Health Research Report
142nd Issue Date 16 NOV 2012
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano
Editors Top five:
- Caffeine improves recognition of positive words
- Drinking green tea with starchy food may help lower blood sugar spikes
- Link Found Between Child Prodigies and Autism
- Triclosan in cosmetics and personal care products can increase allergy risk
- Eating more fish could reduce postpartum depression
In This Issue:
- Daily doses of a new probiotic reduces ‘bad’ and total cholesterol: Lactobacillus reutei
- New study finds that 75 percent of patients taking popular blood-thinners are getting wrong dose
- Is your memory playing tricks on you? Check your medicine cabinet!
- Caffeine improves recognition of positive words
- Antioxidants may ease PAD blood pressure increase
- Hebrew Senior Life study finds no link between calcium intake and coronary artery calcification
- Drinking green tea with starchy food may help lower blood sugar spikes
- Link Found Between Child Prodigies and Autism
- Kids need at least 7 minutes a day of ‘vigorous’ physical activity, but most aren’t getting that
- Compound in grapes, red wine could be key to fighting prostate cancer
- Sugar boosts self-control, UGA study says
- Vitamin D prevents clogged arteries in diabetics
- Ancient foot massage technique may ease cancer symptoms
- BPA shown to disrupt thyroid function in pregnant animals and offspring
- Give pregnant women vitamin D supplements to ward off MS, say researchers
- Triclosan in cosmetics and personal care products can increase allergy risk
- Cordyceps – Rare parasitic fungi could have anti-flammatory benefits
- Eating more fish could reduce postpartum depression
- Arginine and proline enriched diet may speed wound healing in diabetes
- Vitamin D deficiency linked to Type 1 diabetes
- Foetus suffers when mother lacks vitamin C
Daily doses of a new probiotic reduces ‘bad’ and total cholesterol: Lactobacillus reutei
- A new probiotic lowered LDL “bad” cholesterol and total cholesterol in patients with high cholesterol.
- The probiotic reduced molecules known as cholesterol ester saturated fatty acids, which have been tied to dangerous plaque buildup in the arteries.
American Heart Association Meeting Report:
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5, 2012 — Two daily doses of a probiotic lowered key cholesterol-bearing molecules in the blood as well as “bad” and total cholesterol, in a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (naturally occurring bacteria in the gut) thought to have beneficial effects; common sources are yogurt or dietary supplements.
In previous studies, a formulation of the bacteria, known as Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242, has lowered blood levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Such treatments are drawing increasing medical attention as researchers unravel how supplementing gut bacteria (microbiome) with probiotics can play a role in health and certain chronic diseases such as heart disease, said Mitchell L. Jones, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research assistant in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
Researchers investigated whether the same probiotic could lower LDL and reduce blood levels of cholesterol esters — molecules of cholesterol attached to fatty acids, a combination that accounts for most total blood cholesterol and has been tied to cardiovascular disease risk.
Researchers tracked cholesterol esters bound to saturated fat, which have been linked to dangerous arterial plaque buildup and occur at higher levels in coronary artery disease patients.
The study involved 127 adult patients with high cholesterol. About half the participants took L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 twice a day, while the rest were given placebo capsules.
Those taking the probiotic had LDL levels 11.6 percent lower than those on placebo after nine weeks. Furthermore, cholesterol esters were reduced by 6.3 percent and cholesterol ester saturated fatty acids by 8.8 percent, compared with the placebo group.
For the first time, research shows that the probiotic formulation can reduce cholesterol esters “and in particular reduce the cholesterol esters associated with ‘bad’ saturated fatty acids in the blood,” said Jones, co-founder and chief science officer of Micropharma, the company that formulated the probiotic.
Furthermore, people taking the probiotic had total cholesterol reduced by 9.1 percent. HDL “good” cholesterol and blood triglycerides, a dangerous form of fat in the blood, were unchanged.
Scientists have proposed that Lactobacillus bacteria alone may impact cholesterol levels in several ways, including breaking apart molecules known as bile salts. L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 was fermented and formulated to optimize its effect on cholesterol and bile salts.
Based on correlations between LDL reduction and bile measurements in the gut, the study results suggest the probiotic broke up bile salts, leading to reduced cholesterol absorption in the gut and less LDL.
The probiotic worked at doses of just 200 milligrams a day, far lower than those for soluble fiber or other natural products used to reduce cholesterol.
“Most dietary cholesterol management products require consumption between 2 to 25 grams a day,” Jones said.
Patients appear to tolerate the probiotic well and the probiotic strain L. reuteri has a long history of safe use, he said.
Because of the small number of patients involved in the study, researchers aren’t sure if the impact of the probiotic differs between men and women or among ethnic groups.
Co-authors are Christopher J. Martoni, Ph.D. and Satya Prakash, Ph.D.
Micropharma funded the study and owns intellectual property rights for the formulation, which is expected to be on the U.S. market next year.
New study finds that 75 percent of patients taking popular blood-thinners are getting wrong dose
Millions at risk for serious problems like uncontrolled bleeding or developing blood clots
SALT LAKE CITY – Cardiology researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute have found that approximately 75 percent of patients taking two common blood-thinning drugs may be receiving the wrong dosage levels, according to a new study.
This could put them at risk for serious problems like uncontrolled bleeding or developing blood clots.
Millions of Americans with coronary artery disease take one of the two drugs — clopidogrel (Plavix) and prasugrel (Effient) — to prevent harmful blood clots that can cause a stroke or heart attack. Current guidelines recommend that all patients take the same standardized dose. But in this new study of 521 patients, researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that dose is not effective for all patients.
“There’s a sweet spot, an appropriate range for each patient. But we found that not many people are falling into that range,” said cardiologist Brent Muhlestein, MD, a cardiac researcher at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.
Dr. Muhlestein is presenting the group’s findings on Nov. 6 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2012 in Los Angeles.
“We showed that by performing a simple blood test to see whether or not the blood is clotting properly, we can determine whether patients are getting an appropriate, individualized dose of the medications,” he says. “The test is easy to perform, but not widely used.”
The Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute study could help lead to personalized treatment and improved results for millions of people taking the drugs. It may also help cut pharmacy bills for many patients. The annual cost for one of the medications is more than $1,800. Finding the lowest effective dose for those patients could conceivably cut their bill in half.
Major findings of the study show that:
- Half of patients taking clopidogrel were getting too little of the drug to prevent clotting most effectively. A quarter were getting too much. Only a quarter were getting an accurate dose.
- Half of patients taking prasugrel are getting too much of the drug, which could lead to dangerous bleeding. A quarter were getting too little. Only a quarter are getting the appropriate dose.
