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034 Health Research Report 8 JUL 2008

Health Technology Research Synopsis

34th Issue Date 08 JUL 2008

Compiled By Ralph Turchiano

www.healthresearchreport.me www.vit.bz

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Editors Top Five:

 

1. Statins have unexpected effect on pool of powerful brain cells
2. Cholesterol drugs recommended for some 8-year-olds
3. Newborn vitamin A reduces infant mortality
4. Fish oil and red yeast rice studied for lowering blood cholesterol
5. New report: The truth about drug innovation

 

In this issue:

 

1. A blue curing light used to harden dental fillings also may stunt tumor growth, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.
2. New report: The truth about drug innovation
3. Salutary pizza spice
4. Morbid thoughts whet the appetite
5. Seniors with type 2 diabetes may experience memory declines immediately after eating unhealthy meal
6. Higher Coffee Consumption Associated with Lower Liver Cancer Risk
7. Prebiotic potential of almonds
8. The tummy’s taste for red wine with red meat
9. A good cup of coffee might be just the wake-up call scientists need to stop multiple sclerosis.
10. United States has highest level of illegal cocaine and cannabis use, and more
11. Watermelon May Have Viagra-Effect
12. Post-exercise caffeine helps muscles refuel
13. Designer diet for prostate cancer
14. Weight Watchers Versus Fitness Centers, MU Study Finds Both Work Best in Combination
15. Red wine ingredient wards off effects of age on heart, bones, eyes and muscle
16. Statins have unexpected effect on pool of powerful brain cells
17. Cholesterol drugs recommended for some 8-year-olds
18. The benefits of green tea in reducing an important risk factor for heart disease
19. Infant formula blocks HIV transmission via breastfeeding
20. Mother’s vitamin D status during pregnancy will affect her baby’s dental health
21. Herbal remedy reduces obesity and heart disease?
22. Newborn vitamin A reduces infant mortality
23. Some antidepressants associated with gastrointestinal bleeding
24. Argyrin: natural substance raises hope for new cancer therapies
25. Leading worldwide cause of cardiovascular disease may be modified by diet
26. Fish oil and red yeast rice studied for lowering blood cholesterol

Public release date: 24-Jun-2008

 

A blue curing light used to harden dental fillings also may stunt tumor growth, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.

“The light sends wavelengths of blue-violet light to the composite, which triggers hardening,” says Alpesh Patel, a rising MCG School of Dentistry junior. “The light waves produce free radicals that activate the catalyst and speed up polymerization of the composite resin. In oral cancer cells, though, those radicals cause damage that decreases cell growth and increases cell death.”

Mr. Patel, who has been working with Dr. Jill Lewis, associate professor of oral biology, Dr. Regina Messer, associate professor of oral rehabilitation and oral biology, and Dr. John Wataha, adjunct professor of oral rehabilitation and oral biology, studied 10 tumor-bearing mice, five treated with the light and five untreated.

He exposed half the mice to the blue light for 90 seconds a day for 12 days. Then the tumors were extracted and each one was split into two sections. Half were used to create slides for tissue analysis, and half were frozen to prepare protein extracts.

Tissue analysis indicated an approximate 10 percent increase in cell suicide, or apoptosis, in the light-treated tumors. The frozen protein extracts revealed a nearly 80 percent decrease in cell growth in the light-treated tumors.

“The decrease in cell growth, combined with increased apoptosis, helps explain why the tumors didn’t grow as much because you have cells that aren’t dividing and you have cells that are committing suicide,” Mr. Patel says.

Dr. Lewis predicts treating the tumors with blue light sooner will increase the rate of apoptosis, possibly preventing the tumor from ever becoming measurable and easing treatment.

“One desirable feature we’ve observed with the blue light is that non-cancerous cells appear unaffected at light doses that kill tumor cells,” says Dr. Lewis. “We’re thinking that some day, blue light therapy may serve as an adjunct to conventional cancer therapy. Patients may, therefore, receive lower doses of chemotherapy, which would decrease the adverse effects most cancer patients experience from standard chemotherapy regimens.”

Public release date: 24-Jun-2008

New report: The truth about drug innovation

 

New York, NY: A new report co-authored by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Benjamin Zycher, and Joseph DiMasi, and Christopher-Paul Milne, researchers from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, examines case histories for thirty-five important pharmaceutical innovations. Skeptics of the private industry assert that the development of new medicines is most attributable to publicly funded sources.

As Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, remarked during an interview with PBS News : “Innovation comes mainly from NIH-supported research in academic medical centers. The drug companies do almost no innovation.”

In this new study, the authors debunk this assertion and argue that the private sector plays a critical role in drug development.

Key findings include:

NIH-sponsored research tends to be concentrated on the basic science of disease biology, biochemistry, and disease processes, the goal of which is to identify biologic targets that might prove vulnerable to drugs yet to be developed.

Private sector contributions are weighted heavily toward the applied science of discovering ways to pursue treatments and cures for adverse medical conditions.

The authors conclude that NIH-sponsored and private-sector drug research are complementary to one another and are equally necessary in order to provide patients with better care and treatment.

Public release date: 25-Jun-2008

 

Salutary pizza spice

 

Oregano ingredient effective against inflammations

 

Oregano doesn´t only give a Pizza its typical taste. Researchers at Bonn University and the ETH Zürich have discovered that this spice also contains a substance which, amongst other qualities, appears to help cure inflammations. The researchers administered its active ingredient – known as beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP) – to mice with inflamed paws. In seven out of ten cases there was a subsequent improvement in the symptoms. E-BCP might possibly be of use against disorders such as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. The study has appeared on Monday, 23rd June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

E-BCP is a typical ingredient of many spices and food plants. Hence it is also found in plants such as basil, rosemary, cinnamon, and black pepper. Every day, we consume up to 200 milligrams of this annular molecule.

No-one had previously realised that it can have a beneficial effect on the body. “Our results have revealed that E-BCP inhibits inflammation”, declared Professor Dr. Andreas Zimmer of the Life&Brain-Zentrum in Bonn. But that´s not all: “experiments on mice have shown that this substance is also effective against osteoporosis.”

Beta-caryophyllin docks on specific receptor structures in the cell membrane – the so-called cannabinoid-CB2 receptors, and produces a change in cell behaviour: for example, it will inhibit the cell´s production of phlogogenic signal substances. “We have used E-BCP to treat mice with paws swollen due to inflamations”, explained Dr. Jürg Gertsch of the ETH Zürich. “In up to 70 per cent of cases the swelling subsequently subsided”.

 

Pizza can´t make you high

 

Consequently, E-BCP could possibly form the basis for new drugs. One especial attraction for the pharmacological researcher is that this substance is so common in nature. But it has a further advantage in that, in contrast to other substances which affect the CB2 receptors, beta-caryophyllin does not lead to intoxication.

For this CB2 receptor has a “brother” by the name of CB1, which is best known to drug researchers. CB1 is found in the nerve cells of the brain, on which certain ingredients of the hemp plant can dock. What then happens is all too familiar to marihuana smokers.

Although CB1 and CB2 are not twins, they are nevertheless very closely related. Hence substances which stimulate CB2 often have an intoxicating effect. With E-BCP it is different, for this is the first known natural agent which binds specifically to CB2 and not CB1 – which explains why you can´t get high on pizza.

Both receptors are part of the so-called endocannabinoid system, which researchers are finding to be of increasing significance for a variety of disorders. If this system gets out of control it can result in cardiac disorders, allergies and chronic pain, or it could even affect the memory. “Endocannabinoids are formed by the body itself and maintain its equilibrium” explains Professor Zimmer. So in the case of an inflammation they act like a brake, preventing the immune system from over-reacting to the extent that its defensive reaction runs amok.

E-BCP might also help us to control such chronic disorders as Chrone´s disease – an inflammation of the intestinal tract. “This compound could become an important dietary factor for inhibiting such diseases of modern civilisation”, surmises Dr. Jürg Gertsch. However, anyone who in future spices all his food with oregano will not necessarily be any the healthier for it. “The endocannabinoid system comes into play when the equilibrium of the metabolic processes has been destroyed”, declares Professor Zimmer. “It is similar to the antidepressants in that, although they help for depressions, they don´t do anything to brighten the mood of a healthy person”.

Public release date: 25-Jun-2008

Morbid thoughts whet the appetite

Can watching TV news or crime shows trigger overeating? According to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research, people who are thinking about their own deaths want to consume more.

