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September Natural Health News You Can Use

September 30th, 2010 · Naturopathic News · , , , , , , , , , ,

VITAMIN D MAY BOOST HEART FAILURE SURVIVAL RATES: A study has found that heart failure patients with reduced levels of vitamin D have lower rates of survival than patients with normal vitamin D levels. As a result, researchers suggest that a low intake of vitamin D may be a factor in the development, and outcome, of heart failure. Vitamin D is produced by the skin when it is exposed to the natural ultra violet-B, or UV-B, radiation from the sun. Most tissues and cells have a vitamin D receptor; and evidence suggests vitamin D reduces the risks of several chronic illnesses such as common cancers, autoimmune diseases, kidney diseases, chronic infectious diseases, high blood pressure and apparently, heart failure. The study team described the evidence of a protective effect from vitamin D as “compelling,” and recommended that heart failure patients should be advised to take vitamin D supplements and eat oily fish or eggs. The study was presented August 31, 2010 at the annual congress of the European Society Cardiology. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D INCREASE DIET-INDUCED WEIGHT LOSS: A study has concluded that greater intakes of dairy calcium and higher blood levels of vitamin D produce a substantially greater weight loss than the loss experienced by those with lower calcium and vitamin D intakes. (Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in supplements and in a few foods such as cod liver oil, sockeye salmon, mushrooms, mackerel and tuna fish.) The six-month study used techniques that ruled out the influence of other factors such as age, sex, body mass index, total fat intake and diet type. Blood levels of vitamin D and dairy calcium intake were found to be separate factors affecting increased weight loss; that is, each nutrient had its own specific effect. This study was released September 1, 2010 but will not be published until a future issue of the print version of the journal, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, the full-text version is now available online, with subscription or payment of an access fee, at http://bit.ly/coMR3d.

FISH OILS FIGHT INFLAMMATION AND DIABETES: Finally, a study has identified the mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids appear to effectively fight chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and diabetes. The study found that there is a key receptor in obese body fat and that omega-3 oils – specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – activate this receptor, which results in broad anti-inflammatory effects and improved systemic insulin sensitivity. (There is a strong connection between obesity and diabetes.) The effect of fish oil was powerful, according to the researchers, and, “The omega-3 fatty acids switch on the receptor, killing the inflammatory response.” The study team warned that more study is required to determine how much fish oil constitutes a safe and effective dose. Researchers suggested that the study could eventually lead to a natural dietary remedy for the more than 23 million Americans who suffer from diabetes. This study was published in the Friday, September 3, 2010 issue of the journal, Cell. The full-text version is now available online without fee at http://bit.ly/9TQ09d.

KIDNEY PROBLEMS LINKED TO VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY: A study has found that kidney dysfunction is associated with a low blood level of vitamin C. Also, low blood levels of vitamin C may cause damage, from greater oxidative stress, among kidney disease patients. It was noted that diabetic patients had consistently reduced levels of vitamin C. Lower blood levels of vitamin C have previously been linked to a greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease. People with higher levels of vitamin C have been found to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and to have a greater life expectancy. (Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in humans and acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body against oxidative stress. Most species can synthesize vitamin C but humans cannot.) A brief summary of this study was released September 3, 2010 by the journal, Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation but the study will not be published in the print journal until a future issue. The full-text version is currently available online, for subscribers and those who pay the article access fee, at http://bit.ly/bPgeer.

DID YOU KNOW?
Most people think you should never kiss a baby if you have a cold. But in fact, a quick kiss on the lips probably won’t spread a cold or the flu, even to a baby. Of course, you should cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze because this brings forth virus-laden fluids from deep in your airways. But the saliva in your mouth harbors very little cold virus material. So it’s very difficult to pass colds and flu through kisses, even extended kisses. The best way to protect your friends and your baby from catching your cold is so simple that most people scoff at it: the best protection is simply washing your hands.

