Health Research Report

151st Issue Date 22 Mar 2013

Compiled By Ralph Turchiano

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In this Issue:

Folic acid lowers risk of autism

Bitter melon juice prevents pancreatic cancer in mouse models

Study: Probiotics reduce stress-induced intestinal flare-ups

Green tea, coffee may help lower stroke risk

How oils and fats regulate feeling of satiety

Study Shows How Vitamin E Can Help Prevent Cancer

New study highlights strong anti-cancer properties of soybeans

Explaining how extra virgin olive oil protects against Alzheimer’s disease

 

Folic acid lowers risk of autism

Women who take a vitamin B9 supplement (folic acid) during the beginning weeks of their pregnancy can cut the risk of having a child with autism in half. But the supplement has no effect if it is started more than 8 weeks into the pregnancy.

These findings are the result of a new study carried out at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. In the study, women who took folic acid supplements from four weeks before conception to eight weeks into pregnancy had a 40 per cent lower risk of giving birth to children with childhood autism (classic autism).

The study is based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and the Norway Autism Birth Cohort Study (ABC). It covered a total of 85 176 children born in the period 2002–2008.

Inexpensive, simple prevention

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is essential for the construction and repair of DNA molecules, which control all body cells. Folate is the naturally occurring form of folic acid found in food and in the body.

Most pregnant women need folic acid supplements to reach the daily recommended levels. The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends that women who are planning to become pregnant start to take folic acid supplements one month before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy.

The results of the study of the correlation between intake of folic acid supplements and childhood autism indicate that the lower risk is only associated with this specific supplement and not with the consumption of food or other supplements.

“Thus, the findings show that a measure already used here in Norway, one which is simple, inexpensive and without any known side effects among pregnant women, can prevent autism. Previous studies we have carried out have shown that folic acid may have a similar effect on other developmental disorders as well,” Dr Surén says.

 

The Directorate of Health’s recommendations regarding pre-natal folic acid supplements are based on research that shows that the vitamin protects the foetus against spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

The researchers have also found a correlation between folic acid supplements and the reduced risk of severe language delay by the age of three. Such language problems are common in connection with autism but may also occur with many other conditions.

“It will be a tremendous breakthrough if it turns out that folic acid also prevents other developmental disorders,” Dr Surén believes.

Some more vulnerable than others?

Dr Surén and his colleagues will conduct new analyses when the children involved in the study are older, among other things to examine whether there is any correlation between folic acid and a reduced risk of other developmental disorders such as ADHD and cerebral palsy. They will also carry out genetics studies.

“We know that there is a genetic component to the body’s ability to use folate, so it is possible that some mothers are more prone to folic acid deficiency than others,” Dr Surén adds.

The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 

 

 

Bitter melon juice prevents pancreatic cancer in mouse models

By Garth Sundem in In the Lab · March 12, 2013

A University of Colorado Cancer study published this week in the journal Carcinogenesis shows that bitter melon juice restricts the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to metabolize glucose, thus cutting the cells’ energy source and eventually killing them.

“Three years ago researchers showed the effect of bitter melon extract on breast cancer cells only in a Petri dish. This study goes much, much farther. We used the juice – people especially in Asian countries are already consuming it in quantity. We show that it affects the glucose metabolism pathway to restrict energy and kill pancreatic cancer cells,” says Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Agarwal’s interest came from connecting the dots of existing research in a novel way. See, diabetes tends to presage pancreatic cancer and bitter melon has been shown to affect type-II diabetes, and has been used for centuries against diabetes in the folk medicines of China and India. Following this line of thinking, Agarwal and colleagues wondered what would happen if they closed out the middle man of diabetes and directly explored the link between bitter melon and pancreatic cancer.

The result, Agarwal says, is, “Alteration in metabolic events in pancreatic cancer cells and an activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase, an enzyme that indicates low energy levels in the cells.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, bitter melon also regulates insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells. After studies in cell cultures, the group showed that mouse models of pancreatic cancer that were fed bitter melon juice were 60 percent less likely to develop the disease than controls.

“It’s a very exciting finding,” Agarwal says. “Many researchers are engineering new drugs to target cancer cells’ ability to supply themselves with energy, and here we have a naturally-occurring compound that may do just that.”

The Agarwal Lab is now applying for grants that will allow them to move the study of bitter melon into further chemoprevention trials in mouse models of pancreatic cancer.

 

Study: Probiotics reduce stress-induced intestinal flare-ups

University of Michigan study helps explain benefits of probiotics for patients with stress-associated gastrointestinal disorders

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – For those with irritable bowel syndrome who wonder if stress aggravates their intestinal disorder, a new University of Michigan Health System study shows it’s not all in their head.

