|Fatty foods affect memory and
Eating fatty food appears to take an almost immediate toll on
both short-term memory and exercise performance, according to
new research on rats and people.
It’s already known that long-term consumption of a high-fat diet
is associated with weight gain, heart disease and declines in
cognitive function. But the new research shows how indulging in
fatty foods over the course of a few days can affect the brain
and body long before the extra pounds show up.
To determine the effect of a fatty diet on memory and muscle
performance, researchers studied 32 rats that were fed low-fat
rat chow and trained for two months to complete a challenging
maze. The maze included eight different paths that ended with a
treat of sweetened condensed milk. The goal was for the rat to
find each treat without doubling back into a corridor where it
had already been. The maze was wiped down with alcohol, so the
rat had to rely on memory rather than sense of smell.
All of the rats studied had mastered the maze, finding at least
six or seven of the eight treats before making a mistake. Some
rats even found all eight on the first try.
Then half the rats were switched to high-fat rat chow
(comprising 55 percent fat), while the remaining rats stayed on
their regular chow (which had 7.5 percent fat). After four days,
the rats eating the fatty chow began to falter on the maze test
— all of them did worse than when they were on their regular
chow. On average, the rats on the fatty diet found only five
treats before making a mistake. The rats who stayed with their
regular food continued the same high level of performance on the
maze, finding six or more treats before making a mistake. Half
of the rats had also been trained to run on a treadmill. After
only a few days on the high-fat diet, the rats performed 30
percent worse on the treadmill. After five days of testing, the
treadmill performance of the rats eating fatty foods had
declined by half. The study results appear in The Faseb Journal,
which is the journal of the Federation of American Societies for
“We expected to see changes, but maybe not so dramatic and
not in such a short space of time,’’ said Andrew Murray, the
study’s lead author and a lecturer in physiology at Cambridge
University in Britain. “It was really striking how quickly these
Although the human data aren’t yet published, the researchers
have also performed similar studies of high-fat diets in healthy
young men who then performed exercise and cognitive tests. Dr.
Murray said he is still reviewing the data, but the short-term
effect of a fatty diet on humans appears to be similar to that
found in the rat studies.
It’s not clear why fatty foods would cause a short-term decline
in cognitive function. One theory is that a high-fat diet can
trigger insulin resistance, which means the body becomes less
efficient at using the glucose, or blood sugar, so important to
Fatty foods appear to have a short-term effect on exercise
performance because the body reacts to high fat content in the
blood by releasing certain proteins that essentially make the
metabolism less efficient. “It’s thought to be a protective
mechanism to get rid of excess fat,’’ Dr. Murray said. “But it
was making muscles less efficient at using oxygen and fuel to
make the energy needed to run.’’
Patients are reminded of aspirin’s risks
Nytimes-Cheap, ubiquitous aspirin has long been known for
health benefits from basic pain relief to heart attack
prevention. But after a new study this week provided tantalising
evidence suggesting that aspirin might increase survival chances
for colorectal cancer patients, experts were quick to warn that
the drug, a medicine cabinet staple, also had its risks.
“If I were on a desert island, one of the drugs I would choose
to have with me, hands down, maybe No. 1, is aspirin,” said Dr.
John A. Baron, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical
School. “It’s a fascinating, wonderful drug, a great drug. But
it is a real drug, and it has side effects.”
Both Dr. Baron and other medical experts cautioned against
starting a daily regimen of aspirin without consulting a
physician, because of the risks of gastrointestinal bleeding,
and the potential risk for hemorrhagic strokes, or bleeding in
“Aspirin is a drug that been with us a little over 100 years,
and we continue to learn impressive and important things about
its potential benefits,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, medical director
of the American Cancer Society. “But it is a double-edged
The study found that patients with colorectal cancer who were
regular aspirin users had a much better chance of surviving than
non-users, and were almost one-third less likely to die of the
disease, while those who began using aspirin for the first time
after the diagnosis cut their risk of dying by almost half.
Earlier studies had shown that people who took aspirin
regularly were less likely to develop tumors of the colon, but
the new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical
Association, is the first to have found that patients who had
colorectal cancer and took aspirin survived longer.
The new study was not a controlled clinical trial, where
patients are randomly assigned to receive either a particular
treatment or a placebo. That kind of study is considered the
gold standard for determining clinical recommendations in
medicine, but it is also far more expensive and cumbersome.
