HEALTH NEWS: Curcumin & Memory; Link Between Meat & Cancer; Vitamin D for IBS

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New research indicates that daily consumption of curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, improves memory and mood in people

Curcumin Enhances Memory and Mood in Older Adults

New research indicates that daily consumption of curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, improves memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss. The curcumin used in this experiment was a form that is easily absorbed.  Curcumin is the compound that gives Indian curry its bright colour. It has previously been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in lab studies. It also has been suggested as a possible reason that senior citizens in India, where curcumin is a dietary staple, have a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and better cognitive performance.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 40 adults, aged between 50 and 90, who had mild memory complaints but did not have Alzheimer’s. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months. Those taking curcumin experienced 28% improvement in memory and attention abilities over 18 months; subjects taking placebo did not. Those taking curcumin also had mild improvements in mood, and their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals (markers of Alzheimer’s) in regions of the brain that control memory and emotional function (amygdala and hypothalamus).

These results suggest that taking this safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years. The study was posted online January 19, 2018, ahead of eventual publication in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychology. The full study can now be downloaded at free of charge.

Processed Meat Boosts the Risk of Breast Cancer

According to a new study, the consumption of processed meat may increase the risk of breast cancer. (Previous findings found a link between processed meat and the risk of cancer. This new research appears to confirm the overall risk and, further, to clarify that this increased risk may be largely focused within the area of post-menopausal breast cancer.)

The researchers studied data from 273,466 women aged 40 to 69 years from the general population between 2007 and 2010, and also collected information on meat consumption. They then included the results in a meta-analysis which showed that those women who consumed processed meat were at a higher risk of breast cancer, independent of any sociodemographic, lifestyle, obesity, or dietary factors.

The paper was published in the February 2018 issue of the European Journal of Cancer. The full study report can now be seen at with payment of an access fee.

(Ed. note: Processed meat generally includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky, and ham, as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.)

First 1,000 Days of Nutrition are Critical to Neurodevelopment

A new study suggests that the provision of adequate nutrients and healthy eating during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life is important for optimal neurodevelopment (brain development), and may therefore have a long-term impact. The researchers noted that nutritional status during this period may program health risks for both the childhood and adulthood periods of life for the newborn.

Health issues such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes may originate during this first 1,000-day phase of life. Although calories are essential for fetal and child growth, they are not adequate for normal brain development. Also required to support proper neurodevelopment are protein, zinc, iron, choline, folate, iodine, vitamins A, D, B6, and B12, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. During the critical period of brain development, failure to provide key nutrients may result in lifelong deficits in brain function, despite subsequent repletion of nutrients. The study team suggested that prioritizing public policies to ensure the provision of adequate nutrients and healthy eating during this crucial time would ensure that all children have an early foundation for optimal neurodevelopment.

This study was just released online, ahead of later publication in a print edition of the journal Pediatrics. The report can be read at free of charge.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Increases with Certain Diets

A new study suggests that consumption of processed meat, red meat, organ meat, white flour, sugar-laden drinks, and possibly even tomatoes may increase the long-term risk of colon cancer. These foods all increase inflammation in your body, and the inflammation they cause is associated with a higher chance of developing colon cancer, according to pooled data from two major health studies. (Previous studies linked diet factors with colon cancer but there has been no clear explanation as to what might be behind the link. The researchers conducting this new study suspected that inflammation promoted by what a person eats could be at least one way in which diet could influence risk. Chronic inflammation is not natural and has negative effects.)

The study gathered data on more than 121,000 people from two studies and followed them every four years for 25 years to track influences on their health. People who ate the most inflammatory foods were 37% more likely to develop colon cancer and 70% more likely to develop rectal cancer, compared with those who had the lowest inflammation diet score. Processed meat, red meat, organ meat, refined flour, and sugary drinks were among the foods most linked to cancer-related inflammation.

On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, dark yellow vegetables, whole grains, coffee, and fruit juice appeared to reduce inflammation. The greatest anti-inflammatory effects were achieved from the healthy diet if a personal also abstained from alcohol. There were some odd findings: for example, pizza reduced inflammation despite being comprised of individual items known to increase inflammation; surprisingly, tomatoes cropped up as a cause of inflammation.This study was posted online January 18, 2018. It will appear in a future issue of the journal JAMA Oncology. It can be read at free of charge.

