Acupuncture lessens pain perception and more health news

ACUPUNCTURE LESSENS PERCEPTION OF PAIN: Previously, it has been suggested that acupuncture reduces pain, although it has seldom been studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Now, such a study suggests that acupuncture can affect the experience of pain in two ways. First, it reduces the incoming pain signal itself; and second, it lowers activity in brain areas that govern patients’ expectations of pain. (A functional MRI measures the tiny metabolic changes that take place in an active part of the brain, while a patient performs a task or is exposed to a specific external stimulus.) At first, eighteen healthy volunteers underwent fMRI while an electrical pain stimulus was attached to the left ankle. Then, acupuncture needles were placed at three places on the right side: between the toes, below the
knee and near the thumb, after which the same electrical pain currents were directed at the left ankle. Researchers compared the fMRI imaging results without acupuncture to those with acupuncture; and detected changes in brain areas linked to both pain expectation and sensation. This study was presented November 30, 2010 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago but has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

EXTREMELY HIGH LEAD LEVELS IN USED CONSUMER PRODUCTS: A study has discovered a widespread problem with lead in used consumer products at levels that are far beyond even the most conservative
safe upper limits. Many recycled, used or older consumer products widely available for sale – such as jewelry, toys, kitchen utensils, window frames, shutters, common dishware, toy teapots, picture frames and home decor items – contain surface lead concentrations more than 700 times higher than the U.S. federal
limit. The researchers purchased the items from antique stores, second-hand shops and junk stores, testing for surface lead with a swab before buying. (Similar items are sold at flea markets.) They then used x-ray fluorescence to determine exact lead content, finding high levels in a number of diverse items. The amount of lead ranged from twice the federal limit in a metal ice cream scoop to 714 times the limit in a salt shaker lid. This study appears in the December, 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. It is available at for purchase.

BLOOD SATURATION OF VITAMIN C MAY BE NEEDED TO AVOID SEVERE TISSUE DEFICIENCY: A study has determined that when ascorbate (vitamin C) levels in the blood of mice are below the saturation point, some body tissues can still be severely deficient in this vitamin, including tissues of the liver, kidney and heart. The
study compared tissue levels in lab mice with high, but not saturated, blood levels of ascorbate to tissue levels naturally found in “wild-type mice,” and found the lab mice tissues deficient. This suggests that even high dietary intakes and high blood levels of ascorbate can result in serious tissue shortages.
Also, the study found that consumption of fresh kiwifruit resulted in up to five times more effective delivery of vitamin C to tissues than from ingestion of ascorbate added to water. Although these results may have serious implications for human nutrition, it is important to remember that, so far, this research was conducted only on mice. This just-released study will not be published until a future issue of the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, it is available online now at with subscription or fee payment.

POLLUTANTS MAY INCREASE DIABETES AND OBESITY RISK: A study has found that early life exposure to pollutants leads to higher levels of glucose (blood sugar), greater insulin resistance, and increased inflammation all risk factors for diabetes and more abdominal fat, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. At least, that was the finding for mice exposed in early life, five days a week, to pollution seven times greater than ambient air in Columbus, Ohio. (With insulin resistance, insulin does not effectively transfer glucose from the blood into the tissues, where it is used for energy.) The study also found pollution
increased blood levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, an inflammatory protein. The extra fat produced among mice exposed to pollutants was both abdominal and subcutaneous (under the skin). The fine particulates to which the mice were exposed, mirroring pollution to which humans are exposed, were 2.5 micrometers or less in size, about 1/30th the width of the average human hair, allowing them to reach deep areas of the
lungs or other body organs. Human studies are planned. This study is published in the December, 2010 issue of the journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. It is available at without charge.

Red wine may be touted as beneficial for the heart. But in moderation, white wine may be more
effective at keeping lung tissues in good working order, according to a study presented May 20,
2002 at the 98th meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Atlanta. The lung benefit most
likely stems from the antioxidants in white wine, which counter the creation of harmful
molecules called free radicals that wreak havoc on lung tissues. Antioxidant-rich, fresh fruits and
vegetables have long been linked to improved lung function.

