Personal Health

 

Friday, May 28, 2010

 

Vitamin E linked to less of the skin disease eczema

 

Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Kids who eat lots of foods containing vitamin E may have a lower risk of the itchy skin condition called eczema, a new study in Japanese youngsters shows.

At the same time, foods rich in vitamin A don't seem to protect against allergies, despite earlier studies suggesting they do.

Dr. Masayuki Okuda of Yamaguchi University in Ube and colleagues measured the levels of substances in the blood that showed how much of the two vitamins children were likely eating. They focused on asthma and eczema because both are allergy-related conditions.

Among 396 10- and 13-year-old children, 240 of whom had eczema, wheezing, or asthma, the researchers found no relationship between a child's risk of any of the conditions and his or her blood levels of vitamin A-related compounds.

However, kids with the highest levels of vitamin E-related compounds were at 67 percent lower risk of eczema than those with the lowest. Even those with only moderately higher than average levels of the compound had a similarly lower risk.

Although the study does not prove there is any cause and effect at work, it was more precise than earlier research, the authors note, because previous studies relied on food questionnaires. Such surveys can be somewhat unreliable because they depend on memory.

Yellow, red and orange fruits are rich in vitamin A and related compounds, while vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, and whole grains.

There are no commonly agreed-upon standards for levels of such compounds in the blood, but the U.S. recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 2,000 international units (IUs) for this age group. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin E in the same age group is about 16 IUs.

It's not clear why vitamin E would lower the risk of eczema, but Okuda and his colleagues suggest that its antioxidant and immune-boosting effects might play a role.

Source: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123400376/abstract

Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, online April 30, 2010

Shark Cartilage Shows No Benefit as a Therapeutic Agent for Lung Cancer, Study Finds

 

ScienceDaily

Friday, May 28, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 28, 2010) In the first scientific study of its kind, shark cartilage extract, AE-941 or Neovastat, has shown no benefit as a therapeutic agent when combined with chemotherapy and radiation for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, according to researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

 

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute; the findings were first presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

 

The absence of blood vessels in cartilage as well as preclinical studies analyzing cartilage extracts have supported the hypothesis that cartilage contains inhibitors of angiogenesis. Also, shark cartilage has long intrigued the public due to the belief that the incidence of cancer in this cartilaginous fish is very rare. Early Phase I and II studies in lung and renal cancers suggested some benefit to patients when AE-941 was given at higher doses, said Charles Lu, M.D. associate professor in MD Anderson's Department of Thoracic Head and Neck Medical Oncology.

 

"This is the first large Phase III randomized trial of shark cartilage as a cancer agent. A unique and important aspect about this shark cartilage study was that this product, Neovastat, was never sold over-the-counter, unlike other shark cartilage compounds previously studied. The company, Aeterna Zentaris, developed the compound as a pharmaceutical as opposed to a compound sold for profit that is available over the Internet, for example," said Lu, the study's national principal investigator and corresponding author.

 

The international Phase III study enrolled 379 newly-diagnosed untreated Stage III non-small cell lung cancer patients at 53 sites in the United Sates and in Canada from June 2000 to February 2006. MD Anderson enrolled 60 patients in the trial.

 

The study was initiated at the request of, and was supported by, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) who sought proposals from pharmaceutical companies regarding their shark cartilage agents.

 

All study participants received the standard treatment of induction chemotherapy and chemo-radiation. Patients were randomized to receive either shark cartilage or placebo, both in the form of a liquid. Patients drank four ounces of the extract twice daily, and continued on the shark cartilage/placebo as maintenance after completing standard therapy.

 

Researchers say that the study did not meet its primary endpoint: survival. With a median follow-up of 3.7 years, researchers did not find a statistical difference in survival between patients who received the shark cartilage, 14.4 months, and those who received the placebo, 15.6 months.

 

"Clearly, these results demonstrate that AE-941 is not an effective therapeutic agent for lung cancer," said Lu. "So, too, these findings have to cast major skepticism on shark cartilage products that are being sold for profit and have no data to support their efficacy as cancer-fighting agent."

 

Patients who are currently taking shark cartilage should be very cautious in accepting that the therapy will be beneficial, warns Lu.

 

"We have absolutely no data showing improvements in survival, tumor shrinkage and/or clinical benefits to patients," said Lu. "Now when patients ask their oncologists about shark cartilage, physicians can point to this large NCI-sponsored Phase III trial and tell patients that, at this point, the only studies that have been done with cartilage-derived products have been negative."

 

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women; according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 219,440 were diagnosed with lung cancer -- in 2009 and 159,390 died from the disease.

Non-small cell is the most common type of the disease, accounting for about 80 percent of all lung cancers, said Lu.

 

Aeterna Zentaris, a biopharmaceutical company based in Quebec, Canada, stopped clinical development the compound. Both the NCI and Aeterna Zentaris supported the study.

 

In addition to Lu, other authors on the study include: Ritsuko Komaki, M.D., Department of Radiation Oncology, Roy Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Thoracic Head and Neck Medical Oncology, Mylene Truong, MD. Department of Diagnostic Radiology, J. Jack Lee, Ph.D. and Lei Feng, both of the Department of Biostatistics, Michael Fisch, M.D., Department of General Oncology, all from MD Anderson; Archie Bleyer, M.D., Oregon Health and Science University; William K. Evans, M.D. Juravinski Cancer Centre; Hak Choy, M.D., The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Pierre Desjardins, M.D. Hopital Charles Lemoyne; Benjamin T. Esparaz, M.D., Decatur Memorial Hospital; Scott Saxman, M.D., Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program; Joseph Kelaghan, MD., National Cancer Institute.

Journal Reference:

Charles Lu, J. Jack Lee, Ritsuko Komaki, Roy S. Herbst, Lei Feng, William K. Evans, Hak Choy, Pierre Desjardins, Benjamin T. Esparaz, Mylene T. Truong, Scott Saxman, Joseph Kelaghan, Archie Bleyer, and Michael J. Fisch. Chemoradiotherapy With or Without AE-941 in Stage III Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: A Randomized Phase III Trial. J Natl Cancer Inst, May 26, 2010 DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djq179


Is milk from grass-fed cows more heart-healthy?

 

By Lynne Peeples

Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) If milk does the heart good, it might do the heart better if it comes from dairy cows grazed on grass instead of on feedlots, according to a new study.

Earlier experiments have shown that cows on a diet of fresh grass produce milk with five times as much of an unsaturated fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than do cows fed processed grains. Studies in animals have suggested that CLAs can protect the heart, and help in weight loss.

Hannia Campos of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and her colleagues found, in a study of 4,000 people, that people with the highest concentrations of CLAs -- the top fifth among all participants -- had a 36 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to those with the lowest concentrations.

Those findings held true even once the researchers took into account heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking.

The new findings suggest that CLA offers heart-healthy benefits that could more than offset the harms of saturated fat in milk, Campos said.

"Because pasture grazing leads to higher CLA in milk, and it is the natural feed for cattle, it seems like more emphasis should be given to this type of feeding," she told Reuters Health by email.

Dairy products in the U.S. come almost exclusively from feedlots, she added. And cow's milk is the primary source of CLA. (Beef contains a small amount.)

Campos and her colleagues looked to Costa Rica for their study, where pasture grazing of dairy cows is still the norm. They identified nearly 2,000 Costa Ricans who had suffered a non-fatal heart attack, and another 2,000 who had not. Then they measured the amount of CLA in fat tissues to estimate each person's intake.

Since CLA typically travels with a host of other fats, the researchers went a step further to tease apart its effects from those of its predominantly unhealthful companions, they report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The difference in risk attributed to CLA subsequently rose to 49 percent.

"Whole-fat milk and dairy products have gotten such a bad reputation in recent years due to their saturated fat and cholesterol contents, and now we find that CLA may be incredibly health-promoting," Michelle McGuire, spokesperson for the journal's publisher, the American Society for Nutrition, and associate professor at Washington State University, told Reuters Health in an email. "Whole milk is not the villain!"

Each year, approximately 1.5 million Americans will suffer a heart attack. A third will not survive.

The evidence may now be piling up: another paper out of Sweden in the same issue of the journal as the Costa Rican study also hints at heart attack protection through milk fat.

Further, the benefits of CLA may extend beyond the heart to the prevention of cancer and diabetes, suggests McGuire, pointing to results of other animal studies. "Milk is actually the only food ever 'designed by nature' to be fed to mammals," she added. "We need to look to milk as the perfect food and learn everything we can from it."

Source: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2010.29524v1

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online May 12, 2010.

Milk: Two Glasses a Day Tones Muscles, Keeps the Fat Away in Women, Study Shows

 

ScienceDaily

Friday, May 28, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 28, 2010) Women who drink two large glasses of milk a day after their weight-lifting routine gained more muscle and lost more fat compared to women who drank sugar-based energy drinks, a McMaster study has found.

 

The study appears in the June issue of Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise.

 

"Resistance training is not a typical choice of exercise for women," says Stu Phillips, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University. "But the health benefits of resistance training are enormous: It boosts strength, bone, muscular and metabolic health in a way that other types of exercise cannot."

 

A previous study conducted by Phillips' lab showed that milk increased muscle mass and fat loss in men. This new study, says Phillips was more challenging because women not only steer clear of resistance training they also tend to steer away from dairy products based on the incorrect belief that dairy foods are fattening.

 

"We expected the gains in muscle mass to be greater, but the size of the fat loss surprised us," says Phillips. "We're still not sure what causes this but we're investigating that now. It could be the combination of calcium, high-quality protein, and vitamin D may be the key, and. conveniently, all of these nutrients are in milk.

