Chili peppers reduce blood pressure and high heels accelerate degenerative arthritis

ABNORMAL SLEEP PERIODS INCREASE CARDIOVASCULAR RISK: A study has shown that, even among healthy people, those who regularly get five hours or less sleep a night have more than double the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Also, people who regularly get nine or more hours of sleep a night have a greater than fifty percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps more surprising, people who get six or eight hours sleep also have a higher – but far less dramatic – increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The study advised that seven hours sleep per night, not six or eight or anything more extreme, was the ideal regular sleep period for cardiovascular health. But how could sleep period affect heart health? The researchers suggested that shorter sleep times can cause “impaired glucose tolerance, reduced insulin sensitivity, increased sympathetic [nerve] activity and elevated blood pressure, all of which increase the risk of hardening of the arteries. And longer sleep duration may be related to an underlying sleep-related breathing disorder or poor sleep quality. The study was published in the August 1, 2010 issue of the journal, Sleep. It is available online only to those with a subscription to the journal or a membership in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

HIGH HEELS RAISE RISK OF OSTEOARTHRITIS AND JOINT DEGENERATION: A study has found that knees and heels may be at greater risk from high heels – stilettos, wedges, pumps and kitten heels – and those who regularly wear these shoes for prolonged periods exhibit a greater risk of developing joint degeneration and osteoarthritis. (Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints.) The higher the heel, the greater the risk, the researchers found. As the heels got higher, they also saw an increase in the compression on the medial, or inside, of the knee. Heels higher than two inches especially alter body posture by changing joint positions at the ankle, knee, hip and trunk, which can also create strain on the lower back. High heels also showed a negative effect on posture. The greatest impact was on the ankle. The main researcher suggests moderation instead of abstinence. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB), which ran from August 18 to 21, in Providence. However, it has not yet been submitted to a professional journal and details are not yet available.

CHILI PEPPERS REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE: A study has found that while chili peppers may set your mouth on fire, they can also cause blood vessels to relax and widen in the long run, which effectively lowers blood pressure. Previous research on chili peppers has involved short term studies, which have shown mixed results. But this study on rats was long-term and showed a definite reduction in hypertension, or high blood pressure. The active compound is capsaicin, one of the most abundant components of chili peppers. It appears chronically to activate a substance that increases production of nitric oxide, which protects blood vessels from inflammation and dysfunction. Further research is needed to confirm the effect in humans and the number of peppers needed long-term to lower blood pressure. But what if you can’t tolerate spicy foods? An easily-tolerated, mild Japanese pepper contains capsinoids, compounds similar to spicy capsaicin and which limited studies show have a similar effect. The study was published in the August 4, 2010 issue of the journal, Cell Metabolism. It is online at but accessible only to subscribers to the journal or those who pay the access fee.

INCREASED WHOLE-GRAIN INTAKE LOWERS CARDIOVASCULAR RISK: It has long been thought that daily consumption of whole-grain foods such as bread could have a positive effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease but until now, no “comprehensive randomized and controlled intervention trial” a more scientific and conclusive study had been undertaken. Finally, results of a new study of this type confirm that daily intake of three portions of whole-grain foods significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, at least in middle-aged people, and chiefly through the mechanism of lowering systolic blood pressure (the upper number in your blood pressure reading). In fact, the study pegged the reduction in the risk of developing coronary artery disease at 15 percent and the risk reduction for stroke at 25 percent. After just four weeks on this diet, participants also showed improvements in other risk factors such as insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and internal inflammation. The effect was similar for both those getting three servings of whole wheat and for those getting the same servings of whole wheat and oats. The study was released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Details are available now online at but only with journal subscription or the payment of an article access fee.

A sunscreen with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 30 does not offer twice the protection from UVB rays of the sun as a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. In fact, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 offers a 93 percent protection from UVB, while a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 offers only a slightly better 97 percent protection from UVB. Double the SPF does not offer twice the protection and does not mean you can stay out in the sun twice as long. Because some ultraviolet light may still get through sunscreens, they should not be used as a way of prolonging sun exposure. For comparison, a white tee shirt has an SPF of only 3.

