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It seems like I can't stop writing about coffee (here and here). Coffee drinkers rejoice: another study (presented at the European Society of Cardiology) finds health benefits from drinking several cups of coffee daily. This study, like other previous studies, found an inverse relationship between drinking coffee and early death ("all-cause mortality") - meaning the more one drinks coffee, the less likely one is to have a premature death. The biggest effect was in drinking 4 cups daily in people aged 45 and older! It was an observational study, so can't prove it definitely - can only say there's an association. But still... it's looking good. From Medical Xpress:

Higher coffee consumption associated with lower risk of death

Higher coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of death, according to research presented today at ESC Congress. The observational study in nearly 20,000 participants suggests that coffee can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people. 

The purpose of this study was to examine the association between coffee consumption and the risk of mortality in a middle-aged Mediterranean cohort. The study was conducted within the framework of the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project, a long-term prospective cohort study in more than 22,500 Spanish university graduates which started in 1999. This analysis included 19,896 participants of the SUN Project, whose average age at enrollment was 37.7 years old. .... Patients were followed-up for an average of ten years. 

During the ten year period, 337 participants died. The researchers found that participants who consumed at least four cups of coffee per day had a 64% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who never or almost never consumed coffee. There was a 22% lower risk of all-cause mortality for each two additional cups of coffee per day.

The researchers examined whether sex, age or adherence to the Mediterranean diet had any influence on the association between baseline coffee consumption and mortality. They observed a significant interaction between coffee consumption and age. In those who were at least 45 years old, drinking two additional cups of coffee per day was associated with a 30% lower risk of mortality during follow-up. The association was not significant among younger participants.

   Is "fat but fit" a myth or true? The results of this study suggest that it is a myth. That there is a higher risk of coronary heart disease, and even if everything looks OK initially, it is associated with an eventual metabolic changes (and problems). Just wait a while - as can be seen in the results of this study that followed people from 8 European countries over many years (about 12.2 years). The study found that being normal weight and fit is best, and that "metabolically healthy" obese people were more likely to go on to develop metabolic abnormalities (and become metabolically unhealthy obese people) over the years. Metabolically unhealthy signs included high blood pressure, low HDL-cholesterol, and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Bottom line: aim for normal weight for a lower risk of heart disease (and of course, be physically active and eat a healthy diet - fewer processed foods, and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes). From Science Daily:

'Fat but fit' are at increased risk of heart disease

Carrying extra weight could raise your risk of heart attack by more than a quarter, even if you are otherwise healthy.Researchers have found that being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by up to 28 per cent compared to those with a healthy body weight, even if they have healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.The findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests being 'fat but fit' is a myth, and that people should aim to maintain a body weight within a healthy range.

Storing too much fat in the body is associated with a number of metabolic changes, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and altered cholesterol levels, which can lead to disease and poor health. However, previous studies have revealed a subset of overweight people who appear to lack the adverse health effects of excess weight, leading to them being classified as 'metabolically healthy obese' in the medical literature, and 'fat but fit' in the media.

Now, a group led by researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge has shown that despite an apparent clean bill of health, this overweight group is still at increased risk compared to those with a healthy weight. In the largest study of its kind to date, scientists used data from more than half a million people in 10 European countries -- taken from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) -- to show that excess weight is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, even when people have a healthy metabolic profile.

In the study, published in the European Heart Journal, researchers looked at the link between excess weight and risk of CHD, a condition where not enough blood gets through to the heart due to clogged arteries, leading to heart attacks. After a follow-up period of more than 12 years, a total of 7,637 people in the EPIC cohort experienced CHD events, such as death from heart attack. Researchers then selected a representative group of more than 10,000 individuals as controls, for analysis. Body weight was classified according to definitions from the World Health Organization. Those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 were classed as obese, while those with a BMI of 25-30 were classed as overweight, and 18.5-25 as normal weight. More than half of the control group (63 per cent) were female, with an average age of 53.6 and an average BMI of 26.1.