 

Over a 12-week period, the study monitored young women who did not use resistance-training exercise. Every day, two hours before exercising, the women were required not to eat or drink anything except water.

 

Immediately after their exercise routine, one group consumed 500ml of fat free white milk; the other group consumed a similar-looking but sugar-based energy drink. The same drinks were consumed by each group one hour after exercising.

 

The training consisted of three types of exercise: pushing (e.g. bench press, chest fly), pulling (e.g. seated lateral pull down, abdominal exercises without weights), and leg exercises (e.g. leg press, seated two-leg hamstring curl). Training was monitored daily one on one by personal trainers to ensure proper technique.

 

"The women who drank milk gained barely any weight because what they gained in lean muscle they balanced out with a loss in fat" said Phillips. "Our data show that simple things like regular weightlifting exercise and milk consumption work to substantially improve women's body composition and health." Phillips' lab is now following this study up with a large clinical weight loss trial in women.

 

Funding for the study was provided by McMaster University, CIHR, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Journal Reference:

Andrea R. Josse, Jason E. Tang, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Stuart M. Phillips. Body Composition and Strength Changes in Women with Milk and Resistance Exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010; 42 (6): 1122-1130 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c854f6

Regular teeth brushing linked to healthier hearts

By Kate Kelland

Reuters

Friday, May 28, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) People who don't brush their teeth twice a day have an increased risk of heart disease, scientists said on Friday, adding scientific weight to 19th century theories about oral health and chronic disease.

British researchers studied nearly 12,000 adults in Scotland and found those with poor oral hygiene had a 70 percent extra risk of heart disease compared with those who brushed twice a day and who were less likely to have unhealthy gums.

People with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes because inflammation in the body, including in the mouth and gums, plays a role in the build up of clogged arteries, said Richard Watt from University College London, who led the study.

The 70 percent extra risk compares to a 135 percent extra risk of heart disease in those who smoke, he said.

Although the overall risk was low -- with a total of 555 heart attacks or other serious coronary problems among 11,869 people -- the effect of regular teeth brushing was significant.

"Compared to things like smoking and poor diet, which are obviously the main risk factors for heart disease, we are not claiming this is in the same league," Watt said.

"But ... even after controlling for all those things there is a still a relationship between this very simple measure of tooth brushing and heart condition," he told Reuters.

Old Theories

"In a way, it's really quite an old story, because back in the early 19th century there was a theory called focal sepsis, and people believed that infections in the mouth caused disease in the whole body," Watt said.

"As a result, they used to take everyone's teeth out."

Watt said such a response was "a bit dramatic," but his findings did suggest that twice-a-day brushing was a good idea.

Gum or periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth and is more likely to occur in people who do not brush their teeth regularly.

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in Europe, the United States and many other rich nations and together with diabetes, accounted for almost a third of all deaths around the world in 2005, according to the World Health Organization.

The teeth brushing study published on Friday in the British Medical Journal was the first to investigate whether the simple number of times someone brushes their teeth daily has any bearing on the risk of heart disease.

The results showed oral health behaviors were generally good, with 62 percent of participants saying they visited the dentist every six months and 71 percent reporting they brushed their teeth twice a day.

Once the data were adjusted for other known heart risk factors such as social class, obesity, smoking and family history of heart disease, those who reported less frequent teeth brushing had a 70 percent extra risk of heart disease compared to those who brushed twice a day.

Blood tests on those with poor oral hygiene were also positive for two factors called C-reactive protein and fibrinogen -- both of which signal inflammation in the body.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

Soy trims postmenopausal fat, study suggests

 

By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) A small new study has found that taking soy supplements may help postmenopausal women slim down.

The effect, however, differed between African-Americans and whites: While white women lost more fat around their middles, black women showed greater overall reductions in body fat, researchers found.

Researchers have been interested in soy's potential for treating problems that affect women during and after menopause, from hot flashes to heart attack risk factors like high cholesterol. Because estrogen drops sharply when menstruation stops, the idea is that soy's estrogen-like properties could help with these symptoms. But studies have yielded conflicting results.

In the new study, Dr. Daniel R. Christie of the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham and colleagues used soy-stuffed shakes, which included 20 grams of soy protein and 160 milligrams of soy isoflavones, or placebo shakes containing a milk protein called casein. They assigned 16 African-American women and 17 white women to drink the shakes daily for three months.

X-rays found no difference in total body fat percentage between the soy and placebo groups after three months. But more precise computerized tomography (CT) scans did find a 7.5 percent less abdominal fat in women given soy, compared to 9 percent more of such fat in the placebo group.

Black women taking soy lost an average of 1.8 kilograms, or 4 pounds, while whites given soy put on 0.8 kilograms. But while white women lost visceral fat -the fat surrounding the organs in the abdominal cavity - black women gained it. Deep abdominal fat is believed to be particularly important in the risks of health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Whites also showed greater abdominal fat reductions, while blacks mainly lost total body fat.

While the reason for the racial difference in fat loss "is not clear," the study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology said, white women have more visceral fat to begin with and so have "more to lose in response to the treatment."

But another expert on soy and body composition who wasn't involved in the new study said that its size - just 33 patients - was too small to draw any conclusions about differences between ethnic groups. "It was also very short," Dr. Oksana A. Matvienko of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls told Reuters Health.

In her own research, published in February, Matvienko and her team looked at 229 postmenopausal women who took a placebo or soy isoflavone tablets (at 80- or 120-milligram doses) for a year. They found no difference in body composition between the active and placebo groups after 12 months.

Matvienko said that CT scans are more sensitive than the X-ray technique, which could explain why Christie and his colleagues saw abdominal fat changes that she and her colleagues did not. It's also not clear, she added, that these changes would be large enough to help improve the women's health.

One possible explanation for the new study's positive findings, Matvienko said, is that women took soy protein along with isoflavones; women in her study only took isoflavones.

Recognizing how short the study was, the authors write that "it is not clear if the effects of the soy supplement on abdominal fat reduction would persist if the supplement was continued."

Matvienko said more research is needed, but for now, "I wouldn't recommend taking soy supplements just for the sake of controlling body composition or body weight."

Source: http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378%2810%2900284-X/abstract

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, May 4, 2010 online 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

 

Fit People Release More Fat-Burning Molecules During Exercise

 

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay News

Thursday, May 27, 2010

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- A new study provides tantalizing clues about how exercise helps ward off heart disease and other ills: Fit people have more fat-burning molecules in their blood than less fit people after exercise.

And the very fittest are even more efficient, on a biochemical level, at generating fat-burning molecules that break down and burn up fats and sugars, the study reports.

A better understanding of these fat-burning molecules, called metabolites, may not only boost athletic performance, but help prevent or treat chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease by correcting metabolite deficiencies, the researchers said.

The study, apparently the first of its kind, takes a look at how regular exercise -- that is, fitness -- alters metabolism right down to the level of chemical changes in the blood.

"Every metabolic activity in the body results in the product of [fat-burning] metabolites," said senior study author Dr. Robert Gerszten, director of clinical and translational research at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. "A blood sample contains hundreds of these metabolites and can provide a snapshot of any individual's health status."

Previous studies had investigated changes in metabolites generated by exercise, but researchers were limited to viewing a few molecules at a time in hospital laboratories.

But in the new study, a technique developed by the MGH Heart Center in collaboration with MIT and Harvard allowed researchers to see the full spectrum of the fat-burning molecules in action. They used mass spectrometry -- which can analyze blood samples in minute detail -- to develop a "chemical snapshot" of the metabolic effects of exercise.

To trace the fat-burning molecules, the researchers took blood samples from healthy participants before, just following, and after an exercise stress test that was about 10 minutes long. Then they measured the blood levels of 200 different metabolites, which are released into the blood in tiny quantities.

Exercise resulted in changes to levels of more than 20 metabolites that were involved with the metabolism of sugar, fats, amino acids, along with the use of ATP, the primary source of cellular energy, according to the study.

After running on a treadmill for 10 minutes, people who were relatively more fit had a 98 percent increase in the breakdown of stored fat, sugar, and amino acids, while less-fit people had only a 48 percent increase.

The very fit had the biggest difference of all. Blood samples taken from 25 people before and after they ran the 2006 Boston Marathon found a 1,128 percent increase in some key metabolites.

It's unknown whether training boosts the ability of people to burn fat more efficiently, or if more fit people were genetically able to burn fat more efficiently, though it's likely some combination of the two, Gerszten said.

The researchers also found that exercise boosted levels of niacinamide, a vitamin derivative that enhances insulin release.

To investigate what biological mechanisms may be occurring, the researchers applied different combinations of metabolites to muscle cells in a lab. They found that a combination of five molecules shown to be elevated by exercise increased expression of "nur77" -- a gene that research has shown is involved with regulating blood sugar levels and lipid metabolism. The production of the nur77 gene also increased fivefold in the muscles of mice that had exercised for 30 minutes, according to the study.

The gene and its associated metabolites hint at new treatments for metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes, the researchers said.

Abundant research has shown that exercise is beneficial to health, from reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, to prolonging life, said Emmanuel Skordalakes, an assistant professor in the Gene Expression and Regulation Program at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

Yet researchers are still trying to understand the biological reasons that explain why exercise is good. Studies such as this provide "emerging evidence that begins to explain some of the biological processes and pathways that are regulated during exercise and which have a beneficial effect for us," Skordalakes said.

Even so, far more research has to be done before the research could have a practical application for human performance or illness, Skordalakes said.

