Site Search


Links We Like




Vitamin B12 and Senior Moments

As we get older, our bodies don’t absorb vitamin B12 as readily as they did during our younger years (B12 is found in animal foods - meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products). And this decreasing absorption may help explain why brain size shrinks with age and seniors develop problems with thinking. Researchers in Chicago checked blood levels of B12 in 121 seniors taking part in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. The investigators also measured vitamin B12 in five metabolites that are considered markers for B12 activity; a protocol, which they said, could give a fuller picture of B12 status. The seniors were asked to complete 17 tests to assess their memory and thinking skills. More than four years later, the study participants underwent MRIs to measure brain volume and to look for other signs of brain atrophy. The research team found that low levels of B12 in the metabolites were associated with poorer thinking skills and smaller brain volume. Because the study was a small one, the investigators said their results must be confirmed by additional research, and cautioned against making dietary changes based on their results. The study was published in the September 27 issues of Neurology.

My take? It is interesting that these researchers concluded that testing B12 levels in the blood isn’t enough to assess its activity in the body, but this is not the first study to associate low levels of B12 with negative changes in brain anatomy and function. A study published in 2008 suggested that seniors with the highest levels of B12 were six times less likely to exhibit brain atrophy than participants whose B12 levels were lower. I recommend that everyone over 50 years of age consume vitamin B12-fortified foods, take a vitamin B12 supplement, or take 50 mcg of B12 as part of a B-complex that contains a full spectrum of B vitamins, including biotin, thiamine, B12, riboflavin and niacin.


Building a Labyrinth (Photos)

How do you and two dozen friends build an 80-foot-diameter labyrinth in an afternoon? Here's how some friends and I did it!
Gather 28 of your closest friends: In this case, the group consists of employees of Weil Lifestyle, LLC, doctors from the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, and members of Dr. Weil's ranch staff.

Diet May Affect Acne After All

Conventional medical wisdom holds that hormones, not diet, are the main causes for the development of acne, particularly during the teenage years. However, some interesting evidence now suggests a possible link between acne and obesity driven by eating a high-glycemic load diet. A recent review published in August in the dermatology journal Cutis indicates that acne may be promoted by the same kind of diet that triggers insulin resistance, a condition that can develop when the normal amount of insulin secreted is not sufficient to move glucose into the cells, causing an increase in both insulin and blood sugar levels. High insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) affect the production of androgens (male hormones) and insulin growth factor 1, a hormone similar to insulin. Together these two changes can increase production of sebum, an oil secreted in skin that plays a key role in the development of acne. So far, no studies have shown a direct link between acne and obesity, but some dermatologists are recommending that patients avoid foods that rank high on the glycemic index as a possible means of helping control acne. The study also noted that dairy foods have been associated with acne.


Colon Cancer Prevention: More Fruits and Vegetables, Please

Researchers in Australia are reporting that different foods affect the risks of cancer in different parts of the colon. The investigators found that consumption of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and turnips) seems to reduce the risk of cancer in the upper colon. Total fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with a decreased risk of cancer in the lower part of the colon - and eating a lot of apples and yellow vegetables also appeared to significantly reduce the cancer risk in that area. The study, which included more than 1,000 men and women with no history of colorectal cancer, also found that drinking a lot of fruit juice was associated with an increased risk of rectal cancer. They tracked food intake among the study participants via extensive nutritional questionnaires. The study appears to be the first to look at the effects of diet on the risk of cancer in different areas of the colon. The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.


How Would You Describe Your Daily Diet? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed eating a Paleolithic diet: Should I Eat Like a Caveman? Check out the article and vote how your daily diet looks!


Probiotics in the News

Probiotics, including foods or supplements containing "friendly" bacteria that normally inhabit the digestive tract (usually Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium), may help prevent colds, a recent study suggests. A review of 10 studies involving data on more than 3,400 participants ranging in age from infants to adults in their 40s showed that taking probiotics for more than a week was associated with 12 percent fewer colds. However, the review, by researchers at China's Sichuan University, found no evidence that taking probiotics could reduce the duration of colds. The only side effects seen among participants in the 10 studies who took probiotics were vomiting and flatulence, but these symptoms were equally as common in the studies' control groups. The researchers noted that three previous investigations have examined how probiotics influenced upper respiratory infections in older adults. One found no reduction in incidence among those who took probiotics, but did report that the colds didn't last as long. Another found a 3.4-fold reduction in the risk of catching a cold or the flu, and the third found that upper respiratory tract infections had a shorter overall duration in those using probiotics compared to those who didn't use them.


Traffic, Pollution and Heart Attacks

If you're at risk for a heart attack, sitting in heavy traffic and inhaling the fumes could help bring one on within hours. A large, recent study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that the risk of heart attack rises and stays higher than normal for six hours after inhaling those noxious fumes from automotive exhaust. After that, the risk goes back to baseline. Commenting on the study, the director of the British Heart Foundation said that pollution possibly affects heart health by temporarily thickening the blood making it more likely to clot. The investigators analyzed data from more than 79,000 people in 15 areas of the UK who had heart attacks between 2003 and 2006. The research team also referenced the time of day that the heart attacks occurred, plus levels of traffic pollution (including carbon monoxide and ozone) at those times in different parts of the country, to reach their conclusion that the risk rises in the six hours after exposure to the fumes. Their recommendation: if you're at risk for heart attack, stay out of heavy traffic.

My take? We've known for some time that exposure to high levels of air pollution correlates with an increased rate of heart attacks, as well as stroke and deaths due to hospitalizations for heart disease, heart failure and lung problems. Earlier studies have also shown that air pollution is associated with atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque along arterial walls. This study indicates there may be a more critical time-line to the increased risk. The advice to reduce your exposure to heavy traffic is a good one for many reasons, but it isn't something everyone can readily accomplish. To help lower your overall risk, don't smoke, control your blood pressure, get regular exercise and eat a low-glycemic diet.


Genes vs. Lifestyle (Video)

We can't change our genes, but that doesn't necessarily translate into a loss of control over our health. Learn about the blurred line between genetics and environmental factors, and how diet, lifestyle, and even emotions have the power to control gene expression.