Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alzheimer's Disease: On a Fast Track for Those with Hypertension or Irregular Heartbeat

A new Johns Hopkins study published in the Nov. 6, 2007, issue of Neurology discusses new results that show that Alzheimer’s disease may progress more rapidly in people with high blood pressure or a form of irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation.

Interestingly, these findings suggest that treating these conditions may also slow memory loss in people with Alzheimer's.

While current medications for Alzheimer’s disease are effective for some patients in slowing the rate of AD progression, many patients do not benefit from the treatments or cannot tolerate them, says lead researcher Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“The possibility that specific vascular conditions may affect how fast a person with AD declines provides new opportunities for slowing the rate of AD progression,"said Dr. Mielke, who recommends that current treatments for atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure be used on Alzheimer's patients with these conditions. These drugs are relatively inexpensive and safe and these researchers believe they may reduce memory decline in AD patients with these conditions.

The study examined 135 men and women over 65 who were newly diagnosed with AD. All had undergone annual memory tests for an average of three years. The study results showed that those with high blood pressure (systolic pressure over 160) at the time of AD diagnosis suffered a rate of memory loss roughly 100 percent faster than those with normal blood pressure.

In addition, 10 patients with atrial fibrillation at the time of the diagnosis showed a rate of memory decline that was 75 percent faster than those with normal heartbeats. The study participants were part of the Cache County Study on Memory Health and Aging, which has been following a group of 5,092 people 65 or older living in Cache County, Utah, since 1995.

“What makes this group and study unique is that we have been following these participants in the community for over a decade, even before they were first diagnosed with AD, so we know a good deal about their medical history,” says Mielke. “Studies that enroll AD patients only from clinics may miss key factors, such as date of onset and history of cardiovascular disease and treatment.”

These doctors are currently working on similar studies using larger sample sizes to better understand the potential role that vascular factors play before AD diagnosis and their role over the course of the disease’s progression.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wham: Inhaled CO2 Looking Good in Trials for Seasonal Allergies

Relief may be soon on the pharmacy shelves for the estimated 40 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) caused by pollens such as grass and ragweed.

Thomas B. Casale, M.D., the Creighton University study’s principal investigator, is president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. According to the work of Casale and his fellow researchers, noninhaled, intranasal carbon dioxide (CO2) may offer a new, effective and safe treatment for many SAR sufferers. The study is scheduled to be reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

“These findings indicate that noninhaled, intranasal carbon dioxide is very promising as a safe and effective treatment to provide rapid relief for seasonal allergic rhinitis. With the exception of a burning/stinging sensation when the carbon dioxide is first administered, there appears to be no significant side effects with this technique. It could be a good alternative for people who don’t want to take intranasal steroids,” said Dr. Casale, principal investigator and chief of Creighton School of Medicine’s Division of Allergy/Immunology.

Currently, there are few treatments available that provide truly rapid relief of SAR symptoms and can be used safely long-term. This one is not far off.

In the Creighton study, patients receiving CO2 reported a significant and rapid improvement in congestion, sneezing and other nasal symptoms – within 10 minutes and lasting at least 24 hours – over those taking a placebo made from plain air. The CO2 group also reported some, although not statistically significant, improvement in non-nasal symptoms such as watery and itchy eyes.

Within 30 minutes of treatment, 50 percent of those taking CO2 reported more than a 50 percent improvement in nasal symptoms, compared to 27.6 percent of the placebo group. The small scale study involved 89 subjects, 18 to 75 years of age, who had at least a two-year history of seasonal allergies requiring drugs or nose sprays. Sixty received CO2 and 29 received plain air.

The patients took the gases intranasally twice – once for each nostril – within an interval of less than five minutes for a total dose of about 1,200 milliliters. They avoided inhaling the gas by breathing through the mouth, allowing the gas to flow in one nostril, pass through the nose and sinus cavities, and pass out the other nostril.

The use of intranasal non-inhaled CO2 has already proven effective in treating migraines, although it is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that use. Allergic rhinitis is triggered by some of the same mechanisms as migraines.

The lead author notes that, despite currently available treatments, a significant proportion of patients with allergic rhinitis continue to suffer symptoms that impair their quality of life and can lead to other conditions such as asthma. The medical costs associated with SAR are estimated at $6 billion annually in the United States alone, he said.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Wham: Cranberry Juice a Potentially Broad Anti-Viral Remedy

Cranberries have for a number of years been a known therapy for urinary tract infections. Doctors are now discovering that the benefit from cranberries may even extend to protecting against viruses, according to results of study from New York-based researchers.

