HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

October 2010

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The Vitamin D Scorecard

o nutrient has spent more time in the medical headlines over the past few years than vitamin D, as scientists continue to investigate what functions the sunshine vitamin serves within the body. Here is a roundup of the most recent D-related research.

System What D Does
Brain High blood levels linked with 67% reduction in Parkinson’s disease risk (Archives of Neurology 7/10); low levels may increase the risk of depression (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 7/10) and cognitive decline (Archives of Internal Medicine 7/12/10)
Bones Long known to help the body maintain calcium levels, a key requirement for proper bone mineralization; prenatal D intake by mothers required for proper fetal bone development (Journal of Nutrition 9/10)
Heart Low levels have been linked to hypertension, and lab studies indicate supplementation may help lower blood pressure (American Journal of Physiology 8/6/10 online); low levels associated with poor outcome in heart failure patients (Current Drug Targets 8/27/10 online) and
increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes (Endocrine Society meeting 7/10)
Immune Helps activate the immune system’s T cells (Nature Immunology 4/10); increased intake may reduce flu risk (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 5/10)
Other Increased intake linked to 40% reduction in colorectal cancer risk (American Journal of Epidemiology 9/1/10); may reduce mold allergies in people with asthma (Journal of Clinical Investigation 8/16/10 online)

The current recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 400 IU for people 50 and older. In the light of ongoing research, however, the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board is expected to recommend an increase in this amount; some studies support intakes as high as 5,000 IU.

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EDITOR'S CHOICE

Deepen Your Yoga Practice


Ganga White directs the White Lotus Foundation in California, and Sting has endorsed his Flow Series yoga program. Available on DVD, the Flow Series, taught by White and his wife Tracey Rich, comprises three yoga sessions with increasing intensity, beginning with Earth, which builds foundations by introducing standing and other classical postures that emphasize flexibility, attention, flow and breath. Water advances the postures, and Fire takes the series to a higher aerobic intensity. Another DVD, Total Yoga, The Original, is suitable for beginners but provides a self-contained workout for experienced students, too. Visit www.whitelotus.org.

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MEDIA

Eating to Avoid Breast Cancer

Among all the health hazards caused by excess weight, a higher breast cancer risk is one of the scariest. “Fat cells make estrogen, and estrogen nourishes breast cancer,” says Mary Flynn, MD, who has studied diet changes in cancer survivors looking to lose weight gained during treatment.

Flynn has put the results of her research to paper in The Pink Ribbon Diet (Da Capo), co-written with chef and cookbook author Nancy Verde Barr. The book’s message is that everyone can lose weight to reduce their risk of either first-time or recurrent cancer.

Flynn has based her eating plan on the Mediterranean diet, specifically on what she calls “the big three”: Extra virgin olive oil, rich in antioxidants; whole grains, full of B vitamins and fiber; and vegetables, especially the deeply colored ones. These ingredients form the basis of the book’s 150 recipes, which are supported by charts showing serving sizes and meal plans.

Overweight and worried about your health? The Pink Ribbon Diet may help you achieve your goal—and peace of mind.

Note: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To learn more, visit www.nbcam.org.

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WORD

Interferon

Collective name for a group of proteins produced by the immune system when cancer cells or pathogens such as viruses are detected. In addition to interfering with viral replication, the function that gives them their name, these substances activate microbe-killing immune cells and help healthy cells resist infection. (To learn how to bolster your immunity during cold and flu season, see our feature on Immunity.)

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Overweight Kids Worry Adults

34%

Survey respondents who rated childhood obesity a significant concern

1
Where that ranked childhood obesity in the survey—ahead of issues such
as drug abuse, smoking and teen pregnancy

57%
Those who rated obesity as a significant concern who think the problem is getting worse

Source: University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s
Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health

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RESOURCES

CancerCare

What They Offer: free counseling and educational programs for people diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones; also provides financial help with co-pays, transportation and other expenses
Contact: www.cancercare.org, 800-813-HOPE (4673)

 

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Eat Greens to Dodge Diabetes

Popeye ate spinach to build his strength—but it might have also helped him avoid diabetes, according to a recent British Medical Journal study.

A British research team analyzed six studies on diet and the incidence of type 2 diabetes, in which the body either does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that guides blood sugar (glucose) into cells, or the cells ignore insulin. This results in high circulating levels of glucose, which can lead to cardiovascular and other complications.

The team’s analysis revealed that green, leafy vegetables such as spinach can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes. “Fruit and vegetables are all good, but the data significantly show that green leafy vegetables are particularly interesting, so further investigation is warranted,” says lead study author Patrice Carter, PhD, a nutritionist at the University of Leicester.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 7.8% of all Americans suffer from diabetes. Symptoms can include frequent urination and extreme thirst, unusual fatigue and hunger, slow-healing cuts and bruises, blurred vision and frequent infections. However, many people with type 2 diabetes experience no symptoms at all.

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Plant Fiber May Fight Crohn’s

Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition that causes abdominal pain and weight loss, may respond to a type of fiber found in plantains and broccoli.

Scientists at Britain’s University of Liverpool found that non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) fibers from these plants were able to keep Escherichia coli from invading cells that line the intestinal tract. “This implies that dietary supplementation with such fibers might have a protective effect against Crohn’s
disease relapse by preventing bacterial invasion of the mucosa,” write the research team in the September 2 online version of Gut.

Crohn’s is becoming increasingly common in developed nations where diets tend to feature highly processed foods that are low in fiber. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, is estimated to affect about 1.4 million Americans.

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Quote

I've treated my own depression for many years
with exercise and meditation,
and I've found that to be a tremendous help.


—Judy Collins

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