Asthma in Children
Asthma afflicts some 17 million Americans, including at least 5 million under 18, and kills about 5,400 people annually. While it is partly inherited, other less-understood factors also are at work. Two recent German studies similarly found asthma less common in children who started day care early, and other research indicates that growing up in the country, on a farm with animals or in a home with a dog protects against asthma, noted Dr. Sandra C. Christiansen of Scripps Research Institute. A new study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, published in recently in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that early exposure to other youngsters and their germs appears to protect children from developing asthma later on. In the study, researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine looked at the respiratory health of some 1,000 children over a 15-year period. The study found that children who attended day care in their first six months or had two or more older siblings were about half as likely to have asthma at age 13 as youngsters who had one or no older siblings and did not attend day care until they were older. This echoes the hot new "hygiene theory" that says children who do not get outside and get dirty every now and then are not being exposed to enough germs to stimulate proper development of their immune systems. Some doctors say that more research on children's immune systems is needed before we know whether the benefits of exposure to common germs outweigh the risks.
Fatless Food Impact on Kids
Reducing dietary fat may be okay even for very young kids. Reducing fat intake to prevent heart disease can start before age two without harming children's neurological development, researchers in Finland have found. The finding contradicts the advice of health experts, who have recommended against restricting fat before age two out of concern too lean a diet could harm development of children's rapidly growing brains. The study of 496 Finnish children followed from seven months of age to 5 years could point to remedies for childhood obesity in developed nations, said some experts not involved in the study. The study, led by Dr. Leena Rask-Nissila of the University of Turku in Turku, Finland, appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The ancient Persians didn't have much patience for a woman's periods. If she continued to bleed after four days, she could be whipped, then placed in isolation for five more days. A woman in ancient Persia may have experienced 100 periods in her lifetime. Women today get their periods earlier, have fewer children, experience menopause later, so that a childless woman might have 480 periods in her lifetime. A lot of women with uncomfortable periods have known for a long time that birth control pills in the right dosage can make periods stop altogether. The pill delivers a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin, that prevents a woman's body from going through its monthly preparation for pregnancy. Normally, seven out of the 28 pills in a monthly pack contain no hormones, allowing the woman to menstruate at the end of the cycle, which is the body's way of clearing a path for the next ovulation. But, if women skip the seven placebo pills and take full-strength birth control every day, their periods stop. The major "new" argument that leaders of the anti-period movement are raising focuses on the reduced disease risk that is derived from birth-control pills. Women on the pill for five years cut in half their risk of ovarian cancer, which kills 14,000 US women annually, and they reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Studies also show that benign cysts of the ovaries and breasts as well as pelvic inflammatory disease decrease with pill use. In addition, Anderson said periods can intensify existing conditions, such as epilepsy, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraines. Anemia, an iron-deficiency disorder that afflicts millions of menstruating women worldwide, is linked to menstrual periods. Cautioon: Some cancer risks may be increased by the pill. There is still uncertainty as to whether continued use of estrogen causes an increased risk of breast cancer, the leading cause of cancer among women.
The DASH diet, which may lower blood pressure, also reduces levels of homocysteine, a possible independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke, researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. DASH refers to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension trial, a multi-center trial designed to assess how dietary patterns affect blood pressure. The DASH diet is a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Previous studies have shown an association between high blood levels of homocysteine - a by-product of protein metabolism - and increased rates of heart attack and stroke. There are multiple benefits if you start early to eat right.
Reports suggest that it may be useful in preventing and treating a variety of human skin disorders. Santosh K. Katiyar, Ph.D., and colleagues in the department of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University, reviewed several of these studies about green tea and reports. The substances in green tea thought to protect against cancer are called polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that can cancel out the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that damage cells'' DNA and as a result can begin the process of a cell turning cancerous. Dr. Katiyar says it is better to drink green tea to benefit from its antioxidants. But he adds that it could be useful if applied topically on the skin. It may protect against damage from environmental pollutants, especially ultraviolet radiation from the sun, according to the researcher.
"Supplementation of skin care products with green tea may have a profound impact on various skin disorders in the years to come," he says. Tea is commercially available in three forms: green tea, black tea and oolong tea. Of the total tea production, about 78 percent is consumed as black tea, mainly in India and Western countries, while about 20 percent is consumed as green tea, mainly in Asian countries. Green tea is made from the fresh leaves of the tea plant by steaming and drying them at high temperatures. Although skin-care products containing green tea are already available in the market, the products most likely have not been tested in clinical trials and the concentration of green tea polyphenols they contain is not uniform, according to the researchers.