IRON DEFICIENCY LINKED TO CHRONIC HEART FAILURE: A study has found that iron deficiency is a factor among chronic heart failure (CHF) patients, in poor quality of life, intolerance of exercise and diminished heart function. Researchers showed that, although typically associated with anemia, low iron levels negatively even affect a third of CHF patients who are not considered anemic. (Iron is important for growth, survival and a number of bodily processes. An excess of iron is as risky as a deficiency. Iron levels should be closely controlled because too much of this insoluble mineral can be toxic. However, deficiencies are considered to be relatively common.) Cardiologists, suggested the study team, should become aware of the possible importance of iron deficiency in heart patients. Correction of iron deficiency in CHF patients may lead to important clinical benefits. A key message of the study is that iron deficiency is often present without anemia. (Iron in meat is more easily absorbed than iron in vegetables but this mineral is also found in lentils, beans, poultry, fish, leafy vegetables, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, blackstrap molasses, fortified bread, and fortified breakfast cereals.) This study was presented September 5, 2010 at the European Society of Cardiology’s Congress 2010 in Stockholm. Details have not yet been published.

MORE BABIES SHOULD BE GIVEN IRON SUPPLEMENTS: A study has shown that giving iron supplements to children with marginally low birth weights (2000-2500 grams) dramatically reduces the risk of developing iron deficiency and anemia, and as a result, lowers the risk of poor brain and neurological development in infants. (Birth weight and infant nutrition are important risk factors for death risk in adulthood. Infants with low birth weight are at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies during their first year of life, including iron deficiency. Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin for the blood, and also for the development of the brain. Iron deficiency in infants has been shown to be associated with poor neurological development.) The study found no risks from the administration of iron drops to babies but also found that failure to give iron drops often resulted in anemia and iron deficiency. These findings could have a significant effect on nutritional recommendations for children with marginally low birth weights. The research was released September 6, 2010 and will be published in the October 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics. In the meantime, full details are available, to journal subscribers and those who pay the article access fee, online at: http://bit.ly/9tcCes.

LOW LEVELS OF VITAMIN D LINKED TO DOUBLE THE RISK OF SCHIZOPHRENIA: Babies with low levels of vitamin D have an increased risk in fact, double the risk – of developing schizophrenia later in life. That’s the conclusion of a new study of 424 individuals that showed a link between vitamin D (25 hydroxyvitamin D3) sufficiency and healthy brain growth. (Vitamin D is produced by the effect of sunshine on the skin and, although linked to bone health, researchers have previously found that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be born in winter, when sunlight is rare.) “Improving vitamin D levels in pregnant women and newborn babies could reduce the risk of later schizophrenia,” said one of the researchers. It’s important to note that a link between schizophrenia was found with both insufficient and excess levels of vitamin D. The team described as “urgent,” the need for further study to assess best levels of vitamin D. This study was published September 7, 2010 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The full text of the study is available online now at http://bit.ly/aIcjQp for journal subscribers and those who pay the article access fee.

DID YOU KNOW?
Contrary to common belief, even skim milk is not fat-free: five percent of skim milk’s calories come from fat. A full 34 percent of the calories contained in partly skimmed, or “two percent,” milk come from fat. It’s called two percent because the fat content makes up two percent of the total weight. Whole milk is 48 percent fat by calories lean hamburger runs about 64 percent.

POOR DENTAL HYGIENE LINKED TO HEART DISEASE: A study suggests that without proper brushing of teeth and regular flossing, bacteria from plaque can escape into the bloodstream, where they can initiate blood clots and generally wreak havoc on the body. Researchers stressed that people need to maintain good dental hygiene to help ward off blood clots and heart disease in general. The study showed that, once in the bloodstream, Streptococcus bacteria make blood platelets bind together and completely encase the bacteria, protecting the bacteria from the body’s immune system and from antibacterial drugs. This creates small clots, growths on the heart valves, or inflammation of the blood vessels. This study was released September 9, 2010 at the autumn meeting of the Society for General Microbiology in Nottingham, UK. However, it has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and is not yet available online.

