Health Technology Research Synopsis 95th Issue Date 12 DEC 10
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano www.vit.bz
Editors Top Five:
1.Vitamin supplements reduce deaths caused by measles and diarrhea
2.Mindfulness meditation found to be as effective as antidepressants to prevent depression relapse 3. Dangerous levels of lead found in used consumer products
4.Are depressed people too clean?
5.Instructions on over-the-counter medications for children are found to be confusing In this Issue:
- 1. Walking slows progression of Alzheimer’s
- 2. Male reproductive problems may add to falling fertility rates
- 3. European Science Foundation publishes new report on male reproductive health
- 4. U of I scientists develop tool to trace metabolism of cancer-fighting tomato compounds
- 5. Moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk of metabolic diseases
- 6. Belly fat puts women at risk for osteoporosis
- 7. Instructions on over-the-counter medications for children are found to be confusing
- 8. RESEARCHERS FIND LINK BETWEEN SUGAR, DIABETES AND AGGRESSION
- 9. Omega-3s in fish, seafood may protect seniors’ eyes; a new test may catch glaucoma early
- 10. Researchers discover how worms promote healing
- 11. Long term exposure to pesticides may be linked to dementia
- 12. Finger length points to prostate cancer risk
- 13. IOF statement on new IOM dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D
- 14. Dangerous levels of lead found in used consumer products
15. Perinatal bisphenol-A exposure may affect fertility
- 16. Mindfulness meditation found to be as effective as antidepressants to prevent depression relapse
- 17. Vitamin supplements reduce deaths caused by measles and diarrhea
- 18. Let’s not sleep on it
- 19. Are depressed people too clean?
- 20. See off Alzheimer’s with the color purple
- 21. Whey supplements lower blood pressure
- 22. Shoo, fly! Catnip oil repels bloodsucking flies
- 23. New report: Don’t blame the pill for estrogen in drinking water
- 24. Researcher develops accurate method for detecting dangerous fluoride
Walking slows progression of Alzheimer’s
CHICAGO – Walking may slow cognitive decline in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in healthy adults, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
“We found that walking five miles per week protects the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s and MCI, especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning centers,” said Cyrus Raji, Ph.D., from the Department of Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. “We also found that these people had a slower decline in memory loss over five years.”
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and cognitive skills. According to the National Institute on Aging, between 2.4 million and 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Based on current population trends, that number is expected to increase significantly over the next decade.
In cases of MCI, a person has cognitive or memory problems exceeding typical age-related memory loss, but not yet as severe as those found in Alzheimer’s disease. About half of the people with MCI progress to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Because a cure for Alzheimer’s is not yet a reality, we hope to find ways of alleviating disease progression or symptoms in people who are already cognitively impaired,” Dr. Raji said.
For the ongoing 20-year study, Dr. Raji and colleagues analyzed the relationship between physical activity and brain structure in 426 people, including 299 healthy adults (mean age 78), and 127 cognitively impaired adults (mean age 81), including 83 adults with MCI and 44 adults with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Patients were recruited from the Cardiovascular Health Study. The researchers monitored how far each of the patients walked in a week. After 10 years, all patients underwent 3-D MRI exams to identify changes in brain volume.
“Volume is a vital sign for the brain,” Dr. Raji said. “When it decreases, that means brain cells are dying. But when it remains higher, brain health is being maintained.”
In addition, patients were given the mini-mental state exam (MMSE) to track cognitive decline over five years. Physical activity levels were correlated with MRI and MMSE results. The analysis adjusted for age, gender, body fat composition, head size, education and other factors.
The findings showed across the board that greater amounts of physical activity were associated with greater brain volume. Cognitively impaired people needed to walk at least 58 city blocks, or approximately five miles, per week to maintain brain volume and slow cognitive decline. The healthy adults needed to walk at least 72 city blocks, or six miles, per week to maintain brain volume and significantly reduce their risk for cognitive decline.
Over five years, MMSE scores decreased by an average of five points in cognitively impaired patients who did not engage in a sufficient level of physical activity, compared with a decrease of only one point in patients who met the physical activity requirement.
“Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness, and unfortunately, walking is not a cure,” Dr. Raji said. “But walking can improve your brain’s resistance to the disease and reduce memory loss over time.”
Public release date: 29-Nov-2010
Male reproductive problems may add to falling fertility rates European Science Foundation publishes new report on male reproductive health
29 November – Reduced male fertility may be making it even harder for couples to conceive and be contributing to low birth rates in many countries, reveals a new European Science Foundation (ESF) report launching at a meeting in Paris.
More than 10% of couples worldwide are infertile, contributing to the growing demand for assisted reproduction techniques such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) for which Robert G. Edwards won the Nobel Prize in Medicine last month.
Sperm counts have dropped significantly in the last 50 years in developed countries. Today, at least one in five 18-25 year old men in Europe have semen quality in subfertile range. Testosterone levels are also declining. This is mirrored by increasing testicular cancer in most industrialised countries and more developmental abnormalities such as undescended testes. All of these factors are linked to reduced fertility and may have common origins during foetal development.
“The important impact of men’s reproductive health on a couple’s fertility is often overlooked,” said Professor Niels Skakkebæk from the University of Copenhagen, who co-authored the report. “Women postponing motherhood have reduced fertility, and we now see that poor sperm may be making it even harder to conceive. While poor sperm may be part of the reason more couples are using IVF it may also be making those therapies less successful.”
Skakkebæk continues: “We need a common strategy in Europe to target research so we can address the poor state of men’s reproductive health. That this decrease in male reproductive health has occurred in just a few decades suggests it’s caused by environmental and lifestyle factors rather than genetics. So it is preventable if we correctly identify the causes.”
In men some lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking can affect sperm counts, but the effects are small. In contrast, if women smoke heavily in pregnancy, a much larger fall in sperm count is likely in their sons when they grow up. Testosterone levels naturally drop as men age, which may predispose men to cardiovascular and metabolic health problems that pose large financial and healthcare issues for national governments. Low sperm counts and low testosterone levels are both associated with increased risk of early death for men.
Public release date: 29-Nov-2010
U of I scientists develop tool to trace metabolism of cancer-fighting tomato compounds
URBANA – The University of Illinois scientists who linked eating tomatoes with a reduced risk of prostate cancer have developed a tool that will help them trace the metabolism of tomato carotenoids in the human body. And they’ve secured funding from the National Institutes of Health to do it.
“Scientists believe that carotenoids—the pigments that give the red, yellow, and orange colors to some
fruits and vegetables—provide the cancer-preventive benefits in tomatoes, but we don’t know exactly how it happens,” said John W. Erdman, a U of I professor of human nutrition.
The researchers will use isotopic labeling of three tomato carotenoids with heavier carbon atoms than are commonly seen in nature, which will allow tracking of the tomato components’ absorption and metabolism in the body, he said.
“We have two questions we’d like to answer. First, are the carotenoids themselves bioactive, or are their metabolic or oxidative products responsible for their benefits? Second, is lycopene alone responsible for the tomato’s benefits, or are other carotenoids also important?” he said.
Previous Erdman animal studies have shown that whole tomato powder, which contains all of the fruit’s nutritional components, is more effective against prostate cancer than lycopene alone.
