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Healthy Diet During Pregnancy Prevents Complications, Even Among The Overweight

May 18, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A new British study shows that expectant mothers who consume a healthy diet monitored by health professionals prevents excess weight gain in pregnancy and reduces the risk of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes, high blood pressure and early delivery. Women – event the overweight and obese – who followed a calorie controlled diet were 33 percent less likely to develop pre-eclampsia, one of the most dangerous pregnancy complications involving raised blood pressure and protein in the urine. Their risk of gestational diabetes was 60 percent lower, of gestational high blood pressure, 70 percent lower, and of early delivery, 32 percent lower.
S. Thangaratinam et al., "Effects of interventions in pregnancy on maternal weight and obstetric outcomes: meta-analysis of randomised evidence", BMJ, May 18, 2012, © BMJ Publishing Group Ltd
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When You Eat May Be As Important As What, And How Much

May 17, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A U.S. study in mice offers a significant insight for people trying to lose weight. Regular eating times, coupled with an extended period of fasting each day, seems to override the adverse health effects of a high-fat diet. Consequently, researchers found, such a dietary pattern may prevent obesity, diabetes and liver disease. Mice limited to eating during an 8-hour period were found to be healthier than mice that ate freely throughout the day, regardless of the quality and content of their diet.
Megumi Hatori et al., "Time-Restricted Feeding without Reducing Caloric Intake Prevents Metabolic Diseases in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet", Cell Metabolism, May 17, 2012, © Elsevier Inc.
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Exercising With A “Virtual Partner” Boosts Motivation And Length Of Exercise Session

May 16, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Exercising with a slightly more capable “virtual partner” – someone not present physically but connected via a digital link – boosts team performance and motivation to stay with an exercise program, a U.S. study has found. Fifty-eight women split into three groups exercised on stationary bikes for six days. Groups exercised independently with a virtual partner, with a team of virtual partners, or alone. Overall, exercising with virtual partners improved performance in cycling task in terms of time exercised. Those who worked with virtual partners lasted twice as long as those who exercised alone.
Brandon C. Irwin et al., "Aerobic Exercise Is Promoted when Individual Performance Affects the Group: A Test of the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect", Annals of Behavioral Medicine, May 16, 2012, © Springer
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Carbery Targets Elderly Population With Fruit Flavored Protein Drinks

May 15, 2012: 10:17 AM EST
Nutritional and functional ingredient maker Carbery (Cork, Ireland) is targeting older consumers whose perceptions of flavors are not as sharp as those of younger people. Older people tend to prefer stronger, more traditional tastes, Carbery says, so it is therefore exploring the use of strawberry, orange and vanilla flavors in protein-fortified foods to make them more palatable to the elderly. The company sees the aging market as a major focus and is using whey protein in strongly-flavored functional dairy products to help fight age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia). Other product possibilities include cookies, confectionery products and healthy breakfasts with oats or porridge.
"Carbery explores flavours for ageing consumers", Food Navigator, May 15, 2012, © William Reed Business Media SAS
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Overdosing On Some Supplements Poses A Cancer Risk

May 15, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Certain dietary supplements widely available in the U.S. are harmless when taken at triple the recommended dose, but pose a cancer risk if taken at higher doses, a U.S. study has found. Beta-carotene, selenium and folic acid are essential nutrients, and are beneficial and harmless when taken in a certain balance, researchers say. But when taken at much higher doses, as some manufacturers recommend, they have been shown to increase the risk of developing a wide variety of cancers.
M. E. Martinez et al., "Dietary Supplements and Cancer Prevention: Balancing Potential Benefits Against Proven Harms", Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 15, 2012, © The authors
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Legislator Launches Attack On School Pizza Classified As A “Vegetable”

May 15, 2012: 08:44 PM EST
A U.S. congressman from Colorado has introduced legislation in the House that would toughen nutritional standards for pizza served in school lunchrooms. Rep Jared Polis (D) says new standards approved by Congress in a 2011 USDA funding measure categorized pizza containing one-eighth of a cup of tomato paste as a vegetable. He said it was a “ridiculous” decision, considering how much sugar, salt and cheese is in just one slice of pizza. Chastising Congress for caving in to the frozen food business, Polis said “agribusiness should never dictate the quality of school meals.” His bill – the SLICE Act – would declassify pizza as a vegetable.
Lauren Fox, "The War on Pizza?", US News, May 15, 2012, © U.S.News & World Report LP
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Learning, Memory Improve With Increased Levels Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

May 15, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A U.S. study confirms that eating a high-fructose diet for a long period of time harms the brain’s ability to learn and remember information, but increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in  the diet counteracts the adverse effects. The study in rats showed that fructose – from, for example cane sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup – impedes the synapses’ ability to transmit signals between brain cells. But the problem can be overcome if the brain has access to omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA, which improves synaptic functions.
R. Agrawal et al., "'Metabolic syndrome' in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signaling and cognition", The Journal of Physiology, May 15, 2012, © The Physiological Society
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Dermatologists Say Sunscreen Is Most Effective Weapon In Battle Against Harmful UV Radiation