The researchers also discovered that common indicators like age, gender, cholesterol levels, and history of heart problems were not good predictors for how a person would react to the drugs.
“That means there’s not an easy way to predict how a person will react to these drugs. But the blood test is very effective,” said Dr. Muhlestein. “In fact, a physician could have the test machine on his or her desk and perform the test right there in the office.”
Is your memory playing tricks on you? Check your medicine cabinet!
National Senior Safety Week – Drug safety for seniors
This press release is available in French.
Common medication to treat insomnia, anxiety, itching or allergies can have a negative impact on memory or concentration in the elderly, according to Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, Research Chair at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM, Montreal Geriatric University Institute) and Associate Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Montreal (UdeM). Up to ninety percent of people over the age of 65 take at least one prescription medication. Eighteen percent of people in this age group complain of memory problems and are found to have mild cognitive deficits. Research suggests there may be a link between the two.
Dr. Tannenbaum recently led a team of international researchers to investigate which medications are most likely to affect amnestic (memory) or non-amnestic (attention, concentration, performance) brain functions. After analyzing the results from 162 experiments on medications with potential to bind to cholinergic, histamine, GABAergic or opioid receptors in the brain, Dr. Tannenbaum concluded that the episodic use of several medications can cause amnestic or non-amnestic deficits. This potential cause is often overlooked in persons who are otherwise in good health.
The 68 trials on benzodiazepines (which are often used to treat anxiety and insomnia) that were analyzed showed that these drugs consistently lead to impairments in memory and concentration, with a clear dose-response relationship. The 12 tests on antihistamines and the 15 tests on tricyclic antidepressants showed deficits in attention and information processing. Dr. Tannenbaum’s findings support the recommendation issued in the Revised Beers Criteria published last spring 2012 by the American Geriatrics Society that all sleeping pills, 1st generation antihistamines and tricyclic antidepressants should be avoided at all costs in seniors.
Dr. Tannenbaum believes in the importance of communicating this knowledge to patients: “Seniors can play an important role in reducing the risks associated with these medications. Patients need this information so that they are more comfortable talking to their doctors and pharmacists about safer pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment options,” she explained. She also points out that each case must be addressed on an individual basis: “Despite the known risks, it may be better for some patients to continue their medication instead of having to live with intolerable symptoms. Each individual has a right to make an informed choice based on preference and a thorough understanding of the effects the medications may have on their memory and function.”
Caffeine improves recognition of positive words
2-3 cups of coffee improve brain processing of positive, but not negative or neutral words
Caffeine perks up most coffee-lovers, but a new study shows a small dose of caffeine also increases their speed and accuracy for recognizing words with positive connotation. The research published November 7 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Lars Kuchinke and colleagues from Ruhr University, Germany, shows that caffeine enhances the neural processing of positive words, but not those with neutral or negative associations.
Previous research showed that caffeine increases activity in the central nervous system, and normal doses of caffeine improve performance on simple cognitive tasks and behavioral responses. It is also known that certain memories are enhanced when strong positive or negative emotions are associated with objects, but the link between caffeine consumption and these emotional biases was unknown.
This study demonstrates, for the first time, that consuming 200 mg of caffeine, equivalent to 2-3 cups of coffee, 30 minutes before a task can improve the implicit recognition of positive words, but has no effect on the processing of emotionally neutral or negative words. The authors suggest that this effect is driven by caffeine’s strong dopaminergic effects in the language-dominant regions of the brain.
Hebrew Senior Life study finds no link between calcium intake and coronary artery calcification
BOSTON – Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School (HMS), have published a study that shows no evidence of a link between calcium intake and coronary artery calcification, reassuring adults who take calcium supplements for bone health that the supplements do not appear to result in the development of calcification of blood vessels.
The paper, published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that study participants who had the highest calcium intake, from diet or supplements or both, had the same coronary artery calcification score as those who had the lowest calcium intake. The coronary artery calcification score represents the severity of calcified plaque clogging the arteries in the heart and is an independent predictor of heart attack.
“This study addresses a critical question about the association between calcium intake and a clinically measurable indicator of atherosclerosis in older adults,” said Elizabeth (Lisa) Samelson, Ph.D., associate scientist at IFAR and an assistant professor at HMS and the lead author of the study. “There was no increased risk of calcified arteries with higher amounts of calcium intake from food or supplements.”
Today’s paper reported on an observational, prospective study using participants from the highly regarded Framingham Heart Study, the longest running medical study in history. The investigators examined 1,300 participants, both men and women with an average age of 60, who were asked about their diet and supplement use and then underwent CT scans of their coronary arteries four years later.
In recent years, reports have raised concern regarding a potential adverse effect of calcium supplements on risk of heart attack. However, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that evidence from clinical trials does not support an adverse effect of calcium intake on risk of cardiovascular disease. They recommended the following guidelines for calcium intake considered safe and effective for bone health: 1,200 mg per day of calcium for women over 50 and men over 70 and 1,000 mg per day for men between 50 and 70. The guidelines say supplementation can be used if the minimum requirements are not being met through diet.
Today’s paper reassures people who take calcium at levels within the recommended guidelines for bone health that they can continue to do so safely, without worrying about the risk of calcifying their arteries, according to Samelson. However, “it is critically important that each individual discuss with a health care provider whether the recommendations are appropriate given his or her personal medical history.”
Antioxidants may ease PAD blood pressure increase
HERSHEY, Pa. — Low antioxidant levels contribute to increased blood pressure during exercise for people with peripheral arterial disease, according to researchers at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute.
Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, affects an estimated 10 million Americans and increases the chance of death from a cardiovascular event. Reduced blood flow causes pain in the legs and increases blood pressure in people who have PAD. However, the causes of the disease are unknown.
“Past studies have shown that having low antioxidant levels and increased reactive oxygen species — chemical products that bind to body cells and cause damage — is related to more severe PAD,” said Matthew Muller, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Larry Sinoway’s lab at Penn State College of Medicine, and lead author of the study.
Antioxidants prevent the reactive oxygen species from damaging cells.
“This study shows that blood pressure increases more with exercise in more severe PAD cases. By infusing the antioxidant vitamin C into the blood, we were able to lessen the increase in blood pressure during exercise,” said Muller.
Vitamin C does not lessen the increase in blood pressure of PAD patients to that of healthy people. As the intensity of exercise increases, the effects of vitamin C decrease but are still seen. The researchers report their findings in the Journal of Physiology.
