*DID YOU KNOW?
Long term use of metformin, the commonly prescribed “cornerstone” type 2 diabetes drug, increases the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency
*ALCOHOL BOOSTS STROKE RISK FOR ONE HOUR AFTER CONSUMPTION
*MECHANISM FOR CALORIE RESTRICTION’S LONGEVITY EFFECT DISCOVERED
*NON-INVASIVE THERAPY FOR MALIGNANT BRAIN CANCER
*LISTENING TO MUSIC HAMPERS MENTAL PERFORMANCE
*FISH OIL MAY REDUCE BREAST CANCER RISK
*OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA INCREASES RISK OF HEART FAILURE
*HIGH LEVELS OF VITAMIN E REDUCE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S
*DEPRESSION LINKED TO VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
*VIRGIN OLIVE OIL CHANGES HOW GENES FUNCTION
*ADDED FRUCTOSE LINKED TO HYPERTENSION
*KEY INGREDIENT IN HONEY KILLS ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT BACTERIA
*ARTIFICIALLY SWEETENED DRINKS RAISE RISK OF PRE-TERM BIRTHS
*DOCTORS OFTEN SCORE ‘F’ WHEN PATIENT NEEDS INDIVIDUALIZED CARE
ARTIFICIALLY SWEETENED DRINKS RAISE RISK OF PRE-TERM BIRTHS: Sugar-sweetened drinks have been linked to health problems such as weight gain; as a result, artificially sweetened soft drinks have often been promoted as an alternative. However, the effect of these drinks on pregnant women has seldom been examined. A new study has found that daily consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks appears to increase the risk of women delivering babies pre-term. The effect was observed whether the artificially sweetened soft drink was carbonated or non-carbonated. The study analyzed data from 59,334 formerly pregnant women and found that the earliest and moderately early pre-term deliveries were more strongly associated with daily consumption of artificially sweetened drinks than late-term pre-term deliveries. The association – while not necessarily one of cause-and-effect – is worrisome and demands further study, wrote the researchers in an abstract, or summary, released June 30 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The full-text version is available to read online, with a subscription or the payment of a fee, at: http://bit.ly/aG3zR3.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL CHANGES HOW GENES FUNCTION: It is known that a Mediterranean diet lowers cardiovascular risk. But finally, a study has determined how the key ingredient in this diet, virgin olive oil, works: it changes the way our genes function those genes associated with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Three groups of healthy volunteers were tested: the first group consumed a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil high in polyphenols; the second group consumed a diet rich in ordinary olive oil, low in polyphenols; and the third group followed its normal diet. After three months, only the first group exhibited what is known as a down-regulation, or reduced activity, of specific genes – genes associated with atherosclerosis. But that wasn’t all: the virgin olive oil group also showed a benefit against inflammation, insulin resistance, cancer, and tumors. Virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet affect our bodies in far more ways than previously believed, suggested the researchers. The study appears in the July 1, 2010 issue of the journal FASEB. The full-text version can be read online at http://bit.ly/bbpq2a with subscription or payment of a fee.
KEY INGREDIENT IN HONEY KILLS ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT BACTERIA: A study has identified why honey seems to have antibacterial qualities and, in fact, how it may be a potent weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Researchers developed a way to identify the individual anti-bacterial contribution of the various known antibacterial ingredients found in honey. One protein, known as defensin-1, is part of the bees’ immune system and is added to honey by the bees. After analysis, the team concluded that the bulk of honey’s bacteria-fighting potency derives from defensin-1 and that, in the future, it may serve as a treatment for burns and skin infections. Also, this information may lead to the breeding of bees that produce honey with even higher levels of this protein. This would make honey a potent remedy and take the sting out of many bacterial infections. The study appears in the July, 2010 issue of the journal FASEB. The full-text version can be read in the print journal; or viewed online with a journal subscription or payment of a fee, at: http://bit.ly/a5TwbG.
ADDED FRUCTOSE LINKED TO HYPERTENSION: Those who consume a diet high in drinks sweetened with sugar in the form of fructose may be at a higher risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure, according to a new study. A dramatic increase in the consumption of the simple sugar fructose, used to sweeten a wide variety of processed foods, mirrors the dramatic rise in cases of hypertension, the most common chronic condition in developed countries and a major risk factor for heart and kidney diseases. Researchers found that people consuming a diet of 74 grams or more per day of fructose – corresponding to two and a half fructose-sweetened soft drinks daily – had a 26, 30, and 77 percent higher risk for blood pressure levels of 135/85, 140/90, and 160/100 mmHg, respectively. (A normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.) This study will not appear in print until a future issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology but the full-text version has been made available online now, without fee, at: http://bit.ly/abkC16.
