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Vegetable nutrient may rejuvenate cognitive functions

A nutrient found in leafy vegetables may effectively revitalise cognitive functions, according to a new study. Researchers in the U.S. have discovered that lutein, an organic pigment and nutrient found in spinach, kale, avocados, and eggs, may be effective in rejuvenating cognitive functions.

Nutritionists have long discussed health benefits of green foods such as spinach, kale and other leafy vegetables.

A recent study found that lutein may decrease inflammation from heart disease.

The new research was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in collaboration with the University of Georgia in Athens, in the U.S. Dr. Naiman A. Khan, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois, led the research.

Dr. Khan and colleagues based their study on the assumption that cognitive ageing becomes evident earlier in life than one might expect.

While, past studies monitored cognitive ageing in elderly adults only, researchers on this new study sought a different approach. [Read more Eating turmeric, red grapes, apple peels could help ‘starve’ prostate cancer cells]

“As people get older, they experience typical decline. However, research has shown that this process can start earlier than expected. You can even start to see some differences in the 30s,” says first study author Anne Walk, a postdoctoral researcher also at the University of Illinois.

For their study, the team enrolled 60 adults aged between 25-45, to investigate whether or not lutein intake may impact cognition.

Lutein, the vegetable nutrient, is a naturally occurring compound that cannot be synthesised in the human body, explain the researchers. Therefore, it must be absorbed from foods that synthesise it, such as kale and other green leafy vegetables, or through food supplements.

Once lutein is incorporated in the body, it can be detected in the brain tissue and in the retinas of the eyes. This makes the assessment of lutein levels more appropriate and enables taking of non-invasive measurements.

“If lutein can protect against decline, we should encourage people to consume lutein-rich foods at a point in their lives when it has maximum benefit,” says Walk.

In the study, the participants were asked to respond to flickering light stimuli, so that the researchers could measure lutein levels. [Read more Chocolate may boost cognitive skills within hours]

The team assessed the neural activity in the brains of the subjects through electrodes attached to the scalp. Each individual was assigned an attention-related exercise. These exercises were designed to test their selective attention, attentional inhibition (the ability to ignore irrelevant stimuli), or response inhibition (the ability to suppress inappropriate impulses).

The team discovered that the participants who showed higher levels of lutein were cognitively more similar to younger individuals than they were to individuals of the same age with lower lutein levels.

“The neuro-electrical signature of older participants with higher levels of lutein looked much more like their younger counterparts than their peers with less lutein. Lutein appears to have some protective role, since the data suggest that those with more lutein were able to engage more cognitive resources to complete the task,” explains Walk.

Next, the researchers plan to investigate how consuming a larger amount of vegetable nutrient lutein may impact the level of the carotenoid accumulated in the retina, and to what degree lutein levels actually influence cognitive capacity.

“In this study we focused on attention, but we also would like to understand the effects of lutein on learning and memory,” concludes Dr. Khan.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

06/08/2017 / by / in
Too much sugar linked to increased depression risk in men

High intake of sugar is linked to increased risk of depression in men, according to a new study. Scientists at the University College London (UCL) in the UK, found that men who consumed more than 67gms of sugar each day – the equivalent of two cans of Coke – were at an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, and other common mental disorders after 5 years, compared with men who consumed less than 39.5 gms of sugar.

“High sugar diets have a number of influences on our health but our study shows that there might also be a link between sugar and mood disorders, particularly among men. There are numerous factors that influence chances for mood disorders, but having a diet high in sugary foods and drinks might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” says lead study author Anika Knuppel, of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health at UCL.

Read more Vegetable compound may decrease inflammation from heart disease

Consuming too much sugar may heighten the risk of a range of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, and heart disease.

Previous studies have also linked high sugar intake to increased risk of depression, though the researchers had suggested the association may be down to “reverse causation.”

“Reverse causation refers, in this context, to the possibility that a mood disorder may lead to higher sugar intake, so that the diet-mental health association is wholly or partly the result of poor mental health rather than of high sugar intake,” the authors explain. [Read more Drinking coffee daily may lead to a longer life, new study shows]

For the new study, Knuppel and colleagues set out to investigate whether sugar consumption might influence the development of mental health problems.