May 15, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
The organization representing America’s dermatologists has issued an advisory saying that sunscreens are still the most effective protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The American Academy of Dermatology says sunscreens, when used with other forms  of sun protection, are an important way to fight skin cancer, including its deadliest form, melanoma. The group recommends applying a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher, along with sun-safe practices such as limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, and wearing sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.
Daniel M. Siegel, MD, "Sunscreens Remain Safe, Effective Form of Sun Protection, Experts Say", Advisory issued by the American Academy of Dermatology, May 15, 2012, © American Academy of Dermatology
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Tax On Unhealthy Foods Should Be At Least 20 Percent To Have A Health Impact

May 15, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
British researchers say evidence they have accumulated from various studies suggests that a minimum 20 percent tax on unhealthy foods, such as sugary drinks, would have a major impact on obesity and heart disease. Such a tax should be combined with subsidies on health foods, like fruits and vegetables. Modeling studies, for example, predict that a 20 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in the U.S. would reduce obesity levels by 3.5 percent; extending the VAT (currently at 17.5 percent) in the U.K. to unhealthy foods could reduce heart disease deaths by 2,700 a year.
O. T. Mytton et al., "Taxing unhealthy food and drinks to improve health", BMJ, May 15, 2012, © BMJ Publishing Group Ltd
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California Bakery Produces High-Fiber Breads Whose “Net Carb” Content Is Zero

May 14, 2012: 11:24 AM EST
A California bakery has developed a line of breads for bread lovers who are trying to cut down on carbs. Julian Bakery of La Jolla offers low-carb and carb-free breads that it claims are "compatible with any diet plan" whose overall goal is a reduction in carbohydrate intake. Julian’s Carb Zero Bread is also gluten-free, high in protein and fiber, low in calories, and contains no sugar, yeast, or preservatives. The concept – identical to the Atkins “net carb” idea – is that fiber-based carbs can be subtracted from total carbs because they are not metabolized or stored in the body as fat. Julian’s bread has an equal amount of carbohydrates and fiber, leading to a net carb level of zero.
"Julian Bakery Offers Healthy, Diet-Friendly Breads With Zero Net Carbs", News release, Julian Bakery, May 14, 2012, © Julian Bakery
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Brains Of Anorexic And Obese Patients Respond Differently To Food Stimuli

May 14, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. researchers who used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the brain activity of 63 women who were either anorexic or obese, found that the reward system in the human brain that regulates food intake responds differently in each group. For the study, the women were conditioned to expect a sweet taste or non-sweet taste when shown different visual images. The women were then given a sweet-tasting solution expectedly or unexpectedly. fMRI imaging showed that the sweet taste increased activation of reward systems in anorexic patients, and diminished activation in the obese. The researchers acknowledged that it is still not clear what role the reward systems play in eating disorders.
Guido K W Frank et al., "Anorexia Nervosa and Obesity are Associated with Opposite Brain Reward Response", Neuropsychopharmacology, May 14, 2012, © American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
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Children Of Overweight Expectant Mothers Tend To Be Overweight As Adults

May 13, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Researchers in Israel and the U.S. have found that the children of overweight mothers-to-be tend to be overweight as well, and have a greater tendency toward being overweight and experiencing higher blood pressure and excess sugar and fat levels in the blood. The study analyzed clinical data – including pregnancy weight and birth weight of children – on 1,400 people born in Jerusalem in 1974-76. They then gathered data on the children at age 32. The results showed a clear influence of the overweight of the mothers on the overweight of their children, affecting in turn other health risk factors in adulthood.
H. Hochner et al., "Associations of Maternal Prepregnancy Body Mass Index and Gestational Weight Gain With Adult Offspring Cardiometabolic Risk Factors", Circulation, May 13, 2012, © American Heart Association, Inc.
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Vitamin K2 Reverses Genetic Mutations Linked To Parkinson’s Disease

May 11, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. and Belgian researchers have discovered in an insect study that vitamin K2 was able to undo a genetic defect that leads to Parkinson’s disease. Several genetic defects, or mutations, have been linked to Parkinson’s, including the PINK1 and Parkin mutations. Both to reduced activity in a cell’s “powerhouse,” the mitochondria. The discovery in this study – which offers hope for Parkinson’s patients but may not be clinically relevant for many years – is that the energy production was restored in the mitochondria of paralyzed fruit flies given vitamin K2. The insects' ability to fly improved.
M. Vos et al., "Vitamin K2 Is a Mitochondrial Electron Carrier That Rescues Pink1 Deficiency", Science, May 11, 2012, © AAAS
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Low-Cal Nutrition Bar Improves Biological Risk Factors Linked To Heart Disease

