Health Research Report
53rd Issue Date 31 MAR 2009
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano
Editors Top Five:
1. Common fragrance ingredients in shampoos and conditioners are frequent causes of eczema
2. Frankincense oil — a wise man’s remedy for bladder cancer
3. Review of probiotic trial research finds only Bifantis able to claim efficacy for IBS symptoms
4. Long-term L-carnitine supplementation prevents development of liver cancer
5. Exposure to insecticide may play role in obesity epidemic among some women
In This Issue:
1. Frankincense oil — a wise man’s remedy for bladder cancer
2. Studies show that nice guys finish first in business world
3. Conflicts of interest in clinical research
4. Majority of fire and ambulance recruits overweight
5. Exposure to insecticide may play role in obesity epidemic among some women
6. Cognitive Decline Begins in Late 20s, U.Va. Study Suggests
7. Mayo Clinic study suggests those who have chronic pain may need to assess vitamin D status
8. Gulf War veterans display abnormal brain response to specific chemicals
9. Proteins from garden pea may help fight high blood pressure, kidney disease
10. Licorice extract blocks colorectal cancer in mice
11. Eating red and processed meat associated with increased risk of death
12. Review of probiotic trial research finds only Bifantis able to claim efficacy for IBS symptoms
13. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk of advanced prostate cancer
14. Long-term L-carnitine supplementation prevents development of liver cancer
15. New Discovery Raises Doubts About Use of Certain Targeted Therapies in Bladder Cancer
16. Study: Morbidly Obese Sedentary For More Than 99 Percent of Day
17. Common fragrance ingredients in shampoos and conditioners are frequent causes of eczema
18. Tea tree oil and silver together make more effective antiseptics
19. Melatonin may be served as a potential anti-fibrotic drug
Public release date: 17-Mar-2009
Frankincense oil — a wise man’s remedy for bladder cancer
Originating from Africa, India, and the Middle East, frankincense oil has been found to have many medicinal benefits. Now, an enriched extract of the Somalian Frankincense herb Boswellia carteri has been shown to kill off bladder cancer cells. Research presented in the open access journal, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, demonstrates that this herb has the potential for an alternative therapy for bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer is twice as common in males as it is in females. In the US, bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men, whilst in the UK it is the seventh most common cause of death amongst males.
HK Lin and his team, from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, set out to evaluate frankincense oil for its anti-tumour activity in bladder cancer cells. The authors investigated the effects of the oil in two different types of cells in culture: human bladder cancer cells and normal bladder cells. The team found that frankincense oil is able to discriminate between normal and cancerous bladder cells in culture, and specifically kill cancer cells.
Gene expression analyses were performed to determine how frankincense oil affects bladder cancer cell survival. The team found that the oil suppresses cancer cell growth by arresting cell cycle progression and induces bladder cancer cell death by activating multiple cell death pathways.
Dr Lin said, “Frankincense oil may represent an inexpensive alternative therapy for patients currently suffering from bladder cancer.”
Public release date: 17-Mar-2009
Studies show that nice guys finish first in business world
When it comes to leading a team tasked with developing new products and bringing them to market, new research from North Carolina State University shows that being nice and playing well with others gives you a very real competitive advantage. One new study shows that project managers can get much better performance from their team when they treat team members with honesty, kindness and respect. A second study shows that product development teams can reap significant quality and cost benefits from socializing with people who work for their suppliers.
The first study, co-authored by NC State’s Dr. Jon Bohlmann, focused on cross-functional product development teams, which bring together engineers, researchers and business personnel. The diverse backgrounds of the team members means there is a focus on finance and marketing, as well as design and functionality, from the beginning of the product-development process. But that diversity also makes effective communication essential, in order to ensure that team members are collaborating rather than working at cross-purposes.
The Bohlmann study finds that “interactional fairness perception” affects “cross-functional communication.” In other words, Bohlmann explains, “If you think you are being treated well, you are going to work well with others on your team.”
Bohlmann, an associate professor of marketing at NC State, says that the study evaluated whether team members felt they were being well treated by their project leader. This evaluation included questions as to whether team members felt their leader was honest, kind and considered the viewpoints of team members. Bohlmann says the results of the study show that if a team’s leader was perceived as “basically being a nice guy,” then “team members showed a significant increase in commitment to the team’s success and to the project they were working on.” This increase in commitment is important, Bohlmann explains, because it leads to enhanced performance in meeting team goals.
If the Bohlmann study tells us that nice guys finish first, a study co-authored by NC State’s Dr. Rob Handfield finds that playing well with others can give a company an edge when it comes to product development. Specifically, the Handfield study shows that significant cost and quality benefits can result from informal socializing between employees of a product-development company and those companies that supply the product developers with material and labor.
Handfield explains that informal socializing, “like going out to dinner after a meeting,” can lead to considering new ideas that take advantage of the different perspectives and experience that suppliers can provide – and ultimately provide product developers with meaningful input. For example, Handfield says, “Suppliers may point out that components which are already being produced in bulk would serve as well as the custom-made, and expensive, parts being envisioned by product designers. Why reinvent the wheel? We already have one that works fine.” Handfield is the Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management at NC State.
Public release date: 18-Mar-2009
Conflicts of interest in clinical research
ATLANTA— Although paying finder’s fees to researchers and clinicians to identify study participants could compromise the recruitment process and harm human lives, many medical schools fail to address this conflict of interest in their Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies.
Leslie Wolf, an associate professor of law at Georgia State University, studied the IRB policies posted on the Web sites of 117 medical schools that received National Institutes of Health funding. Among the study’s findings, Wolf revealed that less than half of the IRB policies discuss finder’s fees or bonus payments as conflicts of interest, where research sponsors pay members of the research team or clinicians to identify potential participants or for meeting predetermined enrollment targets.
