Here’s some notable health news that caught our attention this week. Read on for the latest research and health tips for you and your family.
Nutrition and diet
Did you hear that eating less can slow the aging process? That’s the finding of a study published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. Researchers studied the way ribosomes in mice responded to lower calorie consumption. They found that mice ribosomes – cellular-level protein markers – slow down when they absorb fewer calories, and that slowdown extended their lives. "When you restrict calorie consumption, there's almost a linear increase in lifespan," said senior author John Price, a biochemistry professor at Brigham Young University. Price cautioned that such tests haven’t yet been tried on humans.
A somewhat concerning study out of the University of Illinois-Chicago found that a gluten-free diet may actually increase your risk of exposure to arsenic and mercury. Gluten-free products often substitute wheat with rice, which is known to absorb toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury, from soil, fertilizers and water. “These results indicate that there could be unintended consequences of eating a gluten-free diet,” said Maria Argos, an assistant professor and author of the study.
Those of you who cook know that olive oil is a healthy choice for cooking, but did you know why? According to a Spanish study>, it seems that a diet rich in olive oil helps your “good” cholesterol do its job better. Researchers think the antioxidants in olive oil and associated foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, help protect high-density lipoproteins, or “good” cholesterol particles, from attacks. That helps them perform their task of removing low-density, or “bad,” lipoproteins from the bloodstream more efficiently.
Caring for your body
It may encourage you to hear about a new guideline from the American College of Physicians, which advises health care providers against using drugs or surgery to treat pain in your lower back. The guideline is based on the finding that lower back pain – one of the most common reasons for doctor visits in the United States – often gets better with household or natural treatments, such as applying heat to the lower back, receiving acupuncture or getting a massage. “Physicians should reassure their patients that acute and subacute low back pain usually improves over time regardless of treatment,” said Nitin S. Damle, M.D., the group’s president. “Physicians should avoid prescribing unnecessary tests and costly and potentially harmful drugs.”
Do you need motivation to join a gym? You’ll find it in a study out of Iowa State University. Researchers found that people who join fitness clubs exercise more – no surprise there – but also have better cardiovascular health than people who don’t. And the difference is more pronounced among those who were members for more than a year. The difference in our results “was pretty dramatic,” said one of the researchers, and the results applied to men and women.
Vitamin D can help you stave off colds and flu, according to a British study. The findings were most pronounced among people with the lowest levels of vitamin D, which is delivered through the skin by sunlight. The results suggest that an important new application of vitamin D supplements is to prevent respiratory infection, the researchers wrote/
>Sleep tight. Your health may depend on it. That’s the gist of a study of the effects of sleep duration on 11 pairs of twins conducted by researchers at the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. If you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system can be suppressed, inviting illness, researchers said. Lead author Nathaniel Watson, M.D., said seven or more hours of sleep is needed to maintain “optimal health.”
On the subject of sleep, here’s something that many people do in the summertime that affects how well they sleep: They turn on their air conditioners. A Japanese study says that, even while you sleep, the airflow from an air conditioner stimulates your body and keeps you from sleeping as well as you should. This isn’t about the room temperature – it’s about the flow of air, even at levels so low you’d barely notice if you were awake.
And, while we hope this applies to very few readers of To Your Health, did you know that people who have fragments of bullets in their bodies may be at risk for lead poisoning? It’s true, and it’s not as unusual a situation as you might think, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 70 percent of the 115,000 firearms injuries that occur each year in the United States leave thousands of victims with bullet fragments. And symptoms of lead poisoning may not appear until years later.
A JAMA Internal Medicine research letter reports that older adults who receive outpatient care are increasingly likely to be prescribed medicine that affects the central nervous system. These medicines are often prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain. And it is the pain diagnosis that is responsible for much of the increase, according to the writer, Donovan Maust, M.D., of the University of Michigan. Prescriptions were for antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonists, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and opioids, Dr. Maust said
Raising healthy kids
Why do some children suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Maybe because their brains are different, according to an international study. “The results from our study confirm that people with ADHD have differences in their brain structure and therefore suggest that ADHD is a disorder of the brain,” lead author Martine Hoogman. “We hope that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is ‘just a label’ for difficult children or caused by poor parenting.” As many as five regions of the brain may show differences from other, fully developed brains, researchers found.
Dutje doen. Faire une sieste. Nimmst du ein Nickerchen. Take a nap. If you do, little one, you’ll have an easier time learning a language. That’s according to research out of the University of Arizona, which found that 3-year-olds who were taught new verbs and then took naps understood the words better 24 hours later than children who didn’t nap. Researchers studied the way children learn verbs because they usually are more difficult than the simple nouns – think “mommy,” “daddy” and doggie” – that make up most children’s first words.
Your amazing brain
While you go about your daily life, your brain is always plotting your next move, or your backup plan. A Canadian study found that your motor system is always operating in the background, outside your consciousness. That enables you to choose quickly, almost automatically, between competing possibilities. Study co-author Jason Gallivan said the findings have implications for designing smart robotic devices. “Whereas we have been able to design computer programs that can beat the grandmasters at chess,” he said, “we have yet to design a robot that can interact with the world in a way that matches the manual dexterity of a 5-year-old child.”
We appreciate you joining us at the To Your Health blog. What caught your eye this week? Are there news items or health concerns you’d like us to know more about? Leave a comment and let us know.