SURGERIES MAY BE SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IN GLOBAL WARMING: A study has found that the inhalation anesthetic gases administered in
surgeries every day have a strong global warming potential,
furnishing an Earth-heating effect equivalent to that of a coalfired
power plant or one million passenger cars. And that is just
the effect of surgical gases used in the United States alone. All
three of the regularly used anesthetic gases isoflurane,
desflurane and sevoflurane have atmospheric warming effects
that are hundred times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2).
However, desflurane is the most harmful gas. One kilogram of
desflurane has the same environmental warming effect as 1,620
kilograms of CO2. The amount of gas involved in a single surgical
procedure is not high but the total number of surgeries worldwide
can have a significant environmental effect. The National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) collaborated with two
universities to conduct the study. This study is published in the
December, 2010 issue of British Journal of Anaesthesia and is now
available online at with subscription or
access fee.

DRUGS: A study has found that those who receive physical therapy
in the acute phase following an episode of lower back pain are
less likely to require medical services than those who seek
physical therapy after a delay. The medical treatments that those
receiving early physical therapy were less likely to need
included epidural steroid injections, lumbar surgery, or frequent
physician office visits. The window for more effective treatment
for low back pain appeared to be the acute phase, classed as
within four weeks; the sub-acute and chronic phases were classed
as four to 12 weeks, and three to 12 months, respectively. The
most common back conditions experienced by patients in the study
were nonspecific backache, sciatica, degenerative disk disease,
and spinal stenosis. Generalist practitioners under-recommend
physical therapies, and their treatment practices may need to
modified, suggested the researchers, who concluded this would cut
overall healthcare costs. Recently released by the journal Spine,
this study will be published in a future issue but is accessible
online now at with subscription or fee.

study has found that pregnant women who use mobile phones
regularly have a greater risk of having children with behavioral
problems; and children who also start using cell phones early
themselves slightly increase that risk. Children exposed to cell
phone radiation exclusively before birth were found to have a 40
percent higher risk of behavioral problems. Children exposed to
cell phones both before birth and up to age seven, were found to
have a 50 percent greater chance of behavioral problems. And
children who were exposed to cell phones only after birth were
found to have a 20 percent higher risk of behavioral problems.
This large epidemiological study confirmed the similar findings
of earlier research by the same group. Although the influence of
various other sociological factors was taken into account, this
link is not necessarily one of cause and effect. This study was
released December 7, 2010 and will be published in a future issue
of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It is
available online now at with subscription or
access fee.

It’s a myth that washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand rub is largely ineffective
against superbugs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While superbugs may be resistant to some
antibiotic drugs and therefore difficult to treat after infection, they are still susceptible to washing
prior to infection and are helpless against good hygiene.

concludes that substantially limiting salt (sodium) intake for
about a week lowers existing high blood pressure in both type 1
and type 2 diabetics, which in turn reduces other diabetic risks,
including stroke, heart attack and diabetic kidney disease. This
review noted that a daily salt reduction of 8.5 mg resulted in a
drop in blood pressure similar to that achieved with blood
pressure medications. (Diabetics are more likely to develop high
blood pressure.) The study team recommended that diabetics reduce
their salt intake to at least 5 to 6 grams a day – which is the
current guideline for the general population – and preferably
even lower. (Reducing salt intake can be challenging for anyone.
Few people are aware that the majority of salt intake comes from
processed foods, implying that the focus should be less on the
shaker and more on the supermarket and chain restaurant.) This
study was published in the December, 2010 issue of The Cochrane
Library. It can be read online now at with
subscription or fee.

with significant implications for traditional dieting wisdom has
found that imagining the consumption of foods seen as desirable
by a dieter reduce eventual consumption of those food items.
(Dieters have been advised for decades to distract themselves
from thoughts of eating in order to curb cravings.) While some
subjects were distracted, others repeatedly imagined eating, in
one case, 30 M&M candies one at a time; and still others imagined
a non-food topic. The group that visualized eating the 30 M&M
candies was found later to consume significantly less of these
items than the other groups. In later phases of this study, it
was discovered that only imagining actual consumption of a food
reduced later intake of that food; simply thinking about a food
was insufficient to produce this effect; and imagining the
consumption of a food different from the food later consumed also
had no significant effect. Other senses may drive the appetite
but imagining consumption substitutes for actual consumption,
concluded researchers. This study was released in the December
10, 2010 issue of the journal Science. A summary of this study
(and others), aimed at the general public, is available now at in an online podcast.

