How much attention did you pay to last year’s medical news? Put yourself to the test with our quiz, compiled by HELEN FOSTER — it could give you some ideas for a healthier 2018. Give yourself a point for each correct answer, and see how you rate at the end.
1. Which spread did researchers at the University of York suggest might help brain function?
B) Peanut butter
In a study, people who were given a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month used 30 per cent less energy while thinking than a control group given a teaspoon of peanut butter.
The theory is that vitamin B12 in Marmite increases levels of a brain chemical called GABA, which regulates the activity of brain cells to help the brain work efficiently.
Peanut butter lovers shouldn’t despair, though — a U.S. study linked it to a lower risk of stomach cancer. It is thought compounds called polyphenols in the nuts protect against the disease. Jam’s high sugar content means it has few, if any health benefits.
In a study, people who were given a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month used 30 per cent less energy while thinking than a control group given a teaspoon of peanut butter
2. The appendix, rather than being a redundant organ, was found to play an important role in what?
A) Making red blood cells
B) Storing gut bacteria
C) Breaking down fibre
A study at Midwestern University in the U.S. found that mammals with an appendix have higher levels of tissue that stimulates the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
‘If you have an appendix you may recover more quickly when you get sick, especially if the illness is gastrointestinal,’ says Professor Heather Smith, who led the research.
However, when the appendix is removed it is usually to avoid the risk of it bursting and spilling infectious bacteria into the abdominal cavity, which can lead to peritonitis, a serious inflammation of the abdominal lining.
In this case, it’s better out than in.
3. A surprising trigger for migraines and epilepsy was highlighted — what was it?
A) Pink flowers
C) Ginger cats
Researchers at the University Medical Centre, Utrecht, in the Netherlands, found that looking at pictures of black and white striped objects such as zebras can trigger migraines and seizures in sensitive people.
This type of pattern causes large numbers of the brain’s neurons to fire at the same time, which can lead to seizures and migraines, says Professor Arnold Wilkins, a psychologist at the University of Essex.
Covering one eye or putting on dark glasses when you see a trigger may help prevent an attack.
Researchers at the University Medical Centre, Utrecht, in the Netherlands, found that looking at pictures of black and white striped objects such as zebras can trigger migraines and seizures in sensitive people
4. According to the University of Nottingham, what can make the flu jab more effective?
A) Lifting your arm afterwards
B) Drinking coffee
C) Doing something that puts you in a good mood
People in a good mood on the day they had their flu jab had a more powerful immune response to the vaccination — meaning greater protection from the virus.
The researchers measured how many antibodies — proteins that fight off bacteria and viruses — the recipient created after the jab and asked how they felt on the day.
There are two theories as to why this may be: ‘Either positive mood can reduce the release of hormones such as cortisol that negatively affect the immune system, or people with positive moods may engage in healthier behaviours in general to boost the immune system,’