1. Dangers of exposure to ‘white’ light
2. Time to reboot thinking on trans fats –- natural trans fats from dairy and beef are good
3. Even low-dose aspirin may increase risk of GI bleeding
4. Tinnitus discovery could lead to new ways to stop the ringing
5. More evidence that spicing up broccoli boosts its cancer-fighting power In this Issue:
1. Anti-inflammatory drugs taken in early pregnancy more than double risk of
2. One drink a day may be related to good overall health in women when older
3. Mayo Clinic study finds widespread medical resident burnout and debt
4. Chondroitin sulfate improves hand function, relieves morning stiffness caused by osteoarthritis
5. Children who have their adenoids out do not get fewer upper respiratory infections
6. Quality problems more likely in offshore drug plants, study finds
7. Chemotherapy can impair speech
8. Time to reboot thinking on trans fats –- natural trans fats from dairy and beef are good
9. Mother’s diet influences baby’s allergies — new research
10. Chinese researchers identify insect host species of a famous Tibetan medicinal
11. Is Estrogen Going to Your Head?
12. High medical costs decrease 28 percent after 5 years of Transcendental Meditation practice
13. Even low-dose aspirin may increase risk of GI bleeding
14. Tinnitus discovery could lead to new ways to stop the ringing
15. Dangers of exposure to ‘white’ light
16. Association found between long-term use of nonaspirin anti-inflammatory drugs and renal cell cancer
17. More evidence that spicing up broccoli boosts its cancer-fighting power
18. Researchers uncover a potential new benefit of pure maple syrup on liver health
19. Plant compound reduces breast cancer mortality
20. An apple or pear a day may keep strokes away
21. Study finds an increase of children accidentally poisoned with pharmaceuticals
22. Study suggests possible link between two Type 2 diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer
23. Low-fat yogurt intake when pregnant may lead to child asthma and hay fever
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
Anti-inflammatory drugs taken in early pregnancy more than double risk of miscarriage
The risk of miscarriage is 2.4 times greater for women who took any type and dosage of nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in early pregnancy, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) (pre-embargo link only) http://www.cmaj.ca/site/embargo/cmaj110454.pdf.
Nonaspirin NSAIDs are a class of drugs that include naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, and celecoxib, and are one of the most common medications used during pregnancy. However, there are concerns about use of these drugs in pregnancy, although studies on the risks have been inconsistent.
Researchers from the University of Montreal, CHU Ste-Justine, Quebec, and École Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Analyse de l’Information, Rennes, France, undertook a study to determine the risk of miscarriage associated with the types and dosages of nonaspirin NSAIDs. They looked at a total of 4705 cases of miscarriage up to the 20th week of gestation, 352 (7.5%) of whom took nonaspirin NSAIDs. Of the 47 050 women in the control group who did not miscarry, 1213 (2.6%) had been exposed to nonaspirin NSAIDs. The data came from the Quebec Pregnancy Registry, which provides information on filled prescriptions, physician visits and diagnoses, and hospitalisations during pregnancy.
Women ranged in age from 15 to 45 years old on the first day of gestation and were insured by the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec (RAMQ) for their medications for at least one year prior to and during pregnancy. Exposure to nonaspirin NSAIDs was defined as having filled at least one prescription for any type of the drug during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy or in the two weeks prior to the start of the pregnancy.
Ibuprofen is the only nonaspirin NSAID available over the counter in Quebec, and women in the RAMQ
drug plan can have that prescribed as a prescription. Naproxen was the most commonly used nonaspirin NSAID followed by ibuprofen.
“The use of nonaspirin NSAIDs during early pregnancy is associated with statistically significant risk (2.4-fold increase) of having a spontaneous abortion,” writes Dr. Anick Bérard, from the University of Montreal and the Director of the Research Unit on Medications and Pregnancy at CHU Ste-Justine. “We consistently saw that the risk of having a spontaneous abortion was associated with gestational use of diclofenac, naproxen, celecoxib, ibuprofen and rofecoxib alone or in combination, suggesting a class effect.”
The highest risk was associated with diclofenac alone and the lowest risk was in users of rofecoxib alone. However, dosage of nonaspirin NSAIDs did not appear to affect risk.
These findings are consistent with other studies but are novel with regards to the nonaspirin NSAIDs types and dosages.
“Given that the use of nonaspirin NSAIDs during early pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of major congenital malformations1 and that our results suggest a class effect on the risk of clinically detected spontaneous abortion, nonaspirin NSAIDs should be used with caution during pregnancy.,” the authors conclude.
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
One drink a day may be related to good overall health in women when older
Women who drink 15 grams or less of alcohol a day (the equivalent of one drink of any alcoholic beverage) at midlife may be healthier when older than women who do not drink at all, who consume more than two drinks a day, or who consume four drinks or more at the one time.
A study led by Qi Sun from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, and published in this week’s PLoS Medicine suggests that in women, regular, moderate alcohol consumption during middle age (average age 58 years) is related to good overall health—that is, having no major chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, and no major cognitive and physical impairment, or mental health limitations—in those who live to 70 years and beyond. The authors define this good overall health as “successful ageing.”
The authors used information from periodic food frequency questionnaires given to the 121,700 female nurses enrolled in the US Nurses’ Health Study (which began in 1976) to assess the alcohol consumption of the nurses during middle age. The authors then included in their analysis the vast majority (98.1%) of participants who were not heavier drinkers (45 g/d) when middle-aged and examined the health status in the 13,984 women who lived to 70 years and over.
After discounting other factors, such as smoking, that might affect their health status, the authors found that women who drank 511g of alcohol per day (between a 1/3 and 1 drink per day) had about a 20% higher chance of good overall health when older compared to non-drinkers. Furthermore, women who drank alcohol regularly had a better chance of good overall health when older than occasional drinkers: compared to women who didn’t drink, women who drank five to seven days a week had almost 50% greater chance of good overall health when older.
The authors conclude: “These data suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at midlife may be related to a modest increase in overall health status among women who survive to older ages.”
They add: “The 2010 US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines note that moderate alcohol consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men may provide health benefits in some people. Our data support this recommendation and provide novel evidence suggesting that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption at the levels of one to two drinks/day or slightly less at midlife may benefit overall health at older ages in US women.”
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
Mayo Clinic study finds widespread medical resident burnout and debt
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Feelings of burnout persist among internal medicine residents despite significant cutbacks in duty hours for doctors-in-training in recent years, a national study by Mayo Clinic found.
A poor quality of life took a toll on performance: Stressors affecting well-being such as lack of a work-life balance contributed to lower test scores on a standardized exam. Residents reporting a quality of life “as bad as it could be” and daily burnout symptoms attained mean scores nearly 3 percent lower than their counterparts with a good quality of life.
Heavy student debts made things even worse. Residents more than $200,000 in debt had mean scores 5 percent lower than debt-free colleagues, according to the study, published in the Sept. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (http://jama.ama-assn.org/).
Researchers surveyed and tested 16,394 residents in training in the United States in 2008-09, a number representing three-fourths of U.S. internal medicine residents. The study, overseen by Mayo Clinic general internist and biostatistician Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., (http://www.mayoclinic.org/bio/13516388.html), co-director of the Mayo Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-Being (http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/mayo/research/physicianwellbeing/index.cfm), reveals that 51.5 percent of residents reported burnout (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/burnout/WL00062) symptoms, 45.8 percent noted emotional exhaustion and 28.9 percent had feelings of depersonalization, reflected in cynicism and/or callousness.
Of the responding residents, 14.8 percent rated their quality of life as “bad as it could be” or “somewhat bad.” On work-life balance http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/work-life-balance/WL00056), 32.9 percent reported being somewhat or very dissatisfied.
“Physician well-being is extremely important for the physician, but also for patients,” Dr. West says. Physician burnout, depression, job dissatisfaction, and low quality of life can harm patient care by contributing to major medical and medication mistakes, poor care practices and patient dissatisfaction. While the researchers do not have patient data, the study is another building block for the case that physician distress is related to patient outcomes, Dr. West says.
“Our intent in this study was to first document these issues nationally on an unprecedented scale. We then looked at how some of these distress issues might relate to medical knowledge, knowing that there is other evidence that test scores are related to care quality,” he says. “We also wondered if debt was a major burden on residents that would manifest itself in poorer quality of life and increased burnout.”
