Yogurt good for women’s blood pressure; vitamin D good for winter babies’ bones

Adding yogurt to an otherwise healthy diet seems to help reduce risk of developing high blood pressure, long-term study indicates. Milk and cheese had a similar, but apparently lesser effect

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 9:00pm

Women who ate five or more servings of yogurt per week had about a 20 per cent reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those who rarely ate yogurt, according to a new study by Boston University School of Medicine researchers. The researchers analysed data on participants in two Nurses’ Health Study cohorts – mostly women between 25 and 55 years old – and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study – mostly men between 40 and 75 years old. The participants were followed for 18 years. Men in this study had much lower intakes of yogurt than women and, perhaps as a result, the effects of regular yogurt consumption were weaker. The researchers note that several servings of milk and cheese each day also had beneficial effects on blood pressure, although the effects of yogurt seemed stronger than other forms of dairy food. “No one food is a magic bullet but adding yogurt to an otherwise healthy diet seems to help reduce the long-term risk of high blood pressure in women,” says Justin Buendia, lead author of the study.

Using a computer, and socialising, linked to reduced memory decline

Keeping the brain active with social activities and using a computer may help older adults reduce their risk of developing memory and thinking problems. Researchers at Mayo Clinic followed 1,929 people, aged at least 70 and with normal memory and thinking abilities, for an average of four years. Participants were asked about their engagement in mentally stimulating activities within 12 months before participation in the study using a questionnaire. The study found that people who used a computer once per week or more were 42 per cent less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who did not. In the computer use group, 17.9 per cent of the 1,077 people developed mild cognitive impairment, compared to 30.9 per cent of the 852 people in the group that did not report computer use. People who engaged in social activities were 23 per cent less likely to develop memory problems than those who did not engage in social activities. Other activities that lowered the risk of developing memory problems: reading magazines (30 per cent lower risk), engaging in craft activities such as knitting (16 per cent lower) and playing video games (14 per cent lower). “The results show the importance of keeping the mind active as we age,” says study author Janina Krell-Roesch, with the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “While this study only shows association, not cause and effect, as people age, they may want to consider participating in activities like these because they may keep a mind healthier, longer.”

Vitamin D pregnancy supplement may help winter babies’ bones

Babies born during winter tend to have lower bone density than those born during summer, since mothers’ levels of vitamin D tend to drop from summer to winter along with hours of daily sunlight. But a new study from the University of Southampton finds vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy may lead to stronger bones in babies born during the winter months. Over 1,000 pregnant women across Britain participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to take either 1,000 units (25 micrograms) of vitamin D every day or a matched placebo capsule from 14 weeks gestation until delivery of the baby. Results showed that this dose of vitamin D was highly effective at increasing vitamin D levels in the mother. More than 80 per cent of women who had received the supplement had satisfactory levels of vitamin D when measured in late pregnancy (the point at which most calcium bone mineral is transferred from mother to baby) compared with around 35 per cent in the placebo group. Babies born during the winter months to mothers who had taken the vitamin D supplement had a greater bone mass than winter babies born to mothers who received the placebo (mean bone mass 63.0g in vitamin D group versus 57·5g in the control). The research team believe this improvement could result in reduced risk of broken bones, not just as a child, but as an older adult.