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Osteoporosis: Researchers find another possible risk factor

Osteoporosis affects millions of people around the world, and it is not possible to change some of the primary risk factors, such as aging. However, more and more environmental risk factors are coming to light, and air pollution appears to be one of them. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by impaired bone density, which causes them to become brittle and fragile. This condition tends to affect older individuals, particularly females, but some environmental factors — such as a lack of vitamin D — can also contribute to its development. As research into the causes of and best preventive strategies against this condition continue, researchers keep on uncovering potential risk factors. A new study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health — whose findings appear in JAMA Network Open — now suggests that poor air quality is associated with a lower bone density among aging populations. This study contributes to the limited and inconclusive literature on air pollution and bone health,says first author Otavio Ranzani, Ph.D. The team went on to see if it could establish a link between air quality and bone health, looking specifically at measurements of bone density in the lumbar spine and left hipbones of the participants. They found that individuals who frequently experienced ambient air pollution — especially by way of fine particles — also seemed to have lower bone mass levels. Ranzani hypothesizes that the link between poor air quality and poor bone health could be due to the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by air pollution.The researchers also noted that the participants exposure to airborne fine particulate matter was 32.8 micrograms per cubic meter each year, which far exceeds the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. As many as 58% of the participants reported using biomass fuel for cooking, yet the researchers found no link between this practice and poor bone health.
(Credits: www.medicalnewstoday.com)

Mindfulness could help us unlearn fear

Throughout evolutionary history, fear has helped humans stay safe and thrive. But in the modern world, many fear responses such as phobias are, at best, unhelpful and, at worst, debilitating. Yet, accumulating evidence shows that mindfulness practice could help us unlearn these responses. While fear has had a positive role in human evolution, helping our ancestors steer clear of dangerous situations, nowadays, many people experience learned fear responses that are unhelpful and counterproductive. Examples of such fear responses include phobias, such as the fear of flying, which are very difficult to eradicate once they take root. But the current research suggests that people who practice mindfulness long term find it easier to unlearn fear responses and remain fear-free as the study paper from Nature Scientific Reports explains. The researchers found that the participants who had received mindfulness training did not experience a fear reaction when they viewed the pictures with which they had previously formed unpleasant associations. In the participants who had not received mindfulness training, however, the fear responses made a comeback, as demonstrated by skin conductance measurements that assessed physiological markers of psychological arousal. We are currently repeating the experiment with twice the number of participants, and the whole thing is carried out inside an fMRI- scanner equipped with an extra strong electromagnetic field so that we can measure their brain activity to a high degree of precision throughout all parts of the experiment, says the

study senior author, associate professor Ulrich Kirk.We hope to show that the effect is robust and that we can replicate the current findings, and also say what processes in the brain are involved in producing these effects, Kirk adds. (Credits: www.medicalnewstoday.com)