Update on flu vaccines, green tea, spinach

Higher dose flu vaccine may benefit older adults

For older adults, it may be better to go with the high dose when it comes to the flu vaccine this year. A new study has found that the high dose influenza vaccine is 24 percent more effective than the standard dose vaccine in protecting adults 65 and older against influenza illness and its complications.

The Fluzone high dose vaccine is an inactivated influenza vaccine that contains four times the amount of antigen in the standard dose Fluzone vaccine. Researchers conducted a multi-center study with more than 31,000 participants from the U.S. and Canada during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 influenza seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. They compared the high dose trivalent vaccine to the standard dose trivalent vaccine in adults over 65 years of age.

“Until this trial came out we didn’t know if it was going to be clinically better or not and now we know it is better,” said lead study author Dr. Keipp Talbot, who is with Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. “Older adults are the most vulnerable to influenza. They become the sickest and have the most hospitalizations.”

The study showed that the high dose vaccine may provide clinical benefit for the prevention of hospitalizations, pneumonia, cardio-respiratory conditions, non-routine medical visits and medication use.

“This vaccine does have some more arm soreness than the usual vaccine because it is a higher dose. With this increased soreness comes greater protection,” said. Dr. Talbot.

Study suggests hidden health benefits from drinking tea

Drinking tea on a regular basis may help you live longer and it doesn’t matter if it is hot tea or iced tea. Researchers conducted a study with more than 131,000 people and found that tea drinking reduces non-cardiovascular mortality by 24 percent. The researchers theorize that tea is rich in antioxidants and that may provide the survival benefits.

The study included people between the ages of 18 to 95 years and was conducted in France. After three and a half years follow-up, there were 95 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 632 deaths from non-cardiovascular disease causes. Coffee or tea consumption was assessed by a self-administered questionnaire and the volunteers were divided into three groups (none, 1-to-4 cups a day, or more than 4 cups a day). Tea had a more marked effect on blood pressure than coffee, with a 4-5 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure and 3 mm Hg decrease in diastolic blood pressure in the heavy tea drinkers compared to non-drinkers, according to the researchers.

In a separate study, researchers from the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland found that green tea extract increases the brain’s effective connectivity and may lead to improvement in actual cognitive performance. The researchers found volunteers performed significantly better on working memory tasks after the admission of green tea extract.

For the study, the volunteers received a soft drink containing several grams of green tea extract before they solved working memory tasks. The scientists then analyzed how this affected the brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The MRI showed increased connectivity between the parietal and the frontal cortex of the brain. These neuronal findings correlated positively with improvement in task performance of the participants.

Eating spinach may help with food cravings

A new study out of Sweden is suggesting that eating spinach may help when trying to lose weight. Researchers at Lund University are reporting that a spinach extract, which contained green leaf membranes (thylakoids), was able to decrease hedonic hunger by up to 95 percent.

Hedonic hunger is another term for the cravings many people experience for unhealthy foods such as sweets or fast food. The study shows that taking thylakoids reinforces the body’s production of satiety hormones and suppresses hedonic hunger. This in turn can lead to better appetite control, healthier eating habits and increased weight loss.

“Our analyses show that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast reduces cravings and keeps you feeling more satisfied all day,” said study investigator Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, who is with Lund University, Sweden.

The study involved 38 overweight women and it was conducted over a period of three months. Every morning before breakfast the participants had a green drink. Half of the women were given 5 grams of spinach extract and the other half (the control group) were given a placebo. All the participants were told to eat a balanced diet including three meals a day and not to go on any other diet.

The researchers found that the control group lost an average of 3.5 kg, while the group that was given thylakoids lost 5 kg. The thylakoid group also reported that it was easier to stick to three meals a day and they reported they experienced few cravings, according to Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio broadcaster of The Medical Minute. Email him at medicalminutes@gmail.com.

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

  • Email: medicalminutes@gmail.com