Tag Archives: University of Kentucky

Exercise Before Alcohol

Rigorous physical exercise before binge drinking may reduce brain damage in adolescents.
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Monkeys are much like humans. If you leave them alone with alcohol, some of them are sure to get drunk quickly. But that’s a useful trait, because then you can study their brains easily. Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute near San Diego in the US did exactly that with adolescent monkeys, and came to some disturbing conclusions.

Chitra Mandyam and her colleagues at the Scripps Institute were investigating the effects of binge drinking among adolescents. They let the monkeys drink for an hour every day for 11 months. They then stopped the alcohol supply for two months, after which they examined the brains of the animals. The monkeys showed permanent damage in the hippocampus, an area that is crucial to the formation of new memory.

Adolescence — whether in rats, monkeys or humans — is a period of intense physical and mental change. “It is a vulnerable period,” says Mandyam.

According to several studies, binge drinking is increasing among adolescents. Over 60 per cent of these youngsters are at risk of developing brain disorders. It is thus necessary to understand how alcohol damages the brain, how lasting the damage is, and what can be done to reverse it.

“There have been several studies on rodents,” says Mandyam. “But this is the first time we studied binge drinking in monkeys.” There are many advantages of studying the phenomenon in monkeys. The animals are genetically similar to human beings, they drink like humans, and their brains are affected in a manner similar to that in humans.

Neurons in the hippocampus are generated the same way in monkeys as in humans. Since it is difficult to get the brains of adolescent humans for post-mortem, monkeys form the closest approximation for studying the effect of alcohol on adolescent humans.

Scientists at the Scripps Institute first selected a set of monkeys who liked to drink alcohol, and then divided it into two groups. One group was allowed to drink for 11 months and the other did not get to drink. Neurons in the hippocampus of the animals that drank had degenerated when seen even after two months of abstinence. The level of stem cells in the brain also decreased, suggesting the brain had less capacity to repair the damage.

The hippocampus is an important area of the brain that is involved in several functions like spatial memory formation, executive functioning and short-term and long-term memory formation. If damaged during adolescence, it could affect an individual’s functioning for a lifetime. This is particularly true if the stem cells are damaged. Mandyam’s study showed that as much as 90 per cent of the stem cells in the hippocampus could be damaged by binge drinking.

So the next question is: what can we do to reverse the damage? The brain is known to be very plastic, but can we invoke this plasticity when the stem cells in the hippocampus are damaged? There are no studies of monkeys, but those of rats suggest that one may be able to control this damage partly.

One particular study by Kimberly Nixon and her colleagues at the University of Kentucky in the US has shown that exercise before drinking may reduce the damage to a certain extent.

Nixon made rats exercise voluntarily for 14 days before four days of intense drinking. When the brains of the rodents were examined after that, they showed reduced damage compared with rats that did not exercise. However, we cannot necessarily conclude that all alcohol damage is reversible. “We do not know the threshold levels alcohol begins to be toxic,” says Nixon. “There is old data saying that over 50 per cent of alcoholics have persistent cognitive defects they never recover from.”

There may be several reasons why exercise shows reduced damage. It could be that the brain cells form new connections to compensate for lost cells. Abstinence and the passage of time may help the brain recover a bit. But we still do not know the many ways in which alcohol affects the brain.

However, we do know two things: binge drinking can permanently damage parts of the brain. And a period of exercise before drinking can prevent or at least reduce brain cell death.


Source :
The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Grape Seeds May Prevent Worst Health Disasters

For years, scientists have given two thumbs up to grape seed extract as a powerful disease fighter. Now, findings by the American Association for Cancer Research show it may be powerful enough to blast away leukemia cells!
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As its name implies, grape seed extract is pressed from the seeds of grapes. Laboratory studies have shown that grape seeds contain helpful antioxidants that prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.

Grape seed extract has also been shown to strengthen the heart and blood vessels… reduce high blood pressure… improve symptoms of diabetes… lower high cholesterol… and may even help treat and prevent cancer!

According to a statement from the association, a study revealed that after laboratory leukemia cells were exposed to grape seed extract, 76 percent of the cancer-laden cells were completely eliminated! Even more amazing was the fact that other cells were not harmed.

“What everyone seeks is an agent that has an effect on cancer cells but leaves normal cells alone, and this shows that grape seed extract fits into this category,” said Xianglin Shi, one of the researchers and a professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky.

“These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers,” Shi said.

However, the results of the study do not suggest that people should go overboard in eating grapes in hopes of staving off cancer. “This is very promising research, but it is too early to say this is chemo-protective,” Shi added.

