Can Garlic Aid Memory?

It may, say scientists—by altering bacteria found in the gut.

University of Louisville researchers gave allyl sulfide, the compound responsible for garlic’s health benefits, to 24-month-old mice—the equivalent of people between the ages of 56 and 69. They then compared the rodents to other mice of the same age as well as to mice who were only four months old.

The mice in the allyl sulfide group did better on long- and short-term memory tests than older mice that weren’t supplemented. The mice in the first group also had healthier gut bacteria.

According to results reported to the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting, the study group believed that allyl sulfide was able to increase expression of a gene, NDNF, which codes for a substance that promotes memory formation.

 

NEWS ARCHIVES

Aging & Lifespan

Antioxidants & Telomeres

Folic Acid & Heat Waves

Lipoic Acid & Circadian Rhythm

Omega-3s & Muscle Loss

Resveratrol & Mobility

Spirulina & Liver Aging

 

Alzheimer's Disease

DDT & Alzheimer's Risk

Lighting Changes and Alzheimer's

Vitamin E & Alzheimer's Progression

 

Brain & Mood Health

B Vitamins & Stroke Risk

CoQ10 & Multiple System Atrophy

Curcumin & Brain DHA

Fish Oil & Seizure Frequency

Garlic & Memory Loss

Vitamin B12 & Depression Meds

Vitamin D & Depressive Symptom

Vitamin D & PD Brain Health

Volunteering & Mental Health

Zinc & Traumatic Brain Injury

 

Cancer

Exercise Lack & Ovarian Cancer

Insecticides & Childhood Cancer

Teen Obesity & Colorectal Cancer Risk

Vitamin D & Colon Cancer Treatment

 

Cardiovascular Health

Blueberries & Arterial Health

Female Stroke Guidelines

Folic Acid & Hypertension Risk

Heat Waves & Heart Mortality

Krill Oil & Triglycerides

Magnesium & Metabolic Syndrome

Positive Outlook & Heart Patients

Uric Acid & Metabolic Syndrome

Vitamin C & Endothelial Function  

Vitamin D & CVD Fatalities

 

Child & Pregnancy Health

Breast Milk & S. agalactiae Infection

Childhood Iron Linked to Adult Happiness

Omega-3 & Preterm Birth

Pollution & Fetal Lung Damage

Probiotics & Antibiotics, Reduced Need for

S. Salivarius K12 & Strep Throat  

Vitamin A & Asthma

Vitamin B12 & Infant Reflux

Vitamin D & Labor Pain

Vitamin D & Diabetic Pregnancy

Vitamin D & Miscarriage

 

Diabetes & Blood Sugar

Diabetes Screening, Recommended

Vitamin D & Diabetic Exercise

 

Dental Health

DHA & Gum Infections

Probiotics & Thrush

 

Diet & Fitness

Astaxanthin & Mitochondria

Green Tea Compund & Overeating

Nutrition Facts Update

Vitamin D & Weight Loss

 

Eye Health

Exercise & Macular Degeneration  

Omega-3s & Dry Eye

Smoking Damages Eyesight

Vitamins, Carotenoids & Cataract Risk

Zeaxanthin & Visual Processing

 

Gastrointestinal Health

Gluten-Free Defined

Gluten-Free & Holidays

Omega-3 and Gut Microbiome 

 

General Health News

Climate Change Worsens Health

Curcumin & Liver Health

Fatty Liver & Cardiovascular Risk

Fish Oil & Sepsis

Magnesium Found to Help Set Body Rhythms

Melatonin & Endometriosis Pain

Probiotics & Liver Disease

Probiotics & Metabolic Health

Resveratrol & Cellular Stress Response

Resveratrol & Men’s Bones

Smoking Rates Drop

Vitamin D & Burns 

Vitamin D & Hives

Vitamin E & Fracture Reduction

Watercress High Nutrition

Yoga & Stress Incontinence

 

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss & Everyday Noise

Resveratrol & Hearing Loss

Vitamin B3 & Hearing Loss

 

High Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure & Fitness

Fiber & Blood Pressure

Garlic & Blood Pressure

Grape Seed Extract & Blood Pressure

Vitamin D & Blood Pressure

 

Immunity & Inflammation

Pycnogenol & Cold Symptoms

Vitamin D & Inflammation

Vitamin D, Weight Loss & Inflammation


Pain (including Arthritis & Migraines)

Gut Flora & RA

Vitamin D & Fibromyalgia Pain

Vitamin D & Mobility

Yoga & Chronic Pain

Vitamins Linked to Lower
Cataract Risk

Three vitamins—along with certain nutrients known as carotenoids—have been associated with a lower risk of age-related cataract (ARC) in a recent study.

More than 24.4 million Americans 40 and older have cataracts, in which the eye’s lens becomes cloudy. By age 75, about half of the population has them. Chinese researchers analyzed the results of eight randomized trials and 12 cohort studies to see how nutrient intake affected cataract risk.

According to results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ARC risk reduction was linked to consumption of vitamins A, C and E as well as the carotenoids beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin; the last two have long been linked to reduced risk of another age-related eye disorder called macular degeneration.

 

 

Heavy Smoking Endangers the Eyes

As if you needed another reason to quit: Puffing on more than 20 cigarettes a day can threaten your sight.

So says a group of Brazilian researchers, which based its conclusions on data from a group of healthy volunteers, all between the ages of 25 and 45, divided into two groups, 71 who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes in their lives and 63 who smoked 20 a day.

All the participants had normal vision, either naturally or corrected with lenses. However, in special tests conducted via a cathode-ray monitor, the smokers showed significant changes in both their color vision and in their ability to detect subtle changes in contrast compared with the nonsmokers.

Previous research has implicated smoking as a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, a condition which can lead to blurriness or blank spots in the center of the visual field.

 

 

Probiotics May Aid People
with Liver Disease

Cases of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), in which excess fat accumulates in the liver, are estimated to rise 21% in the US by 2030. But now it appears that beneficial probiotic gut microbes (and the prebiotics that feed them) may decrease the inflammation associated with this disorder.

An Iranian research team split 75 NAFLD patients into four groups: one that received probiotics daily, one that received prebiotics, one that received both and one that received a placebo.

Compared to volunteers in the placebo group, those in the other three groups all lost weight and experienced reductions in body mass index, waist circumference and hip circumference, in addition to seeing their levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a marker of inflammation go down and levels of total antioxidant capacity go up.
Participants who received both pro- and prebiotics also saw marked reductions in C-reactive protein, another inflammation marker, according to results published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

 

 

CES 2019 Will Explore How Tech, Health Converge

By Michael Weiss

How will cutting-edge technology advance healthcare by eliminating the revolving-door practices that give patients mere minutes of face-time with their doctors? And how will these tech advances cut reliance on pharmaceuticals, and bring advanced medical care out of the hospital and into the home? And what are the latest and greatest tech devices in the health field?

Healthcare practitioners, experts and tech gurus will tackle these and other questions at the Digital Health Summit, one of the conference tracks at the upcoming CES technology show in Las Vegas. This Digital Health Summit marks its 10th anniversary at CES, which runs from January 8-11, so speakers will take a birds-eye view of the issues and explore how health and tech will unfold over the next decade.

In a morning session titled “Unleashing the Power of Innovation on the Next Decade” on Day 1 of the confab, Daniel Kraft, MD, the Faculty Chair for Medicine at the think tank Singularity University and Founder and Chair of Exponential Medicine, will deliver a keynote speech on how technologies of the past, present and future will impact biomedicine and healthcare. Exponential Medicine itself is a conference that aims to break from old thinking about healthcare.

Among speakers joining Kraft for his session will be representatives of consumer wearables maker FitBit and Akili Labs, a digital therapeutics company advancing digital treatments though video games.

Mehmet Oz, MD, the television personality and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University, will moderate a session on the science of sleep and genetics. Another session will explore how artificial intelligence and other tech enhancements will advance hearables, the next generations of hearing aids; some 48 million Americans, or a fifth of the U.S. population, endure some hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Another topical session will examine the country’s opioid crisis and how discreet, implantable neural devices can help alleviate pain, a root cause of opioid addiction. To learn more about Digital Health Summit sessions, visit digitalhealthsummit.com/2019-agenda/.

 

Diabetic Expectant Moms, Babies
Both Benefit from Vitamin D

Scientists already knew that having adequate amounts of vitamin D in one’s blood reduces insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Now it appears that giving supplemental vitamin D to expectant mothers with diabetes not only improves the women’s health, but also helps their newborns as well.

An Iranian research team pooled together a number of clinical studies, involving a total of 310 women, and analyzed the results. Compared with women who took placebos during pregnancy, women who took vitamin D supplements showed improvements in fasting glucose, cholesterol levels and levels of a key inflammation marker called hs-CRP.

In addition, babies born to women in the supplement group had a lower risk of developing hyperbilirubinemia, in which a red blood cell breakdown product called bilirubin builds up in a baby’s blood and tissues. This can cause jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Results were reported in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.

 

Probiotic Use May Reduce Kids’
Need for Antibiotics

The use of probiotic supplementation has become a nearly standard recommendation when someone has to take antibiotics to fight an infection. Now it appears that boosting a child’s microbiome may reduce the need for microbe-killing drugs in the first place.

A study team led by the Georgetown University School of Medicine analyzed the results of 12 previously conducted studies and found that children were 29% less likely to have been prescribed antibiotics if they had been given supplemental probiotics on a daily basis.

Reducing antibiotic usage is crucial to avoid the runaway infections that can occur when bacteria become resistant to the drugs. According to government statistics, at least 2 million Americans fall ill to antibiotic-resistant infections each year, leading to at least 23,000 deaths.

“We don’t know all the mechanisms probiotic strains may leverage,” said lead author Daniel Merenstein, MD, a member of the GUSM faculty. “But since most of the human immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract, ingesting healthy bacteria may competitively exclude bacterial pathogens linked to gut infections and may prime the immune system to fight others.”

 

Lighting Changes May Calm People with Alzheimer’s

People with Alzheimer’s disease often develop sleep and mood problems. However, there appears to be one simple way to help: A change in lighting.

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, working with nursing homes in three states, changed the lighting to more closely resemble the day-night patterns of natural light, using either existing room fixtures or an LED light table. The study team then saw how Alzheimer’s patients responded to the new arrangements, following 43 patients for four weeks and 37 individuals for six months. Light meters measured each participant’s exposure.

