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Working memory refers to the ability to use and manipulate information stored within short-term memory. Evidence suggests that working memory declines with age, beginning in early adulthood. Working memory is a hippocampal-dependent task, leading researchers to explore therapies that protect or support the hippocampus. Some polyphenols found in plants of the Lamiaceae (mint) family have demonstrated such neuroprotective effects. Rosmarinic acid, found in spearmint (Mentha spicata), has antioxidant effects in hippocampal neurons and tissue.

Survivors of breast cancer often experience cancer-related or treatment-related symptoms months or years after treatment. These symptoms commonly include menopausal symptoms, fatigue, cognitive changes, and hair thinning or hair loss. There is reason to believe that consumption of some phytochemicals in foods might mitigate these late effects of breast cancer treatment. Isoflavones in soy bind to estrogen receptors and exert weak estrogenic effects.

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFAs) have been extensively studied for their cardioprotective effects. Several studies suggest that n-3 LCPUFAs reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, and it has been suggested that they do so by reducing resting heart rate. A meta-analysis to evaluate the effect of n-3 LCPUFAs on HR was published in 2005 and included 30 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with 1678 participants. Since that time, many more RCTs have been conducted on this topic.

The association between maternal folic acid and multivitamin supplementation and risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been evaluated in several epidemiologic studies. The California Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study identified a reduced risk of ASD with folic acid supplementation beginning 12 weeks prior to pregnancy and into the first 4 weeks into pregnancy. Studies in Norway have reported similar findings, but studies in Denmark have not. Results from the Stockholm Youth Cohort reported an association between multivitamin use during pregnancy and a reduced risk of ASD with intellectual disability. 

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, is best known for regulating sleep and the circadian rhythm. Melatonin can also exert anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and cardio-protective effects. Experimental studies show that melatonin enhances insulin sensitivity, increases activity of lipoprotein lipase, decreases lipolysis in adipose tissue, increases conversion of cholesterol to bile acids, and protects LDL from oxidation.

Mucositis is a common side effect of chemotherapeutic drugs used in the treatment of cancer. Almost all patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy and 80% of patients being treated for head and neck cancers experience mucositis. Symptoms include oral ulcers, erythema, edema, bleeding, and severe pain, which can interfere with swallowing, eating, drinking, and talking. Mucositis can also increase the risk of infection and interfere with patients’ ability to tolerate cancer treatments.

Curcumin, a polyphenolic compound derived from Curcuma longa (turmeric), is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies in animals suggest that curcumin may also offer neuroprotection by decreasing accumulation of beta-amyloid in senile plaques and tau proteins in neurofibrillary tangles. Senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease but may begin to develop decades before symptoms of dementia appear. 

Depression is estimated to affect as many as 13% of women during pregnancy, most commonly during the second and third trimesters. Iron deficiency is also common during pregnancy, and, although it has been associated with depression in the general population, iron deficiency has never been evaluated in relation to antenatal depression. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario conducted a retrospective chart analysis to evaluate the association between iron deficiency and maternal depression in mid to late pregnancy.

This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, published in 2017 in the journal Phytomedicine, aimed to evaluate the anti-depressant effect of saffron (Crocus sativus) in breastfeeding mothers with postpartum depression. The study was conducted in Iran, a country where an estimated 25% of mothers experience postpartum depression and where approximately 90% of the world’s saffron originates.  

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have a mediating effect on inflammation and therefore might modulate the risk of allergic disease. Relying on data from a longitudinal birth cohort study in Sweden, researchers investigated whether omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs in plasma phospholipids at the age of 8 influenced the risk of asthma, rhinitis, and aeroallergen sensitization up to age 16.

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