Folic Acid for the Brain
A new Dutch study suggests that folic acid may reduce the risk of dementias (possibly including Alzheimer's disease) related to aging. Study subjects ages 50 to 75 who took 800 mcg of folacin each day for three years showed scores on memory tests comparable to people five years younger, according to researchers.1 Cognitive speed also improved, to a somewhat lesser extent.
- Reuters, June 20, 2005, reporting on a presentation by Jane Durga of Wageningen University at a meeting of the Alzheimer's Association.
Milk for Weight Gain
A study of children between the ages of 9 and 14 has found a correlation between milk consumption and weight gain. Researchers surveyed the dietary habits of 12,000 children and noted that the more milk they consumed, the heavier they were. However, researchers were surprised to find that the heavier kids drank low-fat milk (skim and 1 percent) instead of whole milk.2 More research on the subject is likely.
- Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, June 2005.
Researchers from St. Francis College and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York report that cranberries appear to have an inhibitory effect on some types of virus infection.3 Electron microscopic studies of cells treated with cranberry juice showed no evidence of viral activity after exposure. Cranberry interests, who sponsored the research, are hoping to eventually show a protective effect against gastrointestinal viral infections.
- Reuters, June 6, 2005.
Parkinson's and Pesticides
Scottish researchers report that they have discovered an exposure-dependent risk of Parkinson's disease relating to common garden pesticides. In a study of about 2,700 individuals, they noted a 9 percent increase of the disorder in amateur gardeners, and a 43 percent increase in farmers.4 The report recommends that gardeners and farmers wear protective equipment when working with the chemicals. Other risk factors reported are being knocked unconscious and a family history of the disease.
- New Scientist magazine, May 25, 2005.
Research from the Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry5 concludes that the chemical phthalate acts prenatally to inhibit testosterone and genital development. This small study of 85 infant males found a correlation between exposure to phthalate, and diminished penis size and incomplete testicular descent. Rat studies have described such outcomes as "phthalate syndrome," but exposure in those studies was much higher than that thought to occur in humans. Phthalates are very common in plastics and cosmetics.
- Reuters, May 26, 2005, reporting on the work of researcher Shanna Swan.
A paper in the journal Science6 reports evidence that the effect of some toxins can linger for generations. Researchers injected pregnant rats with vinclozolin and methoxychlor, common fungicides and pesticides, respectively. Four generations later, male offspring (whose ancestors had been free of the chemicals since the first generation) were still showing the effects of these chemicals: decreased sperm count and fertility. Some suggest that if these results hold, a number of conditions blamed on genetic mutations may actually be the result of such toxic exposures. The researchers say that the disorders are being passed on by a process called "methylation" (whereby chemical compounds attach to and affect DNA), which is not an actual mutation.
- Science, June 2005.
Friends for Life
Australian researchers have discovered a connection between friendship and longevity. Their 10-year study of almost 1,500 elderly people suggests that people live longer lives if they have a network of good friends. The same study found that frequent contact with children and family members had little effect on life span. The benefits may be related to having a support group to deal with stress and encourage a health lifestyle.7
- Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, June 2005.
Walking for a Cure
Yet another study has concluded that exercise is a big factor in breast cancer survivability. This research found that women diagnosed with breast cancer, who walked between three and five hours each week, had half the mortality rate of those who exercised less. Unfortunately, many women tend to stop exercising when they find out they have the disease - a big mistake, according to these results. The study draws data from an 18-year analysis of female nurses' habits and medical histories.8 Researchers suspect that the reduction is due to the diminished levels of estrogen produced by the exercise. No further benefit was seen among women who exercised more than five hours each week.
- Journal of the American Medical Association, May 25, 2005.
Antibiotics Wasted on Coughs
A study9 involving more than 500 patients reports that the coughs caused by ordinary cases of bronchitis last an average of 12 days after the doctor visit, whether or not antibiotics are prescribed. The report says about $726 million per year is wasted in the United States on antibiotics as a consequence. The researchers suggest that the blame for the overprescription of the drugs rests with the patients, who mistakenly believe antibiotics will help their cough. Patients then demand them from their physician, who presumably is helpless to do anything but write the prescription in accordance with the patient's wishes. (It appears to have never occurred to the doctors to explain to patients that antibiotics probably wouldn't help.) The researchers did try giving leaflets that explain the issues involved to some of the patients, but most blindly followed their misplaced faith in the drugs.
- Journal of the American Medical Association, June 22, 2005.
More Than Delicious
A Canadian study evaluating the relative amounts of antioxidants contained in various varieties of apples concludes that the Red Delicious apple contains the highest amounts.10 The variety contains over six times more than the lowest-ranked apple in this study, the Empire. Other types examined in this study, ranked by antioxidant content, were Northern Spy, Cortland, Ida Red, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Mutsu. The vast majority of antioxidants, about 80 percent, are in the skin of the apple.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 29, 2005.
How to Age Faster
Researchers investigating the structure and integrity of telomeres, the cap-like structures on the ends of chromosomes, say that both smoking and obesity affect them detrimentally. The length of telomeres is thought to be inversely proportional to the biological age of the individual. The shorter the structure, the more the chromosomes are susceptible to damage from oxidation from free radicals. This study of 1,122 women found that, compared to leaner counterparts, obese women were 8.8 years older biologically. Those who smoked a pack of cigarettes each day for 40 years showed a 7.4-year increase in biological age, compared to nonsmokers.11
- The Lancet, June 14, 2005.
A professor at King's College in London12 says that males who consume soya and tofu face a potential risk of fertility problems. A compound called genistein contained in these foods exerts an estrogen-like effect, which may cause sperm damage, described as a "burnout" effect. The effect has been noticed in rats, but this new work suggests that humans are impacted to a greater degree. Possibly even more important than the emasculating effect on the male, says this researcher, is that sperm inside the female may be affected by her own dietary intake of such foods, causing difficulty in conception. Thus, a woman should avoid these foods when she's trying to conceive. The research is preliminary, however; more is likely to follow to clarify the situation.
- Lynn Fraser, in a report to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, per Reuters, June 22, 2005.
Brian Sutton, DC
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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