CNO Report # 253
Release Date: 13 MAR 2018
Draft Report Compiled by
In This Issue:
1. Ohio University study shows Vitamin D3 could help heal or prevent cardiovascular damage
2. Study finds bacteria in milk linked to rheumatoid arthritis
3. Can over-the-counter pain meds influence thoughts and emotions?
4. New analysis proves protein supplements provide significant benefits for weight lifters
5. Scientists halt breast cancer spread
6. Ketone drink could help diabetics by lowering blood sugar
7. Study: Running helps brain stave off effects of chronic stress
8. Pilot study in Kenya shows link between chronic pain and glutamate consumption
9. Depression linked to reduced arginine levels
10. Wine polyphenols could fend off bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease
11. Beetroot juice supplements may help certain heart failure patients
12. Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury
13. Daffodils to fight against cancer
14. Researchers find low magnesium levels make vitamin D ineffective
15. Fish oil and probiotic supplements in pregnancy may reduce risk of childhood allergies
16. Nut consumption may aid colon cancer survival
17. Gluten-free diet may help people with neuropathic pain
18. Trial of omega fatty acid supplementation in toddlers born preterm shows promising results
19. Babies fed soy-based formula have changes in reproductive system tissues
Public Release: 30-Jan-2018
Ohio University study shows Vitamin D3 could help heal or prevent cardiovascular damage
ATHENS, Ohio (Jan. 29, 2018) – A new study conducted by Ohio University scientists suggests that a little more sunlight might help restore damage to your cardiovascular system.
The study shows that Vitamin D3 – which is made by the body naturally when skin is exposed to the sun – can significantly restore the damage to the cardiovascular system caused by several diseases, including hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Vitamin D3 supplements are also available over-the-counter.
The study, by Marvin and Ann Dilley White Chair and Distinguished Professor Dr. Tadeusz Malinski and two graduate students, Alamzeb Khan and Hazem Dawoud, has been published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine.
“Generally, Vitamin D3 is associated with the bones. However, in recent years, in clinical settings people recognize that many patients who have a heart attack will have a deficiency of D3. It doesn’t mean that the deficiency caused the heart attack, but it increased the risk of heart attack,” Malinski said. “We use nanosensors to see why Vitamin D3 can be beneficial, especially for the function and restoration of the cardiovascular system.”
Malinski’s team has developed unique methods and systems of measurements using nanosensors, which are about 1,000 times smaller in diameter than a human hair, to track the impacts of Vitamin D3 on single endothelial cells, a vital regulatory component of the cardiovascular system. A major discovery from these studies is that vitamin D3 is a powerful stimulator of nitric oxide (NO), which is a major signaling molecule in the regulation of blood flow and the prevention of the formation of clots in the cardiovasculature. Additionally, vitamin D3 significantly reduced the level of oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system.
Most importantly, these studies show that treatment with vitamin D3 can significantly restore the damage to the cardiovascular system caused by several diseases, including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes, while also reducing the risk of heart attack. These studies, performed on cells from Caucasian Americans and African Americans, yielded similar results for both ethnic groups.
“There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged, and Vitamin D3 can do it,” Malinski said. “This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system. We don’t have to develop a new drug. We already have it.”
These studies, performed at Ohio University, are the first to identify the molecular mechanism of vitamin D3-triggered restoration of the function of damaged endothelium in the cardiovasculature. While these studies were performed using a cellular model of hypertension, the implication of vitamin D3 on dysfunctional endothelium is much broader. The dysfunction of endothelium is a common denominator of several cardiovascular diseases, particularly those associated with ischemic events.
Therefore, the authors suggest that vitamin D3 may be of clinical importance in the restoration of dysfunctional cardiac endothelium after heart attack, capillary endothelium after brain ischemia (stroke), hypovolemia, vasculopathy, diabetes and atherosclerosis. This suggestion is strongly supported by several clinical studies which indicate that vitamin D3 at doses higher than those currently used for the treatment of bone diseases, may be highly beneficial for the treatment of the dysfunctional cardiovascular system.
“Professor Malinksi has an international reputation for outstanding and innovative research related to the cardiovascular system,” Ohio University Dean of Arts and Sciences Robert Frank said. “This latest work is yet another example of his impact on this field.”
Malinski’s research on nanomedicine, the development and application of nanosensors, and nanobiotechnology is published regularly in academic journals, such as Nature, Lancet, Circulation, Diabetes, and Hypertension. In addition to research, Malinski teaches advanced chemistry classes at Ohio University. Malinski has been presented with more than 35 awards and distinctions from around the world. This includes Maria Curie Medal for biomedical research, the Grand Gold Medal in medicine from the French Society of Arts-Science-Letters, and most recently in 2016 the prestigious Albrecht J. Fleckenstein Memorial Award by the International Academy of Cardiology for his contributions to fundamental research in cardiology.
Ohio University strives to be the best student-centered, transformative learning community in America, where more than 40,000 students realize their promise, faculty advance knowledge, staff achieve excellence, and alumni become global leaders. OHIO is committed to fostering, embracing, and celebrating diversity in all its forms. Our Athens Campus offers students a residential learning experience in one of the nation’s most picturesque academic settings. Additional campuses and centers serve students across the state, and online programs further advance the University’s commitment to providing educational access and opportunity. Visit http://www.ohio.edu for more information.
Public Release: 30-Jan-2018
Study finds bacteria in milk linked to rheumatoid arthritis
University of Central Florida
A strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically at risk, according to a new study from the University of Central Florida.
A team of UCF College of Medicine researchers has discovered a link between rheumatoid arthritis and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, known as MAP, a bacteria found in about half the cows in the United States. The bacteria can be spread to humans through the consumption of infected milk, beef and produce fertilized by cow manure.
The UCF researchers are the first to report this connection between MAP and rheumatoid arthritis in a study published in the Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology journal this week. The study, funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Florida Legislative, was a collaboration between Saleh Naser, UCF infectious disease specialist, Dr. Shazia Bég, rheumatologist at UCF’s physician practice, and Robert Sharp, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate at the medical school.
Naser had previously discovered a connection between MAP and Crohn’s disease and is involved in the first ever phase III-FDA approved clinical trial to treat Crohn’s patients with antibiotics. Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis share the same genetic predispositions and both are often treated using the same types of immunosuppressive drugs. Those similarities led the team to investigate whether MAP could also be linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
“Here you have two inflammatory diseases, one affects the intestine and the other affects the joints, and both share the same genetic defect and treated with the same drugs. Do they have a common trigger? That was the question we raised and set out to investigate,” Naser said.