Participants were categorised as 'unhealthy' if they had three or more of a number of metabolic markers, including high blood pressure, blood glucose, or triglyceride levels, low levels of HDL cholesterol, or a waist size of more than 37" (94 cm) for men and 31" (80 cm) for women. .... the researchers found that compared to the healthy normal weight group, those classed as unhealthy had more than double the risk of CHD, whether they were normal weight, overweight or obeseHowever, analysis also revealed that within the apparently healthy group there was a significant difference in outcomes for people depending on their weight. The research found that compared to those at normal weight, people who were classified as healthy but were overweight had an increased CHD risk of 1.26 (26 per cent), while those who were healthy but obese had an increased risk of 1.28 (28 per cent). [Original study.]

Image result for back of hair, wikipedia There has long been concern over the chemicals in hair dyes and chemical hair straighteners or relaxers, and whether they are linked to various cancers. Studies have had mixed findings with regard to breast cancer, but a review paper concluded that there is evidence to support a role of hair product use in the risk of early onset breast cancer, especially in African-American women. Other studies found that long term users of dark hair dyes have a significantly increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and bladder cancer. 

A recent study done in the New York City and New Jersey area looked at both African-American women and white women and their use of various hair chemical products. They found that regularly chemically relaxing hair or dying hair dark brown or black is associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer in both African-American and white women. And women using both types of products had an even higher risk of breast cancer.From Medscape:

Dark Hair Dye and Chemical Relaxers Linked to Breast Cancer

African-American and white women who regularly chemically straighten their hair or dye it dark brown or black have an elevated risk of breast cancer, new research suggests. The study of 4,285 African-American and white women was the first to find a significant increase in breast cancer risk among black women who used dark shades of hair dye and white women who used chemical relaxers.

Black women who reported using dark hair dye had a 51 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to black women who did not, while white women who reported using chemical relaxers had a 74 percent increased risk of breast cancer, the study found. The risk of breast cancer was even higher for white women who regularly dyed their hair dark shades and also used chemical relaxers, and it more than doubled for white dual users compared to white women who used neither dark dye nor chemical straighteners.

The study included adult women from New York and New Jersey, surveyed from 2002 through 2008, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, plus women of similar age and race but without a history of cancer.....While the vast majority - 88 percent - of blacks had used chemicals to relax their hair, only 5 percent of whites reported using relaxers. For dark hair dye, the numbers flipped, though the differences were not as dramatic. While 58 percent of whites said they regularly dyed their hair dark shades, only 30 percent of blacks did.

The most striking results showed increased risk in the minority of black women who used dark hair dye and white women who used chemical relaxers. Black women who used chemical straighteners and white women who used dark hair dyes were also at higher risk for breast cancer, but that might have been due to chance. James-Todd said that because so many of the black women used chemical relaxers and so many of the white women used dark hair dye, links would have been hard to detect. There’s no reason to believe that chemical relaxers and hair dyes would increase the risk for women of one race and not of another, she said. 

Previous studies have shown that long-term users of dark dyes have a four-fold increased risk of fatal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and fatal multiple myeloma, the authors write. Prior research also has associated dark hair dye use with an increased risk of bladder cancer. A 2016 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that breast cancer rates are generally similar for black and white women, at around 122 new cases for every 100,000 women per year, although black women with the disease are more likely to die from it.  [Original study.]

Once again a study (this time a review and meta-analysis of other studies) found an alarming and steep decline in sperm counts in men from Western countries over a 40 year period. This steep decline for both sperm concentration (SC) and total sperm count (TSC) is for men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The sperm count and sperm concentration declined 50 to 60% in the period between 1973 to 2011 - with a downward slope showing a decline of -1.4% to -1.6% per year. On the other hand, men from South America, Asia and Africa did not show a decline.