The team analysed data of 10,308 participants, of whom 66.9 percent were men. All participants were aged between 35-55 years and were part of the Whitehall Study II in the 1980s.

Over the follow-up period of 22 years, the subjects completed food frequency questionnaires at four time points. The information from these questionnaires were used to calculate the participants’ daily sugar consumption from 15 sweetened foods and beverages, which included cakes, soda, tea and coffee.

During the follow-up, the participants also completed general health questionnaires and interviews at numerous time points. These information were used to identify the individuals’ development of common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

The researchers found that the men who had the highest amount of daily sugar intake (more than 67 grams) were 23% more likely to develop common mental disorder five years later, compared with men who consumed 39.5 grams daily. [Read more ]

This finding remained even after the researchers accounted for several likely confounding factors, which included other dietary factors, sociodemographic factors, and the presence of other health problems. [Read more Adherence to a Mediterranean diet linked to lesser chance of developing ADHD]

The team did not find any link between sugar intake and mental health disorders in women.

Now, why the results were much stronger in men than women? One of the reasons, Knuppel explains, could be that women aren’t represented strongly in the research, which recruited civil servants in the 1980s. But according to national dietary surveys, men consume more sugar than women do, in spite of the popular assumptions about “Bridget Jones sitting there with her ice-cream bucket.”

The researchers also discovered that compared with participants who consumed low amount of sugar, the individuals with mood disorders who consumed high amount of sugar daily were more likely to develop depression after 5 years. But, this link subsided once the researchers considered sociodemographic and other dietary and health factors.

“Our findings provide yet further evidence that sugary foods and drinks are best avoided … The physical and mental health of British people deserves some protection from the commercial forces which exploit the human ‘sweet tooth’,” says co-author Professor Eric Brunner, also from UCL.

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

29/07/2017 / by / in
Breastfeeding mothers may have reduced risk of Multiple sclerosis

Mothers who breastfeed for 15 months or longer may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with those who breastfeed up to 4 months or do not breastfeed at all, according to a new study.

As women are twice as likely as men to develop MS, it is crucial to understand if aspects of motherhood is any way tied to the development of MS.

“This is another example of a benefit to the mother from breastfeeding,” says study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, with Kaiser Permanente in the U.S.

“Other health benefits include a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart attack.”

Women with Multiple sclerosis have significantly fewer relapses during pregnancy or while the child is nourished through breastfeeding only.

Read more Progression of Multiple Sclerosis may be stopped by resetting immune system

“Many experts have suggested that the levels of sex hormones are responsible for these findings, but we hypothesized that the lack of ovulation may play a role, so we wanted to see if having a longer time of breastfeeding or fewer total years when a woman is ovulating could be associated with the risk of MS,” Langer-Gould said.

For their study, the researchers recruited 397 women with an average age of 37. All of the women had recently been diagnosed with MS or with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). CIS can eventually lead to the development of Multiple sclerosis.

The team compared the results of this group with the results of another group of 433 women who did not have MS. The researchers matched the healthy women for race and age with their counterparts.

The women were given in-person questionnaires about pregnancy period, breastfeeding, hormonal contraceptive use and other factors.

The team found that women who had breastfed for a cumulative amount with one or more children for 15 months or more were 53% less likely to develop MS or CIS than women who had not breastfed of breastfed for four months or less.

A total of 85 of the healthy female respondents had breastfed for 15 months or more, compared to 44 of the female respondents with MS. In contrast, 110 of the healthy women breastfed for zero to four months, compared to 118 of the women with MS.

The researchers also examined the lengths and histories of the participants’ menstrual cycles to see if ovulation held any relevance in the study results.

They found that women who were aged 15 or older at the time of their first menstrual cycle were 44% less likely to develop MS or CIS compared with females who had got their first period at age 11 or earlier.

Among the group of healthy women, 44 were 15 years or older at their first menstruation, compared with 27 women from the MS group. Also, 120 women from the healthy group were 11 years or younger at first menstruation than 131 women from the MS group.

