Trou­ble iden­ti­fy­ing smells could be an early in­di­ca­tor to Alzheimer’s

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Com­piled by Dr Chris­tine White

SMELL may not be the most im­por­tant of the five senses, but trou­ble iden­ti­fy­ing odours could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Ac­cord­ing to new re­search in the Archivesof Gen­er­alPsy­chi­a­try , older adults who have dif­fi­culty recog­nis­ing com­mon odours may be at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment — a de­cline in think­ing, learn­ing and me­mory that can pre­cede Alzheimer’s. The study in­volved 589 older adults with an av­er­age age of 79.9, who did not have cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment at the start of the study. They were given a smell iden­ti­fi­ca­tion test, dur­ing which 12 familiar odours were placed un­der their nose. They were asked to match each odour to one of four pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tives, and were scored from one to 12 based on the num­ber of cor­rect an­swers. Over the fol­low­ing five years, 177 peo­ple (30.1 per cent) de­vel­oped mild cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment. The risk of de­vel­op­ing the con­di­tion in­creased as odour recog­ni­tion de­creased, so that those with the low­est scores on the test (be­low 8) were 50 per cent more likely to de­velop the con­di­tion than those with the high­est scores (11 or 12). ArchGenPsy­chi­a­try 2007;64:802-808 (Wil­son RS, et al) SMOK­ING just one cig­a­rette is enough to cause nico­tine ad­dic­tion in young peo­ple, claims a new study in the Archivesof Pe­di­atric­sandA­do­les­cen­tMedicine . The study found that 10 per cent of young peo­ple who be­come hooked on cig­a­rettes are ad­dicted within two days of first smok­ing, and 25 per cent are ad­dicted within a month. Re­searchers mon­i­tored 1246 Grade Six stu­dents over four years. Each stu­dent was in­ter­viewed three times about smok­ing, symp­toms of ad­dic­tion (dif­fi­culty quit­ting, strong urges to smoke) and nico­tine with­drawal symp­toms (crav­ings, rest­less­ness, ir­ri­tabil­ity, and trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing). There were 217 stu­dents who in­haled cig­a­rette smoke dur­ing the study. Of th­ese, 127 showed symp­toms of nico­tine de­pen­dence and half were ad­dicted by the time they were smok­ing only seven cig­a­rettes per month. Among the 83 smok­ers who de­vel­oped the high­est level of ad­dic­tion, half had done so by the time they were smok­ing 46 cig­a­rettes per month. ArchPe­di­a­trA­do­lescMed 2007;161:704-710 (DiFranza JR, et al) TEENAGERS from low-in­come fam­i­lies are more likely to suf­fer from mi­graines than the chil­dren of higher in­come earn­ers, finds a study in the cur­rent is­sue of Neu­rol­ogy . Re­searchers sur­veyed 18,714 ado­les­cents and their par­ents. A to­tal of 1178 ado­les­cents re­ported mi­graine. In fam­i­lies with no his­tory of mi­graine, but with an an­nual in­come of less than $US22,500 ($A26,334), the risk of teenage mi­graine was 4.4 per cent. But in fam­i­lies with no mi­graine his­tory and a higher an­nual in­come of $US90,000 ($A105,337) or more, the risk was only 2.9 per cent. Pos­si­ble fac­tors as­so­ci­ated with low so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus, such as stress, poor diet or lim­ited ac­cess to med­i­cal care may be re­spon­si­ble for this dif­fer­ence, say the au­thors. Neu­rol­ogy 2007;69;16-25 (Bi­gal ME, et al) CHIL­DREN born fol­low­ing in-vitro fer­til­i­sa­tion (IVF) may grow taller and have a health­ier me­tab­o­lism than other chil­dren in their age group, ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished on­line this week in the Jour­nalof Clin­i­calEn­docrinol­o­gyandMetabolism . Th­ese im­prove­ments, which can be seen as early as mid-child­hood, may be due to sub­tle changes to the chil­dren’s genes that can oc­cur dur­ing the IVF process. Re­searchers re­cruited 69 healthy chil­dren aged four to 10 con­ceived us­ing IVF, and a con­trol group of 71 nat­u­rally con­ceived chil­dren of sim­i­lar ages. They mea­sured height, weight and a range of fac­tors in the chil­dren’s blood in­clud­ing glu­cose, in­sulin and choles­terol. Af­ter ac­count­ing for par­ents’ heights, IVF chil­dren were taller on av­er­age than nat­u­rally con­ceived chil­dren. They also had higher lev­els of growth fac­tors in their blood, and more high-den­sity lipopro­tein (HDL, or ‘‘ good’’ choles­terol). JClinEn­docrinolMetab 2007;doi:10.1210/jc.2006-2465 (Miles HL, et al) AL­CO­HOLICS who took a new drug to curb their urge to drink re­ported fewer heavy drink­ing days than those tak­ing an in­ac­tive placebo. The Fin­nish study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Al­co­holism:Clin­i­ca­landEx­per­i­men­tal Re­search , in­volved 403 heavy drinkers who took ei­ther the drug nalme­fene or a placebo when­ever they had the urge to drink. Be­fore the study, the av­er­age num­ber of heavy drink­ing days (five or more stan­dard drinks for men and four or more drinks for women) each month was 15.5 in the nalme­fene treat­ment group and 16.2 in the placebo group. Dur­ing the three-month treat­ment pe­riod, the av­er­age num­ber of heavy drink­ing days per month was 8.6 to 9.3 for the nalme­fene group, and 10.6 to 12.0 for the placebo group. While the drug re­duced al­co­hol con­sump­tion, side ef­fects in­cluded nausea, in­som­nia, fa­tigue and dizzi­ness. Al­co­holClinEx­pRes 2007;31:1179-1187 (Karhu­vaara S, et al) EAT­ING small amounts of dark choco­late ev­ery day can re­duce blood pres­sure, with­out caus­ing weight gain or any other side ef­fects, say the au­thors of a new study in the Jour­nal oftheAmer­i­canMed­i­calAs­so­ci­a­tion . Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that eat­ing large amounts of co­coa-con­tain­ing foods can lower blood pres­sure, due to the ac­tion of ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cals called polyphe­nols. But the long- term ef­fects of reg­u­larly con­sum­ing small amounts of th­ese foods were un­known. The trial in­cluded 44 men and women aged 56 to 73 with high blood pres­sure (BP 130/85 to 160/100). Par­tic­i­pants were ran­domly al­lo­cated into two groups. For 18 weeks, one group re­ceived 6.3g (30 calo­ries) per day of dark choco­late con­tain­ing 30mg of polyphe­nols, and the other group re­ceived the same amount of polyphe­nol-free white choco­late. In 18 weeks, dark choco­late sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced blood pres­sure with­out af­fect­ing body weight or lev­els of sugar and fats in the blood. There was no change in blood pres­sure among those in the white choco­late group. JAMA 2007;298:49-60 (Taubert D, et al) Want to know more? Items are ref­er­enced where pos­si­ble. A ref­er­ence such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source ar­ti­cle was pub­lished on pages 18-25 in vol­ume num­ber 35 of the pub­li­ca­tion, in 2007. A doi num­ber or web­site ad­dress is used for re­search pub­lished on a jour­nal’s web­site.

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