CNO Report # 244
Release Date 09 JUN 2017
Draft Report Compiled by
In this Issue:
- Zinc acetate lozenges may increase the recovery rate from the common cold by 3 fold
- Study confirms benefits of fennel in reducing postmenopause symptoms
- Studies link healthy brain aging to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood
- Can omega-3 help prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Brain SPECT imaging shows possible link
- Fat can neutralize listeria
- First study shows tie between probiotic and improved symptoms of depression
- Recommended daily protein intake too low for the elderly
- Chondroitin sulfate as good as widely used anti-inflammatory for knee osteoarthritis
- Regular chocolate consumption may be linked to lower risk of heart flutter
- Vitamin D supplements could help pain management
- Vitamin D in pregnancy may help prevent childhood asthma
- Aspirin does little or nothing for hard arteries, University of Florida researchers find
- Take a coffee or tea break to protect your liver
- Starving prostate cancer with what you eat for dinner
- Red onions pack a cancer-fighting punch, study reveals
- Prebiotics reduce body fat in overweight children
- Eggs can significantly increase growth in young children
Public Release: 11-May-2017
University of Helsinki
According to a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials zinc acetate lozenges may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold three fold. On the fifth day, 70% of the zinc lozenge patients had recovered compared with 27% of the placebo patients.
The effect of zinc acetate lozenges was not modified by age, sex, race, allergy, smoking, or baseline common cold severity. Therefore the 3-fold increase in the recovery rate from common cold may be widely applicable. While some zinc lozenges have an unpleasant taste, the zinc acetate lozenges used in these three randomized trials did not suffer from such a problem.
The dose of zinc in the three studies was between 80 to 92 mg/day. Such doses are substantially higher than the recommended daily zinc intake in the USA, which is 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women. However, in certain other controlled studies, unrelated to the common cold, zinc has been administered in doses of 100 to 150 mg/day to patients for months with few adverse effects. Furthermore, 150 mg/day zinc is a standard treatment for Wilson’s disease that requires treatment for the rest of a patient’s life. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that 80-92 mg/day of zinc for one to two weeks, starting very soon after the onset of the first cold symptoms, might lead to long-term adverse effects. None of the three analyzed zinc lozenge studies observed serious adverse effects of zinc.
Even though there is strong evidence that properly formulated zinc acetate lozenges can increase the rate of recovery from the common cold by 3 fold, many zinc lozenges on the market appear to have either too low doses of zinc or they contain substances that bind zinc ions, such as citric acid. Therefore, the findings of this meta-analysis should not be directly extrapolated to the wide variety of zinc lozenges on the current market.
Although the lead author, Dr. Harri Hemilä from the University of Helsinki, Finland, suggests that the optimal formulation of zinc lozenges and the best frequency of their administration should be further investigated, he also instructs common cold patients to test individually whether zinc lozenges are helpful for them: “given the strong evidence of efficacy and the low risk of adverse effects, common cold patients may already be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds.”
Public Release: 17-May-2017
Study confirms benefits of fennel in reducing postmenopause symptoms
Herbal medicine grows in popularity because of its effectiveness without serious side effects
The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)
CLEVELAND, Ohio (May 17, 2017)–Fennel, an anise-flavored herb used for cooking, has long been known for its health benefits for a variety of issues, including digestion and premenstrual symptoms. A new study confirms that it is also effective in the management of postmenopause symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, and anxiety, without serious side effects. The study outcomes are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
The use of complementary and alternative medicine for the management of menopause symptoms has surged in recent years as women have attempted to identify alternatives to hormone therapy (HT). Although HT is the most effective treatment for managing most menopause symptoms, some women have turned to herbal medicine because they are either not candidates for HT or are concerned about the negative publicity surrounding potential side effects. Fennel, an herb containing essential oils, has phytoestrogenic properties. Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like chemicals in plants that have been used to effectively treat a wide array of menopause symptoms.
In this small trial of 79 Iranian women aged 45 to 60 years, soft capsules containing 100 mg of fennel were administered twice daily for eight weeks. Improvements were compared between the intervention and placebo groups at four, eight, and 10 weeks, with a significant statistical difference documented. In the end, fennel was concluded to be a safe and effective treatment to reduce menopause symptoms without serious side effects. The study described in the article “Effect of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (fennel) on menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial” is one of the first clinical studies to examine the benefits of fennel for managing menopause symptoms, even though it had been previously studied and confirmed to manage premenopause symptoms.
The study was completed in Tehran, Iran, where the average age of women at menopause is younger than in the United States: 48.2 years versus 51 years, respectively. Some of the most common adverse effects of menopause are hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, joint and muscular discomfort, exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
“This small pilot study found that, on the basis of a menopause-rating scale, twice-daily consumption of fennel as a phytoestrogen improved menopause symptoms compared with an unusual minimal effect of placebo,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS. “A larger, longer, randomized study is still needed to help determine its long-term benefits and side effect profile.”
Founded in 1989, The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) is North America’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the health and quality of life of all women during midlife and beyond through an understanding of menopause and healthy aging. Its multidisciplinary membership of 2,000 leaders in the field–including clinical and basic science experts from medicine, nursing, sociology, psychology, nutrition, anthropology, epidemiology, pharmacy, and education–makes NAMS uniquely qualified to serve as the definitive resource for health professionals and the public for accurate, unbiased information about menopause and healthy aging. To learn more about NAMS, visit http://www.menopause.org.
Public Release: 18-May-2017
Studies link healthy brain aging to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two new studies link patterns of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood to the integrity of brain structures and cognitive abilities that are known to decline early in aging.