Alzheimer’s renders people prone to anxiety, irritability and disturbed sleep. These conditions aren’t helped by standard institutional lighting, which often varies without regard to natural light patterns.

Patients showed significant improvement after four weeks; after six months, scores on sleep disturbance tests were cut by about half. Depression scores also improved.
Results were reported at the Alzheimer’s Association annual meeting.

 

 

Vitamin D May Reduce Risk
of Miscarriage

Women who have suffered miscarriages may be more likely to have a successful pregnancy if they have adequate levels of vitamin D.

Researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development looked at vitamin D levels in 1,200 women with a history of miscarriages before they became pregnant again. Levels were rechecked eight weeks into the women’s pregnancies.

Women who had sufficient levels of vitamin D-- 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or more—were 10% more likely to become pregnant and 15% more likely to bear live children than women with insufficient levels.

Results were published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

 

 

Fish Oil May Reduce Mortality
for Patients with Sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening infection complication, but fish oil has shown an ability to help keep sepsis patients alive in a recent study.

The body responds to infection by releasing immune agents into the bloodstream.

However, in some cases—generally among older people who are already hospitalized—this causes a whole-body inflammatory response that can lead to multiple organ failure. Sepsis requires intensive care and has a high mortality rate.

A study team at China’s Fudan University divided 112 hospitalized sepsis patients into two groups. Those in one group received standard sepsis treatment, while the others were given parenteral (IV) nutrition containing fish oil.

Mortality was reduced in both groups. However, the rate of reduction in the fish-oil group was 20%, compared with 10% in the standard-care group. The patients receiving fish oil also tended to have shorter ICU stays.

Study results were reported in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

 

 

 

Vitamin D May Aid Burn Patients

Taking vitamin D supplements may enhance healing among people recovering from serious burns, according to a recent study.

British doctors followed burn patients, as well as healthy controls, over the course of a year. They found that those participants who had suffered severe burns showed significant reductions in vitamin D levels. In results presented to the UK’s Society for Endocrinology annual conference, the study team speculated that D levels may drop even when minor burns occur.

“Low vitamin D levels were associated with worse outcomes in burn patients including life-threatening infections, mortality and delayed wound healing,” the team noted. D reductions were “also associated with worse scarring.”

The team suggested that high-dose supplementation might help counteract this effect but that clinical trials would be needed to verify the effectiveness of such a treatment.

 

In Women, Fatty Liver Ups Cardiovascular Risk

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, has been linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular problems in women—but not in men—in a recent study.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic compared data taken from 3,869 people who had been diagnosed with NAFLD between 1997 and 2014 with that taken from 15,209 people with healthy livers. All lived in the same area and were matched in terms of gender, age and pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Women tend to develop heart problems later in life because of estrogen’s cardio-protective effects.

The study team followed the participants for up to two decades and noted the appearance of “new cardiovascular events” including heart attack, stroke, rapid heartbeat and similar issues. The team found that “in NAFLD, the protective effect of the female sex on cardiovascular risk disappears,” said study leader Alina Allen, MD, in reporting results to a meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

According to the American Liver Foundation, NAFLD occurs when extra fat cells build up within the liver, which serves as the body’s main chemical processing plant, and can lead to liver scarring, or cirrhosis. Diabetes and obesity are risk factors for the disorder, which is estimated to affect up to 25% of the US population.

 

 

Omega-3 Linked to a More Diverse
Gut Microbiome

The micro-organisms that live in the digestive tract, known as the gut microbiome, tend to become more diverse as the consumption of omega-3 fats goes up.

British scientists examined data from 876 women who had previously taken part in a study on the gut microbiome and weight gain. The team behind the current study found that the intake of omega-3s from food was “strongly associated with the diversity and number of species of healthy bacteria in the gut.”

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the team concluded, “These data suggest the potential use of omega-3 supplementation to improve the microbiome composition.”

 

Spirulina May Alter Gut Microbes to Defend Against Age-Related Damage

One of the harmful effects of aging is an increase in liver inflammation. However, early studies indicate that spirulina, an algae often used in shakes and supplements, may help fight this problem by altering microbes in the intestines.

Belgian researchers worked with three groups of mice, one consisting of young animals (three months) and two groups of older mice (24 months). All were fed a standard diet; one of the older groups also received spirulina supplements.

The scientists found changes in the species mix within the gut microbes of the supplemented animals. These changes correlated with reductions in markers for liver inflammation.

Results were reported in the journal Nutrients.

 

Leisure Time May Lower
Caregiver Blood Pressure

Taking care of a spouse with Alzheimer’s is a difficult job, especially if you aren’t young yourself. But taking time for leisure activities may help bring your blood pressure down, according to a recent study.

The participants, 126 men and women providing in-home care for a spouse, were enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Study at UC San Diego. Their average age was 74.
Over five years, the enrollees provided information annually on how often they engaged in enjoyable activities, the most common of which included watching TV, listening to music, reading and spending time outdoors. About half said they exercised on a regular basis.

Not surprisingly, those caregivers who exercised most frequently saw drops in a measure of average BP called mean arterial blood pressure. However, even engaging in more sedentary leisure activities had a beneficial effect on pressure readings. The decreases were significant for the lower diastolic number but not for the higher systolic reading.
In a finding consistent with previous research, pressure readings also dropped when the afflicted spouse died or was placed in a nursing home.

Results were reported in Psychosomatic Medicine.

"We recognize caregivers may have a difficult time engaging in pleasant leisure activities because they are busy with their caregiving duties," said lead author Brent T. Mausbach, PhD. "So we work with caregivers to find activities they can more confidently engage in even when their spouse is present.”

 

 

Curcumin May Help People
with Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, marked by abnormal accumulations of fat within the liver, is a growing problem. But supplemental curcumin may help patients avoid some of the metabolic dysfunctions associated with NAFLD.

Iranian researchers randomly assigned NAFLD patients to take either 1,000 milligrams a day of curcumin (in two divided doses) or a placebo for eight weeks. Curcumin is the most prominent phytonutrient found in turmeric, a spice used freely in Indian cuisine.

According to results published in Drug Research, those in the supplement group showed reductions in waist circumference, cholesterol and levels of AST and ALT, enzymes that serve as liver disease markers. The supplement takers also showed improvements on their sonograms.

If untreated, NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and eventually liver failure.

 

Everyday Noises Can
Harm Your Hearing

If you find yourself saying, “What?” a lot, you’re not alone: Millions of Americans suffer from hearing problems caused by leaf blowers, headphones and other everyday noise sources.

It was once thought that most noise-related hearing loss came from exposure to loud sounds associated with employment, such as factory noise. However, a study by the Centers for Disease Control found that 53% of adults with such hearing loss reported no such exposure.

What’s more, the CDC found that a quarter of all adults who believe their hearing is good actually have some hearing damage.

Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can damage hearing, and such noise sources are prevalent. A leaf blower, for example, produces 90 decibels, a siren produces 120 and even traffic noise while in a car can reach 80 decibels.

"People may not realize these kinds of exposures can cause permanent damage,” says the CDC’s Anne Schuchat, MD. "The louder the noise and the longer you are exposed to it, the more likely it will damage your hearing."

According to the CDC, trouble with hearing is the third most commonly reported chronic health condition, with about 40 million Americans between the ages 20 and 69 having hearing loss in one or both ears from all causes. The CDC adds that untreated hearing loss is associated with anxiety, depression, loneliness and stress.

 

Probiotic Strain’s Ability to Protect Children’s Throats Is Long-Lasting

Streptococcus salivarius K12, a species of beneficial probiotic bacteria, was found to protect children’s throats even after the treatment was stopped in a recent study.
Italian scientists gave S. salivarius K12 for 90 days to 48 youngsters who had suffered from strep throat the previous year and then followed them for nine months; 76 children who hadn’t had strep were also followed as a control group. The treatment group experienced a 90% reduction in strep throat cases, which increased by 30% among members of the untreated control group.

Children in the S. salivarius K12 group also experienced fewer episodes of other upper respiratory woes including ear infections, laryngitis and nasal inflammation.
Results were published in Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety.

 

 

 

Green Tea Constituent May Counter
Overeating Related to High Fat Intake

EGCG, a compound found in green tea best known for its antioxidant and cardio-protective effects, may reduce the tendency to overeat that can result from a high-fat diet.
A research team in Singapore came to this conclusion after distributing lab mice among three diet groups. The mice in one group ate normal mouse chow, while the others ate a high-fat diet for either one week or three months. Animals in all three groups were given EGCG.

EGCG supplementation didn’t affect feeding behavior in the first group but did constrain daytime overconsumption in the two high-fat diet groups, noting that EGCG altered expression of “key appetite-regulating genes.”
Study results were published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

 

Breast Milk May Protect Newborns Against Life-Threatening Infection

A sugar found in some women’s breast milk may help defend babies against a potentially deadly bacterium by feeding the helpful probiotic microbes within the child’s intestines.
A British research team found that women whose milk contained the protein lacto-N-difucohexaose I were able to eliminate the bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae from their children’s intestines by roughly two months after birth. About half of all women are believed to produce this protein.

S. agalactiae can cause blood, lung or central nervous system infections. Symptoms may include abnormal body temperature, lethargy, rapid breathing, irritability, and trouble feeding.

The team’s report appears in Clinical & Translational Immunology.

 

Older Volunteers May Enjoy
Better Mental Health

It seems that helping others may boost your mental well-being—at least if you’re older.
That’s the conclusion reached by a team of British researchers, who believe doing volunteer work gives people in midlife and beyond a “personal sense of accomplishment” and may help them maintain social contacts.

The study team took their findings from the British Household Panel Survey conducted yearly between 1991 and 2008. This survey involved adults from 5,000 households; topics ranged from income to consumption patterns to education.

In addition to being asked about the time they spent doing formal volunteer work, participants were asked questions that assessed their happiness, levels of depression and other conditions, and overall mental well-being. A correlation between volunteerism and mental health only started to manifest itself at about age 40 and continued onward.

In the journal BMJ Open, the team wrote, “These findings argue for more efforts to involve middle-aged people to older people in volunteering-related activities.”

 

Reduced Levels of CoQ10 Associated with Nerve Degeneration

Low amounts of coenzyme Q10, a substance vital to cellular energy production, have been found in people with a neurodegenerative disorder called multiple system atrophy.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo studied data from 44 patients with MSA, marked by symptoms such as movement and heart rate difficulties, and 39 healthy controls. They found significantly lower levels of CoQ10 in the MSA patients’ blood, according to results published in JAMA Neurology.