The authors of the study were very concerned over the results showing this decline in Western countries, with no evidence of the decline leveling off. As these declines continue, more and more men will have sperm counts below the point at which they can reproduce. Instead they will be infertile or "sub-fertile" (with a decreased probability of conceiving a child). The threshold level associated with a "decreased monthly probability of conception" is considered to be 40 million/ml. Shockingly - this study found that in 1973 when Western men who were not selected for fertility, and didn't know their fertility status (e.g., college students, men screened for the military) - the average sperm concentration was 99 million/ml, but by 2011 it was 47.1 million/ml. These men were called "unselected" and are likely to be representative of men in the general population. Men known to be fertile (e.g., had fathered a child) were at 83.8 million/ml in 1976, but were down to 62.0 million/ml in 2011. Both groups had consistent declines year after year.

What about the men from South America, Asia, and Africa? There, studies showed that the "unselected" men (not selected for fertility and who didn't know their fertility status) started out at 72.7 million/ml in 1983, and were at 62.6 million/ml in 2011, while men known to be fertile started out on average at 66.4 million/ml in 1978 and were at 75.7 million/ml in 2011. They did not show the decline of the North American, European, Australian, and New Zealand group of men.

What does this mean? And what is going on? These results go beyond fertility and reproduction. The decline is consistent with other male reproductive health indicators over the last few decades: higher incidence of testicular cancer, higher rates of cryptorchidism, earlier onset of male puberty, and decline in average testosterone levels. Instead, it appears that sperm counts of men are "the canary in the mine" for male health - evidence of harm to men from environmental and lifestyle influences. These Western developed countries are awash in chemicals and plastics, also with endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors) in our foods, our personal care products, etc - and so studies find these chemicals in all of us (in varying degrees). Same with flame retardants, pesticides, "scented" products. Exposure to all sorts of environmental pollutants - whether in air, water, soil, our food - such as high levels of aluminum. All of these can have an effect on sperm counts and reproductive health. And note that chemicals that can depress sperm counts  are also linked to many health problems, including chronic diseases.

What can I do?  You can lower your exposure to many chemicals (e.g., pesticides), plastics, and endocrine disruptors, but you can't avoid them totally. Yes, it'll mean reading labels and ingredient lists on foods, personal care products (such as soaps, shampoo, lotion), and products used in the home. TRY TO AVOID OR LOWER EXPOSURE TO: phthalates, parabens, BPA, BPS, and even BPA-free labeled products (all use similar chemicals), flame-retardants (e.g., in upholstered furniture and rugs), stain-resistant, dirt-resistant, waterproof coatings, Scotchgard, non-stick cookware coatings, dryer sheets, scented products (including scented candles and air fresheners), fragrances, pesticides in the yard and home, and "odor-free", antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-mildew products. Don't microwave foods in plastic containers (including microwave popcorn bags). 

INSTEAD: Try to eat more organic foods, look for organic or least-toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) alternatives for the home and garden. Store foods as much as possible in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers. Buy foods, if possible, that are in glass bottles - not cans (all lined with endocrine disrupting chemicals) and not plastic bottles or containers (plastics leach). Some people use water filters because there are so many contaminants in our water, even if they meet federal guidelines on "allowable levels" in the water. Avoid cigarette smoke or smoking. Try to lose weight if overweight. Open windows now and then in your residence to lower indoor air pollution. The list is long - yes, a lifestyle change! (see posts on ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS, FLAME RETARDANTS, and PESTICIDES)

From Medical Xpress: Study shows a significant ongoing decline in sperm counts of Western men

In the first systematic review and meta-analysis of trends in sperm count, researchers from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai report a significant decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from Western countries.

By screening 7,500 studies and conducting a meta-regression analysis on 185 studies between 1973 and 2011, the researchers found a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration, and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count, among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who were not selected based on their fertility status. In contrast, no significant decline was seen in South America, Asia and Africa, where far fewer studies have been conducted. The study also indicates the rate of decline among Western men is not decreasing: the slope was steep and significant even when analysis was restricted to studies with sample collection between 1996 and 2011.

