Release Date 07 NOV 2014
Draft Report Compiled by
In this Issue:
- Dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline
- New prostate cancer screening guideline recommends not using PSA test
- Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat linked with lower risk of heart disease
- UTHealth research shows mushroom extract, AHCC, helpful in treating HPV
- Breathe Easier: Get Your D
- Low-carb, high-fat diets may reduce seizures in tough-to-treat epilepsy
- BPA exposure by infants may increase later risk of food intolerance
- Pterostilbene, a molecule similar to resveratrol, as a potential treatment for obesity
- Fun and games make for better learners
- The effects of poor eating habits persist even after diet is improved
- Study shows clear new evidence for mind-body connection
- Coenzyme Q10 helps veterans battle Gulf War illness symptoms
- A new study by a Florida State University researcher reveals that a new dietary supplement is superior to calcium and vitamin D when it comes to bone health.
- Allergy sufferers are allergic to treatment more often than you’d think
- Body weight heavily influenced by microbes in the gut, finds twin study
Dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline
Findings strengthen link between specific brain region and normal memory decline
NEW YORK, NY (October 26, 2014)—Dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults, according to a study led by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) scientists. The study, published today in the advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.
As people age, they typically show some decline in cognitive abilities, including learning and remembering such things as the names of new acquaintances or where one parked the car or placed one’s keys. This normal age-related memory decline starts in early adulthood but usually does not have any noticeable impact on quality of life until people reach their fifties or sixties. Age-related memory decline is different from the often-devastating memory impairment that occurs with Alzheimer’s, in which a disease process damages and destroys neurons in various parts of the brain, including the memory circuits.
Previous work, including by the laboratory of senior author Scott A. Small, MD, had shown that changes in a specific part of the brain—the dentate gyrus—are associated with age-related memory decline. Until now, however, the evidence in humans showed only a correlational link, not a causal one. To see if the dentate gyrus is the source of age-related memory decline in humans, Dr. Small and his colleagues tested whether compounds called cocoa flavanols can improve the function of this brain region and improve memory. Flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had previously been found to improve neuronal connections in the dentate gyrus of mice.
Dr. Small is the Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology (in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, the Sergievsky Center, and the Departments of Radiology and Psychiatry) and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in the Taub Institute at CUMC.
A cocoa flavanol-containing test drink prepared specifically for research purposes was produced by the food company Mars, Incorporated, which also partly supported the research, using a proprietary process to extract flavanols from cocoa beans. Most methods of processing cocoa remove many of the flavanols found in the raw plant.
In the CUMC study, 37 healthy volunteers, ages 50 to 69, were randomized to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 mg of flavanols a day) or a low-flavanol diet (10 mg of flavanols a day) for three months. Brain imaging and memory tests were administered to each participant before and after the study. The brain imaging measured blood volume in the dentate gyrus, a measure of metabolism, and the memory test involved a 20-minute pattern-recognition exercise designed to evaluate a type of memory controlled by the dentate gyrus.
“When we imaged our research subjects’ brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink,” said lead author Adam M. Brickman, PhD, associate professor of neuropsychology at the Taub Institute.
The high-flavanol group also performed significantly better on the memory test. “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old,” said Dr. Small. He cautioned, however, that the findings need to be replicated in a larger study—which he and his team plan to do.
Flavanols are also found naturally in tea leaves and in certain fruits and vegetables, but the overall amounts, as well as the specific forms and mixtures, vary widely.
The precise formulation used in the CUMC study has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston recently launched an NIH-funded study of 18,000 men and women to see whether flavanols can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The researchers point out that the product used in the study is not the same as chocolate, and they caution against an increase in chocolate consumption in an attempt to gain this effect.
Two innovations by the investigators made the study possible. One was a new information-processing tool that allows the imaging data to be presented in a single, three-dimensional snapshot, rather than in numerous individual slices. The tool was developed in Dr. Small’s lab by Usman A. Khan, an MD-PhD student in the lab, and Frank A. Provenzano, a biomedical engineering graduate student at Columbia. The other innovation was a modification to a classic neuropsychological test, allowing the researchers to evaluate memory function specifically localized to the dentate gyrus. The revised test was developed by Drs. Brickman and Small.
Besides flavanols, exercise has been shown in previous studies, including those of Dr. Small, to improve memory and dentate gyrus function in younger people. In the current study, the researchers were unable to assess whether exercise had an effect on memory or on dentate gyrus activity. “Since we didn’t reach the intended VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake) target,” said Dr. Small, “we couldn’t evaluate whether exercise was beneficial in this context. This is not to saythat exercise is not beneficial for cognition. It may be that older people need more intense exercise to reach VO2max levels that have therapeutic effects.”
