In Brief

January 03, 2008

Neurology

More evidence addiction is illness

Drug or alcohol abusers who relapse, even after long periods of abstinence, are often reviled as too weak or undisciplined to straighten themselves out. But a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill psychologist has found evidence that suggests, in fact, that addicts' brains may be wired in a way that makes them more prone to give in to temptation.

The research, published in the December issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, provides further evidence that addiction is a disease, not a character flaw, says Charlotte Boettiger, an assistant professor of psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill and lead author of the paper.

The study used imaging technology to take pictures of sober alcoholics' and nonalcoholics' brains as they chose between immediate and delayed rewards. Scans showed that the most impulsive subjects -- most but not all of whom had a history of alcoholism -- had reduced activity in an area of the brain that helps assess rewards and increased activity in other sections of the brain associated with judgment and decision-making. The differences suggest that some addicts may have impaired ability to think through a decision, Boettiger said.

McClatchy-Tribune

Obesity

Asian-Americans have fastest growing rate of overweight kids

Despite the stereotype Asians are petite and skinny, studies show this population is rapidly becoming overweight -- so much so that a California agency is targeting Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in a campaign.

Asian-Americans have the fastest growing rate of overweight and obese children, according to the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research, and Training.

Fast food seems to be one of the culprits. Asian teens consume more fast food than their white counterparts, according to a 2005 California Health Interview Survey.

Asian and Pacific Islander children are also least likely to get their daily portions of fruits and veggies and are the least physically active of all racial and ethnic groups, researchers said.

McClatchy-Tribune

Research

Study says 7 commonly held beliefs are false or unproven

Eating turkey makes you sleepy. It's the bird's tryptophan, an amino acid, that makes you want to take a nap. Right?

Wrong, say Dr. Rachel Vreeman, research fellow, and Dr. Aaron Carroll, director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism, both at Indiana University School of Medicine. They examined that and six other commonly held beliefs in the Dec. 21 British Medical Journal. They found that turkey, chicken and ground beef each contain about the same amount of tryptophan per ounce, and pork and Swiss cheese actually contain higher levels.

Also false or unproven:

People should drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

We use only 10 percent of our brains.

Hair and fingernails grow after death.

Shaving makes hair grow back darker and coarser.

Reading in dim light ruins eyesight.

Cell phones interfere with functioning of hospital equipment.

Los Angeles Times

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