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Sales receipts contain up to 1,000 times the amount of BPA found in the epoxy lining of some food cans, a previous source of controversy. Just one grocery receipt contained 41 mg, which exceeds the EPA’s maximum ingestion limit for a 155-pound male. The chemical residue on receipts sinks into the skin to the point that it may not wash off; whether it actually transfers to the blood vessels deep in the skin is not known. BPA was found on 40 percent of the receipts collected from supermarkets, automated teller machines, gas stations and chain stores by the activist organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG), according to the group’s release to the media on July 27. Prompting this EWG survey, scientists had reported July 11, 2010 that the thermal paper used in sales receipts is a major source of BPA although their study will not be published until a future issue of the journal, Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry. Meanwhile, this study is available online at the journal site at http://bit.ly/abynos – but only with a subscription to the journal or payment of an article access fee.
DEPRESSION LINKED TO VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY: A study of 2,070 people in the UK over age 65 has concluded that, among older adults living in northern latitudes, those with a vitamin D deficiency have a significantly greater risk of showing the common symptoms of clinical depression. To determine this link, researchers analyzed data in a way that would rule out other potential factors such as age, gender, social class, and physical health status. The correlation was also found to be independent of the specific season of the year during which subjects were examined. Deficiency of vitamin D was defined as blood levels of less than 10 ng/mL, or 10 nanograms per milliliter. This is in keeping with, and lends credibility to, recent and past studies with similar findings. This latest research was posted online July 1, 2010, although it won’t be published in print until a future issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. It is available online now, but only to journal subscribers or those who pay the article access fee, at: http://bit.ly/cMdh1B.
HIGH LEVELS OF VITAMIN E REDUCE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S: A study has found that, for people aged 80 and more, high levels of the various forms of vitamin E in the blood lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Most prior studies of Alzheimer’s and vitamin E focused strictly on one form of this vitamin, a tocopherol. But researchers found that all eight natural forms of vitamin E, likely working together, afford some protection against this memory-robbing disease. The third of subjects found to have the highest blood levels of all eight vitamin E forms showed a 45 to 54 percent reduced rate of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those with the lowest blood levels. There had been some suggestion that too much of one form of vitamin E might increase mortality but the new study is a strong argument that “the balanced presence of different vitamin E forms can have an important neuroprotective effect.” Most of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s are over age 70. If you have questions about whether you could benefit from vitamin E supplements, speak with your health practitioner. The study was published in the July, 2010 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and details are available at http://bit.ly/cF5vZg but only to subscribers or those willing to pay a temporary access fee.
DEPRESSION DOUBLES RISK OF DEMENTIA: A study has found that having depression may nearly double your risk of developing dementia later in life. For 17 years, the study followed 949 people with an average age of 79. Those who were depressed at the start of the study showed a 70 percent greater risk of developing dementia. The results were the same after making allowance for age, gender and education. The study did not establish that depression causes dementia but a number of depression-related factors may affect the risk of dementia. “Inflammation of brain tissue that occurs when a person is depressed might contribute to dementia,” wrote the researchers. “Certain proteins found in the brain that increase with depression may also increase the risk of developing dementia. In addition, several lifestyle factors related to long-term depression, such as diet and the amount of exercise and social time a person engages in, could also affect whether they develop dementia.” Past studies have been inconclusive but this study appears to set the record straight. The research was published in the July 6, 2010 issue of Neurology and is available only in the print journal.
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Long-term exposure to the pollutants from automobile traffic may be a risk factor for the development, later in life, of diabetes 2. A handful of past studies have suggested some potential link between vehicle pollution and diabetes and cardiovascular risk. But German research on middle-aged women, released in 2010 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, was the first to follow subjects over many years and – although not substantially proving a cause-and-effect relationship – adds weight to the overall evidence. The study suggested that the risk of diabetes might increase by 15 to 42 percent for every 25 percent increase in traffic exposure. The greatest risk stemmed from nitrogen dioxide, a major byproduct of car exhaust. The mechanism for pollution’s effect on disease risk may involve one of two effects: the pollutant could contribute to disease by stimulating an inflammatory response in the body; or those who already have high levels of inflammation may be unable to handle the effects of pollution. The linkage between pollution, inflammation and diabetes is unclear. Further study is needed to pinpoint this mechanism and to determine that the link holds true for men and children as well.