Authors Naomi Mandel (Arizona State University) and Dirk Smeesters (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands) conducted several experiments in Europe and the United States where participants wrote essays on their feelings about their own deaths. They then checked off items on a grocery list or ate cookies. Consumers who wrote about their own deaths wanted to buy more and ate more than those who wrote about a painful medical procedure (the control group).

 

“People want to consumer more of all kinds of foods, both healthy and unhealthy, when thinking about the idea that they will die some day,” write the authors.

The researchers found people with low self-esteem, in particular, tend to over-consume after death-related thoughts. Mandel and Smeesters explain the effect using a theory called “escape from self-awareness.” “When people are reminded of their inevitable mortality, they may start to feel uncomfortable about what they have done with their lives and whether they have made a significant mark on the universe. This is a state called ‘heightened self-awareness.’ One way to deal with such an uncomfortable state is to escape from it, by either overeating or overspending,” they write.

The study also revealed that placing a mirror in front of the participants reduced the desire to over-consume.

“Consumers, especially those with a lower self-esteem, might be more susceptible to over-consumption when faced with images of death during the news or their favorite crime-scene investigation shows,” the authors conclude.

Ralph’s Note- Now watch the food commercial skyrocket during crime shows.

 

Public release date: 26-Jun-2008

 

Seniors with type 2 diabetes may experience memory declines immediately after eating unhealthy meal

 

Can be offset by taking antioxidant vitamins with meal, but healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables is best defense

 

Toronto, CANADA – Adults with type 2 diabetes who eat unhealthy, high-fat meals may experience memory declines immediately afterward, but this can be offset by taking antioxidant vitamins with the meal, according to new research from Baycrest.

 

There is already growing evidence linking diabetes to cognitive complications in humans. Adults with type 2 diabetes are especially vulnerable to acute meal-induced memory deficits after eating unhealthy foods.

This latest study, led by Baycrest and published in the July issue of Nutrition Research, suggests that taking high doses of antioxidant vitamins C and E with the meal may help minimize those memory slumps.

“Our bottom line is that consuming unhealthy meals for those with diabetes can temporarily further worsen already underlying memory problems associated with the disease,”said lead author Michael Herman Chui, who conducted the research as a University of Toronto pathobiology undergraduate in the Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit (KLARU) at Baycrest. “We’ve shown that antioxidant vitamins can minimize oxidative stress from the meal and reduce those immediate memory deficits.”

Type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic oxidative stress, a major contributor to cognitive decline and Alzheimer disease. Consuming unhealthy foods can induce this type of stress which is triggered by acute elevations of free radicals – unstable molecules that can damage tissue, including brain tissue. These destructive molecule reactions typically occur over a one-to-three hour period after food ingestion.

Dr. Carol Greenwood, senior author of the study and a nationally recognized expert in how diet impacts brain function, cautioned that relying on antioxidant vitamins at meal time is not a quick fix. “While our study looked at the pill form of antioxidants, we would ultimately want individuals to consume healthier foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Greenwood, a KLARU senior scientist at Baycrest.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a low fat diet rich in antioxidants, and staying mentally active and socially engaged in a variety of activities, is the best medicine for optimizing cognitive health during the lifespan, she said.

The study

In the study, 16 adults (aged 50 years and older) with type 2 diabetes participated in an unblinded trial where they attended three weekly sessions that involved consuming a different test meal. One meal consisted of high fat products – a danish pastry, cheddar cheese and yogurt with added whipped cream; the second meal consisted of only water consumption; and the third test meal was the high-fat meal plus high doses of vitamins C (1000 mg) and E (800 IU) tablets.

Fifteen minutes after starting meal ingestion, participants completed a series of neuropsychological tests lasting 90 minutes that measured their recall abilities for words they had heard and paragraph information they had read. These cognitive skills are associated with the brain’s memory centre – the hippocampus.

Researchers found that vitamin supplementation consistently improved recall scores relative to the meal alone. Participants who ate the high fat meal without vitamin supplements showed significantly more forgetfulness of words and paragraph information in immediate and time delay recall tests, relative to those who had the water meal or the meal with antioxidant vitamins. Those on water meal and meal with vitamins showed similar levels in cognitive performance.

Dr. Greenwood and medical student M.H. Chui emphasize that their findings require further replication in larger studies with more participants. Future studies will need to look at whether antioxidant vitamins are directly targeting oxidative stress reactions or triggering an independent memory-enhancing ability which is simply masking the detrimental effects.

Ralph’s Note – How can you mask the detrimental effects of forgetting? You either remember it or you don’t.

 

Public release date: 26-Jun-2008

Higher Coffee Consumption Associated with Lower Liver Cancer Risk

 

Liver Cancer is the Third Most Common Global Cause of Cancer Death

A new large, prospective population-based study confirms an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and liver cancer risk. The study also found that higher levels of gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) in the blood were associated with an increased risk of developing the disease. These findings are published in the July issue of Hepatology, a journal published by John Wiley & Sons on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). The article and an accompanying editorial are also available online at Wiley Interscience (www.interscience.wiley.com).

Researchers led by Gang Hu at the University of Helsinki set out to examine the associations between coffee consumption and serum GGT with the risk of liver cancer in a large prospective cohort. Residents of Finland drink more coffee per capita than the Japanese, Americans, Italians, and other Europeans, so Hu and colleagues studied 60,323 Finnish participants ages 25 to 74 who were cancer-free at baseline. The Finns were included in seven independent cross-sectional population surveys conducted between 1972 and 2002 and followed up through June 2006.

The participants completed a mail-in questionnaire about their medical history, socioeconomic factors and dietary and lifestyle habits. For a subset of participants, clinical data was available, including serum levels of GGT. Data on subsequent cancer diagnoses was collected from the country-wide Finnish Cancer Registry.

Based on their answers to the question: “How many cups of coffee do you drink daily?” the participants were divided into five categories: 0-1 cup, 2-3 cups, 4-5 cups, 6-7 cups, and 8 or more cups per day. After a median follow-up period of 19.3 years, 128 participants were diagnosed with liver cancer.

The researchers noted a significant inverse association between coffee drinking and the risk of primary liver cancer. They found that the multivariable hazards ratio of liver cancer dropped for each group that drank more coffee. It fell from 1.00, to .66, to .44, to .38 to .32 respectively. “The biological mechanisms behind the association of coffee consumption with the risk of liver cancer are not known,” the authors point out.

They also found that high levels of serum GGT were associated with an increased risk of liver cancer. The hazard ratio of liver cancer for the highest vs. lowest quartile of serum GGT was 3.13. “Nevertheless,” they report, “the inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of liver cancer was consistent in the subjects at any level of serum GGT.”

An accompanying editorial by Carlo La Vecchia of Milan says that Hu’s new study solidly confirms the inverse relationship between coffee drinking and liver cancer risk, though we still don’t know if it is causal. “Furthermore, the study by Hu et al. provides original and important quantitative evidence that the levels of GGT are related to subsequent incidence of liver cancer, with an overall relative risk of 2.3,” he says.

La Vecchia notes, however, that, “It remains difficult, however, to translate the inverse relation between coffee drinking and liver cancer risk observed in epidemiological studies into potential implications for prevention of liver cancer by increasing coffee consumption.”

Article: “Joint effects of coffee consumption and serum gamma-glutamyltransferase on the risk of liver cancer.” Hu, Gang; Tuomilehto, Jaakko; Pukkala, Eero; Hakulinen, Timo; Antikainen, Riitta; Vartiainen, Erkki; Jousilahti, Pekka. Hepatology; July 2008; 10.1002/hep.22320; Published online 3/18/08.

Public release date: 27-Jun-2008

 

Prebiotic potential of almonds

 

Almonds, as well as being high in vitamin E and other minerals, are also thought to have other health benefits, such as reducing cholesterol. Recently published work by the Institute of Food Research has identified potential prebiotic properties of almonds that could help improve our digestive health by increasing levels of beneficial gut bacteria.

Our digestive system maintains large population of bacteria that live in the colon. Prebiotics are non-digestible parts of foods that these bacteria can use to fuel their growth and activity. These ‘good’ bacteria form part of our body’s defence against harmful bacteria and play a role in the development of body’s immune system. The prebiotics work by stimulating the growth of these bacteria. However, in order to get to where they are needed prebiotics must be able to get through the upper part of the intestine without being digested or absorbed by the body.

