3 Common Diets Compared: One Doubles Weight Loss

People in the study lost an average of nine pounds using the diet.

People on an intermittent fasting diet lose more weight than those following the Mediterranean or paleo diets, research finds.

Broadly, there are two types of intermittent fasting.

The first type involves restricting the time of day during which people can eat.

For example, breakfast is taken 90 minutes later than usual and supper 90 minutes earlier, with nothing outside this 6 to 8 hour window.

The other approach involves only eating one meal on two days of the week, then eating normally the rest of the week (sometimes known as the 5:2 diet).

People in the current study lost an average of nine pounds using the intermittent fasting diet, more than double that of the paleo diet.

Those on the Mediterranean diet lost 6 pounds, on average, while those on the paleo diet lost 4 pounds on average.

However, people on the Mediterranean diet, while losing less weight, found it easier to follow and showed improvement in their blood pressure.

The conclusions come from a study that compared the three diets in a ‘real-world’ setting, without support from professionals.

There was evidence that all three diets could be healthy ways to eat.

Dr Melyssa Roy, study co-author, said:

“This work supports the idea that there isn’t a single ‘right’ diet—there are a range of options that may suit different people and be effective. In this study, people were given dietary guidelines at the start and then continued with their diets in the real world while living normally.

About half of the participants were still following their diets after a year and had experienced improvements in markers of health.

Like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting and paleo diets can also be valid healthy eating approaches—the best diet is the one that includes healthy foods and suits the individual.”

The results showed that the Mediterranean diet was the easiest to follow.

Dr Michelle Jospe, the study’s first author, said:

“Our participants could follow the diet’s guidelines more closely than the fasting and paleo diets and were more likely to stay with it after the year, as our retention rates showed.”

The Mediterranean diet typically involves eating more fruits and vegetables, legumes, seeds, olive oil and fish, eggs, chicken and, once a week, red meat.

The paleo diet focuses on less processed foods including fruits and vegetables, animal proteins and extra-virgin olive oil.

The paleo diet prohibits legumes, grains and dairy.

However, people in the study used a modified version of the paleo diet that allows some dairy.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jospe et al., 2019).

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An Early Sign Of Lower IQ

The brain is very sensitive in early childhood.

Exposure to maltreatment or trauma early in life is linked to lower IQ, research finds.

Being abused, physically or emotionally, neglected or witnessing domestic violence, was linked to an IQ score 7 points lower, on average.

Abuse that occurs before the age of two-years-old is particularly damaging to intellectual development.

The brain is very sensitive in this early period, neuroscience has revealed.

Trauma and adversity early in life has repeatedly been linked to changes in the structure and circuitry of the brain.

The conclusions come from a study of 206 US children enrolled in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

The study started in 1975 and tracked the children from birth.

Children and mothers were assessed and interviewed at regular intervals and the children were given IQ tests.

The study revealed that one in three children had been maltreated and/or seen their mothers subject to violence.

This happened in infancy to 5 percent of children, in the pre-school period to 13 percent and in both periods to 19 percent.

Maltreatment — including witnessing violence and being neglected — was linked to lower intelligence scores every time it was measured.

The study’s authors write:

“The results suggest that [maltreatment and witnessing domestic violence] in early childhood, particularly during the first two years, has significant and enduring effects on cognitive development, even after adjusting for [other risk factors].

Because early brain organisation frames later neurological development, changes in early development may have lifelong consequences.”

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health (Enlow et al., 2012).

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An Easy Way to Reduce Depression And Loneliness

Reducing loneliness and depression could be as simple as this…

Limiting social media to 30 minutes per day decreases feelings of loneliness and depression, research finds.

The study strongly suggests that excessive social media use makes people more depressed and lonely.

It is also ironic that less ‘social’ media use reduces feelings of loneliness.

For the study, 143 college students were tracked for three weeks.

Half were told to use social media as normal, while the other half were instructed to limit it to 30 minutes per day.

All reported their use of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram along with feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and fear of missing out.

Dr Melissa G. Hunt, the study’s first author, explained the results:

“Here’s the bottom line.

Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.

These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

Dr Hunt does not think young people should stop using social media all together.

Limiting screen time, though, seems sensible, she says:

“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely.

Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens.

When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”

Dr Hunt concluded:

“When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.

In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”

The study was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (Hunt et al., 2018).

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A Personality Change Like This May Signal Dementia

A Personality Change Like This May Signal Dementia post imageA Personality Change Like This May Signal Dementia post image

The personality changes came ahead of more obvious behavioural changes linked to Alzheimer’s.

Increases in neuroticism may help to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s, new research finds.

Neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits and it involves a tendency towards worry and moodiness.

Neuroticism is characterised by negative thinking in a range of areas.

Neuroticism is strongly linked to anxiety, sadness, irritability and self-consciousness.

People who transition from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown Alzheimer’s are more likely to show personality changes.

Many people with mild cognitive impairment do not go on to develop dementia.

