Check in with us as we feature the latest trends, research and news in medicine, health and science. A team of Star Tribune staffers will aggregate updates from news wires, websites, magazines and medical journals.

High protein diet may lower stroke risk

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: June 13, 2014 - 1:46 PM

Diets rich in protein appear to reduce a person's risk of stroke, particularly if it's a lean animal protein like fish, a new analysis suggests.

People with the highest amounts of animal protein in their diets were 20 percent less likely to suffer a stroke, compared with those who ate little to no protein, said study author Xinfeng Liu, of Nanjing University School of Medicine in Nanjing, China.

For every additional 20 grams per day of protein that people ate, their risk of stroke decreased by 26 percent, the researchers found.

"If everyone's protein intake were at this level, that would translate to more than 1.4 million fewer deaths from stroke each year worldwide, plus a decreased level of disability from stroke," Liu said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers concluded that animal protein offers more than twice the protective benefit against stroke as protein from vegetable sources.

Stroke experts cautioned against taking the study's findings too literally, however. Many animal protein sources also come with high levels of saturated fats that can increase risk of stroke.

"I don't think this study means to the public you should run out and start eating burgers and red meat," said Dr. Ralph Sacco, chair of neurology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. "Focusing on lean protein consumption and/or even vegetable protein is important."

Read more from WebMD.

Kindergarten walls: Too colorful and busy?

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: June 10, 2014 - 1:43 PM

Kindergarten classroom walls are typically covered with cheerful, busy artwork. Colorful charts, calendars, drawings and handwriting pages can nearly take over all the open space. But a new study questions whether all the sensory effect might be detrimental to young children’s ability to focus and learn the lessons being taught.

For a study at Carnegie Mellon University, 24 kindergartners were given six introductory science lessons on unfamiliar topics. They were taught half the lessons in a heavily decorated classroom and half in a sparsely decorated classroom. The students learned in both classrooms but learned more in the classrooms with fewer decorations.

According to lead author Anna V. Fisher, the research showed that a classroom’s visual environment can affect how much young children learn, but more research is needed to measure the full effect.

“I would suggest that instead of removing all decorations, teachers should consider whether some of their visual displays may be distracting to young children,” Fisher said.

Read more from Newsmagazine Network.

Regrets? Rats have a few, study says

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: June 9, 2014 - 12:28 PM

Scientists used to think only humans feel regret, but some animals may also regret bad choices.

"Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you would have been better off," said study author David Redish, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience in the University of Minnesota Department of Neuroscience.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center created an experiment called “restaurant row” -- four different food stops a rat could make. At each entrance, a tone indicated how long the rat would have to wait to receive food. A rat could either stay, or choose to try something else. "If the line is too long at the Chinese food restaurant, then you give up and go to the Indian food restaurant across the street." Redish said.

The rats had preferences for specific foods and would only wait a certain amount of time to get it. The researchers decided to see what would happen if the rats skipped a ‘good deal’ only to discover a ‘bad deal’ at the next place. To the researchers' surprise, when the rats made a bad choice they stopped and looked back. This, they surmised, suggested they regretted their decision.

The researchers then used imaging to study the brain activity of the rats and found that when a rat made a mistake, the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain–the part of the brain believed to process regret in humans–was activated.

Although rats' regret response was similar to humans', the UofM researchers said they were unsure whether rats have human-like reflection about decisions. But they said the study shows that animal models may be used to better understand certain human behaviors.

Scientists find blond gene

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: June 2, 2014 - 12:17 PM

A single-letter change in the genetic code is enough to generate blond hair in humans, in dramatic contrast to our dark-haired ancestors. A new analysis by Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists has pinpointed that change, which is common in the genomes of Northern Europeans, and shown how it fine-tunes the regulation of an essential gene.

"This particular genetic variation in humans is associated with blond hair, but it isn't associated with eye color or other pigmentation traits," says David Kingsley, an HHMI investigator at Stanford University who led the study. "The specificity of the switch shows exactly how independent color changes can be encoded to produce specific traits in humans." Kingsley and his colleagues published their findings in the journal Nature Genetics.

Kingsley says a handful of genes likely determine hair color in humans, however, the precise molecular basis of the trait remains poorly understood. "I think you will see a lot more of this type of study in the future, leading to a much better understanding of both the molecular basis of human diversity and of the susceptibility or resistance to many common diseases," Kingsley said.

Read more from Science Codex.

Weekend warriors: Know your sunscreen

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: May 30, 2014 - 11:25 AM

Consumer Reports issued its annual sunscreen rankings  in time for summer sun. It ranked Coppertone Water Babies and Walmart’s Equate SPF 50 highest for lotions, for price and protection from UV rays. Bull Frog WaterArmor Sport and Target’s Up & Up took the top rating for sprays.

A new study looked at the importance of good sunscreen use. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Channing Lab examined survey data from more than 100,000 nurses participating in the Harvard Nurses Health study and found that those who had at least five blistering sunburns when they were 15 to 20 years old had a 68 percent increased risk for common skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and an 80 percent increased risk of the deadlier melanoma by the time they reached middle age.
Study coauthor Dr. Abrar Qureshi and Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, offer these sunscreen tips:

Spray or lotion?
Both experts preferred lotions over sprays. “With sprays, people often don’t apply enough to get the full sunscreen protection,” Qureshi said. “But sprays are good for hard to reach places like the back, so you may want to use a combination.”

What’s the biggest sunscreen mistake?
Assuming that a super-high SPF product will protect us all day is likely the most common reason we get burned. Both experts, as well as the FDA, said products with SPF’s higher than 50 likely don’t offer substantially more protection than those with an SPF of 50. “You really need to re-apply them every two hours or immediately after swimming,” Rangan said. Qureshi added that SPF 15 or under should be applied every hour.
What about foods? Can what we eat help protect us from the sun?
Spinach, berries, tomatoes, and other foods rich in antioxidants can help the body repair skin damage caused by the sun, both experts agreed, but they should not be considered a replacement for sunscreen.

Read more from Boston Globe.


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