"We can't just make these metabolites and gobble them down," Skordalakes said. "It's not as simple as that. These are very complex pathways and that has to be done very carefully."

The study was published in the May 26 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the benefits of exercise.

Experts Advise At-Risk Diabetics to Begin Daily Aspirin Later

 

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay News

Thursday, May 27, 2010

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Three major medical groups have pushed upwards the recommended age at which diabetics should start taking low-dose aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke.

According to a joint statement by the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology, only male diabetics over 50 and female diabetics over 60 who are at risk for a heart attack or stroke should be taking aspirin as a preventive.

"Previously, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended aspirin to prevent heart attacks and stroke in most people with diabetes over the age of 40," noted statement co-author Dr. M. Sue Kirkman, senior vice president for medical affairs and community information at the ADA. However, "more recent studies suggest that the benefits of aspirin are modest, and that aspirin likely would be best for people at very high risk of cardiovascular disease," she said.

The experts defined an "increased risk of cardiovascular disease" in this case as a 10 percent risk of experiencing a heart attack and/or stroke over the next 10 years.

That means that, "those adults with diabetes at increased risk include most men over age 50, and women over age 60, who have one or more of the following additional major risk factors: smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol or a family history of premature cardiovascular diseases," Kirkman explained.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes are at three times the increased risk of cardiovascular events compared with people without diabetes. Among diabetics over 65, it's estimated that 68 percent will die from heart disease and 16 percent from stroke.

On the other side of the equation, the major adverse effects of long-term aspirin use include intracranial bleeding, which can lead to hemorrhagic stroke, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Still, daily low-dose aspirin -- the study authors suggest 75 to 162 milligrams -- can have real benefits in preventing cardiovascular events, another expert said.

"Taking low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease is reasonable for adults with diabetes who are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and not at increased risk for bleeding," said the statement's senior author, Dr. Michael Pignone, chief of the general medicine division and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina.

"Aspirin should not be recommended for heart disease prevention in men and women at very low cardiovascular risk -- under 5 percent over 10 years," he added.

"People with diabetes should talk to their physicians about their cardiovascular risk and what they should be doing to try to reduce it to a manageable level," Pignone said. "This includes the decision about aspirin, but also blood pressure control, [cholesterol-lowering] statins, and smoking cessation."

The clarification of aspirin use among diabetics is being made because the evidence regarding the benefit of aspirin in preventing a first heart attack or stroke has been mixed, the experts said.

Most important, health care professionals should consider diabetic patients' absolute level of risk before recommending aspirin, Kirkman said.

"For those at relatively low risk, the risks of aspirin probably outweigh the potential benefits. For those at high risk, aspirin should be encouraged. The strong recommendation to use aspirin in patients with a history of cardiovascular events still stands," she said.

Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, professor of medicine and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed that aspirin has a place in diabetes care.

"Low-dose aspirin is reasonable for patients with diabetes at higher cardiovascular risk, optional for those at intermediate risk, and generally not recommended in those patients at low cardiovascular risk," he said.

Fonarow noted that even with these more limited recommendations, "there are many patients with diabetes who are high risk for cardiovascular events who are not receiving aspirin and other cardiovascular protective medications, such as statins, who could benefit from doing so, and who should consult with their physician."

Another expert, Dr. Joel Zonszein, from the Clinical Diabetes Center, Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said there's still a need for much stronger data on the issue.

For now, Zonszein recommends giving patients at risk 325 milligrams of aspirin, "even though we have no [good] data," he said. "For patients who may have more of a bleeding problem, I give them the baby aspirin, but this is very biased, because we don't have good data."

The statement is being published in three journals, Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Diabetes Care.

More information

For more information on aspirin, heart attack and stroke, visit the American Heart Association.

Vitamin K linked to lower diabetes risk

 

Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) People who get plenty of vitamin K from food may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who get less of the vitamin, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that among more than 38,000 Dutch adults they followed for a decade, those who got the most vitamin K in their diets were about 20 percent less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the study period.

The findings appear to be the first to show a relationship between vitamin K and diabetes risk, and do not prove that the vitamin is the reason for the lower risk, write the researchers, led by Dr. Joline W.J. Beulens of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Instead, they add, the results should fuel further research into whether vitamin K does play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

It's estimated that more than 23 million, or nearly 11 percent, of U.S. adults have type 2 diabetes. The most important risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes and race -- with black, Hispanic and Native Americans at higher risk than whites in the U.S. The extent to which specific nutrients in the diet might affect diabetes risk remains unclear.

Vitamin K exists in two natural forms: vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, found largely in green leafy vegetables, as well as some vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oils; and vitamin K2, or menaquinone, which people get mainly through meat, cheese and eggs.

In the current study, both vitamins K1 and K2 were related to a lower diabetes risk, but the relationship was stronger with vitamin K2.

The findings, reported in the journal Diabetes Care, are based on questionnaires from 38,094 men and women who were between the ages of 20 and 70 at the outset. Participants completed a detailed diet survey, from which each person's average vitamin K intake was estimated; they also answered questions on their overall health and lifestyle habits.

Over the next 10 years, 918 study participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, based on their medical records.

In general, Beulens and her colleagues found, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes dipped for every 10-microgram (mcg) increase in vitamin K2 intake. Overall, the one-quarter of participants with the highest intake were 20 percent less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than the one-quarter with the lowest intake.

With vitamin K1, no decreased risk was seen until consumption of the vitamin was relatively high. Similar to the findings with vitamin K2, the one-quarter of men and women who got the most vitamin K1 were 19 percent less likely to develop diabetes than the quarter with the lowest intake.

The researchers accounted for a number of other factors important in diabetes risk, including age, body weight and exercise habits. They also considered other dietary habits, like total calorie intake and consumption of certain other nutrients, like fat, fiber and vitamins C and E.

Still, higher vitamin K intake, itself, was linked to a lower diabetes risk.

Exactly why the vitamin might be protective is not known. However, Beulens and her colleagues note, there is evidence that vitamin K reduces systemic inflammation, which may improve the body's use of the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

More research, they say, is needed both to confirm these findings and to study the potential underlying reasons.

In the U.S., the recommended daily intake for vitamin K, in all forms, is 120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women. In this study, participants with the highest intakes typically consumed between 250 and 360 mcg of total vitamin K each day.

Source: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2010/04/23/dc09-2302.abstract?sid=069e131e-1884-40c2-a9ae-99be9067b607

Exercise Boosts Health of Cancer Patients

HealthDay News

Thursday, May 27, 2010

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) - Exercise during and after treatment improves quality of life and eases fatigue for patients battling either breast or prostate cancer, a new study finds.

"Using exercise as an approach to cancer care has the potential to benefit patients both physically and psychologically, as well as mitigate treatment side effects," study lead author Dr. Eleanor M. Walker, division director of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said in a statement.

Walker and colleagues created a program called ExCITE that encouraged 30 female breast cancer patients and 20 prostate cancer patients to collaborate on individualized exercise programs. The researchers followed the patients, aged 35 to 80, during their treatment and for a year afterward.

Before patients joined the exercise program, the hospital's cardiology division evaluated their skeletal muscle strength, endurance and capacity for exercise. Staff also examined patients' weight, overall health, and type of cancer treatment, as well as doing blood work, bone density screens, metabolic screenings and workups for inflammatory "markers."

"Exercise is a great alternative to patients combating fatigue and nausea who are considering using supplements which may interfere with medications and chemotherapy they're taking during cancer treatment," Walker concluded.

She is slated to present the study June 7 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on exercise and physical fitness.

Tanning beds raise melanoma risk, U.S. study finds

By Julie Steenhuysen

Reuters

Thursday, May 27, 2010

CHICAGO (Reuters) Indoor tanning beds sharply increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, and the risk increases over time, U.S. researchers said on Thursday, and others experts called for tighter regulation.

They said people who use any type of tanning bed for any amount of time are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and frequent users are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to develop the skin cancer than people who never use them.

The study confirms prior research linking indoor tanning beds with melanoma, and answers any lingering questions about whether the practice is safe, or if the risk depends on the type of tanning bed used.

"We found that it didn't matter the type of tanning device used; there was no safe tanning device," said DeAnn Lazovich of the University of Minnesota, whose study appeared in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Studies had suggested younger people were at greater risk, but Lazovich said the risk rises with frequency of use, regardless of age, gender or the device used.

"The increased risks we have reported are the risks associated with indoor tanning above and beyond any other known risk factors for melanoma," Lazovich said in a telephone briefing.

Stronger Regulation

Dr. Allan Halpern, chief of dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the briefing that melanoma cases are on the rise in the United States and the findings strengthen the case for regulating tanning beds.

He said the World Health Organization already classifies tanning beds as a human carcinogen, but in the United States, tanning beds are considered a class 1 medical device -- "which is the equivalent of tongue depressors," he said.

The FDA has been reconsidering this classification and on Wednesday the agency released a video saying the use of any ultraviolet or UV-emitting device for the purpose of tanning should be avoided.

"I'm hopeful it will be very helpful in the hands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move forward to regulate this industry," said Halpern, who was not involved in the research.

For the study, Lazovich and colleagues studied 1,167 people diagnosed with melanoma and compared them with 1,101 people who did not have melanoma.

The team asked people which type of tanning bed they had used -- those that emit UVA radiation or UVB radiation.

They found that melanoma risk was about 3 times greater among people who had used tanning beds that emit UVB rays and 4.4 times greater for UVA-emitting devices.

They also found that risk increased with use.

They defined frequent use as people who used indoor tanning for more than 50 hours, or more than 100 sessions, or for more than 10 years.

