Quick Studies: A snapshot of the latest research on diet, exercise, and more

Processed Meat & Memory

man buying processed meat

Bacon, cold cuts, ham, hot dogs, sausages, and other processed meats cause colorectal cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Could they also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementia?

Scientists studied nearly 494,000 people aged 40 to 69. After eight years, those who ate processed meats at least five times a week had a 67 percent higher risk of dementia than those who ate those meats less than once a week. Eating processed meats even once a week was linked to a 13 percent higher risk.

What to do: Limit processed meats to lower your risk of cancer. It’s too early to know if that will also help protect you from dementia. The researchers took into account many factors, including education, socioeconomic status, smoking, family history of dementia, and diet. But something else about the processed meat eaters might explain their higher risk. Stay tuned.

Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2021. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqab028.

Mammograms & Vaccines

woman getting a vaccine

Covid vaccines can temporarily cause swollen lymph nodes that look suspicious on a mammogram. For example, swelling occurred in 12 percent of people after their first Moderna dose and in 16 percent after their second. It was half as common in those over 65.

What to do: Due for a routine mammogram? Some experts advise waiting four to six weeks after any Covid vaccine. Check with your doctor.

BMJ 2021. doi:10.1136/bmj.n617.

Statins & Muscle Pain

muscle pain

Cholesterol-lowering statins cause severe myopathy (muscle pain or weakness) in about one out of 10,000 people per year. Do fears about muscle symptoms lead some patients to stop taking statins unnecessarily?

Researchers studied 151 people who were thinking of stopping—or had stopped—taking their statins. Those who hadn’t stopped were asked to. Then each patient was given either 20 mg a day of atorvastatin (Lipitor) or a placebo for six two-month periods in random order. No one knew which pill they were taking.

Muscle symptoms didn’t differ during the statin and placebo periods. Intolerable muscle pain led 18 people to drop out while on the statin and 13 to withdraw while on the placebo.

What to do: Got muscle symptoms? Don’t assume that statins are to blame.

BMJ 2021. doi:10.1136/bmj.n135.

Keep Walking, Shopping, Gardening...

woman gardening
Joshua Resnick/stock.adobe.com.

Nearly one in four women over age 65 are unable to walk just two or three blocks at a stretch. A new study reports that even light physical activity—like gardening, washing dishes, or walking while shopping—may help keep people mobile.

Scientists followed 5,735 mobile women aged 63 or older who wore an accelerometer on their hip for a week.

After five years, those who did roughly 5 to 10 hours of light activity a day had a 40 percent lower risk of disability than those who did 4 hours or less. (Disability meant that they couldn’t walk a block or up a flight of stairs on a typical day.)

What to do: Aim for at least 5 hours of light activity a day. Better yet, try to get 2½ hours of moderate—or 1¼ hours of vigorous—activity every week, as the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advises.

JAMA Netw. Open 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.0005.