The findings have important public health implications. First, these data demonstrate that the proportion of men with sperm counts below the threshold for subfertility or infertility is increasing. Moreover, given the findings from recent studies that reduced sperm count is related to increased morbidity and mortality, the ongoing decline points to serious risks to male fertility and health.

"Decreasing sperm count has been of great concern since it was first reported twenty-five years ago. This definitive study shows, for the first time, that this decline is strong and continuing. The fact that the decline is seen in Western countries strongly suggests that chemicals in commerce are playing a causal role in this trend," Dr. Shanna H Swan, a professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

While the current study did not examine causes of the observed declines, sperm count has previously been plausibly associated with environmental and lifestyle influences, including prenatal chemical exposure, adult pesticide exposure, smoking, stress and obesity. Therefore, sperm count may sensitively reflect the impact of the modern environment on male health across the lifespan and serve as a "canary in the coal mine" signaling broader risks to male health. [Original study.]

  Human sperm. Credit: Wikipedia

Image result for moldy wallpaper How many people know this? That wallpaper could have fungi (mold) living on it, and this fungi can release toxins (mycotoxins) that can pollute the air and sicken people when people inhale the toxins. The releasing of toxins from the fungi (mold) into the air is called aerosolization - and when this indoor air pollution causes people  living or working in the building to become sick, it is called sick building syndrome. This study looked at 3 common indoor fungal species: Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor, and Stachybotrys chartarum, and the mycotoxins they produce after growing on wallpaper.

Why does fungi grow on some wallpaper?  The researchers write that: "Many fungi can develop on building material in indoor environments if moisture is high enough". So either high humidity in the home (especially when the weather is hot) or water damage can result in mold growth. It is estimated that in Northern Europe and North America about 20 to 40 % of buildings have visible fungal growth on surfaces. How do the mycotoxins get into the air and move around inside the home? Ordinary living, with people moving around rooms, slamming doors, air drafts from opening windows, and ceiling fans all cause "air velocities" that move around the toxins. Please note that we normally breathe in fungi and bacteria, but inhaling an overload of mycotoxins from moldy wallpaper can sicken a person. From News-Medical:

Fungal toxins from wallpaper source of illness says new research

According to a new study, there are several toxins from fungi that could be released into the air indoors and the source could be fungi living in the wall papers. These may lead to serious health problems say researchers. These ordinary fungi that live with the household wallpaper are basically of three types found the study researchers. They can grow and eventually spread to the air. This leads to serious health consequences. These effects of transmission of the airborne fungi and their toxins on human health have not been studied or considered with importance till date say researchers.

The toxins released from the fungi are called mycotoxins. They can pollute the indoor air and lead to indoor air pollution – a condition called sick building syndrome. Sick building syndrome is a condition where the residents start to feel ill according to the time they have spent in a building.... Study co-author Jean-Denis Bailly, a professor of food hygiene at the National Veterinary School of Toulouse in France in a statement explained that these mycotoxins are released from moldy material of growth of the fungi. They are eventually inhaled by the inhabitants of the home. While investigating the quality of air indoors especially at homes that have higher fungal contamination, the indoor air quality also needs to be tested for fungal toxins, he explained.

According to researchers, there has been extensive study of fungal contamination of food. However there has been little work in terms of fungal toxins in air. For this study they looked at three fungi that commonly also contaminated foods - Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum. A piece of wallpaper was found to be contaminated with these three fungi. A flowing stream of air was allowed over the wallpaper and samples of air of the room were then collected for testing.

On analysis of the indoor air the researchers found that the small particles of dust floating around in the house which could then be inhaled easily, contained toxins from these fungi. Also all fungi did not spread the toxins at the same rates they found. Some spread more toxins than others and this could help researchers to decide on which fungi species to concentrate on in terms of disease prevention they said.

