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In This Issue

Folic Acid Helps Hypertension in Women

Obesity May Reverse Centuries of Progress in Human Longevity

Male Aggression found to correlate with Finger Length

Did You Know..

Folic Acid Helps Hypertension in Women

Taking folic acid supplements, along with eating more foods high in folate, such as oranges, leafy greens and fortified grains, may help some women reduce their risk of hypertension.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston looking at results from questionnaires returned by nurses participating in an on-going study of women's health habits are finding a possible link between folate consumption and lower blood pressure. The results were from an eight-year period starting in the 1990s. The report was published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Among younger women, those who took more than 1,000 micrograms of folate daily had 6.7 cases of hypertension per 1,000 women, compared with 14.8 cases per 1,000 women in those who took less than 200 micrograms - suggesting that eight women per 1,000 might have avoided high blood pressure if they had consumed more folate.

Obesity May Reverse Centuries of Progress in Human Longevity

There is grave concern that obesity has started to erode the gains Americans have made in extending their life spans and will stall the long trend toward increasing longevity unless the nation takes aggressive steps to slim down.

S. Jay Olshansky, demographer at the University of Illinois, led a study, published in New England Journal of Medicine. His team estimate that within 50 years, if the trend is not reversed, obesity will cut the average life span by at least two to five years, which would exceed the effects of all cancers. That could overtake all gains from healthier lifestyles and medical advances and cause longevity to plateau or perhaps decline, they projected. "The take-home message is that obesity clearly needs to be considered in an entirely new light - it is far more dangerous than we ever thought," he said.

Several other researchers agreed, saying the finding that obesity is actually undermining longevity should be a wake-up call. 'These results are stunning and reinforce the enormous toll that obesity is taking on the health and happiness of the population," said Kelly Brownell, who directs the Center on Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

The researchers said their estimates were conservative in several ways, including the fact that they focused exclusively on adults. The true impact is likely to be much greater as obese children age and begin suffering elevated rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

"It's sort of like a massive tsunami heading toward the shoreline," said David Ludwig, an obesity expert at the Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in Boston who worked with Olshansky. "It's going to peak in a massive public health crisis." At least two-thirds of Americans are now overweight, including about one-third who are obese. Obesity significantly increases the risk of a number of serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers calculated how much longer Americans would be living if obesity did not exist, using data from a large federal assessment of obesity rates and estimates of the health impact of obesity by the University of Alabama School of Public Health and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Then found that if obesity were magically eliminated, the overall life span would be at least one-third to three-quarters of a year longer. Minorities would be hit hardest because they are more prone to obesity and tend to get lower-quality health care.

Male Aggression found to correlate with Finger Length

Peter Hurd, professor of psychology at the University of Alberta, says he's found physical evidence that male aggression can be measured by finger length. He examined 300 undergraduate volunteers and found that the shorter the index finger, the more likely a man will be physically aggressive throughout his life. Hurd said his findings, published in the journal Biological Psychology, reinforce the idea that to some degree, our personality traits are determined in the womb.

Previous research by evolutionary biologist John Manning had noted that heavier testosterone doses in the womb seem to produce not only longer ring fingers, but also affect development of the right brain, where visual and spatial judgment skills reside, suggesting that ring-finger length might also predict athletic prowess. Manning's research indicated that longer fingers relative to height, particularly the ring finger, may point to increased risk of depression in men, but not women.

Hurd said he has unpublished evidence that suggests men with more feminine finger length ratios are more prone to depression. Generally, women's index and ring fingers are almost equal in length because they're ex-posed to less testosterone during development. In his study, Hurd found no correlation between finger lengths and aggression in women.

Did you know ...

why urine smells especially pungent after eating asparagus?

It is because of a simple chemical reaction. Asparagus contains a sulphur compound called mercaptan which is also found in rotten eggs, onions and garlic. When your digestive tract breaks down this substance, by products are released that cause the unusual scent. The process is so quick that your urine can develop the distinctive smell within 15 to 30 minutes of eating the vegetable. However, not everyone has the experience. Only some people appear to have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan into its more pungent parts.

that Natural remedies can help migraines?

Research shows that high doses of riboflavin (400 milligrams of vitamin B2) can prevent migraines when compared with a placebo (Neurology, February 1993) Other alternative therapies that have been shown helpful include the herbs Feverfew and Butterbur. The mineral Magnesium (300 milligrams once or twice daily) has also helped some migraine sufferers.

that Calcium carbonate may be used for heartburn?

Calcium carbonate is an excellent, inexpensive antacid that can quickly ease heartburn and supply extra calcium. It has been recommended for decades.

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In Good Health.
Pamela Nathan

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