Penn State Hershey researchers looked at three groups of PAD patients to study the blood pressure increase. A group of 13 PAD patients was compared to people without PAD to see the effects of doing low-intensity exercise on blood pressure. From that group, a second group of nine patients was used to measure the effects of vitamin C. A third group of five PAD patients and five without PAD had their leg muscles electrically stimulated to remove the brain’s role in raising blood pressure during muscle contraction in this disease.
Increased blood pressure during exercise occurs in both legs, before pain begins, and relates to the severity of the disease. By using electrical stimulation, the scientists show that the blood pressure increase comes from the muscle itself, since the brain is not telling the leg to contract and the pressure still increases.
“This indicates that during normal, everyday activities such as walking, an impaired antioxidant system — as well as other factors — plays a role in the increased blood pressure response to exercise,” Muller said. “Therefore, supplementing the diet with antioxidants may help these patients, but more studies are needed to confirm this concept.”
Drinking green tea with starchy food may help lower blood sugar spikes
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An ingredient in green tea that helps reduce blood sugar spikes in mice may lead to new diet strategies for people, according to Penn State food scientists.
Mice fed an antioxidant found in green tea — epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG — and corn starch had a significant reduction in increase in their blood sugar — blood glucose — levels compared to mice that were not fed the compound, according to Joshua Lambert, assistant professor of food science in agricultural sciences.
“The spike in blood glucose level is about 50 percent lower than the increase in the blood glucose level of mice that were not fed EGCG,” Lambert said.
The dose of EGCG fed to the mice was equivalent to about one and a half cups of green tea for a human.
Lambert, who worked with Sarah C. Forester, postdoctoral fellow, and Yeyi Gu, graduate student, both in food science, said EGCG was most effective when the compound was fed to the mice simultaneously with corn starch. For humans, this may mean that green tea could help them control the typical blood sugar increases that are brought on when they eat starchy foods, like breads and bagels that are often a part of typical breakfasts.
“If what you are eating with your tea has starch in it then you might see that beneficial effect,” Lambert said. “So, for example, if you have green tea with your bagel for breakfast, it may reduce the spike in blood glucose levels that you would normally get from that food.”
The EGCG had no significant effect on blood sugar spikes in mice that were fed glucose or maltose, according to the researchers who released their findings in the online version of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. Lambert said that the reason blood sugar spikes are reduced when the mice ate starch, but not these sugars, may be related to the way the body converts starch into sugar.
An enzyme called alpha-amylase that is produced in both the mouth and by the pancreas helps break down starch into maltose and glucose. EGCG may inhibit the enzymes ability to break down the starch, the researchers indicated, since they also found that EGCG reduced the activity of alpha amylase in the pancreas by 34 percent.
If the mechanism holds in humans, this may mean that people who want to limit the blood sugar spike should skip adding sugar to their cup of green tea.
“That may mean that if you add sugar into your green tea, that might negate the effect that the green tea will have on limiting the rise in blood glucose level,” Lambert said.
Lambert added that the green tea and the starch would need to be consumed simultaneously. For example, drinking a cup of tea well after eating a piece of toast would probably not change the blood sugar spike.
For the study, researchers separated mice into several groups based on body weight. After a fasting period, the mice were given common corn starch, maltose, or sucrose. One group of mice received EGCG along with the feed, while a control group was not fed the compound.
The researchers then tested the blood sugar levels of both groups.
Lambert said the researchers next step is to test the compound on people.
“The relatively low effective dose of EGCG makes a compelling case for studies in human subjects,” the researchers said.
Link Found Between Child Prodigies and Autism
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study of eight child prodigies suggests a possible link between these children’s special skills and autism.
Of the eight prodigies studied, three had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. As a group, the prodigies also tended to have slightly elevated scores on a test of autistic traits, when compared to a control group.
In addition, half of the prodigies had a family member or a first- or second-degree relative with an autism diagnosis.
The fact that half of the families and three of the prodigies themselves were affected by autism is surprising because autism occurs in only one of 120 individuals, said Joanne Ruthsatz, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.
“The link between child prodigies and autism is strong in our study,” Ruthsatz said. “Our findings suggest child prodigies have traits in common with autistic children, but something is preventing them from displaying the deficits we associate with the disorder.”
The study also found that while child prodigies had elevated general intelligence scores, where they really excelled was in working memory – all of them scored above the 99th percentile on this trait.
Ruthsatz conducted the study with Jourdan Urbach of Yale University. Their results were published in a recent issue of the journal Intelligence.
For the study, the researchers identified eight child prodigies through the internet and television specials and by referral. The group included one art prodigy, one math prodigy, four musical prodigies and two who switched domains (one from music to gourmet cooking, and one from music to art). The study included six males and two females.
The researchers met with each prodigy individually over the course of two or three days. During that time, the prodigies completed the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, which included sub-tests on fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual spatial abilities and working memory.
In addition, the researchers administered the Autism-Spectrum Quotient assessment, which scores the level of autistic traits. The prodigies’ scores on the test were compared to a control group of 174 adults who were contacted randomly by mail.
Ruthsatz said the most striking data was that which identified autistic traits among the prodigies.
The prodigies showed a general elevation in autistic traits compared to the control group, but this elevation was on average even smaller than that seen in high-functioning autistic people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
Autism is a developmental disability characterized by problems with communicating and socializing and a strong resistance to change. People with Asperger’s are more likely than those with autism to have normal intelligence, but tend to have difficulties with social interaction.
The prodigies did score higher than the control group and the Asperger’s group on one subsection of the autism assessment: attention to detail.
“These prodigies had an absolutely amazing memory for detail,” she said. “They don’t miss anything, which certainly helps them achieve the successes they have.”
Ruthsatz said it was not the three prodigies who were diagnosed with autism who were driving this particular finding. In fact, the three autistic prodigies scored an average of 8 on attention to detail, compared to 8.5 for the entire group of prodigies.
On the intelligence test, the prodigies scored in the gifted range, but were not uniformly exceptional. While five of the eight prodigies scored in the 90th percentile or above on the IQ test, one scored at the 70th percentile and another at the 79th percentile.
“Our findings suggest child prodigies have traits in common with autistic children, but something is preventing them from displaying the deficits we associate with the disorder.”
But just as they did in the autism assessment, the prodigies stood out in one of the sub-tests of the intelligence test. In this case, the prodigies showed an exceptional working memory, with all of them scoring above the 99th percentile.
Working memory is the system in the brain that allows people to hold multiple pieces of information in mind for a short time in order to complete a task.
The findings paint a picture of what it takes to create a prodigy, Ruthsatz said.
