Health Technology Research Synopsis 103rd Issue Date 10APR2011 Compiled By Ralph Turchiano http://www.vit.bz
Editors Top Five:
1. Supreme Court: Drugmakers can’t be sued on overcharge 2. Exercise preserves, builds heart muscle
3. MRSA eliminated by copper in live global broadcast
4. High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment (wormwood)
5. Substance in tangerines fights obesity and protects against heart disease In this Issue:
1. Ambulatory monitoring reveals many patients have ‘white coat’ hypertension
2. ‘Spicing’ up your love life possible, study finds
3. Researchers Find Many Elderly Men Are Undergoing Unnecessary PSA Screenings
4. Household bleach can decontaminate food prep surfaces in ricin bioterrorist attack
5. Safer, more effective skin-whitening creams from ancient Chinese herbal medicine
6. URI scientist discovers 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup
7. Regular breakfast helps reduce lead poisoning in children
8. The Population Bomb: How we survived it
9. Got a craving for fast food? Skip the coffee, study says
10. Antidepressants linked to thicker arteries
11. Study finds routine periodic fasting is good for your health, and your heart
12. Exercise preserves, builds heart muscle
13. Supreme Court: Drugmakers can’t be sued on overcharge
14. Mexican migrants to the US risk ‘clinically significant’ mental-health problems, study finds
15. MRSA eliminated by copper in live global broadcast
16. High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment (wormwood)
17. Soy isoflavones not a risk for breast cancer survivors
18. Opioids now most prescribed class of medications
19. Strawberries may slow precancerous growth in esophagus
20. Fox Chase researchers find that fish oil boosts responses to breast cancer drug tamoxifen
21. Substance in tangerines fights obesity and protects against heart disease
22. Progesterone reduces rate of early preterm birth in at-risk women
23. Blueberries may inhibit development of fat cells 24. Arsenic and toxic metals found in baby foods
Public release date: 28-Mar-2011
Ambulatory monitoring reveals many patients have ‘white coat’ hypertension
A third of patients thought to have resistant hypertension had “white coat” hypertension during 24-hour ambulatory monitoring, in a large study reported in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
In ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, the patient’s blood pressure is checked at regular intervals under normal living and working conditions.
Resistant hypertension occurs when a patient’s blood pressure remains above treatment goals, despite using three different types of drugs at the same time. In “white coat” hypertension, a patient’s blood pressure is high at the doctor’s office but normal in everyday life.
“Ambulatory monitoring showed that many of these patients’ blood pressures were in the normal range when they were at home or participating in their usual activities,” said Alejandro de la Sierra, M.D., lead author of the study and director of internal medicine at Hospital Mutua Terrassa, University of Barcelona in Spain. “While those who actually had ‘white coat’ hypertension are not risk free, their cardiovascular outcomes are much better.”
The study included 69,045 patients with hypertension — defined as systolic blood pressure of 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or above and diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or above — in the Spanish Ambulatory Blood Pressure registry. Fifty-one percent were men and their average age was 64 years.
Thirty-seven percent of 8,295 patients determined to have resistant hypertension had “white coat” hypertension after being tested with ambulatory blood pressure monitoring for 24 hours. Close to 63 percent had true resistant hypertension.
Researchers based blood pressure estimates on two readings. They took ambulatory blood pressure every 20 minutes during the day and night and assessed age, gender, weight, height, body mass index, duration of hypertension and known cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, lipid profile, creatinine levels, electrocardiograms and clinical cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found:
•More women (42 percent) had “white coat” hypertension with ambulatory blood pressure monitoring than
men (34 percent).
•Those with true resistant hypertension appeared slightly younger, were more likely male, had a longer duration of hypertension and a worse cardiovascular risk profile.
•Those with true resistant hypertension included a higher number of smokers, diabetics, and patients with left ventricular hypertrophy and previous cardiovascular disease.
“Those with true resistant hypertension showed high blood pressure at work, during the day and at night,” de la Sierra said. “The true resistant group also was more likely to have blood pressures that abnormally rose during the night when they were sleeping.”
It made no difference in target blood pressure goals if antihypertensive medications were given either in the morning or at night, researchers said.
“Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring should be mandatory in resistant hypertension patients to define true and ‘white coat’ hypertension,” de la Sierra said.
Limitations of the study included its cross-sectional nature and the lack of information to determine whether patients were taking medications correctly. However, the high number of patients more closely matched the usual clinical practice treated by primary care physicians and referral centers.
“Physicians should be encouraged to use ambulatory monitoring to confirm resistant hypertension in their patients as it would ensure the most effect treatment options are used,” de la Sierra said. “Patients benefit by knowing whether their blood pressure is normal during daily activities or still needs the reinforcement of dietary and drug measures to achieve the goal.”
Public release date: 28-Mar-2011
‘Spicing’ up your love life possible, study finds
Looking to spice up your sex life? Try adding ginseng and saffron to your diet. Both are proven performance boosters, according to a new scientific review of natural aphrodisiacs conducted by University of Guelph researchers.
Indulge in wine and chocolate, too, but know that their amorous effects are likely all in your head. Stay away from the more obscure Spanish fly and Bufo toad. While purported to be sexually enhancing, they produced the opposite result and can even be toxic.
Those are among the findings of the study by Massimo Marcone, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Food Science, and master’s student John Melnyk. The results will appear in the journal Food Research International but are available online now.
“Aphrodisiacs have been used for thousands of years all around the world, but the science behind the claims has never been well understood or clearly reported,” Marcone said.
“Ours is the most thorough scientific review to date. Nothing has been done on this level of detail before now.” There is a need for natural products that enhance sex without negative side effects, Melnyk added. Currently, conditions such as erectile dysfunction are treated with synthetic drugs, including sildenafil (commonly sold as Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis).
“But these drugs can produce headache, muscle pain and blurred vision, and can have dangerous interactions with other medications. They also do not increase libido, so it doesn’t help people experiencing low sex drive,” he said.
The researchers examined hundreds of studies on commonly used consumable aphrodisiacs to investigate claims of sexual enhancement — psychological and physiological.
Ultimately, they included only studies meeting the most stringent controls.
The results? They found that panax ginseng, saffron and yohimbine, a natural chemical from yohimbe trees in West Africa, improved human sexual function.
People report increased sexual desire after eating muira puama, a flowering plant found in Brazil; maca root, a mustard plant in the Andes; and chocolate. Despite its purported aphrodisiac effect, chocolate was not linked to sexual arousal or satisfaction, the study said.
“It may be that some people feel an effect from certain ingredients in chocolate, mainly phenylethylamine, which can affect serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain,” Marcone said.
Alcohol was found to increase sexual arousal but to impede sexual performance.
Nutmeg, cloves, garlic, ginger, and ambergris, formed in the intestinal tract of the sperm whale, are among substances linked to increased sexual behaviour in animals.
While their findings support the use of foods and plants for sexual enhancement, the authors urge caution. “Currently, there is not enough evidence to support the widespread use of these substances as effective aphrodisiacs,” Marcone said. “More clinical studies are needed to better understand the effects on humans.”
Public release date: 28-Mar-2011
Researchers Find Many Elderly Men Are Undergoing Unnecessary PSA Screenings
CONTACT: Kelly Powell 571-483-1365
Summary of study being published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology March 28 finding that men in their seventies had prostate cancer screening nearly twice as often as men in their early fifties, who are more likely to benefit from prostate cancer detection and treatment.
A new study on the use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based prostate cancer screening in the United States found that many elderly men may be undergoing unnecessary prostate cancer screenings. Using data from surveys conducted in 2000 and 2005, researchers report that nearly half of men in their seventies underwent PSA screening in the past year – almost double the screening rate of men in their early fifties, who are more likely to benefit from early prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. Further, men aged 85 and older were screened just as often as men in their early fifties.
Because prostate cancer tends to be slow-growing, data show that many men – particularly those in their seventies and older – will die of other causes before prostate cancer becomes a problem that requires medical attention. The new findings underscore a long-standing concern that overuse of PSA screening and PSA-based treatment decisions may lead to unnecessary treatment of many older men and potential complications such as incontinence, impotence and bowel dysfunction.