May 10, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A low-calorie fruit-based, high-fiber nutrition bar rich in vitamins and minerals has been tested successfully in small U.S. clinical trials and found to lead to favorable metabolic changes after only two weeks. Participants in the studies at the “CHORI-bar” (from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute) twice a day for two weeks. Researchers found that eating the bar improved biological indicators – increased HDL-c and glutathione, and lowered homocysteine – all of which have been linked to risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and associated decline in antioxidant defenses. The researchers have developed two additional bars that expand the number of biomarkers improved by the bar to include measures of insulin resistance, inflammation, etc.
Mietus-Snyder, M. L. et al., "A nutrient-dense high fiber, fruit-based supplement bar increases HDL, particularly large HDL, lowers homocysteine, and raises glutathione in in a 2-week trial", FASEB Journal, May 10, 2012, © Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
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Cancer-Fighting Compound Can Be Easily Produced By Soaking Soybeans In Water

May 9, 2012: 10:28 AM EST
A substance produced when soybeans are soaked in water shows promise in cancer prevention, new U.S. research has found. Bowman-Birk Protease Inhibitor (BBI), currently manufactured in a time-consuming industrial process, has been tested successfully in clinical trials. Scientists believe the BBI from soybeans, which are widely consumed by the Japanese, are the basis for lower cancer rates in Japan. The researchers found that soybean seeds incubated in water at 122 degrees (F) naturally release large amounts of BBI that can be easily harvested from water.
Manoj H. Palavalli et al., " Imbibition of Soybean Seeds in Warm Water Results in the Release of Copious Amounts of Bowman–Birk Protease Inhibitor, a Putative Anticarcinogenic Agent", Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 09, 2012, © American Chemical Society
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Gastric Surgery Using Capsaicin Leads To Significant Reduction In Body And Visceral Fat

May 9, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. scientists who studied the benefits of two types of novel gastric surgeries for weight loss have found that both procedures significantly reduced overall body fat as well as visceral abdominal fat (i.e., “beer belly” fat). High visceral fat is a marker of obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. Vagotomy, which involves removal of the vagus nerve that transmits information from the gut to the brain, led to  the most fat loss. The second procedure (vagal de-afferentation) was also effective in reducing fat, but does not remove the vagus nerve. Instead, it uses capsaicin, the compound responsible for the burning sensation of chili peppers, to destroy only certain nerve fibers.
A. T. Stearns et al., "Relative Contributions of Afferent Vagal Fibers to Resistance to Diet-Induced Obesity", Digestive Diseases and Sciences, May 09, 2012, © Springer
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Exposure To Fluorescent Lights May Prevent Nearsightedness

May 8, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Small increases in daily artificial light from fluorescent bulbs slowed the development of nearsightedness by 40 percent in an animal study. In myopia, an increase in eye length causes light to focus in front of the retina, rather than on it, leading to blurred vision. Myopia may be caused by genetic and environmental factors. The U.S. scientists hope to develop programs that use fluorescent light a few hours each day in classrooms and homes to reduce the rate of myopia.
Thomas Norton, Ph.D. et al., "Future Treatment for Nearsightedness — Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs?", News release, presentation at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting, May 08, 2012, © University of Alabama at Birmingham
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Long Commutes Are Associated With Poor Cardiovascular Health

May 8, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Greater commuting distances are linked to decreased cardiovascular fitness, increased weight and other indicators of metabolic risk, U.S. scientists report. For the study, researchers gathered data on 4,297 residents who lived and worked in the Dallas-Fort Worth or Austin, Texas metropolitan areas. Various factors  – commuting distances, body mass index, blood pressure, etc. – were measured. They found that people who drove longer distances to work reported less frequent participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity, decreased cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), greater BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure, even when physical activity and CRF were adjusted for.
C.M. Hoehner et al., "Commuting Distance, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Metabolic Risk", American Journal of Preventive Medicine, May 08, 2012, © Elsevier Inc.
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Exercise Prevents Muscle Breakdown, Inflammation In Older Patients

May 7, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Contrary to the belief of many physicians and insurance companies, elderly people who exercise regularly do experience less muscle breakdown, as well as increased strength and reduced inflammation, a German study reports. The study was based on data gathered from 60 heart failure patients and 60 healthy volunteers. Half were 55 years old or younger, half were 65 or older. All of the patients participated in aerobic training sessions four days a week plus one 60-minute session. Muscle biopsies showed that all of the participants experienced increased muscle force and oxygen uptake. Heart failure patients 55 and under increased their peak oxygen uptake by 25 percent, while those 65 and over increased it by 27 percent.
Stephan Gielen et al., "Exercise Training Attenuates MuRF-1 Expression in the Skeletal Muscle of Patients with Chronic Heart Failure Independent of Age", Circulation, May 07, 2012, © American Heart Association, Inc.
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Zinc Supplements Seem To Reduce Duration Of Cold Symptoms In Adults