The study found markedly lower quality of life and satisfaction with work-life balance, and increased burnout, among those with debt, especially those owing more than $200,000. Median debt for medical students across the United States is $160,000, Dr. West says.
Distress remains common despite notable reductions in duty hours for residents since 2003. Burnout was less common among international medical school graduates, who also reported lower debt loads than U.S. medical school graduates. The survey found burnout decreased as the year of training progressed, but depersonalization symptoms increased after the first of three years in training. Women and primary care program residents reported more symptoms of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization.
The frequency of resident distress and its association with lower-quality patient care may argue in favor of further protections during physician training against fatigue, lack of resources and support and work overload, he says.
“We hope that now that we have established national numbers for these distress variables, we can perhaps focus less effort on documenting the problem and turn greater attention to how best to improve the situation,” Dr. West says.
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
Chondroitin sulfate improves hand function, relieves morning stiffness caused by osteoarthritis
Clinical trial shows supplement is safe therapeutic option for OA suffers
New research shows that chondroitin sulfate significantly decreased pain and improved hand function in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand compared with those in the placebo group. Results of the clinical trial available today in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), also report that chondroitin sulfate improves grip strength and relieves morning stiffness.
The ACR estimates that OA—the most common form of arthritis—affects more than 27 million adults in the U.S., causing joint pain and stiffness. Approximately 10% of the world population, 60 years and older, have symptomatic osteoarthritis according to the Global Burden of Disease 2000 report from the World Health Organization (WHO). Prior studies have found that 20% to 30% of adults have OA of the hand, with the prevalence rising to more than 50% after 60 years of age.
“Although hand OA is highly prevalent among adults and can significantly impact the quality of life for suffers, therapeutic options are still limited,” said Cem Gabay, M.D., with University Hospitals of Geneva in Switzerland and lead investigation of the Finger osteoArthritis Chondroitin Treatment Study (FACTS). “There are few trials examining therapeutic approaches specific to hand OA and much of the available evidence has been extrapolated from studies investigating other forms of OA.”
The single-center, placebo-controlled FACTS trial included 162 patients with radiographic hand OA who met inclusion criteria—spontaneous hand pain on the visual analogue scale (VAS) of 40 mm (scale 0-
100) or more and Functional Index for Hand OA (FIHOA) level of 6 (scale 0-30). Participants received either 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate (80 patients) or placebo (82 patients) once daily for 6 months.
Results showed that patients in the chondroitin sulfate group had significant decrease in global hand pain compared with the placebo group, reflecting an 8.7 decrease on the VAS. Hand function also improved significantly for those taking chondroitin sulfate, decreasing more than 2 points on the FIHOA. Researchers also reported significantly improved hand function and reduction in morning stiffness for participants taking chondroitin sulfate versus placebo.
“Our findings show chondroitin sulfate is a safe and effective treatment for patients with hand OA,” concluded Dr. Gabay. “Alternative therapies, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), provide similar pain reducing effects, but with considerably more long-term toxicities.” Chondroitin sulfate is a naturally occurring molecule and a main component of joint cartilage. The chondroitin sulfate agent used in this study (Chondrosulf®) is licensed as a drug in Europe and not as a nutripharmaceutical; in the U.S. chondroitin sulfate is sold as a supplement and often paired with glucosamine.
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
Children who have their adenoids out do not get fewer upper respiratory infections
Research: Effectiveness of adenoidectomy in children with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections, open randomised controlled trial
Children who have their adenoids surgically removed do not get fewer upper respiratory tract infections such as sinusitis and colds, finds research published on bmj.com today.
Upper respiratory tract infections are extremely common in children and many of them are referred for ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery. Indeed, having adenoids taken out (adenoidectomy) is one of the most frequently performed surgical procedures in children in western countries, says the study.
One of the main reasons adenoidectomy is performed is to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. However, the clinical effectiveness of the procedure in children with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections is lacking, say the authors, led by Professor Anne Schilder from the University Medical Centre Utrecht.
Schilder and colleagues studied a group of 111 children aged between one and six selected for adenoidectomy, half of them were assigned to have the operation, the other half initially not.
The research took place between April 2007 and October 2010 across 11 general hospitals and two academic centres in the Netherlands. The participants were followed up for 24 months after surgery.
The results show that the children in the adenoidectomy group had 7.91 episodes of upper respiratory tract infections per person compared with 7.84 episodes in the other group. Days of absence from school or day care, and health related quality of life, was similar in both groups.
The findings also reveal that the prevalence of upper respiratory tract infections decreased over time for both groups.
In conclusion the authors say “in children selected for adenoidectomy for recurrent upper respiratory tract infections, a strategy of immediate surgery confers no clinical benefits over a strategy of initial watchful waiting.”
In an accompanying editorial, Professor Kari Kvaerner from Oslo University Hospital concurs that the
best way for health professionals to treat children with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections appears to be “careful follow-up and a strategy of watchful waiting.”
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
Quality problems more likely in offshore drug plants, study finds
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Drugs produced in offshore manufacturing plants –- even those run by U.S. manufacturers — pose a greater quality risk than those prepared in the mainland United States, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that drugs produced in Puerto Rican plants owned and operated by U.S. pharmaceutical firms were more likely to have quality problems than those produced by the same firm in a matched plant on the United States mainland.
The results show how difficult it is to transfer world-class quality control to an offshore plant, even under the best of conditions, said John Gray, lead author of the study and assistant professor of operations at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
“Many people, including some pharmaceutical executives, think offshore plants can produce drugs at significantly less cost but with the same quality risk as plants in the U.S. But we found that may not always be the case,” Gray said.
“We believe the quality differences we found in Puerto Rican plants were driven by challenges in transferring knowledge from headquarters to the plant, due to cultural differences, primarily differences in language and values.”
The study findings accounted for many of the alternative explanations about why offshore plants may have lower quality than those on the U.S. mainland.
The Puerto Rico plants in this study were compared to plants on the U.S. mainland owned by the same companies, and manufacturing the same or similar drugs, so the conditions were very similar. The researchers found that quality was not related to the distance between the plant and the company headquarters, the education of the local population near the plant, or the number of similar drug manufacturing plants in the area. That left knowledge transfer challenges due to cultural differences as the most likely explanation for the results, Gray said.
Before getting his PhD, Gray worked as an operations manager for eight years for Proctor & Gamble. He conducted this study with Aleda Roth of Clemson University and Michael Leiblein, associate professor of business and corporate strategy at Ohio State’s Fisher College. The results appear in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Operations Management, now available online.
For the study, the researchers used inspection data that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration compiled on Puerto Rican and mainland U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing plants. These plants produced both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
These inspection reports listed any deviations that the FDA inspectors found from “good manufacturing practices.” These are practices that, if not followed, increase the likelihood of defective products. Each of these inspection reports indicate one of three possible actions required of the plant: no action, voluntary action (minor problems found) or official action (major problems that must be corrected under threat of
government sanctions). The protocols for the inspections were the same between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico, and there is no evidence of a difference in inspection quality that may bias the results.
The researchers matched 30 plants in Puerto Rico with plants owned and operated by the same pharmaceutical companies on the U.S. mainland. These plants were matched on a variety of measures to ensure that were as similar as possible.
Armed with the FDA inspection reports from 1994 to 2007, the researchers asked four independent experts to create a scoring system based on possible inspection outcomes. This system allowed the researchers to create a quantitative measure of quality risk for each plant in the study. One of the experts worked in the FDA for 34 years, and the other three had extensive experience working in quality control for major U.S. manufacturers.
After the experts scored all the plants, the results clearly showed that the quality risk was higher in the Puerto Rico plants when compared to their matched mainland facilities, Gray said.
From a consumer standpoint, the results don’t mean that drugs manufactured in Puerto Rico are unsafe, he said. Not all the quality risk problems that the FDA found would necessarily lead to unsafe drugs.
“There is a very low probability that you will get a bad drug manufactured in a mainland U.S. plant and, based on these results, we assert that there is a slightly greater, but still very low probability that you will get a bad drug manufactured in Puerto Rico,” Gray said.
