Thursday, July 31, 2008

Patients Leaving Hospital Do Not Get Proper Instructions for After-Care

When patients are discharged from the hospital, their recovery depends on carefully following the doctors' instructions for their post care at home. Yet a vast majority of patients don't fully understand what they are supposed to do, and most are not even aware of how much their understanding falls short.

Recently, clinicians at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that more than three-quarters of patients (78 percent) do not fully understand the care and discharge instructions they receive from the emergency department. In addition, 80 percent of the time, patients weren't aware they didn't get it.

"It's distressing," said Kirsten Engel, M.D., a clinical instructor and lead author of the paper, which was published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. "Patients who fail to follow discharge instructions may have a greater likelihood of complications after leaving the emergency department."

Hospital patients must understand their diagnosis, their care, and their discharge instructions, the paper says. It is disturbing that so many patients do not understand their post-Hospital care. This occurred recently for my wife, leaving the hospital after a colonoscopy. Hurried instructions were given her by a nurse as she was ushered out the door, but when we were at home later, we had no idea what those instructions had included.

In this case, researchers assessed 138 patients and 2 caretakers in four categories of comprehension: diagnosis and cause, emergency department care, post-emergency department care and return instructions. About half (51 percent) did not understand fully what they were told in two or more categories. More than one-third (34 percent) of the comprehension deficiencies involved patients' understanding of post-emergency department care, while 15 percent involved diagnosis and cause. Of those patients with comprehension difficulties, only 20 percent realized that their understanding was incomplete or inaccurate.

While this study was done on emergency care, as my wife and I have discovered, the same problem concerns hospital staff in other areas. After care is important . . . doctors and nurses need to be trained to provide this, and patients need to remember how important it is to get it right.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wham: Marinating Meats Decreases Cancer Danger from Grilling

This is the time of the year when we are all out in the backyard, tossing steaks and hamburgers on the grill. In the past, this blog has featured stories about how meats can turn cancer-forming by the grilling process. However, new research shows that there may be a way to decrease this risk dramatically.

Research published in the Journal of Food Science suggests that marinating meats may decrease the cancer-forming compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA), which are produced during grilling, by a whopping 70 percent or more.

Three commercial spice-containing marinade blends (Caribbean, southwest, and herb) on round beef steaks were tested by researchers from Kansas State University on grilled steaks. The steaks were marinated for one hour and then grilled at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

The food scientists who published this work found that steaks marinated in the Caribbean blend produced the highest decrease in HCA content (88 percent), followed by the herb blend (72 percent) and then the southwest blend (57 percent).

“Commercial marinades offer spices and herbs which have antioxidants that help decrease the HCAs formed during grilling,” says Dr. J.S. Smith, principal researcher at Kansas State University. “The results from our study have a direct application since more consumers are interested in healthier cooking.”


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Energy Drinks and Risky Behavior Linked

There's a new concern being expressed by scientists and clinicians about the broad use of energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar. Over the last decade, use of these drinks has become nearly ubiquitous on college campuses. The global market for these types of drinks currently exceeds $3 billion a year and new products--some with even more "energy" ingredients--are introduced each year.

That new concern is the increasingly evident link between energy drinks and public health concerns like substance abuse and risky behaviors.

Although few researchers have examined energy drink consumption, Dr. Kathleen Miller at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) has been investigating the relationships between energy drink consumption and risk-taking in college students as well as what her team calls "toxic jock identity." This last concern is characterized by hyper-masculinity and risk-taking behaviors among college-age athletes.

"The principal target demographic for energy drinks is young adults ages 18-25, but they're nearly as common among younger teens," she explains. "This is a concern because energy drinks typically contain three times the caffeine of a soft drink, and in some cases, up to 10 times as much. They also include ingredients with potential interactions," Miller continues.

In the first set of results published online in June in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Miller identified links between energy drink consumption, risky substance use and sexual risk-taking. Frequent energy drink consumers (six or more days a month), were approximately three times as likely than less-frequent energy drink consumers or non-consumers to have smoked cigarettes, abused prescription drugs and been in a serious physical fight in the year prior to the survey.

Frequent energy drink users reported drinking alcohol, having alcohol-related problems and using marijuana about twice as often as non-consumers. They were also more likely to engage in other forms of risk-taking, including unsafe sex, not using a seatbelt, participating in an extreme sport and doing something dangerous on a dare.