New prostate cancer screening guideline recommends not using PSA test
Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care releases updated guideline
A new Canadian guideline recommends that the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test should not be used to screen for prostate cancer based on evidence that shows an increased risk of harm and uncertain benefits. The guideline is published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
“Some people believe men should be screened for prostate cancer with the PSA test but the evidence indicates otherwise,” states Dr. Neil Bell, member of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and chair of the prostate cancer guideline working group. “These recommendations balance the possible benefits of PSA screening with the potential harms of false positives, overdiagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.”
For men with prostate cancer diagnosed through PSA screening, between 11.3% and 19.8% will receive a false-positive diagnosis, and 40% to 56% will be affected by overdiagnosis leading to invasive treatment. Treatment such as surgery can cause postoperative complications, such as infection (in 11% to 21% of men), urinary incontinence (in up to 17.8%), erectile dysfunction (23.4%) and other complications.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in men and the third most common cause of death from cancer in men in Canada. However, the prognosis for most prostate cancers is good with a 10-year survival rate of 95%. Prostate cancer is generally slow to progress and usually not life-threatening.
The guideline, aimed at physicians, other health care professionals and policymakers, contains prostate cancer screening recommendations for using the PSA test with or without manual rectal examination of men in the general population. Based on the latest evidence and international best practices, the guideline updates the previous version published by the task force in 1994.
- For men under age 55 and over age 70, the task force recommends not using the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. This strong recommendation is based on the lack of clear evidence that screening with the PSA test reduces mortality and on the evidence of increased risk of harm.
- For men aged 55–69 years, the task force also recommends not screening, although it recognizes that some men may place high value on the small potential reduction in the risk of death and suggests that physicians should discuss the benefits and harms with these patients.
- These recommendations apply to men considered high risk — black men and those with a family history of prostate cancer — because the evidence does not indicate that the benefits and harms of screening are different for this group.
“Any use of PSA testing to screen for prostate cancer requires a thoughtful discussion between the clinician and the patient about the balance between unclear benefits and substantial harms,” states Dr. James Dickinson, member of the prostate cancer guideline working group.
The guidelines are consistent with the recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force and the Cancer Council Australia. The United Kingdom does not have an organized screening program but recommends that men concerned about the risk of prostate cancer receive balanced information on the benefits and harms of screening.
The task force recommendations are based on systematic evidence reviews and use an international framework for assessing quality of evidence and the strength of recommendations for clinical guidelines (GRADE).
To help patients and their physicians make informed decisions, the task force has created tools to help patients and physicians in decision-making about testing. Visit http://www.canadiantaskforce.ca.
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care has been established to develop clinical practice guidelines that support primary care providers in delivering preventive health care. The mandate of the task force is to develop and disseminate clinical practice guidelines for primary and preventive care, based on systematic analysis of scientific evidence.
“The task force’s guideline is an excellent example of health care decisions being made from the perspective of evidence-based medicine,” writes Dr. Murray Krahn, University Health Network and University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, in a related commentary. “However, it paid insufficient attention to patient values, patient preferences and costs.”
“The task force’s guideline provides a good summary of the data on the effectiveness of prostate cancer screening and a reasonable review of the rate at which potential harms occur,” he states. However, several elements could provide more complete information for making decisions. These include a comprehensive review of patient harms, a review of modelling studies, evidence on cost as well as more on patient preference and shared decision-making, of which there is substantial literature.
Dr. Krahn suggests that recommendations for clinical practice should be based on patient preferences, social values and health care costs in addition to evidence on outcomes.
“The falling overall mortality in some countries that screen intensively [for prostate cancer], the evidence that treatment may have a very modest disease-specific mortality benefit, and the highly variable preferences for treatment outcomes suggest to me that we should not push patients out of decision-making in this area,” concludes Dr. Krahn.
Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat linked with lower risk of heart disease
Boston, MA — People who swap 5% of the calories they consume from saturated fat sources such as red meat and butter with foods containing linoleic acid—the main polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds—lowered their risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events by 9% and their risk of death from CHD by 13%, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. Substitution of 5% of calories from carbohydrate with linoleic acid was associated with similar reductions in risk of heart disease.
“There has been much confusion and sensational headlines about the role of different types of fat in CHD,” said Frank Hu, senior author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health. “Randomized clinical trials have shown that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces total and LDL cholesterol. And our comprehensive meta-analysis provides clear evidence to support the benefits of consuming polyunsaturated fat as a replacement for saturated fat.”
The study appears in the October 28, 2014 print issue of Circulation.
The researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies to summarize the evidence regarding the link between dietary linoleic acid intake and CHD risk in generally healthy people. They identified 13 published and unpublished cohort studies with a total of 310,602 individuals and 12,479 total CHD events including 5,882 CHD deaths.
Results showed that dietary linoleic acid intake is inversely associated with CHD risk in a dose-response manner—meaning, higher intake of linoleic acid resulted in a lower risk of CHD. Comparing the highest to the lowest level of consumption, dietary linoleic acid was associated with a 15% lower risk of CHD events and a 21% lower risk of CHD deaths. These results were independent of common coronary heart disease risk factors such as smoking and other dietary factors such as fiber consumption.
In practice, say the authors, these findings support replacing butter, lard, and fat from red meat with liquid plant oils in cooking and at the table. Although not addressed in this analysis, trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils should be avoided, they add.
UTHealth research shows mushroom extract, AHCC, helpful in treating HPV
HOUSTON – (Oct. 28, 2014) – A Japanese mushroom extract appears to be effective for the eradication of human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a pilot clinical trial at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School.
The results were presented at the 11th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology in Houston today by principal investigator Judith A. Smith, Pharm.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the UTHealth Medical School.
Ten HPV-positive women were treated orally with the extract, AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) once daily for up to six months. Five achieved a negative HPV test result – three with confirmed eradication after stopping AHCC – with the remaining two responders continuing on the study.
Currently, there is no effective medicine or supplement to treat HPV, which is associated with more than 99 percent of cervical cancer cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several other cancers are related to HPV, including 95 percent of anal cancer, 60 percent of oropharyngeal, 65 percent of vaginal cancer, 50 percent of vulvar cancer and 35 percent of penile cancer.
AHCC is a readily available nutritional supplement that works to improve the innate immune system. Human and preclinical studies have shown that AHCC increases the number and/or activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells and cytokines, which help the body fight off infections and block tumor growth.
“The results are very encouraging,” Smith said. “We were able to determine that at least three months of treatment is necessary but some need to extend that to six months. Since AHCC is a nutritional supplement with no side effects and other immune modulating benefits, we will be planning on using six months of treatment in our phase II clinical study to have consistent study treatment plan. This confirms our earlier preclinical research.”
|Breathe Easier: Get Your D|
|Tuesday, October 28, 2014 9:30:00 AM
TAU study finds asthmatics with Vitamin D deficiency are 25 percent more likely to experience acute attacks
Asthma, which inflames and narrows the airways, has become more common in recent years. While there is no known cure, asthma can be managed with medication and by avoiding allergens and other triggers. A new study by a Tel Aviv University researcher points to a convenient, free way to manage acute asthmatic episodes — catching some rays outside.
According to a paper recently published in the journal Allergy, measuring and, if need be, boosting Vitamin D levels could help manage asthma attacks. The research, conducted by Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Meir Medical Center, and the Clalit Research Institute, and Dr. Becca Feldman of the Clalit Research Institute drew on the records of millions of patients and used physician diagnoses, rather than self-reports, for evidence of asthma episodes.
“Vitamin D has significant immunomodulatory effects and, as such, was believed to have an effect on asthma — an immunologically mediated disease,” said Dr. Confino-Cohen. “But most of the existing data regarding Vitamin D and asthma came from the pediatric population and was inconsistent. Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and ‘uncontaminated’ by other diseases.”
A broad study
Dr. Confino-Cohen and her team of researchers analyzed the medical records of nearly four million members of Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest health care provider. The Vitamin D levels of 307,900 people were measured between 2008 and 2012. Researchers also took into account key predictors of asthma, such as obesity, smoking, and other chronic diseases. Of some 21,000 asthma patients in Israel studied, those with a Vitamin D deficiency were 25 percent more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past.
The researchers found that Vitamin D-deficient asthmatics were at a higher risk of an asthma attack. “Uncontrolled asthma” was defined as being prescribed at least five rescue inhalers, one prescription of oral corticosteroids, or visiting the doctor for asthma at least four times in a single year.
“Our results add more evidence to the link between Vitamin D and asthma, suggesting beneficial effects of Vitamin D on asthma exacerbations,” said Dr. Confino-Cohen. “We expect that further prospective studies will support our results. In the meantime, our results support a recommendation for screening of Vitamin D levels in the subgroup of asthma patients who experience recurrent exacerbations. In those with Vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be necessary.”
Sunny side up?
While most of the Vitamin D in people’s bodies comes from exposure to the sun, dermatologists recommend obtaining the ingredient from other sources — fish, eggs, cod liver oil, fortified milk, or a dietary supplement — due to the dangers of overexposure to the sun.