“Lycopene, which gives the fruit its red color, has received a lot of attention—it’s even advertised as an ingredient in multivitamin supplements, but two little-known colorless carotenoids, phytoene and phytofluene, probably also have benefits,” said Nancy Engelmann, a doctoral student in Erdman’s laboratory who helped to develop the new method.
Engelmann learned to optimize the amount of carotenoids in tomato cell cultures by treating already high- achieving tomato varieties with two plant enzyme blockers. The best performers were then chosen for culturing and carbon-13 labeling, she said.
The scientists grew tomato cells with non-radioactive carbon-13 sugars, yielding carbon molecules that are heavier than the 12-carbon molecules that exist elsewhere, Erdman said.
“These heavy carbon molecules are then incorporated into the carotenoids in the tomato cell cultures. The result is that researchers will be able to track the activity of lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene and their metabolites,” he said.
Thanks to NIH funding, U of I researchers and colleagues at The Ohio State University are preparing to use this new tool to study carotenoid metabolism in humans.
“It’s exciting that we now have the means to pull off this human study. It’s work that should move us forward in the fight against prostate cancer,” he said.
Public release date: 29-Nov-2010
Moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk of metabolic diseases
With the emergence of an epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes (DM) throughout the world, the association of lifestyle habits that may affect the risk of metabolic diseases is especially important. Most prospective studies have shown that moderate drinkers tend to have about 30% lower risk of developing late onset diabetes than do non-drinkers, and moderate drinkers also tend to be at lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome (MS). A cross-sectional analysis of 6172 subjects age 35 -75 in Switzerland related varying levels of alcohol intake to the presence of DM, MS, and an index of insulin resistance (HOMA- IR).
Alcohol consumption was categorized as non-drinkers (0), low-risk (1 drinks a week), medium-to-high- risk (14 ) and very-high-risk (= 35) drinkers. 73% of participants consumed alcohol, 16% were medium- to-high-risk drinkers and 2% very-high risk drinkers
Study findings: In multivariate analysis, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes and mean
HOMA-IR decreased with low-risk drinking and increased with high-risk drinking. Adjusted prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was 24% in non-drinkers, 19% in low-risk, 20% in medium-to-high-risk and 29% in very-high-risk drinkers. Adjusted prevalence of diabetes was 6.0% in non-drinkers, 3.6% in low- risk, 3.8% in medium-to-high-risk and 6.7% in very-high-risk drinkers. These relationships did not differ according to beverage types.
Moderate drinkers also had the lowest weight, tryglycerides, and blood pressure. All drinkers had higher HDL-cholesterol values (that is ‘good cholesterol) than did non-drinkers.
Public release date: 30-Nov-2010
Belly fat puts women at risk for osteoporosis
CHICAGO – For years, it was believed that obese women were at lower risk for developing osteoporosis, and that excess body fat actually protected against bone loss. However, a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) found that having too much internal abdominal fat may, in fact, have a damaging effect on bone health.
“We know that obesity is a major public health problem,” said the study’s lead author, Miriam A. Bredella, M.D., a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Now we know that abdominal obesity needs to be included as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone loss.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 72 million American adults are considered obese. The CDC defines obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Obesity is associated with many health problems including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and joint diseases. Yet despite all the health issues, it was commonly accepted that women with increased body weight were at lower risk for bone loss.
But not all body fat is the same. Subcutaneous fat lies just below the skin, and visceral or intra-abdominal fat is located deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity. Genetics, diet and exercise are all contributors to the level of visceral fat that is stored in the body. Excess visceral fat is considered particularly dangerous, because in previous studies it has been associated with increased risk for heart disease.
Dr. Bredella and colleagues set out to evaluate the abdominal subcutaneous, visceral and total fat, as well as bone marrow fat and bone mineral density, in 50 premenopausal women with a mean BMI of 30. Each woman underwent an MR spectroscopy exam to evaluate the bone marrow fat of the L4, the fourth vertebra in the lumbar section of the spine. Then, the bone mineral density of the L4 was assessed using quantitative computed tomography (QCT), which measures bone mass and is used to assess bone loss.
The imaging revealed that women with more visceral fat had increased bone marrow fat and decreased bone mineral density. However, there was no significant correlation between either subcutaneous fat or total fat and bone marrow fat or bone mineral density. “Our results showed that having a lot of belly fat is more detrimental to bone health than having more superficial fat or fat around the hips,” Dr. Bredella said.
According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at risk for the disease.
“It is important for the public to be aware that excess belly fat is a risk factor for bone loss, as well as heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Bredella said.
While bone loss is more common in women, the research team is currently conducting a study to determine whether belly fat is also a risk factor for bone loss in men.
Public release date: 30-Nov-2010
Instructions on over-the-counter medications for children are found to be confusing
Researchers call for the development of mandatory guidelines for pediatric labeling
Instructions on boxes and bottles of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for children in the United States are confusing and hard for parents to understand and follow, according to a study in the December 1 issue of JAMA.
“There is an unacceptable amount of inconsistency in labels and measuring devices of OTC liquid medications for children,” said H. Shonna Yin, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine who co-led the study. “These types of inconsistencies are likely to be a source of confusion for parents and can lead to errors in dosing, placing children at risk.”
The study was undertaken after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued voluntary guidelines last year recommending greater consistency in dosing directions and accompanying measuring devices, following numerous reports of accidental overdosing in children attributed in part to these issues.
The researchers reviewed 200 top-selling pediatric oral liquid OTC medications categorized as analgesics, cough/cold, allergy, or gastrointestinal medicines – representing 99 percent of the U.S. market of these products. They found that 25 percent of these products did not include dosing devices, such as a cup or dropper for giving the medicine, andthat99 percent had directions on the bottle’slabelanddosemarkings onthe device that do not match. In
addition, more than half the products did not use standard abbreviations for terms such as teaspoon or milliliter.
“This is an issue of patient safety and needs urgent attention,” said Ruth Parker, MD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, who co-led the study. “Given how many products are affected, it seems unlikely that the voluntary guidelines alone set by the FDA and industry will fix this problem. The current guidance does not contain a timeline for compliance or specify consequences for non-compliance. Standards and regulatory oversight will likely be needed to ensure that all products contain label information and dosing device markings that match and are understandable and useful.”
The study authors believe that when dosing instructions and devices match, and standard abbreviations are used, parents will be less confused and better able to give the proper dose of medication to their child. “Devices often have extra markings on them that are not listed on the label, which can be distracting and lead to confusion,” says Dr. Yin. “Furthermore, some devices are missing doses that are recommended on the label, making the task of dosing more difficult.
The authors recommend that terms such as “cc” and “drams”, which are not commonly understood, not be used in labeling. Tablespoon instructions, they note, should also not be used because they are often confused with teaspoon instructions which can lead to a 3-fold underdose or overdose.
“There are very straightforward things that can be done to help parents dose OTC medications correctly,” said co-author Benard P. Dreyer, MD, professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, and president- elect of the Academic Pediatric Association. “Making sure that all products follow these guidelines will
help parents use OTC medicines more safely and effectively.”
Public release date: 30-Nov-2010
RESEARCHERS FIND LINK BETWEEN SUGAR, DIABETES AND AGGRESSION
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A spoonful of sugar may be enough to cool a hot temper, at least for a short time, according to new research.
