Thursday, June 03, 2010

The false reasoning never stops: "Having a degree could help you fight dementia"

Just another demonstration that smart people usually have more robust health

Better educated people have more resistance to dementia, research shows. Scientists found that the symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, were reduced in people who had undertaken higher education.

The extra time spent poring over books preparing for exams had a physical benefit when they became older, researchers say.

Previous studies had shown that higher education had offered some protection against symptoms in the later stages of disease. 'We wanted to investigate how education affected the disease in the early stages of dementia, known as mild cognitive impairment,' said Dr Sindre Rolstad, a Swedish psychologist.

By analysing patients' spinal fluid, researchers at the University of Gothenburg were able to examine whether there were signs of dementia in the brain.

Dr Rolstad said: 'Highly educated patients with mild cognitive impairment who went on to develop dementia over the next two years had more signs of disease in their spinal fluid than those with intermediate and low levels of education. Despite having more disease in the brain, the highly educated patients showed the same symptoms of the disease as their less well educated counterparts.

'This means that patients with higher levels of education tolerate more disease in the brain.'

With this knowledge, doctors may be able to speed up the diagnosis of dementia in 'smart people' who were often mistreated because they did not show as many classical symptoms.

The researchers also studied patients with mild cognitive impairment who did not go on to develop dementia over the next two years. 'We found that the highly educated patients who did not develop dementia during the study showed signs of better nerve function than those with lower levels of education.'

Dr Rolstad said: 'This finding means that the highly educated not only tolerate more disease in the brain but also sustain less nerve damage during the early stages of the disease.'

The results indicate that a higher reserve capacity delays the symptoms of dementia and the progress of the disease.


Feeling wired? Don’t blame the coffee

This is a little surprising but, without having a close look at the methodology, I can't see any problems with the inferences drawn. It is generally true that addicts to anything get to the point where they need their fix just to feel normal

The stimulatory effects of a strong cup of coffee in the morning may be nothing more than an illusion. People who routinely use caffeinated drinks to kick-start their day derive no actual benefit in terms of increased alertness, compared with those given a decaffinated variety in a recent study. Instead, they may feel better simply because they are correcting the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, researchers say.

The study, published online today in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, reports that frequent drinkers of coffee and other caffeinated drinks develop a tolerance to both the stimulatory effects of caffeine and side-effects of increased anxiety.

Tests on 379 individuals who abstained from caffeine for 16 hours before being given either caffeine in pill form or a placebo showed little difference in computer tests designed to gauge their alertness level.

While frequent consumers reported feeling alerted by a cup of coffee that contained about 70-100mg of caffeine, recent studies suggest that this is merely the reversal of the fatiguing effects of acute caffeine withdrawal.

Approximately half of the participants in the latest study said that they drank low or no amounts of caffeine — less than 40mg a day, or the amount contained in a can of cola. The other volunteers reported drinking more than that. All were asked to rate their personal levels of anxiety, alertness and headache before and after being given either the caffeine — as 100mg late morning, and 150mg 90 minutes later — or the placebo pills.

They were also asked to carry out a series of computer tasks to test for their levels of memory, attentiveness and vigilance.

Peter Rogers, who led the study at the University of Bristol, said that caffeine consumption was associated with increased anxiety and raised blood pressure, but did not improve test results.

“Our study shows that we don’t gain an advantage from consuming caffeine — although we feel alerted by it, this is caffeine just bringing us back to normal,” he said. “On the other hand, while caffeine can increase anxiety, tolerance means that for most caffeine consumers this effect is negligible.”


1 comment:

Izzy said...

I was a caffeine addict for well over 30 years.

My normal routine was a cup of coffee at breakfast, two cups with me in my morning commute, five to seven cans of caffeinated soda during the day, one or two cups of coffee or tea with dinner, and a serious craving for chocolate.

I stopped all caffeine about a half year ago. I went through withdrawals (tiredness, aches, and massive headaches).

Now I drink decaffeinated coffees and only caffeine-free sodas and teas.

That morning cup of ersatz coffee is still a good pick-me-up, and I've never understood why.