CoQ10 is a vitamin-like compound. Also known as ubiquinol because it is found throughout the body, CoQ10 is concentrated in the mitochondria, cellular structures that generate energy, and serves as a free radical-fighting antioxidant.

MSA is rare, affecting perhaps as many as 50,000 Americans according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Symptoms are progressive and are caused by the death of neurons in the brain and spinal cord.

 

Lack of Exercise Linked to
Ovarian Cancer

Another reason to lace up your sneakers: Recent research suggests that not getting enough exercise may raise your risk of developing ovarian cancer.

In one study, data from more than 8,300 women with ovarian cancer was compared to that taken from 12,600 women who didn’t have the disease. Those who reported engaging in no recreational physical activity throughout their lifetimes were 34% more likely to develop malignancies than those who were active on a regular basis, according to an online report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Another investigation, published online in the British Journal of Cancer, looked at 6,800 ovarian cancer patients. Those who were inactive in the year before they were diagnosed were 22% to 34% more likely to die of their disease than patients who had done some regular weekly exercise.

Both studies were led by Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

 

Magnesium Found to Help
Set Body Rhythms

Our bodies run on a 24-hour clock called a circadian rhythm that controls when we feel sleepy and when we feel awake. Now scientists have discovered that the mineral magnesium plays a key role in helping this rhythm keep a steady beat.

A British study team found that magnesium levels increased and decreased with the daily day/night cycle in not only human cells but algae and fungi as well. This cycle affected the cells’ ability to create energy; energy production rose when magnesium rose and fell when it fell.

These results were published in the journal Nature.

While noting that most research has focused on the role magnesium plays in various tissues, lead study author John O’Neill, PhD said that how magnesium “regulates our body’s internal clock and metabolism has simply not been considered before….The new discovery could lead to a whole range of benefits spanning human health to agricultural productivity.”

 

Exercising Moms-to-Be May
Mean More Active Kids

Staying physically fit during pregnancy might not just help keep a woman healthy—evidence now suggests it may lead her child to move more in adulthood.
While scientists have made this observation before in people, they couldn’t tell if this effect was caused by a mother-to-be’s exercise habits or by how she influenced her child after he or she was born. Working with mice would allow them to bypass such post-natal behavioral factors.

So a research team led by the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine divided a group of female mice who enjoyed running into two groups: One was allowed access to exercise wheels before and during pregnancy while the other wasn’t. Mice in the first group made good use of their opportunity, running an average of 10 kilometers—a little over six miles—a night during early pregnancy and running or walking about 3 kilometers a night at the beginning of their third trimesters.

Mice pups born to the more active mothers were about 50% more physically active than those born to the non-exercising mothers. What’s more, this extra activity persisted into the animals’ later years.

“Although most people assume that an individual’s tendency to be physical active is determined by genetics, our results clearly show that the environment can play an important role during fetal development,” said Baylor associate professor Robert Waterland, PhD, the study’s senior author. “If expectant mothers know that exercise is not only good for them but also may offer lifelong benefits for their babies, I think they will be more motivated to get moving.”

Results were published in The FASEB Journal.

 

Omega-3 Linked to Reduced
Risk of Early Preterm Birth

Women who took omega-3 supplements during pregnancy were 58% less likely to deliver early preterm babies, according to a recent study.

A team of researchers from several London hospitals analyzed results from clinical trials in which the effects of omega-3 supplementation on early preterm delivery were evaluated. Infants born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered preterm; those born before 34 weeks are considered early preterm.

In addition to reduced risk of early delivery, the study team found that babies of mothers who took omega-3 fatty acids were carried for longer periods of time and weighed more at birth.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in preventing early and any preterm delivery,” the team wrote in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. “The intervention is simple and easily available and has the potential to influence population based strategies in the prevention of preterm birth.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2014, one in every 10 US infants was born before being carried to term. Being born prematurely increases a child’s risk of dying or suffering long-term neurological deficits.

 

Grape Seed Extract May
Lower Blood Pressure

People who took grape seed extract in a recent study experienced reductions in systolic blood pressure, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

A research team led by the Center for Nutritional Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago gave juice with either grape seed extract or a placebo to 36 middle-aged volunteers with prehypertension, or numbers between normal at 120/80 and outright hypertension starting at 140/90. Only 29 completed the entire protocol and were included in the study results.

After six weeks, people who took the extract-enhanced juice saw their systolic blood pressure—the top number that measures pressure while the heart beats—drop by a “significant” 5.6%. Those with the highest readings to begin with experienced the greatest declines.

In addition, consumption of grape seed extract tended to lower fasting insulin levels, a sign that the body is responding better to blood sugar.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 80 million Americans—roughly a third of the adult population—has high blood pressure, with only half of them controlling it successfully.

 

Staying Positive Helps
Cardiac Patients

Do you suffer from heart disease? Taking an optimistic outlook about your situation may make it easier to avoid further cardiovascular problems.

That’s the conclusion reached by a study team led by Penn State’s Center for Healthy Aging after analyzing data from more than 1,000 heart patients. Those who rated themselves as being active, determined, enthusiastic, interested and strong were up to 50% more likely to exercise, stay on their meds and take other cardiac-healthy steps. They were also less likely to smoke.

Results were published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

“We can’t say that positive emotions led to those healthier behaviors,” said lead researcher Nancy Sin, PhD, pointing out that positivity and healthy habits tend to feed each other.

What if someone isn’t so upbeat? Sim suggested starting small: “Take a walk every day. Have a conversation with a good friend. Take a moment just to think about what you’re grateful for in your life.”

 

Few Adults Smoking
Than a Decade Ago

Less than 17% of American adults said they smoke in a 2014 survey, down from nearly 21% in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, the average number of cigarettes smoked each day dropped from almost 17 to fewer than 14 over the same time period.

Good news as that is, the CDC reports there is still room for improvement. For example, people with a high school degree and those who were poor (Medicaid instead of Medicare or private insurance) were more likely to smoke than other Americans, with smoking rates of 43% and 29% respectively.

These figures appear in the November 13 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Other data suggest that just over 9% of high schoolers smoke cigarettes.

“Interventions like increasing the price of tobacco and the passage of comprehensive smoke-free laws at both the state and local levels have made a difference,” says the CDC’s Brian King, PhD, MPH, who also credited public education campaigns.

 

 

Higher Fiber Intake May Mean
Lower Blood Pressure

Trying to bring down your blood pressure numbers? You may want to try increasing your fiber consumption.

That’s the conclusion reached by a multinational study team writing in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers from Imperial College London in the UK and Northwestern University in the US analyzed data from 2,195 American participants in the INTERnational study on Macro/micronutrients and blood Pressure (INTERMAP). The volunteers did four dietary recalls and went for medical testing four times between 1996 and 1999.

The study team found and link between increasing fiber intake by 6.8 grams per 1,000 kilocalories and a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 1.69 mmHg. The systolic reading, the top number, represents the pressure exerted against artery walls when the heart beats (the lower diastolic number represents pressure between beats).

The researchers cited a number of possible reasons for the findings, including the ability of fiber to improve blood vessel function by inhibiting absorption of sodium from the digestive tract and to help control blood sugar levels.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 70 million Americans—one of every three—has high blood pressure (hypertension), a leading cause of stroke and heart disease.

 

 

Indoor Pesticides Linked to
Childhood Cancer

Children living in homes treated with insecticides may have a higher risk of developing blood cancers, according to a recent study.

A research team at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed 16 studies, all conducted between 1993 and 2013, in which children with cancer were compared with healthy youngsters. Pesticide exposure was determined through interviewing the children’s parents.

As reported in the journal Pediatrics, children who were exposed to insecticides were 43% to 47% more likely to have leukemia or lymphoma. Those exposed to outdoor weedkillers were 26% more likely to develop leukemia.

Leukemia arises in blood-forming cells found in bone marrow. Lymphoma starts in immune-system cells, including the while blood cells found in blood.

Cancer, which increases in incidence with age, is relatively rare in children. According to the American Cancer Society, 4,170 children under age 14 were diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma in 2014. Leukemia accounts for almost a third of all childhood cancer cases.

 

Omega-3s May Soothe Dry Eyes

Eyes scratchy from too much computer time? You may want to increase your omega-3 intake.

Scientists at the Laser Eye Clinic in Noida, India, conducted a study of 478 people who used computers at least three hours a day and complained of dry, uncomfortable eyes. The volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Those in the first group took daily omega-3 (EPA/DHA) supplements for three months, while the others took an olive-oil placebo.

Participants taking the omega-3 experienced “significant improvement” in both symptoms and measurable markers such as decreased tear evaporation rates. In the journal Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, the study team stated that “70% of patients (in the omega group) were totally symptom-free in contrast to 14.9% of patients in the placebo group.”

The study team said the results of their research “suggest that omega-3 dietary supplementation improves inherent tear film stability rather than increasing tear volume and production.”

 

Omega-3s May Help Counteract
Muscle Loss

It is not uncommon for older people to lose muscle mass as they age, a process called sarcopenia. However, a new study suggests that omega-3s may help slow this process.

A research group at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis gave either omega-3 or placebo to 60 healthy volunteers between the ages of 60 and 85. After six months, omega-3 supplementation was associated with a 3.6% increase in thigh muscle volume and a 4% increase in strength.

Results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The group concluded, “These data show that fish oil-derived omega-3…supplementation deserves consideration as a potential therapy to slow, and possibly prevent, the aging-associated decline in physical function.”

Age-related muscle loss has been associated with increased frailty and vulnerability to falls.

 

Probiotics May Reduce
Oral Fungus Counts

Candida, the fungus most commonly associated with vaginal infections, can also cause an oral disorder called thrush. However, probiotic lozenges were able to lower Candida levels in a recent study.

European researchers gave either the probiotic supplements or placebos to 215 nursing home residents between the ages of 60 and 102 for 12 weeks. The probiotic reduced candida counts by more than 50%.

Results were published in the Journal of Dental Research.

Thrush, which causes white lesions to appear in the mouth, can affect anyone. The elderly are particularly prone, however, because of such factors as denture usage, impaired immunity, poor nutrition and dementia.

 

 

Smokers More Likely to Quit as Smoking Rates Decline

Fewer and fewer Americans are smoking nowadays, which appears to be encouraging the remaining smokers to try kicking the habit.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco analyzed data on tobacco use from surveys taken between 1992 and 2011 by the US Census Bureau. Adult smoking rates have fallen from about 42% in 1965 to about 18% now.