A study found that people who drank a glass of lemonade sweetened with sugar acted less aggressively toward a stranger a few minutes later than did people who consumed lemonade with a sugar substitute.
Researchers believe it all has to do with the glucose, a simple sugar found in the bloodstream that provides energy for the brain.
“Avoiding aggressive impulses takes self control, and self control takes a lot of energy. Glucose provides that energy in the brain,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“Drinking sweetened lemonade helped provide the short-term energy needed to avoid lashing out at others.”
The finding is more than just a medical curiosity, Bushman said. In two published papers, he and his colleagues did several studies showing that people who have trouble metabolizing, or using, glucose in their bodies show more evidence of aggression and less willingness to forgive others.
The problem is that the number of people who have trouble metabolizing glucose — mainly those with diabetes — is rising rapidly. From 1980 through 2008, the number of Americans with diabetes has more than tripled (from 5.6 million to 18.1 million).
“Diabetes may not only harm yourself — it is bad for society,” Bushman said. “The healthy metabolism of glucose may contribute to a more peaceful society by providing people with a higher level of energy for self-control.”
Bushman conducted the lemonade study with C. Nathan DeWall and Timothy Deckman of the University of Kentucky and Matthew Gailllot of SUNY-Albany. It appears online in the journal Aggressive Behavior and will be published in a future print edition.
In the study, 62 college students fasted for three hours to reduce glucose instability. They were told they were going to participate in a taste-test study, and then have their reaction times evaluated in a computerized test against an opponent.
Half of the participants were given lemonade sweetened with sugar, while the others were given lemonade with a sugar substitute.
After waiting eight minutes to allow the glucose to be absorbed in their bloodstream, the participants took part in the reaction test.
The reaction test has been used and verified in other studies as a way to measure aggression. Participants
were told they and an unseen partner would press a button as fast as possible in 25 trials, and whoever was slower would receive a blast of white noise through their headphones.
At the beginning of each trial, participants set the level of noise their partner would receive if they were slower. The noise was rated on a scale of 1 to 10 — from 60 decibels to 105 decibels (about the same volume as a smoke alarm).
In actuality, each participant won 12 of the 25 trials (randomly determined).
Aggression was measured by the noise intensity participants chose on the first trial — before they were provoked by their partner.
Results showed that participants who drank the lemonade sweetened with sugar behaved less aggressively than those who drank lemonade with a sugar substitute. Those who drank the sugar-sweetened beverage chose a noise level averaging 4.8 out of 10, while those with the sugar substitute averaged 6.06.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to find that boosting glucose levels can reduce actual aggressive behavior,” Bushman said.
“To be sure, consuming sugar should not be considered a panacea for curbing aggression. But the results do suggest that people who reportedly “snap” with aggression may need some way to boost their mental energy, so they can override their aggressive impulses.”
In two other studies in the same paper, the researchers showed how problems metabolizing glucose may translate to problems on a societal level. Using 2001 data, the researchers found that the diabetes rates for each of the 50 states were linked to violent crime rates. Those states with higher diabetes rates also tended to have higher rates of murder, assault, rape and robbery, even after controlling for poverty rates in each state.
“This suggests that diabetes did not predict violent crime simply because poverty contributes to both diabetes and violent crime,” he said. “There is a real correlation between diabetes and violence.”
In a separate analysis, the researchers tested whether another medical problem related to glucose metabolism was linked to violence worldwide.
They examined the prevalence, in the populations of 122 countries around the world, of a deficiency in an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. This enzyme is related to glucose metabolism. It is the most common enzyme deficiency in the world, afflicting more than 400 million people.
Countries with higher levels of the disorder also had more violent killings, even outside of war.
“Taken together, these studies offer different types of evidence linking low glucose and other problems metabolizing glucose with aggression and violence,” Bushman said.
The findings were further corroborated in another series of studies, published recently in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
In that paper, Bushman and DeWall, along with University of Kentucky researcher Richard Pond, had participants complete a commonly used and well-accepted checklist that measures the number and severity of Type 2 diabetes symptoms, such as numbness in the feet, shortness of breath at night, and overall sense of fatigue. In three separate studies, the same participants completed different measures of their willingness to forgive others.
On all three measures, people with higher levels of diabetic symptoms were less likely to forgive others for
In a fourth study, participants took part in a prisoner’s dilemma game, which is often used to understand how people deal with conflict. In this version, participants had to choose whether to cooperate or compete against an unseen partner in a computer game.
“We were especially interested in how participants responded when their partner behaved in an uncooperative, antagonizing manner when the game began,” Bushman said. “Would they forgive their partner or would they refuse to cooperate?”
Results showed that those who scored higher on diabetic symptoms were less likely to forgive an initially uncooperative partner, when compared to those who scored lower on diabetic symptoms.
“These studies are more evidence that diabetic symptoms may cause difficulty in how people relate to each other on a day-to-day basis,” Bushman said.
“It’s not an excuse — diabetes does not mean people have to act aggressively, but it may shed some light on why these behaviors occur.”
“With the rate of diabetes increasing worldwide, it is something that should concern all of us.”
Public release date: 1-Dec-2010
Omega-3s in fish, seafood may protect seniors’ eyes; a new test may catch glaucoma early
Research highlights in December’s Ophthalmology journal
SAN FRANCISCO, CA– Seniors interested in lifestyle choices that help protect vision will be encouraged by a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study, and people concerned about glaucoma can take heart from work on early detection by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Both studies are published in the December issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
New Evidence for Eye-Protective Effects of Omega-3-Rich Fish, Shellfish
Researchers at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wanted to know how the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) would be affected in a population of older people who regularly ate fish and seafood, since some varieties are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in omega-3s probably protects against advanced AMD, the leading cause of blindness in whites in the United States, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and other recent studies. High concentrations of omega-3s have been found in the eye’s retina, and evidence is mounting that the nutrient may be essential to eye health. The new research, led by Sheila K. West, PhD, was part of the Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) study.
Food intake information with details on fish and shellfish consumed was collected over one year using a validated questionnaire for 2,391 participants aged 65 to 84 years who lived along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. After dietary assessment was complete, participants were evaluated for AMD. Those with no AMD were classified as controls (1,942 persons), 227 had early AMD, 153 had intermediate-stage disease, and 68 had advanced AMD. In the advanced AMD group, the macular area of the retina exhibited either neovascularization (abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding) or a condition called geographic atrophy. Both conditions can result in blindness or severe vision loss.
“Our study corroborates earlier findings that eating omega-3-rich fish and shellfish may protect against advanced AMD.” Dr. West said. “While participants in all groups, including controls, averaged at least one serving of fish or shellfish per week, those who had advanced AMD were significantly less likely to consume high omega-3 fish and seafood,” she said.
The study also looked at whether dietary zinc from crab and oyster consumption impacted advanced AMD risk, but no significant relationship was found. Zinc is also considered protective against AMD and is included in an AMD-vitamin/nutrient supplement developed from the AREDS study. Dr. West speculated that her study found no effect because the levels of zinc obtained from seafood/fish were low compared to supplement levels.
