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

Blood Pressure & the Brain

Does keeping a lid on your blood pressure help keep your brain sharp as you age?

Researchers randomly assigned 9,361 people aged 50 or older with hypertension to take drugs to lower their systolic blood pressure to one of two targets: less than 140 (standard treatment) or less than 120 (intensive treatment). But after three years, the trial was cut short when it became clear that the intensive group had a lower risk of strokes, heart attacks, and death.

After the three-year trial and three years of follow-up, there was no difference in “probable dementia” (the primary outcome), although the trial may have been too short to see one. However, the intensive-treatment group had a 19 percent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment than the standard group.

What to do: Aim for a blood pressure of 120 to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke...and, possibly, to protect your memory and thinking ability.

JAMA 2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.21442.

Lightheadedness & Salt

Feel lightheaded when you stand up? Take advice to eat more salt with, um, a grain of salt.

Scientists fed 412 people a typical U.S. diet or a fruit-and-veggie-rich DASH diet with high (3,300 milligrams a day), medium (2,400 mg), or low (1,500 mg) levels of sodium for a month each.

The people reported lightheaded episodes more often on the high- than on the low-sodium DASH diet. Sodium had no impact when they ate a typical U.S. diet.

What to do: Don’t assume that extra salt will make you less lightheaded.

J. Clin. Hypertens. 2019. doi:10.1111/jch.13487.

Beer Before Wine? You Won’t Feel Fine.

“Grape or grain but never the twain.” That’s one folk remedy to minimize hangovers. Apparently, no one ever tested the twain.

So researchers randomly assigned 90 people aged 19 to 40 to:

● drink enough beer to reach a breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) of 0.05% and then drink enough white wine to reach a BrAC of 0.11% (well above the 0.08% limit for adult drivers in most states),

● reach the same BrAC levels with wine before beer, or

● reach the same BrAC levels with beer or wine alone.

The order or type of drink had no impact on hangovers.

What to do: Want to dodge a hangover? Drink less.

Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 109: 345, 2019.

Sugar & Liver Fat

Can cutting added sugars trim liver fat?

Scientists randomly assigned 40 adolescent boys with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to either their usual diet or to a low-sugar diet (which was low in both added sugars and fruit juice). Dietitians planned—and the study provided—all the food for the low-sugar group’s families. The usual-diet group got a weekly food stipend.

After eight weeks, liver fat fell—and liver enzymes improved—more in the low-sugar group than in the usual-diet group (though neither liver fat nor enzymes reached normal). But that may be partly because the low-sugar diet was healthier overall. The low-sugar boys lost three pounds while the usual-diet boys gained a pound. (The researchers “adjusted” for that.)

What to do: It’s worth cutting back on sugars if you have fatty liver disease, even though, as one study author told the New York Times, “This is a step, it’s not the final word.”

JAMA 321: 256, 2019.

Photos (top to bottom): stock.adobe.com: Monkey Business, Tatyana Gladskih, TheVisualsYouNeed, Phawat.