“We know a lot about this disease and many therapeutic options are available. So it’s quite frustrating that the prevalence of asthma is not decreasing and many patients suffer exacerbations and significant impairment in their quality of life,” Dr. Confino-Cohen, an allergy and clinical immunology specialist, said. “Increasing Vitamin D levels is something we can easily do to improve patients’ quality of life.”
Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that people whose asthma cannot be controlled with existing treatments have their Vitamin D levels tested. For those with a vitamin D deficiency, supplements may make sense.
“This study provided an exceptional opportunity to research asthma. I received a research grant from Clalit Health Services, which provided us with the opportunity to use their very large database and to conduct the study with the professional staff of Clalit Research Institute,” said Dr. Confino-Cohen. “We anticipate further prospective research that will support our findings and open a new treatment modality to the population of uncontrolled asthmatics.”
Low-carb, high-fat diets may reduce seizures in tough-to-treat epilepsy
MINNEAPOLIS – Diets high in fat and low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic or modified Atkins diet, may reduce seizures in adults with tough-to-treat epilepsy, according to a review of the research published in the October 29, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Epilepsy is a nervous system disorder in which the nerve cells in the brain work abnormally, causing seizures. About 50 million people have epilepsy worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
“We need new treatments for the 35 percent of people with epilepsy whose seizures are not stopped by medications,” said study author Pavel Klein, M.B.,B. Chir., of the Mid-Atlantic Epilepsy and Sleep Center in Bethesda, Md., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “The ketogenic diet is often used in children, but little research has been done on how effective it is in adults.”
The ketogenic and modified Atkins diets include items such as bacon, eggs, heavy cream, butter, leafy green vegetables and fish. The ketogenic diet consists of a ratio of fat to protein/carbohydrates of three or four to one by weight. The modified Atkins diet has a one-to-one fat to carbohydrate/protein ratio by weight.
Scientists reviewed five studies on the ketogenic diet with a total of 47 people included in the analysis and five studies on the modified Atkins diet with 85 people included.
Researchers found that across all studies, 32 percent of people treated with the ketogenic diet and 29 percent of those treated with the modified Atkins diet experienced a 50 percent or better reduction in their seizures. Nine percent in the ketogenic treatment group and 5 percent in the modified Atkins group had a greater than 90 percent reduction in seizures.
The positive results occurred quickly with both diets, within days to weeks. The effect persisted long-term, but, unlike in children, the results did not continue after participants stopped following the diet. Side effects of both diets were similar and not serious, with weight loss the most common side effect.
Fifty-one percent of the ketogenic diet group and 42 percent of the modified Atkins group stopped the diet before the study was completed.
“Unfortunately, long-term use of these diets is low because they are so limited and complicated. Most people eventually stop the diet because of the culinary and social restrictions,” said Klein. “However, these studies show the diets are moderately to very effective as another option for people with epilepsy.”
BPA exposure by infants may increase later risk of food intolerance
New research in The FASEB Journal suggests that exposure to Bisphenol A at a dose significantly below the current FDA Tolerable Daily Intake predisposes offspring to food intolerance at adulthood
If it seems like more people are allergic to, or intolerant of, more and different kinds of foods than ever before, there might be a reason why. A new research published in November 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists show, for the first time, that there is a link between perinatal exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) at low doses and the risk to develop food intolerance in later life. This research involving rats suggests that early life exposure at a dose significantly below the current human safety limit set by the FDA affects developing immune systems, predisposing offspring to food intolerance in adulthood.
“Food contributes over 80 percent of the population’s exposure to BPA,” said Sandrine Menard, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Neuro-Gastroenterology and Nutrition at INRA in Toulouse, France. “On the basis of the susceptibility to food intolerance after perinatal exposure to BPA, these new scientific data may help decisions by public health authorities on the need of a significant reduction in the level of exposure to BPA in pregnant and breastfeeding women, to limit the risk for their children of adverse food reactions later in life.”
To make this discovery, scientists used two groups of pregnant rats. The first group received BPA orally every day at a dose of 5 µg/kg of body weight/day, from gestational day 15 to day 21 of lactation, when pups were weaned. The second group (control) was daily treated throughout the same period with the BPA vehicle only. After weaning, offspring were kept untouched until adulthood, at day 45. At this age, only offspring female rats from each group were used. In animals perinatally exposed to BPA, feeding with a new food protein (ovalbumin) induced an exacerbated immune response toward ovalbumin, which was not observed in control rats. Furthermore, a repeated oral administration of ovalbumin in the BPA-exposed rats induced colonic inflammation, suggestive of food intolerance, not observed in control animals. This study provides strong rationale for preventive management of immune disorders, such as food intolerance, rather than therapeutic issues. This research may help public health authorities to identify the variety of effects of BPA on the immune system, at low levels of exposure, and during sensitive phases of an individual’s development, especially during fetal life and for the pregnant and breastfeeding women.
