Friday, December 31, 2010

Walking may slow brain decline

Three studies presented Monday at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting use imaging techniques to show how exercise can affect our bodies and brains.

Walking may slow cognitive decline in adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as benefiting brains of healthy adults.

In an ongoing 20-year study,  participants are monitored for the distance they walk each week, and their brain volume is measured using MRI, combined with mental function testing, using the 30-question mini-mental state exam, which measures cognitive decline. Researchers are following 426 people, which includes 299 healthy adults and 127 cognitively impaired adults, including 83 with mild cognitive impairment and 44 with Alzheimer’s disease.

"Volume is a vital sign for the brain," according to lead study author Cyrus Raji, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, "When it decreases, that means brain cells are dying. But when it remains higher, brain health is being maintained."

Participants walked between zero and 300 blocks per week. The researchers say greater amounts of walking were associated with greater brain volumes, especially in the key memory and learning areas of the brain. People with cognitive impairment needed to walk at least five miles – about 58 city blocks - per week to slow cognitive decline and maintain brain volume. Healthy adults needed to walk about six miles per week—at least 72 city blocks—to maintain brain volume and reduce their risk for mental decline.

"Alzheimer's is a devastating illness, and unfortunately, walking is not a cure," Raji said, in an RSNA press release, "But walking can improve your brain's resistance to the disease and reduce memory loss over time." Alzheimer’s affects as many as 2.4 million to 5.1 million Americans, according to the National Institute on Aging.

What’s the best way to prevent osteoarthritis—the most common type of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, reduced motion in the joints, and breaks down cartilage in the joints? Participating in light exercise, as well as avoiding frequent knee-bending activities, may help protect people at risk for osteoarthritis from developing it.
University of California, San Francisco researchers recruited 132 study participants who were at risk for knee osteoarthritis but were not yet experiencing symptoms. They also enrolled 33 control subjects in the study. 

Participants were separated into groups based on their responses to a quiz on physical activity and strength training. Exercise levels included sedentary, light exercisers, and moderate to strenuous exercisers. Strength training groups included none, minimal and frequent. Participants were also asked about knee bending activities they participated in, including walking up flights of stairs, lifting objects weighting more than 25 pounds, squatting, kneeling or deep knee bending.

Using MRI images, the researchers found that light exercisers had the healthiest knee cartilage of all exercise groups, and people with minimal strength training had healthier cartilage than those that did no strength training or frequent strength training. High-impact exercise, such as running for more than one hour per day, several times a week, was associated with greater risk for developing osteoarthritis, according to lead study author Dr. Thomas M. Link, M.D., of UCSF. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding high impact activities also reduce risk to knee damage, according to Link.

Participating in a two month ultra-long-distance running event may not be on your “to do” list, the participants in one such race showed German researchers some important physical effects of running that can be applied to marathon and even recreational runners.

Recruiting 44 runners participating in the nearly 2,800 mile TransEurope-FootRace in 2009, researchers spent two months collecting and analyzing MRI images, urine, blood and biometric data.

One key finding was that fat tissue was the first tissue affected by running and changes in visceral fat –the dangerous type of fat that’s tied to heart disease—occurred much earlier in the running process than previously thought. The greatest amount of overall fat loss also occurred early in the process. What this means for beginning runners is, "When you just begin running, the effects of fat reduction are more pronounced than in athletes who have been running their whole life," according to Dr. Uwe Schutz, of the University Hospital of Ulm in Germany.

Another finding was that some leg injuries are safe to “run through” without stopping, such as intermuscular inflammation in the upper or lower legs. But injuries such as joint inflammation, carry more risk of worsening. Schutz noted "The rule that 'if there is pain, you should stop running' is not always correct."
The RSNA meets in Chicago, Illinois, through Friday.

Source: Post by: Ann J. Curley - CNN Medical Assignment Manager  

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Regular Exercise Battles the Bulge and the Common Cold

Winter is approaching and cold season along with it. That means its time to pull out the big guns and work on cold prevention. While you can stock up on echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C, lather up frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and do your best to avoid contact with cold sufferers, there is a simple daily activity that can benefit your body and ward of seasonal colds: exercise

The Human Performance Laboratory at the Appalachian State University, North Carolina Research Campus, recently conducted a study that found that people who exercise regularly seem to have fewer and milder colds.  "The physically active always brag that they're sick less than sedentary people. Indeed, this boast of active people that they are sick less often is really true," said lead researcher David C. Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory.