May 7, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Adults – but not children – who take oral zinc supplements can reduce the duration of common cold symptoms, but may also have to endure some unpleasant side effects, Canadian scientists have found, after reviewing the results of 17 randomized controlled trials. The data gathered from 2,121 patients of all ages showed that cold symptoms among adult patients who took zinc supplements lasted a week or less, compared to those who took a placebo. No such effect was found among children. Participants in the studies who took zinc supplements were also more likely to experience bad taste and nausea.
Michelle Science et al., "Zinc for the treatment of the common cold: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials", Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 07, 2012, © Canadian Medical Association
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Voracious Eating Patterns Signal An Increased Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

May 7, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A study by Lithuanian scientists finds that people who eat quickly are at much greater risk of type 2 diabetes than people who eat more slowly. The study compared 234 newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients to 468 people who were diabetes-free. Researchers analyzed questionnaires from the participants, who reported their eating speed, weight, height, and waist and hip measurements. After adjusting for other risk factors (e.g., family history of diabetes, education level, smoking etc.), the researchers found that those who ate faster were two-and-a-half times more likely to have diabetes. Higher body mass index and significantly lower education level were also indicators of diabetes risk. 
Lina Radzeviciene, "Eating Fast Increases Diabetes Risk", News release, presentation at the International Congress of Endocrinology and European Congress of Endocrinology, May 07, 2012, © European Society of Endocrinology
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Reducing BMI By Five Points Cuts The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

May 6, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Though it’s not an easy task, reducing the body mass index (BMI) by five points can significantly cut the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Swedish/Finnish research. Even severely obese diabetics who lower their BMI have a chance of curing themselves of the disease. Researchers examined data on 2,010 patients who had received bariatric surgery and 2,037 obese patients who received non-surgical interventions. Data were analyzed at two years and then at 10 years. Lower rates of diabetes were found among obese patients who had lost five BMI units by any means. The rate of patients cured of diabetes after losing five BMI units was independent of the starting BMI at all BMI levels measured. This trend was also observed 10 years after surgery.
Markku Peltonen et al., "Losing Weight When Obese Can Prevent or Cure Diabetes, Whatever the Initial BMI, Study Suggests", News release, presentation at the International Congress of Endocrinology/European Congress of Endocrinology, May 06, 2012, © European Society of Endocrinology
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More Evidence Of Cardiovascular Benefits Of Oily Fish

May 3, 2012: 10:16 PM EST
Eating oily fish at least twice a week offers substantial benefits for the cardiovascular system, according to research studies presented at a recent European medical meeting. Oily fish – salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines –  are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory (reducing the risk of atherosclerosis) and anti-arrhythmic, reducing the risk of heart attack. Researchers reported that fish oil supplements – especially pharmaceutical grade formulas – can also provide cardiovascular benefits, especially for people who do not like eating fish. 
"A fish a day keeps the doctor away?", News release, presentation at the EuroPRevent 2012 meeting, May 03, 2012, © European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation
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Increased Omega-3 Consumption Associated With Lower Risk Of Alzheimer’s

May 2, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A Columbia University study has found that the greater the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from a variety of foods the lower the levels of beta-amyloid – a protein related to Alzheimer’s disease – in the blood. Researchers obtained diet information for an average of 1.2 years from 1,219 people over age 65 who were free of dementia. Their blood was then tested for the beta-amyloid. Researchers were especially interested in 10 nutrients: saturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D. Eating a gram of omega-3 a day (about half a salmon fillet a week) more than the average omega-3 consumed by people in the study was associated with 20 to 30 percent lower blood beta-amyloid levels.
Y. Gu et al., "Nutrient intake and plasma β-amyloid", Neurology, May 02, 2012, © AAN Enterprises, Inc.
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Fructose Found To Be The Culprit When Obese People Develop Fatty Liver Disease

May 2, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. researchers have found out why consuming high levels of fructose – the sugar found most often in soft drinks and fruit juices – often leads to dangerous nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in obese people. Consuming too much fructose on a regular basis depletes the store of ATP, a molecule that provides liver and other body cells with energy for important cellular processes, including metabolism. When liver cells are unable to generate cellular energy because of ATP depletion, the risk for inflammation and scarring in the liver increases.
Manal F. Abdelmalek et al., "Higher dietary fructose is associated with impaired hepatic ATP homeostasis in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes", Hepatology, May 02, 2012, © John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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Researchers Find That Too Much Beta-Carotene Has A Negative Impact