“It is a small practical difference for consumers. But for companies, even a slightly higher probability of a quality error can be a substantial problem. Just one quality error that hurts consumers or leads to a recall can be extremely costly to the company responsible.”
Gray said the results suggest that knowledge transfer challenges created by differences in language and culture are the best explanation why the offshore plants in the study had a higher quality risk. But he said the researchers can’t rule out the possibility that there is something unique about Puerto Rico that would explain the results.
If – as the researchers suspect –cultural differences are the primary reasons for the differences in quality risk found here, the risks may actually be lower in Puerto Rico than they would be elsewhere.
Gray noted that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and the manufacturing plants there share much in common with similar mainland facilities.
“Facilities in more distant, less developed countries may face even greater obstacles to quality control than what we found in Puerto Rico,” he said.
Gray said he and his colleagues are conducting studies that compare other headquarter country – plant country pairs to try to disentangle the drivers of the differences found in this study.
The results should serve as a caution to pharmaceutical executives who want to cut costs by producing drugs offshore.
“It is difficult for many executives to fully appreciate the day-to-day discipline required to operate with low quality risk. And that is something harder to monitor and ensure when plants are offshore,” he said.
The most effective way to improve quality standards in offshore plants may be to rotate managers and line employees from mainland plants with well-established quality programs.
“One of the managers I spoke to currently in a Puerto Rican plant said it best: No one here knows what it looks like to run a world-class operation in terms of quality control,” Gray said.
This kind of knowledge can’t just come from books and manuals, he said, especially when you’re dealing with workers who speak another language and come from another culture.
Public release date: 6-Sep-2011
Chemotherapy can impair speech
Patients who have received high doses of chemotherapy may find it harder to express themselves verbally, according to new research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Speech difficulties among cancer patients who received chemotherapy treatment were two times higher than among those who did not.
The study has been published in the scientific journal Acta Oncologica. Almost one thousand men who had survived testicular cancer were asked to respond to a questionnaire about how they felt eleven years following their diagnosis.
“Those who had undergone chemotherapy were more than twice as likely to report language difficulties as follows: that ‘the words came in the wrong order’, that they ‘did not say the words they planned to’ and that they had ‘difficulty finishing sentences,'” says Johanna Skoogh, postgraduate student at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Cancer survivors who have received chemotherapy often report difficulties with their memory and ability to concentrate, but researchers have so far been uncertain about whether the impairments experienced can be explained by chemotherapy, as most research is carried out on patients with breast cancer, who are also given hormones that may affect cognitive function.
Cognitive function is usually measured using neuropsychological tests. However, in recent years the extent to which these tests can measure difficulties experienced in everyday life has been called into question.
“Our questionnaire contains questions about difficulties that patients themselves have said they are troubled by in every-day life. As far as we know, this kind of measuring instrument has not been used in this context before. What also makes our study unique is the high response rate, over 80 percent, and the long follow-up period,” says Johanna Skoogh.
The researchers behind the study do not rule out the fact that other cognitive functions, such as memory and concentration, may also be affected by high doses of chemotherapy. “Instead we believe language might be especially sensitive when to detect cognitive impairment. After all, language is something that we use every day, which might be why we are quick to notice when our speech function has been affected,” says Johanna Skoogh.
Public release date: 7-Sep-2011
Time to reboot thinking on trans fats –- natural trans fats from dairy and beef are good
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Sept. 7, 2011: Not all trans fats are created equal and it’s time for a change in nutrition labels in North America to reflect this, particularly when it comes to dairy and beef products.
According to a scientific review published in the latest edition of Advances in Nutrition, natural trans fats produced by ruminant animals such as dairy and beef cattle are not detrimental to health and in fact show significant positive health effects. Some evidence even links these natural trans fats to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“The body of evidence clearly points to a change needed in how nutrition labels are handled,” says Dr. Spencer Proctor, one of the review authors and Director of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory at the University of Alberta in Canada. “Right now, in Canada and U.S. a substantial portion of natural trans fats content is included in the nutrition label trans fats calculation, which is misleading for the consumer. We need a reset in our approach to reflect what the new science is telling us.”
Consumers are bombarded on a regular basis about what they should and shouldn’t eat. Quite often fat is the primary target of what to avoid and trans fats in particular have a negative reputation. However, the scientific review in Advances in Nutrition reveals that consuming natural trans fats produced by ruminant animals has different health effects than consuming industrial trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used in the preparation of some foods such as some baked goods.
As the scientific evidence mounts, there is slowly rising public awareness of this difference. A change in how trans fat information is presented on nutrition labels would be a huge step forward, says Proctor. In some European countries, for example, natural trans fat is not included in the nutrition label calculation. Another approach may be to have separate listings for industrial trans fats and natural trans fats.
By definition, ruminant trans fat is naturally-occurring, found in meat and dairy foods. Industrial produced trans fat is a component of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been highly associated with cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
According to the review, the naturally occurring trans fat has a different fatty acid profile than industrial trans fat, which contributes to its different physiological effects. Also, the amount of natural trans fat consumed has been relatively stable and much lower than the amounts consumed from partially hydrogenated oils that have been associated with adverse effects.
Researchers evaluated an evidence base from numerous epidemiological and clinical studies in the Advances in Nutrition review. Based on the promising findings to date, plans for new studies are gaining momentum to further investigate the health implications of natural ruminant-derived trans fats.
For example, one leading scientific program is headed by Proctor, who recently was approved for a $1 million research grant from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) to further this line of study over the next several years. This represents a continuation of strong support for research programs by the livestock industry in Alberta.
“With industry, science, regulators and other important groups in this area working together, we can continue to make strides to help the public better understand the health implications of natural ruminant trans fats,” says Proctor.
Public release date: 8-Sep-2011
Mother’s diet influences baby’s allergies — new research
A possible link between what a mother eats during pregnancy and the risk of her child developing allergies has been identified in new research published in this month’s The Journal of Physiology.
The research found that if a mother’s diet contains a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) – such as those found in fish, walnut oil or flaxseed – the baby’s gut develops differently. The PUFAs are thought to improve how gut immune cells respond to bacteria and foreign substances, making the baby less likely to suffer from allergies.
Until now, several clinical trials have shown that fish and walnut oil supplementation in pregnant women reduces the risk of allergy in their children, but the mechanism was unknown.
“There is intense research interest in maternal diet during pregnancy. In the western diet, the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that we have shown to help gut function are actually disappearing – our dietary intake of fish and nut oils is being replaced by corn oils which contain a different kind of fatty acid”. Said Dr Gaëlle Boudry, of the INRA research institute in Rennes, France.
“Our study identifies that a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids – known as n-3PUFAs – causes a change in how a baby’s gut develops, which in turn might change how the gut immune system develops. These changes are likely to reduce the risk of developing allergies in later life.”
The team found that supplementing a mother’s diet with n-3PUFA caused the new-born’s gut to become more permeable. A more permeable gut enables bacteria and new substances to pass through the lining of the gut into the bloodstream more easily. These new substances then trigger the baby’s immune response and the production of antibodies.
“The end result is that the baby’s immune system may develop and mature faster – leading to better immune function and less likelihood of suffering allergies,” added Dr Boudry.
This research adds to previous studies which have shown that an intake of n-3 PUFAs during pregnancy increases gestational length and maturation of the central nervous system of a baby and that their performance on mental tasks also seemed to be improved in childhood.
“Other studies have found that a diet containing fish or walnut oil during pregnancy may make your baby smarter – our research adds to this, suggesting such supplements also accelerate the development of a healthy immune system to ward off food allergies.”
In terms of next steps, the team’s findings were based on piglets so research will continue to see if they translate to humans. The porcine intestine is an excellent model of the human gut however, so they are hopeful that the findings can be extrapolated. The team also plans to investigate whether the apparent gut function-boosting effects of n-3PUFA that they have identified in new-borns extends into later life.
Public release date: 8-Sep-2011
Chinese researchers identify insect host species of a famous Tibetan medicinal fungus
A team of researchers from the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Xiao-Liang
Wang and Yi-Jian Yao), summarized all the available information on the insect species associated with the Tibetan medicinal fungus Ophiocordyceps sinensis through an extensive literature survey and analyzed their relationships with the fungus. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.
