Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat

E and C May Give Older Women a Mental Edge
Older women who take vitamin E and C supplements have higher cognitive function, according to a new study by Francine Grodstein, Sc.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston. As part of the Nurses' Health Study, Grodstein and colleagues studied 14,968 women between the ages of 70 and 79. Every two years since 1980, the women filled out questionnaires detailing supplement use and diet. To determine their cognitive function, nurses conducted comprehensive telephone interviews from 1995 to 2000 that included parts of the Mini-Mental State Examination, as well as memory and verbal fluency tests. Nurses assigned a global score by combining test results. It turned out current vitamin E supplement users had a higher global score, equivalent to being a year younger in age, than those who weren't taking supplements. The women who had taken vitamin C and E supplements for more than 10 years scored an average of 1.5 years younger in cognitive function than those not taking vitamins. The results were even more marked for those with low dietary vitamin E intake: Women with the lowest 30 percent of dietary vitamin E intake who did not take supplements tested two years older in mental function than women who compensated for low dietary intake with antioxidant supplements.

Herbal Formula Soothes Earaches
Otitis media, or inner ear infection, is a common childhood condition—93 percent of American kids get it before age 7. The condition is most often treated with antibiotics, but that may change as a result of a recent study. The double-blind study, conducted by Michael Sarrell, M.D., of Tel Aviv University in Israel, found that an herbal remedy relieves otitis media pain better than antibiotics or anesthetic drops. Sarrell randomly treated otitis media in 162 children aged 5 to 18 with identically packaged herbal formula drops, antibiotic drops, anesthetic drops and also with oral antibiotics, singly or in combination for three days. The herbal formula included Allium sativum, Verbascum thapsus, Calendula flores, Hypericum perfoliatum, and lavender and vitamin E in olive oil. Those given the herbal formula had the greatest pain reduction rates at 95.9 percent, compared with 90.9 percent for antibiotics plus herbs, 84.7 percent for the anesthetic alone and 77.8 percent for the anesthetic-plus-antibiotics combination. Sarrell says antibiotics are often overprescribed and suggests the herbal formula is a better choice because it eases pain, protects against pathogens, stimulates the immune system, is anti-inflammatory and costs less than antibiotics. Prescribing unnecessary antibiotics contributes to resistance as well.

—Pediatrics 2003 May;111
(5 Pt 1):e574-9.

Kefir Improves Lactose Digestion
Yogurt improves lactose digestion, but kefir, which contains different micro-organisms, had not been studied until Steven Hertzler, Ph.D., of Ohio State University in Columbus, decided to compare lactose digestion from kefir with lactose digestion from milk and yogurt. Lactose-intolerant people cannot cleave lactose into its two component sugar units, so lactose moves into the large intestine where intestinal bacteria consume it, producing hydrogen. Breath hydrogen is used to measure lactose intolerance. Hertzler asked 15 people (average age 26) with documented lactose intolerance to consume 2 percent milk, plain or flavored yogurt, or plain or flavored kefir containing 20 grams of lactose after an overnight 12-hour fast. In time, each person consumed all five products, serving as his or her own control. Researchers measured breath hydrogen and subjects' self-rated flatulence, diarrhea, intestinal pain and headache symptoms hourly for eight hours. After consuming either kefir or yogurt, breath hydrogen was significantly lower than after drinking milk, and the subjects experienced less flatulence. It appears from this small study that kefir, like yogurt, may help those with lactose intolerance—some 75 percent of the world's population—be able to consume milk products.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 8/p. 44

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