taking two omega-3 fatty acids together – eicosapentenoic acid
(EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) – has an antidepressant effect
that has not been recognized before, on those with clinical
depression. (Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are
essential to ingest because the body cannot synthesize them.
Greatest sources include cold water fatty fish, such as salmon,
tuna and halibut, and fish oil supplements.) Taking DHA alone had
no effect on depression but taking either EPA alone, or EPA and
DHA together, was linked to reduced depression. Also, results
showed no effect on mood or attitude in those without clinical
depression. Scientists should undertake a larger human trial to
study this effect further, suggested the study team leader, who
also stressed that patients should always talk to their
healthcare providers before taking omega-3 supplements to treat
depression. This study was presented in Miami Beach at the
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s annual meeting,
which ended December 9, 2010. It has not yet been published and
is not yet available online.

Exercising a specific area of the body will not remove flab from that area. Spot reducing is a
myth. Exercising your abdominal muscles, for instance, will strengthen and tone the muscles in
the abdomen. But those muscles are underneath the subcutaneous (just under the skin) layer of
fat you carry on your abdomen. Your muscles may be stronger but the fat hiding those muscles
will remain. So how do you drop the excess baggage from wherever you store it? Losing weight
is the only way to reduce fat. And although exercise can burn some calories, it will generate
hunger and a bigger gain can be made simply by using those muscles to push your body away
from the dinner table sooner.

In a study on lab-cultured cancer cells, researchers have that
found that components in pomegranate juice inhibit the migration
of cancer cells within the body, potentially leading to a new
treatment down the road. Cancer cells often metastasize – spread
– within the body by breaking away from the cancer location. But
pomegranate components increased cell adhesion, reducing the
breaking away of cells. They also discovered that pomegranate
components weaken the natural attraction that prostate cancer
cells have to a protein in bone marrow, which is how prostate
cancer cells spread to the bone. (The proteins and genes involved
in the movement of prostate cancer cells are essentially the same
as those involved in the metastasis of other cancers.) The
pomegranate components were identified as phenylpropanoids,
hydrobenzoic acids, flavones and conjugated fatty acids. Research
is still needed to see whether these pomegranate components have
the same effect on live subjects as on the lab culture and
without side effects. This study was presented in Philadelphia on
December 12, 2010 by Canadian researchers at the 50th annual
meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology but is not yet
published or available online.