The study team discovered that for every 1% drop in the smoker population, those who successfully quit rises by about 1% and those who try to quit goes up by 0.6%. In addition, those who continue to light up smoke 0.32% fewer cigarettes a day, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that approximately 42 million people smoke.

Study results have been published online in the journal Tobacco Control.
The researchers believe their results support the public health anti-smoking strategies that have become increasingly common over the past several decades.

“This goes to show that the policies that are in place right now are working,” says lead author Margarete Kulik, PhD, of UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. “The perception of smoking is changing in the population, and smokers are feeling that influence.”

 

Carotenoids May Sharpen
Visual Processing

Zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that with lutein helps support sight among seniors, may enhance vision in younger people with or without its more famous partner.

Researchers from two institutions gave zeaxanthin by itself, combined with lutein and omega-3, or a placebo to 69 people between the ages of 18 and 32. Neither the volunteers nor the researchers knew who was taking which supplement.

After four months, density of the macula, the central part of the retina, increased by 20% in those who took supplements. Previously published research has found a link between zeaxanthin and lutein consumption and greater macular density in older people with macular degeneration.

In the current study, though, the participants’ temporal processing speed—a measure of how fast the brain can process visual information—also increased by 20%.

“This latter point is significant since young healthy subjects are typically considered to be at peak efficiency,” the team wrote in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

 

Weight Loss Plus Vitamin D
May Lower Inflammation

Weight loss combined with vitamin D supplementation has been associated with reductions in harmful chronic inflammation.

Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle had 218 overweight women with lower-than-recommended D levels participate in a year-long diet and exercise program; half the volunteers received 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day while the others took a placebo.

According to a report in Cancer Prevention Research, all the participants had lower inflammation levels at the end of the study but those in the vitamin D group who lost at least 5% of their body weight experienced the biggest drops in inflammation.

Chronic low-level inflammation has been associated with ill health, including certain types of cancer.

 

Teen Obesity Linked to
Adult Colon Cancer

Men who had been overweight in late adolescence had a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC) than their normal-weight counterparts in a recent study.

A Harvard-led multinational research team analyzed data taken from 239,658 Swedish men who had undergone compulsory conscription examinations between 1969 and 1976, when they were between 16 and 20 years old. The assessments included measurements of body mass index (BMI) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), a marker of chronic inflammation. More than 80% were at an appropriate weight for their height; only 1% were obese, while nearly 6.5% were overweight to some degree (the others were underweight).

By 2010, 885 of the men had developed CRC. Those who had been obese as teens, defined as a BMI of 30 or more, had a 2.38-fold higher risk of cancer development.

Those in the upper-overweight range (a BMI of 27.5 to 30) had a 2.08-fold higher risk. Higher ESR was also associated with increased risk. (Previous research had established a link between higher adult BMI and CRC.)

In the journal Gut, the researchers wrote that their results “suggest that BMI and inflammation, as measured by ESR, in early life may be important to the development of CRC.”

 

Curcumin May Boost Brain
Levels of DHA

Increasing one’s intake of curcumin may lead to a rise in levels of the omega-3 fat DHA, which is critical for brain health.

Using both cell cultures and animal models, UCLA researchers found that curcumin encourages the creation of DHA, one of the omega-3s found in marine-based oils, from a building-block fat called ALA.

“We report novel data showing that curcumin elevates DHA synthesis from omega-3 precursors in liver cells, and that in combination with dietary ALA, increases DHA content in vivo (in living beings) in both the liver and the brain,” the study team wrote in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta.

The team also found that curcumin and ALA reduced anxiety-related behaviors in rats.

 

Folic Acid May Help Seniors
Deal with High Heat

A Penn State study has found that folic acid may help older people avoid cardiovascular events during heat waves.

According to a report in Clinical Science, 11 older people and 11 younger ones took part in two placebo-controlled sub-studies conducted by Pennsylvania State University researchers; one involved localized heat treatment and folic acid delivery, the other whole-body heating and folic acid supplements.

In both cases, blood vessels in the older participants’ skin were better able to relax and widen when folic acid was administered. This allowed the older group to better disperse heat from their body cores, a factor in avoiding heart attacks and strokes.

One reason older people are more prone to cardiovascular incidents in hot weather is that older blood vessels produce less nitric oxide, the substance that allows arteries to widen and carry more blood. This allows the body to circulate excess heat, via the bloodstream, from its core to the surface, where the heat can be dissipated.

 

Can Yoga Reverse Pain’s 
Brain Effects?

Yoga may be able to counteract the kinds of brain changes seen in people with chronic pain.

Brain imaging studies on pain patients have shown losses in brain tissue known as gray matter; such losses have been linked to problems with memory, emotions and cognitive function. However, “practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as does chronic pain,” said M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health before the American Pain Society’s recent annual meeting.

People who practice yoga have shown more gray matter than other volunteers in multiple studies. “Some gray matter increases in yogis correspond to duration of yoga practice, which suggests there is a causative link between yoga and gray matter increases,” said Bushnell, scientific director of the Division of Intramural Health in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

She noted that such increases were most significant in a part of the brain called the insula, and added, “Increases in insula gray matter can result from ongoing yoga practice.”

A 2011 Institute of Medicine report estimated that more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, accounting for $600 billion a year in costs related to medical treatments and lost productivity.

 

Folic Acid May Reduce Hypertension-Related Stroke Risk

Hypertension is a known risk factor for stroke. However, folic acid has been linked to reduced stroke risk among people with hypertension in a recent study.

Researchers at Beijing’s Peking University First Hospital followed more than 20,000 Chinese adults who had high blood pressure but hadn’t yet suffered a stroke or heart attack. The participants were randomly assigned to take either a standard hypertension medication by itself or a pill that combined the same medication with folic acid. The participants were followed for an average of 4.5 years.

Stroke risk among people taking the medication/vitamin combination was 21% lower compared with those taking medication alone, according to results published in JAMA. Folic acid supplementation was also associated with reductions in risk for heart attacks and cardiac-related deaths.

In a related JAMA editorial, Meir Stampfer, MD, and Walter Willett, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health wrote that the Chinese researchers’ findings have “important implications for stroke prevention worldwide.”

 

Low Vitamin D Linked to
Depression Symptoms

Young women with relatively lower levels of vitamin D were more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms in an Oregon State University study.

According to a report in Psychiatry Research, 185 female college students, all between the ages of 18 and 25, had their blood D levels tested and then completed a depression symptom survey every week for five weeks. More than a third of the participants reported feeling depressed, which was found to correlate with lower vitamin D levels.

Of the participants whose vitamin levels below those optimal for health, many were women of color—61% compared with 35% of the other volunteers.

The body produces its own vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin. However, many people who live in colder, largely overcast climate such as the Pacific Northwest are at risk for low D because of insufficient skin exposure. What’s more, darker skin also tends to produce suboptimal amount of vitamin D, leaving African Americans at risk for D insufficiency.

 

Vitamin D May Make Movement Easier for People with Weight Issues

People with osteoarthritis who carry excess weight, but who have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their blood, tend to move more freely than D-deficient individuals.

Researchers from the University of Florida examined data from 256 middle-aged people, all of whom were classified as obese. Participants with sufficient vitamin D levels were better able to walk, balance and rise from a sitting position than those whose levels were deemed inadequate. Those in the first group also reported less knee pain.

The results, which the researchers say shows correlation but not necessarily causation, have been published online in The Clinical Journal of Pain.

“Adequate vitamin D may be significant to improving osteoarthritis pain because it affects bone quality and protects cell function to help reduce inflammation. Vitamin D maintains calcium and phosphate concentration levels to keep bones strong,” says lead author Toni Glover, PhD. “Increased pain due to osteoarthritis could limit physical activity, including outdoor activity, which would lead to both decreased vitamin D levels and increased obesity.”

 

Pycnogenol May Sharpen Thinking

The pine-bark extract Pycnogenol boosted attention, memory and decision making in a recent study.

Scientists at Italy’s Chieti-Pescara University gave daily Pycnogenol supplements to 30 healthy professionals along with a lifestyle plan that included a balanced diet, exercising daily and getting adequate sleep. A control group of 29 volunteers only followed the plan.

After 12 weeks, mental performance scores went up by 8.9% by members of the Pycnogenol group compared with an increase of only 3.1% for the control group. Taking the supplement was also associated with a16% improvement in mood, against a 2.1% decrease among the controls. Memory and sustained attention scores also rose among participants taking Pycnogenol.

Results were reported in the Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences.

 

Astaxanthin May Aid Athletes by Protecting Mitochondria

The marine-based antioxidant astaxanthin is being used increasingly by athletes to enhance performance and fight fatigue. Now a group of Brazilian researchers believe they know at least one reason for its effectiveness: It protects mitochondria, the cell’s power plants, against free-radical damage.

Scientists from Cruzeiro do Sul University and the University of Sao Paulo gave astaxanthin to rats. After 45 days, the supplemented animals were able to swim for 30% longer than rats in a control group.

The carotenoid reduced “exercise-induced iron overload and its related pro-oxidant effects in the plasma of exercising animals,” the group wrote in the journal Nutrients. “Astaxanthin supplementation can be suggested as a nutritional additive to improve aerobic-like exercise performance in humans.”

 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
May Be Relabeled

Once often dismissed as a non-existent complaint, chronic fatigue syndrome—marked by a debilitating lack of energy—may soon be subject to an updated set of diagnostic criteria and a new designation.

A committee convened by the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit group that advises the US government on medical matters, recommends that CFS be renamed “systemic exertion intolerance disease.” The fact that this disorder goes by yet another name, “myalgic encephalomyelitis,” indicates how difficult it has been to diagnose.

“I believe we are at tipping point for people suffering from ME/CFS, where we are going to be able to get people diagnosed, and with that diagnosis comes the ability for us to really lay the groundwork for much more effective treatment for ME/CFS,” said Suzanne Vernon, PhD, scientific director of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative. The group says that at least 1 million Americans are affected by this disorder.

According to the IOM recommendations, ME/CFS, or SEID, is marked by three main symptoms:

  • Impaired ability to engage in pre-illness levels of activity for more than six months, along with deep fatigue
  • Symptoms that become worse with any kind of physical or mental exertion, or emotional stress
  • Sleep that does not alleviate the fatigue

A positive diagnosis will also require the presence of one of an additional two symptoms:

  • Impaired cognition
  • Inability to remain upright, with improvement that comes when the person lies down

According to the Solve ME/CFS Initiative, patients may also suffer from a variety of other problems including digestive troubles, chills and night sweats, visual disturbances, mood difficulties, gynecological issues and allergies or sensitivities.

