Personal Health

 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lifestyle and Genes Pose Separate Risks for Breast Cancer

ScienceDaily

Friday, June 4, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 4, 2010) — The increased risk of breast cancer associated with a range of common genes is not affected by lifestyle factors -- including use of hormone replacement therapy, age at birth of first child, obesity, and alcohol consumption -- an Oxford-led study has found.

Recent studies have identified several genetic variations found commonly among the population that carry a small but increased risk of breast cancer. Little is known about how the effects of these genes might be connected to known lifestyle and behavioural ('environmental') risk factors for breast cancer.

 

The Oxford team have examined this question in detail for the first time in a large study of women's health in the UK. The findings are reported in the medical journal The Lancet.

 

The study's main author, Dr Ruth Travis of Oxford University's Cancer Epidemiology Unit, says: 'Known risk factors for breast cancer include both lifestyle factors and inherited genetic factors. We looked at whether lifestyle factors for breast cancer, such as use of HRT, alcohol consumption and reproductive history, influence the genetic risks: and the answer is that they do not.'

 

The study included 7160 women who developed breast cancer and 10,196 women without breast cancer. All the women provided a blood sample for genetic testing as well as information on lifestyle factors.

 

The Oxford team looked at how the risk of breast cancer associated with 12 common genetic variants in the women's DNA might vary with 10 well-known environmental risk factors for breast cancer. These included number of children, age at birth of first child, breastfeeding, use of hormone replacement therapy, obesity, and alcohol consumption.

 

None of the 120 comparisons (12 genetic x 10 environmental risk factors) offered evidence of any interactions between genes and the environment. In particular, and contrary to previous suggestions, use of hormone replacement therapy did not affect the risk associated with these common genes.

 

The lack of interaction means that although both genetic and environmental factors separately increase breast cancer risk, they appear to do so independently.

 

The study did not include the well-known, but much rarer breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. These carry a high risk of breast cancer but affect relatively few women.

 

Dr Jane Green, also of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, adds: 'This study provides another piece in the jigsaw, helping us to understand how genes and lifestyle affect breast cancer risk.

 

'Genes account for only a small proportion of breast cancers and for most women the main risk factors remain the lifestyle factors such as childbearing, use of HRT, obesity and alcohol consumption. The good news is that some of these are modifiable, so by changing their behavior women can alter their risk of breast cancer.'

Journal Reference:

Travis et al. Gene environment interactions in 7610 women with breast cancer: prospective evidence from the Million Women Study. The Lancet, June 2, 2010 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60636-8


Glucose 'Tattoo' Could Track Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetics

 

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay News

Friday, June 4, 2010

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- In the future, people with diabetes may be able to monitor their blood sugar levels using a glucose "tattoo."

This new type of continuous glucose monitor relies on fluorescent nanoparticle ink injected under the skin to detect blood sugar levels with a watch-sized or smaller monitor worn over the skin, according to the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who are developing the new technology.

The glucose "tattoo" ink would be made from carbon nanotubes that can reflect infrared light back through the skin to the monitor, and this new device has the potential to free people with diabetes from having to do numerous finger pricks each day or to change a continuous glucose monitor device every three to seven days to keep track of their blood sugar levels.

"Carbon nanotubes will fluoresce in infrared light, and we can decorate the tubes so they fluoresce in response to glucose," explained senior researcher Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey associate professor of chemical engineering at MIT.

"When you shine a light on the nanotubes, they'll shine light back at a different wavelength to a watch-type diode that could tell how much glucose is around," said Strano.

He said that the actual monitor that's worn over the skin would probably be watch-sized or smaller, depending on the size of the batteries. "If technology keeps shrinking at the current rate, it will probably be smaller than a watch," he said.

Currently, most people with type 1 diabetes have to prick their fingers up to a dozen times a day to assess their blood sugar levels. The newest technology -- continuous glucose monitoring -- involves placing a small glucose sensor that's implanted into the skin, and must be replaced every three to seven days. These devices also must be calibrated daily using a finger stick at least several times a day. The biggest advantage these devices offer is they let someone with diabetes know whether their blood sugar levels are trending up or down.