has concluded that when children are served cereals containing
low levels of sugar, instead of high levels, they are more likely
to add fruit to their cereal. Both sugar and fruit were made
available along with their cereal. Children given low-sugar
cereal chose to eat substantially less cereal, more fruit and
less sugar. They also increased overall dietary nutrition.
Children reported that they liked or loved the cereal they were
served, whether they received the high- or low-sugar cereals.
Fifty-four percent of children given low-sugar cereal opted for
fruit as a topping compared with just eight percent of those
given high-sugar cereal. Researchers suggested that despite heavy
marketing of sugar-coated cereals at children, children can and
will make good nutritional decisions if they are given the
chance. This study was released December 13, 2010 by the journal
Pediatrics and is now available online at
without subscription or fee.
WINE WITH RICH MEALS SLOWS DIGESTION: Researchers have concluded
that drinking wine with calorie-rich meals retards the digestive
process; and wine was not associated with symptoms of
indigestion, such as bloating, heartburn or belching. (Slower
digestion of a high-calorie meal may help to prevent sudden, and
potentially unhealthy, spikes in blood sugar.) On two different
occasions, the same twenty participants consumed a meal of cheese
fondue along with either black tea or 300 ml of white wine. Each
time, established scientific breath tests conducted over a fourhour
period after meals supplied data about the effect of wine
consumption on digestion. The wine-drinking group showed a fifty
percent slower gastric emptying time; also, appetite level was
suppressed by a third among this group. A shot of cherry schnapps
after the meal reduced appetite, in this case for dessert.
However, drinking wine during this heavy meal did not generate
any indigestion symptoms. One problem with this study was the
inability to hide from participants, whether they were in the tea
or wine group. This study was published in the December 14, 2010
online edition of the British Medical Journal and is available
online now at without subscription or fee.
has found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can
stimulate muscle synthesis in older adults, possibly preventing
or treating sarcopenia – the loss of muscle mass, strength and
function that occurs with aging. Sixteen, older, healthy
participants received either omega-3 supplements or corn oil for
eight weeks. The rate of the manufacture of muscle protein was
measured immediately after absorption and again during
hyperaminoacidemia-hyperinsulinemia – meaning when amino acids
and insulin levels are very high in the blood. Corn oil had no
effect on muscle production. The omega-3 oil had no postabsorptive
effect on muscle production either but boosted muscle
protein synthesis during these other times, when blood levels of
amino acids and insulin were high. Researchers concluded that
omega-3 fatty acid supplements may offset sarcopenia. This study
was small in size and changes in muscle size and strength were
not measured; further study would be helpful. This study was
released December 15, 2010 but will not appear in print until a
future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is
available online at with fee payment or
You should never ignore a fever just because it is not very high. Usually, even a low-grade fever
is a sign that your body is fighting an infection and needs rest. And if your fever is accompanied
by a cough or a rash or vomiting or diarrhea or a rash, your infection is likely contagious and can
be passed easily to others, especially those around you who are elderly or have weakened
immune systems. Ideally, you should stay home, isolate yourself and call your healthcare
provider for advice if symptoms are worrisome.

with children have poorer diets; and a second found numerous
deaths could be prevented or delayed by adherence to dietary
guidelines. The first study concluded the presence of children in
a household leads to reduced demand for produce and meat, and
increased demand for cereals and potatoes. Childless couples
consumed two kilograms (4.4 pounds) more produce over two weeks
than households with children. The second study concluded five
portions of fruit and vegetables daily could prevent 15,000 UK
deaths annually – equivalent to 73,000 deaths in the US.
Following UK fiber, fat and salt recommendations could prevent
4,000; 7,000; and 7,500 UK deaths, respectively, annually –
equivalent to 19,500; 34,000; and 36,500 US deaths respectively.
UK recommendations include a minimum 440gm of produce and 18gm of
fiber; a maximum one-third of calories from fats, with saturated
fats comprising only ten percent of fats; and a maximum 6 gm of
salt. These recommendations could save 33,000 UK lives annually –
and 160,000 American lives. The first study appeared in the
December 2010 issue of the European Review of Agricultural
Economics and is available online at The
second study, released December 15, 2010, will appear in a future
issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and is
available online at
have concluded that a component of beetroot juice has a two-fold
effect on the body that may be especially beneficial to those
with heart or lung conditions. Previously, whole beetroot juice
caused a stir when it was shown to improve athletic performance
by 16 percent. But this new study concludes its benefits are not
limited to athletes and that a single component in the juice is
entirely responsible for these effects. For six days, some
participants consumed regular beetroot juice while others drank
juice from which the nitrates had been removed. Those drinking
the nitrates-containing juice experienced lower blood pressure
and a reduced need for oxygen when performing low-intensity
exercises such as walking. Nitrates widen blood vessels, lowering
blood pressure, and cause muscle tissues to work on a lower
amount of oxygen. The effort required to walk for instance, was
12 percent less and this effect could boost mobility and exercise
ability among the elderly or those with poor heart or lung
function. Released early, this study will appear in a future
issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology. It is now available
online at with subscription or access fee.
COUNTRIES: A meta-analysis (where the data from many studies are
combined into one study) has found no difference between the
total energy expenditure (TEE) and physical activity level (PAL)
each day of the average person in a developing country and the
daily TEE and PAL of the average individual in a developed
country. There are major implications for the apparent obesity
epidemic in the developed world. Previously, it was assumed that
people in more developed areas performed fewer physical tasks,
using far fewer calories due to a much smaller amount of
exercise, and that this partly explained the wholesale increase
in the number of overweight or obese individuals. However, this
study suggests that something other than reduced calorie
expenditure is at work in developed nations. It may be helpful if
researchers focused on cultural, physiological, psychological and
dietary differences to explain the obesity challenge. This study
was released December 15, 2010 but will not be published until a
future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is
now available online at with subscription or
access fee.

