DEATH BEGINS AT 40 Easily the winner of the feel-bad-health-news-of-the-week award: Researchers have found evidence that brain function starts to slow around age 40.

Reporting in the science journal Nature, Harvard Medical School's Bruce A. Yankner and colleagues explain that they've identified a set of genes in the brain that show reduced activity after age 40. These genes play key roles in a variety of cell functions.

According to the team, DNA damage begins to accumulate in these genes, a process that could affect brain activities such as learning and memory.

The researchers acknowledge that exactly when brain aging begins and what triggers its onset is "one of the major conundrums of biology." In early adulthood and late adulthood, there is not much difference from one individual to the next regarding gene activity in the brain. But in middle adulthood, from 40 to 70 years of age, it's possible to see wide differences in gene activity between two individuals of the same age.

"Thus, individuals may diverge in their rates of aging as they transit through middle age, approaching a stage of 'old age' at different rates," the authors conclude.

KIDS AND PAIN RELIEVERS Ibuprofen (in painkillers such as Advil) and acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) appear to treat children's common aches and pains equally safely and well, according to a new review of published medical studies.

"There has been a tendency" for health providers "to emphasize the common perception that acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen," said study author David A. Perrott. "But, taken as a whole, the studies we reviewed provide no evidence that one drug is any less safe than the other."

Perrott and colleagues caution that there is not a great deal of rigorous research into the question and that they looked at studies in which only a single dose of either drug was given to children under 18 to treat fever or pain. The studies showed similar rates of successful treatment and safety; both appeared as harmless as an inactive placebo.

The research, published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, was funded partly by an Australian company that makes ibuprofen.

SO NOTED "It's like sex. You really want to enjoy it when you have it. You don't want to eat candy and have it taste like cardboard."

-- Joe Dutra, owner of Kimmie Candy Co., commenting on the trend of low-carb candy products

-- From News Services and Staff Reports