Source: Better Health Research. Jan.29 ’09

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When ‘Baby Fat’ is Good for Health

Want to shed your baby fat? Wait, don’t do it just yet, for a new study has revealed that such a fat is good – as long as it is calorie-burning -”Brown Fat”.

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Brown fat burns off calories and generates heat in babies and small mammals.

Most of the body fat is white fat, which also provides insulation but stores calories. It becomes “bad” fat when an individual have too much. The “good” fat-brown fat-was considered essentially nonexistent in human adults.

The new study has found that adults have much more of this type of fat than previously believed.

“We now know that it is present and functional in adults,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Aaron Cypess, MMSc, of the Joslin Diabetes Centre in Boston.

“Three ounces of brown fat can burn several hundred calories a day,” he added.

In the new study involving 1,970 study participants, researchers measured the patches of brown adipose tissue-brown fat-in people with the help of high-tech imaging method that combines positron emission tomography and computed tomography, called PET/CT.

By evaluating biopsy tissue of what appeared to be brown fat, the authors confirmed that they were, indeed, looking at stores of brown fat.

The researchers found that brown fat was located in an area extending from the front of the neck to the chest.

Of the subjects who had detectable brown fat, about 6 percent had 3 ounces or more of the fat.

“We believe that this percentage greatly underestimates the number of adults in the population who have a large amount of brown fat,” said Cypess.

They also discovered that brown fat is most abundant in young women and least frequent in older, overweight men. In fact, women were more than twice as likely as men to have substantial amounts of brown fat.

“One theory for this is that women may have less muscle mass overall, so they need more brown fat to generate heat and keep warm,” Cypess said.

Source: The study appears in New England Journal of Medicine.

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Staying Sharp: Meditation – Not Just for Yogis

by Phil Scott

You expect a meditation teacher’s voice to be calm and soothing, and Jim Malloy of the World Wide Online Meditation Center doesn’t disappoint. He sounds reassuring, peaceful   and, dare I say it? ……“ enlightened. For good reason: Malloy first discovered meditation just out of high school, and he’s been teaching it for 33 years now. What he says about it sounds familiar and yet astonishing: Meditation improves heart health and brain functions, makes meditators feel better, and helps them maintain their mental clarity and emotional balance through the day.

.Illustration by Timothy Cook for NRTA Live & Learn.

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According to a 1983 Harvard study of Transcendental Meditation, it increases longevity; cognitive, perceptual, and behavioral flexibility; and learning ability in older adults. In a recent study, University of Kentucky researchers tested a group of students before and after 40 minutes of meditation, napping, exercise, or consuming caffeine. The researchers found that the subjects had improved reaction time after meditating. In addition, those who had gone without sleep the prior evening and then meditated in the morning performed better than others who also hadn’t slept but skipped the meditation.  CLICK & SEE

Check your local meditation or yoga centers; many will offer inexpensive or even free workshops.
Meditation can improve physical health, too. “It can boost your immune system, improving influenza immunity and response to the [flu] vaccine,” says Michael R. Irwin, MD, a professor at UCLA‘s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “Moving meditation can boost shingles immunity.

The Meditating Brain
So how does it work? According to Irwin, when you’re excited or upset you experience an increase in the outflow from the sympathetic nervous system, elevating your blood pressure and heart rate. Meditation produces a counteracting increase in the outflow of the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart, constricts the pupils, and dilates blood vessels. “Chanting a mantra alters brain waves because you’re focusing on the same sound,” he continues. “Like when you sing ‘Ave Maria.’ It regulates the breathing and increases the parasympathetic outflow from the brain.

Meditation doesn’t take special equipment. Unless a mantra counts. “Traditionally in Hindu culture the mantra was passed on from guru to disciple,” Malloy says. But he adds that anything will do in a pinch: concentrating on your breath while saying “Om,” or counting from 1 to 10 over and over. “A mantra is not confined to Hinduism. The Rosary is a mantra; ‘Amen,’ that’s a mantra.” And, apparently, so is ‘Ave Maria.’

Perfect Focus Not Required
After settling on a mantra, sit down and close your eyes. Gently focus your attention on the mantra, your breath. If your attention wanders, to bills, changing your car’s oil, or Dancing with the Stars, just gently bring it back; a wandering mind is a natural part of meditation. “People have misconceptions,” says Malloy.   They think you have to turn off your mind, make it blank. Trying to force your mind to become blank is like trying to force yourself to go to sleep.  But something will happen: Relaxation. Lower blood pressure. Boosted immune system. Malloy recommends meditating for a mere 10 minutes a day. After a month, he says, increase it to 20 minutes, if you feel like it. You’ll begin to reap the benefits right away.

Sources:http://www.aarp.org/learntech/wellbeing/staying_sharp_meditation.html