For the study, Bég recruited 100 of her patients who volunteered clinical samples for testing. Seventy-eight percent of the patients with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a mutation in the PTPN2/22 gene, the same genetic mutation found in Crohn’s patients, and 40 percent of that number tested positive for MAP.
“We believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis,” Naser said.
About 1.3 million adults in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack a person’s joints, muscles, bones and organs. Patients suffer from pain and deformities mostly in the hands and feet. It can occur at any age but the most common onset is between 40 and 60 years old and is three times more prevalent in women.
Although case studies have reported that some RA patients suffer from Crohn’s disease and vice versa, the researchers say a national study needs to investigate the incidence of the two diseases in the same patients.
“We don’t know the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, so we’re excited that we have found this association,” Bég said. “But there is still a long way to go. We need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients – whether it’s present because they have RA, or whether it caused RA in these patients. If we find that out, then we can target treatment toward the MAP bacteria.”
The team is conducting further studies to confirm findings and plan to study patients from different geographical and ethnic backgrounds.
“Understanding the role of MAP in rheumatoid arthritis means the disease could be treated more effectively,” Naser said. “Ultimately, we may be able to administer a combined treatment to target both inflammation and bacterial infection.”
Public Release: 6-Feb-2018
Can over-the-counter pain meds influence thoughts and emotions?
Los Angeles, CA (February 6, 2018). Over-the-counter pain medicine such as Ibuprofen and acetaminophen may influence how people process information, experience hurt feelings, and react to emotionally evocative images, according to recent studies. Examining these findings and how policymakers should respond, a new article is out today in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS) journal published in partnership with SAGE Publishing.
Article authors Ratner et al. reviewed previous research suggesting that over-the-counter pain medicine may influence individuals’:
- Sensitivity to emotionally painful experiences: Compared to those who took placebos, women who took a dose of ibuprofen reported less hurt feelings from emotionally painful experiences, such as being excluded from a game or writing about a time when they were betrayed. Men showed the opposite pattern.
- Ability to empathize with the pain of others: Compared to those taking placebos, individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen were less emotionally distressed while reading about a person experiencing physical or emotional pain and felt less regard for the person.
- Ability to process information: Compared to those who took placebos, individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen made more errors of omission in a game where they were asked, at various times, either to perform or to not perform a task.
- Reactions to emotional objects: Individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen rated pleasant and unpleasant photographs less extremely than those who took placebos.
- Discomfort from parting with possessions: When asked to set a selling price on an object they owned, individuals who took a dose of acetaminophen set prices that were cheaper than the prices set by individuals who took placebos.
“In many ways, the reviewed findings are alarming,” wrote Ratner et al. “Consumers assume that when they take an over-the-counter pain medication, it will relieve their physical symptoms, but they do not anticipate broader psychological effects.”
The authors also wrote that while the medicine could have new potential for helping people deal with hurt feelings, more research is needed to examine the efficacy and determine if it would have negative effects for people who take it in combination with other medicines or who are depressed and have difficulty feeling pleasure.
While they emphasize that further studies are necessary before policymakers consider new regulations or policies, they recommend for policymakers to begin to think about potential public health risks and benefits in case preliminary studies are confirmed.
Public Release: 7-Feb-2018
New analysis proves protein supplements provide significant benefits for weight lifters
The debate is over. Dietary protein supplements significantly improve muscle strength and size when taken by healthy adults who lift weights, a determination reached by McMaster scientists who analyzed dozens of research studies.
But the effects are not as big as some supplement companies would have you believe, cautions the senior author on the paper, Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University.
The study, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also suggests the benefits of protein supplements increase with resistance training experience but become less effective with older adults, pointing to a need for greater supplementation to reach optimal results as we age.
But there is a limit to the amount of protein that is beneficial, plateauing at roughly 1.6 grams of dietary protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
The study is the largest meta-analysis of its kind and researchers say the study provides clarity after conflicting results from previous studies.
“There have been mixed messages sent to clinicians, dieticians, and ultimately practitioners about the efficacy of protein supplementation,” says Robert Morton, lead author on the study and a PhD student in the Exercise Metabolism Research Group at McMaster. “This meta-analysis puts that debate to rest.”
Researchers combed through thousands of studies searching for specific criteria, including randomized controlled trials, human participants and study durations of at least six weeks. In all, they analyzed 49 high-quality individual studies with 1863 participants.
In addition to muscle mass and strength gains, they also found that: the effectiveness of protein supplementation during weight training is equal in women, not affected by the protein source-a whey protein supplement versus a steak, for example-nor the time of day the protein is taken, such as at regular meal times versus post-workout. One thing the researchers noted was that with increasing age there was a reduced effectiveness of protein supplementation.
“Protein intake is critical for muscle health and there is mounting research that suggests the recommended dietary allowance, of 0.8 g protein per kg per days, is too low,” says Morton. “We will see more and more research, especially as our populations age, challenging that number.”
Public Release: 7-Feb-2018
Scientists halt breast cancer spread
Cancer Research UK
Scientists have discovered that an amino acid called asparagine is essential for breast cancer spread, and by restricting it, cancer cells stopped invading other parts of the body in mice, according to research* part-funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Nature today, (Wednesday).
Most breast cancer patients do not die from their primary tumour, but from the spread of cancer to the lungs, brain, bones, or other organs. To be able to spread, cancer cells first need to leave the original tumour, survive in the blood as ‘circulating tumour cells’, and then colonise other organs.
Finding ways to stop this from happening is fundamental to increasing survival.
Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute found that blocking the production of asparagine with a drug called L-asparaginase in mice, and putting them on a low-asparagine diet, greatly reduced the breast cancer’s ability to spread.
Asparagine is an amino acid – the building blocks that cells use to make proteins. While the body can make asparagine, it’s also found in our diet, with higher concentrations in some foods including asparagus, soy, dairy, poultry, and seafood.
Researchers were prompted by these mouse studies to examine data from breast cancer patients. These data indicated that the greater the ability of breast cancer cells to make asparagine, the more likely the disease is to spread. In several other cancer types, increased ability of tumour cells to make asparagine was also found to be associated with reduced survival.
In future, the scientists believe that alongside conventional treatments like chemotherapy, breast cancer patients could be given a diet in hospital that restricts asparagine to help stop the disease spreading and improve outcomes. Their findings also suggest this could have implications for other cancer types, including kidney, and head and neck cancers.