DISRUPTED CLOCK GENES CAUSE CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: A study has found that numerous “clocks,” which control genes all over the body, contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases when they are out of sync with the body’s main clock. Heart attacks, high blood pressure and other vascular functions have been known to have daily cycles in tune with the body’s central clock, which is located in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. But peripheral clocks in each tissue or cell also control body events in every part of the body. This study found that when these mini-clocks are out of sync with the main body clock, various disorders can be triggered such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, hemostasis, and endothelial dysfunction. This research on genetically engineered mice now suggests that locating these clock-controlled genes (CCG) within each organ and learning how to adjust their phases could result in a clock-controlled approach to preventing cardiovascular diseases. The study was published online July 7, 2010 by the journal Hypertension Research. Full details can be read, without subscription or fee, at http://bit.ly/cWrO1h.
FISH OIL MAY REDUCE BREAST CANCER RISK: A study of 35,016 postmenopausal women with no history of breast cancer has found fish oil supplements may reduce the risk of this disease by 32 percent. The study looked only at “specialty” supplements taken by each subject, those that did not fall into the category of vitamins or minerals. The risk of invasive ductal breast cancer – the most common type of the disease – was shown to be reduced in those taking fish oil supplements, which contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. None of the other “œspecialty” supplements, commonly taken for menopausal symptoms, showed any association to breast cancer. Previous studies of dietary omega-3 oils or fish provided conflicting results. This study’s researchers speculate fish oil supplements may contain much higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than are normally consumed in even an omega-3-rich diet and this could explain the difference in findings between supplements and diet. A brief summary was released July 8, 2010 by the journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention but the full study will not be published until a future issue of the journal and is not yet available.
ALZHEIMER’S, PARKINSON’S, CJD: ALL CAUSED BY PAST SURGERY? A jarring statistical study concludes that with few exceptions, those who become afflicted with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) do so 20 years after some type of surgery. (Caused by an infectious protein called a prion, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD is the brain-wasting and always fatal disease that slowly causes holes in the brain, making it sponge-like. It is the human variant of mad cow disease, and scrapie in sheep, and is also called a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or TSE. Heredity can be a cause but most cases are called sporadic, meaning their cause is unknown.) The reliability of the data prompted researchers to conclude there is a cause-and-effect relationship between CJD and surgery. Without ruling out blood transfusions as the route, the team suggested that prions may enter the body through the central or peripheral nervous system, conceivably from sanitized but reused equipment. (Unlike germs, prions are not alive and have no DNA, making them impossible to destroy by traditional methods such as heat or radiation.) But the nervous system route has greater implications: if CJD is externally caused by surgery, other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could also be transmitted through surgery and lie dormant for decades before striking. This study will be published in a future issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry but is available online now, without charge or journal subscription, at: http://bit.ly/bxamv6.
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Long term use of metformin, the commonly prescribed “cornerstone” type 2 diabetes drug, increases the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. A deficiency of this vitamin raises levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood; higher levels are considered a risk factor for heart disease. Metformin causes malabsorption of vitamin B12 and this negative effect increases over time. The study establishing this link was posted online at the site of the British Medical Journal on May 20, 2010 and the full-text version is now available without charge at: http://bit.ly/aml8wr.
SIMPLE TOOL PREDICTS DIABETES 2 RISK: A study has developed a simple measure to predict an individual’s risk of diabetes type 2. Ordinarily, various factors give a general risk indication: for example, having a family member with diabetes, or having a large waist measurement. But researchers have found that using a “nomogram” that combines two readings is much more accurate, in addition to being quicker, easier and cheaper. The two readings are the systolic blood pressure reading (the upper blood pressure number) and the waist-to-hip ratio, or WHR. The higher the score on each, the higher is the risk. (A nomogram is a tool that shows three parallel lines on a sheet of paper with, in this case, the line on the left representing the systolic reading, the line on the right representing the WHR and the middle line representing the resultant risk. A line is drawn from the systolic reading to the WHR and where it intersects the middle line represents the risk of diabetes.) Details of this just-released study won’t appear until a future issue of the journal Diabetologia, although they are available in advance, only with payment of a fee, at: http://bit.ly/asW2q9.