research has linked the regular nutritional dosage of one gram a
day total of two omega-3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid
(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – to a lower mortality rate
from cardiovascular problems. Some evidence has suggested higher
doses may help fight inflammation and have other cardiovascular
benefits. Now a study has assessed some effects of a daily dose
of 3.4 grams a day of omega-3 on healthy subjects with moderately
high triglycerides. Researchers found that, over eight weeks,
this pharmaceutical (higher) dosage does not fight inflammation,
lower cholesterol, or improve the function of endothelials (cells
lining the blood vessel) – but it does reduce triglyceride levels
by 27 percent. The lower gram per day dosage did not produce this
benefit. This study was released early by the American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition but will not appear in print until a future
issue; it is available online now at with
subscription or access fee.

Although people often blame a brief illness with nausea on the so-called, 24-hour stomach flu,
there is in fact, no such thing. If your stomach and digestive sickness passes in a day, you most
likely had a bout of plain-old, food poisoning, suggest the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The US government agency reported new food poisoning statistics in December 2010 in the
journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, showing that 48 million Americans get sick each year
from foodborne diseases, caused by poor food handling at home and especially, in restaurants.
Of these, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 eventually die.

that a high-protein diet may boost blood pressure substantially,
as well as cause kidney damage. Researchers placed baby rats on
diets with high, medium or low levels of protein and when they
had matured to 5 to 12 weeks of age, also put them on a high salt
diet. Those fed the high-protein diet developed much higher blood
pressure levels, as well as greater urine albumin-to-creatinine
ratios. (A high albumin-to-creatinine ratio is an indicator of
possible kidney disease.) Also, immune factors known as
infiltrating T lymphocytes began to accumulate in the kidneys of
the rats on high-protein diets; and these T lymphocytes
diminished when an immune suppressing agent was administered. The
study team concluded that excessive protein may damage the
kidneys of rats; and that both high-salt and high-protein diets
result in high blood pressure. Further research would help
translate these findings to humans but this study raises concerns
about the high-protein Western diet and the prevalence of high
blood pressure. This study was released December 20, 2010 and
will be published in a future issue of the journal, Hypertension.
It is available online now at with fee or

preliminary evidence that supplementing with spirulina may
protect dying motor neurons in mice with amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This may
translate into clinical benefits for humans. (Motor neurons are
nerve cells that control muscles. Spirulina are nutrient-rich
blue-green algae.) Earlier research suggests spirulina exerts
dual protection, reducing both oxidation and inflammation.
Current ALS treatments help relieve symptoms but previous studies
by this group and others, suggested the causes of ALS might be
treated by plant antioxidants, such as those in blueberries and
ginkgo. Spirulina contains several types of a potent antioxidant
group known as phycocyanins, as well as large amounts of betacarotene.
In the mouse study, spirulina reduced the death of
motor neurons, lessened indicators of inflammation, and delayed
the onset of ALS symptoms. Research on actual human motor neuron
counts, and on whether spirulina supplementation extends the
lifespan of human ALS patients, will determine its effectiveness
as an ALS therapy, the team concluded. This study was published
in the current issue of the Open Tissue Engineering and
Regenerative Medicine Journal. It is available online now at without subscription or cost.