A total of 795 Western New York male and female undergraduate students participated in the study and 39 percent reported consuming at least one energy drink in the previous month. There was significantly higher consumption by men (46 percent) than by women (31 percent) and higher consumption by whites (40 percent) than by blacks (25 percent).

Two-thirds of the energy drink consumers in Miller's study had used energy drinks as mixers with alcoholic beverages. The growing popularity of this practice further heightens concern, Miller says.

"It is widely, but incorrectly, believed that the caffeine in energy drinks counteracts the effects of alcohol, so students will have the energy to party all night without getting as drunk," she explains. While the combination may reduce perceptions of intoxication, it does not reduce alcohol-induced impairments of reaction time or judgment.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Sham: Air "Fresheners" Harmful and Full of Toxic Chemicals

Prof. Anne Steinemann of the University of Washington recently performed a study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners. She found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals; in fact, all six products tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.

Oddly enough, those chemicals were not listed on the product labels!

"People were telling me that the air fresheners in public restrooms and the scent from laundry products vented outdoors were making them sick," said Prof. Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering. "And I wanted to know what is causing these effects.'"

It was then that she discovered a surprising number of potentially toxic chemicals, including acetone, the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; limonene (a molecule with a citrus scent) and acetaldehyde, chloromethane and 1,4-dioxane.

"Nearly 100 volatile organic compounds were emitted from these six products, and none were listed on any product label. Plus, five of the six products emitted one or more carcinogenic 'hazardous air pollutants,' which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no safe exposure level at all," Steinemann said.

Her study was published online last week by the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review. Steinemann chose not to disclose the brand names of the six products she tested. In a larger study of 25 cleaners, personal care products, air fresheners and laundry products, now submitted for publication, she found that many other brands contained similar chemicals.

Manufacturers of consumer products are not required to disclose their ingredients. All these items were household items purchased at a grocery store, in addition to samples of industrial products that were requested of supplier companies.

In the laboratory, each product was placed in an isolated space at room temperature and the surrounding air was analyzed for volatile organic compounds, small molecules that evaporate from the product's surface into the air.

Results showed 58 different volatile organic compounds above a concentration of 300 micrograms per cubic meter, many of which were present in more than one of the six products. For instance, a plug-in air freshener contained more than 20 different volatile organic compounds. Of these, seven are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws. The product label lists no ingredients, and information on the Material Safety Data Sheet, required for workplace handling of chemicals, lists the contents as "mixture of perfume oils."

The European Union recently enacted legislation requiring products to list 26 fragrance chemicals when they are present above a certain concentration in cosmetic products and detergents. No similar laws exist in the United States.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Wham: Deep Brain Stimulation a Difficult But Proven Treatment for Depression

There are some who suffer from depression, but who are considered "treatment resistant." In other words, their depression may run a bit deeper than the mild-to-moderate level which can be effectively dealt with by pharmaceuticals (or herbal support from products like Arctic Root®). For these treatment resistant people, there is some hope in a technique called "Deep Brain Stimulation." In fact, a new study of this technique shows promising results in this patient population.

This new data shows that the intervention is generally safe and provides significant improvement in patients as early as one month after treatment. The patients also experienced continued and sustained improvement over time. The study is reported on in the online issue of Biological Psychiatry by scientists from the University of Toronto and Emory University School of Medicine. The study began at the University of Toronto in 2002, led by Helen S. Mayberg, MD, and collaborators Andres Lozano, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon, and psychiatrist Sidney Kennedy, MD. Mayberg herself has over 20 years of research into brain imaging technology that characterizes functional brain abnormalities.

Deep brain stimulation uses high-frequency electrical stimulation targeted to the specific areas of the brain involved in neuropsychiatric disease. Twenty patients received this treatment for 12 months. Twelve of 20 patients experienced a significant decrease in depressive symptoms by six months, with the remaining seven patients essentially in remission. Benefits were largely maintained at 12 months with continued stimulation. No long-term side effects were reported.

Each study patient was implanted with two thin wire electrodes (one on each side of the brain). The other end of each wire was connected under the skin of the neck to a pulse generator implanted in the chest -- similar to a pacemaker -- that directs the electrical current. The researchers regulated the intensity of the current according to the response of the patient. Only patients who were unable to get better with most other types of antidepressant treatment -- including medication, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy -- were included in the study.