“Our findings show a high rate of elderly and sometimes ill men being inappropriately screened for prostate cancer. We’re concerned these screenings may prompt cancer treatment among elderly men who ultimately have a very low likelihood of benefitting the patient and paradoxically can cause more harm than good,” said senior author Scott Eggener, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Chicago. “We were also surprised to find that nearly three-quarters of men in their fifties were not screened within the past year. These results emphasize the need for greater physician interaction and conversations about the merits and limitations of prostate cancer screening for men of all ages.”
While large declines in prostate cancer metastases and death rates in the last 20 years coincide with widespread use of PSA-based screening, questions remain about its use. Data have been unclear about when men should be considered for PSA screening and when screening should stop, and recent studies have provided conflicting evidence on whether routine PSA screening in the general population of men actually reduces the risk of dying from prostate cancer. Based on these concerns, major organizations such as the American Cancer Society now encourage men who expect to live at least 10 years to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of screening, starting at age 50 for men with an average risk or at age 45 for men with a higher risk.
In this study, the researchers examined results from health surveys of randomly selected households conducted in 2000 and 2005 as part of the federal government-sponsored National Health Interview Survey. In addition to reviewing survey data, which included information on age, smoking, mass-body index, underlying medical conditions and other factors, the investigators calculated the estimated five-year life expectancy of each man over 40 who had received a PSA test.
They divided survey results of men age 70 and older into five-year age groups (70 to 74, 75 to 79, 80 to 84, and 85 years and older). In all, 2,623 men ages 70 and older were included in the analysis, while nearly 12,000 men between the ages of 40 and 69 served as controls.
The overall PSA screening rate within the past year for men aged 40 and older was 23.7 percent in 2000 and 26.0 percent in 2005. The PSA screening rate was lowest in the 40 to 44 age group (7.5 percent).
Researchers found that the PSA screening rate was 24.0 percent in men ages 50 to 54, increasing with age until a peak of 45.5 percent in ages 70 to 74. Screening rates then declined with age, with 24.6 percent of men 85 or older reporting being screened.
Among men who were 70 or older, the investigators did find that PSA screening was more common in men with a greater estimated five-year life expectancy. For example, approximately 47.3 percent of men who were unlikely to die in five years (an estimated chance of 15 percent or less) were screened, 39.2 percent of men with an intermediate chance (16 to 48 percent probability) of dying received screening, and 30.7 percent of those with the highest probability of death (48 percent or greater) in five years were screened.
Eggener offered some possible explanations for the results, noting that screening rates may reflect how frequently men visit primary care physicians. Older men tend to have more health problems that require doctor visits, and this may in turn result in more frequent PSA testing than younger men, who see their doctors less. The authors suggest that physicians should be more selective in recommending PSA testing for older men, particularly those with a limited life expectancy, and consider more routinely screening younger, healthier men who are most likely to benefit from early prostate cancer diagnosis and related treatment. Men are encouraged to talk with their doctor about their individual risk for prostate cancer, and about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening.
Public release date: 29-Mar-2011
Household bleach can decontaminate food prep surfaces in ricin bioterrorist attack
ANAHEIM, March 29, 2011 — Help for a bioterrorist attack involving ricin, one of the most likely toxic agents, may be as close at hand as the laundry shelf, according to a report presented here today at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). It concluded that ordinary household bleach appears to be an effective, low-cost, and widely available way to decontaminate food preparation surfaces in homes, restaurants, and processing plants that are tainted with ricin.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans, which are grown and processed throughout the world to produce castor oil. Although no longer widely used as a laxative, castor oil remains a key raw material in the manufacture of soaps, paints, dyes, inks, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, and other products.
Ricin occurs in the waste “mash” left behind after production of castor oil. Because it is so easy to obtain and so toxic, with no antidote, experts regard ricin as one of the most likely bioterror agents.
“This discovery is important because it provides a practical, readily available way to inactivate ricin on food processing equipment in the event of an intentional contamination event,” said Lauren Jackson, Ph.D., who reported on the research. “It is the first study to explore ricin decontamination in the presence of food, and it shows that household bleach is effective.”
Jackson and colleagues prepared solutions of bleach and two other substances routinely used at food processing plants to disinfect counters, machinery and other surfaces that may contain harmful bacteria or viruses. The other disinfectants were peroxyacetic acid (PAA) and so-called quaternary ammonium compounds. In one set of experiments, they tested the substances on discs of stainless steel smeared with milk-based infant formula, pancake mix, peanut butter and other foods that contained ricin. They also tested the three disinfectants on a “control” solution containing ricin, but without any food, to make sure it was the disinfectants that inactivated ricin and not something present in the foods.
Household bleach turned out to be the most effective anti-ricin agent. Bleach significantly reduced the toxicity of ricin within five minutes, noted Jackson, a research food technologist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Summit-Argo, Ill. Bleach completely eliminated ricin in the “control” samples using just a small amount of bleach. PAA also showed effectiveness, but less so than bleach.
Public release date: 29-Mar-2011
Safer, more effective skin-whitening creams from ancient Chinese herbal medicine
ANAHEIM, March 29, 2011 — Scientists today reported discovery of the active ingredients in an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for skin whitening, changing skin color to a lighter shade. The ingredients are poised for clinical trials as a safer, more effective alternative to skin whitening creams and lotions that millions of women and some men use in Asia and elsewhere, they said. The report was among more than 9,500 presentations this week at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
The finding, which caps an intense search for these natural skin lightening substances, could be a boon to women in Asian countries, said study leader Hui-Min Wang, Ph.D. He explained that skin whitening products are all the rage there, but too-often accompanied by itching, redness, inflammation, and other side effects.
“Toxic skin whitening creams are a growing threat to women’s health, especially in Asia,” Wang said. “We hope that our product will improve lives and provide a safer, more natural way to lighten skin. A cream based on these herbal ingredients could be available on store shelves in as little as a year.”
Skin-whitening is big business in countries like China, Japan, Korea, and India, where many women view whiter skin as a symbol of beauty, good health, and high social status. One study estimates that half the women in Asian countries use skin lightening creams, spending the equivalent of several billion dollars annually. People also use such products to fade unsightly age spots, freckles, and scars that have collected pigment.
Dozens of skin whitening creams, lotions, and other products are on sale throughout Asia. Some products contain toxic mercury, hydroquinone, and other potentially toxic substances that can cause redness, itching, inflammation and other skin problems. Some whitening ingredients could increase the risk of skin cancer when used frequently and at high doses, Wang said, citing the need for safer, more effective alternatives.
Wang and colleagues say that they have found a promising alternative in the form of an herbal “cure-all” used in traditional Chinese medicine in the form of soup or tea. The evergreen bush, Cinnamomum subavenium, is a close relative of the trees whose inner bark is the source of cinnamon. The scientists isolated two chemicals from the plant that have the ability to block tyrosinase, an enzyme that controls the synthesis of melanin, a dark pigment responsible for coloring skin, hair, and eyes. Inhibiting tyrosinase is one of the major strategies for skin-whitening, Wang said.
They tested these so-called “melanogenesis inhibitors” on the embryos of zebrafish, which are widely used as stand-ins for people and other animals in biomedical research. The embryos contain a highly visible band of black pigment. Exposure to low levels of the two chemicals reduced melanin production in the fish embryos by almost 50 percent within just four days, turning the embryos snowy white, the scientists said.
“When we saw the results, we were amazed,” said Wang, who is with Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan. “My first thought was, well, ‘If these herbal whiteners can transform zebrafish embryos from black to white, maybe they can also lighten women’s skin.'”
He estimated that the chemicals are 100 times more effective in reducing melanin pigmentation than the common skin whitening agents kojic acid and arbutin, which have been used in cosmetics for more than 30 years. The substances did not appear to be toxic when tested in low doses on both cultured human skin cells and zebrafish embryos, Wang noted.
Wang is looking forward to clinical trials of a new beauty product based on the ingredients. Just a one percent solution of the chemicals could achieve dramatic skin whitening, Wang said, adding that several cosmetic companies are working with his group. Wang and his colleagues have applied for patents in the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan.
Public release date: 30-Mar-2011
URI scientist discovers 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup
5 have never been seen in nature before
KINGSTON, R.I. – March 30, 2011 – University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram has discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup and confirmed that 20 compounds
discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.
Today at the 241st American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. the URI assistant pharmacy professor is telling scientists from around the world that his URI team has now isolated and identified 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup from Quebec, five of which have never been seen in nature.
“I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it,” Seeram said. “It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.”
These discoveries of new molecules from nature can also provide chemists with leads that could prompt synthesis of medications that could be used to fight fatal diseases, Seeram said.
