Bullet point health briefs: super-agers, sleep, hot peppers and blue corn

What do super-agers, sleep, hot peppers and blue corn have in common?

Recent  scientific studies are discovering new information on how they all have a lot to do with our health and well-being.

*Super-agers are the lucky seniors who retain their memory, mental sharpness, and thinking skills for much longer than their peers.

A team at Northwestern University compared brain scans on 24 super-agers—whom they classified as people over 80 who scored as highly in memory tests as those 15 to 30 years longer—with 12 cognitively average counterparts.

Over a period of 18 months, the researchers looked for changes in thickness in the participants’ cortex, the outer layer of the brain responsible for thinking, memory and decision-making.

They found that while all the seniors lost brain volume, the super-agers retained twice as much as their peers. Further research will focus on genetic, social, environmental and dietary factors that contribute to the super-agers’ thicker cortices.

*Sleep is sweet, but improving the quality of your sleep is even sweeter.

Quality sleep can make you feel as good as winning the lottery, British researchers found.

The researchers analyzed the slumber patterns of 30,500 people over the course of four years and found that those who made positive changes in their sleep habits were significantly happier and healthier.

It’s estimated that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep, which puts them at higher risk of developing diabetes, obesity, depression, and other chronic health issues.

*Hot peppers have been linked to longevity. Researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality—primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke.

Possible explanations for hot peppers’ health benefits may be that capsaicin—the principal component of hot peppers–is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow and also possess antimicrobial properties that may affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.

The study was published in PloS  ONE.

*Blue corn (organic) appears to be more healthful than other corn. A new study shows that the natural antioxidants present in blue maize may help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

This is raising interest in using blue maize as a component of functional foods and neutraceuticals, according to an article published in Journal of Medicinal Food.

*Happiness among the general population is now found in Norway, the world’s happiest country, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report.

Norway is followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland (other cold countries), based on subjective evaluations of life quality by people in 155 countries.

The U.S. has dropped to 14th in general happiness in the population.

*Bottled water has now overtaken soft drinks as the most popular beverage in the U.S. Americans bought 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water in 2016, up 9 percent since 2015, edging past the 12.4 billion gallons of carbonated soft drinks they consumed.

And that is what super-agers, sleep, hot peppers and blue corn have in common!

Sources: The Week magazine and AcresUSA magazine