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HEALTH & BEAUTY: HEALTH NEWS.

Byline: KAREN HAMBRIDGE

EATING sugary or highly-processed foods during pregnancy might increase the risk of birth defects, according to new research.

A study by the University of California looked at the diets of 454 mothers of children who had neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, and compared them with the diets of 462 mums with healthy babies.

Researchers found the risk of defects doubled in women who ate lots of foods which give a quick sugar fix. The risk quadrupled with women who were obese.

Researchers focused on foods with a high glyacemic index (GI), which means they release large amounts of glucose into the blood quickly. Examples are cornflakes, potatoes, white bread, cooked carrots, white rice, chocolate and biscuits.

Low GI foods include green vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals and wholewheat pasta.

British experts have urged caution over the link, saying further studies are needed.

TAKING a folic acid supplement is known to have benefits for pregnant women such as the latest celebrity mum-to-be Ulrika Jonsson (pictured) but the vitamin could have more unlikely benefits too.

A US study has found the increased risk of disease associated with heavy drinking appears to be countered by a daily folic acid intake of above 300 micrograms.

The research by Harvard School of Public Health in Boston looked at data on 80,000 women over 16 years. The women had no previous history of cardiovascular disease or cancer and were aged 34 to 59.

Scientists found women who drank 3.75 units of alcohol a day and who had a daily folic acid intake of 180 micrograms were just over a third more likely to develop serious chronic disease, compared with a control group of non-drinkers.

But the risk of chronic disease for heavy drinkers with an intake of 300 micrograms or more was no different to the control group.

THERE could be hope for early detection of Alzheimer's disease after medics at the New York University Medical Centre used MRI scans to pick out people at risk.

The experts regularly measured a specific part of the brain linked to the earliest signs of Alzheimers. In some patients this area shrank, marking them out as potentially at risk from developing symptoms of mental decline.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's but early intervention can slow its advance. At present by the time patients show symptoms, significant mental decline might already have happened.

Some experts say the problem with using MRI scanners is they are much in demand and expensive and so are not best suited for mass screening.

WATER therapy and exercise can help people with osteoarthritis maintain their strength and mobility, according to research Down Under.

In a study by Flinders University, South Australia, three groups of patients with an average age of 70, were assigned to three programmes over six weeks.

One programme involved exercising three times a week in a swimming pool, one featured the same amount of exercise in a gym, while the other had no exercise element but included regular phone calls to monitor health.

Those who had exercised showed significant improvements in walking speed and distance when tested later.

They also reported they were in less pain. The researchers concluded exercise could play an important role in keeping people with osteoarthritis mobile and independent.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:549
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