6th Health Research Synopsis 21 Aug 07
Compiled by Ralph Turchiano
In this issue:
- Despite claims, not all probiotics can treat diarrhea say experts
- Diet foods for children may lead to obesity
- Green tea boosts production of detox enzymes, rendering cancerous chemicals harmless
- New study suggests Concord grape juice may provide protection against breast cancer
- No evidence that widely prescribed statins protect against prostate cancer
- Drop in breast cancer incidence linked to hormone use, not mammograms
- Meth exposure in young adults leads to long-term behavioral consequences
- Study links cat disease to flame retardants in furniture and to pet food
- Plain soap as effective as antibacterial but without the risk
- Effectiveness of mouse breeds that mimic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms questioned
- Are too many people diagnosed as ‘depressed?’
- COMPOUNDS THAT COLOR FRUITS AND VEGGIES MAY PROTECT AGAINST COLON CANCER
- UGA study finds common component of fruits, vegetables kills prostate cancer cells
- Natural chemical found in broccoli helps combat skin blistering disease
- Your gut has taste receptors
- Compound in broccoli could boost immune system, says new study
- Current Life Expectancy in the U.S.
Public release date: 9-Aug-2007
Despite claims, not all probiotics can treat diarrhea say experts
Probiotics for treatment of acute diarrhea in children
Researchers at the University of Naples tested five different preparations in 571 children with acute diarrhoea. All the children were aged 3-36 months and were visiting a family paediatrician with acute diarrhoea. Children were randomly assigned to receive either a specific probiotic product for five days (intervention groups) or oral rehydration solution (control group).
Duration of diarrhoea was significantly lower in children receiving Lactobacillus GG and a mix of four bacterial strains than in patients receiving oral rehydration alone. The three other preparations had no significant effect
Secondary outcomes were similar in all groups and no side effects were recorded
They conclude: the efficacy of probiotic preparations for the treatment of acute diarrhoea in children is related to the individual strains of bacteria, and physicians should choose preparations based on effectiveness data.
Public release date: 8-Aug-2007
Diet foods for children may lead to obesity
Diet foods and drinks for children may inadvertently lead to overeating and obesity, says a new report from the University of Alberta.
“The use of diet food and drinks from an early age into adulthood may induce overeating and gradual weight gain through the taste conditioning process that we have described,” Pierce said
Pierce added that his team’s “taste conditioning process” theory may explain “puzzling results” from other studies, such as a recent one from researchers at the University of Massachusetts, who found links between diet soda consumption (among children”) and a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but further research is necessary with older animals using a variety of taste-related cues.
“One thing is clear at this point,” Pierce said, “our research has shown that young animals can be made to overeat when low-calorie foods and drinks are given to them on a daily basis, and this subverts their bodies’ energy-balance system
Public release date: 10-Aug-2007
Green tea boosts production of detox enzymes, rendering cancerous chemicals harmless
PHILADELPHIA – Concentrated chemicals derived from green tea dramatically boosted production of a group of key detoxification enzymes in people with low levels of these beneficial proteins, according to researchers at Arizona Cancer Center
These findings, published in the August issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggest that a green tea concentrate might help some people strengthen their metabolic defense against toxins capable of causing cancer
In a study of 42 people, the concentrate – composed of chemicals known as green tea catechins in amounts equal to that found in 8-16 cups of green tea – boosted production of the enzymes, which belong to the glutathione S-transferase (GST) family, by as much as 80 percent in some participants.
“They actually convert known carcinogens to non-toxic chemicals, and studies have shown a correlation between deficient expression of these enzymes and increased risk of developing some cancers,” Chow said.
“This is the first clinical study to show proof that chemicals in green tea can increase detoxification enzymes in humans,” Chow said. “There may be other mechanism in play by which green tea may protect against cancer development, but this is a good place to start.”
Public release date: 9-Aug-2007
New study suggests Concord grape juice may provide protection against breast cancer
According to a new study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Medicinal Foods, natural compounds in Concord grape juice protected healthy human breast cells from DNA damage. Healthy human breast cells were exposed in a test tube to an environmental carcinogen, benzo(a)pyrene, that is able to initiate a chain of events leading to breast cancer. However, the introduction of Concord grape juice compounds blocked the connection of the carcinogen to the DNA of the healthy cells.
