New sensor can monitor health through sweat
Also: Avocados and beneficial dietary changes
September 1, 2022 | View PDF
Monitoring health through sweat
Researchers now have come up with a smart biosensor necklace that can track health status through sweat. In a new study published in the journal Science Advances, researchers at Ohio State University demonstrated a battery-free, wireless biochemical sensor that detected the blood sugar levels through substances excreted from their skin when they exercise.
The Ohio State team fabricated a “smart necklace,” which has a functional clasp and pendant. Once placed around the neck, it becomes a new type of health monitoring device. Instead of a battery, it works using a resonance circuit, which reflects radiofrequency signals sent out by an external reader system.
Researchers had volunteers engage in indoor cycling for 30 minutes. Next, the participants took a 15-minute break, during which they drank sugar-sweetened beverages before resuming cycling. The researchers knew that glucose levels in the sweat should rise after drinking the sugary beverages, but the question was whether this new sensor would pick it up, said Jinghua Li, co-author of the study and assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State.
“Sweat actually contains hundreds of biomarkers that can reveal very important information about our health status,” said Li. “The next generation of biosensors will be so highly bio-intuitive and non-invasive that we’ll be able to detect key information contained in a person’s body fluids.”
Biomarkers are substances that can divulge a body’s deepest secrets: Everything from disease, infection and even evidence of emotional trauma can be found in a person’s bodily fluids, which include sweat, tears, saliva and urine. In addition to analyzing the composition of sweat, the researchers believe this sensor could one day be customized into a bioimplant that detects hormone levels.
Avocados may pack a hidden health benefit
Adding avocados to a healthy diet may help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, including lowering your cholesterol, according to research published by the American Heart Association. The consumption of avocados in the U.S. has nearly tripled in the past two decades, up to nearly 2.6 billion pounds a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Avocados contain high amounts of fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K. The fruit is a known source of healthy, unsaturated fats and a great replacement for certain fat-containing foods like butter, cheese or processed meats.
Researchers found that adults who ate at least one avocado each week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who never or rarely ate avocados. Replacing half a serving daily of margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese or processed meats such as bacon with the same amount of avocado was associated with a 16% to 22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease events.
“Although avocados are not a total solution to improving heart health, research shows substantial benefits to adding them to your diet,” said Mayra L. Estrella, a member of the American Heart Association’s Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health and an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health in Houston.
“However, everything in moderation, because avocados are not calorie-free. A medium avocado averages about 240 calories and 24 grams of fat, according to the California Avocado Commission,” said Estrella.
Avocados are a source of healthy fat that can be eaten in place of saturated fat in a typical diet. However, if you’re eating them in guacamole or another type of dip, you’ll want to be careful not to indulge in too many chips.
The research on avocados aligns with the American Heart Association’s guidance to follow the Mediterranean diet, which is a dietary pattern focused on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fish and other healthy foods and plant-based fats such as olive, canola, sesame and other non-tropical oils.
Small dietary changes may lead to big improvements in women’s lives
Women tend to live longer than men, but typically have higher rates of illness. Now, new research from University of Georgia suggests these higher rates of illness can be ameliorated by a better diet, one that is high in pigmented carotenoids such as yams, kale, spinach, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges and carrots. These bright-colored fruits and vegetables are particularly important in preventing visual and cognitive loss.
“The idea is that men get a lot of the diseases that tend to kill you, but women get those diseases less often or later so they persevere, but with illnesses that are debilitating,” said Billy R. Hammond, a professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of Psychology Behavioral and Brains Sciences program in Athens, Georgia. “For example, of all of the existing cases of macular degeneration and dementia in the world, two-thirds are in women. These diseases that women suffer for years are the very ones most amenable to prevention through lifestyle.”
The study, which reviewed and analyzed data from previous studies, detailed several degenerative conditions, from autoimmune diseases to dementia.
“If you take all the autoimmune diseases collectively, women account for nearly 80%. So, because of this vulnerability, linked directly to biology, women need extra preventive care,” said Hammond.
One of the reasons for this vulnerability has to do with the way women store vitamins and minerals in their bodies. Hammond points out that women have, on average, more body fat than men. Body fat serves as a significant sink for many dietary vitamins and minerals, which creates a useful reservoir for women during pregnancy. This availability, however, means less is available for the retina and the brain, putting women at more risk for degenerative problems.
Dietary intake of pigmented carotenoids act as antioxidants for humans. Two specific carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in specific tissues of the eye and brain and have been shown to directly improve central nervous system degeneration.
“Men and women eat about the same amount of these carotenoids, but the requirements for women are much higher,” said Hammond.
The recommendations should be different, but there are not any recommendations for men or women for dietary components that are not directly linked to deficiency disease (like vitamin C and scurvy).
“Recommendations need to be changed so that women are aware that they have these vulnerabilities that they have to proactively address, so they don’t have these problems later in life,” said Hammond.
John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at email@example.com.