Researchers revealed that while stress does not cause IBS, it does alter brain-gut interactions and induces the intestinal inflammation that often leads to severe or chronic belly pain, loss of appetite and diarrhea.

Stress has a way of suppressing an important component called an inflammasome which is needed to maintain normal gut microbiota, but probiotics reversed the effect in animal models, according to findings published online ahead of print in Gastroenterology.

“The effect of stress could be protected with probiotics which reversed the inhibition of the inflammasome,” says senior study author and gastroenterologist John Y. Kao, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. “This study reveals an important mechanism for explaining why treating IBS patients with probiotics makes sense.”

Probiotics are live bacteria that help grow the gut-dwelling “good” bacteria that keep pathogens in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption and contribute to immune function.

U-M researchers including Chung Owyang, M.D., chief of the U-M Division of Gastroenterology, Gary Huffnagle, Ph.D., professor of pulmonary and critical care, and infectious disease expert Vincent Young, M.D., Ph.D., were able to identify the way stress significantly altered the composition of gut bacteria and the role of probiotics.

Maintaining healthy microbiota requires action by nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain protein-like receptors, pyrin-domain containing (NLRP)-6 inflammasomes. But when stressed, mice produced corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that prevented inflammasomes from doing their job.

Inhibiting inflammosomes alters the composition of the gut, leading to intestinal inflammation. In the study, pretreatment with probiotic therapy reduced inflammation in mice with stress-induced small bowel inflammation.

“Additional clinical study is required to determine the optimal probiotic therapy,” says Kao. “Patients can start living healthier lifestyles to improve their gut microbiota such as adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet, and looking for ways to keep stress in check.”

Green tea, coffee may help lower stroke risk

Green tea and coffee may help lower your risk of having a stroke, especially when both are a regular part of your diet, according to research published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“This is the first large-scale study to examine the combined effects of both green tea and coffee on stroke risks,” said Yoshihiro Kokubo, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.H.A., F.A.C.C., F.E.S.C., lead author of the study at Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center. “You may make a small but positive lifestyle change to help lower the risk of stroke by adding daily green tea to your diet.”

Researchers asked 83,269 Japanese adults about their green tea and coffee drinking habits, following them for an average 13 years. They found that the more green tea or coffee people drink, the lower their stroke risks.

  • People who drank at least one cup of coffee daily had about a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who rarely drank it.
  • People who drank two to three cups of green tea daily had a 14 percent lower risk of stroke and those who had at least four cups had a 20 percent lower risk, compared to those who rarely drank it.
  • People who drank at least one cup of coffee or two cups of green tea daily had a 32 percent lower risk of intracerebral hemorrhage, compared to those who rarely drank either beverage. (Intracerebral hemorrhage happens when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds inside the brain. About 13 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic.)

Participants in the study were 45 to 74 years old, almost evenly divided in gender, and were free from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

During the 13-years of follow-up, researchers reviewed participants’ hospital medical records and death certificates, collecting data about heart disease, strokes and causes of death. They adjusted their findings to account for age, sex and lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol, weight, diet and exercise.

Green tea drinkers in the study were more likely to exercise compared to non-drinkers.

Previous limited research has shown green tea’s link to lower death risks from heart disease, but has only touched on its association with lower stroke risks. Other studies have shown inconsistent connections between coffee and stroke risks.

Initial study results showed that drinking more than two cups of coffee daily was linked to increasing coronary heart disease rates in age- and sex-adjusted analysis. But researchers didn’t find the association after factoring in the effects of cigarette smoking — underscoring smoking’s negative health impact on heart and stroke health.

A typical cup of coffee or tea in Japan was approximately six ounces. “However, our self-reported data may be reasonably accurate, because nationwide annual health screenings produced similar results, and our validation study showed relatively high validity.” Kokubo said. “The regular action of drinking tea, coffee, largely benefits cardiovascular health because it partly keeps blood clots from forming.”

Tea and coffee are the most popular drinks in the world after water, suggesting that these results may apply in America and other countries.

It’s unclear how green tea affects stroke risks. A compound group known as catechins may provide some protection. Catechins have an antioxidant anti-inflammatory effect, increasing plasma antioxidant capacity and anti-thrombogenic effects.

Some chemicals in coffee include chlorogenic acid, thus cutting stroke risks by lowering the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Further research could clarify how the interaction between coffee and green tea might help further lower stroke risks, Kokubo said.