A side note: fish and shellfish were part of the normal diet of the study population, rather than added with the intention of improving health. The links between fish consumption, omega-3s and healthy lifestyles were not widely known in the early 1990s when the dietary survey was conducted. In fact, some of the study participants who consumed the most seafood were also smokers and/or overweight, two factors usually associated with AMD and other health risks.
Retinal Nerve Function May be Key to Early Glaucoma Detection
Catching glaucoma as early as possible–before it destroys the optic nerve–is vital to preventing vision loss. Now a research team at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has shown that a test that measures the functionality of the eye’s retinal nerve cells may be a key to early detection. Eventually, the test may also help evaluate how well glaucoma treatments are working.
The research, led by Mitra Sehi, PhD, and David Greenfield, MD, was based on the knowledge that retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) become dysfunctional as glaucoma progresses and that such changes can be measured using the pattern electroretinogram optimized for glaucoma screening (PERGLA). PERGLA measures the electrical activity of a patient’s retina as he or she views an alternating pattern of black and white lines. (The retinal area in the back of the eye receives images and transmits them to the optic nerve.) Other studies had shown that abnormal changes in RGCs begin early in the glaucoma process, so PERGLA is potentially valuable as a non-invasive detection tool.
The Bascom Palmer study included 47 patients (47 eyes) in whom intraocular pressure (IOP) could not be controlled with medication and who therefore had surgery to prevent optic nerve damage. All patients had two PERGLA evaluations (as well as complete ocular exams, optic nerve assessment, and blood pressure measurement), one before surgery and one at three months post surgery. IOP and PERGLA measurements of the patients’ fellow, non-glaucomatous, non-treated eyes were stable before and after surgeries. The surgeries improved fluid drainage in the eyes to reduce IOP; 34 eyes had trabeculectomy and 13 had glaucoma drainage implants.
PERGLA results showed that RGC dysfunction was reversed and IOP was reduced in all patients following surgery. The patients’ central visual field tests improved, as well. Dr. Sehi says these results should be interpreted cautiously until confirmed by larger studies. She calls for longitudinal studies to clarify the relationship between reduced IOP and increased RGC response and to further investigate PERGLA assessment of RGC dysfunction as a biomarker for glaucoma.
Public release date: 1-Dec-2010
Researchers discover how worms promote healing
Findings identify potential strategies for treating inflammatory bowel diseases
New York (Dec. 1, 2010) – A new study involving a man who swallowed worm eggs to relieve
symptoms of ulcerative colitis sheds light on how worms promote healing in the intestine. The study, published today in Science Translational Medicine, also identifies potential targets for more conventional ways of treating colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.
“The idea for treating colitis with worms is not new, but how this therapy might work remains unclear,” says the study’s senior corresponding author, P’ng Loke, PhD, assistant professor of medical parasitology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Our findings suggest that infection with this particular parasite increases or restores mucus production in the colon, providing symptomatic relief.”
A chronic disease, ulcerative colitis is characterized by open sores or ulcers in the lining of the colon. The disease is estimated to affect 600,000 Americans, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, and the most common symptoms are abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. The cause is unknown, but studies points to defects in immune regulation. Disruption of mucus production is often associated with severe symptoms.
Colitis is common in North America and Northern Europe, where helminth (parasitic worm) infections are rare. Conversely, the disease is rare in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where helminth infections are endemic, leading researchers to hypothesize that the worms offer protection against this inflammatory bowel disease. In animal models of autoimmunity these worms have suppressed inflammation, and clinical trials indicate that helminth therapy can be beneficial in relieving symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases.
To gain a better understanding of how such therapy works, Dr. Loke and his colleagues analyzed a series of blood and tissue samples taken from a 34-year-old man living in California with ulcerative colitis who ingested Trichuris trichiura eggs (a roundworm that infects the lower intestine) after having researched the scientific literature. After several months, his condition improved dramatically and he remained in remission for almost three years. A subsequent cycle of self-treatment with the worm eggs achieved similar results.
Tissues samples taken when the patient had active disease were found to contain high numbers of a type of immune cell (CD4+ T cells) that produces an inflammatory protein called interleukin-17. Tissue samples taken after exposure to the worms, when the disease was in remission, contained an abundance of T cells that produce interleukin-22 (IL-22), a protein important in mucosal healing. To expel the worm, the researchers note, the immune system appears to activate specialized cells that increase mucous production in the entire colon.
“In essence, the worms trigger a big sneeze of the gut, which may have a beneficial side effect for ulcerative colitis,” says Dr. Loke, who does not advocate helminth therapy. “The problem is that these worms themselves can cause harm and damage the gut. The individual in this study is lucky to have responded so well, but for other people the worm infection may exacerbate bowel inflammation,” he says.
It is impossible right now to predict who might be helped and who might be harmed by infection with these worms. Studies are underway, adds Dr. Loke, using a worm that infects pigs (T. suis) to treat colitis, which should be less risky.
Public release date: 1-Dec-2010
Long term exposure to pesticides may be linked to dementia
Neurobehavioral effects of long term exposure to pesticides: Results from the 4-year follow up of the PHYTONER study
Long term exposure to pesticides may be linked to the development of dementia, suggests research published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The authors base their findings on 614 vineyard workers in South West France whose intellectual capacity was monitored for up to six years as part of the PHYTONER study.
This aims to track the impact of pesticides on the cognitive abilities of people in their 40s and 50s who have worked for at least 20 years in the agricultural sector.
Levels of exposure to pesticides were based on job calendars and categorised as ‘directly exposed’ (mixing or applying pesticides, cleaning or repairing spraying equipment); ‘certainly indirectly exposed’ (contact with treated plants); ‘possibly indirectly exposed’ (work in buildings, offices, cellars); and ‘not exposed’ if they had done none of the above.
Just under 1000 workers enrolled in the study between 1997 and 1998, 614 of whom were monitored between 2001 and 2003. On both occasions they completed a questionnaire and nine “neurobehavioural” tests designed to measure memory and recall; language retrieval and verbal skills; and reaction time speeds.
One in five had never been exposed to pesticides as part of their job; over half had been directly exposed, and the remainder had been possibly or certainly indirectly exposed.
Not unexpectedly, lower scores in some or all of the cognitive tests were associated with older age, lower levels of education, excessive alcohol intake, depression, and drug-taking on both occasions.
Around a fifth to half of the workers obtained higher scores in some of the tests; 15% to half obtained lower test scores over time, depending on the test.
But with the exception of two of the nine tests, those who had been exposed to pesticides were the most likely to perform worse second time around.
These workers were up to five times as likely to obtain lower test scores on both occasions, and they were twice as likely to register a drop of two points in the mini mental state exam (MMSE) – the initial test frequently used to determine if a person has dementia.
This decline in MMSE score “is particularly striking in view of the short duration of follow up and the relatively young age of the participants,” say the authors, who add that previous research has already reported an association between pesticide exposure and poor performance for several of the tests used in this study.
“The mild impairment we observed raises the question of the potentially higher risks of injury in this population and also of the possible evolution towards neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias,” they say.
And they add: “Numerous studies have shown that low cognitive performances are associated with risk of dementia.”
Public release date: 1-Dec-2010
Finger length points to prostate cancer risk
Men who have long index fingers are at lower risk of prostate cancer, a new study published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found.
The study led by The University of Warwick and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger were one third less likely to develop the disease than men with the opposite finger length pattern.