May 1, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Beta-carotene – the antioxidant orange pigment that gives carrots and sweet potatoes their distinctive color – is normally beneficial because it converts to vitamin A, a nutrient essential for human vision, bone and skin health, metabolism and immune function. But U.S. researchers  have found evidence suggesting that too much beta-carotene in the diet creates anti-vitamin-A molecules that block some of the actions of vitamin A and result in less vitamin A in the system. The scientists do not recommend against eating foods rich in beta-carotene. They are continuing their study of why these anti-vitamin-A molecules are formed.
A. Eroglu et al., "Naturally-occurring eccentric cleavage products of provitamin A beta-carotene function as antagonists of retinoic acid receptors", Journal of Biological Chemistry, May 01, 2012, © The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
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Computer Use And Exercise Reduce The Risk Of Cognitive Impairment Among The Elderly

May 1, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A Mayo Clinic study has found that either computer use or exercise alone are not as effective in preventing memory loss as they are when combined. The study involved 926 people ages 70 to 93 in one Minnesota county who said they participated in moderate physical exercise (e.g., brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, etc.) and in mentally stimulating activities such as reading and computer use. Participants were tested to determine the extent of mild cognitive impairment. Of those who did not exercise and did not use a computer, 20.1 percent were cognitively normal and 37.6 percent showed some mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Of those who both exercised and used a computer, 36 percent were cognitively normal and 18.3 percent showed signs of MCI.
Yonas E. Geda, M.D. et al., "Computer Activities, Physical Exercise, Aging, and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study", Mayo Clinic Proceedings, May 01, 2012, © Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
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Garlic Compound Found To Be Super-Effective In Killing Campylobacter Bacteria

May 1, 2012: 10:50 AM EST
In a finding that could lead to new treatments for raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces, U.S. researchers show that the garlic compound diallyl sulfide is 100 times more effective than two current antibiotics at fighting the most common bacterial cause of intestinal illness globally. Most infections stem from eating raw or undercooked poultry or foods that have been cross-contaminated with Campylobacter jejuni bacteria via surfaces or utensils used to prepare poultry. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever. It is also responsible for nearly a third of the cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare paralyzing disorder.
Xiaonan Lu et al., "Antimicrobial effect of diallyl sulphide on Campylobacter jejuni biofilms", Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, May 01, 2012, © British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
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Sleeping Longer At Night Is Associated With Lower Risk Of Obesity

May 1, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A study of twins has found that sleeping less than seven hours a night is linked with an increase in body mass index (BMI) and greater genetic influences on BMI. Shorter sleep times provide “a more permissive environment” for the expression of obesity-related genes, researchers said. Likewise, longer sleep suppresses the expression of obesity genes. The U.S. study of 1,088 pairs of twins showed that, for those that slept less than seven hours, genetic influences accounted for 70 percent of the differences in BMI. Common environment accounted for just 4 percent and unique environment 26 percent.
Nathaniel F. Watson et al., "Sleep Duration and Body Mass Index in Twins: A Gene-Environment Interaction", Sleep, May 01, 2012, © Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC
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Mixing Medicines And Supplements Can Be Dangerous, Pharmacist Warns

May 1, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
An American pharmacist warns physicians and consumers that herbal, dietary, energy and  nutritional supplements, whether natural or not, can be harmful when combined with commonly used medicines. Catherine Ulbricht says that a substance that has a therapeutic effect on the body “can also cause a reaction or interaction.” For example, garlic, ginkgo, ginger, and saw palmetto supplements increase the risk of serious bleeding. Chromium, cinnamon and whey protein can reduce blood sugar. And bloodroot, green tea, hawthorn, and maté can raise blood pressure.
Catherine Ulbricht, "What Every Clinician Should Know About Herb–Supplement–Drug Interactions", Alternative and Complementary Therapies, May 01, 2012, © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
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Lack Of Vitamin D In Winter Plays A Role In Higher Infection Rates

April 30, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Researchers in Spain have found that insufficient vitamin D during winter months reduces the effectiveness of the immune system in preventing infections, neoplasias (abnormal tissue growth, such as tumors) and autoimmune diseases. The study looked at vitamin D levels in three different age groups (young, middle and elderly), finding that levels decreased with age. Specifically, they found that a specific toll-like receptor in the body – one that regulates the immune response against viruses – is particularly affected by a deficiency of vitamin D. The findings suggest that less sunlight in winter months – and thus a lack of vitamin D – could play a role in higher rates of infection.
L. Alvarez-Rodriguez et al., "Age and low levels of circulating vitamin D are associated with impaired innate immune function", Journal of Leukocyte Biology, April 30, 2012, © Society for Leukocyte Biology
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Youths Familiar With TV Fast-Food Ads Are More Likely To Be Obese