The fungus has traditionally been used as a tonic to strengthen the human body and in the treatment of kidney and lung problems. It has also been shown to possess a variety of medicinal effects by recent studies, e.g. immunomodulating, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, anti-tumor, anti- oxidation and anti-aging activities. Natural products of O. sinensis is now sold at a price higher than the gold. The fungus contributes billions of RMB (Chinese yuan) to the rural economy in Tibet Plateau each year and often accounts for some 70% of a local family’s annual income. Thousands and thousands of collectors crowd into the Tibet Plateau every summer, causing a sharp decrease in the natural production of O. sinensis and serious damages to the environment.
“Ophiocordyceps sinensis (also Cordyceps sinensis), known as the Chinese Caterpillar Fungus or ‘Dong Chong Xia Cao’ (winter worm, summer grass) in Chinese, is one of the most widely recognized traditional Chinese medicines. The fungus is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and has been listed as an endangered species under the second class of state protection since 1999 by the Chinese government. The fungus has a striking developmental biology. As a Sac (ascomycete) fungus, it parasitizes larvae of moths of the family Hepialidae and converts them into sclerotized bodies from which the fungus fruiting body grows. So the natural production of this fungus is closely related to its insect hosts.” said the corresponding author Prof. Yi-Jian Yao.
Since the late 1950s, much effort has been devoted to the study of insect species related to O. sinensis in China. However, the number of insect host species of O. sinensis and the relationship between those insects and the fungus remains unclear.
In the study by Wang and Yao, a total of 4793 related publications, in either English or Chinese, were obtained and analyzed. Ninety-one insect names spanning 13 genera of Chinese Hepialidae moths were gathered from the literature search, together with the detailed information of their geographic distribution and altitude. The relationships between the reported insect species and O. sinensis were analyzed based on the overlap of their geographic distribution and altitude range. Fifty-seven of these insects are considered as recognizable potential host species of the fungus, whilst eight are considered as indeterminate hosts and 26 as non-hosts.
The results of this study provide basic information for management of the insect resources and for the conservation and sustainable use of O. sinensis. It will lay a foundation for further studies of the relationship between the fungus and its hosts, especially their co-evolution (an ongoing research project based on DNA sequence analyses in Prof. Yao’s laboratory).
Public release date: 8-Sep-2011
Is Estrogen Going to Your Head?
Growing deposits of bone in the skull means your hormones are out of whack, warns TAU researcher
Girls are growing up faster than ever — and not only when it comes to their taste in fashion and music. Their bodies are reaching puberty at an increasingly earlier age, and this trend to rapid maturity continues through women’s adult lives. That’s bad news, according to Tel Aviv University researchers. Women today are more likely to develop Hyperostosis Frontalis Interna (HFI), a hormonal condition once typically found in post-menopausal women, earlier and more frequently than the female population a century ago.
Women’s hormonal balances are changing and taking a physical toll, says Prof. Israel Hershkovitz and his graduate student Hila May of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, together with Dr. Natan Peled of Carmel Medical Center in Haifa. That balance is being affected by the hormones we now consume in our food and by our changing fertility patterns, such as having children later in life. Women today are 2.5 times more likely to develop HFI than they were 100 years ago, the study found.
Their research recently appeared in the American Journal of Human Biology. Sounding the alarm
HFI occurs when a hormonal imbalance leads to the growth of lesions, or bone masses, in the inner skull. This may lead to symptoms such as chronic headaches, weight gain, and thyroid irregularities, and is suspected to have multiple causes, including lifestyle, fertility habits, nutrition, and environment.
To track the growing prevalence of HFI, Prof. Hershkovitz and fellow researchers compared 992 historic female skulls from museum collections aged 20 to 90 years with CT scans of 568 living female participants ranging from 20 to 103 years old. Not only was prevalence of HFI found to be 2.5 times higher in the latter group, but the researchers also discovered that the average age of women who suffered from HFI had fallen drastically.
An age-dependent condition, HFI was once known to primarily strike post-menopausal women, who had then been exposed moderate levels of estrogen throughout their lives. Now it is appearing as well in pre- menopausal women, who have been exposed to higher levels of estrogen earlier in their lifetimes.
Their survey found that only 11 percent of 19-20th century women in the age range 30-39 had HFI. However, in the modern sample, 40 percent of women in that age group were found to be developing the condition. Any number of factors could be to blame, May says. Hormones added to food are one culprit, but not the only one. Women are now having fewer children and getting pregnant later in life. The period of time women breastfeed has also been shortened considerably, from three to four years a century ago to an average of less than six months today. Women are also consuming additional amounts of hormones through birth control medications. It’s now common for girls to be on “the pill” in their early teenage years.
There is currently no cure for HFI, but detection of the condition remains important, says Prof. Hershkovitz, who was among the first scientists to investigate the development of HFI in the human skull. “It’s an alarm within the human body, telling you that your body is out of balance and there is a pathological process going on,” he explains. It can also be a symptom of metabolic diseases.
Not just for women
Although most frequently found in the female population, HFI is not an exclusively female condition. Prof. Hershkovitz points to the case of Farinelli, a famous male opera singer in the 18th century, who suffered from HFI probably as a result of castration to preserve his falsetto voice.
Prof. Hershkovitz, Dr. Peled and May discovered a high prevalence of HFI in men who have been treated for prostate cancer. One of the treatments for prostate cancer, explains Prof. Hershkovitz, is chemical castration. Since the cancer itself feeds on testosterone, this treatment option literally starves the disease,
but leads to higher levels of estrogen in the body.
Prof. Hershkovitz does not counsel against the prostate treatment, however — it is part of the physiological “cost-benefit” balance of the body. “If you treat one system in the body, another must pay,” he says. In this case, he says, it’s worth the price.
Public release date: 12-Sep-2011
High medical costs decrease 28 percent after 5 years of Transcendental Meditation practice
According to a study published this week in the September/October 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion (Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 56-60), people with consistently high health care costs experienced a 28 percent cumulative decrease in physician fees after an average of five years practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique compared with their baseline. Both between and within group comparisons were statistically significant. This study has major policy implications.
In most populations, a small fraction of people account for the majority of health care costs. In the U.S., the highest spending 10% in the general population incurred 60% to 70% of total medical expenditures annually. In the Medicare population, the highest spending 5% incurred 43% of total Medicare costs, and the highest spending 25% of seniors accounted for 85% of total expenses. A large number of these people have consistently high medical bills over many years. (References in article, available upon request.)
Chronic stress is the number one factor contributing to high medical expenses. Stress reduction may help reduce these costs.
This new study compared the changes in physician costs for 284 consistent high-cost participants—142 Transcendental Meditation practitioners with 142 non-practitioners, over five years in Quebec, Canada. The non-TM subjects were randomly selected from Quebec health insurance enrollees with the same age, sex, and region to match the TM participant profiles. The TM participants decided to begin the technique prior to choosing to enter the study. In the year before the intervention began, there were no significant differences between the groups in payments to physicians.
During the five-year assessment period, the TM group’s annual rate of change in payments declined significantly (p = 0.004), while the comparison group’s payments showed no significant changes. After the first year, the TM group decreased 11%, and after 5 years, their cumulative reduction was 28% (p = 0.001).
The primary measure for assessing the effectiveness of TM practice in decreasing medical costs was the fees paid by the Quebec health insurance agency to private physicians in all settings for treating study participants. In Canada and U.S., physician payments have been 20% of national health expenditures. This study’s results are important because doctors’ decisions determine most medical expenses: tests, prescription drugs, hospitalization, surgery, and other treatments.
The paper’s sole author, Robert E. Herron, Ph.D., is an independent researcher, and director of the Center for Health Systems Analysis. Dr. Herron was the first to describe the impact of the Transcendental Meditation technique on health care costs.
This study’s findings were similar to earlier ones. In a previous Canadian study, the TM group exhibited
reduced medical expenses between 5% and 13% relative to comparison subjects each year for 6 consecutive years.
In a subsequent Canadian study of senior citizens, the TM group’s five-year cumulative reduction for people aged 65 years and older relative to comparison subjects was 70%.