“We know that the compounds are anti-inflammatory agents and that inflammation has been implicated in several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” Seeram said.
As part of his diabetes research, Seeram has collaborated with Chong Lee, professor of nutrition and food sciences in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. The scientists have found that maple syrup phenolics, the beneficial anti-oxidant compounds, inhibit two carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to Type 2 diabetes management.
The irony of finding a potential anti-diabetes compound in a sweetener is not lost on Seeram. “Not all sweeteners are created equal,” he said.
Among the five new compounds is Quebecol, a compound created when a farmer boils off the water in maple sap to get maple syrup. It takes 40 liters (20.5 gallons) of sap to make 1 liter (2 pints) of syrup.
“Quebecol has a unique chemical structure or skeleton never before identified in nature,” Seeram said. “I believe the process of concentrating the maple sap into maple syrup is what creates Quebecol. There is beneficial and interesting chemistry going on when the boiling process occurs. I believe the heat forms this unique compound.”
Seeram said he and his team chose the common name of Quebecol for the new compound to honor the province of Quebec in Canada, which leads the worldwide production of maple syrup. Seeram’s research was supported by the
Conseil pour le developpement de l’agriculture du Quebec (CDAQ) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) on behalf of the Canadian maple syrup industry.
“Producers, transformers and partners of the Canadian maple industry believe that investing in maple syrup knowledge and innovation will bring the products to another level in a few years,” said Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers and member of the Canadian Maple Industry Advisory Committee.
“Quebec Maple Syrup Producers are especially proud to be leading this long-term innovative strategy on behalf of the Canadian industry and with the talented scientists of the Canadian Maple Innovation Network.”
Genevieve Beland, marketing director of the Federation added, “Maple products’ composition is unique and we are at the starting point of a new era. Ten years from now consumers will appreciate 100 percent
pure maple products because they are delicious, natural and have a number of healthy compounds.”
“As we continued our research in the past year, we were astonished when the number of beneficial compounds that we isolated is now more than double the original amount,” said Seeram, who is releasing his findings today.
Seeram is the organizer of the daylong symposium on “Bioactives in Natural Sweeteners,” and is joined by scientists from Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States to discuss natural sweeteners. Seeram’s collaborations with Angela Slitt, assistant professor of biomedical sciences in URI’s College of Pharmacy and Professor Lee, will also be presented during the meeting.
Seeram’s findings will be detailed in his article recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Functional Foods. The title of the paper is “Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup.” In addition, Seeram and Lee’s work on diabetes and maple syrup will also be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Functional Foods.
“I can guarantee you that few, if any, other natural sweeteners have this anti-oxidant cocktail of beneficial compounds; it has some of the beneficial compounds that are found in berries, some that are found in tea and some that are found in flaxseed. People may not realize it, but while we have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our food chain, maple syrup is the single largest consumed food product that is entirely obtained from the sap of trees,” Seeram said.
Reiterating a statement he made last year, Seeram said no one is suggesting that people consume large quantities of maple syrup, but that if they are going to use a sweetener on their pancakes, they should choose pure maple syrup and not the commercial products with high fructose corn syrup.
“Pure maple syrup is not only delicious, it is so much better for you,” Seeram said.
Public release date: 31-Mar-2011
Regular breakfast helps reduce lead poisoning in children
It is known that fasting increases lead absorption in adults and consequently regular meals and snacks are recommended for children to prevent lead poisoning. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Environmental Health demonstrates that having a regular breakfast is associated with lower blood lead levels in children.
Data from the China Jintan Child Cohort Study compared blood lead levels to social factors, eating patterns and intake of micronutrients. While there were no differences in breakfast patterns for age or gender of the child there were differences in blood lead levels. The risk of lead poisoning in boys was almost twice that of girls, and four and five year olds had twice the risk of lead poisoning than three year olds. Nevertheless, when variables, such as age and the gender of the child were taken into account, children who ate a regular breakfast had 15% lower blood lead levels than those who skipped breakfast.
Breakfast habits were determined by family tendencies with both the parents and grandparents of children who ate breakfast tending to be professionals or more educated. Dr Jianghong Liu said, “Parental or caregivers’ characteristics, including education and occupation, are major determinants of breakfast frequency. Consequently improving parent’s knowledge about the links between nutrition and blood lead might help to prevent lead poisoning in these children.”
The Population Bomb: How we survived it
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—World population will reach 7 billion this year, prompting new concerns about whether the world will soon face a major population crisis.
“In spite of 50 years of the fastest population growth on record, the world did remarkably well in producing enough food and reducing poverty,” said University of Michigan economist David Lam, in his presidential address at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America.
Lam is a professor of economics and a research professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The talk is titled “How the World Survived the Population Bomb: Lessons from 50 Years of Exceptional Demographic History.”
In 1968, when Paul Ehrlich’s book, “The Population Bomb,” triggered alarm about the impact of a rapidly growing world population, growth rates were about 2 percent and world population doubled in the 39 years between 1960 and 1999.
According to Lam, that is something that never happened before and will never happen again.
“There is virtually no question that world population growth rates will continue to decline,” said Lam. “The rate is only as high as it is because of population momentum, with many women of childbearing ages in developing countries because of rapid population growth in earlier decades.”
Lam discussed a variety of factors that have worked together to reduce the impact of population increases. Among the economic forces, he cited the green revolution, started by Nobel prize-winner Norman Borlaug, that increased per capita world food production by 41 percent between 1960 and 2009.
“We’ve been through periods of absolutely unprecedented growth rates, and yet food production increased even faster than population and poverty rates fell substantially,” he said.
The capacity of cities to absorb the growth in world population is another major reason that the world was able to double its population in the last 40 years without triggering mass starvation or increased poverty, Lam told the group. Along with urbanization, Lam pointed to the impact of continued declines in fertility and rising investments in the education and well-being of children.
Work Lam did in Brazil with ISR social demographer Leticia Marteleto shows a mean increase of 4.3 years of schooling among 16-17-year-olds from 1960 to 2000.
“This increase clearly involves more than just reductions in family size,” Lam said. “For example, children with 10 siblings in 2000 have more schooling than children with one sibling in 1960.
“There is no Norman Borlaug of education to explain how schooling improved so much in developing countries during a period in which the school-age population was often growing at 3 percent or 4 percent a year. This is one of the accomplishments of the last 50 years that deserves to be noted and marveled about.”
In conclusion, Lam told the group, “The challenges we face are staggering. But they’re really nothing compared to the challenges we faced in the 1960s.”
Got a craving for fast food? Skip the coffee, study says
Eating a fatty fast food meal is never good for you, but washing that meal down with a coffee is even worse, according to a new University of Guelph study.
Researcher Marie-Soleil Beaudoin has discovered not only that a healthy person’s blood sugar levels spike after eating a high-fat meal, but that the spike doubles after having both a fatty meal and caffeinated coffee – jumping to levels similar to those of people at risk for diabetes.
“The results tell us that saturated fat interferes with the body’s ability to clear sugars from the blood and, when combined with caffeinated coffee, the impact can be even worse,” said Beaudoin, a PhD student who conducted the study with U of G professors Lindsay Robinson and Terry Graham. “Having sugar remain in our blood for long periods is unhealthy because it can take a toll on our body’s organs.”
Published today in the Journal of Nutrition¸ the study is the first to examine the effects of saturated fat and caffeinated coffee on blood sugar levels using a novel fat cocktail which contains only lipids. This specially designed beverage allows researchers to accurately mimic what happens to the body when we ingest fat.
For the study, healthy men drank about one gram of the fat beverage for every kilogram of body weight for their first meal. Six hours later, they were given a second meal consisting of a sugar drink.
Typically when we ingest sugar, the body produces insulin, which takes the sugar out of the blood and distributes it to our muscles, said Beaudoin.
But the researchers found that the fatty meal affected the body’s ability to clear the sugar out of the blood. The subjects’ blood sugar levels were 32 per cent higher than they were when the men had not ingested the fat cocktail.
The researchers also tested the impact of caffeinated coffee combined with the fatty meal. For this test, participants received the equivalent of two cups of caffeinated coffee five hours after ingesting the fat beverage. An hour later, they were then given the sugar drink.
The results showed blood sugar levels increased by 65 per cent compared to what they were when participants had not ingested the fat and caffeinated coffee.