April 29, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Teenagers and young adults who are aware of and receptive to fast-food ads on television are at greater risk of obesity, according to a U.S. study. The researchers polled more than 3,000 youths ages 15 to 23 years about their height and weight, exercise, and dietary habits, including frequency of eating at fast-food restaurants. They were also asked if they were familiar with 20 images taken from fast-food restaurant ads. About 18 percent were found to be overweight, and 15 percent were obese. But the percentage of youths who were obese was significantly higher among those who recognized more fast-food ads than those who recognized few ads (17 percent vs. 8.3 percent).
Auden C. McClure, M.D. et al., "Familiarity With Television Fast Food Ads Linked to Obesity", News release, presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, April 29, 2012, © American Academy of Pediatrics
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Overweight Girls Who Are Happy With How They Look Engage In Fewer Risky Dieting Behaviors

April 28, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Overweight adolescent girls who say they are happy with their size and shape not only have higher levels of self-esteem, they are less likely to engage in negative behaviors sometimes associated with being overweight, a University of California study finds. For the study, 103 overweight adolescents were surveyed for three years. They were assessed for various factors associated with body satisfaction, including self-esteem, anxiety and depression symptoms. Girls who were highly satisfied with their bodies were less likely to engage in risky weight control behaviors, like fasting, skipping meals or vomiting.
Taya Cromley et al., "Relationships Between Body Satisfaction and Psychological Functioning and Weight-Related Cognitions and Behaviors in Overweight Adolescents", Journal of Adolescent Health, April 28, 2012, © Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
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Smaller Weights, More Reps, Is Just As Effective In Building Muscle Mass

April 26, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
The prevailing wisdom is that using heavy weights with fewer repetitions is the only way to build muscle mass. But a new Canadian study find that muscle mass can be just as effectively increased using smaller weights with greater reps to achieve muscle fatigue. According to the researchers, the findings have important implications for public health because skeletal muscle mass is a big contributor to daily energy expenditure and helps in weight management. In addition, skeletal muscle mass is the main site of blood sugar disposal and plays a role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Nicholas A. Burd et al., "Bigger weights may not beget bigger muscles: evidence from acute muscle protein synthetic responses after resistance exercise", Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, April 26, 2012, © Canadian Science Publishing
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Foods Rich In Resistant Starch Can Help Lower Risk Of Bowel Cancer Among Australians

April 25, 2012: 07:05 PM EST
Higher intake of foods rich in resistant starch, such as beans and other legumes, corn, lentils, and peas, can lower the risk of developing bowel cancer, according to research by Australia's CSIRO Food Futures Flagship. This kind of diet can help address the "Australian paradox," a term that nutritionist David Topping uses to refer to the fact that bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in the country despite Australians' consumption of more dietary fiber than by people in other Western countries.
Sheradyn Holderhead, "Starchy foods cut bowel cancer risk", Adelaide Now, April 25, 2012, © News Limited
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Vitamin D Lowers Blood Pressure In Hypertensive Patients

April 25, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Patients with high blood pressure may find some hope of relief in vitamin D supplementation, especially during the winter mooths, according to a Danish study. Researchers gave 112 patients – 92 of whom were found to have low levels of vitamin D at the start of the study – vitamin D or a placebo daily for 20 weeks. Patients taking the vitamin D supplement showed a significant reduction in central systolic blood pressure measured at the aorta. Systolic blood pressure was reduced by 6.8 mmHg, diastolic blood pressure by 1.7mmHg. Ambulatory blood pressure measured at the upper arm was also reduced in vitamin D-deficient patients, though the reduction was of borderline significance.
Thomas Larsen et al., "Vitamin D Supplements Can Reduce Blood Pressure in Patients With Hypertension", News release, presentation at the European Society of Hypertension meeting, April 25, 2012, © European Society of Hypertension
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Watercress Protects Body From Exercise-Induced Muscle Stress, DNA Damage

April 25, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A study sponsored by a European grower of watercress has found that the leafy green effectively reduced the stress endured by muscles during a strenuous workout. Even study participants who ate watercress two hours after high-intensity exercise experienced the same reduction in muscle stress. For the study, ten healthy young men ate 85 grams of watercress – a small bag – each day for eight weeks, then exercised on a treadmill. A similar eight week study without watercress consumption served as a control. The researchers found that eating small amounts of watercress each day boosted the levels of antioxidant vitamins that help protect bodies from stress-induced DNA damage.
Mark C. Fogarty et al., "Acute and chronic watercress supplementation attenuates exercise-induced peripheral mononuclear cell DNA damage and lipid peroxidation", British Journal of Nutrition, April 25, 2012, © Cambridge University Press
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Omega-3s Do Not Improve The Heart’s Diastolic Function