“The purple grape compounds demonstrated the capacity to inhibit DNA adduct formation as well as to increase the activity of enzymes that metabolize and detoxify carcinogens, and suppress potentially cancer-causing oxidative stress,” said Dr. Keith Singletary, nutrition professor and lead researcher at the University of Illinois. “These new data suggest that anthocyanins present in Concord grape juice, as well as some other fruits and juices, warrant further study for their breast cancer chemopreventive potential.”
Public release date: 9-Aug-2007
No evidence that widely prescribed statins protect against prostate cancer
Researchers from the New England Research Institutes found that while men using statins did indeed have lower blood levels of androgens such as testosterone, it was more likely attributable to poor health rather than the use of statins. Their findings are published in the August issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Hall’s team studied the medical histories of 1,812 men, including 237 statin users, and analyzed their blood for “free” or unbound testosterone, for total testosterone, and for other associated compounds
“In this study, statin use was just a marker for presence of other illnesses,” she said. “This study may inform that debate, however, by suggesting that any protective pathway offered by statins, if it exists, is not through androgen suppression.”
Public release date: 14-Aug-2007
Drop in breast cancer incidence linked to hormone use, not mammograms
A recent decline in breast cancer incidence is unlikely to be caused by a decrease in mammography screening, according to a study published online August 14 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It is more likely due to the drop in postmenopausal hormone use.
There has been a recent, rapid decline in postmenopausal hormone therapy use since 2002 when the Women’s Health Initiative study found that hormone therapy was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Recent data has linked a decrease in breast cancer incidence over the last few years to this drop in hormone use, but this explanation remains controversial. Some researchers have said it is unclear whether the drop was related to the decline in hormone therapy use or a decrease in mammography screening over the same period.
Karla Kerlikowske, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium addressed this question by examining breast cancer rates in a population of women collected from seven mammography registries located in the U.S. who had received screening mammograms between 1997 and 2003. They collected data on over 600,000 mammograms performed on women ages 50 to 69. This is the first study to investigate breast cancer incidence and hormone therapy use in a population of women undergoing routine mammograms.
Between 2000 and 2003, use of hormone therapy among the study population declined—by 7 percent a year between 2000 and 2002, then by 34 percent a year between 2002 and 2003. Over the same period, breast cancer incidence rates declined annually by 5 percent. Estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer rates fell by 13 percent each year from 2001 to 2003.
**Ralph’s Note- Remember when this was the top selling drug in the U.S.?
Public release date: 14-Aug-2007
Meth exposure in young adults leads to long-term behavioral consequences
The new work examines the idea that methamphetamine puts young users at risk of developing deficits later in life that are symptomatic of Parkinson’s disease in individuals with depletion of glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a protein that protects and repairs dopamine in areas of the brain related to movement control. Loss of nerve cells that produce dopamine is a major factor in the disease.
“Methamphetamine intoxication in any young adult may have deleterious consequences later in life, although they may not be apparent until many decades after the exposure,” says McGinty. “These studies speak directly to the possibility of long-term public health consequences resulting from the current epidemic of methamphetamine abuse among young adults.”
**Ralph’s Note – Medications that work along the same pathways. Should also be investigated.
Public release date: 15-Aug-2007
Study links cat disease to flame retardants in furniture and to pet food
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2007 — A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in the United States may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furniture, fabrics and pet food, scientists are reporting in a study scheduled for publication the Aug. 15 online issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal from the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. Janice A. Dye, DVM, Ph.D., at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues from there as well as Indiana University and the University of Georgia, report evidence linking the disease to exposure to environmental contaminants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which the researchers found to be elevated in blood samples of hyperthyroid cats. Their findings were based on analysis of blood samples from 23 pet cats, 11 of which had the disease, termed feline hyperthyroidism (FH). PBDE levels in the hyperthyroid cats were three times as high as those in younger, non-hyperthyroid cats.
