What can humans learn from moose? A lot about osteoarthrtitis, as it turns out. Moose and humans develop the degenerative joint disease in much the same ways and with most of the same symptoms. Osteoarthritis is generally considered a disease caused by the wear and tear of joints over the course of a long life. But a 50-year study of OA in the moose of Isle Royale in Lake Superior turned up an interesting nugget with implications for both species: Development of the disease correlates with malnutrition, especially in early life. Over the course of the study, researchers began seeing trends in the disease’s expression. As populations grew, and resources to support them shrank proportionately, more moose developed osteoarthritis. When there were fewer moose, presumably better fed, the disease’s prevalence abated. Ancient human remains from the onset of agriculture have shown similar arthritic changes. Scientists initially attributed this to the extra work of maintaining fields, but the moose findings suggest malnutrition during the switch to new food sources may have been the true cause. (Via ScienceDaily.)
Looking for ways to beat high blood pressure with few or no drugs? The latest findings show beets can help. The juice of the blood-red root crop is high in nitrates; these convert in the body to nitric acid, which relaxes blood vessels to lower blood pressure. Many people with hypertension currently take a prescription form of nitrates, but researchers found a pint of beet juice may work just as well. Researchers noted effects in people with normal and high blood pressure, and the results were more profound among those with higher initial readings. Bottoms up! (Via BBC.)
Sedatives and sleeping pills are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs, despite having serious side effects and becoming addictive to many people. Now German researchers have found a sweet alternative in an aromatic form: The scent of jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides) seems to activate the same chemical pathways in the brain as do drugs like valium. Benzodiazepenes, barbituates and anesthetics work by making receptors in the brain more responsive to GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. The researchers studied the effects of specific natural and synthetic jasmine fragrances and discovered they work exactly the same way as the drugs do, and are just as potent. (Via ScienceDaily.com.)
By Dr. Orna Izakson
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BCE) famously said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
Gardeners know the best way to get your veggies is fresh and organic, ideally straight from the farm or garden. But beyond simple nourishment, scientists are finding some foods specifically help prevent or reverse certain diseases. Published research from the past few months alone has shown fruits and veggies protect your heart, brain and eyes, and help fight asthma, cancer, swine flu, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
Much of the research looks at isolated constituents in the foods, although of course there’s more to fresh fruits and veggies than the isolated “active ingredients” scientists have identified so far. All the components in the plant work synergistically, and do more than just one thing.
Here’s a short list to get you started. (more…)