SLEEP LOSS DECREASES TESTOSTERONE, INCREASING HEALTH RISKS: A small study has concluded that young men who sleep less than five hours a night for eight days experience an average reduction of 10 to 15 percent in their testosterone levels, with the lowest levels occurring between 2pm and 10 pm, and that these lower levels increase the risk of low-testosterone-related health effects. (Testosterone levels very gradually diminish with age, about one to two percent per year, but especially low levels can cause symptoms such as reduced bone and muscle mass, as well as decreased energy, erectile dysfunction, mood problems, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and low sex drive.) The men in the study, whose average age was 24, were rigorously screened to rule out any endocrine, psychological, or sleep problems. They slept 10 hours a night for three days, then five hours a night for eight days, and testosterone was measured after each phase. Also, the participants reported reduced mood, vigor, and sense of well-being, worsening with each day of the reduced sleep phase. This study was published in the June 1, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Associations. It is accessible online now at http://bit.ly/iNYIFs with subscription or fee.
SEVERAL DEFINED DIETARY PLANS REDUCE RISK OF STROKE: Researchers have found that three of the four defined dietary patterns studied reduce the overall risk of stroke significantly, and that all four diets lower the risk of ischemic stroke. The research divided 40,681 volunteers according to adherence to four dietary types: Health Eating Index 2005 (HEI-2005), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), Greek Mediterranean Index, and Italian Mediterranean Index. Only the HEI-2005 diet did not reduce the overall risk for stroke, and the Italian diet had the greatest impact, lowering the overall risk of stroke for those in the highest third of adherence by 53 percent over those in the lowest third. Only the Greek diet did not lower the risk for ischemic stroke, and the Italian diet had the greatest ischemic impact, lowering the risk of ischemic stroke for those in the highest third of adherence by 63 percent. Only the Italian diet produced a hemorrhagic stroke risk reduction, which was 49 percent lower for those in the highest adherence third. This just-released study will be published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, but it is available online now at http://bit.ly/mtMpVm with subscription or fee.
TWO NATURAL COMPOUNDS, WHEN COMBINED, FIGHT COLON CANCER: A study has concluded that two grape compounds, one found in the skin and another found in the seed, work synergistically to force colon cancer cells to self-destruct while not harming healthy cells, making the whole seeded red or purple grape a perfect colon-cancer-fighting food. Scientists have known that the grape skin compound resveratrol may prevent colon cancer cells from growing; and that compounds in grape seed extract do the same. However, this is the first research to show that, working together, the skin and seed compounds destroy colon cancer cells. Precise dosages required to fight a specific colon cancer case might be delivered via supplements that have been coated with pectin, a substance (a polysaccharide) often extracted from citrus fruits. Pectin is not digested in the upper gut but is broken down in the colon where the grape supplement becomes available. Research is needed to determine whether these compounds also kill cancer stem cells; if cancer stem cells are left behind, colon cancer is more likely to recur. Published in the June 1, 2011 issue of Frontiers in Bioscience, this study is available online now at http://bit.ly/iWGv9S with subscription or fee.
DID YOU KNOW?
All bacteria and pathogens found on raw food are killed when the food item comes into contact with a copper surface, reducing the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of infection. Released June 2011, research at the University of Southampton in UK found that bacteria, including new E. coli strains, die rapidly when placed on copper. This characteristic of copper is shared with the alloys brass and bronze.
LOWER-CARB DIET REDUCES BELLY FAT: Researchers have found that – compared to a lowered-fat diet – a diet that includes a modest reduction in carbohydrates and a slight increase in fat results in a four percent greater weight loss, a greater loss of fat tissue versus lean, and an 11 percent greater reduction in visceral or deep belly fat, changes that lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease. All participants lowered calorie intake by 1000. However, the control group adopted a standard weight loss diet in which carbohydrates, fat and protein comprised 55, 27, and 18 percent of total calories, respectfully. The test group adopted a diet in which carbohydrates, fat and protein made up 43, 39, and 18 percent of total calories, respectfully, and contained low-glycemic foods, which do not cause excessive blood sugar spikes. The belly reducing effect was found among whites, but not among blacks; whites have a greater amount of deep abdominal fat and may benefit most from trimming fat in this area, the researchers suggested. This study was presented June 5, 2011 in Boston at the annual meeting of The Endocrinology Society. It has not yet been published or posted.
