Researchers looking at the rate of esophageal cancer in the United States note that there is a remarkable correlation between the recent rise in the cancer (570 percent in the past 25 years in white males) and the increase in carbonated drink consumption (450 percent in the past 50 years).
- Reuters, May 17, 2004, reporting on research from Tata Memorial Hospital in India, led by Dr. Mohandas Mallath.
Breastfeeding for the Heart
Researchers from the Institute of Child Health in London report a correlation between breastfeeding and lowered risk of heart disease as an adult.2 The influence of the breast is stronger than any lifestyle changes that can be made as an adult, according to these researchers, who suggest that "hundreds of thousands of deaths in the western world could be prevented by breastfeeding."3 The study was relatively small, involving 216 teenagers whose risk factors for heart disease were measured and compared to factors during early infancy. All of the subjects were born prematurely. The most striking correlation was between growth rate as infants and cholesterol and blood pressure levels as teenagers. Infant formulas tend to produce faster weight gains in infants, something that may not always be good, according to this study.
- The Lancet, May 15, 2004.
- Reuters, May 13, 2004.
Breastfeeding for Survival
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that breastfeeding lowers an infant's overall risk of death during his or her first year by 20 percent, on average.4 The longer the baby is breastfed, the better his or her chances become, according to this analysis of 9,000 infant deaths across the United States. While the nutritional value of breast milk is undoubtedly a major factor, one of the study's authors also suggests that other factors relating to the way breastfeeding moms care for their children are also significant.5 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first year of an infants life, and preferably for the first two years.
- Pediatrics, May 2004.
- Reuters, May 2, 2004, in an interview with Dr. Aimin Chen.
Fishing for the Fetus
A pregnant woman who consumes a lot of fish during the later stages of her pregnancy will boost the birth weight of her fetus, according to British investigators.6 The study looked at more than 11,000 pregnancies in which the mothers consumed an average of 33 grams of fish each day. The researchers attribute the growth to the availability of omega-3 fatty acids; however, it appears that substituting fish oil supplements for the real thing does not produce increased growth, but instead, prolongs pregnancy.7
- Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, May 2004.
- Reuters, May 13, 2004, quoting Dr. Imogen Rogers, of the University of Bristol.
A small study of people with chronic lung problems reveals that the effects of a physical exercise program go beyond stemming the physical effects of aging; they also help prevent cognitive decline. Researchers prescribed a 10-week exercise routine, before and after which they measured subjects' physical and mental functions. At the end of the training, all scores had improved (on average), as expected. When the same subjects were tested a year later, the researchers were somewhat surprised by the results: Progress apparently peaked during the original 10 weeks, and subsequent exercise merely helped maintain the benefits. Those who had stopped exercising, however, lost the gains they had previously made.8
- Health Psychology, November 2003. The research was conducted at Duke University in Durham.
Chlamydia Inhibits Male Fertility
Swedish researchers have found a strong correlation between chlamydia infection and infertility in males. While chlamydia is known to cause infertility in females, this work found a surprisingly high number of men with antibodies for the infection. Those so affected showed a 33 percent lower fertility rate than the others. The research involved 244 couples seeking fertility treatment. About 20 percent of the men had been exposed to chlamydia.9
- Human Reproduction, May 2004.
Dental X-Rays and Birth Weight
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association10 suggests that a pregnant woman who has dental X-rays runs the risk of delivering a lower birth-weight baby. The study, spanning seven years and 5,585 births, found a threefold increase in babies weighing 5.5 pounds or less at birth among women who had undergone extensive dental X-ray examinations during their first trimester. The researchers theorize that the radiation causes subtle changes in thyroid function; other studies have shown similar effects on birth weight associated with mild thyroid disorders.11
- JAMA, April 28, 2004.
- Associated Press, April 27, 2004.
Calcium for the Kidneys
Since many kidney stones are composed of calcium salts, doctors often suggest that patients at risk for stones go on a low-calcium diet. However, a new study suggests that this may be a mistake. A report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concludes that an increased intake of calcium (from food sources) actually reduces the incidence of kidney stones. Calcium supplements appeared to have no effect, however. Phytate consumption also showed a benefit, while sugar intake increased the rate of stone formation. The study was based on data from nearly 100,000 nurses ages 27 to 44.12
- Archives of Internal Medicine, April 26, 2004.
Walk for Breast Cancer
Research from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston suggests that women can improve their chances of recovering from breast cancer by getting a little more exercise. This study found that just getting out and walking regularly could cut the risk of dying from the disease dramatically. The study involved 16 years of data from 2,167 nurses with the diagnosis. Walking one to three hours per week reduced the mortality by 25 percent, while those walking three hours to eight hours per week cut their death rate in half.13
- Associated Press, reporting on the work of Dr. Michelle Holmes of Brigham and Women's Hospital, March 30, 2004.
Steroids and Babies
Researchers from Taiwan have characterized some of the effects of giving steroids to infants, a practice that started in the 1970s to treat breathing disorders and other problems associated with premature birth. They found a number of developmental problems, such as stunted growth and poor cognitive function, as the children grew older. These children were also more prone to distractions and performed poorly on mental tests. About 39 percent of the recipients had significant disability.14 In 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that administering the drugs to infants might not be a good idea.
- The New England Journal of Medicine, March 27, 2004.
Coffee for Diabetes
Finnish researchers are reporting new evidence that coffee consumption might reduce the risk of adult onset diabetes. A study by the National Health Institute in Helsinki15 calculates that three to four cups of coffee each day translate into a 27 percent and 29 percent decreased likelihood of diabetes for men and women, respectively. More appears to be better, as women decreased their risk by 80 percent if they drank 10 cups each day; men reduced their risk by 55 percent. Other studies have reported similar findings. The reason for the benefit is not yet clear. Finland was a good location for this study, as Finns consume more coffee than anyone else in the world - an average of nine cups per person per day.
- JAMA, March 10, 2004.
According to a British researcher,16 extracts of sage and lemon balm are showing promise for treatment of mental dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease. In controlled studies of normal volunteers, extracts from both herbs improved memory performance, and moods improved with lemon balm. In Alzheimer's patients, attention and behavioral indices improved with sage, and lemon balm reduced agitation and appeared to improve quality of life. These results are preliminary; the research is ongoing.
- Professor Elaine Perry of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, as reported by Reuters, March 5, 2004.
Brian Sutton, DC
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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