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Side Effects

The New Physician November-December 2014 Volume 63, Number 6

THE MAGIC OF MUSHROOMS

Leaving aside questions about the “soil” they’re grown in, mushrooms are showing a lot of clinical promise these days. Last month, Texas researchers reported that an extract from a Japanese mushroom appeared to have eradicated human papillomavirus in some participants in a small trial. Taken once daily orally, the extract surely pairs well with a Pinot Noir. Meanwhile, psychedelic mushrooms, aka “shrooms,” have shown some promise in aiding smoking cessation. Of course, hardly any habit cycles hold up against powerful soul-warping substances. At the least, the high is probably a lot more interesting than your basic nicotine buzz. And that’s no load of horse manure.

TIME FOR A TIME CHANGE CHANGE

Given the hours a med student keeps, you probably don’t miss the early evening sun all that much. But a British study of children in nine countries—including the United States— found that children were up to 20 percent more active on summer days when the sunset came after 9 p.m. than they were when the sun set before 5. In the study, the activity level of the children, who wore activity monitors, increased immediately when daylight saving time gave them an extra hour of evening daylight. The authors of the study, publishing in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, wrote that additional daylight saving measures “throughout” the year could improve the health and fitness of a generation of children. Yeah, well, changing the coffeemaker clock twice a year is about enough, so no thanks. The kids can run around after dark by the light of their smartphone screens.

’TIS THE SEASON TO REVERSE MEMORY DECLINE

Marshmallows optional: Cocoa compounds may reverse age-related memory decline in middle age adults, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center. Specifically, some flavanols in cocoa seemed to help test subjects improve memory testing scores when compared to other subjects who were not provided with a high-flavanol diet. Before this provides justification for grabbing a candy bar out of the vending machine, note that researchers say that the flavanols in common chocolate have been much reduced by processing. But forcing down that bitter paste might be worth it: The study, which was partially funded by the choco-industrial complex, found that three months of the cocoa regimen could take decades of wear and tear off of participants’ memory retention. For example, a typical 60-year-old’s memory might test more like that of a 40-year-old. Sounds perfect for med school, right? Just let someone else in the study group try snorting it first.