VITAMIN B SUPPLEMENTS COULD HALT ALZHEIMER’S PROGRESSION: A study has found that supplementing the diet with large doses of vitamin B could cut, by a third to a half, the brain shrinkage that is common in elderly people with early signs of the disease and could slow, or even halt, the memory-robbing disease’s progression. The researchers stressed the need for further study to confirm these results but described the study outcome as “striking” and “dramatic.” Over a two-year period, half of the168 volunteers, all of whom were over the age of 70 and had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), were given high daily doses of the B vitamins folate, B6 and B12, higher doses than normally found in supplements or diet. “Participants were randomly assigned to two groups of equal size, one treated with folic acid (0.8 mg/d), vitamin B12 (0.5 mg/d) and vitamin B6 (20 mg/d), the other with placebo.” On average, compared to the group that received only placebo pills with no active ingredients, B-taking volunteers exhibited an average 30 percent lower degree of brain shrinkage, which is associated with atrophy; but in some cases, the reduced amount of atrophy was lower by as much as fifty percent. The study was released September 8, 2010 by the online journal Public Library of Science ONE and can be accessed free online at: http://bit.ly/btsJCl.

DID YOU KNOW?
Your body may make better use of supplemental vitamin D if you take it with your largest meal, boosting its uptake over a two- to three-month period, by as much as 56 percent, according to a study at the Cleveland Clinic, detailed in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Vitamin D is loosely linked with a decreased risk of autoimmune disorders. If you’re considering taking vitamin D supplements, talk to your natural health practitioner about dosages.

SORGHUM FOUND TO BE ANTIOXIDANT-RICH — EVEN RICHER THAN BLUEBERRIES: A study has concluded that sorghum bran contains greater antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory power than known antioxidant-rich superstars, such as blueberries and pomegranates. Researchers tested four varieties of sorghum and found that the two with the highest tannin composition – the black and sumac sorghum varieties – contain a whopping 23 to 62 mg of polyphenolic compounds per gram compared to antioxidant-rich blueberries, which contain 5 mg per gram, or pomegranate juice, which contains 2 to 3.5 mg per gram. Many fruits also contain antioxidants but sorghum bran, suggested the researchers, may prove to be the very richest and cheapest source. High-antioxidant berries and fruits are among the most expensive. Low tannin sorghum is commonly fed to animals or used to make ethanol to fuel cars. Only recently, has high-tannin sorghum bran been added to a few food items; the study team hopes to interest manufacturers in adding the low-cost, high-tannin extract to foods and beverages in order to prevent disease “rather than promote it.” In addition to antioxidants, sorghum also contains fiber. This study was published in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food. The full-text version of this study is available online at http://bit.ly/cQPqCd with journal subscription or article access fee payment.

DIET-INDUCED OBESITY ACCELERATES LEUKEMIA: A study has found that obesity resulting from diet accelerates – and theoretically, at least, may even trigger – the progression of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Obesity has long been associated with an increased incidence of many cancers, including leukemia; but it has not been clear whether the higher risk was caused by obesity or by some other risk such as lifestyle or genetics. The researchers suggest that obesity may trigger leukemia and that “some hormone or factor in overweight individuals, perhaps produced by the fat tissue itself, may signal leukemia cells to grow and divide.” Not all obesity is caused by diet; weight gain can also be caused by genetics, aging, pregnancy, lack of sleep, some medicines and certain health conditions. This study is important due to the prevalence of obesity in society. Also, leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer at a time when childhood obesity is at an all-time high. This just-released study will be published in the October 5, 2010 issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research. It is now available online at http://bit.ly/cIvDkG with a journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.