“This shows that the effects of a high-fat meal can last for hours,” said Beaudoin. “What you eat for lunch can impact how your body responds to food later in the day.”
Besides testing the participant’s blood sugar levels, the researchers looked at gastro-intestinal effects by measuring incretin hormones released by the gut after ingesting the fat. These hormones signal the pancreas to release insulin to help clear the blood of sugar. The researchers discovered these hormones’ responses to carbohydrates are blunted after ingesting the fat beverage.
“Ultimately we have found that fat and caffeinated coffee are impairing the communication between the gut and the pancreas, which could be playing a role in why participants couldn’t clear the sugar from their blood as easily,” said Beaudoin.
The results of the study are particularly important for people at risk for metabolic diseases and Type 2 diabetes, she adds.
“We have known for many years that people with or at risk of Type 2 diabetes should limit their caffeine intake. Drinking decaffeinated coffee instead of caffeinated is one way to improve one’s glucose tolerance. Limiting the intake of saturated fatty acids found in red meat, processed foods and fast food meals is also beneficial. This study has shown that the affects of these foods can be severe and long lasting.”
Public release date: 2-Apr-2011
Antidepressants linked to thicker arteries
Antidepressant use has been linked to thicker arteries, possibly contributing to the risk of heart disease and stroke, in a study of twin veterans. The data is being presented Tuesday, April 5 at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.
Depression can heighten the risk for heart disease, but the effect of antidepressant use revealed by the study is separate and independent from depression itself, says first author Amit Shah, MD, a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine. The data suggest that antidepressants may combine with depression for a negative effect on blood vessels, he says. Shah is a researcher working with Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.
The study included 513 middle-aged male twins who both served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Twins are genetically the same but may be different when it comes to other risk factors such as diet, smoking and exercise, so studying them is a good way to distill out the effects of genetics, Shah says.
Researchers measured carotid intima-media thickness – the thickness of the lining of the main arteries in the neck — by ultrasound. Among the 59 pairs of twins where only one brother took antidepressants, the one taking the drugs tended to have higher carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), even when standard heart disease risk factors were taken into account. The effect was seen both in twins with or without a previous heart attack or stroke. A higher level of depressive symptoms was associated with higher IMT only in those taking antidepressants.
“One of the strongest and best-studied factors that thickens someone’s arteries is age, and that happens at around 10 microns per year,” Shah says. “In our study, users of antidepressants see an average 40 micron increase in IMT, so their carotid arteries are in effect four years older.”
Antidepressants’ effects on blood vessels may come from changes in serotonin, a chemical that helps some brain cells communicate but also functions outside the brain, Shah says. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), which increase the level of serotonin in the brain. Other types of antidepressants also affect serotonin levels, and antidepressants can act on other multi-functional brain chemicals such as norepinephrine.
In the study, researchers saw higher carotid IMT in both participants who used SSRIs (60 percent of those who took antidepressants) and those who used other types of antidepressants.
Most of the serotonin in the body is found outside the brain, especially in the intestines, Shah notes. In addition, serotonin is stored by platelets, the cells that promote blood clotting, and is released when they bind to a clot. However, serotonin’s effects on blood vessels are complex and act in multiple ways. It can either constrict or relax blood vessels, depending on whether the vessels are damaged or not.
“I think we have to keep an open mind about the effects of antidepressants on neurochemicals like serotonin in places outside the brain, such as the vasculature. The body often compensates over time for drugs’ immediate effects,” Shah says. “Antidepressants have a clinical benefit that has been established, so nobody taking these medications should stop based only on these results. This isn’t the kind of study where
we can know cause and effect, let alone mechanism, and we need to see whether this holds up in other population groups.”
Public release date: 3-Apr-2011
Study finds routine periodic fasting is good for your health, and your heart
Fasting found to reduce cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels Murray, UT (4/03/11) – Fasting has long been associated with religious rituals, diets, and political
protests. Now new evidence from cardiac researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute
demonstrates that routine periodic fasting is also good for your health, and your heart.
Today, research cardiologists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute are reporting that fasting not only lowers one’s risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person’s blood cholesterol levels. Both diabetes and elevated cholesterol are known risk factors for coronary heart disease.
The discovery expands upon a 2007 Intermountain Healthcare study that revealed an association between fasting and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in America. In the new research, fasting was also found to reduce other cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels.
The findings were presented Sunday, April 3, at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.
“These new findings demonstrate that our original discovery was not a chance event,” says Dr. Benjamin
D. Horne, PhD, MPH, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, and the study’s principal investigator. “The confirmation among a new set of patients that fasting is associated with lower risk of these common diseases raises new questions about how fasting itself reduces risk or if it simply indicates a healthy lifestyle.”
Unlike the earlier research by the team, this new research recorded reactions in the body’s biological mechanisms during the fasting period. The participants’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C, the “bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, the “good” cholesterol) both increased (by 14 percent and 6 percent, respectively) raising their total cholesterol – and catching the researchers by surprise.
“Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body,” says Dr. Horne. “This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes.”
This recent study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men.
In this most recent trial, researchers conducted two fasting studies of over 200 individuals — both patients and healthy volunteers — who were recruited at Intermountain Medical Center. A second 2011 clinical trial followed another 30 patients who drank only water and ate nothing else for 24 hours. They were also
monitored while eating a normal diet during an additional 24-hour period. Blood tests and physical measurements were taken from all to evaluate cardiac risk factors, markers of metabolic risk, and other general health parameters.
While the results were surprising to researchers, it’s not time to start a fasting diet just yet. It will take more studies like these to fully determine the body’s reaction to fasting and its effect on human health. Dr. Horne believes that fasting could one day be prescribed as a treatment for preventing diabetes and coronary heart disease.
To help achieve the goal of expanded research, the Deseret Foundation (which funded the previous fasting studies) recently approved a new grant to evaluate many more metabolic factors in the blood using stored samples from the recent fasting clinical trial. The researchers will also include an additional clinical trial of fasting among patients who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease.
“We are very grateful for the financial support from the Deseret Foundation. The organization and its donors have made these groundbreaking studies of fasting possible,” added Dr. Horne
Public release date: 3-Apr-2011
Exercise preserves, builds heart muscle
By Ransdell Pierson Ransdell Pierson
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Consistent lifelong exercise preserves heart muscle in the elderly to levels that match or even exceed that of healthy young sedentary people, a surprising finding that underscores the value of regular exercise training, according to a new study.
The first study to evaluate the effects of varying levels of lifelong exercise on heart mass was presented on Saturday at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.
It suggested that physical activity preserves the heart’s youthful elasticity, showing that when people were sedentary, the mass of their hearts shrunk with each passing decade.
By contrast, elderly people with a documented history of exercising six to seven times a week throughout adulthood not only kept their heart mass, but built upon it — having heart masses greater than sedentary healthy adults aged 25 to 34.
“One thing that characterizes the aging process by itself is the loss of muscle mass, particularly skeletal muscle,” said Dr. Paul Bhella, a researcher from John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas who presented the study at the conference.
“But we are showing that this process is not unique to skeletal muscle, it also happens in cardiac muscle,” he said. “A heart muscle that atrophies is weaker.”
The study enrolled 121 healthy people with no history of heart disease. Fifty nine were sedentary subjects recruited from the Dallas Heart Study, a large multiethnic sample of Dallas County residents.
Some 62 lifelong exercisers, all over age 65, were recruited mainly from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which had documented their exercise habits over a period of 25 years.
In the new study, exercise was assessed by the number of aerobic exercise sessions per week, rather than intensity or duration. Subjects were broken down into four groups: non-exercisers; casual exercisers (two
to three times a week); committed exercisers (four to five times a week) and master athletes (six to seven times a week).
Heart mass measurements, taken using MRIs, showed that sedentary subjects had diminished heart mass as they aged, while lifelong exercisers had heart mass expansion with increasing frequency of exercise.
“The data suggest that if we can identify people in middle age, in the 45 to 60 year range, and get them to exercise four to five times a week, this may go a very long way in preventing some of the major heart conditions of old age, including heart failure,” said Benjamin Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who headed the study.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot; Editing by Paul Simao)
Public release date: 3-Apr-2011
Supreme Court: Drugmakers can’t be sued on overcharge
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a group of large pharmaceutical companies cannot be sued by a California county for allegedly overcharging for prescription drugs in violation of federal law.
