Health Highlights: Feb. 1, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Healthy Older Adults Require Less Sleep: Study

Healthy older adults require less sleep and are less likely to feel tired during the day than younger adults, according to a new study.

British researchers looked at 110 healthy adults with no sleep disorders or complaints and found that adults ages 66 to 83 slept about 20 minutes less per night than middle-aged adults ages 40 to 55, who slept 23 minutes less than young adults ages 20 to 30, Agence France Presse reported.

The older adults also woke up more often during the night and spent more time awake after initial sleep onset, the study found.

Even though older adults spent less time asleep and slept less deeply, they were less likely to need a nap during the day than younger adults, said the University of Surrey researchers, AFP reported.

The study appears in the journal Sleep.


Vitamin D Protects Against Crohn's Disease

Vitamin D may protect against Crohn's disease, according to Canadian researchers.

They found that vitamin D acts on two genes -- defensin 2 and NOD2 -- that have been linked to Crohn's disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the intestines, United Press International reported.

"Our data suggests, for the first time, that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn's disease," study leader Dr. John White, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a news release.

He suggested that siblings of patients with Crohn's disease who haven't yet developed the condition should make sure they consume adequate amounts of vitamin D, UPI reported.

"It's something that's easy to do, because they can simply go to a pharmacy and buy vitamin D supplements," White said.

The study appears in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


C-Section Doesn't Affect Breastfeeding: Study

Contrary to a widely held belief, having a "non-natural" instrumental or Caesarean section birth doesn't affect how long a mother breastfeeds, says a British study that included 2,000 new moms.

But the researchers did find that a mother's ethnicity and the number of previous births did have an impact. White mothers were 70% more likely to stop breastfeeding than non-white women, BBC News reported.

The study also found that babies who began breastfeeding within an hour of being born weren't breastfed longer than those who started breastfeeding within 48 hours of birth.

All the mothers in the study received breastfeeding help from the same peer support group. On average, the moms breastfed for 21 weeks, and half of them breastfed for more than 27 weeks, much longer than the national average, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal BMC Pediatrics.

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