 Once again several studies found health benefits associated with drinking coffee daily - this time "reduced risk of death" in 2 studies, and in one study a reduced risk of gallbladder cancer.

Just keep in mind that the studies found associations, but did not establish that drinking coffee caused X (reduced risk of death) - so perhaps coffee drinkers differ in some still unknown way from non-coffee drinkers. But...so many studies are piling up showing an association with health benefits that it looks likely that it is actually the coffee causing the benefits. Both decaffeinated and regular coffee seem beneficial, and it doesn't matter how it is prepared (e.g., espresso, drip, cappuccino). (Earlier posts about coffee - here, here, here)

In the one study higher consumption of coffee was associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease in African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos, and whites. People who consumed a cup of coffee a day (decaffeinated or regular) were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn't drink coffee, and those who drank two to three cups a day had an 18 percent reduced chance of death.

The conclusion of the other study of over half million adults in 10 European countries was similar: coffee drinking was associated with lower risk for death from "all causes", especially from circulatory diseases and diseases related to the digestive tract. This association held up among all the countries. The highest levels of consumption  group (3 cups or more of coffee per day)  had the lowest risk of death - as compared to those drinking none or less than 1 cup of coffee per day. However, the one negative result from drinking more than 3 cups of coffee daily was an increase in risk for ovarian cancer mortality in women (but only when compared to coffee non-drinkers).

From STAT News: Drink coffee? It won’t hurt you, and may reduce your risk of an early death

Good news, coffee drinkers: A couple of massive new studies that looked at hundreds of thousands of people for about 16 years finds that a few cups of coffee a day won’t hurt you and could lower your risk of dying prematurely. The studies reinforce previous findings that drinking an 8-ounce cup of joe (or three) won’t hurt you, but the authors of the new works and other experts say caveats abound.

Murphy told STAT his is the largest study on coffee and mortality to date. In the study, researchers with the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and Imperial College London tracked 521,000 adults from 10 European countries who self-reported their coffee consumption over an average of 16 years.... In investigating more than 40,000 deaths from this group, the team found that participants who fell into the highest 25 percent of coffee consumers had a lower risk of death due to any cause compared to non-coffee drinkers. They saw a reduced risk of early death by diseases related to the digestive and circulatory systems. The researchers also discovered a link between higher coffee consumption and lower risk of early death by lung cancer in men. And they also looked at suicide — completed suicides were lower for coffee drinkers, but only in men. [Original study.]

In a second study of 180,000 people tracked for an average of 16 years, University of Southern California investigators found drinking one to six cups of coffee per week led to a decreased risk of early death. The study was focused on non-white populations, andtheir findings proved consistent for coffee drinkers across racial and ethnic groups. One of the USC study’s senior authors, V. Wendy Setiawan... said coffee consumption may be linked a lower risk of early death for people with heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, and kidney disease.Drink one cup per day, and the risk of dying early from those diseases decreases by 12 percent, she said. [Original study.]

This 2016 study is from Medscape: Coffee Consumption and Risk of Gallbladder Cancer in a Prospective Study

Evidence indicates that coffee consumption may reduce the risk of gallstone diseasewhich is strongly associated with increased risk of gallbladder cancer. The association between coffee consumption and gallbladder cancer incidence was examined in a prospective cohort study of 72,680 Swedish adults (aged 45 − 83 years) who were free of cancer and reported their coffee consumption at baseline.....  In conclusion, coffee consumption was observed to be associated with a reduced risk of gallbladder cancer. A potential protective association between coffee consumption and risk of gallbladder cancer may be mediated via reduced gallstone formation or through other mechanisms such as reduction of oxidative damage and inflammation and regulation of DNA repair, phase II enzymatic activity, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and metastasis.