“Overall, what we found is that prodigies have an elevated general intelligence and exceptional working memory, along with an elevated autism score, with exceptional attention to detail,” Ruthsatz said.
These results suggest that prodigies share some striking similarities with autistic savants – people who have the developmental disabilities associated with autism combined with an extraordinary talent or knowledge that is well beyond average.
“But while autistic savants display many of the deficits commonly associated with autism, the child prodigies do not,” Ruthsatz said. “The question is why.”
The answer may be some genetic mutation that allows prodigies to have the extreme talent found in savants, but without the deficits seen in autism. But the answer will require more study, Ruthsatz said.
“Our findings suggest that prodigies may have some moderated form of autism that actually enables their extraordinary talent.”
Kids need at least 7 minutes a day of ‘vigorous’ physical activity, but most aren’t getting that
UAlberta medical researchers part of national research team examining activity levels of kids in Leduc, Alta., area
Children need a minimum of seven minutes a day of vigorous physical activity, demonstrates recently published findings by University of Alberta medical researchers and their colleagues across Canada.
“If you watch late-night television, or look in the backs of magazines, you’ll see magical ads saying you need just 10 minutes a day or five minutes a day of exercise to stay fit. And for those of us in the medical field, we just rolled our eyes at that. But surprisingly, they may actually be right and that’s what this research shows,” says co-principal investigator Richard Lewanczuk, a researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the U of A.
“Our research showed children don’t need a lot of intense physical activity to get the health benefits of exercise – seven minutes or more of vigorous physical activity was all that was required. But the seven minutes had to be intense to prevent weight gain, obesity and its adverse health consequences. And most kids weren’t getting that.”
Lewanczuk worked on this study with Jonathan McGavock, his co-principal investigator and former post-doctoral fellow, who now works with the Manitoba Institute of Child Health. They collaborated with Black Gold Regional Schools in Leduc and surrounding communities just south of Edmonton, as well as researchers from the University of Manitoba, Queen’s University, the University of Newcastle, and U of A researchers from the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, the School of Public Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. The team’s findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
More than 600 children, between the ages of nine to 17 from Leduc and surrounding areas, wore monitors that tracked their physical activity levels for seven days. These children also had their weight, waist circumference and blood pressure regularly monitored.
Researchers reviewed the data collected through the Healthy Hearts program via Black Gold Regional Schools and determined the children spent almost 70 per cent of their time doing sedentary activities; nearly 23 per cent was devoted to light physical activity; almost seven per cent to moderate physical activity and 0.6 per cent to vigorous physical activity.
Overall, boys were less sedentary than girls. And the more vigorous the physical activity, the less apt the children were to be overweight. Children who were overweight had improved fitness levels and shrinking waist lines when they increased the amount of time spent doing vigorous activities.
Lewanczuk said the team made some other notable findings including the following: there weren’t the expected health benefits from doing only mild or moderate activity even if the time spent doing this type of activity increased. What seemed to be critical was taking part in intense physical activity. For kids who took part in vigorous physical activity that lasted longer than seven minutes, their health benefits were significantly better. And the whole notion of being overweight but fit? The team’s data didn’t support that finding in children. If children were overweight, they were also unhealthy, Lewanczuk says.
“This research tells us that a brisk walk isn’t good enough,” says Lewanczuk, a professor in the Department of Medicine who has been studying this topic for eight years. “Kids have to get out and do a high-intensity activity in addition to maintaining a background of mild to moderate activity. There’s a strong correlation between obesity, fitness and activity. Activity and fitness is linked to a reduction in obesity and good health outcomes.”
Getting young children to make vigorous physical activity part of their daily routines is important, especially considering activity levels in the teenage years drop right off, Lewanczuk says. And previously published research from the same group of children shows kids are more active at school than they are at home.
“Quite often the activity levels on evenings or weekends would be almost flat,” he says. “We made the presumption that kids were just sitting in front of a screen the whole time.”
Lewanczuk hopes the research findings will help schools decide what type of mandatory physical activity is needed.
He praised the school district involved in the study, noting the research wouldn’t have been possible without its support.
Paul Wozny with Black Gold Regional Schools said physical activity is always worthwhile and noted that increased moderate to intense activity was closely associated with lower weights from year to year. He said the Healthy Hearts project has truly created “a school and community culture where regular physical activity and healthy nutrition are seen as essential ingredients for students’ health, wellness and life-long learning. Everyone is involved – students, their parents, teachers, staff, researchers and the community as a whole.
“We are always striving to improve, so we regularly review the research results to help us fine tune and develop future activity and wellness programming at all of our school communities. Black Gold Regional Schools’ Health Hearts project has received both national and international recognition as a world-leading school and community initiative dedicated to the improvement of student cardiovascular health through regular physical activity and multi-stakeholder support.”
The primary funders of the research were: the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research.
“The Canadian Diabetes Association is proud to be a leading supporter of diabetes research in Canada, investing more than $7 million annually in diabetes research,” said Janet Hux, chief scientific advisor for the Canadian Diabetes Association. “The association encourages Canadians to pursue healthy lifestyles in order to prevent and manage diabetes. Dr. Lewanczuk’s work provides important new insights that may make enhanced activity more feasible for children and youth.”
The Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research added: “Having this kind of evidence should make it easier for parents, schools and daycare programs to do activities with children that will help develop lifelong healthy attitudes towards exercise and activity,” stated Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research President and CEO, Robyn Blackadar.
Compound in grapes, red wine could be key to fighting prostate cancer
MU researcher finds that prostate tumor cells are more susceptible to treatment after being exposed to resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Resveratrol, a compound found commonly in grape skins and red wine, has been shown to have several beneficial effects on human health, including cardiovascular health and stroke prevention. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has discovered that the compound can make prostate tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment, increasing the chances of a full recovery from all types of prostate cancer, including aggressive tumors.
“Other studies have noted that resveratrol made tumor cells more susceptible to chemotherapy, and we wanted to see if it had the same effect for radiation therapy,” said Michael Nicholl, an assistant professor of surgical oncology in the MU School of Medicine. “We found that when exposed to the compound, the tumor cells were more susceptible to radiation treatment, but that the effect was greater than just treating with both compounds separately.”
|IMAGE:Scientists at MU have found that treatment with a compound found in grape skins and red wine could increase the chances of a full recovery from all types of prostate…|
Prostate tumor cells contain very low levels of two proteins, perforin and granzyme B, which can function together to kill cells. However, both proteins need to be highly “expressed” to kill tumor cells. In his study, when Nicholl introduced resveratrol into the prostate tumor cells, the activity of the two proteins increased greatly. Following radiation treatment, Nicholl found that up to 97 percent of the tumor cells died, which is a much higher percentage than treatment with radiation alone.
