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Languages Protect from Memory Loss

People who speak more than two languages may lower their risk of memory loss or developing other memory problems, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011. “It appears speaking more than two languages has a protective effect on memory in seniors who practice foreign languages over their lifetime or at the time of the study,” said study author Magali Perquin, PhD, with the Center for Health Studies from the Public Research Center for Health (“CRP-Santé”) in Luxembourg. Perquin is helping to lead the MemoVie study which involves a consortium of partners from different hospitals and institutions.

The study involved 230 men and women with an average age of 73 who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages. Of the participants, 44 reported memory loss or cognitive problems; the rest of the group had no memory issues. Researchers discovered that those people who spoke four or more languages were five times less likely to develop memory loss or cognitive problems compared to those people who only spoke two languages. People who spoke three languages were three times less likely to have memory loss or cognitive problems compared to bilinguals. In addition, people who currently spoke more than two languages were also four times less likely to have memory loss or cognitive impairment. The results accounted for the age and the education of the participants.

“Further studies are needed to try to confirm these findings and determine whether the protection is limited to thinking skills related to language or if it also extends beyond that and benefits other areas of cognition,” said Perquin. The research was conducted in Luxembourg, where there is a dense population of people who speak more than two languages. The MemoVie study was supported by The National Research Fund (FNR) from Luxembourg.

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‘No evidence’ for Vitamin B allergy

Consumption of Vitamin B during pregnancy does not increase the risk of allergy in the infants, says a new study from Japan that challenges previous findings. Maternal consumption of folate and vitamins B2, B6, and B12 during pregnancy was not associated with the risk of the infant developing asthma or eczema, according to findings from 763 infants published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.

Contradictory science

The link between folate and folic acid, the synthetic form of the vitamin, and respiratory health is not clear cut, with contradictory results reported in the literature. A study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that higher levels of folate were associated with a 16 per cent reduction of asthma in (Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, June 2009, Vol. 123, pp. 1253-1259.e2). However, a Norwegian study reported that folic acid supplements during the first trimester were associated with a 6 per cent increase in wheezing, a 9 per cent increase in infections of the lower respiratory tract, and a 24 per cent increase in hospitalisations for such infections, (Archives of Diseases in Childhood, doi:10.1136/adc.2008.142448). In addition, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reported that folic acid supplements in late pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma by about 25 per cent in children aged between 3 and 5 years (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2010, doi:10.1093/aje/kwp315).

Illumination from the Land of the Rising Sun?

The new study, performed by researchers from Fukuoka University, the University of Tokyo, and Osaka City University, goes beyond folate and folic acid, and reports no link between Vitamin B intake and the risk of asthma or eczema in children. “To the best of our knowledge, there has been no birth cohort study on the relationship between maternal consumption of Vitamin B during pregnancy and the risk of allergic disorders in the offspring,” wrote the researchers. The findings were based on data from 763 pairs of Japanese mother and child. A diet history questionnaire was used to assess maternal intakes of the various B vitamins during pregnancy, and the infants were followed until the age of 16 to 24 months. Japan has no mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.

Results showed that, according to criteria from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, 22 and 19 percent of the children had symptoms of wheeze and eczema, respectively, but there was no association between these children and the dietary intakes of the various B vitamins by their mothers. “Our results suggest that maternal intake of folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and vitamin B2 during pregnancy was not measurably associated with the risk of wheeze or eczema in the offspring,” said the researchers. “Further investigation is warranted to draw conclusions as to the question of whether maternal Vitamin B intake during pregnancy is related to the risk of childhood allergic,” they concluded.

According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), over 30m Europeans suffer from asthma, costing Europe €17.7bn every year. The cost due to lost productivity is estimated to be around €9.8bn. The condition is on the rise in the Western world and the most common long-term condition in the UK today. According to the American Lung Association, almost 20m Americans suffer from asthma. The condition is reported to be responsible for over 14m lost school days in children, while the annual economic cost of asthma is said to be over $16.1bn.