FRIED FISH LINKED TO RISK OF STROKE: A study has concluded that
the racial and geographical differences in the incidence of
strokes may be linked to the frying of fish. African-Americans,
as well as people living in the so-called stroke belt an area
of the United States that reports a much higher rate of strokes
have a much higher consumption of fried fish than Caucasians
living outside of the stroke belt. This may explain, in part,
their greater risk of stroke, researchers suggest. (The stroke
belt includes the states of North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and
Louisiana. People living in the stroke belt are more likely to
die from a stroke than people living in other parts of the
country.) African-Americans were more than three-and-a-half times
more likely to eat two or more servings of fried fish per week
than Caucasians. Studies have shown that the beneficial omega-3
fatty acids in fish, especially in fatty fish, may reduce the
risk of stroke; but research also has shown that frying fish
leads to the loss of the natural fatty acids. This study was
released December 22, 2010 but will not be published until a
future issue of the journal, Neurology. It is available online
now at with subscription or access fee.

has found that the source of protein is important in the diets of
kidney disease patients and that a vegetarian diet can reduce the
phosphorus-caused risk of heart disease and death in these
patients. The systems of people with kidney disease cannot
adequately get rid of phosphorus, a mineral found in dietary
proteins and also used as a food additive. As a result, kidney
patients must struggle to navigate low-phosphorus diets to avoid
developing toxic levels of this mineral. Phosphorus levels were
measured in kidney disease patients during a vegetarian diet and
during a meat-based diet. Protein and phosphorus intakes were
equal in each diet; but blood and urine levels of phosphorus in
patients on vegetarian diets were lower than when they were on a
meat-based diet. The reason for the reduction was not clear but
researchers concluded that it may prove beneficial to advise
kidney disease patients to consume grain-based vegetarian sources
of protein instead of meat. This study was released December 23,
2010 but will not be published until a future issue of the
Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology. It is
available online now at with subscription or
access fee.

Exercise is not a miracle weight-loss solution. People assume exercising drops pounds quickly
by burning up calories but in fact, very few calories are burned. For instance, running a mile will
use up about 100 calories but just sitting on the sofa for the same length of time will burn about
60 calories. But if you say no to just one buttered bagel, you save yourself 495 calories. That
does not mean dieters should skip exercise because it helps ensure that more of the calories you
lose will be in the form of fat instead of lean tissue. Also, exercise reduces the risk of diabetes by
increasing the ability of insulin to enter cells; and exercise lowers the risk of heart disease by
improving blood clotting mechanisms and lowering triglycerides.

Researchers have found that higher consumption of leafy
vegetables and olive oil may reduce the risk of cardiovascular
disease. Only women participated in the eight-year study, which
was designed to rule out any interference in the outcome from
specific other factors, such as alcohol consumption, smoking,
high blood pressure, education, menopause, physical activity, and
body type. Cardiovascular events were reduced by almost half,
among women who consumed the greatest amount of leafy vegetables,
as well as among those who consumed the most olive oil. A higher
fruit intake showed no effect on cardiovascular risk. Recently
released, this study will be published in a future issue of the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online
now at with subscription or payment of an
article access fee.

new study on rats shows that supplementation that treats vitamin
E and selenium deficiencies can inhibit a specific type of
esophageal cancer and increase survival rates, if started before
late stages. This echoes the results of a previous trial on
humans, reporting fewer deaths from esophageal squamous cell
carcinoma, or ESCC, among younger patients who received vitamin E
and selenium supplementation but not among older patients. In the
rat study, some subjects were deprived of adequate dietary
selenium and vitamin E. Then, ESCC was inhibited in various ways
by maintaining regular levels of vitamin E and selenium during
early disease stages. The multiplication of esophageal cancer
cells decreased; the creation of new blood vessels to feed
esophageal tumors was reduced; and the activities of various
enzymes associated with inflammation and tumor creation were
lowered. It is important to note that this effect stemmed from
supplementation of vitamin E and selenium to maintain normal
levels and not from mega-dosages. This study was released
December 24, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the
journal, Carcinogenesis. It can be accessed online now at with subscription or fee payment.