A non-specific antiviral effect has been shown from Cranberries, directed towards unrelated viral species by a commercially available cranberry fruit juice drink (the product they used was Ocean Spray brand, but of course these results would apply to any manufacturer). The researchers published their work in the journal Phytomedicine, one of the top scientific publications in the world of botanical medicines.

Researchers from St. Francis College, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and New York University report that commercially available cranberry juice neutralized these viruses: bacteriophages T2 and T4 and the simian rotavirus SA-11. The popularity of cranberries has been increasing due to a growing body of scientific evidence revealing the fruit's health benefits. There has been significantly growing consumer awareness and interest in the product. It doesn't hurt, of course, that cranberries taste great, are easy to access, and relatively inexpensive. Almost one third of parents in the US are now giving it to their children, many of them because of the effect upon childhood urinary tract infections.

France became the first country to approve a health claim for the North American cranberry species Vaccinium macrocarpon, which states that it can 'help reduce the adhesion of certain E.coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls'. Perhaps there can be further health claims down the road based on ongoing research about anti-viral activity.

In this study, the researchers exposed the viruses to cranberry, orange, or grapefruit juices and measured the virus infectivity. Cranberry juice was found to protect against both bacteriophage T2 and bacteriophage T4. For the latter phage (T4) the anti-viral activities were found to be rapid, dose-dependent, and unaffected by temperature, occurring at four or 23 degrees Celsius.

When the researchers turned their attention to the mammalian enteric virus, simian rotavirus SA-11, they found that a 20 per cent suspension of cranberry juice was enough to stop the virus from binding to the surface of cells, but a more dilute suspension (12 per cent) was not effective. This is a very significant finding.

On the other hand, the orange and grapefruit juices reduced the viral infectivity of T2 and T4 to 25 to 35 per cent of the control, respectively, stated the researchers.

Further studies are of course needed to elucidate the mechanisms of these findings and, of equal importance, to proceed to animal model systems.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wham: Compound in Onions Found to Aid in Lowering High Blood Pressure

A ndew study shows that Quercitin, the compound most commonly associated with onions, may reduce blood pressure by an average of five millimitres of mercury.

This flavonol has not been studied for its anti-hypertension effects in the past; this group found a daily 730 milligram supplement of quercitin led to significant reductions in the blood pressure of 22 people with high blood pressure. While this is considered a smaller, "pilot" scale trial, the news is good because this is just another benefit for a flavonol that has already been discovered to be extremely valuable in human consumption.

Hypertension is defined as having a systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) greater than 140 and 90 mmHg, affects about 600 million people worldwide and is associated with over seven million deaths. In the USA, the hypertension numbers have recently been adjusted. A person can be considered to be in "pre-hypertension" today with numbers that were considered normal just a few years ago.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, (the best way to manage experimental trials) adds to an ever-growing body of reported health benefits for quercitin. The flavonol was previously linked to reduced risk of certain cancers.

Building on science from animal studies reporting a potential hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) role for the flavonol, researchers from the University of Utah recruited 19 men and women with pre-hypertension (average BP 137/86 mmHg) and 22 hypertensives (average BP 148/96 mmHg). The subjects were randomly assigned to receive a daily supplement of quercetin (730 mg) or placebo for 28 days.

Lead author Randi Edwards and co-workers report that the hypertensives receiving the quercitin supplement experienced reductions in systolic and diastolic BP of seven and five mmHg, respectively, compared to placebo.

It is important to note that no BP changes were observed in the pre-hypertensives as a result of these interventions.

"These data are the first to our knowledge to show that quercetin supplementation reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects," stated the researchers.

Although no mechanism of action study was performed by the researchers, they suggested that the flavonoid could limit the production of angiotensin II, a molecule that constricts blood vessels (vasoconstrictor) leading to an increase in blood pressure. Further investigation would be required to confirm this speculation.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Wham: Zinc Critical in Nursing Home Elderly for Pneumonia Reduction

When elderly nursing home residents contract pneumonia, it is a blow to their already fragile health. Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and colleagues report that maintaining normal serum zinc concentration in the blood may help reduce the risk of pneumonia development in that population.