  Lately more and more research has been finding health benefits with frequent consumption of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). It is also a basic part of the popular Mediterranean diet - which emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes (beans), whole grains, some fish, and extra virgin olive oil. Now a study conducted by investigators at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, suggests that the olive oil in the Mediterranean diet probably promotes healthy brain aging. The researchers said: "Our study is the first demonstration that EVOO can beneficially affect memory, amyloid plaques, and tau pathology, the hallmark lesions in the brain of Alzheimer's patients."

But... note that they are taking findings from their study done on mice and hypothesizing that this is what is also going on in humans.  Their study used specially bred mice (and only 22 in total) - one group which received extra virgin olive oil in their food (starting at 6 months of age), and the other not. The researchers found that after a few months of this diet that there were differences between the 2 groups when tested at 12 months (which is also when they were euthanized). Note that mice are short lived and after 6 months they are considered "mature adults".

The researchgers now plan to test varying daily doses of EVOO on humans soon - this way they can see what the minimal dosage is for beneficial effects (if any), and if there is a maximal dosage where there are negative health effects. In the meantime, enjoy olive oil in your diet - looks like it will benefit your health in a number of ways (herehere, and here). From Medscape:

Olive Oil Key Ingredient in Alzheimer's Prevention?

Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) appears to protect memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of beta amyloid (Aβ) plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain — the classic hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD) — new animal research shows. The study, conducted by investigators at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, suggests that it is the olive oil component of the Mediterranean diet that likely promotes healthy brain aging.... "And results are important enough to absolutely encourage people to consume greater amounts of EVOO. Given that it's been consumed for at least 2000 years, I do not anticipate any side effects," he added.

For the study, the investigators tested the potentially beneficial effects of EVOO on triple transgenic mice. These mice are specifically bred to develop key pathologic features of AD (Alzheimer's disese), including amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The animals were divided into two groups. One group received EVOO-enriched chow, and the other received regular chow without EVOO. The olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were 6 months of age, before they began to develop symptoms of AD..... The mice were subjected to the same behavioral tests at both 9 and 12 months of age, after which they were euthanized and their brains were examined for the presence of key pathologic features of AD.

The researchers confirmed that mice fed the EVOO-enriched diet performed significantly better at both 9 and 12 months on tests designed to assess working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities compared with mice fed regular chow. The researchers also found a statistically significant reduction in the amount of Aβ peptides deposited in the brains of the EVOO-treated animals compared with controls. There was also a significant reduction in the phosphorylated forms of tau in mice fed the EVOO-enriched chow compared to controls, although olive oil had no effect on total tau levels in the same region of the brain.

The investigators also examined whether the improvements in cognitive performance and brain pathology that were observed in EVOO-treated mice might be the result of an improvement in synaptic integrity. Once again, they found greater preservation in the integrity of the synapses between neurons in EVOO-fed mice compared with controls....  Furthermore, there was a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation in brain cells from the EVOO-fed animals compared with controls. Dr Pratico explained that autophagy is a mechanism by which cells digest proteins that are produced in excess or that are abnormal. In this particular animal model, autophagy digests and gets rid of both amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.

"Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer's disease were significantly reduced. This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer's disease."

 I'm starting to see studies questioning whether some of the beneficial health effects that many attribute to vitamin D may actually be due to sunlight. In the first study, researchers said that sunlight also has low levels of "blue light" which energizes T cells. T cells are a type of white blood cell, are part of the immune system, and help protect the body from infection and cellular abnormalities (cancer). So the blue light in sunlight had a positive effect on the T cells.

The second study examined whether it was low levels of vitamin D that is linked to multiple sclerosis (which is the widely accepted medical view) or was it low exposure to sunlight? They found that vitamin D is not associated with multiple sclerosis risk in blacks or Hispanics (but is in whites). But sun exposure is protective in all three racial/ethnic groups (blacks, Hispanics, whites). Thus it was the sunlight that was important in protecting against multiple sclerosis rather than vitamin D. Bottom line: for various beneficial health reasons, go out in sunshine frequently (20 minutes a day is fine). Remember, sunlight is the "natural source" for vitamin D (the ultraviolet light hitting our bare skin allows us to make vitamin D).