“Since IRBs must review research protocols, and also are in a position to educate investigators about these issues, I thought their policies were an important place to look,” Wolf said. “I thought they would have tried to address it more frequently than they did. That’s a gap in IRB guidance.”
Finder’s fees raise concern because researchers and their colleagues may be tempted to enroll individuals in studies for which they are ineligible, Wolf said.
Wolf is also concerned that only 26 of the IRBs in the study mentioned potential conflicts when physicians recruit their own patients and that only four percent ask doctors to tell their patients that they are not obligated to participate.
“It was talked about much less frequently than either the employer/employee or the teacher/student role conflict. It’s been in the literature and patients may be particularly vulnerable,” Wolf said.
Concerns about conflicts of interest are only continuing to grow as more stories appear in the news, Wolf said. For instance, Ellen Roche, a healthy 24-year-old who died from lung failure in 2002, while in a study sponsored by her employer, the Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center. Roche became ill after she inhaled an experimental compound as part of a study to understand the cause of asthma.
An external committee that reviewed the circumstances of the death expressed concerns that there were “subtle coercive pressures” on employees to enroll in the Center’s studies. Employees who participated in the study not only received compensation for participation, but were given time off from the workday to undergo study procedures.
“There have been situations that people have talked about in the media that undermine our confidence in research and could prevent important research from going forward,” Wolf said. “We need to have a trustworthy research enterprise so that we can get good research that hopefully improves the lives of the rest of us.”
Public release date: 19-Mar-2009
Majority of fire and ambulance recruits overweight
(Boston) – Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Boston Medical Center, Harvard University and the Cambridge Health Alliance found that more than 75 percent of emergency responder candidates for fire and ambulance services in Massachusetts are either overweight or obese. The findings, which appear online in the journal Obesity on March 19, have significant consequences for public health and safety.
Emergency responders (firefighters, ambulance personnel and police) are expected to be physically fit to perform strenuous duties without compromising the safety of themselves, colleagues or the community. Traditionally, these professions recruited persons of above- average fitness from a pool of healthy young adults. However, given the current obesity epidemic, the candidate pool is currently drawn from an increasingly heavy American youth.
The researchers reviewed the pre-placement medical examinations of firefighter and ambulance recruits from two Massachusetts clinics between October 2004 and June 2007. Candidates older than 35 and those who had failed their services’ minimum criteria were excluded from the study in order to focus only on young recruits and those most likely to go on to gain employment as emergency responders. Among the 370 recruits, only about 22 percent were of normal weight; 43.8 percent were overweight, and 33 percent were obese. According to the study’s results, today’s young recruits are significantly heavier than older veteran firefighters from the 1980s and 1990s.
The researchers showed that excess weight as measured by body mass index (BMI) was associated with higher blood pressures, worse metabolic profiles and lower exercise tolerance on treadmill stress tests. All normal weight recruits achieved a National Fire Protection Agency’s recommended minimum exercise threshold of 12 metabolic equivalents, while seven percent of overweight and 42 percent of obese recruits failed to reach this criteria.
“These findings are strong evidence against the common misconception in the emergency responder community that many of their members have BMI’s in the overweight and obese ranges simply on the basis of increased muscle mass. Even in these young recruits we documented a very strong association between excess BMI and an increased cardiovascular risk profile,” said senior author Stefanos Kales, MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM Medical Director, Employee & Industrial Medicine, Cambridge Health Alliance, and assistant professor, Harvard Medical School & Director, Occupational & Environmental Medicine Residency, Harvard School of Public Health.
“Our findings regarding recruits’ excess weight have important implications, especially when superimposed upon expected future effects of aging and career span,” said lead author Antonios Tsismenakis, BS, MA, a second-year medical student at BUSM. “First, cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal injury are important causes of morbidity and mortality in emergency responders, and excess body fat is associated with higher risk for both. Second, because of the nature of emergency response work, any health condition suddenly incapacitating an emergency responder also potentially compromises the safety of his or her coworkers and the community,” he added.
“These professionals perform highly psychologically and physically stressful work and are therefore at high risk for cardiovascular events,” added Kales. “Sudden incapacitation during duty puts these emergency responders, as well as their colleagues and the public, in danger. In addition to the dangers posed to public safety, these findings have important economic implications, as state and federal legislation exists for the awarding of benefits to emergency responders who die or are disabled by cardiovascular events, malignancies and work-related orthopedic problems; and the risk of all of these are increased by obesity,” explained Kales.
Public release date: 19-Mar-2009
Exposure to insecticide may play role in obesity epidemic among some women
Contact: Jason Cody, University Relations, Office: (517) 432-0924, Cell: (734) 755-0210, Jason.Cody@ur.msu.edu; Janet Osuch, Surgery and Epidemiology, Office: (517) 353-5440, email@example.com
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Prenatal exposure to an insecticide commonly used up until the 1970s may play a role in the obesity epidemic in women, according to a new study involving several Michigan State University researchers.
More than 250 mothers who live along and eat fish from Lake Michigan were studied for their exposure to DDE – a breakdown of DDT. The study, published as an editor’s choice in this month’s edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, analyzed DDE levels of the women’s offspring.
Compared to the group with the lowest levels, those with intermediate levels gained an average of 13 pounds excess weight, and those with higher levels gained more than 20 pounds of excess weight.
“Prenatal exposure to toxins is increasingly being looked at as a potential cause for the rise in obesity seen worldwide,” said Janet Osuch, a professor of surgery and epidemiology at MSU’s College of Human Medicine, who was one of the lead authors of the study. “What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women.”
