Today’s Headlines: Eating Ice, Marijuana and Feeling Young

Chewing on ice boosts focus in those who are anemic. Women often become anemic, and doctors have known for some time that this iron deficiency can lead to a strange desire to eat ice. While the phenomenon, called pica, is well known, the reason for the desire is not. “A new study proposes that, like a strong cup of coffee, ice may give those with insufficient iron a much-needed mental boost. Fatigue is the most common symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, which occurs when the body can’t produce enough oxygen-carrying hemoglobin because of low iron.” The study subjected healthy and anemic participants to an attention test and looked to see how drinking water or eating ice might change performance. “Iron-deficient subjects who had sipped on water performed far more sluggishly on the test than controls, as expected. But those who ate ice beforehand did just as well as their healthy counterparts. For healthy subjects, having a cup of ice instead of water appeared to make no difference in test performance.” As per one of the researchers, “It’s not like craving a dessert. It’s more like needing a cup of coffee or that cigarette.” (Washington Post)

Marijuana found to decrease brain tissue, lower IQ. With marijuana legalization sweeping across the nation, many users are lauding the increased ease with which they’ll be able to get their high. But it seems like the drug is not without its dangers according to a new study out this week. “The study found that the average marijuana user’s IQ was about five points lower than that of a nonuser. The earlier the study participants began consuming the drug, the worse the condition of the brain. The study, which compared almost 50 marijuana users to a control group, suggests that at first brains affected by marijuana compensate for the deficit in decision-making brain volume by increasing connectivity, a key brain function. But marijuana-affected brains can’t keep up in the long term.”  While the study  shows only a correlation, meaning there could be other potential causes for the changes, the findings are consistent with the damage seen in animals exposed for long periods of time. “The study joins a growing body of evidence that marijuana harms the brains of young people.” (TIME)

Feeling younger helps boost brain youth. There are some people who seem years younger than they really are. According to new research, it may have a lot to do with attitude. “The study looked at men and women 50 to 75 years old and found that 89% felt younger and 11% felt older than their actual age. Those who felt older than their age scored 25% lower on memory and cognitive tests than those who felt younger.” The reason for the effect may be complex and have to do both with how a person is thinking and the healthy behaviors they engage in as a result of feeling younger. “The study comes as recent research suggests aging is both a subjective and biological experience. A younger self-image was more common in physically active people with a lower body-mass index, the latest study found.” The researchers say the finding might help doctors identify individuals who may need to be monitored more closely for cognitive decline. Feeling older than your actual age may indicate a risk for dementia sooner than those who feel younger. (WSJ)