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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(5):764

Swimming with the dolphins may be more than just a summer vacation activity. According to authors of a study published in the British Medical Journal, swimming with dolphins may alleviate depression more effectively than swimming alone. Scientists studied 30 patients with mild to moderate depression as they participated in water therapy alone or with bottlenose dolphins. All of the patients discontinued their antidepressant medications or psychotherapy at least four weeks before the study. In the end, nine out of 10 patients who interacted with the dolphins reported lasting improvement in their symptoms and needed no additional treatment even three months after the study ended. Only three patients in the group who did not work with the dolphins claimed the same results. The study authors say that these results may help prove the theory that human health is dependent on our connection and interaction with nature. (BMJ, November 26, 2005)

Expectant mothers working nights may be surprised by an early delivery, according to a report in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers interviewed 1,900 women in their seventh month of pregnancy. The women were surveyed about their occupations, weekly hours worked, time spent standing, and other work-related issues. Researchers determined that approximately 9 percent of the women who worked nights in their first trimester had a 50 percent increased risk of premature labor. The authors believe that this increased risk may be caused by interference in the womb’s normal night activity; however, they agree that further investigation is needed to determine the true cause of the relationship. (Obstet Gynecol, December 2005)

Monitoring your own brain scan and using mind strategies may make pain more tolerable, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors say that doing mental exercises while watching personal brain scans helps to ease physical pain. Thirty-six participants were studied as heat was applied to the palms of their hands. Each person had the temperature set at a level considered to be painful for him or her. Eight people in the group were taught mental exercises to train their minds to react to the heat differently (e.g., thinking of it as a pleasurable rather than a painful experience). As these participants used the mind strategies, they were shown magnetic resonance imaging scans of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex of their brain. In the end, those eight participants showed a greater ability to modulate their responses to pain. The others, who were shown no scans, scans of a different part of their brain, or the scans of other people, but who still used mind exercises, had no change in their responses to pain. (PNAS, December 20, 2005)

Married couples beware: frequent fighting and harsh words are hazardous to your health. According to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry, couples who have antagonistic relationships have higher stress levels and take more time to heal after injury than couples who fight less often. Researchers studied 42 healthy couples who had been married an average of nearly 13 years and were 22 to 77 years of age. They analyzed the relationship between each couple’s discussions or arguments and the healing process of blisters on each person’s arm. The researchers observed that blisters took longer to heal following a fight than after calm discussions. They also found that argumentative couples were slower healers in general compared with their more happily married counterparts. The researchers theorized that stress caused by hostility could increase the risk of developing serious mental and physical health problems. (Arch Gen Psychiatry, December 2005)

Scientists are trying to develop a “super broccoli” for people wanting to ward off cancer. Although broccoli already has some anticancer elements, the genetic makeup of some people does not allow them to receive its full cancer protection benefits. According to the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, almost 50 percent of the population lacks the gene GSTM1, which helps people retain the chemical sulforaphane contained in broccoli. Therefore, a team of scientists is working to develop a broccoli that contains extra sulforaphane. The team says that people who lack the GSTM1 gene can consume “super broccoli” and preserve the same amount of the beneficial chemical as those who have the gene. (Am J Clin Nutr, December 2005)

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