NATURAL INTERVENTIONS CAN HEAD OFF DEMENTIA: A new study has determined the individual percentages by which a variety of lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of dementia and suggests that these interventions – in the absence of a new treatment for the mind-robbing disease – are likely to have the greatest impact on reducing dementia levels in the future. The study assessed previously identified risk factors such as depression, diet, alcohol consumption, educational level and vascular factors, which include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Results found that three changes together – eliminating depression and diabetes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption – reduced dementia risk by a full 21 percent. Depression alone accounted for a 10 percent risk. Higher education was linked to an 18 percent lower risk. To illustrate the extent of these factors, the genetic tendency towards dementia accounts for seven percent of cases. The study was released August 5, 2010 and will be published in the British Medical Journal. But the journal already has made the full-text version of this important study available to the public, online at without the usual requirement of a journal subscription or access fee.

VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY LINKED TO LUNG DISEASE AND REDUCED LUNG FUNCTION: An early-release study has found a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency, reduced lung function and interstitial lung diseases (ILD). (Some diseases obstruct the lungs’ airways and are called “obstructive lung diseases”; others affect the tissue and space around the lung air sacs and are called “interstitial lung diseases,” or ILD. The latter are often characterized by excess connective tissue or scarring, known itself as connective tissue disease, or CTD.) Vitamin D deficiency was found in 38 percent of the 118 study subjects and vitamin D insufficiency was found in 59 percent. But vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency was strongly associated with ILD generally and CTD specifically, as well as with reduced lung function. The researchers suggested that an insufficient supply of vitamin D may play a role in the development of CTD lung disease. (In addition to being a vitamin, vitamin D is a known steroid hormone, affecting the immune system, bone health and lung tissue.) This study was released August 5, 2010 but won’t be published until a future issue of the journal, Chest. It is available now online at to subscribers to the journal or those willing to pay a one-time access fee.

VITAMIN D MAY HELP FIGHT COLDS AND FLU: Vitamin D supplementation may increase the odds of surviving a winter without taking any days off sick. In the small study, 51 percent of those given 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily between October and March when vitamin D levels drop and flu and cold infections rise remained “healthy” compared to 36 percent of those given a placebo. Results were not conclusive because both groups were equally likely to report flu-like symptoms during the period. (Previous studies showed a reduction in flu and cold infections but also produced conflicting results.) The study team called for larger studies to ascertain the benefit of vitamin D in warding off infections and to determine appropriate dosages. Experts often suggest people need more vitamin D than health officials recommend, which may require supplements for those not getting enough vitamin D from food sources, which include milk, cereal and some fatty fish such as salmon. This study is published in the September 1, 2010 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases. It is available online now at to journal subscribers or those who pay the access fee.

CALORIE RESTRICTION CAN CUT HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: A study has concluded that a substantially calorie restricted, or CR, diet may serve as an effective non-pharmacological treatment for hypertension, or high blood pressure, even in a short-term program. (CR is a dietary regimen that restricts calorie intake substantially below normal levels, while still maintaining normal nutrient levels; it has been shown over many decades to increase median and maximum lifespan in a wide variety of species.) The study also suggested that even a short-term CR diet may help prevent cardiac hypertrophy, which is a thickening of the heart muscle that decreases the size of the chambers of the heart. In just five weeks, a CR diet reduced the systolic blood pressure the upper number of a blood pressure reading and reduced ventricular wall thickness. Additionally, this short period of calorie restriction dilated artery walls and improved various other circulatory factors. This study was released August 9, 2010 but will not be published until a future print issue of the journal, Hypertension. It is available online in the meantime at for journal subscribers or those who pay the article access fee.

POSSIBLE END FOR ANTIBIOTICS: New research concludes a rapidly emerging gene – found in a large and growing number of bacterial samples – makes bacteria immune to all drugs. Bacteria that acquire and reproduce this gene could spread so quickly that they could make all antibiotics redundant and signal the end of modern antibiotics. The gene, known as New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), was first found in pneumonia and E. coli bacteria taken from a single Swedish patient in 2009. But NDM-1 was found in 73 samples of Enterobacteriaceae (bacteria) taken from patients in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as 37 from the UK, who had traveled to these countries for elective surgery. Importantly, the NDM-1 gene was found on plasmids, DNA structures that can be easily copied and transferred between evolving bacteria, suggesting, wrote the researchers, “œan alarming potential to spread and diversify among bacterial populations.” Worse, the infections were community acquired, meaning they exist in the general environment. No drugs, including those in development, are effective against NDM-1. This study was released August 11, 2010 and will be published in the September 2010 print issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Meantime, the full-text version of the study can be accessed online at by journal subscribers or to those who register on the site; registration is free.

