Trick or Treat: Does Chocolate Help Brain Health?

A new study this week that linked the antioxidant-rich flavanols in cocoa to improved memory in healthy older adults produced lots of yummy headlines, so  it’s OK to stuff ourselves with leftover Halloween candy, right? Well, not exactly. Study participants — all between the ages of 50 and 69 — saw striking improvements in memory after drinking a special cocoa drink daily for just three months. On average, the memory of 60-year-olds improved to perform more like that of  30- or 40-year-olds, according to …

How to Handle Your Kid’s Depression or Anxiety

We’ve all received that phone call, email or text from our young adult child who’s lamenting some crisis or another. Often our response is, “This too shall pass.” But what happens when one bad day slips into another and another? Americans are reporting more symptoms of depression, such as trouble sleeping and concentrating, than people typically did in the 1980s, according to a new study. The results were especially striking among young people. Compared to three decades ago, college students are …

Mom’s Favorite, Once and Forever

“You were always Mom’s favorite!” The taunt that siblings hurl at one another apparently turns out to be true. Even with adult children, moms tend to favor one child over the others, and the golden child often remains the same over the years, according to J. Jill Suitor, a sociology professor at Purdue University. That favoritism impacts both mother and adult children in negative ways, especially as moms age. When ailing mothers are not cared for by their favorite child, …

When It Comes to Politics, the Nose Knows

In the endless search to make sense of American politics, scientists have determined that smell matters. Individuals who are attracted to the body odor of others (including spouses), it turns out, are more likely to share their political and ideological views. This from a new study (“Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues”) published in the American Journal of Political Science. >> AARP Voter Education Guide The three authors of the study write that olfaction — the sense …

Wake Up and Go to Sleep

I have just returned from an all-night study of my sleep habits that should have been called an all-night study of my awake habits, because all during the study there’s no getting any sleep. You lie there as tense as death, hooked up to 17 electrodes that in turn are hooked up to electronic devices that study exactly how your body and your inner organs are doing while you are struggling to go to sleep, a struggle that keeps you …

Low Vitamin D May Double Risk of Dementia

As with so many other perplexing questions about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, researchers are unsure why there seems to be a link between low vitamin D levels and a higher risk of developing these brain diseases. Now one of the largest studies yet finds that link is even more worrisome: Too little of the vitamin may, in fact, double the risk of developing the devastating conditions. The new research, which followed nearly 1,700 adults over the age of 65 for …