INFECTIONS: Babies born with a vitamin D deficiency have a
greater risk of developing respiratory infections during infancy,
and experiencing wheezing during early childhood, a new study
suggests. Previous studies found that the infants of mothers who
took vitamin D supplements during pregnancy were less likely to
experience wheezing during childhood but this would not predict
accurately, the actual blood levels of newborns. (Wheezing can be
a symptom of many respiratory infections and not just asthma.)
The new study examined actual blood levels of vitamin D in
newborns by testing umbilical cord blood samples. Researchers
found a reduced wheezing incidence among infants whose umbilical
cord showed sufficient vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has been
associated traditionally with bone development but newer research
suggests a role for this sunshine vitamin in the immune system.
This study was posted online at on December
27, 2010 by the journal, Pediatrics, but will not be published
until a future print issue. Online access requires subscription
or fee payment.

suggests that older adults who adhere most closely to the socalled
Mediterranean diet may experience a slower rate of ageassociated
cognitive decline. Subjects were classified according
to their adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MD) and to the
Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005). (The MD is a dietary
pattern abundant in olive oil, vegetables, fruits and legumes;
moderate in poultry, dairy and fish; and low in red meat and
animal fat. The HEI-2005 is a measure of diet quality used to
assess compliance with the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans.)
Researchers noted that black participants scored higher in
adherence to the HEI-2005, while whites scored higher in
adherence to the MD. Adjustments were made to eliminate the
influence of potentially confounding factors, such as age, sex,
race, education, and participation in cognitive activities. Over
a 7.6 year period, those who most closely followed the MD showed
slower rates of cognitive decline. However, adherence to the HEI-
2005 showed no link to cognitive decline. This study was released
early by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and will not
be published until a future issue. It can be read online now at with subscription or fee payment

resolve the apparent contradictions in previous research on the
link between increased consumption of fish and the risk of
stroke. Researchers found that the overall incidence of stroke
was lower among women who consumed the greatest amount of lean
fish. The women were free of any indications of cardiovascular
risk or cancer at the outset of the study. Fatty cold-water fish
are known for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which
are linked to cardiovascular benefits; but this study found an
overall protection against stroke only with lean fish. The total
risk of stroke was reduced about 15 percent among those who ate
more than three servings of lean fish per week, although the
risks of two types of stroke hemorrhagic stroke and cerebral
infarction were not lowered. This study was released December
29, 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and will
be published in a future issue. It can be read online now at with subscription or fee payment.

Allergies are less common in children exposed during infancy to farm animals and bacteria. In
fact, children of mothers who were exposed during pregnancy to cats or farm animals are born
with an immune system protection against atopic dermatitis, reports a study released November
26, 2010 by the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology. (Atopic dermatitis is an itchy and
painful skin rash caused by an inherited hypersensitivity to allergens.) These facts reinforce the
well-accepted hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that the modern-day obsession with sanitized
environments, and early-life protection against bacteria, deprives a child’s immature and stilldeveloping
immune system from experiencing an appropriate level of bacterial exposure. This
may cause immune system over-reactions, or autoimmune disorders, throughout life.

of the sodium content of foods purchased has found that five food
categories taken together account for over a third of all sodium
consumption. The study assessed 44, 372 food products purchased
by 21,108 UK households to determine the key sodium contributors.
Bacon, bread, milk, cheese and sauces account for a total 37
percent of sodium intake. Table salt and processed meats
contribute 23 and 18 percent of sodium consumption, respectively.
Bread and bakery products account for a significant 13 percent,
while dairy products contribute 12 percent. Sauces and spreads
alone represent 11 percent of sodium intake. The researchers
concluded that targeting sodium reduction in a small number of
foods would lead to large decreases in the sodium available for
consumption. This study, along with a chart of the sodium content
of the main contributing foods, has been made available online at by the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition, although the study will not appear in print until a
future issue of the journal.

Drinking too much water in a short period of time can cause hyponatremia, which can be fatal,
especially if it occurs within 48 hours after heavy exercise. Some marathon runners have died
after downing very large amounts of water immediately after a race. Hyponatremia involves low
sodium levels and water-induced swelling of cells; while most body cells can withstand this,
brain cells cannot. Symptoms of hyponatremia include vomiting, loss of appetite, headache,
restless fatigue, abnormal mental status (such as hallucinations or confusion), muscle weakness
and even convulsions. Often people are advised simply to consume lots of water or specific
volumes per day; however, research shows thirst is your best guide to how much to drink; and
water intake after heavy exercise and sweating should be moderate.