“Our results show that relative finger length could be used as a simple test for prostate cancer risk, particularly in men aged under 60,” Joint senior author Professor Ros Eeles from the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust says. “This exciting finding means that finger pattern could potentially be used to select at-risk men for ongoing screening, perhaps in combination with other factors such as family history or genetic testing.”
Over a 15 year period from 1994 to 2009, the researchers quizzed more than 1,500 prostate cancer patients at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London and Surrey, Nottingham City Hospital and The Royal Hallamshire Hospitals in Sheffield, along with more than 3,000 healthy control cases. The men were shown a series of pictures of different finger length patterns and asked to identify the one most similar to their own right hand.
The most common finger length pattern, seen in more than half the men in the study, was a shorter index than ring finger. Men whose index and ring fingers were the same length (about 19 per cent) had a similar prostate cancer risk, but men whose index fingers were longer than their ring finger were 33 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer. Risk reduction was even greater in men aged under 60 years– these men were 87 per cent less likely to be in the prostate cancer group.
The relative length of index and ring fingers is set before birth, and is thought to relate to the levels of sex hormones the baby is exposed to in the womb. Less testosterone equates to a longer index finger; the researchers now believe that being exposed to less testosterone before birth helps protect against prostate cancer later in life. The phenomenon is thought to occur because the genes HOXA and HOXD control both finger length and development of sex organs.
Previous studies have found a link between exposure to hormones while in the womb and the development of other diseases, including breast cancer (linked to higher prenatal oestrogen exposure) and osteoarthritis (linked to having an index finger shorter than ring finger).
Joint senior author, Professor Ken Muir, says: “Our study indicates it is the hormone levels that babies are exposed to in the womb which can have an effect decades later. As our research continues, we will be able to look at a further range of factors that may be involved in the make-up of the disease.”
The study was funded by Prostate Cancer Research Foundation and Cancer Research UK.
Public release date: 1-Dec-2010
IOF statement on new IOM dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D
Although the vitamin D intakes recommended by the IOM may be adequate for most average risk seniors, IOF advises
higher daily intakes for high risk seniors…
On November 30, 2010, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (IOM) in the US released new recommendations on daily reference intakes for vitamin D and calcium across all ages. The report is based on available evidence in the literature, with higher quality studies, supporting the role of these nutrients on bone health. Vitamin D deficiency is an important health issue to address as it has been linked to the pathogenesis of osteoporosis and hip fractures as well as other skeletal and non-skeletal
The IOM recommendations for the daily reference intakes on vitamin D have increased since their last recommendations in 1997, and the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) commends IOM for their effort in helping to reduce the burden of vitamin D deficiency, by increasing their reference values.
In April this year, IOF published global recommendations for vitamin D in older adults*, which advised higher daily intakes in this age category of 800 to 1000 IU/day. It is worth noting that the repletion dose will vary among individuals according to their starting level, their BMI, their effective sun exposure, and other unidentified factors. These recommended intakes fall well below the upper safe boundaries for vitamin D intake indicated by the IOM of 4000IU/day for this age group.
Importantly, although the IOM vitamin D recommendations may be adequate for most average risk seniors, they will not likely cover the needs of high risk seniors. These include obese individuals, those with osteoporosis, those with limited sun exposure (institutionalized, homebound), those experiencing malabsorption, those residing in regions known to be at high risk for vitamin D deficiency such as the Middle East and South Asia, and immigrants from such regions living in Europe. To ensure that vitamin D need is met in high-risk elders, IOF recommends measuring their 25OHD level, supplementing with the amount estimated to bring their level up to 75nmol/L, then remeasuring to verify that the individual is vitamin D replete.
Public release date: 1-Dec-2010
Dangerous levels of lead found in used consumer products
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The problem of toxic lead in used consumer products is extremely widespread and present at levels that are far beyond safe limits, researchers conclude in a new study.
Research reported recently by the Associated Press found that lead and cadmium were present in cartoon character drinking glasses. Now a new study has found that many other items available for purchase throughout the United States – such as toys, home décor items, salvage, kitchen utensils and jewelry – contain surface lead concentrations more than 700 times higher than the federal limit.
The authors of the study were Laurel Sharmer of the State University of New York, Anna Harding of Oregon State University and Steven Shackley of the University of California, Berkeley. Sharmer, the lead author, is now retired and lives in Monmouth, Ore. The results are published in the December issue of The Journal of Environmental Health.
Researchers purchased a collection of used items from second-hand stores, junk shops and antiques stores in Virginia, New York and Oregon. The items included salvaged construction pieces, antique toys, common dishware, jewelry and other collectibles. Many of the items would have significant appeal to children. Before purchase the items were tested in the store using a qualitative swab test. Those that tested positive were purchased.
It was possible to purchase an item that contained lead in every single store the researchers visited.
Using X-ray fluorescence at the Geoarcheological Laboratory at UC Berkeley, the items were quantitatively tested for lead content. Nineteen of the 28 items violated the federal standard for lead, which is 600 parts per million. The amount of lead ranged from twice the federal limit in a metal ice cream scoop to 714 times the limit in a salt shaker lid.
Two of the items tested were salvaged construction items, which are widely promoted in popular TV shows for home decorating or remodeling. Both pieces of salvage had peeling and chalky paint that rubbed off on the hands of the researcher. One of the salvage pieces, a white window frame, had 4,747 parts per million of lead, and a blue window shutter had 23,161 parts per million of lead.
A story carried by the Associated Press on Nov. 22 showed lead present in cartoon character drinking glasses at levels hundreds of times greater than what is allowed by law. Sharmer, lead author of this new study, said although the federal government has launched an investigation into lead in cartoon character drinking glasses, it is critically important that American consumers understand that lead is not limited to those particular products.
“The sale of used items in the United States is not regulated by any federal agency and as a result, it is possible that Americans are bringing the lead poisoning hazards of past generations back into their homes,” Sharmer said. “It is very important for consumers to understand that you can’t tell if a product contains lead by looking at it.”
Harding, a professor of public health at OSU, said a used white painted entry door that was on sale for
$895 tested positive for lead. She said the trend of home decorating with salvage means that many middle and upper-middle class consumers are buying items in second-hand stores for the salvage value, or for an antique look. However, some of these products could be dangerous.
“Many health care providers assume the only children at risk for lead poisoning are those who live in poor neighborhoods, where lead exposure has historically been more of an issue,” she said. “Many providers may not think to suggest blood lead screenings for patients in middle- or upper-class families. The public health threat to all people, regardless of income level, is very real.”
The researchers acknowledged that it may be impossible, and likely very expensive to regulate the sale of used goods at flea markets, thrift stores, rummage sales and over the Internet. Instead, they recommend a national public health education campaign aimed at making consumers aware that lead can be present in almost any kind of used consumer product and it is virtually impossible to tell whether or not it does by looking at it. Such items must be tested to be sure they are safe.
Children should never be allowed to come into contact with antiques or used products sold by a seller who is not regulated by a government agency such as the Consumer Product Safety Administration or the FDA, the researchers said. Used dishware and kitchen utensils should not be used for preparing, serving or storing food. Construction debris and salvage should be considered to have lead until proven safe.
