Vigorous Exercise May Help Slow Parkinson’s Disease

People with early stage Parkinson’s may be able to delay a worsening of the disease through a regimen of intense exercise, new research found.

“If you have Parkinson’s disease and you want to delay the progression of your symptoms, you should exercise three times a week with your heart rate between 80 to 85 percent maximum. It is that simple,” said study co-lead author Daniel Corcos. He’s professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

However, a more “moderate” exercise level — under the heart rate threshold outlined in the study — was not effective in slowing the disease, the researchers said.

As Corcos’ team explained, medications for Parkinson’s cause harmful side effects and their effectiveness declines over time, so new treatments are needed.

“The earlier in the disease you intervene [with intensive exercise], the more likely it is you can prevent the progression of the disease,” Corcos said in a university news release.

The exact magnitude of the effect remains unknown, however.

“We delayed worsening of symptoms for six months; whether we can prevent progression any longer than six months will require further study,” Corcos said.

But the findings do challenge the long-held belief that intense exercise is too physically stressful for people with Parkinson’s disease, he added.

The new study included 128 patients, ages 40 to 80, who had early stage Parkinson’s and were not yet taking medications for the disease.

Some of the patients did high-intensity workouts three times a week for six months, others did moderate-intensity workouts, and a control group did no exercise.

The results showed that intense exercise was safe and delayed worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms such as loss of muscle control, trembling, stiffness, slowness and impaired balance.

“Several lines of evidence point to a beneficial effect of exercise in Parkinson’s disease,” Dr. Codrin Lungu, program director of the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said in the news release.

“Nevertheless, it’s not clear which kind of exercise is most effective. [This] trial tries to rigorously address this issue. The results are interesting and warrant further exploration of the optimal exercise regimes for Parkinson’s,” Lungu said.

Two other experts agreed that physical activity could be what the doctor ordered for Parkinson’s patients.

“As a neurologist who cares for many patients with Parkinson’s, this study offers the potential for additional non-pharmacological strategies in aiding our patients,” said Dr. Yasir El-Sherif of Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. He said he “looks forward” to further studies that might tell doctors just how long the benefits last.

Dr. Souhel Najjar directs neurology at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He agreed that longer-term studies are needed, but the new findings help confirm that when dealing with Parkinson’s, intense exercise “can be very effective in halting its short-term progression.”

Parkinson’s affects about 1 million people in the United States. Incidence increases with age, and men are 1.5 times more likely than women to have the disorder, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Source: HealthDay


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A Country Built By Obsessives

Gareth Cook wrote

Thomas Jefferson, the third president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, kept detailed accounts to track every penny he spent. Steve Jobs was famously fastidious about the cleanliness of his factories, flying into rages when he found too much dust. In a new book, America’s Obsessives, author Joshua Kendall argues that obsessive compulsive personality disorder has shaped many great figures who have in turn shaped our country. He answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

Gareth Cook: How did you first become interested in obsession as a historical force?

Joshua Kendall: I had written two biographies of obsessive wordsmiths—one on Peter Mark Roget, the creator of the Thesaurus and one on Noah Webster, the author of America’s first dictionary. In examining their lives, I noticed how obsessionality—a love of rules, order, details, cleanliness and lists—could be a big asset for a lexicographer. And that link is clear. If you love sitting in a room for hours at a time compiling word lists, chances are that you have what it takes to write a good dictionary. But as I was completing the Webster bio, I began reading Jefferson’s letters and diaries—an arch Federalist, Webster was a fierce political enemy of our third President—and saw that Jefferson, too, was a list-maker. Jefferson kept track of every cent he ever spent in his copious account books; as president, he also drew up a mega-chart of all the vegetable markets in Washington, DC. It was then that I had an “aha moment;” I began to sense that many movers and shakers in various fields—from politics to information technology to science and sports—were obsessives. Besides Jefferson, my book features six other icons, including Henry Heinz of ketchup fame, Charles Lindbergh, beauty tycoon Estee Lauder and the Boston Red Sox superstar, Ted Williams.