"Most reports were not able to adjust for sun exposure, confirm a dose-response, or examine specific tanning devices," Lazovich said. "Our population-based, case-control study was conducted to address these limitations."

Melanoma accounts for about 3 percent of skin cancer cases but causes most skin cancer deaths, and doctors have few effective treatments to offer once the disease has spread.

According to the American Cancer Society, 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009, and 8,650 died of it.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

Rheumatoid Arthritis Incidence on the Rise in Women

 

ScienceDaily

Thursday, May 27, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 27, 2010) The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in women has risen during the period of 1995 to 2007, according to a newly published study by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. This rise in RA follows a 4-decade period of decline and study authors speculate environmental factors such as cigarette smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and lower dose synthetic estrogens in oral contraceptives may be the source of the increase.

 

Details of the study which includes more than 50 years of RA epidemiology data appear in the June issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

 

Between 1 and 2 million Americans suffer the effects of RA, a chronic inflammatory disease that targets joints and which contributes to work-related disability, increased morbidity, and shortened survival. Up to one-half of all RA patients become unable to work within 10-20 years of follow-up and those with the disease have a 60% to 70% higher mortality risk than those in the general population. Furthermore, studies show that RA treatments alone account for $9 billion in excess health care costs with direct and indirect costs expected to exceed $39 billion annually.

 

The current study, led by Sherine Gabriel, M.D., M.Sc., expanded on prior research (1955-1994) from the Mayo Clinic team, by determining RA incidence and prevalence between 1995 and 2007. Researchers screened medical record of 1,761 Olmsted County, Minnesota residents 18 years and older who had received 1 or more diagnoses of arthritis (excluding degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis). After thorough review of all medical records, a diagnosis of RA was made in 466 patients whose mean age at RA incidence was 55.6 years, with 321 females (69%) in the study cohort.

 

"We observed a modest increase of RA incidence in women during the study period, which followed a sharp decline in incidence during the previous 4 decades," said Dr. Gabriel. Results show that RA incidence in women increased by 2.5% per year from 1995 to 2007, while a decrease of 0.5% was noted for men.

 

Researchers did not find a disproportionate increase in RA incidence in any particular age group over the study period. "As expected we found an increase in RA prevalence during the same time period," added Dr. Gabriel. The overall age- and sex-adjusted prevalence of RA increased from 0.62% in 1995 to 0.72% in 2005.

Prior studies have clearly demonstrated that cigarette smoking is associated with a greater risk for RA development in both sexes. While smoking rates in the U.S. are declining, the rate is significantly slower in women than men, which researchers believe may, in part, explain the modest increase of RA incidence in women. Researchers also note that lower doses of estrogens found in modern oral contraceptives offer less protection against RA development then at the previously higher doses found in older medications, which they suspect may contribute to the increased RA incidence among women. Furthermore, several studies have shown vitamin D deficiency to be associated with RA development and coupled with evidence that this deficiency, particularly in women, has risen over the past decades the Mayo team considered it a possible contributor to the upward trend in RA.

 

In an editorial also published in this month's issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dr. Ted Mikuls of the University of Nebraska Medical Center remarked, "Public health measures are already under way to address many of the environmental risk factors that have been implicated in RA risk, including interventions that encourage smoking cessation and efforts focused at optimizing levels of physical activity, vitamin D intake, and oral hygiene."

Dr. Gabriel concluded, "Reasons for the increase in incidence we found are unknown, but environmental factors likely play a role and should be further explored."

Journal Reference:

Elena Myasoedova, Cynthia S. Crowson, Hilal Maradit Kremers, Terry M. Therneau, Sherine E. Gabriel. Is the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis rising? Results from olmsted county, minnesota, 1955-2007. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2010; DOI: 10.1002/art.27425

Diabetes Care, online April 27, 2010.

Should some kids take fish oil supplements?

 

By Lynne Peeples

Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Fish oil supplements could lower blood pressure in slightly overweight teenage kids, a new study suggests, and their hearts may reap the benefits years later.

"Starting with a healthy diet and keeping it throughout life may provide better protection than waiting until later when you are more at risk," senior researcher Dr. Lotte Lauritzen of Copenhagen University in Denmark noted in an email to Reuters Health.

Fish oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure in adults with high blood pressure and to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. Lauritzen and colleagues wondered if fish oil's benefits might be seen during the rapid growth period of adolescence.

She and her team recruited about 80 slightly overweight Danish boys between the ages of 13 and 15, and randomly divided them into two groups: one received daily doses of fish oil (1.5 grams, or as much as one and a half soft gels) and the other equivalent amounts of vegetable oil (the placebo). The oils were infused in bread, masking any fishy taste and blinding the kids to their assigned group.

After the 16-week study, the researchers noted that the kids consuming fish oil-laced bread had 3.8 mm Hg lower systolic pressure (the top reading) and 2.6 mm Hg lower diastolic pressure (the bottom reading), compared to the placebo group.

In adults, a drop in blood pressure of 3 mm Hg corresponds to at least a 15 percent reduction in the risk of stroke, they point out.

Blood pressure in early life has been shown to track into adulthood, with children and adolescents with high blood pressure more likely to suffer from high blood pressure later in life. This happens either by diet and exercise habits carried over time, or a "programing" that takes place in the body, the researchers explain in The Journal of Pediatrics. Most of the boys in the current study had blood pressure within the normal range.

The researchers also evaluated other heart disease risk factors, including blood sugar levels, insulin and cholesterol. While they found a slight change in HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and non-HDL cholesterol -- both were higher in the fish oil group -- no other differences emerged.

"I don't think that the fact that the other were not significant means that fish oil doesn't benefit them," Natalie Riediger, a PhD student at the University of Manitoba in Canada and lead researcher on a recent review of fish oil's role in health and disease, told Reuters Health in an email.

Riediger explains that the study used a more "realistic" dose of fish oil than studies that may have found changes in more risk factors. "I don't think it's practical for people to consume 10 capsules per day as described in other studies," she said.

Also, the vegetable oil used in the placebo bread contained a small amount of the same heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that were in the fish oil, which may have weakened the resulting differences between the two groups.

Regardless, the influence on blood pressure alone may confirm Lauritzen's hunch: cardiovascular function is susceptible to fish oil's effects during growth spurts. "There's something going on," she said. "And more research is needed."

Her advice for now: "Give children good food habits early, including a taste for fish."

Source: http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476%2810%2900301-X/abstract

The Journal of Pediatrics, online May 17, 2010.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

 

 

Shark Cartilage Not Beneficial in Advanced Lung Cancer

 

HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- A drug derived from shark cartilage failed to improve survival in patients with advanced lung cancer, researchers report.

The disappointing results, which came in the final stage of testing, showed that the drug didn't help extend the life spans of patients with inoperable stage III non-small cell lung cancer.

Scientists have been testing drugs derived from shark cartilage because it appears to prevent blood vessels from growing around tumors. The hope is that the drugs will prevent cancer cells from being fed by blood, which allows them to grow.

Researchers led by Dr. Charles Lu, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, tested the specific drug in question, known as AE-941, on patients in the United States and Canada.

In the study, published online May 26 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a total of 379 patients with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer were treated with chemoradiotherapy and either AE-941 or an inactive placebo.

There was no significant difference in outcome between the two groups in terms of overall survival, or in length of time before the disease progressed, the researchers found.

The study authors noted that the study's impetus was "the widespread use of poorly regulated complementary and alternative medicine products, such as shark cartilage-derived agents, among patients with advanced cancer, a population likely to be vulnerable to unsubstantiated marketing claims."

More information

For more on lung cancer, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

 

Bisphenol A and Other Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Pose Cancer Risk, Study Suggests

 

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 26, 2010) Longtime environmental health researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine describe the carcinogenic effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), ubiquitous chemicals that have hormone-like effects in the body. In a review article published online May 25 in Nature Reviews Endocrinology, the researchers express the need for more complex strategies for studying how these chemicals affect health but report that ample evidence already supports changing public health and environmental policies to protect the public from exposure to EDCs.

 

"The strength and breadth of existing research on the negative effects of EDCs, including bisphenol A, warrants immediate action to reduce EDC exposure, particularly among the developing fetus and women of reproductive age," said author Carlos Sonnenschein, MD, professor in the department of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM).

 

"Developing embryos 'read' environmental cues as a forecast of the outside world. These cues can affect the way certain genes are expressed and in this way alter the structure and function of organs. Studies in rodents show that EDCs can cause harm at much lower levels if exposure happens during organ formation as opposed to exposures during adulthood," said author Ana Soto, MD, professor in the department of anatomy and cellular biology at TUSM.

 

"The evidence indicates that exposure to BPA and other EDCs may contribute to diseases that manifest during adult life, such as increased cancer rates in the industrialized world. These chemicals have also been linked to obesity, altered behavior, and infertility," continued Soto.

 

The researchers drew several key points from the body of observational, epidemiological, and animal research examining EDCs, emphasizing that embryos display an increased sensitivity to the chemicals. In particular, Soto and Sonnenschein focused on bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical they have spent 15 years investigating. BPA, which is found in plastic bottles, reusable food containers, and food cans, is ubiquitous in industrialized nations and is linked to cancer.

 

"EDCs act additively and their effects are dependent upon exposure and context, making them inherently complex to study. New mathematical modeling tools and computer simulations will provide a more precise understanding of how these chemicals interact with each other and within the body at different stages of life. That said, we already have ample evidence supporting policies that reduce exposure to EDCs, and we recommend rapid action to diminish these harmful environmental exposures," said Sonnenschein.

