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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Health: Snippets

Auntie Beeb tells us that calcium supplements often prescribed to older women in the interest of maintaining their bone density slightly increase such women's risk of heart attack, and possibly also stroke and sudden death. The evidence for stroke and sudden death is inconclusive, not having been researched to the same extent.
The University of Auckland team followed 1,471 healthy postmenopausal women for five years.


After a careful analysis of the data, the researchers confirmed 36 heart attacks in 31 women who took the supplements, compared with 22 heart attacks in 21 women who took the placebo.
Lead researcher Professor Ian Reid stated that it would be wise to advise against calcium supplementation in those over the age of 70 years and in those known to have coronary heart disease. If you are under the age of 70 and don't have heart disease, the bone health benefit of calcium probably outweighs the risk.

As always, it's better to derive your calcium from your diet rather than supplements. Green vegetables are high in calcium, but such calcium is not always bioavailable. For information on calcium absorption, see this site, which also warns that you should not exceed 2000mg/day, as a recent Women's Health Initiative study has shown that higher levels can cause kidney stones. Lactose-intolerant persons should consider yoghurt, which is more easily absorbed.

The British Journal of Cancer has published results of a study which suggests that, although white women suffer from breast cancer in greater numbers than black women, black women are more likely to get breast cancer earlier, and to manifest smaller cancers which were more difficult to treat using currently available therapies.

From the article:
The 102 black patients were diagnosed with breast cancer at an average age of 46 while the 191 white patients were on average 67.
Dr Rebecca Bowen, who led the study, said:
"We are thinking along the lines that these results are down to biological differences. More research is needed to see if this stands up, and then to work out what the implications are."
This should be a wake-up call to black women everywhere to self-screen regularly starting earlier, and to insist on cancer testing aggressively and at an earlier age.

Auntie Beeb reports that The University of Crete has just completed a study that shows that women who follow a Mediterranean diet can protect their children from asthma and other allergies.
The Crete team studied 468 mothers and their children from pregnancy to six and a half years after the birth.

They found asthma and allergies were significantly less common in children whose mothers ate lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish during pregnancy.

The Thorax study also found eating high levels of red meat increased the risk.

It made that conclusion in cases where red meat was being eaten more than three to four times a week.
The article showed protective effects when mothers consumed vegetables more than eight times a week, fish more than three times a week, and legumes more than once a week.

So if you're planning on having children, switch to a healthy diet now, even if you don't plan to get pregnant right away. This study's results explain a lot about the increasing incidence of dangerous allergies in children of late. When we were wee sprogs, we didn't know anyone at all with a peanut allergy. Now they're rampant.

Also from Auntie Beeb, apparently the beneficial flora in yoghurt does change the makeup of your intestinal flora - in positive ways. The study by The Imperial College London, partly funded by food giant Nestle and published in Molecular Systems Biology, reports that mice fed probiotic drinks had different levels of key chemicals in their blood and urine. This might mean that the body is passing some fat undigested, instead of converting it all into that fabric-stretching avoirdupois that now graces our pleasingly porpoisoid corpi. However, it is not clear that this is the case, and more study must be undertaken to determine what the current study shows. In other words, don't get your porpulent hopes up, folks. Basically, so far, what they know is that if you've been taking antibiotics, yoghurt will help replace any beneficial gut flora killed. So eat your yoghurt. It's good for your calcium levels, too.

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