Fish may be known for health benefits but it’s easy to turn those benefits in a health risk. Frying or sautéing can add excess calories, saturated fat and dangerous levels of free radicals, requiring more antioxidants to mop them up and raising the risk of heart disease, obesity and some cancers. Also, any uncooked seafood carries the risk of coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. Pregnant women who eat high levels 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 (as opposed to other tuna), shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish generally have a lower amount of mercury but still should be eaten only in moderation. Baking, broiling, grilling and poaching are the healthiest ways to cook fish. Like any food, fish should be eaten in moderation. Two servings are equal to about seven ounces; eating over 14 ounces may cancel out the substantial health benefits of consuming fish.

ADEQUATE ZINC LEVELS CUT PNEUMONIA RISK IN HALF: A study of 600 nursing facility residents has found that those with adequate zinc levels were about fifty percent less likely to develop pneumonia than those with low body concentrations of zinc. Also, those with sufficient levels of zinc received fewer prescriptions for antibiotics, had shorter durations of pneumonia and had lower mortality rates. The researchers suggested that zinc supplementation for zinc-deficient elderly persons may result in a lower incidence of pneumonia and that further study is required to determine whether zinc supplements may be an effective and low-cost intervention to reduce pneumonia deaths among vulnerable populations who already have low zinc intakes. (An earlier analysis of the same data had shown that those who consumed 200 international units (IU) of vitamin E were less likely to get upper respiratory infections, such as colds.) The study was released August 10, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the meantime, it can be read online at by subscribers to the journal or those who pay the article access fee.

SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES LINKED TO RISKS OF DIABETES AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: A new study suggests that sugar-sweetened drinks may play a role in cardiometabolic risk. (Cardiometabolic risk is a constellation of health factors that may raise the risk of diabetes 2 and cardiovascular disease.) Researchers examined the relation between cardiometabolic risk factors and low-fat milk, whole-fat milk, fruit juice and sugar sweetened beverages. Whole milk consumption was associated with a reduced risk of high triglycerides. But sugar-sweetened drinks were linked to high triglycerides; high LDL or “bad” cholesterol; high blood pressure; and high waist circumference – all risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relation, the study team did suggest that recommendations to limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks may help reduce these risk factors. This study was released August 11, 2010 but will not be published in print until a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online now to journal subscribers and those who pay an article access fee, at

TYLENOL LINKED TO ASTHMA IN ADOLESCENTS: A new study has found a dose-related association between current acetaminophen use by adolescents and their experiences with symptoms of asthma. Although researchers said that “it is not possible” to prove this is a cause and effect link, the study was quite large, involving 360,000 adolescents of 13 to 14 years of age in 50 countries. The subjects were surveyed about their use within the last year, of acetaminophen as well as their symptoms of asthma. Those who used the drug at least once a year showed a 40 percent greater risk of asthma; and those who used acetaminophen at least once a month had a 150 percent higher risk of asthmatic symptoms. Rhinoconjunctivitis an inflammation of the covering of the white of the eye, combined with a stuffy nose and eczema were also associated with recent use of the drug. The study team suggested that “controlled trials are now urgently required to investigate this relationship further.” This study was released August 13, 2010 but will not be published until a future issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

DID YOU KNOW? The most prevalent disease in children is tooth decay. It is about five times more common than childhood asthma. What an expectant mother eats affects tooth development in the fetus. Deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, protein and even calories, during the 14-week to four-month period of pregnancy, can cause oral defects. Children with dental problems are more likely to avoid nutritious foods that require chewing, such as fruits and vegetables. Some data also suggest a deficiency of vitamins B6 or B12 could increase the risk of cleft lip and cleft palate formation.