In a sample of American health insurance enrollees, the TM participants had reduced rates of illness in all disease categories. An eleven-year, cross-sectional study in Iowa found that subjects age 45 and over who practiced the TM technique had 88% fewer hospital days compared with controls. Their medical expenditures were 60% below the norm.
Other studies, including randomized clinical trials, indicate the TM technique can improve physical and mental health, decrease tobacco use, reduce substance abuse, and decrease other unhealthy habits and risk factors that lead to chronic disease and costly treatments.
“This article has major policy significance for saving Medicare and Medicaid without cutting benefits or raising taxes,” said Herron. “Almost no intervention for cost containment has decreased medical expenditures by 28% over 5 years from a baseline. Now, it may be possible to rescue Medicare and Medicaid by adding coverage for learning the Transcendental Meditation technique.”
Public release date: 12-Sep-2011
Even low-dose aspirin may increase risk of GI bleeding
The risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding needs to be considered when determining the potential preventive benefits associated with low-dose aspirin for cardiovascular disease and cancer. According to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the use of low-dose aspirin increases the risk for GI bleeding, with the risk being increased further with accompanying use of cardiovascular disease- preventing therapies, such as clopidogrel and anticoagulants. In patients who took proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), bleeding risk decreased. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology is the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.
“The use of aspirin has been proven beneficial in reducing cardiac events and deaths in patients who have cardiovascular disease, and has even been shown to reduce cancer risk,” said Angel Lanas, MD, PhD, of University Hospital Lozano Blesa and lead author of this study. “However, clinicians need to be more proactive in their efforts to reduce potential risk factors associated with all doses of aspirin, especially gastrointestinal bleeding. New low-dose aspirin studies should report more precisely on the incidence of bleedings, especially gastrointestinal bleedings, to better determine the balance between risks and benefits
Low-dose aspirin — commonly defined as 75 to 325 mg daily — is a mainstay of therapy for cardiovascular disease. In fact, patients with prior cardiovascular disease have fewer cardiovascular events and deaths with the use of low-dose aspirin compared with patients who do not use it. It is now likely to also be used for cancer prevention, especially GI and colon cancer.
A major factor limiting the widespread use of aspirin is concern about the development of GI adverse events, especially GI bleeding. However, damage may vary depending on the dose taken, other medication being consumed along with aspirin and patients’ risk profiles. For example, certain patients have an increased likelihood of experiencing bleeding: those with long-term pharmacotherapy use, patients using
combinations of low-dose aspirin with clopidogrel and anticoagulants, and patients with previous GI ulcers or bleedings.
In this study, doctors searched 10 electronic databases and collected data on adverse events in studies that evaluated low doses of aspirin alone or in combination with anticoagulants, clopidogrel or PPIs. They found that low doses of aspirin alone decreased the risk of death. However, the risk of major GI bleeding increased with low doses of aspirin alone compared with placebo. The risk also increased when aspirin was combined with clopidogrel (compared with aspirin alone), anticoagulants versus low doses of aspirin alone, or in studies that included patients with a history of GI bleeding or of longer duration. Importantly, PPI use reduced the risk for major GI bleeding in patients given low doses of aspirin.
Public release date: 12-Sep-2011
Tinnitus discovery could lead to new ways to stop the ringing
Retraining the brain could reanimate areas that have lost input from the ear
Berkeley — Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are offering hope to the 10 percent of the population who suffer from tinnitus – a constant, often high-pitched ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be annoying and even maddening, and has no cure.
Their new findings, published online last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest several new approaches to treatment, including retraining the brain, and new avenues for developing drugs to suppress the ringing.
“This work is the most clearheaded documentation to this point of what’s actually happening in the brain’s cortex in ways that account for the ongoing genesis of sound,” said Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus of otolaryngology at UC San Francisco and inventor of the cochlear implant, who was not involved with the research. “As soon as I read the paper, I said, ‘Of course!’ It was immediately obvious that this is almost certainly the true way to think about it.”
Merzenich is also chief scientific officer at Posit Science, which develops software to retrain the brain, primarily to improve learning and memory but more recently to address problems like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s Disease and tinnitus.
“Two million Americans are debilitated by tinnitus; they can’t work, they can’t sleep. Its life destroying and a substantial cause of suicide,” he said. “These experiments have led us to rethink how we attack the tinnitus by our training strategies.”
Loud noises kill hair cells
According to coauthor Shaowen Bao, adjunct assistant professor in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley, tinnitus – pronounced TIN-it-tus or tin-NIGHT-us – is most commonly caused by hearing loss. Sustained loud noises, as from machinery or music, as well as some drugs can damage the hair cells in the inner ear that detect sounds. Because each hair cell is tuned to a different frequency, damaged or lost cells leave a gap in hearing, typically a specific frequency and anything higher in pitch.
Experiments in the past few years have shown that the ringing doesn’t originate in the inner ear, though, but rather in regions of the brain – including the auditory cortex – that receives input from the ear.
Bao’s experiments in rats with induced hearing loss explain why the neurons in the auditory cortex generate these phantom perceptions. They showed that neurons that have lost sensory input from the ear
become more excitable and fire spontaneously, primarily because these nerves have “homeostatic” mechanisms to keep their overall firing rate constant no matter what.
“With the loss of hearing, you have phantom sounds,” said Bao, who himself has tinnitus. In this respect, tinnitus resembles phantom limb pain experienced by many amputees,
One treatment strategy, then, is to retrain patients so that these brain cells get new input, which should reduce spontaneous firing. This can be done by enhancing the response to frequencies near the lost frequencies. Experiments over the past 30 years, including important research by Merzenich, have shown that the brain is plastic enough to reorganize in this way when it loses sensory input. When a finger is amputated, for example, the region of the brain receiving input from that finger may start handling input from neighboring fingers.
Bao noted that retraining the ear has been tried before, but with limited success. Most such attempts have taken patients with some residual hearing and trained their ears to be more sensitive to the affected frequencies. This wouldn’t work for patients with profound hearing loss, however.
Most retraining is also based on the assumption that reorganization of the brain – that is, changing how frequencies “map” to regions of the auditory cortex – is a cause of the tinnitus. This is the opposite of Bao’s conclusion.
“We argue that reorganizing the cortical map should be the goal, so that the nerves get some input and stop their tinnitus activity,” he said. “You don’t want to leave these cells without sensory input.”
“We changed our (brain training) strategy from one where we completely avoided the tinnitus domain to one where we directly engage it and try to redifferentiate or reactivate it, and we seem to be seeing improvement,” Merzenich said.
Drugs can boost inhibitors
Another treatment strategy, Bao said, is to find or develop drugs that inhibit the spontaneous firing of the idle neurons in the auditory cortex. Hearing loss causes changes at junctions between nerve cells, the so- called synapses, that both excite and inhibit firing. His experiments showed that tinnitus is correlated with lower levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), but not with changes in the excitatory neurotransmitters.
He demonstrated that two drugs that increase the level of GABA eliminated tinnitus in rats. Unfortunately, these drugs have serious side effects and cannot be used in humans. He has applied for several grants to start screening drugs for their ability to enhance GABA receptor function, increase the synthesis of GABA, slow the re-uptake of GABA around nerve cells, or slow its enzymatic degradation.
“Our findings will guide the kind of research to find drugs that enhance inhibition on auditory cortical neurons,” Bao said. “There are a lot of things we can do to change GABA functions, some of which could potentially alleviate tinnitus with fewer side effects.”
Public release date: 11-Sep-2011
Dangers of exposure to ‘white’ light
New study reveals: ‘White’ light suppresses the body’s production of melatonin — a compound that adjusts our biological clock and is known for its anti-oxidant and anti-cancerous properties — more than orange
Exposure to the light of white LED bulbs, it turns out, suppresses melatonin 5 times more than exposure to the light of High Pressure Sodium bulbs that give off an orange-yellow light. “Just as there are regulations and standards for ‘classic’ pollutants, there should also be regulations and rules for the pollution stemming from artificial light at night,” says Prof. Abraham Haim of the University of Haifa.
“White” light bulbs that emit light at shorter wavelengths are greater suppressors of the body’s production of melatonin than bulbs emitting orange-yellow light, a new international study has revealed.
Melatonin is a compound that adjusts our biological clock and is known for its anti-oxidant and anti- cancerous properties.