“We may look back one day and see BPA exposure as one of the more important public health problems of our time,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “We know that too much exposure is bad, but exactly how much exposure is too much is still up for debate.”
According to the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH, BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics used in some food and drink packaging, impact-resistant safety equipment, and medical devices. Epoxy resins containing BPA are also used as lacquers to coat metal in items, such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes. Some dental sealants and composites may also contribute to BPA exposure. Most exposure occurs when BPA leaches into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles. The degree to which BPA leaches from polycarbonate bottles into liquid may depend more on the temperature of the liquid or bottle, than the age of the container. BPA has also been found in breast milk.
Pterostilbene, a molecule similar to resveratrol, as a potential treatment for obesity
Research conducted by the UPV/EHU’s ‘Nutrition and Obesity’ group, which belongs to the Spanish Biomedical Research Centre in CIBERobn of the Carlos III Institute of Health, shows that pterostilbene reduces body fat
Pterostilbene is a phenolic compound in the same family as resveratrol and is present in small amounts in a large variety of foods and beverages like blueberries or red wine. In collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), researchers in the UPV/EHU’s ‘Nutrition and Obesity’ Group, which belongs to the Spanish Biomedical Research Centre in Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn) of the Carlos III Institute of Health, have observed in animal models that its administration reduces the build-up of body fat, which could reduce the risk of developing other diseases like diabetes.
Obesity is a chronic disease caused by a whole range of factors and defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat. It is a metabolic disease very prevalent in developed countries and a significant risk factor for developing certain pathologies and alterations like insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver, alterations in plasma lipids and hypertension, among others.
The traditional guidelines for preventing and treating obesity include following a low-calorie diet and doing moderate physical activity over the long term. However, the effectiveness of these strategies is limited and the success achieved is not always the desired one. In this context, including functional ingredients in the diet opens up new treatment perspectives. An example of these ingredients are phenolic compounds, one of which is pterostilbene.
Pterostilbene is present in small amounts in a whole range of foods and beverages like grapes, blueberries, peanuts and red wine and widely consumed by humans. Right now there are few studies analysing the effects of this molecule and they mainly focus on cancer. The study conducted in this research is the first pre-clinical piece of work that analyses the effects of this phenolic compound on obesity in the animal model. In this model, pterostilbene cuts body fat due to a reduction in fat synthesis in adipose tissue and an increase in its oxidation in the liver.
These promising results, which have resulted in a patent, could be the starting point for conducting future studies on intervention in humans and designed to confirm this anti-obesity effect.
The ‘Nutrition and Obesity’ group has been recognised as a research group in the Basque university system by the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region) and belongs to the Spanish Biomedical Research Centre in Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn). It conducts its activity in the Nutrition and Bromatology Departments of the UPV/EHU’s Pharmacy Faculty and at the Lascaray Ikergunea Research Centre on the Álava Campus.
Its main line of research covers obesity and its associated disorders, like dyslipemia and diabetes. Work is also being carried out within the study of the effects of diet composition and of potential functional ingredients in the accumulation of body fat, by seeking scientific evidence and analysing the action mechanisms that justify the effects observed.
The ‘Nutrition and Obesity’ group is headed by María del Puy Portillo-Baquedano. Among its teaching research staff the group has Itziar Churruca-Ortega, Alfredo Fernández-Quintela, Arrate Lasa-Elgezua, María Teresa Macarulla-Arenaza, Jonatan Miranda-Gómez, Víctor Manuel Rodríguez-Rivera and Edurne Simón-Magro. The following people are involved as researchers: Leixuri Aguirre-López, Saioa Gómez-Zorita, Noemí Arias-Rueda, Ana Gracia-Jadraque, Itziar Eseberri-Barace, Idoia Larretxi-Lamelas, Andrea Mosqueda and Iñaki Milton.
Fun and games make for better learners
Friday October 31, 2014
By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer
Four minutes of physical activity can improve behaviour in the classroom for primary school students, according to new research by Brendon Gurd.
A brief, high-intensity interval exercise, or a “FUNterval,” for Grade 2 and Grade 4 students reduced off-task behaviours like fidgeting or inattentiveness in the classroom.
“While 20 minutes of daily physical activity (DPA) is required in Ontario primary schools, there is a need for innovative and accessible ways for teachers to meet this requirement,” says Dr. Gurd, lead researcher and professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Given the time crunch associated with the current school curriculum we thought that very brief physical activity breaks might be an interesting way to approach DPA. We were particularly interested in what effects a brief exercise bout might have in the classroom setting.”
