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Weekend Checkup: Food Fight, Helpful Mistakes, Drinking and Dementia

FOOD FIGHT, CHEF-STYLE. Is the woman in the photo "the worst, most dangerous person to America" because of the high-fat Southern food she champions?

That's what acerbic chef and author Anthony Bourdain says about celebrity cook Paula Deen, adding, "I would think twice about telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks."

Yikes. Bourdain, 55, blasted a number of TV food personalities for their less-than-stellar cooking in an interview in TV Guide, but singled out Deen for recipes like the Lady's Brunch Burger -- a hamburger, fried egg and bacon on a glazed donut.

Deen, for her part, was equally prickly. On the television show "Fox & Friends," she said of Bourdain's diatribe, "I don't know if it was a publicity thing or if someone had just peed in his bowl of cereal that morning and he was mad."

Does Bourdain have a point? Deen, 64, is known for her "add more butter" philosophy of cooking. But she's also from Georgia, a state with two-thirds of the population defined as overweight or obese, and a soaring diabetes rate. Maybe she should work on some lower-fat versions of those Southern favorites.

ERRORS ARE A GOOD THING. We learn from our mistakes -- literally. A new study finds that older brains get more benefit than younger brains by learning things the hard way, through trial and error.

The Canadian study published online this week in the journal Psychology and Aging challenges a large number of studies that show just the opposite -- that "errorless" learning, where the correct answer is provided right away,  is better suited to older adults than letting them make mistakes while learning information.

Not so, say the scientists. "Our study has shown that if older adults are learning material that is very conceptual, where they can make a meaningful relationship between their errors and the correct information that they are supposed to remember...errors can be quite beneficial for the learning process," wrote the study's lead investigator.

The researchers compared the learning ability of two groups -- young adults in their 20s and older adults whose average age was 70. Each group was tested through trial-and-error learning, where they were given a hint and allowed to guess the right answer, and errorless learning, where the correct answer was immediately shown.

Both younger and older adults remembered more through trial-and-error, but older adults benefited more.

The findings, say the Canadian researchers, may have important implications for how information is taught to older adults, as well as procedures aimed at delaying cognitive decline.

DRINKING MAY FIGHT DEMENTIA. A drink a day keeps dementia away? Well, maybe, says  a Loyola University study.

Researchers analyzed studies that looked at the association between moderate drinking and mental abilities among subjects 55 and older.

According to the authors, "These studies overwhelmingly found that moderate drinking either reduced or had no effect on the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment." Moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day for women, two for men.

Keep in mind, however, that the studies only found a correlation between mental abilities and alcohol consumption; researchers don't know exactly why or how a small amount of alcohol might benefit the brain.

So don't worry if you can't -- or don't like to -- drink. Eating a healthy diet and getting moderate exercise still may be a better way to fight off mental decline, study author Michael Collins of Loyola told  the L.A. Times.

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