The reason this is important is that people with type 1 diabetes have to try to maintain as normal blood sugar levels as possible. If blood sugar levels go too low, people with diabetes can go into a coma, and can even die if they don't do something to raise their blood sugar levels. And, if blood sugar levels are too high, many areas in the body, including the eyes, kidneys and the heart, can be damaged.

"Most of the damage diabetes does occurs over short time periods where glucose is spiking and going out of the normal range. If you could intervene and prevent these spikes, you could mitigate many of the effects of this damaging disease," said Strano.

Strano said the researchers are currently trying the nanoparticles in animals, and so don't yet know what side effects or allergic reactions might occur. "We're proceeding in a cautious way," he said.

"Everybody is looking for a painless way to monitor blood sugar, and this technology sounds good, but I have no idea if it's going to work or not. From here to reality will take a lot of steps and research," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Plus, he said, there's always the possibility of an adverse reaction to anything placed inside the body. "Our cells don't like foreign bodies. Already, immune cells very carefully try to reject the continuous glucose monitor sensor and fibrose [form scar tissue] around it," he said.

More information

To learn more about the current advances in continuous glucose monitoring, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

New Cancer Guidelines: Exercise During and After Treatment Is Now Encouraged

ScienceDaily

Friday, June 4, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 4, 2010) — Cancer patients who've been told to rest and avoid exercise can -- and should -- find ways to be physically active both during and after treatment, according to new national guidelines.

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a member of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will present these guidelines at an educational session at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, aimed at making cancer exercise rehabilitation programs as common as those offered to people who have had heart attacks or undergone cardiac surgery. ("Exercise Testing and Prescription for Cancer Survivors: Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine.")

 

Schmitz, whose previous research reversed decades of cautionary exercise advice given to breast cancer patients with the painful arm-swelling condition lymphedema, led a 13-member American College of Sports Medicine expert panel that developed the new recommendations after reviewing and evaluating literature on the safety and efficacy of exercise training during and after cancer therapy.

 

"We have to get doctors past the ideas that exercise is harmful to their cancer patients. There is a still a prevailing attitude out there that patients shouldn't push themselves during treatment, but our message -- avoid inactivity -- is essential," Schmitz says. "We now have a compelling body of high quality evidence that exercise during and after treatment is safe and beneficial for these patients, even those undergoing complex procedures such as stem cell transplants. If physicians want to avoid doing harm, they need to incorporate these guidelines into their clinical practice in a systematic way."

 

Cancer patients and survivors should strive to get the same 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that is recommended for the general public, the panel says. Though the evidence indicates that most types of physical activity -- from swimming to yoga to strength training -- are beneficial for cancer patients, clinicians should tailor exercise recommendations to individual patients, taking into account their general fitness level, specific diagnosis and factors about their disease that might influence exercise safety. Cancer patients with weakened ability to fight infection, for instance, may be advised to avoid exercise in public gyms.

 

One persistent area of concern for cancer patients is change in body mass -- both weight gain and weight loss tied to disease symptoms and treatment side effects. Patients with hormone-based tumors, breast and prostate cancers, tend to gain weight during treatment and frequently have difficulty losing it. Other patients, especially those with gastrointestinal tumors, suffer from weight loss brought on by loss of appetite and changes in their ability to swallow and properly digest food. The new guidelines indicate that both groups can benefit from exercise. Studies show, for instance, that exercise for weight control and reduction in body mass may actually reduce the risk of recurrence for breast cancer patients, and ultimately decrease breast cancer mortality. For patients suffering from cancer-related weight loss, physical activity helps to maintain lean body mass, which can contribute to increased strength and well being.

 

Schmitz and her colleagues analyzed published studies related to five different adult cancer types (breast, during and after treatment, prostate, hematologic -- with and without stem cell transplant -- colon, and gynecologic), and reviewed the evidence for multiple health outcomes. The panel found that although there are specific risks associated with cancer treatment that need to be considered when patients exercise, there is consistent evidence that exercise training can lead to improvements in aerobic fitness, muscular strength, quality of life and fatigue in breast, prostate, and hematologic cancer patients and survivors. They found the data for colon and gynecologic cancers were too scant to draw firm conclusions, and identified several areas requiring further study. Age, for instance, is a critical variable, Schmitz says, since more must be learned about the effects of physical activity in cancer patients over age 65, to develop interventions that may help these patients continue to live and function independently.