For the study, students were taught a class and were then given an active break, where they would perform a FUNterval, or a non-active break where they would learn about different aspects of healthy living on alternating days for three weeks. After each break, classroom observers recorded instances of off-task behaviour. When a four minute FUNterval was completed during a break from class, there was less off-task behaviour observed in the 50 minutes following the break than if students completed a non-active break.
Working with Dr. Gurd, master’s student Jasmine Ma created the series of four-minute activities that students could complete in small spaces with no equipment.
FUNtervals involved actively acting out tasks like “making s’mores” where students would lunge to “collect firewood,” “start the fire” by crouching and exploding into a star jump and squatting and jumping to “roast the marshmallows” to make the S’more. Each activity moves through a 20-second storyline of quick, enthusiastic movements followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals.
The effects of poor eating habits persist even after diet is improved
New research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that these changes to the behavior of the immune system are persistent and can continue even after diet is improved
Almost everyone knows that improving your eating habits will most likely improve your health. What most people may not know, however, is that the effects of poor eating habits persist long after dietary habits are improved. In a new report appearing in the November 2014 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists use mice to show that even after successful treatment of atherosclerosis (including lowering of blood cholesterol and a change in dietary habits) the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle still affect the way the immune system functions. This change in function occurs largely because poor eating habits alter the way genes express themselves, including genes related to immunity. This change in gene expression (epigenetics) ultimately keeps the risk of cardiovascular disorders higher than it would be had there been no exposure to unhealthy foods in the first place.
“I hope that this study demonstrates the importance of diet-induced changes in the epigenome and encourages further research into the interaction between dietary patterns, DNA methylation and disease,” said Erik van Kampen, a researcher involved in the work from the Division of Biopharmaceutics at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research at Leiden University in Leiden, The Netherlands.
To make their discovery, scientists used two groups of mice that had an altered gene making them more susceptible to developing high blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis. These mice were either fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet (Western-type diet, WTD) or a normal diet (chow). After a long period of feeding, bone marrow was isolated from the mice and transplanted into mice with a similar genetic background that had their own bone marrow destroyed. The recipient mice were left on chow diet for several months, after which the development of atherosclerosis in the heart was measured. The number and status of immune cells throughout the body and epigenetic markings on the DNA in the bone marrow also were examined. They found that DNA methylation, an epigenetic signature, in the bone marrow was different in mice that received bone marrow from the WTD-fed donors compared to the mice receiving bone marrow from chow-fed donors. Furthermore, these mice had large differences in their immune system and increased atherosclerosis.
“We’ve long known that lifestyle and nutrition could affect immune system function,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “The ability of nutritional history to have durable affects on immune cells demonstrated in this new report could have profound implications for treatment of diseases with immune underpinnings. The length of such effects will be critical to determine and it will be interesting to examine the effects of drugs that can modify epigenetics.”
Study shows clear new evidence for mind-body connection
Impact of meditation, support groups seen at cellular level in breast cancer survivors
For the first time, researchers have shown that practising mindfulness meditation or being involved in a support group has a positive physical impact at the cellular level in breast cancer survivors.
A group working out of Alberta Health Services’ Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the University of Calgary Department of Oncology has demonstrated that telomeres – protein complexes at the end of chromosomes – maintain their length in breast cancer survivors who practise meditation or are involved in support groups, while they shorten in a comparison group without any intervention.
Although the disease-regulating properties of telomeres aren’t fully understood, shortened telomeres are associated with several disease states, as well as cell aging, while longer telomeres are thought to be protective against disease.
“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology,” says Dr. Linda E. Carlson, PhD, principal investigator and director of research in the Psychosocial Resources Department at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
“It was surprising that we could see any difference in telomere length at all over the three-month period studied,” says Dr. Carlson, who is also a U of C professor in the Faculty of Arts and the Cumming School of Medicine, and a member of the Southern Alberta Cancer Institute. “Further research is needed to better quantify these potential health benefits, but this is an exciting discovery that provides encouraging news.”
The study was published online today in the journal Cancer. It can be found at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.29063/full
A total of 88 breast cancer survivors who had completed their treatments for at least three months were involved for the duration of the study. The average age was 55 and most participants had ended treatment two years prior. To be eligible, they also had to be experiencing significant levels of emotional distress.
In the Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery group, participants attended eight weekly, 90-minute group sessions that provided instruction on mindfulness meditation and gentle Hatha yoga, with the goal of cultivating non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Participants were also asked to practise meditation and yoga at home for 45 minutes daily.