The studies add to the evidence that dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can promote healthy aging, the researchers said. Further research is needed to test this hypothesis, they said.
The brain is a collection of interconnected parts, each of which ages at its own pace. Some brain structures, and the abilities they promote, start to deteriorate before others, said University of Illinois M.D./Ph.D student Marta Zamroziewicz, who led the new research with psychology professor Aron Barbey.
“We studied a primary network of the brain — the frontoparietal network – that plays an important role in fluid intelligence and also declines early, even in healthy aging,” Zamroziewicz said. Fluid intelligence describes the ability to solve problems one has never encountered before.
“In a separate study, we examined the white matter structure of the fornix, a group of nerve fibers at the center of the brain that is important for memory,” she said.
Previous research has shown that the fornix is one of the first brain regions to be compromised in Alzheimer’s disease.
In both studies, the researchers looked for patterns of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood of adults ages 65 to 75. They analyzed the relationship between these nutrient patterns and subjects’ brain structure and performance on cognitive tests. This research differs from other such studies, which tend to focus on only one or two polyunsaturated fatty acids, Zamroziewicz said.
“Most of the research that looks at these fats in health and healthy aging focuses on the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, but those come from fish and fish oil, and most people in the Western Hemisphere don’t eat enough of those to really see the benefits,” she said. Other fatty acids, like alpha-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid, are precursors of EPA and DHA in the body. Those fats can be derived from land-based foods such as nuts, seeds and oils.
“A central goal of research in nutritional cognitive neuroscience is to understand how these nutrients affect brain health,” Zamroziewicz said. “Some of these nutrients are thought to be more beneficial than others.”
In a study reported in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, the researchers looked for relationships between several omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, the relative size of structures in the frontal and parietal cortices of the brain, and performance on tests of fluid intelligence in healthy elderly adults.
The team found correlations between blood levels of three omega-3 fatty acids — ALA, stearidonic acid and ecosatrienoic acid — and fluid intelligence in these adults. Further analyses revealed that the size of the left frontoparietal cortex played a mediating role in this relationship. People with higher blood levels of these three nutrients tended to have larger left frontoparietal cortices, and the size of the frontoparietal cortex predicted the subjects’ performance on tests of fluid intelligence.
“A lot of research tells us that people need to be eating fish and fish oil to get neuroprotective effects from these particular fats, but this new finding suggests that even the fats that we get from nuts, seeds and oils can also make a difference in the brain,” Zamroziewicz said.
In the second study, the team found that the size of the fornix was associated with a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood, and that a more robust fornix coincided with memory preservation in older adults. Again, the researchers saw that brain structure played a mediating role between the abundance and balance of nutrients in the blood and cognition (in this case, memory). The findings are reported in the journal Aging & Disease.
“These findings have important implications for the Western diet, which tends to be misbalanced with high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids,” Zamroziewicz said.
“These two studies highlight the importance of investigating the effects of groups of nutrients together, rather than focusing on one at a time,” Barbey said. “They suggest that different patterns of polyunsaturated fats promote specific aspects of cognition by strengthening the underlying neural circuits that are vulnerable to disease and age-related decline.”
Public Release: 19-May-2017
Can omega-3 help prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Brain SPECT imaging shows possible link
Neuroimaging shows increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning for people with higher omega-3 levels, according to a new report in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Amsterdam, NL, May 19, 2017 – The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is expected to triple in the coming decades and no cure has been found. Recently, interest in dietary approaches for prevention of cognitive decline has increased. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acids have shown anti-amyloid, anti-tau and anti-inflammatory actions in the brains of animals. In a new article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers have found that for patients with high omega-3 levels, blood flow in specific areas of the brain is increased.
“This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging,” commented George Perry, PhD, Dean and Professor of Biology, The University of Texas at San Antonio, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, can measure blood perfusion in the brain. Images acquired from subjects performing various cognitive tasks will show higher blood flow in specific brain regions. When these images were compared to the Omega-3 Index, a measure of the blood concentration of two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), investigators found a statistically significant correlation between higher blood flow and higher Omega-3 Index. In addition, they evaluated the neuropsychological functions of the subjects and found that omega-3 levels also correlated with various psychological feelings using a standardized test battery (WebNeuro).
This study drew from a random sample of 166 participants from a psychiatric referral clinic for which Omega-3 Index results were available. The participants were categorized into two groups of higher EPA+DHA concentrations (>50th percentile) and lower concentrations (<50th percentile). Quantitative brain SPECT was conducted on 128 regions of their brains and each participant completed computerized testing of their neurocognitive status.
Results indicated statistically significant relationships between the Omega-3 index, regional perfusion on brain SPECT in areas involved with memory, and neurocognitive testing.
Overall, the study showed positive relationships between omega-3 EPA+DHA status, brain perfusion, and cognition. Lead author Daniel G. Amen, MD, of the Amen Clinics Inc., Costa Mesa, CA, adds, “This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.”
Co-author William S. Harris, PhD, University of South Dakota School of Medicine. Vermillion, SD, lends this perspective, “Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the ‘fish oil’ fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored. This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function.”
Public Release: 22-May-2017
University of Southern Denmark
Certain fatty acids are not just part of a healthy diet. They can also neutralise the harmful listeria bacterium, a new study shows. This discovery could eventually lead to improved methods to combat dangerous and drug-resistant bacteria.