April 24, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. researchers studying the impact of omega-3 supplementation on cardiovascular health have ruled out the possibility that fish oil improves diastolic function: the ability of the heart to relax and efficiently refill with blood at each beat. Many studies over the years have established that omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cardiovascular disease and adverse cardiac events, such as heart attack and stroke. But no one has been able to explain why. In this study, eleven healthy adults (average age 66 years) took daily omega-3 supplements containing 1.9 grams EPA and 1.5 grams DHA. Over 12 weeks, however, there were no detectable improvements in diastolic function, suggesting that fish oil didn't change this important parameter of cardiac health.
Zhaohui Gao et al., "Three-Month Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Does Not Improve Cardiac Diastolic Function in Healthy Older Adults", News release, presentation at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting, April 24, 2012, © American Physiological Society
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Fish Oil, Perhaps Combined With Aspirin, May Reduce Gum Inflammation

April 24, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A review of eight studies on the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on gum inflammation has found that a combination of fish oil and aspirin seemed to have a significant impact, at least in two of the studies. The Australian researchers said the evidence that fish oil can be effective in reducing periodontal symptoms is growing, but is not conclusive. More well-designed studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of fish oil alone, and combined with aspirin, in combating periodontitis.
Dr. Alison Coates, "Fish Oil Could Be Therapy for Periodontal Disease", News release, presentation at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting, April 24, 2012, © Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
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Acupuncture May Be A Useful Treatment For Skeletal Muscle Loss In The Elderly

April 23, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
The atrophy and even loss of skeletal muscle in the elderly and the sick severely limits participation in physical activity. Exercise training, improved nutrition and mechanical stimulation can help strengthen muscles, but patients who are frail or sickly often can’t benefit from these solutions. Now a Japanese researcher says that acupuncture, which has been proven effective in treating some health conditions but is regarded with suspicion in the U.S., can help. Her study looked at the changes in the mRNA expression levels of muscle-specific atrophic genes such as atrogin-1. The study in mice showed that decreases in muscle mass in the mRNA expression level of the E3 ubiquitin ligase atrogin-1 can be significantly reversed by acupuncture.
Akiko Onda et al., "Acupuncture Can Improve Skeletal Muscle Atrophy", News release, presentation at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, April 23, 2012, © American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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The Right Forms Of Vitamin E Do Prevent Cancer, Review Of Research Finds

April 23, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Vitamin E in the forms known as gamma-tocopherols and delta-tocopherols – found abundantly in vegetable oils – are beneficial in preventing cancers, a U.S. review of research finds. The researchers were careful to point out, however, that the vitamin E form known as alpha-tocopherol, commonly found in supplements, offers no such benefit. The beneficial forms of vitamin E are found in soybean, canola and corn oils, as well as nuts, and have been shown to prevent colon, breast and prostate cancers in animal models.
C. S. Yang et al., "Does Vitamin E Prevent or Promote Cancer?", Cancer Prevention Research, April 23, 2012, © American Association for Cancer Research
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Exercise Offers Significant Benefits For The Elderly Brain

April 23, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
An exercise program that includes resistance training can slow cognitive decline in the elderly, according to a Canadian study. The study of 86 senior women tested the impact of resistance training and aerobic exercise on cognitive functions such as attention, memory, problem solving and decision making. Researchers found that resistance exercise programs improve the executive cognitive process of selective attention and conflict resolution functions, along with associative memory, all of which are predictors of dementia. Aerobic training alone did not significantly improve cognitive function or brain plasticity. But resistance training significantly improved executive cognitive functions, associative memory performance, and functional brain plasticity.
L. S. Nagamatsu et al., "Resistance Training Promotes Cognitive and Functional Brain Plasticity in Seniors With Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment", Archives of Internal Medicine, April 23, 2012, © American Medical Association
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Study Describes Health Benefits Of Video Games For the Elderly

April 23, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Video games, including interactive “exergames” that promote movement, can help older people, lead fuller, more independent and healthier lives, new research shows. Older adults living in institutional settings need not sacrifice physical activity and fitness, according to the multinational team of researchers. In fact, video games can provide a valuable alternative to traditional forms of aerobic exercise. Evidence suggests that exergames provide cognitive stimulation, social interaction, exercise and fun. They also seem to motivate older patients to take better care of themselves and self-manage chronic medical conditions.
Hannah Marston et al., "Interactive Videogame Technologies to Support Independence in the Elderly", Games for Health Journal, April 23, 2012, © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
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All Things Considered, Canned Foods Are The Cheapest Source Of Nutrients

