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Mature Focus: News and Notes


A recent study linked drinking diet soda with excess abdominal fat.

Diet soda and belly fat

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently published a study linking diet soda consumption to abdominal obesity among older adults. Study results are significant because excess belly fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome – a combination of risk factors that may result in high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

For the study, researchers followed about 750 adults aged 65 and older for slightly more than nine years, measuring participants’ diet soda intake, waist circumference, height and weight at three-year intervals. At each follow-up, the increase in waist circumference among those who drank diet soda was nearly triple that of the non-diet soda drinkers.

According to lead author Sharon Fowler, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the study showed that “increasing diet soda intake was associated with escalating abdominal obesity, which may increase cardiometabolic risk in older adults.”

Study authors concluded that older people who drink diet soda daily should curb consumption of the beverages, especially if they already are “at high cardiometabolic risk.”


New dementia research

Scientists in Australia said they have made a “breakthrough” discovery for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at the University of Queensland used mice as Alzheimer’s disease models and treated them with ultrasound technology, which they said was effective in breaking apart amyloid plaques and restoring memory.

Next, researchers plan to try the approach on higher animal models. Tests on humans are at least two years away.

The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.

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A paper published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association discusses a new diet that seems to significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

At Rush University, nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris and others developed a diet they dubbed “the MIND diet” (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). A cross between the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, it is based on research involving the effects of various foods on brain function.

According to the research team, the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s disease risk by as much as 53 percent among those who followed it closely. Even those who adhered to the diet only moderately well had about a 35 percent lower risk of the disease.

Components of the MIND diet include green, leafy vegetables and other vegetables; nuts; berries; beans; whole grains; fish; poultry; olive oil; and wine, all of which are considered “brain-healthy” foods. In addition, it includes foods from “unhealthy groups” – red meats; butter and stick margarine; cheese; pastries and sweets; and fried or fast food.

Researchers found benefits were possible for those who ate at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and one other vegetable every day along with a glass of wine; snacked most days on nuts; ate beans every day or so; ate poultry and berries at least twice a week; and ate fish at least once a week. For cognitive benefits to be realized, however, an individual had to limit consumption of the foods designated as unhealthy, limiting butter to less than a tablespoon a day and eating less than one serving per week of any cheese, fried or fast food.

Berries are the only fruit designated in the diet.

“Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” said Morris, who noted that strawberries also seem to have a positive effect on cognitive function.

Study results suggest that people who follow the diet “consistently over the years” likely enjoy the best protection against Alzheimer’s disease, Morris said.


On the calendar

A big band dance featuring live music from Two Star Final is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 8 at Mid Rivers Mall, 1600 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters. Additional big band dances are on Fridays, June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14. Fairwinds – Rivers Edge, a leisure care retirement community in St. Charles, sponsors the series. There is no charge for admission, and reservations are not required. Additional details on upcoming performances will be posted at shopmidriversmall.com.

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BJC HealthCare presents caregiver classes for those caring for a loved one who is ill or aging at home from 1:30-3 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month (second Thursday in January and July) at Middendorf-Kredell Library, 2750 Hwy. K. in O’Fallon. For more information, call 916-9830.

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