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.”

 

NEWS ARCHIVES

Adolescent Health

Diabetes in Teens
Sleep & Diet Choices
Teen Heart Hazards

 

Aging & Lifespan

Antioxidants & Telomeres
Exercise & Healthcare Costs
Folic Acid & Heat Waves
Green Tea & Functional Disability
Lipoic Acid & Circadian Rhythm
Omega-3s & Muscle Loss
Omega-3 & Telomeres
Resveratrol & Mobility
Sitting Ups Mortality Risk
Spirulina & Liver Aging
Vitamin D & Lifespan

 

Alzheimer's Disease

DDT & Alzheimer's Risk
Delayed Retirement & Risk
Green Tea & Brain Plaques
Omega-3, Vitamin D & Alzheimer's
Vitamin E & Alzheimer's Progression

 

Brain Health, General

Blood Pressure & Mental Capacity
B Vitamins & Stroke Risk
Carbs & Cognition Impairment
CoQ10 & Cognitive Decline
CoQ10 & Multiple System Atrophy
Curcumin & Brain DHA
Fish Oil & Seizure Frequency
Loneliness & Dementia
Multis & Memory
Omega-3 & Cognitive Decline
Stroke Age Falling
Vitamins & Mental Well-Being
Zinc & Traumatic Brain Injury

 

Cancer, Digestive System

B Vitamins & Colorectal Cancer Risk
Fish & Colon Cancer Risk
Multis & Colon Cancer Risk
Teen Obesity & Colorectal Cancer Risk
Vitamin D & Colon Cancer Treatment

 

Cancer, Female

Cadmium & Breast Cancer Spread
Exercise Lack & Ovarian Cancer
Fermented Wheat Germ & Ovarian Cancer
Soda & Endometrial Cancer
Vitamin D & Breast Cancer Risk

 

Cancer, General

American Ginseng & Cancer Fatigue
Antioxidants, Vitamin E Reduce Cancer Risk
Depression & Cancer Survival
Exercise & Cancer Survival
GLA & Pancreatic Cancer
Insecticides & Childhood Cancer
Lung Cancer Deaths Fall
Multis & Cancer Risk
Omega-3 & Nerve Damage
Vitamin A & Melanoma

 

Cardiovascular Health

Blueberries & Arterial Health
CoQ10 & Heart Failure
Female Stroke Guidelines
Folic Acid & Cancer, Heart
Folic Acid & Hypertension Risk

Heart Attack Survivors &
Major Roadways Risk
Heat Waves & Heart Mortality
Krill Oil & Triglycerides
Leisure Time & Blood Pressure in Caregivers 
Magnesium & Metabolic Syndrome
Magnesium & Post-Bypass Fibrillation
Magn
esium Lowers Mortality Risk
Omega-3 & Atrial Fibrillation
Positive Outlook & Heart Patients
Produce & Heart Attack Risk
Selenium, CoQ10 & Death Risk
Unemployment & Heart Attack Risk
Uric Acid & Metabolic Syndrome
Vitamin C & Endothelial Function  
Vitamin C & Heart Failure
Vitamin D & CVD Fatalities

 

 

Dental Health

DHA & Gum Infections
Probiotics & Thrush

Depression

Folate & Depression Risk
Gluten & Depression
Vitamin B12 & Depression Meds
Vitamin D & Depressive Symptom
Volunteering & Mental Health

 

Diet & Fitness

Astaxanthin & Mitochondria
Carnitine & Weight Loss
CoQ10 & Exercise Performance
CoQ10 & Mediterranean Diet
Gardening & Weight Loss
Green Tea Compund & Overeating
MSM & Exercise Soreness
Nutrition Facts Update
Resveratrol & Fat Cells
Trans Fats to be Banned
Vitamin C & Exercise Tolerance
Vitamin D & Weight Loss

 

Eye Health

Exercise & Macular Degeneration  
Lutein/Zeaxanthin & Cataracts
Multis & Cataract Risk
Omega-3s & Dry Eye
Zeaxanthin & Visual Processing

 

Gastrointestinal Health

Gluten-Free Defined
Gluten-Free & Holidays
Omega-3 and Gut Microbiome 
Probiotics & Diarrhea
Sunshine & IBD Risk

 

General Health News

Acai, Omega-3 & Nerves
Amino Acids & Knee Replacement
Climate Change Worsens Health
Curcumin & Liver Health
Fish Oil & Dialysis Patients
Magnesium Found to Help Set Body Rhythms
Physical Activity & Enthusiasm
Probiotics & Metabolic Health
Smoking Rates Drop
Vitamin D & Drowsiness
Vitamin D Benefits
Vitamin D, Low Levels Globally
Vitamin D & Hives
Vitamin E & Fracture Reduction
Vitamin E & Liver
Watercress High Nutrition


Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss & Everyday Noise
Resveratrol & Hearing Loss
Vitamin B3 & Hearing Loss

 

High Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure & Fitness
Cinnamon & Blood Pressure
Fiber & Blood Pressure
Garlic & Blood Pressure
Grape Seed Extract & Blood Pressure
Vitamin D & Blood Pressure

 

Immunity & Infection

Antibiotic Resistance, Threat
FDA Regulates Animal Antibiotic Usage
Probiotics & Infection
Pycnogenol & Colds
Pycnogenol & Cold Symptoms
Vitamin D Fights Infection
Zinc Moderates Immune Response

 

Inflammation, General

Açai & Inflammation
Glucosamine/Chondroitin & Inflammation
Negative Thoughts & Inflammation
Vitamin D & Inflammation
Vitamin D, Weight Loss & Inflammation

 

Men's Health

Resveratrol & Men’s Bones
Walnuts & Sperm Quality

 

Pain (including Arthritis & Migraines)

Exercise & Nerve Pain
Gut Flora & RA
Sleep & Pain Reduction
Vitamin D & Fibromyalgia Pain
Vitamin D & Mobility
Yoga & Chronic Pain

 

Parkinson's Disease

Curcumin & Parkinson’s
Tai Chi & Parkinson’s
Vitamin D & PD Brain Health
Vitamin K2 & Parkinson’s

 

Stress

Resveratrol & Cellular Stress Response
Stress Reduction & MS

 

Stroke

Magnesium & Stroke Risk
Sleep Apnea, Worry & Stroke
Trans Fats & Stroke Risk

 

Women's Health, General

Ginger & Menstrual Pain
Melatonin & Endometriosis Pain
Pycnogenol & Menopausal Discomfort
Vitamin D & Fibroids
Yerba Mate & Bone Density
Yoga & Stress Incontinence

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.

 

Smoking Reductions Tied to Drop in Lung Cancer Deaths

Death rates for lung cancer in the US dropped from 2001 to 2010, helping to drive down cancer death rates overall.

According to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, published online in the journal Cancer, cancer death rates over the reporting period dropped 1.8% for men and 1.4% for women; the fall in lung cancer mortality contributed 29.3% to the total decline. Besides lung cancer—which accounts for more than a quarter of all cancer deaths—mortality rates fell for 11 of the most common malignancies including those of the breast, colon and rectum, and prostate.

However, death rates rose for cancers of the liver, pancreas and uterus. Melanoma mortality increased among men but not women.

“The sustained fall in death rates for most cancers is an important indicator of our success in controlling this large set of complex diseases but is not as fast as we’d like,” said Harold Varmus, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute. The NCI produces the Annual Report in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Public health authorities attribute the fall in lung cancer deaths to reductions in smoking. Rates fell less sharply among women than among men, which correlates to a later decline in female smoking rates.

In a special feature, the report discusses how the presence of other disorders affects survival rates among Medicare beneficiaries with breast, colorectal, lung or prostate cancer.

Such comorbidity occurs in 40% of patients 66 and older, with the highest rates among those with lung cancer (nearly 53%) and colorectal cancer (nearly 41%). The four most common co-existing conditions were diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure and cerebrovascular disease.

The presence of other disorders was found to decrease survival. For example, women between the ages of 66 and 74 who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and low to moderate comorbidity were twice as likely to die as breast cancer patients without other illnesses; severe comorbidity levels were associated with a threefold increase in death risk.

“Cancer patients with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, have special challenges,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, MD. “It’s critical for healthcare providers to have the full picture of their patients’ health so they can provide the best treatment possible for the patient overall, and for their cancer.”

 

 

Multis May Lower Cataract Risk

Older men who take a daily multivitamin may reduce their chances of developing cataracts, according to a study in the journal Ophthalmology.

A study led by researchers from the Harvard Medical School analyzed data from the Physicians Health Study II, in which 11,497 male doctors took either a multivitamin or a placebo each day. None of the volunteers had cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens, when the investigation started.

Study participants were followed for more than 11 years; those in the multi group saw their cataract risk drop by 9%.

Cataracts become more prevalent with age. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 68% of all Americans have some degree of cataracts development by age 80.

 

Vitamin B Supplements May
Lower Stroke Risk

A review of clinical studies involving almost 55,000 participants has linked supplemental vitamin B with a reduced risk of stroke.

Researchers at China’s Zhengzhou University analyzed 14 randomized trials in which B vitamins were compared with either placebo substances or very low-dosage B supplements for at least six months. The trials involved a total of 54,913 participants; 2,471 strokes occurred during the studies.

Taking the higher-dosage Bs was associated with a 7% overall reduction in risk across the different studies. Supplementation did not appear to affect either stroke mortality risk or stroke severity.

“B vitamin supplementation for homocysteine reduction significantly reduced stroke events,” reported the study team in the journal Neurology, referring to a substance that has been linked to increased cardiovascular risk.

 

Pycnogenol Helps Ease
Cold Symptoms

Pycnogenol, a pine-bark extract best known for its circulation benefits, has helped cold sufferers feel better in a recent study.

An Italian-led research group gave Pycnogenol to several groups of volunteers; some also received either vitamin C, zinc gluconate or both. Another group received standard cold care. All participants were told to contact one of the researchers as soon as cold symptoms such as stuffy nose and scratchy sore throat appeared.

According to results published in the journal Minerva Otorinolaringologica, people who took Pycnogenol recovered from symptoms such as runny nose more quickly.

Using Pycnogenol for cold relief may have an economic impact. After noting that the US loses $20 billion a year to costs stemming from the common cold, the team wrote, “Even if an improvement in signs and symptoms of just one day was achieved for millions of people, the reduction in cost would be very important.”

 

Amino Acids May Encourage Faster Knee Replacement Recovery

Tag: Amino Acids & Knee Replacement; Category: General Health News

Scientists at the University of Oregon have found that supplementation with eight essential amino acids before and after knee replacement surgery may speed recovery.

Sixteen patients (mean age of 69) took 20 grams of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, twice a day for a week before and two weeks after their surgeries. The supplement contained the aminos histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine and valine. Twelve other patients received placebos.

Patients in both groups lost muscle mass the quadriceps, the large muscle in the front of the thigh, which is a common side effect of knee replacement. However, those in the supplement group lost less mass and recovered normal function (such as going up and down stairs) more quickly than those who took placebos.

Results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

 

FDA Phases Out Use of
Antibiotics in Livestock

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a new policy that would eventually restrict the use of antibiotics in farm animals, an effort designed to reduce antibiotic resistance.

Farmers and ranchers give low doses antibiotics to chickens, cows and pigs to encourage faster weight gain, although scientists aren’t sure why this helps. The FDA’s new guidelines, which would take effect over the next three years, will make such usage illegal. In addition, food producers will have to obtain prescriptions from a veterinarian to use antibiotics to prevent disease among livestock.

“It’s a big shift from the current situation, in which animal producers can go to a local feed store and buy these medicines over the counter,” says Michael Taylor, JD, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

Health officials have long warned that misusage of antibiotics, including over-prescription in human patients, would lead to bacteria and other microbes becoming resistant to these drugs.
In Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 2 million Americans fall ill to antibiotic-resistant infections each year, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths.

The CDC report states, “There are more kilograms of antibiotics sold in the United States for food-producing animals than for people,” making controls on agricultural drug usage a key component in fighting antibiotic resistance.

Magnesium May Prolong Life
Among People at Cardiac Risk

Higher intakes of magnesium among people at high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) were linked to a lower risk of dying in a recent study.

Researchers at two Spanish institutions collected data from 7,200 high-risk participants in the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Medeterránea) study. The volunteers were randomly assigned to two groups: One ate a Mediterranean diet that included additional nuts or olive oil while the other ate a low-fat control diet.

After nearly five years of follow-up 323 people had died, 130 from cancer and 81 from heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events. Participants who got the most magnesium in their diets—an average of 442 milligrams per day—saw their risk of death from all causes fall by 37%.

“Hypertension is a strong risk factor for CVD, and it is known that magnesium can lower blood pressure,” the study team wrote in the Journal of Nutrition. “Also, magnesium intake may inhibit platelet aggregation, modulate inflammation and improve endothelial function. All of these mechanisms can have a beneficial effect on lowering the risk of CVD and death.”

The team also noted that magnesium has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes risk and cancer development.

