Health Updates 17 May 2012

  • Really? Red wine is good for the stomach: “When it comes to the health-promoting effects of red wine, its potential is to protect against heart disease tends to get all the attention.  But there are some who see it as a sort of probiotic delivery system, capable of benefiting the stomach as well.  Supplements and foods with probiotics – live micro-organisms that support digestive health – have become hugely popular.  While probiotics are increasingly added to a variety of foods, some contain them naturally, especially fermented products like yogurt and wine.  Most doctors, of course, would never recommend drinking solely to aid digestive health.  But researchers have wondered whether a boost in healthy bacteria may be a secondary benefit of red wine.  In studies of animals, for example, scientists have found that components of red wine seem to improve intestinal health, promoting the growth of bacteria.  Research on human subjects is limited….[In one], a small number of healthy adults were instructed to avoid all alcohol for two weeks — a so-called washout period.  Then they went through three separate phases of 20 days each.  In one, the subjects drank red wine, about a cup daily.  In another, they drank the same amount of red wine daily, but this time with the alcohol removed.  In the third, they drank up to 100 millilitres a day of gin each day.  What’s the best digestive aid? … In the end, the researchers found that both types of red wine produced improvements in the bacterial composition of the gut, lowered blood pressure and reduced levels of a protein associated with inflammation….The bottom line: According to research, red wine may improve digestive health. (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Watching TV linked to poor diet in students: “A national survey of more than 12,000 students in grades 5 to 10 has found that television viewing is associated not only with unhealthy snacking while watching, but also with unhealthy eating at all times.  Researchers asked the children how much TV they watched; how often they snacked while watching; how often they ate fruits, vegetables and candy and drank soda; and how often they skipped breakfast.  The survey uncovered a variety of differences by sex, age and race – for example, girls watched slightly less than boys, older children ate fast food more often, and white children were more likely to each fruits and vegetables daily.  But over all, after controlling for other factors, viewing time among the children was associated with lower odds of eating fruits and vegetables daily and higher odds of skipping breakfast, consuming candy and sugar-sweetened soda, and eating in fast-food restaurants.  Adjusting for snacking while watching TV did not change the associations, leading the researchers to suggest that broadcast advertising influences eating choices even when the children are far away from the television.” (NY Times)
  • Season of ‘head hits’ may dull athletes’ thinking: “Some college football and hockey players may experience cognitive effects from repetitive head impacts during a single season, researchers found.  Among athletes at a single school, players in those sports were significantly more likely to perform worse than expected on a postseason measure of new learning…Dartmouth researchers reported in the May 29 issue of Neurology.  In general, however, there were no major differences in cognition between athletes in contact sports and those in noncontact sports either before or after the season, according to Thomas McAllister, MD, of Dartmouth Medical School  in Lebanon, NH, and colleagues.  That ‘suggests there may be a subgroup of athletes for whom repetitive head impacts affect learning and memory at least on a temporary basis,’ they wrote, noting that further research is needed to see whether the changes persist over time….Most head impacts during sports do not result in concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, but concerns have been raised about the cumulative effects of repetitive impacts.  That was highlighted by media coverage of football great Junior Seau‘s recent suicide.  McAllister and colleagues evaluated the cognitive effects of repetitive head impacts over a single season among football and hockey players at three Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) programs — Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Virginia Tech.” (Todd Neale, MedPage Today)
  • Blast wind’ linked to chronic brain injuries in military: “The same type of brain damage seen in athletes who suffer repeated concussions also occurs in soldiers exposed to large blasts, new research indicates.  In the study, researchers at Boston University and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System analyzed brain tissue from four US military personnel who were known to have been close to explosions.  The results, published online May 16 in Science Translational Medicine, showed that exposure to a single blast — equivalent to the force from a typical improvised explosive device (IED) — results in chronic traumatic encephalopathy and long-term brain impairments associated with the condition.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disorder that can only be diagnosed after death, has been reported in athletes with multiple concussions.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy and traumatic brain injury share common features, including psychiatric symptoms and long-term memory and learning problems.  Traumatic brain injury can occur in people exposed to blasts and may affect about 20 percent of the 2.3 million US military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to the researchers.  The investigators also concluded that blast wind, not the shock wave, from an IED explosion leads to traumatic brain injury and long-term consequences such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.” (HealthDay)

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