 

In previous animal studies, Soto and Sonnenschein observed that exposure to even trace levels of BPA can increase cancer risk in adulthood. The pair also collaborated in proposing the tissue organization field theory of carcinogenesis and metastasis as an alternative to the currently-held somatic mutation theory, arguing that cancer is a tissue-based disease rather than a cell-based disease as proposed by the somatic mutation theory of carcinogenesis. Both authors are also members of the cell, molecular and developmental biology program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

 

This work was supported by grants from The Parsemus Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Journal Reference:

Soto AM, Sonnenschein C. Environmental causes of cancer: endocrine disruptors as carcinogens. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, May 25, 2010 DOI: 10.1038/nrendo.2010.87

 

Osteoarthritis Claims Growing Number of Younger Victims

 

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Osteoarthritis used to be thought of as an older person's condition.

The joint disease occurs over time as the cartilage between bones breaks down and wears away, allowing the bones to rub together and causing pain, swelling and loss of motion.

"If you live long enough, it's like death and taxes -- you will likely get osteoarthritis," said Dr. Todd Stitik, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

But these days, doctors have been seeing osteoarthritis more frequently in younger people, particularly osteoarthritis of the knee joints. Researchers are trying to figure out why.

The most promising avenues of study have tied early onset knee osteoarthritis to serious knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

One study found that impact-related ligament tears inside the knee can play havoc on the surrounding cartilage cells. Impacts that were hard enough to tear ligaments but not fracture bone or cartilage still caused cartilage cells to die off in a cascade that reached well away from the impact zone.

"If you have injury to the cartilage, that can weaken the cartilage and make it less durable over time," said the study's lead author, Dr. Constance R. Chu, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and director of its Cartilage Restoration Center. "What we're looking at is an impact injury that wasn't sufficient to fracture the cartilage, but I still would consider it a major impact."

The damage done to the cartilage cells by that type of injury would be invisible on a typical MRI scan, Chu said. Nonetheless, she guessed that about half of the people who sustain an ACL tear could develop osteoarthritis within five to 10 years. The findings were reported in the December issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Most early onset osteoarthritis appears to be tied to exercise and sports. People are playing harder at younger ages and potentially doing themselves harm by not protecting their joints.

Another study, this one presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, found that people engaged in high levels of physical activity sustained more severe knee injuries, including such damage as fluid buildup in bone marrow and lesions on their cartilage and ligaments. Such injuries drastically increase the chances of developing osteoarthritis, according to the researchers.

Stitik cited as an example a college student he treated. She was in her early 20s, had been doing a lot of exercises, such as squats and lunges, that are hard on the knees, and she had been doing them improperly, he said.

"An MRI showed arthritic changes already taking place under her kneecap," Stitik said. "She was doing exercises improperly and was overdoing it. She was with a personal trainer and also exercising on her own -- just doing too much."

However, Chu suspects there also is a connection between early onset osteoarthritis and the growing obesity epidemic.

"If someone is overweight or obese, they put more stress on cartilage that has been weakened by injury," she said. "It is chronic overload [and] a very likely cause of osteoarthritis."

People who injure a knee should approach their recovery with great care if they want to reduce their chances of osteoarthritis, Chu said.

"Give the joint some time to recover," she said. "How long, we don't really know -- but for sure until any pain or swelling goes away. Then they should gradually return to their activity."

Active adults can better protect their knees from injury by strengthening their thigh and leg muscles through exercise, Chu said. These muscles provide crucial support to the knee joint. People also should be careful about the amount of high-impact exercise they do and should try to drop some pounds if they are overweight, she said.

"I actually advise my patients that the same types of things we think are good for their heart -- regular exercise, eating well -- are likely to be the healthiest for their joints as well," she said. "We can't control our genetics. Some people are literally born with tougher cartilage. It's the lifestyle factors that are under people's control that absolutely factor into whether a joint injury translates into early osteoarthritis. There are things people can do to reduce their chances of having terrible knees at a very, very young age."

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more on osteoarthritis.

Report: Trans fat limits lead to healthier foods

 

By Alicia Chang

AP Science Writer

The Associated Press

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LOS ANGELES Holy fish sticks! Scientists finally have some good news about fat in our foods.

Contrary to fears, most food manufacturers and restaurants did not just swap one bad ingredient for another when they trimmed artery-clogging trans fats from products and menus, an analysis finds.

Even the french fry, a longtime dietary scourge, got a healthier remake. But there's still room for improvement, particularly for some items sold in supermarkets, which replaced heart-damaging trans fat with its unhealthy cousin, saturated fat.

A Harvard researcher and a consumer advocacy group examined 83 foods that had a makeover since 2006. That year the federal government began requiring food labels to list the amount of trans fat in packaged products and New York City became the first of several cities to phase them out in restaurants.

Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to harden them for baking or to extend shelf life. With trans fat under attack, food makers and restaurants tinkered with various cooking oil and fat substitutes, trying not to compromise taste and texture. But how healthy are the reincarnations?

Harvard researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and the Center for Science in the Public Interest checked grocery products and restaurant chow for fat content. Items studied included margarine, junk food, baked goods and fast food from five popular chains.

The researchers did not do their own chemical testing, but instead used Food and Drug Administration databases, nutrition labels and industry brochures to determine trans fat and saturated fat levels.

Results were published in a letter in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Nearly all of the foods analyzed were free or mostly free of trans fat. And many companies and restaurants did not spike their saturated fat content when they cut trans fat 65 percent of supermarket products and 90 percent of restaurant fare contained saturated fat levels that were lower, unchanged or only slightly higher than before.

"Companies almost always can reformulate their food to have a healthier balance of fats," said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson.

The researchers declined to provide details about the winners and sinners because they said they plan to publish the full results later. But they gave three examples:

Large order of McDonald's french fries: Trans fat dropped from 7 1/4 grams to zero; saturated fat went from 5 1/2 grams to 3 1/2 grams.

Gorton's Crunchy Golden Fish Sticks: 3 grams of trans fat per serving to zero; saturated fat unchanged at 4 grams. The package lists six sticks per serving.

An Entenmann's Rich Frosted Donut: 5 grams of trans fat to zero; saturated fat more than doubled from 5 grams to 13 grams.

Just because trans fat is gone from gluttonous foods doesn't mean they're healthy, said Dr. David Heber, who heads the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

"Trans fat or not, a doughnut is still a doughnut. Even Homer Simpson will back me up on that," said Heber, who had no connection with the research.

The American Heart Association recommends that people limit trans fats to less than 2 grams per day and less than 16 grams of saturated fat, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

The report was funded by two foundations. CSPI, which made headlines as the "food police" targeting movie theater popcorn and fettuccine Alfredo, has pushed for government restrictions on trans fat.

Online:

New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org

Many Supplements Said to Contain Toxins, Make False Health Claims

 

HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- A Congressional investigation of dietary herbal supplements has found trace amounts of lead, mercury and other heavy metals in nearly all products tested, plus myriad illegal health claims made by supplement manufacturers, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The levels of heavy metal contaminants did not exceed established limits, but investigators also discovered troubling and possibly unacceptable levels of pesticide residue in 16 of 40 supplements, the newspaper said.

One ginkgo biloba product had labeling claiming it could treat Alzheimer's disease (no effective treatment yet exists), while a product containing ginseng asserted that it can prevent both diabetes and cancer, the report said.

Steve Mister, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group that represents the dietary supplement industry, said it was not surprising that herbal supplements contained trace amounts of heavy metals, because they are routinely found in soil and plants. "I dont think this should be of concern to consumers," he told the Times.

The report findings were to be presented to the Senate on Wednesday, two weeks before discussion begins on a major food safety bill that will likely place more controls on food manufacturers, the Times said. The newspaper said it was given the report in advance of the Senate hearing.

How tough the bill will be on supplement makers has been the subject of much lobbying, but the Times noted that some Congressional staff members doubt manufacturers will find it too burdensome.

At least nine misleading health claims were noted in the report, which was prepared by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). These claims included assurances that the products could cure diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and cancer, investigators said. In one instance, a salesperson claimed that a garlic supplement could replace blood pressure drugs, the Times reported.

Products that purport to treat or relieve disease must go through strict reviews because they are considered drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The oversight of supplements has improved in recent years, said Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), who will preside over Wednesday's hearing. However, the FDA needs the authority and tools to ensure that dietary supplements are as safe and effective as is widely perceived by the Americans who take them, he told the Times.

One witness scheduled to testify, Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, said supplements with too little of the indicated ingredients and those contaminated with heavy metals are the major problems. In testing more than 2,000 dietary supplements from some 300 manufacturers, his lab has found that one in four has quality problems, the Times said.

According to the newspaper's account, the proposed food safety bill could require that supplement manufacturers register annually with the FDA and permit the agency to recall potentially dangerous supplements.

It's estimated that half of adult Americans take vitamin supplements regularly, and about a quarter take herbal supplements at least occasionally. Annual sales are about $25 billion a year, the Times said.

More information

There's more on the oversight of dietary supplements at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

 

Menus still calorie-laden despite new laws: group

By Maggie Fox

Health and Science Editor

Reuters

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Laws requiring U.S. restaurant chains to list calorie counts have not stopped them from offering unhealthy meals that pack in calories, fat and salt, a group that encourages healthy food said on Tuesday.

A pancake breakfast providing 1,380 calories, a single-serve pizza that packs two days' worth of sodium and a pasta dish swimming in four day's worth of fat top a list published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The group, which "outs" the calorie, fat and sodium counts of America's favorite foods every year, said it looked for evidence that restaurants are trimming back their offerings in the face of new laws and political pressure.

