HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

March 2010

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Acai May Lower Cholesterol

Açai, a tiny berry from the Brazilian rainforest, has made a big splash as the world’s latest superfruit based on its antioxidant properties. Now a study from this fruit’s homeland suggests that açai may help reduce your chances of developing high cholesterol.

Researchers from the Federal University of Ouro Preto, in the southeastern part of the country, divided female rats among four groups. One ate a standard diet while another ate a high-fat diet.

The other two also ate regular and high-fat diets; in addition, they received açai pulp.
After six weeks levels of HDL—the “good” cholesterol that helps clear arteries—went down in the rats on the high-fat diet, while levels of total and non-HDL cholesterol rose. However, this
cholesterol pattern was moderated in the rats who ate an açai-enhanced high-fat diet. “These results suggest that the consumption of açai improves antioxidant status and has a hypocholesterolemic [cholesterol-lowering] effect,” wrote the research team.
Nutrition online 1/10/10

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U P D A T E

A New Sore Throat Threat

In “Going for the Throat” (October 2009), we learned that the most common reason for a sore throat is upper respiratory infection. Some, like colds and flus, are viral in nature. Other infections are caused by bacteria, including streptococcal (strep) bacteria, some strains of which can cause a serious illness called rheumatic fever.

Now there is a new reason to guard your—and your children’s—immunity. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Fusobac­terium necrophorum is linked to a rare but life-threatening complication known as Lemierre syndrome, in which the jugular vein becomes infected. Those at the highest risk are people between the ages of 15 and 24. “The risk of Lemierre syndrome exceeds the risk of rheumatic fever,” says lead author Robert Centor, MD of the University of Alabama at Birm­ingham.

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Future MDs Favor
Alternative Medicine

77%

Medical students who agree that patients benefit from having alt med-savvy doctors

 

74%

Those who agree that combining conventional and alternative medicine practices together
would be the most effective system

 

49%

Those who have used alternative treatments themselves

(Source: University of California survey of
1,770 medical students nationwide)

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U P D A T E

Excessive Night Light
Linked to Depression

In “Preserving the Night” (Earth Matters, November/December 2009), we saw how too much nighttime light (also known as light pollution) can play havoc with wildlife by affecting their migration, reproduction and feeding patterns. We learned that light pollution can affect humans as well by upsetting the body’s ability to regulate melatonin, the hormone responsible for our sleep/wake cycles.

A new study suggests that excessive light at night may also contribute to depression. Researchers at Ohio State University found that mice kept in a room lit 24 hours a day showed depressive symptoms. However, mice kept in lighted rooms who could escape to dark tubes in their cages showed no more signs of depression than mice in rooms that were darkened for eight hours a day. The study results were published in Behavioural Brain Research (12/28/09).

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Vitamin E: Post-Stroke
Brain Booster?

Vitamin E, best known as the body’s primary dietary fat-based antioxidant, may help keep nerve cells in the brain from dying after a stroke.

Like other vitamins, E comes in several different forms. Scientists at Ohio State University found that a type called alpha-tocotrienol was able to inhibit an enzyme from releasing fatty acids that destroy brain cells, in this case those taken from mice. The enzyme, known as cPLA2, becomes
activated after a stroke occurs.

“What we have here is a naturally derived nutrient, rather than a drug, that provides this beneficial impact,” says study lead author Chandan Sen, PhD, deputy director of OSU’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry.
Journal of Neurochemistry online 12/17/09

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CALENDAR

National Sleep Awareness Week
March 7-13

THE IDEA: To promote the importance of getting a good night’s shuteye and to urge action on drowsy driving and other public health issues related to sleep

SPONSORED BY: National Sleep Foundation

ACTIVITIES: Begins with the announcement of the foundation’s annual Sleep in America poll and ends with the switch to Daylight Savings Time; includes the Sleep Health & Safety 2010 conference and Sleep Care Leadership Summit, along with local events

CONTACT: www.sleepfoundation.org, 202-347-3471

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Controlling Glucose with Tai Chi

The gentle motions of tai chi have shown an ability to help people with diabetes better control their blood sugar levels.

Researchers from the University of Florida and their colleagues at three South Korean universities enrolled 62 Korean participants, all with diabetes, in a six-month study. Half of the group took part in tai chi classes once a week and practiced at home three times a week; the other half served as a control group.

The people who practiced tai chi had lower levels of both blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a measure of diabetes control, at the end of the study. They also reported feeling
less depressed and more energetic, according to a report published recently in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Exercising regularly is a standard diabetes recommendation. Tai chi is helpful because it doesn’t create undue stress on joints.

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