Though DDT was banned in 1973 after three decades of widespread use, the chemical and its byproducts remain toxic in marine life and fatty fish. The study was funded by a $300,000 grant from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Osuch said the study’s findings can have a huge impact on how researchers treat – and seek to prevent – obesity. The research team has been awarded a $1 million grant from the same federal agency, the ATSDR, to assess the impact of pollutants and toxins on a wide variety of disorders by determining the importance of second- and third-generation health effects.
“This line of research can transform how we think about the causes of obesity and potentially help us create prenatal tests to show which offspring are at higher risks,” she said.
The mothers who were studied are part of a larger cohort of Michigan fish eaters along Lake Michigan who were recruited in the early 1970s. In 2000, Osuch and research partners approached the cohort and began to identify daughters aged 20 to 50 years old.
“These findings not only apply to the offspring of women in our cohort but to any woman who has been exposed to high levels of DDE when she was growing in her mother’s womb,” Osuch said. “Mothers with the highest DDE levels are women who have consumed a lot of fish or high-fat meats.”
Current recommendations for eating fish call for limiting it to two meals per week; including tuna fish sandwiches. The study also looked at the effects of a second pollutant, PCBs, but found no correlation with weight and body mass index.
Public release date: 19-Mar-2009
Cognitive Decline Begins in Late 20s, U.Va. Study Suggests
March 18, 2009 — A new study indicates that some aspects of peoples’ cognitive skills — such as the ability to make rapid comparisons, remember unrelated information and detect relationships — peak at about the age of 22, and then begin a slow decline starting around age 27.
“This research suggests that some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s,” said Timothy Salthouse, a University of Virginia professor of psychology and the study’s lead investigator.
His findings appear in the current issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
Salthouse and his team conducted the study during a seven-year period, working with 2,000 healthy participants between the ages of 18 and 60.
Participants were asked to solve various puzzles, remember words and details from stories, and identify patterns in an assortment of letters and symbols.
Many of the participants in Salthouse’s study were tested several times during the course of years, allowing researchers to detect subtle declines in cognitive ability.
Top performances in some of the tests were accomplished at the age of 22. A notable decline in certain measures of abstract reasoning, brain speed and in puzzle-solving became apparent at 27.
Salthouse found that average memory declines can be detected by about age 37. However, accumulated knowledge skills, such as improvement of vocabulary and general knowledge, actually increase at least until the age of 60.
“These patterns suggest that some types of mental flexibility decrease relatively early in adulthood, but that how much knowledge one has, and the effectiveness of integrating it with one’s abilities, may increase throughout all of adulthood if there are no pathological diseases,” Salthouse said.
However, Salthouse points out that there is a great deal of variance from person to person, and, he added, most people function at a highly effective level well into their final years, even when living a long life.
One of the unique features of this project in the University of Virginia Cognitive Aging Laboratory is that some of the participants return to the laboratory for repeated assessments after intervals of one to seven years.
“By following individuals over time, we gain insight to cognition changes, and may possibly discover ways to alleviate or slow the rate of decline,” Salthouse said. “And by better understanding the processes of cognitive impairment, we may become better at predicting the onset of dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
Salthouse’s team also is surveying participants’ health and lifestyles to see if certain characteristics, such as social relationships, serve to moderate age-related cognitive changes.
They hope to continue their studies over many more years, with many of the same participants, to gain a long-term understanding of how the brain changes over time.
— By Fariss Samarrai
Public release date: 20-Mar-2009
Mayo Clinic study suggests those who have chronic pain may need to assess vitamin D status
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic research shows a correlation between inadequate vitamin D levels and the amount of narcotic medication taken by patients who have chronic pain. This correlation is an important finding as researchers discover new ways to treat chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States. These patients often end up taking narcotic-type pain medication such as morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone.
This study found that patients who required narcotic pain medication, and who also had inadequate levels of vitamin D, were taking much higher doses of pain medication — nearly twice as much — as those who had adequate levels. Similarly, these patients self-reported worse physical functioning and worse overall health perception. In addition, a correlation was noted between increasing body mass index (a measure of obesity) and decreasing levels of vitamin D. Study results were published in a recent edition of Pain Medicine.
“This is an important finding as we continue to investigate the causes of chronic pain,” says Michael Turner, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study. “Vitamin D is known to promote both bone and muscle strength. Conversely, deficiency is an under-recognized source of diffuse pain and impaired neuromuscular functioning. By recognizing it, physicians can significantly improve their patients’ pain, function and quality of life.”
Researchers retrospectively studied 267 chronic pain patients admitted to the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester from February to December 2006. Vitamin D levels at the time of admission were compared to other parameters such as the amount and duration of narcotic pain medication usage; self-reported levels of pain, emotional distress, physical functioning and health perception; and demographic information such as gender, age, diagnosis and body mass index.
Further research should document the effects of correcting deficient levels among these patients, researchers recommend.
This study has important implications for both chronic pain patients and physicians. “Though preliminary, these results suggest that patients who suffer from chronic, diffuse pain and are on narcotics should consider getting their vitamin D levels checked. Inadequate levels may play a role in creating or sustaining their pain,” says Dr. Turner.
“Physicians who care for patients with chronic, diffuse pain that seems musculoskeletal — and involves many areas of tenderness to palpation — should strongly consider checking a vitamin D level,” he says. “For example, many patients who have been labeled with fibromyalgia are, in fact, suffering from symptomatic vitamin D inadequacy. Vigilance is especially required when risk factors are present such as obesity, darker pigmented skin or limited exposure to sunlight.”