They found little.

"One might think that chains like Outback Steakhouse and The Cheesecake Factory might want to lighten up their meals now that calories will be required on their menus, courtesy of the health care reform law signed in March," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the non-profit CSPI said.

"But these chains don't promote moderation. They practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth," he said in a statement.

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

Michelle Obama Helps Cause

President Barack Obama has appointed his wife Michelle Obama to head a panel fighting childhood obesity. Local governments from New York to California have limited trans-fats and required restaurant chains to list calories on the menu.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine says the average American needs about 2,000 calories a day, 1,500 mg of salt and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat. Most get far more than this.

The food and restaurant industry has been lobbying for self-regulation, arguing that Americans need to control their own eating habits. But the Institute of Medicine says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should start regulating the food industry to help remove salt from food.

New York City, which has banned smoking and artificial trans-fats in restaurants, has pledged to coordinate a nationwide effort to reduce salt in restaurant and packaged foods by 25 percent over five years.

U.S. healthcare reform legislation passed in March requires large chain restaurants to give calorie counts on menus.

Pancakes With Fat

Some of the meals listed by the CSPI:

* Bob Evans' Cinnamon Cream Stacked & Stuffed Hotcakes has 1,380 calories and 34 grams of saturated fat or "about what you'd get in two country-fried steaks and four eggs", the CSPI said.

* California Pizza Kitchen's Tostada Pizza with Grilled Steak has with 1,680 calories, 32 grams of saturated fat, and 3,300 mg of sodium.

* Five Guys' Bacon Cheeseburger has 920 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat. Its large French fries has 1,460 calories "about triple the calories of a large order of fries at McDonald's," the CSPI said.

* P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo has 1,820 calories and 7,690 milligrams of salt.

* The Cheesecake Factory's Pasta Carbonara with Chicken has 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat.

(Editing by David Storey)

Moderate Drinking May Protect Brain From Alzheimer's

 

HealthDay News

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate drinking may help protect against the onset of Alzheimer's disease among otherwise healthy people, a new Spanish study suggests.

Women who don't smoke appear to gain the most benefit from alcohol consumption, according to the research team, from the University of Valencia, the Valencia government and the Municipal Institute of Medical Investigation in Barcelona.

"Our results suggest a protective effect of alcohol consumption, mostly in non-smokers, and the need to consider interactions between tobacco and alcohol consumption, as well as interactions with gender, when assessing the effects of smoking and/or drinking on the risk of Alzheimer's disease," the study's lead author, Ana M. Garcia, from the University of Valencia's department of preventive medicine and public health, said in a news release.

"Interactive effects of smoking and drinking are supported by the fact that both alcohol and tobacco affect brain neuronal receptors," Garcia explained.

The findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, are gleaned from a comparative analysis of both the medical background and the smoking and drinking habits among people with Alzheimer's disease stacked up against a group of healthy individuals.

Both groups were similar in age and in gender breakdown.

Smoking appeared to have no impact on Alzheimer's risk, the authors found. However, moderate drinking did seem to reduce risk for the disease, particularly among non-smoking women.

More information

For more on Alzheimer's disease risk, visit the Alzheimer's Association. 

Blood pressure control up in U.S.; many still suffer

 

By Julie Steenhuysen

Reuters

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CHICAGO (Reuters) About half of the 65 million people in the United States who have high blood pressure now have it under control, up from 27 percent two decades ago, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

But the overall rate of Americans who have high blood pressure has not changed in recent years, reflecting the need for better prevention efforts, they wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Institute of Medicine earlier this year declared high blood pressure, or hypertension, a "neglected disease" that costs the U.S. health system $73 billion a year.

High blood pressure, or too much force exerted by blood as it moves against vessel walls, is easily preventable through diet, exercise and drugs, yet it is the second-leading cause of death in the United States.

The IOM, one of the National Academies of Sciences, urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt added to foods to help Americans cut their high sodium intake, which can lead to high blood pressure, kidney failure and strokes.

Dr. Brent Egan of the Medical University of South Carolina and colleagues studied changes in hypertension rates, awareness, treatment and control among nearly 43,000 U.S. adults over two periods -- 1988-1994 and 1999-2008.

People in the group reported whether they were taking blood pressure control medications.

The team defined high blood pressure as being at least 140 for the systolic or top reading, and 90 for diastolic or lower the lower reading. Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120 over 80 or lower.

Between the two periods, the team saw a steady improvement among people who were able to get their hypertension under control, rising from 27.3 percent in the first period to 51.1 percent in the period ending in 2008.

These improvements reflected increased awareness of the need to control blood pressure and a greater proportion of people who were taking medications to keep their blood pressure in check.

They found rates of high blood pressure increased from 23.9 percent in 1988-1994 to 28.5 percent in 1999-2000, and that figure had not changed by the end of the 2007-2008 period.

And while the proportion of white people with high blood pressure fell slightly, there was no change in the number of blacks and a slight increase in the number of Hispanics with the condition.

Dr. Aram Chobanian of Boston University Medical Center said in a commentary that while the gains in treatment are encouraging, many challenges remain.

He said rates of high blood pressure will likely rise as the population ages unless steps are taken to change some of the underlying causes of high blood pressure.

Risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and high cholesterol also can raise one's risk.

"In the long run, the far superior approach to controlling hypertension and cardiovascular diseases will be prevention rather than treatment," Chobanian wrote.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

Bacteria May Predict Chances of Colon Cancer

 

HealthDay News

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that germs living in your gut could affect your risk of developing colon cancer.

The findings suggest that signs of the existence of some germs "are more frequently detected in subjects with polyps, early lesions that can develop into cancer, while other bacterial signatures are less frequently observed in such individuals," Tyler Culpepper, a University of Florida researcher, said in a news release.

Culpepper and colleagues studied 91 patients and took biopsy samples from their colons. They analyzed the bacteria in 30 people who had at least one polyp and 30 people who didn't but were of similar age and gender.

Researchers found some bacterial signatures only in those who had polyps and others only in those who didn't. Others were more common in one group or the other.

The findings suggest that future screening tests could aim to detect signs of trouble in the colon by measuring bacteria levels, Culpepper said.

The findings were scheduled to be released Tuesday at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting in San Diego.

More information

For more on colon cancer, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Drinking alcohol can lower chance of diabetes: study

 

Reuters

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) Healthy adults who drink one to two glasses of alcohol per day have a smaller chance of developing one form of diabetes than those who abstain from alcohol, according to Dutch research published on Tuesday.

The 10-year study of 35,000 adults, carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment and Dutch medical and scientific centers, focused on Type 2 diabetes, The 10-year study of 35,000 adults, carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment and Dutch medical and scientific centers, focused on Type 2 diabetes, Results showed that people who consumed alcohol moderately and met at least three of four conditions of a healthy lifestyle, had 40 percent less chance of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who abstained from alcohol completely.

Following adults between the ages of 20 and 70, the study defined moderate alcohol consumption as a maximum of one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men.

The four conditions of a healthy lifestyle were defined as obesity prevention, adequate exercise, not smoking and a balanced diet.

"The results of the investigation show that moderate alcohol consumption can play a part in a health lifestyle to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes type 2," scientific research group TNO, which helped carry out the analysis, said in a statement.

Type 2 diabetes, which is often caused by obesity, is the most common form of the disease that occurs when blood sugar levels are abnormally high, and affects more than 180 million adults worldwide.

This form of diabetes, which currently requires daily treatment, can lead to cardiovascular diseases, stroke, blindness, amputations and kidney failure if not controlled.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby)

Folate Prevents Alcohol-Induced Congenital Heart Defects in Mice, Study Finds

 

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 25, 2010) A new animal study has found that high levels of the B-vitamin folate (folic acid) prevented heart birth defects induced by alcohol exposure in early pregnancy, a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome.

 

Researchers at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and All Children's Hospital report that the protection was afforded only when folate was administered very early in pregnancy and before the alcohol exposure. The dose that best protected against heart defects in mice was considerably higher than the current dietary recommendation of 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily for women of child-bearing age.

 

The findings were published online earlier this month in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

While more research is needed, the study has implications for re-evaluating folate supplementation levels during early pregnancy, said principal investigator Kersti Linask, PhD, the Mason Professor of Cardiovascular Development at USF and Children's Research Institute/All Children's Hospital.

 

"Congenital heart defects can occur in the developing embryo at a time when women typically do not even know they are pregnant -- 16 to 18 days following conception. They may have been drinking alcohol or using prescription drugs without realizing this could be affecting embryonic development," Dr. Linask said.

"We found that we could prevent alcohol-associated defects from arising in the mice -- provided folate was given in relatively high concentrations very early in pregnancy around conception."

 

In the USF study, two randomly assigned groups of pregnant mice were fed diets supplemented by folate in adjusted doses known from epidemiological studies to rescue human embryos from craniofacial birth defects. From the day after conception, one group received a high dose of folate supplementation (10.5 milligrams/kilogram) and the second received a moderate dose (6.2 mg/kg). A third control group ate a normal folate-supplemented diet (3.3 mg/kg) determined to maintain the general health of the pregnant mice, but not to rescue embryos from birth defects.

 

During the first week of pregnancy, the mice in all three groups were then administered injections of alcohol simulating a single binge drinking event in humans.

 

Following this alcohol exposure, Doppler ultrasound confirmed that 87 percent of the embryos of pregnant mice in the third group -- those not receiving folate supplementation beyond what was present in their normal diets -- had developed heart valve defects. The affected embryos were also smaller in size and their heart muscle walls appeared thinner.