From Dec. 2016 in Science Daily: Sunlight offers surprise benefit: It energizes infection fighting T cells

Sunlight allows us to make vitamin D, credited with healthier living, but a surprise research finding could reveal another powerful benefit of getting some sun. Georgetown University Medical Center researchers have found that sunlight, through a mechanism separate than vitamin D production, energizes T cells that play a central role in human immunity.

Their findings, published today in Scientific Reports, suggest how the skin, the body's largest organ, stays alert to the many microbes that can nest there. They specifically found that low levels of blue light, found in sun rays, makes T cells move faster -- marking the first reported human cell responding to sunlight by speeding its pace.

"T cells, whether they are helper or killer, need to move to do their work, which is to get to the site of an infection and orchestrate a response," Ahern says. "This study shows that sunlight directly activates key immune cells by increasing their movement."

"We know that blue light can reach the dermis, the second layer of the skin, and that those T cells can move throughout the body," he says. ...."We found that sunlight makes hydrogen peroxide in T cells, which makes the cells move. And we know that an immune response also uses hydrogen peroxide to make T cells move to the damage," Ahern says. "This all fits together." Ahern says there is much work to do to understand the impact of these findings, but he suggests that if blue light T cell activation has only beneficial responses, it might make sense to offer patients blue light therapy to boost their immunity.

From Medscape: Is It Time to Rethink Low Vitamin D as a Contributor to MS?

The idea that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) has been well established in the literature and has, for the most part, been etched into recent neurology dogma. Yet, research by Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD—a clinical assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles—suggests that the association might not be that simple. ....As background, the vitamin D–multiple sclerosis hypothesis originated from the observation that the prevalence of MS increases with increasing distance from the Equator, as ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun becomes less intense. But this is also where more white people live.

The main result of our study is that vitamin D is not associated with MS risk in blacks or Hispanics, regardless of genotype. In contrast, sun exposure is protective in all three racial/ethnic groups.

Image result for older couple holding hands Hah! Another study showing that YES, older adults have sex, and that more frequent sexual activity (as in at least weekly vs never or only monthly) may also be good for the brain and brain function in older adults. 73 people between the ages of 50 and 83 participated in this study. As the researchers wrote: "The current study demonstrates that older men and women who engage in regular sexual activity have better cognitive functioning than those who do not engage in sexual activity, or do so infrequently."

The researchers suggest that there could be biological reasons that sexual activity is beneficial - for example, it increases dopamine secretion. A number of researchers feel that the increased dopamine secretion from sexual activity is linked to improved working memory and executive function in older adults. But they admit that there could also be beneficial and "neuroprotective" effects from being involved in a social and physical relationship. At any rate, this was not a large study, and it can only show an "association", not definite cause. But other studies have similar findings - that overall cognitive scores are consistently higher in those who are sexually active compared to those than those who are not. From Science Daily:

Frequent sexual activity can boost brain power in older adults

More frequent sexual activity has been linked to improved brain function in older adults, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford. Researchers found that people who engaged in more regular sexual activity scored higher on tests that measured their verbal fluency and their ability to visually perceive objects and the spaces between them.

The study, published today in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, involved 73 people aged between 50 and 83. Participants filled in a questionnaire on how often, on average, they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months -- whether that was never, monthly or weekly -- as well as answering questions about their general health and lifestyle. The 28 men and 45 women also took part in a standardized test, which is typically used to measure different patterns of brain function in older adults, focusing on attention, memory, fluency, language and visuospatial ability.

It was these two sets of tests [verbal fluency and visuospatial ability] where participants who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the most highly, with the verbal fluency tests showing the strongest effect. The results suggested that frequency of sexual activity was not linked to attention, memory or language. In these tests, the participants performed just as well regardless of whether they reported weekly, monthly or no sexual activity.

