Diet influences life with Alzheimer’s disease
GREEK and Italian food could help the 100,000 Australians living with Alzheimer’s disease. A new study in the journal Neurology this week shows that Alzheimer’s patients who follow a Mediterranean diet — high in vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and mono unsaturated fats — live longer than those who eat a traditional Western diet higher in saturated fats, dairy products and meat. The study followed 192 people with Alzheimer’s disease in New York for an average of 41/ years. During that time, 85
2 died. Those who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet, which also includes a mild to moderate amount of alcohol, were 76 per cent less likely to die during the study period than those who followed the diet the least. Alzheimer’s patients who followed the diet very strictly lived an average of four years longer than those who followed it the least. Neurology 2007;69:1084-1093 (Scarmeas N, et al) THE artificial sweetener aspartame has been declared safe following a thorough review of all previous studies looking at its health effects. Published in CriticalReviewsin Toxicology this week, the review concludes that there is no evidence that the sweetener causes cancer, neurological damage or other health problems in humans. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, and can therefore be added to food in much lower amounts, reducing the calorie content. Looking at more than 500 reports dating back to the 1970s, an international panel of experts from 10 universities and medical schools evaluated the safety of aspartame for people of all ages and a range of health conditions. They used recent data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to estimate average levels of aspartame consumption, and found that even the highest consumers are well below the acceptable daily intake. At these levels, say the authors, aspartame appears to have no ill health effects. CritRevToxicol 2007;37:629-727 (Magnuson BA, et al) BREASTFEEDING does not protect children from developing allergies or asthma, according to new research in the British MedicalJournal . Researchers recruited 17,046 breastfeeding women from 31 Belarussian maternity hospitals and divided them into two groups. In the experimental group, breastfeeding was promoted and supported in the hospitals the women and children attended. In the control group, the hospitals continued with their normal breastfeeding practices and policies. Compared to those in the control group, women in the experimental group breastfed for longer, and a greater proportion were breastfeeding exclusively at three months (44.3 per cent compared to 6.4 per cent). At 61/ years of age, 13,889 children from both
2 groups were tested for asthma, hay fever, eczema and allergies to house dust mites, cats, birch pollen, mould and grasses. Breastfeeding had no effect on the likelihood of developing any of these conditions. BMJ 2007;doi:10.1136/bmj.39304.464016.AE (Kramer MS, et al) VITAMIN Dsupplements— often used to strengthen bones — may also help you to live longer. New research in the Archivesof InternalMedicine has shown that people who take vitamin D tablets have a lower risk of death over a six-year period than those who don’t. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to a higher risk of death from cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Researchers analysed 18 previous studies looking at the health effects of vitamin Dincluding 57,311 participants. The doses of vitamin Dused in the studies ranged from 300 to 2000 international units (IU), with an average dose of 528 IU. Most commercially available supplements contain between 400 and 600 IU. Over an average follow-up period of 5.7 years, 4777 of the participants died. Those who took vitamin D had a 7 per cent lower risk of death than those who did not. ArchInternMed 2007;167:1709-1710 (Autier P, et al) FREQUENT alcohol consumption increases the risk of endometrial cancer in older women, concludes a study in the current issue of the InternationalJournalofCancer . The study found that postmenopausal women who have two or more alcoholic drinks a day have twice the risk of developing endometrial cancer as non-drinkers. There was no increased risk in women who drank fewer than two drinks per day. The study followed 41,574 postmenopausal women from Los Angeles and Hawaii for an average of eight years. Surveys were used to collect information on alcohol intake and endometrial cancer risk factors. During the study period, there were 324 cases of endometrial cancer. The association with alcohol intake was stronger among lean women than among overweight or obese women. Alcohol consumption has been linked to higher levels of estrogen in postmenopausal women, say the authors, which could explain its effect on endometrial cancer risk. IntJCancer 2007;doi:10.1002/ijc.23072 (Setiawan VW, et al) SMOKING cigarettes is known to harden the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. Now new research in Cardiovascular Toxicology has shown that hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) is caused by nicotine — not by tar, as previously thought. Scientists compared low-nicotine cigarettes containing 0.05 to 0.2 milligrams of nicotine with regular cigarettes containing 0.6 to 1 milligram of nicotine. All of the cigarettes tested had the same tar content. They found that mice exposed to smoke from low-nicotine cigarettes had significantly less atherosclerosis than those exposed to regular cigarettes, but still more than mice not exposed to cigarette smoke at all. The effects of smoking on the arteries were seen within weeks of smoke exposure. CardiovascToxicol 2007;7 (Catanzaro DF, 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.
Mediterranean eating: Healthier than the typical Western fare