BRIEF EXERCISE SPURTS OFFSET AGING: Brief spurts of exercise may offset the aging effect associated with stress, according to a study released by the journal, PLoS One. Fourteen minutes of exercise per day, three days per week may be sufficient to offset the aging effect of stress on telomeres, short pieces of DNA that shorten – or age – with time and stress. Tiny pieces of DNA known as telomeres tend to shorten over time in reaction to various forms of stress. This shortening is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and death. This recent research shows that even a modest amount of exercise – any amount of exercise, several times a week that induces sweating or offsets the shortening of telomeres – can safeguard against the shortening of telomeres that is linked with stress and causes aging. Released May 29 in summary form, this study will be published in its full-text format in a future issue of PLoS One.

ANTIDEPRESSANTS POSE CATARACT RISK: The first major study on this topic has shown an increased risk, among seniors, of developing cataracts as a result of taking SSRIs, the most common type of antidepressant; and a higher risk of corneal damage from amantadine, a Parkinson’s disease drug. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, alleviate depression by raising low levels of serotonin in the brain. But the eye’s lens also contains serotonin receptors and excess serotonin can make the lens opaque and lead to cataract formation, reports the Canadian research, which included 19,000 patients who were on at least one of these drugs and 190,000 controls, meaning people who were not. The risk was related only to current use, meaning risk disappeared after discontinuation of the antidepressants. Also, some Parkinson’s patients on long-term amantadine therapy were found to have cornea changes that could lead to vision damage. The study appears in the June, 2010 issue of Opthalmology and full details are available only to journal subscribers and media.

HOW ACUPUNCTURE WORKS CONFIRMED: Clarifying how acupuncture may work to reduce pain, a study shows that, at the site applied, acupuncture needles increase levels of a molecule called adenosine, a natural compound that regulates sleep, anti-inflammatory responses – and painkilling. Research previously showed an increase in brain-signaling and painkilling endorphins when the central nervous system is affected by acupuncture. But this study found that stimulation of nerve endings not linked to the brain and spinal cord also increase levels of adenosine. Mice bred to have no adenosine received no pain benefit from acupuncture; mice whose adenosine was “turned on” received benefit without acupuncture; and mice with normal adenosine had pain reduced by two thirds while adenosine levels at the needle site jumped 24 times normal levels. This study will be published in a future issue of Nature Neuroscience and usually, full details would be available before then only with subscription or fee payment. However, this particular full-text study was recently released to the public without charge, at:

The notion that green mucus indicates the presence of an infection is false. The relevance of mucus color is a myth that even many doctors believe, according to Drs. Aaron E. Carroll and Rachel C. Vreeman, coauthors of Don’t Swallow Your Gum, who write,” There is no evidence…that antibiotics shorten the duration of an illness when green snot is a symptom.” (The book’s title refers to the often-heard myth that gum will remain in your stomach for seven years.)

SLEEP-RELATED BREATHING DISORDERS FOUND COMMON AMONG CHILDREN: A newly released study has found that as many as 18 percent of pediatric patients were found to be at risk of sleep-disordered breathing disorders (SDBD). Also, SDBD in children could not be associated with particular craniofacial or demographic factors, unlike the case in adults, making SDBD much harder to detect in children. Risk could not be linked with age, race, gender or body mass. Dentists may be able to help diagnose SDBD in children using screening questions such as snoring, sleepiness or behavioral problems. An early diagnosis is important to avoid the condition being misdiagnosed as non-sleep-related clinical disorders such as attention deficit disorder. Details will be published in a future issue of the journal Sleep but a summary of the study was presented June 5, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine in San Antonio.

