Health Briefs November 2007~ Good Body Housekeeping and much more . . .

 

Good Body Housekeeping

Reduce, recycle, rebuild! What’s good for our environment is good for our bodies, right down to the cellular level, according to a recent study at the University of Florida. Research performed with lab rodents showed why cutting calories can enhance an animal’s prospects for leading a longer and healthier life.

First, scientists found that the cells in animals fed a low-calorie diet did a better job of recycling damaged parts. Second, they experienced more efficient energy production. Third, they benefited from a healthy boost in cellular cleaning. The hearts of older rats on a controlled diet were cleaned up by a factor of 120 percent over the hearts of rats allowed to eat whatever they wanted.

“Caloric restriction is a way to extend life in animals,” concludes Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., a division chief in the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging. Evidently, it kicks in a level of bodily housekeeping that could have positive implications for healthy aging—something to keep in mind during the bountiful holiday season.

Source: University of Florida, 2007

Hot Stuff for Fighting Fat

The holiday season brings decked-out tables overflowing with goodies, which Taiwanese food scientists want us to spice up with a dish of hot peppers. Researchers in Taiwan report new laboratory evidence confirming that capsaicin—the natural compound that gives red peppers their kick—can actually reduce the growth of fat cells. They also discovered that this nifty compound even catalyzes a biochemical signal that causes fat cells to self-destruct.

Source: American Chemical Society, 2007

Cookware Linked to Low Birth Weight

Evidence is mounting that wise cooks stay away from non-stick cookware. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that exposure of developing human fetuses to chemical compounds often used in non-stick cookware and in some food packaging may reduce birth weight and size. The study, recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, echoes cautions previously issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Last year, the EPA asked several companies to work toward the elimination of PFOA, a likely carcinogen found in non-stick surfaces, by 2015. Some studies have shown that the chemical is now present at low levels in the bloodstream of 9 out of 10 Americans. Watchdog EWG also advises consumers to stay away from non-stick cookware.

Recipe for a More Peaceful World

An increasing volume of research confirms that good nutrition not only can improve psychological well-being and prevent depression, it can reduce aggression. Oxford University Physiologist Bernard Gesch led the way in 2002 by proving that infractions of prison rules fell 26 percent among British inmates when their diet included multivitamin, mineral and fatty-acid supplements over a period of four months. Recently, Radboud University in the Netherlands came up with similar results among Dutch inmates. Their reports of violence and aggression plummeted 34 percent in just one to three months.

“If it works in prisons, it should work in the community and the society at large,” observes Gesch. Those who study the relationship of nutrition and behavior caution people not to use supplements as a substitute for a good diet.
Keep Snack Foods Real

A surprising number of workers in popcorn factories are turning up with a rare lung disease now linked with airborne fumes from heated diacetyl, the chemical commonly used in the product’s artificial butter flavoring. Since 2001, academic studies have supported this link, and synthetic flavoring manufacturers have paid out $100+ million in lawsuit awards over the past five years.

While union leaders, researchers and concerned senators are calling for tougher manufacturing restrictions, less is known about the health effects of eating the popcorn or breathing the fumes at home or the office after the bag is microwaved. Due to increasing consumer concerns, some popcorn manufacturers recently said that they plan to remove diacetyl from their products. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has renewed its study of the issue.

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