NATURAL REMEDY FOR MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS PROVEN: Seven different studies at a conference all point to one conclusion: S-equol is a safe, natural and effective solution for the symptoms of menopause. If a postmenopausal woman is one of the 20 to 30 percent of women who have the right type of bacteria in their intestinal tract, and if she consumes a sufficient amount of soy, those bacteria convert a component of soy – an isoflavone known as daidzien into S-equol, which has been shown to alleviate menopausal symptoms naturally. (S-equol appears to bind to estrogen receptors, which, studies have shown, is not related to breast cancer risk.) In one study, women who were not natural S-equol producers, were given 10 mg daily of S-equol for 12 weeks and this significantly reduced their hot flashes and muscle discomfort. S-equol was also shown to prevent loss of bone density. Further research is expected to confirm that S-equol supplements will prevent all menopausal symptoms in S-equol non-producers. The Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO) held an Equol, Soy and Menopause Research conference in Washington DC and the results of seven study presentations have been published in the July, 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Details of these seven studies can be read online, only with the payment of a single journal access fee, at: http://bit.ly/aRC2vJ, http://bit.ly/aBnqRk, http://bit.ly/bHlyea, http://bit.ly/a5QpUe, http://bit.ly/aI4wx7, http://bit.ly/dBGIdz, and http://bit.ly/9Afs38.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA INCREASES RISK OF HEART FAILURE: A study has found that men aged 40 to 70 who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a higher risk of heart failure and coronary heart disease. This link was not found in women or in men over 70. (Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which sleeping patients repeatedly stop breathing for at least 10 seconds. Heart failure occurs when the heart is weakened to the point that it cannot supply enough blood for the body’s need. Coronary heart disease is the inability of the blood vessels of the heart to supply sufficient blood to heart muscles.) A total of 1,927 men and 2,495 women free of heart problems were tested. Men but not women with significant OSA were found to have a 68 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease and were 58 percent more likely to develop heart failure. If you suspect you might have OSA, talk to your health practitioner. A brief summary of this study was released July 12, 2010 and will appear in a future issue of the journal, Circulation. The full-text version is available online at http://bit.ly/bwdrER but only with a subscription to the journal or the payment of an access fee.
LOW VITAMIN D STATUS MAY RAISE PARKINSON’S RISK: A study of 3,000 people has found that those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D appeared to be three times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease later in life – in this study, up to 30 years later – compared to those highest in these levels. (Parkinson’s affects several brain areas and causes tremors and slow movements. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because the skin can produce substantial amounts when in the presence of sunlight. It is also found in oily fish, milk, cereals and supplement pills. For years, scientists have known that vitamin D assists calcium uptake and bone formation but recent evidence suggests it plays a role in regulating the immune system and developing the nervous system.) A level of 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood appears optimal for bone health. But the researchers suggested further research to determine the optimal blood level of vitamin D for brain and nerve health, as well as to determine the level of toxicity, neither of which is known. This study, which has been published in the July 2010 issue of the journal, Archives of Neurology, can be read online at http://bit.ly/bqfjsl but only with journal subscription or payment of a fee.
CASHEW SEED EXTRACT COMBATS DIABETES: A study has found that cashew seed extract is an effective anti-diabetic and may be useful as a nutraceutical – a product that provides health and medical benefits – to combat diabetes. Researchers concluded that the cashew seed extract significantly stimulated absorption of blood sugar into muscle cells. (Diabetic persons have high blood sugar because their body does not respond well to insulin or does not produce enough of the hormone. Insulin fuels the absorption of blood sugar into the body’s muscles.) Cashew products – leaves, bark, seeds and apples from cashew trees have traditionally been alleged to be beneficial to diabetics. The new study found that, of these products, only cashew seed extract lowered blood sugar. This confirms the traditional use for diabetes and points to possible future oral remedies. A summary of this study has been released early and will be published in a future issue of the journal, Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. Further details are available online, only with journal subscription or payment of an access fee, at: http://bit.ly/bCfi4p.