 

The panel urges fitness professionals to enhance their capacity to serve the unique needs of cancer survivors. Schmitz noted that a "groundswell" of training programs now assist physical therapists and fitness trainers in deepening their knowledge of the effects of cancer diagnosis and treatment and improve their skills in this emerging area.

 

Schmitz also feels strongly that practicing oncologists need to be informed about the new guidelines and their importance, and says that patients can play a role in changing attitudes and clinical practice. Her hope is that patients will read the recommendations and discuss them with their doctors, creating the demand for change that will drive more cancer centers and oncology practices to create and offer cancer exercise rehabilitation services.

 

Meat, fish protein linked to women's bowel disease

 

By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Friday, June 4, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Eating lots of animal protein appears to increase women's risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to a new study from France.

"Our results may help better understand the role of diet in IBD risk," Dr. Franck Carbonnel of the Center Hospitalier Universitaire de Bicetre in Paris and his team write in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. "If confirmed, they can lead to protective strategies, especially in families at risk of IBD, and possibly to advice for preventing relapse."

Inflammatory bowel disease is a collective term for diseases characterized by severe inflammation in the digestive system such as ulcerative colitis, which typically only affects the colon, and Crohn's disease, which can attack the entire digestive tract. IBD, which affects about one in 500 people, has become much more common since World War II, Carbonnel and his colleagues note. The reasons behind the increase are still unclear.

To investigate whether diet might be a factor, the researchers followed more than 67,000 women participating in a long-term study of risk factors for cancer and other common illnesses. The women were 40 to 65 years old when they enrolled in the study.

During follow-up, which averaged about 10 years, just 77 of the women developed inflammatory bowel disease. Ninety percent of women in the current study were eating more than the recommended dietary allowance of protein.

Women who consumed the most protein were at more than triple the risk of being diagnosed with IBD, the researchers found; animal protein accounted for most of the risk. Risk was specifically associated with high intake of meat and fish, but not with dairy products or eggs.

While experts have long suspected that diet might play a role in inflammatory bowel disease, Carbonnel and his colleagues note, the only links identified previously were with eating a lot of fats and certain kinds of sugars. Those studies were more prone to error than forward-looking or prospective studies like the current investigation. There have also been several studies linking vitamin D deficiency to IBD.

Another recent prospective study found that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids decreased inflammatory bowel disease risk, while eating lots of omega-6 fatty acids increased it, Carbonnel noted in an interview with Reuters Health. Omega-3s are found in fish oil, flax seed oil, and a few other sources; omega-6s, which Westerners tend to eat much more of, are found in several types of vegetable and nut oils.

Meat could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease risk because digestion of animal protein produces many potentially toxic "end products," such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, the researchers note. Also, Carbonnel pointed out, a high-protein diet could alter the mix of bacteria that live in the colon.

"These findings have to be confirmed in other populations, particularly in men and younger subjects," the researcher said, adding that if they are confirmed, the next step would be to conduct a trial comparing the effects of restricted versus unrestricted animal protein on inflammatory bowel disease risk.

Given the large amount of protein women in the study were eating, he added, a restricted diet wouldn't involve radically reducing protein intake, but instead sticking to the recommended amount.

Source: http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ajg201019 2a.html

 American Journal of Gastroenterology, online May 11, 2010.

Anger Spurs Surprising Changes in the Body

HealthDay News

Friday, June 4, 2010

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- When a person gets angry it is often possible to see them physically tense up, but now researchers have found out what else is going on inside the body.

The new study analyzed the biochemical reactions that occur in a person's body when they are angry, right down to the cellular level. Anger not only boosts the heart rate, makes arteries tense up and increases the production of the hormone testosterone, it actually causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to fall, the researchers report.

For the study, Neus Herrero, a researcher at the University of Valencia in Spain, and colleagues made 30 men angry through the use of 50 first-person phrases known to provoke the emotion. Herrero's team measured the men's biochemical activity before and after they became upset.

Interestingly, the study authors found that anger tends to stimulate the left hemisphere of the brain, the side associated with positive emotions related to closeness. Increased activity in that part of the brain generally results in a desire for closeness rather than the withdrawal triggered by negative emotions.

"The case of anger is unique because it is experienced as negative but, often, it evokes a motivation of closeness," Herrero said in a news release. "When we get angry, we show a natural tendency to get closer to what made us angry to try to eliminate it."

