Disease Proof

Health Points: Friday

Imaging technology shows that people who practice meditation that focuses on kindness and compassion actually undergo changes in areas of the brain that make them more in tune to what others are feeling.

"Potentially one can train oneself to behave in a way which is more benevolent and altruistic," said study co-author Antoine Lutz, an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How far this idea can be extrapolated remains in question, though.
FDA said it is reviewing reports of mood changes, suicidal behavior and suicide in patients who have taken the drug, which was Merck's best-selling product last year.


In the past year Merck has updated the drug's labeling four times to include information on tremors, anxiousness, depression and suicidal behavior reported in some patients.
The runner’s-high hypothesis proposed that there were real biochemical effects of exercise on the brain. Chemicals were released that could change an athlete’s mood, and those chemicals were endorphins, the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. Running was not the only way to get the feeling; it could also occur with most intense or endurance exercise.


The problem with the hypothesis was that it was not feasible to do a spinal tap before and after someone exercised to look for a flood of endorphins in the brain. Researchers could detect endorphins in people’s blood after a run, but those endorphins were part of the body’s stress response and could not travel from the blood to the brain. They were not responsible for elevating one’s mood. So for more than 30 years, the runner’s high remained an unproved hypothesis.

But now medical technology has caught up with exercise lore. Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.
     
People who have big bellies in their 40s are much more likely to get Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in their 70s, according to new research that links the middle-age spread to fading minds for the first time.


The study of more than 6,000 people found the more fat they had in their guts in their early- to mid-40s, the greater their chances of becoming forgetful or confused or showing other signs of senility as they aged. Those who had the most impressive midsections faced more than twice the risk of the leanest.
Dr. Carol Byrd-Bredbenner of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues found that many college students engaged in eating behaviors that could make them sick, like eating raw homemade cookie dough or runny eggs.


While people are becoming increasingly aware of food safety issues, Byrd-Bredbenner and her team note, surveys still show a substantial proportion run the risk of food poisoning by eating raw eggs, undercooked hamburger and other foods that may harbor harmful bacteria.
The disclosure of hidden tobacco money behind a big study suggesting that lung scans might help save smokers from cancer has shocked the research community and raised fresh concern about industry influence in important science.


Two medical journals that published studies by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers in 2006 are looking into tobacco cash and other financial ties that weren't revealed. The studies reported benefits from lung scans, which the Cornell team has long touted.
The IARC has labeled these occupations as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a classification the agency reserves for those exposures backed by fairly strong evidence. In 1993, the IARC found that hairdressers and barbers were probably exposed to cancer-causing substances, but at that time, evidence of an increased cancer risk in this population was "inadequate." This week's report, published in the Lancet Oncology, is based on a review of epidemiological studies published since that time.


Some of the products used by hairdressers and barbers--such as dyes, pigments, rubber chemicals, and curing agents—have been found to cause tumors in rats in laboratory studies or have been known to cause bladder cancer in humans. In some studies, increased risk has been associated with permanent dyes and use of darker-colored hair dyes.
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