It´s every consumer´s nightmare, bringing home food from the supermarket that turns out to be teeming with hazardous bacteria; listeria in the sausages or salmonella in the pork, for example.
Professor Birgitte Kallipolitis conducts research into dangerous bacteria at University of Southern Denmark and has led a new study that provides some surprising insights into the inner workings of the listeria bacterium. It´s a discovery that can help her and other researchers in their work to reduce the risk of dangerous bacteria in our foods.
– Our study has shown that common, naturally occurring fatty acids can switch off the specific genes that make the listeria bacterium dangerous. We tested omega-3 fatty acids, and it took them about half an hour to neutralise the listeria bacteria, says Birgitte Kallipolitis.
Healthy fatty acids as medicine
She and her research group at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are running several studies to try to understand exactly what happens at the molecular level when fatty acids and listeria encounter each other.
– It´s interesting that naturally occurring, completely harmless and actually healthy fatty acids can be used to suppress dangerous bacteria such as listeria. The long-term perspective is that it may prove possible to develop new treatment methods – not only against listeria, but also against other dangerous bacteria that are currently resistant to antibiotics, she said.
Researchers have long known that high concentrations of certain fatty acids may have an antimicrobial effect and can kill dangerous bacteria such as listeria and salmonella.
Destroying the capacity to cause disease
– Now we have discovered that something happens at even low concentrations of fatty acids, and that this is something entirely different, says Birgitte Kallipolitis.
During the study, researchers observed that low concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids do not kill listeria bacteria. Instead, the specific genes responsible for their virulence, that is the capacity of the bacterium to cause disease, were switched off.
– Our theory is that the fatty acids do something to the PrfA protein so that it cannot switch on the virulence genes, and we´re very interested in finding out what exactly is occurring.
Allowing the bacterium to survive is a better strategy
At first glance, it can sound a little troubling that the bacteria are not killed but that they are “only” rendered harmless and therefore remain alive. But this is actually an advantage.
– When the growth of the bacterium is not threatened, it does not begin to develop new survival strategies that may make it resistant to attack. Bacteria can develop resistance to attacks, and we have many examples of how this merely creates new and even bigger problems for combating them. It might be a better strategy to let them live and instead aim to neutralise their capacity to cause disease, says Birgitte Kallipolitis.
A listeria infection can cause the disease, listeriosis, which can be a life-threatening illness.
The researchers have published their study in the journal Research in Microbiology.
Public Release: 23-May-2017
First study shows tie between probiotic and improved symptoms of depression
Hamilton, ON (May 23, 2017) – Probiotics may relieve symptoms of depression, as well as help gastrointestinal upset, research from McMaster University has found.
In a study published in the medical journal Gastroenterology (May 2), researchers of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute found that twice as many adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reported improvements from co-existing depression when they took a specific probiotic than adults with IBS who took a placebo.
The study provides further evidence of the microbiota environment in the intestines being in direct communication with the brain said senior author Dr. Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster and a gastroenterologist for Hamilton Health Sciences.
“This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS. This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases,” he said.
IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the world, and is highly prevalent in Canada. It affects the large intestine and patients suffer from abdominal pain and altered bowel habits like diarrhea and constipation. They are also frequently affected by chronic anxiety or depression.
The pilot study involved 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate anxiety or depression. They were followed for 10 weeks, as half took a daily dose of the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, while the others had a placebo.
At six weeks, 14 of 22, or 64%, of the patients taking the probiotic had decreased depression scores, compared to seven of 22 (or 32%) of patients given placebo.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) showed that the improvement in depression scores was associated with changes in multiple brain areas involved in mood control.
“This is the result of a decade long journey – from identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain,” said Bercik.
“The results of this pilot study are very promising but they have to be confirmed in a future, larger scale trial,” said Dr. Maria Pinto Sanchez, the first author and a McMaster clinical research fellow.
The study was performed in collaboration with scientists from Nestlé.
Public Release: 23-May-2017
Recommended daily protein intake too low for the elderly
The minimum protein requirement for healthy adults has been set almost 15 years ago but there is a growing body of evidence that this recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is not sufficient for older persons.
You can find the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) on the nutrition labels of all your processed food. Food manufacturers are obliged to list the nutritional value of their products, and therefore must mention the percent daily value of the RDA their product meets for certain nutrients.
These RDA guidelines are put together by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. They inform you how much of a specific nutrient your body minimally needs every day. They are set to meet the requirements of 97.5% of the healthy individuals older than 19 years.
The RDA you will find on the nutrition labels on your food, however, were set in 1968, and the ones used by researchers and professionals were set in 2003. A recent review published in Frontiers in Nutrition points out that both these values do not do justice to the protein needs of the elderly and critically ill.
“A big disservice is being done. The prescribed 0.8 g/kg/day just isn’t enough protein for the elderly and people with a clinical condition. This shouldn’t be communicated as what is ‘allowed’ or even ‘recommended’ to eat.”, author Stuart Phillips of McMaster University in Canada explains.
In his review, he points out that the quality of proteins should be considered when setting the RDA guidelines and recommending protein supplements. He argues that there should be a stronger focus on leucine; an indispensable amino acid and building block for proteins. The elderly have a higher need for leucine to build muscle proteins, and milk-based proteins (e.g. milk and whey) are a good source for this.
Moreover, it may be highly beneficial for the critically ill patients that rapidly lose lean body mass (i.e. the body weight minus body fat) to increase their protein intake. Again, elderly ill patients would benefit the most from this. “I think it’s clear we need some longer-term clinical trials with older people on higher protein intakes. These trials need to consist of around 400 – 500 people.”, Phillips argues.