Concerns about the possible health effects of PDBEs arose in the late 1990s, and studies have reported that PDBEs cause liver and nerve toxicity in animals. FH is one of the most common and deadly diseases in older cats, and indoor pets are thought to be most at-risk. For starters, cats ingest large amounts of PBDE-laden house dust that the researchers believe comes from consumer household products
The danger of contracting feline hyperthyroidism might be greater in America, where people have the highest reported PBDE levels worldwide, the study said. Also, by the late 1990s, North America accounted for almost half of the global demand for PBDEs from commercial materials like furniture or upholstery, the report added.
The epidemic of hyperthyroidism in cats began almost 30 years ago, at the same time when PBDEs were introduced into household materials as a fire-prevention measure. Although the disease was first discovered in the U.S., it has since been diagnosed in Canada, Australia, Japan and many parts of Europe. Hyperthyroid disorders have also increased in humans—former President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush have the disorder, and even Millie, their Springer Spaniel, had contracted it.
Public release date: 15-Aug-2007
Plain soap as effective as antibacterial but without the risk
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps and, in fact, may render some common antibiotics less effective, says a University of Michigan public health professor
In the first known comprehensive analysis of whether antibacterial soaps work better than plain soaps, Allison Aiello of the U-M School of Public Health and her team found that washing hands with an antibacterial soap was no more effective in preventing infectious illness than plain soap. Moreover, antibacterial soaps at formulations sold to the public do not remove any more bacteria from the hands during washing than plain soaps.
Because of the way the main active ingredient—triclosan—in many antibacterial soaps reacts in the cells, it may cause some bacteria to become resistant to commonly used drugs such as amoxicillin, the researchers say. These changes have not been detected at the population level, but e-coli bacteria bugs adapted in lab experiments showed resistance when exposed to as much as 0.1 percent wt/vol triclosan soap.
Triclosan works by targeting a biochemical pathway in the bacteria that allows the bacteria to keep its cell wall intact. Because of the way triclosan kills the bacteria, mutations can happen at the targeted site. Aiello says a mutation could mean that the triclosan can no longer get to the target site to kill the bacteria because the bacteria and the pathway have changed form.
Public release date: 16-Aug-2007
Effectiveness of mouse breeds that mimic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms questioned
BETHESDA, Md. – Scientists have shown that recently developed mouse breeds that mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may not be as effective as previously assumed. Sascha Weggen, Professor of Molecular Neuropathology at Heinrich-Heine-University, Duesseldorf, Germany; lead author Eva Czirr, Ph.D. student at the University of Mainz, Germany; and colleagues show in the August 24 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry that in some mouse breeds, drugs that had been shown to reduce levels of a toxic protein called amyloid beta had only minor or no effect on these mice.
“Testing drugs against AD on animals is not easy because animals don’t develop the disease,” Weggen says. “When using mice, scientists need to artificially induce one or several mutations in the mice and check whether they develop symptoms of the disease that are similar to the human ones. We showed that some of the mice currently bred to develop the disease don’t get better when they receive previously tested drugs.”
Public release date: 16-Aug-2007
Are too many people diagnosed as ‘depressed?’
Are too many people now diagnosed as having depression? Two experts give their views in this week’s BMJ.
Professor Gordon Parker, a psychiatrist from Australia says the current threshold for what is considered to be ‘clinical depression’ is too low. He fears it could lead to a diagnosis of depression becoming less credible.
It is, he says, normal to be depressed and points to his own cohort study which followed 242 teachers. Fifteen years into the study, 79% of respondents had already met the symptom and duration criteria for major, minor or sub-syndromal depression.
He blames the over-diagnosis of clinical depression on a change in its categorisation, introduced in 1980. This saw the condition split into ‘major’ and ‘minor’ disorders. He says the simplicity and gravitas of ‘major depression’ gave it cachet with clinicians while its descriptive profile set a low threshold.
Criterion A required a person to be in a ‘dysphoric mood’ for two weeks which included feeling “down in the dumps”. Criterion B involved some level of appetite change, sleep disturbance, drop in libido and fatigue. This model was then extended to include what he describes as a seeming subliminal condition “sub-syndromal depression.”
He argues this categorisation means we have been reduced to the absurd. He says we risk medicalising normal human distress and viewing any expression of depression as necessary of treatment.
He says: “Depression will remain a non-specific ‘catch all’ diagnosis until common sense prevails.”