The study investigated the influence of different types of bulbs on “light pollution” and the suppression of melatonin, with the researchers recommending several steps that should be taken to balance the need to save energy and protecting public health.
“Just as there are regulations and standards for ‘classic’ pollutants, there should also be regulations and rules for pollution stemming from artificial light at night,” says Prof. Abraham Haim, head of the Center for Interdisciplinary Chronobiological Research at the University of Haifa and the Israeli partner in the research.
The study, titled “Limiting the impact of light pollution on human health, environment and stellar visibility” by Fabio Falchi, Pierantonio Cinzano, Christopher D. Elvidge, David M. Keith and Abraham Haim, was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management.
The fact that “white” artificial light (which is actually blue light on the spectrum, emitted at wavelengths of between 440-500 nanometers) suppresses the production of melatonin in the brain’s pineal gland is already known. Also known is the fact that suppressing the production of melatonin, which is responsible, among other things, for the regulation of our biological clock, causes behavior disruptions and health problems.
In this study, conducted by astronomers, physicists and biologists from ISTIL- Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy, the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, and the University of Haifa, researchers for the first time examined the differences in melatonin suppression in a various types of light bulbs, primarily those used for outdoor illumination, such as streetlights, road lighting, mall lighting and the like.
In the first, analytical part of the study, the researchers, relying on various data, calculated the wavelength and energy output of bulbs that are generally used for outdoor lighting. Next, they compared that information with existing research regarding melatonin suppression to determine the melatonin suppression level of each bulb type.
Taking into account the necessity for artificial lighting in cities, as well as the importance of energy- saving bulbs, the research team took as a reference point the level of melatonin suppression by a high- pressure sodium (HPS) bulb, a bulb that gives off orange-yellow light and is often used for street and road lighting, and compared the data from the other bulbs to that one.
From this comparison it emerged that the metal halide bulb, which gives off a white light and is used for stadium lighting, among other uses, suppresses melatonin at a rate more than 3 times greater than the
HPS bulb, while the light-emitting diode (LED) bulb, which also gives off a white light, suppresses melatonin at a rate more than 5 times higher than the HPS bulb.
“The current migration from the now widely used sodium lamps to white lamps will increase melatonin suppression in humans and animals,” the researchers say.
The researchers make some concrete suggestions that could alter the situation without throwing our world into total darkness, but first and foremost, they assert that it is necessary to understand that artificial light creates “light pollution” that ought to be addressed in the realms of regulation and legislation.
Their first suggestion of course, is to limit the use of “white” light to those instances where it is absolutely necessary. Another suggestion is to adjust lampposts so that their light is not directed beyond the horizon, which would significantly reduce light pollution. They also advise against “over-lighting”, using only the amount of light needed for a task, and, of course, to simply turn off lighting when not in use – “Just like we all turn off the light when we leave the room. This is the first and primary way to save energy,” the researchers say.
“Most Italian regions have legislations to lower the impact of light pollution, but they still lack a regulation on the spectrum emitted by lamps. Unless legislation is updated soon, with the current trend toward sources as white LEDs, which emit a huge amount of blue light, we will enter a period of elevated negative effects of light at night on human health and environment. Lamp manufacturers cannot claim that they don’t know about the consequences of artificial light at night,” says Dr. Fabio Falchi of ISTIL.
“As a first step in Israel, for example, the Standards Institution of Israel should obligate bulb importers to state clearly on their packaging what wavelengths are produced by each bulb. If wavelength indeed influences melatonin production, this is information that needs to be brought to the public’s attention, so consumers can decide whether to buy this lighting or not,” Prof. Haim says.
Public release date: 12-Sep-2011
Association found between long-term use of nonaspirin anti- inflammatory drugs and renal cell cancer
CHICAGO – Long-term use of nonaspirin anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is associated with an increased risk of renal cell cancer (RCC), according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
According to background information in the article, in the United States, kidney cancer is the seventh leading type of cancer among men and the ninth leading type of cancer among women. The most common type of kidney cancer, renal cell cancer, accounts for 85 percent of all cases. Analgesics (pain-relieving medications) are among the most commonly used groups of drugs in the United States, and some appear to have protective effects against cancer. “However,” the authors write, “some epidemiologic data, mainly from case-control studies, suggest an association between analgesic use and an increased risk of RCC.”Eunyoung Cho, Sc.D., from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and colleagues examined the relationship between analgesic use and RCC risk. They used data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, both prospective cohort studies.
Beginning in 1990 in the Nurses’ Health Study and 1986 in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and every two years thereafter, use of aspirin, other NSAIDs and acetaminophen was determined. Follow-up was 16 years and 20 years, respectively. The researchers evaluated the baseline and duration of use of analgesics. They also assessed other risk factors for RCC, such as body weight, smoking, recreational
physical activity and history of hypertension.
Among the 77,525 women and 49,403 men included in the study, the researchers documented 333 RCC cases. No association was found between aspirin and acetaminophen use and RCC risk. An association was found between regular use of nonaspirin NSAIDs and an increased risk of RCC, with a 51 percent increase in the relative risk. The researchers noticed a dose-response relationship between duration of nonaspirin NSAID use and RCC risk; there was a 19 percent decrease in relative risk for use less than four years, a 36 percent increase in relative risk for use of analgesics for four years to less than 10 years and nearly three times the relative risk for use for 10 or more years.
“In these large prospective studies of women and men, we found that use of nonaspirin NSAIDs was associated with an elevated risk of RCC, especially among those who took them for a long duration,” write the authors, who add that aspirin and acetaminophen were not associated with RCC risk. “Risks and benefits should be considered in deciding whether to use analgesics; if our findings are confirmed, an increased risk of RCC should also be considered.”
Public release date: 13-Sep-2011
More evidence that spicing up broccoli boosts its cancer-fighting power
URBANA – Teaming fresh broccoli with a spicy food that contains the enzyme myrosinase significantly enhances each food’s individual cancer-fighting power and ensures that absorption takes place in the upper part of the digestive system where you’ll get the maximum health benefit, suggests a new University of Illinois study.
“To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish, or wasabi. The spicier, the better; that means it’s being effective,” said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutrition.
In the study, when fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten with broccoli powder, the scientists were able to measure bioactive compounds in the blood 30 minutes later. When these peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. Urine samples corroborated the blood results, said Jenna Cramer, lead author of the study.
It’s no secret that many people cook the benefits right out of broccoli instead of steaming it lightly for two to four minutes to protect its healthful properties, she said.
“However, this study shows that even if broccoli is overcooked, you can still boost its benefits by pairing it with another food that contains myrosinase,” she said.
Myrosinase is the enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane, the vegetable’s cancer-preventive component, co-author Margarita Teran-Garcia explained.
Note what happened with the fresh broccoli sprouts and broccoli powder eaten in this experiment. The powder doesn’t contain myrosinase, but it does contain the precursor to the anti-cancer agent sulforaphane. Eaten together, the sprouts were able to lend their myrosinase to the powder. As predicted, both foods produced sulforaphane and provided greater anti-cancer benefit, Jeffery said.
Other foods that will boost broccoli’s benefits if they are paired together include radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and Brussels sprouts.
“Here’s another benefit of protecting and enhancing the myrosinase in your foods,” Jeffery said. “If myrosinase is present, sulforaphane is released in the ilium, the first part of your digestive system. Absorption happens well and quickly there, which is why we saw bioactivity in 30 minutes.”
An earlier Jeffery study showed that microbiota are capable of releasing sulforaphane in the lower gut, but absorption happens more slowly in the colon than in the upper intestine, she said.
Scientists say that as little as three to five servings of broccoli a week provide a cancer-protective benefit.
“But it pays to spice it up for added benefits and find ways to make it appealing so you don’t mind eating it if you’re not a broccoli fan. I add fresh broccoli sprouts to sandwiches and add them as one of my pizza toppings after the pie is out of the oven,” Cramer said.
Public release date: 13-Sep-2011
Researchers uncover a potential new benefit of pure maple syrup on liver health
NEW YORK – September 13, 2011 – New research conducted at the University of Tokyo suggests that pure maple syrup may promote a healthy liver. The pilot study, conducted by Dr. Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, showed that healthy laboratory rats fed a diet in which some of the carbohydrate was replaced with pure maple syrup from Canada yielded significantly better results in liver function tests than the control groups fed a diet with a syrup mix containing a similar sugar content as maple syrup. The results will be published in the November, 2011 issue of Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry.