He is not the first researcher to challenge the current protein RDA, and hopes his message does not fall on deaf ears. That is also why he chose to publish Open Access: “I love to publish work that everyone can read. The days of publishing a paper that only people in academic institutions can read are over. I think it is essential that everyone and not only your scientific colleagues can read the work we do.”
At his own dinner table, Phillips also puts the focus on proteins. “But not at the expense of other macronutrients. I enjoy a variety of foods, and the only thing I specifically focus on is limiting my intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. But of course, given the benefits of proteins, they are a big part of what I think about when planning my meals.”
Public Release: 23-May-2017
Chondroitin sulfate as good as widely used anti-inflammatory for knee osteoarthritis
Reduces pain, improves function, and is safe; prescribe it for long term treatment, say researchers
High quality (pharmaceutical grade) chondroitin sulfate is as good as a widely prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (celecoxib) for the treatment of painful knee osteoarthritis, concludes research* published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Its effectiveness and safety prompt the researchers to call for it to be used for long term treatment, particularly for older people, among whom osteoarthritis is common.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition causing pain, loss of function, and often some degree of disability. It is the most common form of joint disease, affecting at least 8 million people in the UK alone.
It is usually treated with painkillers, specifically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and paracetamol. But the evidence shows that regularly taking high dose NSAIDs/paracetamol over the long term is associated with frequent and serious side effects, so effective and safe alternatives are needed.
The research team therefore carried out a clinical trial in which 604 patients from five European countries with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to one of three daily treatments and then monitored for 182 days (6 months).
In one group, 199 patients were given one 800 mg tablet of chondroitin sulfate and one 200 g tablet of fake celecoxib (Celebrex); in the second group 200 patients were given one dummy chondroitin sulfate tablet and one capsule of celecoxib; and in the third group 205 patients were given two dummy tablets.
The chondroitin tablets contained highly purified active ingredient (pharmaceutical grade). This because although chondroitin sulfate is available as an over the counter supplement, the level of active ingredient in these products can vary considerably.
Pain, joint function, and overall acceptability to the patient were assessed using validated scoring systems on days 30, 91, and 182.
The results showed that pain and joint function improved significantly with all three treatments as early as day 30, and this effect persisted through to day 182.
But the reductions in pain and improvements in joint function were significantly greater after 6 and 3 months, respectively, in patients treated with either chondroitin sulfate or celecoxib.
Joint function improved more quickly in patients taking celecoxib, but there were no overall differences in the effectiveness of either active treatment, which were highly rated by patients. All three treatment approaches were very safe.
“This compelling benefit-risk profile, in light of the known clinical risks associated with chronic usage of NSAIDS and paracetamol, underscores the potential importance of pharmaceutical-grade [chondroitin sulfate] in the management of knee [osteoarthritis], especially in the older population requiring long-term treatment,” write the researchers.
They conclude that a daily dose of 800 mg of pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate is better than a dummy product and as good as celecoxib in reducing pain and improving joint function in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.
It is a formulation that should be considered first for the treatment of the condition, they add.
Public Release: 23-May-2017
Regular chocolate consumption may be linked to lower risk of heart flutter
Associations strongest for 1 serving/week for women and 2-6 servings/week for men, findings show
Regular chocolate consumption may be linked to a lower risk of developing the heart rhythm irregularity atrial fibrillation, also known as heart flutter, finds research published online in the journal Heart.
The associations seemed to be strongest for 1 weekly serving for women and between 2 and 6 weekly servings for men, the findings suggest.
Atrial fibrillation affects more than 33 million people worldwide, with one in four adults likely to develop it at some point during the life course. It’s not clear exactly what causes it, but there is currently no cure, and no obvious contenders for prevention either.
Given that regular chocolate consumption, particularly of dark chocolate, has been linked to improvements in various indicators of heart health, the researchers wanted to see if it might also be associated with a lower rate of atrial fibrillation.
They drew on 55,502 (26,400 men and 29,100 women) participants, aged between 50 and 64, from the population-based Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study.
Participants provided information on their usual weekly chocolate consumption, with one serving classified as 1 ounce (30 g). But they were not asked to specify which type of chocolate they ate. Most chocolate eaten in Denmark, however, is milk chocolate (minimum 30 per cent cocoa solids).
Information on heart disease risk factors, diet, and lifestyle–roughly one in three smoked–was obtained when the participants were recruited to the study. Their health was then tracked using national registry data on episodes of hospital treatment and deaths.
Those at the higher end of chocolate consumption tended to consume more daily calories, with a higher proportion of these coming from chocolate, and to be more highly educated than those at the lower end of the scale.
During the monitoring period, which averaged 13.5 years, 3346 new cases of atrial fibrillation were diagnosed. After accounting for other factors related to heart disease, the newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation rate was 10 per cent lower for 1-3 servings of chocolate a month than it was for less than 1 serving a month.
This difference was also apparent at other levels of consumption: 17% lower for 1 weekly serving; 20 per cent lower for 2-6 weekly servings; and 14 per cent lower for 1 or more daily servings.
When the data were analysed by sex, the incidence of atrial fibrillation was lower among women than among men irrespective of intake, but the associations between higher chocolate intake and lower risk of heart flutter remained even after accounting for potentially influential factors.
The strongest association for women seemed to be 1 weekly serving of chocolate (21 per cent lower risk), while for men, it was 2 to 6 weekly servings (23 per cent lower risk).