"We postulated that if stimulation worked for the treatment of other neurological disorders where abnormal function of specific circuits was well established, such as Parkinson's disease, then stimulation of the Cg25 region within this apparent depression circuit might provide significant benefit for patients with treatment-resistant depression," said the authors. And, evidently they were right.

A new trial at Emory will soon tackle a number of unanswered issues including the testing of patients with bipolar depression and refinement of the targeting and selection of the electrodes using new imaging techniques. The Emory study will enroll 20 patients and will be conducted over a period of at least three years.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wham: The Science Behind Cranberry's Effect on Urinary Health

Sham vs. Wham has already presented scientific evidence in support of cranberry's effect on urinary tract health. This one is a no-brainer, because cranberry's traditional use is now backed up by a considerable number of clinical trials or research papers. Though the exact mechanism of its action has not been well understood in the past, a new study by researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute reveals that the juice actually changes the thermodynamic properties of bacteria; it creates an "energy barrier," preventing these microorganisms from getting close enough to latch onto cells and initiate an infection.

The study, published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces, was conducted by Prof. Terri Camesano (Chemical Engineering) and a team of graduate students, including PhD candidate Yatao Liu. They exposed two varieties of E. coli bacteria, one with hair-like projections that help latch onto cells and one without, to different concentrations of cranberry juice.

For the bacteria with the hair-like projections, they found that even at low concentrations, cranberry juice altered two properties that serve as indicators of the ability of bacteria to attach to cells. The first factor is a measure of the amount of energy that must be expended before a bacterium can attach to a cell. Without cranberry juice, this value was a negative number, indicating that energy would be released and attachment was highly likely. With cranberry juice the number was positive and it grew steadily as the concentration of juice increased, making attachment to urinary tract cells increasingly unlikely.

Surface free energy also rose, suggesting that the presence of cranberry juice creates an energy barrier that repels the bacteria. The researchers also placed the bacteria and urinary tract cells together in solution. Without cranberry juice, the bacteria attached readily to the cells. As increasing concentrations of cranberry juice were added to the solution, fewer and fewer attachments were observed.

Cranberry juice had no discernible effect on bacteria without these hair-like projections. That's a good thing, because the nasty bacteria in the urinary tract are those with the projections, and other bacteria can be very beneficial in the urinary tract.

"Our results show that, at least for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice targets the right bacteria—those that cause disease—but has no effect on non-pathogenic organisms, suggesting that cranberry juice will not disrupt bacteria that are part of the normal flora in the gut," Camesano says. "We have also shown that this effect occurs at concentrations of cranberry juice that are comparable to levels we would expect to find in the urinary tract."

The nasty bacteria will regain the ability to attach to cells if the cranberry is not taken. While the work above was done using both no-sugar-added juice and juice "cocktail," I'd stick with the former, or supplement capsules. Who needs all the sugar of a "10% juice" beverage!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kidney Stones and Iced Tea: The Odd Couple

Loyola University is cautioning us that with today's big emphasis on "energy drinks," there are potential problems ahead for those who get hooked on the caffeine and flavor of Iced Tea in the summertime. It turns out that if you are the kind of person who gets kidney stones, Iced Tea is one of the worst beverages you can consume.

Researchers at Loyiola point to Mark Mulac as an example; Mark was once an "avid lover" of iced tea, downing up to six glasses a day of the popular summertime thirst-quencher. "I was a junkie on a bender. I had to have it every day," said Mulac, a resident of Brookfield, Ill. "Iced tea was very refreshing, cheap to buy and easy to make."

Unfortunately, Mulac has recently been forced to go cold turkey. Iced tea helped to bring on an excruciating bout of kidney stones that led to surgery at Loyola University Hospital in Maywood, Ill. For Mark, the pain was so bad that "it felt like I was delivering a child made out of razor blades," said the 46-year-old Mulac. "I really had no idea that iced tea could lead to that."

Iced tea contains high concentrations of oxalate, one of the key chemicals that lead to the formation of kidney stones, a common disorder of the urinary tract that affects about 10 percent of the population in the United States.

Dr. John Milner, of Loyola's department of urology (Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill) confirms that this is a bad decision for many people. ""For many people, iced tea is potentially one of the worst things they can drink; but for people who have a tendency to form kidney stones, it's definitely one of the worst things you can drink."