Observational studies, like this new one, can be weaker or
One clinical trial is under way in Asia, where the National
Cancer Center of Singapore is enrolling 2,660 patients with
nonmetastatic disease in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and
Singapore, who will continue their treatment and be randomly
assigned to either get aspirin or a placebo daily for up to
three years, according to the National Cancer Institute Web
Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham
and Women’s Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical
School, warned about the risks of using even small doses of
aspirin on a daily basis, saying that in a large women’s health
study, half doses of baby aspirin were associated with a 40
percent increase in serious gastrointestinal bleeds that
“I don’t think everyone should be running out and taking
aspirin,” she said, “But there may be some patients who would
benefit from it at this point; and if they talk with their
doctors they may learn they’re reasonable candidates, and some
of them may not be in a position to wait.”
First case of HIV linked to gorillas
(BBC News) – Gorillas have been found, for the first time, to
be a source of HIV.
Previous research had shown the HIV-1 strain, the main source of
human infections, with 33m cases worldwide, originated from a
virus in chimpanzees.
But researchers have now discovered an HIV infection in a
Cameroonian woman which is clearly linked to a gorilla strain,
Nature Medicine reports.
A researcher told the BBC that, though it was a new type of
HIV, current drugs might still help combat its effects.
HIV originated from a similar virus in chimpanzees called Simian
Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV).
Although HIV/Aids was first recognised by scientists in the
1980s, it is thought to have first entered the human population
early in the 20th Century in the region of the Democratic
Republic of Congo.
The virus probably originally jumped into humans after people
came into contact with infected bush meat.
SIV viruses have been reported in other primates, including
French doctors treating the 62-year-old Cameroonian woman who
was living in Paris said they initially spotted some
discrepancies in routine viral load tests.
Further analysis of the HIV strain she was infected with showed
it was more closely related to SIV from gorillas than HIV from
She is the only person known to be infected with the new
strain, but the researchers expect to find other cases.
Before moving to Paris, she had lived in a semi-urban area of
Cameroon and had no contact with gorillas or bush meat,
suggesting she caught the virus from someone else who was
carrying the gorilla strain.
Analysis of the virus in the laboratory has confirmed that it
can replicate in human cells.
Co-author Dr David Robertson, from the University of Manchester,
said it was the first definitive transfer of HIV seen from a
source other than a chimpanzee, and highlighted the need to
monitor for the emergence of new strains.
“This demonstrates that HIV evolution is an ongoing process.
“The virus can jump from species to species, from primate to
primate, and that includes us; pathogens have been with us for
millions of years and routinely switch host species.”
The fact the patient had been diagnosed in France showed how
human mobility can rapidly transfer a virus from one area of the
world to another, he said.
Speaking to the BBC’s Wold Today programme, Dr Robertson said
there was no reason to believe that existing drugs would not
work on the new virus.
“If some day we do manage to develop a vaccine, there’s no
reason to believe it wouldn’t work,” he said.
“There’s no reason to believe this virus will present any new
problems, as it were, that we don’t already face.”
Professor Paul Sharp, from the University of Edinburgh, said the
virus probably initially transferred from chimpanzees to
He said the latest finding was interesting but perhaps not
“The medical implication is that, because this virus is not very
closely related to the other three HIV-1 groups, it is not
detected by conventional tests.
“So the virus could be cryptically spreading in the
However, he said that he would guess it would not spread widely
and become a major problem.
“Although the patient with this virus was not ill, there is no
reason to believe that it will not lead to Aids,” he added.
Scientists find rare gene behind short
(AP) Scientists have discovered a gene that helps a mother
and daughter stay alert on about six hours sleep a night, two
hours less than the rest of their family needs.
It’s believed to be a very rare mutation, not an excuse for
the rest of us who stay up too late. But the finding, published
in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, offers a new lead to
study how sleep affects health.
The National Institutes of Health says adults need seven hours
to nine hours of sleep for good health. Regularly getting too
little increases the risk of health problems, including memory
impairment and a weakened immune system. A major 2006 study
estimated that as many as 30 million Americans suffer chronic
insomnia, and millions more have other sleep disorders,
including sleep apnea.
University of California, San Francisco, researchers have
long hunted genes related to how and when people sleep. In 2001,
they discovered a mutation that puts its carriers’ sleep
patterns out of whack: These people regularly go to bed around
7:30 p.m. and wake around 3:30 a.m.
Now the same team has found a gene involved in regulating
length of sleep. In one family, the 69-year-old mother and her
44-year-old daughter typically go to bed around 10 p.m., and Mom
rises around 4 and her daughter around 4:30, with no apparent
ill effects. The rest of the family has typical sleep patterns.
Blood tests showed the women harbored a mutation in a gene
named DEC2 that’s involved in regulation of circadian rhythms,
the body’s clock. A check of more than 250 stored DNA samples
didn’t find another carrier.