“It is critical that both proteins, perforin and granzyme B, are present in order to kill the tumor cells, and we found that the resveratrol helped to increase their activity in prostate tumor cells,” Nicholl said. “Following the resveratrol-radiation treatment, we realized that we were able to kill many more tumor cells when compared with treating the tumor with radiation alone. It’s important to note that this killed all types of prostate tumor cells, including aggressive tumor cells.”
Resveratrol is present in grape skins and red wine and available over-the-counter in many health food sections at grocery stores. However, the dosage needed to have an effect on tumor cells is so great that many people would experience uncomfortable side effects.
“We don’t need a large dose at the site of the tumor, but the body processes this compound so efficiently that a person needs to ingest a lot of resveratrol to make sure enough of it ends up at the tumor site. Because of that challenge, we have to look at different delivery methods for this compound to be effective,” Nicholl said. “It’s very attractive as a therapeutic agent since it is a natural compound and something that most of us have consumed in our lifetimes.”
Nicholl said that the next step would be to test the procedure in an animal model before any clinical trials can be initiated. Nicholl’s studies were published in the Journal of Andrology and Cancer Science. The early-stage results of this research are promising. If additional studies, including animal studies, are successful within the next few years, MU officials will request authority from the federal government to begin human drug development (this is commonly referred to as the “investigative new drug” status). After this status has been granted, researchers may conduct human clinical trials with the hope of developing new treatments for cancer.
Sugar boosts self-control, UGA study says
Athens, Ga. – To boost self-control, gargle sugar water. According to a study co-authored by University of Georgia professor of psychology Leonard Martin published Oct. 22 in Psychological Science, a mouth rinse with glucose improves self-control.
His study looked at 51 students who performed two tasks to test self-control. The first task, which has shown to deplete self-control, was the meticulous crossing out of Es on a page from a statistics book. Then, participants performed what is known as the Stroop task where they were asked to identify the color of various words flashed on a screen, which spell out the names of other colors. The Stroop task’s goal is to turn off the student’s tendency to read the words and instead see the colors.
Half of the students rinsed their mouths with lemonade sweetened with sugar while performing the Stroop test, the other half with Splenda-sweetened lemonade. Students who rinsed with sugar, rather than artificial sweetener, were significantly faster at responding to the color rather than the word.
“Researchers used to think you had to drink the glucose and get it into your body to give you the energy to (have) self control,” Martin said. “After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue. This, in turn, signals the motivational centers of the brain where our self-related goals are represented. These signals tell your body to pay attention.”
It took subjects about 3-5 minutes to perform the Stroop test. Martin said results show a measure of self-control, but a glucose mouthwash might not be enough to solve some of the biggest self-control obstacles like losing weight or smoking.
“The research is not clear yet on the effects of swishing with glucose on long-term self-control,” he said. “So, if you are trying to quit smoking, a swish of lemonade may not be the total cure, but it certainly could help you in the short run.”
Martin, in collaboration with co-author Matthew Sanders, a doctoral candidate also in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, believes the motivation comes in the form of self-values, or emotive investment.
“It is the self-investment,” Martin said. “It doesn’t just crank up your energy, but it cranks up your personal investment in what you are doing. Clicking into the things that are important to you makes those self-related goals salient.”
They theorized that the glucose causes emotive enhancement, leading the person to pay attention to their goals and perform better at evoking the non-dominant response.
“The glucose seems to be good at getting you to stop an automatic response such as reading the words in the Stroop task and to substitute the second harder one in its place such as saying the color the word is printed in,” he said. “It can enhance emotive investment and self-relevant goals.”
Previous self-control studies showed a marked decrease in performance for the second task.
“Previous studies suggest the first task requires so much energy, you just don’t have the energy left for the second task that you need,” Martin said. “We are saying when people engage in self-control, they ignore important aspects of their goals and feelings. If you have to stay late at work, for example, but you really want to be going home, you have to ignore your desire to go home. Doing so will help you stay late at work, but it may also put you out of touch with what you personally want and feel on later tasks. Swishing glucose can focus you back on those goals and feelings and this, in turn, can help you perform better on the second task. In short, we believe self-control goes away because people send away, not because they don’t have energy. People turn it off on purpose.”
Martin’s research focused on what the affects of swishing glucose psychologically rather than physiologically. “We think it makes your self-related goals come to mind,” he said.
Martin’s lab is continuing to study how subjects evoke and interpret emotive responses.
Vitamin D prevents clogged arteries in diabetics
November 13, 2012
By Jim Dryden
People with diabetes often develop clogged arteries that cause heart disease, and new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that low vitamin D levels are to blame.
In a study published Nov. 9 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers report that blood vessels are less likely to clog in people with diabetes who get adequate vitamin D. But in patients with insufficient vitamin D, immune cells bind to blood vessels near the heart, then trap cholesterol to block those blood vessels.
Low levels of vitamin D in people with diabetes appear to encourage cholesterol to build up in arteries, eventually blocking the flow of blood. In mice, immune cells adhering to the wall of a major blood vessel near the heart are loaded with cholesterol (shown in red).
“About 26 million Americans now have type 2 diabetes,” says principal investigator Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi, MD. “And as obesity rates rise, we expect even more people will develop diabetes. Those patients are more likely to experience heart problems due to an increase in vascular inflammation, so we have been investigating why this occurs.”
In earlier research, Bernal-Mizrachi, an assistant professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology, and his colleagues found that vitamin D appears to play a key role in heart disease. This new study takes their work a step further, suggesting that when vitamin D levels are low, a particular class of white blood cell is more likely to adhere to cells in the walls of blood vessels.
Vitamin D conspires with immune cells called macrophages either to keep arteries clear or to clog them. The macrophages begin their existence as white blood cells called monocytes that circulate in the bloodstream. But when monocytes encounter inflammation, they are transformed into macrophages, which no longer circulate.
In the new study, researchers looked at vitamin D levels in 43 people with type 2 diabetes and in 25 others who were similar in age, sex and body weight but didn’t have diabetes.
They found that in diabetes patients with low vitamin D — less than 30 nanograms per milliliter of blood — the macrophage cells were more likely to adhere to the walls of blood vessels, which triggers cells to get loaded with cholesterol, eventually causing the vessels to stiffen and block blood flow.
“We took everything into account,” says first author Amy E. Riek, MD, instructor in medicine. “We looked at blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes control, body weight and race. But only vitamin D levels correlated to whether these cells stuck to the blood vessel wall.”