Both black tea and green tea have been studied for their health effects. Some of these studies have looked at whether black or green tea prevents cancer or can even cause cancer. Most have come down on the side of tea having a protective effect. But it has been hard to prove and it is not clear whether it is green or black tea, or both, that is protective or which cancers might be prevented by drinking tea. Iman Hakim and colleagues from the University of Arizona report that drinking hot, strong, black tea may lower a personís risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer.
According to ACS guidelines, the most important ways to lower the risk of skin cancer are to avoid being outdoors in intense sunlight too long and to practice sun safety when you are outdoors, including: -seeking shade; -wearing clothing to protect your skin; -wearing sunglasses; -using sunscreen with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15; and -avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps and other sources of UV light. A diet high in fruits and vegetables has been proven to lower risk of some cancers and green tea should be considered an addition to Ė not a substitute for Ė a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and Vegetables
Phytochemicals in apples seem to slow the rate at which collections of cancer cells grow. Consuming these phytochemicals in the form of fresh fruit could be a better way to get the cancer protection of antioxidants than taking vitamin C supplements, according to a recent report in the journal Nature (Vol. 405, No.6,789). Antioxidants protect cells from DNA damage that can be caused by very unstable forms of oxygen called free radicals. Such DNA damage can be the first step in a normal cell turning cancerous. Although free radicals occur during the course of normal cellular metabolism, their formation is accelerated by exposure to radiation and cancer-causing chemicals. The researchers measured the antioxidant capacity of 100 grams of apple extract and found it was about the same as 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C. Because there is only about five milligrams of vitamin C in that amount of apple extract, the researchers knew the antioxidant effect must come from other phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in the extract. An average-size apple weighs about 140 grams. When the researchers introduced their apple extract into human colon cancer cells or liver cancer cells, they found it slowed their rate of reproduction markedly. The anti-cancer effect was strongest in extracts made from unpeeled apples, which contain more phytochemicals. The researchers believe the large amounts of antioxidant phytochemicals found in the apple extract may help to explain the cancer protection provided by a diet that includes five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Experts with the American Cancer Society (ACS) says itís too early to say which substances in apples provide the protection and that the best way to lower your risk of cancer is to eat enough fruits and vegetables. "And since we donít know yet, the surest way to get that protection is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day, and at least five servings a day. We know that from very large dietary studies that have been done." The ACS estimates that about one-third of all cancers could be prevented by eating a healthy diet and getting enough physical activity.
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants seem to help
prevent cancer and heart disease by avoiding and repairing damage caused
by free radicals. Scientific analysis ranks prunes highest in antioxidants,
followed by blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, raisins, plums, red
grapes and cherries. Many vegetables and whole grains are also excellent
sources of antioxidants. But remember that their antioxidant function is
only one of the many benefits they provide. Some foods that are not as
high in antioxidants may be excellent sources of fiber, minerals, non-antioxidant
vitamins and phytochemicals like ellagic acid and indoles, which serve
other anti-cancer functions.
Rather than looking for the one "best" fruit or vegetable, focus on eating an abundance of a wide variety. Aim for at least five servings a day. If you can get to the nine or ten servings common in many parts of the world, so much the better.
Smoking and Bladder Cancer
In a recent issue of the journal Cancer, Maurice P. A. Zeegers, of the department of epidemiology at Maastricht University, and his colleagues found people who smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day had a risk of developing urinary tract cancers that was more than three times the risk of nonsmokers. The risk for people who smoked fewer cigarettes was still more than double the risk of nonsmokers. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society. In fact, nearly one in five deaths in the United States results from the use of tobacco. Based on research from the American Cancer Society (ACS), each year smoking claims more than 400,000 lives in the U.S.
Measure of Longevity
of a Western Marriage
Your hormones may hold the key. A couple's chances of a happy marriage can be gauged in half an hour by measuring hormonal changes in a woman's body. Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine found that measuring the level of the stress hormone cortisol may be a good gauge of marital woes. Women whose cortisol levels rose during discussions about their marriage were twice as likely to get divorced 10 years later!
Tips For Losing Weight
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, August 31, 2000
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