Science & Spirit: Prunes for Bone Health, Embracing Forgetfulness, and VR Therapy
New research on why forgetfulness in later life should be honored. Plus, talking to a virtual counselor could be more effective than in-person therapy. And it’s time to buy some prunes.
Prunes Are a Bone’s Best Friend
When you think of prunes, what comes to mind? Running to the bathroom?
There may be an image change on the horizon for the dried plum. In addition to easing bowel movements, the fruit may have the ability to delay and reverse age-related bone loss, especially for women over the age of 50.
A recent study at Pennsylvania State University found that eating about 10 prunes a day for one year resulted in improved bone density.
“Taken together, evidence from in vitro, preclinical studies, and limited clinical studies suggest prunes may help to reduce bone loss,” states Connie Rogers, associate professor of nutritional sciences and physiology.
Why prunes? They’re packed with nutrients that can trigger changes in the gut microbiome, which lowers inflammation in the colon. As a result, certain inflammation and age-related effects are reduced throughout the body.
So, for women struggling with post-menopausal bone health, this wrinkly, purple fruit could become your best friend.
Are Virtual Reality Avatars Replacing In-Person Therapists?
A new unification of virtual reality and therapy may diffuse the common tension of spilling your most private details to a stranger, even if that stranger is a professional therapist. A study conducted by Edith Cowan University in Australia found that 30 percent of people prefer to disclose vulnerable information to a therapist displayed as a virtual reality avatar, rather than in-person. Conducting therapy through virtual reality can also increase therapists’ ability to effectively treat patients at a distance.
This new concept allows therapists and clients to directly engage with each other in real time through a VR system, which offers the buffer of digitalization.
The study notes that VR may “help to limit fatigue of therapists if they are interviewing multiple clients in VR across extended periods of time.” It also suggests “socially anxious people might respond well to the heightened sense of interpersonal distance that VR interaction could provide.”
Brain Clutter Is the New Brain Power
It’s no secret that older adults occasionally or even frequently have trouble with their memory.
Despite common assumptions that claim our memory declines due to impoverished brain function in older age, some research indicates quite the opposite. A new study led by Tarek Amer of Harvard University shows that older adults may have trouble remembering things because there is an abundance of memories and information to sift through.
Think of your brain as a book you are continuously adding pages to throughout your life. When you’re younger, the book is relatively small and easy to navigate. However, once you’ve had decades to write in your book, it becomes quite thick. Similar names may overlap with each other, memories from three years ago may occupy your mind rather than the memory of where you put your glasses.
This abundance of information provides some advantages. Per the study’s authors: “although cluttered memories that include both relevant and less relevant information can be particularly problematic for retrieval of target information, the enriched nature of these representations can sometimes benefit older adults. One example is creativity, in which problems are solved through novel solutions reached by forming broad associations between weakly linked elements and accessing seemingly irrelevant information.”
So, next time you experience a simple lapse of memory, choose to honor your abundance of knowledge and wisdom, rather than fearing the cognitive effects of older age.
Want more on the intersection of science and spirituality? Read: “Spirituality and Team Möbius.”