The total number of years a female ovulated was not linked with risk of MS. Neither were other factors that would be part of that number, such as number of pregnancies, use of hormonal contraceptives and age at first birth.

Despite finding a correlation between breastfeeding for a long period and reduced risk of MS, the scientists warn against making any quick judgment. They insist that the correlation doesn’t imply causation.

Yet, they see the findings as a sign that mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed.

“This is another example of a benefit to the mother from breastfeeding,” says Dr. Langer-Gould.

The study also has its limitations. The women had to recall incidents that occurred several years ago, therefore there might be mistakes made by the participants. Additionally, reasons behind women’s breastfeeding, or for breastfeeding only for a limited period, were not looked into.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

15/07/2017 / by / in
Poor sleep increases Alzheimer’s brain proteins

A single night of poor sleep can cause a spike in brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reports.

Researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands have found that sleep helps the body clear away two compounds in the brain, called amyloid and tau, and interrupted, poor sleep may cause too much of them to build up.

While the study doesn’t show that poor sleep causes Alzheimer’s, it adds one more piece to the puzzle of what causes dementia.

The team believes that the findings back the notion that chronic poor sleep in midlife could elevate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

Read more People with prolonged sleeping patterns may be at higher risk of dementia

“When people had their slow-wave sleep disrupted, their amyloid levels increased by about 10 percent,” says study leader Dr. Yo-El Ju of Washington University in St. Louis.

Although scientists knew there was a connection between dementia and poor sleep, it wasn’t clear whether dementia was driving insomnia or vice versa.

The study was jointly conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; Stanford University in California, in the U.S., and Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about 70% of all dementia cases. The disease affects memory, decision-making, language, thinking, and speech.

The brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease feature two hallmarks of the disease – plaques of amyloid protein and tangles of tau protein. These plaques and tangles causes neuron cells to die.

In the UK, around 850,000 people are currently living with dementia, and the majority have Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is no cure. Although the number of dementia cases is dropping as people adopt healthier lifestyles, the number of people living with the illness is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2040 because of the ageing population. [Read more What causes aging? Can the process be slowed?]

More than a third of Britons also sleep for less than 6 hours a night, according to The Sleep Council.

For their study, the researchers sought to identify the most important phase of sleep.

poor sleep“What we did was allow people to sleep a normal amount of time, but we prevented them from getting deep sleep or what is called slow-wave sleep,” Ju told NBC News.

“When we interrupted just the slow-wave sleep part, they still had an increase in amyloid. So this tells us it’s getting the deep slow-wave sleep that’s important for reducing the levels of amyloid.”

Ju and colleagues recruited 22 healthy adults aged between 35 and 65. All the participants reported experiencing no sleep problems and had no cognitive impairments.

The participants showed up in a controlled sleep lab. Half were allowed to sleep normally, while the other half were constantly kept in shallow sleep. [Read more Ingredient found in red wine may slow Alzheimer’s]

“As soon as they got into slow-wave sleep, they got a beep. And the beeps got louder and louder and louder until they came out of the deep sleep,” says Prof. Ju.

“It was pretty harsh.”

The participants didn’t realise their sleep had been interrupted, and this went on for the entire night.

The participants’ spinal fluid were analysed in the morning.

“When people had their slow wave sleep disrupted, their amyloid levels increased by about 10 percent,” Prof. Ju says.

The subjects were also fitted with sleep monitors to measure their sleep at home. Participants who experienced poor sleep at home were found to have higher levels of a second Alzheimer’s related protein called tau. [Read more Long daytime naps may increase risk of diabetes]

Prof. Ju says they were not surprised to see that tau levels didn’t increase after only one night of poor sleep whereas this did cause amyloid levels to rise, since tau levels tend to change more slowly.

“But we could see, when the participants had several bad nights in a row at home that their tau levels had risen,” she adds.

Prof. Ju concludes by saying:

“At this point, we can’t say whether improving sleep will reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. All we can really say is that bad sleep increases levels of some proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. But a good night’s sleep is something you want to be striving for anyway.”