The study findings were published online May 31 in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

More information

Harvard University allows you to peer into the brain with the help of the Whole Brain Atlas.

Estrogen-like lignan diet, less breast cancer linked

 

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Friday, June 4, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Postmenopausal women who eat foods rich in estrogen-like plant chemicals called lignans may have a modestly decreased risk of developing breast cancer, a research review suggests.

In an analysis of 21 studies published in the past 13 years, researchers found that postmenopausal women who reported the highest intakes of dietary lignans were 14 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those with low intakes.

The same relationship was not seen, however, among premenopausal women.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to a conflicting body of research into the relationship between dietary phytoestrogens and breast cancer risk.

Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that are structurally similar to estrogen and may have weak estrogen-like, as well as anti-estrogen, activity in the body. Some studies have linked high phytoestrogen intake to a lower risk of breast cancer, but others have suggested that the compounds may help fuel breast cancer growth -- or have no significant effect on a woman's risk of the cancer.

Lignans are one of the three main types of phytoestrogen. The new study focused on lignans, in part because they are the main phytoestrogen in the typical Western diet.

Flaxseed and sesame are particularly high in lignans, and the compounds are also found in whole grains, berries and some other fruits, a number of vegetables such as broccoli and kale, and green tea.

For this study, Dr. Jenny Chang-Claude and colleagues at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg combined the results of 21 previous studies on lignan intake and breast cancer risk. In some of the studies, researchers also took blood or urine samples to measure participants' levels of enterolignans -- compounds created when intestinal bacteria interact with dietary lignans.

Overall, the researchers found no correlation between women's lignan intake and their risk of breast cancer. However, when they separated the women by menopause stage, they found that "high" lignan intake - which they did not define in the study - was related to a somewhat lower risk of breast cancer.

In one study of nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women in France, for example, the one-quarter of women with the highest lignan intake were 17 percent less likely to develop breast cancer during the study period compared with the one-quarter with the lowest intake -- estimated based on dietary questionnaires the women completed at the outset.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, accounting for around 16 percent of all female cancers. It kills around 519,000 people globally each year.

The researchers on the French study accounted for a number of other factors in breast cancer risk -- including the women's age, family history of breast cancer, weight and history of estrogen exposure from birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. The relationship between lignan intake and breast cancer risk remained.

Still, the overall findings of the review show only an association between higher lignan intake and lower breast cancer risk -- and do not prove that the compounds themselves confer the protection.

The studies the researchers evaluated had various limitations, such as relying on dietary questionnaires to estimate lignan intake instead of measuring it or watching what subjects ate.

And many were case-control studies, where researchers compared the reported diet histories of women with breast cancer to those of women without the disease; these types of studies are not as strong as prospective studies -- where, for example, researchers would collect diet information at the outset, then follow women over time to see which ones developed breast cancer.

If lignans do have an effect on breast cancer development, these findings suggest it is likely to be "moderate," Chang-Claude told Reuters Health in an email.

Still, foods high in lignans are also generally healthy ones, the researcher noted. "Therefore, it might be advisable for postmenopausal women to include some lignan-rich foods in their diets," she said.

In theory, lignans and other phytoestrogens might protect against breast cancer by inhibiting the body's own estrogen activity, or through other pathways, such as the compounds' antioxidant effects.

It's not clear why lignan intake would have different effects in pre- and postmenopausal women, according to Chang-Claude and her colleagues. One possibility, they note, is that any protective lignan activity is only effective when women's natural estrogen levels are relatively lower, as they would be after menopause.

Source: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28573v1

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 12, 2010.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reducing Alzheimer's-Related Protein in Young Brains Improves Learning in Down Syndrome Animal Model

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 3, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2010) — Reducing a protein called beta-amyloid in young mice with a condition resembling Down syndrome improves their ability to learn, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

"This preliminary study in the animal model raises the intriguing possibility that drugs that lower beta-amyloid levels might offer some benefit to children with Down syndrome," said Dr. Craig Powell, assistant professor of neurology at UT Southwestern and co-lead author of the study, which is available in PLoS ONE, the Public Library of Science's online journal.

