A special issue of this week’s Science Times examines research into the science of sleep. In addition to a story on the possible connection between sleep and memory, and this look at the effects of too little sleep, there’s an article on sleep and the myths of aging.

Gina Kolata writes:

To researchers’ great surprise, it turns out that sleep does not change much from age 60 on. And poor sleep, it turns out, is not because of aging itself, but mostly because of illnesses or the medications used to treat them.

“The more disorders older adults have, the worse they sleep,” said Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a professor of psychiatry and a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “If you look at older adults who are very healthy, they rarely have sleep problems.”

Geraldine A. Ferraro, who was diagnosed in 1998 with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, writes in Newsweek about the need for healthcare reform.
“Living with this disease, I’ve seen firsthand just how broken our
nation’s health-care system is. People who have insurance and money get
the treatment they need to live, and those who don’t — well, it’s a

“More women with breast cancer are choosing to have their healthy breast surgically removed along with their affected breast, a new study has found. Almost 5 percent of patients decided to have the radical procedure in 2003, up from just under 2 percent in 1998,” reports The New York Times. The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology online.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine points to a link between an increased risk of breast cancer and substantial weight gain at any time during adulthood. “The present findings indicate that the relations of adult weight gain to breast cancer is evident throughout the entire adulthood life span rather than being limited to a specific time in life,” wrote Jiyoung Ahn of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. From Reuters:

The relationship between weight gain and breast cancer is complicated, researchers say, because the timing of estrogen exposure and levels of the hormone can be hard to pinpoint. In this study, for instance, weight gain was less of a risk factor among women who began menstruating relatively early in life or who took hormone-replacement therapy during or after menopause — both of which acclimated their
bodies to more estrogen.

Women in the study who lost weight during their adult lives did not have a lower risk of breast cancer, unlike indications of such an association reported in some earlier studies.

On the subject of weight loss, there was a good article last week on the popularity of the reality TV show “The Biggest Loser,” in which selected contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight with the help of doctors and personal trainers, and the misleading messages the show sends about losing weight.

As one viewer put it, paraphrased by the Times: “if you’re losing two pounds a week and you’re watching ‘The Biggest Loser,’ you probably think your diet is going horribly. If you lose two pounds a week and you’re not watching the show, you probably think your diet is going great.”

Plus: The Chicago Tribune reports that a U.S. District Judge is studying whether controversial TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau has used misleading ads to promote his best-selling book “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.” The book ranked ninth last week on Publisher Weekly’s list of best-selling non-fiction hardcover books.

For more reality-based advice, read Dr. Pat Allen’s column on weight gain and menopause.


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  • Mitchell Gaynor, M.D. October 25, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    One major tenet of my nutritional philosophy at Gaynor Integrative Oncology is that patients must reduce refined sugar and saturated fat in the diet. This is only in part because most cancers are linked to obesity.
    We know that for every 10% above her ideal body weight a woman is, her risk of breast cancer rises. Sugar has been found to depress parts of the immune system involved in cancer immune surveillance. A high sugar diet is linked to both obesity and adult-onset diabetes. It is thus little wonder that both obesity and adult onset diabetes have been linked to higher risk of breast and colon cancer.
    IGF (insulin like growth factor) is a protein made by the liver, partly in response to sugar metabolism. Higher IGF levels are found in people consuming the most sugar. IGFs are promoters of colon, breast and prostate cancers.
    Bottom line: eat food with low glycemic indices. The glycemic index refers to how much insulin your body has to make to metabolize a given food. A low glycemic diet will help keep insulin levels and IGF levels optimal as well as your waistline.