Public Release: 19-Aug-2007
COMPOUNDS THAT COLOR FRUITS AND VEGGIES MAY PROTECT AGAINST COLON CANCER
Evidence from laboratory experiments on rats and on human colon cancer cells also suggests that anthocyanins, the compounds that give color to most red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables appreciably slow the growth of colon cancer cells
In their studies on human colon cancer cells grown in laboratory dishes, the researchers tested the anti-cancer effects of anthocyanin-rich extracts from a variety of fruits and vegetables. They retrieved these anthocyanins from some relatively exotic fruits and other plants, including grapes, radishes, purple corn, chokeberries, bilberries, purple carrots and elderberries.
The plants were chosen due to their extremely deep colors, and therefore high anthocyanin content. Some of these plants are also used as a source of food coloring.
The researchers found that the amount of anthocyanin extract needed to reduce cancer cell growth by 50 percent varied among the plants. Extract derived from purple corn was the most potent, in that it took the least amount of this extract (14 micrograms per milliliter of cell growth solution) to cut cell numbers in half. Chokeberry and bilberry extracts were nearly as potent as purple corn. Radish extract proved the least potent, as it took nine times as much (131 µg/ml) of this compound to cut cell growth by 50 percent.
In additional laboratory studies, she and her colleagues found that anthocyanin pigments from radish and black carrots slowed the growth of cancer cells anywhere from 50 to 80 percent. But pigments from purple corn and chokeberries not only completely stopped the growth of cancer cells, but also killed roughly 20 percent of the cancer cells while having little effect on healthy cells
In fact, other researchers at Ohio State have found that black raspberries may help reduce the growth of esophageal and colon cancers tumors.
This work received support from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Research Initiative grant
Public Release: 20-Aug-2007
UGA study finds common component of fruits, vegetables kills prostate cancer cells
Athens, Ga. – A new University of Georgia study finds that pectin, a type of fiber found in fruits and vegetables and used in making jams and other foods, kills prostate cancer cells.
The study, published in the August issue of the journal Glycobiology, found that exposing prostate cancer cells to pectin under laboratory conditions reduced the number of cells by up to 40 percent. UGA Cancer Center researcher Debra Mohnen and her colleagues at UGA, along with Vijay Kumar, chief of research and development at the VA Medical Center in Augusta, found that the cells literally self-destructed in a process known as apoptosis. Pectin even killed cells that aren’t sensitive to hormone therapy and therefore are difficult to treat with current medications
“What this paper shows is that if you take human prostate cancer cells and add pectin, you can induce programmed cell death,” said Mohnen, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. “If you do the same with non-cancerous cells, cell death doesn’t occur.”
Mohnen’s study adds to the growing body of evidence on the health benefits of pectin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and glucose levels in humans. Cancer studies using rats and cell cultures have found that pectin can reduce metastasis and prevent lung and colon tumors. Another study found that pectin induces apoptosis in colon cancer cells. Mohnen’s is the first to show that pectin induces apoptosis in prostate cancer cells and brings scientists closer to understanding what makes the common component of plants an effective cancer fighter.
The research was funded by the Georgia Cancer Coalition-Georgia Department of Human Resources, the University of Georgia-Medical College of Georgia Joint Intramural Grants Program and the federal Department of Energy
Public release date: 20-Aug-2007
Natural chemical found in broccoli helps combat skin blistering disease
Johns Hopkins scientists have found yet another reason why you should listen to your mother when she tells you to eat your vegetables. Sulforaphane, a chemical present at high levels in a precursor form in broccoli and related veggies (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.), helps prevent the severe blistering and skin breakage brought on by the rare and potentially fatal genetic disease epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS).
The researchers treated newborn mice with a severe form of EBS—so bad they all died within three days—with a topical solution containing sulforaphane and found marked improvement; after four days more than 85 percent of the treated mice were alive and blister-free. These findings appear online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Public release date: 20-Aug-2007
Your gut has taste receptors
Researchers in the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have identified taste receptors in the human intestines. The taste receptor T1R3 and the taste G protein gustducin are critical to sweet taste in the tongue. Research now shows these two sweet-sensing proteins are also expressed in specialized taste cells of the gut where they sense glucose within the intestine
“We now know that the receptors that sense sugar and artificial sweeteners are not limited to the tongue. Our work is an important advance for the new field of gastrointestinal chemosensation – how the cells of the gut detect and respond to sugars and other nutrients,” said lead author, Robert F. Margolskee, MD, PhD Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Cells of the gut taste glucose through the same mechanisms used by taste cells of the tongue. The gut taste cells regulate secretion of insulin and hormones that regulate appetite. Our work sheds new light on how we regulate sugar uptake from our diets and regulate blood sugar levels.”