The IOM committee also recommended the development of a toolkit that would help physicians diagnose CFS, and that the IOM should look at the issue again in five years to make changes based on intervening research.

CFS is difficult to diagnose because there are no tests for it and because its symptoms are shared with many other disorders. It is believed that versions of this disorder have been noted by physicians going back to at least the 19th century under such labels as “neurasthenia” and “atypical poliomyelitis.” In the 1980s it was sometimes called “yuppy flu” because it seemed to mostly affect young professionals.

 

Vitamin D May Enhance Exercise Effects in Diabetics

Older women with type 2 diabetes who combined vitamin D supplementation with circuit training saw greater benefits than those who simply exercised in a recent study.

The 52 women were recruited by researchers at Korea’s Kyung Hee University. Each was assigned to one of four groups: circuit training, which involves moving between exercises in a defined sequence, alone; vitamin D supplementation alone; training and supplementation combined; and neither (control group). All the participants were deficient in vitamin D at the beginning of the study.

After 12 weeks, women in the training/supplementation group showed the greatest improvements in insulin resistance (in which cells don’t respond to insulin properly), body composition, especially reduced abdominal fat, and blood lipids, including total, LDL and HDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides.

Results were published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry.

 

Garlic Supplements May Lower BP

People with hypertension who take garlic supplements may see their pressure drop.
Scientists at the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University in China, analyzing 17 clinical studies, found that garlic could lower systolic (upper number) pressure by 3.75 mmHg and diastolic (lower number) pressure by 3.39 mmHg. This effect only occurred in people with pre-existing hypertension.

The studies included trials that used garlic powder, aged garlic extract and garlic oil.
The research team reported in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, “Our meta-analysis suggests that garlic supplementation is superior to placebo in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive patients, especially those with high systolic blood pressure.”

The scientists weren’t sure what accounted for garlic’s anti-hypertensive effects, but speculated that it might be that allicin, the main phytonutrient in garlic, was able to fight free radical damage in blood vessel walls.

 

Resveratrol May Promote
Protective Stress Response

Resveratrol, the phytonutrient best known for giving red wine its healthy reputation, may activate a helpful response to stress within human cells.
That’s the conclusion reached by a study team from the Scripps Research Institute, a private nonprofit organization that focuses on biomedical science.

Enzymes known as tRNA synthetases are normally involved in the production of the amino acid tyrosine within cells. The Scripps team found that resveratrol mimicked tyrosine, freeing the tRNA synthetase metabolic pathway to focus on activating a key stress response and DNA-repair factor called PARP-1 in the cell nucleus.

“Based on these results, it is conceivable that moderate consumption of a couple of glasses of red wine would give a person enough resveratrol to evoke a protective effect via this pathway,” wrote the researchers in the journal Nature.
Resveratrol has been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help protect against cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
In addition to red wine, resveratrol is also found in red grapes and peanuts as well as the herb Polygonum cuspidatum, the source of most supplemental resveratrol.

 

 

Pycnogenol May Ease
Cold Symptoms

Supplementation with Pycnogenol, an extract taken from the bark of the French maritime pine, has reduced the duration and severity of colds in a recent investigation.

For this study Italian researchers recruited 146 healthy volunteers between the ages of 25 and 65, none of whom had been vaccinated against the flu within the previous three months. The control group, 76 participants, managed their cold symptoms as they usually did. The other 70 people took Pycnogenol in addition to their usual cold-treatment program.

Those who took the pine bark extract saw their colds shortened by about a day, including reductions in symptoms such as cough, sneezing, runny nose and scratchy throat. The supplement group also lost less time from work and took fewer over-the-counter cold remedies.

“This new study finds Pycnogenol to be a safe and effective natural remedy to treat symptoms of the common cold,” the study group wrote in Panminerva Medica.

 

Vitamin B3 May Protect Hearing

Vitamin B3 has shown promise as a way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in a recent study.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City gave nicotinamide riboside (NR), a B3 precursor, to mice before or after loud noise exposure to protect nerves connected to the inner ear; the compound protected the animals’ hearing in both cases.

Results were published in Cell Metabolism.

The study team used NR because it is stable and readily absorbed. They believe it works by increasing the activity of a protein called sirtuin 3, needed for proper function of cellular power plants called mitochondria.

 

Vitamin D May Improve Response to Colon Cancer Therapy

People who have advanced colon cancer and higher vitamin D levels appear to respond better to chemotherapy—and survived a third longer than those with low levels of the sunshine vitamin.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston measured vitamin D levels in 1,043 newly diagnosed patients participating in a clinical comparing three forms of treatment, all of which combined chemotherapy with targeted anti-cancer drugs.

According to results reported before a Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, patients with the highest amounts of vitamin D in their bloodstreams survived an average of 32.6 months compared with 24.5 months for those with the lowest levels.

In addition, cancer progressed more slowly in the high-D group, an average of 12.2 months versus 10 months in people with the least vitamin D.

The study team noted that certain cancer patients tended to have lower vitamin D levels. They included African Americans, people who were overweight or older and those who weren’t physically active or were in poor shape.

Vitamin D levels were also lower among people who live in northern states and among those whose blood was drawn during the winter and spring; D is created in skin exposed to sunshine. Other sources include some fatty fish such as sardines, fortified milk, eggs and some type of mushrooms such as shiitakes, along with supplements.

Vitamin D, in concert with calcium and vitamin K, helps maintain healthy bones. D also promotes the maturation of infection-fighting white blood cells, and deficits have been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes.

 

Blueberry Powder May Keep
Arteries in the Pink

Blueberries, already celebrated for providing a host of health benefits, may improve arterial well-being and reduce blood pressure when taken in powdered form.

Researchers at Florida State University gave either blueberry powder or a placebo to 48 women for eight weeks. Participants were assigned to the two groups randomly and neither they nor the study team knew who was taking which substance.

Blood pressures went down among volunteers taking the blueberry powder, with an average reduction of 5.1% in systolic (the upper number) and 6.3% in diastolic (the lower one). What’s more, a measurement called brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity went down in the blueberry group, indicating a reduction in arterial stiffness.

The researchers linked the improvements with increases in nitric oxide, a substance that helps relax blood vessel walls. Stiff, poorly functioning arteries play an important role in the development of heart disease.

Study results were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“The changes in blood pressure noted in this study are of clinical significance as they demonstrate that blood pressure can be favorably altered by the addition of a single dietary component,” said lead author Sarah Johnson, PhD, RD, CSO, assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging, College of Human Sciences at Florida State.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the effects of blueberries on arterial function as was done in this study, as well as in this study population,” added corresponding author Bahram H. Arjmandi, PhD, RD, the center’s director.

 

Magnesium May Reduce Metabolic Syndrome Risk

An overview of six studies has found that the risk of developing metabolic syndrome decreases by 17% for every 100 milligram-a-day increase in magnesium intake.

The analysis, conducted by researchers from the US and Japan, looked at data from 24,473 people who ingested between 117 and 423 milligrams of magnesium a day. Those with the highest average daily intakes had a 31% lower risk than those with the lowest intakes.

The researchers speculated that magnesium lowered risk by affecting a number of metabolic pathways, including those that control glucose, inflammation and liver lipid levels.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions—high triglycerides, blood pressure and fasting blood sugar, along with a large waistline and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol—that raise one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Three of the five must be present for a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.
“Metabolic syndrome is less prevalent in participants with a higher level of dietary magnesium intake,” the study team wrote in Diabetic Medicine. “Further studies…are warranted to provide stronger evidence and establish causal inference.”

 

Vitamin D Linked to Less Pain Medication During Labor

Vitamin D has been associated with reduced need for pain medication during childbirth in a recent study.

In research led by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, 93 pregnant women had their D levels checked before giving birth. While all the volunteers received epidurals during delivery, those with lower vitamin D levels required more pain medication than women with higher levels.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women at risk for vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy include vegetarians and those who don’t get regular sun exposure (vitamin D is created in the skin when exposed to sunlight).

Results were presented at a meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

“Given the research results, prevention and treatment of low vitamin D levels in pregnant women may have a significant impact on decreasing labor pain in millions of women every year,” said Andrew Geller, MD, an anesthesiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

 

Vitamin D May Help Ease Asthma

People with asthma who are deficient in vitamin D are 25% more likely to suffer an acute attack, according to a study in the journal Allergy.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University came to this conclusion after analyzing data taken from 21,000 Israelis who have asthma, in which an inflamed, narrowed airway can lead to episodes of extreme shortness of breath.

The study team took other asthma predictors, such as smoking and obesity, into account.

“Vitamin D has significant immunomodulatory effects and, as such, was believed to have an effect on asthma,” said lead author Ronit Confino-Cohen, MD. “Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and ‘uncontaminated’ by other diseases. We expect that further prospective studies will support our results.”

The researchers recommend vitamin D screenings for people with poorly controlled asthma. Confino-Cohen said that for those with low levels, “supplementation may be necessary.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 18.7 million adults and 6.8 million children in the US have asthma, which accounts for 1.8 million emergency room visits each year.

 

Resveratrol Helps Obese
Men Build Bone

High doses of resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and other foods, stimulated bone growth in a recent Danish study.

Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital gave either resveratrol or a placebo to 74 middle-aged obese men with metabolic syndrome; members of the supplement group took either 1000 mg or 150 mg a day. Neither the study team nor the participants knew who was taking what compound. The men were instructed to maintain their regular lifestyles and to not change their intake of other supplements.

After 16 weeks, those taking resveratrol showed increases in lumbar spine bone density and in levels of bone alkaline phosphatase, a key indicator of bone health. The largest improvements occurred in the high-dose group.

Results were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

 

Fish Oil Reduces Seizure Frequency

Low doses of fish oil were helpful in a recent study on reducing seizure activity in people with epilepsy after drug treatment becomes ineffective.

Scientists at the UCLA School of Medicine recruited 24 people with drug-resistant epilepsy and gave them either high-dose fish oil, a low-dose supplement or a placebo during three 10-week treatment periods separated by six-week washout periods.

Low-dose fish oil was linked to a 33.6% reducing in seizure frequency compared with placebo and high-dose fish oil.