Examples of used items in the study that contained high levels of lead include a salt shaker lid, small red toy teapot, Garfield cup, a red casserole dish, potato ricer, ice cream scoop, Japanese wine cup, Pewter bowl, and a turtle necklace.
Public release date: 2-Dec-2010
Perinatal bisphenol-A exposure may affect fertility
BOSTON (Dec. 2, 2010, 12:01 a.m. ET) — Exposure to a ubiquitous environmental chemical during pregnancy may impair reproductive capacity of female offspring, according to a study published online in advance of print on December 2 in Environmental Health Perspectives. Fertility decreased over time in female mice that had been exposed during fetal and neonatal (perinatal) development to doses of bisphenol-A (BPA) that were lower than or equal to human environmental exposure levels.
“Mice exposed to BPA in the womb and during nursing subsequently had fewer successful pregnancies and delivered fewer pups over the course of the study,” reported one of the study’s co-senior authors, Ana
M. Soto, MD, professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and member of the cell, molecular and developmental biology program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.
At the highest of three doses tested, only 60% of the BPA-exposed mice had four or more deliveries over a 32-week period, compared with 95% in the unexposed control group. Decline of the reproductive capacity of the female mice in this study was not obvious at first pregnancy, when the animals were very young, but manifested later in life with a decline in number of pups born per delivery.
“This finding is important because standard tests of reproductive toxicology currently consist of assessing the success of a first pregnancy in young animals. If subsequent pregnancies are not examined, relevant effects may be missed,” said co-senior author Beverly S. Rubin, PhD, associate professor of anatomy and cellular biology at TUSM and member of the cell, molecular and developmental biology and neuroscience program faculties at the Sackler School.
“In addition, the infertility effect of BPA was dose-specific in our study. The lowest and highest doses we tested both impaired fertility, while the intermediate dose did not. This phenomenon, called non- monotonicity, is a common characteristic of hormone action. In other words, chemicals have to be tested at a variety of doses in order to avoid false “no effect” results,” added co-senior author Carlos Sonnenschein, MD, professor of anatomy and cellular biology at TUSM and member of the cell, molecular and developmental biology program faculty at the Sackler School.
“BPA has effects that mimic those of estrogen, a natural hormone. Fetal and neonatal exposure to BPA has been shown to have other hormone-related effects in rodents, including increased risk of mammary and prostate cancers, altered behavior, and obesity. BPA has been found in the urine of over 92% of Americans tested, with higher levels in children and adolescents relative to adults. It has also been detected in human maternal and fetal plasma,” said co-first author Perinaaz R. Wadia, PhD, a research associate in the Soto/Sonnenschein laboratory at TUSM.
“Our findings are potentially of great relevance to humans because BPA is used in the production of materials people are exposed to every day, such as polycarbonate plastics and the resins used to coat the inside of food and beverage cans,” said co-first author Nicolas J. Cabaton, PhD, formerly a post-doctoral fellow in the Soto/Sonnenschein laboratory at TUSM and now at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).
The authors compared the effects of BPA to those of diethylstilbestrol (DES), a hormonally active chemical that is known to have caused reproductive impairment in women exposed during fetal life, and concluded that the effects of these two chemicals on fertility were comparable. Similar to BPA, low doses of DES had failed to cause obvious reproductive problems when evaluated only at first pregnancy as in the standard tests used by regulatory agencies to determine toxicity.
The three doses of BPA tested are within the range of human exposure and below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reference dose (i.e., the maximal acceptable daily dose). “Our results suggest that a more sensitive test, like the one used in this report should be adopted by regulatory agencies in order to uncover the true risk and possible epigenetic effects of suspected endocrine disruptors,” said Soto.
Public release date: 7-Dec-2010
Mindfulness meditation found to be as effective as antidepressants to prevent depression relapse
For Immediate Release – December 7, 2010 (Toronto) – A new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy–using meditation—provides equivalent protection against depressive relapse as traditional antidepressant medication.
The study published in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry compared the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) by studying people who were initially treated with an antidepressant and then, either stopped taking the medication in order to receive MBCT, or continued taking medication for 18 months.
“With the growing recognition that major depression is a recurrent disorder, patients need treatment options for preventing depression from returning to their lives.” said Dr. Zindel Segal, Head of the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Clinic in the Clinical Research Department at CAMH.
“Data from the community suggest that many depressed patients discontinue antidepressant medication far too soon, either because of side effect burden, or an unwillingness to take medicine for years.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a non pharmacological approach that teaches skills in emotion regulation so that patients can monitor possible relapse triggers as well as adopt lifestyle changes conducive to sustaining mood balance.
Study participants who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder were all treated with an antidepressant until their symptoms remitted. They were then randomly assigned to come off their medication and receive MBCT; come off their medication and receive a placebo; or stay on their medication. The novelty of this design permits comparing the effectiveness of sequencing pharmacological and psychological treatments versus maintaining the same treatment – antidepressants – over time
Participants in MBCT attended 8 weekly group sessions and practiced mindfulness as part of daily homework assignments. Clinical assessments were conducted at regular intervals, and over an 18 month period, relapse rates for patients in the MBCT group did not differ from patients receiving antidepressants (both in the 30% range), whereas patients receiving placebo relapsed at a significantly higher rate (70%).
“The real world implications of these findings bear directly on the front line treatment of depression. For that sizeable group of patients who are unwilling or unable to tolerate maintenance antidepressant treatment, MBCT offers equal protection from relapse,”.said Dr. Zindel Segal. “Sequential intervention– offering pharmacological and psychological interventions– may keep more patients in treatment and thereby reduce the high risk of recurrence that is characteristic of this disorder
Public release date: 7-Dec-2010
Vitamin supplements reduce deaths caused by measles and diarrhea
Vitamin A supplements are still an effective way to reduce childhood death and disease. A new study by Cochrane researchers strongly endorses the continuation of vitamin A supplementation programmes, which reduce the incidence of measles and diarrhoea and ultimately save lives.
Vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in low and middle income countries. People whose diets do not include enough of the vitamin may have impaired body functions, and be more susceptible to blindness, infection and early death. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vitamin A supplements for pregnant mothers and children. However, controversies have recently been raised regarding the effectiveness of vitamin A supplementation programmes in developing countries.
The 43 trials included in the review involved 215,633 children between six months and five years of age. All except one trial used the standard dose of vitamin A as recommended by the WHO. Overall, giving vitamin A capsules reduced the risk of death from any cause by 24% compared to placebos or usual treatment. This equates to saving the lives of almost a million vitamin A deficient children a year.
The review suggests that much of the beneficial effect vitamin A supplementation in developing countries may be related to prevention of measles and diarrhoea. “Giving vitamin A is associated with a reduction in the incidence of diarrhoea and measles, as well as the number of child deaths due to these diseases,” said Zulfiqar Bhutta, Chairman of the Division of Women and Child Health at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan and the senior reviewer of the project. “However, the effects of supplementation on disease pathways are not well understood, so this could be a focus for further studies.”
The researchers strongly recommend continuation of vitamin A supplementation programs in children under five, but recognise that this it is not a permanent solution to the problem of vitamin A deficiency. “Fortification, dietary diversification, food distribution programs and horticultural developments such as home gardening and bio-fortification may provide more permanent relief,” said Bhutta. “For example, vitamin A content could be increased in staples such as rice or growers may aim to promote use of biofortified foods such as orange sweet potato.”