According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium promotes a steady heartbeat, supports the immune system and helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function.

Sugary Drinks Linked to
Endometrial Cancer

Don’t reach for that cola: Postmenopausal women who drank sugar-laden beverages had an increased risk of endometrial cancer in a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health analyzed data from 23,039 participants in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Information, including drink preferences, was originally gathered in 1986, before any of the women had been diagnosed with cancer.

By 2010 approximately 600 women were found to have cancer of the endometrium, the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. Those who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages had a 78% increase in cancer risk. Risk went up as the amount of sugary beverages consumed increased.

Results were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

A 2012 Harvard-led study found possible links between diet soda consumption and blood cancers in men. However, the current study found no such association between diet soda and endometrial cancer. What’s more, the University of Minnesota researchers did not see a correlation between consumption of sweets and baked goods, such as chocolate bars and cookies, and cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, endometrial cancer is most common malignancy of the female reproductive tract in the US. Nearly 50,000 new uterine cancers are diagnosed each year; all but 2% originate in the endometrium. Risk factors include starting menstruation at an early age and/or going through menopause at a later age, being overweight, having diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome and eating a high-fat diet.


FDA Takes First Step in Banning
Trans Fats in Processed Foods

In a move long urged by public health authorities, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that trans fats known as partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “generally recognized as safe (GRAS),” setting the stage for the elimination of these artificial fats from processed foods.

The agency estimates that an eventual ban on trans fats, which have been found to increase blood levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL), could prevent 20,000 heart attacks annually.

The FDA determination comes after years of calls to action by groups such as the American Heart Association, which “has long advocated for eliminating trans fats from the nation’s food supply,” according to an AHA press release.

The agency has acknowledged that the food industry has voluntarily reduced its use of trans fats, noting that daily consumption levels in the US have fallen from 4.6 grams in 2003 to about 1 gram in 2012. However, trans fats—often used to improve flavor, texture and shelf life—are still used in foods such as microwave popcorn and frozen pizzas. Small amounts of these fats, which have been listed on Nutrition Facts labels since 2006, do occur naturally in some meat and dairy products.

The ruling opens a 60-day window in which the FDA will accept comments on the proposed ban, including input on how long food manufacturers should been given to comply. The agency will decide after the comment period is over whether to finalize its preliminary determination.

Younger Stroke Victims
Increasing Worldwide

Stroke, once thought of as a disorder primarily affecting the elderly, is now making inroads among younger people, according to a study in the British journal The Lancet.

People between the ages of 20 and 64 accounted for 31% of all strokes in 2010, compared with 25% in 1990. The study also reports that more than 83,000 people age 20 or younger have a stroke each year.

Another study in The Lancet Global Health found that more than 61% of stroke-related disability and almost 52% of all stroke fatalities were caused by bleeding in the brain even though ischemic strokes, those caused by blood vessel blockages, were more common.

The second study estimated the number of people with stroke-related disability will more than double by 2030 to 200 million worldwide. Much of this burden will be borne by lower-income countries, which experience 40% more stroke-related disability than countries with higher average incomes.

According to an accompanying editorial in The Lancet, “Urgent preventive measures and acute stroke care should be promoted in low-income and middle-income countries.”

 

 

Resveratrol May Shrink Fat Cells

When you lift your glass this holiday season you may want to propose a toast to resveratrol: The phytonutrient that gives red wine its healthy reputation has shown the potential to reduce the size of fat cells in a recent study.

A team of researchers in the Netherlands gave either 150 milligrams of resveratrol or a placebo to 11 men who were obese but otherwise healthy. After 30 days, the participants went through a four-week washout period, in which no supplements were taken, before switching to the other group for another 30 days.

While taking resveratrol, the size of the volunteers’ adipocytes, or fat cells, showed significant reductions in size, according to results published in the International Journal of Obesity.

In addition, resveratrol affected the way the men’s genes were expressed, turning on genetic pathways that led to fat breakdown and interfering with the formation of new fat cells.

The researchers speculated that these changes may explain why resveratrol has been linked to increased insulin sensitivity, a sign of better blood sugar control.
Previous laboratory research had linked resveratrol to a number of health benefits, including possible protection against cardiovascular disease and the inhibition of cellular processes associated with cancer development.

 

Iron in Early Childhood May
Mean a Brighter Future

Getting enough iron early in life may give people a leg up in terms of happiness and educational achievement as adults.

A team of scientists from the US and Costa Rica studied a group of Costa Rican 25-year-olds who have been followed at regular intervals since undergoing comprehensive assessments when they were five years old. Of the 122 adults in the latest study, 33 had chronic iron deficiency as infants.

Participants in the deficiency group completed, on average, a year less of schooling than their iron-sufficient counterparts. That affected their ability to obtain the equivalent of a US high school diploma, which in turn led to significant decreases in levels of post-high school education.

What’s more, people who had been iron-deficient as infants were “more likely to be single [and] experience negative emotions,” according to a report in the Journal of Pediatrics.

In an accompanying editorial, the journal stated, “This long-term follow-up shows that individuals with chronic iron deficiency had poorer adult functions in all domains except for physical health and employment.”

 

Omega-3 Linked to Better
Sleep in Children

Children with the most DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, in their blood slept longer and more soundly in an Oxford University study.

Among 362 children aged seven to nine years, those with the highest DHA levels had “far less waking during the night…more sleeping and more efficient sleeping as the ratio of time in bed to time asleep is significantly improved,” said the research team at the Food and Behaviour Research symposium held in London. DHA supplementation was found to improve sleep quality.

The researchers also confirmed that children who sleep poorly are more prone to behavioral problems.

 

CoQ10 May Fight Cognitive Decline

Mice with age-related mental impairments appeared to improve after being given coenzyme Q10 in a recent study.

Scientists at the University of North Texas Health Science Center gave either high-dose or low-dose CoQ10, a vitamin-like substance that plays a role in cellular energy production, to mice who were considered aged at 17.5 months old; another group received a standard diet. All the mice were then put through a water maze test and those who received high doses of the supplement were more efficient in swimming to a safe platform, a sign of reduced cognitive impairment.

“In individuals with age-associated symptoms of cognitive decline, high-CoQ intake may be beneficial,” the team wrote in the journal Age.

CoQ10 has already shown promise in helping to fight cardiovascular disease, especially heart failure.

CDC Calls Antibiotic Resistance “Potentially Catastrophic”

The ability of microbes to resist antibiotics—fed by overuse of these drugs in both people and food animals—can “spread between continents with ease” and lead to possible pandemics, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In a recently released report, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, the CDC states that at least 2 million Americans are sickened each year by bacteria that are resistant to one or more types of antibiotics, leading to at least 23,000 deaths.

People whose immune systems have been compromised, including those going through medical procedures such as chemotherapy, run the greatest risk, as are people who are recovering from complex surgeries or who undergo kidney dialysis.

“Antibiotic-resistant infections add considerable and avoidable costs to the already overburdened US healthcare system,” says the report. “In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require prolonged and/or costlier treatments, extend hospital stays…and result in greater disability and death compared with [easily treatable] infections.”

“We see this as a landmark report,” Steven L. Solomon, MD, director of the CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance, told the website Medscape. Noting that the agency had previously released material about various aspects of the problem, Solomon said, “This is the first time that we have put all of that material together to show that antimicrobial resistance is a huge and very frightening problem for the United States.”

The report assigns 18 of the most problematic microbes to different threat categories: urgent, serious and concerning. The three urgent threats are the family of bacteria that includes E. coli, which causes mostly digestive tract infections; drug-resistant strains of the bacteria that causes gonorrhea; and Clostridium difficile, a microbe that causes severe diarrhea. While C. difficile, which leads to 14,000 deaths annually, isn’t significantly resistant itself, generalized antibiotic resistance has allowed it to spread rapidly.

In addition to over-prescription of antibiotics among people these drugs are often used in farm animals to kill off bacteria that might slow growth, allowing animals to reach marketable weight more quickly. However, “this use contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food-producing animals,” states the CDC report. “People who consume these foods can develop antibiotic-resistant infections.”

In response to the threat, the CDC recommends eliminating unnecessary prescriptions among both people and animals. Other agency recommendations including careful tracking of antibiotic-resistant infections and developing new diagnostic tests and drugs.

 

Vitamins May Boost
Mental Well-Being

If you’re looking to boost your mood and enhance your mental performance you may want to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.

That was the conclusion reached during a panel discussion at the 2013 annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists. Bonnie Kaplan, PhD, professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary associated with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, was one of the panelists. She discussed her studies involving 97 adults with diagnosed mood disorders who kept three-day food diaries; those participants who recorded higher intakes of vitamins and minerals had significantly better overall mental function.

Kaplan told the group vitamin and mineral supplements could help provide symptom relief from anxiety and depression, particularly by promoting generation of the mental energy needed to fight the effects of stress.

Studies have shown that people who eat diets composed primarily of processed foods have higher rates of mood disorders. In contrast, those who eat Mediterranean-style diets—those in which fresh produce, fish, whole grains and olive oil predominate—have lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Specific nutrients that support healthy mood include the B vitamins, specifically vitamins B6 and B12 along with folic acid; magnesium, a calming mineral that helps protect the brain against neurotoxins; vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in fatty parts of the cell, including brain cells; omega-3 fatty acids; and vitamin D.

 

Vitamin D Boosts Mood in
Women with Diabetes

Women with type 2 diabetes who also showed signs of depression saw their moods brighten considerably—and their blood pressure drop—after taking supplemental vitamin D in a recent study.

A research team at Loyola University Chicago Niehoff School of Nursing enrolled 46 diabetic, middle-aged women with low blood levels of the sunshine vitamin as well as low mood. After six months, when the women’s D levels had reached sufficient levels, their mood improved significantly as measured by standard depression symptom questionnaires. Their systolic (upper number) pressures dropped by nearly eight points; they lost weight as well.

“Vitamin D supplementation potentially is an easy and cost-effective therapy with minimal side effects,” said lead author Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, in a presentation to a meeting of the American Diabetes Association.

Studies suggest that as much as 75% of the US adult and adolescent population may be deficient in vitamin D. Being overweight is linked to increased risk of both D deficiency and diabetes development.

 

Prenatal Iron Linked to
Better Birth Weights

Daily iron supplementation among pregnant women led to higher birth weights among babies, according to a report in BMJ (British Medical Journal).

A Harvard-led research team analyzed more than 90 studies involving nearly 1.9 million women, including 48 trials in which pregnant women received either iron supplements or placebo on a randomized basis. The team found that “daily prenatal use of iron substantially improved birth weight.”

Low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and the most common cause of anemia, a condition in which the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity is reduced, during pregnancy. According to one 2011 estimate, 38% of pregnant women worldwide suffer from anemia.

 

Curcumin May Protect
Preemies’ Lungs

Curcumin, the phytonutrient that lends its yellow color to the spice turmeric, may protect premature children against potentially lethal lung damage caused by the need for ventilators and forced oxygen therapy.

Preemies may require treatment because their lungs often don’t work properly. However, the treatment itself can lead to lung damage and can, in some cases, be fatal.

The research team, led by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, discovered that curcumin may protect against hyperoxia and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BDP) for up to 21 days after birth.

“This is the first study to find long-term benefits of using curcumin to protect lung function in premature infants,” the study team wrote in the American Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

 

Low Vitamin D Prevalent Globally

Mirroring a trend in the United States, European researchers have found that more than a third of the world’s population may have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.

The research team, led by the Mannheim Institute of Public Health at Germany’s Heidelberg University, came to this conclusion after reviewing 195 studies with more than 168,000 participants in 44 countries.

The team found that about 37% of the studies reported mean levels of 25(OH)D—the kind of vitamin D found in the bloodstream—below 50 nmol/l (nanomoles per liter), a level generally regarded as insufficient by public health agencies worldwide.

“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with osteoporosis and is thought to increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease,” the team wrote in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Vitamin D is commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is created in skin exposed to sunlight. Scientists believe that an increase in the amount of time spent indoors in many countries is one reason for D insufficiency.

 

 

 

Blood Pressure Swings May
Indicate Mental Decline

Blood pressure readings that fluctuate widely have been linked to memory and cognitive difficulties in older people, according to an article in the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

A research team led by the Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine in Old Age in Leiden, the Netherlands, examined data from more than 5,400 people between the ages of 70 and 82 in Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. Over three years the participants’ blood pressures were taken every three months and they were given tests to measure memory, attention span and reaction time.

Participants whose pressure readings changed from visit to visit didn’t do as well on the mental-acuity tests than those with stable pressure.

“High variability in blood pressure may lead to mental impairment,” said Simon Mooijaart, MD, PhD, leader of the study team. “It’s an interesting association, because it might very well be causal.”

However, Mooijaart added that further studies were needed to determine if the link between blood pressure and mental capacity was a true cause-and-effect relationship.

Blood pressure variability has already been associated with an increased risk of stroke. It is thought that disruption of the brain’s blood flow may hasten the processes that lead to dementia.