Funded by the Almond Board of California, IFR scientists first used the Model Gut, a physical and biochemical simulator of the gastro-intestinal tract, to subject almonds to the same conditions experienced in the stomach and small intestine. They then added the digested almonds to an in vitro batch system to mimic the bacterial fermentation in the large intestine and monitored its effect on the populations of intestinal bacteria.

The study, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that finely ground almonds significantly increased the levels of certain beneficial gut bacteria. This effect was not seen when the fat content was removed from the almond preparation, suggesting that the beneficial bacteria use the almond lipid for growth, and this is the basis for the prebiotic effect of almonds.

Previous studies have shown that the amount of available lipid is reduced if the almonds are not processed, for example by grinding as in this study or by chewing. The length of time the almond spends in the digestive system also affects the amount of available lipids and proteins. More detailed studies on the digestibility of almonds are now required, and the prebiotic effect of almond lipids needs to be tested in human volunteers.

 

Public release date: 30-Jun-2008

The tummy’s taste for red wine with red meat

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

What happens when red wine meets red meat? If the rendezvous happens in the stomach, scientists in Israel are reporting, wine’s bounty of healthful chemical compounds may thwart formation of harmful substances released during digestion of fat in the meat. The study, which reinforces the benefits of consuming wine and other foods rich in so-called polyphenols during meals, appears in the June 11 issue of ACS’s bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the study, Joseph Kanner and colleagues point out that scientists attribute wine’s health benefits, including protection against cancer and heart disease, to its high levels of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. However, the body does not absorb polyphenols easily, and scientists have been puzzled about how and where these substances exert their beneficial effects.

The researchers found an explanation in experiments with laboratory rats fed either red meat or meat combined with red wine concentrate. Wine concentrate substantially reduced formation of two byproducts of fat digestion, malondialdehyde and hydroperoxide, which are toxic to cells. The researchers say the stomach acts as a “bioreactor” that facilitates the beneficial effects of polyphenols. The polyphenols work not only to prevent generation of cytotoxic compounds, but also as compounds which prevent the absorption of cytotoxic compounds from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood stream. — MTS

 

Public release date: 30-Jun-2008

 

Wake up and smell the coffee

 

A good cup of coffee might be just the wake-up call scientists need to stop multiple sclerosis.

 

A new study coauthored by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D., found that mice immunized to develop an MS-like condition were protected from the disease by drinking caffeine. The research appears in the early online edition of the June 30, 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study, done in collaboration with Cornell University and Finland’s University of Turku, researchers followed the progress of mice that normally developed an MS-like condition. The scientists discovered that when the rodents consumed the equivalent of six to eight cups of coffee a day, they did not develop the condition. The finding could lead to new ways to prevent and treat MS, said Thompson.

According to Thompson, the caffeine stopped adenosine (one of the four building blocks in DNA) from binding to an adenosine receptor in mice. Adenosine is a common molecule in the human body and plays a vital part in the biochemical processes of sleep, suppression of arousal and energy transfer.

When adenosine could not bind to the receptor, this prevented certain T cells—white blood cells that play a central role in immune responses—from reaching the central nervous system and triggering the cascade of events that lead to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, or EAE, the animal model for the human disease MS.

“This is an exciting and unexpected finding, and I think it could be important for the study of MS and other diseases,” said Thompson, who holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF. In particular, she said, the research holds potential for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases—conditions in which the body uses the weapons of its immune system against itself.

While the results are heartening, Thompson said there is much more work to be done for the prevention of multiple sclerosis in humans. “A mouse is not a human being, so we can’t be sure caffeine will have the same effect on people prone to develop MS without much more testing.”

A retrospective study of people with MS to track their caffeine intake and the effects on the disease could be an important next step in the research process, said Thompson. “If you found a correlation between caffeine intake and reduced MS symptoms, that would point to further studies in humans

Public release date: 30-Jun-2008

 

United States has highest level of illegal cocaine and cannabis use, and more

A survey of 17 countries has found that despite its punitive drug policies the United States has the highest levels of illegal cocaine and cannabis use. The study, by Louisa Degenhardt (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) and colleagues, is based on the World Health Organization’s Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) and is published in this week’s PLoS Medicine.

The authors found that 16.2% of people in the United States had used cocaine in their lifetime, a level much higher than any other country surveyed (the second highest level of cocaine use was in New Zealand, where 4.3% of people reported having used cocaine). Cannabis use was highest in the US (42.4%), followed by New Zealand (41.9%).

In the Americas, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, alcohol had been used by the vast majority of survey participants, compared to smaller proportions in the Middle East, Africa, and China.

The survey found differences in both legal and illegal drug use among different socioeconomic groups. For example, males were more likely than females to have used all drug types; younger adults were more likely than older adults to have used all drugs examined; and higher income was related to drug use of all kinds. Marital status was found to be related to tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use, but not alcohol use (the never married and previously married having higher odds of lifetime cocaine and cannabis use than the currently married; tobacco use is more likely in people who have been previously married while less likely among the never married).

Drug use “does not appear to be simply related to drug policy,” say the authors, “since countries with more stringent policies towards illegal drug use did not have lower levels of such drug use than countries with more liberal policies.” In the Netherlands, for example, which has more liberal policies than the US, 1.9% of people reported cocaine use and 19.8% reported cannabis use.

Data on drug use were available from 54,068 survey participants in 17 countries. The 17 countries were determined by the availability of research collaborators and on funding for the survey. Trained lay interviewers carried out face-to-face interviews (except in France where the interviews were done over the telephone) using a standardized, structured diagnostic interview for psychiatric conditions and drug use. Participants were asked if they had ever used alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or cocaine.

The study’s main limitations are that only 17 countries were surveyed, within these countries there were different rates of participation, and it is unclear whether people accurately report their drug use when interviewed. Nevertheless, the findings present comprehensive data on the patterns of drug use from national samples representing all regions of the world.

Citation: Degenhardt L, Chiu W-T, Sampson N, Kessler RC, Anthony JC, et al. (2008) Toward a global view of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. PLoS Med 5(7): e141. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050141.

IN YOUR ARTICLE, PLEASE LINK TO THIS URL, WHICH WILL PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE PUBLISHED PAPER: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050141

Public release date: 30-Jun-2008

 

Watermelon May Have Viagra-Effect

 

COLLEGE STATION — A cold slice of watermelon has long been a Fourth of July holiday staple. But according to recent studies, the juicy fruit may be better suited for Valentine’s Day.

That’s because scientists say watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido.

“The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body,” said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station.

“We’ve always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study.”

Beneficial ingredients in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are known as phyto-nutrients, naturally occurring compounds that are bioactive, or able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions, Patil said.

In watermelons, these include lycopene, beta carotene and the rising star among its phyto-nutrients – citrulline – whose beneficial functions are now being unraveled. Among them is the ability to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra does.

Scientists know that when watermelon is consumed, citrulline is converted to arginine through certain enzymes. Arginine is an amino acid that works wonders on the heart and circulation system and maintains a good immune system, Patil said.

“The citrulline-arginine relationship helps heart health, the immune system and may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Patil. “Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it.”

While there are many psychological and physiological problems that can cause impotence, extra nitric oxide could help those who need increased blood flow, which would also help treat angina, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

“Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra,” Patil said, “but it’s a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects.”

The benefits of watermelon don’t end there, he said. Arginine also helps the urea cycle by removing ammonia and other toxic compounds from our bodies.

Citrulline, the precursor to arginine, is found in higher concentrations in the rind of watermelons than the flesh. As the rind is not commonly eaten, two of Patil’s fellow scientists, drs. Steve King and Hae Jeen Bang, are working to breed new varieties with higher concentrations in the flesh.

In addition to the research by Texas A&M, watermelon’s phyto-nutrients are being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Lane, Oklahoma.

As an added bonus, these studies have also shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced the tomato as the lycopene king, Patil said. Almost 92 percent of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8 percent is loaded with lycopene, an anti-oxidant that protects the human heart, prostate and skin health.

“Lycopene, which is also found in red grapefruit, was historically thought to exist only in tomatoes,” he said. “But now we know that it’s found in higher concentrations in red watermelon varieties.”

Lycopene, however, is fat-soluble, meaning that it needs certain fats in the blood for better absorption by the body, Patil said.

“Previous tests have shown that lycopene is much better absorbed from tomatoes when mixed in a salad with oily vegetables like avocado or spinach,” Patil said. “That would also apply to the lycopene from watermelon, but I realize mixing watermelon with spinach or avocadoes is a very hard sell.”

No studies have been conducted to determine the timing of the consumption of oily vegetables to improve lycopene absorption, he said.