ON-AND-OFF DIETING HEALTHIER THAN NO DIETING AT ALL: A study has found that repeatedly switching between a low-fat diet and a high-fat diet results in greater health and a longer lifespan than not dieting at all. Many have suggested yo-yo dieting, with its repeated weight loss and gain, may more negatively affect health and longevity than simply remaining obese and not dieting at all; this belief might discourage obese persons from dieting. However, researchers divided study mice into three dietary groups: one fed a consistent high-fat diet; another alternating between a low-fat and high-fat diet, mirroring people who yo-yo diet; and a third group given a consistent low-fat diet. The high-fat group consumed more calories, weighed more, had greater body fat, experienced higher blood sugar, became pre-diabetic, and lived an average of 1.5 years. The health profile of the yo-yo diet group worsened during the high-fat phases but bounced back during the low-fat phases, and they lived an average of 2.04 years. Similarly, the healthy low-fat control group lived an average of 2.09 years. This study was presented June 6, 2011 at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society in Boston. It has not yet been published or posted
APPLE PEEL COMPOUND PREVENTS MUSCLE WASTING: Researchers have discovered that a waxy compound found in the skin of apples, ursolic acid, prevents the muscle atrophy that is common with aging and illness; and causes increased muscle size, decreased storing of fat, and reduced blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose (sugar). This suggests ursolic acid may be a therapy for age- and illness-related muscle wasting, as well as for other metabolic diseases. For 92 genes linked to muscle atrophy, scientists pinpointed what are known as gene-expression signatures. After comparing those signatures with the signatures of 1300 bioactive small molecules, they found the signature of ursolic acid to be the opposite of the atrophy-inducing genes. When ursolic acid was fed to fasting mice, it prevented muscle wasting; and when it was fed to non-fasting mice, it increased muscle size. Further research is needed to confirm this apple skin compound has the same effect on humans and to determine whether therapeutic levels can be attained by increased apple consumption or if ursolic acid supplements are needed. This study was published in the June 8, 2011 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism. The full text is available online at http://bit.ly/jbCyH2 without charge.
DID YOU KNOW?
Abdominal fat is much riskier than fat reserves on other parts of the body. It is linked to as much as double the risk of early death, even if your overall weight is normal and your BMI is in the healthy range, according to a study in the November 13, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
PROCESSED MEAT CONSUMPTION RAISES RISK OF STROKE: Scientists have concluded that people in the highest fifth of processed meat consumption have a 23 percent greater risk of stroke than those in the lowest fifth of consumption, but that people in the highest fifth of fresh red meat consumption do not have significantly increased stroke risk relative to those in the lowest fifth of consumption. Those consuming the most processed meat also showed an 18 percent greater risk for cerebral infarction, compared to people consuming the least. (Cerebral infarction is a type of stroke in which a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or develops a leakage, either of which results in a loss of blood flow to, and death of, a part of the brain.) Red meat consumption has been implicated in several diseases, but information on its link to stroke has been limited until now. The study followed 40,291 men aged 45 to 79 who had no history of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the research. Released June 8, 2011, this study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online now at http://bit.ly/kp4YxK with subscription or fee.
B VITAMINS MAY LOWER COLORECTAL CANCER RISK AMONG OFFSPRING: A rodent study has found that the offspring of mothers given supplemental vitamin B2, B6, B12, and folate, from prior to conception through weaning, are substantially less likely to develop colorectal cancer tumors and less likely to develop aggressive intestinal tumors. The diet of one group of mothers was supplemented with the B vitamins; the diet of another group included an adequate supply of B vitamins in food, but no supplements; and the diet of the third group included an inadequate supply of these vitamins. Tumor incidence was similar for both of the non-supplemented groups – including the group receiving adequate B vitamins through food – while the supplemented group showed much lower incidence. Of the tumors found in the non-supplemented groups, three times as many were found to be aggressive in the B-deficient group compared to the B-adequate group. It is not known whether these results can be translated to human mothers, and this would take many decades to determine. This study was released June 9, 2011 and will appear in a future issue of the journal, Gut. It is available online now at http://bit.ly/lQe1Ed with journal subscription or an access fee.
DID YOU KNOW?
High heels are partly to blame for the arthritis problem that has become virtually epidemic in the UK, according to a June 2011 study by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. One in four UK adults has a muskuloskeletal condition, and 60 percent of arthritis cases are in the feet.