Assessment and treatment are relatively simple and inexpensive. Levels can be assessed by a simple blood test (25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]). Under the guidance of a physician, an appropriate repletion regimen can then be devised. Because it is a natural substance and not a drug, vitamin D is readily available and inexpensive.
In addition to the benefits of strong muscles and bones, emerging research demonstrates that vitamin D plays important roles in the immune system, helps fight inflammation and helps fights certain types of cancer.
Public release date: 20-Mar-2009
Gulf War veterans display abnormal brain response to specific chemicals
DALLAS – March 20, 2009 – A new study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers is the first to pinpoint damage inside the brains of veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome – a finding that links the illness to chemical exposures and may lead to diagnostic tests and treatments.
Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study, said the research uncovers and locates areas of the brain that function abnormally. Recent studies had shown evidence of chemical abnormalities and shrinkage of white matter in the brains of veterans exposed to certain toxic chemicals, such as sarin gas during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The research, published in the March issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging,enables investigators to visualize exact brain structures affected by these chemical exposures, Dr. Haley said.
“Before this study, we didn’t know exactly what parts of the brain were damaged and causing the symptoms in these veterans,” he said. “We designed an experiment to test areas of the brain that would have been damaged if the illness was caused by sarin or pesticides, and the results were positive.”
In designing the study, Dr. Haley and his colleagues reasoned that if low-level sarin or pesticides had damaged Gulf War veterans’ brains, a likely target of the damage would be cholinergic receptors on cells in certain brain structures. If that was so, administering safe levels of medicines that stimulate cholinergic receptors would elicit an abnormal response in ill veterans.
In the study, 21 chronically ill Gulf War veterans and 17 well veterans were given small doses of physostigmine, a substance which briefly stimulates cholinergic receptors. Researchers then measured the study participants’ brain cell response with brain scans.
“What we found was that some of the brain areas we previously suspected responded abnormally to the cholinergic challenge,” Dr. Haley said. “Those areas were in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala, and the thalamus. Changes in functioning of these brain structures can certainly cause problems with concentration and memory, body pain, fatigue, abnormal emotional responses and personality changes that we commonly see in ill Gulf War veterans.”
A previous study funded by the U.S. Army found that repetitive exposure to low-level sarin nerve gas caused changes in cholinergic receptors in lab rats.
“An added bonus is a statistical formula combining the brain responses in 17 brain areas that separated the ill from the well veterans, and three different Gulf War syndrome variants from each other with a high degree of accuracy,” Dr. Haley said. “If this finding can be repeated in a larger group, we might have an objective test for Gulf War syndrome and its variants.”
An objective diagnostic test, he said, sets the stage for ongoing genetic studies to see why some people are affected by chemical exposures, and why others are not. New studies would also allow the selection of homogenous groups of ill veterans in which to run efficient clinical trials for treatments.
Dr. Haley first described Gulf War syndrome in a series of papers published in January 1997 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In previous studies, research from Dr. Haley showed that veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome had lower levels of a protective blood enzyme called paraoxonase, which usually fights off the toxins found in sarin. Veterans who served in the same geographical area and did not get sick had higher levels of this enzyme.
Dr. Haley and his colleagues have closely followed the same group of tests subjects since 1995. In 2006, UT Southwestern and the Department of Veterans Affairs established a dedicated, collaborative Gulf War illness research enterprise in Dallas, managed by UT Southwestern.
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a longtime supporter of Gulf War research, facilitated that agreement and secured a $75 million appropriation over five years for Gulf War illness research.
Public release date: 22-Mar-2009
Proteins from garden pea may help fight high blood pressure, kidney disease
SALT LAKE CITY, March 22, 2009 — Researchers in Canada are reporting that proteins found in a common garden pea show promise as a natural food additive or new dietary supplement for fighting high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Those potentially life-threatening conditions affect millions of people worldwide.
The study, which will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting, is the first reporting that a natural food product can relieve symptoms of CKD, the scientists say.
Peas long have been recognized as nutritional superstars, with healthful amounts of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins wrapped in a low-fat, cholesterol-free package. The new research focuses on the yellow garden pea, a mainstay pea variety enjoyed as a veggie side-dish and used as an ingredient in dozens of recipes around the world.
“In people with high blood pressure, our protein could potentially delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage,” says study presenter Rotimi Aluko, Ph.D., a food chemist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. “In people who already have kidney disease, our protein may help them maintain normal blood pressure levels so they can live longer.”
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for CKD, a condition that has been affecting an increasing number of people in the United States and other countries. Estimates suggest that 13 percent of American adults — about 26 million people — have chronic kidney disease, up from 10 percent, or about 20 million people, in the 1990s. CKD is difficult to treat, and may progress to end-stage kidney disease that requires kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant. That situation is fostering a search for new ways of treating CKD and preserving kidney function.
Working with University of Manitoba colleague Harold Aukema, Ph.D., Aluko purified a mixture of small proteins — called pea protein hydrolysate — from the yellow garden pea. The researchers fed small daily doses of the protein mixture to laboratory rats with polycystic kidney disease, a severe form of kidney disease used as a model for research on CKD. At the end of the 8-week-long study period, the protein-fed rats with kidney disease showed a 20 percent drop in blood pressure when compared to diseased rats on a normal diet, the researchers say.
“This is significant because a majority of CKD patients actually die from cardiovascular complications that arise from the high blood pressure associated with kidney malfunction,” Aluko notes.
In both rats and humans with polycystic kidney disease, the condition causes urine output to be severely reduced and the kidneys are unable to properly remove dangerous toxins. The researchers showed that their pea extract caused a 30 percent boost in urine production in the diseased rats, bringing their urine to within normal levels.