Researchers at the laboratory studied data on 1,002 individuals, aged 18-85, tracking upper respiratory infections and recording lifestyle, exercise, dietary patterns and stressful events. Those individuals how exercised five or more days per week not only had 46% less colds, but had a 41% lower incidence of cold symptoms. These active participants also experienced 34% fewer days of cold symptoms. Score one for the sit-ups!

While cold prevalence varies based on locale and age, the average American will contract four colds per year. In addition to regular exercise, it is recommended that you get plenty of sleep, allow fresh air into your home, and try yoga or mediation to reduce stress. It can be helpful to have daily doses of echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C, drink plenty of fluids, and eat protein-rich foods.

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Daily Diet: Healthy Beverage Choices During Pregnancy

By now every woman should know that alcohol is verboten while pregnant and caffeinated beverages should be minimized or avoided. But recent data also shows that diet soft drinks can increase the risk of premature births. So what’s a mother-to-be to do?

Keeping hydrated while pregnant is important. HealthNews “Bringing in Baby” columnists Constance Rock & Aleksandra Evanguelidi encourage clients to get plenty of good quality hydration. The ideal quantity of fluid ounces for each pregnant woman to consume is at least 50-75 percent of their body weight in ounces of good quality water and herbal teas. So, if a woman is 150 pounds before pregnancy, she should be drinking a minimum of 75-100 ounces of fluid a day. That’s a lot of liquid.

Here are a few of the Do’s and Don’ts:

DO drink plenty of water. It can be still or carbonated, flavored or plain. In fact, given the amount of water you should be drinking, it might be nice to switch it up now and then. Hot water with lemon in the morning, flavored seltzer in the afternoon. (Check out my recent post "Summer Soda Substitute," which provides easy recipes for flavored syrups to add to your sparkling water. ) Throw in the occasional coconut water, full of electrolytes, fat free, cholesterol free and full of potassium, it can also be beneficial to digestion.

DON’T drink coffee, black or green teas, caffeinated sodas. Caffeine not only blocks iron absorption, but it leaches calcium from your blood. Both iron and calcium are vital for growing a healthy baby and they’re vital to your health and longevity.

DO drink decaffeinated and herbal coffees and teas. You can enjoy the flavor of coffee by drinking decaf coffee, but in moderation. Processing removes most of the caffeine from coffee beans, but not all, same with decaf teas. Herbal teas are a great alternative, particularly ginger or mint tea—which can be helpful with nausea— and chamomile tea—which can be calming.

DON’T drink sugar-filled beverages: sodas, juices. Decreasing refined sugars during pregnancy is good for you and your baby.

DO drink 100% juices. Organic or fresh-pressed is best, but if you don’t have a juicer—or the time and energy—focus on fresh refrigerated juices at your grocery store, or those that say 100% juice.

DON’T drink alcohol. This includes wine, beer and hard alcohol. Alcohol is dangerous in pregnancy, but its danger is due to the fact that alcohol can produce fetal abnormalities in the developing child, as well as miscarriage. Also be wary of kombucha—a fermented tea— which has actually has an alcohol content due to the fermentation. While it is low, usually .5%, it can be as high as 3%, similar to some beer.

DO drink milk products—cold or warmed (with a drop of vanilla extract). Due to the saturated fat in whole milk, you should stick to skim or nonfat milk, but try to get in three 8-ounce glasses of milk or other calcium and protein-rich dairy products each day. Yogurt is a good substitute, either on its own or in smoothies. Fresh fruit, yogurt and ice smoothies are a good source of calcium, vitamins and essential nutrients. Milkshakes are another milk-based beverage that you can enjoy, but beware the high sugar content. (NOTE: Milkshakes and smoothies are often recommended prior to bedtime to keep the hunger at bay and reduce morning sickness.)

DON’T forget to look at nutritional labels on all beverages, particularly those labeled “energy” or “functional.” Oftentimes there are large amounts of caffeine and sugar which should be avoided.

And for a nice soothing treat, try a Bowl of Soul:

1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 chammomile tea bag
1 tablespoon honey

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vitamin C Lowers Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes

Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients in the human body. Vitamin C has been linked as a cure for everything from diabetes, to cancer, as well as the common cold. Most species of animals produce their own vitamin C, but humans do not, along with the other primates, guinea pigs, and a rare Indian bat. Vitamin C is important for the creation of collagen, which is found in bones and ligaments, blood vessels and tendons. It is also important in the creation of neurotransmitters, which have an effect on both brain function and mood. Vitamin C also helps reduce cholesterol and gallstones, as well as in the synthesis of carnitine, used to convert fat to energy.

