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Alcohol Use While Breastfeeding

Offspring of mothers who drank alcohol while breastfeeding had lower cognition.

An Australian observational study followed more than 5000 children from infancy to 11 years old--approximately 4700 were ever breast fed. Infants whose mothers drank alcohol while breast-feeding had lower cognitive scores by age 6. These differences were no longer significant by age 10-11, and were independent of prenatal alcohol use.

PositiveTip: Alcohol use while breastfeeding can significantly impair the mother's ability to self-regulate and make safe choices for herself and/or her child.

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Marijuana and Your Brain

High-potency marijuana damages key brain structures.

Smoking high-potency cannabis (marijuana) may increase psychosis by five fold. Researchers have found frequent use of this 'skunk' cannabis may structurally interfere with communication between the two brain hemispheres, impacting creativity and cognitive performance. Their findings suggest the more cannabis smoked and the higher the potency, the greater the damage will be.

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Nutritional Supplements and Cognitive Function in Seniors

Nutritional supplements may not improve cognition in older adults.

Seniors were followed for 5 years to determine if nutritional supplements might impact cognitive function. Study participants were randomized to receive long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements (omega-3s) and/or lutein/zeaxanthin, or a placebo. Over the course of the study the annual change in cognition did not differ significantly between groups. Nutritional supplements are not food, and short-term studies over a wide range of issues have failed to show benefits.

PositiveTip: Adherence to a healthy, plant-based diet for a lifetime appears to benefit cognitive function in the elderly.

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Two Fails for Multivitamin Supplements

Multivitamin supplements show no benefit in preventing chronic disease.

Almost 6000 male physicians 65 and older received either a daily multivitamin supplement or placebo. Testing after 8.5 years of follow-up showed no significant difference in verbal memory or global cognition. In yet another study, 1700 adults aged 50 or older were given a multivitamin or placebo beginning 6+ weeks following a heart attack. After 4.5 years the outcomes were no different for either group. Both studies were randomized and double-blind.

PositiveTip: Supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults has no clear benefits. Enough is enough!

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Olive Oil or Nuts May Protect Brain

Olive oil or nuts added to a Mediterranean diet may support cognition.

A randomized, blinded trial in Spain has found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or mixed nuts may improve cognition compared with a low-fat diet. This study followed 522 adults at risk for vascular events for 6.5 years. Olive oil and nuts contain antioxidant properties that may protect against neurodegeneration caused by oxidative stress.

PositiveTip: A Mediterranean dietary pattern has many proven health advantages. Adding moderate amounts of olive oil or nuts might improve it further.

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Is It Really Safe for Mothers to Drink?

Danish study suggests that small amounts of alcohol might be safe, then cautions otherwise.

A series of articles by Danish researchers found that when 1600 children at age 5 were tested for intelligence, attention, and executive function, there were no significant differences between children whose mothers had ingested small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy and those who had not. However, the authors still recommended that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy, as no safe level has been established.

PositiveTip: Pregnant or planning to be? Stay away from all alcoholic drinks.

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Formula Supplemented With Fatty Acids Offers Little Benefit

Adding DHA and AA to infant formula yields no significant benefit.

A meta-analysis by researchers at Yale University shows that infant formula supplemented with long-chain polyunstatured fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), was no better than other formulas for infant cognition. The Yale researchers compared supplemented and unsupplemented soy and cow's milk-based formulas.

PositiveTip: Through the first year, breastfeeding is the optimal infant nutrition. If you must use formula, fatty acid supplemented formula appears to provide no advantage.

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Soy Formula Good for Baby's Cognition

Soy or cow's milk formulas equally support baby's cognition.

Comparing infants fed cow's milk-based formula or soy-based formula, researchers, using standardized developmental testing found little or no differences. Breastfed infants had a slight advantage on some measures when compared to the formula fed groups, but these differences were very small in magnitude.

PositiveTip: If human breast milk is not an option, soy or cow's milk formulas can be excellent options for an infant.

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Fast-paced Cartoon Watching Impairs Kids Attention and Cognition

A few minutes of watching "SpongeBob SquarePants" in 4 year olds lowers attention and cognition.

A small, randomized, controlled study found that 4 year olds who watched fast-paced cartoons for only 9 minutes did significantly worse on tests of attention and cognition than those who spent the same amount of time drawing with crayons. How long do these effects last? More research is needed.

PositiveTip: Allowing your young children to watch fired-up cartoons may at least temporarily impair their attention and cognitive capacities.

Did You Miss the Clown on a Unicycle?

On January 26, 2010 the U.S. Department of Transportation issued regulations prohibiting bus or truck drivers from sending text messages while operating commercial vehicles. Those who choose to ignore these rules may be subject to a whopping fine of up to $2750.00. An increasing number of states are banning texting while driving as well. Remember the Texas bus driver who plowed into stopped traffic while texting? It was all caught on video!Texting at wheel.