Fit Body at 40 May Keep Brain Bright at 60

What You Need to Know: People who are fit in their 40s seem to retain more brain volume two decades later and also perform better on decision-making tests.

The Study:

  • Just over 1,270 people underwent exercise treadmill testing in the 1970s, when their average age was 41. In their 60s, the participants underwent MRI brain scans and mental performance tests.
  • Those at midlife who had experienced a greater increase in heart rate or diastolic blood pressure after a few minutes of low-intensity exercise on a treadmill — signs of lower fitness levels — had smaller brain volumes later in life. Higher heart rate and blood pressure during exercise are indications of lower overall fitness levels and can also damage small blood vessels in the brain, the study authors explained.
  • Similarly, those with larger increases in blood pressure levels during low-intensity exercise performed worse on a mental (“cognition”) test of decision-making ability in their 60s.

Every 7.1 mm Hg rise in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a reading) and additional 8.3 beats per minute in heart rate over participants’ resting levels were equated with an additional half-year of brain aging.

“In elderly individuals, improvements in fitness have been shown to prevent brain aging over the short-term. But it has not been clear whether fitness throughout adulthood has an impact on brain aging. In particular, it has not been clear how longstanding (or short-lived) an impact midlife fitness might have on late-life cognition.”

Dr. Joseph Masdeu, director of neuroimaging and the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute in Texas, praised the study’s design, because data was collected over decades and not subject to misreporting of personal fitness levels. He and Spartano agreed that factors other than fitness may have influenced the findings, and that those with better diets and other lifestyle habits may also be more likely to experience better brain health at older ages.

“This study cannot prove causality, because it’s possible that people with brain changes making them more likely to get Alzheimer’s are going to be less prone to exercising,” Masdeu said. “You can’t prove that exercise is what did it.”

Spartano said she could not recommend an optimal level of fitness to achieve better brain aging based on the study results. But, people should strive for exercise “that will get the heart pumping every day,” Masdeu suggested.

“It’s hard to give a quantified amount of exercise,” he acknowledged. “We are not telling people to run marathons. It’s a good idea to do some aerobic exercise that gets the heart pumping, such as half an hour of walking every day, or going up several fl

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: http://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/misc-fitness-health-news-312/fit-body-at-40-keeps-brain-bright-at-60-study-697117.html

New Study: A 10-Second Kiss Transfers 80 Million Bacteria!

What You Need to Know: Pucker up and say “ugh:” Just one kiss from your partner can send a whole lot of bacteria to your mouth, finds a new study from the Netherlands.

The Evidence: Researchers in the Netherlands had one person guzzle a probiotic drink—rich in bacterial bugs—then snog their significant other for 10 seconds. They swabbed the kissee’s tongue and saliva and analyzed the germy makeup.

Results:

  • One smooch could transfer 80 million bacteria, the scientists estimate.
  • The study also found that kissing couples who slip each other the tongue at least nine times a day have significantly higher levels of shared bacteria in their spit than those who smooch less frequently.
  •  It sounds gross, sure, but it’s usually not a reason to worry. That’s because the predominant kind of bacteria in your mouth, streptococci, tend to be completely harmless, says study author Remco Kort, Ph.D.
  • What’s more, most of the bugs that hitch a ride on your tongue are typically transient visitors—they don’t stick around long enough to set up camp in your mouth.

But the ones that do linger can actually benefit you. The layer of bacteria in your mouth can protect you from disease-causing microorganisms, Kort says. And the greater diversity of species, the better the resistance it offers.

My Take: Kiss. That’s the ticket. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Reference: http://www.menshealth.com/health/kissing-transfers-bacteria

Do This If You’re Too Lazy to Floss

What You Need to Know: To banish bacteria, give your teeth a workout: Chewing gum cleans out your mouth.

The Study:

  • Participants chomped on sugar-free gum for up to 10 minutes. After analyzing the masticated morsels, researchers found about 100 million bacteria trapped in each chunk.
  • That actually makes up just a small percentage of all the bacteria hanging out in your mouth, but the reduction is still important: It can lead to fewer cavities, healthier gums, and better breath.
  • That’s because when you chew gum, it actually cleans plaque and pieces of food off your teeth, says study author Stefan Wessel, M.Sc.