Both increased neuroticism and lower openness to experience predict the progression of the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.

The conclusions come from a study that followed people for more than 7 years.

They were tested for personality, anxiety, depression and other symptoms.

The researchers found that personality changes typically came after memory had begun to worsen.

Increases in depression, anxiety and anger were strongly linked to the transition to dementia.

However, the personality changes came before typical behaviour changes — such as like mood swings — were obvious.

The study’s authors write that Alzheimer’s disease is…

“…characterized by greater neuroticism and less openness; and coincide with subtle, clinically insignificant behavioral changes that qualitatively mirror and anticipate the clinically severe behavioral problems that often complicate dementia care.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Caselli et al., 2018).

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These Common Meds Increase Depression Risk – One-Third Take Them Unawares

The common meds that may cause depression, despite having nothing to do with it.

One-in-three US adults is taking prescription medications that can cause depression and increase suicide risk, research finds.

The medications have nothing to do with depression, and so patients and providers are frequently unaware of the risk.

The research also found that people who used multiple medications were at even greater chance of depression.

Over 200 common prescription drugs have depression and suicide listed as potential side-effects, including:

  • hormonal birth control medications,
  • blood pressure and heart medications,
  • proton pump inhibitors,
  • antacids,
  • and painkillers.

Around 15 percent of people who used three drugs simultaneously also experienced depression compared with just 5 percent of people taking none of these drugs.

The results were similar for drugs that listed suicidal feelings as a side-effect — using multiple drugs increased the risk.

Dr Dima Qato, the study’s first author, said:

“The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy [taking multiple drugs simultaneously] can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and health care providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs — many of which are also available over the counter.

Many may be surprised to learn that their medications, despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms, and may lead to a depression diagnosis.”

The study included data from 26,192 people between 2005 and 2014.

Unfortunately, the prescription and use of these drugs is on the rise, Dr Qato said:

“People are not only increasingly using these medicines alone, but are increasingly using them simultaneously, yet very few of these drugs have warning labels, so until we have public or system-level solutions, it is left up to patients and health care professionals to be aware of the risks.”

Dr Qato thinks health care professionals need to be more aware of the psychological risks involved in patients taking multiple medications:

“With depression as one of the leading causes of disability and increasing national suicide rates, we need to think innovatively about depression as a public health issue, and this study provides evidence that patterns of medication use should be considered in strategies that seek to eliminate, reduce or minimize the impact of depression in our daily lives.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Qato et al., 2018).

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8 Personality Studies Every Psychologist Should Know

People’s behaviour is explained by a mix of their personalities and the situations in which they find themselves.

Personality is the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that characterise a person.

People’s personalities can partly explain their behaviour.

However, the situations in which people find themselves also have a considerable influence.

Here are eight studies on personality that every psychologist should know.

Click the link in each section for a longer description of each of the eight studies on which this article is based.

1. Most people want to change their personality

Most people want to change their personality.

The most desirable changes for people are to be more extraverted, more conscientious and more emotionally stable.

It is easy to see why:

  • Extraverts are generally self-confident and cheerful and can also be impulsive, sensation-seekers.
  • Conscientious people tend to be more self-disciplined and they aim for achievement.
  • The emotionally stable are less likely to experience mental health problems.

2. Perfectionist personality

The personality trait of perfectionism is strongly linked to developing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Young children who have excessive self-control and perfectionist tendencies have double the chance of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), psychologists have found.

It is important to catch OCD as early as possible in life so treatment can help to reduce compulsions and obsessions.

3. Neurotics are susceptible to stress

People who are higher in the personality trait of neuroticism are more susceptible to stress, a large review of the research finds.

Neuroticism is one of the five major aspects of personality — it runs on a continuum from very stable to very neurotic, with most people in the middle of the range.

People higher in neuroticism are at greater risk of depression as they have a stronger response to frustration, threat and loss.

4. Neuroticism doubles Alzheimer’s risk

Anxiety, jealousy and moodiness in middle age are associated with doubling the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The study followed 800 women for 38 years and looked at the effects of their neuroticism on the chance of developing dementia.

Neuroticism is a personality trait that includes moodiness, worrying and anxiety.

In general, people who are neurotic are more likely to be anxious, depressed, jealous or envious.

5. How to spot a toxic personality

People with toxic personalities have a mixture of arrogance and deceitfulness.

People with toxic personalities:

  1. are willing to flatter others to obtain favours,
  2. to take advantage of others by cheating,
  3. enjoy showing off their higher status to others,
  4. act in an entitled way,
  5. and want to have things others do not.

However, toxic personalities can survive and even prosper in the workplace, and elsewhere, if they have one critical ingredient: social skills.

6. Acting like an extravert

Acting like an extravert makes people feel happier — even natural introverts, research finds.

Both extraverts and introverts report greater well-being after a week spent being more talkative, assertive and spontaneous.

It is the first study to report the benefits of acting like an extravert over such an extended period.

