Today’s Headlines: Vitamin D, Resistant Starch, and Aspirin

Low vitamin D may increase dementia risk. Elderly people with very low levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s, according to a new study out this week. While most of those studied had low vitamin D levels, only those with a severe deficiency (about 4% of those tested) had an increased risk of dementia. “People who had been severely deficient in vitamin D at the start of the study were more than twice as likely to develop dementia in the coming years as people with sufficient levels…The researchers did not test whether taking vitamin D supplements or changing diet plans would have affected dementia risk.” The researchers added that “It is too early to tell whether improving vitamin D levels helps to delay or prevent dementia – clinical trials are now urgently needed.” They also emphasize this should not serve as a guideline to increase vitamin D use in the general population without more research. (Reuters)

Resistant type of starch may decrease colon cancer risk, Adding potatoes or beans to a healthy serving of steak may decrease your risk of colon cancer, a new study has found. Prior studies established a link between red meat consumption and colon cancer. “The researchers found that eating a diet high in red meat changed levels of a type of genetic material called microRNA in rectal tissue. Specifically, the scientists found an increase in certain microRNAs linked to colon cancer. However, adding resistant starch to the diet mitigated some of this increase.” Resistant starches are found in foods like “bananas that are still slightly green, cooked and cooled potatoes [such as those in potato salad], whole grains, beans, chickpeas, and lentils.” While the study didn’t collect data for long enough to know if these starches actually decreased how often people developed colon cancer, future studies are in the pipeline to see if resistant starch has long-term benefits. (Fox)

Aspirin can lower stomach and esophageal cancer death. Aspirin is a drug of many talents. New research that looked at data from 200 previous studies found that it “reduced the number of cases and deaths from bowel, stomach and esophageal cancer by some 30 to 40%. There was weaker and more variable evidence that the drug reduced deaths from breast, prostate and lung cancer, too…The study found people needed to take the drug for at least five years to see any benefits.” Taking aspirin is not without significant risks, though. Aspirin can cause dangerous bleeding in the stomach and brain. “While the study suggests 122,000 lives could be saved if everyone in the UK aged 50-64 took the drug, this is balanced against the estimated 18,000 deaths from side-effects.” Individuals should consult with their doctor about the possible risks and benefits of taking the drug before starting it on their own. (BBC)