This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, added to which milk may lower levels of the beneficial compounds in chocolate thought to have a role in the favourable associations found between chocolate and heart health.
And more often than not, chocolate is eaten in high calorie products containing fat and sugar, which are generally not considered good for heart health.
But say the researchers: “Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed in our sample probably contained relatively low concentrations of the potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a robust statistically significant association.”
However, a linked editorial sounds a note of caution. Doctors from the Duke Center for Atrial Fibrillation in North Carolina, USA, highlight that the chocolate eaters in the study were healthier and more highly educated–factors associated with better general health–which might have influenced the findings.
Secondly, the researchers were not able to take account of other risk factors for atrial fibrillation, such as kidney disease and breathing problems at night (sleep apnoea). And the study included only diagnosed cases of atrial fibrillation, making it difficult to determine if chocolate is associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation or only with obvious symptoms, the editorialists suggest.
Lastly, cocoa solid levels vary in different parts of the world, so the findings might not apply in countries with lower levels, they add.
Nevertheless, Drs Sea Pokorney and Jonathan Piccini say: “Regardless of the limitations of the Danish chocolate study, the findings are interesting and warrant further consideration, especially given the importance of identifying effective prevention strategies for [atrial fibrillation],” which have so far proved elusive.
Public Release: 23-May-2017
Society for Endocrinology
Vitamin D supplementation combined with good sleeping habits may help manage pain-related diseases. This paper published in the Journal of Endocrinology, reviews published research on the relationship between vitamin D levels, sleep and pain management, and reports that levels of vitamin D combined with good quality sleep could help manage conditions including arthritis, menstrual cramps and chronic back pain.
Although the role of vitamin D in bone metabolism is well-established, there is growing debate on how vitamin D affects a variety of different biological processes, including those related to fertility, infection, pain and sleep. Previously published studies have shown that vitamin D can affect the body’s inflammatory response, which also alters pain sensation. Several clinical studies have reported that vitamin D levels are associated with sleep disorders. Chronic pain conditions not only affect sufferers’ quality of life but also negatively impact upon health service time and budgets. A link between sleep disturbances and pain has long been established but a role for vitamin D has not been fully investigated. These findings suggest that vitamin D supplementation combined with good sleep quality could increase the effectiveness of pain management treatments, for diverse conditions. This simple approach, if effective, could reduce the burden on health services and improve the lives of patients.
This review by Dr Monica Levy Andersen and colleagues at Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, pulls together and reviews the most relevant studies that have examined the role of vitamin D in pain-related conditions or sleep disturbances. Investigation of these data indicate that vitamin D levels may have an important role in the relationship between pain and sleep, and further highlight how important it is for health professionals to consider the sleep-pain-vitamin D inter-relationship in a variety of pain-related conditions, such as arthritis, chronic back pain and menstrual cramps.
Dr Monica Levy Andersen says, “we can hypothesize that suitable vitamin D supplementation combined with sleep hygiene may optimize the therapeutic management of pain-related diseases, such as fibromyalgia”
“It is necessary to understand the possible mechanisms involved in this relationship, including immunological and neurobiological pathways related to inter-relationship among sleep, vitamin D and pain”, explains Dr Andersen.
Assistant Professor Sof Andrikopoulos, University of Melbourne and Editor of the Journal of Endocrinology commented, “this research is very exciting and novel. We are unravelling the possible mechanisms of how vitamin D is involved in many complex processes, including what this review shows – that a good night’s sleep and normal levels of vitamin D could be an effective way to manage pain.”
Public Release: 26-May-2017
King’s College London
A new study published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that taking Vitamin D supplements in pregnancy can positively modify the immune system of the newborn baby, which could help to protect against asthma and respiratory infections, a known risk factor for developing asthma in childhood.
The team of researchers from King’s College London looked at the effect that taking a supplement of 4,400 IU vitamin D3 per day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy versus the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 400 IU/day, had on the immune system of the newborn.
Participants were randomised at 10 – 18 weeks of pregnancy to high or low doses of vitamin D supplements. The team then took umbilical cord bloods from 51 pregnant women to test the responsiveness of the newborn’s innate immune system, which form the body’s first line of defence to infection, and T lymphocyte responses, which provide longer-lasting protection.
They found that blood samples from babies born to mothers supplemented with higher vitamin D3 responded to mimics of pathogen stimulation by greater innate cytokine responses and greater IL-17A production in response to T lymphocyte stimulation. Both types of response are predicted to improve neonatal defence to infection. Given the evidence for strong immune responses in early life being associated with decreased development of asthma, the team believe the effect will likely lead to improved respiratory health in childhood.
“The majority of all asthma cases are diagnosed in early childhood implying that the origin of the disease stems in foetal and early life,” said lead researcher, Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz from King’s College London.
“Studies to date that have investigated links between vitamin D and immunity in the baby have been observational. For the first time, we have shown that higher Vitamin D levels in pregnancy can effectively alter the immune response of the newborn baby, which could help to protect the child from developing asthma. Future studies should look at the long-term impact on the immunity of the infant.”
Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, said “Vitamin D is a promising area of research for asthma, however this study is just the first step of many needed to explore this topic. Although this study shows that vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy may improve immune responses, much more research is needed to prove whether this does in fact lead to reduced asthma rates later in life.
“Asthma affects 1 in 11 people in the UK, yet years of underfunding in research mean that we still do not understand what causes asthma, or have the ability to predict which babies will go on to develop asthma. This is urgently needed if we are to develop strategies to treat, and ultimately prevent asthma in children.”
