Organophosphate pesticides kill agricultural pests by poisoning their brains. New research suggests those chemicals may harm young human brains, too, increasing risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) even at low doses. Researchers looked for evidence of exposure to the pesticide malathion in children’s urine. They found that abnormal levels, even when low, raised the risk of ADHD by 55 percent. These results don’t definitively show the pesticides caused the problem, but certainly raise important questions — and suggest that eating organic might help prevent the disorder. The effects of pesticides have been studied before, but mostly among populations such as farm workers that get regular, high-level exposure. The new study was the first to consider the effects of the low amounts children get by eating fruits and vegetables contaminated with the pesticides in the field. Federal statistics show that roughly one quarter of strawberries and frozen blueberries tested were contaminated with malathion in 2008, as was 19 percent of celery. (Via the Los Angeles Times and Time).
Fatty fast-food burgers aren’t particularly healthy for anyone. But new research finds they’re especially bad for asthmatics, increasing inflammation in the lungs and blocking the life-saving effects of emergency inhalers.
To study the effect of food choices on asthma, a group of asthmatics were given two different kinds of meals. One group got burgers and hash browns, high in fat and calories, and the other got yogurt instead — with 80 percent fewer calories. Four hours later, folks in the high-fat group showed more activation of a gene that makes the body consider fats a pathogen — fighting it the same way as it would a virus or bacterium. Inflammation is how the body mounts such a fight.
The burger and hash browns combination also reduced the effect of albuterol inhalers, which help relax spasming airways during an asthma attack, possibly by blocking receptors the drugs target.
Naturopathic medicine offers great options for asthmatics, starting with diet and moving on to reducing inflammation and bronchospasm.
The World Health Organization has completed a large, 10-year study to determine if cell-phone use causes cancer. The answer? Not clear enough to make recommendations other than further study of the issue. The report, to be released later this week, does find an increase in gliomas, a type of brain cancer, in people who used cell phones for 30 minutes daily for 10 years. They also found, however, that a little bit of cell phone use can be protective against brain cancer. So while the big news of the study is that it offered little news, it’s also telling that the researchers couldn’t definitively call cell phones safe, either. (Via The Daily Mail).
English researchers, as part of a large study looking at the effects of diet on health, have found moderate amounts of olive oil make a big difference in preventing the debilitating digestive disorder ulcerative colitis. Looking at detailed food records kept by 25,000 study participants, the scientists were able to consider differences in people who developed the condition. Study participants who ingested the most olive oil had 90 percent less risk of developing ulcerative colitis than those who didn’t. Researchers conclude that half of all cases could be prevented by increasing consumption of oleic acid, which is plentiful in olive oil. And it only takes a modest 2-3 tablespoons daily to see the effect. (Via ScienceDaily).
The Mediterranean diet, touted for its ability to protect the heart aid longevity, now has another great outcome to recommend it: reducing the effects of aging on the brain. Researchers followed nearly 3,800 men and women in their 60s or older, asking them to report what they ate and then measuring mental function. Those who ate closest to the traditional Mediterranean diet — lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, olive oil and moderate amounts of wine — scored highest on their brain tests. How this works isn’t clear, although researchers suspect it may be related to the diet’s known effects on the heart and circulation. Better circulation would mean more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, helping it stay limber longer. (Via WebMD).
Getting your nightly eight hours may be doing more for you than you think — it may help prevent Type II Diabetes. That diseases occurs when cells become resistant to insulin, the hormone that helps sugar move from the bloodstream and into cells, which use the sugar as food. In a small study, researchers compared insulin responses of healthy people after a good night’s sleep and after a night where they slept only four hours. They found that just one bad night reduced cellular receptivity to insulin. Diet, lack of exercise and family history are all important components in the disease; add these to life in a chronically sleep-deprived society, and it’s no wonder this form of diabetes is on the rise. Can more sleep help people who already have the disease? The researchers haven’t tested that yet, but it’s certainly an idea to sleep on. (Via ScienceDaily).
Sweet news from the chocolate researchers: They’re now finding a component in dark chocolate can help protect brain cells when oxygen is cut off by a stroke. The researchers gave epicatechin, found naturally in dark chocolate, to lab animals before and after inducing a stroke. The pretreated animals did much better than their untreated counterparts. Even more interestingly, researchers found the effect even when treating up to 3.5 hours after the stroke; most current post-stroke treatments are only effective if given more quickly. How does it work? It seems that epicatechin turns on two pathways that work to protect brain cells. This suggests that a little bit of regular, high-quality, dark chocolate may be a good defense — and a handy item to keep in the first-aid kit. (Via ScienceDaily.)
Weed Lover: Unintentional Medicine from Evolution’s Winners
Back in the late ’90s and early aughts, a small but information-dense ’zine circulated in the Eugene area called “weed lover.” The premise was that weeds offend gardeners by growing where they’re not wanted, but that they nevertheless offer great value by way of food, medicine and pulling nutrients up from the subsoil to feed neighboring plants. They also may be physically useful: one gardener tied her tomatoes to their cages using bindweed.
One of the very best things about using weeds for medicine is that you rarely have to entertain the usual worries about overharvesting. It’s an interesting exercise for an ethical wildcrafter to try: Find a field full of an unkillable weed and keep picking it for a while after you feel like you’ve done too much. (Don’t worry, you can always find an herbalist who can use some, or mulch your garden with the extra.)
I’ve tried this exactly twice. The first time was picking blooming yarrow on a friend’s land in the Columbia Gorge. The second was picking St. John’s Wort on an Okanogan land trust. In that case, the plant wasn’t even native, but rather a European invasive. It technically wasn’t even overharvesting, but arguably just a feeble attempt at restoration.
Weeds are survivors in the game of evolution for many reasons. Here let’s consider a few that help humans be survivors, too. (more…)
You knew that brown rice was good for you, but now there’s more research explaining why. Scientists based in Philadelphia have found a constituent in the whole grain that reduces the potency of angiotensin II, a natural body protein that boosts blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. That key ingredient occurs naturally in the outer layer of the rice grain — the part that gets stripped off to make white rice. Brown rice also offers more healthful fiber, vitamins and flavor while lessening blood-sugar spikes. (Via Health.com).
Depression and feel like an enormous dark hole, and climbing out can seem to require impossible effort. But researchers in the UK analyzing the results of 10 studies (with 1,250 participants) found that relief can take as little as five minutes surrounded by green. The researchers considered the effects of a variety of outdoor exercise activities on mood and self esteem. What they discovered was that people experienced a big boost in both after just five minutes out in nature. The effects increased with time, albeit less dramatically than the initial jump. Even greater improvements came when they added blue to the mix — in the form of lakes or rivers. So if you’re down, remember this simple, free prescription: just a few minutes Vitamin Green and Vitamin Blue. (Via BBC).