My Take: The gum company Wrigley funded the study, creating a potential for bias. But, there’s been a lot of research on this topic, and it appears that chewing sugar-free gum is indeed beneficial when it comes to reducing mouth bacteria. Chew gum stimulates production of spit, an antimicrobial. Flossing is still the best bacteria-squashing option, since the thin filaments can remove bugs from in between your teeth—an important spot when it comes to preventing cavities—while gum only hits the surfaces. Stick to sugar-free, as your mouth’s bacteria ferments the sugar in regular gum, producing acid that weakens your teeth. As for how long you should chew, cap it at 10 minutes. Anything longer and the bacteria that’s trapped in the gum might actually be released back into your mouth. Plus, the flavor’s usually long gone by then anyway.

My Take: These results suggest that anti-androgen receptor therapy may benefit a larger percentage of triple negative breast cancers than previously thought. We look forward to results from human clinical trials. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Reference: http://www.menshealth.com/health/benefits-of-chewing-gum

Study: How Red Wine May Lower Alcohol-Related Cancer Risk

What You Need to Know: Alcohol use is a major risk factor for head and neck cancer. But an article published in the November issue of the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology suggests that the chemical resveratrol found in grape skins and in red wine may prevent cancer as well.

“Alcohol bombards your genes. Your body has ways to repair this damage, but with enough alcohol eventually some damage isn’t fixed. That’s why excessive alcohol use is a factor in head and neck cancer. Now, resveratrol challenges these cells – the ones with unrepaired DNA damage are killed, so they can’t go on to cause cancer. Alcohol damages cells and resveratrol kills damaged cells,” says Robert Sclafani, PhD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the CU School of Medicine.

Background: Some of what we know about the ability of alcohol to cause cancer comes from the study of another disease, namely Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic disorder that affects about 1 in every 350,000 babies. DNA naturally accumulates tangles called “cross links” and healthy genes can repair and disentangle cross-linked DNA. In Fanconi anemia, people are born without the ability to repair DNA cross links and so DNA damage accumulates. Accordingly, patients with Fanconi anemia are at greatly increased risk of developing cancers including leukemias and also head and neck cancer.

“We learn a lot from genetic disorders because you can put a finger on a gene and say, hey, we know what that does!” says Sclafani, who has presented at and regularly attends the annual meeting of the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation.

In fact, it turns out that a genetic accelerator of cancer in Fanconi anemia is the same as the cancer-causing mechanism of alcohol. In both cases, the cause is partially metabolized alcohol. The body metabolizes alcohol by converting it first to acetyl aldehyde and then the body uses aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) to further convert it to acetic acid, which is excreted. The partially processed state of alcohol, acetyl aldehyde, is a carcinogen and produces “cross links” in DNA. Because Fanconi anemia patients cannot repair the DNA damage produced by acetyl aldehyde, they are at even higher risk for cancer if they also lack ALDH.

“With enough alcohol, the body can get behind and end up with a backlog of acetyl aldehyde,” Sclafani says. “Increased exposure to alcohol, loss of the ALDH gene that helps the body process alcohol, and loss of the ability to repair DNA cross links all result in increased cancer risk.”

With hard alcohol that’s the end of the story: increased risk for head and neck cancer due to increased production of acetyl aldehyde.

“But when you look at epidemiological studies of head and neck cancer, alcohol is a factor, but by alcohol source, the lowest cancer incidence is in people who drank red wine,” Sclafani says. “In red wine, there’s something that’s blocking the cancer-causing effect of alcohol.”

The recent article points to resveratrol as Sclafani’s “something.” Sclafani describes the effects of resveratrol in terms of probability: “The more you drink, the more you accumulate DNA damage, and the more chance that one or more cells will accumulate the specific type of DNA damage that can cause cancer. Now, resveratrol takes out the cells with the most damage – the cells that have the highest probability of being able to cause cancer.”

According to Sclafani, the resveratrol in red wine (and other chemopreventive chemicals found in grape seed extract) isn’t a magic bullet that can completely undo the cancer-causing effects of alcohol, but by killing the most dangerous cells it may decrease the probability that alcohol use will cause cancer.

“Because alcohol-related head and neck cancer has a high rate of recurrence, after a cancer has been treated once, you’ve still got a very high-risk population,” Sclafani says.

Ongoing clinical trials are testing the ability of resveratrol to prevent colon and liver cancer. Dr. Sclafani and his colleague Dr. Rajesh Agarwal plan to test resveratrol in the prevention and possibly treatment of head and neck and other cancer types.