Public Release: 5-Jun-2017
Aspirin does little or nothing for hard arteries, University of Florida researchers find
University of Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For decades, aspirin has been widely used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Now, a team led by a University of Florida Health researcher has found that aspirin may provide little or no benefit for certain patients who have plaque buildup in their arteries.
Aspirin is effective in treating strokes and heart attacks by reducing blood clots. The researchers tracked the health histories of over 33,000 patients with atherosclerosis — narrowed, hardened arteries — and determined that aspirin is marginally beneficial for those who have had a previous heart attack, stroke or other blood-flow issues involving arteries. However, among atherosclerosis patients with no prior heart attack or stroke, aspirin had no apparent benefit. The findings were published May 18 in the journal Clinical Cardiology.
Because the findings are observational, further study that includes clinical trials are needed before definitively declaring that aspirin has little or no effect on certain atherosclerosis patients, said Anthony Bavry, M.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of medicine and a cardiologist at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville.
“Aspirin therapy is widely used and embraced by cardiologists and general practitioners around the world. This takes a bit of the luster off the use of aspirin,” Bavry said.
Bavry said the findings do not undercut aspirin’s vital role in more immediate situations: If a heart attack or stroke is underway or suspected, patients should still take aspirin as a treatment measure.
“The benefit of aspirin is still maintained in acute events like a heart attack or a stroke,” he said.
Among more than 21,000 patients who had a previous heart attack or stroke, researchers found that the risk of subsequent cardiovascular death, heart attack or stroke was marginally lower among aspirin users.
For those atherosclerosis patients who had not experienced a heart attack or stroke, aspirin appeared to have no effect. The risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack and stroke was 10.7 percent among aspirin users and 10.5 percent for non-users.
Patients who enrolled in the nationwide study were at least 45 years old with coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease or peripheral vascular disease. Their medical data were collected between late 2003 and mid-2009.
The researchers did identify one group that got some benefit from aspirin — people who had a coronary bypass or stent but no history of stroke, heart attack or arterial blood-flow condition. Those patients should clearly stay on an aspirin regimen, Bavry said. Bavry said discerning aspirin’s effectiveness for various patients is also important because the medicine can create complications, including gastrointestinal bleeding and, less frequently, bleeding in the brain. Because of insufficient data, the current study wasn’t able to address the extent of aspirin’s role in bleeding cases.
“The cardiology community needs to appreciate that aspirin deserves ongoing study. There are many individuals who may not be deriving a benefit from aspirin. If we can identify those patients and spare them from aspirin, we’re doing a good thing,” he said.
The current findings are the second time this year that Bavry and his collaborators have published research about the apparent ineffectiveness of aspirin therapy. In April, the group showed that the drug may not provide cardiovascular benefits for people with peripheral vascular disease, which causes narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the limbs.
Bavry also cautioned patients with atherosclerosis or peripheral vascular disease not to quit aspirin therapy on their own. Instead, they should discuss the matter with their physician, he said.
Public Release: 6-Jun-2017
Take a coffee or tea break to protect your liver
New study indicates that drinking even a few cups a day may prevent hardening of the liver, reports the Journal of Hepatology
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, June 6, 2017 – Chronic liver diseases rank as the 12th cause of death worldwide and many of these disorders are associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Conversely, a healthier lifestyle can help prevent or reverse liver disease. Liver-related mortality is closely related to the development of cirrhosis, the final consequence of progressive fibrosis, i.e. scarring of the liver resulting from chronic inflammation. According to a new study published in the Journal of Hepatology, researchers found that drinking coffee and herbal tea may protect against liver fibrosis, estimated as the degree of liver stiffness, which is high in extensive scarring of the liver. Because these beverages are popular, widely available, and inexpensive, they could have the potential to become important in the prevention of advanced liver disease.
“Over the past decades, we gradually deviated towards more unhealthy habits, including a sedentary lifestyle, decreased physical activity, and consumption of a ‘Happy Diet’,” explains lead author Louise J. M. Alferink, MD, of the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, “This Happy Diet, also known as the Western diet, is typically rich in unhealthy foods including processed foods lacking nutrients and artificial sugars. This has led not only to an obesity epidemic, but also to a rapid increase in the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is due to extensive accumulation of fat in the liver and resembles alcoholic liver disease in people who do not exceed two drinks a day of alcohol. In this context, examining accessible and inexpensive lifestyle strategies that have potential health benefits, such as coffee and tea consumption, is a viable approach to finding ways to halt the rapid increase of liver disease in developed countries.”
Sarwa Darwish Murad, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the study and hepatologist at the Erasmus MC University Medical Center, continues “There is quite some epidemiological, but also experimental data suggesting that coffee has health benefits on liver enzyme elevations, viral hepatitis, NAFLD, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Beyond the liver, coffee has been demonstrated to be inversely associated with overall mortality in the general population. The exact mechanism is unknown but it is thought that coffee exerts anti-oxidant effects. We were curious to find out whether coffee consumption would have a similar effect on liver stiffness measurements in individuals without chronic liver disease.”
Data was gathered on 2,424 participants of the Rotterdam study, a large population-based cohort study including participants 45 years or older living in a suburb of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. All participants underwent an extensive physical work-up, including data collection for anthropometrics, blood sampling, hepatological imaging using abdominal ultrasound and Fibroscan®, which quantitatively measures liver stiffness. In addition, they completed an externally validated 389-item Food Frequency Questionnaire, which included detailed information on coffee and tea consumption.
