Children's Vitamin Deficiencies
A study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln finds that a large number of preschool children seem to be lacking in common vitamins such as C and E.They found that one-third of the study participants were getting less than the RDA of vitamin C, while two-thirds were deficient in vitamin E. This very small study of 22 ethnically diverse preschoolers in the Lincoln area measured blood levels of antioxidant vitamins. The study also examined the children's dietary habits and found that parents tended to share their low-fat dietary habits (such as drinking skim milk) with their kids, accounting for the vitamin E deficiencies. Moreover, preschools were dispensing snacks such as potato chips instead of fruits and healthier foods, apparently at least partially out of a fear of food allergies.1,2
- Associated Press, April 11, 2005, reporting on the work of Judy Driskell.
Brushing Off Weight
A Japanese study has found a correlation between excessive weight and infrequent tooth brushing. This study of nearly 14,000 adults found that people who brush their teeth after every meal are less likely to be overweight than those who go several meals or days between brushings. The researchers think the findings are probably more related to a higher concern with health than with the calories that might be burned during the brushing activity,3 although they suggest that the conscious enforcement of a brushing regimen might lead to a general healthy lifestyle improvement, and thus perhaps a trimmer frame.4
- Journal of the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity, February 2005.
- Reuters, Feb. 7, 2005.
Smoking and Aneurysms
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that men in the 65-75 age range who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime should have a one-time ultrasound performed, to screen for an abdominal aneurysm. The recommendation is the result of studies that reveal the risk factors for smoking and an improvement in survivability when the screenings catch a potential problem.5
- Associated Press, Feb. 1, 2005.
Greek researchers report that people (especially men) living at higher altitudes appear to have a lower risk of dying from heart disease.6 The study involved 1,150 subjects over 15 years and compared low-lying communities with one at an elevation of about 3,000 feet. The benefit is thought to arise from an increased amount of exercise necessitated by the mountainous terrain.
- Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2005.
Smoking and Pancreatic Cancer
A study from Northwestern University concludes that smoking appears to accelerate the onset of pancreatic cancer, causing the disease to appear more frequently in (relatively) younger patients.7 The research found that among smokers, the median age of diagnosis was 63; for nonsmokers, it was 10 years later, at 73. Former smokers fell in between, at about age 70. Pancreatic cancer kills nearly all of its victims within a year. Smoking has been shown to influence both the development and spread of the cancer.
- Reuters, Jan. 27, 2005, reporting on the work of Dr. Randall Brand and associates.
Sunlight for Cancer
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute8 suggests that sun exposure, while implicated in the development of melanoma, is also a positive factor in the survivability of the disease. People with melanoma were more likely to survive if they had been exposed to more sun, even sunburned, surprising researchers. Possible explanations include the higher levels of vitamin D associated with sun exposure, and a breakdown of collagen (associated with wrinkling of the skin) that may inhibit the spread of cancer cells.9 Researchers are quick to say that they do not recommend that people at high risk of skin cancer obtain a membership at a tanning salon. Another study in the same journal suggests a benefit of sunlight relative to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Feb. 2, 2005.
- Associated Press, Feb. 1, 2005.
Too Much Fluoride From Tea
An anecdotal case from Washington University researchers illustrates how normally innocuous habits can cause a problem when taken to extremes. The researchers were trying to figure out why a middle-aged woman was experiencing spinal pain. Urine tests revealed a high level of fluorine, and subsequent testing revealed high bone density consistent with fluorosis. Questions about her diet brought out the fact that she drank one to two gallons of instant tea every day. After switching to lemonade, her urine tests returned to normal and most of her bone pain subsided. Testing of various brands of instant tea showed fluoride levels of up to 6.5 parts per million; the maximum permitted by the EPA in drinking water is 4 ppm.10
- Associated Press, Jan. 26, 2005.
Cell Phones and DNA
A new study11 from the European Union suggests that cell phone radiation may indeed cause DNA damage that cannot always be repaired. The study was done on cells in a laboratory setting, which researchers admit may not necessarily translate to typical real-life situations. In the study, the cells were subjected to cell phone-type radio waves in a specific absorption rate (SAR) of up to 2 watts per kilogram. Cell phones generate between .5 and 1 W/kg. After exposure, researchers noted single- and double-strand DNA breaks. Research is continuing, but in the meantime. those involved suggest that while they do not want to create a panic, consumers might want to use a land line or headset whenever possible.
- Reported by Reuters, Dec. 20, 2004; the study was coordinated by the German research group Verum.
Infertility From Laptops
A researcher from the State University of New York at Stony Brook12 warns that the heat generated by laptop computers is enough to decrease a man's fertility. The problem is that the scrotal temperature rises (from heat radiating from the computer) and prevents normal sperm production, similar to what has been previously reported in studies involving some types of tight-fitting jockey shorts. The laptop doesn't even have to be on to have an effect; just holding it on one's lap and keeping the legs together to support the computer raised the scrotal temperature 2 degrees Celsius. At least one case in which a person was burned through layers of clothing (after only an hour's worth of computing time) has been reported. The researchers fear that long-term use may cause long-term damage.
- Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, writing in Human Reproduction, December 2004.
Fish Sticks Don't Count
Most of us have read the studies that show many benefits from substances found in fish, notably omega-3 fatty acids. However, a study from Harvard Medical School13 suggests that not all sources of fish offer the same amounts of nutrients. This work looked at ultrasonic images of the cardiovascular systems of 5,000 older Americans, comparing the results to dietary surveys. Researchers found that those consuming frequent meals of baked or broiled fish tended to score quite better in heart and vascular system health. However, those who tended to select the fried variety, such as fish sticks or fish sandwiches, showed more signs of hardening of the arteries and other unhealthy changes. The differences are attributed not only to the accepted ills related to the deep-frying method of food preparation, but also to the fact that varieties of fish typically prepared this way are the leaner varieties that contain relatively small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Associated Press, May 2, 2005, reporting on the work of Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian.
Prescriptions for America
According to a recent U.S. government report, Americans are now taking more medications than ever before. Forty-four percent take at least one prescription drug each month, up from 39 percent during the period of 1988-1994.14 One in six adults takes three or more prescriptions, up from one in 10 during the early 1990s. About half of all elderly people are taking three or more. Use of antidepressants has tripled: 10 percent of adult women and 4 percent of men now take them.
- Reuters, Dec. 2, 2004, reporting on a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A new analysis of 26 studies of episiotomies concludes that some beliefs long-held by obstetricians about the procedure are in fact merely myths.15 Doctors perform an episiotomy in the belief that it will prevent hard-to-repair tears in the vagina, lessen the risk of incontinence, and preserve sexual sensations. This study says that in fact, the procedure causes more pain, prolongs healing time, has no effect on incontinence, and worsens sexual function, at least for a short time. The author estimates that about 1 million unnecessary episiotomies are performed each year.
- Journal of the American Medical Association, May 4, 2005.
Brian Sutton, DC
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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