Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] UMass Medical School, WPI developing smartphone app to address stress eating

Last week I started using  the USDA nutrition/exercise SuperTracker after a hiatus of three years.
Agree –  stress is indeed a reason for overeating, this app would most likely help me.

From the 2 February 2015 University of Massachusetts press releaseBy Megan Bard, UMass Medical School Communications,and Michael Cohen, WPI Communications

Researchers at UMass Medical School and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are developing a stress-eating smartphone app that will help users better understand why they overeat, with the support of a $2 million award from the National Institutes of Health.

Sherry Pagoto, PhD, and Bengisu Tulu, PhD, are principal investigators for a $2 million NIH grant that will fund the research and development of a state of the art app for weight and stress management.
Sherry Pagoto, PhD
Bengisu Tulu, PhD, of WPI is co-principal with Sherry Pagoto on a $2 million NIH grant that will fund the research and development of a state of the art app for weight and stress management.
Bengisu Tulu, PhD

Development of the “RELAX” application and a pilot clinical study to evaluate its effectiveness will be led by Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMMS, and Bengisu Tulu, PhD, associate professor in the WPI Foisie School of Business, joint principal investigators on the grant.

“Most commercial apps available today focus on tracking diet and exercise, but do not help the user understand why they are eating so much and/or exercising so little,” Dr. Pagoto said. “Our clinical and research experience suggests that stress is a very common trigger for overeating and it is a barrier to exercise.”

RELAX will have two components: a mobile application that will enable patients to track their daily activities using a smartphone and a web-based tool clinicians can use to access patient information to help inform treatment.

“We want to use technology to help patients in real time, during their daily activities, and also to enhance the effectiveness of the time they spend face-to-face with their physician or counselor,” Dr. Tulu said.

Using text inputs, barcode scanning and GPS technology, the RELAX patient app will track eating patterns, daily activities, exercise, patient-mood and stress inducing events. The app will provide the patient with an itemized list of foods consumed, indicate the times of day identified as high-stress moments and illustrate the relationship between food intake and stress. The information collected will help the user to better understand his or her habits when it comes to emotional or stress eating.

For example, the patient-facing application will provide coaching for dietary choices or guided stress-reduction exercises to lessen the likelihood of overeating.

“Imagine a person driving into the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, at a certain time of day, and getting prompted with a message asking them to think about what they are feeling and whether or not it is the right time to eat,” Tulu said.

Clinicians will be able to access their patients’ information collected through the RELAX patient app using the web-based application. The web tool will present information as easily digestible visual displays and feedback reports for the clinician to review.

Much of the time during traditional weight-loss counseling sessions is spent reviewing paper self-monitoring records and soliciting information from the patient about factors impacting their adherence, such as stress and stress eating. By using the RELAX web tool, clinicians can more quickly get to the heart of causal factors behind the patient’s eating habits, which can be difficult to identify using traditional counseling. The research team believes RELAX will help patients achieve better outcomes with fewer visits to their doctor or counselor.

The researchers hope the interactive design and the clinician’s ability to engage with the patient in a more data-rich way, both unique features of the RELAX application, will enable a more comprehensive approach to counseling patients about weight and stress management.

Read the entire article here

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Living longer, not healthier

Living longer, not healthier 

From the press release

New research by UMass Medical School suggests genes that extend lifespan won’t necessarily improve health in advanced age

By Jim Fessenden, UMass Medical School Communications
January 22, 2015

Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD
Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD

A study of long-lived mutant C. elegans by UMass Medical School scientists shows that the genetically altered worms spend a greater portion of their life in a frail state and exhibit less activity as they age then typical nematodes. These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest genes that increase longevity may not significantly increase healthy lifespan and point to the need to measure health as part of aging studies going forward.

“Our study reveals that if we want to find the genes that help us remain physically active as we age, the genes that will allow us to play tennis when we’re 70 similar to when we were 40, we have to look beyond longevity as the sole criteria. We have to start looking at new genes that might play a part in ‘healthspan.’” said Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD, professor of molecular, cellular & cancer biology and the program in molecular medicine and principal investigator of the study.

Genomic and technological advances have allowed scientists to identify several groups of genes that control longevity in C. elegans, a nematode used as a model system for genetic studies in the lab, as well as in yeast and flies. These genes, when examined, have analogs in mammals. The underlying assumption by scientists has always been that extending lifespan would also increase the time spent by the organism in a healthy state. However, for various reasons, most studies only closely examine these model animals while they’re still relatively young and neglect to closely examine the latter portion of the animals’ lives.

Challenging the assumption that longevity and health are intrinsically connected, Dr. Tissenbaum and colleagues sought to investigate how healthy long-lived C. elegans mutants were as they aged.

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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