Public release date: 7-Dec-2010
Let’s not sleep on it
Sleep deprivation eliminates fear generalization
7 December 2010 – We commonly think of sleep as a healing process that melts away the stresses of the day, preparing us to deal with new challenges. Research has also shown that sleep plays a crucial role in the development of memories.
An important component of anxiety disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is the formulation of memories associated with fear.
Therefore, researchers decided to evaluate whether sleep deprivation after exposure to an aversive event might eliminate the associated fear, due to the lack of memory consolidation that would typically occur during sleep.
They evaluated healthy volunteers who were shown video clips of both safe driving and unexpected motor vehicle accidents. Half of the volunteers were then deprived of sleep while the other half received a normal night’s sleep.
Later testing sessions revealed that sleep deprivation eliminated the fear-associated memories throughbothfear recognition and physiological fear reactions, suggesting a possible therapy for individuals with PTSD or other anxiety disorders.
Dr. Kenichi Kuriyama, corresponding author, explained: “Sleep deprivation after exposure to a traumatic event, whether intentional or not, may help prevent PTSD. Our findings may help to clarify the functional role of acute insomnia and to develop a prophylactic strategy of sleep restriction for prevention of PTSD.”
“It would be nice if the benefits of sleep deprivation upon fear learning could be produced more easily for survivors of extreme stress,” noted John Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at Yale University. “New insights into the neurobiology of sleep dependent learning
may make it possible for these people to take a medication that disrupts this process while leaving restorative elements of sleep intact.”
Further research is necessary, but these findings indicate that sleep deprivation is a promising avenue for the possible treatment and prevention of PTSD.
Public release date: 7-Dec-2010
Are depressed people too clean?
In an effort to pinpoint potential triggers leading to inflammatory responses that eventually contribute to depression, researchers are taking a close look at the immune system of people living in today’s cleaner modern society.
Rates of depression in younger people have steadily grown to outnumber rates of depression in the older populations and researchers think it may be because of a loss of healthy bacteria.
In an article published in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, Emory neuroscientist Charles Raison, MD, and colleagues say there is mounting evidence that disruptions in ancient relationships with microorganisms in soil, food and the gut may contribute to the increasing rates of depression.
According to the authors, the modern world has become so clean, we are deprived of the bacteria our immune systems came to rely on over long ages to keep inflammation at bay.
“We have known for a long time that people with depression, even those who are not sick, have higher levels of inflammation,” explains Raison.
“Since ancient times benign microorganisms, some times referred to as ‘old friends,’ have taught the immune system how to tolerate other harmless microorganisms, and in the process, reduce inflammatory responses that have been linked to the development of most modern illnesses, from cancer to depression.”
Experiments are currently being conducted to test the efficacy of treatments that use properties of these “old friends” to improve emotional tolerance. “If the exposure to administration of the ‘old friends’ improves depression,” the authors conclude, “the important question of whether we should encourage measured re-exposure to benign environmental microorganisms will not be far behind.”
Public release date: 8-Dec-2010
See off Alzheimer’s with the color purple
Ground-breaking research from Professor Douglas Kell, published in the journal Archives of Toxicology, has found that the majority of debilitating illnesses are in part caused by poorly-bound iron which causes the production of dangerous toxins that can react with the components of living systems.
These toxins, called hydroxyl radicals, cause degenerative diseases of many kinds in different parts of the body.
In order to protect the body from these dangerous varieties of poorly-bound iron, it is vital to take on
nutrients, known as iron chelators, which can bind the iron tightly.
Brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of chelators, as is green tea, with purple fruits considered to have the best chance of binding the iron effectively .
However, despite conflicting reports, the widely-publicised benefits of red wine seem to work in a different way, and have no similar benefits, Professor Kell’s paper noted.
This new paper is the first time the link has been made between so many different diseases and the presence of the wrong form of iron, and gives a crucial clue as to how to prevent them or at least slow them down.
Professor Kell argues that the means by which poorly-liganded iron accelerates the onset of debilitating diseases shows up areas in which current, traditional thinking is flawed and can be dangerous.
For instance, Vitamin C is thought to be of great benefit to the body’s ability to defend itself against toxins and diseases.
However Professor Kell, who is Professor of Bioanalytical Science at the University, indicates that excess vitamin C can in fact have the opposite effect to that intended if unliganded iron is present.
Only when iron is suitably and safely bound (“chelated”) will vitamin C work effectively.
Professor Kell said: “Much of modern biology has been concerned with the role of different genes in human disease.
“The importance of iron may have been missed because there is no gene for iron as such. What I have highlighted in this work is therefore a crucial area for further investigation, as many simple predictions follow from my analysis.
“If true they might change greatly the means by which we seek to prevent and even cure such diseases.”
Public release date: 8-Dec-2010
Whey supplements lower blood pressure
Low-cost protein gets big results in people with elevated blood pressure
PULLMAN, Wash.—Beverages supplemented by whey-based protein can significantly reduce elevated blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease, a Washington State University study has found.
Research led by nutritional biochemist Susan Fluegel and published in International Dairy Journal found that daily doses of commonly available whey brought a more than six-point reduction in the average blood pressure of men and women with elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressures. While the study was confined to 71 student subjects between the ages of 18 and 26, Fluegel says older people with blood pressure issues would likely get similar results.
“One of the things I like about this is it is low-cost,” says Fluegel, a nutritional biochemistry instructor interested in treating disease through changes in nutrition and exercise. “Not only that, whey protein has not been shown to be harmful in any way.”
Terry Shultz, co-author and an emeritus professor in the former Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said the findings have practical implications for personal health as well as the dairy industry.
“These are very intriguing findings, very interesting,” he said. “To my knowledge, this hasn’t been shown before.”
The study, which Fluegel did for her doctorate in nutritional biochemistry, notes that researchers in a 2007 study found no blood-pressure changes in people who took a whey-supplemented drink. At first, she saw no consistent improvement either. But then she thought to break out her subjects into different groups and found significant improvements in those with different types of elevated blood pressure.
Improvements began in the first week of the study and lasted through its six-week course.
The supplements, delivered in fruit-flavored drinks developed at the WSU Creamery, did not lower the blood pressure of subjects who did not have elevated pressure to begin with. That’s good, said Fluegel, as low blood pressure can also be a problem.
Other studies have found that blood-pressure reductions like those seen by Fluegel can reduce cardiovascular disease and bring a 35 to 40 percent reduction in fatal strokes.
Health benefits aside, researchers are excited about the prospect of improving the market for whey, a cheese byproduct that often has to be disposed of at some expense. Its potential economic impact is unclear, says Shannon Neibergs, a WSU extension economist, “but any positive use of that product is going to be beneficial.”
Public release date: 8-Dec-2010
Shoo, fly! Catnip oil repels bloodsucking flies
Catnip, the plant that attracts domestic cats like an irresistible force, has proven 99 percent effective in repelling the blood-sucking flies that attack horses and cows, causing $2 billion in annual loses to the cattle industry. That’s the word from a report published in ACS’ biweekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Junwei Zhu and colleagues note that stable flies not only inflict painful bites, but also transmit multiple diseases. Cattle harried by these bloodsuckers may produce less meat and milk, have trouble reproducing, and develop diseases that can be fatal. All traditional methods for controlling stable flies — even heavy applications of powerful insecticides — have proven less than effective. The scientists thus turned to catnip oil, already known to repel more than a dozen families of insects, including house flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches.