ALCOHOL BOOSTS STROKE RISK FOR ONE HOUR AFTER CONSUMPTION: Previous research has shown that regular heavy drinking of alcohol increases the risk of ischemic stroke; research also has shown that regular light to moderate can decrease the risk. But what effect on stroke risk does random or irregular alcohol drinking have? Does a single drink produce an immediately higher risk? And do different types of alcoholic beverages pose different ischemic stroke risks? (Ischemic stroke is a stroke characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart.) Scientists interviewed 390 stroke victims and compared their regular alcohol consumption with their consumption just prior to the stroke. It was found that the risk of stroke more than doubles for the hour immediately following an alcoholic drink. Also, the risk does not vary with the type of drink and is independent of other risk factors (such as smoking). A brief abstract, or summary, of this study was released July 15, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the journal, Stroke. In the meantime, the full-text version can be read online, but only with a subscription to the journal or payment of an access fee, at: http://bit.ly/bMXeSf.
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Acupuncture helps heart failure patients. Although exercise can be beneficial to patients with heart failure, exercising is a problem because shortness of breath and fatigue – which make vigorous or longer-term exercise difficult – are, in themselves, symptoms of heart failure. But acupuncture can increase exercise tolerance. The needles do not increase heart function; but they appear to boost skeletal muscle strength and thus, increase the distance patients can walk. Although heart disease is seen as a pump problem, it also involves inflammation and an imbalance in nerve transmitter substances; acupuncture seems to bring these systems back into balance. A study found that focusing on acupuncture points associated in Traditional Chinese Medicine with muscle strength and inflammation allowed patients to walk further and get more exercise. The study appeared in the June 15, 2010 issue of the journal, Heart and can be read online, with subscription to the journal or payment of a per-article fee, at: http://bit.ly/dlgsR7.
MECHANISM FOR CALORIE RESTRICTION’S LONGEVITY EFFECT DISCOVERED: A study has provided insight into how a calorie restricted diet extends lifespan and prevents age-related diseases. (Scientists have long known that calorie restricted diets or CR, and very low calorie diets or VLCD, have this longevity effect in animals, and presumably in humans, but the mechanism is unclear.) This study on mice looked for senescent cells – cells that have reached the point where they can no longer reproduce – to determine whether a restricted diet had any effect on this process, believed to be the main cause of aging. They found a reduced accumulation of senescent cells in the liver and intestines, organs known to accumulate large numbers of these cells during with age. Also, the telomeres – protective tips on the ends of chromosomes that prevent cell replication errors and disease until they shorten with age – were better maintained in the restricted mice. Because the effect occurred after a short period of restriction, the researchers suggested that the longevity benefit might occur even when the diet is adopted later in life rather than for an entire lifetime. This study was presented at the conference of the British Society for Research on Ageing (BSRA) in Newcastle, UK, on July 16, 2010 but it has not yet been published.
STUDY IDENTIFIES NATURE’S OWN MOSQUITO REPELLANT: A study has discovered two insect-emitted “kairomones” that repel mosquitoes naturally, keeping them from laying eggs in the area. (Many people have heard of pheromones, which influence behavior in another member of the same species. But fewer have heard of predator-released kairomones, or PRKs, compounds detected by a member of a different species and frequently used to its advantage.) Researchers found that the backswimmer (N. maculate), a natural mosquito predator, emits two hydrocarbons called n-heneicosane and n-tricosane. If female mosquitoes, approaching a pool of water to lay eggs, detect these kairomones in the air, most do not land. Instead, they move on seeking another, safer body of water if they don’t die before succeeding. The scientists assert that the discovery of these two compounds and others that may yet be discovered could produce an environmentally-friendly way to repel and control disease-carrying insects. Most diseases transmitted to humans by mosquitoes – causing over 2 million deaths a year – come from the older female, making this particular discovery especially useful. This study was published in the July 2010 issue of the journal Ecology Letters and can be read online, with either journal subscription or the payment of an article access fee, at: http://bit.ly/a3vHzE.
