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Another inadvertent way to kill off good bacteria. From the January 27, 2014 Medical Daily:

Antiseptic Mouthwash Raises Heart Attack Risk, Blood Pressure: Chlorhexidine Kills Off 'Good' Bacteria That Helps Blood Vessels Relax

Antiseptic mouthwash is commonly used to quickly refresh and clean the mouth after brushing your teeth in the morning, after eating, and before going to bed. According to a recent study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, using a mouthwash twice daily — such as Corsodyl — may increase blood pressure up to 3.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), raising your heart attack risk.

Now a team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London believe using antiseptic mouthwash daily could increase the odds of HBP (high blood pressure) due to a chemical that kills the “good” bacteria responsible for helping the blood vessels relax.

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, lead author of the study, and her team of researchers, observed the effects of a chlorhexidine-based antiseptic mouthwash — Corsodyl — by measuring the blood pressure of a small cohort of healthy participants during a two-week period. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic that treats gingivitis and others problems of the mouth and gums. A total of 19 participants were recruited for the study during an initial seven-day control period followed by a seven-day treatment period with the antiseptic mouthwash. 

The findings revealed Cordosyl use retracts the oral bacterial conversion from nitrate to nitrate which reduces the plasma nitrate levels that are associated with increases in blood pressure. The mouthwash led the participants’ blood pressure to rise between 2 to 3.5 mmHg, with a noticeable effect found within one day of using the mouthwash twice.

The study authors believe killing off “good” oral bacteria plays a vital role in determining the plasma nitrate levels, and the bodily control of blood pressure. “Killing off all these bugs each day is a disaster, when small rises in blood pressure have significant impact on morbidity and mortality from heart disease and stroke,” said Ahluwalia, the Daily Mail reported. However, she adds, “We are not telling people to stop using antiseptic mouthwashes if they have a gum or tooth infection — but we would ask why anyone else would want to.”

The findings of the study do not apply to all mouthwashes because not all mouthwashes contain the chemical chlorhexidine, such as the popular Listerine. The study authors caution other mouthwashes could still produce the same effects as Corsodyl by damaging the mouth’s healthy bacteria.

Another study showing the health benefits of eating berries, including lingonberries. Note that it was done in mice. From the January 23, 2014 Science Daily:

Lingonberries halt effects of high-fat diet

Lingonberries almost completely prevented weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet, a study at Lund University in Sweden has found -- whereas the 'super berry' açai led to increased weight gain. The Scandinavian berries also produced lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol.

Some of the mice were fed a low-fat diet, while the majority of the animals were fed a diet high in fat. They were then divided into groups, where all except a control group were fed a type of berry -- lingonberry, bilberry, raspberry, crowberry, blackberry, prune, blackcurrant or açai berry.

When the mice were compared after three months, it could be observed that the lingonberry group had by far the best results. The mice that had eaten lingonberries had not put on more weight than the mice that had eaten a low-fat diet -- and their blood sugar and insulin readings were similar to those of the 'low-fat' mice. Their cholesterol levels and levels of fat in the liver were also lower than those of the animals who received a high-fat diet without any berries.

Blackcurrants and bilberries also produced good effects, although not as pronounced as the lingonberries. The açai berries, on the other hand, came last, although they had actually been included in the study for the opposite reason -- the researchers wanted to see how well the Nordic berries would do in comparison with the Brazilian 'super berry'.

The good results from lingonberries may be due to their polyphenol content, according to the researchers. They will now continue to work on understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the effect of the lingonberries. They will also see whether the effect can be observed in humans.

Keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. From the January 21, 2014 Science Daily:

Large Amounts of Folic Acid Shown to Promote Growth of Breast Cancer in Rats

Folic acid supplements at levels consumed by breast cancer patients and survivors in North America promoted the growth of existing breast cancer in rats, new research found.

The role of folate, a B vitamin, and its synthetic form, folic acid, in the development and progression of breast cancer is highly controversial. Although some studies have found it may offer protection against breast cancer, recent studies have suggested that taking high amounts of folic acid may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr. Young-In Kim, a physician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital, said his lab has shown for the first time that folic acid supplements in doses 2.5 to five times the daily requirement "significantly promotes" the growth of existing pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in the mammary glands of rats. 

This is a critically important issue because breast cancer patients and survivors in North America are exposed to high levels of folic acid through folic acid fortification in food and widespread use of vitamin supplements after a cancer diagnosis," Dr. Kim said. "Cancer patients and survivors in North America have a high prevalence of multivitamin and supplement use, with breast cancer patients and survivors having the highest prevalence."

Great news for chocolate lovers. Some other beneficial foods in the study that offer protection from type 2 diabetes: berries, tea, red grapes, wine, parsley, celery, oranges, peppers. From the January 20, 2014 Science Daily:

Ingredients in chocolate, tea, berries could guard against diabetes

Eating high levels of flavonoids including anthocyanins and other compounds (found in berries, tea, and chocolate) could offer protection from type 2 diabetes -- according to research from the University of East Anglia and King's College London. 

Findings published today in the Journal of Nutrition reveal that high intakes of these dietary compounds are associated with lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation.

