From Research Bag

1. Exercise improves cognition. A new University of Connecticut analysis of years of previous research suggests there is ample evidence that exercise may delay the decline in cognitive function associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Aerobic exercise has possibly the most favorable effect, according to the study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

2. Diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose weight: Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that the standard prescription for weight loss is to reduce the amount of calories.

But a new study, published in JAMA, may turn that advice on its head. It found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

The strategy worked for people whether they followed diets that were mostly low in fat or mostly low in carbohydrates. And their success did not appear to be influenced by their genetics.

The research lends strong support to the notion that diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight. It also suggests that health authorities should shift away from telling the public to obsess over calories and instead encourage people to avoid processed foods that are made with refined starches and added sugar, like bagels, white bread, refined flour and sugary snacks and beverages, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

“This is the road map to reducing the obesity epidemic in the United States,” said Dr. Mozaffarian, who was not involved in the new study. “It’s time for U.S. and other national policies to stop focusing on calories and calorie counting.”

3. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) mortality reduced by 30% People who have cardiovascular disease (CVD) can reduce their risk of death by almost a third simply by maintaining normal vitamin D levels. This is the finding of a new study recently published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

CVD is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. The new study — led by Professor Jutta Dierkes, of the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Bergen in Norway — investigated the role that vitamin D plays in the risk of death from CVD.

In order to reach their findings, Professor Dierkes and colleagues analyzed the blood samples of 4,114 adults who had suspected angina pectoris, which is chest pain as a result of coronary heart disease.

Subjects were of an average age of 62 and they were followed up for an average of 12 years. In the study, the researchers found that the optimal vitamin D blood concentrations needed to reduce mortality risk fell in a range of 42–100 nmol/l. Concentrations lower than 42 nmol/l and higher than 100 nmol/l were associated with a greater risk of death from CVD. The participants with the optimal 25(OH)D concentrations were 30% less likely to die of CVD.

Based on these results, Professor Dierkes recommends that all people with CVD have their vitamin D levels measured and monitored. When you visit your doctor, don’t forget to ask him to check your vitamin D level. In case of lower levels, it is very easy and inexpensive to correct the levels. The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, but we can also get it from certain foods — including salmon, tuna, and eggs — and other dietary supplements including over the counter vitamin D tablets.

4. Normal Testosterone levels in blood are important for patients with heart faiure: Prognosis of heart failure (HF), as well as underlying cardiac function, cardiac damage and exercise capacity, was studied in 618 men with HF (age 65.9 years). These patients were divided into quartiles based on their serum levels of total testosterone (TT):

1st (TT more than 631 ng/dl, in154 patients), 2nd (TT between 462 to 631 ng/dl, in 155 patients), 3rd (TT between 300 to 462 ng/dl, in 156 patients) and 4th (TT less than300 ng/dl, in 153 patients) The impact of testosterone. Patients were followed for 1281 days, all-cause mortality progressively increased throughout from the 1st to the 4th groups. TT was found to be an independent predictor of all-cause mortality.

In addition, the study compared the parameters of echocardiography and cardiopulmonary exercise testing, as well as levels of some bio markers (chemical substances in blood that indicate heart disease) among the four groups. The study concluded that in patients with congestive heart failure, decreased serum testosterone is associated with myocardial damage, lower exercise capacity, and higher mortality.

5. Taking saunas may reduce the risk for stroke: Researchers “found that compared with people who took saunas once a week, those who took them two to three times weekly were 12 percent less likely to have a stroke.” Individuals “who took saunas four to seven times a week reduced their risk for stroke by 62 percent.” The study involved 1,628 Finnish older adults. The findings were published online in the journal Neurology.