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Quick Study

QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page HE06


A more intense workout may help diminish symptoms.

THE QUESTION Common treatments for persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness include antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy. Might aerobic exercise help as well?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 80 people diagnosed with mild to moderate depression to one of five groups. One group did moderately intense aerobic exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill for 30 minutes three days a week; another did this five days a week. The third and fourth groups used the same equipment for lower-intensity workouts either three or five days weekly; the fifth group did stretching and flexibility exercises for about 15 minutes three days a week (considered placebo exercise). All participants exercised alone. After 12 weeks, those who did the most intense exercise had 50 percent fewer symptoms of depression, based on standard scales, than at the beginning of the study. Symptoms were reduced by 30 percent for people who did lower-intensity exercise and 29 percent for the placebo group. Whether people exercised three or five days a week did not affect the results.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Anyone with mild or moderate depression. About 14 million people in the United States are diagnosed with depression each year.

CAVEATS The study was relatively small. The placebo group had a dropout rate of 62 percent, which the authors attributed to participants' awareness of their treatment groups. The study was funded in part by Technogym, which makes fitness equipment.

BOTTOM LINE People with mild or moderate depression may want to talk with a doctor about increasing their exercise levels.

FIND THIS STUDY January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine; article available online at www.ajpm-online.net.

LEARN MORE ABOUT depression at www.nimh.nih.govand www.nmha.org.

bone growth

Calcium supplements seem to aid preteen bone development.

THE QUESTION Puberty brings a number of changes to young girls, usually including a growth spurt. Might calcium supplements during this time help them develop strong, dense bones?

THIS STUDY measured the bone growth in 354 girls, 8 to 13 years old, who took in an average of 830 milligrams per day of calcium through their diet. The girls were randomly assigned to take either a calcium supplement (1,000 milligrams, equal to about 18 ounces of milk) or a placebo daily for seven years. The girls who took the supplements developed bone mass at a faster rate throughout the study. The difference in bone density between the groups was greatest from one year before to one year after the start of menstruation. By late adolescence, the body-wide differences had diminished, but improved bone density remained in the hand, forearm, hip and some other places. During the study, 20 girls in the placebo group broke a bone, compared with nine who took calcium supplements.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Young girls. Much of a person's bone mass is accumulated during the pubertal growth spurt.

CAVEATS Just how long the benefits last remains unclear; whether taking calcium during puberty will prevent osteoporosis later in life was not determined. Procter & Gamble Co. provided the supplements and placebo used in the study; additional funding came from Abbott Laboratories, General Mills and the National Dairy Council.

BOTTOM LINE Parents of pre-adolescent girls may want to talk with a doctor about their children's calcium intake.

FIND THIS STUDY January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; abstract available online at www.ajcn.org.

LEARN MORE ABOUT calcium at www.nichd.nih.gov/milk(click "Why Calcium?") and www.niams.nih.gov(search for "kids").

-- Linda Searing

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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