* Diet as good as drugs for reducing cholesterol
The Food and Drug Administration, the American drugs regulator, has admitted that plant sterols in oils, viscous fibres (oats and barley) and almonds can all reduce cholesterol. When researchers tested these foods against the drug lovastatin, the diet was just as effective, reducing cholesterol levels by 28 per cent (JAMA, 2003; 290: 501-10).
* Don't drink too much liquid after exercise
Drinking fluids to excess during and after exercise in order to rehydrate the body could be a dangerous practice. At least seven athletes have died recently after drinking too much liquid following exertion, and another 250 have required treatment in hospital (BMJ, 2003; 327: 113-4).
* Hearing implants can cause meningitis
Twenty-six out of 4264 children given cochlear implants have developed bacterial meningitis, which works out to around 30 times the expected rate for a healthy population. Children who received an implant with a positioner were four times as likely to develop meningitis as those without, the study found (N Engl J Med, 2003; 349: 535-45).
* Vitamin E can reduce the worst effects of chemotherapy
Researchers testing the antioxidant vitamin E on 27 patients being treated with chemotherapy have found that only a third of the vitamin-E group suffered serious side-effects compared with 85 per cent of the controls (J Clin Oncol, 2003; 21: 927-31).
* Aspirin increases miscarriage risk
Aspirin and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) can increase the risk of miscarriage by up to 80 per cent, a study found. This risk was increased if the woman was taking an NSAID either when she conceived or for longer than a week. The risk was just as strong if she had regularly and continually taken an NSAID before conceiving (BMJ, 2003; 327: 368-71).