20 February 2006

President's Day Health News


It is easier to diet by eating the same quantity of food but eating lower energy density foods, than it is to have smaller portions. For example, it is more effective to use a low calorie pizza receipe than to try to eat one less piece. Why? Low energy density foods fool your body into thinking you've eaten more than you really have.

Pre-school age consumption of french fries is significantly associated with increased adult breast cancer risk. Whole milk consupmtion, in contrast, is slightly protective.

The Dark Side of Marriage

A spouse's serious illness or death is a serious health risk for the caretaker spouse.

Among elderly people hospitalization of a spouse is associated with an increased risk of death, and the effect of the illness of a spouse varies among diagnoses. . . . the risk of death associated with a spouse's hospitalization was 22 percent of that associated with a spouse's death (95 percent confidence interval, 17 to 27 percent); for women, the risk was 16 percent of that associated with death (95 percent confidence interval, 8 to 24 percent).

(Text inverted in quotation).

A Science News analysis of the study (registration may be required) reports that:

a wife's hospitalization increased her husband's chances of dying within a month by 35 percent. A husband's hospitalization boosted his wife's mortality risk by 44 percent. In comparison, a wife's death increased her husband's 1-month mortality risk by 53 percent, and a husband's death raised his partner's risk by 61 percent.

Bottom line: Take care of the caretakers as well in this fragile time.


Aspartame aka Equal aka NutraSweet has been linked in studies of mice to cancer, particularly lymphoma and leukemia. A larger sample size, lack of manufacturer funding and different methodology (all mice were studied until they died and then a cause of death was determined, rather than having all mice killed at a set time), were credited for a different result than previous inconclusive or negative results in studies looking for an aspartame-cancer link. The investigators felt that the fact that the dose of aspartame given to different groups of mice in the sample was linked to cancer incidents was particularly strong evidence that asparatame is a potential carcer causing agent.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease can only be definitively diagnosed after you are dead, which isn't helpful in a clinical setting, although dementia symptoms common to both Alzheimer's patients and other dementia patients are obvious. Now, there are experimental tests that can show that you have Alzheimer's disease even before strong dementia symptoms are present. One involves a PET scan examination of the parts of the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease. The other involves a spinal tap that detects proteins linked to the disease. The virtue of diagnostic tests is that they would allow administration of any newly discovered Alzheimer's drugs before the damage is already done and irreversible. One such experimental drug is mematine, which slowed or halted the progress of Alzheimer's disease in a double blind study involving 252 patients.

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