Kidney stones are crystals that form in the kidneys or ureters, the small tubes that drain the urine from the kidney to the bladder. Men are four times more likely to develop kidney stones than women, and their risk rises dramatically once they reach their 40s. The most common cause of kidney stones is the failure to drink enough fluids. During the summer, people are generally more dehydrated due to sweating. The dehydration combined with increase iced tea consumption raises the risk of kidney stones, especially in people who are prone to develop them.

"People are told that in the summertime they should drink more fluids," said Milner, "but with kidney stones, they’re getting it going and coming. They're actually doing themselves a disservice."

The popularity of iced tea has grown dramatically with a whopping 1.91 billon gallons consumed a year in the U.S., according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Nearly 128 Americans drink the beverage daily.

Much of iced tea's appeal is due to the belief that it is healthier than other beverages such as soda and beer. Another myth busted! Lemonade, on the other hand, is known by the doctors at Loyola to be a healthy drink for those with kidney stones.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Will New York's Fast Food Menu Rule Spread to Other Cities?

Walk into a fast-food chain in New York City and you may have to face some tough facts about your meal choice. The truth may be harder to swallow than the food, as new rules are starting to be enforced to show calorie count next to the food item choice on menus. It's bad news for many - when one big Mac, medium fries and a medium soda holds over 1,100 calories.

After months of resistance, the city's chain restaurants have begun obeying a first-of-its-kind rule requiring them to post calorie counts right on the menu. Two chains, McDonald's and Burger King, were among the first to unveil these new menu boards Friday at scores of locations throughout the city. This calorie information had long been available on Web sites, but the NY City rules now puts it right in front of your face as you order.

It takes some serious chutzpah to order a grande mint mocha chip frappuccino with whipped cream at Starbucks when you find out that it packs a bigger caloric punch than a double cheeseburger. This is seriously going to impact the amount of fast food and beverages that people consume. Even if you aren't a dieter, when the information is put so dramatically in front of you, you are influenced to eat and drink less.

The new rules are part of an anti-obesity campaign that has also included a recent citywide ban on artificial trans fats in restaurant food. The regulation was first passed in 2006 but was redrafted after a court battle struck down the original version. The post-the-calories rule took effect in May, but legal action delayed enforcement until now. Starting Saturday, chains big enough to fall under the rule will face penalties of up to $2,000 per store for not disclosing calorie information in a prominent spot on their menus, preferably next to the price.

In some restaurants, the numbers are hard to read up on the menu board. It appears that many restaurant owners are complying, but just barely.

Still -- this is an idea that I'd like to see implemented everywhere. The US exports fast food to all corners of the globe, and some cultures have seen the increased obesity numbers and put two and two together. Let's hope they start to demand what New York does . . . Perhaps we can still whip this Fast Food industry into shape.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Wham: Colon Cancer Considered a Preventable Disease, and Exercise is Key

A new study finds that many doctors might not always inform their patients about one important step they can take to reduce their risk of colon cancer: becoming more physically active. Many experts now consider colon cancer a largely preventable disease, and exercise is a critical piece of that "preventable" label.

When researchers analyzed survey data from 1,932 adults who answered questions about colon cancer risks, only 15 percent listed physical activity as a means of reducing their risk. The word about the value of exercise is obviously not making the rounds. A sedentary lifestyle accounts for as many as 14 percent of all colon cancer cases in the United States. Highly active individuals have a 30 percent to 40 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer, according to these researchers, who wrote up their results in the August issue of the journal Patient Education and Counseling.

Study co-author Elliot Coups says that there are several factors contributing to the information gap. “Patients may not be learning this information from their health care providers and information regarding colon cancer prevention is not as well publicized as it could be.”

Doctors might find it easier to promote the general benefits of exercise, without specifically mentioning colon cancer, even to a patient who has a family history of Colon Cancer said Coups, who works at the Division of Population Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Cheltenham, Pa.

Doctors might also need to offer more information about what it means to be physically active, as patients could imagine it involves dramatic lifestyle alterations, he said. This isn't always the case. Sedentary people should first set achievable goals, such as walking on a daily basis. One expert says, "More benefits could accrue from higher levels and more intense exercise, such as jogging, running or tennis. While to some extent, more may be better, it is still important to note that a little exercise is much better than nothing.”