“That’s a huge improvement,” says Aluko, adding that there were no obvious adverse side effects from the pea protein.
Based on those promising results, the researchers plan to test the protein extract in humans with mild hypertension within the next year at the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, University of Manitoba, in collaboration with co-investigator Dr. Peter Jones. Scientists do not know exactly how the pea extract works. However, it appears to boost production of cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), a protein that boosts kidney function, the researchers say.
Aluko points out that eating yellow peas in their natural state won’t produce the same potential health benefits as the purified protein extract. The potentially beneficial proteins exist in an inactive state in natural peas, and must be activated by treatment with special enzymes.
But the pea extract does have a very welcome social advantage over fresh peas: “It won’t give you gas,” notes Aluko. That’s because the purified proteins don’t contain the complex plant-sugars found in fresh beans that are known to trigger flatulence. The extract itself does not appear to have any unpleasant taste or odor, he adds.
If studies continue to show promise, Aluko estimates that the extract could hit the consumer market within the next two to three years. The extract could be made into a soluble powder that can be added to foods and beverages or it could be developed into a pill, the scientists say.
Public release date: 23-Mar-2009
Licorice extract blocks colorectal cancer in mice
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and drugs that selectively target a protein known as COX-2 prevent the development of intestinal polyps, the precursors of colorectal cancer. However, these drugs have severe side effects that preclude their routine use in the prevention of colorectal cancer. But now, a team of researchers, at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, has found that inhibiting an enzyme known as 11-beta-HSD2 (both genetically and using an extract from licorice) blocks COX-2 activity in human and mouse colorectal tumor cells, inhibiting their growth and metastasis in experimental models of colorectal cancer. Importantly, long-term inhibition of 11-beta-HSD2 did not have side effects on the heart and blood vessels of mice, as long-term treatment with selective COX-2 inhibitors does. The authors therefore suggest that inhibiting 11-beta-HSD2 might provide a new approach to preventing colorectal cancer.
In an accompanying commentary, Paul Stewart and Stephen Prescott, highlight the importance of these data for the development of a potential new therapeutic option in colorectal cancer.
Public release date: 23-Mar-2009
Eating red and processed meat associated with increased risk of death
Individuals who eat more red meat and processed meat appear to have a modestly increased risk of death from all causes and also from cancer or heart disease over a 10-year period, according to a report in the March 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. In contrast, a higher intake of white meat appeared to be associated with a slightly decreased risk for overall death and cancer death.
“Meat intake varies substantially around the world, but the impact of consuming higher levels of meat in relation to chronic disease mortality [death] is ambiguous,” the authors write as background information in the article.
Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Md., assessed the association between meat intake and risk of death among more than 500,000 individuals who were part of the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Participants, who were between 50 and 71 years old when the study began in 1995, provided demographic information and completed a food frequency questionnaire to estimate their intake of white, red and processed meats. They were then followed for 10 years through Social Security Administration Death Master File and National Death Index databases.
During the follow-up period, 47,976 men and 23,276 women died. The one-fifth of men and women who ate the most red meat (a median or midpoint of 62.5 grams per 1,000 calories per day) had a higher risk for overall death, death from heart disease and death from cancer than the one-fifth of men and women who ate the least red meat (a median of 9.8 grams per 1,000 calories per day), as did the one-fifth of men and women who ate the most vs. the least amount of processed meat (a median of 22.6 grams vs. 1.6 grams per 1,000 calories per day).
When comparing the one-fifth of participants who ate the most white meat to the one-fifth who ate the least white meat, those with high white meat intake had a slightly lower risk for total death, death from cancer and death from causes other than heart disease or cancer.
“For overall mortality, 11 percent of deaths in men and 16 percent of deaths in women could be prevented if people decreased their red meat consumption to the level of intake in the first quintile [one-fifth]. The impact on cardiovascular disease mortality was an 11 percent decrease in men and a 21 percent decrease in women if the red meat consumption was decreased to the amount consumed by individuals in the first quintile,” the authors write. “For women eating processed meat at the first quintile level, the decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality was approximately 20 percent.”
There are several mechanisms by which meat may be associated with death, the authors note. Cancer-causing compounds are formed during high-temperature cooking of meat. Meat also is a major source of saturated fat, which has been associated with breast and colorectal cancer. In addition, lower meat intake has been linked to a reduction in risk factors for heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“These results complement the recommendations by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund to reduce red and processed meat intake to decrease cancer incidence,” the authors conclude. “Future research should investigate the relation between subtypes of meat and specific causes of mortality.”
Editor’s Note: This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Cancer Institute. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
Editorial: Reducing Meat Consumption Has Benefits Beyond Better Health
“The publication by Sinha et al is timely,” writes Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in an accompanying editorial. “There is a global tsunami brewing, namely, we are seeing the confluence of growing constraints on water, energy and food supplies combined with the rapid shift toward greater consumption of all animal source foods.”
“Not only are components of the animal-source foods linked to cancer, as shown by Sinha et al, but many other researchers have linked saturated fat and these same foods to higher rates of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Popkin writes. “What do we do?”
Because there are health benefits to eating some red and white (although not processed) meats, the consensus is not for a complete shift to vegan or vegetarian diets, Dr. Popkin concludes. “Rather, the need is for a major reduction in total meat intake, an even larger reduction in processed meat and other highly processed and salted animal source food products and a reduction in total saturated fat.”
