Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can Heart Disease Be Reversed?

On occasion.

In a landmark study, researchers from the University of Southern California School of Medicine tested and monitored 162 men with heart disease who had previously had a bypass.

The investigators first took arterial x-rays of the men's diseased blood vessels to gauge the extent of damage.  Then they gave half the men a low-fat diet plus two cholesterol-lowering drugs; the other half got jut the low-fat diet.  After two years, the researchers again took x-rays and compared them with the earlier ones.

The result?  In 16 percent of the diet-plus-drugs group, the amount of heart disease was visibly less.  In 2.4 percent of the diet-without-drugs group, the amount of heart disease was also visibly less.  Clearly, in some cases heart disease can be reversed.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chocolate May Stop Memory Loss, But It'll Take More Than You Can Chew

October 26, 2014
Shweta Iyer
If there weren’t enough reasons to eat chocolate already, here’s one more: Recent research suggests that the naturally occurring flavanols in cocoa reverse age-related memory loss in healthy older adults. The study, led by scientists at Columbia University Medical Center and Mars, Inc., was published Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

While forgetfulness is a reality of aging, it shouldn't be confused with the more debilitating dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Age-related memory loss is experienced by more than 40 percent of people over age 65. It starts in early adulthood, but its effects become more pronounced as age increases. As a result, a person begins to forget details from conversations they might have had the prior year, the names of acquaintances, or other random things. Meanwhile, dementia is more serious, causing destruction in the brain's components, causing memory to fail when it comes to more recent things, and even family names and events.
Age-related memory loss has been associated with a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is located in the hippocampus, and is responsible for the formation of new memories. According to the researchers, the study shows that age-related memory loss starts from this region of the brain, and that dietary intervention, with chocolate, may reverse it. Senior research Scott A. Small and his team tested this, specifically with the flavanols in cocoa.
Flavanols are bioactive compounds found naturally in vegetables and fruits. They're also found in abundance in green tea, and have been found to be beneficial to human health. Earlier research has found that cocoa flavanols have the potential to help maintain healthy brain function, and in mouse experiments, researchers have found they improve neuronal connections in the dentate gyrus.
While cocoa's flavanols have numerous health benefits, what we get in our regular cup of hot chocolate may be a watered-down version as most flavanols get removed from cocoa beans during processing. To maintain the flavanol levels in cocoa plants, chocolate company Mars created a cocoa-flavanol test drink prepared specifically for research purposes. They then gave it to 30 healthy volunteers ages 50 to 69 in two different doses: a high dose contained 900 milligrams of flavanols while a low dose contained 10 milligrams. For three months, participants consumed the drink daily.
Brain imaging and memory tests conducted before and after the diet showed surprising results. "When we imaged our research subjects' brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink," lead author Adam M. Brickman said in a statement.
The high-flavanol diet group performed exceedingly well in the memory tests. A participant who had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study had the memory of a 30- to 40-year-old at three months, Small said. But he also cautioned that these experiments do not mean chocolate should be consumed without control, because a person may still not reach the same levels of flavanol used in the experiments. Instead, younger people should boost their memory with exercise. Previous studies have shown a correlation between physical activity and a better functioning dentate gyrus, the researchers said.
Source: Yeung  L, Suzuki  W, Schroeter H, Wall  M, Small S, Brickman A. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience. 2014.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

With the cold season right around the corner, it is time to refresh ourselves on the difference between a cold and the flu.  Both can make you miserable.  But while the flu's worst symptoms typically last three to four days, colds hang on from seven to ten days.  Here are some other differences. 

     Symptoms                                      Cold                             Flu 
  • Fever                                           Rare                             High (102 -104) last 3-4 days.
  • Headache                                    Rare                             Prominent.
  • General aches and pain              Slight                            Usual; often quite severe
  • Fatigue and weakness                Quite mild.                    Extreme; can last 2-3 weeks.
  • Runny, stuffy nose                       Common                      Sometimes
  • Sneezing                                     Usual                            Sometimes
  • Sore thoat                                    Common                      Sometimes
  • Chest discomfort, cough              Mild to moderate          Common; can become severe
  • Complications                              Sinus congestion          Bronchitis, pneumonia;                                                                                                        or earache                     can be life-threatening

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Married Couples Gain Weight

Researchers studied 43 healthy couples between the ages of 24 to 61 who had been married for at least three years. They asked them to report their marital satisfaction, past mood disorders, and any depression symptoms they may have experienced. They fed them a 930-calorie breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage, and biscuits with gravy, totaling a staggering 60 grams of fat. Two hours later, couples were asked to discuss or try resolving an issue that created conflict. All arguments were videotaped, and every 20 minutes over a seven-hour period researchers measured how many calories they burned. Blood samples were also taken before and after the experiment to measure their glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels.

After arguing with their spouse, the person at risk of depression burned 118 fewer calories on average and had higher levels of insulin and spikes of fat in the blood, known as triglycerides. A year of marital problems and a history of depression converts to 12 extra pounds a year in weight gain. Participants with a history of mood disorder and a hostile marriage burned 31 fewer calories.
“Insulin stimulates food intake and the accumulation of fat tissue in the abdomen, and adding that on top of the lower energy expenditure creates a higher likelihood for obesity,” the study’s coauthor Martha Belury, a professor of human nutrition at the university said. “But it doesn’t stop there: Elevated triglycerides lead to heart disease. Along with high insulin, elevated triglycerides indicate metabolism of sugars and fats is impaired. These are hallmarks of increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.”

Triglycerides are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and obesity. Participants’ levels peaked and exceeded everyone else’s levels four hours after eating. The food was supposed to mimic the calorie and fat levels of a meal from McDonald’s or Burger King. It explains why people in lower income brackets, who argue about money more frequently, are also more prone to obesity. It’s an all-encompassing finding that connects many risk factors together to a specific population. Women with higher incomes are less likely to become obese than women with lower incomes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  They’re sacrificing their health for the argument, and depression propels the weight gain into dangerously high levels.

“Our results probably underestimate the health risks because the effects of only one meal were analyzed. Most people eat every four to five hours, and often dine with their spouses,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. “Meals provide prime opportunities for ongoing disagreements in a troubled marriage, so there could be a longstanding pattern of metabolic damage stemming from hostility and depression.”