DOCTORS OFTEN SCORE ‘F’ WHEN PATIENT NEEDS INDIVIDUALIZED CARE: A study has shown that – although general practitioner medical doctors (MDs) fare well when treating patients with typical symptoms or in need of standard care – they often fail to provide effective treatment for patients with complex symptoms, special needs or different circumstances. The study was based on 400 visits to MDs in Chicago and Milwaukee by actors posing as patients and given a strict script to follow. The MDs often failed to recognize “biomedical red flags,” indicating significant secondary health issues; and frequently missed “contextual red flags,” important life issues, such as the recent loss of a job and the resultant stress or loss of health insurance. In biomedically complicated cases, only 22 percent of doctors provided error-free care; in contextually complicated cases, only 28 percent provided error-free care; and where both types of complication existed, only 9 percent of MDs served up error-free care. The researchers suggested traditional medical education is the problem. This study was published today in the July 20, 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine and is available to read online, only with journal subscription or payment of an access fee, at: http://bit.ly/bGV1C6.
FRUCTOSE PROMOTES CANCER GROWTH: Carbohydrate metabolism is essential for cancer growth and increased refined carbohydrate consumption is known to affect cancer survival. A new study suggests that – contrary to conventional wisdom – refined fructose, a sugar and carbohydrate, is metabolized differently than the sugar known as glucose; and that, unlike glucose, fructose causes cancer cells to multiply. Traditionally, sugars were considered to be so similar that they must be metabolized by the body in much the same way and little attention has been given to sugars other than glucose. But the study found that fructose – consumption of which has increased dramatically in recent decades – is delivered to cells using different transporters than glucose. Further, fructose is readily metabolized by cancer cells to produce certain compounds that result in the proliferation of the cancer. The study drew a direct link between fructose and increased pancreatic cancer growth. The researchers concluded that cancer patients should reduce their intake of refined fructose in order to disrupt cancer growth. The study was just released by Cancer Research, and will be published in a future issue of the journal. It is available online to subscribers to the journal, or those willing to pay the $35 article access fee, at: http://bit.ly/9XxUOC.
MUSCULAR BUILD MAY REDUCE HEART FAILURE SEVERITY: A new study suggests that, compared to those with a greater percentage of body fat, patients with more muscle fare better in the face of heart failure. More muscle generally indicated improved nutritional status and less severe heart failure, found researchers, which could extend length of life. Higher body fat, on the other hand, was associated with increased inflammation and reduced exercise capacity. Participants underwent special scans to measure their muscle mass and body fat; and the study showed that body mass index (BMI) of heart failure patients does not accurately measure their body fat status. In fact, 41 percent were inaccurately classified by BMI. The study lends some support to the idea – but does not demonstrate clearly – that those who are treating heart failure patients may wish to recommend weight loss to heart failure patients. This study was published in this month’s issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings and is available to read online, with subscription to the journal or payment of an article access fee, at: http://bit.ly/9R1Qj5.
BLUEBERRIES CAN REDUCE CARDIOVASCULAR RISK: A small study has found that an amount of blueberry consumption that is achievable by diet alone reduces key cardiovascular disease risk factors in obese men and women with metabolic syndrome. (Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.) Every day for 8 weeks, 48 participants consumed a beverage comprised of 960 mL of water, 50 gm of freeze-dried blueberries and about 350 gm of fresh blueberries. Researchers found that, compared with the control group, the blueberry group showed lower systolic and diastolic readings – the upper and lower numbers in a blood pressure reading. They also found lower blood levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol” in the blueberry group. The blood sugar levels were not affected. The study concluded that “blueberries may improve selected features of metabolic syndrome and related cardiovascular risk factors,” at doses that can be achieved through food consumption alone. This study was released July 21, 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is available to read online, but only with journal subscription or the payment of an access fee, at: http://bit.ly/dAf3BK.
CHILDHOOD PHYSICAL ABUSE RAISES RISK OF HEART DISEASE: A new study involving 13,093 people has found a 45 percent greater risk of heart disease in adulthood among those who were abused physically during childhood. The link remained even after taking into account other factors that could also affect the result, such as stress, parental addictions, mood disorders, income, obesity and other aspects. The study team suggested further research is required to understand exactly what biological mechanism could explain the link behind childhood physical abuse and adult heart disease. The researchers advised that patients known to have been physically abused or neglected during childhood should have their cardiovascular risks managed more aggressively due their higher risk. Just released, this study will be published in a future issue of the journal, Child Abuse & Neglect. It can be read online at http://bit.ly/b17NdB but only with a subscription to the journal or payment of a fee.
