A study published in the British Medical Journal concludes that pollution levels that fall within most governmental and international guidelines can still be a significant cause of mortality.Researchers examined levels of sulfur dioxide and black smoke and correlated them to the overall death rate. They found up to a three percent increase in deaths as concentrations increased, though still well below the limits. Curiously, eastern Europeans seem somewhat resistant to the effects: their death rate was only half that of Westerners for a given pollution count.1
1. BMJ, June 7, 1997.
Chronic Fatigue? Try Exercise
Researchers at London's St. Bartholomew's Hospital have had very favorable results when treating chronic fatigue syndrome with exercise. They report that more than half the volunteers in their study felt more energetic when they participated in a program of aerobic exercise. This was about twice as many as in a control group that merely tried stretching and relaxation therapy.2
2. British Medical Journal, June 7, 1997.
Danger of Steroids
Experimenters looking into the long-term effects of steroids have discovered that mice given dosages comparable to those taken by human athletes die at a younger age. Deaths are typically from tumors and heart disease. The researchers note that most of the effects are not seen until long after the steroid therapy is terminated, suggesting that the harm is done early. The research was done by a zoologist at the University of Texas.3
3. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, June 1997, reporting on the work of Franklin H. Bronson.
Less Fat Burns as You Age
Researchers are finding evidence that supports a suspicion many people have. Fat is more resistant to exercise as you get older. A small study recently measured oxygen consumption and fat and carbohydrate metabolism in exercise volunteers. Older adults using the same amount of oxygen burned more carbohydrates and fewer fats, compared to the younger subjects. In fact, they oxidized less than 1/3 as much fat. The study compared normally sedentary younger and older adults, with average ages of 26 and 73, respectively.4
4. Associated Press, June 9, 1997, reporting on the work of Dr. Samuel Klein of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Breast-feeding Cuts Infection Risk
Researchers have compared breast-fed infants to those given formula during the first seven months of their lives and quantified some of the immunological benefits of breast milk. Infants who were bottle-fed were 80 percent more likely to suffer from diarrhea, and had 70 percent more ear infections. The authors say that even small amounts of breast milk, such as supplemental feedings by mothers who cannot exclusively breast feed, are beneficial.5
5. Pediatrics, June 3, 1997, Internet edition.
STDs Increase HIV Transmission
The Lancet6 reports that HIV positive men who also suffer from a gonorrheal-related urethritis have much higher concentrations of the HIV virus in their semen. A study in Malawi compared men with similar CD4 counts and blood HIV levels. Those that also had the urethritis exhibited semen levels of HIV eight times higher than the others. Over 333 men participated in the study.
6. The Lancet, June 28, 1997.
Active Life Thwarts Colds
The Journal of the American Medical Association7 reports on a novel way to help prevent the common cold: get involved. Researchers have found that people who participate in a number of social activities such as church, sports, and singing groups suffer from fewer colds. Researchers suspect that happiness and a sense of purpose work to strengthen the immune system.
7. JAMA, June 25, 1997.
Herbal Addiction Treatment
The United Nations will fund a study of certain Vietnamese herbs to quantify their effectiveness in treating heroin addictions. The research will study Heantos, a blend of 13 plants that seems to be very effective. A two-year Vietnamese study found a 95 percent success rate with the combination. It is hoped the herbs will replace Methadone as the treatment of choice; experts think they will be safer. The cost should average about $70 for an entire course of treatment.8
8. United Press, June 23, 1997.
Iatrogenic Infection to be Monitored
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that they will start monitoring the incidence of Yersinia enterocolitica infections in patients who have received blood transfusions. The organism is transmitted in blood products and precipitates blood pressure drops, breathing difficulties, and changes in blood viscosity. Twenty-nine patients are known to have died from the infection between 1986 and 1991, but the mortality is probably much higher since there is no standard way to diagnose the problem, often mistaken for other illnesses.9
9. United Press, June 20, 1997.
A New Taste Bud
University of Miami researchers10 say that they have discovered another type of taste bud, in addition to those that sense sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. They call the taste umami (oo-MOM'-ee), a Japanese word that roughly translates to "yummy." The taste buds in question seem to be pretty specific to monosodium glutamate, which imparts a rather meat-like flavor. The result of stimulation of these buds seems to start a kind of cascade effect, increasing the appetite to encourage you to take second helpings. MSG occurs naturally in many foods: tomatoes, grapefruit, potatoes, apples, oranges, and mushrooms, and is added to many more by the food industry.11
10. Nirupa Chaudhari and Stephen Roper.
11. Associated Press, June 28, 1997.
Vitamins from Vegetables
A new study from New Zealand examines the effect of eating extra vegetables on blood vitamin levels. Using blood chemistry to monitor volunteers, researchers compared two groups of people who normally consumed three servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but for the study, one group was instructed to raise their consumption to eight servings. The authors report "striking differences" in the levels of vitamin C and alpha and beta carotene.12 They comment that the blood changes in the extra servings group suggest, epidemiologically speaking, a decreased risk of cancer and maybe of heart disease and stroke. While a number of other studies have correlated vitamin consumption to such benefits, quite a few suggest that the effect is only produced by whole foods.
12. British Medical Journal, June 21, 1997.
Cholesterol? "Never Mind"
Now that cholesterol has been deeply ingrained into our collective psyche as being the most insidious and dangerous substance in our food supply, a close examination of pertinent data seems to be saying, in the words of Gilda Radner, "Never mind." An analysis of more than 200 studies suggests that the cardiovascular effects seen are not due to dietary cholesterol at all, but to saturated fat. The study, which purports to review every cholesterol paper published between 1966 and 1994, concludes that oral ingestion of cholesterol has a negligible impact on blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats, on the other hand, seem to somehow trigger production of atherosclerotic compounds.13
13. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 18, 1997.
Brian Sutton, DC
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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