How oils and fats regulate feeling of satiety

Olive oil makes you feel full

14.03.2013,  Research news

Reduced-fat food products are gaining in popularity. More and more people are choosing “light” products in an attempt to lose weight, or at least in the hope that they will not gain any pounds. But whether these products are effective or not is a matter of dispute: While it is true that they contain fewer calories, people tend to overcompensate by eating more if they do not feel full. Now a study has shown how “natural” oils and fats regulate the sensation of feeling full after eating, with olive oil leading the way. So what makes this oil so effective? 

Work groups at Technische Universität München (TUM) under Prof. Peter Schieberle and at the University of Vienna under Prof. Veronika Somoza studied four different edible fats and oils: Lard, butterfat, rapeseed oil and olive oil. Over a period of three months, the study participants ate 500 grams of low-fat yoghurt enriched with one of the four fats or oils every day – as a supplement to their normal diet.

“Olive oil had the biggest satiety effect,” reports Prof. Peter Schieberle, Head of the TUM Chair of Food Chemistry and Director of the German Research Center for Food Chemistry. “The olive oil group showed a higher concentration of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood. Subjectively speaking, these participants also reported that they found the olive oil yoghurt very filling.” During the study period, no member of this group recorded an increase in their body fat percentage or their weight. 

Aroma is the key

“The findings surprised us,” admits Schieberle, “because rapeseed oil and olive oil contain similar fatty acids.” The researchers decided to turn their attention to a completely different type of substance – the aroma compounds in olive oil. In the second part of the study, one group was given yoghurt with olive oil aroma extracts and a control group was given plain yoghurt. 

The results were conclusive: The olive oil group’s calorie intake remained the same, but the control group had been consuming an extra 176 kilocalories per day. Schieberle explains: “The aroma group adapted their eating habits – but the control group participants were obviously not able to do likewise. We also found that in comparison to the other group, the control group had less of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood.”

Direct impact on blood sugar level 

How long the feeling of satiety lasts after eating depends on a number of factors, but blood sugar level is particularly significant. The faster it falls, that is to say, the faster the somatic cells absorb glucose from the blood, the sooner the person will start to feel hungry again. In the next part of their study, the researchers investigated which of the aroma substances present in the oil are most effective at inhibiting glucose absorption.

The researchers used olive oils from Spain, Greece, Italy and Australia for their study. The research team managed to identify two substances that reduce the absorption of glucose from the blood in liver cells: Hexanal and E2-Hexenal. They also discovered that Italian olive oil contained larger amounts of the two aroma compounds. 

“Our findings show that aroma is capable of regulating satiety,” concludes Schieberle. “We hope that this work will pave the way for the development of more effective reduced-fat food products that are nonetheless satiating.”

Publication:  P. Schieberle, V. Somoza, M. Rubach, L. Scholl, M. Balzer; Identifying substances that regulate satiety in oils and fats and improving low-fat foodstuffs by adding lipid compounds with a high satiety effect; Key findings of the DFG/AiF cluster project “Perception of fat content and regulating satiety: an approach to developing low-fat foodstuffs”, 2009-2012.

Study Shows How Vitamin E Can Help Prevent Cancer

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers have identified an elusive anti-cancer property of vitamin E that has long been presumed to exist, but difficult to find.

Many animal studies have suggested that vitamin E could prevent cancer, but human clinical trials following up on those findings have not shown the same benefits.

In this new work, researchers showed in prostate cancer cells that one form of vitamin E inhibits the activation of an enzyme that is essential for cancer cell survival. The loss of the enzyme, called Akt, led to tumor cell death. The vitamin had no negative effect on normal cells.

“This is the first demonstration of a unique mechanism of how vitamin E can have some benefit in terms of cancer prevention and treatment,” said lead author Ching-Shih Chen, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at The Ohio State University and an investigator in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The study appears in the March 19, 2013, issue of the journal Science Signaling.

Chen cautioned that taking a typical vitamin E supplement won’t offer this benefit for at least two reasons: The most affordable supplements are synthetic and based predominantly on a form of the vitamin that did not fight cancer as effectively in this study, and the human body can’t absorb the high doses that appear to be required to achieve the anti-cancer effect.

“Our goal is to develop a safe pill at the right dose that people could take every day for cancer prevention. It takes time to optimize the formulation and the dose,” he said.

Chen has filed an invention disclosure with the university, and Ohio State has filed a patent application for the agent.

Vitamin E occurs in numerous forms based on their chemical structure, and the most commonly known form belongs to a variety called tocopherols. In this study, researchers showed that, of the tocopherols tested, the gamma form of tocopherol was the most potent anti-cancer form of the vitamin.

