Body & Brain

Ibuprofen may help fend off Parkinson’s, plus bone boosters and smokers’ brains in this week’s news

Caregiver error People who care for elderly people still living at home are prone to make mistakes with medication, suggests a study in an upcoming issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine . When tested, more than half of 98 caregivers who had volunteered for the study showed difficulty understanding prescription labels, leading to errors in assigning proper amounts of medications to daily pillboxes, researchers from Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago report. Even though more than 85 percent of the workers performed health-related tasks for seniors as part of their jobs, one-third failed a basic health-literacy test administered by the scientists. — Nathan Seppa Ibuprofen versus Parkinson’s People who take the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen at least twice a week may be less prone to Parkinson’s disease, researchers report online March 2 in Neurology . In a six-year study of more than 136,000 health professionals, ibuprofen users were 38 percent less likely than people not taking it to develop Parkinson’s. The extent of this reduction may be as much as 58 percent or as little as 7 percent, statistical analysis shows. When six other studies that also tracked people prospectively were included in the analysis, the apparent benefit from ibuprofen use remained, with a risk reduction of 15 to 37 percent. Acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and naproxen showed no effect. — Nathan Seppa Sweet sex differences High levels of fructose in a mother’s diet during pregnancy may affect the development of male and female fetuses differently, a study in rats suggests. Mother rats that drank about 22 percent of their daily calories in the form of high-fructose sweetener had daughters with small placentas, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand report in a paper to appear in the April Endocrinology . Male fetuses had placentas comparable in size to those of sons from water-drinking moms. Female offspring of fructose-drinking moms also had different levels of a metabolic hormone called leptin than their brothers or the offspring of water-consuming moms did. — Tina Hesman Saey Nitrate boosts bone density Glyceryl trinitrate, or nitroglycerin, may strengthen bones when absorbed through the skin, scientists report in the Feb. 23 Journal of the American Medical Association . An international research team randomly assigned 243 postmenopausal women to receive ointment containing either nitroglycerin or a placebo. Each woman squeezed out one inch of ointment nightly onto a patch and taped it to her arm. Women getting nitroglycerin showed a 5 to 8 percent increase in density of spine, pelvis and thigh bones after two years, while those getting the placebo ointment had little change. But 35 percent of women taking nitroglycerin for the full two years reported headaches, compared with 5 percent of the others. — Nathan Seppa Sprouts take on cholesterol Diners concerned about heart health might want to chuck some broccoli sprouts onto their salads. Renowned for fighting some cancers, these sprouts have lately shown promise as a dietary aid for lowering cholesterol. Probing the mechanism using rodents, researchers in Mexico and the United States identified a couple of chemicals in the sprouts that trigger beneficial changes in the activity of cholesterol-regulating genes within the liver. Whole sprouts outperformed consumption of just those isolated constituents, they report in the Feb. 23 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry . This suggests that other chemicals in the whole food provide bonus benefits. — Janet Raloff Smokers’ brains lights up, so they don’t A brain scan predicts which smokers will kick the habit four months later. Researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor designed individualized smoking cessation plans for 91 smokers. At the start of the program, volunteers heard tailored quitting messages while undergoing a functional MRI brain scan. People whose brains had higher activity in regions involved in self-related processing, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, were more successful at quitting after four months of their programs, the researchers report online February 27 in Nature Neuroscience . — Laura Sanders

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