Reference: http://www.coloradocancerblogs.org/study-red-wine-prevents-cancer/

Washing Dishes by Hand Linked to Fewer Allergies

What You Need to Know: Washing dishes by hand, rather than in a dishwasher, may help prevent allergies in children, a new Swedish study has found. In addition, the study suggests that consuming fermented or farm-bought food could decrease the likelihood of allergies further.

The Evidence: The study analyzed questionnaire responses about daily household practices from families of 1029 children aged 7 to 8 years. The children in the study hailed from two Swedish cities: Kiruna in the north and Mölndal on the southwest coast. The questionnaire was from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, used to estimate the prevalence of asthma, nasal allergies, and eczema.

The researchers theorized that the bacteria left over on dishware and utensils from hand-washing, a “less-efficient dishwashing method,” helped the subjects build tolerance to allergens.”Low hygiene standards and increased microbial exposure are common denominators often seen in low allergy-risk settings,” the authors noted.

  • Twenty-three percent of children from families who washed dishes by hand had a history of eczema compared with 38% from families who mainly used dishwashers.
  • Only 1.7% of children in hand-washing families had asthma compared with 7.3% in families with dishwashers.
  • The difference was smaller for nasal allergies: 10.3% in hand-washing households vs 12.9% in dishwasher households.
  • Eating fermented (probiotic-rich) food such as sauerkraut and fermented cucumber and buying food from farms did not, on their own, make a significant difference in allergies. But when combined with hand-dishwashing, these practices coincided with an overall reduction in allergies, the researchers found.
  • Forty-six percent of children suffered from allergic diseases in families that used machine dishwashing, did not buy food directly from farms, and did not eat fermented food. Comparatively, only 19% of children from families that hand-washed dishes and practiced at least one of the other two protective behaviors experienced allergies.

An accompanying editorial by Laurence E. Cheng, MD, PhD, and Michael D. Cabana, MD, MPH, from the University of California, San Francisco, stated that the research, although interesting, “has definite limits,” leaving many unanswered questions. For instance, why would the effects of contact with residual microbes on utensils be more powerful than actually ingesting fermented or farm-bought food? Analyzing the amount and make-up of microbes on utensils after hand-washing and less-than-sanitary storage techniques could prove illuminating, the editorialists advise.

“Much more clinical, translational and basic studies are needed to elucidate the role of different lifestyle choices…and microbial exposures,” they state, “and how those microbial exposures may modulate allergic disease and potentially lead to a primary prevention strategy.”

My Take: We need more investigation into the link between immunity and household practices. Unfortunately, the study the questionnaire did not ask how long the families had been practicing their current method of dishwashing. In addition, hand-washing may coincide with other lifestyle factors, such as living in close quarters, that can play a role in immunity. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

References: Pediatrics. Published online February 23, 2015; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/840268

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Increased Stroke Risk

What You Need to Know: Low vitamin D levels are linked to an increased risk for severe stroke and poor health in stroke survivors.

The Evidence: The study included 96 stroke patients who were treated at a U.S. hospital between 2013 and 2014. All had experienced an ischemic stroke.

  • People with low blood levels of vitamin D — less than 30 ng/mL — had about two times larger areas of dead tissue resulting from obstruction of the blood supply than those with normal vitamin D levels.
  • The researchers also found that for each 10 ng/mL reduction in vitamin D level, the odds of a healthy recovery in the 3 months after stroke fell by about half, regardless of age or initial stroke severity.

“It’s too early to draw firm conclusions from our small study,” senior author Nils Henninger, MD, assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said in an American Stroke Association news release. “However, the results do provide the impetus for further rigorous investigations into the association of vitamin D status and stroke severity. If our findings are replicated, the next logical step may be to test whether supplementation can protect patients at high risk for stroke.”

My Take: Low vitamin D levels have been associated with a myriad of diseases, ranging from Breast and colon cancer to heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, poor bone health, diabetes, macular degeneration, stroke, and other medical problems. Whether you can change your risk by raising your vitamin D levels remains unknown. I try to get a bit of sun, but not enough to cause a burn. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Henninger N et al. Abstract W MP62. Presented at: International Stroke Conference 2015; Feb. 11-13, 2015; Nashville, TN.