 

Between days 15 and 16 of pregnancy in the mice -- equal to 56 days of gestation in humans -- ultrasound also showed that the high-folate diet protected heart valve development against lasting defects and restored heart function and embryonic size to near-normal levels. The moderate-folate diet provided only partial protection; in this group 58 percent of the mouse embryos developed heart valves that functioned abnormally, with a back flow of blood.

 

The researchers suggest that folate fortification may be most effective at preventing heart birth defects when administered at significantly higher levels than the doses currently recommended to prevent pregnancy complications -- both in normal women (0.4 milligrams recommended daily) and even in women who have delivered an infant with a spinal birth defect (4 milligrams daily). Although higher folate levels did not cause adverse side effects in the pregnant mice, Dr. Linask notes, the safety and effectiveness of higher doses must be proven with human trials.

 

The heart is the first organ to form and function during embryonic development of vertebrates. The USF researchers suggest that folate supplementation thwarts alcohol's damaging effect on an important early signaling pathway that plays a vital role in early heart development and subsequently in valve formation.

 

Other authors of the study were Maria Serrano, MD (first author currently conducting pediatric residency at the University of Florida), and Mingda Han, MD, and Pilar Brinez, MD, both at USF and Children's Research Institute/All Children's Hospital.

Journal Reference:

Maria Serrano, Mingda Han, Pilar Brinez, Kersti K. Linask. Fetal alcohol syndrome: cardiac birth defects in mice and prevention with folate. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2010.03.017


Monday, May 24, 2010

 

Study links viral infection to juvenile diabetes

 

By Kate Kelland

Reuters

Monday, May 24, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) Italian scientists have found a significant link between juvenile diabetes and a common virus that usually only causes a mild infection -- a discovery that may give clues as to what triggers the disease.

In a small study of 112 children with juvenile diabetes, Antonio Toniolo of the University of Insubria in Varese, Italy, found that more than 80 percent had evidence of enterovirus infection in their blood.

Enteroviruses are viruses that can thrive in the gastrointestinal tract.

They are very common -- second only to common cold viruses -- and most people who are infected with an enterovirus have no obvious illness. Others have flu-like symptoms, aching muscles or a rash and some severe viruses attack the nervous system.

Toniolo stressed that the results did not show a causal link between enteroviruses and diabetes, but said the discovery was in tune with previous studies which have suggested enterovirus infections may be associated with diabetes.

"Infection by different enteroviruses may be linked to the early stages of diabetes," he said.

Juvenile diabetes, also called Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys its own ability to make insulin. It affects around 22 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease develops in people who are genetically susceptible to it and scientists think exposure to some as yet unknown trigger or triggers may be what sets it off.

Toniolo and colleagues tested the blood of 112 children aged between 2 and 16 years at the time they were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes to see if it contained enteroviral DNA.

The scientists compared their blood with that of children without diabetes. They found low-level enteroviral infectivity in 83 percent of the diabetes patients, compared with 7 percent of children with no diabetes.

"These data do not provide a causal relationship between enterovirus infections and diabetes," Toniolo said in a statement with the study, which was presented at a conference of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego, California.

"However, the high prevalence of enteroviral genome sequences in newly diagnosed type-1 diabetes cases indicate that different enterovirus types represent a significant biomarker of early stage juvenile diabetes," Toniolo added.

Sufferers of Type 1 diabetes become unable to properly break down sugar. If the disease is untreated, blood vessels and nerves are destroyed, organs fail and patients die.

Toniolo said if similar results were found in studies of patients in other geographic areas, it would suggest that detecting enteroviruses early may help researchers find other environmental factors that lead to type-1 diabetes. This in turn could lead to new ways of preventing or treating the disease.

(Editing by Michael Taylor)

Anti-Aging Supplements May Be Best Taken Not Too Late in Life

 

ScienceDaily

Monday, May 24, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2010) Anti-aging supplements made up of mixtures might be better than single compounds at preventing decline in physical function, according to researchers at the University of Florida's Institute on Aging. In addition, it appears that such so-called neutraceuticals should be taken before very old age for benefits such as improvement in physical function.

 

The findings from rat studies, published in the journal PLoS ONE, have implications for how dietary supplementation can be used effectively in humans.

 

"I think it is important for people to focus on good nutrition, but for those of advanced age who are running out of energy and not moving much, we're trying to find a supplement mixture that can help improve their quality of life," said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., senior author of the paper and chief of the biology of aging division in the UF College of Medicine.

 

Scientists do not fully understand all the processes that lead to loss of function as people age. But more and more research points to the mitochondrial free radical theory of aging, that as people age, oxidative damage piles up in individual cells such that the energy-generation system inside some cells stops working properly.

 

To address that problem, many anti-aging studies and supplements are geared toward reducing the effects of free radicals.

 

The UF researchers investigated the potential anti-aging benefits of a commercially available mixture marketed for relieving chronic fatigue and protecting against muscle aging. The supplement contains the antioxidant coenzyme Q10, creatine -- a compound that aids muscle performance -- and ginseng, which also has been shown to have antioxidant properties.

 

The study gauged the effects of the mixture on physical performance as well as on two mechanisms that underlie the aging process and many age-related disorders: dysfunction of the cells' energy producing powerhouses, known as mitochondria, and oxidative stress.

 

The researchers fed the supplement to middle-aged 21-month-old and late-middle-aged 29-month-old rats -- corresponding to 50- to 65-year-old and 65- to 80-year-old humans, respectively -- for six weeks, and measured how strongly their paws could grip. Grip strength in rats is analogous to physical performance in humans, and deterioration in grip strength can provide useful information about muscle weakness or loss seen in older adults.

 

Grip strength improved 12 percent in the middle-aged rats compared with controls, but no improvement was found in the older group.

 

Measurements of the function of mitochondria corresponded with the grip strength findings. Stress tests showed that mitochondrial function improved 66 percent compared with controls in middle-aged rats but not in the older ones. That suggests that supplementation might be of greater effect before major age-related functional and other declines have set in, the researchers said.

 

"It is possible that there is a window during which these compounds will work, and if the intervention is given after that time it won't work," said Jinze Xu, Ph.D., first author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at UF.

 

The researchers are working to identify the optimal age at which various interventions can enhance behavioral or physical performance. Very few studies have been done to show the effect of interventions on the very old.

Interestingly, although the older rats had no improvement in physical performance or mitochondrial function, they had lowered levels of oxidative damage.

 

That shows that reduction of oxidative stress damage is not always matched by functional changes such as improvement in muscle strength.

 

As a result, research must focus on compounds that promote proper functioning of the mitochondria, since mitochondrial health is essential in older animals for reducing oxidative stress, the researchers said. And clinical trials need to be performed to test the effectiveness of the supplements in humans.

 

"It's going to be very important to focus less on oxidative stress and biomarkers, and focus on having sufficient energy," Leeuwenburgh said. "If energy declines, then you have an increased chance for oxidative stress or failure of repair mechanisms that recognize oxidative damage -- we're seeing that the health of mitochondria is central to aging."

 

It is possible that although the supplement could help reduce the oxidative stress damage, because damage in much older animals was too great, energy could not be restored.

 

The different compounds in the mixture acted to produce effects that single compounds did not, because each component affected a different biochemical pathway in the body, addressing both oxidative stress and mitochondrial function, researchers said.

 

"People are catching on that using a single compound is not a good strategy -- you have to use multiple compounds and target one or multiple pathways," Leeuwenburgh said.

 

The manufacturers of the supplement donated the quantity used in the study and provided support for the postdoctoral researcher and analyses. The animals used in the study were paid for through grants from the National Institute on Aging.

Journal Reference:

Jinze Xu, Arnold Y. Seo, Darya A. Vorobyeva, Christy S. Carter, Stephen D. Anton, Angela M. S. Lezza, Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Alejandro Lucia. Beneficial Effects of a Q-ter Based Nutritional Mixture on Functional Performance, Mitochondrial Function, and Oxidative Stress in Rats. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (5): e10572 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010572


No evidence organic foods benefit health: study

 

Reuters Health

Monday, May 24, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Consumers who opt for organic foods often believe they are improving their health, but there is currently no strong evidence that organics bring nutrition-related health benefits, a new research review finds.

A "disappointingly small" number of well-designed studies have looked at whether organic foods may have health benefits beyond their conventional counterparts', according to the review, by researchers with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health in the UK.

Moreover, they found, what studies have been done have largely focused on short-term effects of organic eating -- mainly antioxidant activity in the body -- rather than longer-term health outcomes. And most of the antioxidant studies failed to find differences between organic and conventional diets.

The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adds to findings reported last year by the same research team.

In that study, the researchers combed through 162 articles published in the scientific literature over the last 50 years, and found no evidence that organic and conventional foods differ significantly in their nutrient content.

For the current review, the researchers were able to find only 12 published studies that met their criteria for evaluating the health effects of organic foods.

"A surprising and important finding of this review is the extremely limited nature of the evidence base on this subject, both in terms of the number and quality of studies," write Dr. Alan D. Dangour and his colleagues.

Research in the area does appear to be increasing, Dangour's team notes; 4 of the 12 studies they reviewed were published in 2008 or 2009.

But in the future, the researchers add, studies -- both in humans and animals -- need to be better-designed.

Of the 12 studies the researchers identified, 6 were short-term clinical trials that looked at whether specific organic foods changed markers of antioxidant activity in participants' blood.

Those trials showed no strong evidence that organic eating boosted antioxidant activity, but the studies were also very limited in scope: they were small -- with the largest including 43 men -- and lasted no longer than a few weeks.