I want to start a national conversation about how this character type is well suited to superior achievement. And I also seek to inject the element of irrationality into our understanding of obsession. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes “10,000 hours” of practice for someone like Bill Gates to become a computer whiz in high school. But obsessionality often involves more than just doing the same thing over and over again; in its clinical sense—the way the American Psychiatric Association defines it in the DSM—it goes hand-in-glove with certain quirks. Steve Jobs, whom I discuss in my prologue, was a cleanliness nut. Back in the 1980s, he used to don white gloves and do frequent dust checks on the floor of the Apple factory. And whenever he saw a few specks, he would yell at his plant manager to clean them up. Jobs’s rationale was that if his company didn’t have the discipline to keep everything spic and span, it wouldn’t be able to design “insanely great products.” It’s ironic that the most successful obsessives—who, by definition, love control—tend to be a little bit out of control. But somehow this eccentric behavior is often crucial to helping them attain their lofty goals.

Cook: There are people who are debilitated by obsessive thoughts. Can you explain what precisely you mean by obsessive, and explain when it can have a positive influence?

Kendall: The term obsessive is thrown around a lot. Many people will say, “Oh, I have to clean up my kitchen now because I have a little OCD.” But by “obsessive,” I don’t mean people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD can be incapacitating, and those who suffer from this disorder are unlikely to start Apple or fly across the Atlantic on a piece of wood like Charles Lindbergh. These people are haunted by thoughts that just won’t go away; someone with OCD might be constantly worried that the house will burn down; as a result, he or she might be afraid to go out even after checking a thousand times that the burner on the stove is off. The icons covered in my book are saddled (or blessed) with a related condition called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). While the obsessions and compulsions in both disorders can revolve around the same things—such as cleanliness or order—OCD is an anxiety disorder and OCPD is a character disorder. Rather being impaired by their intrusive thoughts, those with OCPD celebrate them. Like Steve Jobs, Henry Heinz prided himself on his company’s clean factory; for decades, his plant in Pittsburgh was a must-see destination for tourists. My icons were productive obsessives; they found a way to channel that which they couldn’t stop thinking about into some spectacular achievement. As a boy, Ted Williams thought of nothing else but hitting. As he once said, “When I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was practicing my swing.”

That said, there is also another misconception about obsessives. Business consultants such as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, argue that they are better suited to following than to leading. Given that they are good organizers, so goes the familiar refrain, they make better CFOs than good CEOs. And that is true for some. But a small sub-set of obsessives—such as the super-achievers I write about—can also be innovators. Ted Williams developed a new approach to hitting. Until he came on the scene in the late 1930s, the typical power hitter was someone like Babe Ruth, who was undisciplined at the plate. Williams turned hitting into a science; in fact, the treatise he wrote after his retirement was called The Science of Hitting. The Red Sox Hall of Famer studied everything; no detail was too small. He analyzed the slope of the batter’s box in all the big league parks; he went to an MIT physics lab to learn about the impact of a bat on a ball. Realizing that a walk is as good as a hit, he refused to swing at any pitch that was even a fraction of an inch off the plate. He was essentially doing sabermetrics a half century before the stats guru, Bill James. Likewise, Estee Lauder forever changed the beauty business. She was obsessed with touching faces; as a little girl, she couldn’t stop putting make-up on her friends. And she introduced the department store mini-makeover, which has been the cornerstone of this industry for the last half century.

Cook: What common themes did you in the childhoods and early careers of the people you profile?

Kendall: Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, in contrast to most other psychiatric disorders, is remarkably consistent throughout the life span. Someone who has it at 5 is very likely to have it at 85. And it tends to arise in response to difficult circumstances early in life. The icons I profile all encountered major stressors in childhood, such as neglect, parental mental illness, severe family discord and medical illness. One of the reasons Ted Williams bonded so intensely with his bat as a boy in San Diego is that neither of his parents was ever around all that much. His mother was a religious zealot, who rode the bus day and night trying to save the town’s drunks and prostitutes. And his father was a semi-employed photographer who was often out carousing. Like Williams, Lindbergh also had parents who were constantly fighting with one another. And rather than reaching out to other people for connection, Lindbergh turned to machines. As a teenager, the “Lone Eagle” had no friends—his mother had to pay neighborhood kids to play with him. His favorite pastime was driving the family’s Model T; at fifteen, he served as the chauffeur for his father, a longtime Congressman from Minnesota. Similarly, by the age of 5, Melvil Dewey—author of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, the 19th century’s premier search engine (the Google of its day)—was already organizing the spices in his mother’s pantry.

