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For April 23, 2019

  • Blueberries: An anti-aging boost for the body?
    Blueberries: An anti-aging boost for the body?

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A secret of youth may be as close as a nearby farm or the supermarket shelves: blueberries.

    Elderly rats fed the human equivalent of at least half a cup of blueberries a day improved in balance, coordination and short-term memory, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience said. A cup of blueberries is a normal serving.

    Like other fruits and vegetables, blueberries contain chemicals that act as antioxidants. Scientists believe antioxidants protect the body against "oxidative stress," one of several biological processes that cause aging.

    People "are told that once you're old, there's nothing you can do. That might not be true," said Barbara Shukitt-Hale, who co-authored the study at the Agriculture Department's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

    Improving balance and coordination

    Blueberries, strawberries and spinach all test high in their ability to subdue molecules called oxygen free radicals, which are created when cells convert oxygen into energy. In normal amounts, free radicals help rid the body of toxins, but they can also harm cell membranes and DNA, which results in cell deaths.

    The Tufts study said strawberry and spinach extract produced some improvement in memory, but only blueberry extract had a significant impact on balance and coordination.

    Other studies have suggested that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could prevent cancer and heart disease. Previous research by the Tufts scientists indicated that antioxidants slowed down the aging process in rats that started taking the dietary supplement at 6 months of age. Their latest study was the first to show antioxidants can actually reverse age-related declines, they said.

    The blueberry advantage

    They don't know why blueberries were more effective than strawberries and spinach or exactly how the chemicals work in the laboratory animals.

    "Fruits and vegetables in general are very good for you. That's without question ... It's another thing to know why," said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, who directs the neuroscience and neuropsychology program at the National Institute of Aging.

    Clinical trials need to be done to see whether humans could benefit, she said. The institute, which helped finance the Tufts research, already is sponsoring studies to test the effect of vitamin E, another antioxidant, aspirin and B vitamins on the mental processes of older women.

    The rats used in the Tufts study were 19 months old, the equivalent of 65 to 70 years in humans.

    Mice and mazes

    They begin losing motor skills at 12 months. By 19 months, the time it takes a rat to walk a narrow rod before losing its balance drops from 13 seconds to 5 seconds. After eating daily doses of blueberry extract for eight weeks, the rats could stay on the rod for an average of 11 seconds.

    They also performed better in negotiating mazes, as did those fed strawberry and spinach extracts, which signals improved short-term memory. But the subjects on the strawberry and spinach diet were no better at staying on the rod than rats who got no fruit extract.

    The scientists believe the antioxidants improve cell membranes so that important nutrients and chemicals can flow through more easily.

    James Joseph, one of the Tufts scientists, starts his day by mixing a handful of berries in a protein drink. "Motor behavior is one of the first things to go as you age," he said.

  • Chiropractic: Does it Work?
    Chiropractic: Does it Work?

    Experts Say Yes

    (MSNBC Health, 6 October 1999) � Despite a spell of negative publicity for chiropractic medicine, the practice has never been more popular: The number of chiropractic visits per capita has doubled in the past 20 years. Do chiropractors offer more than just a good back rub? Experts say yes.

    WITHOUT AN ACCIDENT or unusual exertion to explain it, two years ago Debra Levy, then 32, suddenly found herself immobilized by excruciating pain in her lower back. Muscle relaxants were prescribed but didn�t help. A few days later the pain was so severe she was taken from her home by ambulance and hospitalized overnight.

    X-rays showed inflammation but no bulging discs or other structural abnormalities, and physicians sent her home with stronger painkillers and instructions to rest and wait for the situation to improve. Levy spent most of the time flat on her back; when she walked at all, her body was contorted into an L-shape. Then, with her physician�s support, Levy began to see chiropractor Linda S. Squires, president of Amethyst Chiropractic in Brookline, Mass. There, Squires readjusted her spine and pelvis, massaged the muscles to help release spasms and gave Levy careful instructions on stretching her muscles and using her back properly.

    �Instead of waiting for the inflammation to dissipate and the spasms to let go, we manually work the muscles and adjust the spine and pelvis so there is a quicker recovery time,� says Squires. �Then we lessen the frequency of treatments and try to move people to independence.� Levy says the approach got her out of bed and quickly back to work as a youth manager for the AIDS Action Committee of Boston.

    �She took me from a crisis stage � having this unknown painful awful problem � and explained what was wrong. Learning small things, like how to sit and get up safely, made me feel more in control of my healing,� says Levy. After about a month of regular adjustments, Levy�s visits tapered off, and within a few months she was able to enjoy a long-planned kayaking trip to Mexico. Now, Levy recognizes early signs of trouble and returns to Squires for occasional adjustments and advice � most recently, after adopting a baby and having a back flare-up before she learned the proper mechanics for lifting and changing the infant.