“One final bit of advice for those Fourth of July watermelons you buy,” Patil said. “They store much better uncut if you leave them at room temperature. Lycopene levels can be maintained even as it sits on your kitchen floor. But once you cut it, refrigerate. And enjoy.”

Public release date: 1-Jul-2008

Post-exercise caffeine helps muscles refuel

BETHESDA, Md. (July 1, 2008) —Recipe to recover more quickly from exercise: Finish workout, eat pasta, and wash down with five or six cups of strong coffee.

Glycogen, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise, is replenished more rapidly when athletes ingest both carbohydrate and caffeine following exhaustive exercise, new research from the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology shows. Athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrate had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrate alone, according to the study, published by The American Physiological Society.

The study, “High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is co-ingested with caffeine,” is by David J. Pedersen, Sarah J. Lessard, Vernon G. Coffey, Emmanuel G. Churchley, Andrew M. Wootton, They Ng, Matthew J. Watt and John A. Hawley. Dr. Pedersen is with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, Dr. Watt is from St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. All others are with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

A fuller audio interview with Dr. Hawley is available in Episode 11 of the APS podcast, Life Lines, at http://www.lifelines.tv. The show also includes an interview with Dr. Stanley Schultz, whose physiological discovery of how sugar is transported in the gut led to the development of oral rehydration therapy and sports drinks such as Gatorade.

Caffeine aids carbohydrate uptake

It is already established that consuming carbohydrate and caffeine prior to and during exercise improves a variety of athletic performances. This is the first study to show that caffeine combined with carbohydrates following exercise can help refuel the muscle faster.

“If you have 66% more fuel for the next day’s training or competition, there is absolutely no question you will go farther or faster,” said Dr. Hawley, the study’s senior author. Caffeine is present in common foods and beverages, including coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks.

The study was conducted on seven well-trained endurance cyclists who participated in four sessions. The participants first rode a cycle ergometer until exhaustion, and then consumed a low-carbohydrate dinner before going home. This exercise bout was designed to reduce the athletes’ muscle glycogen stores prior to the experimental trial the next day.

The athletes did not eat again until they returned to the lab the next day for the second session when they again cycled until exhaustion. They then ingested a drink that contained carbohydrate alone or carbohydrate plus caffeine and rested in the laboratory for four hours. During this post-exercise rest time, the researchers took several muscle biopsies and multiple blood samples to measure the amount of glycogen being replenished in the muscle, along with the concentrations of glucose-regulating metabolites and hormones in the blood, including glucose and insulin.

The entire two-session process was repeated 7-10 days later. The only difference was that this time, the athletes drank the beverage that they had not consumed in the previous trial. (That is, if they drank the carbohydrate alone in the first trial, they drank the carbohydrate plus caffeine in the second trial, and vice versa.)

The drinks looked, smelled and tasted the same and both contained the same amount of carbohydrate. Neither the researchers nor the cyclists knew which regimen they were receiving, making it a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.

Glucose and insulin levels higher with caffeine ingestion

The researchers found the following:

one hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only

four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66% higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin

several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink, compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

 

Dr. Hawley said it is not yet clear how caffeine aids in facilitating glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles. However, the higher circulating blood glucose and plasma insulin levels were likely to be a factor. In addition, caffeine may increase the activity of several signaling enzymes, including the calcium-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase B (also called Akt), which have roles in muscle glucose uptake during and after exercise.

Lower dose is next step

In this study, the researchers used a high dose of caffeine to establish that it could help the muscles convert ingested carbohydrates to glycogen more rapidly. However, because caffeine can have potentially negative effects, such as disturbing sleep or causing jitteriness, the next step is to determine whether smaller doses could accomplish the same goal.

Hawley pointed out that the responses to caffeine ingestion vary widely between individuals. Indeed, while several of the athletes in the study said they had a difficult time sleeping the night after the trial in which they ingested caffeine (8 mg per kilogram of body weight, the equivalent of drinking 5-6 cups of strong coffee), several others fell asleep during the recovery period and reported no adverse effects.

Athletes who want to incorporate caffeine into their workouts should experiment during training sessions well in advance of an important competition to find out what works for them.

Public release date: 1-Jul-2008

 

Designer diet for prostate cancer

Eating one or more portions of broccoli every week can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and the risk of localised cancer becoming more aggressive.

For the first time, a research group at the Institute of Food Research led by Professor Richard Mithen has provided an explanation of how eating broccoli might reduce cancer risk based upon studies in men, as opposed to trying to extrapolate from animal models. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer for males in western countries. The research has provided an insight into why eating broccoli can help men stay healthy.

For the study, published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE on July 2, men who were at risk of developing prostate cancer ate either 400g of broccoli or 400g of peas per week in addition to their normal diet over 12 months. Tissue samples were taken from their prostate gland before the start of the trial and after 6 and 12 months, and the expression of every gene measured using Affymetrix microarray technology.

It was found that there were more changes in gene expression in men who were on the broccoli-rich diet than on the pea diet, and these changes may be associated with the reduction in the risk of developing cancer, that has been reported in epidemiological studies.

Previous studies have suggested that the fifty percent of the population who have a GSTM1 gene gain more benefit from eating broccoli than those who lack this gene. The study showed that the presence of the GSTM1 gene had a profound effect on the changes in gene expression caused by eating broccoli.

This study fills the gap between observational studies and studies with cell and animal models. While observational studies have shown that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and other chronic disease, they do not provide an explanation of how this occurs. Evidence from animal and cell models has sought to provide an explanation, but these studies are usually based on high doses that would not normally be experienced as part of the diet.

The results of the study suggested that relatively low amounts of cruciferous vegetables in the diet – a few portions per week – can have large effects on gene expression by changing cell signalling pathways. These signalling pathways are the routes by which information is transmitted through a molecular cascade which amplifies the signal to the nucleus of the cell where gene expression occurs.

The Norwich-based team are currently planning a larger study with men with localised prostate cancer, and will compare the activity of standard broccoli with the special variety of high glucosinolate broccoli used in the current study.

Designer studies for health promotion

“Other fruits and vegetables have been shown to also reduce the risk of prostate cancer and are likely to act through other mechanisms,” says Professor Mithen.

“Once we understand these, we can provide much better dietary advice in which specific combinations of fruit and vegetable are likely to be particularly beneficial. Until then, eating two or three portions of cruciferous vegetable per week, and maybe a few more if you lack the GSTM1 gene, should be encouraged.”

Public release date: 2-Jul-2008

The benefits of green tea in reducing an important risk factor for heart disease

More evidence for the beneficial effect of green tea on risk factors for heart disease has emerged in a new study reported in the latest issue of European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation.1 The study found that the consumption of green tea rapidly improves the function of (endothelial) cells lining the circulatory system; endothelial dysfunction is a key event in the progression of atherosclerosis.

The study, performed by Dr Nikolaos Alexopoulos and colleagues at the 1st Cardiology Department, Athens Medical School in Greece, was a randomised trial involving the diameter measurement (dilatation) of the brachial artery of healthy volunteers on three separate occasions – after taking green tea, caffeine, and hot water (for a placebo effect). The measurements were taken at 30, 90 and 120 minutes after consumption. Dilatation of the brachial artery as a result of increased blood flow (following a brief period of ischaemia of the upper limb) is related to endothelial function and is known to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular risk.2

Results showed that endothelium-dependent brachial artery dilatation increased significantly after drinking green tea, with a peak increase of 3.9 per cent 30 minutes after consumption. The effect of caffeine consumption (or hot water) was not significant.

While black tea has been associated with improved short and long-term endothelial performance, this is the first time that green tea has been shown to have a short-term beneficial effect on the large arteries. Another study has already shown that green tea reverses endothelial dysfunction in smokers.

Green tea, which originates in China but is now consumed throughout the world, is made with pure leaves, and has undergone little oxidisation during processing. The cardiovascular benefits of all teas – as well as dark chocolate and red wine – are attributed to the flavonoids they contain and their antioxidant activity.3 However, says investigator Dr Charalambos Vlachopoulos, flavonoids in green tea are probably more potent antioxidants than in black tea because there has been no oxidisation.

“These findings have important clinical implications,” says Dr Vlachopoulos. “Tea consumption has been associated with reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in several studies. Green tea is consumed less in the Western world than black tea, but it could be more beneficial because of the way it seems to improve endothelial function. In this same context, recent studies have also shown potent anticarcinogenic effects of green tea, attributed to its antioxidant properties.”