ADVERSITY IN CHILDHOOD CAN WEAKEN ELDERLY IMMUNE SYSTEMS AND SHORTEN LIFE: A study has found that the pain people suffer in childhood, such as abuse or other adversities, can lead to weakened immune systems much later in life and for some more serious cases, can shorten lifespan by seven to fifteen years. The research on 132 healthy adults, averaging 70 years of age, looked at childhood adversities such as the loss of a parent, serious marital problems between parents, or mental illness or alcoholism within the family. It also assessed the length of telomeres shortened telomeres are often seen as an indicator of biological aging and the level of inflammatory indicators, with higher levels linked to various health problems such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. Abuse had a greater effect than adversities but generally, those who had suffered significantly during childhood had shorter telomeres and higher inflammatory levels. Those who experienced several kinds of hardship as kids had the shortest telomeres, suggesting a shortened life expectancy. The study was presented August 14, 2010, at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Diego. It has not yet been published.

PAINT STRONGLY LINKED WITH BLADDER CANCER: Working as a painter is strongly associated with a 30 percent increased risk of bladder cancer, according to a new study. Grouped into the general profession of painting were plasterers, glaziers, wallpaper hangers, artists and decorators. A key risk factor for bladder cancer is smoking a fact of which few people are aware, according to another study in 2008 and painters are exposed to some of the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke (including aromatic amines). The researchers were able to separate the impact of the occupational exposure from the effect of smoking. The risk increased with the length of time spent as a painter, which further strengthened the link separate from smoking between this occupation and bladder cancer. There was also a small amount of evidence that female painters were at an even greater risk. (Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer with more than 330,000 new cases and 130,000 fatalities each year, worldwide.) This study was published in the August, 2010 issue of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine and is available online at with subscription or payment of a fee.

OBESITY RATES DECLINE AMONG SOME ADOLESCENT GROUPS: A new study concludes that obesity has declined among most groups of adolescents, although the disparities have worsened among other groups. Obesity rates for white and Asian boys and girls peaked in 2005 and declined over the next three years, with 2008 obesity rates coming in at 12 and 13 percent for white and Asian youths, respectively. Although obesity rates among male and female Hispanics also peaked in 2005, the 2008 rates were still at 26 percent. However, obesity rates have not peaked and continued to climb for two groups: black and American Indian adolescent females; the percentages of these girls who are obese are 22 and 23 percent, respectively. When it comes to the most obese, those with BMI at the 99th percentile, only white boys and Asian boys and girls showed any signs of decline after 2005; these most obese all other groups peaked in 2005 and remained at a plateau through 2008. The researchers suggest that tailored intervention programs should be targeted specifically at the at-risk groups. This study was released August 16, and is being published in the September 2010 issue of the journal, Pediatrics.

WOMEN WHO DRINK BEER AT HIGHER RISK OF PSORIASIS: A study has found that women who consume 2.3 or more alcoholic drinks per week have a 72 percent higher risk of psoriasis. On closer analysis, it was found that, among the various types of alcoholic beverages, only beer raised the risk of psoriasis. In fact, women who consume five or more beers per week had a 2.3 times greater risk of psoriasis than women who did not drink. Light beer, red wine, white wine and liquor were not associated with psoriasis risk. (Psoriasis is an immune-related skin condition that might be worsened by alcohol consumption.) The researchers suggest that a non-alcoholic component in beer, one not found in wine or liquor, may play a role in the development of psoriasis. Beer is one of few non-distilled alcoholic beverages that use starch, usually barley, as a source of fermentation. Barley and other starches contain gluten, to which some psoriasis patients show sensitivity. Light beer, not linked to higher risk, contains a lower level of starch. This study was released August 16 but will not be published until the December, 2010 issue of the Archives of Dermatology. Meanwhile, it is available online, without charge, at MAY LOWER HEART FAILURE RISK IN WOMEN: A nine-year study of 30,000 middle-aged and older Swedish women links moderate consumption of chocolate with a reduced risk of heart failure. (Heart failure is the inability of the heart to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body’s needs and occurs in about one percent of Americans over 65.) One to three servings of chocolate per month was found to lower risk by 26 percent compared to women who did not eat chocolate. Similarly, the risk of heart failure was 32 percent lower among women consuming one to two servings a week. However, the risk for heart failure increased by 23 percent among those consuming one or more servings of chocolate daily; this may be due to high-calorie chocolate replacing more nutritious foods. (Previous studies have linked chocolate to reduced risk of high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, possibly due to cocoa’s flavonoids.) The researchers point out that these results apply only to the dark chocolate with a 30 percent cocoa content commonly consumed in Sweden; most of the dark chocolate consumed in the U.S. has a15 percent cocoa content. Released August 16, 2010, the full text of this study will not be available until it is published in a future issue of the journal, Circulation: Heart Failure.

