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Health Notes (4)
Researchers report a low-fat diet may help men with aggressive prostate cancer fight the disease and live longer. The scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, Jonsson Cancer Center report in the journal Cancer Research laboratory mice with advanced human prostate cancer fed a diet low in polyunsaturated fats remained in remission about twice as long as mice fed a diet with a higher fat content. They also lived twice as long as their fat-fed counterparts, said lead author Dr. William Aronson. In addition, the levels of PSA -- which indicate the amount of prostate cancer present -- were significantly lower in the mice eating low-fat meals. Aronson called the results "very significant," but cautioned large studies must still determine to what degree the mouse findings apply to men.

Even brief exposure to small amounts of alcohol or anesthetic drugs can damage the developing brain, researchers report. Significant nerve cell death occurs in the infant mouse brain following exposure to blood alcohol levels equivalent to two cocktails, they reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Investigator Dr. John Olney of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis noted, "With anesthetic drugs, a dose required to lightly anesthetize an infant mouse for about one hour is sufficient to trigger nerve cell death." Further studies are needed to determine what the findings might mean to the human infant, Olney said.

Increases in three antioxidants were linked to lower asthma risk in U.S. youth, especially those exposed to passive smoke, a study finds. Cornell University researchers analyzed results of a survey conducted from 1988 to 1994 that measured vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium, a trace element, in 6,153 youth, ages 4 to 16. Beta-carotene was associated with a 10 percent reduction in asthma prevalence in young people not exposed to smoke and a 40 percent reduction in those exposed to passive smoke. Vitamin C yielded similar results. An increase in selenium was associated with a 10 percent to 20 percent decrease in asthma prevalence, but this reduction was 50 percent in youth exposed to smoke. The study could not establish a cause for the associations, however.

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