Next, the team plans to study whether treating obstructive sleep apnea will improve people’s slow-wave sleep and affect amyloid levels. Sleep apnea is a common cause of sleep disruption. People with this condition have a higher risk of developing dementia.

The study was published in the journal Brain.

11/07/2017 / by / in
Vegetable compound may decrease inflammation from heart disease

A vegetable compound known as lutein can decrease chronic inflammation in coronary artery disease patients, according to a new study from Sweden. Lutein, the compound gives some plants and egg yolks their color.

The scientists from Linkoping University (LiU) in Sweden, also discovered that this vegetable compound is taken up and stored by certain immune system cells.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease in the world. Each year, approximately 3.8 million men and 3.4 million women die from CAD, worldwide. It is estimated that this disease will claim the lives of 11.1 million people globally.

Read more Eating grapes can reduce bowel cancer risk

Coronary artery disease develops due to buildup of plaques in the walls of arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. As a result, the arteries become narrower and partially or totally blocks blood flow to the heart. When the heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood, it causes chest pain, known as angina. Coronary artery disease can also cause heart failure.

From advances in basic science, researchers have discovered that atherosclerosis isn’t just a process where fat-deposits in the arteries; it also involves an ongoing inflammatory response that affects all stages of the disease.

vegetable compoundThe researchers at LiU note that in many aspects of CAD, such as angina and heart attack, inflammation plays a crucial part. [Read more Eating apples and green tomatoes could hinder symptoms of aging]

“We know that chronic inflammation is associated with a poorer prognosis,” says study leader Lena Jonasson, a cardiology consultant and LiU professor in medical and health sciences.

“We know that chronic inflammation is associated with a poorer prognosis.”

She explains that a remarkable number of patients, who suffered a heart attack continue to experience constant low-level inflammation in their bodies, even after successful treatments with drugs and lifestyle changes. [Read more Drinking beet juice boosts muscle strength in heart failure patients]

Prof. Jonasson and colleagues point to previous studies that have suggested that our diet can affect inflammation in our bodies. They underline a group of compounds called carotenoids, which are “antioxidants with potential anti-inflammatory properties.”

Carotenoids are vegetable compounds, also found in animal foods. They give color to other materials.

Foods that are rich in the vegetable compound lutein – the carotenoid at the center of the new study – include dark green leafy vegetables such as parsley, spinach, and kale. Lutein is also present in egg yolk.

For their study, the researchers recruited 193 patients with coronary artery disease. They started by investigating the association between carotenoids and inflammation in these patients.

They measured blood levels of six of the most common carotenoids and compared them with blood levels of an inflammation marker known as interleukin-6 (IL-6). [Read more Drinking beet juice before workout boosts brain power in older adults]

However, lutein was found to be the only carotenoid to have a connection with levels of IL-6: “the higher the level of lutein in the blood, the lower the level of IL-6.”

“The patients were receiving the best possible treatment for their disease according to clinical guidelines, but even so, many of them had a persistent inflammation. At the same time, the patients had lower levels of lutein,” comments Prof. Jonasson.

The researchers then investigated what might be happening at the cell level to produce this effect. They studied immune cells isolated from the blood of patients with coronary artery disease, and found that treatment with the vegetable compound reduced the cells’ inflammation activity.

The team now plans to find out whether eating more foods rich in this vegetable compound lutein can reduce inflammation in coronary artery disease patients.

“Our study confirms that one particular carotenoid, lutein, can suppress long-term inflammation in patients with coronary artery disease. We have also shown that lutein is absorbed and stored by the cells of the immune system in the blood.”

The research was published in the journal Atherosclerosis.

08/07/2017 / 1 Comment / by / in
Do not smell your food; it may lead to weight gain, researchers say

Before eating, we all enjoy the smell emanating from the food. But, according to a new research the habit of enjoying the smell of our food my cause us to gain weight.

In a new study carried out on mice, a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that mice with diminished sense of smell didn’t gain weight even when they consumed the same high-fat diet as mice that could smell and did gain weight.

The research team was led by Andrew Dillin, a professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley.