April 22, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A U.S. study that compared the cost of obtaining key nutrients from various sources found that canned foods are almost always more affordable and convenient. The “market-basket” study took into account not only nutrients, but also price, waste and preparation time of canned, fresh, frozen and dried varieties of some common foods. Canned foods almost always were the cheaper source. For example, when preparation time of pinto beans is taken into account, the canned variety costs $1 less per serving than dried beans, because of the time it takes to soak and cook the beans before serving.
Dr. Cathy Kapica and Wendy Weiss, "Obtaining Key Nutrients from Canned Foods Can Save Consumers Money Compared to Fresh, Frozen, Dried Varieties", News release, presentation at Experimental Biology 2012,, April 22, 2012, © Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
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Eating Soy Protein Helps Eases Stress On Fatty Livers

April 22, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Obesity is a key factor in fatty liver disease, which affects a third of Americans and can lead to liver failure. In obese patients, the transport of fat to adipose (fatty) tissue can slow down to the point that the liver becomes a dumping ground for excess fat. Now researchers at the University of Illinois have found that soy protein cuts fat accumulation in the liver of obese patients by restoring the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, a crucial player in fat metabolism. The researchers suggested that eating soy protein, from sources such as tofu and yogurt, alleviates some of the stress on fatty livers.
Hong Chen, "Soy Protein Alleviates Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease, Study Suggests", News release, presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, April 22, 2012, © American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Consumption Of Sugary And Low-Cal Sodas Ups Risk Of Stroke

April 20, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A U.S. study of soda and coffee consumption among more than 127,000 men and women found that regular intake of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas is linked to a higher risk of stroke. The researchers also found that drinking decaf or regular coffee was associated with a lower risk of stroke. The sugar load of sugar-sweetened sodas may lead to rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin that over time may cause glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and inflammation, all of which influence atherosclerosis, plaque stability and thrombosis – risk factors of ischemic stroke. Antioxidant compounds in coffee, however, reduce stroke risk. One serving of decaffeinated coffee was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke.
A. M. Bernstein et al., "Soda consumption and the risk of stroke in men and women", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 20, 2012, © American Society for Nutrition
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Researchers Find That Consuming Omega-3s Repairs Smoke-Induced Arterial Injury

April 20, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
A study by Greek researchers reports that four weeks of oral intake of omega-3 fatty acids – 2,000 mg a day – improves arterial stiffness in smokers and improves the acute smoke-induced inelasticity of the cardiovascular system. The researchers said the cardio-protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids are grounded in anti-inflammatory and anti-atherosclerotic mechanisms. They recommended that smokers who have quit using tobacco products should eat oily fish rich in omega-3s at least twice a week to help repair their cardiovascular system.
Gerasimos Siasos, "Omega 3 Fatty Acids May Help to Reduce the Physical Harm Caused by Smoking", News release, presentation at the World Congress of Cardiology, April 20, 2012, © World Heart Federation
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Study Finds More Potential Benefits From Taking Aspirin

April 19, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
In a preclinical study by a multinational team of researchers, aspirin was shown to increase fat burning and reduce liver fat in obese mice. The active ingredient of aspirin – salicylate – is derived from willow bark. Researchers found that salicylate increases the activity of the protein AMPK, which plays a key role in the regulation of cell growth and metabolism. AMPK is switched on by exercise and by an anti-diabetic drug called Metformin. The findings are important because a large clinical trial is underway testing whether salsalate – a well-tolerated aspirin derivative – can prevent type 2 diabetes.
Simon A. Hawley et al., "The Ancient Drug Salicylate Directly Activates AMP-Activated Protein Kinase", Science, April 19, 2012, © American Association for the Advancement of Science
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Certain Practices Are Beneficial For The Constantly Changing Brain

April 18, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
Scientists who reviewed recent research have found that some practices can cultivate new connections in the brain and enhance the function of neural networks and well-being. Among the beneficial practices are physical exercise, some types of psychological counseling and meditation. The U.S. study detected a shift in the focus of neuroscience from disease to the enhancement of well-being by inducing neuroplastic changes in the brain. The key finding is that people can be more pro-active in “shaping the positive influences on the brain.”
Richard J Davidson et al., "Social influences on neuroplasticity: stress and interventions to promote well-being", Nature Neuroscience, April 18, 2012, © Nature Publishing Group
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Identification Of “Hyper-Virulent” Foodborne Bacteria Is First Step In Battling Them

April 18, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. researchers have discovered “hyper-virulent” Salmonella bacteria that can override vaccines and could pose a severe risk to food safety. The newly discovered bacterial are as much as 100 times more capable of causing foodborne illnesses. According to the researchers, the bacteria act like a “Trojan Horse,” looking a lot like their less virulent relatives but proving to be deadlier when causing disease. The scientists now know what to look for and are developing ways to tell them from their less-virulent cousins. So far they have been able to force the bacteria to reveal their weapons in the laboratory, and that’s a first step toward combating them.
Douglas M. Heithoff et al., "Intraspecies Variation in the Emergence of Hyperinfectious Bacterial Strains in Nature", PLoS Pathogens, April 18, 2012, © Mahan et al.
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