Health News Updates 19 September 2012

  • Really? Adding milk to tea destroys its antioxidants  “Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.  Chock-full of antioxidants, vitamins and other compounds, tea has been linked in a variety of studies to stronger immune function and reduced cell damage.  Some research suggests tea may prevent cavities, improve blood sugar levels and perhaps provide cardiovascular benefits.  In many parts of the world, the custom is to serve tea with milk.  But lately researchers have been surprised to find that adding milk may strip tea of some of its beneficial effects.  In a study published in The European Heart Journal, researchers had 16 healthy adults drink cups of freshly brewed black tea, black tea mixed with a small amount of skim milk, or boiled water.  Then the scientists measured the effects on vascular function.  Compared with water, black tea ‘significantly improved’ arterial function, the researchers found, ‘whereas addition of milk completely blunted the effects of tea’.  The scientists repeated similar tests in mice and found the same results, which they speculated may be a result of proteins in milk binding to and neutralizing antioxidants.  ‘Milk’, the researchers wrote, ‘counteracts the favorable health effects of tea on vascular function’.  A study published this year looked at whether the effect was limited to dairy products.  It was not: Proteins in soy milk has the same effect as regular milk on antioxidants in tea.  The bottom line: Adding milk to tea may reduce some of its healthful properties, studies show.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Shoppers who read food labels are thinner, study says: “People – particularly women – who read food labels while they grocery shop are thinner than people who don’t, a new study finds.  Women who checked nutritional labels weighed what amounted to nearly 9 pounds less than those who don’t.  The international team of scientists analyzed more than 25,000 observations on health, eating and shopping habits from the US National Health Interview Survey.  Among the data collected were responses about reading nutritional information in supermarkets – if people did and how often.  ‘First we analyzed who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight,’ study lead author Maria Loureiro, of the University of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, said in a university news release.  Nutrition labels tell consumers how many calories are contained in a food portion, as well as levels of sodium, fats, sugars, protein, dietary fiber and key vitamins and minerals.  The study found big differences between the people who read food labels and those who did not.  Smokers, they noted, paid little attention to the nutritional information on foods.  ‘Their lifestyle involves less healthy eating habits and, as a consequence, it could be the case that they are not so worried about the nutritional content of the food they eat, according to our results,’ the researchers suggested.  People who live in cities were the most careful about reading food labels.  People with high school and college educations also paid more attention to nutritional labels.  Fifty-eight percent of men who took the time to read labels, compared with 74 percent of women.  White women who lived in cities read food labels most often, the study found.” (MedlinePlus)
  • New study debunks virus theory for chronic fatigue syndrome: “Confirming earlier scientific doubts, a new study concludes that chronic fatigue syndrome is not caused by two viruses known as XMRV and pMLV.  Researchers from the US National Institutes of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Columbia University and other institutions, including some scientists who did the original research, examined 147 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome from sites across the country and compared them to 146 healthy patients.  Bottom line? ‘This analysis reveals no evidence of either XMRV or pMLV infection,’ the authors wrote.  The study is published in the September/October issue of the journal mBio.  Chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, affects about 1 million people in the United States, according to a Columbia news release, with women more likely to have the diagnosis.  The condition is marked by unexplained fatigue that doesn’t get better with bed rest.  Patients also report problems with memory or  other thinking skills, muscle or joint pain, headache and other symptoms.  In 2009, a paper published in the  journal Science connected the syndrome to infection with a mouse virus known as XMRV….In 2010, another study found a virus…called pMLV, in some patients, which lent more support to a viral theory.  However, editors at Science later retracted the 2009 report, saying follow-up findings failed to confirm the original findings.  To lay the matter to rest, researchers launched the new study.  They assessed blood samples from the group affected by chronic fatigue syndrome and those not affected.  None of the samples had evidence of either virus.  The new study should end any concerns about the viruses causing the disease, said K. Kimberly McCleary, president of the CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) Association of America….There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome.  According to the CDC, treatment is tailored to a person’s specific symptoms.  The CDC recommends addressing the most disruptive symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep problems and depression or anxiety.” (HealthDay)
  • BPA in food packaging tied to child obesity: study “The common chemical bisphenol A (BPA), found in the lining of many aluminum cans and a variety of food packaging, may be adding to the obesity epidemic among children and teens, according to a new study.  Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups because of fears that it may cause developmental problems.  BPA, however, remains in many products children and teens use  daily, the study authors noted.  “BPA has been associated with adult obesity and heart disease,’ said lead researcher Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University.  These new findings ‘raise further questions about the need to limit BPA exposure in children,’ he said.  ‘This is the first study to find an association of an environmental chemical with childhood obesity in a nationally representative sample’.  The study also suggests that diet and exercise are not the only factors involved  in the obesity epidemic, he said.  Trasande speculated that because BPA can act like estrogen — a female hormone — it may have an effect on the body’s hormones and fat cells, making them bigger.  Alternatives to BPA exist, he said.  ‘This study raises the need to reconsider the decision not to ban BPA in aluminum cans and other food packaging,’ he said.  The report was published in the Sept. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.“(

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