the "fight or flight" response.

This hormone is also linked with heart attacks and strokes.

Scientists say this link between isolation and fibrinogen is comparable to the effects of smoking and highlights the health risks socially isolated individuals face.

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