Health & Wellness


How to Save New Brain Cells

Fresh neurons arise in the adult brain every day. New research suggests that the cells ultimately help with learning complex tasks - and the more they are challenged, the more they flourish.

If you watch TV, read magazines or surf the Web, you have probably encountered advertisements urging you to exercise your mind. Various brain fitness programs encourage people to stay mentally limber by giving their brain a daily workout - doing everything from memorizing lists and solving puzzles to estimating the number of trees in Central Park.

It sounds a bit gimmicky, but such programs may have a real basis in neurobiology. Recent work, albeit mostly in rats, indicates that learning enhances the survival of new neurons in the adult brain. And the more engaging and challenging the problem, the greater the number of neurons that stick around. These neurons are then presumably available to aid in situations that tax the mind. It seems, then, that a mental workout can buff up the brain, much as physical exercise builds up the body.


Brain injury raises epilepsy risk for years

London - A severe brain injury puts people at high risk of epilepsy for more than a decade after they are first hurt, a finding that suggests there may be a window to prevent the condition, researchers said on Monday.

A Danish team found that the odds of epilepsy more than doubled after mild brain injury or skull fracture and was seven times more likely in patients with serious brain injury.


Not A Sweet Proposition

"Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."-- Anthropologist Margaret Mead

Even if you've heard the above quote many times before, the sentiment expressed is so powerful that I think it's worth repeating. All around the world, small groups of people are organizing public support for improved food safety and successfully challenging large corporations to change their behavior.


Vitamin D Deficiency May Increase Risk of Colds, Flu

Vitamin D may be an important way to arm the immune system against disorders like the common cold, report investigators from the University of Colorado Denver (UC Denver) School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Children's Hospital Boston.

In the largest and most nationally representative study of the association between vitamin D and respiratory infections, people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu. The risks were even higher for those with chronic respiratory disorders, such as asthma and emphysema. The report appears in the February 23 Archives of Internal Medicine.


Add Spirulina to Your Diet and Replace those Expensive Supplements

Spirulina is considered one of nature's most perfect foods because it performs such a broad spectrum of activities in the body. Its nutritional profile shows it can replace many more expensive supplements, and its research profile reveals its dedication to promoting good health. Several animal studies have documented the ability of spirulina to arrest the development of cancer progression, reduce risk of cancer initiation, and boost the immune system. Spirulina has anti-viral and anti-allergic effects, and is a natural antihistamine. Recently, spirulina has been found effective at lowering the immune response when it has become overactive, a function that may make it effective against autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Spirulina's credentials date back more than three billion years

Spirulina are microscopic coiled blue-green algae that have been around for the past 3.6 billion years or so. Spirulina and other blue-green algae were the generators of the oxygen found in the atmosphere that allowed higher life forms to evolve. These algae contain every nutrient needed by life to evolve into the diversity of life seen on earth today.


Canada refuses to label cloned meat 'organic'

Is eating steak made from a cloned cow more appealing if it was raised organically?

The answer is no, according to Canadian food authorities.

Canada has declared organic food and cloned animals to be mutually exclusive -- which means any products derived from cloned animals won't carry the country's new organic logo.

The restriction will be introduced under a sweeping set of revised national guidelines, released last week, that are designed to regulate the country's organic food industry and prevent companies from making false or misleading claims.

Last year, U.S. health officials declared that any cloned milk or meat could not be called organic.


'Experiment of nature' examines how mother's diet may impact on child's health

Could our mother's diet at the time we are conceived set the course for our future health? This intriguing question is at the heart of a new study based on an "experiment of nature" being conducted by Wellcome Trust-funded researchers.

We inherit our DNA - the genetic blueprint that determines our make-up - from our parents: 50% of our DNA from our mothers and 50% from our fathers. Apart from the occasional mutation, deletion or duplication of information, this DNA remains unchanged between generations.

The environment, for example our diet, whether we smoke, and the toxins that we encounter in our daily life, can cause changes in how our genes are expressed - in other words, how they function - and these changes can be inherited, even when the DNA sequence itself does not change. These so-called "epigenetic" effects can occur through a process known as DNA methylation, where methyl caps bind to our DNA and act like dimmer switches on our genes.

Take 2

Giant Foods Issues Potato Product Recall

Bacterial Contamination Fears Spur Recall Order

Baltimore - Two grocers have issued a recall on some potato products.

Giant Food and Stop & Shop have pulled 20 oz. bags of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns, Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices and Simply Potatoes Red Potato Wedges.

The products were recalled by Northern Star Co., a subsidiary of food processor Michael Foods Inc. The recalled items all have "use by" dates on their packages ranging from March 29 to April 3, 2009.

The products may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that can cause flu-like symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. The bacteria can be very damaging for pregnant women or those with weakened immune systems.


China: 70 ill from tainted pig organs

Beijing - At least 70 people in one Chinese province have suffered food poisoning in recent days after eating pig organs contaminated by a banned food additive, state-run media reported Monday.

Health officials in the Guangdong province in southeast China said most were treated at hospitals and released, but at least three people remained hospitalized, the China Daily newspaper reported.

The victims complained of stomach aches and diarrhea after eating pig organs bought in local markets since Thursday, China's Xinhua news agency reported. A local health official said initial investigations indicated that the pig organs were contaminated by clenbuterol, an additive that is banned in pig feed in China.

Three people were detained for suspected involvement in raising and selling contaminated pigs, authorities said.

Clenbuterol can prevent pigs from accumulating fat but is harmful to humans and can be fatal. One of the largest food poisoning cases involving clenbuterol happened in Shanghai in September 2006, when 336 people were hospitalized after eating pig meat or organs contaminated with the additive, China Daily said.


Why New Mothers Need Extra Attention

Around the globe, giving birth and caring for a baby is mostly women's work.

But that work is fraught with difficulty, and women are often navigating a sea of critical choices as they try to breast-feed and bring up a child, especially under conditions of scarcity.

Recent research by anthropologist Barbara Piperata of Ohio State University has shown that one of the most pressing issues for new mothers is the caloric cost of breast-feeding. Piperata has lived with the Ribeirinha people of the Amazon and analyzed how women in a culture that doesn't utilize a grocery store might cope with the high caloric demands of feeding a baby. Breast-feeding, it seems, takes an extra one-third of calories per day, and that increase is critical among the Ribeirinha, where women eat the meat and fish brought home by their husbands, and food is generally hard to come by.