Reader's Digest

The Benefits of Nightmares, and More

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NIGHTMARES TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

In two related studies, researcher­s at the University of Geneva in Switzerlan­d used brain scans to show that the same brain regions are activated when we experience fear in dreams and in real life. What’s more, people who have scary dreams more often are less afraid of frightenin­g images when they are awake. This suggests that nightmares help us rehearse dangerous scenarios in a safe environmen­t, which helps us know how to handle threats better when they actually occur.

Heart-healthy Diet May Prevent Hearing Loss

Over a 22-year period, women who mostly followed the Mediterran­ean diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertensi­on) diet were about 30 percent less likely to develop moderate or severe hearing loss than those who didn’t. Both diets reduce or eliminate red meat and processed foods, instead emphasizin­g fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and other legumes, all of which help prevent oxidation and inflammati­on. This finding, based on a study of more than 81,000 women ages 27 to 44, confirms previous research that has found an associatio­n between a healthy diet and reduced risk of hearing loss.

CHEWING GUM THAT DELIVERS VITAMINS

A small study found that chewing gum fortified with vitamins could be an effective way to get people nutrients. These gums

(sold as Smartgum or Get More) work best to deliver water-soluble vitamins such as B6 and C; a recent analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examinatio­n Survey showed that almost 10 percent of Americans are deficient in these two vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A and E were not completely released from the gum.

NEW TEST FOR PROSTATE CANCER

A new ultrasound process called shear wave elastograp­hy (SWE) may soon help doctors spot prostate cancer with greater accuracy and reliabilit­y than current methods, which include physical examinatio­ns of the rectal area, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests, MRI scans, and biopsies. Cancerous tissue is stiffer than normal tissue, so the shear waves are slowed as they pass through it. The technology detected 89 percent of prostate cancers, and it could identify more aggressive cancers and those beginning to spread.

Vitamin A Can Weaken Bones

A Swedish study found that mice who consumed excess vitamin A (equivalent to 4.5 to 13 times the recommende­d dietary allowance in humans) had thinner bones after just eight days. This suggests that people shouldn’t take too much vitamin A through food or supplement­s, especially if they’re at risk for osteoporos­is.

Drug Reduces Hot Flashes

Researcher­s at the

Mayo Clinic have found a new option to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors, who are unable to take hormone replacemen­t therapy, the typical treatment. Unlike other nonhormona­l treatments for hot flashes, oxybutynin does not interfere with tamoxifen, a drug many survivors take to help prevent a recurrence.

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