POLYPHENOLS IN BEER BOOST SEVERAL HEALTH FACTORS IN ATHLETES: Researchers have found that foods that contain substantial amounts of a variety of polyphenols, specifically nonalcoholic weissbier or wheat beer, have positive effects on the health of athletes, including a 20 percent reduction in certain indicators of inflammation (leukocytes), a strengthening of the immune system when under physical stress, a one-third reduction in the risk of contracting a cold, and briefer and milder upper respiratory infections. (Polyphenols are compounds found naturally in plants in the form of pigments, flavors, or tannins, and many polyphenols have been linked with health-promoting and cancer-preventative properties. Many athletes have long suspected that nonalcoholic wheat beer boosts their health.) The team selected nonalcoholic Erdinger brand weissbier for the study, because it is commonly consumed by marathoners and tri-athletes, and it is rich in varied polyphenols (and vitamins and minerals), making it strongly representative of polyphenol-rich foods. The test group drank 1.5 liters of wheat beer daily for three weeks prior to running a marathon and for two weeks following the race. This study will be published in the January 2012 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and is not yet available for access.
DID YOU KNOW?
The risk of an artery condition known as acute coronary syndrome is reduced substantially by taking 7500 steps a day, according to a 2011 study. Previous research found that the risk of diabetes type 2 is lowered substantially by taking 3000 steps a day five days a week.
COOLING THE BRAIN APPEARS TO ELIMINATE INSOMNIA: A study has found that continuously cooling the frontal cerebral area of the brain at night permits people with primary insomnia to fall asleep more quickly than those without insomnia and to achieve the same percentage of time spent in bed sleeping. (Primary insomnia is sleeplessness not attributed to any medical, psychological, or environmental cause.) A slower metabolism in the frontal cerebral part of the brain is associated with restorative sleep, while insomnia is linked to increased metabolism in this same region. A known way to reduce metabolic activity in this brain area involves using heat transfer to cool the brain in a process called cerebral hypothermia. Researchers supplied participants with a soft plastic cap that contains plastic tubes filled with cool circulating water. Insomnia sufferers wearing the cap fell asleep in 13 minutes, three minutes more quickly than non-sufferers; and slept 89 percent of the time in bed, the same percentage as non-sufferers. Many insomniacs have long sought non-pharmaceutical remedies to insomnia to avoid negative side effects. Presented June 13, 2011 at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis, this study has not yet been published or posted.
LONGER TV VIEWING LINKED TO GREATER DIABETES, CARDIOVASCULAR RISK: Researchers have concluded that the risks of both diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease are increased in accordance with a greater amount of time spent watching television (TV). The scientists analyzed eight prior studies including data on a total of 175,938 persons. The results showed that each additional two hours of TV viewing increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular disease, and mortality by 20 percent, 15 percent, and 13 percent, respectively. This kind of study cannot determine the cause of these associations, but it is possible that prolonged TV watching increases obesity levels, which are related to unhealthy dietary habits and low activity levels, both risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The average daily TV viewing time for Europeans and Australians is about three to four hours, while viewing time for Americans averages five hours a day. Previous research had associated greater time spent watching television with reduced exercise and unhealthy diets. This study was published in the June 15, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and is available online now at http://bit.ly/mBjKnX with subscription or fee.
DID YOU KNOW?
Contrary to myth, brown eggs are not more nutritious. Shell color has nothing to do with the quality, flavor, nutrition, or shell thickness. Color depends solely on the breed of the hen.
OLIVE OIL MAY REDUCE RISK OF STROKE IN OLDER PERSONS: Scientists have found that older people who regularly consume olive oil both as cooking oil and as salad dressing have a 41 percent lower risk of having a stroke than those who never use olive oil. The study followed 7,625 people aged 65 and over for five years. The team also looked at blood levels of oleic acid – an indirect and as-yet-unvalidated biological indicator of olive oil intake – and found that those in the highest third of oleic acid blood levels had a 27 percent lower chance of having a stroke. Previous research showed olive oil is linked to a reduced incidence of cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol. In these cases, and in the current study, there is insufficient proof that any component in olive oil affects these risks; it is possible, for instance, that olive oil makes other healthy food choices such as salads or cooked vegetables taste better, thus increasing consumption of healthier foods. This study was released June 15, 2011 but will not appear in print until a future issue of the journal, Neurology. It is available online now at http://bit.ly/j9Cyym with subscription or fee.