Sometime in the next several months, the scientists hope to determine whether vitamin D treatment can reverse some of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
“In the future, we hope to generate medications, potentially even vitamin D itself, that help prevent the deposit of cholesterol in the blood vessels,” Bernal-Mizrachi explains. “Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency in these patients to increases in cardiovascular disease and in mortality. Other work has suggested that vitamin D may improve insulin release from the pancreas and insulin sensitivity. Our ultimate goal is to intervene in people with diabetes and to see whether vitamin D might decrease inflammation, reduce blood pressure and lessen the likelihood that they will develop atherosclerosis or other vascular complications.”
For more information on the current clinical studies involving vitamin D in people with diabetes, call study coordinator Robin Bruchas at (314) 362-0934.
Ancient foot massage technique may ease cancer symptoms
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A study led by a Michigan State University researcher offers the strongest evidence yet that reflexology – a type of specialized foot massage practiced since the age of pharaohs – can help cancer patients manage their symptoms and perform daily tasks.
Funded by the National Cancer Institute and published in the latest issue of Oncology Nursing Forum, it is the first large-scale, randomized study of reflexology as a complement to standard cancer treatment, according to lead author Gwen Wyatt, a professor in the College of Nursing.
“It’s always been assumed that it’s a nice comfort measure, but to this point we really have not, in a rigorous way, documented the benefits,” Wyatt said. “This is the first step toward moving a complementary therapy from fringe care to mainstream care.”
Reflexology is based on the idea that stimulating specific points on the feet can improve the functioning of corresponding organs, glands and other parts of the body.
The study involved 385 women undergoing chemotherapy or hormonal therapy for advanced-stage breast cancer that had spread beyond the breast. The women were assigned randomly to three groups: Some received treatment by a certified reflexologist, others got a foot massage meant to act like a placebo, and the rest had only standard medical treatment and no foot manipulation.
Wyatt and colleagues surveyed participants about their symptoms at intake and then checked in with them after five weeks and 11 weeks.
They found that those in the reflexology group experienced significantly less shortness of breath, a common symptom in breast cancer patients. Perhaps as a result of their improved breathing, they also were better able to perform daily tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs, getting dressed or going grocery shopping.
Wyatt said she was surprised to find that reflexology’s effects appeared to be primarily physical, not psychological.
“We didn’t get the change we might have expected with the emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression,” she said. “The most significant changes were documented with the physical symptoms.”
Also unexpected was the reduced fatigue reported by those who received the “placebo” foot massage, particularly since the reflexology group did not show similarly significant improvement. Wyatt is now researching whether massage similar to reflexology performed by cancer patients’ friends and family, as opposed to certified reflexologists, might be a simple and inexpensive treatment option.
Reflexology did not appear to reduce pain or nausea, but Wyatt said that could be because the drugs for combating those symptoms are generally quite effective, so the women may not have reported them to begin with.
Although health researchers only recently have begun studying reflexology in a scientifically rigorous way, it’s widely practiced in many parts of the world and dates back thousands of years.
“Reflexology comes out of the Chinese tradition and out of Egypt,” Wyatt said. “In fact, it’s shown in hieroglyphics. It’s been around for a very long time.”
Wyatt’s co-authors include MSU statistics and probability professor Alla Sikorskii and College of Nursing research assistant Mei You, along with colleagues from Northwestern University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
BPA shown to disrupt thyroid function in pregnant animals and offspring
New study uses animal model similar to humans and shows BPA can affect thyroid function
Chevy Chase, MD –– In utero exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) can be associated with decreased thyroid function in newborn sheep, according to a recent study accepted for publication in Endocrinology, a journal of The Endocrine Society. Hypothyroidism is characterized by poor mental and physical performance in human adults and in children can result in cognitive impairment and failure to grow normally.
BPA, a major molecule used in the plastic industry, has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor that could exert deleterious effects on human health. Most investigations have focused on reproductive functions, but there is evidence that BPA might have negative effects on other endocrine systems including thyroid function. The current study used sheep, a relevant model for human pregnancy and thyroid regulation and ontogeny, and analyzed the internal exposures of the fetuses and their mothers to BPA and determined to what extent those exposures may be associated with thyroid disruption.
“Our study is the first to show that BPA can alter thyroid function of pregnant animals and their offspring in a long-gestation species with similar regulation of thyroid function as humans,” said Catherine Viguié, PhD, of Toxalim, Research Centre in Food Toxicology in Toulouse, France and lead author of the study. “Because of the potential consequences of maternal/fetal thyroid disruption on neural and cognitive development, we think that our study warrants the need for further investigations on the effect of BPA on thyroid function.”
This study was conducted on adult ewes that had multiple pregnancies before being included in the experiment. Some of the pregnant ewes received daily subcutaneous injections of BPA while the remainder were allocated to the control group. Blood samples were taken from jugular blood, amniotic fluid, placenta samples and cord blood to determine levels of BPA, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine. Results showed that maternal and fetal exposure to BPA was associated with disruption of thyroid function of both the pregnant ewes throughout pregnancy and the newborns as characterized by a decrease in circulating thyroxine levels.
“BPA concentrations in the mother blood in this experiment were fluctuating between injections from 15 to 1 time the highest blood levels reported in pregnant women in the literature,” notes Viguié. “As a consequence, although this study clearly indicates that BPA has the potential to alter thyroid function in living pregnant animals and their offspring, it cannot be considered as fully conclusive in terms of risk for human health in the actual conditions of exposure of human populations.”
“In other words, although our study clearly indicates that BPA-induced thyroid disruption is possible, it does not indicate how probable such a disruption is to occur in real conditions,” added Viguié. “Thus, the main merit of our work is to encourage others, including epidemiologists, to scrutinize and qualify carefully such a probability.”
Give pregnant women vitamin D supplements to ward off MS, say researchers
Risk of MS highest in April and lowest in October, large analysis shows
The risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in the month of April, and lowest in October, indicates an analysis of the available evidence, published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
The findings, which include several populations at latitudes greater than 52 degrees from the equator for the first time, strongly implicate maternal exposure to vitamin D during pregnancy.
They extend previous research and prompt the authors to conclude that there is now a strong case for vitamin D supplementation of pregnant women in countries where ultraviolet light levels are low between October and March.
The researchers compared previously published data on almost 152,000 people with MS with expected birth rates for the disease in bid to find out if there was any link between country of birth and risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
At latitudes greater than 52 degrees from the equator, insufficient ultraviolet light of the correct wavelength (290 to 315 nm) reaches the skin between October and March to enable the body to manufacture enough vitamin D during the winter months, say the authors.