Although most healthy individuals take liver function for granted, liver health is of great importance because of the hundreds of vital functions it performs that are essential to human life, which include storing energy (glycogen) and regulating blood glucose, the production of certain amino acids (building blocks of protein), filtering harmful substances from the blood. Liver disease not related to alcohol consumption is estimated to affect 25% of people in the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation. It shows up most often in middle aged people who are overweight, have abnormal blood lipids and diabetes or insulin resistance conditions when grouped together, are known as metabolic syndrome.
“It is important to understand the factors leading to impaired liver function – our lifestyle choices including poor diet, stress and lack of exercise, as well as exposure to environmental pollutants that produce tissue-damaging free radicals,” says Dr. Melissa Palmer, clinical professor and medical director of hepatology at New York University Plainview. “The preliminary results of this research are encouraging and emphasize the importance of choosing a healthy diet to help counteract the lifestyle and environmental factors that may impact liver function, even our choice of a sweetener. In addition to Dr. Abe’s recent findings, published research suggests that pure maple syrup may prove to be a better choice of sweetener because it was found to be rich in polyphenolic antioxidants and contains vitamins and minerals,” notes Palmer.
The animals were evaluated using the latest analytical methods including gene expression profiling called nutrigenomics. In the study, rats were fed diets consisting of 20% pure maple syrup, or 20% syrup mixture with similar sugar content as maple syrup. After 11 days, the rats on the maple syrup diet showed significantly decreased levels of liver enzymes AST, ALT and LDH in the blood, standard biomarkers for evaluating liver function. The gene expression profiling observations also suggest a
mechanism whereby the maple syrup diet caused genes involved in the production of harmful ammonia in the liver to down-regulate, that is, to be less active.
“This research contributes to our growing understanding of the incredible health potential of maple syrup,” remarked Serge Beaulieu, President of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. “We learned previously that maple syrup contains antioxidant compounds that may actually help regulate glucose metabolism and increase insulin release, possibly aiding in the management of type 2 diabetes. And now Dr. Abe is exploring the relationship between maple syrup consumption and liver health. Her current findings give us even more reason to enjoy our maple syrup.”
Public release date: 13-Sep-2011
Plant compound reduces breast cancer mortality
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds which, in the human body, can attach to the receptors for the female sexual hormone estrogen and which are taken in with our daily diet. A number of findings have attributed a cancer protective effect to these plant hormones. At DKFZ, a team headed by Prof. Dr. Jenny Chang- Claude summarized the results of several studies in a meta-analysis last year and showed that a diet rich in phytoestrogens lowers the risk of developing breast cancer after menopause. Now the Heidelberg researchers wanted to find out whether phytoestrogens also have an influence on the course of breast cancer. Prior investigations on this topic had provided contradictory results.
The most important type of phytoestrogens in our Western diet are lignans, which are contained in seeds, particularly flaxseeds, as well as in wheat and vegetables. In the bowel, these substances are turned into enterolactone, which is absorbed by the mucous tissue and which was determined by the Heidelberg researchers as a biomarker in the patients’ blood.
From 2002 to 2005, the DKFZ researchers used the MARIE study to take blood samples of 1,140 women who had been diagnosed with postmenopausal breast cancer. After a mean observation time of six years, they related enterolactone levels to clinical disease progression.
The result: Compared to the study subjects with the lowest enterolactone levels, the women with the highest blood levels of this biomarker had an approximately 40 percent lower mortality risk. When the scientists additionally took account of the incidence of metastasis and secondary tumors, they obtained a similar result: Women with the highest enterolactone levels also had a lower risk for such an unfavorable disease progression.
“We now have first clear evidence showing that lignans lower not only the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer, but also the mortality risk,” says Jenny Chang-Claude. There had been prior studies to determine the lignan intake by means of dietary surveys. But the results of such surveys are often unreliable and, in addition, there are big differences in the way individuals actually process the plant substances into effective metabolic products. Therefore, the Heidelberg team chose the more reliable measurement of biomarkers.
However, Chang-Claude narrowed down the result: “The result was significant only for the group of tumors that have no receptor for the estrogen hormone (ER-negative tumors). This gives reason to suspect that enterolactone protects from cancer not only by its hormone-like effect.” Indeed, studies of cells and animals had already provided evidence suggesting that the substance also has an influence on cancer growth irrespective of estrogen. Thus, it promotes cell death and inhibits sprouting of new blood vessels.
“In order to find out whether enterolactone also inhibits the aggressiveness of estrogen receptors in estrogen-positive tumors, we would need to expand this study to include much larger groups of women,” said Jenny Chang-Claude. Moreover, the scientist firmly emphasized: “By eating a diet that is rich in wholemeal products, seeds and vegetables, which is considered to be health-promoting anyway, everybody can take in enough lignans. At the present time, we can only discourage people from taking any food supplements.”
Phytoestrogens have been the subject of intense scientific debates in past years. On the one hand, the results of several studies of cells as well as epidemiological findings suggest that they have a cancer protective effect. Another observation that may be interpreted in this direction is that Asian women are less frequently affected by breast cancer. Their soy-rich diet contains large amounts of another type of phytoestrogens, isoflavones. On the other hand, scientists fear that isoflavones might imitate the growth- promoting properties of real hormones and, thus, accelerate hormone-dependent tumors such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. “It has not yet been finally determined whether lignans in the body imitate the hormone effect or, on the contrary, counteract it,” says Jenny Chang-Claude. “Our studies will help achieve more clarity in this important question, which also concerns our daily diet.”
Public release date: 15-Sep-2011
An apple or pear a day may keep strokes away
Apples and pears may keep strokes away.
That’s the conclusion of a Dutch study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association in which researchers found that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables with white flesh may protect against stroke.
While previous studies have linked high consumption of fruits and vegetables with lower stroke risk, the researchers’ prospective work is the first to examine associations of fruits and vegetable color groups with stroke.
The color of the edible portion of fruits and vegetables reflects the presence of beneficial phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids.
Researchers examined the link between fruits and vegetable color group consumption with 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based study of 20,069 adults, with an average age of 41. The participants were free of cardiovascular diseases at the start of the study and completed a 178-item food frequency questionnaire for the previous year.
Fruits and vegetables were classified in four color groups: Green, including dark leafy vegetables, cabbages and lettuces Orange/Yellow, which were mostly citrus fruits
Red/Purple, which were mostly red vegetables White, of which 55 percent were apples and pears
During 10 years of follow-up, 233 strokes were documented. Green, orange/yellow and red/purple fruits and vegetables weren’t related to stroke. However, the risk of stroke incidence was 52 percent lower for people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables compared to people with a low intake.
Each 25 gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetable consumption was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of stroke. An average apple is 120 grams.
“To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables,” said Linda M. Oude Griep, M.Sc., lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in human nutrition at Wageningen Uninversity in the Netherlands. “For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake.
“However, other fruits and vegetable color groups may protect against other chronic diseases. Therefore, it remains of importance to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables.”
Apples and pears are high in dietary fiber and a flavonoid called quercetin. In the study, other foods in the white category were bananas, cauliflower, chicory and cucumber.
Potatoes were classified as a starch.
Previous research on the preventive health benefits of fruits and vegetables focused on the food’s unique nutritional value and characteristics, such as the edible part of the plant, color, botanical family and its ability to provide antioxidants.
U.S. federal dietary guidelines include using color to assign nutritional value. The U.S. Preventive Health Services Taskforce recommends selecting each day vegetables from five subgroups: dark green, red/orange, legume, starchy and other vegetables.
Before the results are adopted into everyday practice, the findings should be confirmed through additional research, Oude Griep said. “It may be too early for physicians to advise patients to change their dietary habits based on these initial findings,” she said.
An accompanying editorial notes that the finding should be interpreted with caution because food frequency questionnaires may not be reliable.
In addition, “the observed reduction in stroke risk might further be due to a generally healthier lifestyle of individuals consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables,” writes Heike Wersching, M.D., M.Sc., of Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the University of Münster, in Germany.