This study expanded on previous research from 2016, which found that older adults who were sexually active scored higher on cognitive tests than those who were not sexually active. But this time the research looked more specifically at the impact of the frequency of sexual activity (i.e. does it make a difference how often you engage in sexual activity) and also used a broader range of tests to investigate different areas of cognitive function. [Original study.]

 Should the results of this study determine what kind of coffee one drinks? Does it really make a difference? Eh...Not for me (because all coffee seems to be beneficial), but it might for you.

Studies show that daily drinking of coffee appears to have health benefits. Studies have linked coffee consumption with lower rates of cancer (here and here), cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Coffee contains beneficial chemicals (such as caffeine and chlorogenic acid) that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and could help fight chronic inflammatory diseases. It turns out that how much coffee beans are roasted changes how much chlorogenic acid they contain, but the amount of caffeine basically stays the same among the different roasting levels.

Researchers in Korea compared the caffeine and chlorogenic acid components of Arabica coffee beans at different roasting levels: Light, Medium, City, and French roast. They then tested various protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the different coffee extracts in various "cell models" (meaning in the lab, not on real people). They found that chlorogenic acid levels were higher in light roasted coffee extract than the other roasted groups, and also light roasted coffee extract had the highest antioxidant activity. The results found that increasing degrees of roasting reduced antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

From the Journal of Medicinal Food: Cellular Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Coffee Extracts with Different Roasting Levels

During roasting, major changes occur in the composition and physiological effects of coffee beans. In this study, in vitro antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory effects of Coffea arabica green coffee extracts were investigated at different roasting levels corresponding to Light, Medium, City, and French roast. Total caffeine did not show huge difference according to roasting level, but total chlorogenic acid contents were higher in light roasted coffee extract than other roasted groups. In addition, light roasted coffee extract had the highest antioxidant activity.... The expression of mRNA for tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 was decreased in cells treated with the coffee extracts and the expression decreased with increasing roasting levels. These data suggest that coffee has physiological antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities and these effects are negatively correlated with roasting levels in the cell models.

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide. Increasing consumption of coffee is related to the pleasing taste and aroma, as well as its physiological effects. Coffee is proposed to exert beneficial effects against cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Coffee contains phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, vanillic acid, and other phytochemicals. The quality of coffee is significantly related to the roasting process.... During roasting, there are numerous changes in coffee bean compound profiles and the aroma is increased. Major changes in coffee bean composition occur during roasting as a result of the Maillard reaction..... Roasting markedly affects chlorogenic acid, leading to hydrolysis of chlorogenic acid. New compounds are formed during the roasting process; one of these is melanoidin. Its formation might alter the overall antioxidant capacity of coffee beans after roasting.

Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants that may contribute to prevention of oxidative stress-related diseases. The antioxidant properties of coffee may reflect the presence of both phenolic and nonphenolic bioactive compounds, such as caffeine and chlorogenic acids. Previous studies have shown that coffee has protective effects against oxidation and DNA damage in human cell models and has been shown to possess an in vitro antioxidant activity that lessens lipid peroxidation and neoplastic activity. 

Caffeine is the major component in coffee extract and has antioxidant property. Chlorogenic acid is another well-known efficient antioxidant in coffee extract; it was highest in Light roast coffee extract and highest with low roasting temperature and lowest in Dark roasted extract. Carbohydrates, protein, and chlorogenic acid are all decreased in coffee during the roasting process.... Caffeine contents showed no differences among roasting levels, but chlorogenic acid content decreased as roasting degree increased..... The effect of coffee roasting on the antioxidant properties of coffee extracts was investigated in several earlier studies; antioxidant capacity decreased in Dark roast coffee. The antioxidant property of coffee extracts prepared with different roasting levels was also determined in this study. The best antioxidant activity was evident in Light roast coffee extract and the lowest in French roast coffee.