 

Down syndrome, a genetic disease that causes learning disabilities and physical problems, is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. This chromosome includes the genes for proteins that produce beta-amyloid, a protein that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and is believed to contribute to cognitive decline.

 

Children with Down syndrome have increased normal levels of beta-amyloid in their brains, but it is unknown whether the increased levels affect intellectual abilities, Dr. Powell said. By age 40, nearly all adults with Down syndrome develop signs of Alzheimer's, with dementia developing in their 50s and 60s.

 

For the study, the researchers used mice with a genetic anomaly that closely mimics human Down syndrome. This type of mice have three copies of a stretch of genes, including those related to beta-amyloid production, and also display learning disabilities, including difficulties learning a standard water maze.

 

The scientists treated four-month-old genetically altered mice with DAPT, an experimental drug that blocks gamma-secretase, an enzyme essential for beta-amyloid production. A four-day treatment lowered beta-amyloid levels by 40 percent and significantly improved the rodents' performance to the point that they learned the maze as quickly as normal mice.

 

Dr. Powell, however, cautioned that the blocked enzyme is involved in many brain functions besides creating beta-amyloid.

 

"Current gamma-secretase inhibitors may have untoward side effects," he said. "The goal now is to identify drugs that block the ability of gamma-secretase to create amyloid without blocking its ability to perform its other tasks."

 

Dr. Jacqueline Blundell, former postdoctoral fellow at UT Southwestern, also participated in the study, as did researchers from The Rockefeller University and Columbia University Medical Center.

The study was funded by the Lowe Foundation, the Crystal Charity Ball, the Van Beber family, the David M. Crowley Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation and the F.M. Kirby Foundation.

Journal Reference:

William J Netzer, Craig Powell, Yi Nong, Jacqueline Blundell, Lili Wong, Karen Duff, Marc Flajolet, Paul Greengard. Lowering β-Amyloid Levels Rescues Learning and Memory in a Down Syndrome Mouse Model. PLoS ONE, 2010; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010943


Burgers May Feed Kids' Asthma Risk

 

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, June 3, 2010


THURSDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- Children who eat three or more hamburgers a week may raise their odds for asthma and wheeze, a new study suggests.

However, eating the so-called "Mediterranean diet" -- rich in fruits, vegetables and fish -- could cut kids' respiratory risk, the researchers say.

"Our results support previous reports that the adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables and fish and a low intake of meat, burger and fizzy drinks, may provide partial protection against asthma in childhood," said lead researcher Dr. Gabriele Nagel, from the Institute of Epidemiology at Ulm University in Germany.

The report is published in the June 3 issue of Thorax.

For the study, Nagel's team collected data on about 50,000 children from 20 rich and poor countries. Parents were asked about their children's typical diet and whether they had asthma or not. In addition, almost 30,000 of the children were tested for allergies.

While diet did not appear to influence allergies, it was associated with the risk of asthma and wheeze, the researchers found.

Children in both rich and poorer countries who ate a lot of fruit had lower rates of wheeze.

Eating lots of fish seemed to protect children in rich countries, and a diet high in cooked green vegetables protected children in less developed countries from wheeze, Nagel's group found.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant vitamins and biologically active agents, and the omega 3 fatty acids prevalent in fish have anti-inflammatory properties, which might explain these findings, the researchers said.

"Overall, a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze," Nagel said.

On the other hand, children who ate a lot of burgers had a higher lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze, the researchers found. The finding was especially true for allergy-free children from more affluent countries.

But the burger finding could be a marker for other lifestyle factors that could boost a child's for asthma, the researchers note. Meat in general was not seen to increase the risk of wheeze, the study found.

Pulmonologist Dr. Michael Light, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agreed that diet can influence asthma.

"The data is fairly consistent that antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids play a role in the big picture," Light said. "This doesn't mean if you change your diet today you are going to cure your asthma. All the study is saying is that one of the explanations for asthma is probably related to diet," he said.

Echoing these findings, results of a study presented May 16 at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in New Orleans showed that fatty meals were linked to impaired lung function.

In that study, Australian researchers tested people with asthma before and after a high-fat meal or after a low-fat meal. They found that the high-fat meal increased inflammation and reduced lung function.