That cold you picked up in hot, muggy weather is not that unusual. Despite common belief, colds are not caused by cold weather, exercise, diet, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or by getting wet, chilled or overheated. Research suggests, however, that susceptibility to the viruses that cause the common cold may increase as a result of psychological stress, allergic disorders affecting the nose and throat and even menstrual cycles. Above all, being in close contact with crowds while not washing your hands regularly raises the risk of viruses entering your body at these susceptible times.

CHINESE HERBAL FORMULA EASES SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMOTHERAPY: A study has found that a Chinese herbal formula lessens the negative effects of chemotherapy as well as strengthening the effectiveness of the chemo treatment itself. In fact, the formula seemed to work by reducing inflammation and by increasing the creation of new intestinal cells. No drugs are known to provide such an anti-side-effect impact. The Chinese formula used in the experiment consisted of four herbs – collectively called PHY906 – and was based on an herbal recipe called Huang Qin Tang, historically used to treat nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This formulation was described over 1,800 years ago. Although the study was performed on mice, the patients experienced less weight loss and greater anti-tumor activity when the formula was added to chemo treatment. Researchers suggested it may be the perfect marriage of both Eastern and Western approaches to cancer treatment; but challenges exist before the Chinese herbal blend can be tested on humans. This study was released on August 18, 2010 by the journal, Science Translational Medicine. It is available online at to subscribers and those who pay the study access fee.

SPECIFIC VEGETABLES MAY REDUCE DIABETES RISK: An analysis of numerous past studies has found a tentative link between a higher intake of certain vegetables and a lower risk of developing diabetes type 2. The analysis did not find a lower risk with an equally higher intake of fruits and vegetables overall. From past studies, the pattern emerged that those who consumed an average of about one-and-a-half additional servings from a specific vegetable group – cabbage, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli – showed a 14 percent lower chance of getting diabetes. Although the name may not apply, the authors described these vegetables as “green leafy vegetables,” and noted that one-and-a-half extra daily servings of other vegetables did not show the same effect. The researchers cautioned that further study must be done to assess this limited research; that this positive effect derived from whole foods and not antioxidant supplements; and that the study neither proves these vegetables prevent diabetes nor that other vegetables do not. It is too early to recommend to the public that more of these foods be eaten. The authors noted that beta-carotene, polyphenols and vitamin C may all play a factor. The study may mean that dietary advice can be more beneficial than drugs. The study was released August 19, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the British Medical Journal. It is, however, available to read online now in its full-text format, without subscription or fee, at

Daily doses of fish oil containing omega-3 fats can, when combined with exercise, act as an aid to weight loss. People who took fish oil during the 3-month exercise program lost an average 4.5 pounds. But the exercise group that took sunflower oil – which does not contain omega-3 oil – did not lose any weight despite exercising. This study was presented July 31, 2006 in Cairns, Australia at the Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids.

CIGARETTE SMOKE RISKY AT LOWEST-POSSIBLE DETECTABLE LEVELS: A study has ascertained that even the smallest amount of second-hand smoke, let alone a habit of only “few cigarettes a week,” can put people at risk for future lung disease, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Many past studies have found that second-hand smoke is a health risk but this is the first study to conclude that cigarette smoke – even at the very lowest levels of detection – directly affects the functioning of genes within the cells lining the airways. (Some genes are very sensitive to tobacco smoke and changes within them are the first indication of “biological disease” of the lungs.) Researchers divided people into three groups: nonsmokers, smokers and low-exposure smokers. They then scanned the entire genome of each participant to see what genes were activated or deactivated in airway cells. The study found that there was no detectable level of nicotine or cotinine that was so low that it did not correlate to genetic abnormalities. The author suggested that any degree of public smoking can cause future lung disease; and that this supports public smoking bans. This study was released August 21, 2010 but will not be published until a future issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

ELECTRIFYING POTATOES BOOSTS THEIR ANTIOXIDANT LEVELS: A study has found that two simple methods of “stressing” potatoes increase the antioxidant levels of these vegetables substantially. The methods included immersing potatoes in salt water and adding a small electrical charge between 10 and 30 seconds; and immersing potatoes in water and subjecting them to ultrasound for 5 or 10 minutes. The study team then measured antioxidant activity and the phenolic content and concluded that the stresses increased the amount of these compounds. The 5 minutes of ultrasound, for instance, increased polyphenol levels by 1.2 times and other antioxidants by about 1.6 times. This study indicates that ultrasound or electric treatments can be useful for enriching antioxidant activity of potatoes. (Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are considered to be of nutritional importance in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, various cancers, diabetes and neurological diseases.) The study was presented August 22, 2010 at the 240th national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston. It is not available online at this time.