SELENIUM SUPPLEMENTS MAY DECREASE RISK OF BLADDER CANCER: A study has found that a higher intake of selenium may lower the risk of bladder cancer. Researchers analyzed several previous studies and examined selenium content in toenails and blood and compared these measurements with the incidence of bladder cancer. Although there was a general protective effect for selenium levels, women benefited most in terms of bladder cancer risk. (Selenium is found in plant foods grown in selenium-rich soils, in the meat of animals that grazed on selenium-rich soils, and in selenium supplements. It is an essential micronutrient that is incorporated into about 25 proteins, called selenoproteins, which prevent cellular damage caused by the by-products of oxygen metabolism.) Further study is required to confirm these results and to determine the optimum dose of selenium to provide a protective effect against bladder cancer. This study was released August 31 and published in the September 2010 issue of the journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The full-text version is now available online with a journal subscription or payment of an article access fee at http://bit.ly/cImcWJ.

DID YOU KNOW?
An “abnormal” body weight prior to a cancer diagnosis is linked to a greater risk of later dying from the cancer; and correcting improper weight after diagnosis might not have any effect on risk because, says one researcher, “at that point, it may be too late.” A study of postmenopausal women found that a greater cancer mortality risk was strongly associated with pre-diagnosis weights that were either “underweight,” or “obese.” Underweight patients had an 89 percent greater mortality risk and obese patients, a 45 percent greater mortality risk, relative to normal-weighted individuals. Also, aside from overall weight, women with a high waist-to-hip ratio before diagnosis had a 30-40 percent higher risk of death. The mechanism behind these links is unknown. The study was reported in the September 2010 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, an American Association for Cancer Research journal.

ANTIBIOTIC USE ALTERS INTESTINAL FLORA: A study has found that repeated use of antibiotics causes increasing and persistent changes in the composition of the gut’s beneficial bacteria colony. A previous study by the same scientist had shown that friendly bacteria in the gut bounce back fairly quickly after a single, short-term round of Cipro, an antibiotic often used for intestinal, urinary and systemic infections. But this longer study found that as few as two rounds of Cipro six months apart is sufficient to produce subtle, long term effects such as the replacement of an entire species of bacteria with a closely related species; or the complete elimination of some species. The problem with this subtle effect is that an eradicated bacteria species may have performing an important function such as fighting a particular pathogen with the toxin it produces; with those particular bacteria missing, the pathogen could multiply unchecked until, years later, it has invaded the patient’s system. The second administration of antibiotics appeared to have a greater impact than the first, although the effect varied between test subjects. This study was released September 13, 2010 and will appear in a future issue of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Details have not yet been made available.

DID YOU KNOW?
Pregnant women who eat a lot of fish containing significant levels of mercury can cause developmental delays and brain damage in their newborns. Especially high in mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Canned light tuna (vs. other tuna), shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish generally have lower amounts of mercury but still should be eaten only in moderation while pregnancy. Baking, broiling, grilling and poaching are the healthiest ways to cook fish.

WATERCRESS MAY “TURN OFF” BREAST CANCER: A study has found that a compound in watercress may have the power to suppress breast cancer cell development. Normally, as cancer cells develop, they send out signals that cause new blood vessels to grow into the tumor and these nourish the rapidly growing cancer cells with oxygen and nutrients. But a watercress compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate – appears to turn off the tumor signal within the body, effectively starving the breast cancer cells. The amount of watercress consumed by test subjects was 80gm, which is about a cereal bowl full. (This leaf vegetable is known for its tangy, peppery flavor and is a member of the Brassica or cruciferous family, which includes cabbage and broccoli. Previously, watercress has been linked to a lower risk of lung cancer and of low thyroid levels.) The study leader suggested more research is needed on the relation between what we eat and cancer. This study was presented at a September 14, 2010 press conference and will be published in the current issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

