This month's Bulletin provides scientific findings that can help you make smarter and healthier choices about your everyday activities.
First, we'll look at research on the relationship between aerobic exercise and cognitive function. You'll learn about the healthy habits that allowed study participants to improve the cognitive abilities that decline earliest in dementia.
Then we'll examine findings from the Environmental Working Group's investigation of immunotoxic chemicals that are found in a shocking number of manufactured foods. Our immune systems are especially important as we continue to contend with the COVID-19 virus.
Finally, we'll look at a study that reveals a devastating trend with dire implications for older Americans. Not only is this trend a danger for bone health, but it may be tied to a drastic increase in deaths.
Aerobic Exercise And Brain Health
New research has found that aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, decreasing the risk of cognitive decline. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted a study with 70 participants aged 55 and older who had mild cognitive impairment and led mostly sedentary lives.1
The researchers wanted to know whether regular exercise that raised the heart-rate of the participants would improve their cognitive function. First, they performed a series of tests to measure participants' fitness, the stiffness of their carotid artery, and the amount of blood flowing to their brains.
Then they divided the participants into a group that was assigned a routine of light stretching and toning exercises and a group that began an aerobic exercise program. The researchers monitored the participants over the course of the next year to see how their fitness and brain health changed.1
“To no one’s surprise, the exercise group was more fit, with higher aerobic capacity, while the stretchers’ endurance had not budged. The aerobic exercise group also showed much less stiffness in their carotid arteries and, in consequence, greater blood flow to and throughout their brains.
Perhaps most important, they also performed better now than the stretch-and-tone group on some of the tests of executive function, which are thinking skills involved in planning and decision-making. These tend to be among the abilities that decline earliest in dementia.”2
Aerobic exercise can preserve and enhance executive function in people with mild cognitive impairment. And even the non-aerobic group improved their memory tests, suggesting that any physical activity confers benefits.1
The researchers believe that over a period longer than a year, regular aerobic activity would even further improve cognitive function and preserve memory. Additionally, weight-bearing aerobic exercise also helps to maintain and build bone mass. This new finding adds to the long list of reasons why exercise is paramount for a healthy and independent future.
A study of 70 participants aged 55 and up with mild cognitive impairment found that regular aerobic exercise improved executive function and blood flow to the brain, as well as fitness levels. An activity as simple as a brisk walk is enough to confer these substantial benefits to cognitive health.
Popular Preservative May Damage Your Immune System
Researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have identified a widely used food preservative that may damage immune cells.
The research utilized a tool called ToxCast created by the Environmental Protection Agency. ToxCast allows scientists to cross-check 30 years of animal toxicity studies to anticipate whether particular chemicals are unsafe.
For this study, EWG researchers assessed the health hazards of chemicals commonly added to manufactured foods, as well as chemicals called PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) that can rub off onto foods from packaging.3
The study identified a preservative called TBHQ as a danger to the human immune system. TBHQ is the abbreviation for tertiary-butylhydroquinone, a chemical used in around 1,250 popular processed foods, including Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Its and microwave popcorn.
PFAS are sometimes known as “forever chemicals” because they accumulate in the body, and never break down in the environment. These chemicals have been shown to suppress immune function.4
“Joint consideration of toxicological and high-throughput screening data suggests that chemicals directly or indirectly added to food for decades—such as PFAS and TBHQ—may show previously unanticipated effects on the immune system. From the public policy perspective, the discovery of impacts on human health of substances that have long been used in consumer products and food products suggests that the pre-market safety evaluation of these substances was inadequate. We recommend that immunotoxicity testing should be prioritized in order to protect public health, and immunotoxicity analysis should be, in our estimate, an integral part of chemical safety assessment.”5
The Food And Drug Administration currently approves of the use of TBHQ in foods, and doesn't regulate PFAS in food packaging. To avoid these chemicals, don't eat manufactured foods and cook your own meals as much as possible.
In addition to damaging immune cells, toxic chemicals like these are acidifying. That means they contribute to the bone mineral density loss triggered when the body attempts to balance out acidification by pulling alkalizing minerals from bone.
A study from researchers at the Environmental Working Group found that a common preservative in manufactured foods (TBHQ) harms immune cells. They also discovered similar immunotoxic effects from chemicals called PFAS that transfer to foods from packaging. Avoid both by preparing your own meals at home.
Older Americans Overwhelmingly Prescribed Drugs That May Cause Falls
New research has revealed that in 2017, 94% of Americans over the age of 65 were prescribed a drug that increased their risk of falling. In 1999 that figure was at 57%. Over the same span of 18 years, the death rate due to falls more than doubled.6
The study's authors analyzed 374,972 fall-related mortalities and 7,858,177,122 prescriptions for drugs that raise the risk of a fall. They found that 563,037,964 people aged 65 and older received a prescription for at least one such drug.6
“Researchers add that the number of drugs a person takes increases the likelihood of a fall. Opioids, benzos (Xanax, Valium), antidepressants, sedative hypnotics, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and anti-hypertensives (for high blood pressure), are just a few examples of medications which raise fall-risk.
Between 1999 and 2017, older Americans filled out over 7.8 billion fall-risk-increasing drug prescriptions. Researchers say most of those were anti-hypertensives, but more and more antidepressants are being prescribed each year as well. In 2017, doctors prescribed 52 million antidepressants. In 1999, that number was just 12 million.”7
This steep increase in prescriptions correlates to the alarming increase in the number of fall-related deaths. Nearly every single American over the age of 65 has been prescribed at least one of these drugs. In too many cases, this risk is not taken into account when doctors write prescriptions.
Since falls are the most common cause of fractures, it's important for Savers to reduce their risk of falling. One way of doing that is by choosing non-pharmaceutical interventions to manage health conditions whenever possible.
Researchers found that in 2017, 94% of Americans over the age of 65 were prescribed a drug that raises the risk of falling– an increase from 57% in 1999. Over that time, the rate of fall-related deaths more than doubled. Choose non-pharmaceutical interventions instead of drugs whenever possible.
What This Means To You
A weight-bearing form of aerobic exercise (like energetic walking) is a must for Savers. Not only does it stimulate the growth of new bone, but it also improves cognitive function.
The EWG's research revealing immunotoxic chemicals in manufactured foods underscores the importance of preparing your own meals. When you cook with organic produce, you can avoid damaging chemical additives.
The research on prescription drugs and fall risk provides yet one more reason to avoid pharmaceutical interventions. Seek natural remedies whenever possible. When it comes to bone health, the Osteoporosis Reversal Program provides a drug-free path to preventing fracture backed by decades of peer-reviewed scientific study.
All of the research we reviewed today demonstrates a powerful lesson: you have the power to make choices that have a direct impact on your health and your life. Keep learning about the effects of your choices so that you can make the ones that serve you best.