Public release date: 20-Aug-2007
Compound in broccoli could boost immune system, says new study
Berkeley — A compound found in broccoli and related vegetables may have more health-boosting tricks up its sleeves, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Veggie fans can already point to some cancer-fighting properties of 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM), a chemical produced from the compound indole-3-carbinol when Brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale are chewed and digested. Animal studies have shown that DIM can actually stop the growth of certain cancer cells.
This new study in mice, published online today (Monday, Aug. 20) in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, shows that DIM may help boost the immune system as well.
“We provide clear evidence that DIM is effective in augmenting the immune response for the mice in the study, and we know that the immune system is important in defending the body against infections of many kinds and cancer,” said Leonard Bjeldanes, UC Berkeley professor of toxicology and principal investigator of the study. “This finding bodes well for DIM as a protective agent against major human maladies.”
Previous studies led by Bjeldanes and Gary Firestone, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology, have shown that DIM halts the division of breast cancer cells and inhibits testosterone, the male hormone needed for growth of prostate cancer cells
In the new study, the researchers found increased blood levels of cytokines, proteins which help regulate the cells of the immune system, in mice that had been fed solutions containing doses of DIM at a concentration of 30 milligrams per kilogram. Specifically, DIM led to a jump in levels of four types of cytokines: interleukin 6, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, interleukin 12 and interferon-gamma.
“As far as we know, this is the first report to show an immune stimulating effect for DIM,” said study lead author Ling Xue, who was a Ph.D. student in Bjeldanes’ lab at the time of the study and is now a post-doctoral researcher in molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley
The discovery of DIM’s effects on the immune system helps bolster its reputation as a formidable cancer-fighter, the researchers said. “This study shows that there is a whole new universe of cancer regulation related to DIM,” said Firestone, who also co-authored the new study. “There are virtually no other agents known that can both directly shut down the growth of cancer cells and enhance the function of the immune system at the same time.”
Current Life Expectancy in the U.S.
#1 Andorra: 83.52 years
#2 Macau: 82.27 years
#3 Japan: 82.02 years
#4 San Marino: 81.8 years
#5 Singapore: 81.8 years
#6 Hong Kong: 81.68 years
#7 Sweden: 80.63 years
#8 Switzerland: 80.62 years
#9 Australia: 80.62 years
#10 France: 80.59 years
#11 Guernsey: 80.53 years
#12 Iceland: 80.43 years
#13 Canada: 80.34 years
#14 Cayman Islands: 80.2 years
#15 Italy: 79.94 years
#16 Gibraltar: 79.93 years
#17 Monaco: 79.82 years
#18 Liechtenstein: 79.81 years
#19 Spain: 79.78 years
#20 Norway: 79.67 years
#21 Israel: 79.59 years
#22 Jersey: 79.51 years
#23 Faroe Islands: 79.49 years
#24 Greece: 79.38 years
#25 Austria: 79.21 years
#26 Virgin Islands: 79.2 years
#27 Malta: 79.15 years
#28 Netherlands: 79.11 years
#29 Luxembourg: 79.03 years
#30 Montserrat: 79 years
#31 New Zealand: 78.96 years
#32 Germany: 78.95 years
#33 Belgium: 78.92 years
#34 Saint Pierre and Miquelon: 78.76 years
#35 Guam: 78.76 years
#36 United Kingdom: 78.7 years
#37 Finland: 78.66 years
#38 Man, Isle of: 78.64 years
#39 Jordan: 78.55 years
#40 Puerto Rico: 78.54 years
#41 Bosnia and Herzegovina: 78.17 years
#42 Bermuda: 78.13 years
#43 Saint Helena: 78.09 years
#44 United States: 78 years