Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Want your memory to stay sharp in old age? Eat less red meat and more oily fish (?)

The usual epidemiological rubbish and fishoil faith.  Findings probably a social class effect

A Mediterranean diet low in red meat and dairy food and high in omega-3 fatty acids can help preserve memory and thinking abilities, say researchers.

Scientists in the U.S. studied the diets of 17,478 people with an average age of 64.  Participants were given tests that measured mental ability over an average of four years.  During the course of the study, seven per cent developed memory and thinking deficits.

The study found people who more closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a 19 per cent reduced risk of mental impairment.

A key element of the Mediterranean diet is omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, flax seed, walnuts and pulses, which are known to benefit the brain and nervous system.

The diet typically also contains high levels of fresh fruit and vegetables and low levels of saturated fat.

The findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.

Lead researcher Dr Georgios Tsivgoulis, from the universities of Alabama in the US and Athens in Greece, said: 'Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important.

'Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life. However, it is only one of several important lifestyle activities that might play a role in late-life mental functioning.

Exercise, avoiding obesity, not smoking cigarettes and taking medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension are also important.'

Other recent research found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet can cut heart attacks, strokes and death rates in people at high risk of heart disease by as much as a third.

Changing the balance of foods in a diet can lessen the risk even before heart-related illness strikes, according to a major clinical trial.

Previous studies have compared the effects of the diet on people after they have suffered a heart attack or stroke – with many showing improved heart health.

But this research, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, was the first to rigorously test the effects on a high-risk group.

In fact, the study of around 7,500 people was halted early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it would have been unethical not to recommend the diet to all those taking part.


Drinking alcohol regularly could LOWER your risk of arthritis

This is a meta-analysis, offering no new data.  Pretty hard to critique without re-doing the whole study.  But probably just epidemiological speculation

Drinking alcohol in moderation could slash the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research.  Some regular drinkers were nearly half as likely to develop the crippling condition as teetotallers or those who rarely drank.

Researchers discovered the connection after carrying out an extensive review of previous studies that looked into the role of alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis.

The results, published in the journal Rheumatology, suggest a few drinks a week could have a protective effect against a disease that affects around 600,000 people in the UK.

Although the latest investigation did not look at the reasons why a regular tipple might offer some protection, earlier research suggested it could be because alcohol appears to dampen down inflammation in the body and also has a mild pain-killing effect.

Rheumatoid arthritis is triggered when the immune system, the body's in-built defence mechanism, goes into action unnecessarily, attacking joints and sometimes other parts of the body.  The reasons why remain a mystery but some evidence suggests exposure to mild infection may be enough to launch this over-reaction.

As a result, joints become inflamed and swollen, causing pain or stiffness, and many sufferers also experience flu-like symptoms.  In very severe cases, they can end up crippled and unable to live a full or active life.

Several small studies in recent years have hinted that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol could reduce the risks of developing the incurable condition.

Animal studies, for example, indicate mice are less likely to suffer arthritis if they have small amounts of alcohol added to their drinking water.

Now researchers from King's College London have carried out a meta-analysis, where data from earlier investigations are pooled to provide a more definitive answer.

They gathered findings from nine different studies involving a total of nearly 12,000 patients.

When they combined all the results they found that regular drinkers were 48 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

However, the benefits were confined to patients who tested positive for anti-citrulllinated protein antibodies.

These are proteins that are released into the bloodstream when the disease in emerging and can often be detected before any symptoms appear.

They affect around two-thirds of arthritis sufferers and their presence indicates a more severe form of the disease.

Patients who tested negative for the protein, which suggests they have a milder form of the disease, saw little or no benefit from regular drinking.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: 'Alcohol intake is inversely associated with ACPA-positive rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting a protective effect.  'But further research is needed to confirm this relationship.'


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