“Based on our data, it appears that daily zinc intake can help nursing home residents who are susceptible to pneumonia, especially those with low serum zinc concentrations in their blood,” says Meydani, corresponding author and director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the USDA. “The study participants with normal serum zinc concentrations in their blood reduced their risk of developing pneumonia by about 50 percent. Additionally, deaths from all causes were 39 percent lower in this group.”

Meydani and colleagues analyzed blood samples from a previous study that investigated the role of Vitamin E in preventing respiratory infections in nursing home residents ages 65 and older. The study enrolled 617 men and women from 33 nursing homes in the Boston area. All of the participants received daily supplements containing 50 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of several vitamins and minerals, including zinc, for one year. Foods that provide zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, whole grains, beans and dairy products.

In the present study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the authors compared blood samples collected at the beginning and the conclusion of the one-year study. The participants whose serum zinc concentrations remained low throughout that 12-month period had more difficulty battling pneumonia. “Not only did those participants have a higher risk of developing pneumonia when they did become sick, they did not recover as quickly and required a longer course of antibiotics,” says Meydani, who is also a professor at Tufts University. “We also noted a higher rate of death from all causes.”

Maintaining normal serum zinc concentration in the blood throughout the 12-month study period benefited the participants even if they did develop pneumonia. Meydani adds, “Those participants with normal serum zinc concentrations in their blood were more likely to spend fewer days on antibiotics and recover more quickly.”

Meydani and colleagues conclude that zinc may reduce the risk of pneumonia, and its associated complications in nursing home residents. “Zinc is already known to strengthen the immune system; however, there needs to be further investigation of zinc and its effect on pneumonia development and prevention in nursing homes,” Meydani says. “The next step would likely be a clinical trial.”


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wham: Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Pregnant Women

At a recent Asian conference on Pediatric Medicine, Omega Fatty Acids were strongly recommended for pregnant women as well as infants and young children.

Of particular focus is the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a major structural fat in the brain and retina of the eye. Berthold Koletzko, M.D. (Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, University of Munich) recommends that pregnant and nursing women should consume at least 200mg of DHA every day. An associated expert committee found that women with higher DHA omega-3 intakes had healthier pregnancies, including higher birth weights and fewer premature births. DHA intake was also linked with improved infant outcomes, such as enhanced brain and eye development.

Alexandre Lapillonne, M.D., Ph.D. (Saint Vincent de Paul Hospital and Paris Descartes University, Paris France) found a positive correlation between infant visual development and fatty acid intake. His research supports dietary DHA intake for breastfeeding women and the inclusion of DHA into infant formula.

"There is limited public awareness of the role of omegas in infant development," said Professor Lapillonne. "Health professionals should educate women in their care on optimal DHA intake during pregnancy, nursing and infancy, and mothers should ensure they gain the benefits of fatty acids for themselves and their infants."

Other research has found that higher blood levels of DHA were associated with higher scores on a cognitive test in these children, suggesting that higher levels of DHA should be included in the diets of children.

DHA omega-3 can be found in fatty fish and in supplements from many companies.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Sham: Antibiotics Often Overprescribed in Respiratory Tract Infections

Doctors often believe that there is a protective effect in giving antibiotics against common respiratory tract infections. The assumption is that while antibiotics can not stop a common viral problem like the common cold, the antibiotics are assumed to be quite useful in preventing further infections, pneumonia, etc. A new editorial from the British Medical Journal states that for certain populations, this may be helpful, but in the great majority of cases these antibiotics are inappropriate. This study says that antibiotics are just not justified to reduce the risk of complications after upper respiratory tract infection, sore throat, or ear infection.

Most antibiotic use is in primary care, and most of it is for common respiratory tract infections. Guidelines exist against the routine use of antibiotics in patients with upper respiratory tract infection, sore throat, and ear infection, but do recommend them for pneumonia.

Although rates of antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections has declined worldwide, antibiotics are still given to patients with respiratory infection, including over 90% of those with chest infection, 80% with ear infections, 60% with sore throat, and 47% with upper respiratory tract infections (statistics from England).

On the basis of the evidence in this BMJ study, there seems to be a substantial gap between evidence-based guidance and general practitioners’ prescribing behavior.

The authors identified 3.36 million episodes of respiratory tract infection recorded between 1991 and 2001 in the UK General Practice Research Database and determined whether complications were less common in people who were prescribed antibiotics than in those who were not. Serious complications were rare after upper respiratory tract infections, sore throat, and ear infection. Antibiotics reduced the risk, but in the statistical research it was discovered that over 4,000 courses were needed to prevent one complication.