    Levy�s experience illustrates why chiropractic is so popular: It is usually used for neuromuscular conditions where evidence is most solid and no treatment option works perfectly. While there�s little evidence supporting the use of chiropractic for conditions like asthma or stomach troubles, experts say studies show the discipline does offer relief � especially to patients with back pain, sore necks and headaches. Though it�s unclear just how chiropractic works, one theory holds that it mobilizes the spinal joints to improve the function of the nerves exiting the spine at different levels.


    Several years ago, the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research concluded that chiropractic care is effective in the first month of low back symptoms. And Americans are paying attention. One in six U.S. adults uses chiropractic services, according to a survey of 1,500 adults commissioned by Landmark Health, Inc., of Sacramento, Calif. About 38 percent of these patients seek care for low back pain, according to an American Chiropractic Association survey.

    What are chiropractors?

    And what do they do?

    • Chiropractors specialize in the treatment of the musculo-skeletal system. Classic chiropractic treatment involves manipulation of the bones and joints, primarily of the spine.
    • They may also use massage or other techniques to loosen tight muscles.
    • In addition, chiropractors often suggest exercises or educational materials on proper ergonomics to help a patient safely return to normal activities as soon as possible.

    �The preponderance of the evidence strongly suggests that for acute lower back pain, without evidence of neurologic deficit, the treatment of choice is spinal manipulation,� says John J. Triano, a chiropractor and co-director of conservative medicine at the Texas Back Institute in Plano. If low back pain is accompanied by worsening leg weakness, spreading numbness or loss of bowel or bladder control, however, patients should seek prompt evaluation by a physician, says Triano.

    �The other major consensus is that if someone goes to a chiropractor and feels no better after 10 to 12 treatments, then additional treatment of the same time will probably not be of great benefit. If you�re not better after four to six weeks, there�s no point in flogging a dead horse and going with the same type of treatment � and that is also true of acupuncture, medication or whatever you decide to try,� says Dr. Scott Haldeman, a clinical professor of neurology at the University of California-Irvine and a specialist in spinal problems.

    At the Texas Back Institute, having a range of professionals working together makes it easier to identify treatments that are failing and switch patients to something else, says Triano, who receives five calls a month from orthopedists and chiropractors hoping to establish similar relationships. However, Triano cautions that a one-time cure for low back problems is unrealistic. Like Levy, most people will experience a periodic return of symptoms � on average having their second episode about seven months after the first.

    �Studies are beginning to provide strong evidence that manipulation can relieve symptoms and restore function faster in people with chronic back problems. But probably the most bang for the buck is for people with back problems to make lifestyle changes and become very physically fit,� says Triano.


    More than one in four people who see chiropractors are seeking relief from neck pain, whether it stems from an injury or from daily misuse and bad posture � say, sitting for hours in front of a computer screen or using the neck to cradle the telephone. In general, the medical model has not been successful in addressing neck pain, according to Triano.

    �Whether you see a chiropractor, an orthopedist or a neurologist, there is no good system to pinpoint the specific pain-generating tissue and provide a specific treatment for neck pain, unless there is severe trauma with obvious dislocations or fractures,� says Triano. �At this point, the evidence shows that manipulative procedures are worth the effort, but if you are not responding well after two to four weeks, it is probably not the right treatment.�

    Choosing a Chiropractor

    Dr. Scott Haldeman, a clinical professor of neurology at the University of California-Irvine and a specialist in spinal problems, offers these tips:

    • Be careful, as you would with any physician, not to go to someone with claims that exceed logic.
    • Expect a thorough physical examination before treatment.
    • Expect a reasonable and understandable explanation of what the chiropractor thinks is wrong and what you can expect from the treatment.

    The most common acute cause of neck pain is whiplash � the term used for the painful symptoms created when a sudden insult, such as a rear-end collision, forces neck structures to extend past their normal range of motion. �The amount of data is not as strong as for low back pain, but a recent coalition in Quebec felt that chiropractic is a reasonable option in the treatment of whiplash,� says Haldeman.

    Immediately after a whiplash, patients generally do better if they are encouraged to move their necks gently and return to normal activities as quickly as their pain will permit, says Triano, who reserves the use of collars to those patients with severe bruising and soft-tissue damage. Whether manipulation soon after an injury helps is debatable. One study, described in a RAND corporation analysis, found that manipulation resulted in immediate improvement. But one week later, it was no better than encouraging patients to move their necks.