By an 8-0 vote, the justices overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling that the county with its medical facilities could sue because it was a direct beneficiary of the pricing agreements between the federal government and the companies.
Santa Clara County, which operates a number of hospitals or health clinics that receive federal funds, filed the lawsuit in 2005 for alleged overcharges dating back to 2001.
The county claimed the drug manufacturers violated a 1992 federal law that requires them to give the same discounts to federally funded medical facilities under the Medicaid program as those under standard pricing agreements between the federal government and the companies.
A federal judge initially dismissed the lawsuit and ruled only the federal government, which signed the Medicaid agreements with the companies, had the right to enforce it.
The appeals court disagreed, reinstated the lawsuit, and ruled the county can seek reimbursement of excess payments.
“Recognizing the county’s right to proceed in court could spawn a multitude of dispersed and uncoordinated lawsuits” by outside parties, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the unanimous opinion.
The court also noted that if the suits were allowed to proceed, secret pricing information could be revealed in violation of the law governing the Medicaid program.
“This ban on disclosure is a further indication of the incompatibility of private suits with the statute Congress enacted,” the opinion said.
The companies in their appeal told the Supreme Court that the appeals court ruling threatened to disrupt the $30 billion Medicaid program for outpatient prescription drugs.
Among the companies appealing were Pfizer, Merck & Co Inc, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol- Myers Squibb and Bayer.
The Obama administration supported the companies.
Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case. She previously served as U.S. solicitor general. The Supreme Court case is Astra USA v. Santa Clara County, No. 09-1273.
(Reporting by James Vicini, editing by Matthew Lewis)
Public release date: 4-Apr-2011
Mexican migrants to the US risk ‘clinically significant’ mental-health problems, study finds
Mexican migrants to the U.S. risk “clinically significant” mental-health problems, study finds
Mexicans who migrate to the United States are far more likely to experience significant depression and anxiety than individuals who do not immigrate, a new study published today in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Archives journal, has found.
The study, “Migration from Mexico to the U.S. and subsequent risk for depressive and anxiety disorders: A cross-national study,” was conducted collaboratively by researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the National Institute of Psychiatry, Mexico. It is the first to suggest that migrating to the U.S. places one at risk of “clinically significant” mental-health problems.
Among migrants, those between 18 and 25 have the greatest risk of experiencing a depressive disorder — nearly four-and-one-half times greater than their same-age Mexican peers who do not immigrate.
“We had a unique opportunity to examine the effect of migration by comparing migrants with people in their country of origin who did not migrate,” said lead study author Joshua Breslau, an associate professor of internal medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine and a researcher with the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities. “The results suggest that after migrating from Mexico to the U.S., migrants are more likely to develop significant mental-health problems than individuals who remained in Mexico.”
“From the Mexican side, this study is very important, because most of what we know about what is happening to the population when they are in the United States is based on studies carried out in the U.S. only,” said Guilherme Borges, senior researcher with the National Institute of Psychiatry, Mexico, and professor of psychiatry at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “Now, for the first time, we have data that compares the situation in the U.S. and in Mexico.”
There are approximately 12 million people born in Mexico who are living in the United States, constituting approximately 30 percent of the foreign-born U.S. population and nearly 25 percent of the total U.S. Hispanic population of close to 50 million.
The study compared the risks among adult migrants and nonmigrants of experiencing a first-onset depressive or anxiety disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV of the American Psychiatric Association. Depression includes major depressive episode, chronic depression and dysthymia (less severe chronic depression). Anxiety conditions studied include generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The study analyzed data from interviews with approximately 550 male and female Mexican-born migrants
and approximately 2,500 non-migrant Mexicans. It controlled for differences between migrants and nonmigrants for factors that might affect their risk for mood and anxiety disorders, including differences in socioeconomic status.
Risk of depression or anxiety was assessed through the use of an epidemiological survey tool that was administered in respondents’ homes by trained non-clinician interviewers using laptop computers. Study participants in the United States could respond to survey questions either in English or in Spanish.
One of the study’s strengths was that it compared migrants with same-aged nonmigrant family members still living in Mexico. It found that during the period following arrival in the United States, Mexican migrants were nearly twice as likely (odds ratio of 1.8) to experience a first-onset depressive or anxiety disorder as their nonmigrant peers. However, the elevated risk among migrants occurred almost entirely in the two youngest migrant groups, those between 18 and 25 years old and those between 26 and 35 at the time of the study.
The greatest risk was experienced by the youngest migrants, who were 18-to-25 years old at the time of the study. Their odds of suffering from any depressive disorder relative to non-migrants was 4.4 — or nearly four-and-one-half times greater — compared with 1.2 in the entire sample. In this age group, the odds of experiencing an anxiety disorder among migrants relative to non-migrants was 3.4 — or more nearly three-and-one-half times greater — compared with odds of 1.8 for the entire sample. The study found that the difference between the risk of experiencing anxiety or depression for migrants versus nonmigrants was not statistically significant for those over 36.
Earlier studies have found that among Mexican-Americans, as among U.S. Hispanics more broadly, greater acculturation — adoption of American patterns of behavior — is associated with worse mental- health status, including higher rates of both psychiatric and substance-use disorders. In addition, among Mexican-born immigrants in the U.S., those who have been in the U.S. for longer periods of time have worse mental health than those who have arrived more recently.
“This study confirms our earlier research that suggests that the longer immigrants remain in their country of origin, the lower the likelihood that they will develop anxiety and mood disorders,” said senior study author Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, professor of clinical internal medicine, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities and an author of the earlier studies. “Conversely, there is evidence that the younger the Mexican migrants are when they arrive in the U.S., the greater their propensity to develop these disorders.”
“We tend to be very disease-specific when we address migrant health, focusing on HIV or tuberculosis, for example. But this is an enormous global population whose broadly based health-care needs have largely been overlooked,” said Marc Schenker, UC Davis professor of public health sciences and director of the Migration and Health Research Center.
“And within the range of health conditions, mental-health in particular has not been addressed. Migrants experience a wide range of mental-problems that are exacerbated by the enormous stresses of political and economic disenfranchisement and victimization. Only a bi-national or multinational approach will be effective in improving this picture,” Schenker said.
Borges agreed, describing U.S.-Mexican migrants as a unique “floating population” that travels between the two countries frequently.
“This study is important because it shows that the stresses that result from the Mexican-U.S. migration process have to be addressed by efforts from both countries. If you want to target this population successfully, you need to design programs that have an impact on both sides of the border.”
Public release date: 4-Apr-2011
MRSA eliminated by copper in live global broadcast
A live broadcast from the University of Southampton today (4 April 2011) highlighted the effectiveness of antimicrobial copper in preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms, such as MRSA, in hospitals.
Tying in with the theme of this week’s World Health Day – ‘Antimicrobial resistance and its global spread’
– a live experiment from a laboratory at the University of Southampton used state-of-the-art fluorescent microscopy to show copper eradicating an exceptionally high challenge of MRSA bacteria – one of the notorious antibiotic-resistant superbugs – within minutes.
Microbiologists and clinicians worldwide witnessed tens of thousands of MRSA bacteria perishing rapidly on copper, yet surviving on stainless steel: a material used commonly in hospitals, yet lacking any antimicrobial efficacy. Professor Bill Keevil, Director of Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton and leader of the experiment, explained the significance of the result: “Bacteria such as MRSA can survive on ordinary surfaces like door handles, taps and grab rails for days, even months, and be transferred on hands, spreading bacteria to other surfaces or to patients.
“As more resistant bacteria emerge, we’re running out of drugs to treat the infections they cause, so we need to do everything practicable to prevent their spread. Copper is a powerful antimicrobial, which quickly and continuously reduces the number of bacteria on its surface. We’ve demonstrated it here, in the lab, and it’s also been shown to be effective in busy clinical environments as part of a set of infection control procedures.
“Changing common touch surfaces in hospitals to copper can help break the chain of infection, leading to a more hygienic environment, which must have a positive impact on the well-being of patients, even in the face of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Approximately seven million people worldwide acquire a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) each year, and of the four million in Europe, around 37,000 die. In addition to the immeasurable personal toll, they cost over $80 billion globally, according to the World Health Organisation.
Public release date: 4-Apr-2011
High dose of oxygen enhances natural cancer treatment
By Hannah Hickey
A technique Michael Jackson reportedly used to prolong his youth is showing promise as a way to boost the effectiveness of a natural cancer remedy.
