Maybe a Bowl for Dinner, Too
Regular consumption of whole-grain breakfast cereal cuts the risk of heart failure, according to data on more than 21,000 participants in the Physicians' Health Study, who were followed for almost 20 years. Compared with those who ate no whole-grain cereal, men who had two to six servings per week saw their risk of heart failure, in which the heart progressively loses its ability to pump blood, fall by 21 percent; those who ate seven or more servings reaped a 29 percent reduction in risk. That effect is due, in part, to the high levels of magnesium, potassium, and fiber in those breakfast cereals, said study coauthor Luc Djousse, an associate in epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Fiber increases cells' sensitivity to insulin, thus reducing the risk of diabetes, while potassium and magnesium lower blood pressure. The study included only men, but there is "no reason at all" that the results shouldn't apply to women, Djousse said. -HealthDay
Weepy? You Might Need Sleep
Here's why sleepless nights leave people feeling unhinged: The brain seems to lose its capacity for reasoning when faced with threats. University of California-Berkeley researchers divided 26 volunteers into two groups; one got eight hours of sleep while the other stayed awake for 35 hours. When both were shown disturbing images (mutilated bodies, for example), brain scans revealed that the emotion-regulating amygdalas of the sleep-starved became hyperreactive and those of the well-rested didn't. What's more, the unusual brain patterns were similar to those seen in patients with psychiatric disorders. "It may be sleep abnormalities that cause psychological conditions rather than psychological conditions causing sleep problems," says Matthew Walker, director of Berkeley's sleep and neuroimaging lab and senior author of the study in last week's Current Biology. -Lindsay Lyon
Happier, Perhaps, but Not Protected
Optimism and good cheer may make a cancer patient's time more pleasant, but they won't provide more of it. That's the conclusion of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, based on the experiences of about 1,100 patients with head and neck cancers—particularly lethal forms of the illness. Each filled out a quality-of-life questionnaire and was evaluated for emotional well-being at the study's onset. Approximately nine years later, some 60 percent had died, and their emotional state appeared to be virtually irrelevant. "We wanted to preserve any possibility" that there might be an effect on survival of support groups or therapy, say, notes lead author James Coyne. "But there wasn't." -L.L.