HEALTH news in brief

Another good thing about a glass of red wine, and other health news

Compound might prevent cancer, heart disease, degeneration of the brain and ageing - but a little could be better than a lot.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 August, 2015, 12:11am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 August, 2015, 2:27pm

Less is more with resveratrol: Resveratrol, a natural compound found in red wine, has shown in mice studies to potentially prevent cancer, ageing, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders. But what is the most effective dose for humans? A new study finds less may be more: as little as a dietary dose of resveratrol equivalent to that found in a large glass of red wine. Doses 200 times higher than this were previously used in clinical trials, and the researchers say this could be why studies have so far failed to show resveratrol's benefits in humans. In the new study, colorectal cancer patients took capsules of either a dietary dose or those 200 times higher every day for a week before surgery. The researchers detected resveratrol in intestinal tissue from both groups, indicating that even low concentrations of the compound target the gut. Notably, in mice with hereditary colorectal cancer, a low dose of resveratrol proved more potent than a high dose in blocking tumour growth. However, cancer protection was seen only in mice fed a high-fat diet, hinting that lifestyle may factor into the compound's anti-cancer effects.

Blood markers linked to post-natal depression: Post-natal depression is a debilitating disorder that affects almost 20 per cent of new mothers, putting their infants at increased risk of poor behavioural, cognitive and social development. A team of researchers from institutions in the US and England have found a marker in the blood linked to the hormone oxytocin that can identify women who might be at particular risk. Oxytocin plays a positive role in healthy birth, maternal bonding, relationships, lower stress levels, mood and emotional regulation. Using data from a longitudinal study of parents and children in the UK, the researchers identified a relationship between genetic and epigenetic markers in the oxytocin receptor that increase the chance of a woman developing post-natal depression. "Our data needs to be replicated, but it is our hope that the oxytocin receptor marker we have identified will be useful to clinicians in identifying women at risk for postpartum depression," says Aleeca Bell, the study's first author, of the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Sleep could make your memories more accessible: Forgotten something? Sleep on it. New research published in the journal Cortex finds that sleeping not only prevents memories from being forgotten, it also makes them easier to access. Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Basque Centre for Cognition, Brain and Language, had study participants learn made-up words either prior to a night's sleep, or an equivalent period of wakefulness. They were asked to recall words immediately after exposure, and again after the period of sleep or wakefulness. Where participants forgot information over the course of 12 hours of wakefulness, a night's sleep was shown to promote access to memory traces that had initially been too weak to be retrieved. Researcher Nicolas Dumay explains: "Sleep almost doubles our chances of remembering previously unrecalled material. The post-sleep boost in memory accessibility may indicate that some memories are sharpened overnight. This supports the notion that, while asleep, we actively rehearse information flagged as important."