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Two thirds of the world’s population, including about half the people in North America and Western Europe, get an insufficient supply of vitamin D, according to vitamin D expert Anthony Norman, PhD. His article appeared in the July, 2010 issue of Endocrine Today, a monthly newspaper about diabetes and endocrine disorders. Several studies have reported reduced risks of breast cancer, colon cancer and type 1 diabetes with adequate levels of vitamin D, the positive effect generally occurring within five years of beginning to get an adequate vitamin D intake, writes Norman. It was Norman’s lab that discovered, in 1967, that vitamin D is converted by the body into a steroid hormone; and later discovered that 37 body organs respond to it biologically. Vitamin D is found in very few foods naturally – fish, eggs and cod liver oil – which is why some other foods such as milk, orange juice, some yogurts and some breakfast foods are fortified with it. Currently, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 200 international units (IU) for people up to 50 years old; 400 IU for people 51 to 70 years old; and 600 IU for people over 70 years old. But many scientists suggest that amounts as high as 2,000 to 4,000 IU are required for optimal health, levels which cannot be achieved through food alone; a combination of food, sunshine and supplements may be needed to achieve these levels.
NON-INVASIVE THERAPY FOR MALIGNANT BRAIN CANCER: A study has found that a calorie-restricted or CR diet – a daily regimen of substantially reduced calorie intake – can slow and restrict the spread of malignant brain cancer. Lowering regular calorie intake reduces blood glucose (sugar) levels and thus, reduces the carbohydrate energy available to the tumor cells. Tumor cells rely heavily on this source of energy. But normal brain (and heart) cells can still survive by using instead, the energy supplied by ketones (compounds produced when fatty acids are broken down in the liver and kidney). The research showed that tumor cells are far more susceptible than healthy brain cells to the stress arising from a deficient supply of energy; the brain cancer cells cannot grow on a low-calorie diet. The cancer tested – and restricted – was glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive and invasive form of human brain cancer. This study will not be published in print until the August, 2010 issue of the neurochemistry journal, ASN NEURO. However, the full-text version can now be read online, without fee payment, at: http://bit.ly/cRKqJF.
INSOMNIA AND SLEEP DRUGS IN CHILDREN: A study has found that – among children visiting child psychologists for mental health issues – 20 percent of preschoolers, and a third of school-aged children and adolescents, suffer from insomnia. Researchers also discovered many of these young patients receive drugs to promote sleep. This is a substantial percentage to have sleep problems. The psychologists prescribed drugs, they indicated, to alleviate the impact late-onset sleep and disturbed sleep have on daytime functioning; also, medications prescribed for psychological issues may have a negative effect on sleep. Despite prescribing a wide array of sleep medications, the psychologists expressed concerns about the use of sleep medications – including sedatives, antihistamines and antidepressants – by children, with many pointing out that little data exist on the effectiveness and safety of these drugs in children and adolescents. The researchers concluded there is need for further study on appropriate treatment choices for children with sleep problems. They also reported that past studies found behavioral treatments such as relaxation techniques, sleep restriction and cognitive behavioral therapy to be effective for childhood insomnia. This study will appear in the August 2010 print issue of the journal, Sleep Medicine. Further details can be read online now, with journal subscription or payment of a fee, at: http://bit.ly/aYBILR.
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Nutrition and diet can affect the risk of acquiring Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or AMD. (AMD is a relatively common medical condition usually affecting older adults and causing a loss of vision in the center of the visual field.) One study of 4,000 people, aged 55-80, found that eating foods scoring low on the Glycemic Index (GI), also known as “slow carbs,” protects against AMD. (A food’s GI is an indicator of how fast the carbohydrate it contains will spike blood sugar levels; lower GI scores mean a slower sugar spiking.) The study’s analysis also produced a short list of specific nutrients that – in combination with a low-GI diet – are associated with a lower risk of AMD: vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA. This study appeared in the May, 2010 issue of the journal Ophthalmology and the full-text version can now be read online, without fee, at: http://bit.ly/aD5tPl.
LISTENING TO MUSIC HAMPERS MENTAL PERFORMANCE: A study has found that listening to background music while performing cognitive tasks – yes, kids, such as studying impairs overall mental performance and ability to do arithmetic or recall information later. The surprising aspect to the study findings is that the interference with mental ability and ability to recall remained strong even when the music being heard is among a person’s favorite music; same as listening to music the subject hated. Quiet produced the best recall performance. The researchers stressed that music might have some generally beneficial effect on our health but only when one listens to it prior to – never while – performing mental tasks or memorizing material. This study will be published in the September 2010 issue of the journal, Applied Cognitive Psychology. It is available early to read online at http://bit.ly/aCr5GE but only with journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.