For each of these obsessive innovators, the obsessions become a solution to an existential crisis. By turning to his bat, Williams found a way out of his chaotic family life. In contrast, his younger brother, who was short and didn’t possess any athletic talent, became a juvenile delinquent. Dewey’s mother was 42 at the time of his birth; and that was ancient in the mid-19th century. She had little time for him, and whatever bonding he received as a boy came at the hands of an older sister. The love of order is often the child’s way to gain a sense of control in a situation where they have little actual control. Fortunately, for Dewey, he was able to channel his love of order into his vocation. Not only did he organize America’s printed matter, he also helped to found both the American Library Association and the world’s first library school at Columbia University.

Cook: What policy implications does your book have?

Kendall: My book highlights a central problem with current psychiatric classification. At present, the DSM, psychiatry’s bible, focuses only on the downside of particular mental health conditions—such as OCPD. But there is a pressing need for both clinicians and the public to understand that there can also be an upside to being wired a certain way. Those with OCPD, as I have discovered time and time again, happen to have remarkable strengths; they possess enormous drive and persistence and are very detail-oriented. The same goes for those with a related condition—“Aspies” or high-functioning autistics. They too tend to encounter difficulty in interpersonal relationships, but can perform very well in repetitive tasks such as software testing. The challenge that those with such mental illnesses face is not to become more “normal,” but to find a way to channel their obsessionality productively.

Source: Scientific American

French-style Dessert with Meringues, Chestnut Puree and Whipped Cream

Ingredients

2 egg whites
pinch of creamn of tartar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
chocolate shavings, to decorate

Chestnut Cream

1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (1 1b) can unsweetened chestnut puree
1 tsp vanilla essence
1-1/2 cups double cream

Chocolate Sauce

8 oz plain chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp rum or brandy (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Use a small plate to outline six 3-1/2-inch circles and turn the paper over (so the meringue does not touch the pencil marks).
  2. In a clean greasefree bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites slowly until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, then increase the speed and continue beating until they form soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle over the sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  3. Beat in the vanilla essence.
  4. To make the chestnut cream, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil for about 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
  5. Put the chestnut puree in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the sugar syrup in a thin stream until the chestnut puree is soft, but still holds its shape (you may not need all the syrup). Add the vanilla essence and process again then spoon into a medium bowl.
  6. Spoon the chestnut cream into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe a mound of chestnut cream in a swirl on to each meringue then pipe or spoon the remaining cream on top of the chestnut cream to resemble a mountain peak. Chill until ready to serve.
  7. To make the chocolate sauce, heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum or brandy, if using. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally. (Do not chill or the sauce will set.)
  8. To serve, place each meringue on a plate and sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Serve the chocolate sauce separately.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Taste of France

Colourful Sweets

Lemon-flavoured Butter Cream Rainbow Cake

Blue, Red, Orange, Yellow Cheese Tart

Colourful Mousse Cake with Mascapone Cheese, Berry Whipped Cream and Strawberry Jam Topping

Bioelectronic ‘Nose’ Can Detect Food Spoilage by Sensing the Smell of Death

Strong odors are an indicator that food has gone bad, but there could soon be a new way to sniff foul smells earlier on. As reported in ACS Nano, researchers have developed a bioelectronic “nose” that can specifically detect a key decay compound at low levels, enabling people to potentially take action before the stink spreads. It can detect rotting food, as well as be used to help find victims of natural disasters or crimes.

When food begins to rot, the smell that we find repulsive comes from a compound known as cadaverine. That’s also the substance responsible for the stench of rotting bodies, or cadavers — hence the name. The compound is the result of a bacterial reaction involving lysine, which is an amino acid commonly found in various food products. A previous study has shown that a receptor in zebrafish has an affinity for cadaverine. To make this receptor in the laboratory, scientists have turned to E. coli as a host cell because it can easily produce large quantities of proteins. But the production of this receptor in E. coli has been a challenge because it needs to be in a membrane. One way to do this is to make the protein in a bacterial cell and reconstitute it in nanodiscs, which are water friendly, membrane-like structures that the receptor can reside in. So, Seunghun Hong, Tai Hyun Park and colleagues wanted to see if they could put the receptor into nanodiscs to create a sensitive and specific detector for cadaverine.

The researchers successfully produced copies of the receptor in E. coli and assembled them into nanodiscs. The receptor-containing nanodiscs were then placed in a special orientation on a carbon nanotube transistor, completing the bioelectronic nose. During testing with purified test compounds and real-world salmon and beef samples, the nose was selective and sensitive for cadaverine, even at low levels. Additionally, the researchers say the detector could someday prove useful in finding bodies, since the compound is also produced when a person dies.

Source : American Chemical Society