Walking Six Miles a Week May Prevent Brain Shrinkage
Walking may ward off dementia and mental decline, new research suggests. Older people who walk about six miles a week have more brain tissue in key areas than those who walk less, helping maintain memory and cognitive function, according to a study published Wednesday in Neurology. The researchers initially asked nearly 300 healthy volunteers ages 70 to 90 to record how many blocks they walked in a week. Nine years later, they took high-resolution brain scans of the group and found that the more the participants walked at the beginning of the study, the greater their brain volume. On further followup four years later, cognitive testing showed that those who walked six to nine miles a week had half the risk of developing memory problems, Reuters reports. Brain size tends to shrink in late adulthood, which is thought to lead to memory problems. "If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative," the study authors wrote in a news release.
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A School Nutrition Experiment: Junk Food Carrots
Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Syracuse, N.Y.—or F-M, as everybody calls it—and Mason High School in Cincinnati are the designated launch sites for the first phase of a proposed $25 million "Eat 'Em Like Junk Food" campaign intended to give baby carrots a big bite out of vending-machine sales. Facebook and Twitter pages have been created, a video game has rolled out, and a commercial featuring a busty redhead lusting after "baby carrots, baby" is airing in both cities. But the real grab-the-customer hook is the junk-food packaging—crinkly, eye-catching, Doritos-type bags, U.S. News's Hanna Dubansky reports.
"We want people to consider baby carrots a regular snack," Bolthouse Farms CEO Jeffrey Dunn, the force behind the campaign, told the Syracuse Post-Standard at the unveiling of F-M's carrot vending machine. Headquartered in Bakersfield, Calif., Bolthouse owns fully half of the baby carrot market. "[We] thought we'd use some of the emotional imagery the junk food industry uses and take a page out of their book."
And why not? A study published last month in the journal Pediatrics found that presented with samples of graham crackers, gummy fruit snacks, and baby carrots, 50 percent of 4- to 6-year-olds said that any of the foods from a package adorned with a cartoon tasted better than the same food out of a plain package. But would the same trick work on a tougher crowd of marketing-savvy high-schoolers at my old stomping ground? [Read more: A School Nutrition Experiment: Junk Food Carrots.]
Jaundice May Increase Risk of Autism, Developmental Problems
Newborns diagnosed with jaundice may have a higher risk of developing a mild form of autism in childhood, new research suggests, a finding that could provide new clues on the causes of autism, which affects as many as 1 in every 110 children born in the United States.
Jaundice, a yellowing of eyes and skin, is common in newborns, and usually goes away on its own within a week after birth, writes U.S. News correspondent Nancy Shute. It's caused by the buildup of bilirubin, a substance normally produced by the body as it breaks down unneeded red blood cells. But too much bilirubin not only leads to jaundice, it can be toxic to neurons, causing cerebral palsy, deafness, and brain damage. So it makes sense that jaundice, and bilirubin, could also be involved in autism spectrum disorders.
Jaundice has been suspected in autism before, but it hasn't been the subject of much research. This new study is huge—based on the medical records of 733,826 children, all born in Denmark. A gigantic population like that makes it easier for the scientists to study small effects. They found that children who got jaundice soon after birth were 56 percent more likely to be diagnosed with "pervasive developmental disorder," a mild form of autism, and nearly twice as likely to have any form of psychological developmental disorder in childhood. [Read more: Jaundice May Increase Risk of Autism, Developmental Problems.]
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