MOST COMMON EXERCISE ISPREPARING A MEAL: A study has found that the most common “moderate” physical activity regularly pursued by Americans is – brace yourself – preparing meals, and eating and drinking. The five-year study of over 80,000 people found that five percent of respondents engaged in vigorous activity such as running; but the study also found that over 95 percent of subjects cited their most active exercise as eating and drinking. Eighty percent of the subjects reported their main activity was watching television or a movie. Other “light exercise” reported was washing and grooming. Recent studies have shown a strong connection between reported trends of sharply reduced levels of physical activity on the one hand and lowered life spans, reduced years of healthy living and greater obesity rates on the other hand. Obesity rates in the U.S. have soared from 14 percent in 1993 to 27 percent in 2008. The relation between sedentary activity and obesity rates is undeniable, according to the researchers. Perhaps, nothing underscores that more than learning that preparing and consuming meals counts as the most common form of exercise, say researchers. This just-released study will be published in the October 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The full-text version is available online at: http://bit.ly/9OlOfn with a journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.

POOR DIET AND INADEQUATE EXERCISE MAY UNDERLIE CHILDHOOD ASTHMA: A study of 18,000 children aged four to 12 suggests that unbalanced nutrition and lack of exercise may be the major risks of developing childhood asthma, even in those of a healthy weight. These findings challenge the long-held idea that obesity itself is a risk factor for asthma. Instead, despite the fact that obese individuals showed a greater risk of asthma, the study implicated these patients’ metabolic dysfunction in the risk of asthma, such as triglyceride levels and glucose metabolism and not their obesity itself. The conditions known as dyslipidemia (high triglyceride levels) and hyperinsulinemia (acanthosis nigricans or AN) are very common in both obesity and metabolic syndrome and as a result, suggests the study, obesity has been linked with asthma risk when in fact, these conditions themselves are the most likely risk factor. Metabolic factors, suggests the study, may be the actual cause of the airway inflammation and hyper-reactivity that leads to asthma. In fact, it is the childhood experience of poor nutrition and lack of exercise that may lead to later asthma, according to the research. This study was released September 16, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the journal, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Details are not yet available to the public.

DID YOU KNOW?
Floating an egg in plain – not salted – water will let you judge the size of the air-cell at the large end of the egg, which indicates the egg’s age. A fresh egg will settle to the bottom of the container of water and rest horizontally because the air cell is still small. But the larger air cell of a one-week-old egg will cause the large end of the egg to rise up slightly. Eggs that are two to three weeks old will settle to the bottom of the container vertically, large end up. And a very old egg will just float right on the surface. Don’t ever eat eggs that float.

ANXIETY MEDS RAISE MORTALITY RISK: A 12-year study of 14,000 patients has found that patients who take medications to treat insomnia and anxiety, even on an irregular schedule, have a 36 percent greater risk of dying than those who do not. This is considered a small but significant increase in risk. What causes this higher risk of mortality among those taking drugs to treat insomnia and anxiety is not clear but researchers pointed out that these prescriptions affect reaction time, alertness and coordination, making patients subject to falls and accidents. Also, patients on these meds are more prone to breathing problems during sleep; and some drugs of this type increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. The team leader suggested that non-drug cognitive behavioral therapies have been shown to be effective against both insomnia and anxiety and that this type of therapy should be suggested to patients. Also, according to the head researcher, “These medications aren’t candy, and taking them is far from harmless.” This study was published in the September 2010 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and is available online now in its full-text format at: http://bit.ly/964IPZ.

SPECIAL DIET PREVENTS KIDNEY STONES: A study has found that the DASH diet, a diet designed to combat high blood pressure and also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, also helps prevent kidney stones. This diet is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, dairy products, and whole grains, and low in sweetened beverages and red and processed meats. Despite similar fluid intakes, the study observed a greater output of urine among those on the DASH diet, which may stem partly from the fact that DASH foods have higher water content. More important, DASH subjects’ urine held higher concentrations of citrate, an important inhibitor of calcium kidney stones. Researchers suggested that two foods prominent in the DASH diet have potent kidney stone-fighting properties: low-fat dairy products and plant foods. This just-released study will be published in the October 2010 issue of the journal, Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. It is now available online at http://bit.ly/aZu1yY with subscription to the journal or payment of an article access fee.