While many people are vaguely aware that exercise is good, doctors need to make more people aware that exercise specifically prevents a large proportion of our population from getting this very nasty form of cancer.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wham: Magnetic Nanoparticles May Provide Aid to Cancer Docs

We are in such an exciting age right now, where medicine is finally opening its doors to not only natural products and the benefits of traditional remedies, but also allowing some really fantastic research from other fields to impact our health. For example, today I read about new research being done in the field of nanotechnology, where researchers have identified a way to use magnetic nanoparticles to help escort cancer cells out of the body.

Scientists at Georgia Tech have developed a potential new treatment against cancer that attaches these particles to cancer cells, allowing them to be captured. The treatment, which has been tested in the laboratory and will now be looked at in survival studies, is detailed online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"We've been able to use magnetic nanoparticles to capture free-floating cancer cells and then take them out of the body," said John McDonald, chair of the School of Biology at Georgia Tech and chief research scientist at the Ovarian Cancer Institute. "This technology may be of special importance in the treatment of ovarian cancer where the malignancy is typically spread by free-floating cancer cells released from the primary tumor into the abdominal cavity.”

It was actually a PhD student at Georgia Tech who had the original concept. Ken Scarberry, who is doing his PhD studies in Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, conceived of the idea as a means of extracting viruses and virally infected cells from the body. His advisor, Chemistry professor John Zhang, had another idea. He asked if the technology could be applied to cancer. Scarberry then suggested it might be an effective means of preventing cancer cells from spreading.

They began by testing the therapy on mice. After attaching these magnetic particles to the cancer cells in the mice, they were able to apply a magnet and move the green cancer cells to the abdominal region.

“If the therapy is able to pass further tests that show it can prevent the cancer from spreading from the original tumor,” Scarberry said, “it could be an important tool in cancer treatment.”

Existing biotechnology uses antibodies to fight cancer, but there is often an immune response which can halt the progress. In this magnetic nanoparticle process a unique peptide-targeting strategy is used, and the composition of the magnetic nanoparticles does not appear to create an immune response.

"If you modify the nanoparticle and target it directly to the tumor cells using a small peptide, you are less likely to generate an undesirable immune response and more accurately target the cells of interest,” said Research Scientist Erin Dickerson.

The research team is collaborating with other groups at Georgia Tech on this method and other interesting ideas. We may soon have new tools at our disposal in the clinic for treating certain cancers, thanks to the ideas of this student and his Professor.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pregnant Women Who Eat Nuts Increase Child's Risk of Asthma

New research coming in from Holland shows that expectant mothers who eat nuts (or nut products like peanut butter) daily during pregnancy increase their children’s risk of developing asthma by more than 50 percent over women who rarely or never consume nut products during their pregnancy.

“We were pretty surprised to see the adverse associations between daily versus rare nut product consumption during pregnancy and symptoms of asthma in children, because we haven’t seen this in similar previous studies,” said the study’s lead author, Saskia M. Willers, M.Sc.

The study appeared in the second July issue for July of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Maternal consumption of allergenic foods during pregnancy may increase the risk that the fetuses they carry would become sensitized to certain allergens. Research on the topic, however, has been contradictory and often inconclusive.

Nearly 4,000 expectant mothers from the Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Allergy study conducted by the Dutch government completed a dietary questionnaire that asked how often they consumed vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, eggs, milk, milk products, nuts and nut products during the last month. Their children’s diets were also assessed at two years of age, and their asthma and allergy symptoms were assessed yearly until eight years of age. By the end of the eight years, the researchers had complete data for 2,832 children and their mothers. As studies like this go, this one is large and fairly comprehensive.

“The only consistent association between the maternal intake of the investigated food groups during pregnancy and childhood asthma symptoms until eight years of age that we found was with nut products,” said the lead author. “Daily versus rare consumption of nut products—which we assumed was largely peanut butter—was consistently and positively associated with childhood asthma symptoms.”

The association remained even after controlling for the child’s diet.

Additionally, the authors noted, there was a small effect of daily maternal fruit consumption during pregnancy on reducing the risk of wheeze in children, but other factors such as health-consciousness and consumption of prenatal vitamins may have been contributing factors in ways that were undetectable in this study’s design.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Wham: Botox Shots Appear to Help Migraine Sufferers

The journal Headache is reporting today that Injections of botulinum toxin, better known as Botox, may help prevent migraines in people who suffer frequent migraine attacks that are poorly controlled with oral prevention therapies. There also appears to be some benefit in the reduction of severity of the migraines when they do occur.

