Karate Masters Have Faster Brains

September 29, 2014 9:06 am 1 comment

Karate_expert__web_Researchers have known for a while that the power of a karate blow is not all about strength. Rather, it’s about fine coordination between wrists and shoulders. Now researchers at University College in London have learned where that better coordination comes from: a better brain. A University College news release reports that researchers looked for differences in brain structure between 12 karate practitioners with a black belt rank and an average of 13.8 years’ karate experience, and 12 control subjects of similar age who exercised regularly but did not have any martial arts experience. First, the researchers measured the power packed in the punches of each person, from very short range: five centimeters. Yes, you guessed correctly: the karate group punched harder, and the force they generated correlated with how well the movement of their wrists and shoulders were synchronized. Next came brains scans, which showed that the microscopic structure in certain regions of the brain differed between the two groups, mainly in the white matter of parts of the brain called the cerebellum and the primary motor cortex, which are known to be involved in controlling movement. Wait, there’s more: the differences correlated with the age at which karate experts began training and their total experience, suggesting that practicing the discipline doesn’t just develop muscles; it actually changes our brains.

Struggling With Your Career? Could Be Your Spouse’s Fault

September 26, 2014 8:08 am 0 comments

Having a hard time gett2spousal470x275ing ahead at work? Could be your spouse’s fault. It’s a thought. In fact, it’s a thought that researchers at Washington University decided to look into, with a five-year study of nearly 5,000 married people ranging in age from 19 to 89. The researchers analyzed data from psychological tests of five measures of personality — openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness. They also tracked the on-the-job performance of working spouses using annual surveys designed to measure occupational success — self-reported opinions on job satisfaction, salary increases and the likelihood of being promoted. The envelope please… The researchers found that people who scored highest on measures of occupational success tended to have a spouse with a personality that scored high for conscientiousness. That was true whether or not both spouses worked and regardless of whether the working spouse was male or female. How does it work? A Wash U news release reports that the findings suggest that having a conscientious spouse contributes to workplace success in three ways: First, the working spouse may come to rely on his or her partner to handle more of the day-to-day household chores, such as paying bills, buying groceries and raising children; second, workers also may be likely to emulate some of the good habits of their conscientious spouses, bringing traits such as diligence and reliability to bear on their own workplace challenges; finally, having a spouse that keeps your personal life running smoothly may simply reduce stress and make it easier to maintain a productive work-life balance.

Exercise Is Bad For Your Teeth, Maybe

September 25, 2014 8:05 am 1 comment

OK, this is surprising. Aimagess Gretchen Reynolds points out in the New York Times, exercise may be good for every part of your body but one: your teeth. Reynolds reports that the good health/bad teeth dichotomy came to the attention of many last year when a study was published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, in which dentists who examined 278 athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London reported that a majority displayed “poor oral health,” including high levels of tooth decay, often in conjunction with gum disease and erosion of the tooth enamel. Intrigued researchers at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany were determined to figure out why. They recruited 35 competitive triathletes and 35 age- and gender-matched healthy adults who were not athletes, and found that the athletes had significantly more erosion of tooth enamel. The researchers first thought the culprit was sports drinks. Nope, not it. Next, they looked at the composition of the saliva of both groups when they were at rest. Not it. Finally, they looked the saliva of athletes while they were running. Bingo. Reynolds writes: “The saliva’s chemical composition also shifted, growing more alkaline as the workout continued. Excess alkalinity in saliva is thought to contribute to the development of tartar plaques on teeth and other problems.” Is that the answer? Maybe, but the researchers warn that the Heidelberg study was small and the athletes were hard-core, exercising an average of nine hours a week. So yes, more research is needed.

Fruits and Vegetables: The More You Eat, The Happier You Get

September 24, 2014 8:04 am 0 comments

Are you happy yet? No? Have some blueberries.  Researchers at the University of Warwick83311979_XS are persuaded that eating five or more portions of fruits or vegetables a day can make us happy, or at least happier than we would be if we ate fewer fruits and vegetables. How do they know? When the researchers studied data from 14,000 people, they found that 33.5 percent of those with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 percent who ate less than one portion.  Wait, there’s more. They also found that 31.4 percent of those with high mental wellbeing ate three-four portions and 28.4 percent ate one-two. What exactly is “high mental wellbeing”? Good question. The researchers define it as it as “a state in which people feel good and function well. Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state.” Want more? Read the paper in BMJ.

We Drink More When We Exercise More

September 23, 2014 7:48 am 1 comment

Congratulations on your excellent workout. Now you can buy yourself a beer. Or three. That, according to researchers at Northwestern University, is very often the last set of our workouts. Science Dailybeer-batter-is-better_1 reports on the exercise to alcohol research, for which 150 people, ages 18 to 89, recorded their physical activity and alcohol use in smartphones at the end of the day for 21 days. They did the routine three different times throughout one year. The researchers knew that previous studies had shown that people who exercise more drink more alcohol, but this study drilled down to finer correlations. Here’s what they found: it’s not simply that people who exercise more drink more, it’s that on days when people are more active they tend to drink more than on days they are less active. Why? “Perhaps people reward themselves for working out by having more to drink or maybe being physically active leads them to encountering more social situations where alcohol is consumed — we don’t know,” says David E. Conroy, lead author of the study.” Yes, more research is needed.