BERRIES CAN ACTIVATE ‘CLEANUP’ MECHANISM IN BRAIN: A study released today concludes consumption of berries, and possibly walnuts, triggers a natural brain mechanism that cleans up and recycles toxic proteins, which are linked to age-related memory loss and dementia. Other studies found that antioxidant-rich foods have anti-aging effects on the brain but this study pinpoints a completely different way that berries stave off the mental effects of aging. In a process called autophagy, “cleanup” brain cells known as microglia, sweep away the debris resulting from inflammation and oxidative damage, debris that can cause memory loss and mental decline. But with age, a protein appears to shut down the autophagy process: the microglia either become less active, allowing harmful debris to accumulate; or become overactive, damaging healthy brain cells. The study team found that berries inhibit the action of this protein, allowing housekeeper brain cells to return to their normal, balanced duties. (This team’s previous research showed berry consumption reversed memory, learning and nerve function.) The study author recommended foods high in polyphenolics, especially as we age. Berries and walnuts are rich in polyphenolics but so are many other fruits and vegetables, especially those with deep red, orange or blue colors. This study was presented in Boston on August 23, 2010 at the 240th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. It has not yet been published.

Scientists have developed a seven-question assessment tool that, without medical testing, provides a fairly accurate prediction of your risk of already having diabetes type 2. Although a finding of diabetes must later be verified by your health practitioner, an earlier diagnosis of diabetes can lead to more effective treatment. The questions cover ethnicity, sex, family history of diabetes, waist size, body mass index and any history or treatment for high blood pressure. Called the Diabetes Risk score, the test was designed by a team at the University of Leicester in the UK and is available online to the public at

CRANBERRY JUICE’S INFECTION-FIGHTING MECHANISM DISCOVERED: Cranberry juice has been linked to fewer urinary tract infections (UTI) but many see it as a folk remedy. To confirm this infection-fighting association, scientists needed clear insight into possible mechanisms by which cranberry juice works. Now, a study has provided evidence of this mechanism. Researchers cultivated strains of E. coli – the bacteria that are the most common cause of UTI – in urine collected from healthy volunteers both before and after consumption of cranberry juice cocktail. While E. coli grown in ordinary urine were able to produce normal biofilm – the substance that allows bacteria to stick to the urinary tract and to other bacteria, essentially setting up shop – the bacteria grown in urine from those who consumed cranberry juice were unable to adhere to each other or to any surface area. Cranberry juice does not kill bacteria but blocks much of their ability to “stick” around and colonize. Researchers estimated cranberry juice reaches and protects the urinary tract within eight hours of consumption. More women develop a UTI than men. This study was presented at the 240th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston on August 23, 2010. Details have not yet been published.

WATER BEFORE MEALS RESULTS IN GREATER WEIGHT LOSS: A study has found that drinking two cups of water before meals enhances weight loss for those on a diet. Dieters who drank two eight-ounce cups of water before each of their three meals every day lost an average of 4.5 pounds more within 12 weeks than those who did not increase their normal water intake. On a calorie-reduced diet, the group that took water ahead of meals lost 14.5 pounds on average while those who didn’t drink water before meals lost 11 pounds on average. According to the researchers, the reason that drinking water before mealtime works is simply because water has zero calories and yet, gives the sensation of feeling partly full even before you start eating, resulting in fewer calories consumed during the meal. The study author warns that excess water intake is dangerous and can result in death. Health groups such as the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine advise that thirst should be one’s guide to water consumption. This study was presented on August 24, 2010 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