The study also demonstrates that people who are naturally introverted can enjoy this exercise as much as extraverts.

7. Healthy personality traits

Being optimistic, feeling positive emotions and controlling negative emotions are all linked to…

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Why Eating Disorders Are So Difficult To Treat (M)

Eating disorders are likely not the only disorders that have problems with the brain’s habit circuitry at their core.


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The Fruit That Boosts Risk-Taking – May Help Depressed And Anxious

People with depression and anxiety who need to boost their risk-taking behaviours could benefit, the researchers think.

Sucking on a lemon could help you take more risks in life, psychological research finds.

Sour tastes, like those in oranges, lemons and many other foods, boost people’s risk-taking behaviours.

The effects could last at least 20 minutes after consuming the sour food, probably longer.

People with depression and anxiety who need to boost their risk-taking behaviours could benefit, the researchers think.

For someone who is anxious, leaving the house can require considerable courage.

Dr Chi Thanh Vi, the study’s first author, explained:

“Risk-taking can mean different things for different people; for some that is jumping out of a plane at 30,000 feet but for others it can be simply leaving the house.

But while it may have negative connotations for some, risk taking is actually one of the primary behaviours that leads to a happier life.”

On the other hand, those who need to avoid taking risks — like airline pilots — might benefit from less sour food in their diet.

Dr Marianna Obrist, study co-author, said:

“Our research indicates that sour does not provoke people to indulge in reckless risky habits, but does have unique attributes to modulate risk-taking and may encourage risk-averse people to take new opportunities.

This is supported by previous work which indicated that people suffering psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, or stress-related disorders could benefit from the use of lemon oils which also had stress-reducing qualities.”

Bursting the balloon

For the study, 168 people were given drinks flavoured with each of the five main taste groups: sour, sweet, bitter, salty and umami.

They were then given a test of risk-taking that involved pumping up a balloon.

The more they pumped it up, the more money won, but also the higher the chance it would pop and they would lose everything.

People who drank a sour solution did the most pumping, followed by salty, bitter, umami and sweet.

Dr Vi said:

“We don’t know exactly what happens within the brain that controls this type of behaviour and it is something we would now like to pursue further.

We know what happens in the brain when people have a certain taste and we know what happens when someone decides a certain course of action but what is missing is tracking the neural pathway to show how taste can affect that decision-making process.

It could be that by taking that first bite of something sour we are already exhibiting some risk-taking behaviour to eat fruit which might not be quite right.”

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Vi et al., 2018).

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This Personality Trait Raises Dementia Risk 48%

The scientists followed over one thousand twins in Sweden over 28 years.

People who have experienced high levels of anxiety in their lives have a 48 percent higher risk of developing dementia.

Dr Andrew Petkus, who led the study, said:

“Anxiety, especially in older adults, has been relatively understudied compared to depression.

Depression seems more evident in adulthood, but it’s usually episodic.

Anxiety, though, tends to be a chronic lifelong problem, and that’s why people tend to write off anxiety as part of someone’s personality.”

The scientists followed over one thousand twins in Sweden over 28 years.

Each pair were tested every three years and screened for dementia symptoms.

Amongst identical twins, it was the more anxious of the pair that was at a higher risk of developing dementia.

This is the first study to find a link between anxiety and a higher risk of developing dementia.

Professor Margaret Gatz, a co-author of the study, described those in the high-anxiety group:

“They are people who you would say operate at a ‘high level of anxiety’.

They are frantic, frazzled people.

Those in the high anxiety group were about 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia.”

The link between anxiety and dementia could be a result of cortisol — the so-called ‘stress hormone’ — damaging the brain.

There may also be genetic factors that help explain the link.

The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia (Petkus et al., 2016).

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Understanding Depression: 7 Intriguing Psychology Studies

Understanding Depression: 7 Intriguing Psychology Studies post imageUnderstanding Depression: 7 Intriguing Psychology Studies post image

From targeting the brain’s gamma waves to using magnetic pulses to realign the flow of abnormal brain signals, depression research continues to intrigue.

Depression treatments have come a long way since Sigmund Freud pioneered the analysis of dreams.

Neuroscientists now target the brain’s gamma waves or use magnetic pulses to realign the flow of abnormal brain signals.

Other treatments are more familiar, focusing on tweaks of tried-and-tested formulas, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy.

But one thing is for sure, the scientific research on depression continues apace.

So, below are 7 psychology studies from the members-only section of PsyBlog that give a flavour of the latest scientific research on depression.

(If you are not already, find out how to become a PsyBlog member here.)

  1. How To Escape From Negative Thought Spirals
  2. This Positive Therapy For Depression May Beat CBT
  3. Blend Of 14 Probiotics Alleviates Persistent Depression
  4. An Unusual Sensory Sign Of Depression
  5. This Contraceptive Pill Doubles Depression Risk
  6. How Magnetic Pulses Alleviate Severe Depression In 5 Days
  7. Depression Reversed By Restoring Brain’s Natural Gamma Rhythms


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