The scientists manipulated the structure of that vitamin E molecule and found that the effectiveness of this new agent they created was 20-fold higher than the vitamin itself in cells. In experiments in mice, this agent reduced the size of prostate cancer tumors.

These findings suggest that an agent based on the chemical structure of one form of vitamin E could help prevent and treat numerous types of cancer – particularly those associated with a mutation in the PTEN gene, a fairly common cancer-related genetic defect that keeps Akt active.

The researchers began the work with both alpha and gamma forms of the vitamin E molecule. Both inhibited the enzyme called Akt in very targeted ways, but the gamma structure emerged as the more powerful form of the vitamin.

In effect, the vitamin halted Akt activation by attracting Akt and another protein, called PHLPP1, to the same region of a cell where the vitamin was absorbed: the fat-rich cell membrane. PHLPP1, a tumor suppressor, then launched a chemical reaction that inactivated Akt, rendering it unable to keep cancer cells alive.

“This is a new finding. We have been taking vitamin E for years but nobody really knew about this particular anti-cancer mechanism,” Chen said.

The gamma form was most effective because its chemical shape allowed it to attach to Akt in the most precise way to shut off the enzyme.

Because of how the various molecules interacted on the cell membrane, the scientists predicted that shortening a string of chemical groups dangling from the main body, or head group, of the gamma-tocopherol molecule would make those relationships even stronger. They lopped off about 60 percent of this side chain and tested the effects of the new agent in the prostate cancer cells.

“By reducing two-thirds of the chain, the molecule had a 20 times more potent anti-tumor effect, while retaining the integrity of vitamin E’s head group,” Chen said. This manipulation enhanced the anti-tumor potency of the molecule by changing its interaction with the cell membrane, so that the head group was more accessible to Akt and PHLPP1.

When mice with tumors created by these two prostate cancer cell lines were injected with the agent, the treatment suppressed tumor growth when compared to a placebo, which had no effect on tumor size. Chemical analysis of the treated tumors showed that the Akt enzyme signal was suppressed, confirming the effects were the same in animals as they had been in cell cultures.

The animal study also suggested the experimental agent was not toxic. Chen’s lab is continuing to work on improvements to the molecule.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Co-authors include Po-Hsien Huang, Hsiao-Ching Chuang, Chih-Chien Chou, Huiling Wang, Su-Lin Lee, Hsiao-Ching Yang, Hao-Chieh Chiu, Naval Kapuriya, Dasheng Wang and Samuel Kulp of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at Ohio State. Huang and Chen also are affiliated with National Cheng-Kung University, Yang with Fu-Jen Catholic University, and Chiu with National Taiwan University, all in Taiwan; and Kapuriya with Saurashtra University in Gujarat, India.

 

New study highlights strong anti-cancer properties of soybeans

First study to report that proteins found in soybeans, could inhibit growth of colon, liver and lung cancers, published in Food Research International

Soybean meal is a bi-product following oil extraction from soybean seeds. It is rich in protein, which usually makes up around 40% of the nutritional components of the seeds and dependent on the line, and can also contain high oleic acid (a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid).

The study looked at the role soybeans could have in the prevention of cancer. Using a variety of soybean lines which were high in oleic acid and protein, the researchers looked to monitor bioactivity between the peptides derived from the meals of soybean and various types of human cancer cells.

The study showed that peptides derived from soybean meal significantly inhibited cell growth by 73% for colon cancer, 70% for liver cancer and 68% for lung cancer cells using human cell lines. This shows that the selected high oleic acid soybean lines could have a potential nutraceutical affect in helping to reduce the growth of several types of cancer cells.

 

Explaining how extra virgin olive oil protects against Alzheimer’s disease

The mystery of exactly how consumption of extra virgin olive oil helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may lie in one component of olive oil that helps shuttle the abnormal AD proteins out of the brain, scientists are reporting in a new study. It appears in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Amal Kaddoumi and colleagues note that AD affects about 30 million people worldwide, but the prevalence is lower in Mediterranean countries. Scientists once attributed it to the high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats in olive oil — consumed in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet. Newer research suggested that the actual protective agent might be a substance called oleocanthal, which has effects that protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in AD. Kaddoumi’s team sought evidence on whether oleocanthal helps decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) in the brain, believed to be the culprit in AD.

They describe tracking the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of laboratory mice used as stand-ins for humans in such research. In both instances, oleocanthal showed a consistent pattern in which it boosted production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be critical in removing Aβ from the brain. “Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias,” the report concludes.

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These reports are done with the appreciation of all the Doctors, Scientist, and other Medical Researchers who sacrificed their time and effort. In order to give people the ability to empower themselves. Without base aspirations of fame, or fortune. Just honorable people, doing honorable things.