In contrast, the risk of pneumonia after chest infection was high in elderly people, and was substantially reduced by antibiotic use. The number needed to treat to prevent one case of pneumonia was 39 for those aged 65 and over.

Based on this information, it seems unwise to use antibiotics on anyone but elderly people, or for those with severe lung infection possibly leading to pneumonia. For many, there are benefits to using an herbal treatment with a product like Kan Jang®. Kan Jang® was recently rated an "A" by National Standard, an organization of doctors which reviews alternative medicines, in the category of upper respiratory tract infection, beating out Zinc, Vitamin C,and Echinacea. It is a combination of Andrographis and Eleutherococcus, two herbs traditionally used for immune system support.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sham: Added Sugar in Products Sold to the USA Market

On "Sham vs. Wham," you know whenever you see a couple of missing days worth of blog posts that the author is traveling. In this case, I've been to Sweden and Denmark, visitng healthy products companies in the Copenhagen and Southern Sweden areas. I've learned a lot about some of the great expertise available in this part of the world, but also about some of the very big differences between these countries and the USA.

A major supplier that I was interviewing one morning at breakfast described his plan for a new product introduction in the States, by adding that the "taste would have to be modified for the American market." I have no problem with the taste of the product he already sells in his home market and other regions, and so I asked him what he had in mind, and why he would feel the necessity to modify it for Americans.

"It isn't sweet enough. You wouldn't like it over there -- it would sell much more if it were sweeter," he replied.

As we sat for a few minutes over our coffee, I reflected on that comment. Almost unconsiously, I began to scan the crowd around me in this busy airport hotel; people from all over Scandinavia, Europe and even a few Americans. The Scandinavians and most of the Europeans looked trim, healthy. Then a couple of very large-bottomed people walked by pushing a cart and, by their accent, I knew they were fellow Americans.

Sadly, my colleague that morning told me that he doesn't need to hear them talk to recognize their nationality. My guess is that a lot of the world labels Americans in this way.

As an example of the way that manufacturers deal with this "American taste requirement," try a Yoghurt in Sweden (or anywhere in Europe, really). Then taste the product that Dannon supplies us. Wow . . . there must be an extra tablespoon of sugar in every small cup. And it is totally unnecessary. Yoghurt flavors, and many other products, don't need to be syrupy sweet. The way they taste in Europe is so much more real, so much more flavorful.

Sugar and sweet, sweet flavors don't need to be added to our US diet. We can, and should, want to live without that.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sham: Antibiotic Use in Infants Linked to Asthma in Children

Children who got antibiotics as babies had a higher risk of developing asthma by age 7.

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to children under age 1 for a host of reasons, most often for lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia or upper respiratory tract infections like ear and sinus infections.

Anita Kozyrskyj and colleagues at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and McGill University in Montreal studied antibiotic use in 13,116 children from birth to age 7. Respiratory symptoms early on can be a sign of future asthma. To control for that, they sorted out infants who got antibiotics for non-respiratory tract infections, such as impetigo or urinary infections.

Of those, the risk for asthma before age 7 doubled compared to babies who got no antibiotics before age 1, according to the study, which appeared in the journal CHEST. The researchers found that babies who were exposed early to antibiotics and who did not have a dog in the home before their first birthday were also at higher risk for asthma by age 7.

Interesting sidenote: The researchers said the presence of a dog likely increases the infant's exposure to germs, which can help kick-start the baby's immune system.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Wham: Vitamin D Shortages Seen in Those With Chronic Pain

According to a new study, approximately one in four patients who suffer from chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D, possibly contributing to their ongoing pain. Patients lacking sufficient vitamin D also required higher doses of morphine for a longer period of time.

Researchers recorded the serum vitamin D levels of 267 adults undergoing outpatient treatment for chronic pain, as well as their pain medication (morphine) dose and duration of use, and physical and general health functioning. Interesting data emerged about the trend to see less severe pain in those who had normal Vitamin D levels.

Of the patients tested, 26 percent had a vitamin D inadequacy. Among these patients with the low level of D, the morphine dose was nearly twice that of the group with adequate levels of the vitamin. In addition, the vitamin D inadequacy group used morphine for an average of 71.1 months versus 43.8 months. In the self-reporting section of the study, the vitamin D deficient group also reported lower levels of physical functioning and had a poorer view of their overall health.

