Cocoa may help keep brain healthy
When the weather starts to cool down later this year, don’t feel guilty about drinking an extra cup of hot chocolate. You could be doing your brain a favor. New research from Harvard Medical School says that drinking two cups of hot chocolate can help keep the brains of older adults healthy and sharp. The research also suggests chocolate could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as it promotes blood flow in the brain.
In this study, 50 participants – average age of 73, and none with dementia–were asked to drink two cups of hot cocoa a day for 30 days and avoid all other chocolates. They were given memory and thinking tests, and had ultrasounds to measure the amount of blood flow within the brain during these exams. The results found that, of the 60 participants, 18 had impaired blood flow at the start of the study. By the end, those people saw an 8.3 percent improvement in blood flow in the areas of the brain engaged by taking the exams–though there was no improvement in those who started out with normal blood flow. Test scores also improved with the introduction of hot cocoa.
While the results may be exciting for the chocoholics out there, the researchers acknowledge that more research is needed.
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Sourced from: Science Daily, Chocolate May Help Keep Brain Healthy
Diet of pregnant women often contains toxins
While most pregnant women know they should avoid certain foods and drinks, many continue to consume things that may not seem unhealthy, but could contain toxins that might harm their babies. Scientists from the University of California in Riverside and San Diego say their research, which primarily focused on pregnant Hispanic women, found that many continued to eat tuna, salmon and a number of canned foods and over-the-counter medications that could cause birth defects.
In this study, researchers observed 200 pregnant and recently pregnant women aged between 18 and 40 years old. Hispanic women represented 87 percent of those surveyed. The women filled out food questionnaires about what they ate, which beverages they drank and any OTC medications they took during pregnancy. Nearly all of the women ate meat, three-quarters ate fish, and only one-third ate more than one serving of fresh fruit per day. The study also found that three-quarters ate canned foods, 12 percent consumed tap water, 80 percent reported drinking caffeine, and half took over-the-counter medication at least once and prescription medications at least once.
The scientists were concerned with the results: Tuna, salmon, canned goods, sugary desserts, fast foods, tap water, caffeine and alcohol have all been deemed unhealthy during pregnancy due to environmental toxins that could hurt the offspring. They noted that health care providers need to do a better job of alerting pregnant women about the potential risks of certain foods and drinks.
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Sourced from: Science Daily, Diets of Pregnant Women Contain Harmful, Hidden Toxins
Why don’t we all get Alzheimer’s?
Conventional wisdom has it that people who develop Alzheimer’s disease have certain characteristics in their brains that causes cognitive deterioration. But, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, we all have the building blocks of the disease in our brains. It just takes a chain of events to occur within the brain to trigger the condition.
The researchers found that when a specific protein and enzyme combine, progressive cell generation and death occurs–common characteristics of Alzheimer’s. The process was described as being like keeping gunpowder and a match separate–when combined, there’s an explosion.
The researchers hope the discovery of this key to the development of Alzheimer’s can provide more insight into how the disease progresses and how it can be treated and, hopefully prevented. Currently, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to triple by 2050.
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Sourced from: Science Daily, Why Don’t We All Get Alzheimer’s Disease?
Breastfeeding can reduce Alzheimer's risk
A study from the University of Cambridge has concluded that the biological effects of breastfeeding may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. When a woman is pregnant, her insulin tolerance can be reduced, a characteristic that is also present in Alzheimer’s. However, breastfeeding is known to restore insulin tolerance and that may provide insight into fighting Alzheimer’s. While previous studies had established that breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of developing some diseases, this is the first to link nursing and risk of cognitive decline later in life.
For this study, the authors interviewed 81 British women aged 70 to 100. Some women had Alzheimer’s and some did not, and the women were asked about their reproductive histories, including experiences with breastfeeding. Despite the small number of patients analyzed, there was a clear link between breastfeeding and Alzheimer’s. When controlled for other potential variables, women who breastfed showed a reduced risk of the cognitive disease. The study also found that longer breastfeeding history was associated with lowered risk, and women who had a higher ratio of total months pregnant to total months breastfeeding over the course of their lives had a higher Alzheimer’s risk.
One theory is that breastfeeding deprives the body of the hormone progesterone, compensating for high levels of progesterone which are produced during pregnancy. Progesterone is known to desensitize the brain’s oestrogen receptors, and oestrogen may play a role in protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s.
Another possibility is that breastfeeding increases a woman’s glucose tolerance by restoring her insulin sensitivity after pregnancy.
Despite the findings, the trends were less pronounced when the patient had a family history of dementia.
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Sourced from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130805113422.htm, Breastfeeding May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk