Health Technology Research Synopsis
33rd Health Research Report
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano
Editors Top Five:
1. Heightened sense of taste can promote weight loss
2. Caesarean sections associated with risk of asthma
3. Red wine’s resveratrol may help battle obesity
4. Did the gene for ADHD help our nomadic ancestors?
5. Drug reverses mental retardation caused by genetic disorder
In this issue:
1. Low Melatonin Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women
2. Vitamin D findings point to new treatment for heart failure
3. Anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranate in rabbits: A potential treatment in humans?
4. Synthetic cocoa chemical slows growth of tumors in human cell lines
5. Weight gain in children has no association with sugar-sweetened beverage consumption ( junk science )
6. Coffee Drinkers Have Slightly Lower Death Rates Than People Who Do Not Drink Coffee
7. “Flavonoids for Controlling Starch Digestion: Structural Requirements for Inhibiting Human Alpha-Amylase”
8. Coffee’s aroma kick-starts genes in the brain
9. Diabetes drug slows early-onset puberty in girls
10. Heightened sense of taste can promote weight loss
11. Red wine’s resveratrol may help battle obesity
12. Did the gene for ADHD help our nomadic ancestors?
13. New technology may prevent vitamin B12 deficient seniors and vegetarians from needing injections
14. Potential new role for red grape seeds in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
15. Study links vitamin D to colon cancer survival
16. Caesarean sections associated with risk of asthma
17. Study: Pycnogenol® Significantly Reduces Menstrual Pain
18. Radiation for health
19. Should doctors be ‘selling’ drugs for the pharmaceutical industry?
20. Same drug, different results: MUHC researcher on the path to personalized medicine
21. Mayo researchers discover how measles virus spreads (in its host)
22. Common cooking spice shows promise in combating diabetes and obesity
23. Drug reverses mental retardation caused by genetic disorder
24. Prions are not degraded by conventional sewage treatment processes
25. Low vitamin D levels associated with death from cardiovascular, all causes
26. Lose weight on the carb-packed “big breakfast” diet
Public Release: 11-Jun-2008
Low Melatonin Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women
Low melatonin levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, according to a prospective case-control study.
Melatonin is primarily secreted during the dark hours of a light-dark cycle and has been shown to be low in some night workers. Researchers have found that low melatonin levels in premenopausal women are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
To find out if a similar association occurs in postmenopausal women, Eva Schernhammer, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues compared melatonin levels in 178 postmenopausal women and 710 matched controls. All of the women were enrolled in the prospective Hormones and Diet in the Etiology of Breast Cancer Risk study.
The researchers found that women with the lowest levels of melatonin had a statistically significantly higher incidence of breast cancer than those with the highest levels.
The researchers conclude that low melatonin levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Further studies need to confirm these data and should investigate the mechanisms that underlie the association.
Public Release: 11-Jun-2008
Vitamin D findings point to new treatment for heart failure
Ann Arbor, Mich. – Strong bones, a healthy immune system, protection against some types of cancer: Recent studies suggest there’s yet another item for the expanding list of Vitamin D benefits. Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” keeps the heart, the body’s long-distance runner, fit for life’s demands.
University of Michigan pharmacologist Robert U. Simpson, Ph.D., thinks it’s apt to call vitamin D “the heart tranquilizer.”
In studies in rats, Simpson and his team report the first concrete evidence that treatment with activated vitamin D can protect against heart failure. Their results appear in the July issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.
In the study, treatments with activated vitamin D prevented heart muscle cells from growing bigger – the condition, called hypertrophy, in which the heart becomes enlarged and overworked in people with heart failure. The treatments prevented heart muscle cells from the over-stimulation and increased contractions associated with the progression of heart failure.
About 5.3 million Americans have heart failure, a progressive, disabling condition in which the heart becomes enlarged as it is forced to work harder and harder, making it a challenge even to perform normal daily activities. Many people with heart disease or poorly controlled high blood pressure go on to experience a form of heart failure called congestive heart failure, in which the heart’s inability to pump blood around the body causes weakness and fluid build-up in lungs and limbs. Many people with heart failure, who tend to be older, have been found to be deficient in vitamin D.
“Heart failure will progress despite the best medications,” says Simpson, a professor of pharmacology at the U-M Medical School. “We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart.”
The U-M researchers wanted to show whether a form of vitamin D could have beneficial effects on hearts that have developed or are at risk of developing heart failure. They used a breed of laboratory rats predisposed to develop human-like heart failure.
The researchers measured the effects of activated Vitamin D (1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, a form called calcitriol) in rats given a normal diet or a high-salt diet, compared to control group rats given either of the same two diets, but no vitamin D treatment. The rats on the high-salt diet were likely to develop heart failure within months.
The rats on the high-salt diet, comparable to the fast food that many humans feast on, quickly revealed the difference vitamin D could make.
“From these animals, we have obtained exciting and very important results,” Simpson says.
After 13 weeks, the researchers found that the heart failure-prone rats on the high-salt diet that were given the calcitriol treatment had significantly lower levels of several key indicators of heart failure than the untreated high-salt diet rats in the study. The treated rats had lower heart weight. Also, the left ventricles of the treated rats’ hearts were smaller and their hearts worked less for each beat while blood pressure was maintained, indicating that their heart function did not deteriorate as it did in the untreated rats. Decreased heart weight, meaning that enlargement was not occurring, also showed up in the treated rats fed a normal diet, compared to their untreated counterparts.
Simpson and his colleagues have explored vitamin D’s effects on heart muscle and the cardiovascular system for more than 20 years. In 1987, when Simpson showed the link between vitamin D and heart health, the idea seemed far-fetched and research funding was scarce. Now, a number of studies worldwide attest to the vitamin D-heart health link (see citations below).
The new heart insights add to the growing awareness that widespread vitamin D deficiency—thought to affect one-third to one-half of U.S. adults middle-aged and older—may be putting people at greater risk of many common diseases. Pharmaceutical companies are developing anti-cancer drugs using vitamin D analogs, which are synthetic compounds that produce vitamin D’s effects. There’s also increasing interest in using vitamin D or its analogs to treat autoimmune disorders.
In more than a dozen types of tissues and cells in the body, activated vitamin D acts as a powerful hormone, regulating expression of essential genes and rapidly activating already expressed enzymes and proteins. In the heart, Simpson’s team has revealed precisely how activated vitamin D connects with specific vitamin D receptors and produces its calming, protective effects. Those results appeared in the February issue of Endocrinology.
Sunlight causes the skin to make activated vitamin D. People also get vitamin D from certain foods and vitamin D supplements. Taking vitamin D supplements and for many people, getting sun exposure in safe ways, are certainly good options for people who want to keep their hearts healthy. But people with heart failure or at risk of heart failure will likely need a drug made of a compound or analog of vitamin D that will more powerfully produce vitamin D’s effects in the heart if they are to see improvement in their symptoms, Simpson says.
Vitamin D analogs already are on the market for some conditions. One present drawback of these compounds is that they tend to increase blood calcium to undesirable levels. Simpson’s lab is conducting studies of a specific analog which may be less toxic, so efforts to develop a vitamin D-based drug to treat heart failure are moving a step closer to initial trials in people.
In addition to Simpson, other U-M authors include Peter Mancuso, Ph.D., of the U-M Department of Environmental Health Sciences; Ayesha Rahman, Ph.D., Stephen D. Hershey, M.D., Loredana Dandu and Karl A. Nibbelink, M.D. of the Department of Pharmacology in the U-M Medical School. U-M authors of the related study in Endocrinology include first author Daniel X. Tishkoff, Ph.D., and Kristina H. Holmberg of the Department of Pharmacology.
Public release date: 12-Jun-2008
Anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranate in rabbits: A potential treatment in humans?
Oral ingestion of pomegranate extract reduces the production of chemicals that cause inflammation suggests a study published in BioMed Central’s open access Journal of Inflammation. The findings indicate that pomegranate extract may provide humans with relief of chronic inflammatory conditions.
The group from the Department of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Ohio, led by Tariq Haqqi, showed that blood samples collected from rabbits fed pomegranate extract inhibited inflammation.
Pomegranate extract is already used as a treatment in alternative medicine for inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. Although pomegranate extract has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in experiments on isolated tissues, it is not known whether ingestion of it can produce the same anti-inflammatory effects in living systems, either because the active compounds are not absorbed from the gut or because the levels of these compounds in the blood are not high enough.
Pomegranate extract, the equivalent of 175mls of pomegranate juice, was given to rabbits orally. The levels of antioxidants were measured in blood samples obtained after drinking the pomegranate extract and compared to blood samples collected before ingestion of pomegranate extract.
Plasma collected from rabbits following ingestion of pomegranate extract contained significantly higher levels of antioxidants than samples collected before ingestion of pomegranate extract; the extract also significantly reduced the activity of proteins that cause inflammation, specifically cyclooxygenase-2. It also reduced the production of pro-inflammatory compounds produced by cells isolated from cartilage.
The results of this study indicate the beneficial effects of pomegranate extract when ingested. According to Haqqi “the use of dietary nutrients or drugs based on them as an adjunct in the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions may benefit patients”. He adds that, “Current treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs can have serious side effects following long-term use. Further research is needed, however, especially on the absorption of orally ingested substances into the blood.”
Public release date: 12-Jun-2008
Synthetic cocoa chemical slows growth of tumors in human cell lines
Washington, D.C. – A synthetic chemical based on a compound found in cocoa beans slowed growth and accelerated destruction of human tumors in laboratory studies, and should be tested further for cancer chemoprevention or even treatment, say researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center.
“We have all heard that eating chocolate is good for you; this study suggests one reason why that might be true,” says the study’s lead author Min Kim, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Department of Oncology at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Published online today in Cell Cycle, the researchers describe how four different human tumor cells lines out of 16 tested were sensitive to the chemical, known as GECGC. The strongest response was seen in two different colon cancers; growth was cut in half and most of the tumor cells were damaged.
Normal cells were not affected by GECGC, which makes the chemical a candidate for cancer chemoprevention, says Kim.
“This chemical seems to be safe, which makes sense because it has a structure similar to a natural product in cocoa beans – the same beans that are used to make chocolate,” he says.
The researchers have long studied the beneficial effects of flavanols, which are molecules in vegetables and fruits that exhibit potent anti-oxidant and, potentially, anti-tumor properties. As part of these studies, investigators have been testing a new synthetic version of natural procyanidins, a class of flavanols, created and patented by the confectionery company, Mars Incorporated. (The company provided GECGC as a gift, and this project was funded in part by Mars Incorporated.)
In these studies, the scientists tested the effects of three different doses of GECGC on the cancer cell lines – the first time that a synthetic cocoa derivative has been used to screen human cancer cell lines. None of the doses tested were extreme, Kim points out. “The effective concentrations were considered similar to what a person might eat or use,” he says.
They found sensitivity to GECGC in both colon cancer cell lines they tested, in cervical cancer cells and in one line of leukemia, tumor cells. Other cell lines were resistant, including ovarian and prostate cancer cells.
Overall, GECGC showed the most effect in treating cancer cells that are normally fast growing, Kim says. And the fact that it demonstrated the most killing power in colon cancer suggests the chemical “could serve as a promising therapeutic for colon cancer,” he says. “So far, these data are very convincing.”
The researchers do not yet clearly understand the mechanism by which GECGC disrupts tumor growth, but they think it inhibits the physical connections between cancer cells and blocks internal cell signaling pathways.
Kim says that animal studies testing the anticancer power of GECGC are currently underway. “While this work is indeed promising, we have much more study to do before we can say with authority that GECGC has anticancer properties.”
Public release date: 13-Jun-2008
Weight gain in children has no association with sugar-sweetened beverage consumption
June issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
WASHINGTON, DC – An analysis of 12 recent studies indicate that there is virtually no link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and teens. The meta-analysis is published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“My co-authors and I carefully analyzed 12 studies using scientifically validated methods and found that there is virtually no association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and weight gain in children and teens,” Dr. Maureen Storey said. “In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that reducing or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages would have almost no impact on children and teens weight. While other investigators have reached other conclusions, our findings are consistent with three recently published review articles that concluded that the evidence that adolescent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages leads to weight gain is ‘weak or equivocal.'”
Weight gain occurs when an individual consumes more calories than he or she burns – the source of the calories is irrelevant. The beverage industry is already working to educate children about the importance of calorie intake and voluntarily implemented National School Beverage Guidelines which remove full-calorie soft drinks and provide more low- and no-calorie beverage options in schools. In addition, the beverage industry supports daily physical activity and recess for students across the country.
“Sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of energy and energy consumption in excess of energy expended will lead to weight gain. Sugar-sweetened beverages should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle,” Dr. Storey said.
Dr. Storey is senior vice president for science policy for the American Beverage Association (ABA) and former director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy.
Ralph’s note – I hope this article is not reported as science. The conflict of interest is immense. In addition to using antiquated hyperbole. Basing all calories are equal, and just units of energy. Trying to tell us, that 1000Kcal of broccoli, are no different than 1000Kcal of Donughts.
Public release date: 13-Jun-2008
Coffee Drinkers Have Slightly Lower Death Rates Than People Who Do Not Drink Coffee
Regular coffee drinking (up to 6 cups per day) is not associated with increased deaths in either men or women. In fact, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption is associated with a somewhat smaller rate of death from heart disease. Women consuming two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease during the follow-up period (which lasted from 1980 to 2004 and involved 84,214 women) as compared with non-consumers, and an 18 percent lower risk of death caused by something other than cancer or heart disease as compared with non-consumers during follow-up. For men, this level of consumption was associated with neither a higher nor a lower risk of death during the follow-up period (which lasted from 1986 to 2004 and involved 41,736 men).
Ralph’s Note- Wow the benefits were woman, were extreme.
Public release date: 13-Jun-2008
“Flavonoids for Controlling Starch Digestion: Structural Requirements for Inhibiting Human Alpha-Amylase”
Researchers in Switzerland are reporting discovery of natural plant materials that may regulate starch digestion — slowing down the body’s conversion of potatoes, rice, and other carbohydrate-rich foods into sugar. The findings could lead to new functional foods that fight diabetes, they say in a report scheduled for the June 26 issue of the ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
In the new study, Elena Lo Piparo and colleagues explain that a key digestive protein called alpha-amylase rapidly converts certain high-carb foods into glucose or blood sugar. That fast conversion results in sudden spikes in blood sugar in patients with diabetes. A common clinical strategy to manage sharp rises in blood glucose after eating is the use of pharmaceutical agents that inhibit specific starch-splitting enzymes. Although researchers have known for years that some natural foods appear to contain chemicals capable of blocking alpha-amylase, the exact structure and mechanism of action of these substances remained unknown.
The researchers at Nestlé Research Center were interested in finding natural food-based compounds that can modulate this process, and to further understand the molecular mechanisms through which this interaction occurs. Using molecular modeling techniques they selected 19 plant components, called flavonoids, to be tested for their ability to block alpha-amylase activity. They identified 7 flavonoids with significant inhibition of alpha-amylase, the strongest of which inhibited activity by 99 percent. Knowledge gained from this study will lead to a better understanding about food-based compounds and their natural properties, to help the research and development of products with a positive impact on health and wellness. — MTS
Public release date: 16-Jun-2008
Coffee’s aroma kick-starts genes in the brain
Drink coffee to send a wake-up call to the brain? Or just smell its rich, warm aroma? An international group of scientists is reporting some of the first evidence that simply inhaling coffee aroma alters the activity of genes in the brain. In experiments with laboratory rats, they found that coffee aroma orchestrates the expression of more than a dozen genes and some changes in protein expressions, in ways that help reduce the stress of sleep deprivation. Their study is scheduled for the June 25 issue of ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Han-Seok Seo and colleagues point out that hundreds of studies have been done on the ingredients in coffee, including substances linked to beneficial health effects. “There are few studies that deal with the beneficial effects of coffee aroma,” they note. “This study is the first effort to elucidate the effects of coffee bean aroma on the sleep deprivation-induced stress in the rat brain.”
In an effort to begin filling that gap, they allowed lab rats to inhale coffee aroma, including some rats stressed by sleep deprivation. The study then compared gene and protein expressions in the rats’ brains. Rats that sniffed coffee showed different levels of activity in 17 genes. Thirteen of the genes showed differential mRNA expression between the stress group and the stress with coffee group, including proteins with healthful antioxidant activity known to protect nerve cells from stress-related damage. — MTS
Public release date: 16-Jun-2008
Diabetes drug slows early-onset puberty in girls
In young girls at risk of early puberty and insulin resistance, the diabetes drug metformin delayed the onset of menstruation and decreased the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, according to a new study. The results were presented Monday, June 16, at The Endocrine Society’s 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
“The findings indicate that we can slow down puberty,” said the study’s senior author, Lourdes Ibanez, MD, PhD, of the University of Barcelona in Spain. “This is important because when puberty is faster in girls, the appearance of menses occurs earlier, and this sequence of events may ultimately result in a shorter adult height.”
Also, getting a first menstrual period before age 12 has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Early puberty (breast development) is a risk factor for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), especially if the girl is overweight, she said. PCOS is a common cause of infertility.
All 38 girls in the study had not yet reached puberty at the start of the study but had developed pubic hair abnormally early—before the age of 8 years. These girls typically start puberty earlier than their peers, Ibanez said.
The study patients had another risk factor for early puberty. All had been born small and experienced rapid catch-up growth during infancy, thus developing more fat than normal. This fat tends to be around the middle, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adulthood. Belly fat also is a marker of insulin resistance, in which the body needs more insulin than usual to clear glucose, or sugar, from the blood. Girls who are the most insulin resistant begin menstruating much earlier than their peers, Ibanez said.
Therefore, Ibanez and her co-workers studied whether a low dose of metformin, a drug that improves insulin resistance, would slow the transition through puberty by decreasing insulin resistance and abdominal fat. The girls had an average age of nearly 8 when they started the study. They randomly received either no treatment (19 girls) or treatment with low-dose metformin once a day (19 girls) for 4 years.
The metformin-treated girls started puberty and menstruation later than the untreated girls, the authors found. After 4 years of treatment, they also gained about 50 percent less fat—especially abdominal fat—and became less insulin resistant, compared with girls who did not receive the drug, according to Ibanez. They also had fewer risk factors for future heart disease, including better cholesterol levels, she said.
Bone mineral density testing showed no harm to bone development in the treated girls. At 4 years, treated patients continued to grow taller, but most untreated girls had already stopped growing.
Use of metformin in this patient population is experimental. Metformin is approved for treatment of type 2 diabetes in people 10 years or older.
Ralphs’s Note – NO NO NO NO NO. They are not about to do, what I think they are going to do. They already built the marketing and the justification for OTC use, in the article,
Public release date: 16-Jun-2008
Heightened sense of taste can promote weight loss
People can lose weight by flavoring their food with calorie-free seasonings and sweeteners, which may make them feel full faster and decrease their consumption, according to a new study. The results will be presented at The Endocrine Society’s 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Alan Hirsch, MD, founder and neurologic director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, studied “tastants,” substances that can stimulate the sense of taste. He asked 2,436 overweight or obese individuals to sprinkle a variety of savory or sweet crystals on their food before eating their meals during the 6-month study period. Subjects put liberal applications of the salt-free savory flavors on salty foods and applied the sugar-free sweet crystals on sweet or neutral-tasting foods. They did not know what the flavors were other than salty or sweet. The hidden flavors of the savory tastants were cheddar cheese, onion, horseradish, ranch dressing, taco, or parmesan. Sweet flavors were cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry, and malt.
A control group of 100 volunteers did not use tastants. Both groups were allowed to diet and exercise if they were already doing so. For both subjects and controls, Hirsch measured weight and body mass index (BMI)—a measure of height and weight—before and after the study.
At the start of the study, the treatment group had an average weight of 208 pounds and average BMI of 34, which is considered obese. After 6 months of using the crystals, the 1,436 subjects who completed the study lost an average of 30.5 pounds, compared with just 2 pounds for the untreated controls. Their BMI dropped by an average of 5, moving them from obesity to the overweight range. Controls had an average BMI decrease of 0.3.
Hirsch theorized that subjects lost more weight than controls did because the tastants made them feel full faster and therefore eat less. However, he did not track the amount of food the subjects ate. Another possibility, he said, is that the crystals improved the taste of bland but healthy foods, such as tofu and some vegetables, causing a change toward healthier eating habits. He said he believes this approach works because, unlike most diets, it is not based on food restriction.
Subjects lost an average of nearly 15 percent of their body weight, results showed. It is not clear whether the apparent weight loss benefits of the tastants would extend past 6 months or to people who weigh less than the obese subjects in this study.
“It could be that the percent of weight reduction would be lower in people who are less obese,” Hirsch said. “In theory, tastants won’t work for people who eat even when they’re full and for people who have lost their sense of smell.”
Hirsch said the tastants worked so well that they contributed to the dropout rate. Some of the subjects stopped the study before 6 months because they already had reached their ideal body weight—an unexpected result, he said.
Despite the tastant crystals not yet being commercially available, Hirsch said that people can use these techniques of enhancing their senses of smell and taste, to lose weight now. “Sniff your food before you eat it. Chew it a lot. Choose low-calorie foods and season them,” he suggested.
Public release date: 16-Jun-2008
Red wine’s resveratrol may help battle obesity
Resveratrol, a compound present in grapes and red wine, reduces the number of fat cells and may one day be used to treat or prevent obesity, according to a new study. The results will be presented at The Endocrine Society’s 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Past research found that resveratrol protected laboratory mice that were fed a high-calorie diet from the health problems of obesity, by mimicking the effects of calorie restriction. Researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany wanted to know if resveratrol could mimic the effects of calorie restriction in human fat cells by changing their size or function. The German team used a strain of human fat cell precursors, called preadipocytes. In the body, these cells develop into mature fat cells, according to the study’s lead author, Pamela Fischer-Posovszky, PhD, a pediatric endocrinology research fellow in the university’s Diabetes and Obesity Unit.
In the cell-based study, they found that resveratrol inhibited the pre-fat cells from increasing and prevented them from converting into mature fat cells. Also, resveratrol hindered fat storage. Most interesting, according to Fischer-Posovszky, was that resveratrol reduced production of certain cytokines (interleukins 6 and 8), substances that may be linked to the development of obesity-related disorders, such as diabetes and clogged coronary arteries. Also, resveratrol stimulated formation of a protein known to decrease the risk of heart attack. Obesity decreases this substance, called adiponectin.
The new finding is consistent with the theory that the resveratrol in red wine explains the French paradox, the observation that French people eat a relatively high-fat diet but have a low death rate from heart disease.
“Resveratrol has anti-obesity properties by exerting its effects directly on the fat cells,” Fischer-Posovszky said. “Thus, resveratrol might help to prevent development of obesity or might be suited to treating obesity.”
Fischer-Posovszky cautioned that, while the health benefits of resveratrol seem promising, there is not sufficient knowledge about the effects of long-term treatment. One small study found that a single dose of up to 5 grams of resveratrol (much higher than the amount in a bottle of red wine) caused no serious ill effects in healthy volunteers, she pointed out. However, she said another study theorized that resveratrol may stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells, possibly because resveratrol’s chemical structure is similar to a phytoestrogen, an estrogen-like substance found in some plants.
Public release date: 17-Jun-2008
Did the gene for ADHD help our nomadic ancestors?
An ADHD-associated version of the human gene DRD4 is linked to better health among nomadic tribesmen, but may cause malnourishment in their settled cousins, according to new research by a team directed by an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).
A study by UWM assistant professor Ben Campbell and colleagues from Northwestern University, Boston University and UNLV shows that a particular version of the gene DRD4, appears to have completely different effects, depending on one’s environment.
The DRD4 gene codes for a receptor for dopamine, one of the chemical messengers used in the brain. Previous research has linked the gene with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-type behavior in young men – risk-taking, reward-seeking and impulsivity, says Campbell.
But people can have different versions of the gene. One variant, called the 7R allele, is associated with novelty-seeking in addition to ADHD.
The researchers conducted the study among the Ariaal population in northern Kenya – some of whom still live as nomads, while others have recently settled. The research team analyzed the body mass index (BMI) and height of the two groups, nomadic and non-nomadic Ariaal men, who had the variant gene.
They found that those with the 7R allele in the nomadic population were better nourished than their non-nomadic brethren who carried 7R allele.
The results underscore, says Campbell, the complexity of genotype on the expression of behavior. Different environments can determine whether behaviors associated with the gene, such as ADHD, are more or less effective.
“We may have difficulty understanding ADHD in part because we are considering the behaviors associated with it in only one environment – the present one,” he says. “The thinking used to be one gene, one outcome. Now we know that one gene with different environments yields different outcomes.”
Campbell says the results have implications for the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and aging.
“This suggests that this particular allele may be beneficial in a traditional setting with high levels of habitual physical activity, but carries with it longer term costs in a more sedentary setting.”
Although the effects of different versions of dopamine genes have already been studied in industrialized countries, very little research has been carried out in non-industrial settings, says Campbell. And yet, subsistence environments are more similar to those where much of human genetic evolution took place, he points out.
Public release date: 17-Jun-2008
New technology may prevent vitamin B12 deficient seniors and vegetarians from needing injections
TORONTO, Canada (June 17, 2008) – For those patients who receive the nearly 40 million intramuscular injections per year to treat their B12 deficiency, a new oral option may soon exist.
According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a wide spectrum of conditions, such as anemia, dementia and reduced cognitive functioning. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a significant health issue. Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population is B12 deficient (Tufts University, Boston). This includes a sizable number of patients who are severely deficient and are currently being treated. Further, a vast number of people are completely unaware they are B12 deficient and will eventually need treatment. Seniors and strict vegetarians are most at risk. Symptoms such as fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss can occur in those who are deficient.
Currently, physicians rely on B12 shots for people with vitamin B12 deficiency because of the poor bioavailability of oral formulations. Past studies have shown that only approximately one percent of a vitamin B12 tablet gets absorbed in the bloodstream after traveling through the digestive track. Because so much of the vitamin is wasted, alternatives to effectively treat or protect against B12 deficiency are needed.
“Vitamin B12 is a perfect example of the successful application of our eligen® technology,” said Cristina Castelli, Ph. D., AAPS expert and lead researcher at Emisphere Technologies, Inc. “Our current studies have shown our oral solid formulation brings vitamin B12 absorption to a range of 7-30% without the discomfort of an invasive route of administration.”
Ms. Castelli and other project researchers will be at the AAPS National Biotechnology Conference to present and discuss their research with hundreds of pharmaceutical scientists from countries around the world.
Animal testing has been completed and researchers are now conducting human studies.
Public release date: 17-Jun-2008
Potential new role for red grape seeds in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Mount Sinai researchers have discovered that polyphenolics derived from red grape seeds may be useful agents to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The new study entitled, “Grape derived polyphenolics prevent Aâ oligomerization and attenuate cognitive deterioration in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease,” was published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This new study explored the possibility of developing ‘wine mimetic pills’ that would replace the recommended beneficial glass of red wine a day for AD prevention.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive impairments in memory and cognition,” said Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, senior author and Director of the NCCAM-NIH funded Center of Excellence for Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Alzheimer’s Disease at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “The study used a naturally derived grape seed polyphenolic extract and demonstrated its efficacy to reduce AD-type Aâ neuropathology as well as cognitive deterioration in the Tg2576 AD mouse model. This natural compound is immediately available to be tested in AD clinical settings to prevent or treat AD.”
Over the past few years researchers at Mount Sinai’s Center of Excellence set out to determine whether the FDA’s recommended daily servings of red wine (approximately one glass for women and two glasses for men), might have the same positive health effect that studies and surveys of populations had shown in the past. They are currently investigating nearly 5000 compounds contained in red wine.
This new study explored the possibility of developing ‘wine mimetic pills’ that would replace the beneficial glass of red wine a day for AD prevention. Dr. Pasinetti and his collaborator Dr. Jun Wang of Mount Sinai, through a partnership between the Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Dr. Anil Shrikhande, the Director of the Polyphenolics Division of Constellation Brands, a major producer of biologically active grape products, tested the hypothesis that certain molecules contained in red wine, in particular in red grape seeds currently being developed with the name of Meganatural AZ, might offset disease progression in mice genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’ disease.
“Meganatural AZ grape seed extracts significantly reduced Alzheimer’s disease – type cognitive deterioration in the Alzheimer’ disease mice through mechanisms that prevents the formation of a more complex form of a molecule known as amyloid in the brain,” said Dr. Pasinetti. “The implications of these studies, however, are not limited to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, amyloid is present in everyone’s brain and whenever it comes together in a more complex structure it makes the brain to function less efficiently like in Alzheimer’ disease. As a result, Meganatural AZ compounds’ ability to inhibit the formation of such ‘more complex’ amyloid structures suggests that Meganatural AZ from red grapes might even help prevent memory loss in people that did not yet developed Alzheimer’s disease. ”
Mount Sinai researchers believe they are one step closer to understanding the exact molecule in Meganatural AZ that is responsible for protecting memory and by extension closer to test whether Meganatural AZ can be used in patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Public release date: 18-Jun-2008
Study links vitamin D to colon cancer survival
BOSTON–Patients diagnosed with colon cancer who had abundant vitamin D in their blood were less likely to die during a follow-up period than those who were deficient in the vitamin, according to a new study by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The findings of the study — the first to examine the effect of vitamin D among colorectal cancer patients — merit further research, but it is too early to recommend supplements as a part of treatment, say the investigators from Dana-Farber and the Harvard School of Public Health.
In a report in the June 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the authors note that previous research has shown that higher levels of vitamin D reduce the risk of developing colon and rectal cancer by about 50 percent, but the effect on outcomes wasn’t known. To examine this question, the investigators, led by Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, and Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber, analyzed data from two long-running epidemiologic studies whose participants gave blood samples and whose health has been monitored for many years.
They identified 304 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Followup Study who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1991 and 2002. All had had vitamin D levels measured in blood samples given at least two year prior to their diagnosis. Each patient’s vitamin D measurement was ranked by “quartiles” — the top 25 percent, the next lowest 25 percent, and so on. Those whose levels were in the lowest quartile were considered deficient in vitamin D.
The researchers followed the 304 patients until they died or until 2005, whichever occurred first. During that period, 123 patients died, with 96 of them dying from colon or rectal cancer. The researchers then looked for associations between the patients’ previously measured vitamin D blood levels and whether they had died or survived.
The results showed that individuals with the vitamin D levels in the highest quartile were 48 percent less likely to die (from any cause, including colon cancer) than those with the lowest vitamin D measurements. The odds of dying from colon cancer specifically were 39 percent lower, the scientists found.
“Our data suggest that higher prediagnosis plasma levels of [vitamin D] after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer may significantly improve overall survival,” the authors wrote. “Future trials should examine the role of vitamin D supplementation in patients with colorectal cancer.”
The measurements of vitamin D in the patients’ blood reflected both the amounts made by the body when exposed to sunlight and to all sources of the vitamin in their diets, said Ng. However, she added, there may be additional unknown factors that might account for individual differences. Patients with the highest vitamin D levels tended to have lower body-mass index (BMI) indicating that they were leaner, and also were more physically active. However, after controlling for BMI and physical activity, as well as other prognostic factors, higher vitamin D levels were still independently associated with better survival rates.
Ng said that a trial is being planned in which colon cancer patients will take vitamin D along with post-surgery chemotherapy to look for any benefits of the supplements.
Meanwhile, she said that individuals with colon cancer should consult their physicians as to whether they should add vitamin supplements to their daily regimen. Standard recommended daily amounts of vitamin D supplements range from 200 International Units (IU) per day for people under age 50 to 400 IU for people between 50 and 70, and 600 IU for those over 70.
Public release date: 18-Jun-2008
Caesarean sections associated with risk of asthma
Babies born by Caesarean section have a 50 % increased risk of developing asthma compared to babies born naturally. Emergency Caesarean sections increase the risk even further. This is shown in a new study based on data from 1.7 million births registered at the Medical Birth Registry at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The goal of the study was to investigate the possible link between being born by Caesarean section and later development of asthma.
Summarised results from the study:
- Compared to children born in the natural way (i.e. spontaneously and vaginally), children born by Caesarean section had an approximately 50 % increased risk of developing asthma.
- Children born vaginally, but with assistance from vacuum or forceps, had a 20 % increased risk of asthma.
- For children born between 1988 and 1998, planned Caesarean section was associated with an approximately 40 % increased risk of asthma while emergency Caesarean section was associated with a 60 % increased risk.
Why do Caesarean sections give an increased risk of asthma?
– We found a moderately strong association between birth by Caesarean section and asthma in childhood, says doctor and research fellow Mette Christophersen Tollånes, who works for both the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care at the University of Bergen, Norway.
She is first author of the article ”Cesarean Section and Risk of Severe Childhood Asthma: A Population-Based Cohort Study” which is published in the Journal of Pediatrics (see link below for abstract).
Tollånes explains that there are two main theories about why Caesarean sections could cause asthma.
– The first is that babies who are born by Caesarean section are not exposed to their mothers’ bacteria during birth, which is detrimental for development of the immune system. The other is that babies born by Caesarean section have more breathing problems after birth because they are less exposed to stress hormones and compression of the chest, since these mechanisms contribute to emptying the lungs of amniotic fluid. Maybe this can negatively affect lung function in the long term. The fact that emergency Caesarean section apparently has a stonger effect on the risk of asthma than planned Caesarean section cannot easily be explained by any of these theories. It is possible that there are other common causes that can induce the need for Caesarean section and the development of asthma, says Tollånes.
Information from 1.7 million births
The authors looked at over 1.7 million births reported to the Medical Birth Registry at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in the period 1967-1998. Multiple births and children with congenital malformations were excluded. The children were monitored until they became 18 years old or through 2002.
The study compared the proportions of children who received a basic -and/or attendance benefit for asthma from the Social Security office after spontaneous vaginal birth, assisted vaginal birth (forceps or vacuum), and Caesarean section (planned Caesarean section and emergency Caesarean section separate from and including 1988), respectively. 4 out of 1 000 children received benefits for asthma.
Public release date: 18-Jun-2008
Study: Pycnogenol® Significantly Reduces Menstrual Pain
Multi-center Field Study Reveals Pycnogenol® Reduces Need for Dysmenorrhea Pain Medication
GENEVA, Switzerland – A new study reveals dysmenorrhea, a condition that causes extremely painful menstrual periods affecting millions of women each year, can be reduced naturally by taking Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), pine bark extract from the French maritime pine tree. The multi-center field study, published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, shows women with dysmenorrhea who supplemented with Pycnogenol® experienced less pain and required less pain medications during menstruation.
“Dysmenorrheal pain is thought to be caused by elevated levels of inflammation and characterized by menstrual cramping pain, which may reach incapacitating severity,” said Dr. Nobutaka Suzuki, lead researcher of the study. “Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like aspirin or ibuprofen provide temporary help against menstrual pain. Unfortunately, they are generally ineffective for resolving spasmodic events and commonly cause side effects, particularly gastric problems.”
Numerous published studies reveal Pycnogenol’s® effectiveness in relieving menstrual disorders, such as relief of menstrual pain and endometriosis, and it is patent protected for this application. Additional studies reveal Pycnogenol® is a natural anti-inflammatory, which provides the basis for the rational to use Pycnogenol® to naturally moderate inflammatory pain sensation involved in menstruation. A study published last year in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine revealed that Pycnogenol® significantly reduces symptoms of endometriosis by 33 percent. This study also demonstrated that Pycnogenol® does not exert any estrogen-like activity, which considerably adds to the safety for women who seek help for painful periods.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted at four Japanese hospitals (Kanazawa University Hospital, Keiju Medical Center, Hamamatsu University Hospital and Sugiura Clinic) and sampled 116 women, aged 18–48, suffering from menstrual pain.
Patients were monitored for five menstrual cycles. They were supplied with a diary to note the pain during days of menstruation, which was evaluated using the established Visual Analog Scale. The first two pre-treatment menstrual cycles were utilized for establishing base-line values for pain sensation and NSAID analgesics. During the following two menstrual cycles women were randomly assigned to groups receiving daily regimens of Pycnogenol® or placebo. Thereafter, supplementation was discontinued to investigate the recurrence of symptoms. The use of NSAID analgesics was not restricted during the entire study. However, patients were required to note the dose and the type of analgesics, as well as the time taken in their diary.
Results showed treatment with Pycnogenol® lowered pain during menstruation, which was reflected by a significant reduction of NSAID used. The number of painful days due to dysmenorrhea decreased from an average of 2.1 days prior to treatment to 1.3 at both the third and fourth cycle. Discontinuation of Pycnogenol® did not cause an immediate relapse, and pain medication use did not increase.
Dysmenorrhea is the leading cause of recurrent short-term school absence in adolescent girls and a common problem in women of reproductive age. While NSAID, oral contraceptives and hormone injections are the most common treatments, many women also seek safe and natural alternatives, such as Pycnogenol®.
Public release date: 19-Jun-2008
Radiation for health
Could exposure to low doses of radiation cure our ills?
For decades, we have been told that exposure to radiation is dangerous. In high doses it is certainly lethal and chronic exposure is linked to the development of cancer. But, what if a short-term controlled exposure to a low dose of radiation were good for our health. Writing in today’s issue of the Inderscience publication the International Journal of Low Radiation, Don Luckey, makes the startling claim that low dose radiation could be just what the doctor ordered!
Luckey, an emeritus professor of the University of Missouri, was the nutrition consultant for NASA’s Apollo 11 to 17 moon missions and has spent the last several years developing the concept of improving health through exposure to low-dose radiation.
“When beliefs are abandoned and evidence from only whole body exposures to mammals is considered, it becomes obvious that increased ionizing radiation would provide abundant health,” Luckey explains. He suggests that as with many nutritional elements, such as vitamins and trace metals it is possible to become deficient in radiation. “A radiation deficiency is seen in a variety of species, including rats and mice; the evidence for a radiation deficiency in humans is compelling.”
In the first part of the twentieth century at a time when our understanding of radioactivity was only just emerging, health practitioners began to experiment widely with samples of radioactive materials. Then, exposure to radiation, rather than being seen as hazardous, was considered a panacea for a wide variety of ailments from arthritis to consumption.
The discovery of antibiotics and the rapid advent of the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the fact that it became apparent that exposure to high doses of radiation could be lethal led to the demise of this “alternative” approach to health.
Today, radioactivity is used in targeted therapies for certain forms of cancer, however, the use of radiation sources for treating other diseases is not currently recognized by the medical profession.
Luckey hopes to change that viewpoint and argues that more than 3000 scientific papers in the research literature point to low doses of radiation as being beneficial in human health. He points out that, as with many environmental factors, we have evolved to live successfully in the presence of ionizing radiations. His own research suggests that radiation exposure can minimize infectious disease, reduce the incidence of cancer in the young, and substantially increase average lifespan.
Studies on the growth, average lifespan, and decreased cancer mortality rates of humans exposed to low-dose irradiation show improved health, explains Luckey. This represents good evidence that we live with a partial radiation deficiency and that greater exposure to radiation would improve our health, a notion supported by 130 on the health of people living in parts of the world with higher background levels of ionizing radiation than average.
Luckey suggests that the medical use of small samples of partially shielded radioactive waste would provide a simple solution to radiation deficiency. Of course, there are several questions that will have to be answered before a health program based on this study could be implemented. How much should we have and what is the optimum exposure?
Evidence suggests that low dose exposure increases the number and activity of the immune system’s white blood cells, boosts cytocrine and enzyme activity, and increases antibody production and so reduces the incidence of infection, assists in wound healing, and protects us from exposure to high doses of radiation.
“It is unfortunate that most literature of radiobiology involves fear and regulations about the minimum possible exposure with no regard for radiation as a beneficial agent,” says Luckey, “Those who believe the Linear No Threshold (LNT) dogma have no concept about any benefits from ionizing radiation. Many radiobiologists get paid to protect us from negligible amounts of ionizing radiation. Our major concern is health.”
Professor André Maïsseu, the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, and President of the World Council of Nuclear Workers WONUC) says: “This is a very bright, interesting and important paper about the real effects of ionizing radiation – radioactivity – on humans, mammals and biotopes.” He adds that, the paper, “is part of the movement we – nuclear workers – promoting good science and fighting obscurantism in this scientific field.
Public release date: 19-Jun-2008
Should doctors be ‘selling’ drugs for the pharmaceutical industry?
Feature: Key opinion leaders — independent experts or drug representatives in disguise?
Are senior doctors who help drug companies sell their drugs independent experts or just drug representatives in disguise, asks Ray Moynihan from the University of Newcastle in Australia, in this week’s BMJ.
Moynihan exposes the reality behind the practice with some candid revelations from industry insiders.
Pharmaceutical companies regularly sponsor leading specialists with “generous fees to peddle influence” and promote drugs to the profession and the public, writes Moynihan.
Drug companies will pay influential doctors up to $400 an hour to act as key opinion leaders, and some doctors earn more than $25 000 a year in advisory fees.
Kimberly Elliot, a former award-winning drug company sales representative interviewed* by Moynihan, reveals that drug companies desperately need key opinion leaders in order for doctors to believe what they are saying and prescribe their products, because drug representatives are often not believed. Essentially, she says, key opinion leaders are just salespeople.
So how independent are these doctors who have long term financial arrangements with drug companies?
According to Richard Tiner, medical director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, although “the work might help to promote a particular medicine” it should be considered payment for work done, and not a bribe. The best antidote to concerns about independence would be more transparency—all company payments to speakers should be routinely disclosed at medical meetings, he adds.
But David Blumenthal, from Harvard University, believes that payments to key opinion leaders are not in the public interest or in the interests of the patients served by these doctors, and calls for a major cutback in industry influence over the medical profession and its education.
In an accompanying head to head, Charlie Buckwell, Chief Executive of the Complete Medical Group and Professor Giovannii Fava, from the University of Bologna, debate whether drug companies’ use of medical experts is essential for medical advancement or whether it risks scientific integrity.
Public release date: 19-Jun-2008
Same drug, different results: MUHC researcher on the path to personalized medicine
Montreal, June 18, 2008 – Medicine has moved a little bit closer to the era of tailor-made treatments, based on the unique genetic profiles of individual patients, according to recent research conducted by Dr Rima Rozen of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and McGill University. Her study, published June 18 in the journal Pharmacogenetics and Genomics, shows how minor genetic differences between individuals alter the way a common drug affects the body.
Rozen has measured the impact of Methotrexate — a drug that inhibits the metabolism of folate — on mice with an altered MTHFR gene, which is a gene crucial for folate metabolism. The results were striking: after treatment with Methotrexate, mice with the altered gene had approximately 20 per cent less hemoglobin and red blood cells than their counterparts with non-altered genes. The altered mice also showed increased susceptibility to liver and kidney damage following treatment.
“We know that these results are applicable to humans because a parallel mutation in the human MTHFR gene affects human folate metabolism similarly. The results demonstrate that medication affects subjects differently according to individual genetic traits,” Dr. Rozen explained. “And tests exist to detect this mutation.” Genetic testing would allow physicians the modify treatment based on each patient’s personal genetic makeup, limiting potential side effects.
In earlier studies, Rozen’s laboratory cloned the MTHFR gene and identified the common variant which interferes in folate metabolism in human populations. Between 10 and 15 per cent of the total caucasian population have two copies of the variant in MTHFR. Folate, a form of water-soluble Vitamin B2, is essential to the production of red blood cells and provides protection against spina bifida, other birth defects, and heart disease. Patients with cancer or auto-immune diseases are often treated with medications that affect folate metabolism, but physicians are not trained to verify how patients naturally metabolize folate, even though this could be an important factor in effective treatment.
“This is a first step towards personalized medicine that is based not only on symptoms but also on the patient’s own genetic ‘baggage,'” Rozen said. “This trend definitely represents the medicine of the future.”
Public release date: 20-Jun-2008
Mayo researchers discover how measles virus spreads (in its host)
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Measles, one of the most common contagious diseases, has been thought to enter the body through the surface of airways and lungs, like many other major viruses. Now, Mayo Clinic researchers and their collaborators say that’s not the case, and some medical texts will have to be revised. The findings are reported in today’s online edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation http://www.jci.org/.
“It has long been assumed that measles virus infects the airway epithelium before infecting immune cells,” says Roberto Cattaneo, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic virologist and senior author of the study. “But we’ve shown that replication in the airways is not required, and that a virus replicating only in immune cells causes measles in monkeys.”
The research team generated a measles virus that cannot enter the airway epithelium and showed that it spread in lymphocytes, cells of the immune system, and remained virulent. Researchers also showed, as they predicted in a new model of infection, that the virus could not cross the respiratory epithelium on its way out of the lungs and was not shed from infected monkeys.
Significance of the Research
From a treatment standpoint, the findings help physician-researchers better understand how measles virus, which can be reprogrammed to eliminate cancer cells, spreads in its host. The research may help improve efficacy and safety of cancer therapy, and lead to a better understanding of how viruses similar to measles function. A result could be more effective vaccines for other diseases.
From a strictly scientific perspective, the study challenges a widely held assumption about this common contagion. In the introduction to their article, the researchers cite two recent medical texts on the measles virus that say it infects the upper respiratory epithelium before spreading to the rest of the body. In light of their findings, the investigators say those statements will have to be revised.
The team tested their hypothesis by developing a form of the measles virus that could not enter epithelia because it was made “blind” to the epithelial cell receptor, but could enter lymphatic cells through another receptor. The virus was tested on rhesus monkeys, inoculated via the nasal tract. They developed a rash and lost weight (both symptoms of measles in the species), but follow-up tests showed that the virus did not enter through the airway epithelium, though the lymph system was infected.
Ralph’s Note – I applaud the researchers for studying the aspects of the virus. But I am concerned about its attempted applications. I really don’t think some people have the ability to understand the dangers of using a genetically modified virus, that is highly contagious. One mistake, and it can make the black death look like just a warm up. Effectively where viruses evolve, as we do. This would put the virus on a evolutionary path beyond what our immune systems are currently able to adapt readily to. It would be similar to teaching a seven year old child addition, and subtraction one year. Then advancing them to calculus the next. Expect your immune system to do the same, maybe.
Public release date: 20-Jun-2008
Common cooking spice shows promise in combating diabetes and obesity
SAN FRANCISCO (June 20, 2008) – Turmeric, an Asian spice found in many curries, has a long history of use in reducing inflammation, healing wounds and relieving pain, but can it prevent diabetes? Since inflammation plays a big role in many diseases and is believed to be involved in onset of both obesity and Type 2 diabetes, Drew Tortoriello, M.D., an endocrinologist and research scientist at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center, and his colleagues were curious what effect the herb might have on diabetic mice.
Dr. Tortoriello, working with pediatric resident Stuart Weisberg, M.D., Ph.D., and Rudolph Leibel, M.D., fellow endocrinologist and the co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, discovered that turmeric-treated mice were less susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes, based on their blood glucose levels, and glucose and insulin tolerance tests. They also discovered that turmeric-fed obese mice showed significantly reduced inflammation in fat tissue and liver compared to controls. They speculate that curcumin, the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant ingredient in turmeric, lessens insulin resistance and prevents Type 2 diabetes in these mouse models by dampening the inflammatory response provoked by obesity.
Their findings are the subject of a soon-to-be published paper in Endocrinology and were presented at ENDO 2008, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco this week.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has no known dose-limiting toxicities in doses of up to at least 12 grams daily in humans. The researchers tested high-doses of a dietary curcumin in two distinct mouse models of obesity and Type 2 diabetes: high-fat-diet-fed male mice and leptin-deficient obese female mice, with lean wild-type mice that were fed low-fat diets used as controls.
The inflammation associated with obesity was shown several years ago by researchers in the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center to be due in part to the presence of immune cells called macrophages in fat tissues throughout the body. These cells produce “cytokine” molecules that can cause inflammation in organs such as the heart, and islets of the pancreas, while also increasing insulin resistance in muscle and liver. Researchers hypothesized that by suppressing the number and activity of these cells, with turmeric or a drug with similar actions, it may be possible to reduce some of the adverse consequences of obesity.
Curcumin administration was also associated with a small but significant decline in body weight and fat content, despite level or higher calorie consumption, suggesting that curcumin beneficially influences body composition.
“It’s too early to tell whether increasing dietary curcumin [through turmeric] intake in obese people with diabetes will show a similar benefit,” Dr. Tortoriello said. “Although the daily intake of curcumin one might have to consume as a primary diabetes treatment is likely impractical, it is entirely possible that lower dosages of curcumin could nicely complement our traditional therapies as a natural and safe treatment.”
For now, the conclusion that Dr. Tortoriello and his colleagues have reached is that turmeric – and its active anti-oxidant ingredient, curcumin – reverses many of the inflammatory and metabolic problems associated with obesity and improves blood-sugar control in mouse models of Type 2 diabetes.
In addition to exploring novel methods of curcumin administration to increase its absorption, they are also interested in identifying novel anti-inflammatory processes invoked by curcumin and in adapting those processes in the development of more potent curcumin analogues
Public release date: 22-Jun-2008
Drug reverses mental retardation caused by genetic disorder
UCLA researchers discovered that an FDA-approved drug reverses the brain dysfunction inflicted by a genetic disease called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Because half of TSC patients also suffer from autism, the findings offer new hope for addressing learning disorders due to autism. Nature Medicine publishes the findings in its online June 22 edition.
Using a mouse model for TSC, the scientists tested rapamycin, a drug approved by the FDA to fight tissue rejection following organ transplants. Rapamycin is well-known for targeting an enzyme involved in making proteins needed for memory. The UCLA team chose it because the same enzyme is also regulated by TSC proteins.
“This is the first study to demonstrate that the drug rapamycin can repair learning deficits related to a genetic mutation that causes autism in humans. The same mutation in animals produces learning disorders, which we were able to eliminate in adult mice,” explained principal investigator Dr. Alcino Silva, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Our work and other recent studies suggest that some forms of mental retardation can be reversed, even in the adult brain.”
“These findings challenge the theory that abnormal brain development is to blame for mental impairment in tuberous sclerosis,” added first author Dan Ehninger, postgraduate researcher in neurobiology. “Our research shows that the disease’s learning problems are caused by reversible changes in brain function — not by permanent damage to the developing brain.”
TSC is a devastating genetic disorder that disrupts how the brain works, often causing severe mental retardation. Even in mild cases, learning disabilities and short-term memory problems are common. Half of all TSC patients also suffer from autism and epilepsy. The disorder strikes one in 6,000 people, making it twice as common as Huntington’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Silva and Ehninger studied mice bred with TSC and verified that the animals suffered from the same severe learning difficulties as human patients. Next, the UCLA team traced the source of the learning problems to biochemical changes sparking abnormal function of the hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a key role in memory.
“Memory is as much about discarding trivial details as it is about storing useful information,” said Silva, a member of the UCLA Department of Psychology and UCLA Brain Research Institute. “Our findings suggest that mice with the mutation cannot distinguish between important and unimportant data. We suspect that their brains are filled with meaningless noise that interferes with learning.”
“After only three days of treatment, the TSC mice learned as quickly as the healthy mice,” said Ehninger. “The rapamycin corrected the biochemistry, reversed the learning deficits and restored normal hippocampal function, allowing the mice’s brains to store memories properly.”
In January, Silva presented his study at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke meeting, where he was approached by Dr. Petrus de Vries, who studies TSC patients and leads rapamycin clinical trials at the University of Cambridge. After discussing their respective findings, the two researchers began collaborating on a clinical trial currently taking place at Cambridge to examine whether rapamycin can restore short-term memory in TSC patients.
“The United States spends roughly $90 billion a year on remedial programs to address learning disorders,” noted Silva. “Our research offers hope to patients affected by tuberous sclerosis and to their families. The new findings suggest that rapamycin could provide therapeutic value in treating similar symptoms in people affected by the disorder.”‘
Public release date: 23-Jun-2008
Prions are not degraded by conventional sewage treatment processes
Scientists in Wisconsin are reporting in a paper scheduled for the July 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology that typical wastewater treatment processes do not degrade prions. Prions, rogue proteins that cause incurable brain infections such as Mad Cow disease and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, are difficult to inactivate, resisting extreme heat, chemical disinfectants, and irradiation. Until now, scientists did not know whether prions entering sewers and septic tanks from slaughterhouses, meatpacking facilities, or private game dressing, could survive and pass through conventional sewage treatment plants.
Joel Pedersen and colleagues used laboratory experiments with simulated wastewater treatment to show that prions can be recovered from wastewater sludge after 20 days, remaining in the “biosolids,” a byproduct of sewage treatment sometimes used to fertilize farm fields.
Although emphasizing that prions have never been reported in wastewater treatment plant water or biosolids, the researchers note that existing tests are not sufficiently sensitive to detect the extremely low levels of prions possible in those materials. — AD
Ralph’s Note – That really kind of complicates things.
Public release date: 23-Jun-2008
Low vitamin D levels associated with death from cardiovascular, all causes
Individuals with lower blood levels of vitamin D appear to have an increased risk of death overall and from cardiovascular causes, according to a report in the June 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
A recent consensus panel estimated that about 50 percent to 60 percent of older individuals in North America and the rest of the world do not have satisfactory vitamin D status, and the situation is similar for younger individuals, according to background information in the article. Blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a measure of blood vitamin D levels, lower than 20 to 30 nanograms per milliliter have been associated with falls, fractures, cancer, immune dysfunction, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. These effects are thought to be mediated by the compound 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which is produced by the body and also converted from 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
Harald Dobnig, M.D., of Medical University of Graz, Austria, and colleagues studied 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels in 3,258 consecutive patients (average age 62 years) who were scheduled for coronary angiography testing at a single medical center between 1997 and 2000.
During about 7.7 years of follow-up, 737 (22.6 percent) of participants died, including 463 (62.8 percent) who died of cardiovascular causes. Death rates from any cause and from cardiovascular causes were higher among individuals in the lower one-half of 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the lowest one-fourth of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels. These associations remained when the researchers accounted for other factors, including coronary artery disease, physical activity level and co-occurring diseases.
Low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels also were correlated with markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, as well as signs of oxidative (oxygen-related) damage to cells, the authors note.
“Apart from the proved effects that vitamin D has on bone metabolism and neuromuscular function, appropriate serum levels (that may also be higher than in the present investigation) are associated with a decrease in mortality,” they conclude. “Although not proved, it seems possible that at least part of this effect may be due to lowering of a risk profile promoting atherosclerosis [narrowing of the arteries] and preventing cardiovascular end points.”
“Based on the findings of this study, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 20 nanograms per milliliter or higher may be advised for maintaining general health.”
Public release date: 23-Jun-2008
Lose weight on the carb-packed “big breakfast” diet – (Poor science reporting )
To lose weight and keep it off, eat a big breakfast packed with carbohydrates and protein, then follow a low-carb, low-calorie diet the rest of the day, a small study suggests.
The “big breakfast” diet works, researchers say, because it controls appetite and satisfies cravings for sweets and starches. It’s also healthier than popular low-carb diets because it allows people to eat more fiber- and vitamin-rich fruit, according to Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, of the Hospital de Clinicas in Caracas, Venezuela.
She told the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco that she’s successfully used this diet in her patients for more than 15 years.
“Most weight loss studies have determined that a very low carbohydrate diet is not a good method to reduce weight,” Jakubowicz noted in a written statement issued by the Endocrine Society. “It exacerbates the craving for carbohydrates and slows metabolism. As a result, after a short period of weight loss, there is a quick return to obesity.”
With scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Jakubowicz and her colleagues compared their high-carb and protein “big breakfast” diet with a strict low-carb diet in 94 obese, sedentary women. Both diets were low in fat and total calories but differed markedly in their carbohydrate content.
The 46 women on the very-low-carb diet consumed 1,085 calories a day, consisting of 17 grams of carbohydrates, 51 grams of protein and 78 grams of fat. The smallest meal was breakfast, at 290 calories. For breakfast, the low-carb dieters were allowed only 7 grams of carbohydrates, such as bread, fruit, cereal and milk, and they could eat just 12 grams of protein, such as meat and eggs, in the morning.
In contrast, the 48 women on the “big breakfast diet” consumed 1,240 calories a day. Although lower in total fat (46 grams) than the other diet, the big breakfast diet had higher daily allotments of carbs (97 grams) and protein (93 grams). Dieters ate a 610-calorie breakfast, consisting of 58 grams of carbs, 47 grams of protein and 22 fat grams.
For lunch, they got 395 calories, made up of 34 grams of carbs, 28 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat. Dinner — the smallest meal of the day — was made up of 235 calories (5, 18 and 26 grams of carbs, protein, and fat, respectively).
At four months, there was no significant weight-loss difference between the two diet groups. Women on the strict low-carb diet shed an average of about 28 pounds, while women on the big breakfast diet lost nearly 23 pounds, on average.
But at eight months, the low-carb dieters regained an average of 18 pounds, while the big breakfast dieters continued to lose weight, shedding another 16.5 pounds.
Those on the big breakfast diet lost more than 21 percent of their body weight, compared with just 4.5 percent for the low-carb group.
And according to Jakubowicz, women who ate a big breakfast reported feeling less hungry, especially before lunch, and having fewer cravings for carbs than women on the low-carb diet.
Ralph’s Note- I could not find any research version of this article, studies, etc .It was the same cookie cut version plastered throughout the news industry, down to every last letter. There was no ability to peer review any data. We do not know the length of the study, lean mass losses, or gains, food types consumed, was research independent, drop out rates, etc…In addition her claims on low carb dieting was an assumption, not supported by any current data. She had her patients on this diet for 15 years, and she conducted the study. The risk of experimenter bias would be incredible. Why this study received national attention is disturbing. Especially since there is tons of great independent research out there. I guess, they just expect us to take them at their word.