Public release date: 23-Mar-2009
Review of probiotic trial research finds only Bifantis able to claim efficacy for IBS symptoms
Study adds to growing evidence of B. infantis 35624 efficacy in IBS population
CINCINNATI – March 23, 2009 – A review by researchers at Northwestern University (Chicago, IL.) and University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) of the utility of probiotics in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) found that Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 was the only probiotic strain out of 13 different individual strains or preparations reviewed to significantly improve symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating and bowel movement difficulty. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 is marketed as Bifantis® and can be found in a daily probiotic supplement by Procter & Gamble. The researchers reviewed 16 random-controlled-studies, evaluating the efficacy, safety and tolerability of probiotics in the treatment of IBS. With the exception of the Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 studies, researchers found the other trials did not use an appropriate study design and did not adequately report adverse events. The article was published on the American Journal of Gastroenterology website in advance of appearing in the publication’s April 2009 issue1.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects one in five Americans and treatment options are limited. Darren. M Brenner, Division of Gastroenterology and Department of Internal Medicine, at Northwestern University and lead investigator of this study, hypothesized that alterations in gut microflora may contribute to the development of IBS symptoms, and believed these symptoms could be improved by probiotics. “Probiotics are gaining popularity for the treatment of multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS,” said Brenner, MD. “After assessment of the methodological and statistical designs of these studies, B. infantis 35624 was the only probiotic that showed repeated efficacy.”
Clinical evidence and support for Bifantis continues to grow
Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, discovered in the early 1990s by microbiologists at Alimentary Health in Cork, Ireland in partnership with P&G, has been independently tested and evaluated in several clinical trials conducted with humans. This latest review provides continued clinical evidence of Bifantis efficacy in helping to manage a range of gastrointestinal issues including abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas and urgency. Bifantis efficacy data has been published or referenced in several medical journals, including the American Journal of Gastroenterology2 , Gastroenterology3 , New England Journal of Medicine4 , Public Library of Science (PLoS)5 and Nutrition in Clinical Practice6. Bifantis is found in the number one gastroenterologist recommended probiotic supplement in the United States7 .
Susan Abeln, Principal Scientist at Procter & Gamble said, “P&G has worked with Alimentary Health to study and develop a supplement with Bifantis because we firmly believe in the benefits of this strain for the millions of Americans struggling to manage digestive upsets each day. We’re excited to make Bifantis available to consumers nationwide this spring.”
Further credentialing the probiotic strain, P&G recently announced that Bifantis meets the probiotic guidelines established by The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). These guidelines include five key criteria that consumers should consider when selecting a probiotic product – strain specificity, clinical proof, packaging, and the quality and quantity of probiotics in a product. Bifantis is proven to fully meet these guidelines, making it a good option for those who want to build and maintain a natural defense against abdominal discomfort and episodic digestive upsets such as constipation, diarrhea, urgency, gas and bloating.
Public release date: 24-Mar-2009
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk of advanced prostate cancer
PHILADELPHIA – Omega-3 fatty acids appear protective against advanced prostate cancer, and this effect may be modified by a genetic variant in the COX-2 gene, according to a report in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
“Previous research has shown protection against prostate cancer, but this is one of the first studies to show protection against advanced prostate cancer and interaction with COX-2,” said John S. Witte, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco.
For the current study, researchers performed a case-control analysis of 466 men diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer and 478 healthy men. Diet was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire and researchers genotyped nine COX-2 single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Researchers divided omega-3 fatty acid intake into four groups based on quartiles of intake. Men who consumed the highest amount of long chain omega-3 fatty acids had a 63 percent reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest amount of long chain omega-3 fatty acids.
The researchers then assessed the effect of omega-3 fatty acid among men with the variant rs4647310 in COX-2, a known inflammatory gene. Men with low long chain omega-3 fatty acid intake and this variant had a more than five-fold increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. But men with high intake of omega-3 fatty acids had a substantially reduced risk, even if they carried the COX-2 variant.
“The COX-2 increased risk of disease was essentially reversed by increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake by a half a gram per day,” said Witte. “If you want to think of the overall inverse association in terms of fish, where omega-3 fatty acids are commonly derived, the strongest effect was seen from eating dark fish such as salmon one or more times per week.”
Public release date: 24-Mar-2009
Long-term L-carnitine supplementation prevents development of liver cancer
A study will be published on March 21, 2009 in World Journal of Gastroenterology addresses the question. A research group in King Saud University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia investigated, for the first time, the role of carnitine, a naturally occurring compound that is synthesized mainly in the liver, during the development of hepatocarcinogenesis. Authors of the study reported that carnitine deficiency is a risk factor and should be viewed as a mechanism in hepatic carcinogenesis, and that long-term L-carnitine supplementation prevents the development of liver cancer. Therefore, carnitine supplementation alone or in combination with other natural chemopreventive compounds could be used to prevent, slow or reverse the occurrence of liver cancer.
Chemoprevention is defined as the use of naturally occurring and/or synthetic compounds in cancer therapy in which the occurrence of cancer can be entirely prevented, slowed or reversed. L-carnitine is a naturally occurring compound which is primarily located in mitochondria and possesses potential protective effects against many mitochondrial toxic agents. It is derived from two sources; endogenous synthesis, in the liver and kidney, and from exogenous dietary sources such as red meat and dairy products. L-carnitine is an essential cofactor for the translocation of long chain fatty acids from the cytoplasmic compartment into mitochondria, where beta-oxidation enzymes are located for ATP production. Despite the liver being the main organ responsible for endogenous synthesis of L-carnitine, we were unable to find any studies investigating the role of long-term endogenous carnitine depletion and/or carnitine deficiency during induction of hepatic carcinogenesis.
The research team by Professor Sayed-Ahmed from College of Pharmacy, King Saud University used an experimental model of hepatocarcinogenesis under conditions of carnitine depletion and carnitine supplementation.