An environment of pure oxygen at three-and-a-half times normal air pressure adds significantly to the effectiveness of a natural compound already shown to kill cancerous cells, researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University recently reported in the journal Anticancer Research.
Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
Annual wormwood, Artemisia annua L., yields the important antimalarial drug artemisinin. Researchers at UW and WSU are exploring its ability to treat cancer.
The compound artemisinin – isolated from Artemisia annua L, commonly known as wormwood – is a natural remedy widely used to treat malaria. In the mid-1990s UW researchers were the first to explore its ability to treat cancer.
In the new study, using artemisinin or high-pressure oxygen alone on a culture of human leukemia cells reduced the cancer cells’ growth by 15 percent. Using them in combination reduced the cells’ growth by 38 percent, a 50 percent increase in artemisinin’s effectiveness.
“If you combine high-pressure oxygen with artemisinin you can get a much better curing effect,” said author Henry Lai, a UW research professor of bioengineering. “We only measured up to 48 hours. Over longer time periods we expect the synergistic effects to be even more dramatic.”
The history of artemisinin brings to mind an Indiana Jones story. In the early 1970s, Lai says, Chinese leader Mao Zedong issued an order to develop an anti-malarial treatment. At the same time, a farmer in central China discovered a 2,000-year-old tomb that contained three coffins. One coffin contained a silk scroll describing various prescriptions, including artemisinin to treat malaria. The Chinese followed the directions and thus rediscovered an ancient remedy.
Today, artemisinin is widely used in Asia and Africa for malaria treatment.
In the decades since, scientists have discovered artemisinin reacts with iron within a cell to form a free radical, a highly reactive charged particle that destroys the cell. Because the malaria parasite is high in iron, artemisinin targets malaria-infected cells.
Since rapidly dividing cancer cells also need iron to form new DNA, Lai theorized they would also make targets for artemisinin. Subsequent research showed this to be the case.
Lai and colleagues at the UW developed a variant several thousand times more potent than natural artemisinin, which was licensed in 2004 to a Chinese company.
“Artemisinin is a promising low-cost cancer treatment because it’s specific, it’s cheap and you don’t have to inject it,” Lai said. “It’s 100 times more specific than traditional chemotherapy,” he added. “In breast cancer, it’s even better.”
Lai says he’s long hypothesized that high oxygen levels would enhance artemisinin’s effects, because oxygen promotes the formation of free radicals. In 2010, he put the theory to the test in a hyperbaric chamber that co-author Raymond Quock, WSU professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences, has been using to study highly pressurized oxygen’s ability to relieve pain.
In clinical practice, the artemisinin-hyperbaric study could lead to people or animals spending time in a hyperbaric chamber to enhance the artemisinin’s effectiveness.
Other co-authors are Yusuke Ohgami, Catherine Elstad and Eunhee Chung of WSU and Donald Shirachi of the Chico Hyperbaric Center. The research was funded by the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and the Chico Hyperbaric Center.
In related artemisinin work, funded through a $1.5 million grant from the state’s Life Sciences Discovery
Fund to a team led by UW chemistry professor Tomikazu Sasaki:
Public release date: 5-Apr-2011
Soy isoflavones not a risk for breast cancer survivors
ORLANDO, Fla. — Soy food consumption did not increase the risk of cancer recurrence or death among survivors of breast cancer, according to the results of a study presented at the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, held April 2-6.
Researchers investigated the association between soy food intake and breast cancer outcomes among survivors, using data from a multi-institution collaborative study, the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project.
“There has been widespread concern about the safety of soy food for women with breast cancer,” said lead researcher Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Soy foods contain large amounts of isoflavones that are known to bind to estrogen receptors and have both estrogen-like and anti-estrogenic effects. There are concerns that isoflavones may increase the risk of cancer recurrence among breast cancer patients because they have low estrogen levels due to cancer treatment. We’re particularly concerned that isoflavones may compromise the effect of tamoxifen on breast cancer treatment because both tamoxifen and isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors.”
This research was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which combines the resources of four National Cancer Institute-funded studies: the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study; the Life After Cancer Epidemiology Study; the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study; and the Nurses’ Health Study. Together these cohorts included 18,312 women between the ages of 20 and 83 years who had invasive primary breast cancer.
Soy isoflavones intake was assessed for 16,048 of these women on average of 13 months after breast cancer diagnosis using food frequency questionnaires for a group of soy isoflavones in three cohorts and on tofu and soy milk consumption in one cohort. Breast cancer outcomes were assessed, on average, nine years after cancer diagnosis.
Outcomes among the survivors who consumed the highest amounts of soy isoflavones (more than 23 mg per day) were compared with the outcomes of those whose intake was lowest (0.48 mg per day or lower). The average daily soy isoflavone intake among U.S. women was 3.2 mg; however, in the Shanghai group the amount was significantly higher at 45.9 mg.
Women in the highest intake category of more than 23 mg per day had a 9 percent reduced risk of mortality and a 15 percent reduced risk for recurrence, compared to those who had the lowest intake level. However, these results did not reach what the scientists call statistical significance, suggesting the finding could be chance. Ralph’s Note (HUH?)
“Our results indicate it may be beneficial for women to include soy food as part of a healthy diet, even if they have had breast cancer,” said Shu. “This can’t be directly generalized to soy supplements, however, as supplements may differ from soy foods in both the type and amount of isoflavones.”
Further analysis of the data from this study, elucidating the interaction of soy isoflavones and tamoxifen, will be presented at the AACR Annual Meeting.
Public release date: 5-Apr-2011
Opioids now most prescribed class of medications
JAMA studies identify shift in prescribing patterns and recommend interventions to protect vulnerable populations
PHILADELPHIA – Two reports by addiction researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse show a drastic shift in prescribing patterns impacting the magnitude of opioid substance abuse in America. The reports, published in JAMA, recommend a comprehensive effort to reduce public health risks while improving patient care, including better training for prescribers, pain management treatment assessment, personal responsibility and public education.
The JAMA Research Report shows that there has been a drastic increase in opioid prescriptions while prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have gone down. Prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone account for 84.9 percent of opioid prescriptions. Over ten years, there has been a fivefold increase in admissions to substance abuse programs for opioid addiction.
While effective at reducing pain symptoms, opioid medications such as hydrocodone and oxycodone are associated with high rates of abuse, particularly among young adults. One in four 18-25 year olds will abuse prescription pain killers in their lifetime.
Researchers suggest targeting the relatively high rate of prescriptions to adolescents and young adults, who received 11.7 percent of the 202 million opioid prescriptions in the United States during 2009. A large share of the prescriptions to young adults was from dentists, and researchers believe there is a need for medical professionals to evaluate alternative pain medications in this particularly vulnerable age group.
“The scope of the problem is vast – opioid overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States and the prevalence is second only to marijuana,” said Thomas McLellan, PhD, co-author of the studies and director of the new Center for Substance Abuse Solutions, housed in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “This study provides valuable information about factors contributing to the high rates of opioid analgesics, and identifies areas ripe for intervention.”
In the accompanying Commentary, researchers offer recommendations to improve current pain management in primary care while simultaneously decreasing diversion, abuse and overdoses of opioid medication. These recommendations include:
•Comprehensive and contemporary training for pain management care providers –including physicians, nurses, dentists and pharmacists – covering the latest research advances on pain and addiction and new drug treatment options.
•Supporting the American Pain Society guidelines, which include plans to develop and roll out screening procedures for those at risk for abuse and dependence (e.g. adolescent or young adults, individual or family history of substance abuse history.)
•Increasing public awareness and responsibility of the addiction risks, to curb sharing or theft of the medication within families.
The research was conducted by The National Institute on Drug Abuse, of the National Institutes of Health, while Dr. McLellan was serving as Deputy Director of the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Penn Medicine researchers are already looking into possible solutions to address these issues. Dr. McLellan leads the new Center for Substance Abuse Solutions that will translate addiction research into evidence-based practical applications to be used locally, nationally and globally.
Collaborators from the Penn Pain Medicine Center will partner with Penn’s Center for Substance Abuse Solutions and Department of Internal Medicine to develop a “Patient-Centered Medical Home” care model for patients with chronic pain problems. This new process integrates care provided by primary care physicians and specialists in an effort to provide high-quality, comprehensive care to patients. New health care information technology, such as electronic health care records and Internet-based collection of patient outcomes, will be used to improve coordination of care. Researchers hope that Patient-Centered Medical Home model will improve pain care and lower the chances of diversion and abuse of pain medications.
