Check-up Medical Column for June 9

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.



Women pregnant with baby number two or beyond are at a greater risk of dangerous weight gain compared to first-timers, new Australian research has found.

Professor Helen Skouteris, from Deakin University’s School of Psychology and the Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development, says their study showed women who’ve already had one or more children are entering pregnancy at a significantly higher BMI.

“Each successive birth adds an average of one kilogram of post-partum body weight above what would normally be gained with age,” Professor Skouteris said.

While “it’s not rocket science”, there still needs to be greater awareness about unhealthy pregnancy weight.

Approximately 50 per cent of Australian women enter pregnancy either overweight or obese.

“You’re not eating for two and unless ordered by your doctor, you don’t need to put your feet up all day.

“These kinds of old wives tales are not relevant today,” said Prof Skouteris.

The findings were published in journal Obesity Reviews.


Swapping table sugar for fruit-derived sugar may be a healthier option when watching your waistline.

Researchers from the University of Canberra’s Health Research Institute examined the short-term and long-term effects of swapping sucrose or glucose for fructose, the sugar found in many fruits, vegetables and honey.

The research, which has been published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found blood glucose and insulin levels were lower after consuming food or drink that contained fructose instead of sucrose or glucose.

University of Canberra Adjunct Professional Associate and senior author of the report Dr Kerry Mills said in the short-term study, the reduction in blood glucose was far greater in people who were overweight or had diabetes than in those with normal blood glucose levels.

“The sharp rise in blood glucose after eating glucose and sucrose is a risk factor for diabetes. Fructose, on the other hand, has to be converted by the liver before it can affect glucose concentrations in the blood,” Dr Mills said.

“Because this conversion takes time, it’s impossible for the body to receive the near-instant sugar hit we get from sucrose or glucose. This reduces blood glucose levels, which is particularly important for people with diabetes, who must monitor and control these levels.”

While consuming too much sugar is advised against, Dr Mills says the results show healthier choices when it comes to sugar intake can make a difference for people with diabetes.


A review has found people who exercise excessively may be prone to acute or chronic gut issues.

Investigators found with increasing intensity and duration of exercise, there is a proportional increased risk of gut damage and impaired gut function.

Specifically, the cells of the intestine are injured and the gut becomes more leaky, allowing pathogenic endotoxins normally present and isolated to the intestine to pass into the bloodstream.

This scenario is referred to as ‘exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome’ and may lead to acute or chronic health complications, warn researchers at Monash University.

Research leeder Dr Ricardo Costa says exercise stress of more than two hours at moderate intensity (60 per cent VO2max) appears to be the threshold whereby significant gut disturbances arise, irrespective of an individual’s fitness.

Running and exercising in hot ambient temperatures appear to exacerbate gut disturbances.

The review also found patients who have irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease may find low to moderate physical activity beneficial.

“Despite excessive exercise being confirmed to compromise gut integrity and function, we have identified several exacerbating factors which can be controlled, and several prevention and management strategies that can attenuate and abolish the damage and compromised function,” said Dr Costa.


Researchers have found smartphone apps for treating back pain have questionable value as they are generally of “poor quality” and have not been rigorously evaluated.

Low back pain is a major global public health issue and the leading cause of disability in most countries.

In response to this, there are now more than 700 apps in the Australian iTunes and Google Play stores that use the keyword “back pain”.

It remains unclear, however, if any of them are effective, warns research fellow and physiotherapist Gustavo Machado from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.

A review of 61 apps, published in Best Practice & Research: Clinical Rheumatology, found they offered questionable information, lacked engaging and customisable features and had poor visual appeal and questionable credibility.

“Developers usually claim consumers could rapidly improve back pain symptoms by following their exercise programs. However none of the apps have been directly tested for their effectiveness and only very few provide the educational content and information that is key to guideline recommendations,” said Mr Machado.