A study of almost 2,000 people also found that these food groups lower inflammation which, when chronic, is associated with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Another positive piece of news for those getting on in years. From Jan. 20, 2014 Science News:

Forget About Forgetting: Elderly Know More, Use It Better

What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? If your think our brains go into a steady decline, research reported this week in the Journal Topics in Cognitive Science may make you think again. The work, headed by Dr. Michael Ramscar of Tübingen University, takes a critical look at the measures usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures, which date back to the early twentieth century, are flawed. "The human brain works slower in old age," says Ramscar, "but only because we have stored more information over time."

Ramscar and his colleagues' work provides more than an explanation of why, in the light of all the extra information they have to process, we might expect older brains to seem slower and more forgetful than younger brains. Their work also shows how changes in test performance that have been taken as evidence for declining cognitive abilities in fact demonstrates older adults' greater mastery of the knowledge they have acquired.

The Tübingen research conclude that we need different tests for the cognitive abilities of older people -- taking into account the nature and amount of information our brains process. "The brains of older people do not get weak," says Michael Ramscar. "On the contrary, they simply know more."

Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure and thus cut the risk of heart attack and stroke. From the January 17, 2014 Science Daily:

Here Comes the Sun to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure and thus cut the risk of heart attack and stroke, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests.

Research carried out at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh shows that sunlight alters levels of the small messenger molecule, nitric oxide (NO) in the skin and blood, reducing blood pressure... "NO along with its breakdown products, known to be abundant in skin, is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of NO are transferred from the skin to the circulation, lowering blood vessel tone; as blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke."

While limiting sunlight exposure is important to prevent skin cancer, the authors of the study, including Dr Richard Weller of the University of Edinburgh, suggest that minimising exposure may be disadvantageous by increasing the risk of prevalent conditions related to cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease, often associated with high blood pressure, accounts for 30 per cent of deaths globally each year. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are known to vary according to season and latitude, with higher levels observed in winter and in countries further from the equator, where ultraviolet radiation from the sun is lower.

From the January 15, 2014 Science Daily:

Don’t Just Sit There! Prolonged Sitting Linked to Early Mortality in Women

Led by Cornell University nutritional scientist Rebecca Seguin, a new study of 93,000 postmenopausal American women found those with the highest amounts of sedentary time -- defined as sitting and resting, excluding sleeping -- died earlier than their most active peers. The association remained even when controlling for physical mobility and function, chronic disease status, demographic factors and overall fitness -- meaning that even habitual exercisers are at risk if they have high amounts of idle time.

Seguin and co-authors found that women with more than 11 hours of daily sedentary time faced a 12 percent increase in all-cause premature mortality compared with the most energetic group -- those with four hours or less of inactivity. The former group also upped their odds for death due to cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and cancer by 13, 27 and 21 percent, respectively.

The assumption has been that if you're fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day," said Seguin, assistant professor of nutritional sciences in Cornell's College of Human Ecology. "In fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realize."

Researchers found that caffeine enhances memory.From Science Daily:

It's All Coming Back to Me Now: Researchers Find Caffeine Enhances Memory

Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins, and his team of scientists found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory in humans. Their research, published by the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it is consumed.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 90 percent of people worldwide consume caffeine in one form or another. In the United States, 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day. The average adult has an intake of about 200 milligrams -- the same amount used in the Yassa study -- or roughly one strong cup of coffee or two small cups of coffee per day.

If you missed these recent articles about weight and gut bacteria, please go read them now. Amazing stuff. From the December 9, 2013 Washington Post:

The microbes in your gut may be making you fat or keeping you thin

 ...a growing body of evidence suggesting that naturally occurring bacteria and other microbes in the body, and possibly even viruses, can influence weight in ways that scientists are only just beginning to understand. Numerous studies are underway looking at the role of intestinal organisms in obesity, with a focus on how they extract energy from food and how this affects weight gain or loss.

From September 5, 2013 Science News: Gut infections keep mice lean

Skinniness could be contagious. Gut bacteria from thin people can invade the intestines of mice carrying microbes from obese people. And these invaders can keep mice from getting tubby, researchers report in the Sept. 6 Science.

But the benefits come with a catch. The invading microbes drop in and get to work only when mice eat healthy food. Even fat-blocking bacteria can’t fight a bad diet, suggests study leader Jeffrey Gordon, a microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Fat and thin people have different microbes teeming in their intestines, for example. And normal-weight mice given microbes from obese mice pack on extra fat, says coauthor Vanessa Ridaura, also of Washington University.

Starting this month, it will finally be possible to buy upholstered furniture without added toxic flame retardants. From the December 31, 2013 Scientific American:

Cancer-Linked Flame Retardants Eased Out of Furniture in 2014

From the January 4, 2014 Huffington Post:

Flame-Retardant Furniture May Leave A Toxic Legacy

California's new Technical Bulletin 117 removes a decades-old requirement that flame retardants be included in the filling of upholstered furniture. The state rule, which became the de facto standard for the rest of the nation, meant use of the chemicals flourished for years nationwide, despite mounting evidence implicating them in neurological and reproductive disorders, and cancers. For all their ills, the chemicals may not actually slow fires.

"Right now, most people have harmful flame retardants in their homes and in their bodies," said Blum, a University of California, Berkeley, chemist. "And the chemicals don't serve a benefit.

As for finding new flame retardant-free furniture, Blum recommended looking for the new "TB 117-2013" tag and asking retailers whether a specific item contains flame retardants. It may be best to wait a few more months to allow new products to arrive in stores and old stock to be sold out, she noted.