VITLIGO’S MYSTERIES START TO UNRAVEL: A study has found slight variations from normal in 10 genes associated with the body’s immune system in people with vitiligo, confirming this mysterious disease’s autoimmune nature and pointing to a better understanding that may one day lead to more personalized treatment for vitiligo patients. Vitiligo is a complex disorder in which patches of the skin’s melanin, or pigment, disappear, leaving white areas on the skin and even hair. Autoimmune disorders are those involving the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells in the body. The findings suggest vitiligo involves multiple pathways, meaning the exact triggers are complicated, involving both genetics and environmental factors together. This implies cures may be complicated and may involve treatments geared to the individual. The study was described in the June 6, 2010 issue of Nature Genetics and is available in its full-text format only with subscription or the payment of a fee at:

SECOND HAND SMOKE INCREASES RISK OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS: A study has found that exposure to second hand smoke causes more than physical health problems. It leads to psychological distress and raises the risk of future mental illness among otherwise healthy adults. Nonsmokers exposed to second hand smoke showed a 50 percent greater likelihood of reporting psychological distress. Smokers were also found to be at risk and both smokers and nonsmokers exposed to frequent second hand smoke showed a higher psychiatric hospital admission rate, in addition to greater distress and psychological problems. Animal studies have previously shown that smoke can raise negativity and is a cause of depression, which is in keeping with the conclusions of this study. The new study was published online on June 7, 2010, ahead of print publication in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The full-text version of this study has been made available by the journal, without subscription or fee, at:

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS REDUCES RISK OF AGE-RELATED HEARING LOSS: A study has determined that there is an inverse association between age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, and the intake of long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids and fish. In other words, greater consumption of fish, fish oil or other omega-3 oils tended to delay or prevent age-related hearing loss. The research included 2,956 subjects who were 50 years of age or older and showed that those consuming an average of two or more servings of fish per week experienced a 42 percent reduced risk of developing presbycusis compared to those consuming less than one serving of fish a week. The study was released today, June 9, 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a summary, or abstract, format. The full-text version will be published in a future issue but is now available online with a subscription to the journal or the payment of a fee at:

EGG CONSUMPTION CLEARED IN DIABETES RISK: A study has clarified previously inconsistent and limited data on the association between eating eggs and the development of diabetes type 2 among adults. The incidence of type 2 diabetes was noted for 3,898 adult men and women who were divided into groups according to their regular egg consumption patterns: never eat eggs, fewer than one a month, 1-3 per month, 1-4 per week and almost daily. No meaningful association was found between the number of eggs consumed and diabetes risk; nor between dietary cholesterol and diabetes. Further analysis also found no link between egg consumption and fasting glucose, fasting insulin or insulin resistance, all measures of diabetes risk. Released June 9, 2010 as an abstract, or summary, the study will be published in its full-text version in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is currently available with a subscription to the journal or the payment of a fee at:

Long term use of metformin, the commonly prescribed “cornerstone” type 2 diabetes drug, increases the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. A deficiency of this vitamin raises levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood; higher levels are considered a risk factor for heart disease. Metformin causes malabsorption of vitamin B12 and this negative effect increases over time. The study establishing this link was posted online at the site of the British Medical Journal on May 20, 2010 and the full-text version is now available without the payment of a fee at:

SCIENTISTS DEVELOP LOW-ALLERGY PEANUT: Researchers have created a new, low-allergy peanut that may make life a lot easier and safer for those with severe peanut allergy. The new peanut also is expected to lower the risk of children developing peanut allergies in the first place. Developed with funding from the US Department of Agriculture, the new peanut contains none of the key proteins that are believed to spark allergies and reactions. The question now is whether peanuts missing these proteins can reproduce naturally to produce peanuts that also lack those proteins. The new plant was not genetically modified; it was the product of conventional cross-breeding. The report, which has not been published, was presented in London at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, which wrapped up June 9.

SPINAL CORD STIMULATION: NEW HOPE FOR PARKINSON’S PATIENTS? A new but very small and preliminary study indicates that spinal cord stimulation (SCS) may be able to lessen the motor, or walking, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Previous studies found motor function improvement with SCS in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and this prompted the researchers to test SCS on a single 82-year-old male with PD. Low frequency stimulation produced a noticeable worsening of locomotion symptoms; but when high-frequency stimulation was employed, symptoms and walking time greatly improved. The effect was then replicated in a second human patient. The study is too small to draw hard conclusions but suggests an area of future research. The lead author presented his findings June 14, at the biennial meeting of the American Society for Stereotactical and Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN) in New York City.