Source: Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. Volume 22, Issue 1-Part-I, February 2011, Pages: 69–74 DOI: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2010.01081.x
“Maternal B vitamin intake during pregnancy and wheeze and eczema in Japanese infants aged 16–24 months: The Osaka Maternal and Child Health Study”. Authors: Y. Miyake, S. Sasaki, K. Tanaka, Y. Hirota

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“Good” bacteria helps kids with irritable bowel syndrome

Good bacteria
About 10 to 15 percent of children experience recurrent abdominal pain, the researchers said. The pain can be due to irritable bowel syndrome — which is usually relieved by defecation — or can be “functional abdominal pain,” which is not explained by another disease. While LGG has been tested before in children with abdominal pain, the studies were small and showed mixed results. The new study, which involved 141 children with irritable bowel syndrome or functional abdominal pain, was conducted in Italy between 2004 and 2008. Researchers gave the kids either the probiotic or a placebo for eight weeks. Neither the doctors nor the patients were aware which treatment they received.

Following the treatment, the patients were followed up for another 8 weeks. During the treatment and follow-up, the severity and frequency of abdominal pain decreased for both groups, but the probiotic group experienced a more drastic reduction. For instance, after 12 weeks, patients who took the probiotic reported experiencing, on average, 1.1 episodes of pain per week, compared with 3.7 weekly episodes before the treatment. Those who took the placebo reported experiencing 2.2 pain episodes per week, compared with 3.5 episodes initially.

And a greater percentage of parents of children who took the probiotic reported that their children experienced a decline in pain,compared with those whose kids took the placebo. Among kids who took the probiotic, it was mostly children with irritable bowel syndrome who showed improvements, the researchers said.

Why does it work?
The results suggest LGG may be specifically beneficial for those with irritable bowel syndrome, the researchers said. It's possible that children with irritable bowel syndrome have an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in their guts, which contributes to the pain, and the probiotics relieves pain by restoring the proper balance, Francavilla said. Probiotics have also been suggested to reduce inflammation in the gut, as well as stimulate the release of analgesic substances that relieve pain. The researchers noted they cannot be sure whether the beneficial effects will last for more than a few weeks after treatment is stopped.

The results were published in the journal Pediatrics.

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Link between snoring and heart disease

Many people snore. Many people have heart attacks. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh say they have found a connection between the two conditions. “People often report in primary care offices that they or their spouse complains of loud snoring, that they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. And we as sleep researchers were interested in how this broad array of sleep symptoms that are often reported might relate to later cardiovascular risk,” lead research author Wendy Troxel of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said.

Previous research has looked at the link between heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea, a problem where excess tissue blocks the airway during sleep. But this study looked purely at snoring. “There are some people with loud snoring who don't have obstructive sleep apnea,” Troxel continued.

In Troxel's government-funded study, more that 800 relatively healthy people ages 45 to 78 were followed for three years. High blood sugar and low levels of good cholesterol, both risk factors for heart disease, were twice as likely to present in the participants who reported frequent, loud snoring.

In addition to snorers, participants who had trouble falling asleep and had unrefreshing sleep were also at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, when additional heart disease risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of triglyceride fats are present. “Sleep complaints aren't just benign annoyances but something that can really foretell important health consequences,” Troxel stressed, “and they should really be discussed with [medical] providers and referred for further treatment if necessary.”

The research conducted at Pitt was an observational study. Patients were not treated to see whether decreasing snoring could lower the risk of heart disease. Rather, the study shows that snorers should pay particular attention to their heart disease risk factors.

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Vitamin E May Reduce Dementia Risk

The prospective Rotterdam Study involved 5,395 people over age 55 with no dementia at baseline. All of the participants, who lived in one section of the Rotterdam area, provided dietary information when the study began in 1990.

The researchers previously reported a similar association of vitamin E intake with a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease over six years of follow-up among the cohort.

The current study found that after 9.6 years of follow-up, 465 of the participants had developed dementia; 365 of these cases were classified as Alzheimer's disease.

Higher baseline vitamin E consumption correlated with lower long-term risk of dementia in models minimally adjusted for age only and those adjusted for age, education, apolipoprotein genotype, total caloric intake, alcohol and smoking habits, body mass index, and use of supplements (both P=0.02 for trend).

Dietary surveys indicated that margarine was by far the biggest contributor to vitamin E intake at 43.4%, followed by sunflower oil at 18.5%, butter at 3.8%, and cooking fats at 3.4%.

Participants with vitamin E intakes in the top third, averaging 18.5 mg per day, were 25% less likely to develop dementia of any kind over almost 10 years of follow-up than those in the bottom third, who averaged only 9.0 mg per day. Higher baseline vitamin E consumption correlated with lower long-term risk of dementia (both P=0.02 for trend).

While the top versus bottom tertile comparison was significant, the middle group with vitamin E intake averaging 13.5 mg per day was no less likely to develop dementia than the lowest intake group.