Oops, Now Dairy Is Good For Your Heart

September 22, 2014 8:19 am 0 comments

imagesRemember when whole milk and cheese were bad for your heart? Forget all that. Now comes a study from Monash University suggesting that dairy, at least in small quantities, is actually good for your heart. A Monash news release reports that a study of nearly 4,000 Taiwanese considered the role increased consumption of dairy foods had played in the country’s gains in health and longevity by looking at heart health in 1993, before dairy become part of the Taiwanese diet, and comparing it to heart health today. Twenty years ago, cancer and cardiovascular disease were the leading causes of death among Taiwanese. Today, cancer is still the big killer, but death from heart disease appears to have dipped as dairy products became part of the Taiwanese diet. “We observed that increased dairy consumption meant lower risks of mortality from cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, but found no significant association with the risk of cancer,” says researcher Mark Wahlqvist, from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. “Those who ate no dairy had higher blood pressure, higher body mass index and greater body fatness generally than other groups. But Taiwanese who included dairy food in their diet only three to seven times a week were more likely to survive than those who ate none.” How much dairy is the right amount of dairy? The researchers believe that for optimal results we should eat about five servings over a week. One serving is the equivalent to eight grams of protein: a cup of milk, or 45 grams of cheese.

Boomers Fail Muscle-Building 101

September 20, 2014 8:56 am 0 comments

What percentage of people over 45 meet the muscle-strengthening recommendations set by the Department of Health and Human Services? Less than 25 percent. Yes, that’s a fail. Researchers at Arizona LargeThumb.00135124-201305000-00005.TT14State University recently analyzed data from the 2011 U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone health survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asked about the type of physical activities people do regularly. HealthDay reports that of all those who answered the questions on muscle strengthening, about 24 percent said they met the government’s recommendations. What exactly are the government’s recommendations? They’re hard to find, which may explain why so few people comply with them, but here you go: Besides aerobic activity, you need to do things to strengthen your muscles at least 2 days a week. These activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). To gain health benefits, muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. Try to do 8—12 repetitions per activity that count as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets. Read more here.

FDA Wants A Closer Look At Testosterone Risks

September 19, 2014 7:54 am 4 comments

imagesTestosterone replacement therapy may make older men feel younger, but according to some studies, it can also push them closer to the grave. The Wall Street Journal reports on a 2013 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that found a 30 percent increased risk of death, heart attack and stroke among men taking testosterone, compared with other men. That study and others like it, plus a 65 percent increase in sales of such products between 2009 and 2013, have persuaded a panel of experts at the FDA to recommend that makers of testosterone-replacement drugs study possible increased risks of heart attack and stroke. The panel also voted overwhelmingly that the FDA should come up with language in the products’ labels to restrict the intended uses of the drugs. The Journal reports that the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a trial to investigate whether older men taking testosterone therapy primarily benefit physically or are hurt by heart disease and other side effects. Caveat emptor.

Artificial Sweeteners May Pose Real Threat To Glucose Levels

September 18, 2014 8:04 am 0 comments

imgresArtificial sweeteners, used to avoid the health risks of real sugar, turn out to have their own problems. The New York Times reports that the sweeteners have been found to “disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes.” The research, conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, suggests that the sweeteners alter bacteria in the digestive system such that it changes the metabolism of glucose, causing levels to rise higher after eating and to decline more slowly than they otherwise would. The Times warns that glucose intolerance, in which the body is less able to cope with large amounts of sugar, can lead to more serious illnesses like metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that three different molecules of saccharin, aspartame and sucralose all cause similar changes in the glucose metabolism. Read more about the research here.

Q: How Many Viruses Does A Healthy Person Harbor? A: Five

September 17, 2014 8:17 am 0 comments

Congratulations, you’re heimgresalthy. Your family thanks you. So do the several viruses that reside happily in your body. After all, for most viruses, healthy bodies make such comfortable homes. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are persuaded that healthy people carry an average of five types of viruses on their body, all without any physical symptoms that might tip off the owner of the body. A Wash U news release reports that when researchers looked for viruses in 102 healthy young adults ages 18 to 40,  (sampling up to five body habitats: nose, skin, mouth, stool and vagina), they found at least one virus in 92 percent of the people, and some people harbored 10 to 15 viruses. Yikes! Is that bad? Maybe. Maybe not. The researchers don’t know yet whether the viruses have a positive or negative effect on overall health, but they do speculate that in some cases viruses may keep the immune system primed to respond to dangerous pathogens while in others, lingering viruses increase the risk of disease. How helpful is that? Not. The scientists found seven families of viruses, including strains of herpes viruses that are not sexually transmitted. Herpesvirus 6 or herpesvirus 7 was found in 98 percent of individuals sampled from the mouth, and certain strains of papillomaviruses were found in about 75 percent of skin samples and 50 percent of samples from the nose. Not surprisingly, the vagina was dominated by papillomaviruses, with 38 percent of female subjects carrying such strains. Wait, there’s more: Adenoviruses, the viruses that cause the common cold and pneumonia, also were common.


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