It has long been known that inadequate levels of vitamin D can cause pain and muscle weakness, according to the study author, W. Michael Hooten, M.D. (Medical Director, Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center, Rochester, Minnesota).

However, “this is the first time that we have established the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy among a diverse group of chronic pain patients,” Dr. Hooten said. Previous studies suggested that pain-related symptoms of vitamin D inadequacy respond poorly to pain medications.

“The implications are that in chronic pain patients, vitamin D inadequacy is not the principal cause of pain and muscle weakness, however, it could be a contributing but unrecognized factor,” Dr. Hooten said. Patients who experience chronic pain that does not see the usual reduction with medications should be checked for Vitamin D level.

Vitamin D inadequacy can be “easily and inexpensively” treated “with essentially no side effects” using a prescription supplement, once or twice a week for four to six weeks, Dr. Hooten said. Further study is needed to determine whether treating inadequate vitamin D levels will result in improvements to the overall general health for patients with chronic pain.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wham: Japanese Green Tea Study Shows Huge Prevention Effect for Prostate Cancer

A new study from Japan, published in the Journal of Epidemiology, shows that drinking five cups of green tea daily can cut your chances of developing prostate cancer by nearly 50%.

Researchers from Japan's National Cancer Center were quick to point out that the benefits of green tea may be limited to prevention of advanced prostate cancer; the team saw no effects on localized cancer in patients who already had the disease.

Of course, this news simply adds to a growing list of benefits that links tea and tea extracts to a great variety of benefits, ranging from lowered risk of cancers and obesity, to protection against Alzheimer's. All of these benefits seem to be linked to the polyphenol content of the tea.

Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (which starts as green tea and is then changed via fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent. Just as red wine seems to be the most powerful in the wine world, the green teas show a considerable head-and-shoulders improvement in health benefits over their fermented cousins.

The four primary polyphenols found in fresh tea are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epicatechin. EGCG is now seen in a variety of products in the dietary supplement marketplace.

This study, known as the "Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study" reviewed 49,920 Japanese men aged at their prime for prostate cancer (from 40 to 69). Each participant completed a questionnaire at the start of the study to identify dietary intake, including habitual green tea consumption. The men were followed from 1990 through 2004, and 404 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in this time. Of these cases, 114 were advanced cases, 271 were localized, and 19 were undetermined.

Increased intake of green tea was shown to be linked to reduced risk. Drinking five or more cups a day was associated with a 48 per cent reduction in advanced prostate cancer risk, compared to drinking less than one cup per day.

Over half a million new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year worldwide, and the cancer is the direct cause of over 200,000 deaths. The incidence of the disease is increasing with a rise of 1.7 per cent over the last 15 years. In short, this disease is becoming more and more of a worry for health officials and the public all over the world.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wham: Red Wine and Grape Juice Works Hand-in-Hand With Probiotic Bacteria to Protect Against Food-Borne Disease

Anyone who reads about healthcare issues knows that red wine can be a healthy drink if consumed in moderation. New facts seem to be coming out all the time . . . researchers are now discovering more about the benefits of red wine, including the fact that these beneficial compounds in the grape work in cooperation with probiotic bacteria in the gut.

Researchers at the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO) have found that certain compounds in red wine and grape juice are anti-microbial in nature, and work to neutralize pathogens carried into the body by the food we eat. What I found most fascinating about this research is the fact that while examining the inhibitory effects of these grape products, scientists discovered that these biochemicals in the wine do not harm the "good" bacteria which reside in the gut (probiotic bacteria). They can somehow recognize pathogenic bacteria, however! Probiotic bacteria naturally reside in the body and can be very beneficial in combating disease, high-cholesterol, and--some say--even tumors. It is interesting that the wine counteracts harmful bacteria, but leaves the good bacteria alone to do its job.

Certain red wines were more beneficial against food-borne pathogens than others. Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel, for example, had the highest ability to defend against pathogens (while protecting the good bacteria). The pathogens the researchers where testing against included E. coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, Listeria monocytogenes and H. pylori. E. coli and Listeria can be fatal. According to the authors, one of the most promising results involved Helicobacter pylori, which can be transmitted via food and water; it is also known as the main cause of stomach ulcers:

“Our study is a little different than those previously reported in the media. Those studies promote moderate red wine consumption for cardiovascular diseases,” she said. “We went a step farther and asked: If red wine is already good for cardiovascular diseases, what about food-borne pathogens? If you get a food-borne illness and drink red wine, will that help decrease the symptoms a little bit? This study showed that the four probiotics tested weren’t inhibited by red wines; the pathogens were," reported one of them to Science News.