Public Release: 2-Jul-2008

Weight Watchers Versus Fitness Centers, MU Study Finds Both Work Best in Combination

 

COLUMBIA, Mo. –In the first study of its kind, using sophisticated methods to measure body composition, the nationally known commercial weight loss program, Weight Watchers, was compared to gym membership programs to find out which method wins in the game of good health. A University of Missouri researcher examined the real-life experiences of participants to determine which program helps people lose pounds, reduce body fat and gain health benefits. The answer is that both have pros and cons and that a combination of the two produces the best results.

Participants who attended Weight Watchers for 12 weeks lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight, or about nine pounds. However, Steve Ball, assistant professor of exercise physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, found that a large percentage of the lost weight was lean tissue and not fat.

“Participants’ body fat percentage did not improve at all because they lost a much higher percentage than expected of lean tissue,” said Ball, MU Extension state fitness specialist. “It is advantageous to keep lean tissue because it is correlated with higher metabolism. Losing lean tissue often slows metabolism. What your body is made of is more important than what you weigh.”

The majority of other Weight Watcher studies had not considered body fat percentage change and only focused on body weight.

“This is one aspect of our study that makes it unique,” Ball said. “We used a sophisticated measure of body composition – the Bod Pod – to look at what type of weight was lost: lean or fat.”

In addition, Ball said the study was novel because Computer Tomography (CT scans) were used to investigate changes in abdominal fat, which is more predictive of cardiovascular disease. Although the fitness center group lost very little weight, they probably improved their health because they lost a significant amount of intraabdominal fat (fat around vital organs). These results imply that exercise may have positive influence on the metabolic syndrome despite the number on the scale, Ball concluded.

Ball also found that group support is very important. Most of the Weight Watchers participants stuck with the program during the duration of the study, while many of the fitness center participants quit.

“These results imply that overweight, sedentary women joining a fitness center with the intent of weight loss or body fat change will likely fail without support and without altering their diets,” Ball said. “Nearly 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will quit within six months.”

“This study attempted to discover what takes place in the real world when overweight women attempt to lose weight.” Ball said. “I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight-loss programs.”

The study – “Comparison of a Commercial Weight Loss Program to a Fitness Center” – was published online in the June edition of the Journal of Exercise Physiology.

Public release date: 3-Jul-2008

Red wine ingredient wards off effects of age on heart, bones, eyes and muscle

Large doses of a red wine ingredient can ward off many of the vagaries of aging in mice who begin taking it at midlife, according to a new report published online on July 3rd in Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication. Those health improvements of the chemical known as resveratrol—including cardiovascular benefits, greater motor coordination, reduced cataracts and better bone density—come without necessarily extending the animals’ lifespan.

Sinclair and de Cabo’s team further show evidence that resveratrol mimics the beneficial effects of eating fewer calories. In mice, they found that resveratrol induces gene activity patterns in multiple tissues that parallel those induced by dietary restriction and every-other-day feeding.

” From a health point of view, the quality of life of these mice at the end of their days is much better,” said Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging. It suggests that resveratrol may “extend productive independent life, rather than just extending life span.”

” I was most surprised by how broad the effects were in the mice,” added David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School. “Usually, you focus on slowing down or ameliorating one disease at a time. In this case, resveratrol influences a whole series of seemingly unrelated diseases associated with aging.” Sinclair said he expects some of the effect seen in the mice would have even greater impact if they hold in humans. That’s because, unlike people, mice usually don’t die as a result of heart disease, or suffer from weakening bones.

Earlier studies showed that reducing calorie intake by 30%󈞞%, or eating a nutritious diet every other day, can delay the onset of age-related diseases, improve stress resistance, and decelerate functional decline, the researchers said. Although dietary restriction has beneficial effects in humans, such a diet is unlikely to be widely adopted and would pose a significant risk to the frail, critically ill, or the elderly.

Therefore, the researchers are on a quest for “dietary restriction mimetic” compounds that provide some of the benefits without cutting calories. One contender has been compounds like resversatrol that activate SIRT1, a protein linked to long life in many species, from yeast to mammals.

Indeed, studies have shown resveratrol can extend the lives of yeast, worms, flies and fish. It also improves the health and survival of obese mice fed a high-calorie diet. Now, de Cabo and Sinclair show that those effects do indeed seem to take place by inducing the physiology of dietary restriction. They placed one-year-old mice on a standard control diet or every-other-day feeding with or without resveratrol.

Resveratrol produced changes in the gene expression profiles of key metabolic tissues, including liver and muscle, that closely resemble those induced by dietary restriction, they report. Overall, the animals’ health improved under all dietary conditions, as reflected by a reduction of osteoporosis, cataracts, vascular dysfunction, and declines in motor coordination. However, the mice lived longer only when they were fed a high-calorie diet, consistent with earlier reports.

” In conclusion, long-term resveratrol treatment of mice can mimic transcriptional changes induced by dietary restriction and allow them to live healthier, more vigorous lives,” they wrote. “In addition to improving insulin sensitivity and increasing survival in [high-calorie fed] mice, we show that resveratrol improves cardiovascular function, bone density, and motor coordination, and delays cataracts, even in nonobese rodents. Together, these findings confirm the feasibility of finding an orally available dietary restriction mimetic.”

Resveratrol treatment is already being tested in clinical trials for type II diabetes, the researchers noted, and more potent molecules with effects similar to resveratrol are also under development.

Public release date: 3-Jul-2008

 

Statins have unexpected effect on pool of powerful brain cells

 

Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins have a profound effect on an elite group of cells important to brain health as we age, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found. The new findings shed light on a long-debated potential role for statins in the area of dementia.

Neuroscientists found that statins, one of the most widely prescribed classes of medication ever used, have an unexpected effect on brain cells. Researchers looked at the effects of statins on glial progenitor cells, which help the brain stay healthy by serving as a crucial reservoir of cells that the brain can customize depending on its needs. The team found that the compounds spur the cells, which are very similar to stem cells, to shed their flexibility and become one particular type of cell.

The new findings come at a time of increasing awareness among neurologists and cardiologists of the possible effects of statins on the brain. Several studies have set out to show that statins provide some protection against dementia, but the evidence has been inconclusive at best. Meanwhile, there is some debate among physicians about whether statins might actually boost the risk of dementia. The new research published in the July issue of the journal Glia by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Fraser Sim, Ph.D., provides direct evidence for an effect of statins on brain cells.

“There has been a great deal of discussion about a link between statins and dementia, but evidence either way has been scant,” said Goldman, a neurologist who led the team. “This new data provides a basis for further exploration.

“These findings were made through experiments done in cell culture using human brain cells and exposing them to doses of statins used widely in patients. But this research was not done in people. There are a great number of questions that need to be explored further before anyone considers changing the way statins are used,” Goldman added.

Goldman’s team is recognized as a leader identifying and directing the molecular signals that direct the development of stem cells and their daughter cells, known as progenitor cells. In this study, Sim ran a genomic screen to see which genes are more active in these cells compared to other brain cells. Sim and Goldman found several related to cholesterol, including the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which is central to making cholesterol and is the main target of statins.

“It was quite surprising that the cholesterol-signaling pathways are so active in these cells,” Goldman said. “Since such signaling is blocked with compounds used literally by millions of patients every day, we decided to take a closer look.”

The team measured the effects of two widely used statins, simvastatin and pravastatin, on glial progenitor cells, which can become either astrocytes or oligodendrocytes. The team looked at progenitor cells from 16 patients who had brain tissue removed during surgery to treat epilepsy, tumors, or vascular problems.

Scientists found that both compounds, when used at doses that mimic those that patients take, spur glial progenitor cells to develop into oligodendrocytes. For example, in one experiment, they found about five times as many oligodendrocytes in cultures of human progenitor cells exposed to pravastatin compared to cultures not exposed to the substance. Similarly, they found that the number of progenitor cells was just about one-sixth the level in cultures exposed to simvastatin compared to cultures not exposed to the compound.

To understand the process, think of a baseball team raising a group of great young prospects. They run fast, they throw hard, they hit well. Most teams will tailor their players to the positions the team needs – a few pitchers, for instance, and several batters. Any team that suddenly found itself with all pitchers or all hitters would be ill prepared to compete.

The Rochester team discovered that statins essentially push most of the raw talent in one direction.