The analysis indicated a significant excess risk of 5% among those born in April compared with what would be expected. Similarly, the risk of MS was 5 to 7% lower among those born between October and November, the data indicated.
In order to exclude wholly or partially overlapping data, and therefore the potential to skew the data, the authors carried out a further “conservative analysis” in which such studies were left out.
This reduced the number of people with MS to just under 78,500 and showed a clear link only between November and a reduced risk of MS.
But this result is likely to have been due to the fact that all the excluded studies involved countries more than 52 degrees from the equator, explain the authors.
When the same analysis was carried out again, but this time including all those involving people living in countries less than 52 degrees from the equator, the same seasonal trends were apparent.
There was a significant increase in risk among those born in April and May and a significantly lower risk among those born in October and November.
No studies from the southern hemisphere were included in the analysis, largely because so few have been carried out, so the results should be viewed in light of that, caution the authors.
But they conclude: “Through combining existing datasets for month of birth and subsequent MS risk, this study provides the most robust evidence to date that the month of birth effect is a genuine one.”
And they go on to say: “This finding, which supports concepts hypothesised some years previously, surely adds weight to the argument for early intervention studies to prevent MS through vitamin D supplementation.”
Triclosan in cosmetics and personal care products can increase allergy risk
Triclosan – an antibacterial chemical found in toothpaste and other products – can contribute to an increased risk of allergy development in children. This comes from the Norwegian Environment and Childhood Asthma Study, in which the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is involved. Similar results are reported in the USA.
Triclosan has been in use for decades, but was recently associated with allergies in children in an American study, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The new Norwegian study found similar associations between allergies and triclosan levels measured in children’s urine.
The study found that triclosan levels measured in urine were associated with elevated levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and rhinitis (blocked nose/hay fever) in 10 year-olds.
623 urine samples were collected and measured at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, USA. Approximately 50 per cent of the Norwegian children had detectable levels of triclosan, while 80 per cent of American children had measurable levels. The children had approximately the same amount of triclosan exposure.
Triclosan can change the bacterial flora on the skin, in the mouth and in the intestines. A change in the bacterial composition of “good” bacteria can cause an increased risk of developing allergies (hygiene hypothesis). Therefore, increased use of triclosan and antibacterial products has generally been associated with an increased incidence of allergies.
For many years, the health authorities in Norway have called for a reduction in the use of antibacterial products to prevent the development of resistant bacteria.
In a study of triclosan use in Norway in 2001, it was found that 85 per cent of the total amount of triclosan came from cosmetic products, of which 75 per cent were toothpaste. Since this study, triclosan has been removed from a variety of products.
The extent to which Norwegian children are exposed to triclosan is today uncertain. In the USA, where they have annual sampling and monitoring of chemical exposure, there is little evidence that exposure to triclosan is being reduced.
Cordyceps – Rare parasitic fungi could have anti-flammatory benefits
Caterpillar fungi (Cordyceps) are rare parasites found on hibernating caterpillars in the mountains of Tibet. For centuries they have been highly prized as a traditional Chinese medicine – just a small amount can fetch hundreds of pounds.
Scientists at The University of Nottingham have been studying how this fungus could work by studying cordycepin, one of the drugs found in these mushrooms. They have already discovered that cordycepin has potential as a cancer drug. Their new work indicates that it could also have anti-inflammatory characteristics with the potential to help sufferers of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, renal failure and stroke damage.
The research, published today in the academic journal RNA, was led by Dr Cornelia de Moor in the School of Pharmacy. It shows that cordycepin reduces inflammatory gene products in airway smooth muscle cells – the cells that contract during an asthma attack.
Several studies have suggested that cordycepin could be an effective drug for a variety of conditions, including cancer, stroke, kidney damage and inflammatory lung disease but until now it was unclear how cordycepin could bring about so many different beneficial effects at the cellular level.
Dr de Moor said: “We have shown that cordycepin reduces the expression of inflammatory genes in airway smooth muscle cells by acting on the final step in the synthesis of their messenger RNAs (mRNAs) which carry the chemical blueprint for the synthesis of proteins. This process is called polyadenylation. Commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs either work much earlier in the activation of inflammatory genes, such as prednisone, or work on one of the final products of the inflammatory reaction (e.g. ibuprofen).These findings indicate that cordycepin acts by a completely different mechanism than currently used anti-inflammatory drugs, making it a potential drug for patients in which these drugs don’t work well.
“However, it is a surprise that cordycepin does not affect the synthesis of mRNAs from other genes, because nearly all mRNAs require polyadenylation.”
Dr de Moor’s research suggests that this is because inflammatory genes can be very rapidly induced and that cordycepin has its many and varied effects by altering the synthesis of other classes of rapidly induced genes as well. If this is true if could be said that cordycepin slows down the rapid cellular responses to tissue damage and may work by preventing the over-activation of these responses which are associated with conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, renal failure, cancer and stroke damage.
However, it also indicates that cordycepin could have adverse effects on normal wound healing and on the natural defences against infectious diseases.
Dr de Moor said: “We are hoping to further investigate which genes are more dependent on polyadenylation than others and why this is the case, as well as test the effect of cordycepin on animal models of disease. Clinical testing of cordycepin is not in our immediate plans, as we think we first have to understand this drug in more detail before we can risk treating patients with it.”
Eating more fish could reduce postpartum depression
Emerging evidence suggests many pregnant women are deficient in omega-3
This release is available in French.
Low levels of omega-3 may be behind postpartum depression, according to a review lead by Gabriel Shapiro of the University of Montreal and the Research Centre at the Sainte-Justine Mother and Child Hospital. Women are at the highest risk of depression during their childbearing years, and the birth of a child may trigger a depressive episode in vulnerable women. Postpartum depression is associated with diminished maternal health as well as developmental and health problems for her child. “The literature shows that there could be a link between pregnancy, omega-3 and the chemical reaction that enables serotonin, a mood regulator, to be released into our brains,” Shapiro said. “Many women could bring their omega-3 intake to recommended levels.” The findings were announced by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry on November 15, 2012.
Because omega-3 is transferred from the mother to her fetus and later to her breastfeeding infant, maternal omega-3 levels decrease during pregnancy, and remain lowered for at least six-weeks following the birth. Furthermore, in addition to the specific biological circumstances of pregnant women, it has been found in the US that most people do not consume sufficient amounts of omega-3. “These findings suggest that new screening strategies and prevention practices may be useful,” Shapiro said, noting that the study was preliminary and the further research would be needed to clarify the link and identify the reasons for it.