Although many white wines also were tested, they yielded no positive results. After reading this report, wine drinkers need to realize that the "health benefits" claim is simply an excuse when opening a bottle of white wine with dinner!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wham: Soy Isoflavones Benefit Men at High Risk of Prostate Cancer

The nutraceutical industry is reporting that a new study from the University of Minnesota shows that men at high risk of prostate cancer may benefit from increased intake of soy isoflavones. This is good news, because prostate cancer is on the rise worldwide.

This study, appearing in the Journal of Nutrition, adds to an earlier piece of work that claimed to be the first prospective study to report an inverse association between isoflavone and prostate cancer in Japanese men.

The new randomised controlled Minnesota trial investigated the potential of soy isoflavones to increase the excretion of urinary estradiol (E2) and lower ratio of urinary 2-hydroxy estrogens to 16-hydroxyestrone (2:16 OH-E1), two estrogen metabolites suggested to initiate hormone-related cancers.

Researchers recruited 58 men at high risk for developing advanced prostate cancer and supplemented their normal diets with one of three protein isolates: isoflavone-rich soy protein isolate, providing 107 mg isoflavones per day; isoflavone-poor soy protein isolate, providing less than six mg isoflavones per day; or milk protein isolate. All supplements provided 40 grams of protein per day.

After three and six months of supplementation, the researchers report that both soy groups had higher E2 urinary excretion than subjects receiving the milk protein. Moreover, after six months of supplementation, a significantly higher urinary 2:16 OH-E1 ratio was observed amongst individuals receiving the isoflavone-rich soy protein isolate than the milk protein.

Another earlier study (in Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers) linked isoflavones to potential protection from prostate cancer. It stated that the benefits could be due to the weak estrogenic activity of soy isoflavones, which may act to reduce testosterone levels and inhibit 5 alpha-reductase - an enzyme involved in the metabolism of testosterone.

Another study, animal research published in Biology of Reproduction in 2004 claimed that the metabolite of the soy isoflavone daidzein stopped the effect of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which has been linked to prostate growth and male baldness.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Wham: Vitamin C Benefits Skin Appearance and Health

A new large study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points to Vitamin C's affect upon skin and aging.

Scientists at Unilever used data from the first "National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey" to examine the relationship between dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging. The study suggests that higher intakes of vitamin C, and lower intakes of fats and carbohydrates, is associated with better skin in older age. This provides further support for the growing number of beauty foods and "cosmeceuticals" which include Vitamin C as an ingredient. The report also mentions linoleic acid as a beneficial ingredient in the same product category.

It is important to note that the original investigation concentrates on dietary intakes of nutrients and not supplements. Still, it shows significant relationships between a number of nutrients and skin aging. Supplement studies concentrate on short term, high-dose nutrients. This team claims that this examination is the first to concentrate on daily nutrient intake as opposed to supplements.

NHANES I was conducted on a nationwide sample of over 30 000 individuals back in the mid-1970s. Information collected includes dietary assessment, height and weight measurements, supplement intake, physical activity level, and sunlight exposure.

In addition, clinical examinations were conducted by dermatologists. In these exams, skin-aging appearance was defined as having a wrinkled appearance, dryness as a result of aging, and skin thinning. In total 4025 females between the ages of 40 and 74 were included in the study.

In particular, lower intakes of vitamin C in the diet were significantly associated with the prevalence of wrinkled appearance and dryness. The researchers hypothesise that this is due the vitamin's antioxidant properties, the role it plays in collagen synthesis and its potential photo-protective qualities.

As a side note, the study found that higher intakes of fats and carbohydrates were associated with increased chances of wrinkled skin appearance and skin atrophy.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wham: The Lowly Potato, Chock Full of Nutrients

As reported in Science Daily, the lowly old potato, that long-time companion to the meals of so many around the world, may have much more to love about it than its taste. New findings from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) show that some potato varieties are just packed with healthy compounds called phytochemicals.

Americans love potatoes, consuming 130 pounds per person annually. Now that culinary love affair could grow even more passionate with Agricultural Research Service (ARS) findings that some potato varieties are packed with health-promoting compounds called phytochemicals.

Using a new analytical method, ARS plant geneticist Roy Navarre and colleagues in Washington State and Oregon have identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals and vitamins in the skins and flesh of 100 wild and commercially grown potatoes.