The scientists say the findings points to a link between what animals can smell and how they burn calories. Therefore, if they can’t smell their food, they burn off fat rather than storing it.

“This paper is one of the first studies that really shows if we manipulate olfactory inputs we can actually alter how the brain perceives energy balance, and how the brain regulates energy balance,” says study author, Celine Riera, an assistant professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and a former postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.

Read more Elements of Mediterranean diet prevent bowel cancer

“The cool thing about olfactory nerves is that they are totally unique. They’re not in brain, they’re in the nose. Maybe in future, we can non-invasively block them in humans. Maybe if you can remove olfaction in the patients for several months, it may help them lose weight,” she said.

However, scientists do not fully understand the physiologic role of the sense of smell, and exactly how it contributes to overall energy balance.

To find out more about this, the researchers created genetically engineered mice that lacked olfactory receptor neurons – the cells lining the nasal cavity. These neurons are responsible for sending the olfactory information to the brain. [Read more Low-fat dairy linked to reduced depression risk, new study suggests]

The team also looked at the “energy homeostasis” of the mice – that is, the balance between food consumption and energy expenditure.

Prof. Dillin and colleagues discovered that the smell-deficient mice started turning their beige fat cells, used to store fat around the body, into brown fat cells, which burn up fatty acids. What’s more, their white fat cells – which store fat around the internal organs and can cause health problems if too many build up – got smaller. [Read more Chocolate may boost cognitive skills within hours]

In short, these mice with diminished sense of smell turned into lean, fat-burning machines. They did this by turning up the dial on their sympathetic nervous system, which increases fat burning.

The mice with sense of smell, who received same levels of fat in their food gained about 100% of their original weight, compared with a maximum of 10% in the other group without sense of smell.

The study also revealed that obese mice with diminished sense of smell showed signs of losing weight, while a group of “super smeller” mice tested in Germany, bred with acutely sensitive olfactory nerves, gained even more weight. [Read more Obesity may increase brain tumor risk]

“Sensory systems play a role in metabolism,” says one of the researchers, Andrew Dillin. “Weight gain isn’t purely a measure of the calories taken in; it’s also related to how those calories are perceived.”

“If we can validate this in humans, perhaps we can actually make a drug that doesn’t interfere with smell but still blocks that metabolic circuitry. That would be amazing.”

Such a drug might be beneficial for those struggling to lose weight by turning up their fat-burning systems. The findings could pave the way to improve treatments for people who’ve lost their sense of smell through aging or diseases like Parkinson’s, a loss which often corresponds with loss of appetite.

The researchers believe there’s an important association between our sense of smell and the regions of the brain that regulate metabolism, particularly the hypothalamus. For example, we are more sensitive to smells when we’re hungry. How exactly these systems are connected is still not clear though.

“People with eating disorders sometimes have a hard time controlling how much food they are eating and they have a lot of cravings,” says Riera.

“We think olfactory neurons are very important for controlling pleasure of food and if we have a way to modulate this pathway, we might be able to block cravings in these people and help them with managing their food intake.”

The findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

08/07/2017 / by / in
Elements of Mediterranean diet prevent bowel cancer

Numerous studies have hailed the benefits of Mediterranean diets, and some studies have shown that the diet can prevent colorectal lesions that lead to bowel cancer. However, which parts of the diet offer the most protection had not been clear. Now, a new study from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel offers some answers.

According to the researchers, the most crucial diet changes to lower the risk of bowel cancer are to consume more fish and fruit and consume less soft drinks.

bowel cancer“We found that each one of these three choices was associated with a little more than 30% reduced odds of a person having an advanced, precancerous colorectal lesion, compared to people who did not eat any of these components,” says  Dr. Naomi Fliss-Isakov of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

“Among people who made all three healthy choices, the benefit was compounded to almost 86% reduced odds.”

Bowel cancer develops from the polyps in the intestine. The chances of polyps becoming malignant depend on various factors, such as location, size, and structure. Diets high on red meat, high-calorie foods, and alcohol have been blamed for the cancer.