Professor Greg Hannon, lead author of the study based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: “Our work has pinpointed one of the key mechanisms that promotes the ability of breast cancer cells to spread. When the availability of asparagine was reduced, we saw little impact on the primary tumour in the breast, but tumour cells had reduced capacity for metastases in other parts of the body.
“This finding adds vital information to our understanding of how we can stop cancer spreading – the main reason patients die from their disease.
“In the future, restricting this amino acid through a controlled diet plan or by other means could be an additional part of treatment for some patients with breast and other cancers.”
Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “This is interesting research looking at how cutting off the supply of nutrients essential to cancer’s spread could help restrain tumours.
“Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which is dependent on asparagine. It’s possible that in future, this drug could be repurposed to help treat breast cancer patients.
“The next step in the research would be to understand how this translates from the lab to patients and which patients are most likely to benefit from any potential treatment.”
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head nurse, said: “Research like this is crucial to help develop better treatments for breast cancer patients. At the moment, there is no evidence that restricting certain foods can help fight cancer, so it’s important for patients to speak to their doctor before making any changes to their diet while having treatment.”
Ketone drink could help diabetics by lowering blood sugar
The Physiological Society
For the first time it has been shown that drinking a ketone supplement can lower blood sugar levels, presenting a potential future method to control spikes in blood sugar experienced by diabetics.
Type 2 diabetes and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the past few decades. These conditions are associated with high blood sugar, which can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs and can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Although previous studies have shown that infusing ketones into the bloodstream can reduce blood sugar levels, this study, published in the Journal of Physiology, has shown that a ketone ester supplement can also lower blood sugar levels. Researchers at the University of British Columbia and University of Oxford have demonstrated that a single drink of ketone ester enables better control of blood sugar by reducing spikes in sugar levels.
Twenty healthy individuals participated in the study and on two occasions consumed the ketone monoester supplement or a placebo after a 10-hour fast. Thirty minutes later they consumed a drink containing 75 grams of sugar (i.e., a standard oral glucose tolerance test). Blood samples were collected every 15-30 minutes throughout the entire 2.5 hours protocol for analyses of glucose, lipids, and hormones. Compared to the placebo, the blood sugar spike was reduced on the day that the individuals had consumed the ketone drink.
It should be noted that this study was conducted with healthy young individuals, to reduce the confounding influence of insulin resistance, beta-cell dysfunction, and medications, so more research is required to know whether it will apply to people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The physiological mechanisms that underpin the improved blood sugar control also need to be understood.
Professor Jonathan Little, from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, was part of the research team and said:
“Our study was done in healthy young participants but if the same responses were seen in people with, or at risk for, type 2 diabetes then it is possible that a ketone monoester supplement could be used to lower glucose levels and improve metabolic health. We are working on these studies at the moment.
“The ketone supplements do not taste very good and, in order to blind the participants, we had to make a control drink that also tasted distinctly bad. It made for interesting mornings seeing how the participants would respond to the taste of their drinks!”
Public Release: 14-Feb-2018
Study: Running helps brain stave off effects of chronic stress
Exercise protects vital memory and learning functions
Brigham Young University
Most people agree that getting a little exercise helps when dealing with stress. A new BYU study discovers exercise — particularly running — while under stress also helps protect your memory.
The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said study lead author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.
Inside the hippocampus, memory formation and recall occur optimally when the synapses or connections between neurons are strengthened over time. That process of synaptic strengthening is called long-term potentiation (LTP). Chronic or prolonged stress weakens the synapses, which decreases LTP and ultimately impacts memory. Edwards’ study found that when exercise co-occurs with stress, LTP levels are not decreased, but remain normal.
To learn this, Edwards carried out experiments with mice. One group of mice used running wheels over a 4-week period (averaging 5 km ran per day) while another set of mice was left sedentary. Half of each group was then exposed to stress-inducing situations, such as walking on an elevated platform or swimming in cold water. One hour after stress induction researchers carried out electrophysiology experiments on the animals’ brains to measure the LTP.
Stressed mice who had exercised had significantly greater LTP than the stressed mice who did not run. Edwards and his colleagues also found that stressed mice who exercised performed just as well as non-stressed mice who exercised on a maze-running experiment testing their memory. Additionally, Edwards found exercising mice made significantly fewer memory errors in the maze than the sedentary mice.
The findings reveal exercise is a viable method to protect learning and memory mechanisms from the negative cognitive impacts of chronic stress on the brain.
“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards said. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”
Public Release: 16-Feb-2018
Pilot study in Kenya shows link between chronic pain and glutamate consumption
Researchers test theory that diet change can alleviate pain
Chronic pain is among the most vexing health problems, including in the developing world, where most research suggests that the prevalence of pain is similar to the United States and other developed nations.
Preliminary research from a small pilot study carried out in Meru, in eastern Kenya, shows a link between chronic pain and consumption of glutamate, a common flavor enhancer found in Western and non-Western diets worldwide. Results demonstrated that when study participants cut monosodium glutamate from their diets, their symptoms improved. The findings are published in the journal Nutrition.
“This preliminary research in Kenya is consistent with what I am observing in my chronic pain research here in the United States,” said Kathleen Holton, lead author of the study and assistant professor of health studies at American University. “We don’t know what exposure is leading to this susceptibility to dietary glutamate, but this pilot study suggests the need for a large-scale clinical trial, since dietary change could be an effective low-cost treatment option for developing countries.”
As researchers study glutamate, they’re gaining insights into how the chemical works in the human brain and body. In the brain, glutamate is a common neurotransmitter. It also can act as an excitotoxin, over-stimulating and damaging or killing nerve cells. Some research has found that increased consumption of glutamate may enhance chronic pain symptoms, so there is biological cause for scientists to examine the chemical in relation to pain.
Glutamate is also a naturally occurring chemical in some foods, like soy sauce and parmesan cheese, but is more commonly found as a food additive. In the U.S., glutamate is added to many food products and found under many names including ‘monosodium glutamate,’ ‘hydrolyzed protein,’ ‘protein isolate,’ ‘protein extract’ and ‘autolyzed yeast extract,’ just to name a few. In Kenya, people’s exposure to glutamate is only from a few foods which contain MSG, with the largest exposure being from a mixed seasoning spice called Mchuzi Mix, which is typically used in cooking daily.
In the Kenya study, the goal was to test whether a dietary intervention could perform as well as or better than over-the-counter medication in relieving pain. With a sample size of 30 participants, the researchers tested the effects of removing MSG, increasing water intake, or a combination of both, relative to acetaminophen (the main treatment option available in Meru). Study participants experienced chronic pain for at least three months or more and in at least three quadrants of the body. Similar to what is seen with widespread chronic pain patients in the U.S., most also suffered from other neurological symptoms, including headaches or migraines, chronic fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep issues.