The best-known use of vitamin C, other than a cure for colds, is as an antioxidant. In this capacity, vitamin C protects cells from oxidative damage of free radicals. Scurvy is the name of vitamin C deficiency, a disease nearly eradicated by consumption of oranges and lemons. A precursor to scurvy can be found in a blood test showing deficient levels of carnitine or the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine.

Linus Pauling and the Minimum Daily Dose
Vitamin C’s greatest advocate was Linus Pauling and an institute that bears his name furthers his research at Oregon State University. Pauling won a Nobel Peace Price for efforts against nuclear weapon proliferation, and a Nobel Prize in Chemistry as well, before his work with vitamin C. Pauling began research with vitamin C in 1966 and first championed it as a cure for the common cold. Pauling suggested that the correct dosage of vitamin C was 10 to 12 grams a day. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is currently only 90 mg a day for adults. Prevention of chronic disease requires higher levels of vitamin C consumption. Since vitamin C is not stored in the blood, it is best to divide the dose and take it multiple times throughout the day.

Researchers at the Addenbrooke Hospital in England looked at blood levels of vitamin C in medical records of many individuals. They discovered that those with the highest rate of vitamin C in their blood had a 22 percent lower incidence of diabetes

A National Institute of Health study reported that vitamin C was not preventative with cancer, but that research studied oral intake of the vitamin, and the body can process vitamin C only in small amounts. When research is done on vitamin C given by injections, both tumor growth and weight were reduced by 53 percent in 75 percent of the cancers in mice, from ovarian, pancreatic and brain. The current recommendation from the U.S Department of Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute is five to ten servings of vegetables or fruit per day. Cancers particularly decreased by the intake of vitamin C are those in the mouth, throat, vocal chords, stomach, rectum, colon, esophagus, and lungs. A study of 870 men over 25 years showed that only 83 mg of vitamin C per day reduced lung cancers by 64 percent, compared to individuals who consumed less than 63 mg. per day.

Heart Disease
A study showed that cardiovascular diseases were reduced by 42 percent in men who consumed 50 mg a day of vitamin C. These results were lower in women, only 25 percent.

Stroke Risk
A Japanese study conducted on over 2,000 participants showed a 54 percent lower risk of stroke in those who consumed fruits and vegetables on six or seven days per week. Those who only ate vegetables from 0 to 2 times a week were more at risk for stroke. Another study conducted over a 10-year period on 20,000 adults showed similar results. The risk of stroke on the vegetable eaters was lower by 42 percent.

Cataracts, too, can be prevented with vitamin C intake. A seven-year study concluded that 500 mg a day prevented cataract formation.

Vitamin C can prevent the common cold, as well as heart disease, cataracts, and it can even remove toxic levels of lead from the blood. It fuels immunity, builds neurotransmitters and bones and collagen. Considering the low cost of supplemental, or a small piece of citrus fruit, there is every reason to add a few servings of fruit and vegetables to the daily diet.

Source: By Melanie news

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'Chocolate cough remedy' in sight

A chemical in cocoa could soon be turned into a medicine for persistent cough, researchers claim.

Scientists are carrying out the final stages of clinical trials of a drug that contains theobromine, an ingredient found in chocolate and cocoa. The UK developers say the drug could be on the market within two years.

Every year in Britain an estimated 7.5m people suffer from persistent cough - a cough lasting more than two weeks. Most current medicines used to control the symptoms are opiate-based ones like cough syrups containing codeine, a narcotic.

But in October the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said under-18s should not take codeine-based remedies, because the risks outweighed the benefits. Active ingredient. Researchers say the new theobromine treatment should not have this problem. And being flavourless, it can be taken by those who dislike chocolate. Theobromine is thought to work by inhibiting the inappropriate firing of the vagus nerve, which is a key feature of persistent cough.

The final stage of the drug's testing is set to begin in the next few months. The drug, called BC1036, is being developed by the private UK company SEEK. Manfred Scheske, CEO of Consumer Health at SEEK said: "I am very excited to announce the progression for the late-stage development of BC1036, which has the potential to dramatically impact the treatment of persistent cough and could greatly benefit the quality of life of persistent cough sufferers." Professor Alyn Morice of the Hull Cough Clinic said there was a need for new treatments. "Thousands of people across the UK suffer from persistent cough, and due to the drawbacks of current opioid drugs such as codeine, we are in desperate need of a non-opioid treatment with a drastically improved side effect profile for patients."