Arginine and proline enriched diet may speed wound healing in diabetes
Article is published in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
BETHESDA, Md. (Nov. 15, 2012)—Chronic wounds such as foot ulcers are a common problem for diabetics and are the cause of more than 80 percent of the lower leg amputations in these patients. There is currently no effective way to improve healing of these types of wounds, but new research offers hope.
French researchers found that diabetic rats on a high protein diet with arginine and proline—specific molecules found in protein—showed better wound healing over rats fed either standard or high protein food without arginine and proline supplementation.
The article is entitled “Arginine plus proline supplementation elicits metabolic adaptation that favors wound healing in diabetic rats.” It appears in the online edition of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology published by the American Physiological Society.
Researchers divided 18 rats into three groups that were either fed a standard diet, a high-protein diet, or a high protein diet supplemented with arginine and proline (ARG+PRO). On the first day of the experiment, each rat was given an incision, under which a sponge was placed in order to collect wound-healing fluid. To assess skin regrowth and healing, researchers also removed two full-thickness sections of skin from the rats’ backs each day from day 1 until day 5, when the experiment ended.
At the end of the experiment, the rats’ blood was analyzed for blood sugar, insulin, and amino acid concentrations. The wounds on their backs were examined for skin regrowth and development of new blood vessels. And, finally, macrophages were collected from the sponges and analyzed for indications of cytokine stimulation and pro-inflammatory activity.
Rats on both high protein diets had better nitrogen balance than those on the standard diet. However, the wounds of the rats on the ARG+PRO diet showed more new blood vessel growth on day 5. New blood vessel growth is an essential part of wound healing as the blood vessels supply nutrition and oxygen to growing tissue.
Furthermore, the macrophages in the ARG+PRO group showed less cytokine stimulation and pro-inflammatory activity than the other groups. This indicates a better environment for promoting wound healing, as inflammation slows the healing process.
The researchers did not find a difference in skin regrowth between groups, but their findings may be limited because of the small number of rats in the study. Additionally, researchers did not measure markers of collagen deposition in the wound, and the study cannot confirm the beneficial effect of arginine on collagen deposition and wound breaking strength reported in previous research.
Importance of the Findings
This study suggests that arginine and proline supplementation could offer new hope for effective treatment in diabetic patients with chronic wounds. This is a promising new area of research where there are no existing effective treatments for these patients.
Vitamin D deficiency linked to Type 1 diabetes
A study led by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found a correlation between vitamin D3 serum levels and subsequent incidence of Type 1 diabetes. The six-year study of blood levels of nearly 2,000 individuals suggests a preventive role for vitamin D3 in this disease. The research appears the December issue of Diabetologia, a publication of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).
“Previous studies proposed the existence of an association between vitamin D deficiency and risk of and Type 1 diabetes, but this is the first time that the theory has been tested in a way that provides the dose-response relationship,” said Cedric Garland, DrPH, FACE, professor in UCSD’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.
This study used samples from millions of blood serum specimens frozen by the Department of Defense Serum Registry for disease surveillance. The researchers thawed and analyzed 1000 samples of serum from healthy people who later developed type 1 diabetes and 1000 healthy controls whose blood was drawn on or near the same date but who did not develop type 1 diabetes. By comparing the serum concentrations of the predominant circulating form of vitamin D – 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) – investigators were able to determine the optimal serum level needed to lower an individual’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Based mainly on results of this study, Garland estimates that the level of 25(OH)D needed to prevent half the cases of type 1 diabetes is 50 ng/ml. A consensus of all available data indicates no known risk associated with this dosage.
“While there are a few conditions that influence vitamin D metabolism, for most people, 4000 IU per day of vitamin D3 will be needed to achieve the effective levels,” Garland suggested. He urges interested patients to ask their health care provider to measure their serum 25(OH)D before increasing vitamin D3 intake.
“This beneficial effect is present at these intakes only for vitamin D3,” cautioned Garland. “Reliance should not be placed on different forms of vitamin D and mega doses should be avoided, as most of the benefits for prevention of disease are for doses less than 10,000 IU/day.”
Foetus suffers when mother lacks vitamin C
Maternal vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy can have serious consequences for the foetal brain. And once brain damage has occurred, it cannot be reversed by vitamin C supplements after birth. This is shown through new research at the University of Copenhagen just published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
vitamin C supplements are important during pregnancy.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons af Tom & Katrien.
Population studies show that between 10-20 per cent of all adults in the developed world suffer from vitamin C deficiency. Therefore, pregnant women should think twice about omitting the daily vitamin pill.
“Even marginal vitamin C deficiency in the mother stunts the foetal hippocampus, the important memory centre, by 10-15 per cent, preventing the brain from optimal development,” says Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt. He heads the group of scientists that reached this conclusion by studying pregnant guinea pigs and their pups. Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C themselves, which is why they were chosen as the model.
“We used to think that the mother could protect the baby. Ordinarily there is a selective transport from mother to foetus of the substances the baby needs during pregnancy. However, it now appears that the transport is not sufficient in the case of vitamin C deficiency. Therefore it is extremely important to draw attention to this problem, which potentially can have serious consequences for the children affected,” says Jens Lykkesfeldt.
Too late when damage is done
The new results sharpen the focus on the mother’s lifestyle and nutritional status during pregnancy. The new study has also shown that the damage done to the foetal brain cannot be repaired, even if the baby is given vitamin C after birth.
When the vitamin C deficient guinea pig pups were born, scientists divided them into two groups and gave one group vitamin C supplements. However, when the pups were two months old, which corresponds to teenage in humans, there was still no improvement in the group that had been given supplements.
The scientists are now working to find out how early in the pregnancy vitamin C deficiency influences the development of foetal guinea pigs. Preliminary results show that the impact is already made early in the pregnancy, as the foetuses were examined in the second and third trimesters. Scientists hope in the long term to be able to use population studies to illuminate the problem in humans.
There are some groups that may be particularly vulnerable of vitamin C deficiency:
“People with low economic status who eat poorly – and perhaps also smoke – often suffer from vitamin C deficiency. Comparatively speaking, their children risk being born with a poorly developed memory potential. These children may encounter learning problems, and seen in a societal context, history repeats itself because these children find it more difficult to escape the environment into which they are born,” says Jens Lykkesfeldt.
He emphasises that if pregnant women eat a varied diet, do not smoke, and for instance take a multi-vitamin tablet daily during pregnancy, there is no reason to fear vitamin C deficiency.
“Because it takes so little to avoid vitamin C deficiency, it is my hope that both politicians and the authorities will become aware that this can be a potential problem,” concludes Jens Lykkesfeldt.
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