Holton’s collaborators in the research were University of Michigan Professor Dr. Daniel J. Clauw, M.D., and Dr. Peter K. Ndege, M.D., of Meru University of Science and Technology in Kenya. This research came about after Clauw learned about Meru villagers’ plight with chronic pain. When the team initially surveyed residents in the area, an estimated 60 percent reported chronic pain, twice the amount typically observed.
The participants were broken into four groups. Because dehydration is associated with headache pain, the researchers factored that into the study design. The groups consisted of the following: If subjects commonly consumed Mchuzi Mix, they were given a similar mixed seasoning substitute that contained no MSG. Those reporting low water intake and no MSG were given bottled water and instructed to increase water consumption to eight cups a day.
Those with low water consumption who also consumed MSG were given water and the substitute spices. The control group had neither exposure and was given acetaminophen. The group that removed MSG from its diet and consumed more water reported significant improvements in their symptoms, as did the group receiving acetaminophen.
In the future, Holton, Clauw and Ndege plan a larger, epidemiological survey to further understand the prevalence of widespread chronic pain in the region and to train Kenyan research staff how to conduct a large-scale clinical trial to test if dietary change could be an effective, low-cost treatment option for pain in countries like Kenya.
“This would be incredible if we could impact chronic pain simply by making slight modifications to diet,” said Clauw, a leading expert on chronic pain.
Public Release: 21-Feb-2018
Depression linked to reduced arginine levels
University of Eastern Finland
People suffering from major depressive disorder, MDD, have reduced arginine levels, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows. Arginine is an amino acid which the body uses to produce, e.g., nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, in turn, is a nervous system and immune defence mediator, and it also plays a role in vascular regulation. The global arginine bioavailability ratio, GABR, is an indicator of the body’s arginine levels, and the ratio has previously been used to measure the body’s capacity to produce nitric oxide. Reduced arginine bioavailability is also known to be an independent risk factor of cardiovascular diseases.
Published in Journal of Affective Disorders, the study shows that people suffering from MDD have reduced arginine bioavailability.
“It is possible that depression-induced inflammatory responses lead to reduced arginine levels. This may result in insufficient production of nitric oxide for the needs of the nervous system and circulation. However, we don’t know yet what exactly causes reduced arginine bioavailability in people with depression,” says Doctoral Student Toni Ali-Sisto, the lead author of the study.
The study carried out by the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital involved 99 adults with diagnosed major depressive disorder and 253 non-depressed controls. The concentrations of three amino acids, namely arginine, citrulline and ornithine, were analysed from their fasting glucose samples, and this data was used to calculate their GABRs. Symmetric and asymmetric dimethylarginine concentrations were also measured, as they both play a role in the production of nitric oxide. The findings were then compared between the depressed and the non-depressed controls. The study also analysed whether these concentrations changed in people with depression during a follow-up of eight months, and whether remission of depression had an effect on the concentrations.
“Although our study shows that people with depression have reduced arginine bioavailability, this doesn’t mean that taking an arginine supplement would protect against depression. That’s an area for further research,” Ali-Sisto says.
People with depression had weaker arginine bioavailability than their non-depressed controls. The study did not find significant differences in the symmetric and asymmetric dimethylarginine concentrations. The use of anti-depressants or anti-psychotics did not affect the concentrations, either.
Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, there were no clear differences in the concentrations measured from people who had recovered from depression and people who remained depressed.
“Arginine bioavailability was slightly higher in people who had recovered from depression than in people who remained depressed. However, a more extensive set of data and a longer follow-up period are necessary for estimating arginine’s role in depression recovery.”
Public Release: 21-Feb-2018
Wine polyphenols could fend off bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease
American Chemical Society
Sipping wine is good for your colon and heart, possibly because of the beverage’s abundant and structurally diverse polyphenols. Now researchers report in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that wine polyphenols might also be good for your oral health.
Traditionally, some health benefits of polyphenols have been attributed to the fact that these compounds are antioxidants, meaning they likely protect the body from harm caused by free radicals. However, recent work indicates polyphenols might also promote health by actively interacting with bacteria in the gut. That makes sense because plants and fruits produce polyphenols to ward off infection by harmful bacteria and other pathogens. M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues wanted to know whether wine and grape polyphenols would also protect teeth and gums, and how this could work on a molecular level.
The researchers checked out the effect of two red wine polyphenols, as well as commercially available grape seed and red wine extracts, on bacteria that stick to teeth and gums and cause dental plaque, cavities and periodontal disease. Working with cells that model gum tissue, they found that the two wine polyphenols in isolation — caffeic and p-coumaric acids — were generally better than the total wine extracts at cutting back on the bacteria’s ability to stick to the cells. When combined with the Streptococcus dentisani, which is believed to be an oral probiotic, the polyphenols were even better at fending off the pathogenic bacteria. The researchers also showed that metabolites formed when digestion of the polyphenols begins in the mouth might be responsible for some of these effects.
Public Release: 22-Feb-2018
Beetroot juice supplements may help certain heart failure patients
INDIANAPOLIS — Beetroot juice supplements may help enhance exercise capacity in patients with heart failure, according to a new proof-of-concept study. Exercise capacity is a key factor linked to these patients’ quality of life and even survival.
The study examined the impact of dietary nitrate in the form of beetroot juice supplements on the exercise capacity of eight heart failure patients with reduced ejection fraction, a condition in which the heart muscle doesn’t contract effectively and can’t get enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.
Tens of millions of people suffer from heart failure. In about half of all such people, the ejection fraction of the heart is reduced.
Because of their condition, these patients exhibit labored breathing, have diminished peak oxygen uptake and use more energy while exercising than would otherwise be the case.
Researchers found that the beetroot supplement resulted in significant increases in exercise duration, peak power and peak oxygen uptake while exercising.
Those improvements were not accompanied by any changes in the breathing responses of the patients, and there was no change in their exercise efficiency, a measure of how much external work a person gets for a certain input of energy.
The study, titled “Dietary Nitrate Increases V02 peak and Performance but Does Not Alter Ventilation or Efficiency in Patients with Heart Failure with Reduced Ejection Fraction,” was published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure.
