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healthbriefs


Mindful Meditation Relieves Inflammation A


new University of Wisconsin-Madison study shows that meditation, a proven reducer of psy- chological stress, can also lessen stress-caused inflam- mation and thereby relieve the symptoms and pain of certain diseases. Long-term stress has long been linked to inflammation, an underlying cause of many dis- eases, including rheumatoid arthritis, bowel disease, asthma, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.


Meditation study volunteers were divided into two groups—an eight-week mindfulness meditation course or a stress reduction program of supportive nutri- tion, exercise and music therapy that did not include meditation. The meditation group focused attention on the breath, bodily sensations and mental content while seated, walking or practicing yoga.


Immune and endocrine data was collected before and after training in the two methods and meditation proved to be more effective. Melissa Rosenkranz, a neuroscientist with the university’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and lead author of the report, concludes that, “The mindfulness-based approach to stress reduction may offer a lower-cost alternative or complement to standard treatment, and it can be practiced easily by patients in their own homes whenever needed.”


The Killer Called Sugar A


new animal study from the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, reports daunting results. Female mice that consumed the equivalent of a human drinking three cans of soft drinks a day doubled their death rate from all causes. The study further showed that fertility rates dropped dramatically in male mice and their innate abil- ity to defend their territory diminished. All of the sugar-saturated mice performed poorly on cogni- tive tests.


The lab mice received a diet in which 25 percent


of their total calories came from sugar (not high fructose corn syrup, which carries substantial additional health risks). That’s an amount commonly consumed in the Standard American Diet, easy to do in one sitting via a super-sized soft drink.


HAPPY LIFE, HEALTHY HEART


eelings matter when it comes to protecting a per- son’s physical health. Researchers at Boston’s Harvard School of Public Health reviewing more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases found a direct correlation between positive psychological well-being and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. They concluded that positive feelings like optimism, life satisfaction and happiness are associated with the reduced risk, regardless of a person’s age, weight or socioeconomic or smoking status.


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ROSEMARY REVS UP MEMORY


osemary’s folkloric reputation for improving memory has been validated by science. UK researchers at London’s Northumbria University found that when the essential oil of rosemary was diffused into a room—a method practiced in aromatherapy— it enhanced participants’ ability to remember past events and remind themselves to do tasks planned for the future, like sending an anniversary card. Mark Moss, Ph.D., head of psychology at Northumbria, says, “We wanted to build on our previ- ous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic. In this study, we focused on prospective memory, which is critical for everyday functioning.” In the study, 66 people randomly assigned to either a rosemary-scented or unscented room were asked to complete a variety of tests to assess their memory functions. Those in the rosemary-scented room outperformed the control group.


Blood analysis of those exposed to the rosemary aroma confirmed higher concentrations of 1,8-cineole, the oil’s compound specifically linked to memory improvement. The researchers concluded that the aroma of rosemary essential oil can enhance cognitive functioning in healthy individuals and may have implications for treating people with memory impairment. The findings were presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Confer- ence, in Harrogate.


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