In the carnitine-depleted rat model, there were a progressive increase in the activities of liver enzymes as well as massive degenerative changes and evidence of pre-neoplastic lesions in liver tissues including clusters of hepatocytes with atypia and an increased proliferative rate, diffuse bridging fibrosis and nodule formation, bile ducts with marked reactive atypia showing nuclear enlargement, high nuclear/cytoplasmic ratio and prominent nucleoli. Interestingly, L-carnitine supplementation resulted in a complete reversal of the increase in liver enzymes compared to normal values, as well as normal liver histology with unremarkable central vein and no evidence of pre-neoplastic lesions in liver tissues.
Due to the fact that liver cancer is one of the major health problems in the world and a large sector of patients seek medical attention at a relatively late stage which increases the cost of treatment, King Saud University granted Prof. Sayed-Ahmed and his colleagues a research project with the following specific aims: (1) to understand the possible molecular mechanisms whereby carnitine deficiency provokes hepatic carcinogenesis. (2) to understand the relationship between hepatic cancer and its resistance to cancer chemotherapy, and (3) to gain knowledge on the possible mechanisms by which carnitine supplementation alone or in combination with other natural chemopreventive compounds could be used to prevent, slow or reverse the occurrence of liver cancer.
Public Release: 25-Mar-2009
New Discovery Raises Doubts About Use of Certain Targeted Therapies in Bladder Cancer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., March 25, 2009 – Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have found that one of the genes commonly thought to promote the growth and spread of some types of cancers is in fact beneficial in bladder cancer – a major discovery that could significantly alter the way bladder cancers are treated in the future.
Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, resulting in an estimated 14,000 deaths a year. A majority of these deaths are due to the cancer spreading, or metastasizing, to other areas of the body such as the lung and liver.
The study, published in the April issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that in bladder cancer the SRC gene may help rather than hinder the natural ability of cells to suppress aggressive tumor growth.
“We found that SRC modifies a recently discovered metastasis suppressor gene called RhoGDI2 making it more potent at slowing bladder cancer’s ability to metastasize,” says lead author Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, professor of urologic oncology and molecular physiology at the UVA School of Medicine.
SRC is a type of oncogene — genes that are known to trigger cancer. In most cancers SRC has been shown to promote tumor development and contribute to the spread of cancer. Other genes, called metastasis suppressor genes, block this activity, and only when their levels are reduced is cancer able to spread.
In the study, researchers analyzed human bladder cancer and discovered that SRC levels diminish as bladder cancer progresses. Furthermore, they found that reduced SRC levels and significant levels of the metastasis suppressor gene, RhoGD12, appear mutually exclusive in individual tumors – providing evidence that both genes are likely involved in the process leading to suppression of bladder cancer metastases.
“Our findings have important implications for the use of targeted therapeutic agents that inhibit SRC in bladder cancer and highlight the general importance of personalizing therapy in cancer,” says Theodorescu. “Our data suggest using caution for their use in treating bladder cancer until more studies are carried out to define the implications of this form of therapy in bladder cancer.”
Ralph’s note – Thank goodness someone actually checked into it.
Public Release: 25-Mar-2009
Study: Morbidly Obese Sedentary For More Than 99 Percent of Day
Royal Oak, Mich. – March 25, 2009 – A new study appearing in Clinical Cardiology examines the average fitness level of the morbidly obese (body mass indexes between 40.0 and 49.9). The findings show that the tested population was sedentary for more than 99 percent of the day and, on average, walked less than 2,500 steps per day – far below healthy living guidelines of 10,000 steps per day. The results provide important links between obesity, poor fitness and cardiovascular disease.
The study used a precise body sensor to continually measure physical activity, caloric expenditure and movement minute-by-minute over a 72-hour period within their home environments. Following collection of the data, structured cardiorespiratory fitness testing was performed on each subject.
Most morbidly obese participants in the study were markedly sedentary. On average, 23 hours and 51.6 min per day were spent sleeping or engaged in sedentary activity and the remaining 8.4 minutes were spent in moderate activity. On average, subjects took 3,763 ± 2,223 steps.
The highest level of activity attained by any single individual during one 24-hour period was 28 minutes of moderate activity. No length of time was spent at a high level of activity for any of the individuals while under observation. Two individuals in this study spent the entire monitoring period in sedentary activity.
Obesity contributes to five of the top 10 diseases with the highest mortality rates: cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Increasingly, new technologic advances encourage individuals to move less and expend fewer calories.
However, it has been shown that, despite being obese, individuals with moderate-to-high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have cardiovascular death rates that are 71 percent lower than their unfit counterparts. Moreover, low cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of mortality in normal weight, overweight and obese individuals alike. Morbidly obese individuals, however, have severely reduced cardiorespiratory fitness that is similar to those with established systolic heart failure.
Despite the lack of moderate or vigorous physical activity in the studied population, lighter amounts of physical activity may yield significant health benefits. Even light walking in speeds of 1 to 2 miles per hour shows significant health benefits. Over time, increasing amounts of light physical activity may improve aerobic capacity and ultimately reduce mortality.
“Our findings have important implications for the relationship between obesity and physical activity,” say authors Thomas Vanhecke, Barry Franklin,Wendy Miller, Adam deJong, Catherine Coleman and Peter McCullough of William Beaumont Hospital. “Our findings will add incentive to increase physical fitness in this population and increase the awareness of healthcare professionals of the need for recommending physical activity in their patients.”