    �Manipulation is probably most effective in subacute neck pain, when the patient is over the initial injury but the neck is still subject to muscle spasms, limited range of motion and �locking up,�� comments Haldeman.


    About 14 percent of chiropractic patients are looking for headache relief, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Recently, researchers at the Northwestern College of Chiropractic in Bloomington, Minn., compared the use of spinal manipulation against daily treatment with amitriptyline � a tricyclic antidepressant used in the preventive therapy of both chronic tension and migraine headache. In their study of 218 patients with frequent migraine (at least four episodes per month), scores derived from patients� daily headache pain diaries improved between 40 and 50 percent over the four-week treatment period, whether the treatment was twice-weekly chiropractic adjustments, amitriptyline or both.

    However, four weeks after the treatments were stopped, those in the chiropractic group retained the benefits, while those in the amitriptyline and combined groups lost about half of their improvement, according to a report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. �The results were virtually identical to a similar study, without the combination group, that we conducted with tension headache,� says lead author Craig F. Nelson, a chiropractic and clinical researcher at the Northwestern College of Chiropractic.

    �I would caution that overaggressive manipulation of the neck can actually make migraine worse. However, less vigorous manipulative techniques, especially when combined with an active exercise program, can be beneficial for many migraine sufferers,� says Frederick G. Freitag, a chiropractic and associate director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago.

    Red Flags

    While there are many benefits to manipulation, there are some situations in which the technique should be avoided, such as if a patient has:

    • Acute severe injuries
    • A fracture
    • Cancer
    • A tumor or softening of the bone, unless cancer has been ruled out
    • Severe rheumatoid arthritis
    • Tuberculosis
    • Severe spinal infection

    The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research; Dr. Scott Haldeman

    Whatever treatments they use for migraine, patients should work with health care providers to identify the triggers that provoke their headaches, and avoid the daily or almost daily use of pain relievers, which can result in rebound headaches, says Nelson. �It�s unrealistic that there will ever be a single gold-standard treatment for chronic headaches. There are probably several dozen treatments, including medication, chiropractic and others, that can be effective � but for a given individual it is not clear which is likely to be the best. Whatever the treatment is, the patient should expect a good result. After four to six weeks, move on if the results and the side effects are not acceptable,� concludes Nelson.

    �Some patients do have postural or mechanical factors that contribute to their headache situation. In that kind of patient, it can occasionally be useful to use manipulative therapies such as chiropractic or physical therapy, along with exercise conditioning programs or postural retraining programs to address the underlying problem,� says Freitag.

    Although some chiropractors tout the technique�s benefit in asthma, menstrual distress, recurrent ear infections and gastrointestinal symptoms, only a small percentage of its patients are seeking treatment for conditions without a clear musculo-skeletal component. Given the state of the existing research evidence, that makes sense, says Nelson.

    �I think it�s fair to say that chiropractors are trained to evaluate and manage neuro-musculo-skeletal disorders conservatively and to know when conservative treatment is no longer appropriate,� Nelson says.

  • Stress management.
    Stress management.

    When you're in stressful situations, be they physical, mental, or emotional, your adrenal glands secrete special hormones to help you through the stress. These hormones include epinephrine (also called adrenaline), norepinephrine, and cortisol. They prepare your body to handle stress by speeding up the heart to increase cardiac output, constricting blood vessels to the gut while enlarging those to the muscles, and dilating pupils dilate to give us a better look at whatever we're confronting. They stimulate the liver to release its glucose stores for quick energy. Fat depots are induced to liberate free fatty acids for fuel. Stress hormone release produces a heightened state of awareness which helps us think more clearly and quickly.

    The good thing about these hormones is the way they prepare the body to run away from danger. The potential bad effect is that many normal body functions are subverted in order to meet the demands of flight. Under stress, the body requires extra energy in order to meet these demands. Amino acids that are supposed to be used for tissue growth and repair can be burned as one source of energy.

    If the stress is emotional rather as well as physical, you have a medical time bomb. With constant stress, there is a constant perversion or re-routing of amino acids. Instead of supplying fresh material to grow hair, make antibodies, and rebuild heart muscle, amino acids are removed from tissues, travel to the liver, then go to muscles to be burned up as flight fuel.

    A heart attack in someone under constant stress is more likely to be lethal. Invading bacteria from a cut are less likely to be mopped up by the white blood cells. The immune system is less hardy. Muscle wasting is more likely. People, training hard for athletics, are more likely to tip over into the overtraining syndrome.

    What we need is a drug that will encourage our adrenal glands to make more stress hormone when we really need them, but none for the routine occurrences that we perceive as stressful. You will be pleased to know that such a drug is available although it has not been sanctioned by the American Medical Association, released by the Food and Drug Administration, or approved by the surgeon general. The drug is called exercise and you don't need anyone's permission to use it.