 

 

Staying Employed May
Help You Stay Sharp

The trend towards delayed retirement may come with a bonus: The longer you work, the better your chances of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease.

That’s the conclusion reached by a French study presented to a recent meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org). In analyzing records of more than 429,000 self-employed workers who had been retired an average of more than 12 years, a study team from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research found a 3% reduction in risk for each additional year at the age of retirement.

The need to save more money for one’s post-work life has led an increasing number of Americans to delay retirement, according to a 2012 Wells Fargo survey. Among 1,000 people making less than $100,000 a year, nearly a third said they would have to work until age 80 before they could afford to retire comfortably.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.2 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the US.

Little Sleep Equals
Poor Diet in Teens

JUNE 2013—Sleep-deprived adolescents tend to make poorer food choices than their better-rested peers.

That’s the conclusion reached by a research team led by Stony Brook University School of Medicine and presented at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

The scientists analyzed data from 13,284 teens who were interviewed for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Youth who said they slept less than seven hours a night—representing 18% of the participants—were more likely to eat fast food at least twice a week and less likely to eat fresh produce and other healthy foods. The study took factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status into account.

“If we determine that there is a causal link between chronic sleep problems and poor dietary choices, then we need to start thinking about how to more actively incorporate sleep hygiene education into obesity prevention and health promotion interventions,” said Lauren Hale, PhD, lead author and associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook.

Other institutions involved in the study include University of Colorado at Denver, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Utah State University.

Exercise May Reduce
Senior Healthcare Costs

JUNE 2013—Investing in cardio and weight training for older people may pay off in better health and reduced medical expenses.

Investigators at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute recruited 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 who had mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three exercise groups—weight training, cardio (outdoor walking) or balance and toning—for six months.

The women in the weight training and cardio groups used fewer healthcare resources, according to results published in PLOS ONE.

This latest study follows one published in the February issue of the Journal of Aging Research, in which cardio and weight work were also found to improve performance on cognitive tests.

 

Vitamin D May Reduce Fibroid Risk

Women who had adequate amounts of vitamin D in their systems were 32% less likely to develop benign tumors called uterine fibroids in a National Institutes of Health study.

As reported in the journal Epidemiology, investigators came to this conclusion after taking blood samples from 1,036 women between the ages of 35 and 49. All lived in the Washington, DC area between 1996 and 1999.

Study participants were also asked about their exposure to the sun’s rays, which trigger vitamin D production in the skin. Those who spent more than an hour outside every day were also at reduced fibroid risk.

“It would be wonderful if something as simple and inexpensive as getting some natural sunshine on their skin each day could help women reduce their chance of getting fibroids,” says lead author Donna Baird, PhD, of the National Institute of Environmental Health.

 

Vitamin D May Help
Moms-to-Be Stay Healthier

Pregnant women with low D levels are more prone to developing pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, according to a study in BMJ.

A University of Calgary research team analyzed data from 31 studies published between 1980 and 2012. Studies on gestational diabetes, high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy, included 687 cases and 3,425 controls. Those on pre-eclampsia, marked by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine, included 350 cases and 2,841 controls. In both cases, affected women were more likely to have insufficient vitamin D levels than healthy women.

“These findings are of concern, particularly given that [vitamin D] deficiency or insufficiency is common during pregnancy,” the team wrote in their journal article. “Vitamin D supplementation may be a simple way to reduce the risk of these adverse outcomes.”

 

Vitamin D May Reduce
Diabetes Risk in Obese Children

Obesity, which has increased dramatically among children in the past 30 years, increases the risk of developing diabetes. But a recent study suggests that vitamin D may be able to protect obese children and teenagers from developing blood sugar problems.

University of Missouri scientists gave 35 pre-diabetic children and adolescents, all of whom were being treated in the school’s Adolescent Diabetic Obesity Program, either vitamin D or a placebo for six months. Those in the supplement group had lower insulin levels, a sign of better glucose control.

In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers wrote, “The correction of poor vitamin D status through dietary supplementation may be an effective addition to the standard treatment of obesity and its associated insulin resistance.”

 

MSM May Ease Aching Muscles

One of the less attractive aspects of vigorous exercise is the resulting muscular soreness. But a supplement called MSM may help alleviate workout-related discomfort.

Florida researchers gave 24 trained young men either MSM or a placebo after the participants had performed leg extensions until they couldn’t do another rep. Two hours and 48 hours after the workout, the study team assessed the men’s levels of pain and inflammation.

Taking MSM “resulted in significantly less pain and discomfort” as well as reduction in levels of IL-6, a key inflammation marker, according to study results published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), a source of biologically active sulfur, appears to inhibit the transmission of pain signals. It has also been found to promote blood flow, ease spasms and support tissue detoxification.

 

CoQ10 May Aid Heart Failure

A vitamin-like nutrient called CoQ10 has reduced death rates in heart failure patients in a Danish study.

An investigation led by Copenhagen University Hospital divided 420 Asian and European patients into two groups. One received 100 mg of CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10), an antioxidant that plays a key role in cellular energy production; the other received a placebo.

After two years 25% of those in the placebo group had a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, compared with 14% in the CoQ10 group.

Results were presented to the European Society of Cardiology.

 

CoQ10 May Boost Muscle Power

CoQ10, a nutrient associated with cellular energy production, has improved exercise performance in a recent study.

Young German athletes, 53 men and 47 women, took either a placebo or ubiquinol, a form of CoQ10 more readily usable within the body. All the athletes then underwent muscle output testing while riding exercise bikes.

Compared with those in the control group, participants taking ubiquinol increased their muscular power by more than 2.5%.

“Older athletes and ‘weekend warriors’ might profit even more from CoQ10 supplementation,” wrote the research group in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

 

Air Pollution Increases Risk of
Diabetes Precursor in Children

MAY 2013—Living in areas where air pollution levels are high raises a child’s risk of developing insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

A team of German researchers took fasting blood samples from 397 10-year-olds and analyzed traffic emissions in the areas the children lived. The incidence of insulin resistance went up by 19% for every 6 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) rise in airborne particulates and 17% for every 10.6 increase in nitrogen dioxide. The associations held even when the study team allowed for factors such as body mass index, puberty status and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in the home.

Study results have been published in the journal Diabetologia.

In insulin resistance, cells don’t properly respond to insulin, the hormone that moves glucose out of the bloodstream. This leads to an increase in blood glucose; fasting levels of 126 mg/dl or higher indicate the presence of diabetes.

“Oxidative stress caused by exposure to air pollutants may play a role in the development insulin resistance,” says Joachim Heinrich, PhD, one of the study’s coauthors, who notes that pollution may also increase inflammation, an underlying factor in a number of chronic diseases.

He adds, “The results of this study support the notion that the development of diabetes in adults may have its origin in early life including environmental exposures.”

 

 

Vitamin E May Fight Obesity-
Related Liver Woes

Excess weight can lead to liver disease. But vitamin E may help prevent this from happening, according to study results that researchers stumbled upon by a fortunate accident.

Scientists from three institutions had intended to examine the effects of vitamin E deficiency on the central nervous system. However, they realized that the mice they were working with had advanced nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an obesity complication marked by fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver. Giving the animals vitamin E averted most NASH-related symptoms.

Results were reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

According to the National Institutes of Health, NASH affects 2% to 5% of the population in the US. The most common liver disorder not related to alcohol consumption, it often causes no symptoms. NASH may be diagnosed after blood tests reveal a rise in liver enzymes, an indication of damage; if the damage continues, cirrhosis, a scarring and hardening of the liver, may develop.

Researchers believe that vitamin E’s antioxidant properties may explain its ability to protect the liver.

“These findings may have a significant impact on public health, as the vast majority of adults in the United States do not consume the amount of vitamin E recommended by the National Institute of Medicine,” says Danny Manor, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, one of the institutions collaborating on the study.

 

Gardening Your Way to Weight Loss?

Burying your hands in the soil may help you bury excess pounds as well, according to a University of Utah study.

Researchers looked at three groups of people: community garden participants, their siblings and spouses, and unrelated neighbors. Study enrollees had their body mass index (BMI), a rough indication of body fat percentage, measured; anything over 24.9 is considered overweight.

The average BMI of the female gardeners was 1.84 lower than that of their non-gardening neighbors, which represents a weight difference of 11 pounds for a woman 5 feet 5 inches tall. For men the effect was more pronounced, with an average BMI difference of 2.36 that translates to a 16-pound weight difference for a man 5 feet 10 inches tall. Male gardeners were 62% less likely to be overweight or obese; women gardeners, 46% percent less.

Gardeners of both genders had lower BMIs than their same-sex siblings. Spouses has the same BMIs as the gardeners themselves, which researchers attributed to eating more freshproduce and possibly helping with garden activities.

Results have been reported online in the American Journal of Public Health.

 

Resveratrol May Protect the
Ears and Brain

The benefits of resveratrol, a phytonutrient known for its anti-aging effects, may extend to protection against age-related declines in hearing and cognition.

Scientists at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital gave resveratrol to healthy rats who were then exposed to loud noise for long periods of time. The animals didn’t experience typical amounts of hearing and cognitive loss, according to results in the online version of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

“Resveratrol is a very powerful chemical that seems to protect against the body’s inflammatory process as it relates to aging, cognition and hearing loss,” says Henry Ford’s Michael Seidman, MD, lead author on the study. “We’ve shown that by giving animals resveratrol, we can reduce the amount of hearing and cognitive decline.”

The researchers found that resveratrol’s antioxidant properties were responsible for holding development of pro-inflammatory substances in check.

Nearly one in five Americans suffers from hearing loss, which generally declines with age. Noise also contributes to this problem; more than 12% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from significant hearing loss. An inability to hear because of noise has also been related to sleep and an increase in risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure.

Resveratrol occurs in grapes, red wine and other foods and beverages. Japanese knotweed is a concentrated source often used in supplements.

 

BLIS K12 May Reduce Throat
Infection Reoccurrence

BLIS K12, a probiotic found in the upper airway, may reduce the recurrence of childhood tonsil and ear infections, with similar benefits in adults.

One of the clinical trials, conducted by Italian researchers, involved 82 four- and five-year-olds, of which 65 had recurrent eat and throat infections. Forty-five were given BLIS K12, often found in supplements supporting immunity and digestion, for 90 days; the others were left untreated.

Recurrence reductions were of 40% for ear infections and 90% for tonsil infections were seen in the supplemented children.

Results were published in the International Journal of General Medicine.

Another study, published in Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, looked at the effects of BLIS K12 in 40 adults with a history of recurrent ear and throat infections. Supplementation was associated with a 80% recurrence reduction.

BLIS (bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances) K12 are antimicrobial molecules secreted by a specific strain of Streptococcus salivarius.

 

 

Some Children Still Have
High Lead Levels

APRIL 2013—Despite great strides made over the past 40 years, 2.6% of American children in the first years of life still have too much lead in their blood.

The Centers for Disease Control released an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which estimated that 535,000 children between the ages of one and five had blood lead levels of 5 mcg/dL or more. The CDC, in standards adopted last year, considers levels at or above that cutoff “a level of concern.”

High lead levels are linked to lower IQ levels as well as behavioral and attention span problems.

An estimated 88% of children had blood levels of 10 mcg/dL, the previous standard, between 1976 to 1980. That fell to 4.4% in 1991-1994, 1.6% in 1999-2000 and 0.8% in 2007-2010.
Differences in lead levels persist because of differences among ethnic and income groups in addition to factors such as housing quality and nutrition, the CDC reports in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The agency says future efforts to prevent lead poisoning should target communities in which children are most at risk.

Parents can protect their children by keeping kids away from peeling paint and using lead-free paint in addition to keeping a clean home and encouraging frequent hand-washing.

 

Green Tea Compound May
Fight Alzheimer’s

MAY 2013—An extract taken from green tea that features the polyphenol EGCG may block formation of the brain plaques seen in Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found in lab studies that EGCG was able to not only hinder the development of beta-amyloid plaques—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease—but was also capable of breaking down abnormal protein structures that contained metals such as copper, iron and zinc. Such metal-associated amyloids are linked to Alzheimer’s as well as other neurological conditions.

Results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“A lot of people are very excited about this molecule,” says lead author Mi Hee Lim, PhD, about EGCG.

 

Low Vitamin D Predicts High
Breast Cancer Risk

MAY 2013—Inadequate levels of vitamin D have been linked to a high risk of breast cancer in younger women, according to a University of California, San Diego study.

Researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine looked at blood samples that had been frozen for the Department of Defense Serum Repository as part of routine disease surveillance. Two sets of samples were analyzed, 600 from women who later developed breast cancer and 600 from women who did not.

Premenopausal women who had low levels of vitamin D in their blood were three times as likely to suffer from breast cancer as those with the highest levels. Study results have been published in the online version of Cancer Causes and Control.