“Abnormalities in aerobic exercise responses play a major role in the disability, loss of independence and reduced quality of life that accompany heart failure,” said Andrew Coggan, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at IUPUI and one of the researchers who conducted the study. “Perhaps more importantly, elevations in ventilatory demand and decreases in peak oxygen uptake are highly predictive of mortality in patients with heart failure.”
A second important aspect of the study is there were no untoward side effects from the dietary nitrate, Coggan said: “In this case, lack of any significant changes is good news.”
The data suggests that dietary supplementation may be a valuable addition to treatment for exercise intolerance among heart failure patients with reduced ejection fraction, Coggan said. Multi-center trials are needed to confirm the proof-of-concept findings and to determine whether longer-term dietary nitrate treatment improves physical activity levels, quality of life and perhaps even survival in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.
Public Release: 22-Feb-2018
Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury
University of Pennsylvania
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most animal species examined. Further research has shown that animals fed restricted-calorie diets are also better able to regenerate numerous tissues after injury.
A lingering question has been how these benefits are mediated. A new study led by University of Pennsylvania researchers pinpoints the cell responsible for these improved regenerative abilities in the intestines. According to the scientists’ work, when a calorie-restricted mouse is subjected to radiation, a particular type of stem cell in the intestines, known as reserve stem cells, can survive and quickly rebuild intestinal tissues. The findings align with observations by oncologists that short-term fasting prior to chemotherapy can mitigate the severity of gastrointestinal destruction.
“The moral of the story is you definitely don’t want to be eating a bunch of cheeseburgers before you get chemotherapy or radiation,” said Christopher Lengner, an associate professor in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “Our work is pointing to reserve stem cells as being the critical players in conferring the benefits of intestinal-tissue regeneration after these types of insults.”
Lengner collaborated on the work with lead author Maryam Yousefi, a graduate student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program at Penn Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Fellow, and other colleagues from Penn and China Agricultural University. Their work appears in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
Years of research have demonstrated that existing on a calorie restricted diet, while seemingly unpleasant, can boost healthy lifespan, reducing the risk of heart attack, diabetes and other age-related conditions. Other, more recent work has shown that calorie-restricted animals regenerate tissue more effectively following injury.
“The beneficial effects of calorie restriction are at this point not really up for debate; it’s quite clear,” Lengner said. “But there are all sorts of questions about the cellular and molecular basis to these benefits.”
One theory has been that calorie restriction slows age-related degeneration and enables more efficient tissue function by influencing the integrity and activity of adult stem cells, the precursor cells that dwell within specific tissues and give rise to the diversity of cell types that compose that tissue.
In prior work, Lengner’s lab has studied how certain stem cells in the intestines resist DNA damage. Perhaps, the researchers reasoned, calorie restriction is somehow targeting these stem cells to enhance their ability to resist damage.
Recent studies focused on the effects of calorie restriction on the active intestinal stem cells. While these active stem cells bear the burden of daily tissue turnover and act as the workhorses of intestinal function, they are also known to be highly susceptible to DNA damage, such as that induced by radiation exposure, and thus are unlikely to be the cells mediating the enhanced regeneration seen under calorie restriction, the Penn team reasoned.
Instead of looking at these active stem cells, Lengner’s group examined a second population of intestinal stem cells known as reserve stem cells. Lengner’s group and others had previously shown that these reserve stem cells normally reside in a dormant state and are protected from chemotherapy and radiation. Upon a strong injury that kills the active cells, these reserve stem cells “wake up” to regenerate the tissue.
To investigate this hypothesis, the scientists focused on how a subpopulation of mouse intestinal stem cells responded under calorie restriction and then when the animals were exposed to radiation.
When mice were fed a diet reduced in calories by 40 percent from normal, the researchers observed that reserve intestinal stem cells expanded five-fold. Paradoxically, these cells also seemed to divide less frequently, a mystery the researchers hope to follow up on in later work.
When the research team selectively deleted the reserve stem cells in calorie-restricted mice, their intestinal tissue’s regeneration capabilities were cut in half, implicating these cells as having an important role in carrying out the benefits of calorie restriction.
“These reserve stem cells are rare cells,” Lengner said. “In a normal animal they may make up less than half a percentage of the intestinal epithelium and in calorie restricted animals maybe slightly more. Normally, in the absence of injury, the tissue can tolerate the loss, due to the presence of the active stem cells, but, when you injure the animal, the regeneration is compromised and the enhanced regeneration after calorie restriction was compromised in the absence of the reserve stem cell pool.”
To tease out the mechanism by which these cells were acting, the researchers compared the genes that were turned on in normal versus calorie-restricted animals.
“It was very obvious,” Lengner said. “These reserve stem cells that we had shown were important for the beneficial effects of calorie restriction, were repressing many pathways that are all known to be regulated by the protein complex mTOR, which is most well known as being a nutrient-sensing complex.”
The finding made intuitive sense; researchers studying other tissue types had shown that activating mTOR can drive dormant cells out of quiescence, a necessary step for regeneration. Here, researchers found that reserve stem cells had low mTOR activity, and this was even lower upon calorie restriction. Lower mTOR activity correlated with resistance to injury.
Yet in order to regenerate after the injury was over, these cells would need mTOR again.
“Curiously, we see that, when they’re injured, the calorie-restricted mice were actually better able to activate mTOR than their counterparts,” Lengner said. “So somehow, even though mTOR is being suppressed initially, it’s also better poised to become activated after injury. That’s something we don’t fully understand.”
The researchers, led by Yousefi, conducted experiments using leucine, an amino acid that activates mTOR, and rapamycin, a drug -which inhibits mTOR, to confirm that mTOR acted within these reserve stem cells to regulate their activity. Reserve stem cells exposed to leucine proliferated, while those exposed to rapamycin were blocked.
Pretreating the animals with leucine make the reserve stem cells more sensitive to radiation and less able to regenerate tissue following radiation injury, while rapamycin protected the reserve stem cells as they were more likely to remain dormant.
Lengner cautions, however, that rapamycin cannot be used as a stand-in for calorie restriction, as it would linger and continue to block mTOR activation even following injury, hindering the ability of the reserve stem cells to spring into action and regenerate intestinal tissue.
“Rapamycin doesn’t do precisely what calorie restriction does,” he said. “Calorie restriction represses mTOR but is readily reversible upon injury. Not so with rapamycin, where persistant repression of mTOR after injury can impair the regenerative response. So for the time being, there is no magic pill that can mimic the effects of calorie restriction. If you want the benefits, you’ve got to cut the calories.”
In future work, the researchers hope to drill down deeper, looking beyond nutrient singaling to see what type of signaling molecules can modulate the activation of reserve stem cells.
