In this issue:

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the June 2007 True North Tune-Up. We continue to emphasize “up stream” strategies for health in the areas of nutrition, mind-body, and lifestyle. The studies are from peer-reviewed scientific journals. Archived prior issues of the Tune-Up may be found in the Research section at

To your health,

B. Joseph Semmes, MD
Director of Research, True North
Diplomate, American Boards of Internal Medicine, Critical Care Medicine (ABIM) and Emergency Medicine

Omega-3 essential fatty acids decrease cataract risk.

In the U.S. over 7000 eyes are irreversibly blinded annually by cataracts. The commonest kind (nuclear cataract) is present in more than 60% of people over 75 years of age. This 5 year study of food intake of 2000 people over age 50 showed that those who were in the highest quintile (1/5th) of intake for omega 3 fatty acids (typically from salmon, other cold ocean fish, walnuts and ground flaxseed) had  a 40% lower incidence of cataract compared to those who were in the lowest 1/5th for amounts of omega 3 essential fatty acids consumed.

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Whole grains (whole wheat, oatmeal, popcorn) protect against heart disease and stroke.

The authors reviewed seven studies involving more than 285,000 people. Those who ate 2 and ½ servings a day of whole grains developed 21% fewer cardiovascular “events” (heart attacks, sudden deaths, strokes) when compared to those who averaged 1/5th of a serving per day. So get ready to chew a little harder. The benefits are greater than any pharmaceutical on the market.

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The Whole Grains Council has a stamp that certifies whole grain products in grocery stores. See the list at:

Exercise interventions reduce length and cost of hospital stay in older patients.

This review of 15 studies involving more than 5000 older hospitalized adults found that Multidisciplinary interventions (rehabilitation, occupational therapy etc), including exercise, led to shorter stays and lower costs of care.

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Daily folic acid (a B vitamin) supplementation for 3 years improved cognitive function in older persons.

Dutch investigators studied 800 men and postmenopausal women ages 50 to 74 giving half of them folic acid 800 micrograms/day and half a placebo. At three years, global cognitive function and memory were more improved among those that took the folic acid supplement. Folate and Vitamin B12 work together to support brain function and the results of this trial might not apply to the U.S. and Canada where there is more widespread fortification of foods with folate.

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Mindfulness meditation may not decrease anxiety or depression.

Reviewers of 15 clinical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) published in “peer-reviewed” journals found that anxiety and depression were not significantly reduced by the practice of such techniques. The findings frankly surprised and disappointed me. Limitations to their analysis included the fact that the methods varied widely, and adherence to practice guidelines was not well reported in many of the contributing studies. On the other hand I am reminded that Darwin’s more articulate defender, Thomas Huxley, whose bust is over the entrance to the Royal Academy of Sciences, once said: “In science, many beautiful ideas are slain by ugly facts”. So, as we often conclude: “stay tuned!” We hope better studies will be performed and published.

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Information provided in the True North Tune-Up is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The information and links in this e-publication are intended to provide general education on the topics listed, but you should not use the information or links to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner. True North advises you to always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioner prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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