“While the mechanisms by which vitamin D could prevent breast cancer are not fully understood, this study suggests that the association with low vitamin D in the blood is strongest late in the development of the cancer,” says lead author Cedric Garland, DrPH, FACE, a professor in the school’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. “Based on these data, further investigation of the role of vitamin D in reducing incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, particularly during the late phases of its development, is warranted.”

 

Zinc May Moderate Immunity
to Help Fight Infections

MAY 2013—Zinc has long been known to boost immunity. But now scientists believe they have discovered why: This crucial mineral apparently helps modulate the body’s inflammatory response.

“Without zinc on board to begin with, it could increase vulnerability to infection,” wrote the research team, led by Ohio State University, in Cell Reports. “If you are deficient in zinc you are at a disadvantage because your defense system is amplified, and inappropriately so…zinc…stops the action of a protein, ultimately preventing excess inflammation.”

The team’s cell studies were conducted in the context of sepsis, a severe infection response that often kills its victims.

 

Carnitine Shows Weight Loss Promise

MAY 2013—L-carnitine has helped spur weight loss in motivated people.

Japanese scientists gave either 500 mg of L-carnitine or a placebo to 24 overweight men; some participants also underwent motivation training on how weight loss reduced disease risk and encouragement to increase daily activity, such as taking stairs instead of using escalators or elevators.

After four weeks, those in the supplement-plus-training group showed “significant body weight loss and a [decrease in] serum triglyceride level versus the non-motivated placebo group,” the scientists wrote in Food and Nutrition Sciences, noting this treatment “could offer a safe, low cost and easily applicable strategy targeting weight loss.”

 

Omega-3 Shows Cardio-Protective Benefits in Dialysis Patients

MAY 2013— Omega-3 fatty acids may protect dialysis patients from sudden cardiac death.
Scientists at the Indiana University School of Medicine examined the records of 100 patients who died of sudden cardiac death—which commonly occurs when a blood clot blocks a narrowed coronary artery—and those of 300 patients who survived.

“We found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of patients who were just starting hemodialysis were very strongly associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death over the first year of their treatment,” the team wrote in Kidney International.

In dialysis, blood is pumped from the patient through a machine that removes the wastes normally processed by the kidneys. The five-year survival rate for patients is 35%, with the highest risk experienced in the first few months. Sudden cardiac death accounts for about 25% of all dialysis-related deaths.

 

Passover Goes Gluten-Free

During Passover, Jews exclude yeast and leavened bread from their diet, marking the haste with which the Hebrews made their exodus from slavery in Egypt. The main staple of the eight-day holiday is matzoh, which is generally not gluten-free and can put people with celiac and other gluten intolerances in a bind.

Mirroring the trend in the general food market, more gluten-free food that is kosher for Passover is becoming available. Manischewitz, one of the biggest kosher foods companies, has just introduced gluten-free matzah and crackers that are kosher for Passover.

To make inroads in the general health food market, Manischewitz is also positioning those kosher for Passover products as year-round fare. The specialty food company, founded in 1888, has also introduced organic matzah, as well as coconut water and root vegetable chips under its Guiltless Gourmet label.

Among other gluten-free fare are Red Velvet Macaroons, almond butter, Flaxseed Crunch Bars and the company’s Magic Max Chocolate Chip Cookie Cereal.

 

Folic Acid and Omega-3 for
Moms Help Babies

APRIL 2013—Pregnant women who supplement their diets with folic acid and omega-3 fats may increase their chances of delivering healthy babies.

Supplementation with DHA, an omega-3 fat, was linked to a reduction in delivery of preterm and low birthweight babies, according to researchers at the University of Kansas. In addition, women who took DHA had “shorter hospital stays for infants born preterm than the placebo group,” the research team wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

What’s more, a Norwegian study published in JAMA found that women who took folic acid supplements from four weeks before conception to eight weeks into pregnancy had a 40% lower risk of their babies developing classic childhood autism, a developmental disorder that affects social and communication skills.

 

Omega-3 and Vitamin D:
Help for Alzheimer’s?

APRIL 2013—One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the development of brain plaques made of amyloid-beta, a protein-like substance that can destroy nerve cells. However, scientists have found that omega-3 and vitamin D may bolster the immune system’s ability to clear amyloid plaques.

A study team at the University of Southern California’s David Geffen School of Medicine isolated macrophages, immune cells that engulf waste products such as amyloid-beta, from the blood of Alzheimer’s patients and healthy volunteers. The scientists then added amyloid-beta to the cell samples; some samples also received active forms of either vitamin D or omega-3.

Both nutrients boosted the ability of macrophages from the Alzheimer’s patients to ingest amyloid-beta. The study team also found that not only did the patients’ cells show different gene-based inflammation patterns compared with cells taken from the healthy people but that two separate gene patterns occurred in the cells from the Alzheimer’s patients.
Study results appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“We may find that we need to carefully balance supplementation with vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids depending on each patient in order to help promote efficient clearing of amyloid-beta,” says study leader Milan Fiala, MD. “This is a first step in understanding what form and in which patients these nutritional substances might work best.”

 

Too Little Vitamin D May Raise
Type 1 Diabetes Risk

APRIL 2013—Young adults who have inadequate amounts of vitamin D in their systems may be more susceptible to developing type 1 diabetes, say researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study team analyzed blood samples from active-duty US military personnel, comparing samples taken before diabetes onset in 310 people with those from 613 controls who didn’t have the disorder. Those with higher vitamin D levels had roughly half the risk of developing diabetes as those with the lowest levels.

“It is surprising that a serious disease such as type 1 diabetes could perhaps be prevented by a simple and safe intervention,” the team wrote in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system destroys insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas, necessitating a lifetime of insulin injections. In the more common type 2, the body’s cells become unable to use insulin properly in drawing glucose out of the bloodstream.

 

Cinnamon May Fight Hypertension

APRIL 2013—Cinnamon, a spice long known to help reduce blood sugar levels, may also help combat high blood pressure.

A multi-institutional research team in Cameroon gave cinnamon extract to hypertensive rats via an IV drip at various dosages; blood pressure decreased by up to approximately 30%. The scientists believed the extract increased production of nitric oxide, a substance that causes blood vessels to dilate.

The study was published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

 

Brooding Can Increase Inflammation

MARCH 2013—If you always accentuate the negative, take heed: Dwelling on stressful events can foster inflammation.

Scientists at Ohio University asked 34 healthy young women to make presentations on their qualifications for a job before two stone-faced interviewers in white coats. Half the women were asked to think about how they did at the task, while the other half were asked to think about neutral subjects, such as trips to the supermarket.

Blood tests showed significantly higher levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker, among those participants who dwelled on their speeches. Chronic low-level inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease and other disorders.

Results were presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

Heart, Kidney Risk Linked
to High BPA Levels

JANUARY 2013—Children with high urine levels of a plastics chemical called BPA have shown signs of an early marker for kidney and heart disease, according to a study in Kidney International.

Scientists at the New York University School of Medicine analyzed data taken from more than 700 youngsters between the ages of 6 and 19 who had participated in the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHNES).

Participants with the highest BPA levels had the highest ratios of albumin to creatine, a sign of kidney damage and of future heart disease risk.

BPA is chemical used in food packaging. The Food and Drug Administration formally banned its use in baby bottles and sippy cups last July, although manufacturers had already phased out use of BPA in children’s products. The FDA’s move was requested by the American Chemistry Council, a trade association, to boost consumer confidence. However, BPA is still used to line food and drink cans.

“This new data adds to already existing concerns about BPA as a contributor to cardiovascular risk in children and adolescents,” says Leonardo Trasande, MD, co-lead author of the Kidney International study. “Removing it from aluminum cans is one of the best ways we can limit exposure.”

 

Omega-3s Drop
Infant Eczema Risk

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce eczema risk in infants.

A research team at the University of Western Australia gave either fish oil, a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), or a placebo to 420 children up to six months of age who were at a high risk of developing allergies. According to results reported in the journal Pediatrics, youngsters in the supplementation group were less likely to have eczema or wheezing bouts when they were a year old.

In a separate report published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, study participants with high levels of the fish oil DHA in their blood were found to produce lower levels of immune system substances involved in allergic responses.

 

Omega-3 May Delay Age-Related Cognitive Decline

Omega-3 supplementation may postpone metabolic dysfunction and the mental impairment associated with it, according to scientists led by Sweden’s Lund University.

Among 40 healthy older participants who received either fish oil or a placebo over a five-week period, fish oil intake “significantly improved cognitive function” wrote the scientists in Nutrition Journal. Drops in blood pressure, triglycerides and fasting glucose were also seen.

The participants were tested for working memory and selective attention. High levels of lood pressure, fasting glucose and serum TNF-alpha, a marker of system inflammation, were associated with poor test performance.

 

Low D Levels Linked to Daytime Drowsiness, Headaches

Don’t have enough vitamin D in your bloodstream? You may find yourself napping at your desk—or reaching for something to quell a headache.

A research team led by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center studied the records of 81 sleep clinic patients, all of whom were eventually diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Those with the lowest vitamin D levels were most likely to experience sleepiness during the day.

African-Americans were the most affected. Scientists have long known that increased skin pigmentation interferes with the skin’s ability to create vitamin D from sunshine.

“The results suggested the novel possibility that vitamin D deficiency-related disease has a yet-to-be-identified mechanistic role in the presentation of sleepiness, sleep disorders or both,” the team wrote in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. “It’s important to now do a follow-up study and look deeper into this correlation.”

Another study group has found low D levels to be associated with a 20% increased in the incidence of non-migraine headaches.

This team, based at the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromso, based their findings on data taken from a long-running Norwegian study involving 11,614 participants. According to results published in the journal Headache, the relationship between vitamin D and head pain remained even after the researchers took possible confounding factors, such as smoking, into account.

Previous research has found that many people, especially those living in colder climates, suffer from low-level vitamin D deficiency.

 

Heart, Nerve Benefits From
Consuming Colorful Produce

The bright colors found in fruits and vegetables have been linked to reductions in risk for both heart attack and ALS.

British researchers discovered the heart benefits after examining data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a large study in which nearly 94,000 women completed dietary questionnaires every four years for 18 years. Those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries were 32% less likely to suffer a heart attack, according to results published in the journal Circulation.

A study team at the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating dark-green vegetables and bright red-yellow fruits to be linked with a reduction in risk for ALS, a chronic neurological condition.

“Our findings suggest that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS,” they wrote in the Annals of Neurology.

 

CoQ10 Helps Heart Failure Patients

People with heart failure suffer from poor circulation caused by a heart that doesn’t function properly. But a recent study indicates that coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can help boost the heart’s pumping power.

Scientists at the Tulane University School of Medicine analyzed data from clinical trials in which participants received CoQ10 for up to 24 weeks. Dosages ranged from 60 to 300 milligrams per day.

Supplementation was found to be associated with a 3.7% improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction, a measure of how well the heart can pump blood throughout the body.

“Congestive heart failure is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States and worldwide. The findings of this meta-analysis suggest that supplementation with CoQ10 may be of benefit in patients,” the research team wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “To our knowledge...our meta-analysis was the most comprehensive, with 13 studies.” The team noted that the greatest benefit was found in people with less severe disease progression.
According to the American Heart Association, 5.7 million people in the US have heart failure, and the rate is rising as the population ages. The circulation problems associated with this condition can lead to fatigue, dizziness and weakness. Edema, or fluid accumulation in the body’s tissues, can develop if blood backs up in the veins.

High blood pressure is present in 70% of all heart failure patients. Other underlying conditions include heart attack and coronary artery disease, or blockages in arteries feeding the heart.

B Vitamins May Drop
Colorectal Cancer Risk

Increased intakes of two members of the B-vitamin complex—riboflavin (B2) and pyridoxine (B6)—have been linked with risk reductions for colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US.

A multinational research team led by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked at data taken from 88,045 postmenopausal women participating in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. More than 1,000 cases of colorectal cancer developed over the course of the study.

“Vitamin B-6 and riboflavin intakes from diet and supplements were associated with a decreased risk of CRC,” wrote the team in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The associations “were particularly strong for regional disease [cancer that had spread to adjacent tissues] and among women drinkers who consumed alcohol infrequently.”

The highest average intakes of riboflavin and pyridoxine were linked to a 20% reduction in risk compared with the lowest intakes.

The team also noted that less-than-adequate amounts of either vitamin “leads to the accumulation of homocysteine, a metabolite strongly linked with colorectal cancer.” High levels of homocysteine, which is produced as a result of amino acid metabolism, has also been linked to cardiovascular problems and an increase in bone fracture risk.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 143,460 new cases of colorectal cancer occur in the US each year. In addition to increasing age, risk factors include family history, a personal history of either colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, inactivity, smoking and heavy alcohol use.

Vitamin C Deficits Harm
Fetal Development

Babies born to women who are deficient in vitamin C during pregnancy may be born with brain impairments that cannot be reversed by post-birth supplementation.