In the Supportive Expressive Therapy group, participants met for 90 minutes weekly for 12 weeks and were encouraged to talk openly about their concerns and their feelings. The objectives were to build mutual support and to guide women in expressing a wide range of both difficult and positive emotions, rather than suppressing or repressing them.
The participants randomly placed in the control group attended one, six-hour stress management seminar.
All study participants had their blood analysed and telomere length measured before and after the interventions.
Scientists have shown a short-term effect of these interventions on telomere length compared to a control group, but it’s not known if the effects are lasting. Dr. Carlson says another avenue for further research is to see if the psychosocial interventions have a positive impact beyond the three months of the study period.
Allison McPherson was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. When she joined the study, she was placed in the mindfulness-based cancer recovery group. Today, she says that experience has been life-changing.
“I was skeptical at first and thought it was a bunch of hocus-pocus,” says McPherson, who underwent a full year of chemotherapy and numerous surgeries. “But I now practise mindfulness throughout the day and it’s reminded me to become less reactive and kinder toward myself and others.”
Study participant Deanne David was also placed in the mindfulness group.
“Being part of this made a huge difference to me,” she says. “I think people involved in their own cancer journey would benefit from learning more about mindfulness and connecting with others who are going through the same things.”
Coenzyme Q10 helps veterans battle Gulf War illness symptoms
Eighty percent of treated veterans improved physical function
Roughly one-third of the 700,000 United States troops who fought in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War have subsequently developed a distinct set of chronic health problems, dubbed Gulf War illness. Their symptoms, from fatigue, muscle pain and weakness to decreased cognitive function and gastrointestinal and skin problems, persist decades after the conflict.
In a study published in the Nov. 1 issue of Neural Computation, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that a high quality brand of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – a compound commonly sold as a dietary supplement – provides health benefits to persons suffering from Gulf War illness symptoms.
Forty-six United States Gulf War veterans participated in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Each veteran had been diagnosed with Gulf War illness.
“Gulf War illness is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, signature illnesses of later deployments, which are caused by psychological and mechanical injury, respectively,” said Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and principal investigator on the study. “Evidence instead links Gulf War illness to chemical exposures, such as pesticides or pills given to soldiers to protect them from possible nerve agents. These chemicals can damage mitochondria, which generate the energy our cells need to do their jobs. When these powerhouses of the cells are disrupted, it can produce symptoms compatible with those seen in Gulf War illness.”
The connection to chemical and toxin exposures is fortified by evidence of mitochondrial problems in affected veterans, said Golomb, as well as evidence showing those veterans who became ill are significantly more likely than others to harbor genetic variants that render their enzymes less effective at detoxifying these chemicals.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant made by the body to support basic cell functions, including directly assisting mitochondrial energy production. Over a course of three and a half months, the veterans in the study received a pill form of either CoQ10 or a placebo. Researchers found 80 percent of those who received 100mg of CoQ10 had improvement in physical function. The degree of improvement correlated to the degree in which CoQ10 levels in the blood increased.
The researchers reported that Gulf War illness symptoms like headaches, fatigue with exertion, irritability, recall problems and muscle pain also improved.
“The statistical significance of these benefits, despite the small sample size, underscores the large magnitude of the effects,” Golomb said. “Mounting evidence suggests findings in Gulf War illness are relevant to toxin-induced health problems in the civilian sector, so what we learn by studying health challenges of these veterans, will likely benefit others.”
Golomb and colleagues are seeking additional funding to test a more complete “mitochondrial cocktail,” which combines CoQ10 with additional nutrients that support cell energy and reduce oxidative damage to cells.
A new study by a Florida State University researcher reveals that a new dietary supplement is superior to calcium and vitamin D when it comes to bone health.
Over 12 months, Bahram H. Arjmandi, Margaret A. Sitton Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences and Director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) at Florida State, studied the impact of the dietary supplement KoACT® versus calcium and vitamin D on bone loss. KoACT is a calcium-collagen chelate, a compound containing calcium and collagen that are bound together.
Calcium and vitamin D are generally thought of as the first line of defense when it comes to bone health, but Arjmandi’s research found that the calcium-collagen chelate was more effective in slowing bone loss.
“This is crucial information for the health of women,” Arjmandi said. “Women in early menopause experience rapid bone loss.”
Arjmandi’s study is published in the most recent issue of Journal of Medicinal Food.
A group of 39 women were randomly divided into two groups, with the control group taking a capsule that was a mix of calcium and vitamin D. The other group took the calcium-collagen chelate.
The women taking the calcium-collagen chelate saw substantially less bone loss than the control group over a year’s time. The group taking the calcium-collagen chelate, saw a loss of 1.23 percent in bone mineral density, while the control group saw a 3.75 percent loss.