Dr. Roger Cady and his colleague Dr. Curtis Schreiber of the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Missouri evaluated the efficacy and safety of a single series of Botox injections over a period of six months, comparing them to placebo shots. They report that Botox had "beneficial, albeit limited, effects on measures of migraine frequency and was not effective in lowering headache pain severity" according to the article.

While the results were modest, these Botox-treated patients did have fewer headaches and fewer headache days than placebo-treated patients. In addition, Botox had what they considered to be a measurable positive impact on the quality-of-life for those patients who received the actual Botox.

One example of this was in the Headache Impact Test, a six-item survey of pain, role functioning, social functioning, fatigue, cognition, and emotional distress. Scores were significantly better for Botox-treated patients than for placebo-treated patients.

The authors conclude that Botox may be worth consideration for headache patients who aren't doing well on other migraine preventive agents.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alzheimers Research: Rapid Progress or Hype?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is reporting through their news alert service that a potential new type of compound called an "ionophore" has been shown to "reverse Alzheimer's within days." The work was done by a long list of scientists, mainly from Australia, who were studying Alzheimers in mice.

Reading the details on this one, it seemed to be an example of an overenthusiastic person writing up a press release. I don't know why it is, but for some reason the field of Alzheimers research seems to be wide open for incredible claims. When I read words like "reverse Alzheimer's within days," I wince, as we've had other "remarkable developments" that have done nothing other than to hurt caregivers and the families of those who have this terrible ailment. Search for Alzheimers on this forum and you'll see what I mean, with the case of a physician in California and his claims.

Scientists report a remarkable improvement in Alzheimer's transgenic mice following treatment with this new drug. The study, published by Cell Press in the July 10th issue of the journal Neuron, provides the first demonstration that an ionophore, a compound that transports metal ions across cell membranes, can elicit rapid and pronounced improvement in neuropathology and cognitive function in mouse models of Alzheimer's Disease.

Recent research has implicated dysregulation of metal ions in the brain, particularly copper and zinc, in the pathogenesis of the disease, and in the damaging accumulation of amyloid beta protein that is characteristic of this devastating disease. This type of compound, an ionophore clioquinol, has been shown to increase intracellular copper and zinc levels and decrease amyloid beta protein levels in cultured cells and in the brains of mice. However, earlier studies in mice and humans demonstrated that brain entry of this compound was quite limited.

When Dr. Ashley I. Bush from the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria in Australia and his colleagues examined the therapeutic potential of a second generation compound designed for easier synthesis (which they are calling PBT2), they found a higher solubility and increased blood-brain barrier permeability in the mouse models. In other words, they believe they are on the right track for getting this compound into the brain.

PBT2 was shown to be a superior ionophore when compared to the earlier version, and the researchers went on to test amyloid beta protein levels and cognitive outcomes after oral treatment with this compund. They found that oral treatment with PBT2 induced a dramatic improvement in learning and memory in both mice models of Alzheimers, accompanied by a marked inhibition of Alzheimers-like symptoms.

"These outcomes were rapid, with reduction of soluble amyloid beta protein occurring within hours, and significant cognitive benefits seen within days of first administration of the compound," says Dr. Bush.

The report indicates that humans are now getting this compound; "recent clinical trials in AD patients taking oral PBT2 have been promising and support PBT2 as a viable treatment for Alzheimers" report the authors.

Any reader of this column who learns more about this and/or who has investigated the compound, please update us with a comment attached to this blog.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wham: Want to Lose Weight? Write it down!

A new study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research shows that keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss. The findings, from one of the largest and longest running weight loss maintenance trials ever conducted, will be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study is one of the few studies to recruit a large percentage of African Americans as study participants (44 percent). African Americans have a higher risk of conditions that are aggravated by being overweight; these issues include diabetes, heart disease, and others. In this study, the majority of African American participants lost at least nine pounds of weight, which is higher than in previous studies.

“The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” said lead author Jack Hollis Ph.D., a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. “Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”

In addition to keeping food diaries and turning them in at weekly support group meetings, participants were asked to follow a heart-healthy DASH (a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat or non-fat dairy, attend weekly group sessions and exercise at moderate intensity levels for at least 30 minutes a day. After six months, the average weight loss among the nearly 1,700 participants was approximately 13 pounds. More than two-thirds of the participants (69 percent) lost at least nine pounds, enough to reduce their health risks and qualify for the second phase of the study, which lasted 30 months and tested strategies for maintaining the weight loss.

“Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice. It’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior,” says Keith Bachman, MD, a Weight Management Initiative member.

“Every day I hear patients say they can’t lose weight. This study shows that most people can lose weight if they have the right tools and support. And food journaling in conjunction with a weight management program or class is the ideal combination of tools and support.”


Monday, July 7, 2008

Wham: Resveratrol Appears to Suppress Breast Cancer Growth

A common dietary supplement and an ingredient of red wine, resveratrol has been found in new research to suppress the abnormal cell formation that leads to most types of breast cancer. This suggests a potential role for the agent in breast cancer prevention.

As you know from reading this site, resveratrol is a natural substance found in red wine and red grapes. It is sold in extract form as a dietary supplement at many stores and internet shops. Unfortunately, some brands of resveratrol do not have the listed ingredient as promised on the bottle (as an example, one report found that Life Extension brand had only a fraction of its promised resveratrol).

“Resveratrol has the ability to prevent the first step that occurs when estrogen starts the process that leads to cancer by blocking the formation of the estrogen DNA adducts. We believe that this could stop the whole progression that leads to breast cancer down the road,” said Eleanor G. Rogan, Ph.D., a professor in the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Rogan was the lead author of this report, published in the July 2008 issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Rogan and colleagues measured the effect of resveratrol on cellular functions known to contribute to breast cancer.

Scientists know that many breast cancers are fueled by increased estrogen, which collects and reacts with DNA molecules to form what are called "adducts." Rogan and colleagues found that resveratrol was able to suppress the formation of these DNA adducts.

The work was done with fairly low concentrations of resveratrol to stop the formation of these DNA adducts. Although researchers experimented with up to 100 µmol/L of resveratrol, the suppression of DNA adducts was seen with 10 µmol/L. A glass of red wine contains between 9 and 28 µmol/L of resveratrol.

The current study was conducted in laboratory cultures, and will need to be confirmed in larger human trials.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wham: Appetite Suppressing Effect of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are now showing some importance to those who are dieting.

A new study shows that obese people receiving supplements of omega-3 fatty acids while following a weight loss program experienced a feeling of fullness. It is clear after this research that those who are on weight loss programs should consider asking their doctor about adding these healthy fatty acids to the daily regimen.

"We show that the long chain omega-3 fatty acids can affect postprandial appetite sensations in volunteers during a period of weight loss induced by energy restriction," wrote lead author Dolores Parra in the journal Appetite, to be published on July 14th.

NutraIngredients reports that additional omega-3 fatty acid studies are being developed to test this theory, by researchers from the University of Navarra (Spain), University of Iceland (Iceland) and University College Cork (Ireland).

In this case, the researchers recruited 232 overweight and obese volunteers with an average age of 31 and randomly assigned them to an energy restricted balanced diet, supplemented with either low (260 mg per day) or high dose (1300 mg per day) omega-3 for eight weeks. The appetite measurements were taken during the last two weeks of the study.

Consumption of the weight loss diet and the high-dose omega-3 led to fewer hunger sensations immediately after the test meals, as well as two hours later. Blood sample analysis also showed that a higher omega-3 concentration, and an improved omega-3 to omega-6 ratio were associated with a higher "feeling of fullness."

"The most important finding of this study is that subjects who eat a dinner rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids feel less hunger and more full directly after and 2 hours after then their counterparts fed with the low long chain omega-3 fatty acids diet," wrote the authors. This observation indicates that these healthy omega-3 fatty acids modulate hunger signals.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Shower Curtains Can Be Dangerous!

Vinyl shower curtains purchased at WalMart, Sears, Target and other stores appear to be quite toxic for their first month of use. These vinyl curtains are manufactured with volatile organic compounds that come out when you open the product, and remain in your house for up to 28 days.

A Canadian research team was responsible for the recommendation to ban the manufacture of these dangerous household products. These PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) products were examined in this study entitled "Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell." Evidently, they contain more than 100 chemicals known to be toxic to humans and they release these toxic chemicals into the air, starting with the moment you bring it home from the store, open the package and take that first great big breath of that chemical smell . . .

The Canadian research team is attempting to persuade the government so that the Canadian Hazardous Products Act can be amended to include these PVC-based vinyl shower curtains as dangerous consumer goods. The scientists have recommended a complete ban.