University of Copenhagen scientists studied guinea pigs and their pups because these animals, like people, cannot produce vitamin C themselves. Even marginally low vitamin levels stunted growth of the hippocampus, a brain structure crucial to memory, by up to 15%.

According to results published in the journal PLoS ONE, pups born to the C-deficient mothers did not show gains in brain development after two months of supplementation (a two-month-old guinea pig is equivalent to a human adolescent).

Other studies have shown that between 10% and 20% of all adults in the developed world suffer from vitamin C deficiency. In addition to serving as an antioxidant, this nutrient is needed for the body to create collagen, a flexible protein found in skin, bone and other tissues, and norepinephrine, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood.

 

Vitamin D May Reduce Clogged
Arteries in People with Diabetes

Vitamin D & Arterial Blockages; Category: Diabetes and Blood Sugar

Low vitamin D levels may lead to the arterial blockages often seen in people with diabetes.
A research team led by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, found that insufficient D causes immune cells to trap cholesterol in blood vessels near the heart, leading to plaque buildup.

The study involved 43 people with type 2 diabetes, the type associated with carrying excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle, and 25 diabetes-free people who were matched to the first group in terms of age, sex and weight. In diabetes patients with low D levels, immune cells called macrophages were more likely to adhere to blood vessel walls, a process that can lead to arterial plaque development.

Best known for its role in calcium metabolism, vitamin D has also been found to play roles in immunity, insulin secretion, blood pressure regulation and cell differentiation (an important anti-cancer process).

 

Loneliness Linked to
Increased Dementia

DECEMBER 2012—Feeling lonely has been found to be associated with a greater risk of dementia in later life.

A Dutch research team followed 2,173 participants in the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL), a large ongoing investigation into mental disorders among older people. All the participants lived independently and were free of dementia when the study began. About 75% said they had no social support from family or friends, and 46% said they lived alone. Nearly 20% reported feeling lonely.

After three years, people who said they were lonely were 64% more likely to develop dementia than those who didn’t. For people who lived alone or who were no longer married, the risk of dementia was between 70% and 80% of that experienced by people who were married or otherwise living with others. Writing in the online version of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the research team said their results suggest it is “the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of cognitive decline.”

Previous research has found that being socially active—participation in fraternal organizations, visiting family and friends, attending religious services, volunteering and involvement in sporting and recreational events—reduces dementia risk among older people by 70%.

 

Omega-3 May Slow Aging

Eating more omega-3 fatty acids may help preserve telomeres, pieces of DNA that control cell aging.

Ohio State University researchers gave volunteers either omega-3 or a mix of oils that reflect the typical American diet, which contains a higher ratio of inflammation-promoting omega-6 fats. After four months the omega-3 group had longer telomeres and an average reduction in oxidative stress of 15%.

“The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging,” the study team wrote in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

 

In Study, Omega-3s Reduce
Chemo-Induced Nerve Damage

Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) caused by chemotherapy.

Iranian researchers gave either omega-3 supplements or placebos to breast cancer patients taking paclitaxel, which can cause numbness, tingling and burning. Of the supplement group, 30% developed nerve problems compared with nearly 60% of the placebo group, according to BMC Cancer.

 

Resveratrol for Improved Mobility

Resveratrol shows promise in helping older people remain mobile, according to the results of a recent animal study.

Scientists at Duquesne University gave resveratrol, found in red wine and other foods, to older mice that were having trouble navigating a steel mesh balance beam. After four weeks, the mice performed on a par with younger animals.

“Our study suggests that a natural compound like resveratrol, which can be obtained either through dietary supplementation or through diet itself, could actually decrease some of the motor deficiencies that are seen in our aging population,” said lead researcher Jane Cavanaugh, PhD, at the American Chemical Society meeting where these results were presented. “And that would, therefore, increase an aging person’s quality of life and decrease their risk of hospitalization due to slips and falls.”

 

Multivitamins Linked to
Reduced Cancer Risk

Taking a daily multivitamin has been found to reduce cancer risk by 8% in a large-scale, long-term study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The 14,641 volunteers, all men initially age 50 and older, were part of the Physicians’ Health Study II. Limiting the study to doctors helped ensure compliance and high-quality reporting of health information. The participants were randomly assigned to take either a daily multivitamin or a placebo by the Boston-based research group, which followed the men for an average of 11 years. The study’s double-blind design assured that neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was actually receiving the supplement, a precaution that helped eliminate bias in the results.

“Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men,” wrote the team, led by cardiologist J. Michael Gaziano of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in its journal report. More than 1,300 participants had cancer to start with; only new cancers were counted in the study analysis.

These study results were also reported to an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Anaheim, California.

This was one of the biggest, longest investigations into the effects of regular vitamin use. Gaziano did point out that supplementation is not a substitute for other healthy behaviors associated with reductions in cancer risk, such as eating properly, exercising regularly, not smoking and using sunscreen on a consistent basis.

 

Joint Supplements May Fight
General Inflammation

Glucosamine and chondroitin, best known for their ability to support healthy joints, and fish oil, a source of omega-3 fatty acids, have been found to reduce a key inflammation marker in a recent study.

A research team led by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle analyzed data taken from 9,947 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They were asked about their supplementation use and their blood was tested for C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), which indicates levels of inflammation within the body.

Compared with people who didn’t take supplements, use of chondroitin was associated with a 22% drop in CRP; reductions for glucosamine and fish oil usage were 17% and 16% respectively. The anti-inflammatory effect of glucosamine and chondroitin was more significant in women than in men.

Study results were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

 

 

More Sleep May Mean Less Pain

DECEMBER 2012—Increasing sleep time has decreased pain sensitivity in a recent study.

Eighteen healthy, pain-free, mildly sleep-deprived volunteers spent four nights either maintaining their normal sleep schedules or getting extra shuteye by spending 10 hours in bed.

Not surprisingly, the extended-sleep group showed improved daytime alertness. But in addition, the length of time before they removed their fingers from a mildly painful heat source increased by 25% compared with the normal-sleep group, an effect the researchers reported to be greater than that attained in previous research using 60 milligrams of codeine.

“Our results suggest the importance of adequate sleep in various chronic pain conditions or in preparation for elective surgical procedures,” said lead author Timothy Roehrs, PhD, research director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “We were surprised by the magnitude of the reduction in pain sensitivity when compared with the reduction produced by taking codeine.” A study report has been published in the journal SLEEP.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.

Carbohydrates Linked to
Cognitive Impairment

NOVEMBER 2012—Seniors who load their plates with pasta, bread and rice may experience diminished brain function, according to a Mayo Clinic study.

Clinic researchers based their results on four years’ worth of data taken from 1,230 residents of Minnesota’s Olmsted County. Study participants were all between the ages of 70 and 89.

A high-carb diet was associated with a fourfold increase in risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, a high-protein diet lowered risk by 21% and a diet high in fat from nuts and oils dropped risk by 42%. Results were reported in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

When digested, carbohydrates—especially the refined varieties found in white bread, rice and pasta—are broken down into simple sugars within the body. “Sugar fuels your brain, so you need some carbohydrates,” says Mayo epidemiologist Rosebud Roberts, MB, ChB, lead study author. “But too much may stop the brain from using sugars effectively.” Roberts adds that excess sugar in the blood may also spur development of the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.

Protein and fat tend to slow the conversion of starchy carbohydrate into sugar, as do the complex carbs found in vegetables and whole grains.

According to results from the Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study released in 2008, mild cognitive impairment affects 22.2% of all Americans 71 years and older, or about 5.4 million people.

Job Loss Raises Heart Attack Risk

NOVEMBER 2012—Lost your job recently? In addition to your other woes, there’s a new worry: Unemployment has been linked to an increase in heart attacks, especially in the first year.

A research team led by Duke University compared heart attack rates with the employment status of nearly 13,500 people who participated in the US Health and Retirement Study between 1992 and 2010. Among the respondents, who were between the ages of 51 and 75, 14% were unemployed.

According to results published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, not only was employment loss linked to greater heart risk but losing multiple jobs increased risk to levels associated with such major cardiovascular hazards as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. The increase in risk applied to both genders and all major ethnic groups.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment jumped from 4.4% in May 2007 to 10% in October 2009, a period that includes the financial crisis of 2007-2008 related to downturns in the housing market. Unemployment stood at 7.9% in October 2012.

Black Tea Linked to
Lower Diabetes Risk

NOVEMBER—Countries in which people drink the most black tea have the lowest diabetes rates, according to a recent study.

A multinational European research team came to this conclusion after looking for statistical linkages between black tea consumption and key health indicators in 50 countries. “These results are consistent with biological, physiological and ecological studies conducted on the potential effect of [black tea] on diabetes and obesity,” the team wrote in BMJ Open.

The team noted that further studies, including randomized trials, are needed to confirm the association.

While overshadowed by the health headlines surrounding green tea, the black variety—made from the same plant, Camilla sinensis, from which all tea is taken—has been found to provide its own benefits. In studies, black tea has shown an ability to help counteract toxins, fight inflammation and inhibit biological processes that lead to tumor development.

Vitamin K May Reduce
Diabetes Risk

OCTOBER 2012—It might be known best for its role in helping blot clot, but vitamin K also appears to reduce the risk of diabetes in older people.

Spanish researchers evaluated data from 1069 people (average age of 67.5) who did not have type 2 diabetes, the kind linked to diet and lifestyle habits, at the start of the study. More than five years later, 131 people had developed the disorder.

In looking at the participants’ dietary patterns, the study team found that people with the highest levels of vitamin K1 (also known as phylloquinone) had the lowest risk of becoming diabetic.

“Moreover, an increase in the amount of phylloquinone intake during the follow-up was associated with a 51% lower risk of diabetes in elderly subjects at high cardiovascular risk,” the scientists wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Vitamin K1, which is found in leafy greens such as kale and parsley, is required for proper blood coagulation. Another form, vitamin K2, is created by intestinal bacteria and has been found to increase bone strength.

 

Infection-Fighting Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin, already known to play a crucial role in immune system support, has shown an ability to fight infections in two recent studies.

A team led by Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed data amassed during the Blue Sky Study in Mongolia on vitamin D levels in children. Like other countries that are relatively fare from the equator, Mongolia experiences short winter days. This puts the country’s population at risk for deficiency in vitamin D, which is manufactured in skin exposed to sunlight.

The study participants were assigned to two groups. Both were given locally produced milk, but in one group the milk was supplemented with vitamin D. According to results in the journal Pediatrics, children in the supplement group caught respiratory infections at about half the rate as those in the milk-only group.

Another group of scientists has performed an analysis indicating that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

An estimated 1.7 million Americans develop an HAI every year; about 100,000 die. Common HAIs include pneumonia, bacteremia [bacteria in the blood], sepsis, and urinary tract and surgical site infections. More than 40% of the US population is estimated to be is D-deficient.

The researchers noted that patients who were deficient in vitamin D were hospitalized more often, and for greater lengths of time, and that deficiency was linked to higher death rates. “We believe that intensive vitamin D supplementation in patients...could improve health outcomes,” they wrote in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology.

 

Antioxidants Against Cancer

Increasing one’s intake of dietary antioxidants may reduce pancreatic cancer risk by up to two thirds, according to a European study.

The researchers, led by Andrew Hart, MD, from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, used data from a British arm, involving nearly 24,000 participants, of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), an ongoing project designed to investigate the links between cancer risk and dietary, nutritional, lifestyle and environmental factors. Results were published in the journal Gut.

Study volunteers filled out a seven-day food diary, considered the most accurate way of measuring diet in large-scale studies, between 1993 and 1993. In analyzing this data, the research team found a link between reduced pancreatic cancer risk and intake of the trace mineral selenium and vitamins C and E, all recognized dietary antioxidants. The team believes that if these results are validated by further studies, one in every 12 cancers of the pancreas could be prevented by increasing intake of these nutrients.

In another study, vitamin E itself has also been linked to reduced liver cancer risk.

Chinese researchers studied data from the Shanghai Women’s and Shanghai Men’s Health Studies involving 132,837 people. (Liver cancer is particularly prevalent in Shanghai, China’s second-largest city.) The researchers examined participants’ eating habits and supplementation use.

“Overall, the take-home message is that high intake of vitamin E either from diet or supplements was related to lower risk of liver cancer in middle-aged or older people from China,” wrote the team in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

 

Vitamin C May Aid Exercisers

Supplemental vitamin C may help reduce fatigue and decrease heart rate among exercisers, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin gave 20 adults either 500 milligrams of vitamin C or a placebo for four weeks. All the participants were on a diet that was controlled for both vitamin C content and calories. The volunteers exercised for an hour at 50% of predicted maximal oxygen consumption at the beginning and the end of the study.

The supplement group averaged 11 fewer heartbeats during exercise compared with three fewer beats among the controls. The vitamin c group also scored lower in terms of Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE).

“These data provide preliminary evidence that vitamin C supplementation decreases feelings of fatigue and perceptions of exertion during moderate exercise in obese individuals,” the team wrote in the journal Nutrition.

