Study: Vitamin B May Fend Off Alzheimer's
A large daily dose of vitamin B may delay the rate at which the brain shrinks in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, a new study suggests. More than 150 people with MCI were involved in the two-year clinical trial, described Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One. Roughly half of the participants took a daily pill comprised of high levels of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid, while the other group took placebos. Those in the vitamin group experienced brain shrinkage at a rate of 0.76 percent a year, on average, compared to 1.08 percent for the placebo group. The vitamins contained 300 times the recommended daily intake of B12, 15 times the recommended B6 intake, and four times the recommended folate intake. Certain B vitamins have been shown to reduce the body's amount of the amino acid homocysteine, high levels of which have been linked to the development of Alzheimer's. "This is a very dramatic and striking result. It's much more than we could have predicted," study coauthor David Smith told Reuters. "It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay development of Alzheimer's in many people who suffer from mild memory problems." MCI, which causes memory loss and inhibited mental functioning, affects about 16 percent of people over 70. Half of those diagnosed will develop Alzheimer's within five years, Reuters reports.
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Cancer Prevention: Rethink Your Diet as Well as Your Smoking
If everyone were to quit smoking today, nearly 450,000 fewer Americans would die annually from smoking-related diseases, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. Yet even with all the smoking bans across the country, one in five Americans still lights up regularly—a rate that's plateaued since 2005 after four decades of decline, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the smoking-lung cancer connection is an old story, every week, it seems, another headline tells you what you should or shouldn't eat to avert the "big C". Eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables to ward off lung cancer, says one recent study; avoid soft drinks if you don't want to die of pancreatic cancer, warns another. Wine is good for your heart, but may increase your risk of breast cancer, others suggest.
And who wouldn't be willing to give up the Diet Coke or chardonnay to sidestep the disease we fear most? It you took action based on research published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, you might find yourself forgoing hamburgers and chicken wings and embracing soy burgers, tofu, and peanut butter instead. That study found that an Atkins-style diet that emphasized vegetable protein over animal protein lowered the risk of cancer. But all things considered, how much do dietary changes really matter in terms of cancer prevention? "Right after smoking, diet ranks right up there as the No. 2 modifiable risk factor," says Demetrius Albanes, a senior investigator and medical epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute. "Twenty-five percent of cancers can be related back to eating practices." Does that mean we really need to avoid soft drinks if we don't want to get pancreatic cancer, as was suggested by a recent study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention? "I don't think we can say that," Albanes says. "That particular study from Singapore didn't control very well for smoking, which is an important risk factor for pancreatic cancer." In other words, it could be that those who down daily six-packs of Fanta are also more likely to light up. [Read more: Cancer Prevention: Rethink Your Diet as Well as Your Smoking.]
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3 Ways to Reduce the Health Risks of Nonstick Chemical PFOA
Children exposed to a chemical used to make nonstick pans, anti-stain fabric coatings, and microwave popcorn bags have higher levels of bad cholesterol than kids who haven't been exposed, according to new research that casts further suspicion on these common products.
The fluorine-based nonstick chemical PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was developed by the company DuPont more than 50 years ago and is what makes Teflon and other nonstick pans so slippery. But scientists have since become concerned that PFOA contributes to long-term health problems, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute. A study published this week in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that children and teenagers with PFOA in their blood serum had higher total cholesterol levels and higher levels of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, than children who were not exposed. To reduce the health risks, use stainless steel or cast-iron pans instead of nonstick, don't buy furniture or carpets with stain-repellent finishes, and cook popcorn on the stove the old-fashioned way, rather than in microwaveable bags. [Read more: 3 Ways to Reduce the Health Risks of Nonstick Chemical PFOA.]
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