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Women's Working Burden


Micronutrients and Cognition


Tales of Teen Obesity, Bones, and Alcohol



Women's Working Burden

We all know women who consistently do a lot more work than men, with a significant discrepancy in their returns for their labor. However, the objective documentation of the physical consequences of this global phenomenon have been lacking. Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues, studied 3,352 individuals in 3 rural areas of the Ivory Coast, recording data on 1,787 women and 1,565 men during a 7-day period. Published in Science (October 26, 2001, p 812), the study found that women in all age groups unequivocally worked 2.9 hours each day more than men. Women spent less time at leisure and nonwork-related traveling. Women in these villages also provided approximately 95% of all the firewood and water. These regions represent areas where food insecurity and undernutrition are constant realities. The researchers conclude, "Where women perform dual working roles, the sociological, economic, and nutritional impact cannot be ignored."


Micronutrients and Cognition

Research on micronutrient status in Alzheimer disease has led to similar studies with the healthy elderly. A recent study in Nutrition (2001;17:709-712) showed significant improvement in cognitive function tests compared with controls in 86 healthy elderly subjects after 1 year of vitamin supplementation and a modest (within physiologic recommendations) levels of trace elements. These encouraging findings could not be linked to the level of any specific nutrient but are the result of the study's supplementation as a whole. Subjects who started out with a micronutrient deficiency had greater cognitive improvement. Aging chess players, take note!


Tomato Sauce and Prostate Cancer

It is still not clear whether dietary strategies are useful adjunctive treatments to surgery and chemotherapy in prostate cancer, but they are being explored. Recent research at the University of Illinois at Chicago asked 32 patients with prostate cancer to consume one tomato-sauce-based pasta dish daily for 3 weeks before their scheduled prostatectomies, as part of larger research on natural sources of lycopene in cancer treatments. Tomatoes are high in lycopene. Dr Phyllis Bowen and colleagues found elevated lycopene levels, oxidative deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage reduced by 28%, and PSA levels lower by 17.5% at the end of the study, recently published in the December 19, 2001, Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This is the first study of its kind to yield statistically significant results with a whole food regimen rather than lycopene supplements. Further research is needed to distinguish whether lycopene is indeed responsible here for the PSA reduction.


Of Goats and Mosquitoes

Up to 2 million Africans each year, mostly children, die from malaria. A new study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases has developed a method for an inexpensive malaria vaccine from goat's milk: "a single gallon of goat milk could produce 40,000 doses of vaccine," according to malaria researcher Anthony Stowers. The researchers produced an antigen that when injected into mice, monkeys, and finally goats cause the animal's mammary glands to later produce a protein known to block the spread of malaria parasites in the blood. This has a protective effect on the animals, but most important for this study, scientists can then use the natural goat's milk to purify a vaccine. Malaria expert Dr Philip Rosenthal calls the study "an important advance." Further research is needed on the vaccine itself before vaccination programs can begin. (Associated Press, December 18, 2001.)


Tales of Teen Obesity, Bones, and Alcohol

Why has the obesity incidence of black and Hispanic teens more than doubled in the past 12 years, while obesity in white youths has increased at less than half that rate (a mere 50% increase)? Neither figure is good news for public health or for teenagers. The December 12, 2001, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study blames this rise on sedentary activities-more television viewing, computer time, and video game playing-and on busy parents who rely more on fast foods to feed their family. "These trends carry enormous public health implications," notes Dr David Ludwig of Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass. In addition to this study, other factors, such as poverty, with long roots in both black and Hispanic communities, are associated with obesity.


Teens may carry excess weight, but this does not mean better bone health, according to another report, from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Nearly 90% of adult bone mass is established by age 19; however, only 7% of boys aged 12 to 19 and an alarming 14% of girls in this age group get the recommended daily allowance of calcium, putting them at high risk for osteoporosis in adulthood. It may also contribute to rickets (depending on calcium source), says Duane Alexander, MD, NICHD director. (NIH/NICHD, December 10, 2001).


Although drinking milk may only be one solution to calcium deficiency, drinking alcohol is no solution at all. Researchers in maternal and child health at the University of Minnesota explored how teens obtain alcohol, and ways this varies with age. Adolescents report that their first source is often their own homes or the homes of friends. As they get older, alcohol supplied by peers and parents makes it way to parties. Teens may begin asking adults outside alcohol establishments to purchase some for them. Older youths then try buying it themselves, and, once they succeed, serve as a source for further underage drinking. It's too bad fruits, vegetables, exercise, and healthy calcium sources don't have the same mystique.


Exercising for Life


* Exercise when it is convenient for you. Everyone's lifestyle is unique; do what works best for yours.


* Keep workouts simple. Start with the basics and build on them as you feel comfortable.


* Exercise correctly. Don't rush. Breathe. Keep your pace slow enough to do it right.


* Don't overdo it. Start with 10 minutes and gradually increase to 20 or 30 minutes. Limit your routine to 3 to 5 days a week. Enjoy your days "off."


* Remember to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. You won't feel as sore afterward. Good exercise should never be an excuse to feel pain.


* Consider your limits and respect them. If you have medical restrictions, make sure you (and your doctor) know how to balance them safely with your exercise program.


(Adapted from Exercise tips to use for a lifetime. Structure House. Durham, NC; November 14, 2001.)


Buffet for Nursing Homes

Between 20% and 60% of nursing home residents are malnourished due to poor appetite and inadequate eating habits, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. Wondering if more choices might help this population so traditionally deprived of choice, the researchers compared the intake of residents who received the traditional meal tray with those randomly assigned to a buffet-style dining program. Results? Buffet diners consumed 25% more energy and protein. They also enjoyed their meal more. The study concludes that long-term care facilities should re-evaluate dining strategies. (Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2001;101:1460-1462.)


Meat in Moderation

Too much meat or milk in the diet, at the expense of healthy selections of fruits, vegetables, and grains, may increase the risk for esophageal and stomach cancer, according to a National Cancer Institute study published in January's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers studied 700 Nebraska subjects, including 124 each with stomach and esophageal cancer. One third of the patients with cancer in each group reported either high milk or high meat intake. Those with the healthy diet had the highest daily intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains, with just 2-3 small servings of meat each day. (, December 20, 2001.)


Neutraceuticals and Baby Boomers

A British consumer research company finds that "baby boomers" are turning from simple supplement use to prefer neutraceuticals as they work to ward off the diseases of middle age, particularly heart disease and diabetes. Although neutraceuticals (foods associated with particular health claims) are marketed to young consumers, the boomer generation is more likely to have the disposable income necessary to make these foods a regular part of the grocery bill. The study found the most popular neutraceuticals were "probiotic" products, claiming to restore healthy bacteria levels, and products aimed at lowering cholesterol and heart disease risk. (Financial Times. December 14, 2001.)


North American BSE Unlikely

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, is considered "extremely unlikely" to occur in the United States, according to Harvard School of Public Health's recent report on the disease to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). In response to the 550-page report, based on 3 years of careful research, the USDA plans to double its cattle testing in 2002 and to consider new federal regulations on the use of animal brain and spinal cord and slaughtering devices to further reduce any risk for potential human exposure. (Reuters, December 8, 2001.)