The analysis of Red and Norkotah potatoes, two of the healthiest varieties, revealed that the spuds' total dietary-phenolics content rivaled that of broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts. There were a number of flavonoids in the potato as well, which may play a role in helping diminish cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

The ARS teams have also identified potatoes with high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, quercetin and kukoamines. In particular, these last compounds (kukoamines) are of interest for their potential to lower blood pressure, and have at this time been found only in one other plant, Lycium chinense. So, it was a real find for the ARS to have discovered a potentially very valuable biochemical in the lowly potato.

You would think that at this time we'd know all that we possibly could about the potato. Earlier investigations of phytochemicals in potatoes and other crops have been limited to one or two varieties, however. That's why it was great when this team significantly expanded the search by using a method that draws on high-throughput liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Their analysis of wild and cultivated potatoes, for example, revealed phenolic concentrations of 100 to 675 milligrams per 100 grams dry weight.

We could be reading a lot more about the healthy benefits of certain potatoes in the future, or perhaps finding "potato extracts" on the supplement market at some point.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) About to Set In for Millions Around the World

Have you noticed how much darker it is getting in the early evening, and how much earlier the twilight begins? If your mood, energy level, and motivation start to decline in the October/November timeframe, but bounce back to normal in the Spring, you may have what has become known as "seasonal affective disorder," or SAD.

SAD is an actual medical condition, experienced by those who have a possible chemical imbalance in the brain. This imbalance is not noticeable until a lack of light and the shorter days of winter bring it on. Those overcast days that many regions experience at this time of year are responsible for doing more than making your mood a bit "off."

According to the American Psychiatric Association, as many as 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans may experience a mild form of SAD. Certain people may have a genetic vulnerability to developing the condition, which affects more women than men and tends to start appearing in the teen years.

This condition was first brought forward to the popular press after an episode of the popular TV show "Northern Exposure" showed what life was like in Alaska during the dark winter months. SAD is characterized by depression, exhaustion and a complete lack of interest in people and regular activities. SAD interferes with a person's outlook on life; tragically, it seems to affect one's ability to function properly.

You can take steps to reduce the risk of developing SAD. Get outside during the winter, even if it is overcast, and try to expose your eyes to natural light for one hour each day. By opening your window coverings to let in natural light, you will be lessening the effect of this seasonal disorder on those in your household.

If you do develop SAD, it can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy. There are even high-tech headbands containing mounted lights that deliver light to your retina whether you are inside or outdoors.

In certain Arctic regions, such as the Scandinavian countries, or parts of Russia such as Siberia, the population has recognized the effects of SAD for hundreds of years, although of course they did not have a name for this "malady." Their method of reducing the depression and boosting the mood was, and still is, to consume the local herb Rhodiola rosea which is now a popular product in the States and Canada.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Blood Pressure: Both Your Day and Night Readings Are Important

According to a report in this week's The Lancet, blood pressure should be monitored throughout the whole 24-hour period. Evidently, doctors can learn quite a bit by knowing both your day and night readings -- in fact, the different readings can help them forecast fatal cardiovascular events.

Professor Jan Staessen at the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases (University of Leuven, Belgium) and his team examined 7,458 individuals in Asia, South America and Europe and followed them up for a period of nearly ten years. The average age of this group was 56.8 years.

These researchers found that some people who are taking anti-hypertensive medications for their high blood pressure often have high night readings which can mask problems that the doctors don't see when they measure blood pressure during the daytime. When doctors take into account the night-time blood pressure levels and adjust the day time levels with this information, they can often forecast serious cardiovascular events. They have found a raised mortality among patients with higher night-time blood pressure than during daytime.

These findings have implications for clinical practice and research. The night-time blood pressure predicted mortality and non-fatal outcomes, irrespective of treatment status. The findings therefore support recording the ambulatory blood pressure during the night for those with high blood pressure. Discuss this with your doctor.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mother's Cholesterol Levels Appear to Link to Premature Birth and Low Birth Weight

Ivanhoe has reported that scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health have confirmed previous findings that very high cholesterol (more than 261 mg/dl) is linked to premature birth (delivering a baby before 37 weeks of gestation). In the process, they have also found what appears to be surprising evidence that very low cholesterol (less than 159 mg/dl) in linked in Caucasian mothers to premature delivery.