Public Release: 26-Feb-2018
Daffodils to fight against cancer
The anti-cancer effects of a natural alkaloid extracted from Daffodils
Université libre de Bruxelles
A study published in the scientific journal Structure (Cell Press) describes the anti-cancer effects of a natural alkaloid extracted from Daffodils. Led by Denis Lafontaine, affiliated with the Faculty of Sciences at the ULB, the researchers have discovered that this compound triggers the activation of an anti-tumoral surveillance pathway.
Will Daffodils soon help curing cancer? A study from the RNA Molecular Biology Laboratory (Faculty of Sciences and ULB-Cancer Research Center), published in the scientific journal Structure (Cell Press), took a first step in that direction.
Led by Denis Lafontaine, the researchers extracted a natural anti-cancer compound from Daffodils (Amaryllidaceae Narcissus). They established that this compound, an alkaloid named haemanthamine, binds to the ribosome. Ribosomes are nanomachines essential to the survival of our cells because they synthesize all our proteins. To sustain their unrestrained growth, cancer cells rely on increased protein synthesis: they are therefore particularly sensitive to treatments that inhibit the production and the function of ribosomes.
In this new study, the researchers have shown that haemanthamine blocks the production of protein by ribosomes, thus slowing growth of cancer cells. Haemanthamine also inhibits the production of these nanomachines in the nucleolus (the “ribosome factory”): this nucleolar stress triggers the activation of an anti-tumoral surveillance pathway leading to the stabilization of the protein p53 and to the elimination of cancer cells.
This study provides for the first time a molecular explanation to the anti-tumoral activity of Daffodils used for centuries in folk medicine. Haemanthamine belongs to a large family of therapeutic molecules of natural origin: numerous other alkaloids, used in human health, are extracted from plants, such as morphine (potent pain killer), quinine (anti-malarial agent), and ephedrine (anti-asthmatic).
In a near future, the team of Denis Lafontaine, in collaboration with Veronique Mathieu (Faculty of Pharmacy- ULB), will test the effect on ribosome biogenesis and function of four Amaryllidaceae alkaloids, representative of the chemical diversity of these molecules. Their goal will be to identify rapidly the most promising chemical backbone to be further developed as a lead compound in cancer therapeutics.
Public Release: 26-Feb-2018
Researchers find low magnesium levels make vitamin D ineffective
Study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association suggests up to 50 percent of US population is magnesium deficient
American Osteopathic Association
CHICAGO–February 27, 2018–There is a caveat to the push for increased Vitamin D: Don’t forget magnesium.
A review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found Vitamin D can’t be metabolized without sufficient magnesium levels, meaning Vitamin D remains stored and inactive for as many as 50 percent of Americans.
“People are taking Vitamin D supplements but don’t realize how it gets metabolized. Without magnesium, Vitamin D is not really useful or safe,” says study co-author Mohammed S. Razzaque, MBBS, PhD, a professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Razzaque explains that consumption of Vitamin D supplements can increase a person’s calcium and phosphate levels even if they remain Vitamin D deficient. The problem is people may suffer from vascular calcification if their magnesium levels aren’t high enough to prevent the complication.
Patients with optimum magnesium levels require less Vitamin D supplementation to achieve sufficient Vitamin D levels. Magnesium also reduces osteoporosis, helping to mitigate the risk of bone fracture that can be attributed to low levels of Vitamin D, Razzaque noted.
Deficiency in either of these nutrients is reported to be associated with various disorders, including skeletal deformities, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndrome.
While the recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 420 mg for males and 320 mg for females, the standard diet in the United States contains only about 50 percent of that amount. As much as half of the total population is estimated to be consuming a magnesium-deficient diet.
Researchers say the magnesium consumption from natural foods has decreased in the past few decades, owing to industrialized agriculture and changes in dietary habits. Magnesium status is low in populations who consume processed foods that are high in refined grains, fat, phosphate, and sugar.
“By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of Vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on Vitamin D supplements,” says Razzaque.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, potassium, and sodium. Foods high in magnesium include almonds, bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, cashews, egg yolk, fish oil, flaxseed, green vegetables, milk, mushrooms, other nuts, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, sunflower seeds, sweet corn, tofu, and whole grains.
Public Release: 28-Feb-2018
Fish oil and probiotic supplements in pregnancy may reduce risk of childhood allergies
Imperial College London
In one of the largest ever research reports of how a pregnant woman’s diet affects her baby’s allergy and eczema risk, scientists from Imperial College London assessed over 400 studies involving 1.5 million people.
As part of the study, they found that when pregnant women took a daily fish oil capsule from 20 weeks pregnant, and during the first three to four months of breastfeeding, risk of egg allergy in the child was reduced by 30 per cent.
The team, who were commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, also found that taking a daily probiotic supplement from 36-38 weeks pregnant, and during the first three to six months of breastfeeding, reduced the risk of a child developing eczema by 22 per cent.
The researchers, who published their meta-analysis in the journal PLOS Medicine, found no evidence that avoiding potentially allergenic foods such as nuts, dairy and eggs during pregnancy made a difference to a child’s allergy or eczema risk.
Dr Robert Boyle, lead author of the research from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, explained: “Food allergies and eczema in children are a growing problem across the world. Although there has been a suggestion that what a woman eats during pregnancy may affect her baby’s risk of developing allergies or eczema, until now there has never been such a comprehensive analysis of the data.”
He added: “Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition, and these findings need to be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated.”
The team also assessed a host of dietary factors during pregnancy including fruit, vegetable and vitamin intake, but found no clear evidence that any of these affected allergy or eczema risk.
Allergies to foods, such as nuts, egg, milk or wheat, affect around one in 20 children in the UK. They are caused by the immune system malfunctioning and over-reacting to these harmless foods. This triggers symptoms such as rashes, swelling, vomiting and wheezing.
Eczema affects around one in five children in the UK, and causes dry, cracked and itchy skin. The causes of eczema and allergies are not fully understood, but allergies are more common in people who suffer from eczema.
More research is now needed to understand how probiotics and fish oils may reduce allergy and eczema risk, said Dr Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, co-author of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial: “Despite allergies and eczema being on the rise, and affecting millions of children, we are still hunting for the root causes of these conditions, and how to prevent them.”
Dr Garcia-Larsen, who is also based at John Hopkins University, added: “This study has provided clues, which we now need to follow with further research.”
In the current study, the team assessed 28 trials of probiotic supplements during pregnancy, involving around 6,000 women. Probiotics contain live bacteria that may influence the natural balance of bugs in the gut. Previous research has linked a disruption in naturally-occurring bacteria to allergy risk.
