Dehydration Hurts Concentration

When you find yourself struggling to concentrate on something, try having a glass of water. That’s the conclusion of a new, detailed analysis of more than 30 studies into the effects of dehydration, NPR.org reports. The researchers, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, found that going thirsty had no significant impact on reaction times and other basic cognitive functions. But for more complex tasks that require focused attention or coordination, dehydration did appear to impair people’s performance. Examples include “maintaining focus in a long meeting, driving a car, [or] a monotonous job in a hot factory,” said study leader Mindy Millard-Stafford. “Higher-order functions like doing math or applying logic also dropped off.” Millard-Stafford and her colleagues found that cognitive impairment tended to begin when people lost 2 percent of the water in their body. For the average person, that equates to about 35 fluid ounces of sweat—roughly what you’d produce with an (Read More)

Food Chemicals Harming Kids?

The leading U.S. pediatricians’ group has issued a stark warning about food additives and food-packaging materials, cautioning that many of the chemicals used in these products have never been properly tested and could pose a health risk to children. The American Academy of Pediatrics cited mounting scientific evidence that “direct additives,” such as artificial flavorings and colorings, as well as “indirect additives” that leak into food from plastic and other packaging may interfere with the body’s hormone system. That disruption can cause increased risk of obesity and other health problems. Children are more vulnerable to these chemicals than adults because their organs are still developing, and because “pound for pound, they eat more food,” lead author Leonardo Trasande tells HealthDay.com. The AAP identified several particularly harmful chemicals: nitrates and nitrites, which are used as preservatives, especially in meat products; phthalates and perchlorates, which appear in plastic packaging; and bisphenols, used (Read More)

Americans Shirking Exercise

A new government study has found that about 80 percent of Americans aren’t getting nearly enough exercise, potentially setting themselves up for health worries later in life, reports USA Today. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people ages 18 to 64 get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week—walking at a brisk pace, for example—or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities, such as weightlifting or push-ups, at least twice a week. But only 23 percent of adults are meeting those guidelines. Researchers found that a person’s sex, home state, and finances affected how much exercise they got. Nationally, some 19 percent of women and 27 percent of men hit the target. Residents of Mississippi were the least likely to work out, with about 14 percent meeting the guidelines, and Coloradans the most, at 33 (Read More)

No Limit to Longevity?

If there is an upper limit to the human life span, we might not have reached it yet. The average life expectancy around the world has more than doubled since 1900, thanks to improvements in sanitation, health care, and food supply. Still, past studies have suggested that because of biological limits, only a handful of genetic outliers will live beyond 115 years old, such as the oldest verified person ever, Jeanne Calment, who died at age 122, in 1997. But a new study of nearly 4,000 Italian centenarians indicates that human longevity may be slowly increasing. According to established demographic data, after age 65, the probability of death doubles each year. The mortality rate begins to decelerate at age 80 and, the researchers found, seems to plateau at age 105. At that point, the chances of dying in a given year are roughly 50-50. Study authors say this plateauing might (Read More)

Health Benefits of Church

People who attend religious services a couple of times a week may live longer, a new study suggests. Harvard University researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a survey of 74,534 healthy, primarily Christian women. At the start of the study in 1992, participants were all asked how often they went to church; the researchers then tracked them for 20 years. By 2012, 13,537 of the women had died. After adjusting for other risk factors, it turned out that the ones who attended services more than once a week were 33 percent less likely to have died of any cause than those who never went at all. Overall, going to church at least once a week was associated with a lifespan increase of about five months. “There is evidence that it provides social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and promotes optimism or hope,” study author Tyler VanderWeele tells MedicalDaily.com. (Read More)

Seniors Getting Pumped

A study examined “the effect of 26 weeks of low-load high-repetition resistance training (BodyPumpTM) on maximal strength, gait speed, balance and self-reported health status in healthy, active middle-aged and older adults.”   This study divided seniors (over 55 years) into two groups, a control group and a group that “trained twice per week for 26 weeks.” At the end of the trial, researchers concluded that “low- load high-repetition resistance training in the form of BodyPumpTM is effective at improving maximal strength, gait speed and some aspects of standing balance in adults over 55 years. The training was well tolerated by the majority of participants.”    

Vitamin D V.S. Colorectal Cancer

Scientists have long known that vitamin D can strengthen teeth and bones by helping the body absorb calcium. Now researchers believe that high concentrations of this key micronutrient could also help prevent colorectal cancer—the third most common cancer in the U.S., killing more than 50,000 people a year. Dietary guidelines currently recommend that most adults get at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day for bone health, which can be done by eating fatty fish like salmon or trout and taking supplements or getting a judicious amount of sun exposure. But after analyzing data on more than 12,000 people in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, scientists at the American Cancer Society and other groups found that people with higher-than-recommended blood levels of vitamin D had a 22 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. Those with lower-than-recommended levels, meanwhile, had a 30 percent higher risk for the (Read More)

Helicopter Parenting Takes a Toll

Overbearing “helicopter parents” who micromanage kids’ play can end up stunting their little ones’ emotional well-being, according to a new international study. Researchers in the U.S. and Switzerland observed more than 400 2-year-olds as they played and tidied up with their mothers, and then tracked those kids over the next eight years. Toddlers who were told what toy to play with or how to play with it by their moms were less able to regulate their emotions and impulses at 5 years old. By age 10, these kids were more likely than children without helicopter parents to be struggling academically and showing a poorer attitude at school. When a parent over-interferes and doesn’t let his or her child “experience a range of emotions and practice managing them, the child loses out on an important learning opportunity,” lead researcher Nicole Perry tells The Times(U.K.). Researchers suggest that hovering parents give their toddlers (Read More)

The Cost of Skipping Breakfast

When it comes to heart health, breakfast really may be the most important meal of the day. New research shows that people who have only coffee or juice in the morning are twice as likely to develop atherosclerosis, or “clogged” arteries, reports The Guardian (UK). After examining the diets of 4,052 healthy, middle aged men and women, researchers found that those who generally ate a light breakfast or skipped the meal entirely had more plague in their arteries than those who are a hearty breakfast. There were also more likely to be overweight, smoke, and have high blood pressure. Co-author Valentin Fuster, from Mount Sinai Heart in New York, says missing the first meal of the day can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms and trigger hormone imbalances, leading people to overeat later in the day. “Skipping breakfast in the morning by itself is not the problem,” he explains. “The problem (Read More)

Less Sleep, Bigger Belly

People who don’t get enough sleep could be adding inches to their waistline, a new study has shown. Researchers at the University of Lees in the U.K. examined the association between sleep, diet, weight, and overall metabolic health among more than 1,600 adults, who tracked their diet and how long they slept each night. The researchers measured each person’s waist  circumference; factored in variables including age, ethnicity, smoking, and income; and checked the participants’ blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and thyroid function. They found that the waistlines of those who slept an average of six hours each night were about 1.2 inches larger than the waistlines of those who managed nine hours. The participants who slept less also had lower levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol that helps reduce the risk for heart disease, reports ScienceDaily.com. The importance of sleep should not be underestimated, researcher Laura Hardie said, adding, (Read More)