Source: bbc

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Skip the sunny side. How to eat eggs safely

When it comes to eating runny eggs these days, the experts are saying run away. With salmonella concerns triggering the recall of more than a half-billion eggs in more than a dozen states, warnings are becoming more dire every day against eating undercooked yolks and translucent egg whites. But you don't have to give up eggs completely, just be careful how you eat them. "No one should stop eating eggs because of this recall," says New York nutritionist Elisa Zied, R.D. "They pack in lots of high-quality protein and contain all the essential amino acids needed for the body to perform vital functions."

One large egg has more than 6 grams of protein for only 72 calories. Eggs are also rich in several vitamins and minerals, most notably selenium (important for thyroid function) and choline (important for brain function and heart health). However, do not eat any of the recalled eggs. Nor should you ever consume raw or undercooked eggs or foods made with them, warns Zied, president of Zied Health Communications and author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips." That includes: homemade Caesar salad dressings, custards, or ice creams; raw cookie dough; over-easy eggs; Hollandaise sauce and protein shakes or drinks made with raw eggs.


So what's a home cook to do? There's no one answer for every recipe, but cooking and food safety experts agree on a few basics to help keep foodies in the kitchen and out of the hospital. First, wash your hands before and after handling eggs. Wash any surfaces that have touched the eggs with hot soapy water. Eggs from suspect farms may be processed, sold Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to a termperature of 160 F. Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or souffl├ęs, may be refrigerated for serving later, but should be thoroughly reheated to 165 degrees F before serving, according to the Food and Drug Administration. If you don't have a cooking thermometer, you can still fry or scramble eggs, but skip sunny-side or over-easy versions. Thoroughly cooked eggs are firm and not at all runny. Eggs stored in their original carton remain fresh in the refrigerator for about a month after purchase. If you have any doubt, toss them out.

"Eggs are cheap. Throw them away. It's that simple," said Brad Barnes, an associate dean at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Mopping up oozing yolks with toast? Bad idea. Consider making hard-boiled eggs rather than soft by gently simmering them for about 15 minutes. Hard-boiled eggs last about a week in the refrigerator. As for poached eggs, a little longer is a little better. Though most recipes suggest short cooking times in barely simmering water, for safety it's best to let the egg go for about 5 minutes at a gentle boil.

Remember the scene in "Rocky" when Sylvester Stallone downs raw eggs for his protein fix? Forget about adding raw eggs to protein shakes. "We've got enough issues. Who needs to be barfing because of raw eggs?" asked Douglas Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University and author of, which highlights food-handling problems in the news and in popular culture. But what's a foodie to do when raw egg is essential to a recipe, as in mayonnaise and carbonara? Take a tip from Paul Stern, who cooks for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, an Ashford, Conn., camp for seriously ill children, many with compromised immune systems. Last year, they cracked about 300 shell eggs every morning. This year, the camp switched (before the recall) to pasteurized liquid egg product. "I wouldn't be consuming or serving raw eggs any more than I'd be eating or serving raw chicken," said Stern. As the name implies, pasteurized egg product — usually sold in cartons near the milk — has been gently heated to kill off pathogens, meaning it should be safe to consume even when not fully cooked. It's not a perfect substitution, but for most home cooks it should do the job just fine. "It's not exactly the same as a fresh egg, of course, but certainly in this instance — and I'm sure they'll have this situation cleaned up pretty rapidly — I think everybody should be able to make do for a few days," said Barnes.

The Centers for Disease Control has said there could be as many as 1,300 salmonella illnesses linked to the eggs, and that for every reported case there could be 30 or more that go unreported. San Francisco-based food scientist Harold McGee, author of the upcoming "Keys to Good Cooking," isn't all that worried. Though he gets his eggs from local producers, he said he wouldn't hesitate to consume uncooked supermarket eggs in a recipe. He would draw the line at serving them to a pregnant woman, child or elderly person or someone with an illness that might weaken their immunity. But overall, he thinks the odds of getting sick favor the home cook. "For home cooks, it's less of a problem than for institutions that are going to be cracking lots and lots of eggs and then pooling them to make a particular dish," he said. "The moment you start to add more than one egg to what you're making, mathematically your odds of having a problem go up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: staff and news service reports 

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