"If these results can be confirmed by further research, this suggests that strategies aimed at reducing dietary fat intake may be useful in managing asthma," the study's lead author, Lisa Wood, a lecturer in biomedical sciences and pharmacy at the Hunter Medical Research Institute in New Lambton, said at the time.

More information

For more information on asthma, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Some Antidepressants May Bump Up Cataract Risk

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 3, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2010) — Seniors who take SSRI antidepressants may be more likely to develop cataracts, says the first major study to examine this interaction. The risk appears to increase by about 15 percent, which in the United States would translate to 22,000 cataract cases attributable to antidepressant use.

The study, led by Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Canada, assessed data for nearly 19,000 people age 65 or older, all of whom also had cardiovascular disease. Their records were compared to about 190,000 controls.

 

The effect was strongest for three SSRIs: Luvox (fluvoxamine) increased risk by 39 percent, Effexor (venlafaxine) by 33 percent and Paxil (paroxetine) by 23 percent. The apparent increased risk was associated only with current, not past, drug use. Some antidepressants did not appear to be associated with cataract risk, but this could have been because the numbers of study participants using these drug types were too small to show effects, or because only specific agents in certain medications are related to cataract formation. These questions need further study.

 

"The eye's lens has serotonin receptors, and animal studies have shown that excess serotonin can make the lens opaque and lead to cataract formation," Dr. Etminan said. "If our findings are confirmed in future studies, doctors and patients should consider cataract risk when prescribing some SSRIs for seniors," he added.

Earlier research linked beta blocker medications and oral and inhaled steroids to higher cataract risk, and a recent Swedish study suggests that women's hormone replacement therapy may also raise risk.

Journal Reference:

Mahyar Etminan, Frederick S. Mikelberg, James M. Brophy. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and the Risk of CataractsA Nested Case-Control Study. Ophthalmology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2009.11.042


Mediterranean diet helps existing heart disease, too

 

Reuters Health

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Eating a Mediterranean-style diet can help heart patients stay healthy, new research from Greece shows.

This eating pattern, which includes lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, vegetable oils, low-fat dairy products, legumes, whole grains, and fish, has been shown to help shield people from heart disease and may also ward off certain cancers, Dr. Christina Chrysohoou of the University of Athens and her colleagues note in their report.

But less information is available on whether the Mediterranean diet might be helpful for people who already have heart disease.

To investigate, Chrysohoou and her team looked at 1,000 patients who had suffered heart attacks or severe chest pain while at rest or with only light exertion. They rated each patient on a scale of 0 to 55 based on how closely their eating matched the Mediterranean ideal.

Nearly half of the patients experienced a second heart-related event within two years after their original hospital discharge.

But patients with the most Mediterranean-style diets were at 31 percent lower risk of suffering another heart attack or experiencing chest pain during the first month after they were discharged from the hospital.

They were only half as likely as those with the least Mediterranean eating habits to have another heart-related event within a year, and nearly 40 percent less likely to experience repeat heart problems within two years.

For every additional point on the 55-point Mediterranean Diet Score, a person's risk of having another heart-related event over the next two years fell by 12 percent, the researchers found. Patients with the most Mediterranean diets were also the least likely to experience reductions in the ability of the heart's main pumping chamber to work at full capacity, as well as harmful structural changes to the heart known as cardiac remodeling.

When the researchers looked at different components of the Mediterranean diet separately, they found that vegetables and salad and nuts were the only foods that cut risk; people who ate vegetables and salad or nuts daily or weekly were at 20 percent lower risk of repeat heart problems within two years of their initial hospitalization compared to people who ate these foods monthly or less often.

Based on the findings, Chrysohoou and her team conclude, strategies to reduce mortality and illness due to heart disease should include a "diet that contains the favorable characteristics of the Mediterranean diet."

Source: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28982v1

 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online May 19, 2010.

Calcium Supplements: Too Much of a Good Thing?

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 3, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2010) — Negative health effects linked to taking too much supplemental calcium are on the rise, according to a commentary appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). The incidence of the so-called milk-alkali or calcium-alkali syndrome is growing in large part because of widespread use of over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements.

The milk-alkali syndrome arose in the early 1900s when patients ingested abundant amounts of milk and antacids to control their ulcers. This practice increased individuals' risk of developing dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood, which could cause high blood pressure and even kidney failure. The incidence of the milk-alkali syndrome declined when newer ulcer medications became available, but it appears to be on the rise again thanks to increased use of over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements used mainly as preventive and treatment measures for osteoporosis. In many cases, patients with the syndrome require hospitalization.

