New Study: Is Having a Dog Good for Your Gut Bacteria?

woman_kissing_dogThe question is one researchers from the University of Arizona hope to answer after an upcoming study, in which human participants will be paired with canine companions to determine the effects of the relationship on the bacterial population in the digestive tract.

Previous studies have linked dog ownership with better heart health and reduced stress, but anthropology doctoral student and study author Kim Kelly wants to delve more deeply into the story. The three-month study, a joint effort between the university and the Humane Society of Southern California, will examine whether or not living with a dog encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the human gut and whether it is enough to provide substantial physical and mental health benefits.

Researchers are currently recruiting adults 50 or over who are in good health. They will provide each adult with a dog and measure the gut bacteria levels of both at the beginning and the end of the study (as well as at the one- and two-month marks) in order to determine whether or not the relationship has had a positive impact on the gut microflora of either party.

Interestingly, earlier studies have shown that the longer they live together, dog owners and their companions tend to share a lot of the same gut bacteria—in large part because of all those wet, slobbery kisses. Kelly and her team hope to understand more about the relationship and its potential benefits, such as improved digestion and immune function.

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Seniors: Sex & Intimacy Boost Brain Health

seniorsAs it turns out, sex may be just as important in your 70s and 80s as it is in your 20s and 30s, especially when it comes to a sharper brain and memory. And not just the act of sex, but your perception of sex—that is, how important you think it is to a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers from Manchester University in the UK recently examined the results of a study involving more than 1,700 seniors, and what they found was worth noting. After answering a series of questions about their sexual activity and whether or not they thought sex and intimacy were important at their age, participants completed a different kind of test: one that measured cognitive function and something called “fluid intelligence,” which refers to the ability to solve problems using logic and reasoning.

From the data collected, the research team was able to determine that the participants who scored highest on the tests were the ones who placed a higher value on sex and intimacy in their lives. Those men and women said sex was both pleasant and important, and they believed closeness and intimacy (such as touching and holding hands) were equally important. Overall, they demonstrated higher fluid intelligence and better memory recall.

The takeaway, experts say, is that it’s important for healthcare practitioners to keep an open dialogue with seniors on the topic of sexuality because it may have far-reaching benefits for both physical and mental health.

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