SHELLFISH LINKED TO LOWER RISK OF DIABETES: Researchers have found an association, for women only, between higher consumption of fish and reduced risk of diabetes type 2, as well as an association for both men and women, between higher consumption of shellfish and reduced risk of diabetes. Previously, some experts had suggested that long-chain, polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids, which are found mainly in fish, may be a factor in helping to prevent diabetes type 2, but this theory remains unresolved. This study reviewed the diets of 116,156 people and found that women in the highest fifth of fish consumption had an 11 percent reduced risk of diabetes, while men in the highest fifth of fish consumption showed a lower risk that was not statistically significant. They also found that women in the highest fifth of shellfish consumption had a 14 percent reduced risk of diabetes, while men in the highest fifth of shellfish had an 18 percent lower risk. The team did not find a health risk linked to greater fish consumption. This just-released study will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online now at http://bit.ly/kla0Uw with subscription or access fee.
SNACK-BASED, HIGH-FAT DIET RISKIER THAN SIMPLE HIGH-FAT DIET: A study has found that – compared to rats in most studies that are fed high-fat diets through the introduction of foods made from lard – rats fed a high-fat diet comprised of snack foods humans actually eat experienced higher consumption, greater weight gain, more tissue inflammation, and intolerance to glucose and insulin. The researchers suggested that, while rodent studies have often pointed to serious health risks resulting from a high-fat diet, even more severe health risks result from a high-fat diet in which the dietary fat comes from the so-called cafeteria diet, a lab research term describing the common Western diet of buffet-style access to junk food such as processed meats, cookies, and chips. The team found that rats fed the real-life cafeteria diet consumed about 30 percent more calories than those on a high-sugar, or regular high-fat diet, and were more prone to metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that increase the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes type 2). Published June 17, 2011 in the online issue of the journal Obesity, this study is accessible at http://bit.ly/lFVppQ free of charge.
FAT SUBSTITUTES PROMOTE WEIGHT GAIN: Researchers have found that synthetic compounds, such as olestra, used by manufacturers as fat substitutes to make low-fat versions of food items, interfere with the ability of the body to regulate food intake, causing inefficient use of calories and resulting in increased food consumption, greater weight gain, and more body fat. (Olestra adds the taste of fat but remains undigested by the body.) Rats fed a generally low-fat diet were able to consume fat substitutes without any negative effect. However, rats fed a generally high-fat diet – when also fed fat substitutes – gained more weight and body fat than those rats fed a generally high-fat diet that contained no fat substitutes. The underlying cause could be that, when accustomed to consuming fat, the body is metabolically primed by any fatty taste but then reacts negatively when no fat is subsequently digested. The report cautioned that studies on rats do not necessarily translate to humans; however, their body responses to food are very similar. This study was released June 20, 2011 and will appear in a future print issue of the journal Behavioral Neuroscience. It is available online now at http://bit.ly/ivP2BQ without charge.
HUMAN BENEFIT FROM RESVERATROL FURTHER SUGGESTED: Following their research review of the limited number of studies conducted so far that have relevance to humans, researchers have suggested that, although the polyphenol compound known as resveratrol may not prevent or retard actual aging, it may indeed help prevent some of the chronic conditions associated with old age, although more long-term human studies are urgently needed. Despite an abundance of evidence pointing to the beneficial effects of resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and wine, very few studies have been done on humans, and the bioavailability of resveratrol in humans, as opposed to animals, is still in doubt. Gathering together evidence from previous studies on animals, cultures and enzymes, the team found indication that resveratrol may have anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory effects. The scientists suggested that, if the ability of resveratrol to alleviate age-related infirmities is established in humans, it could have vast importance as the baby boomer generation enters old age. This just-released study will appear in a future issue of the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. The full-text study is available online now at http://bit.ly/kG4aWy with subscription or fee.
SMOKERS HAVE HIGHER RISK OF PROSTATE CANCER RECURRENCE AND DEATH: A study has found that smokers who develop prostate cancer have a 61 percent greater risk of a recurrence after treatment, and a 61 percent higher risk of dying from prostate cancer, compared to nonsmokers diagnosed with prostate cancer. Researchers also found that smokers who are initially diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer have an 80 percent greater risk of dying from this disease than nonsmokers. A link was also found between smoking and more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Smokers who were diagnosed with prostate cancer also showed a 131 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. However, men who had quit smoking for ten years or more prior to being diagnosed with prostate cancer had the same level of risk as nonsmokers. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer in the US. The team stressed that quitting smoking directly reduces the risk of dying from prostate cancer. This study will be published in the June 22-29, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is accessible online now at http://bit.ly/lnj1Ur with subscription or fee.