BROWN RICE DECREASES DIABETES RISK: A new study has shown a greater risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women who eat white rice compared to those who do not. Perhaps of surprise to some, the study also found a reduced risk of diabetes 2 in those who eat brown rice compared to those who do not regularly eat rice. Specifically, the risk of diabetes increased with five or more servings of rice per week; and the risk of diabetes was reduced with consumption of two or more servings of brown rice per week. Researchers estimated that replacing just one third of a daily serving of white rice with an equal amount of brown rice would decrease type 2 diabetes risk by 16 percent; replacing one third of the white rice with other whole grains such as barley or whole wheat could decrease the risk by 36 percent. This brief abstract, or summary, was released June 14, 2010 by the Archives of Internal Medicine; however, the full-text version of the study is available only with either journal subscription or the payment of a fee at:

VITAMIN D PROTECTS AGAINST VIRUSES: A new study has found that vitamin D – long associated with good bone health – provides protection against viral respiratory tract infections, reducing their incidence and severity. One example of this type of infection would be influenza. Researchers followed 198 health adults during the fall and winter of 2009 – 2010 and measured each individual’s ongoing blood levels of vitamin D in a seasonal period when these levels tend to fall due to the lack of sunlight. Levels were weighed against the incidence and symptoms of respiratory infections; those with the highest vitamin D levels experienced less illness and significantly reduced days of symptoms. (Vitamin D is also known to support the body’s absorption of calcium to prevent osteoporosis, and has been linked to cardiovascular health.) This study was published June 15, 2010 by the open-access journal PLoS ONE and the full-text version is now available without subscription or cost at:

Despite what some people believe, tanning beds are no safer than outdoor sunlight. A review of seven studies found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who had been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning before the age of 35. Melanoma is one of the less common forms of skin cancer but is responsible for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. Studies have demonstrated that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA, key genetic material, in the skin cells and can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.

SNACKING ASSOCIATED WITH REDUCED RISK OF BEING OBESE: A new study has concluded that adolescents who regularly snack have a lower chance of being overweight or obese and of having excess abdominal weight. The data analyzed covered a five-year period and assessed both the number of snacks and the percentage of overall calories ingested during snacking. Both frequency of snacks and percentage of overall calories from snacks proved to be inversely related to obesity and abdominal weight – that is, the greater the number and caloric intake of snacks, the less the risk of being overweight, obese or having excess abdominal weight. The study was released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on June 16, 2010 in summary, or abstract, form. The full-text version is available online, with either journal subscription or the payment of a fee, at:

PRESCRIPTION DRUG EMERGENCIES NOW EQUAL ILLEGAL DRUG CASES: A new study shows that for the first time, abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications results in as many cases of emergency room (ER) visits as those resulting from cocaine, heroin or other illegal drug abuses. In 2008, there were one million ER cases of legal drug abuses, mostly painkillers and sedatives – and that was about the same number of cases of ER visits from illegal drugs. Just five years ago, statistics show, illegal drug ER incidents were double that of prescription drug cases. Some of the increase in legal drug problems may come from mixing several prescription drugs or from combining them with alcohol. The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy released a statement suggesting that, “the abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.” The report was released June 18, 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can be read online at:

VITAMIN D LEVELS REMAIN LOW IN RHEUMATIC PATIENTS: Three separate studies paint a worrisome picture of vitamin D deficiencies among patients of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic disorders are those of the joints and connective tissue and include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and lupus, among others. Two new studies found deficient vitamin D levels in these patients. But a third new study found deficiencies of vitamin D still remained in most patients even after supplementation for six months, with 800-1000 IU. This suggests that vitamin D is a common finding in rheumatic patients and that supplementation with 800-1000 IU is insufficient to normalize levels. Would higher levels of supplementation work? The researchers report that the answer is not yet clear. All three studies were separately presented June 18 at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, in Rome. They have not been published yet.