In the research, probiotics were taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding as a capsule, powder or drink (most yogurts do not contain enough probiotic). They were found to reduce the risk of a child developing eczema – between the ages of six months to three years – by 22 per cent. This is the equivalent of 44 cases of eczema per 1000 children.
The scientists added that the probiotics, which mostly contained a bacterium called Lactobacillus rhamnosus, were not used in early pregnancy.
The team also assessed around 19 trials of fish oil supplements during pregnancy, involving around 15,000 people. These studies revealed a 30 per cent reduction in risk of egg allergy by age one, which equates to a reduction of 31 cases of egg allergy per 1000 children.
Egg allergy was tested with a skin test, where a tiny amount of egg is pricked onto the skin.
In the studies using fish oil supplements, the capsules contained a standard dose of omega-3 fatty acids (another type of fatty acid, called omega-6, was not found to have any effect on allergy risk).
Dr Boyle added that previous research suggests fish oils may help dampen down the immune system, and prevent it from over-reacting.
Most of the trials used supplements, although one involved eating oily fish, and a few others used non-fish oils such as nut oils. The Department of Health advises women to eat no more than two portions of oily fish a week, and to avoid shark, swordfish or marlin as these contain high levels of mercury.
The team also found that taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy reduced the child’s risk of peanut allergy by 38 per cent. However they caution this finding was based only on two studies, and not as reliable as the egg allergy and eczema results.
The study also revealed some evidence for links between longer duration of breast feeding and a reduced risk of eczema, and breastfeeding was also linked with a lower risk of type one diabetes.
The findings of this study, funded by the Food Standards Agency, are being considered by the Government alongside the wider evidence base on infant feeding and the introduction of solids. As part of the cross-government review of complementary feeding, the risks and benefits associated with the timing of introduction of allergenic foods will also be considered.
The Food Standards Agency advises that families should continue to follow the current Government advice to exclusively breastfeed for around the first six months of age, and continue breastfeeding thereafter. Solid foods should be introduced into the infant diet at around six months of age. Pregnant women should also continue to follow government dietary and supplement advice.
Public Release: 28-Feb-2018
Nut consumption may aid colon cancer survival
Colon cancer recurrence nearly cut in half in people who eat nuts
New Haven, Conn. — People with stage III colon cancer who regularly eat nuts are at significantly lower risk of cancer recurrence and mortality than those who don’t, according to a new, large study led by researchers at Yale Cancer Center.
The findings were published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The study followed 826 participants in a clinical trial for a median of 6.5 years after they were treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Those who regularly consumed at least two, one-ounce servings of nuts each week demonstrated a 42% improvement in disease-free survival and a 57% improvement in overall survival.
“Further analysis of this cohort revealed that disease-free survival increased by 46% among the subgroup of nut consumers who ate tree nuts rather than peanuts,” said Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H., director of Yale Cancer Center and senior author of the study. Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans, among others. In contrast, peanuts are actually in the legumes family of foods.
“These findings are in keeping with several other observational studies that indicate that a slew of healthy behaviors, including increased physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, and lower intake of sugar and sweetened beverages, improve colon cancer outcomes,” said Temidayo Fadelu, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and lead author of the paper. “The results highlight the importance of emphasizing dietary and life-style factors in colon cancer survivorship.”
Additionally, the researchers emphasized, the study highlighted connections between biological mechanisms that worsen disease not just in colon cancer but in certain chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.
Many previous studies have reported that nuts, among other health benefits, may help to reduce insulin resistance, a condition in which the body has difficulty processing the insulin hormone. Insulin resistance leads to unhealthy levels of sugar in the blood and is often a predecessor to type 2 diabetes and related illnesses.
Earlier research among patients with colon cancer has revealed worse outcomes among those with lifestyle factors that heighten insulin resistance, such as obesity, lack of exercise, and a diet with high levels of carbohydrates that quickly raise levels of blood sugar.
“These studies support the hypothesis that behaviors that make you less insulin resistant, including eating nuts, seem to improve outcomes in colon cancer,” Fuchs said. “However, we don’t know yet what exactly about nuts is beneficial.”
Nuts also might play a positive role by satisfying hunger with less intake of carbohydrates or other foods associated with poor outcomes, Fuchs noted.
Patients may not be eating nuts due to concerns about the high fat content. For example, a one-ounce serving of about 24 almonds holds about 200 calories, including 14 grams of fat. “People ask me if increasing nut consumption will lead to obesity, which leads to worse outcomes,” he said. “But what’s really interesting is that in our studies, and across the scientific literature in general, regular consumers of nuts tend to be leaner.”
Dietary changes can make a difference. An earlier analysis of diets in the same patient cohort by Fuchs and his colleagues found a significant link between coffee consumption and reduced recurrence and mortality in colon cancer.
When Fuchs advises his patients about lifestyle choices, “first and foremost I talk about avoiding obesity, exercising regularly and staying away from a high-carbohydrate diet,” he said. “Then we talk about things like coffee and nuts. If you like coffee or nuts, enjoy them, and if you don’t, there are many other helpful steps you can take.”
“Overall, we are working to apply the same rigorous science to the understanding of diet and lifestyles in the colon cancer patient population that we apply to defining new drugs,” Fuchs said.
Public Release: 28-Feb-2018
Gluten-free diet may help people with neuropathic pain
American Academy of Neurology
MINNEAPOLIS – A strict gluten-free diet may help protect against the nerve pain that some people with gluten sensitivity experience, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, April 21 to 27, 2018.
“These findings are exciting because it might mean that a relatively simple change in diet could help alleviate painful symptoms tied to gluten neuropathy,” said lead author Panagiotis Zis, MD, PhD, of the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, United Kingdom, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “While our study shows an association between a self-reported gluten-free diet and less pain, it does not show that one causes the other.”
Gluten sensitivity has been associated with peripheral neuropathy — a condition in which a person’s peripheral nerves become damaged, often causing weakness, numbness and pain, typically in the hands and feet. When a person has nerve pain that can’t otherwise be explained, and has a sensitivity to gluten, the diagnosis might be gluten neuropathy.
The study involved 60 people with an average age of 70 who had gluten neuropathy. They were asked about the intensity of their pain, their other neuropathy symptoms, their mental health and whether they followed a strict gluten-free diet. A total of 33 of the participants had pain with their neuropathy, or 55 percent.