For Alzheimer's disease alone, the multivariate-adjusted risk was 26% lower among those with the highest intake compared with the lowest (95% confidence interval 3% to 44%, P=0.03 for trend). But intermediate intake again appeared to have no impact.

Other antioxidants — vitamin C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids — held no significant associations with dementia or Alzheimer's disease risk (multivariate adjusted P=0.50 to >0.99 for trend).

Sensitivity analyses excluding participants who reported taking supplements at baseline showed similar results.

The researchers noted that the vitamin intakes seen in the study were consistent with a typical Western diet but cautioned about the possibility of residual confounding in the observational results.

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Benefits of Grains

The benefit of grains has been well established in the scientific literature as well as with consumers — 72 per cent of consumers now associate whole grains with cardiovascular benefits, and 86 per cent with intestinal health, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Studies show that whole-grain consumption lowers heart-risk failure, and can significantly decrease abdominal fat in those consuming whole rather than refined grains.

Amaranth

Amaranth is a grain indigenous to Mexico that has been cultivated since Aztec times. Its resurgence is due in part to the commercialisation of exotic foods — amaranth and other so-called ancient grains fit this trend. A protein content of 16 per cent and a selection of unique phytochemicals make amaranth a compelling functional food. It has been linked with a positive effect on hypertension, coronary heart disease and immune response. A three-week, controlled clinical trial assessed the effect of amaranth oil in 125 patients with cardiovascular disease. The patients were randomised to a low-salt diet plus 3-18mg/day amaranth oil or only a low-salt diet. The amaranth oil group had reduced cholesterol levels in blood serum, and also reduced blood pressure. Other effects included reduced markers of oxidative stress and enhanced immunity.

Chia

Chia (Salvia hispanica) is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein and antioxidants. Like amaranth, chia is an ancient grain and marketed as such, though clinical-trial evidence is relatively new.

In January 2009, researchers from Argentina investigated the benefits of chia seed on dyslipidaemia and insulin resistance (IR). In a three-month feeding study, a sucrose-rich diet was used to bring about IR in rats. Once IR and dyslipidaemia were present at the end of three months, chia was given to half the group in place of fat, while the control group had sucrose replaced with maize starch. Chia prevented the onset of dyslipidaemia and IR. Additionally, chia reduced the visceral adiposity present in the sucrose-supplemented rats.

In a human trial, researchers found chia added to conventional diabetes treatment improved major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Twenty well-controlled subjects with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either 37g/day chia or wheat bran (control) for 12 weeks while maintaining their conventional diabetes therapies. The chia group had reduced systolic blood pressure (SBP) and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. Chia also significantly decreased A1C (glycated haemoglobin) and fibrinogen compared to baseline.

Tef

Tef (Eragrostis tef) is one of the principal sources of nutrition for two-thirds of the population in Ethiopia, where it is used to make flatbread. Unlike the peppery taste from amaranth, tef is a sweet-tasting grain, molasseslike in flavour. This taste provides its favour with Western consumers. In a recent clinical trial, researchers investigated whether the naturally gluten-free cereal is safe when used by celiac disease (CD) patients.

In March 2006, all 7,990 members of the Dutch Celiac Disease Society were invited to complete a questionnaire on celiac-symptom development after tef consumption. Thirty-six percent responded to the first questionnaire, of whom 53 per cent consumed tef and 15 per cent reported complaints. For the second questionnaire, out of the 1,828 participants willing to complete it, 1,545 had biopsy-proven CD. Of these, 66 per cent used tef and 17 per cent reported symptoms after consumption. The percentage for symptoms was significantly lower than that in patients without tef consumption. The take-home was that CD patients using tef reported a significant reduction in symptoms, possibly related to a reduction in gluten intake or to an increase in fibre intake.

Wheat

Wheat is the perennial whole-grain favourite for breads. Wheat is a generic term for a class of whole-grain varieties based around endosperm hardness, colour and season of growth.

A 2008 study from the United Kingdom investigated one of the most interesting fields of human health — the modulation of the intestinal flora (gut health). Epidemiological studies have shown an inverse association between whole-grain intake and chronic-disease risk. According to authors of the following trial, the relationship of whole grains and disease may be mediated by the prebiotic modulation of gut microbiota.