Coffee and overall tea consumption was divided into three categories: none, moderate (>0-3 cups per day), and frequent (?3). Tea consumption was categorized by herbal, green, or black tea and further into none (0) or any (>0) consumption.
Investigators found that frequent coffee consumption was significantly associated with lower odds of high liver stiffness values (?8 kPa as proxy for liver fibrosis), i.e. less scarring of the liver, independent of lifestyle, metabolic, and environmental traits. When they looked at the whole range of liver stiffness values, they found that both frequent coffee and any herbal tea consumption, even in small amounts, were significantly associated with lower liver stiffness values. Finally, while no direct association was found between either coffee or tea and the presence of fat accumulation in the liver (NAFLD) per se, the effect of coffee on lowering the liver stiffness was significant in both the group with and without liver fat. The authors therefore concluded that frequent coffee and herbal tea seem to have beneficial effects on preventing liver scarring even before overt liver disease has developed.
However, some caution in the interpretation of the results is necessary, as underlined in an accompanying editorial by Salvatore Petta, MD, PhD, of the Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Di.Bi.M.I.S., University of Palermo, Italy, and Giulio Marchesini, MD, of the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences (DIMEC), ”Alma Mater” University, Bologna, Italy., In fact, the study included only an elderly Caucasian population and there were few participants in the no-coffee or no-tea control groups, which limit a straightforward conclusion about the effect of coffee and tea on the liver.. The amount of tea consumed was generally low, making estimation of any protective effect difficult. Further, they note that more than 100 components are present in coffee and tea, including polyphenols and caffeine, which are contained in both beverages in very different and variable amounts.
Hence, when asked “Should we add regular coffee and tea breaks to our daily life? Dr. Petta’s and Dr. Marchesini’s conclusion is, “Before this policy can be recommended, prospective studies are needed to identify the optimum amounts and the type(s) of coffee and tea leading to more favorable liver outcomes.”
Public Release: 6-Jun-2017
Starving prostate cancer with what you eat for dinner
University of Texas at Austin
When you dine on curry and baked apples, enjoy the fact that you are eating something that could play a role starving — or even preventing — cancer.
New research from The University of Texas at Austin identifies several natural compounds found in food, including turmeric, apple peels and red grapes, as key ingredients that could thwart the growth of prostate cancer, the most common cancer afflicting U.S. men.
Published online this week in Precision Oncology, the new paper uses a novel analytical approach to screen numerous plant-based chemicals instead of testing a single agent as many studies do, discovering specific combinations that shrink prostate cancer tumors.
“After screening a natural compound library, we developed an unbiased look at combinations of nutrients that have a better effect on prostate cancer than existing drugs,” says corresponding author Stefano Tiziani, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Dell Pediatric Research Institute at UT Austin. “The beauty of this study is that we were able to inhibit tumor growth in mice without toxicity.”
During the past decade, some cancer research has highlighted the potential therapies found in plants, including chemicals found in foods such as turmeric, apple peels and green tea. These compounds minimize one of the risk factors for cancer, inflammation within the body. People who have chronic inflammation because of chronic infection, autoimmune disease or conditions such as obesity have a higher cancer risk because of damage to normal cells.
The researchers first tested 142 natural compounds on mouse and human cell lines to see which inhibited prostate cancer cell growth when administered alone or in combination with another nutrient. The most promising active ingredients were then tested on model animals: ursolic acid, a waxy natural chemical found in apple peels and rosemary; curcumin, the bright yellow plant compound in turmeric; and resveratrol, a natural compound common to red grapes or berries.
“These nutrients have potential anti-cancer properties and are readily available,” says Tiziani. “We only need to increase concentration beyond levels found in a healthy diet for an effect on prostate cancer cells.”
The new research paper also demonstrates how the plant-based chemicals work together. Combining ursolic acid with either curcumin or resveratrol prevents cancer cells from gobbling something that they need to grow, glutamine. This is a neat solution: blocking the uptake of a nutrient needed by prostate cancer cells with nutrients that are commonly in the human diet.
Funders of this research include that National Institutes of Health and the University of Texas System. The experiment was designed, analyzed and written up with coauthors Alessia Lodi, John DiGiovanni and Achinto Saha, all of UT Austin. Additional authors include Xiyuan Lu, Bo Wang, Enrique Sentandreu, Meghan Collins, all of UT Austin; and Mikhail Kolonin of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
Public Release: 7-Jun-2017
Red onions pack a cancer-fighting punch, study reveals
University of Guelph researchers are the first to discover Ontario-grown red onions have the strongest cancer-fighting power
University of Guelph
The next time you walk down the produce aisle of your grocery store, you may want to reach for red onions if you are looking to fight off cancer.
In the first study to examine how effective Ontario-grown onions are at killing cancer cells, U of G researchers have found that not all onions are created equal.
Engineering professor Suresh Neethirajan and PhD student Abdulmonem Murayyan tested five onion types grown in Ontario and discovered the Ruby Ring onion variety came out on top.
Onions as a superfood are still not well known. But they contain one of the highest concentrations of quercetin, a type of flavonoid, and Ontario onions boasts particularly high levels of the compound compared to some parts of the world.
The Guelph study revealed that the red onion not only has high levels of quercetin, but also high amounts of anthocyanin, which enriches the scavenging properties of quercetin molecules, said Murayyan, study’s lead author.
“Anthocyanin is instrumental in providing colour to fruits and vegetables so it makes sense that the red onions, which are darkest in colour, would have the most cancer-fighting power.”
Published recently in Food Research International, the study involved placing colon cancer cells in direct contact with quercetin extracted from the five different onion varieties.