Low doses of fish oil were also associated with a “mild but significant” reduction in blood pressure, according to results published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

While the researchers cautioned that larger studies were needed to confirm their findings, they did write, “Low-dose fish oil is a safe and low-cost intervention that may reduce seizures and improve cardiovascular health in people with epilepsy.”

 

Traffic Pollution Can
Damage Fetal Lungs

Unborn children’s lungs can be damaged if pregnant women are exposed to traffic pollution, according to a Spanish study. The risk is especially great during the second trimester.

Scientists at Barcelona’s Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology took data from the INMA Project, designed to study pollution’s effects on young children.

The study team looked at levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and benzene, markers of traffic pollution exposure, in the areas where the mothers lived. The team then assessed lung function in the children when they were 4.5 years old.

Maternal exposure to NO2 and benzene during pregnancy was linked to reduced lung function in the children. The risk of lung impairment was 22% greater for women living in polluted areas while they were experiencing the second trimester of their pregnancies, a time when the lungs undergo significant development.

Publishing in the online version of Thorax, the team concluded, “Public policies to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution may avoid harmful effects on lung development.”

 

Diabetes Screening for Everyone
Over 45 Recommended

All Americans 45 and older should be screened for type 2 diabetes as well as prediabetes, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force.

“The effects of lifestyle interventions to prevent or delay progression to diabetes were consistent across a substantive body of literature,” states a recently released USPSTF draft recommendation statement. “The potential harms of measuring blood glucose and initiating lifestyle modifications that include healthy eating behaviors and increased physical activity are small to none, leading the USPSTF to conclude with moderate certainty that these interventions have a moderate net benefit.”

Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system attacks the body’s insulin-producing beta cells, type 2 involves a gradually reduction in the body’s ability to use insulin properly, resulting in excessively high blood glucose levels. This can lead to such conditions as cardiovascular and kidney disease as well as vision problems and limb loss.

Diabetes tests include checking a person’s fasting glucose levels, which should be below 100 mg/dL. Glucose levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL fall in the prediabetes range; anything over 125 is considered to be diabetes.

Another test, hemoglobin A1c, measures glucose levels over time.

In addition to advancing age, other diabetes risk factors include overweight or obesity and having a first-degree relative with diabetes. Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome or have had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are also at increased risk.

 

 

Lipoic Acid May Help Reset
“Biological Clock”

Disturbances in circadian rhythm, the day/night cycle that control key biological processes, have been tied to aging and disease development. Now scientists have found that an antioxidant called lipoic acid may play a role in controlling this “biological clock.”

A study team at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute fed lipoic acid to laboratory animals at levels higher than that generally obtainable via diet alone. The supplement not only improve the animals’ circadian rhythms but also helped control age-related liver dysfunction.

“In old animals, including elderly humans, it’s well known that circadian rhythms break down and certain enzymes don’t function as efficiently as they should. If lipoic acid offers a way to help synchronize and restore circadian rhythms, it could be quite significant,” said Dove Keith, PhD, lead author of the study, which was published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

DHA May Ease Gum Infections

Tag: DHA & Gum Infections; NEW CATEGORY: Dental Health (move tags Omega-3 &Periodontitis and Ubiquinol & Oral Health from General Health News to this category)

Supplementation with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, has been associated with better outcomes among people with a gum infection called periodontitis.

A Boston-based research team gave either DHA or a placebo to 55 adults with moderate periodontitis for three months; those who received the supplements saw improvements in their condition, including smaller pockets around teeth, as well as reductions in local inflammation levels as measured by C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-beta).

Results were published in the Journal of Dental Research.

If untreated, periodontitis can destroy bone and soft tissue surrounding the teeth, leading to tooth loss. It is estimated that up to half of all Americans suffer from some form of periodontitis.

 

Climate Change May Harm
Human Health

The consequences of climate change—namely altered weather patterns and increasing temperatures—can increase health risks, according to a recent study.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin’s Global Health Institute analyzed 20 years’ worth of research. They found the number extremely hot days (90° or more) could triple in the US east of the Rockies, leading to more cases of heat stroke, cardiac arrest and other temperature-related ailments.

The study, which appears in JAMA, found other possible health consequences of changes in climate. For example, smog worsens as temperatures climb, making breathing especially more difficult for people with asthma or COPD. And those with allergies could encounter longer allergy seasons.

Increasing temperatures also means an increase in disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks, while heavier rainfalls could lead to an increase in waterborne gastrointestinal infections. High heat can reduce crop yields, leaving people more vulnerable to hunger.

Reducing fossil fuel usage could result in not only economic benefits but also “major public health dividends,” says Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, the study’s lead author.

Uric Acid May Play a Role
in Metabolic Syndrome

High levels of uric acid, best known for causing gout, may also lead to a condition called metabolic syndrome that has been tied to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Uric acid, a waste product of the cell turnover process, is normally removed from the body through the kidneys and intestines. High levels can lead to gout, in which uric acid forms painful crystals within joints, as well as kidney stones.

Metabolic syndrome consists of five disorders: High blood pressure, triglycerides, blood sugar and cholesterol, plus abdominal obesity. All are indications of metabolic disruptions that can lead to plaque formation in coronary arteries.

Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis made the connection between uric acid and metabolic syndrome by working with mice missing a protein called GLUT9, which helps transport uric acid, in their digestive systems. On a diet of standard mouse chow, these animals developed high uric acid levels compared with control mice.

The GLUT9-deficient mice then went on to develop signs of metabolic syndrome at a relatively young age (six to eight weeks).

The research team, reporting on their findings in Nature Communications, wrote, “Uric acid may play a direct, causative role in the development of metabolic syndrome.”

 

 

Probiotics Tied to Better
Metabolic Health

Probiotics, beneficial microbes found within the intestines, are best known for promoting digestive health. But, as two recent studies suggest, their benefits are proving to be much more far-ranging.

Blood pressure control appears to be one of those benefits.

Researchers at the Griffith Health Institute and School of Medicine in Australia analyzed nine studies involving 543 participants, some of whom had elevated blood pressure. Those who consumed probiotics for at least eight weeks had lower systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) pressure readings when compared with those who didn’t ingest probiotics from either supplements or foods such as yogurt and other fermented milk products.

According to a report in the journal Hypertension, the greatest effects were found in people with higher blood pressure.

The study team wrote, “We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.”

Probiotics have also been linked to reductions in liver fat.

Scientists at Spain’s University of Granada fed either probiotic supplements or placebo substances to three groups of rats, two sets of rats genetically modified to develop obesity and a set of lean animals, for 30 days. The obese rats in the supplement group showed a reduction in steatosis, an accumulation of fat in the liver associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

If untreated, NAFLD can lead to liver damage (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) and scarring (cirrhosis).

Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, the research team also found that probiotic supplementation also had a “clear anti-inflammatory effect.” In addition, levels of triglycerides, or blood fats, fell in the rats fed probiotics.

 

Vitamin D Linked to Better
Cancer Survival

Breast and colorectal cancer patients, along with those suffering from lymphoma, who had higher vitamin D levels showed better survival rates and longer remission times in a recent Chinese study.

A research team led by Shanghai’s Institute for Nutritional Sciences analyzed 25 studies involving 17,332 patients. They found that a 10 nmol/L increase in serum vitamin D levels to correlate with a survival rate increase of 4%. Positive associations, although not as strongly indicated, were also found for other types of malignancies, such as prostate and lung cancer.

“Considering that vitamin D deficiency is a widespread issue all over the world, it is important to ensure that everyone has sufficient levels of this important nutrient,” says Hui Wang, MD, PhD.

Results were published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

 

Vitamin D Linked to Weight Loss

Vitamin D was able to reduce weight and improve control over blood sugar—at least in rats.
In a study led by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, scientists delivered vitamin D directly to the brains of obese male rats for 28 days. The rats ate nearly three times less food and lost 24% of their body weight when compared with a control group.

What’s more, the rats in the vitamin D group also showed greater glucose tolerance, a measure of how well the body handles blood sugar.

The brain region targeted was the hypothalamus, which controls both weight and glucose. The region contains vitamin D receptors.

Results were reported at a joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society.

 

Low Vitamin D Linked to
High Blood Pressure

Low levels of vitamin D, which have been associated with numerous disorders, may be implicated in high blood pressure as well.

Researchers at the University of South Australia, reporting in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, found an 8% decrease in hypertension risk for every 10% increase in vitamin D levels. The study group analyzed data from more than 146,500 people in Europe and North America.

The group called for further research to see if vitamin D supplementation could reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, a condition tied to heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

“In view of the costs and side effects associated with antihypertensive drugs, the potential to prevent or reduce blood pressure and therefore the risk of hypertension with vitamin D is very attractive,” says study leader Elina Hypponen, PhD, MPH.

 

“Gluten-Free” Now Legally Defined

For the first time in the US, the words “gluten-free” can only appear on food package labels if they meet governmentally mandated standards. Gluten is especially problematic for people with celiac disease, in which the digestive system cannot process this grain-based protein.

Under Food and Drug Administration rules in effect as of this week, packaged foods can only be labeled “gluten-free” if they inherently don’t contain gluten (foods that don’t use any grains at all, for example) or if they don’t contain ingredients that include either gluten-bearing grains themselves, such as wheat and rye, or extracts derived from such grains. Foods may use ingredients processed to remove gluten if use of such ingredients results in the presence of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

According to the agency, “Restaurants and other establishments making a gluten-free claim on their menus should be consistent with FDA’s definition.”

The labeling rules were published in August 2013, but were not binding until now to give manufacturers time to implement changes.

As many as 3 million Americans have celiac disease, in which gluten consumption leads to destruction of tissue lining the small intestine, which in turn results in poor nutrient absorption. Other people have gluten sensitivity, in which there is no tissue destruction but symptoms such as abdominal bloating, diarrhea, joint pain and headaches may occur if gluten is consumed.

Vitamin C May Improve
Blood Vessel Health

Taking more than 500 milligrams of vitamin C a day has shown an ability to boost the ability of blood vessels to function properly in people with cardiovascular problems.

Researchers at England’s Newcastle University reviewed the findings from 44 clinical trials. Supplemental vitamin C was found to support blood vessel health in people with atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart failure, disorders that increase cardiac risk.

When healthy, the endothelium that lines blood vessels helps them widen to increase blood flow and protects them against inflammation. People with diseases such as diabetes often have blood vessels that are stiff, which raises the risk of high blood pressure.