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Wine may reduce the risk of diabetes. Resveratrol – a compound found in wine, grapes and peanuts has a positive effect on impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), also known as pre-diabetes. A study found that resveratrol supplements taken at concentrations higher than those normally found in wine, grapes or peanuts, resulted in lower post-meal glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity, which are both positive implications for those at risk of diabetes. A separate study found that overweight and middle-aged individuals experienced a 40 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity. Both studies were presented at the June, 2010 annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association. Neither has yet been published.
VITAMINS K1 AND K2 REDUCE DIABETES RISK: A study has found that higher intakes of phylloquinone and menaquinone – also known as vitamins K1 and K2 – reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The research covered a 10-year period and observed that those with the highest intake of phylloquinone had a 19 percent lower risk of diabetes compared to those with the lowest intake. To a lesser extent, menaquinone was linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes but the risk reduction increased with greater intake of menaquinone. Dietary deficiencies of vitamin K are rare. However, deficiencies are more common in those with liver disease, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel diseases and are linked to long-term aspirin use. Phylloquinone, or vitamin K1, is found chiefly in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard and brassica (vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts). Some fruits such as avocado and kiwi are also high in vitamin K1. Menaquinone, or vitamin K2, is found in meat, eggs, dairy and natto (fermented soybeans). The study will be published in the August 2010 issue of the journal, Diabetes Care. It is now available online at http://bit.ly/aq90QB, with journal subscription or payment of an article access fee.
SPECIFIC E.COLI STRAIN BEHIND MANY SERIOUS, DRUG-RESISTANT DISEASES: A study has found that a single new strain of the E. coli bacterium – a strain identified as Sequence Type 131 or ST131 – is a major source of many very serious illnesses across the country. And these infections are resistant to antimicrobial drugs. Figures show these bacteria were the major source of the most drug-resistant infections during 2007, the last year for which the numbers are known. This pathogen has emerged internationally as a threat but until now, received little attention in the U.S. Usually, highly virulent E. coli strains are susceptible to antibiotics, while highly antibiotic-resistant strains are fairly weak and cause illness generally only in weakened or vulnerable individuals; the most dangerous strains were easily treated. But this study’s findings suggest that the ST131 strain has a high level of virulence in addition to antimicrobial resistance and the study author warns of an extremely serious and untreatable threat if the bug acquires just one more drug-resistant gene. The researchers called for “urgent investigation” to discover the sources of the bug and how it is being transmitted so effectively and so quickly. This study will appear in the August 1, 2010 issue of the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, and can be read online at http://bit.ly/aX8hme with journal subscription or payment of an access fee.
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More hot dogs are eaten by Americans over July 4 weekend – 155 million – than at any other time of the year. But if this becomes a year-round habit, there may be health implications. Children regularly eating one hot dog a week double their risk of brain tumor; children eating two hot dogs a week on average, triple their risk of brain tumor. In a 1994 study, kids downing an average of 12 hot dogs a month showed an almost ten times greater risk of leukemia. In one 2005 study of 190,000 adults, those who regularly ate the most processed meats such as deli meats and hot dogs were found to have a 68 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer, a particularly difficult cancer to beat. In a 1995 study, there was some evidence that vitamins might offset some of the risk. It has been suggested that vitamins C and E may discourage the formation of nitrosamines.
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Acupuncture helps heart failure patients. Although exercise can be beneficial to patients with heart failure, exercising is a problem because shortness of breath and fatigue – which make vigorous or longer-term exercise difficult are, in themselves, symptoms of heart failure. But acupuncture can increase exercise tolerance. The needles do not increase heart function; but they appear to boost skeletal muscle strength and thus, increase the distance patients can walk. Although heart disease is seen as a pump problem, it also involves inflammation and an imbalance in nerve transmitter substances; acupuncture seems to bring these systems back into balance. A study found that focusing on acupuncture points associated in Traditional Chinese Medicine with muscle strength and inflammation allowed patients to walk further and get more exercise. The study appeared in the June 15, 2010 issue of the journal Heart and can be read online in its full-text version, with subscription or payment of a fee, at: http://bit.ly/dlgsR7.