A double-blind, randomised, crossover study was carried out in 31 volunteers who consumed 48g/day breakfast cereals composed of either wheat germ or wheat bran in two three-week study periods, separated by a two-week washout period. The results demonstrated a significant increase in the numbers of faecal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli following wheat-germ ingestion compared with wheat bran. Additionally, both cereals led to a significant reduction in total cholesterol. No adverse intestinal symptoms were reported, and wheat-bran ingestion increased stool frequency.

 

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Young Vegetarians Could Be At Risk For Disordered Eating

Using the results of Project EAT-II: Eating Among Teens, researchers from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Texas, Austin, analyzed the diets, weight status, weight control behaviors, and drug and alcohol use of 2,516 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23. These participants had been part of Project EAT-I, an earlier survey of middle school and high school students from 31 Minnesota schools using in-class surveys, food frequency questionnaires, and anthropometric measures taken during the 1998-99 academic year.

Participants were identified as current (4.3%), former (10.8%), and never (84.9%) vegetarians. Subjects were divided into two cohorts, an adolescent (15-18) group and a young adult (19-23) group. They were questioned about binge eating and whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits. More extreme weight control behaviors including taking diet pills, inducing vomiting, using laxatives, and using diuretics were also measured.

The authors found that among the younger cohort, no statistically significant differences were found with regard to weight status. Among the older cohort, current vegetarians had a lower body mass index and were less likely to be overweight or obese when compared to never vegetarians.

Among the younger cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians reported engaging in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors when compared to never vegetarians. Among the older cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians reported engaging in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors when compared to current and never vegetarians.

In the younger cohort, a higher percentage of current and former vegetarians reported engaging in binge eating with loss of control when compared to never vegetarians. In the older cohort, a higher percentage of current vegetarians reported engaging in binge eating with loss of control when compared to former and never vegetarians.

Writing in the article, Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Assistant Professor, Nutrition Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, St. Joseph, MN, states, “Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”

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Disordered Eating May Affect up to 15 Percent of Women

Several maladaptive eating behaviors, beyond anorexia, can affect women. Indeed, some 10 to 15 percent of women have maladaptive eating behaviours and attitudes according to new study from the Université de Montréal and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

“Our results are disquieting,” says Lise Gauvin, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Social and Preventive Medicine. “Women are exposed to many contradictory messages. They are encouraged to lose weight yet also encouraged to eat for the simple pleasure of it.”

Some 1,501 women took part in the phone survey on eating disorders and disordered eating. Not one participant was classified as anorexic. The average age of these urban-dwelling participants was 31, the majority of respondents were non-smokers and university graduates.

Dr. Gauvin says the study sheds new light on binge eating and bulimia, which are characterized in part by excessive eating accompanied by feelings of having lost control. “About 13.7 percent of women interviewed for this study reported binge eating one to five days or one to seven times per month,” she says, noting 2.5 percent of women reported forcing themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or use diuretics to maintain their weight or shape.

The investigation also established a link between problematic eating behaviours and self-rated health. In other words, deviant eating behaviours are more likely to occur in women who perceived themselves to be in poor health.

Another finding of the study was that 28 percent of women complete intense exercise twice a month with the sole objective of losing weight or influencing. “We practice a sport for the pleasure it provides, to feel good, but when the activity is done to gain control over one's weight and figure, it is indicative of someone who could be excessively concerned about their weight,” says Dr. Gauvin. “Our data suggests that a proportion of the female population displays maladaptive eating patterns.”

This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

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Say No to Diet Soft Drinks

In previous research, scientists using information collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a long-term collection of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US, had found a link between sugar containing sodas and urinary protein. However, they did not collect data on any kidney function changes related to drinking sweetened sodas. So, in their second study, Dr. Lin and Dr. Curhan, decided to specifically check for any kidney function decline in women who drink sodas regularly. Once again, they used data from the Nurses' Health Study.

In a statement for the media, Dr. Lin reported they found “a significant two-fold increased odds, between two or more servings per day of artificially sweetened soda and faster kidney function decline; no relation between sugar-sweetened beverages and kidney function decline was noted.” Moreover, this association persisted even when the researchers accounted for age, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, physical activity, calorie intake, diabetes and cigarette smoking. Clearly, artificially sweetened sodas are detrimental to kidney health.

“There are currently limited data on the role of diet in kidney disease,” said Dr. Lin in a statement to the press. “While more study is needed, our research suggests that higher sodium and artificially sweetened soda intake are associated with greater rate of decline in kidney function.”

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