Read more Eating grapes can reduce colon cancer risk

The researchers investigated the link between the elements of Mediterranean diet taken both separately and in combination, and also the risk of developing advanced intestinal polyps.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed in the United Kingdom, affecting people over the age of 60.

Dr. Isakov and team examined 808 people who were undergoing screening or diagnostic colonoscopies.

All participants were between 40 and 70 years old, and were not at high risk of bowel cancer.

The participants’ anthropometric measurements – such as body mass index (BMI) and height were recorded, and they were required to answer a food frequency questionnaire. All adults took part in a medical and lifestyle interview as well.

Read more Consuming a Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil may protect the heart

Adherence to the components was defined as an above-average consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, poultry, fish as well as a high ratio of mono-unsaturated to saturated fatty acids. A below-median intake of red meat, alcohol, and soft drinks was also considered to be a key component of the diet.

The team found that compared to adults with clear colonoscopies, those who had advanced polyps reported fewer components of the Mediterranean diet (a mean of 1.9 versus 4.5 components). Still, even consumption of 2 to 3 elements of the diet, compared to none, was linked with half the odds of advanced polyps. [Read more Mediterranean diet with olive oil may cut breast cancer risk by 68%]

The researchers found the more Mediterranean diet components participants consumed, the lower their risk of having advanced colorectal polyps.

After adjusting for other bowel cancer risk factors, the researchers narrowed in on high fruit and fish and low soft drinks as the best combination for decreased risk of advanced colorectal polyps.

The scientists say their next step will be to see whether Mediterranean diet is associated with lower risk of bowel cancer in high risk groups. [Read more Eating turmeric, red grapes, apple peels could help ‘starve’ prostate cancer cells]

Dirk Arnold, from the European Society for Medical Oncology, says:

“This large population-based cohort-control study impressively confirms the hypothesis of an association of colorectal polyps with diets and other life-style factors.

“This stands in line with other very recent findings on nutritive effects, such as the potential protective effects of nut consumption and Vitamin D supplementation which have been shown earlier this year.

“However, it remains to be seen whether these results are associated with reduced mortality, and it is also unclear if, and when a dietary change would be beneficial.

“Despite this lack of information, it makes sense to consider this diet for other health-related reasons also.”

04/07/2017 / 1 Comment / by / in
Epilepsy drug helps restore normal brain activity in Alzheimer’s patients

Researchers have found that a drug used to treat epilepsy may help to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by restoring normal brain activity in people with mild form of the disease.

The epilepsy drug called levetiracetam reduced seizure-like activity in the brains of patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston in the U.S.

The study team was led by Dr. Daniel Z. Press, MD, of the Berenson-Allen Center for Non-invasive Brain Stimulation at BIDMC, and an associate professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

In the last ten years, numerous evidence has linked seizure-like activity in some patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s patients have an increased risk of epilepsy and nearly half may experience subclinical epileptic activity – disrupted electrical activity in the brain. This activity does not result in a seizure but it can be measured by electroencephalogram (EEG) or other brain scan technology.

Read more Extra virgin olive oil may prevent dementia and memory loss

“In the field of Alzheimer’s disease research, there has been a major search for drugs to slow its progression,” says Dr. Press.

“If this abnormal electrical activity is leading to more damage, then suppressing it could potentially slow the progression of the disease,” he adds.

For their study, the researchers analysed the effects of epilepsy drug levetiracetam in 7 patients with mild form of Alzheimer’s disease. This epilepsy drug is normally used to treat seizures in children and adults with epilepsy.

epilepsy drugAll 7 patients were required to visit BIDMC on three separate occasions. At the start of their visit, participants underwent electroencephalogram (EEG), which was used to measure their electrical brain activity. [Read more How low-fat dairy could increase your Parkinson’s disease risk]

In this double-blind study, participants were injected with either a low dose (2.5 milligrams per kilogram) or high dose (7.5 milligrams per kilogram) of levetiracetam, or a placebo. Double-blind study is when neither the participants nor the healthcare professionals are aware of which drugs the participants received. All patients received both doses of the epilepsy drug levetiracetam at some point in a random order during the study.