Public release date: 27-Mar-2009
Common fragrance ingredients in shampoos and conditioners are frequent causes of eczema
Considerably more people than previously believed are allergic to the most common fragrance ingredient used in shampoos, conditioners and soap. A thesis presented at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that over 5% of those who underwent patch testing were allergic to the air oxidized form of the fragrance ingredient linalool.
“I would suspect that about 2% of the complete population of Sweden are allergic to air oxidized linalool. That may not sound very much, but it is serious since linalool is so widely used as a fragrance ingredient. Linalool is found in 60-80 percent of the perfumed hygiene products, washing up liquids and household cleaning agents that can be bought in the nearest supermarket, and it can be difficult for people who are allergic to avoid these products”, says dermatologist Johanna Bråred Christensson, author of the thesis.
Around one person in five in Sweden has some form of contact allergy. Nickel is by far the most common substance that causes eczema, but the thesis shows that oxidized linalool occupies third place in the list, after nickel and cobalt.
In the study, oxidized linalool was added at patch testing for more than 3,000 patients who wanted to find out what was causing their eczema. Between 5% and 7% proved to be allergic to the oxidized form of the fragrance ingredient.
“Linalool is present in many products around us, and this is probably the reason that contact allergy to this material is so common. Some people can shower with shower cream that contains linalool but never develop contact allergy, but we know that the risk increases as the exposure to t! he substance increases”, says Johanna Bråred Christensson.
Linalool is a fragrance ingredient found naturally in lavender, mint, and other plants. Linalool breaks down when it comes into contact with oxygen, it becomes oxidized and can cause allergy. Manufacturers do include other substances in the products to delay this oxidation process, but allergenic substances can st! ill be formed from linalool when it is stored.
“One way of trying to minimize exposure to oxidized linalool is to avoid buying large packs of soap and shower cream, and always to replace the top after using a bottle”, says Johanna Bråred Christensson.!
EU legislation states that manufacturers must specify on the labels of hygiene products whether they contain linalool. Previous studies have shown that oxidized linalool may cause contact allergy in about 1% of patients with eczema.
Public release date: 29-Mar-2009
Tea tree oil and silver together make more effective antiseptics
In the fight against infected skin wounds, mixing tea tree oil and silver or putting them in liposomes, (small spheres made from natural lipids), greatly increases their antimicrobial activity and may minimise any side effects.
Wan Li Low and colleagues from the University of Wolverhampton presented research at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate today (30 March) which showed that although both tea tree oil and silver (in the form of silver nitrate) were effective against a range of micro-organisms, when low concentrations of the two agents were combined, their antimicrobial activity increased. They carried out laboratory tests on pathogens that are involved in skin infections. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (which is a common cause of skin infections and abscesses), and the yeast Candida albicans, which causes thrush, were killed.
These positive findings led the researchers to use microscopic spherical bodies called liposomes, made of phospholipids, the naturally occurring lipids or fats in the cell wallsmembranes, to deliver the silver and tea tree oil mix to infected wounds the pathogens. This technique allows controlled release and therefore has the potential to use lower, less toxic, concentrations of the antimicrobial agents to treat infected wounds. This may also be of value to treat antibiotic resistant strains such as MRSA.
Used alone, both silver and tea tree oil can cause side effects in patients. Over exposure to silver can cause a bluish-grey discolouration of the skin and applying unregulated amounts of tea tree oil externally can cause skin irritation. With increasing life expectancy, age related conditions such as chronic leg ulcers or bedsores are likely to become more common. Current treatments using traditional silver-based creams and dressings use relatively high metal concentrations. Creams containing lower amounts of the agents could provide safer and readily available over-the-counter antiseptic compounds for effective treatment without damaging the surrounding skin.
Public release date: 30-Mar-2009
Melatonin may be served as a potential anti-fibrotic drug
In China, the incidence of liver cirrhosis is still high. Liver cirrhosis results from fibrosis. If treated properly at fibrosis stage, cirrhosis can be prevented. However, no effective antifibrosis drugs are available at present. Several lines of evidences suggest that oxidative stress plays an important role in the etiopathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis. Melatonin can protect cells, tissues, and organs against oxidative damage induced by a variety of free-radical-generating agents and processes.
A research team led by Professor Jian-Ming Xu from the First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, China evaluated the possible fibrosuppressant effect of melatonin in rat. Their study will be published on March 28, 2009 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
In this study, hepatic fibrosis in rats was successfully induced by subcutaneous injection of sterile CCl4 twice weekly for a total of 12 wk. At the beginning of injection of CCl4, melatonin (2.5, 5, 10 mg/kg body weight) was intraperitoneally administered to the rats daily for 12 wk. Hepatic fibrotic changes were evaluated biochemically by measuring tissue hydroxyproline levels and histopathogical examination. The serum activities of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were used to evaluate the hepatic injury. Hepatic oxidative stress markers were evaluated by changes in the amount of lipid peroxides, measured as malondialdehyde (MDA) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) in liver homogenates. Serum hyaluronic acid (HA), laminin (LN), and procollagen 3 N-terminal peptide (P3NP) were determined as serum markers of hepatic fibrogenesis.
Their results suggested that treatment with melatonin (10 mg/kg) could decrease the scores of hepatic fibrosis grading, reduced the contents of HA, LN in serum and Hydroxyproline (HYP) in liver, treatment with melatonin (5,10 mg/kg ) could decrease serum levels of ALT, AST and blocked the increase in MDA in rats with hepatic injury caused by CCl4.
Their result indicated melatonin could ameliorate CCl4-induced hepatic fibrosis in rats. The protective effect of melatonin on hepatic fibrosis may be related to its antioxidant activities. This may provide a basis for further studies on the potentially protective effect of melatonin on liver function in cirrhotic patients
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.