  • Study: Foods rich in vitamin E offer some lung cancer protection
    Study: Foods rich in vitamin E offer some lung cancer protection

    WASHINGTON (AP) - A diet rich in vitamin E foods such as nuts and whole grains can lower the risk of lung cancer among smokers by about 20 percent, a new study says.

    In the study of more than 29,000 male smokers in Finland, researchers found that those who had high blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, the main form of vitamin E, reduced their incidence of lung cancer by 19 percent to 23 percent.

    The benefits were most dramatic, the study found, among men under age 60 and among light smokers who had been using cigarettes for less than 40 years. The reduction in lung cancer risk in these groups was from 40 percent to 50 percent.

    But despite the encouraging finding, said Dr. Demetrius Albanes of the National Cancer Institute, the most beneficial health action smokers can take is still the same: Stop smoking.

    "We have to emphasize that not only for lung cancer, but for oral cancer, pancreas cancer, kidney cancer and a bunch of other cancers, stopping smoking is crucial," said Albanes, the senior author of the study being published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

    In the study, which lasted for almost eight years, researchers took periodic blood samples to measure the levels of alpha-tocopherol, the most active form of vitamin E in humans. The levels of alpha-tocopherol were then linked to health outcomes among the men in the study. There were 1,144 cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the group during the study.

    The lung cancer rate reduced among men with the highest levels of alpha-tocopherol, said Albanes, and the cancer protection was most pronounced among men with the shortest history of smoking who also had high vitamin E levels.

    Although the new study involved only smokers and lung cancer, earlier studies have shown that healthy levels of vitamin E give some protection against heart disease, stroke and some other types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.

    Albanes said the proven benefits came only from a balanced diet that included food rich in vitamin E, he said. The researchers drew no conclusions about the effect of vitamin pills taken by some of the men in the study.

    In effect, he said the proven benefits of vitamin E come from eating the right foods, not from popping vitamin pills.

    "We need more studies to compare supplements with natural diet sources of vitamin E," he said, noting that there are still uncertainties about the comparative value of vitamin pills vs. nutrients absorbed naturally from foods.

    For instance, some studies have shown that beta carotene, an antioxidant found in foods such as carrots, can help prevent some forms of cancer. Yet, when beta carotene pills were given to the group of Finnish smokers, the rate of lung cancer actually increased by 16 percent.

    Albanes said that vitamin E-rich foods include soybean oil and other seed oils; nuts, particularly almonds, filberts, hazelnuts and walnuts, sunflower seeds and whole grains, including wheat germ.

  • The importance of stretching before a run.
    The importance of stretching before a run.

    It's always a good idea to begin any aerobic workout, especially a run, with a light bout of walking or light jogging to allow muscles, tendons and other tissues to warm up gradually. Some fitness experts believe that's all you need to do to prepare for a workout--that stretching serves no useful purpose. However, limited joint mobility can predispose you to injury and taking a few minutes to increase flexibility in muscle groups that might be overused cannot hurt. In fact, Research by Peter and Lorna Francis support the use of appropriate flexibility exercise before and after a walking or jogging workout.

    There are several types of stretching but they can be placed into two main categories: passive stretching and active stretching. During a passive stretch, the elastic components of the muscle are usually relaxed, and the portion of muscle most likely to be loaded is the connective tissue. The static stretch method is an excellent example of passive stretching. Active stretching has greater effects on the elastic components of the joints. It requires muscle contraction through a range of motion and prepares the muscles, tendons and joints for the functional activities at hand.

    Regardless of which stretch you choose to use resist the temptation to rush through the stretching phase of your warm up. Stretches performed improperly and in haste are of little value.

  • The anti-aging effects of blueberries
    The anti-aging effects of blueberries

    The secret to eternal youth may already be atop your cereal. A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that eating blueberries can reverse age-related loss of memory and motor skills. Nineteen-month-old rats (equivalent in age to 65-year-old humans) that were fed strawberry or spinach or blueberry extracts -- foods high in antioxidants -- all showed improved memory, but rats that ate the blueberry extract regained balance and coordination as well. This discovery comes on the heels of earlier findings that antioxidant-rich foods can prevent neurological degeneration associated with aging.

    Blueberries, like the other foods tested, contain flavonoids, potent antioxidants which are believed to reduce free-radical damage, but researchers are uncertain of what it is that makes the berries in particular so effective. Regardless, says the study's lead author, Dr. James A. Joseph, "nothing bad has happened from eating blue-berries, and nobody's ever OD'd."

    From Mensjournal.com by Emma Sussman Starr

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