Trends to Watch December 2018
Teenagers and electronics, omega-3s, organic foods and cancer risk, probiotics, and memory improvement are all trends to pay attention.
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That’s the percentage of parents who blame electronic devices for their teenagers’ difficulties with sleep, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan.
Omega-3s Linked to Healthy Aging
With populations across the world living longer, there is a growing focus on healthy aging—longevity without major chronic diseases and with good physical and mental function. And scientists from Tufts University in Boston have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may be one of the keys to achieving that goal. Their study, published in the British Medical Journal in October, found that higher blood levels of omega-3s are associated with a higher likelihood of healthy aging among older adults.
The study analyzed 2,622 people participating in the U.S. Cardiovascular Health study from 1992 to 2015, and broke them into five groups based on their circulating blood levels of the omega-3s EPA and DHA, commonly found in fatty fish and omega-3 supplements. After taking account of a range of other social, economic, and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that the group with the highest levels of seafood-derived EPA were associated with a 24 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging than those with the lowest levels of EPA.
Organic Diet Cuts Cancer Risk
Eating organic can significantly cut your risk of developing cancer, according to a study published in October in JAMA Internal Medicine. French scientists from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) and other agencies analyzed the diets of 68,946 participants and found a 25 percent decrease in risk of all types of cancer among regular consumers of organic foods, compared to people who eat organic less often. This association was particularly marked in breast cancer among postmenopausal women (34 percent decreased risk) and lymphoma (a staggering 76 percent decreased risk). Other factors that may impact cancer risk, including socio-demographic factors, lifestyles, and family history, did not change the results.
Although researchers noted that a causal link between eating organic and decreased cancer risk cannot be established on the basis of this single study, the results suggest that a diet rich in organic foods may limit the incidence of cancer.
See our list of foods you should always eat organic.
Probiotics Fight Bad Bugs
Could a combination of antibiotics and probiotics may be the key in defeating drug-resistant bacteria? The answer is “yes,” according to recent research by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In this laboratory experiment, researchers introduced a combination of BioK+, a supplement containing three strains of Lactobacillus bacteria, and the antibiotic tobramycin to petri dishes containing two strains of drug-resistant bacteria that often infect wounds, and the produced surprising results. “It was quite a drastic effect,” says Ana Jaklenec, one of the lead authors of the study. “It completely eradicated the bacteria.”
The key to this dramatic effect may be the delivery system. For the study, scientists encapsulated the probiotics to protect them from the effects of the antibiotic. When the research team tried the same experiment with nonencapsulated probiotics, they were killed by the antibiotics, which allowed the bad bacteria to survive. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.
According to JAMA Pediatrics, 1/3 of children and adolescents in the United States take dietary supplements, with the use of herbal, nonvitamin, and nonmineral supplements nearly doubling among youth in the past 10 years.
Mild Exercise Improves Memory
People who include a little yoga or tai chi in their day may be more likely to remember where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and Japan’s University of Tsukuba found that even very light workouts can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage. Their results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In a study of 36 healthy young adults, the researchers discovered that a single 10-minute period of mild exertion can yield considerable cognitive benefits. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging, the team examined participants’ brains shortly after exercise sessions and saw better connectivity between the hippocampus and cortical areas linked to detailed memory processing.
“The hippocampus is critical for the creation of new memories; it’s one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate as we get older—and much more severely in Alzheimer’s disease,” said project co-leader Michael Yassa. “Improving the function of the hippocampus holds much promise for improving memory in everyday settings.”
And a little bit of physical activity can go a long way, Yassa stressed. “It’s encouraging to see more people keeping track of their exercise habits by monitoring the number of steps they’re taking, for example,” he said. “Even short walking breaks throughout the day may have considerable effects on improving memory and cognition.”