VIRUS MAY BE BEHIND OBESITY EPIDEMIC: A study has found that a gene in a specific virus can turn adult stem cells into fat cells. The study shows that many cases of obesity can be blamed on a specific virus named “human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36)”. This does not mean that obesity is always the result of a particular virus; but it does suggest that many cases of obesity may stem from infection by this virus. Another aspect of the study suggests that the weight gain effect can continue up to six months after the virus has left the body. The researchers stated that it is possible that other viruses may have a similar effect. Obesity may even be considered, suggests the study team, a complex disease involving many different viruses. Research is needed, says the study team, to determine why some people with the virus develop obesity while others with the same virus do not. Ninety-seven million adult Americans are obese. Obesity increases the risk of many illnesses, including type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and osteoarthritis. This study was presented today at the 234th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. It has not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal.

STRESS BEFORE CANCER THERAPY LEADS TO RECURRENCE: A study has concluded that any form of stress during the one or two days prior to treatment for cancer even the physical stress caused by intense exercise activates a stress-sensitive protein known as the Hsp27 protein. This protein in turn protects cancer cells, allowing them to survive the treatment, thus sabotaging therapy and leading to a recurrence of the cancer. Although breast cancer cells were the subject of the study, the researchers said this proves that all types of adenocarcinoma cells cancer cells that originate in a gland appear to have found a way to adapt and resist treatment by using this stress-related protein. In the face of stress, the protein is activated by the presence of what is called “heat shock factor-1″ and blocks the process that kills cancer cells even after their DNA has been damaged by radiation or chemotherapy. Stress includes physical exercise and even UV radiation from sunlight. This study was released September 21, 2010 by the journal Molecular Cancer Research. Full details are now available online at http://bit.ly/ctzTPU with journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.

DID YOU KNOW?
Environmental pollutants trapped in fat cells could be released back into circulation when people shed a lot of weight. A study found strong correlation between weight loss and blood levels of six persistent organic pollutants. There is no proof that weight loss leads directly to the release of pollutants from fat cells into the blood but the evidence of the study is consistent with that mechanism, reported the researchers. The study was published in the September 7, 2010 issue of the Journal of Obesity.

MULTIVITAMIN USE MAY PREVENT HEART ATTACKS IN WOMEN: A study of 31,671 women has found that, compared to taking no supplements at all, regular daily use of multivitamins over a minimum ten-year period reduced the incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack), at least among those women who had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the start of the study. There was no similar benefit for women who had a history of CVD. But among those with no CVD history, supplements other than multivitamins had little effect on heart attack risk; multivitamins alone reduced heart attack risk by 27 percent; and multivitamins taken with other supplements lowered heart attack risk by 30 percent. Multivitamins were estimated generally to contain close to the recommended allowances for vitamins A, C, D, and E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid. The relationship is not necessarily one of cause-and-effect and further study is needed on the exact contents of multivitamins, the required duration of use, and the reason that supplements had no heart benefit for women with CVD. This study was released September 22, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It can be read online in the meantime at http://bit.ly/a1wmNr with journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.

HIGHER CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D LEVELS INCREASE WEIGHT LOST THROUGH DIETING: A study has determined that the weight lost on identical weight-loss diets is greater among those with higher intakes of dairy calcium; and separately, among those with higher blood levels of vitamin D. Regardless of the specific diet, those with the highest calcium intake dropped an average of 12 pounds in two years. However, those with the lowest intake of dairy calcium lost only seven pounds on average in the same period. Aside from calcium, individuals who had the highest levels of vitamin D lost the most weight when dieting; and vitamin D levels increased as weight dropped. It did not matter whether the diet was low-fat, low-carb or Mediterranean. This confirms previous research finding that obese people have lower levels of vitamin D. Although the study assessed dairy calcium only, calcium is also available from supplements and other foods. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and is found in supplements, fatty fish and eggs. It is also manufactured by the body from direct sun exposure. This study was published in the September 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is now available online at http://bit.ly/aC1RNA for journal subscribers and those who pay an article access fee.

