agriculture * food * energy * environment
Tipping your elbow for New Year’s cheer may help you lower the risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive losses, according to researchers at Loyola University. That’s moderate drinking, by the way. But, then again, alcohol can damage your brain. I’m still not convinced that you can have your beer and drink it too. RKP
MAYWOOD, Ill. — Moderate drinkers often have lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive loss, according to researchers who reviewed 44 studies.
In more than half of the studies, published since the 1990s, moderate drinkers of wine, beer and liquor had lower dementia risks than nondrinkers. In only a few studies were there increased risks.
“Alcohol is a two-edged sword,” said Michael Collins, Ph.D., a professor and neuroscientist at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and lead author of the refereed report in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. “Too much is bad. But a little might actually be helpful.”
Moderate alcohol consumption generally is defined as 1 drink or less per day for women and 1-2 drinks or less per day for men.
“The pathological damage and vast social havoc from addiction to and abuse of alcohol are well known, and of necessity should continue to receive primary attention by doctors, scientific researchers and health professionals,” Collins and colleagues write. “However, light-to-moderate responsible alcohol consumption “appears to carry certain health benefits.”
Long-term alcohol abuse can cause memory loss and impair cognitive function. It’s unknown why moderate alcohol use appears to have the opposite effect. One theory is that the well-known cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption also can reduce the risk of mini strokes that cause dementia.
Collins and another Loyola professor, neuroscientist Edward Neafsey, Ph.D., suggest a second possible explanation. Small amounts of alcohol might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate levels stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia.
For most people who drink responsibly and in moderation, there’s probably no reason to quit. But because of the potential for alcohol to be abused, Collins and Neafsey do not recommend that abstainers begin drinking. The researchers note there are other things besides moderate drinking that can reduce the risk of dementia, including exercise, green tea, education and a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds.
Moreover, there are times when people should never drink, including adolescence, pregnancy and before driving, Collins said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population is projected to be 305.5 Million on New Year’s Day.
That’s up 2.743 million people from New Year’s Day 2008 or 0.9 percent.
In January 2009, the Census Bureau estimates that one birth is expected to occur every eight seconds in the United States and one death every 12 seconds.
Meanwhile, according to the Census Bureau, net international migration is expected to add one person every 36 seconds to the U.S. population in January 2009, resulting in an increase in the total U.S. population of one person every 14 seconds.
Now, that doesn’t count illegal immigrants. Any way you look at it, that means more people to feed despite the economic downturn.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food price inflation in is expected to fall to 4.5 percent in 2009. If energy prices continues to be low, this will be a real boom to the amount of disposable income available to people. But the question remains, has these high food prices created a fundamental change in people’s eating and food buying habits? That’s especially true in the protein industry, such as beef. Despite ethanol, cattle and calves are still the king of the roost in Nebraska. Cattle and calves was a $7.137 billion industry in Nebraska in 2007 accounting for 49 percent of total cash receipts. Continued decline in the beef industry in 2009, along with the continued slow down in the ethanol industry if gasoline prices continue to be low, will have economic consequences for Nebraska’s economy. RKP
USAgNet reports that the USDA is reporting food-price inflation in 2009 may fall to 4.5 percent as lower dairy costs give consumers relief from this year’s price gains, the highest in 28 years.
The forecast for inflation, estimated as high as 6 percent this year, is falling as commodity prices drop from records set this year, reports Bloomberg News.
The price of crude oil, a major cost in transportation, has plunged 73 percent from its July peak. Corn, wheat and soybeans are all at least 46 percent below their all-time highs in Chicago.
Prices for dairy products, which rose as much as 9 percent this year, may fall as much as 4 percent next year, the USDA said.
Costs for fats and cooking oils, which have climbed up to 14 percent in 2008, may only rise 3 to 4 percent in 2009.
The Independent listed it as its 5th biggest story of the year, but Grand Island’s smoking ban will probably have a more long-term impact on the community’s quality of life than anything else listed in the top ten. Here’s more evidence about the danger smoking has on all of our lives. RKP
Need another reason to add “Quit Smoking” to your New Year’s resolutions list? How about the fact that even if you choose to smoke outside of your home or only smoke in your home when your children are not there – thinking that you’re keeping them away from second-hand smoke – you’re still exposing them to toxins? In the January issue of Pediatrics, researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and colleagues across the country describe how tobacco smoke contamination lingers even after a cigarette is extinguished – a phenomenon they define as “third-hand” smoke. Their study is the first to examine adult attitudes about the health risks to children of third-hand smoke and how those beliefs may relate to rules about smoking in their homes.
“When you smoke – anyplace – toxic particulate matter from tobacco smoke gets into your hair and clothing,” says lead study author, Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, assistant director of the MGHfC Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy. “When you come into contact with your baby, even if you’re not smoking at the time, she comes in contact with those toxins. And if you breastfeed, the toxins will transfer to your baby in your breastmilk.” Winickoff notes that nursing a baby if you’re a smoker is still preferable to bottle-feeding, however.
Particulate matter from tobacco smoke has been proven toxic. According to the National Toxicology Program, these 250 poisonous gases, chemicals, and metals include hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, butane, ammonia, toluene (found in paint thinners), arsenic, lead, chromium (used to make steel), cadmium (used to make batteries), and polonium-210 (highly radioactive carcinogen). Eleven of the compounds are classified as Group 1 carcinogens, the most dangerous.
Small children are especially susceptible to third-hand smoke exposure because they can inhale near, crawl and play on, or touch and mouth contaminated surfaces. Third-hand smoke can remain indoors even long after the smoking has stopped. Similar to low-level lead exposure, low levels of tobacco particulates have been associated with cognitive deficits among children, and the higher the exposure level, the lower the reading score. These findings underscore the possibility that even extremely low levels of these compounds may be neurotoxic and, according to the researchers, justify restricting all smoking in indoor areas inhabited by children.
“The dangers of third-hand smoke are very real,” says Winickoff, who is a professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Richmond Center. “Our goal was to find out if people who were aware of these harmful effects were less likely to smoke inside of their home.”
Winickoff’s team found that this was the case. In a survey of more than 1,500 households, 95.4 percent of nonsmokers versus 84.1 percent of smokers agreed that second-hand smoke harms the health of children, and 65.2 percent of nonsmokers versus 43.3 percent of smokers believed that third-hand smoke harms children. Strict rules prohibiting smoke in the home were more prevalent among nonsmokers – 88.4 percent versus 26.7 percent – but among both smokers and non-smokers, participants who agreed that environmental smoke was harmful to children’s health were more likely to have restrictions on smoking in their homes.
Winickoff’s study shows that increasing awareness of how third-hand smoke harms the health of children may encourage home smoking bans. It also will be important to incorporate knowledge about third-hand smoke contamination into current tobacco control campaigns, programs, and routine clinical practice.