Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coffee, Decaf and Tea All Associated With Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Those who drink more coffee (regular or decaffeinated) or tea appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to an analysis of previous studies reported in the December 14/28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Diabetes is a growing health threat to our population. By the year 2025, approximately 380 million individuals worldwide will be affected by type 2 diabetes, according to background information in the article. “Despite considerable research attention, the role of specific dietary and lifestyle factors remains uncertain, although obesity and physical inactivity have consistently been reported to raise the risk of diabetes,” the authors write.

Previously published research has suggested that drinking more coffee may be linked with a reduced risk.

Dr. Rachel Huxley of the University of Sydney (Australia) and her colleagues found that each additional cup of coffee consumed in a day was associated with a 7 percent reduction in the excess risk of diabetes. Individuals who drank three to four cups per day had an approximately 25 percent lower risk than those who drank between zero and two cups per day.

In addition, in the studies that assessed decaffeinated coffee consumption, those who drank more than three to four cups per day had about a one-third lower risk of diabetes than those who drank none. Those who drank more than three to four cups of tea had a one-fifth lower risk than those who drank no tea.

“That the apparent protective effect of tea and coffee consumption appears to be independent of a number of potential confounding variables raises the possibility of direct biological effects,” the authors write. Because of the association between decaffeinated coffee and diabetes risk, the association is unlikely to be solely related to caffeine. Other compounds in coffee and tea—including magnesium, antioxidants known as lignans or chlorogenic acids—may be involved, the authors note.

The authors state that the implications for the millions of individuals who have diabetes mellitus, or who are at future risk of developing it, could be substantial." They conclude, “For example, the identification of the active components of these beverages would open up new therapeutic pathways for the primary prevention of diabetes mellitus."


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Milk Thistle Has Protective Effect in Chemotherapy

A new study finds that the herb milk thistle may help treat liver inflammation in cancer patients who receive chemotherapy. Published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that the herb could allow patients to take potent doses of chemotherapy without damaging their liver.

Chemotherapy drugs frequently cause inflammation in the liver, and when they do, doctors must often lower patients' doses or stop administering the therapies altogether. Clinical studies have investigated using milk thistle to treat liver damage from cirrhosis (from alcohol) or toxins (such as mushroom poisoning). Despite limited study data, the herb is often used for the treatment of chemotherapy associated liver problems. To test whether milk thistle could help treat chemotherapy associated liver problems, Kara Kelly, MD, of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and colleagues conducted a randomized, controlled, double blind study in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), who commonly experience this side effect.

Fifty children with ALL were enrolled in the study and were randomized to receive milk thistle or placebo for 28 days. At the start of the study, all of the children had evidence of liver inflammation as measured by elevations in blood levels of the liver enzymes, aspartate amino transferase (AST) and amino alanine transferase (ALT). When the investigators performed liver function tests on the children at day 56 (28 days after receiving the herb or placebo), children receiving milk thistle had improvements in their liver enzymes compared with children receiving a placebo. Specifically, the group that took milk thistle had significantly lower levels of AST and a trend towards significantly lower levels of ALT. Taking milk thistle also seemed to help keep fewer patients from having to lower the dose of their medications: chemotherapy doses were reduced in 61 percent of the group receiving milk thistle, compared with 72 percent of the placebo group. In addition, milk thistle appeared to be safe for consumption.

The researchers also studied the effects of combining milk thistle with chemotherapy on leukemia cells grown in the laboratory through cell-culture in bioreactors or petri dishes. They found that milk thistle does not interfere with the cancer-fighting properties of chemotherapy.

"Milk thistle needs to be studied further, to see how effective it is for a longer course of treatment, and whether it works well in reducing liver inflammation in other types of cancers and with other types of chemotherapy," said Dr. Kelly. "However, our results are promising as there are no substitute medications for treating liver toxicity."


Monday, January 25, 2010

Antidepressants May Change Personalities

According to background information in a recent JAMA article (Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2009;66[12]:1322-1330), two personality traits, neuroticism and extraversion, have been related to depression risk. Both traits have been linked to the brain’s serotonin system. It is that serotonin system which is also targeted by the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Tony Z. Tang, Ph.D., of Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) and colleagues studied the effects of one particular SSRI, paroxetine, in a placebo-controlled trial involving 240 adults with major depressive disorder. A total of 120 participants were randomly assigned to take paroxetine, 60 to undergo cognitive therapy and 60 to take placebo for 12 months. Their personalities and depressive symptoms were assessed before, during and after treatment.

All participants experienced some improvement in their symptoms of depression, as one would suspect after taking a pharmaceutical antidepressant. However, even after controlling for these improvements, individuals taking paroxetine experienced a significantly greater decrease in neuroticism and increase in extraversion than those receiving cognitive therapy or placebo. “Patients taking paroxetine reported 6.8 times as much change on neuroticism and 3.5 times as much change on extraversion as placebo patients matched for depression improvement,” the authors write.

“One possibility is that the biochemical properties of SSRIs directly produce real personality change,” they write.

SSRIs are widely used to treat depression. It has not been made clear to many patients by their doctors, however, that the drugs may indeed induce a distinct change in personality, something the patient may not have bargained for.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is saying that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish and seafood, may have a positive role in colorectal cancer prevention. This statement is in accordance with results presented at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, held in December '09 in Houston.

“Experimental data have shown benefits of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in colorectal carcinogenesis, ranging from reduced tumor growth, suppression of angiogenesis and inhibition of metastasis,” said Sangmi Kim, Ph.D., a fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS, a unit of NIH), Research Triangle Park, N.C. “Our finding of inverse association between dietary intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and distal large bowel cancer in white participants adds additional support to the hypothesis.”

Kim and colleagues studied the link between polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and distal large bowel cancer using data from a population-based control study in which they recruited 1,509 white participants (716 cancer cases and 787 controls) and 369 black participants (213 cancer cases and 156 controls). Nineteen polyunsaturated fatty acids were assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire, which included 124 questions on food items. The researchers used the questionnaire to collect information on the frequency and amount of foods typically consumed in the past 12 months.

Patients who consumed more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids had a reduced risk of distal large bowel cancer. Compared to the lowest quartile, fat intake in the highest quartile was linked with a 39 percent reduced risk of cancer. These numbers seem fairly strong indication of the positive nature of omega-3 fatty acids in colorectal cancer.

Oddly, the researchers detected these associations in white participants, but not in black participants.

“We were surprised that the association was not also observed among blacks,” Kim said. “We considered several possible explanations but were not able to account for this difference with the data we had. This finding warrants future study, but we should be careful about drawing conclusions about potential racial differences in the benefit from long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from this study. An increase in dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which mainly come from fish and seafood, may be beneficial in the prevention of distal large bowel cancer,” Kim said.