“The research published today clearly demonstrates the risk of harm that pain medications can cause when used incorrectly,” said Michael Ashburn, MD, MPH, MBA, professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care and director of Pain Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “We hope our efforts will demonstrate that improvements can be made to the patient care process and lead to improved pain control and a lower risk of abuse and diversion of these medications.”
Public release date: 6-Apr-2011
Strawberries may slow precancerous growth in esophagus
ORLANDO, Fla. — Freeze-dried strawberries may be an alternative to drugs for the prevention of esophageal cancer, according to research presented at the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, held here April 2-6.
“We concluded from this study that six months of eating strawberries is safe and easy to consume. In addition, our preliminary data suggests that strawberries can decrease histological grade of precancerous lesions and reduce cancer-related molecular events,” said lead researcher Tong Chen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, division of medical oncology, department of internal medicine at The Ohio State University. She is also a member of the Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Esophageal cancer is the third most common gastrointestinal cancer and the sixth most frequent cause of cancer death in the world, she said. Chen and her team are studying esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) which makes up 95 percent of cases of esophageal cancer worldwide. China, where this study took place, has the highest incidence of esophageal SCC.
In a previous study, Chen and colleagues found that freeze-dried strawberries significantly inhibited tumor development in the esophagus of rats. Based on these results, they embarked on a Phase Ib trial that included participants with esophageal precancerous lesions who were at high risk for esophageal cancer.
Participants consumed 60 grams of freeze-dried strawberries daily for six months and completed a dietary diary chronicling their strawberry consumption. Using freeze-dried strawberries was important because by removing the water from the berries, they concentrated the preventive substances by nearly 10- fold, Chen said.
The researchers obtained biopsy specimens before and after strawberry consumption. The results showed that 29 out of 36 participants experienced a decrease in histological grade of the precancerous lesions during the study.
“Our study is important because it shows that strawberries may slow the progression of precancerous lesion in the esophagus. Strawberries may be an alternative or work together with other chemopreventive drugs for the prevention of esophageal cancer. But, we will need to test this in randomized placebo- controlled trials in the future,” said Chen
Public release date: 6-Apr-2011
Fox Chase researchers find that fish oil boosts responses to breast cancer drug tamoxifen
ORLANDO, FL (April 6, 2011) – Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, with more than 200,000 women diagnosed each year. Being exposed to estrogen over a long period of time is one factor that can increase a woman’s risk of developing the disease. One way a woman can combat this risk factor is by taking the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, which interferes with the activity of estrogen. Now, researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center have found that omega-3 fatty acids—abundant in fish—could be a safe and beneficial booster for tamoxifen therapy.
Jose Russo, MD, director of the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory at Fox Chase, will present the new findings at the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011 on Wednesday, April 6.
To investigate how fish oil intensifies the effects of tamoxifen, Russo, in collaboration with a team led by Andrea Manni, MD, from Pennsylvania State University, induced mammary tumors in rats and then divided the animals into four groups. They fed the groups either a 17 percent fish oil diet, with or without tamoxifen, or a 20 percent corn oil diet, with or without tamoxifen, for eight weeks. They then analyzed gene expression patterns in the tumors. Omega-3 fatty acids produced a greater expression of genes related to cellular specialization, or differentiation—a sign of lower cancer severity—compared to corn oil. The combination of fish oil and tamoxifen reduced the expression of genes linked to tumor growth and spreading.
“If a tumor was being treated with tamoxifen, the addition of an omega-3 fatty acid diet seemed to make the tumor, at least at the molecular level, more benign and less aggressive and responsive to tamoxifen,” says Russo.
The fish oil diet also boosted the expression of genes related to immune defenses against tumors, more so than did the corn oil diet. But omega-3 fatty acids simultaneously increased the expression of genes that trigger counterproductive immune responses, such as inflammation and allergic reactions, which curtail the ability of cells to fight cancer and can even promote the migration of tumor cells.
More studies are needed to fully understand the effects of fish oil on the immune system, Russo says. Meanwhile, his team is examining whether omega-3 fatty acids can prevent breast cancer in animals and testing the influence of diet on breast cancer risk in women.
Public release date: 6-Apr-2011
Substance in tangerines fights obesity and protects against heart disease
New research from The University of Western Ontario has discovered a substance in tangerines not only prevents obesity, but also offers protection against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis, the underlying disease responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. Murray Huff, a vascular biology scientist at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, along with Erin Mulvihill, a PhD student, studied the effects of a flavonoid in tangerines called Nobiletin. Their research is published in the journal Diabetes.
In a model of metabolic syndrome developed by the Huff laboratory at the Robarts Research Institute, mice were fed a “western” diet high in fats and simple sugars. One group became obese and showed all the signs associated with metabolic syndrome: elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood levels of
insulin and glucose, and a fatty liver. These metabolic abnormalities greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The second group of mice, fed the exact same diet but with Nobiletin added, experienced no elevation in their levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin or glucose, and gained weight normally. Mice became much more sensitive to the effects of insulin. Nobiletin was shown to prevent the buildup of fat in the liver by stimulating the expression of genes involved in burning excess fat, and inhibiting the genes responsible for manufacturing fat.
“The Nobiletin-treated mice were basically protected from obesity,” says Huff, the Director of the Vascular Biology Research Group at Robarts. “And in longer-term studies, Nobiletin also protected these animals from atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. This study really paves the way for future studies to see if this is a suitable treatment for metabolic syndrome and related conditions in people.”
Huff’s research has focused on the pharmacological properties of naturally-occurring bioactive molecules. Two years ago, his research drew international attention when he discovered a flavonoid in grapefruit called Naringenin offered similar protection against obesity and other signs of metabolic syndrome. Huff says “What’s really interesting to us is that Nobiletin is ten times more potent in its protective effects compared to Naringenin, and this time, we’ve also shown that Nobiletin has the ability to protect against atherosclerosis.”
Public release date: 6-Apr-2011
Progesterone reduces rate of early preterm birth in at-risk women
NIH study finds progesterone benefits women with short cervix
A National Institutes of Health study has found that progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, reduced the rate of preterm birth before the 33rd week of pregnancy by 45 percent among one category of at risk women.
The women in the study had a short cervix, which is known to increase the risk for preterm birth. The cervix is the part of the uterus that opens and shortens during labor.
The study also found that infants born to women who had received progesterone were less likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome, a breathing complication occurring in preterm infants.
The study was published online in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Infants born preterm are at high risk of early death and long term health and developmental problems. In 2005, there were 12.9 million preterm births worldwide. In the United States, 12.8 percent of infants were born preterm in 2008. Preterm infants are at increased risk for death in the first year of life, and breathing difficulties, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, blindness and deafness.
The study was undertaken by physicians of the Perinatology Research Branch at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) along with 44 medical centers around the world (including Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America). The study was a collaboration between the NIH and Columbia Laboratories, Inc., in Livingston, N.J.
“Our study demonstrates that progesterone gel reduces the rate of early preterm delivery—less than 33 weeks— in women with a short cervix,” said Roberto Romero, M.D., program head for Perinatology Research and Obstetrics and chief of the Perinatology Research Branch. “Women with a short cervix can
be identified through routine ultrasound screening. Once identified, they could be offered treatment with progesterone.”
Dr. Romero explained that progesterone is a naturally occurring hormone which is essential to maintain pregnancy and that a short cervix is thought to be a sign of a possible shortage of progesterone.
The study authors reasoned that by giving progesterone to women with a short cervix, they could, in many cases, prolong pregnancy.
A total of 458 women with a short cervix (10-20 millimeters) were randomly assigned to receive either a vaginal gel progesterone preparation or a placebo between the 19th and 23rd week of pregnancy.
Progesterone treatment was associated with a lower rate of preterm delivery at less than 33 weeks (8.9 percent in the progesterone group versus 16.1 percent in the placebo group). Differences in the rate of preterm birth were also seen in births before 28 and 35 weeks of pregnancy.
Born before 28 weeks:
10.3 percent (placebo
Born before 35 weeks:
14.5 percent (progesterone)
23.3 percent (placebo)
Infants born to women who received progesterone had a lower rate of respiratory distress syndrome than those in the placebo group (3 percent versus 7.6 percent).