After each injection, the patients underwent another EEG, then magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — which measures blood flow in the brain, another method of measuring brain activity and determine where in the brain it is taking place. Finally, the participants took a standardised cognitive test, designed to measure functions affected by Alzheimer’s disease, including memory, naming, executive functioning, visuospatial ability and semantic function.

The epilepsy drug restored normal brain activity

Overall, higher doses of the epilepsy drug appeared to normalise irregularities seen in the participants’ EEG profiles. That is, results revealed overall increases in brain wave frequencies that had been unnaturally low in Alzheimer’s patients prior to receiving the higher dose of levetiracetam, and, likewise, revealed reductions in those that had been unusually high. [Read more Ingredient found in red wine may slow Alzheimer’s]

While a single dose of the epilepsy drug was not linked with any improvements in cognitive function, the team believe their findings call for further investigation. They write:

“The pattern of decreased coherence in the lower frequency bands and increased coherence in the higher frequency bands suggests a beneficial effect of LEV [levetiracetam] for patients with AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”

“Larger longitudinal studies and studies with healthy age-matched controls are needed to determine whether this represents a relative normalization of EEG patterns, whether it is unique to AD as compared to normal aging, and whether longer-term administration is associated with a beneficial clinical effect,” they add.

Read more Daily tea drinking may reduce dementia risk in the elderly

In majority of studies searching for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have focused on removing beta-amyloid and tau proteins from the brain, which are the two hallmarks of the disease.

However, as the team notes, such studies have so far failed to yield any important result.

“There have been a lot of disappointments,” says Dr. Press.

“So our findings represent an interesting new avenue.”

The results of the study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

02/07/2017 / by / in
Autistic adults may be more sensible in their economic choices

A new study suggests that autistic adults may be better at making rational decisions than individuals without the condition.

An estimated 700,000 people are affected by autism in the UK. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects nearly 120,000 school-age children in the UK.

However, the exact number of autistic adults is not known.

The new study was co-authored by psychology researchers George D. Farmer, Simon Baron-Cohen, and William J. Skylark – all are of the University of Cambridge in the UK.

As the authors explain, people with ASD tend to be better at isolating information and judging it of its context independently. For example, some studies have shown that people with ASD are better at pinpointing figures embedded in complex shapes, as their visual searching abilities are less distracted by outside influence.

So, the researchers wanted to see whether the same attributes would apply to their decision-making abilities.

Read more Scientists erase select memory, leaving others intact

“People with autism are thought to focus more on detail and less on the bigger picture,” explains Farmer about their motivation for the research.

“This is often found in more perceptual studies, for instance by showing that people with autism are less susceptible to some visual illusions. We wanted to know if this tendency would apply to higher-level decision-making tasks.”

The team investigated 90 autistic adults and 212 adults without ASD, or “neurotypical” adults.

The participants were asked to complete an online decision-making task, which involved choosing between different products. The adults were given 10 pairs of products, with the products in each pair differing on two dimensions.

What’s more important is that when the participants were given the pairs, they were also given a third “decoy” option. They were shown each pair twice. In the first showing, the decoy item was designed to distract from product A, and in the second showing, from product B. Participants were required to choose the “best” product of the three.

An example of the scenario: the adults had to choose between 2 USB drives with two different dimensions. One USB drive had a lower capacity (16 GB) but a longer lifespan of 36 months. On the other hand, the other USB drive had a shorter lifespan (20 months) but had a higher capacity of 32 GB.

The decoy item, on both dimensions, was of inferior quality than the other two items. It had a capacity of 28 gigabytes and a lifespan of 16 months.

Therefore, from an economic and rational standpoint, the decoy items were actually the “bad” choice, and if people had been able to make consistent, rational decisions, they should have made the same decision twice – with or without the decoy. Less rational and more inconsistent choices would involve switching in favor of the decoy.

The participants’ cognitive ability was also assessed and a test was taken to evaluate whether or not they had ASD-associated traits.

Overall, the researchers found that autistic adults “made more consistent choices” and switched fewer times compared to the neurotypical participants.

