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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(4):547

When considering our diet, we need to be concerned not only with what we eat, but also the frequency of our meals. A study published in BMJ shows that eating small frequent meals is better for cholesterol levels than the three square meals mom always encouraged us to eat. Researchers analyzing the health and lifestyle data of 14,666 participants between the ages of 45 and 75 found that meal frequency was inversely related to cholesterol levels. However, eating more frequently is also associated with an increased intake of daily energy, fat, fatty acids, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have made use of a plastic tube that shows promise in restoring movement in paralyzed rats. Study results, presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society and published in American Medical News, indicate that the tube may promote nerve tissue growth when it is injected with chemicals and implanted near the spinal cord. The results could lead to better treatments for paralysis in people, the researchers say, but more studies are necessary to determine the significance of the rats' improvement.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that wine drinkers are more intelligent than beer drinkers or alcohol abstainers. Researchers analyzed data from 363 men and 330 women between the ages of 29 and 34 on intelligence, socioeconomic status, education, personality, psychiatric symptoms, and health-related behaviors. Among men, wine drinkers showed a higher average full-scale IQ than beer drinkers (113.2 vs. 95.2) and abstainers (113.2 vs. 102.1). The results were not as varied among the women, but wine drinkers still showed a higher average full-scale IQ. Wine drinkers also had higher scores on measures of social status and personality than beer drinkers and abstainers.

A good marriage may be good for your heart. In a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers evaluated the marriages of 189 patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). Patients with poor marriages and severe CHF had a 58 percent risk of dying within four years. Those with healthy marriages and mild CHF had the lowest risk of death, 22 percent. The researchers speculate that successful marriages help patients conform to the challenging dietary, exercise, and medication regimens their ailing hearts require.

Pregnant women are as likely to be depressed as new mothers, according to a study published in BMJ. More than 9,000 women completed questionnaires measuring self-perceived depression during and after pregnancy. Results of the cohort study show 14 percent of women had symptoms of probable depression at 32 weeks' gestation. Eight percent of mothers said they felt depressed at eight months postpartum. Also, more women indicated feeling depression between 18 weeks and 32 weeks of pregnancy than between 32 weeks of pregnancy and eight months postpartum.

“I'm picking up good vibrations”… for stronger bones. According to an editorial published in The Lancet, more careful research should be conducted on the effect of low-impact aerobics on the risk of developing osteoporosis. Several studies have shown minimal or no effect of low-impact aerobics on osteoporosis risk. However, other studies have shown that just standing on a vibrating platform in place of exercise may prevent fractures. Some researchers report that adult ewes who were placed on a vibrating platform for 20 minutes a day, five days a week, for one year, showed a 32 percent increase in femoral trabecular bone density.

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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