BLACK RICE BEATS BLUEBERRIES FOR ANTIOXIDANT POWER: A study has found that black rice serves as a highly economical alternative to blueberries and blackberries, touted for their antioxidant punch. The researchers report that a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health-promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of pricey blueberries or blackberries, as well as containing more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants – but with less sugar. Anthocyanin antioxidants show promise for fighting heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Black rice could be consumed in rice form, or the black rice bran could be used as an additive for cereals, beverages or other foods. Also, the pigments in black rice can be used to produce a variety of colors from pink to black and may provide an alternative to artificial food colorants. (Several studies have linked some artificial colorants to cancer, behavioral problems in children, and other health problems.) This study was presented August 26, 2010 at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Boston. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Two nutritional supplements appear to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. In one study, those with the highest vitamin D levels showed a 65 percent lower risk of the disease. Also, some research suggests that a regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the type of fat found in oily fish such as sardines and salmon also may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s. However, there is no known way to prevent Parkinson’s disease.

MODERATE EXERCISE COMBATS MENTAL DECLINE: Researchers have announced new hope for veteran couch potatoes. Although some experts call for brisk daily exercise, a new study has shown that even a very modest amount of low-level exercise three times a week can improve the connectivity of the brain’s circuitry, combat the mental decline of aging and boost performance of cognitive tasks. Adults aged 59 to 80 were tested and scanned at the start of the study and after six, and after 12, months of walking at one’s own natural pace for just 40 minutes three-times-a-week. Brain imaging techniques showed that these “professional couch potatoes, as one of the scientists described them, experienced better brain connectivity, as well as improved performance on cognitive tasks. Those who spent time stretching and toning did not alter their brain connectivity or performance only those who took occasional, leisurely walks. Higher connectivity results in improved ability to plan, schedule, deal with ambiguity, remember and multitask. The study was released August 26, 2010 and will appear in a future issue of the journal, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. The full-text study is available online without fee by clicking on PDF in the upper right corner at

MOTHERS WHO DON’T BREASTFEED MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP DIABETES TYPE 2: A study has found that women who do not breastfeed their babies have a significantly higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Diet and exercise are widely known to affect the risk of developing diabetes but few people would guess that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing diabetes later in life by decreasing belly fat. The study involved 2,233 women between the ages of 40 and 78 and concluded that women who did not breastfeed were twice as likely to acquire diabetes at some point. The study eliminated potentially confounding factors such as physical activity, age, race, and tobacco and alcohol use. This study is being published in the September 2010 issue of the American Journal of Medicine. The full text version of the study has just been posted online at for those who pay the article access fee.

PARENTAL USE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS A RISK TO CHILDREN: A study has found that widespread use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines by parents for fever, coughs and colds places children at serious risk, resulting in a larger number of calls to poison centers and more hospital admissions. Researchers discovered that many parents in the study felt that if a drug was available without a prescription, it must be safe to give to children even in double dosages. Of the 119,000 poison control calls surveyed, 48 percent concerned accidental overdose in children, with 15 percent needing hospitalization. Over 85 percent of all calls regarding accidental overdose in children involved those under five, with almost 80 percent of incidents involving those under age three. Only 14 percent of parents made the correct call when dealing with a child’s fever. “It is vital that parents worldwide should understand the proper usage of medicines so that they do not continue to put their children’s health at risk, said the study leader. This study was presented August 30, 2010 at the annual conference of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) in Lisbon, Portugal. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

SMOKING MARIJUANA REDUCES CHRONIC PAIN: A study has concluded that smoked cannabis has the ability to reduce pain in chronic pain sufferers, to lower clinical depression and anxiety levels, and to improve sleep. People with damage or some dysfunction in the nervous system often experience ongoing pain and have few treatment options other than drugs, which include opioids, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, local anesthetics and of course, pain relievers. Many of these cause side effects, prompting patients to discontinue use. Marijuana taken by mouth has been shown to be effective in lowering pain but, according to the researchers, smoked cannabis appears never before to have been tested for this use. The study found reduced pain and improved mood after smoked inhalation, for five days of three-times-a-day, of 25 mg of the herb containing 9.4 percent THC, the bioactive component. They called for more tests and also, for studies on the medical safety of long term use. This study will be published in a future issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It was released August 30, 2010 and the full text was posted online for free access at:

Gram for gram, carbohydrates are lower in calories than either protein or fat, despite the common misconception that starchy carbohydrates promote weight gain. In fact, most of the body’s energy comes from starches. However, refined carbohydrates are linked to health disorders and the risk of diabetes. Always opt for unrefined, also known as whole-grain, versions of rice, grains and pasta.