When these scientists compared African-American mothers with low cholesterol with white mothers with low cholesterol, they found premature delivery only in the white mothers. Previous studies had shown that 12 percent of all women with very high cholesterol deliver their babies prematurely. This recent study shows a 21-percent incidence of premature birth among white women with very low cholesterol.

It also appeared that cholesterol levels have an impact on birth weight. When both groups of women who had low maternal cholesterol were compared, they found that on average the infants weighed 5 ounces less than other babies born to mothers in the normal cholesterol range.

More research is needed to uncover the mechanism behind these links before clinical recommendations can be made for expectant mothers, but it is obvious at this time that pregnant mothers should be working with their doctors to get their cholesterol levels as close to the normal range as possible.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wham: Your Attitudes and Life Philosophy Are Responsible For Up To 89% Less Risk of Alzheimers

Those with a tendency to be self-disciplined, scrupulous and purposeful--in other words, with a higher degree of conscientiousness--appear less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The article describes conscientiousness as a person’s tendency to control impulses and be goal-directed, and is also known as will, work and dependability. Conscientiousness, or the lack of it, has been associated with a wide range of mental and physical disorders, disability and death, suggesting it may be important for maintaining overall health.

Scientists at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and colleagues studied 997 older Catholic nuns, priests and brothers who did not have dementia when the study began in 1994. Participants underwent evaluations that included medical history, neurologic examinations and cognitive testing. Conscientiousness was measured with a 12-item inventory, where participants rated agreement with each item (for example, “I am a productive person who always gets the job done”) on a scale of one to five. Scores ranged from zero to 48, with higher scores indicating more conscientiousness. The researchers conducted follow-up examinations annually through 2006, with an average of 7.9 evaluations per person.

The participants had an average conscientiousness score of 34 out of 48. Through a maximum of 12 years of follow-up, 176 individuals developed Alzheimer’s disease. Those who had conscientiousness scores in the 90th percentile (40 points) or higher had an 89 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those whose scores ranked in the 10th percentile (28 points) or lower. Controlling for known Alzheimer’s disease risk factors did not substantially change these results. Conscientiousness also was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline and a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment, a condition that may precede Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also analyzed results from brain autopsies of 324 participants who died during the study. In these patients, conscientiousness was not linked to any of the hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s disease, including brain plaques and tangles. However, conscientiousness did appear to modify the association of these brain changes with an individual’s cognitive abilities before death.

According to these authors, there are several ways by which conscientiousness might protect against Alzheimer’s disease. First, conscientious individuals may be more likely to experience educational or occupational success, both of which have been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, conscientiousness has been linked to resilience and to coping actively with difficulties. “These factors might lessen the adverse consequences of negative life events and chronic psychological distress, which have been associated with risk of dementia in old age,” the authors note.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Wham: Plant Ingredients (Flavonols) Shown Highly Effective Against Pancreatic Cancer Risk

A large study reported on in the American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that the benefits of eating foods like apples, onions, and berries may cut the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by about 25 per cent. Interestingly, smokers (who have always had a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer) had an even higher risk reduction--over 59 per cent--from the same foods.

This study provides evidence for a preventive effect of flavonols on pancreatic cancer, particularly for current smokers. With pancreatic cancer, a cancer with the worst prognosis overall, prevention is the key because diagnosis is not generally made until too late.

This new study was a multiethnic cohort study of 183,518 residents of California and Hawaii. It reports that subjects with the highest consumption of flavonols had significant risk reductions, compared to the lowest consumption, with smokers particularly benefiting from flavonol-rich diets.

The researchers followed these patients and their nutritional intake for an average of eight years, with 529 incident cases of pancreatic cancer documented in the study population. This is the first study to examine specific classes of flavonols (quercetin, found in onions and apples; kaempferol, found in spinach and some cabbages; and myricetin, found mostly in red onions and berries) and their effect upon pancreatic cancer risk.

Of the three individual flavonols, they report that kaempferol was associated with the largest risk reduction (22 per cent) across all participants. The interaction with smoking status was statistically significant for total flavonols, quercetin and kaempferol. While no mechanistic study was performed by the researchers, the scientists believe that the anti-cancer effects of these compounds may lie in their ability to the inhibit cell cycle, cell proliferation and oxidative stress. They called for further epidemiological studies in other populations and geographic regions to confirm the findings.

Interest in flavonoids is growing in scientific labs all over the world, as researchers continue to find that plants have a huge benefit to humans and the risk of disease.