Tag Archives: Washington Post

Growing Evidence Links Exercise and Mental Acuity

Can exercise help keep your mind sharp? Researchers increasingly say the answer is yes.

John J. Ratey, a psychiatrist who wrote the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, says that there is overwhelming evidence that exercise produces large cognitive gains and helps fight dementia.

The Washington Post advises:
“…while the volume of that research grows, the safest course of action for both body and mind appears to be to keep our weight down, follow a regular course of moderate to intense exercise, and stick with it.”

Source: Washington Post May 25, 2010

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Mothers’ Exposer to Chemicals may Affect Boys’ Masculinity

Elevated levels of two plastic-softening chemicals in pregnant women‘s urine are linked to less-masculine play behavior by their sons several years later, according to a study published in the International Journal of Andrology. Phthalates, which are used in everything from vinyl floors to plastic tubing and soaps and lotions, are pervasive in the environment and have increasingly become associated with changes in development of the male brain as well as with genital defects, metabolic abnormalities and reduced testosterone in babies and adults.

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A team of U.S. and British researchers posed a standard play questionnaire to the parents of 145 preschool-age children. Then they ranked the types of play on a scale from most masculine (such as play fighting or using trucks) to most feminine.

An effect was identified among the sons of women with higher concentrations of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in their prenatal urine. On average, those boys scored 8 percent further away from the masculine end of the scale than other boys.

Resources:
The Washington Post November 24, 2009
International Journal of Andrology November 16, 2009 [Epub Ahead of Print]

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Stretch of Imagination

Experts now say that stretching before exercise may actually harm you. ……Lenny Bernstein reports

It’s been a long, hard day at the office, and you need a good workout to blow off all that stress. But before you hit the free weights, the stationary bike or the elliptical machine, you spend 10 minutes carefully stretching all those stiff muscles, just as every coach, trainer and physical therapist has advised for as long as you can remember.

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Now the question is why ?

There’s no evidence that you’ll prevent injury. In fact, some people believe you’re more likely to cause one.

“There is not sufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine stretching before or after exercise to prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes,” concluded the National Center for Injury Prevention Control, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a 2004 study that may be the most thorough look at the research on stretching.

Research and anecdotal information attribute many benefits to stretching: reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, pain reduction and management. Perhaps most important, stretching helps us maintain range of motion as we age, allowing older people to continue with the activities of daily living.

The question is whether “static stretching” — the most common type, which involves holding a muscle in one position for a defined period of time — has been misinterpreted, or oversold, as a preventive for what ails you.

“People believe all kinds of amazing things, and it changes every 10-15 years,” said William Meller, a physician and associate professor of evolutionary medicine at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The merits of stretching are “not based on any science. It’s spread by coaches, trainers and all kinds of people.”

According to Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist who helped conduct the CDC study, “it’s probably important that we maintain some norm of flexibility throughout our life spans, but I don’t think anyone has really defined what that (norm) is.

“Our belief is there are probably people who would benefit from stretching. But then the question is who should stretch, when to stretch,” how much to stretch and, most important, what benefits can be expected.

Even for the elderly, “we don’t have the kinds of controlled intervention studies that we need to make a definitive statement about the benefits of doing flexibility exercises,” said Chhanda Dutta, chief of the clinical gerontology branch at the National Institute on Aging.

Similarly, coaches wouldn’t dream of putting athletes on a field, even for practice, without a battery of stretches that help them take the pounding and awkward landings of contact sports.

“As a coach, if I didn’t do that and somebody got hurt, I would probably have a tough time sleeping at night,” said Paul Foringer, a football coach at a high school in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “It’s kind of common sense. If you take something that’s taut and tough and you yank it, you’re going to tear it.”

But that’s not what studies show. “Stretching was not significantly associated with a reduction in total injuries,” said the CDC study, “and similar findings were seen in the subgroup analyses.”

In static stretching, “you’re taking the muscle to the point where it naturally wants to go, and then you’re taking it a little bit farther,” said Meller. That produces microscopic tears of muscle fibres and does nothing to prevent injury, he said. It also may weaken the muscle slightly, increase the possibility of injury and inhibit performance, according to him and the CDC study.

For those who want to stretch, it should be done after a warm-up or at the end of an exercise routine because warm muscles are more pliable.

Research indicates that warming up before exercise is more valuable than stretching. Specifically, Meller said, you should spend three to five minutes gently putting your body through the actions you’re about to perform, slowly increasing the intensity. If you’re going to play tennis, he said, swing forehands, backhands and serves, and run forward, backward and laterally before you hit the first ball.

Source: The Washington Post

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Low Doses of Allergens May Cure Food Allergies ?

Researchers have found some success treating allergic children with very, very low doses of the allergenic substances such as milk or peanuts. One study had 33 children with peanut allergies eat peanut protein powder equivalent to one-thousandth of a peanut. Four of the children had to drop out because of allergic reactions, but six of nine children who stuck with the program for a few years are currently reaction-free regarding peanuts.
……..eating peanut butter sandwitch
Previous attempts to desensitize people to food allergies often triggered potentially life-threatening reactions. But the new studies use just the protein within foods such as milk and peanuts that trigger allergic reactions.

Researchers still consider this to be a very early and experimental method, and warn parents not to try it at home. There is still always the risk of triggering dangerous allergic reactions.

Sources:
Live Science June 9, 2009
The Washington Post June 9, 2009

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Proof That Fibromyalgia is Real

fibromyalgia

Researchers have detected abnormalities in the brains of people with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition whose symptoms include muscle pain and fatigue.Some researchers have suggested that the pain of fibromyalgia is the result of depression, but the new study suggests otherwise. The abnormalities were independent of anxiety and depression levels.

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Researchers evaluated 20 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia and 10 healthy women without the condition who served as a control group. The researchers performed brain imaging called single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT.

The imaging showed that women with the syndrome had “brain perfusion” — blood flow abnormalities in their brains. The abnormalities were directly correlated with the severity of disease symptoms.

An increase in blood flow was found in the brain region known to discriminate pain intensity.

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