 

Ginger Eases Menstrual Distress

Ginger supplements have reduced menstrual pain in an Iranian study.

A research team led by Shahed University in Tehran divided 120 students who suffered from such menstrual discomforts as pain, tenderness and nausea into two groups. One received a placebo; the other received 1,500 milligrams of powdered ginger in capsules; the supplement group reported significantly less pain.

“Treatment of primary dysmenorrhea in students with ginger for five days had a statistically significant effect on relieving intensity and duration of pain,” the research team wrote in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

 

Vitamin D Benefits

Older people who have low levels of vitamin D are at a 30% greater risk of dying than those who have higher levels, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Low D levels were found to be especially dangerous among the frail elderly, defined as people age 65 and older who suffer from functional impairments that hamper their ability to live independently. A study team led by researchers at Oregon State University arrived at these conclusions based on data taken from more than 4,300 adults as part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Another study has found a link between low vitamin D and reduced lung function in smokers.
Scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at data from 626 male participants in the ongoing Normative Aging Study. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, this study “suggests that vitamin D sufficiency may have a protective effect against the damaging effects of smoking on lung function.”

Vitamin D has also been linked with circulatory health, and a recent paper published in Dermato-Endocrinology suggests that low D may be a risk factor for erectile dysfunction. ED, which may affect as many as 30 million men in the US, is often caused by poor circulation.

The study from the Sunlight Institute in Saint George, Utah, cites previously published research showing vitamin D to play a crucial role in maintaining proper blood pressure and blood vessel function, and in reducing inflammation.

“If proven in further research, vitamin D optimization has the potential to influence the cause of ED,” says lead author and Sunlight Institute director Marc Sorenson.

 

Wheat Germ Extract Shows Promise Against Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often deadly: Not only is it often discovered late, but it often becomes resistant to chemotherapy.

A study in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer suggests that fermented wheat germ extract (FWGE) may help.

Scientists at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, added FWGE to ovarian cancer cell samples, both with and without the chemo agent cisplatin. The extract was able to make cisplatin more effective. What’s more, it had “significant antiproliferative effects” of its own, according to the study report.

About 22,280 women develop ovarian cancer each year and about 15,500 die of it, according to the American Cancer Society. Roughly 75% of the new cases are discovered at either stage III or stage IV, by which time the disease has spread.

 

Plastics Chemical Linked
to Childhood Obesity

SEPTEMBER 2012—BPA, a chemical used in food packaging, has been linked to obesity in children.

Researchers at New York University caution that their research doesn’t prove that BPA (bisphenol A) causes child obesity. But they did find that children with the highest levels in their urine were twice as likely (22%) to be seriously overweight as those with the lowest levels (10%), according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One puzzling aspect of these findings, which involved more than 2,800 youngsters, is that an association between BPA, used to make hard plastics and metal can liners, was only found in white children. No differences in obesity rates were found in black and Hispanic children with different BPA levels.

Several animal studies have found that BPA disrupts metabolism and enlarges fat cells. The FDA has banned the use of this chemical in products such as baby bottles and sippy cups.

Concerns about the long-term effects of childhood obesity grew with the release of a British study showing that obese or overweight children were more likely to have such cardiovascular risk factors as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and problems in regulating blood sugar.

“Having a body mass index outside the normal range significantly worsens risk parameters for cardiovascular disease in school-aged children,” the researchers wrote in the British Medical Journal. “This effect, already substantial in overweight children, increases in obesity and could be larger than previously thought.”

 

Too Much Sitting Leads to
Unhealthy Food Choices

SEPTEMBER 2012—Sedentary teenagers are likely to choose soda and sweets at snacktime, according to a European study.

Researchers analyzed data from 2202 participants in the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross-sectional Study, an ongoing investigation of dietary and lifestyle habits among teens from 10 cities across Europe.

Adolescents who spent more than four hours a day on weekends doing things such as watching television and playing computer games were more likely to consume sweetened beverages compared with youngsters who spent less than two hours engaged in such activities. Sedentary recreation on weekdays was also associated with reduced fruit consumption.

“Home environment and parental influence have an important effect on the development of health-related behaviors,” the team wrote in Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. “It is likely that individuals whose parents allow them to spend time in sedentary activities might also be those allowed to snack and drink sweetened beverages.”

 

Walnuts Boost Sperm Quality

AUGUST 2012—Couples who are looking to conceive might want to make walnuts a regular part of the man’s diet for their sperm-enhancing qualities.

Researchers from the UCLA School of Nursing enrolled 117 healthy men between the ages of 21 and 35 in a study. About half of the volunteers consumed 75 grams of walnuts a day for 12 weeks; the others served as a control group. Both groups ate the same overall diet.

Sperm from men in the walnut group showed greater motility (swimming ability) and vitality, with fewer deformed cells, than that taken from the control group. Results are slated for publication in Biology of Reproduction.

In addition to ALA, an essential fatty acid, walnuts contain antioxidants and the minerals manganese and copper. The UCLA study found a correlation between higher levels of ALA and reduced frequency of genetic abnormalities in sperm.

The incidence of infertility among couples in the US is estimated at 15%, with male infertility contributing to roughly 50% of cases.

Outdoor Play May
Reduce Myopia Risk

AUGUST 2012—It’s known that time spent outdoors boosts children’s health. Now evidence suggests that it helps youngsters maintain sharper eyesight as well.

A British research team analyzed the results of seven studies involving nearly 10,000 participants. They found that each additional hour per week spent outside reduced the risk of myopia (nearsightedness). Among children who were nearsighted to begin with, outdoor activities reduced the risk that their vision would worsen over time.

Results were reported online in the journal Ophthalmology.

Myopia occurs when light that enters the eye comes to a focal point in front of the retina instead of directly on it, causing distant objects to appear blurry.

Myopia rates in the US rose almost 42% between 1999 and 2004, according to an earlier study conducted by the National Eye Institute. Approximately 47 million Americans age 20 and older suffer from some degree of nearsightedness.

Honey Eases Kids’ Coughs

AUGUST 2012—If your child is coughing at night, you might want to reach for the honey jar instead of the syrup bottle.

Researchers affiliated with Clalit Health Services in Israel gave either one of three honeys—citrus, eucalyptus or mint—or a honey-like placebo to 300 children between the ages of 1 and 5 who had been brought to six pediatric clinics. All had been ill for a week or less with runny noses and coughing; none showed signs of lung or lower airway involvement.

Based on surveys of the children’s parents, those youngsters who received honey slept better with less coughing than those who took the placebo.

“In light of our study, honey can be considered an effective and safe alternative, at least for those children over one year of age,” the research team wrote in the journal Pediatrics.

Authorities generally recommend that honey not be given to children twelve months old or younger because honey may contain botulism spores, although the risk of a child developing botulism is low. After a child reaches his or her first birthday, the gastrointestinal system can handle the spores.

 

Vitamin K2 May Help
Parkinson’s Patients

Vitamin K2, best known for its role in promoting bone health, may help undo the effects of genetic deficits associated with Parkinson’s disease.

A multi-institutional research team studied fruit flies with PINK1 or Parkin deficits that left the insects unable to fly; these flies, like human Parkinson’s patients, had defective mitochondria, the parts of the cell that generate energy. Administering vitamin K2 to the flies restored mitochondrial function and improved the insects’ flying abilities. Results were published in the journal Science.

“It appears from our research that administering vitamin K2 could possibly help patients with Parkinson’s. However, more work needs to be done to understand this better,” says Patrik Verstreken, PhD, lead study author associated with Northern Illinois University.

 

American Ginseng Helps Cancer Patients Fight Fatigue

American ginseng has helped reduce cancer-related fatigue in a study led by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. The study involved 340 cancer patients, 60% of whom were battling breast malignancies, either being treated with standard oncology therapies or having completed treatment.

The participants received either 2,000-milligram capsules of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) powder or a placebo. After eight weeks, those who had been taking the ginseng reported feeling significantly less fatigued than members of the placebo group.

“We saw a 20-point improvement in fatigue in cancer patients, measured on a 100-point, standardized fatigue scale,” says Mayo researcher Debra Barton, PhD.

The group’s report was presented at the Society of Clinical Oncology’s general meeting.

 

Selenium, CoQ10 Linked to
Reduced Death Risk

A Swedish investigation has found that long-term supplementation with selenium and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) reduced mortality related to cardiovascular disease by about 6%.

According to a report in the International Journal of Cardiology, the supplement combination was also associated with considerable improvements in cardiac function. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 443 volunteers between the ages of 70 and 88; 228 of them completed the study four years later.

The study group, which included staff from Linköping University and the Karolinska Institutet, that performed the research said the study results “cannot be ignored.”

 

Folic Acid May Cut
Cancer, Heart Risks

Folic acid, best known for helping to prevent birth defects, has been linked to other health benefits in recently published research.

Polish scientists reported to the Annual Conference on Hereditary Cancers the results of a study that compared women with breast or ovarian cancer with a group of healthy controls. All the women in both groups carried genetic mutations linked with these malignancies; those with the highest levels of folic acid “had a significantly lower risk of breast or ovarian cancer,” according to the research report. (Members of the same group found a similar correlation between intake of selenium, a key trace mineral, and risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.)

Researchers from two Chinese institutions have found a link between folic acid supplementation and reduced thickening of arterial walls, known medically as carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT). Thickening narrows arteries, leaving them more prone to being clogged by clots.

“CIMT has proved to be a good marker for the presence of early atherosclerosis,” the team wrote in the journal Atherosclerosis. They said their investigation “demonstrated a significant linear relation between baseline CIMT levels the the decrease of CIMT. These results provide further evidence that folic acid therapy is more suitable for populations with a high [cardiovascular disease] risk.”

 

Depressed Cancer Survivors May
Have Shorter Survival Times

AUGUST 2012—Cancer survivors who show signs of depression may be more likely to die of their malignancies, according to study in the journal PLoS One.

Scientists at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston analyzed surveys of 217 people who had been newly diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer. In addition to asking about depression symptoms, the surveys included questions on faith and spirituality, social support and coping skills. The participants also provided samples of saliva, used to track levels of a stress hormone called cortisol, and blood.

The study group found that 64% of the patients had died. Shorter survival times were found in the 23% of patients who suffered from clinical depression. Higher cortisol levels were also linked to reduced survival intervals.

The scientists found an association between depression and higher levels of cellular inflammation, which is known to set the stage for illness.

“Our findings, and those of others, suggest that mental health and social well-being can affect biological processes, which influence cancer-related outcomes,” said lead study author Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, director of the center’s Integrative Medicine Program. “Screening for mental health should be part of standard care.

Learning to Manage Stress
May Ease MS’s Effects

JULY 2012—Undergoing stress management training may slow disease activity in people with multiple sclerosis—but social support may play a role in this benefit.

A study group led by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago enrolled 121 people with MS in a study, half of whom met with a stress management therapist for 16 50-minute sessions over five to six months. The sessions involved training in relaxation, problem solving and finding social support, along with optional discussions on how to manage conditions such as anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. The other participants were put on a waiting list and used as a control group.

During the treatment period, 77% of those participants in the stress-management group showed no new signs of disease, such as MS-related brain damage, compared with 55% of those in the control group. Results were published online in the journal Neurology.

“The size of the effect is similar to other recent phase II trials of new drug therapies for MS,” says lead study author David Mohr, PhD.

However, the benefits of training did not extend beyond the study period. Mohr says, “This was unexpected. It’s possible that people were not able to sustain their new coping skills once the support ended, or that some aspect of the treatment other than stress management skills, such as the social support, was the most beneficial part of the treatment.”

Approximately 400,000 Americans suffer from MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a disorder that affects more women than men. It is believed to occur when the immune system attacks the central nervous system, leading to symptoms that can include numbness and tingling, balance and vision problems, tremors and stiffness, slurred speech, and excessive fatigue.

 

 

Exercise: A New Approach
to Nerve Pain?

JUNE 2012—Exercise may help ease pain related to nerve damage by reducing inflammation, suggests a study in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.

Chinese researchers studied rats with injuries of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the spine down into the leg. Some of the animals either ran on a treadmill or swam over the following weeks; other animals did not exercise.

The rats in the exercise groups showed 30% to 50% reductions in the abnormal responses to pressure and temperature that mark neuropathic pain, along with reductions in cytokines, substances that promote inflammation, in their sciatic nerves.

Neuropathic pain can be caused by trauma as well as certain disorders, most notably diabetes. It results in burning and numbness that is not readily controlled by standard pain medications.

Teens at Risk for Future
Heart Disease

JUNE 2012—Many US adolescents have health conditions that can lead to heart disease as they age, according to a recent study.

About 22% of teens have levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol that are above the recommended levels, 14% have or are at risk for high blood pressure and 15% have diabetes or prediabetes.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is based on a Centers for Disease Control analysis of responses to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), in which the CDC asks about 5,000 people a year about their diet and other health habits. The authors focused on the 3,383 responses in the 1999 through 2008 surveys that came from people between the ages of 12 and 19.

