Study casts doubt on cranberry juice's role in urinary health

If you've been chugging cranberry juice to ward off urinary tract infections, a new study will bum you out.

Cranberry juice was no better at preventing the infections than a red imitation that lacked proanthocyanidin, the cranberry component believed to battle the bacteria that cause them.

The University of Michigan study, published in the January issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, recruited 319 female students who had been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. After treatment, they were randomly assigned to drink two 8-ounce glasses of cranberry juice, or the placebo, every day for six months.

During that time, the infections recurred in 20 percent of the real-juice drinkers. But they also came back in 14 percent of the placebo-gluggers.

These results fly in the face of folk wisdom, less rigorous studies, and even the Michigan researchers' expectations.

It's possible, they say, that the placebo "inadvertently" contained some antibacterial ingredient - or that downing so much liquid made all the women "urinate more frequently, decreasing bacterial growth." - Marie McCullough

Young kids in large day cares may build immunity to colds, flu

The runny noses, the shared toys, the failure to cover those sneezing little mouths. It's enough to make any parent apprehensive when dropping the tyke off at day care during cold and flu season.

Not to worry, researchers say in a new paper in this month's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Children who started attending a large child-care center before age 21/2 got more respiratory and ear infections than kids who stayed home. But they got sick less often later on - in elementary school up to age 8 - because, apparently, they had built up immunity to various bugs.

Neither effect was seen in kids who went to small day cares. A large center was defined as one with up to 10 classes of 8 to 12 children each. Overall, the authors found no significant differences in the total numbers of infections from ages 11/2 to 8 among children with various group child-care experiences.

The study of 1,238 children was conducted by periodically asking their mothers to recall the kids' number of infections in the previous three months. - Tom Avril

Study links use of aspirin to lowered cancer death risks

Many Americans take aspirin to lower their risk of heart disease, but a new study suggests a remarkable added benefit: cancer prevention.

The new study, published online last week in the journal Lancet, examined the cancer death rates of 25,570 patients who had participated in eight trials of aspirin that had ended up to 20 years earlier.

Participants in the aspirin arms of the studies were 20 percent less likely to have died of solid-tumor cancers than those taking dummy pills, and their risk of gastrointestinal cancer death was 35 percent lower. The risk of lung cancer death was 30 percent lower; the risk of colorectal cancer death, 40 percent lower; and the risk of esophageal cancer death, 60 percent lower.

The specific aspirin dose did not seem to matter, but most trials gave low doses of 75 to 100 milligrams.

But even as some experts hailed the study, others urged people not to start aspirin without first consulting a doctor about the potential risks, including gastrointestinal bleeding and bleeding in the brain.
- N.Y. Times News Service

Research shows youth sports fall short on exercise minimums

If you think your little soccer, baseball, or softball player is getting a lot of exercise, think again. Youth sports are a good thing, researchers report, but most do not come close to providing the 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity recommended by national guidelines.

The researchers attached accelerometers - devices that measure changes in velocity - to 200 players, ages 7 to 14, during practice on 29 community sports teams in Southern California. Although the length of practices ranged from 40 to 130 minutes for soccer and 35 to 217 minutes for baseball and softball combined, only 45 minutes, on average, consisted of moderate to vigorous activity. There was an average 30 minutes of down time.

Only 24 percent of all participants got the recommended hour of exercise at practice. Among the older participants, ages 11 to 14, fewer than 10 percent did; for girl softball players, 2 percent.

"There clearly are opportunities to increase physical activity in youth sports," the authors reported last week in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, in typical research understatement. - Don Sapatkin