Scientists don’t really know the long-term effects of such a shift. Physicians are looking at statins as a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis, where the myelin coating that covers nerve cells in the central nervous system is damaged. Myelin is produced by oligodendrocytes – so spurring the development of oligodendrocytes might provide one way to reduce or repair the damage seen in M.S.

But the body maintains a pool of uncommitted glial progenitor cells for a reason. The body normally turns to that reservoir of cells when it needs to repair damage from a variety of causes, such as an infection, hemorrhage, a serious blow to the head, or inflammation within the brain, such as in patients with multiple sclerosis. No one knows the consequences if such cells weren’t available when needed, though increased cognitive impairment might be one possibility.

“These are the cells ready to respond if you have a region of the brain that is damaged due to trauma, or lack of blood flow like a mini-stroke,” said Sim, assistant professor of Neurology. “Researchers need to look very carefully at what happens if these cells have been depleted prematurely.”

Glial progenitor cells are distributed throughout the brain and, according to Sim, make up about 3 percent of our brain cells. While true stem cells that can become any type of cell are very rare in the brain, their progeny, progenitor cells, are much more plentiful. They are slightly more specialized than stem cells but can still develop into different cell types.

The work may be relevant to drugs commonly used by diabetics as well. That’s because the team discovered that a signaling molecule called PPAR gamma is central to the effect of statins on glial progenitor cells. When PPAR gamma was blocked, the statins no longer had the effect. Since PPAR gamma is the main target of diabetes medications such as Avandia and Actos, which trigger the molecule, Goldman said it’s likely that those medications have the same effect on progenitor cells. He also noted that many patients are on both diabetes drugs and statins, which could increase the effect.

“Our results suggest the need for awareness of the possible toxicities accruing to long-term statin use, and identify one such potential toxicity, the premature differentiation and attendant long-term depletion of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells of the adult brain,” conclude the authors in their Glia paper.

Public release date: 3-Jul-2008

 

Cholesterol drugs recommended for some 8-year-olds

For the first time, an influential doctors group is recommending that some children as young as 8 be given cholesterol-fighting drugs to ward off future heart problems.

It is the strongest guidance ever given on the issue by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released its new guidelines Monday. The academy also recommends low-fat milk for 1-year-olds and wider cholesterol testing.

Dr. Stephen Daniels, of the academy’s nutrition committee, says the new advice is based on mounting evidence showing that damage leading to heart disease, the nation’s leading killer, begins early in life.

It also stems from recent research showing that cholesterol-fighting drugs are generally safe for children, Daniels said.

Several of these drugs are approved for use in children and data show that increasing numbers are using them.

“If we are more aggressive about this in childhood, I think we can have an impact on what happens later in life … and avoid some of these heart attacks and strokes in adulthood,” Daniels said. He has worked as a consultant to Abbott Laboratories and Merck & Co., but not on matters involving their cholesterol drugs.

Drug treatment would generally be targeted for kids at least 8 years old who have too much LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, along with other risky conditions, including obesity and high blood pressure.

For overweight children with too little HDL, the “good” cholesterol, the first course of action should be weight loss, more physical activity and nutritional counseling, the academy says.

Pediatricians should routinely check the cholesterol of children with a family history of inherited cholesterol disease or with parents or grandparents who developed heart disease at an early age, the recommendations say. Screening also is advised for kids whose family history isn’t known and those who are overweight, obese or have other heart disease risk factors.

Screening is recommended sometime after age 2 but no later than age 10, at routine checkups.

The academy’s earlier advice said cholesterol drugs should only be considered in children older than 10 after they fail to lose weight. Its previous cholesterol screening recommendations also were less specific and did not include targeted ages for beginning testing.

Because obesity is a risk factor for heart disease and often is accompanied by cholesterol problems, the academy recommendations say low-fat milk is appropriate for 1-year-olds “for whom overweight or obesity is a concern.”

Daniels, a pediatrician in the Denver area, agreed that could include virtually all children. But he said doctors may choose to offer the new milk advice only to 1-year-olds who are already overweight or have a family history of heart problems.

The academy has long recommended against reduced-fat milk for children up to age 2 because saturated fats are needed for brain development.

“But now we have the obesity epidemic and people are thinking maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” said Dr. Frank Greer of the University of Wisconsin, co-author of the guidelines report, which appears in the July edition of Pediatrics, the group’s medical journal.

Very young children are increasingly getting fats from sources other than milk and Greer said the updated advice is based on recent research showing no harm from reduced-fat milk in these youngsters.

With one-third of U.S. children overweight and about 17 percent obese, the new recommendations are important, said Dr. Jennifer Li, a Duke University children’s heart specialist.

“We need to do something to stem the tide of childhood obesity,” Li said.

Li said that 15 years ago most of her patients with cholesterol problems had an inherited form of cholesterol disease not connected to obesity.

“But now they’re really outnumbered” by overweight kids with cholesterol problems and high blood pressure, she said.

Dr. Elena Fuentes-Afflick, a pediatrics professor at the University of California at San Francisco, also praised the new advice but said some parents think their kids will outgrow obesity and cholesterol problems, and might not take it seriously.

“It’s hard for people to really understand” that those problems in childhood can lead to serious health consequences in adulthood, Fuentes-Afflick said.

Ralph’s Note – This is either a really stupid action, or a criminal one. Utilizing fear as a way to market medications without even a hypothetical look at potential long term harm is insane. This wild west approach to prescribing medications without any scientific validity to the most innocent of our society, is a very cold ruthless, cruel action.

Public release date: 2-Jul-2008

 

The benefits of green tea in reducing an important risk factor for heart disease

 

More evidence for the beneficial effect of green tea on risk factors for heart disease has emerged in a new study reported in the latest issue of European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation.1 The study found that the consumption of green tea rapidly improves the function of (endothelial) cells lining the circulatory system; endothelial dysfunction is a key event in the progression of atherosclerosis.

The study, performed by Dr Nikolaos Alexopoulos and colleagues at the 1st Cardiology Department, Athens Medical School in Greece, was a randomised trial involving the diameter measurement (dilatation) of the brachial artery of healthy volunteers on three separate occasions – after taking green tea, caffeine, and hot water (for a placebo effect). The measurements were taken at 30, 90 and 120 minutes after consumption. Dilatation of the brachial artery as a result of increased blood flow (following a brief period of ischaemia of the upper limb) is related to endothelial function and is known to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular risk.2

Results showed that endothelium-dependent brachial artery dilatation increased significantly after drinking green tea, with a peak increase of 3.9 per cent 30 minutes after consumption. The effect of caffeine consumption (or hot water) was not significant.

While black tea has been associated with improved short and long-term endothelial performance, this is the first time that green tea has been shown to have a short-term beneficial effect on the large arteries. Another study has already shown that green tea reverses endothelial dysfunction in smokers.

Green tea, which originates in China but is now consumed throughout the world, is made with pure leaves, and has undergone little oxidisation during processing. The cardiovascular benefits of all teas – as well as dark chocolate and red wine – are attributed to the flavonoids they contain and their antioxidant activity.3 However, says investigator Dr Charalambos Vlachopoulos, flavonoids in green tea are probably more potent antioxidants than in black tea because there has been no oxidisation.

“These findings have important clinical implications,” says Dr Vlachopoulos. “Tea consumption has been associated with reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in several studies. Green tea is consumed less in the Western world than black tea, but it could be more beneficial because of the way it seems to improve endothelial function. In this same context, recent studies have also shown potent anticarcinogenic effects of green tea, attributed to its antioxidant properties.”

Public release date: 3-Jul-2008

 

Infant formula blocks HIV transmission via breastfeeding

 

Toronto, ON, Canada – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a global epidemic threatening the lives of millions of people. Because there is no known cure, prevention of the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), is critical for controlling the disease. The transmitting routes of HIV include breastfeeding, which passes the virus from mothers to infants. This is a major problem in many areas of Africa, where HIV-positive mothers have no alternative to breastfeeding. So far, no practical and effective methods are available to prevent HIV transmission by this route.

A team of researchers from Lavax (Palatine, Ill.) and the University of Illinois at Chicago, reporting today during the 86th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), is developing a new technology that prevents the infection of HIV by breastfeeding. They have isolated a special strain of probiotic lactobacilli from the human mouth. It belongs to the same species as those found in dairy foods, such as yogurt and kefir. This strain captures the HIV virus by binding to its outer ‘envelope’. Because it grows and reproduces itself in milk, once an infant is inoculated with the Lactobacillus, the protection may last until the infant is weaned. This technology offers an easily administered alternative to HIV vaccines, which are currently unavailable. However, the hot climate and the lack of refrigeration in Africa pose a great challenge for the shelf life of lactobacilli. The aim of this study was to develop a lasting formula of lactobacilli for infants to be used as prevention against the transmission of HIV through breastfeeding.