DID YOU KNOW?
Being overweight poses a greater risk for cirrhosis of the liver than excessive alcohol consumption. A 2011 study reported in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found a link between a body mass index (BMI) of 28 or more and a high cirrhosis risk.
TYPE 2 DIABETES REVERSED WITH EXTREME DIET: A small but landmark study has found that type 2 diabetes patients who followed for two months, an extreme but tightly supervised diet that restricted calories to just 600 a day experienced a return to normal pre-breakfast blood sugar levels after one week and that 70 percent of those patients remained completely free of diabetes a month after returning to their regular, but newly portion-controlled, diet. (Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are too high due to insufficient insulin or the inability to use insulin effectively.) The researchers believe excess calories eventually cause fat buildup in the liver and pancreas, triggering type 2 diabetes. MRI scans of study subjects showed the pancreas returns quickly to normal fat levels and regains its ability to produce insulin. This suggests type 2 diabetes may be reversed by calorie restriction alone. A 600-calorie diet is a drastic, starvation diet that should only be followed temporarily and only under close practitioner supervision. Presented at the June 24-28, 2011 American Diabetes Association conference, this study will appear in a future issue of the journal Diabetologia, but is now accessible online at http://bit.ly/mDicGp without cost.
CHEMICAL PRODUCED BY PANCREAS MAY CURE TYPE 1 DIABETES: A study has found that injection of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a compound that is produced in non-diabetic people by the same pancreatic cells (islet beta cells) that normally make insulin, can prevent and even reverse type 1 diabetes in mice. (In type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that make and secrete insulin, leaving the patient with little or no insulin. GABA is also known as a brain messenger, or neurotransmitter, but its role in the pancreas was unknown.) This may be an especially effective therapy and prevention for type 1 diabetes because GABA was found both to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells, and to prevent destruction of those cells by the immune system. This treatment would need human trials before it could be considered a new treatment for type 1 diabetes. This study was released June 27, 2011 and will appear in a future issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. It is available online now at http://bit.ly/l0YWg9 with subscription or fee.
DID YOU KNOW?
Anyone who consumes a cooked weight of 90 grams of red meat or processed meat per day has a significantly higher risk of developing bower cancer compared to those who eat 70 grams or less. On February 26, 2011, the British Department of Health advised people to keep red meat consumption at 70 grams a day. Men tend to eat more red or processed meat than women.
GREEN TEA LOWERS CHOLESTEROL: Researchers have completed a comprehensive meta-analysis, or review of previously done studies, and have found that drinking green tea or taking green tea extract lowered blood levels of total cholesterol, reduced levels of low-density-lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol, but did not have any effect on levels of high-density-lipoprotein (HDL or good) cholesterol. (LDL cholesterol is often referred to by the media as bad cholesterol because some studies have associated higher levels of these fat particles in the blood with health problems and cardiovascular disease.) The effect of green tea on cholesterol has been controversial. The combined results of 14 trials involving a total of 1,136 test subjects showed an average reduction in total cholesterol of 7.20 mg/dL, and an average reduction in LDL cholesterol of 2.19 mg/dL, both of which are considered statistically significant. This study was released June 29, 2011 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and will appear in a future print issue. It is accessible online now at http://bit.ly/l4mYEW to subscribers or those who pay the access fee.
COMPOUND MIGHT OFFSET SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE: A study has suggested that resveratrol, a compound found in small amounts in cocoa powder, boiled peanuts, and red wine, may offset the negative health effects such as insulin resistance and loss of bone mass stemming from a lack of exercise in a sedentary lifestyle. (Resveratrol is an antioxidant substance known as a phenol. It is often reported by the mainstream media to be a major component of red wine; in fact, wine contains only trace amounts. Its cardiovascular health benefits are controversial and the subject of ongoing research.) The researchers tested resveratrol on rats that lived in an environment mimicking the weightless of space, which has negative health effects on astronauts. The rats provided resveratrol managed to avoid the insulin resistance and loss of bone mineral density that affected those sedentary rats not fed resveratrol. (Insulin resistance is linked to diabetes risk.) Resveratrol is found in supplements, which are often made from Japanese knotweed and in small amounts in cocoa powder, red wine, and boiled peanuts. This study was released June 29, 2011 and will appear in a future issue of The FASEB Journal. It is online now at http://bit.ly/lLx6fj with subscription or fee.