Arjmandi acknowledged he was “pleasantly surprised” by the outcomes and hopes that the supplement will be used in the future as a way to prevent bone density loss.
“We take our bones for granted,” Arjmandi said. “If we do not prevent the loss of bone, our bones will be looking for an excuse to break.”
In the United States, more than 44 million people have or are at risk for osteoporosis, a chronic and potentially debilitating condition. Although there are some drugs available to treat it, most medical professionals have turned to nutrition and exercise to treat the condition.
Arjmandi’s study was funded by AIDP, Inc.
Allergy sufferers are allergic to treatment more often than you’d think
Not uncommon to see medications meant to improve conditions cause allergic reactions
ATLANTA, GA (November 6, 2014) – Whether allergy sufferers have symptoms that are mild or severe, they really only want one thing: relief. So it’s particularly distressing that the very medication they hope will ease symptoms can cause different, sometimes more severe, allergic responses.
According to a presentation at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, an allergic response to a medication for allergies can often go undiagnosed. The presentation sheds light on adverse responses to topical skin preparations; helps identify patients who are hypersensitive to antihistamines, and identifies allergic responses to various drugs used in the treatment of asthma.
“Allergy to a topical corticosteroid may not be evident right away because its job is to bring down inflammation,” said allergist Luz Fonacier, ACAAI fellow and presenter. “But you should suspect an allergy to your medication if your rash doesn’t respond, gets worse with the medication, or improves initially, then flares.” Other topical medications that can cause allergies are antibiotics (bacitracin and neomycin found in adhesive bandages and “cut” preparations), topical anesthetics (found in lip balm) and antifungals.
If you suspect you’re having an allergic response such as itching or worsening of the rash, you should stop the medication and see your allergist. For most topical medications, a patch test can be done to determine if you are reacting to the actual drug component, the preservatives, the fragrance, or the delivery system of the drug.
“It’s surprising that the main medications used to relieve allergies can cause new allergies, or worsen already existing allergies,” said allergist Sami Bahna, MD, ACAAI past president and presenter. “They are, therefore, rarely suspected. The majority of antihistamine reactions affect the skin, appearing as hives or a rash.”
Body weight heavily influenced by microbes in the gut, finds twin study
Our genetic makeup influences whether we are fat or thin by shaping which types of microbes thrive in our body, according to a study by researchers at King’s College London and Cornell University.
By studying pairs of twins at King’s Department of Twin Research, researchers identified a specific, little known bacterial family that is highly heritable and more common in individuals with low body weight. This microbe also protected against weight gain when transplanted into mice.
The results, published today in the journal Cell, could pave the way for personalised probiotic therapies that are optimised to reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases based on an individual’s genetic make-up.
Previous research has linked both genetic variation and the composition of gut microbes to metabolic disease and obesity. Despite these shared effects, the relationship between human genetic variation and the diversity of gut microbes was presumed to be negligible.
In the study, funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers sequenced the genes of microbes found in more than 1,000 fecal samples from 416 pairs of twins. The abundances of specific types of microbes were found to be more similar in identical twins, who share 100 per cent of their genes, than in non-identical twins, who share on average only half of the genes that vary between people. These findings demonstrate that genes influence the composition of gut microbes.
The type of bacteria whose abundance was most heavily influenced by host genetics was a recently identified family called ‘Christensenellaceae’. Members of this health-promoting bacterial family were more abundant in individuals with a low body weight than in obese individuals. Moreover, mice that were treated with this microbe gained less weight than untreated mice, suggesting that increasing the amounts of this microbe may help to prevent or reduce obesity.
Professor Tim Spector, Head of the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, said: ‘Our findings show that specific groups of microbes living in our gut could be protective against obesity – and that their abundance is influenced by our genes. The human microbiome represents an exciting new target for dietary changes and treatments aimed at combating obesity.
‘Twins have been incredibly valuable in uncovering these links – but we now want to promote the use of microbiome testing more widely in the UK through the British Gut Project. This is a crowd-sourcing experiment that allows anyone with an interest in their diet and health to have their personal microbes tested genetically using a simple postal kit and a small donation via our website. We want thousands to join up so we can continue to make major discoveries about the links between our gut and our health.’
Ruth Ley, Associate Professor at Cornell University in the United States, said: ‘Up until now, variation in the abundances of gut microbes has been explained by diet, the environment, lifestyle, and health. This is the first study to firmly establish that certain types of gut microbes are heritable — that their variation across a population is in part due to host genotype variation, not just environmental influences. These results will also help us find new predictors of disease and aid prevention.’