They made pellets of catnip oil, soy, and paraffin wax, and spread them in a cattle feedlot. Within minutes, the pellets shooed the flies away, with the repellent action lasting for about three hours. Pellets without catnip oil, in contrast, had no effect. The scientists now are working on making the repellent action last longer, which they say is the key to putting catnip to use in protecting livestock both in feedlots and pastures.
Public release date: 8-Dec-2010
New report: Don’t blame the pill for estrogen in drinking water
Contrary to popular belief, birth control pills account for less than 1 percent of the estrogens found in the
nation’s drinking water supplies, scientists have concluded in an analysis of studies published on the topic. Their report suggests that most of the sex hormone — source of concern as an endocrine disruptor with possible adverse effects on people and wildlife — enters drinking water supplies from other sources. The report appears in ACS’ biweekly journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Amber Wise, Kacie O’Brien and Tracey Woodruff note ongoing concern about possible links between chronic exposure to estrogens in the water supply and fertility problems and other adverse human health effects. Almost 12 million women of reproductive age in the United States take the pill, and their urine contains the hormone. Hence, the belief that oral contraceptives are the major source of estrogen in lakes, rivers, and streams. Knowing that sewage treatment plants remove virtually all of the main estrogen — 17 alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2) — in oral contraceptives, the scientists decided to pin down the main sources of estrogens in water supplies.
Their analysis found that EE2 has a lower predicted concentration in U.S. drinking water than natural estrogens from soy and dairy products and animal waste used untreated as a farm fertilizer. And that all humans, (men, women and children, and especially pregnant women) excrete hormones in their urine, not just women taking the pill. Some research cited in the report suggests that animal manure accounts for 90 percent of estrogens in the environment. Other research estimates that if just 1 percent of the estrogens in livestock waste reached waterways, it would comprise 15 percent of the estrogens in the world’s water supply.
Public release date: 9-Dec-2010
Researcher develops accurate method for detecting dangerous fluoride
Sourav Saha’s molecular sensor could protect people from a potential carcinogen
Used in the proper amounts, it can make teeth stronger and aid in the treatment of osteoporosis. When excessive amounts are consumed, however, it can be a killer — a carcinogen that causes bone, lung and bladder cancers. The “it” is fluoride, a common additive in most American communities’ drinking water and an ingredient in the vast majority of commercially produced adult toothpastes.
Determining the level of fluoride, be it in water, consumer products or the human body, is an important and attractive challenge for scientists. To address that, a Florida State University researcher has developed a molecular sensor that changes color when a sample containing fluoride is added to it.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that 1 part per million (ppm) of fluoride ions is acceptable in drinking water, but above 2 ppm is considered a serious health risk,” said Sourav Saha, an assistant professor in FSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (http://www.chem.fsu.edu/) and its Integrative NanoScience Institute (http://insi.fsu.edu/). “Because fluoride is carcinogenic even at such small doses, a sensor is needed to detect fluoride selectively at very low concentrations and in the presence of other naturally occurring and biologically important ions.”
Working with a team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, Saha was able to develop just such a sensor. His research team discovered that a compound called naphthalene diimide (NDI) interacts with fluoride ions in a uniquely colorful way.
“NDIs are a family of neutral (albeit electron-deficient) aromatic compounds that are colorless until fluoride is added,” Saha said. “A small amount of fluoride will quickly turn the sample orange, while a larger amount will turn it pink. In this manner, it becomes very easy to determine not only the presence of fluoride in water, but at what levels.”
While other fluoride sensors exist, many of them cannot differentiate between fluoride and other anions — negatively charged ions — that might be present in the water.
“Although they can detect fluoride, they cannot accurately measure the levels of fluoride,” Saha said. “Naked-eye detection of fluoride at different concentration levels is an advantage of NDI-based sensors. Our sensor relies on an electron transfer event from a fluoride ion to the NDI receptor for generating a visible response or signal, which in this case is color change. The electron transfer process can be reversed, and the sensor can be regenerated and reused over and over again.”
By designing an appropriate sensor, Saha’s laboratory has achieved a remarkable “nanomolar” sensitivity for fluoride, meaning it can detect about one ten-thousandth of a milligram of fluoride in a liter of water. This makes it one of the most sensitive fluoride sensors known to date.
Water fluoridation has been widely used in the United States since about 1960. Although often a subject of controversy, Saha says it has had the effect of improving overall dental health through a very basic chemical process. When added to water systems, fluoride reacts with a naturally occurring mineral, calcium phosphate, and produces a compound called fluorapatite. Fluorapatite then bonds with humans’ teeth to form a hard, protective layer that wards off corrosion. This is important for dental health.
However, excessive amounts of fluoride in water can cause a condition known as dental fluorosis, especially in young children. This results in a mottled appearance of the dental enamel, as well as possible cracking and pitting of the teeth.
Fluoride is also used in several drugs prescribed to treat the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis. Given in the proper amounts, the fluoride appears to stimulate the formation of new bone tissue. However, when excessive amounts of fluoride build up in body tissues, they can lead to a variety of health maladies, including skeletal fluorosis, which causes pain and damage to bones and joints. Excessive fluoride over a length of time has also been linked to the development of osteosarcoma — a malignant and potentially fatal bone cancer — as well as cancers of the lungs and bladder. For those reasons and others, fluoride has not been formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of osteoporosis in the United States.
Artificial fluoridation of drinking water is commonly practiced in many industrialized nations. While precise numbers are unavailable, perhaps 400 million people living outside of the United States are located in areas where water is artificially fluoridated, according to the British Fluoridation Society. Untold millions of others, especially in parts of Africa, India and China, rely on water sources whose natural fluoride levels exceed EPA recommendations. Efforts to measure the amount of fluoride present in many of those areas are inconsistent and imprecise.
“This is a very significant public health issue worldwide,” Saha said. “Some developing countries fluoridate their water but don’t have a means for measuring it accurately. Others are drinking water that hasn’t been treated with fluoride but that might already contain dangerous amounts naturally. Clearly there is a critical need for a fluoride sensor that can tell people whether their water supply is safe.”
A paper describing his team’s findings was recently published by the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “Fluoride Ion Sensing by an Anion-n Interaction” (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja107382x) was coauthored by Saha and his postdoctoral researcher, Samit Guha. It was also highlighted in the Dec. 6, 2010, issue of Chemical and Engineering News (http://pubs.acs.org/cen/).
In addition, Saha filed for a U.S. patent on his fluoride-sensing process in June 2010; he hopes to know within the next year whether the patent will be granted. If it is, the next step likely would be to license his
discovery to an outside company that could test it for commercial potential and then, if all goes well, develop it into a marketable product.
“This is a clever idea,” said John Fraser, Florida State’s assistant vice president for Research and Economic Development and director of the Office of Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization (http://www.research.fsu.edu/techtransfer/). “Using a simple color test to determine safe fluoride levels will lead to a tangible benefit to society. Once commercialized, people will benefit in the United States, but also in countries with high natural but unsafe levels of fluoride.”