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What's the buzz

Tart cherries may reduce stroke risk

A diet that includes tart cherries can provide cardiovascular benefits similar to the prescribed medications and can also reduce the risk of stroke, a new research has revealed.

A class of drugs called PPAR agonists that help regulate fat and glucose was considered promising by doctors who prescribed them for patients with metabolic syndrome – a collection of risk factors linked to heart disease and type 2. However, studies have shown the long-term use of these drugs can also increase stroke risk, which has prevented many from securing FDA approval.

The new research from the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory suggests that tart cherries can reduce the risk of stroke even when taken with these pharmaceutical options.

The group’s previous research has shown that intake of US produced, Montmorency tartcherries activates PPAR isoforms (peroxisome proliferator activating receptors) in many of the body’s tissues. Researchers believe that anthocyanins – the pigments that give the fruit its red color – may be responsible for PPAR activation.

PPARs regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism, and when modified can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

PPAR agonists, among them medications such as Actos (pioglitazone), act in a similar way but cardiovascular side effects have limited their use.

The researchers compared the effect of tart cherries and the drug Actos in stroke-prone rats by measuring the animals’ systolic blood pressure as well as locomotion, balance, coordination, all of which can show the aftereffects of a stroke.

By putting the rats through various physical tests, such as walking on a tapered beam and climbing a ladder, the researchers found that compared to Actos, tart cherry intake significantly improved balance and coordination, and at the same time lowered blood pressure.

While the research results indicate that rats who consumed only tart cherries had the best results, those who had the combination of tart cherries and Actos also did better than those who only took the drug.

Red light helps ward off post-lunch laziness

Dozing off post lunch? Now sleepy drivers and lazy workers can boost their performance by exposing themselves to red light. Exposure to certain wavelengths and levels of light has the potential to increase alertness during the post-lunch dip - mid-afternoon hours typically occurring from 2-4 pm, a new research has found.
The post-lunch dip occurs about 16-18 hours after an individual’s bedtime from the previous night and more incidents and performance failures, such as automobile accidents, occur in the mid-afternoon hours.

The study by Mariana Figueiro from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and LRC doctoral student Levent Sahin lays the groundwork for the possible use of tailored light exposures as a non-pharmacological intervention to increase alertness during the daytime.

Researchers showed that both short-wavelength (blue) and long-wavelength (red) lights increased measures of alertness but only short-wavelength light suppressed melatonin.

Forced exercise can reduce anxiety and depression

Being forced to exercise can reduce anxiety and depression just as much as voluntary exercise does, according to new research.

Past studies have shown that people who exercise are more protected against stress-related disorders. And scientists know that the perception of control can benefit a person’s mental health.

However, it has been an open question whether a person who feels forced to exercise, eliminating the perception of control, would still reap the anxiety-fighting benefits of the exercise.

People who may feel forced to exercise could include high school, college and professional athletes, members of the military or those who have been prescribed an exercise regimen by their doctors, said Benjamin Greenwood, an assistant research professor in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology.

The experiment concluded that “The implications are that humans who perceive exercise as being forced - perhaps including those who feel like they have to exercise for health reasons - are maybe still going to get the benefits in terms of reducing anxiety and depression,” Greenwood said.

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