Then lead researcher Ying-Hui Fu, a neurology professor, and
colleagues bred mice and fruit flies that carried the mutation.
Sure enough, the flies’ activity and brain-wave measurements on
the mice showed those with the mutation slept less — and the
mice needed less time to recover from sleep deprivation.
The result: A model that “provides a unique opportunity” to
study the effects of different amounts of sleep, Fu concluded.
Mimicking behavior may help form social
HealthDay News) - If you want someone to like you, try
imitating their actions, new research suggests. Capuchin monkeys
playing with a wiffle ball preferred the company of researchers
who mimicked their motions over researchers who didn’t,
according to the study in the Aug. 14 issue of Science.
Imitation promotes social bonding, encourages strangers to
become friends and underpins the formation of social groups, the
study authors explained.
“Researchers have known that human beings prefer the behavior
of other people who subtly imitate their gestures and other
affects,” said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the Eunice
Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes
of Health. “Observing how imitation promotes bonding in primates
may lead to insights in disorders in which imitation and bonding
is impaired, such as certain forms of autism.”
When given a ball, the capuchin monkeys, chosen because they’re
known to form close social bonds, either probed it with their
fingers, put in their mouths or pounded it on a surface. Each
monkey was then paired with two researchers, each of whom had
their own wiffle ball. One person did the same motion as the
monkey they were paired with -- either probing, mouthing or
pounding the ball. The other did something different, such as
pounding the ball when the monkey probed it.
After the experiment, the monkeys consistently spent more
time near the researcher who imitated them than with the one who
did not, according to the investigators at the National
Institutes of Health and two Italian research institutions.
When given the opportunity to take a small trinket from the
researcher’s hand and then return it for a small food reward,
the monkeys also tended to choose the person who’d imitated
“It has been argued that the link between behavior matching
and increases in affiliation might have played an important role
in human evolution by helping to maintain harmonious
relationships between individuals,” wrote the authors. “We
propose that the same principle also holds for other
FDA warns of faulty results with blood
(AP) - The Food and Drug Administration is warning diabetes
patients that certain blood sugar tests can give inaccurate
results in patients taking other medications.
Public health regulators told consumers on Friday not to use
certain glucose testing strips from Roche, Abbott Laboratories
and other companies in combination with dialysis and other
biologic drugs. According to FDA those formulations contain
non-glucose sugars, which can falsely elevate blood sugar
results and increase the risk of insulin overdose.
People with the disease often have to inject insulin, which
helps break down carbohydrates, because their bodies have become
resistant to the protein.
Dialysis and so-called immunoglobulins are most often taken
by patients with serious medical ailments, including kidney
failure and rheumatoid arthritis. The biologic drugs’ labeling
already warns that they can interfere with glucose monitoring
tests, but FDA says the products continue to be used together
despite past warnings.
Since 1997 the FDA received 13 reports of death related to
the use of glucose testing strips and biologic drug
“Six of the deaths have occurred since 2008 despite FDA’s
efforts to communicate the risk,” the agency said. In some
cases, patients experienced brain damage, coma and confusion
before death. In a letter issued Thursday, the agency urged
doctors and nurses to report any suspected problems related to
Many of the testing strips are used in hospitals and nursing
facilities, “which should instead use a laboratory assay to
measure a patient’s glucose if the patient is also receiving an
interfering product,” the FDA said in a statement.
Brands affected by the announcement include Roche’s Accu-Chek
Comfort Curve test strips and Abbott’s Freestyle test strips.
A spokesman for North Chicago-based Abbott said the company has
been working on a new version of the Freestyle that addresses
the problems cited by the FDA. Abbott expects to submit a
marketing application for the new product to FDA in the next 30
Calls to Swiss manufacturer Roche were not immediately returned
Chocolate helps heart attack survivors
(AFP) – Eating chocolate can reduce heart attack survivors’
risk of dying, say researchers who followed 1,169 Swedish men
and women, ages 45 to 70, from the time they were hospitalized
with their first heart attack in the early 1990s.
Those who ate chocolate two or more times a week were about
three times less likely to die from heart disease than those who
never ate chocolate, the study found. Smaller amounts of
chocolate also offered some protection, Agence France Presse
The study, which appears in the September issue of the
Journal of Internal Medicine, is believed to be the first to
demonstrate that chocolate can help prevent death in heart
“Our findings support increasing evidence that chocolate is a
rich source of beneficial bioactive compounds,” the researchers
Antioxidants in cocoa likely explain chocolate’s beneficial
effects in heart attack survivors, study co-author Dr. Kenneth
Mukamal, a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in