Out of the other 6 studies, one found an association between organic foods and a lower risk of the allergic skin condition eczema among nearly 2,800 Dutch children age 2 or younger.

In that study, parents were surveyed several times about their children's diet and any episodes of eczema over the first two years of life. Researchers found that children who consumed strictly organic dairy products showed a lower risk of eczema than those consumed conventional dairy foods.

However, the study had several key limitations, including its reliance on parents' reports of eczema. And the basic design of the study does not allow for any conclusions about whether children's consumption of organic dairy was the reason for the lower eczema risk.

While questions remain as to whether organic foods have any extra nutritional value, people buy organic for a number of other reasons as well.

Organic foods are made without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones -- which could potentially reap benefits for people's health and the environment.

The current review, Dangour and his colleagues point out, did not look for studies on the possible health benefits of reduced exposure to those substances. Nor did it address the environmental impact of organic food production.

Source: http://www.ajcn.org/

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online May 12, 2010.

Routine Breast Cancer Biopsy Might Predict Lymph Node Cancer Spread

 

ScienceDaily

Monday, May 24, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2010) Predicting breast cancer spread from a sentinel lymph node removed during surgery is a hit or miss affair, say researchers: there are still many false negatives, which means the node, when analyzed under a microscope, appears clean of cancer cells, but metastasis can still occur in the patient. The sentinel node is the first lymph node in the axilla that cancer spreads to.

 

Now, researchers from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Center say that they have clues to molecular markers on breast tumors that may predict which cancers will metastasize to the lymph node system. Details of the study were recently presented at the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010.

 

In a pilot study comparing genomic alterations in both breast cancer cells and sentinel lymph nodes removed from 15 patients whose cancer spread to the lymph nodes, researchers found genes that were altered (amplified or deleted) in both samples. These alterations affected genes that function as either oncogenes or tumor suppressors. The final goal is to be able to identify, at the time of the diagnosis, when a patient has a routine biopsy of their tumor, who is at higher risk for development of lymph node metastasis, says Luciane Cavalli, PhD, an assistant professor of oncology at Lombardi.

 

"To our knowledge, very few studies have looked specifically for genomic alterations in sentinel nodes in comparison to the primary tumor from the same patient. If we find markers that can be significantly associated with patients that develop axillary metastasis, we can check for these markers at an early stage of the cancer management, before axillary lymph node metastasis develops" says Cavalli. "That will give physicians a chance to treat what is otherwise an unseen metastasis."

 

Currently, a sentinel lymph node is removed when a patient undergoes surgery to remove breast tumors, and the node is examined for evidence of cancer cells while the operation is in progress. If these malignant cells are seen, additional nodes in the axilla are removed, Cavalli says. "This procedure is performed during the surgery, and the methods currently used to look for tumor cells in these nodes are not ultra sensitive, and may therefore miss these malignant cells especially in the case of micrometastasis."

 

Cavalli and her team first screened the genomes of cells from both tumors and nodes from the same patient using comparative genome hybridization (CGH), and found that most of the genomic regions affected were similar in both of the samples. . They then used microarray technology (array-CGH) to identify the genes altered in these regions and found several that were altered in patient lymph nodes and tumors. Some of these genes are well known, such as the growth promoting gene her2neu, and the tumor suppressor BRCA1.

"It differed between patients -- in some, BRCA1 was missing in both samples, in others, Her2neu or other genes were amplified," Cavalli said.

 

The researchers are now validating their results in other patient samples. "If we can use these genomic markers to identify tumor cells in the sentinel lymph node to reduce the false negative rates that now exist in sentinel node biopsy, we can advance one step forward in patient care," Cavalli says.

 

Fewer sugary drinks may lower blood pressure: study

 

By Julie Steenhuysen

Reuters

Monday, May 24, 2010

CHICAGO (Reuters) Drinking fewer sugary drinks may help lower blood pressure, U.S. researchers said on Monday in findings adding to a growing body of research supporting cutting back on sweetened beverages.

They found overweight people with high blood pressure who drank one less sugar-laden beverage a day significantly lowered their blood pressure over 18 months.

For most Americans this means cutting soft drink intake in half.

"We found if you lower your consumption of sugary drinks, it may help you reduce your blood pressure," said Dr. Liwei Chen of Louisiana State University Health Science Center, whose findings appear in the journal Circulation.

"If you reduce your consumption by two servings, you would probably lower your blood pressure even more," Chen said in a telephone interview.

The study adds to mounting pressure on U.S. food and beverage companies as newly passed health reform legislation shifts the nation's focus on ways to prevent disease as well as treat it.

Too much sugar not only makes people fatter, but is also a key culprit in diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

Several states, including New York and California, have weighed a tax on sweetened soft drinks to defray the cost of treating obesity-related diseases.

A report by the U.S. Institute of Medicine in February declared high blood pressure a "neglected disease" in the United States, accounting for one in six deaths and adding $73 billion a year in health costs.

Chen's study looked specifically at the effect of sugar intake on blood pressure. The team used data on 810 adults aged 25 to 79 with borderline high blood pressure -- readings of 120/80 to 139/89 -- and stage I hypertension -- readings of 140/90 and 159/99

At the start of the study, people drank 10.5 ounces (310 ml), or roughly one serving, of sweetened beverages a day. They included drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup such as soft drinks, fruit drinks and lemonade.

After 18 months, average consumption had fallen by half a serving, and both the systolic blood pressure -- the "top number" blood pressure reading when the heart beats -- and diastolic blood pressure -- the "bottom number" reading between beats -- had fallen significantly.

They said drinking one less soft drink a day resulted in a 1.8 millimeters of mercury drop in systolic pressure and cut diastolic pressure by 1.1 millimeters of mercury.

"Weight loss is part of the reason but not all," Chen said, noting that even after controlling for that, the improvement in blood pressure was statistically significant.

She said American adults drink an average of 2.3 servings (28 ounces/828 ml) of sugar-sweetened beverages per day.

The American Beverage Association says sugar-sweetened drinks do not pose any particular health risk, and are not a unique risk factor for obesity or heart disease.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

Folate Prevents Alcohol-Induced Congenital Heart Defects in Mice, Study Finds

 

ScienceDaily

Monday, May 24, 2010

 

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2010) A new animal study has found that high levels of the B-vitamin folate (folic acid) prevented heart birth defects induced by alcohol exposure in early pregnancy, a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome.

 

Researchers at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and All Children's Hospital report that the protection was afforded only when folate was administered very early in pregnancy and before the alcohol exposure. The dose that best protected against heart defects in mice was considerably higher than the current dietary recommendation of 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily for women of child-bearing age.

 

The findings were published online earlier this month in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

While more research is needed, the study has implications for re-evaluating folate supplementation levels during early pregnancy, said principal investigator Kersti Linask, PhD, the Mason Professor of Cardiovascular Development at USF and Children's Research Institute/All Children's Hospital.

 

"Congenital heart defects can occur in the developing embryo at a time when women typically do not even know they are pregnant -- 16 to 18 days following conception. They may have been drinking alcohol or using prescription drugs without realizing this could be affecting embryonic development," Dr. Linask said.

"We found that we could prevent alcohol-associated defects from arising in the mice -- provided folate was given in relatively high concentrations very early in pregnancy around conception."

 

In the USF study, two randomly assigned groups of pregnant mice were fed diets supplemented by folate in adjusted doses known from epidemiological studies to rescue human embryos from craniofacial birth defects. From the day after conception, one group received a high dose of folate supplementation (10.5 milligrams/kilogram) and the second received a moderate dose (6.2 mg/kg). A third control group ate a normal folate-supplemented diet (3.3 mg/kg) determined to maintain the general health of the pregnant mice, but not to rescue embryos from birth defects.

 

During the first week of pregnancy, the mice in all three groups were then administered injections of alcohol simulating a single binge drinking event in humans.

 

Following this alcohol exposure, Doppler ultrasound confirmed that 87 percent of the embryos of pregnant mice in the third group -- those not receiving folate supplementation beyond what was present in their normal diets -- had developed heart valve defects. The affected embryos were also smaller in size and their heart muscle walls appeared thinner.

 

Between days 15 and 16 of pregnancy in the mice -- equal to 56 days of gestation in humans -- ultrasound also showed that the high-folate diet protected heart valve development against lasting defects and restored heart function and embryonic size to near-normal levels. The moderate-folate diet provided only partial protection; in this group 58 percent of the mouse embryos developed heart valves that functioned abnormally, with a back flow of blood.

 

The researchers suggest that folate fortification may be most effective at preventing heart birth defects when administered at significantly higher levels than the doses currently recommended to prevent pregnancy complications -- both in normal women (0.4 milligrams recommended daily) and even in women who have delivered an infant with a spinal birth defect (4 milligrams daily). Although higher folate levels did not cause adverse side effects in the pregnant mice, Dr. Linask notes, the safety and effectiveness of higher doses must be proven with human trials.

 

The heart is the first organ to form and function during embryonic development of vertebrates. The USF researchers suggest that folate supplementation thwarts alcohol's damaging effect on an important early signaling pathway that plays a vital role in early heart development and subsequently in valve formation.

Other authors of the study were Maria Serrano, MD (first author currently conducting pediatric residency at the University of Florida), and Mingda Han, MD, and Pilar Brinez, MD, both at USF and Children's Research Institute/All Children's Hospital.

Journal Reference:

Maria Serrano, Mingda Han, Pilar Brinez, Kersti K. Linask. Fetal alcohol syndrome: cardiac birth defects in mice and prevention with folate. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2010.03.017