The Newcastle researchers believed that in addition to neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals, vitamin C increases the availability of nitric oxide, a substance that helps blood vessels dilate. In the journal Atherosclerosis they wrote, “These results support the idea that vitamin C may be a useful nutritional intervention for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases.”

Hot Spells Mean Danger for
People with Heart Problems

People who suffer from chronic heart disease run a higher risk of dying during heat waves, especially women and those who are older.

Czech Republic researchers cross-checked that country’s heart disease deaths from 1994 through 2009 against meteorological data for the same time period. “Mortality due to chronic IHD (ischemic heart disease) increased sharply on the first day after the onset of a hot spell and high excess mortality persisted for five days,” the team wrote in BMC Public Health. Women were more affected than men, as were people age 65 and older.

In IHD, blockages in the coronary arteries reduce blood flow to the heart.

Cold spells were linked to greater mortality among people younger than 65. While some suffered from IHD, most of the excess deaths were caused by heart attacks.

Climate change has led the Czech researchers to see trouble ahead.

“Rising mean summer temperatures are very likely to lead to an increase in the frequency, duration and severity of heat waves in the future,” they wrote, also noting that periods of extreme cold “may persist into the late 21st century.” As a result, “this suggests that both heat waves and cold spells will represent major public health concerns.”

This conclusion agrees with that reached by scientists in the United States, where the CDC says 660 people die in heat waves every year. According to a report released by the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, such hot spells will kill approximately 10 times more people in the eastern US 45 years from now than they did at the turn of this century.

 

Watercress vs. Kale? Study Says Watercress Wins

If you’re finding that the produce section of your local market seems to be in short supply of watercress, you have researchers at William Paterson University in New Jersey—and the high nutritional content of watercress—to thank.

In a study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the researchers gave watercress a perfect score of 100 for its nutritional value, putting the little leafy green at the top of a list of 41 “powerhouse” fruits and veggies.

The foods were scored by their content of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and other nutrients. Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens and spinach rounded out the top five. And kale? No. 15.

 

Melatonin May Reduce
Endometriosis Pain

Melatonin, a hormone best known for promoting sleep, may help ease pelvic pain in women who suffer from endometriosis.

A condition common among women of reproductive age, endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue that lines the inner surface of the uterus grows in patches within the lower abdomen; sites generally include the fallopian tubes, ovaries, outer surfaces of the uterus and intestines, and lining of the pelvic region. These patches bleed when a woman menstruates, often leading to severe pain.

Brazilian researchers gave either 10 milligrams of melatonin or a placebo to 36 women between the ages of 18 and 45 for eight weeks. According to a report in the journal Pain, women who took melatonin reported a 40% decrease in daily pain ratings, with nearly the same decrease in painful periods. Those in the melatonin group also reported sleeping better.
In addition to pain, endometriosis can cause heavy periods, spotting between periods and infertility.

 

Antioxidants Linked to
Anti-Aging Marker

Several key antioxidants have been associated with a measure of anti-aging effectiveness.
Scientists at the Medical University of Graz looked at data taken from the Austrian Stroke Prevention Study, a community-based brain health investigation. The mean age of the participants was 66.

Higher levels of lutein, vitamin C and zeaxanthin—three nutrients known for their ability to fight cell-damaging free radicals—were linked to longer telomeres, bits of DNA at the ends of chromosomes; the longer the telomeres, the longer the cell’s lifespan.

This “suggests a protective role of these vitamins in telomere maintenance,” said the research team in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 

Zinc May Cut Blast-Related
Cell Stress

More than 2 million Americans—including soldiers serving in the Middle East—suffer traumatic brain injuries each year. Scientists now have evidence that the mineral zinc may help fight the cell damage these injuries cause.

The US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine used 32 rats to mimic the types of blast injuries caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a common cause of brain injury among war-zone service members; other rats served as a control group. According to results reported at the American Society of Nutrition’s annual meeting, zinc supplementation helped reduce cell stress caused by such injuries.

The researchers noted that soldiers often lose zinc through perspiration and diarrhea.

 

Vitamin B12 May Help
Babies with Reflux

Some babies suffer from regurgitation and other eating problems. For those whose difficulties stem from vitamin B12 deficiency, supplementation may help.

Norwegian researchers tested vitamin B12 levels in children less than eight months old; 80% were found to be deficient. Besides feeding difficulties, infants who are low on B12 may develop slowly and show neurological symptoms such as tremors. However, because babies tend to develop in spurts that vary from child to child, low B12 levels can be confused with normal development variations.

The researchers gave either 400 mcg of B12 or a placebo to 79 infants found to be vitamin-deficient. The parents tracked their children’s feeding and neurological symptoms; the doctors assessed the babies’ motor development.

Supplementation was found to significantly improve vitamin B12 levels and motor function. Regurgitation symptoms improved in 69% of the babies in the supplement group compared with 29% in the placebo group, according to results in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

 

Vitamin B12 May Make Depression Meds More Effective

Scientists have long known that being deficient in vitamin B12, which plays a key role in nervous system function, leaves one more prone to depression. But now a study has shown that supplementing depression medication with B12 may improve response to treatment.

American and Pakistani scientists divided 73 depressed volunteers whose vitamin B12 levels were on the low end of normal into two groups: one received standard depression medications only while the other received meds plus 1,000 mcg of B12 every week for six weeks.

In a report published by The Open Neurology Journal, 100% of those in the vitamin B12 group reported symptomatic improvement compared with 69% of those in the treatment-only group after three months.

“These patients represent a subgroup within the clinically depressed population, and supplementation with B12 along with the conventional antidepressants may be a useful strategy in treatment,” the research team wrote.

 

Moms See Toxins in Children
as Their Own Burden

Women in a recent study saw protecting their children from toxic exposure as part of a mother’s job—placing additional stress on mothers short on time or money.

Norah MacKendrick, PhD, of Rutgers University conducted in-depth interviews with 23 women in Toronto who were either pregnant or had at least one child under 12 years of age. Fifteen had annual household incomes that exceeded $50,000, two had incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 and eight were in households earning less than $25,000. Nineteen of the women were living with partners.

The women were aware of their own toxic burdens—the total amount of toxins carried within the body—while trying to conceive, becoming pregnant or breastfeeding. In fact, “many of the women in this study identified pregnancy as the key moment when they became aware of environmental chemicals,” wrote MacKendrick in the journal Gender & Society. This knowledge made the study subjects worry about passing toxins along to their children; one said, “You start thinking when you’re nursing, ‘Everything I’m eating is going through to that perfect baby.’”

All the women practiced what MacKendrick called “precautionary consumption,” such as buying organic food or using nontoxic cleaners, in an effort to protect their children from chemical hazards. MacKendrick said such actions “provide a sense of control over a largely intangible threat to children’s health.” However, women on the lower end of the income spectrum experienced tension between a desire to protect their children from toxins and having the money or time to do so. MacKendrick found that the women took this responsibility on themselves, instead of blaming the environment around them. However, she concludes, “all bodies are exposed to environmental toxins. Chemical body burdens are representative of a larger social problem that implicates chemical producers and government regulators.”

 

Yoga May Help Women with
Urinary Incontinence

A yoga program meant to improve pelvic health may help women avoid accidental urine leakage, according to a study from University of California San Francisco.

Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor at the UCSF School of Medicine, and her colleagues assigned 10 Bay Area women to a six-week yoga program and another 10 to a control group. All suffered from daily urinary incontinence, generally the type caused by coughing and other activities that increase abdominal pressure.

Volunteers who underwent yoga training experienced a 70% reduction in frequency of urine leakage compared with a 13% reduction among members of the control group. Study results have been published in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery.

According to the National Association for Continence, women make up as much as 80% of the approximately 25 million American adults who suffer from urinary incontinence.

The UCSF yoga protocol was specifically designed to support pelvic health. Huang said the program may help women “gain more control over their pelvic floor muscles without having to go through traditional costly and time-intensive rehabilitation therapy.”

Exercise May Protect Eyesight

Staying active as you age may reduce your chances of developing macular degeneration (MD), a sight-robbing disorder that affects 1.75 million older Americans.

Researchers at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center and nearby Emory University divided adult lab mice among two groups. One ran on treadmills for about an hour a day; the other remained sedentary. After two weeks, half the mice in each group were exposed to extremely bright light, which can induce the type of retinal degradation caused by MD. The other mice remained in dim light. The mice in the exercise group then resumed running.

After two weeks, the scientists measured nerve cells called neurons in the animals’ eyes. In the sedentary mice exposed to bright light almost 75% of the neurons had died, indicating failing vision. In contrast, the mice who exercised had about twice as many functioning retinal neurons, which were also more responsive to normal light.

Results were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The study team acknowledged that they do not know if the results of this study could be replicated in humans, who develop MD over decades, not weeks. But “as potential treatments go, exercise is cheap, easy and safe,” said senior author Machelle Pardue, PhD, of the Emory Eye Center.

 

 

Mom’s Vitamin A Deficiency
Linked to Child Asthma

Early evidence indicates that a mother’s not having enough vitamin A during pregnancy may increase her child’s risk for asthma, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City conducted their study using mice in which the amount of vitamin A that reached the fetus could be controlled by adjusting the mother’s diet.

“We timed the vitamin A deficiency to the middle of gestation, coinciding with the period of formation of the airway tree in the fetus,” said team leader Wellington Cardoso, MD, PhD. “Our study suggests that the presence of structural and functional abnormalities in the lungs due to vitamin A deficiency during development is an important and underappreciated factor” in a child’s susceptibility to asthma, a disorder in which the airway becomes constricted.

The team found that mice pups who didn’t get enough vitamin A while their lungs were developing showed “profound” changes in the smooth muscle surrounding the airway, leaving the airway prone to excessive narrowing.

The same study team then deprived mice of vitamin A during the same stage of fetal development, but then returned the mothers to a normal diet. The pups were then also fed a normal diet until adulthood.

While the A-deprived mice seemed normal, their airways constricted more severely when exposed to a contracting agent than the airways of mice whose mothers consumed enough vitamin A while pregnant.

“Our findings highlight a point often overlooked in adult medicine, which is that adverse fetal exposures that cause subtle changes in developing organs can have lifelong consequences,” Cardoso noted.

 

Adding Vitamin D to Treatment
May Help Hives

Scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have found that adding vitamin D to standard therapy may help ease chronic hives, an itchy, welt-forming skin allergy.