Public release date: 10-Apr-2011
Blueberries may inhibit development of fat cells
The benefits of blueberry consumption have been demonstrated in several nutrition studies, more specifically the cardio-protective benefits derived from their high polyphenol content. Blueberries have shown potential to have a positive effect on everything from aging to metabolic syndrome. Recently, a researcher from Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, TX, examined whether blueberries could play a role in reducing one of the world’s greatest health challenges: obesity. Shiwani Moghe, MS, a graduate student at TWU, decided to evaluate whether blueberry polyphenols play a role in adipocyte differentiation, the process in which a relatively unspecialized cell acquires specialized features of an adipocyte, an animal connective tissue cell specialized for the synthesis and storage of fat. Plant polyphenols have been shown to fight adipogenesis, which is the development of fat cells, and induce lipolysis, which is the breakdown of lipids/fat. Moghe will present her research at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting for the American Society for Nutrition on Sunday, April 10, at 12:45 pm.
“I wanted to see if using blueberry polyphenols could inhibit obesity at a molecular stage,” said Moghe. The study was performed in tissue cultures taken from mice. The polyphenols showed a dose-dependent suppression of adipocyte differentiation. The lipid content in the control group was significantly higher than the content of the tissue given three doses of blueberry polyphenols. The highest dose of blueberry polyphenols yielded a 73% decrease in lipids; the lowest dose showed a 27% decrease.
“We still need to test this dose in humans, to make sure there are no adverse effects, and to see if the doses are as effective. This is a burgeoning area of research. Determining the best dose for humans will be important,” said Moghe. “The promise is there for blueberries to help reduce adipose tissue from forming in the body.”
These preliminary results contribute more items to the laundry list of benefits related to blueberries, which have already been shown to mitigate health conditions like cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Public release date: 10-Apr-2011
Arsenic and toxic metals found in baby foods
Baby foods used to wean infants off milk have been found to contain “alarming” levels of toxic contaminants including arsenic, lead and cadmium.
Researchers found feeding infants twice a day on the shop-bought baby foods such as rice porridge can increase their exposure to arsenic by up to fifty times when compared to breast feeding
Last night there were calls for urgent new safety rules to control the presence of the poisons in foods intended for young children.
The findings come as officials at the Food Standards Agency and the European Commission are conducting an urgent review to establish new limits for the long term exposure of these contaminants in food.
The products tested by the researchers were made by major baby food manufacturers including Organix, Hipp, Nestle and Holle – some of which are available in British supermarkets.
Researchers found feeding infants twice a day on the shop-bought baby foods such as rice porridge can increase their exposure to arsenic by up to fifty times when compared to breast feeding alone.
Exposure to other toxic metals such as cadmium, which is known to cause neurological and kidney damage, increased by up to 150 times in some of the foods tested by Swedish scientists, while lead increased by up to eight times.
Although none of the levels of the toxic elements found in the foods exceeded official safety limits, scientists believe they are still of concern if fed to very young children and have demanded new guidelines to restrict their presence in food.
Young infants are thought to be particularly vulnerable to these substances because they are going through rapid development.
Writing in the journal of Food Chemistry, the scientists from the Unit of Metals and Health at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, where the research was carried out, said: “Alarmingly, these complementary foods may also introduce high amounts of toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and uranium, mainly from their raw materials.
“These elements have to be kept at an absolute minimum in food products intended for infant consumption.
“In infant foods, the high concentrations of arsenic in the rice-based foods are of particular concern.”
Experts now believe there are no safe limits for arsenic and manufacturers should be making more efforts to remove it from their food.
Professor Andrew Meharg, a biogeochemist at Aberdeen University who has studied the presence of
arsenic in rice, said the latest research highlighted the urgent need for new restrictions on arsenic and other toxic elements in food.
He said: “For an adult with an average consumption of rice every day, it makes little difference, but for young babies who are the most vulnerable receptors we should be doing everything we can to reduce that risk. You don’t want DNA damage during infant development.
“There are ways to decrease the toxic load in food. It is only recently that we have started using rice in baby foods and formulas. You can reduce the arsenic in infant foods very rapidly by sourcing the rice from different parts of the world. You can reduce it by four or five fold by carefully selecting the right rice.”
The researchers tested nine different brands of baby food, which were intended to be fed to children from the age of four months old, and nine baby milk formulas.
They found that when compared to breast milk, the baby foods had elevated levels of toxic contaminants measured in micrograms – a millionth of a gram, or 35 billionths of an ounce.
The daily safe intake limit for arsenic was set by the World Health Organisation as two micrograms for every kilogram of body weight, but this was suspended earlier this year amid growing evidence that arsenic can cause cancer even at low levels.
The limits for lead have also been suspended while those for cadmium are one microgram for every kilogram of body weight.
Arsenic and the other heavy metals found in the study are often found in food as they are absorbed from the soil by plants such as rice, wheat and oats.
Among the baby foods found to contain elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead in the tests by the researchers was Organix First Organic Whole Grain Baby Rice, which they found contained two micrograms of arsenic per portion, along with 0.03 micrograms of cadmium and 0.09 micrograms of lead. This product is sold by Boots in the UK.
HiPP Organic Peach and Banana Breakfast porridge, which is sold by supermarkets in the UK including Tesco, contained 1.7 micrograms of arsenic, 0.13 micrograms of cadmium and 0.33 micrograms of lead.
Holle Organic Rice Porridge, which is sold by specialist retailers, was found to contain 7.3 micrograms of arsenic per portion – the highest found in the study – along with 0.38 micrograms of cadmium and 0.26 micrograms of lead.
The Swedish National Food Administration is now conducting its own review of toxic elements and metals in baby food and food for older children as a result of the research. The results will be reported to the European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission, which is responsible for setting food safety limits.
The Sunday Telegraph contacted each of the major manufacturers of leading brands of baby food sold in the UK but most refused to reveal the levels of toxic contaminants found in their products. Heinz, Cow & Gate, Nestle, and HiPP all insisted their foods contained levels that were within safety limits.
Dr Karin Ljung, who led the Swedish research, said: “The producers will say they are not above any guideline values and it is true – they are following all the rules.
“The trouble is that the guidelines are not based on infant exposure. As we are getting more
information coming out, it is may be time to reconsider what these safety limits are.”
She added that breast feeding until babies were six months old appeared to be the best way to keep infants’ exposure to these toxic contaminants as low as possible as they seemed to be filtered out by the mothers’ body.
There are currently no EU-wide regulations for arsenic levels in food after the European Food Safety Authority ruled that previous safety limits were inadequate.
Jackie Schneider, from the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “We expect full transparency from baby food manufacturers and are disappointed that they are choosing to not share the relevant data.
“Parents aren’t stupid and they deserve to be given the facts so they can make an informed choice”
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said previous reviews of the levels of toxic elements in baby food found them to be present at low levels.
He added: “The Agency is actively engaging with the European Commission to review and establish long term limits for these environmental contaminants in food.”
A spokesman for the British Specialist Nutrition Association, the trade body for baby food producers in the UK, said: “BSNA members carefully select and control their ingredients as well as the baby food, to ensure they are safe for infants.
“That selection of suitable ingredients ensures the lowest possible occurrence of certain naturally- occurring substances. Ingredients that do not meet stringent specifications are not used in baby foods.”
A spokesman for HiPP insisted the levels of arsenic and cadmium in their Organic Peach and Banana Breakfast porridge were under the official daily intake limits and so were safe as part of a daily diet.
She said: “The levels of cadmium and arsenic in HiPP products are safe and all raw materials are routinely tested following the strictest quality criteria.”
A spokesman for Organix said: “Organix operates rigorous finished food testing to ensure food safety is monitored regularly. This includes testing for elements, microbiological, allergen and pesticide residues.
“Our further testing of finished foods and raw materials show ALL results conform to the current UK food standard. We continue to monitor both our own internal results together with those of our suppliers.
“Please rest assured that we fully assess both the Food Standards Agency’s guidelines and any new research and will continue to do so.”
A spokesman for Plum added: “Sampling of our recipe shows levels for arsenic are well below those in this latest study, and again these are well within the generally regarded safe and acceptable limits.”
Nestle said it did not recommend the use of it infant cereals before six months of age, but they carefully selected their raw materials to ensure substances absorbed from the soil were as low as possible.
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ability to empower themselves. Without the base aspirations for fame, or fortune.
Just honorable people, doing honorable things.