Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am


Better late than never

It's never too late to start exercising - even for heart failure patients - according to new research published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal. The study found that heart failure patients who exercised had less muscle-wasting, increased strength and reduced inflammation. Sixty heart failure patients and 60 healthy volunteers, aged either 55 years and younger or 65 years and older, were randomly assigned to four weeks of supervised aerobic training or no exercise. In both age groups, exercise was linked with increased muscle force endurance and oxygen uptake. Heart failure patients 55 and under increased their peak oxygen uptake by 25 per cent, while those 65 and over increased it by 27 per cent. In both young and old patients, exercise also reduced muscle breakdown and inflammation, and increased leg muscle strength. Muscle size was unaffected.

Right pace at the right time

It seems jogging has something in common with alcohol - regular and moderate amounts can reduce mortality compared to non-joggers or those who do extreme levels of exercise. The latest data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study shows that regular jogging increases life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years. A total of between one and 2 1/2-hours a week, done over one to three sessions, delivers optimum benefits, especially when performed at a slow or average pace. 'We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The good news is that you don't actually need to do that much to reap the benefits,' says Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the study. The ideal pace, he says, is to feel a little, but not very, breathless.

The electrolyte cool-aid acid pest

Sports and energy drinks could cause irreversible damage to your teeth. A recent study published in General Dentistry found that the acid in them erodes tooth enamel. Researchers examined the acidity levels of 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks. Samples of tooth enamel were immersed in each for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for two hours. This was repeated four times a day for five days. Damage to enamel was evident after five days of exposure to the drinks, with energy drinks found to cause twice as much damage. Damage to enamel is irreversible; without enamel, teeth become sensitive, prone to cavities, and more likely to decay. It's advisable to chew sugar-free gum or rinse the mouth with water following consumption of these drinks.

Rethink on zinc

A review of 17 trials concludes that the benefits of zinc are questionable. Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study covered 2,121 participants aged between one and 65. Compared with placebos, zinc significantly reduced the duration of cold symptoms, but the quality of evidence was moderate. Evidence was weak that people taking zinc were less likely to have symptoms after one week, and there was no difference in symptoms between the two groups at three days. While zinc appeared to reduce the duration of symptoms in adults, there was no apparent effect in children. Participants taking zinc were more likely to experience adverse effects including a bad taste in the mouth and nausea. 'Until further evidence is available, there is only a weak rationale for physicians to recommend zinc for the treatment of the common cold,' writes co-author Dr Michelle Science from The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.