The study involved 38 participants who took a three-drug combination plus either 600 IUs or 4000 IUs of vitamin D. Both groups saw their symptoms improve after a week; after 12 weeks, those in the 4000-IU group saw a further 40% decrease in symptom severity.

Results were reported in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

“We consider the results in patients a significant improvement,” said lead author Jill Poole, MD, an associate professor in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine. “This higher dosing of readily available vitamin D3 shows promise without adverse effects. It was not a cure, but it showed benefit when added to anti-allergy medications.”

Hives is a poorly understood condition, but allergic reactions sometimes play a role in their development.

 

New-Look Nutrition Labels to Emphasize Calories, Sugar

If the Food and Drug Administration has its way, the Nutrition Facts labels on food packages will list added sugars and require more reasonable portion sizes.

The agency has released proposed label changes in advance of a 90-day comment period. It could take up for a year after that for the changes to be finalized and two years after finalization for companies to comply.

The move to list added sugars will allow consumers to tell the difference between naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit and dairy, and those that are added to products during the manufacturing process.

Serving sizes will be increased to reflect amounts people actually eat. For example, many single-serving packages list multiple servings to reduce calorie counts.

The FDA would also require calorie amounts to be listed in bigger, bolder type.

“Our guiding principle here is very simple, that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” said Michelle Obama, who joined the FDA in announcing the new labels at the White House as part of her Let’s Move initiative to fight childhood obesity.

 

 

First Female Stroke
Guidelines Released

While stroke deaths have declined 30% over the past 30 years—a drop credited to fewer people smoking and better treatment of hypertension—there is some sobering news, too: Women are still suffering from, and dying of, stroke at greater rates than men.

This explains why the American Stroke Association, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, has published the first stroke guidelines written specifically with women in mind. “Men are physiologically different from women, so preventive tips cannot be one-size-fits-all,” says coauthor Virginia Howard, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The guidelines note that in addition to gender-specific risk factors like pregnancy and disorders associated with it (such as pre-eclampsia), some risk factors are more critical in women including stress, depression, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and migraine with aura. What’s more, hypertension is more strongly linked to stroke in women.

As a result, the following actions are recommended:
• A woman’s blood pressure should be checked before she takes birth control pills.
• Calcium and/or low-dose aspirin therapy should be considered for women with hypertension before pregnancy to reduce pre-eclampsia risk; women who suffer from this condition should have stroke risk factors such as obesity treated early.
• Women who have migraines with aura should stop smoking.
• Women older than 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation.
• Pregnant women with severe high blood pressure (160/110 mmHg or above) should be treated; those with moderately high pressure (150-159/100-109) should consider treatment.

 

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Inflammation

Not having enough vitamin D in your system may leave you prone to chronic inflammation— especially as you move into your senior years.

Researchers at Ireland’s University of Ulster did bloodwork on 957 volunteers, all of whom were at least 60 years old. Besides testing for vitamin D levels, the study team also measured markers of inflammation including C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6, IL-10 and TNF-alpha.

Participants who were deficient in vitamin D were more likely to show high levels of inflammatory markers. Chronic, low-level inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease and a number of other disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

“These finding suggest that an adequate vitamin D status may be required for optimal immune function, particularly within the older adult population,” the study team wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. “This study is the first to find a connection between vitamin D levels and inflammation in a large sample of older individuals.”

 

Supplemental Vitamin E May
Cut Fracture Rate

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University examined nearly two decades’ worth of data from 14,738 women, some of whom took alpha-tocopherol, one of eight forms of vitamin E. Low alpha-tocopherol levels were linked to an 86% increase the rate of hip fracture.

However, use of the supplements was associated with a 22% reduction in hip fracture rate and a 14% drop in the rate of fractures overall.

Similar results were seen among 1,138 men over 12 years, among whom low alpha-tocopherol levels were seen to more than triple the rate of hip fracture.

“Higher (vitamin E) intakes were associated with higher BMD (bone mineral density), higher lean muscle mass and lower fracture risk,” the study team wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The team also noted that, as in the Scandinavian countries, vitamin E levels are not up to standard in the US, making it a “nutrient of concern.”

 

Vitamin D May Benefit People
with Parkinson’s

Vitamin D may help people with Parkinson’s disease avoid cognitive deficits and low mood.
A study team led by the Oregon Health and Sciences University analyzed D levels in 286 patients; those with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin showed better thinking ability and less depression in addition to reduced symptom severity. Higher vitamin D levels were also seen in Parkinson’s patients not suffering from dementia.

“About 30% of persons with PD suffer from cognitive impairment and dementia, and dementia is associated with nursing home placement and shortened life expectancy,” write the study team in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. “The fact that the relationship between vitamin D concentration and cognitive performance seemed more robust in the non-demented [group] suggests that earlier intervention before dementia is present may be more effective.”

 

DDT Exposure Linked to Alzheimer’s

DDT, a pesticide banned in the United States more than 40 years ago, has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease in a recent study.

Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that levels of DDE, a DDT byproduct, were 3.8 times higher in Alzheimer’s patients compared with people without the disease. Results were published online in JAMA Neurology.

While this study didn’t prove that DDT exposure causes Alzheimer’s, “we have additional studies underway that will seek to directly DDT exposure to Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dwight German, PhD, a study co-author. “If a direct link is made, our hope is to then identify the presence of DDE in blood samples from people at an early age and administer treatments to remove it.”

The study, conducted jointly with the Emory University School of Medicine and the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, involved 86 people with Alzheimer’s and 79 without.

DDT was developed in the 1940s to fight insect-borne diseases such as malaria as well as crop pests. However, over the following two decades scientists became increasingly concerned about its declining effectiveness and evidence that it was harmful. Such concern became widespread after Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962; the Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT 10 years later.

According to the EPA, DDT’s ability to resist degradation means that it is still found in the environment and in animal tissues, although levels have fallen.

 

Vitamin D May Help Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain

Chronic muscle pain and fatigue mark fibromyalgia, a poorly understood syndrome that affects more than 12 million Americans. But vitamin D may help ease the discomfort seen in this condition among patients who come up short on this crucial nutrient.

A research team from the Orthopaedic Hospital Vienna Speising in Austria gave vitamin D to some women in a group of 30 who had both fibromyalgia and low D levels. The participants took the supplements for 25 weeks and were then followed for another 24 weeks.

According to results published in the journal Pain, the women in the vitamin D group reported less achiness and morning fatigue than those who did not take the supplements.

Vitamin D “may be regarded as a relatively safe and economical treatment and an extremely cost-effective alternative or adjunct to expensive pharmacological treatment,” said lead author Florian Wepner, MD, of the department of orthopaedic pain management in the hospital’s spine unit.

Wepner added that vitamin D levels should be monitored in people with fibromyalgia, particularly in wintertime. The skin creates vitamin D when exposed to sunshine; D levels often fall among people living in colder climates in the winter, when sun exposure is minimal.

Besides pain and fatigue, people with fibromyalgia may experience poor sleep, inability to concentrate, morning stiffness and occasional problems with anxiety or depression.

 

Krill Oil and Heart Health

Taking krill oil every day may increase cardiac well-being by reducing levels of triglycerides, a crucial blood fat.

Scientists in Norway enrolled 300 people with borderline-to-high triglycerides in a double-blind, randomized study. The participants were divided into five groups; while one group took a placebo the others took either 0.5, 1, 2 or 4 grams of oil taken from krill, a tiny shrimp-like crustacean that concentrates the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA in its tissues.

After 12 weeks, the people in the krill groups experienced a 10.2% reduction in triglyceride levels. Results were reported in Nutrition Research.

According to the American Heart Association, having high triglycerides is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

 

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Cardiovascular Fatalities

Not having enough vitamin D in your blood may increase the risk that having heart disease or a stroke will prove fatal.

That’s the conclusion reached by a German study team writing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The researchers enrolled 9,949 people between the ages of 50 and 74 during regular primary-care health exams; vitamin D levels were measured at the beginning of the study, five years later and eight years later.

Over the course of about 10 years, 1,627 people had nonfatal heart incidents or strokes, while 296 suffered fatal events. Low vitamin D levels were associated with a 62% increase in cardiovascular mortality risk.

Low Vitamin D Levels in Moms Tied to Weaker Muscles in Toddlers
Tag: Vitamin D & Toddler Muscle Strength; Category: Child & Pregnancy Health
Researchers at Great Britain’s University of Southampton have found children born to women with low D levels have weaker muscles at age four than tots born to mothers with adequate levels.

The 678 women who participated in the study (which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism) were all part of the Southampton Women’s Survey, designed to learn more about dietary and lifestyle factors that influence the health of women and their children.

Lead researcher Nicholas Harvey, PhD, said the links between maternal vitamin D and child muscle strength “may well have consequences for later health. Low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures.”

 

High-Dose Vitamin E May
Slow Alzheimer’s

The relentless progression of Alzheimer’s disease is disheartening to patients and caregivers alike. But vitamin E, taken in large doses every day, may help retard this process.

Researchers from the Minneapolis Veteran’s Administration Health Care System recruited more than 600 people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s at 14 VA medical centers. Each participant received one of four different therapies: 2,000 IU of alpha tocopherol, a form of vitamin E; the medication memantine; vitamin E and memantine combined; or a placebo.

People in the vitamin E-only group experienced a 19% reduction in their annual rate of decline in thinking and memory compared with the placebo group, the equivalent of a six-month delay in disease progression. Neither the memantine nor the drug/vitamin E combo showed any benefit. Those in the vitamin E group also needed about two fewer hours of care each day.

Results were reported in JAMA.

 

 

Gut Flora May Play Role
in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Disturbances in a person’s gut flora, the bacteria and other microbes normally found within the intestines, may be associated with the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

A research team led by the New York University School of Medicine used DNA analysis on bacteria in stool samples from people with RA, in which the immune system attacks the joints, and healthy people. According to results published in the journal eLife, 75% of stool samples from the RA patients contained a bacterial species called Prevotella copri, compared with 21.4% of the control samples. What’s more, the researchers found genetic differences between P. copri from people with RA and that found in healthy individuals.

P. copri overgrowth was also linked to lower levels of healthy bacteria from the Bacteroides family.

The NYU research follows a study appearing several months previously in the journal Science, in which Canadian scientists found that mice genetically predisposed to type 1 diabetes—like RA, an autoimmune disease—who were exposed to normal gut flora were strongly protected against diabetes. Only 25% of the mice who received the normal bacteria developed the disorder, compared with 85% of the non-exposed mice.

 

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