People who were following a gluten-free diet were more likely to be free of pain than people who did not follow a strict gluten-free diet. A total of 56 percent of those without pain were on a gluten-free diet, compared to 21 percent of those with pain. After adjusting for age, sex and mental health status, researchers found that people following the strict diet were 89 percent less likely to have pain with their neuropathy than people not following the diet.
The study also found that people with painful gluten neuropathy scored significantly worse on the mental health assessment, which has a range of zero to 100 with 100 being best. Those with painful gluten neuropathy had an average score of 76, as opposed to the average score of 87 for those with painless gluten neuropathy.
“This study is promising because it shows that a gluten-free diet may help lower the risk of pain for people with gluten neuropathy,” Zis said. “More research is needed to confirm these results and to determine whether the gluten-free diet led to the reduction in pain.”
Public Release: 1-Mar-2018
Trial of omega fatty acid supplementation in toddlers born preterm shows promising results
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital have shown that omega fatty acid supplements may improve autism spectrum disorder symptoms in toddlers who were born very preterm (more than 11 weeks early). The study was published recently in the Journal of Nutrition.
“The trial had two goals. First, we wanted to confirm the feasibility of a large study of toddlers born very preterm and exhibiting symptoms often seen with ASD. Second, we wanted to see what the effects of omega fatty acids would be on parent-reported ASD symptoms and related behaviors,” says Sarah Keim, Ph.D., lead author on the study and principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s.
Dr. Keim and her team conducted a study where 31 toddlers who were born prematurely participated. For 3 months, half of them took a daily dietary supplement that contained a special combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and the other half took a placebo, although families were unaware of which they received to make the study rigorous.
The group that took the daily omega fatty acid supplement exhibited a greater reduction in ASD symptoms than those who took the placebo, according to ratings provided by the children’s parents.
“We found clinically significant improvements in ASD symptoms in the treatment group, although the benefits were confined to one measure we used,” explains Dr. Keim. “We need to do a larger trial to further understand the potential impacts on a larger group of children.”
The researchers suggest that observed benefits of omega fatty acid supplementation could be due to the role of these nutrients in inflammation in the body. ASD is generally considered a neuroinflammatory condition, and influencing inflammation through nutritional supplementation could improve behaviors in children with ASD symptoms.
Researchers hope that by giving omega fatty acids to children early when they first show symptoms and the brain is still actively developing may help them long-term.
“Currently, no medications are available to help children born prematurely with the developmental delays and behavior problems they often experience. For very young children, the medications that physicians sometimes try tend to have many side effects. And we don’t know what effect those medications have on brains that are still developing,” says Dr. Keim. “If using omega fatty acid supplementation helps, it would have a really huge impact for these kids.”
Dr. Keim and her team plan to expand the work in a full-scale trial in the future. They recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effect of omega fatty acids in children ages 2-6 year who have ASD.
Public Release: 12-Mar-2018
Babies fed soy-based formula have changes in reproductive system tissues
CHOP co-author of NIH-led study: Subtle estrogen-like responses in infants point to need for longer-term follow-up of effects
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Infants who consumed soy-based formula as newborns had differences in some reproductive-system cells and tissues, compared to those who used cow-milk formula or were breastfed, according to a new study. The researchers say the differences, measured in the months after birth, were subtle and not a cause for alarm, but reflect a need to further investigate the long-term effects of exposure to estrogen-like compounds found in soy-based formulas.
“Soy formula contains high concentrations of plant-based estrogen-like compounds, and because this formula is the sole food source for many babies in the first six months of life, it’s important to understand the effects of exposure to such compounds during a critical period in development,” said Virginia A. Stallings, MD, director of the Nutrition Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Stallings is a senior author of a new study published online March 1 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The study was funded and led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The first author is Margaret A. Adgent, MSPH, PhD, formerly of NIEHS, now at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Adgent said, “Modern soy formula has been used safely for decades. However, our observational study found subtle effects in estrogen-responsive tissues in soy-fed infants, and we don’t know if these differences are associated with long-term health effects.”
Some mothers who don’t breastfeed have long used soy formula as an alternative to cow-milk formula, often from concerns about milk allergies, lactose intolerance, or other feeding difficulties. However, soy protein contains high amounts of genistein, an estrogen-like compound. Like other estrogen-mimicking chemicals found in the environment, genistein can alter the body’s endocrine system and potentially interfere with normal hormonal development. In laboratory studies genistein causes abnormal reproductive development and function in rodents, but little is known about its effects on infants.
The current study investigated the postnatal development of estrogen-responsive tissues, along with specific hormone levels, according to infant feeding practices. The researchers particularly compared infants fed with soy formula to those fed with cow-milk formula and breastfed infants.
Of 410 infant-mother pairs enrolled, 283 pairs completed the study. Of those, 102 infants exclusively fed on soy formula, 111 on cow-milk formula, and 70 on breast milk. “This was an observational study, not a randomized trial,” said Stallings. “All of the mothers had decided on their feeding preferences before we enrolled them in the study.”
Approximately half of the babies were girls, and 70 percent of the infants were African American. They were born in eight Philadelphia-area hospitals between 2010 and 2013, and enrolled in the Infant Feeding and Early Development (IFED) Study.
All of the infants were evaluated at CHOP, where researchers repeatedly performed measurements up to age 28 weeks in the boys and age 36 weeks in the girls. The study team assessed three sets of outcomes: a maturational index (MI) based on epithelial cells from the children’s urogenital tissue; ultrasound measurements of uterine, ovarian and testicular volume, as well as breast-buds; and hormone concentrations seen in blood tests.
“The main differences we found related to different feeding preferences were among the girls,” said Stallings. Compared to girls fed cow-milk formula, those fed soy formula had developmental trajectories consistent with responses to estrogen exposure. Vaginal cell MI was higher and uterine volume decreased more slowly in soy-fed girls, both of which suggest estrogen-like responses. The study team found similar patterns in differences between soy-fed girls and breastfed girls.
“We don’t know whether the effects we found have long-term consequences for health and development, but the question merits further study,” said Stallings. In addition to replication studies by other researchers, she added that ideally the children in this cohort should be followed later into childhood and adolescence.
She added, “For new and expectant mothers deciding on how to feed their infants, as always, we strongly support breast-feeding, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.” For mothers who prefer giving formula, the AAP does not recommend soy formula for preterm infants, but states that soy formula is indicated for infants with hereditary disorders that make them unable to properly digest milk, such as galactosemia and the rare condition hereditary lactase deficiency. It also recommends soy formula “in situations in which a vegetarian diet is preferred.”