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updated: 9/23/2013 6:49 AM

Your health: Exercise your brain

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  • Adults can engage in some mental exercise by playing video games regularly.

    Adults can engage in some mental exercise by playing video games regularly.

By Daily Herald Report

Brain gain

Video games aren't just for the young -- they can improve declining brain function in the old and elderly, according to a new study published in Nature.

The findings by a team of UC San Francisco researchers show that the aging brain is a lot more robust than it's often given credit for, given the right type of mental exercise.

The findings "provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, of how a custom designed video game can be used to assess cognitive abilities across the life span, evaluate underlying neural mechanisms, and serve as a powerful tool for cognitive enhancement," the study authors wrote.

Video games from Grand Theft Auto to Halo are perhaps better known more for entertainment than education -- though some advocates of brain-training games have argued that they can improve cognitive skills. The jury's out on whether video games improve cognitive function in healthy young people, but perhaps it could help older folk, who might benefit from a cognitive leg up.

"Over the last decade our laboratory has shown that older adults are particularly sensitive to a negative impact of interference on their cognitive abilities," UCSF neuroscientist and research leader Adam Gazzaley said in a briefing this week.

Lactose leery

Food intolerance and food allergies often produce similar symptoms, but they're not the same, says Harvard Medical School. If dairy products leave you feeling gassy and bloated or cause diarrhea or nausea, you may have either condition.

What's the difference? A dairy allergy is an immune system response to milk protein. In addition to feeling bloated or causing diarrhea, symptoms of a dairy allergy can include hives, wheezing, vomiting, cramps and skin rashes. Dairy intolerance results from inadequate levels of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down milk sugar. While lactose intolerance can cause a lot of discomfort, it isn't life threatening, while a milk allergy can be.

The most successful approach to coping with lactose intolerance is to avoid all dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant and love milk in all its forms, try experimenting with small amounts of dairy. In general, yogurt, cheese, and sour cream may be easier to tolerate.

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