“The results of this national study indicate that US adolescents carry a substantial burden of CVD risk factors, especially those youth who are overweight or obese,” says the study team. However, they found that even some normal-weight teens have problems such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

According to the American Heart Association’s 2012 statistical update, more than 33% of American adults have hypertension, 15% have high total cholesterol levels and nearly 45% have either diabetes or prediabetes.

Staying Active May Boost
Cancer Survival

MAY 2012—People with breast and colon cancer may live longer if they exercise regularly, according to the results of a recent study.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute analyzed the results of 27 studies published between January 1950 and August 2011 that examined the link between exercise and cancer survival. The strongest correlations were found for cancers of the breast and colon. Analysis of other studies found additional exercise benefits for all cancer patients, including reductions in inflammation and insulin levels.

The study has been published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Lead author Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD, MPH, notes that because cancer is becoming more of a chronic disease, “many people actually are at risk for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, and physical activity is well known to be beneficial for these conditions.”

According to the American Cancer Society, US cancer death rates have fallen since the 1970s, and the number of cancer survivors has increased from 3 million in 1971 to more than 12 million today.

 

 

More Folate, Less Depression

The B vitamin folate has been linked with reduced levels of depression in a recent study.

A research team analyzed questionnaire data supplied by 2,266 employees of a Japanese company on depressive symptoms and folate intake. According to results published in BMC Psychiatry (2012; 12:33), volunteers who showed the greatest amount of depression consumed the smallest amounts of folate, a relationship that held up even after adjustments were made for age, sex and job stress levels.

The researchers suggested possible reasons for the link, including the roles folate plays in reducing levels of homocysteine, a substance that has been implicated in poor vascular health, and in production of key neurotransmitters.

 

GLA May Inhibit Pancreatic Cancer

Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) has inhibited the growth of a pancreatic cancer cell line. The vulnerable cancer subtype, known as FASN, correlates with poor overall survival in humans.

In the mice used in this Mayo Clinic study, GLA inhibited about 85% of cancer cell growth, a marked improvement over treatment the chemotherapy agent gemcitabine; combining GLA with gemcitabine completely inhibited growth. Study results were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting.

 

Magnesium Has Reduced
Irregular Heartbeat

A team of Chinese scientists discovered that administering magnesium intravenously after coronary bypass surgery reduced the incidence of atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat, by 36%.

The study, published in Trials (2012; 13:41), analyzed seven double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials involving 1,028 participants. Atrial fibrillation, the most common complication of bypass surgery, can lead to stroke.

 

Stand Up for a Longer Life

Need a reason to step away from your computer for a minute? Consider this: People who sit for 11 or more hours a day are 40% more likely to die over the following three years—even if they are physically active otherwise.

An Australian research team, writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, came to that conclusion after analyzing data from that country’s 45 and Up Study, an ongoing investigation into healthy aging. The information on health status, habits and other factors came from more than 222,000 people.

The researchers found a sharp increase in mortality risk after 11 hours of total daily sitting, but say that spending even 8 to 11 hours in a seat raised a person’s risk of dying by 15% compared with people who sit fewer than four hours a day.

Not only do many people sit down all day at work, but the researchers note that the average adult spends 90% of his or her lesiure time seated.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of all Americans don’t exercise at all, while another 31% don’t get the recommended 30 minutes a day, five days a week of moderate exercise.

 

 

Living Near Major Roads Endangers Heart Attack Survivors

MAY 2012—People who have survived heart attacks are at a greater risk of dying if they live near major roadways, a recent study has found.

A research team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston followed more than 3,500 heart attack survivors with an average age of 62 for 10 years. Those who lived about 330 feet from an interstate or major state road were 27% more likely to die of all causes than those who lived an average of 3,300 feet away. Study participants lived throughout the US and were not confined to one region of the country.

Of the nearly 1,100 deaths that occurred, 63% were caused by cardiovascular diseases, 17% by cancer and 4% by respiratory disorders.

The study appears in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. “We think there is exposure to a combination of air pollution near these roadways and other exposures, such as excessive noise or stress from living close to the roadway, that may contribute to the study findings,” says study author Murray Mittleman, MD, director of Beth Israel’s Cardiovascular Research Unit. “The association between risk of death and proximity of housing to major roadways should be considered when new communities are planned.”

Mittleman says people with lower levels of education and income, who are more likely to live near major roadways, are at greater risk.

Overweight Teens Have Trouble Controlling Diabetes

MAY 2012—It’s bad enough that a third of US adolescents weigh more than they should. Now we learn that type 2 diabetes is much more difficult to control among overweight teenagers than it is among heavy adults.

A multi-institutional study team followed 669 youngsters between the ages of 10 to 17 for about four years. All were overweight or obese and had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the kind associated with excess weight. Their glucose levels were stabilized with metformin, a standard diabetes drug, after which the participants were split into three groups. All the groups continued on metformin; one added diet and exercise counseling, and another took metformin along with a drug called Avandia.

By the end of the study, half of the teens who took metformin only had to start taking insulin to control their glucose levels. Those in the other groups did somewhat better, but not by much.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health with medications donated by drug manufacturers, has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“It’s frightening how severe this metabolic disease is in children,” David Nathan, MD, director of diabetes research at Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the study authors, told the New York Times. “It’s really got a hold on them, and it’s hard to turn around.”

Type 2 diabetes used to be labeled “adult onset” because it would generally first appear in midlife. In this type, the pancreas still produces insulin but the body’s cells resist its effects. Type 1 diabetes, the “juvenile” variety, is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the cells that secrete insulin; patients usually need to go on insulin therapy early in life.

 

 

Toxic Metal Linked to Aggressive Breast Cancers

APRIL 2012—Cadmium, an environmental toxin, has been found to cause breast cancer to become more aggressive in a recent study.

Researchers at Dominican University of California exposed breast cancer cells to cadmium, a heavy metal, in the small concentrations typical of the exposures faced by people on an ongoing basis. They found that as exposure continued, the cells showed an increasing ability migrate and invade other tissues, a process known as metastasis.

Study results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2012 conference in San Diego.

Breast cancer is often stimulated by the female sex hormone estrogen. Cadmium and other heavy metals have been found to mimic estrogen, disrupting normal hormonal metabolism.

Cadmium enters the environment through cigarette smoke as well as the mining and smelting of zinc, lead and copper, among other sources. “Many of us are exposed to very low levels of cadmium from the environment on a daily basis, and our research shows that even small concentrations of this metal at prolonged exposures can cause breast cancer cell growth,” says study author Maggie Louie, PhD.

Chemicals Used in Common Plastics May Raise Diabetes Risk

APRIL 2012—Phthalates, chemicals present in numerous household items, have been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from Sweden’s Uppsala University collected data and blood samples from more than 1,000 people, all 70 years old, as part of an ongoing senior health study. People with the highest blood levels of phthalates had twice the risk of developing diabetes than people with lower levels, even when such risk factors as obesity were taken into account.

“Our study supports the hypothesis that certain environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes,” the study team wrote in a recent online issue of Diabetes Care. The team found an association between phthalates and disruptions in production of insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

Phthalates are found in not only such items as food packaging and toys but also in some soaps and lotions.

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, while another 79 million are estimated to have prediabetes. This disorder is a major risk factor for heart and kidney disease as well as blindness and nerve system damage.

 

Living Longer with Vitamin D

Supplementation with vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, may brighten people’s days by helping to extend their lifespans.

Researchers at the University of Kansas examined the records of 10,899 people (average age: 58). About 70% were found to be D-deficient; they suffered disorders such as coronary artery disease, diabetes and high blood pressure at higher rates. What’s more, the risk of death from all causes was found to be 164% higher in people who were deficient in vitamin D. What’s more, vitamin D supplementation was linked to a 61% increase in survival.

“Because vitamin D deficiency is widespread, strategies directed at population-based supplementation programs could prove beneficial,” the research team wrote in the American Journal of Cardiology.

The skin creates vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. Studies have shown that low levels are prevalent in northern latitudes, especially in wintertime.

 

Carotenoid Duo May
Cut Cataract Risk

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have long been associated with eye health by helping to prevent age-related macular degeneration. Now a Finnish study has found that increased levels of these nutrients may reduce the risk of cataract as well.

A study team from the University of Eastern Finland and Lapland Central Hospital looked at data taken from 1,689 participants in that country’s Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The volunteers were all between 61 and 80 years old.

Having the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of developing cataract, a clouding of the eye’s lens, by about 40%.

The researchers, writing in the British Journal of Nutrition, note that lutein and zeaxanthin help protect cell membranes against light-induced oxidation.

 

Curcumin Shows
Anti-Parkinson’s Potential

Curcumin, a key component of the spice turmeric, has shown promise in fighting Parkinson’s disease, according to a report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In lab studies performed at Michigan State University, curcumin prevented a protein called alpha-synuclein associated with Parkinson’s disease from clumping together. Proteins are generally folded into specific shapes; curcumin increased the rate of this folding process, which makes it less prone to clumping.

While curcumin itself doesn’t enter the brain easily, the study team believes their work may lead to continued progress in the fight against Parkinson’s.

Cucumin, the substance that gives turmeric its yellow color, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been linked to protection against Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes and heart failure in previous studies.

 

Vitamin A Shows Melanoma Promise

Fun in the sun comes with a serious downside by raising one’s risk of skin cancer, including the potentially deadly form called melanoma. But a recent study has found a link between vitamin A supplements and reduced melanoma risk.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland obtained lifestyle information, including vitamin usage, from nearly 70,000 people in Washington state. After five years, 566 of the participants had developed melanoma; those who had taken vitamin A supplements were 40% less likely to develop the disease.

Writing in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the study team called for clinical trials on vitamin A for melanoma prevention, noting that their work did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

As with other forms of skin cancer, health authorities recommend lowering melanoma risk through reduced sun exposure, including the use of sunglasses and sunscreen.

 

Vitamin D Shrinks Fibroids
in Animal Study

MARCH 2012—Uterine tumors called fibroids may be benign—but they still can make a woman’s life miserable. Now a recent study suggests that vitamin D may be able to help.

Researchers from Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both located in Nashville, Tennessee, conducted the study using 12 rats genetically predisposed to developing fibroids. Tumors in the six animals that received vitamin D were 75% smaller than those in the untreated rats, in which the fibroids continued to grow.

Results were published in Biology of Reproduction.

Fibroids cause symptoms that include heavy vaginal bleeding, painful periods and lower back pain. According to the National Institutes of Health, annual costs associated with the tumors, including lost productivity plus healthcare expenses, may exceed $34 billion.

 

 

Omega-3 May Reduce
Atrial Fibrillation Risk

Atrial fibrillation, in which the heart’s upper chambers beat out of coordination with its lower ones, is the most common form of irregular heartbeat in adults. But a study in the journal Circulation (2012; 125:1084-93) found that the highest average intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 29% reduction in fibrillation risk compared with the lowest levels.

The study team, led by the Harvard School of Public Health, analyzed data from 3,326 people (average age: 74) of whom 789 went on to develop the condition, marked by palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness. “Our findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids could be beneficial for the prevention of onset of atrial fibrillation in older individuals, a group at particularly high risk,” the team wrote, adding that follow-up studies should be conducted.

Previous research, going back to the early 1970s, had linked omega-3 intake with reductions in levels of triglyceride, a fat found in the blood, and atherosclerotic plaque formation.

 

Pycnogenol Helps Ease
Menopausal Discomfort

Pycnogenol, a bark extract taken from the French maritime pine, helped ease menopause symptoms in an Italian study.

Researchers at G. D’Annunzio University in Pescara randomly assigned either Pycnogenol or a placebo to 70 women between the ages of 40 and 50 for eight weeks. The women taking the supplement reported a reduction in such menopausal symptoms as hot flashes, loss of libido, mood swings and night sweats. What’s more, Pycnogenol was associated with a reduction in oxidative stress.

“Pycnogenol may arguably represent a very good basic, daily dietary supplement for menopausal women due to an extended range of health benefits,” said the study team in their research report, published in Panminerva Medica.

 

Green Tea for Spry Seniors

The fountain of youth may be as close as the nearest tea kettle, at least according to a study in which older people who drank green tea were more independent than their peers.

Researchers at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan asked 13,988 people 65 or older about their tea-drinking habits. The study group then turned to that country’s public Long-Term Care Insurance database for information on functional disability, defined as problems with basic needs such as dressing oneself or with daily activities such as doing housework, among the participants.

After three years, those participants who drank the most tea were found to suffer less functional disability than other people involved in the study.

The researchers noted that their investigation was the first “to have proved a relation between green tea consumption and incident risk of functional disability.” Results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG),a key green tea flavonoid, had been linked to improved mental function in previous research.

 

Multis May Cut Colon Cancer Risk

Colon cancer strikes more than 103,000 Americans each year, making it the third most common malignancy in the US. But the results of a recent study indicate that regular multivitamin/mineral usage may reduce one’s risk of developing colon cancer.

