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Constant stress shrinks part of the brain important for memory

May 24, 2005

When you are stressed you release cortisol, the body's main stress hormone, from the cortex of the adrenal glands. Over time if chronically elevated, cortisol raises blood sugar, degrades muscle and causes fat build up. Chronic release is tied to increased risk of heart disease and possibly diabetes.

Previously cortisol has been shown to cause hardening of the hippocampus - a part of the brain important for learning and memory. In a series of studies, researchers from McGill University looked at the effects of long-term exposure to elevated levels of stress hormones directly on the brain function of older adults, young adults, and children.

In this new study, older patients with elevated levels of cortisol over a period of 3 to 6 years performed worse on memory tests than their peers with moderate or low cortisol levels, and their hippocampus, on average, was 14% smaller. In young adults, short-temporary increases in cortisol levels temporarily decreased their thinking and memory skills. The research appears in the April 2005 issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph

Very high antioxidant foods such as Blueberry and Pomegranate have been shown to help reverse aging in the hippocampus. They improve the creation of the inter-nerve communication area (the synapse) and improve the activity of the hippocampus in general. L-Theanine and Phosphatidylserine protect the brain from Cortisol, and L-Carnosine has been shown to speed up the degradation of elevated cortisol returning blood levels to normal levels quicker.

Simply taking a multiple-vitamin improves survival in small cell lung cancer patients

Small cell lung cancer (also known as oat cell) accounts for about 20% to 25% of all lung cancers. It is more commonly found in heavy smokers and it grows quicker and is more likely to metastasize than other forms of lung cancer. A total of 178 small cell lung cancer patients or their proxies were questioned on their vitamin-mineral habits filling out two separate questionnaires. 107 (60%) either took a multiple-vitamin, mineral supplement, or some other more focused vitamin-mineral supplementation, and the rest were non-vitamin users. Median survival was 1.8 years in the vitamin users versus 1.3 years for nonusers. The vitamin use decreased the risk of death by 45% when the stage of the tumor and other factors were included in the analysis. The study is part of the results of the Mayo Clinic Lung Cancer Cohort and it is published in the latest issue of the journal Cancer and Nutrition.