A second study was conducted in order to confirm the findings. The study was taken on those who scored in the top 10 and bottom 10 percent of a traditional ASD measuring scale. The results remained the same.

Farmer concludes:

“People with autism are indeed more consistent in their choices than the neurotypical population. From an economic perspective, this suggests that people with autism are more rational and less likely to be influenced by the way choices are presented.”

“[C]hoice consistency is regarded as normative in conventional economic theory, so reduced context sensitivity would provide a new demonstration that autism is not in all respects a ‘disability,'” the authors write.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

02/07/2017 / by / in
Eating fish regularly may reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

If you’re suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, a new study advises you to pick the seafood menu when ordering food at your favourite restaurant.

Eating fish regularly may ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a study by the researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in the U.S. In the study, Rheumatoid Arthritis patients, who ate fish two times or more each week reported less joint swelling and tenderness compared to those who rarely or never ate fish. Moreover, reduced disease activity was achieved with each additional portion of fish consumed each week.

The study was led by Dr. Sara Tedeschi, associate physician in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Read more High-fat and high-carb diet raises osteoarthritis risk

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation, pain and swelling in your joints. Any joint can be affected by RA, but the joints of the wrists and hands are more commonly affected.

Cartilages are the connective tissue that protects the ends of bones. Over time, joint inflammation may cause breakdown of the cartilages. This breakdown can lead to joint deformities and problems with mobility. [Read more Eating apples and green tomatoes could hinder symptoms of aging]

At present, there is no cure for RA, but symptoms may be eased through medication, lifestyle changes, and, in some instances, surgery. Some of these treatments may also help to slow disease progression.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis in the UK.

Based on the findings, researchers suggest that a simple alteration in dietary habit may help to ease symptoms for patients with the condition: eating fish regularly.

For their study, Dr. Tedeschi and colleagues analysed data of 176 people with Rheumatoid arthritis. All the participants were part of the Evaluation of Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease and Predictors of Events in RA cohort study.

At the beginning of the study, researchers used a food frequency questionnaire to gather information on the participants’ habit of eating fish over the past year. Individuals were broken down into 4 groups based on how frequently they ate fish:

  1. Never to only once each month
  2. Once per month to less than once each month
  3. Once each week, and
  4. More than twice each week

There were no data available on the types of fish the participants ate.

The researchers didn’t look at how often people ate shellfish, fried fish or fish in mixed dishes, e.g. shrimp stir-fry, because these meals tend to be lower in omega-3 fatty acids – a type of fat known to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Past studies have shown that taking fish-oil supplements, which are rich in omega-3 fats, may help people with RA, but this new study is among the first ones to examine the consumption of actual fish.

The researchers used DAS28-CRP scoring system, which measures tenderness, welling, pain, and blood markers of inflammation among RA patients, in order to assess disease activity among the subjects.

The median DAS28-CRP score for participants at study baseline was 3.5, the team reports.

Eating fish regularly improved symptoms

The team found that compared with patients who never ate fish or ate it less than once a month, the patients who ate fish more than twice a week showed significantly lower disease activity, as represented by a DAS28-CRP score that was 0.49 points lower.

Furthermore, they found that each additional portion of fish consumed every week was linked with a 0.18-point drop in DAS28-CRP scores. [Read more Fresh fruit may be beneficial for people with diabetes, research suggests]

Based on their findings, the researchers suggest that people with rheumatoid arthritis might benefit from eating fish regularly.

“With that type of improvement, we would generally expect that a patient would feel noticeably better,” says Dr. Tedeschi.

The research also suggests that people do not need to consume fish twice a week to get the benefits, and they don’t have to stop at twice a week, either. Each serving of fish per week was associated with lower disease activity.

Dr. Tedeschi concludes:

“If our finding holds up in other studies, it suggests that fish consumption may lower inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis disease activity.”

“Fish consumption has been noted to have many beneficial health effects, and our findings may give patients with rheumatoid arthritis a strong reason to increase fish consumption.”

The study was published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

Benefits of eating fish

01/07/2017 / by / in