MONTHLY HORMONAL CYCLES LINKED TO ABILITY TO CONCENTRATE: A new study on rats has confirmed a previously suspected, biological link between an individual’s current estrogen level and her ability to pay attention, focus and learn. Women have high estrogen levels when they are ovulating and prior research has shown that these are the times when they have trouble focusing and learning. Until now, it was not known whether the increase in fogginess and the increase in the level of this hormone constituted a cause-and-effect link. But researchers used rats to study how estrogen affects their “latent inhibition,” which is a form of memory formation, which is essential learning. They found that rodents with low estrogen levels learned to associate a stimulus with a specific sound tone far faster than those with high estrogen levels, showing that, even in a different species, estrogen itself has a direct effect on the brain by inhibiting cognitive ability. Further study may explain how it does this. This study was released ahead of print publication in a future issue of the journal Brain and Cognition. It is available at the journal’s site with the payment of a fee.

U.S. CHILDREN DRINK TOO LITTLE WATER, STUDY: A study of 3,978 children aged 2 to 19 years of age has found that a large proportion of American kids drink less water than is recommended as the minimum daily amount. Sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for much of their fluid intake. Also, the researchers concluded that children who do consume the most water each day are less likely to consume sugary drinks and high-calorie foods. Only 15 to 60 percent of boys, and 10 to 54 percent of girls, depending on age, drink the minimum amount of water recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, dry mouth and even impaired cognition and mental performance. The study looked at water intake from all sources, including water itself, water in moist foods, moisture in all beverages, such as milk and juice. As children aged, their water consumption increased while their intake of nutritive beverages such as milk and fruit juice decreased. This just-released study will be published in the October 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available at http://bit.ly/cIOrCT with journal subscription or access fee.

MS SYMPTOMS EASED BY ‘MINDFULNESS MEDITATION’: A study has determined that learning mindfulness meditation can help Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients with the fatigue, depression and other life challenges that usually accompany the disease. The effect lasted for six months. For the study, 150 MS patients were assigned either to regular medical care alone or to medical care plus weekly classes lasting two and a half hours; the classes included mental and physical exercises aimed at developing nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment, or “mindfulness.” Those who went through the mindfulness training were far better able to cope with fatigue and depression; in fact, mindfulness helped reduce depressive symptoms by over 30 percent. Mindfulness is a concept that might be described as “calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself.” This study was the largest of its type and is considered to have been well-conducted. The study was published in the September 28, 2010 issue of the journal, Neurology, and is now available online at http://bit.ly/dgV6cb with journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.

STRONG LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION AND DIABETES: A study has found a strong link between particulate air pollution and adult diabetes; and between pollution and inflammation, which may contribute to insulin resistance, which in turn is linked to diabetes. The study focused on a particular size of fine particulates in air pollution (0.1 to 2.5 nanometers in size), the same size associated with a key component of haze, smoke and motor vehicle exhaust. Researchers adjusted the data to rule out the effects of known diabetes risk factors, including obesity, exercise, geographic latitude, ethnicity and population density. But there was still a very strong correlation between air pollution and the incidence of diabetes. The study team did not point to air pollution as necessarily being a cause of diabetes but it came across as a valid predictor of the disease. Even within counties falling within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits for air pollution exposure, those with the highest levels of exposure were 20 percent more likely to develop diabetes. The team suggested EPA standards may not be adequate to protect people from pollution. Released September 29, this study will be published in the October 2010 issue of Diabetes Care. It is online now at http://bit.ly/dqTEPB without charge.

DID YOU KNOW?
Tea lovers’ beverage of choice lowers blood pressure. Drinking just a half-cup of green or oolong tea per day reduces a person’s risk of high blood pressure by almost 50 per cent. People who drink at least two and a half cups per day reduce their risk even more. Risk is reduced even if tea drinkers have known risk factors for high blood pressure, such as high sodium intake.

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