Health Headlines: September 3-7

Featured Article, Healthy Living
on September 7, 2012

Gone, Organic?

To the chagrin of many food purists, results from several studies published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine are discounting the health benefits of an organic diet. Many Americans shell out premium dollars for organic foods every single day under the assumption that it’s better for them and their families. And yet, those notions could fly out the window with these findings. “Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” says lead study author Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler. “My colleagues and I were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.” Equally surprised, no doubt, are the millions of Americans who have contributed to the nearly $27 billion-per-year industry. Numbers like that kind of make you lose your appetite, don’t they?

Guess What?! Help Actually Helps!

As it turns out, smoking cessation products aimed to help smokers quit smoking may actually work. Past research on the effectiveness of smoking cessation products found that perhaps they weren’t actually very useful for their intended purpose. However, new study findings are confirming that they may actually be legit after all, at least for a while. Study participants who used cessation products—patches, gum and meds—were more likely to abstain from smoking for up to six months than those who used no aids. But the reality, according to study leader Karin Kasza, is this: “Even when people use these medications to help them quit, relapse is still the norm.” Where Kasza lacks optimism, we say it never hurts to try. (And if you need even more encouragement, check out our “Stop Smoking” section on Better Than Before.)

Clean House, Fight Cancer

For years, we have been told that a healthy diet and regular exercise may help keep cancer at bay. For equally as long, the exercise-averse have been feeling pangs of guilt for not partaking in traditional exercise in an attempt to lead healthier, hopefully cancer-free lives. Well, exercise haters may be able to kiss that guilt goodbye. The International Journal of Cancer published study results this week that found that women who did household chores for six hours per day (yes, per day!) were 13 percent less likely to develop breast cancer over two decades than those who live in filth. Suggested daily household chores include everything from washing dishes to gardening, so options are plentiful. Take note, though, that the “yuck” factor of scrubbing toilets did not yield any over-and-above benefits. Sorry!

Brain Shrinkage: Not So Sweet

Blood sugar levels may not be solely a diabetic concern anymore. A new study out of Australia of 60- to 64-year-olds found that non-diabetics with fasting blood sugar levels on the high end of normal—normal being 70-100 milligrams per deciliter—were more likely to experience brain shrinkage than those with levels in the lower- to mid-normal range. The brain shrinkage in study participants primarily affected memory and thinking skills, which we all know are what we fight to keep sharp as we age. The results may lead medical experts to reconsider what constitutes “normal” blood sugar levels as well as the definition of diabetes. And with 8.3 percent of the American population having diabetes, we’d say it’s definitely a definition that needs to be spot-on.