Pecans are an antioxidant powerhouse. Of all tree nuts, pecans have the highest antioxidant content. They also fall within the top 15 foods overall that hold the greatest antioxidant content. According to a recent issue of Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research, eating just a handful of pecans a day may delay the progression of age-related motor neuron degeneration and such diseases as amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Pecans provide over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins. They are naturally cholesterol-free and, unless salted, sodium-free.

HOARDING FRIENDS, BEING LONELY AND POOR HEALTH OFTEN GO HAND IN HAND: Two studies by the same team have found that true loneliness is caused by a lack of depth in communication and connection and that it can often be an underlying health problem in people who hoard friends and have a busy social life. Meeting up with numerous friends, following them on Twitter, or staying in touch with former coworkers does not carry much clout in combating true loneliness, which is a lack of depth of one-to-one communication. And lacking this underlying deeper connection affects health in ways that are becoming clearer: it reduces the regenerative effect of sleep, the ability to cope with stress, and individuals’ attention to health. The mere presence of a relationship, even a “close” one, did not affect this tendency towards loneliness and diminished health. One study appears in summary form in the June issue of the journal, Health Communication and the second will appear in a future issue. The first study is now available in full-text format but only with subscription or fee payment at:

FLAME RETARDANT AFFECTS THYROID DURING PREGNANCY: A new study has suggested risks to the fetus from a mother’s higher blood levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a family of compounds commonly found in flame retardants. Mothers with the highest levels of these compounds showed as much as 18.7 percent lower thyroid hormone levels (THS), which may have serious health impacts on newborn babies, as well as the mothers’ health. (PBDEs are a class of organobromine compounds found in common household items such as carpets, textiles, foam furnishings, electronics and plastics. U.S. fire safety standards implemented in the 1970s led to increased use of PBDEs, which can leach out into the environment and accumulate in human fat cells.) The exact pathway by which flame retardants influence thyroid hormones is unclear, although they do mimic human hormones. New “safer” brominated and chlorinated retardants are being phased in by 2013 but even their health impact has not been fully tested, suggested the researchers. The study was released in this summary, or abstract, form on June 21, ahead of its subsequent publication in print, by Environmental Health Perspectives. The full-text version will not be available until the study is published.

LACK OF REM SLEEP LINKED TO CHRONIC MIGRAINES: A new study suggests that a lack of sleep, as well as a lack during sleep of the dreaming phases known as REM, can trigger migraines and increase the risk of chronic migraines. Rapid Eye Movement or REM phases of sleep are those brief periods during which we experience dreaming. Regularly losing sleep, or sleeping but without REM periods – as often occurs when alcohol, drugs or stress are involved – increases the expression, or activity, of certain proteins related to lowering our threshold of pain. The proteins are known as p38, PKA, and P2X3 and lower expression of them can cause the pain of migraine. The study was presented in Los Angeles to the attendees of the American Headache Society’s annual scientific meeting on June 25. It has not been published and details are not yet available.

Despite the often-heard notion that habitually cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis, there is simply no evidence to back this up. The noise arises from the movement of air out of spaces in the joints. It seems that knuckle-crackers are no more likely to have arthritis than those who don’t make those potentially-annoying popping sounds with their fingers.

CT SCANS MAY POSE HEALTH RISK: A study suggests that CT scans – because they are so often prescribed, sometimes unnecessary and occasionally, overdosed – may pose a greater cancer risk than previously believed. Generally, the study concludes that patients are unaware of the risks, and how often scans are ordered (or demanded by the patient) when they are not required. What are CT scans? They are basically x-rays that are super-sharp in imagery. However, they involve much higher levels of radiation than ordinary x-rays and too much radiation raises the risk of cancer over time. The study authors believe that the best way for patients to avoid long-term radiation overdoses and potential cancer risks is for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be given the right to set limits on CT scans, as it now does with drug dosages. The study was published in the June 24, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and can be read online at:

