Can That Sweet Drink Age You?

What You Need to Know: Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages may make certain cells in your body age faster, a new study suggests.

Background:  Researchers studied white blood cells in healthy adults, specifically looking at the ends of the study participants’ chromosomes, called telomeres. These telomeres are essential to cell division and naturally get shorter with the passage of time. When a telomere gets too short, its cell dies. Thus, scientists believe longer telomeres mean you’re healthier and younger, while shorter telomeres mean you’re less healthy and aging faster.

The Evidence: University of California, San Francisco researchers looked at data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included information on participants’ sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, as well as diet soda and fruit juice consumption. Controlling for obesity, they found that sugar-sweetened soda consumption was associated with shorter telomeres, but there was no link between telomere length and diet soda. Meanwhile, consumption of 100% fruit juice was associated with slightly longer telomeres. Exercise can also slow telomere shortening. Aim for 150 minutes per week; For example, 30 minutes of a brisk walk for five times per week.

About one in five adults in the study admitted to drinking a 20-ounce soda each day. This daily consumption could equal 4.6 years of extra aging, according to the study.

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 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Published online ahead of print October 16, 2014: e1–e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302151)

Your Memory is No Video Camera!

brain climing cartoon

Let’s take a moment to wander away from talk about cancer, and to another topic: Memory. Did you know that your memory is a wily time traveler, plucking fragments of the present and inserting them into the past. This is according to a new Northwestern Medicine (USA) study. In terms of accuracy, memory no video camera.Rather, the memory rewrites the past with current information, updating your recollections with new experiences.

Love at first sight, for example, is more likely a trick of your memory than a Hollywood-worthy moment.

“When you think back to when you met your current partner, you may recall this feeling of love and euphoria,” said lead author Donna Jo Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “But you may be projecting your current feelings back to the original encounter with this person.”

The study will be published Feb. 5 in the Journal of Neuroscience. This the first study to show specifically how memory is faulty, and how it can insert things from the present into memories of the past when those memories are retrieved. The study shows the exact point in time when that incorrectly recalled information gets implanted into an existing memory.

To help us survive, Bridge said, our memories adapt to an ever-changing environment and help us deal with what’s important now. “Our memory is not like a video camera,” Bridge said. “Your memory reframes and edits events to create a story to fit your current world. It’s built to be current.” All that editing happens in the hippocampus, the new study found. The hippocampus, in this function, is the memory’s equivalent of a film editor and special effects team.

The Study: For the experiment, 17 men and women studied 168 object locations on a computer screen with varied backgrounds such as an underwater ocean scene or an aerial view of Midwest farmland. Next, researchers asked participants to try to place the object in the original location but on a new background screen. Participants would always place the objects in an incorrect location.

For the final part of the study, participants were shown the object in three locations on the original screen and asked to choose the correct location. Their choices were: the location they originally saw the object, the location they placed it in part 2 or a brand new location.

“People always chose the location they picked in part 2,” Bridge said. “This shows their original memory of the location has changed to reflect the location they recalled on the new background screen. Their memory has updated the information by inserting the new information into the old memory.”

Participants took the test in an MRI scanner so scientists could observe their brain activity. Scientists also tracked participants’ eye movements, which sometimes were more revealing about the content of their memories — and if there was conflict in their choices — than the actual location they ended up choosing.

The notion of a perfect memory is a myth, said Joel Voss, senior author of the paper and an assistant professor of medical social sciences and of neurology at Feinberg.

“Everyone likes to think of memory as this thing that lets us vividly remember our childhoods or what we did last week,” Voss said. “But memory is designed to help us make good decisions in the moment and, therefore, memory has to stay up-to-date. The information that is relevant right now can overwrite what was there to begin with.”

Bridge noted the study’s implications for eyewitness court testimony. “Our memory is built to change, not regurgitate facts, so we are not very reliable witnesses,” she said. A caveat of the research is that it was done in a controlled experimental setting and shows how memories changed within the experiment. “Although this occurred in a laboratory setting, it’s reasonable to think the memory behaves like this in the real world,” Bridge said.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Reference:  Northwestern University. “Your memory is no video camera: It edits the past with present experiences.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140204185651.htm>.

Want To Stay Young? Start Moving.

women walking exercise

A new study finds that exercise among older adults helps ward off depressiondementia and other health problems, such as heart diseasecancer and diabetes. Exercise increased the odds of healthy aging as much as sevenfold, the researchers found. And apparently it’s never too late to start: Even adults who don’t begin exercising until they’re older could increase their odds of healthy aging threefold, the researchers said.

“In a growing elderly population, it is important to encourage healthy aging. Physical activity is effective in maintaining health in old age,” said lead researcher Mark Hamer, from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in England.

For the study, Hamer and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

As part of the study, the participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between 2002-’03 and 2010-’11. The researchers categorized the participants by how much exercise they did each week. There were those who were inactive, those who did moderate exercise and those who exercised vigorously.

People who partook in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the researchers found. Moreover, people who were active at the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.

My Take: Want to stay healthy? Get moving. 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 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: The report was published online Nov. 25 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.