Public release date: 16-Sep-2011
Study finds an increase of children accidentally poisoned with pharmaceuticals
Cincinnati, OH, September 16, 2011 — Pharmaceutical poisoning remains a common childhood injury, despite years of concerted prevention efforts, such as improved safe guards on packaging. Over half a million children are exposed to pharmaceuticals each year. A new study soon to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics attempts to understand this growing problem to aid in the progress of reducing the number of childhood injuries due to pharmaceutical poisoning.
Dr. Randall Bond and colleagues from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati gathered information about 544,133 children 5 years of age and younger who had visited the
emergency department (ED) because they may have been poisoned by medication. The data was gathered from all cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers between 2001 and 2008. In an attempt to find a focus for continued poison prevention methods, the authors organized the data according to medication type and whether the exposure was caused by the child self-ingesting the medication or by a dosing error.
“We need to know the medications and ingestion circumstances that contribute most to ED visits, hospitalization, and harm,” Dr. Bond explains. The authors found that 95% of ED visits resulted from self-ingestion. Prescription drugs accounted for 55% of the ED visits, 76% of hospital admissions, and 71% of significant injuries. The biggest impact came from opioid-containing pain medications (eg, oxycodone, morphine, codeine), sedative hypnotics (eg, muscle relaxants, sleep aids), and cardiovascular medications. “The problem of pediatric poisoning in the U.S. is getting worse, not better,” Dr. Bond asserts. Overall, there was a 22% increase in the exposure for this age group, although the number of children in the U.S. under the age of 5 years increased only 8% during the study period.
The authors attribute this increase to a greater availability of, and access to, medications in the child’s home. They also note that effective “poison proofing” may have plateaued or declined in recent years. “Prevention efforts of parents and caregivers to store medicines in locked cabinets or up and away from children continue to be crucial. However, the largest potential benefit would come from packaging design changes that reduce the quantity a child could quickly and easily access in a self-ingestion episode, like flow restrictors on liquids and one-at-a-time tablet dispensing containers,” Dr. Bond suggests. He goes on to recommend that such changes should be applied to both adult and pediatric products and to over-the- counter and prescription products.
Public release date: 16-Sep-2011
Children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms have altered digestive genes
These changes may also affect the mix of bacteria present in the digestive tract
Researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and at the Harvard Medical School report that children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances have altered expression of genes involved in digestion. These variations may contribute to changes in the types of bacteria in their intestines.
Full study findings are reported online in the journal PLoS ONE.
Autism, which is defined by impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, affects approximately 1% of the population. Many children with autism have gastrointestinal problems that can complicate clinical management and contribute to behavioral disturbances. In some children, special diets and antibiotics have been associated with improvements in social, cognitive and gastrointestinal function.
The investigators found that children diagnosed with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances have abnormalities in levels of genes for enzymes that break down sugars and for molecules that transport them from the lumen of the intestine into the blood. These variations were also associated with changes in the bacterial composition of the intestine.
The researchers examined biopsies from 22 patients, 15 diagnosed with autism and seven typically developing children. They used real-time PCR to measure gene expression and genetic sequencing
techniques to characterize the bacteria present in the intestines of each child.
Brent Williams, PhD, research scientist at CII and first author of the study, noted that, “whereas others have looked at bacterial composition of feces, our group was the first to characterize mucosal communities and to link findings to expression of genes important in carbohydrate metabolism and transport.”
“The findings are consistent with other research suggesting that autism may be a system-wide disorder, and provide insight into why changes in diet or the use of antibiotics may help alleviate symptoms in some children,” added Mady Hornig, MD, Director of Translational Research at the Center for Infection and Immunity.
“Although caution in interpretation is indicated because the sample size is small, our findings nonetheless provide a framework for developing and testing new hypotheses concerning the role of malabsorption and microflora in autism and related disorders,” said Ian Lipkin, MD, Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity.
Public release date: 16-Sep-2011
Study suggests possible link between two Type 2 diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer
Two newer drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes could be linked to a significantly increased risk of developing pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, and one could also be linked to an increased risk of thyroid cancer, according to a new UCLA study.
Researchers from the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA examined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s database for adverse events reported between 2004 and 2009 among patients using the drugs sitagliptin and exenatide. They found a six-fold increase in the odds ratio for reported cases of pancreatitis with these drugs, compared with four other diabetes therapies they used as controls.
They also found that patients who took the two drugs were more likely to have developed pancreatic cancer than those who were treated with the other therapies.
The study is published in the journal Gastroenterology.
“We undertook these studies because several studies in animal models by several investigators had suggested that this form of therapy may have unintended actions to promote growth of the ducts (tubes) in the pancreatic gland that convey digestive juices from the pancreas to the gut,” said Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Hillblom Center and a study co-author. “This is a concern if it happens in humans since it might be expected to increase the risk for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. While the FDA data base has limitations, it does have advantages in being very large, openly accessible and independent from companies that market the drugs.
“Taken together the animals studies and the FDA data base analysis suggest that further work needs to be undertaken to at least rule out that this now widely available new drug class for diabetes does not increase the risk of pancreatic cancer,” Butler, who is also a member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, added.
Sitagliptin and exenatide are drugs that enhance the actions of a gut hormone known as glucagon- like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which has been shown to be effective in lowering blood sugar in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. Sitagliptin, marketed as Januvia by Merck & Co. Inc., works by inhibiting
dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DDP-4), an enzyme that degrades GLP-1. Exenatide, manufactured by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and sold as Byetta, mimics the action of GLP-1 and resists DDP-4 degradation.
Previous research by UCLA Hillblom Center researchers suggested there might be a link between drugs that enhance the actions of GLP-1 and pancreatitis, possibly resulting from an increase in the rate of formation of cells that line the pancreatic ducts. That research, based on studies in rats, was published in 2009 in the journal Diabetes.
In addition to the six-fold increase in reported cases of pancreatitis, the researchers also found a 2.9- fold greater rate of pancreatic cancer in patients using exenatide and a 2.7-fold higher rate of pancreatic cancer in patients on sitagliptin, compared with the other therapies. Additionally, they found a statistically significant increase in the risk of thyroid cancer among the exenatide group, but not among the sitagliptin group.
The FDA data did not indicate links between the two diabetes drugs and any other form of cancer.
The researchers caution that the FDA’s adverse events database “is not the ideal mechanism to compare adverse event rates between drugs,” given its known limitations, such as incomplete data and reporting biases. They stress that more study is needed.
“Randomized, controlled clinical trials remain the gold standard for such assessment,” the researchers wrote.
Public release date: 17-Sep-2011
Low-fat yogurt intake when pregnant may lead to child asthma and hay fever
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Eating low-fat yoghurt whilst pregnant can increase the risk of your child developing asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever), according to recent findings.
The study will be presented at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) Annual Congress in Amsterdam on 25 September 2011. All the abstracts for the ERS Congress will be publicly available online from today (17 September 2011).
The study aimed to assess whether fatty acids found in dairy products could protect against the development of allergic diseases in children.
The researchers assessed milk and dairy intake during pregnancy and monitored the prevalence of asthma and allergic rhinitis using registries and questionnaires in the Danish National Birth Cohort.
The results showed that milk intake during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of developing asthma and it actually protected against asthma development. However, women who ate low-fat yoghurt with fruit once a day were 1.6-times more likely to have children who developed asthma by age 7, compared with children of women who reported no intake. They were also more likely to have allergic rhinitis and to display current asthma symptoms.
The researchers suggest that non-fat related nutrient components in the yoghurt may play a part in increasing this risk. They are also looking at the possibility that low-fat yoghurt intake may serve as a marker for other dietary and lifestyle factors.
Ekaterina Maslova, lead author from the Harvard School of Public Health, who has been working with data at the Centre for Fetal Programming at Statens Serum Institut, said: “This is the first study of its kind to link low-fat yoghurt intake during pregnancy with an increased risk of asthma and hay fever in children. This could be due to a number of reasons and we will further investigate whether this is linked to certain nutrients or whether people who ate yoghurt regularly had similar lifestyle and dietary patterns which could explain the increased risk of asthma.”
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