Currently, the best bio-protecting agents for lactobacilli are sucrose and trehalose. These sugars preserve freeze-dried lactobacilli well at 4°C and 20°C. However, at a warmer temperature (33°C), after 4 weeks of storage, all Lactobacillus cells protected with sucrose or trehalose die. By screening a variety of food ingredients for a better protective agent, the investigators have identified a new alternative. This new agent kept the HIV-capturing Lactobacillus strain viable for more than 12 weeks at 33°C. Their analysis showed that, after 12 weeks, the Lactobacillus in the infant formula was as good as fresh Lactobacillus in capturing HIV and blocking the HIV infection of cultured mammalian cells.

In summary, scientists have developed a new preservation method that can maintain HIV-capturing lactobacilli in a hot climate without refrigeration. This method will facilitate the development of a safe and effective prophylactic formula to protect infants from HIV in mother’s milk.

Ralph’s Note – Two things, this can explain a lot since dairy tends not to be common in Africa. Second being, maybe the pasteurization and homogenization of dairy may not be such a great thing.

 

Public release date: 4-Jul-2008

Mother’s vitamin D status during pregnancy will affect her baby’s dental health

Toronto, ON, Canada – Low maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy may affect primary tooth calcification, leading to enamel defects, which are a risk factor for early-childhood tooth decay. Today, during the 86th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, investigators from the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg and Victoria) present the results of a study they conducted to determine the vitamin D status of pregnant women, the incidence of enamel defects and early-childhood tooth decay among their infants, and the relationship with pre-natal vitamin D levels.

Two hundred six pregnant women in their second trimester participated in the study. Only 21 women (10.5%) were found to have adequate vitamin D levels. Vitamin D concentrations were related to the frequency of milk consumption and pre-natal vitamin use. The investigators examined 135 infants (55.6% male) at 16.1 ± 7.4 months of age, and found that 21.6% of them had enamel defects, while 33.6% had early-childhood tooth decay. Mothers of children with enamel defects had lower, but not significantly different, mean vitamin D concentrations during pregnancy than those of children without defects.

However, mothers of children with early-childhood tooth decay had significantly lower vitamin D levels than those whose children were cavity-free. Infants with enamel defects were significantly more likely to have early-childhood tooth decay.

This is the first study to show that maternal vitamin D levels may have an influence on primary teeth and the development of early-childhood tooth decay.

Public release date: 6-Jul-2008

Herbal remedy reduces obesity and heart disease?

With unprecedented levels of obesity across the Western world, and incidence of associated heart disease, cancer and diabetes rising, there is a major drive to find new treatments. Scientists from Germany have recently discovered that extracts of a traditional herbal remedy derived from Tabebuia impetiginosa can act to delay the absorption of dietary fat in animal models. They believe that the extract could be incorporated into a food supplement which may not only reduce obesity, but also lessen the risk of development of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Dr Nils Roos from the Max Rubner Institute will present the results on Monday 7th July at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Marseille [Poster Session P2].

Dr Roos and his team have shown that Tabebuia extract can reduce levels of triglycerides, a breakdown product of fat, in rats after they have been fed a fatty meal. “This result shows the extract may have a potential use in treating obesity,” he observes. “However, as coronary heart disease and diabetes have also been shown to be associated with higher triglyceride levels after eating, we believe a food-supplement based on Tabebuia could reduce the incidence of these diseases as well. What is more, as obesity in developing countries is also on the increase, such extracts, taken as a capsule or added to food, may be a cheaper alternative for the rural population to pharmaceuticals.”

Although it is clear that Tabebuia extract can act to inhibit the absorption of dietary fat, the scientists have not yet identified the exact compounds within the extract that are responsible for the effects. “The actual substances involved are probably even more active than the extract,” says Dr Roos. “We are currently in the process of identifying these compounds, and will then test long-term efficiacy and safety in miniature pigs whose physiology is closer to that of humans than rat physiology is, before moving onto human trials. At this point, we hope to be able to develop the extract, either as a food supplement or in a medicinal context.”

Ralph’s Note – Tabebuia impetiginosa  is a species of Pau d arco.

Public release date: 7-Jul-2008

Newborn vitamin A reduces infant mortality

A single, oral dose of vitamin A, given to infants shortly after birth in the developing world can reduce their risk of death by 15 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study is published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Pediatrics.

“It has long been known that vitamin A supplementation can reduce mortality in children over 6 months of age. Our study showed that vitamin A given at birth can also improve infant survival within the first 6 months of life,” said Rolf D.W. Klemm, DrPH, MPH, the study’s lead author and a researcher with the Bloomberg School’s Center for Human Nutrition.

The study enrolled 15,937 newborns from rural communities in northwest Bangladesh, where over 90 percent of babies are born at home. Half were randomly selected to receive a 50,000 IU dose of vitamin A, while the other half received a placebo. A 200,000 IU dose of vitamin A is recommended semi-annually for older children. The vitamin A was given orally to the infants within a few days of birth, usually by 7 hours after delivery. The mortality rate for the vitamin A group was 38.5 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 45.1 deaths per 1,000 births for the non-vitamin A group.

Although vitamin A reduced infant deaths from all causes, lives were likely saved by reducing the severity of potentially fatal infections which are responsible for most deaths in early infancy in South Asia.

“This study supports the findings of previous vitamin A studies in Southern Asia where the evidence is now strong that vitamin A given to newborns can dramatically reduce mortality,” said study co-author Keith West, DrPH, MPH, RD, the George G. Graham Professor in Infant and Child Nutrition at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “More studies are urgently needed to determine if newborn vitamin A supplementation would reduce mortality among infants in other regions, especially Africa.”

“We are excited by the results of this study, that build on two previous studies in South Asia, confirming this low cost intervention can significantly contribute to reducing mortality in the first 6 months of life,” said Kent R. Hill, assistant administrator for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He added, “A key next step is to consider the operational issues for using this intervention.” In conjunction with other partners, USAID is conducting operations research in Nepal and Bangladesh to determine possible approaches for delivering vitamin A to newborn infants.

In the 1980s, Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, demonstrated that vitamin A deficiency dramatically increased the risk of child mortality. Sommer, along with West and colleagues from Hopkins further demonstrated that a single dose of vitamin A could reduce child mortality by 34 percent. The control of vitamin A deficiency is a global goal of the World Health Organization and is considered one of the most cost-effective of all health interventions for saving young lives.

“Because childhood mortality is greatest during the first few months of life, a single dose of vitamin A administered by mouth to a newborn child can save the lives of an additional 300,000 children in Asia every year,” said Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, professor and dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “That is on top of the one million lives a year that would be saved by dosing all vitamin A deficient children twice a year from six months through 5 years of age.”

Ralph’s Note – In the U.S.A. here, we have managed to convince our people that Vitamin A is dangerous. How again does our infant mortality compare to the industrial word?

Public release date: 7-Jul-2008

 

Some antidepressants associated with gastrointestinal bleeding

 

A class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) appear to be associated with bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, according to a report in the July issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The effects appear increased when antidepressants are combined with other stomach-harming medications and decreased when acid-suppressing agents are used.

Since the early 1990s, case reports have suggested an association between SSRIs and bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, according to background information in the article. “The wide use of this drug class requires research to provide more accurate risk estimates, to identify factors that may further increase the risk and, in particular, to determine whether using acid-suppressing agents may reduce the risk,” the authors write. “It is also important to determine whether venlafaxine hydrochloride, a new antidepressant related to SSRIs, also increases the risk of bleeding, as some individual case reports have suggested.”

Francisco J. de Abajo, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Healthcare Products, and Luis A. García-Rodríguez, M.D., M.Sc., of the Spanish Centre for Pharmacoepidemiologic Research, Madrid, Spain, studied 1,321 patients who had been referred to a specialist or hospitalized for upper GI bleeding between 2001 and 2005. These cases were compared with 10,000 control subjects who were the same age and sex but did not have upper GI bleeding.

Individuals with upper GI bleeding were significantly more likely than controls to be taking SSRIs (5.3 percent vs. 3.0 percent) or venlafaxine (1.1 percent vs. 0.3 percent). The risk of bleeding appeared to be increased further among those taking both SSRIs and other drugs known to be harmful to the GI tract, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, which include pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen) and corticosteroids. Acid-suppressing agents, however, were associated with a reduced risk of upper GI bleeding in those taking SSRIs or venlafaxine.