Aerobic Exercise in Middle Age Reverses Heart Failure Risk

New research shows that middle-aged persons who never exercise may reduce or reverse the risk of heart failure associated with years of sitting and not exercising if they participate in two years of regular aerobic exercise training. Study participants who adhered to the aerobic exercise regimen had significant improvements in how their body used oxygen and had decreased cardiac stiffness after two years. Both are markers of a healthier heart.

Aerobic exercises are sustained activities, such as walking, swimming, running, and others that strengthen the heart and other muscles and help the body use oxygen effectively. Sedentary behaviours, such as sitting or reclining for long periods of time, increase the risk of the heart muscle shrinking and stiffening in late-middle age and increases heart failure risk.

The scientists found what they believe to be the optimal dose of the right kind of exercise, which is aerobic exercise taken four to five times a week. They also found what they believe to be the optimum period for when this exercise can reduce the heart risk from a lifetime of sedentary behavior, which is late-middle age. The result, they concluded, is a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart for most of the study participants.

Overall, the committed exercise intervention made people fitter, increased their maximum oxygen velocity, boosted the maximum amount of energy used during exercise, and notably decreased cardiac stiffness. There was no improvement in oxygen uptake in the control group. Exercising only two or three times a week did not do as much to protect the heart against aging, but committed exercise four to five times a week was almost as effective at preventing sedentary heart aging as the more extreme exercise of elite athletes.

This study was posted online January 8, 2018 by Circulation. It will appear in a future print edition of this journal. The PDF version of this report can be found at free of charge.

Young Adults Suffer Ill Effects from Energy Drinks

A new report indicates that over half of young adults who consume energy drinks experience negative health effects as a result, including rapid heartbeat, nausea, insomnia, and in rare cases – seizures. (Energy drinks are generally not recommended for children or for those people participating in sporting activities.) Compared to consumption of coffee, energy drinks were found to pose a greater health risk.

The report suggested that the negative health effects of energy drinks could be due either to the ingredients they contain that are not found in coffee or to the ways in which they are consumed. For instance, energy drinks are sometimes consumed with alcohol or during physical activity. Of those reporting adverse health events, 24.7% reported experiencing a fast heartbeat, 24.1% reported difficulty sleeping, 18.3% reported headaches, 5.1% reported nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, 5% sought medical attention, 3.6% reported chest pains, and 0.2% reported having a seizure. (In Canada, where the study was conducted, there are no restrictions on children purchasing energy drinks or on advertising targeted towards children.)

This study was published January 15, 2018 by Canadian Medical Association Journal: Open. The full study can be read at free of charge.


A recent study in Health Psychology found that people who worried about being less active than others were up to 71% more likely to die in the 21-year followup period, regardless of their actual physical activity or health.

Vitamin D May Help Alleviate Irritable Bowel Syndrome

New research shows that people with irritable bowel syndrome may be able to alleviate their symptoms by taking vitamin D supplements. (Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a poorly understood condition that affects the large intestine, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. It affects about 12% of Americans, and women are almost twice as likely to develop the condition as men. It is not known exactly what causes IBS. Vitamin D plays a key role in nerve cell communication and immune system functioning.)

The study team conducted an analysis of all studies that investigated vitamin D levels among people with IBS. The evidence indicated that vitamin D deficiency is common among people with IBS. Furthermore, there was an inverse link between vitamin D levels and the severity of IBS symptoms. Importantly, the researchers found that there is also evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplementation could improve the symptoms of IBS. That said, the researchers stressed that larger studies are needed before vitamin D supplementation can be widely recommended for people with IBS.

This study was posted online on January 25, 2018 and will later be published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The full study report can be read online at for a fee.


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  1. Alex@BigBlueWaves
    April 28, 16:24 Alex@BigBlueWaves

    Thanks a lot, Michael!

    Always good to be up-front with the latest health findings.

    Vitamin D doesn’t stop to amaze me. One of the most important signaling agents for our immunity! No wonder it offers so many benefits.

    I’ve recently published an interesting beginner’s guide about it. Feel free to reach out, I’d be glad to share it.

    Anyway, thanks again and keep up the great work!

    Reply this comment
  2. G
    July 22, 11:30 Goodness

    Thanks Mr. Downey for simplifying these complicated studies for lay people. This is a great service to the community.

    Reply this comment

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