‘CAUSE’ OF FUNGUS-RELATED ASTHMA ATTACKS FOUND: A study has found that severe asthma attacks requiring hospitalization can result from a combination of two factors: being of a specific genetic type and being exposed to environments heavy with mold or fungus. Preventing asthma attacks is difficult without knowing the exact mechanism by which only some people become so strongly affected. But the study shows that those with certain variants of genes known as chitinases are most susceptible. Chitinase genes break down chitin, a compound in many fungi; and these genes kick into high gear, especially in the lungs, during an allergic inflammation. If researchers can someday find some therapy that blocks the activity of these chitinase genes in those who have them, they may be able to prevent asthma attacks altogether. This study was released June 25 by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in abstract, or summary, format. The full-text version is not yet available but will be published in a future issue of the journal, by which time it will be made available with subscription or payment of a fee.

NINETY PERCENT OF AMERICANS EXCEED RECOMMENDED SALT INTAKE: A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that only ten percent of American adults manage to keep their dietary sodium intake below the maximum recommended daily intake level. That grim statistic is even worse in light of the sharp recent reduction in the recommended intake level from 2,300 mg daily – which was the level set in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – to 1,500 mg, the maximum set in the 2010 version, which came out last week. The new study was based on those former, much higher recommendations and adherence to the new guidelines would be even lower. Although found naturally in some foods, sodium is a key element in added salt. Excessive salt intake is linked to high blood pressure, which in turn is linked to increased risks for stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and kidney disease. The new report was released June 25, 2010 and is available to read online free of charge at:

VITAMIN D MAY BOOST MENTAL AGILITY IN ELDERLY: Cognitive performance is much improved among the elderly who are not deficient in vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency may be common among shut-in seniors due to limited access to sunshine and other factors, according to a new study. More than 1,000 study participants who were receiving home care were assessed for vitamin D status. Only 35 percent of participants had sufficient vitamin D levels and this group scored higher on cognitive performance tests than those who were deficient or insufficient in vitamin D. Pathways for vitamin D have been identified in the hippocampus and cerebellum areas of the brain; these are regions associated with planning, processing new information and forming new memories, suggesting vitamin D is important to the cognitive process and for independent senior living. The study was released June 26 by the journal, Journals of Gerontology, Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, in a summary format. But it is available in full-text format with a journal subscription or payment of a fee, at:

NATURAL WAY TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE: A study has shown that the nitrate content of beetroot is what lowers blood pressure, an effect discovered in earlier studies. Healthy volunteers took nitrate tablets or beetroot juice and the subsequently reduced blood pressure readings in both groups pinpoint beetroot’s nitrate content as the key cause. The effect was seen within a mere 24 hours after consumption of just 250 ml of the juice, suggesting a natural means to keep blood pressure within normal range, which is important for avoiding cardiovascular disease. Also, the decrease was greater in those who started the trial with the highest blood pressure. This study was released as an abstract, or summary, on June 28 but won’t be published in print until a future issue of the journal Hypertension. The full-text version is available online now with either subscription or the payment of a fee at:

Antibiotics cannot be effective against the common cold. Nor can they have any impact on viral respiratory infections. The reason? Antibiotics target bacterial infections but are completely ineffective against viruses, such as the common cold or other “viral” infections. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, over 18 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed by U.S. doctors every year for the common cold. And over 50 million unnecessary antibiotic courses are prescribed in the U.S. annually for viral respiratory infections. Use of antibiotics where they are not potentially effective can cause a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance, in which bacteria – normally susceptible to antibiotic drugs – mutate to become immune to our strongest anti-bacterial drugs.

Most dietary sodium comes from salt. But if you think hiding the salt shaker is going to make a big difference, think again. According to a 1991 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, only about 10 percent of sodium intake comes from table salt and at-home cooking. At least 77 percent of the dietary sodium intake in the United States comes from restaurant meals and processed foods. These are the areas you may want to target, not the salt shaken on your veggies at the dinner table.

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