The researchers estimate that in patients not taking acid-suppressing agents, one individual per year would develop upper GI tract bleeding for every 2,000 patients taking these antidepressants. “When both SRIs [SSRIs and venlafaxine] and NSAIDs are concomitantly used, it would be sufficient to treat 250 patients per year for one case of upper GI tract bleeding to be attributed to such combination, and 500 patients per year if SRIs are concomitantly used with antiplatelet drugs,” the authors write.

 

Public release date: 7-Jul-2008

 

Argyrin: natural substance raises hope for new cancer therapies

 

The effective treatment of many forms of cancer continues to pose a major problem for medicine. Many tumours fail to respond to standard forms of chemotherapy or become resistant to the medication. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and Leibniz-Universität (LUH) in Hanover have now discovered a chemical mechanism with which a natural substance – argyrin – destroys tumours. Today, the researchers publish their findings in the renowned scientific journal “CancerCell”.

The basis for this breakthrough was an observation made by the MHH scientist Prof. Nisar Malek: he had been studying the role of a certain protein – a so-called cyclin-kinase inhibitor – in the development of cancer. In the process, Malek noted that mice in which the breakdown of the kinase inhibitor was suppressed by genetic change have a significantly lower risk of suffering from intestinal cancer. “I needed a substance that would prevent the breakdown of the protein that I was investigating in the cancer cells,” says Nisar Malek: “This molecule, in all likelihood, would make a good anti-cancer agent.”

Nisar Malek approached Dr. Ronald Frank, a chemist at HZI, with his considerations. Ronald Frank has established extensive collections of chemical substances at the HZI that can be tested for their biological activity in a fast, automated procedure. The two agreed to develop a special cell line in which the quantity of the cyclin kinase inhibitor can be measured using simple optical methods. Ronald Frank: “We adapted this cell based assay system to allow automated screening of large numbers of different chemical substances.”

“Myxobacteria provide another potential cancer medicine

Malek and Frank found what they were looking for in a collection of natural substances which had originally been isolated from microorganisms which live in soil – the so called Myxobacteria. Myxobacteria have proven to be a treasure trove of potential medicines, also being used in the production of epothilone, an active agent identified at the HZI. This drug has been approved as a cancer medicine in the USA last year. “The myxobacterial agent for our purposes is argyrin,” says Ronald Frank.

With this knowledge, Ronald Frank and Nisar Malek joined up with the chemist Prof. Markus Kalesse of the LUH to launch an extensive research programme to discover how argyrin can be produced chemically and how it functions. In the process they stumbled upon a completely new mechanism, which was subsequently revealed in a publication in the non plus ultra of oncology journals, “CancerCell”. “Argyrin blocks the molecular machinery of the cell which breakdowns proteins that are no longer required,” explains Malek, “and thereby naturally also prevents the breakdown of the kinase inhibitor in question, the lack of which triggers cancer.”

The research team has already conducted detailed studies of the effects of argyrin on mice: “When we treat animals with cancer with argyrin,” says Nisar Malek, “the tumour ceases growing, it decreases by up to 50 percent and it begins to breakdown internally.” Scarcely any side effects have been noted. Although the findings published in CancerCell are viewed by the scientists as an important result, it is merely the first step of a longer journey: “Research into argyrin continues at a fast pace,” says Markus Kalesse: “We are already altering the argyrin molecule in all details and looking to see if it is possible to improve its performance further. Our goal is to submit such an optimised structure for clinical testing in the near future.”

Public release date: 8-Jul-2008

Leading worldwide cause of cardiovascular disease may be modified by diet

Potassium, other minerals shown to reduce blood pressure

Nashville, Tenn. – July 7, 2008 – A new article indicates that an increased intake in minerals such as potassium, and possibly magnesium and calcium by dietary means may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and decrease blood pressure in people with hypertension. A high intake of these minerals in the diet may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. These findings are published in a supplement appearing with the July issue of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

Potassium, specifically, has been hypothesized as one reason for the low cardiovascular disease rates in vegetarians, as well as in populations consuming primitive diets (generous in potassium and low in sodium). In isolated societies consuming diets high in fruits and vegetables, hypertension affects only 1 percent of the population, whereas in industrialized countries which consume diets high in processed foods and large amounts of dietary sodium, 1 in 3 persons have hypertension. Americans consume double the sodium and about half of the potassium that is recommended by current guidelines.

According to the paper, if Americans were able to increase their potassium intake, the number of adults with known hypertension with blood pressure levels higher than 140/90 mm Hg might decrease by more than 10 percent and increase life expectancy. Similar studies show that diets high in magnesium (at least 500 to 1,000 mg/d) and calcium (more than 800 mg/d) may also be associated with both a decrease in blood pressure and risk of developing hypertension. Data regarding these minerals, however, are not definitive.

“If we were to achieve the correct potassium/sodium ratio through dietary means, there would be less hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the population as a whole,” says Mark C. Houston, M.D., author of the study.

Diets that emphasize fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, including the landmark Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial, have been advocated by the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, the American Heart Association, the European Society of Hypertension, the World Health Organization and the British Hypertension Society.

Hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, affecting approximately 1 billion individuals worldwide and is the most common reason for visits to physician’s offices and the primary reason for prescription drug use.

More than 70 million Americans, or nearly 1-in-3 adults, are estimated to have hypertension, but fewer than 50 percent achieve blood pressure control. Nearly 70 million more adults have high-normal or pre-hypertensive blood pressure levels of 120/80 mm Hg to 130/85 mm Hg, and 90 percent of adults will probably develop hypertension by age 65. Poor blood pressure control is a major challenge for patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Despite major advances in the prevention and treatment of hypertension over the past decades, with a decrease of more than 60 percent in hypertension-related strokes, hypertension remains an important public health challenge.

Public release date: 8-Jul-2008

 

Fish oil and red yeast rice studied for lowering blood cholesterol

 

ROCHESTER, Minn. — A great deal of scientific evidence shows that cholesterol-reducing medications known as statins can help prevent coronary artery disease. Although the safety of these medications has been well documented, as many as 40 percent of patients who receive a prescription for statins take the drug for less than one year. Doctors believe that several factors — including cost, adverse effects, poor understanding of statin benefits and patients’ reluctance to take prescription medications long term — may explain why some patients stop taking these medicines. In the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania examine whether an alternative approach to treating high blood cholesterol may provide an effective treatment option for patients who are unable or unwilling to take statins.

Study design

Researchers followed 74 patients with high blood cholesterol who met standard criteria for using statin therapy. Patients were randomly assigned to either the alternative treatment group or the statin group and followed for three months.

The alternative treatment group participants received daily fish oil and red yeast rice supplements, and they were enrolled in a 12-week multidisciplinary lifestyle program that involved weekly 3.5-hour educational meetings led by a cardiologist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and several alternative or relaxation practitioners. Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice. A dietary staple in some Asian countries, it contains several compounds known to inhibit cholesterol production.

The statin group participants received 40 milligrams (mg) of Zocor (simvastatin) daily, as well as printed materials about diet and exercise recommendations. At the end of the three-month period, participants from both groups underwent blood cholesterol testing to determine the percentage change in LDL cholesterol.

Results

The researchers noted that there was a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels in both groups. The alternative treatment group experienced a 42.4 percent reduction, and the statin group experienced a 39.6 percent reduction. Members of the alternative therapy group also had a substantial reduction in triglycerides, another form of fat found in the blood, and lost more weight.

“Our study was designed to test a comprehensive and holistic approach to lipid lowering,” notes the study’s lead author, David Becker, M.D., a Chestnut Hill Hospital and University of Pennsylvania Health System cardiologist. “These results are intriguing and show a potential benefit of an alternative, or naturopathic, approach to a common medical condition.”

Dr. Becker acknowledges that a larger, multicenter trial with longer follow-up is necessary to determine long-term compliance with the alternative regimen, because previous studies involving diet and exercise have found a high rate of patients unable or unwilling to follow lifestyle recommendations.

“The excellent adherence in the alternative group was undoubtedly related to the intensive follow-up, education and support provided for this group,” says Dr. Becker.

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These reports are done with the appreciation of all the Doctors, Scientist, and other Medical Researchers who sacrificed their time and effort. In order to give people the ability to empower themselves. Without the base aspirations for fame, or fortune. Just honorable people, doing honorable things.

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