“We found onions are excellent at killing cancer cells,” said Murayyan. “Onions activate pathways that encourage cancer cells to undergo cell death. They promote an unfavourable environment for cancer cells and they disrupt communication between cancer cells, which inhibits growth.”
The researchers have also recently determined onions are effective at killing breast cancer cells.
“The next step will be to test the vegetable’s cancer-fighting powers in human trials,” said Murayyan.
These findings follow a recent study by the researchers on new extraction technique that eliminates the use of chemicals, making the quercetin found in onions more suitable for consumption.
Other extraction methods use solvents that can leave a toxic residue which is then ingested in food, said Neethirajan.
“This new method that we tested to be effective only uses super-heated water in a pressurized container,” he said. “Developing a chemical-free extraction method is important because it means we can use onion’s cancer-fighting properties in nutraceuticals and in pill form.”
While we can currently include this superfood in salads and on burgers as a preventative measure, the researchers expect onion extract will eventually be added to food products such as juice or baked goods and be sold in pill form as a type of natural cancer treatment.
Public Release: 7-Jun-2017
Prebiotics reduce body fat in overweight children
American Gastroenterological Association
Bethesda, MD (June 5, 2017) — There may soon be a new tool in the fight against childhood obesity. Prebiotics reduce body fat in children who are overweight or obese by altering their gut microbiota, according to new research published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients (such as fiber) that act as fertilizers to help stimulate the growth of good bacteria already in the gut, different from probiotics, which introduce new bacteria into the system.
“This is a well-designed trial that demonstrates how a prebiotic could potentially help combat one of the most prevalent and costly conditions afflicting children in the developed world — overnutrition — by targeting the gut microbiome,” said Geoffrey A. Preidis, MD, PhD, a member of the AGA Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education scientific advisory board. “It is promising to see this evidence that alteration of the gut microbiota can be used to restore health. As a clinician, I hope that continued research into prebiotics will lead to a new strategy for the treatment of obesity.”
For this study, researchers from the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 42 participants. Participants included children, 7 to 12 years old, who were classified as overweight or obese (>85th percentile of body mass index) but otherwise healthy. Participants were randomly assigned to groups given either the prebiotic fiber — oligofructose-enriched inulin — or a placebo, once daily for 16 weeks. The prebiotic was provided as a white powder, mixed in water.
“Powdered fiber, mixed in a water bottle, taken once a day is all we asked the children to change, and we got, what we consider, some pretty exciting results — it has been fantastic,” added Raylene A. Reimer, PhD, RD, professor and researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology at University of Calgary, who led the study.
Based on four-month intervention data, the annual projected body weight increase in the prebiotic group would be 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds), within the expected healthy range, whereas the projected increase in the placebo group was 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds), almost triple the expected yearly weight increase. Thus, supplementation with the prebiotic improved outcomes in children who were overweight or obese. Importantly, the researchers show that the prebiotic induced specific gut bacterial shifts compared to placebo.
Why is this important?
This is the first randomized controlled study to assess comprehensive changes in gut microbial composition with prebiotic intervention in children who are overweight and obese. Excess weight in childhood tends to persist into adulthood and is an early risk factor for obesity-associated morbidity and mortality, highlighting the importance of early intervention.
The metabolic and microbial findings from this study provide a foundation for a larger clinical trial in the pediatric population. Prebiotics are inexpensive and non-invasive and therefore a plausible dietary treatment in the overweight and obese pediatric population.
About the AGA Institute
The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to more than 16,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. http://www.gastro.org.
Gastroenterology, the official journal of the AGA Institute, is the most prominent scientific journal in the specialty and is in the top 1 percent of indexed medical journals internationally. The journal publishes clinical and basic science studies of all aspects of the digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, as well as nutrition. The journal is abstracted and indexed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences, Chemical Abstracts, Current Contents, Excerpta Medica, Index Medicus, Nutrition Abstracts and Science Citation Index. For more information, visit http://www.gastrojournal.org.
Public Release: 7-Jun-2017
The effect was much greater than had been shown in previous studies
Washington University in St. Louis
Eggs significantly increased growth and reduced stunting by 47 percent in young children, finds a new study from a leading expert on child nutrition at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. This was a much greater effect than had been shown in previous studies.
“Eggs can be affordable and easily accessible,” said Lora Iannotti, lead author of the study.
“They are also a good source of nutrients for growth and development in young children,” she said. “Eggs have the potential to contribute to reduced growth stunting around the world.”
The study, “Eggs in Complementary Feeding and Growth,” was published online June 6 in the journal Pediatrics.
Iannotti and her co-authors conducted a randomized, controlled trial in Ecuador in 2015. Children ages 6-9 months were randomly assigned to be given one egg per day for 6 months, versus a control group, which did not receive eggs.
Eggs were shown to increase standardized length-for-age score and weight-for-age score. Models indicated a reduced prevalence of stunting by 47 percent and underweight by 74 percent. Children in the treatment group had higher dietary intakes of eggs and reduced intake of sugar-sweetened foods compared to control.
“We were surprised by just how effective this intervention proved to be,” Iannotti said. “The size of the effect was 0.63 compared to the 0.39 global average.”
Eggs are a complete food, safely packaged and arguably more accessible in resource-poor populations than other complementary foods, specifically fortified foods, she said.
“Our study carefully monitored allergic reactions to eggs, yet no incidents were observed or reported by caregivers during the weekly home visits,” Iannotti said. “Eggs seem to be a viable and recommended source of nutrition for children in developing countries.”