Rats in this 32-week study who ate a high-fat, low-fiber diet developed precancerous lesions. However, those rats who ate this diet but were also given a daily multivitamin/mineral showed an 84% reduction in lesions and did not go on to develop tumors.

“Multivitamin and mineral supplements synergistically contribute to cancer chemopreventative potential, and hence, regular supplements of multivitamins and minerals could reduce the risk of colon cancer,” wrote the study authors—led by Ignacimuthu Savarimuthu, PhD, of Loyola College in India—in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

The authors noted that supplementation with multivitamins lowered lipid peroxidation levels, indicating that the rats’ bodies were better able to fight cell-damaging free radicals.

 

Physical Activity Sparks Enthusiasm

Looking to add excitement to your life? You might want to try getting more physically active.
Penn State researchers asked 190 college students to keep diaries of their daily lives, including sleep quality, emotional states and perceived stress levels. The students also noted any instances of free-time physical activity that lasted at least 15 minutes and whether such sessions were mild, moderate or vigorous in nature.

The diaries were returned to the study team at the end of each day for eight days. The team then broke down the students’ reports on emotional status into categories, one of which was “pleasant-activated,” meaning the students felt excited and enthusiastic.

The more active a student was, the more time he or she spent in the pleasant-activated state, according to the team’s report in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

You don’t have to be a workout warrior to experience the mental boost that being active brings. “It’s a matter of taking it one day at a time, of trying to get your activity in and then there’s this feel-good reward afterwards,” says David Conroy, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the university.

 

 

Trans Fats Raise
Stroke Risk in Women

MARCH 2012—Trans-fatty acids, synthetic fats created through a process called hydrogenation, increase the risk for certain kinds of strokes in postmenopausal women.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill came to this conclusion after analyzing data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS), a long-term research project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. The study included 87,025 women between the ages of 50 and 79 who had no history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, a short-term reduction in blood flow within the brain). All the women completed a food frequency questionnaire, including questions on the kinds of fat they ate, when they first entered the study and three years later.

Nearly 1,050 ischemic strokes, those caused by blood vessel blockages, occurred among the participants. Women who ate the most trans fats—found in many commercial baked and fried foods, and in some margarines—were at the greatest risk. “This study is the first to confirm that trans fatty acids are a risk factor of ischemic stroke,” says Ka He, MD, a professor in the Gillings Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology and one of the study authors.

Results were published online in the Annals of Neurology.

According to the American Stroke Association, about 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year, resulting in more than 137,000 deaths. While more men have strokes than women in any given year, 60% of stroke deaths occur in women.

 

 

Probiotics Lower Infection
Rates in Study

Probiotics, the good bacteria that promote intestinal well-being, have lowered infection rates in patients suffering traumatic brain injuries—which tend to lower immune defenses—in a recent study.

A research team at North Sichuan Medical College and Hospital in China included hospitalized 52 patients in the study. Some had the beneficial microbes introduced through their feeding tubes while the others received standard care.

The probiotic-supplemented patients had shorter ICU stays and fewer infections, according to results published in Critical Care. The supplements were able to increase levels of interferon, a substance produced by the immune system.

 

Probiotics Ease
Antibiotic-Related Diarrhea

Probiotics were also found to ease diarrhea associated with antibiotic use in a study presented to the American College of Gastroenterology’s 76th annual meeting.

Researchers at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York reviewed 22 studies involving nearly 3,100 patients. Probiotic usage “reduced the odds ratio of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhea by approximately 60%. This analysis clearly demonstrates that probiotics offer protective benefit in the prevention of these diseases,” said lead researcher Rabin Rahmani, MD.

In other studies presented at the ACG meeting, probiotics were found to help ease abdominal discomfort among irritable bowel patients and reduce inflammatory markers in the blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis.

 

Açai Compound May Fight Inflammation

Velutin, found in the açai berry, has been found to fight inflammation in a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

A multi-institutional research team added velutin and other natural anti-inflammatories to immune cells that had been stimulated to produce inflammatory substances. The açai compound outpaced the others in reducing the cells’ response, according to the researchers.
Açai, a berry found in Central and South American rainforests, is a nutrient-dense traditional food. A powerful antioxidant, has shown potential anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing benefits.

 

 

Multis May Improve
Short-Term Memory

MARCH 2012—Taking a multivitamin every day has been linked to memory improvements, according to a recent study.

Researchers from two Australian universities analyzed 10 randomized, placebo-controlled trials involving about 3,200 participants who took multis for at least one month. The study team found that supplementation was associated with better recall ability over the short term.

Results were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Earlier studies by scientists at Swinburne University of Technology, one of the institutions involved in the Journal of Alzheimer’s meta-analysis, had suggested that daily multivitamin usage may enhance memory in older women and increase alertness in men.

Fish Consumption May Lower Women’s Colon Polyp Risk

FEBRUARY 2012—Women who eat at least three servings of fish each week may reduce their risk of developing colon polyps, intestinal growths that can turn cancerous.

Researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center came to this conclusion after studying more than 5,300 women enrolled in the Tennessee Colorectal Polyp Study. The participants completed food frequency questionnaires and underwent colonoscopies. Some also gave urine samples that were tested for biomarkers of inflammation, which has been tied to a number of chronic illnesses including cancer.

Women who ate at least three servings of fish had both a 33% reduction in polyp risk and lower levels of an inflammation marker called prostaglandin E2. The researchers believe that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may reduce inflammation and protect against polyps.

Study results have been published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

According to the American Cancer Society, there were more than 141,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in the US last year, making it the third most common form of cancer, and more than 49,000 deaths.

 

 

Tai Chi May Aid Parkinson’s Patients

Tai chi—a graceful series of exercises meant to integrate body and spirit—has been found to provide numerous health benefits. Now this ancient martial art has helped people with Parkinson’s disease maintain their balance.

Scientists at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene assigned 195 people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s to one of three groups that engaged in either tai chi, resistance training or stretching twice a week for 24 weeks. Those in the tai chi group saw greater improvements in balance and walking than members of the other two groups. What’s more, the tai chi participants were able to keep their gains three months after the sessions ended.
Results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Parkinson’s disease, which causes tremors and muscle stiffness, affects about 1 million people in the US.

 

CoQ10 May Enhance
Mediterranean Diet

CoQ10, known for its ability to foster cardiac well-being, may enhance the anti-inflammatory power of traditional cuisines from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Chronic low-level inflammation has been linked to not only heart disease but also arthritis, type 2 diabetes and cognitive decline.

The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as well as fresh produce and fish, legumes, whole grains, and moderate amounts of red wine.
Scientists at the University of Cordoba in Spain recruited 20 people over the age of 65 and randomly assigned them to one of three diet groups. One ate a typical Western diet rich in saturated fats. Those in the other two ate a Mediterranean diet; one of the two groups also took 200 mg of CoQ10.

After four weeks, the two Med diet groups showed reductions in markers for inflammation, an effect enhanced by the added CoQ10. Results were published in The Journals of Gerontology.
CoQ10 comes in several different forms. One of them, ubiquinol, is more readily used by the body.

 

Magnesium May Cut Stroke Risk

A recent Swedish study suggests that increasing one’s intake of magnesium, a mineral known for its ability to relax blood vessels, may reduce stroke risk.

A research team at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet analyzed data from 241,378 participants in seven studies. The team found a drop in risk for ischemic stroke—the kind caused by blood clots in arteries feeding the brain—of 9% for every 100 mg per day increase in magnesium intake.

Study results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Magnesium helps coordinate heart muscle activity and prevent spasms in the coronary arteries that feed the heart.

 

 

Sleep Apnea,
Worry Tied to Stroke Risk

FEBRUARY 2012—If you have breathing difficulties that interrupt your sleep or you tend to fret excessively, you are in greater danger of suffering a stroke.

Sleep apnea is marked by breathing that starts and stops, leading to broken sleep patterns. In one study, brain scans of 56 patients who had suffered a stroke showed that patients who had more than five apnea episodes a night were much more likely to have suffered previous silent strokes, blockages in brain circulation that lead to tissue damage but do not cause symptoms, More severe cases of apnea were associated with less favorable outcomes.

Study results were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

In another study presented at the conference, people with a personality trait called harm avoidance—marked by excessive worry, fear and pessimism—were also more likely to have a stroke.

Of the 1,082 people originally in this study, 258 died and of those, 80% underwent brain autopsy. Those who had scored high on the 35-item Harm Avoidance Scale were 2.4 times more likely to show evidence of microscopic strokes and 1.8 times more likely to show easily visible stroke evidence.

Sunny States See Less Inflammatory Bowel Disease

JANUARY 2012—Conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which cause bowel inflammation, are less prevalent in sun-soaked parts of the US—and vitamin D levels may explain why.

A research team led by Massachusetts General Hospital examined data from 238,000 participants in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study. They found that women who lived in sunnier southern states were 52% less likely to have Crohn’s disease and 38% less likely to have ulcerative colitis than women who lived at more northern latitudes.

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal system, although it appears most frequently in the small intestine. It causes lesions that affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall. In contrast, ulcerative colitis affects only the inner lining of the colon and rectum.

“UV radiation [from sunlight] is the greatest environmental determinant of plasma vitamin D, and there is substantial experimental data supporting a role for vitamin D in innate immunity and the regulation of inflammatory response,” the study team wrote in the journal Gut. Scientists believe that immune system dysfunction plays a role in chronic bowel inflammation.

All inflammatory bowel diseases are marked by symptoms that include abdominal cramps and pain, vomiting, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. These disorders, which affect an estimated 1.4 million Americans, are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

 

Women with Celiac Disease More Depression-Prone

Gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, can lead to celiac disease, a disorder marked by symptoms that can include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, indigestion and nausea.

Digestive distress isn’t the only sign of gluten-related trouble, though. Researchers have found that women with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from depression. In fact, 37% of the 177 women in one study matched the clinical definition of depression as measured by the 20-item Center for Disease Studies Depression Scale. Even those women on a gluten-free diet were more likely to suffer from low mood than members of the general population. What’s more, the women also tended to worry excessively about weight and body shape issues and to suffer from disordered eating patterns.

“What we don’t know is what leads to what and under what circumstances. It’s likely that the disease, stress, weight, shape and eating issues, and depression, are interconnected,” says lead study author Joshua Smyth, PhD, professor of biobehavioral health and medicine at Penn State University. This study appears online in Chronic Illness.

However, Smyth points out that sticking to a gluten-free diet does help improve overall well-being and reduce stress levels.

 

Açai, Omega-3 May Protect Nerves

Nerve injuries and disorders can be among the most challenging health issues one can face because they can be so difficult to treat. But in two separate studies, omega-3 fatty acids and the açai berry have shown neuroprotective potential.

An international research team found that mice nerve cells enriched with omega-3, which has been found to play a key role in proper nervous system development, were protected against both physical injury and harm caused by free radicals. What’s more, mice suffering from nerve damage recovered more fully and quickly, and with less muscle weakness, when their bodies contained high amounts of omega-3.

The team said their findings showed that omega-3 “can protect damaged nerve cells, a critical first step in successful neurological recovery” in their study report, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In another investigation, scientists at the Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston pretreated mouse BV-2 microglial cells, immune cells in the brain that protect neurons, with açai pulp. The treated cells were less likely to produce inflammatory, neuron-damaging substances when stressed by a toxin known as lipopolysaccharide.

The study report, which appeared in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, concluded that açai consumption “may contribute to ‘health span’ in aging, as it is able to combat some of the inflammatory and oxidative mediators of aging at the cellular level.”

Açai, a berry native to the Amazon rainforest, contain a high level of free radical-fighting antioxidants.

 

Low Vitamin C May Endanger Heart Failure Patients

Heart failure is a condition that reduces the organ’s pumping power. Proper nutrition plays a key role in helping people with heart failure live healthy lives, and the need for heart failure patients to eat a high-quality diet, especially one rich in vitamin C, has been underscored by a recent study.

“We found that adequate intake of vitamin C was associated with longer survival,” says Eun Kyeung Song, PhD, RN, of University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Korea, who led the research team. The study, which was reported at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, found a link between low vitamin C intake and higher levels of inflammation. Chronic inflammation is known to harm cardiovascular health.

 

 

Yerba Mate May Strengthen Bones

JANUARY 2012—Women who consumed yerba mate, an herbal beverage common throughout South America, had denser bones in a recent study.

A research team headed by the Program for the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis in Mendoza, Argentina, observed 146 postmenopausal women who drank at least 1 liter of yerba mate daily for five years. They were matched against a control group of women who shared similar characteristics, such as age, time since menopause, body mass and calcium intake.

All the women underwent bone mineral density (BMD) testing. The mate group had nearly 10% greater density in their lumbar spinal bones than the control group, and more than 6% greater density in the femoral neck, where the thighbone attaches to the hip socket. Results were reported in the journal Bone.

Mate is generally prepared in a hollow gourd and drunk through a metal straw. It has a caffeine content similar to that of tea.


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