Stanley Goldfarb, MD and Ami Patel, MD (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine) recommend changing the name of the milk-alkali syndrome to the calcium-alkali syndrome because the condition is now associated with a large intake of calcium, not milk. Postmenopausal women, pregnant women, transplant recipients, patients with bulimia, and individuals who are on dialysis have the highest risks of developing the calcium-alkali syndrome due to various physiological reasons.

According to the authors, the obvious preventive strategy against the calcium-alkali syndrome is to limit the intake of calcium to no more than 1.2 to 1.5 grams per day. "Calcium supplements taken in the recommended amounts are not only safe but are quite beneficial. Taken to excess is the problem," said Dr. Goldfarb. "Even at the recommended dose, careful monitoring of any medication is wise and yearly determinations of blood calcium levels for those patients taking calcium supplements or vitamin D is a wise approach," he added.

Journal Reference:

A. M. Patel, S. Goldfarb. Got Calcium? Welcome to the Calcium-Alkali Syndrome. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2010; DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2010030255


To burn more fat, skip breakfast before workout

 

By Maria Cheng,

AP Medical Writer

The Associated Press

Thursday, June 3, 2010

LONDON – Running on empty may not be such a bad idea after all. Though many athletes eat before training, some scientists say that if you really want to get rid of more fat, you should skip the pre-workout snack.

Several studies suggest exercising while your body is low on food may be a good way to trim excess fat. In a recent paper, European researchers found that cyclists who trained without eating burned significantly more fat than their counterparts who ate.

Muscles usually get their energy from carbohydrates, which is why athletes like Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps scarf down enormous amounts of food before a race. But if you haven't eaten before exercising, your body doesn't have many carbohydrates in reserve. That forces it to burn fat instead, scientists say.

"When you exercise (after fasting), your adrenalin is high and your insulin is low," said Peter Hespel, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Leuven in Belgium. "That ratio is favorable for your muscles to oxidize (break down) more fatty acids." Hespel said that people who exercise without having eaten burn more fat than they would if they had grabbed a bite beforehand.

In a study published in April, researchers at the University of Birmingham and elsewhere assigned seven people to cycle three days a week, followed by an intense session an hour later without eating. Another seven people followed the same regime, without the instruction to fast.

Though members of the group that didn't eat performed worse on the intensive training, they burned a higher proportion of fat to carbohydrates than the group that ate. The results were published by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

In a 2008 study, Hespel and colleagues tested the effects on men who did endurance training without eating versus those who ate. In the athletes who hadn't eaten, the researchers found a spike in the amount of proteins needed to process fat, meaning their bodies had been primed through fasting to burn more fat.

Hespel recommends people do this kind of training before breakfast, since eating carbohydrates interrupts the process of metabolizing fat for about six hours afterward.

Though he and colleagues have primarily studied the effects of exercising without eating in young, healthy people, he thinks the method could also help people with problems like diabetes. Because exercising without eating produces muscles that are better at absorbing glucose — which is important for preventing diabetes — Hespel theorized the strategy would also help diabetics control their insulin levels.

Other experts said that even though people may burn more fat this way, it is mostly fat within the muscles that will be lost and won't make a big difference to people trying to lose weight.

"When you exercise (without eating), fat is broken down more quickly in the muscle," said Andrew Greenberg, director of the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University. "You may enhance how you burn the fat in the muscles, but it doesn't affect your overall body fat," Greenberg said. He said more intense exercise may prompt the body to burn more fatty acids in other regions of the body, but that a lot of training would be required to see a big difference.

For recreational athletes interested in maximizing their exercise regimen, some experts recommend a regular training session where you deliberately do not eat beforehand.

"Science is finally catching up with what smart runners have always known," said Ron Maughan, a professor of sport, exercise and health sciences at Loughborough University in Britain. "If you have a long, hard run without breakfast once a week, that hard run will train you to burn fat," he said. "And for the rest of the week, have plenty of carbohydrates so you can train hard."

Maughan cautioned against doing too much exercise on an empty stomach. "That might help you get very good at burning fat, but you won't be very good at whatever exercise it is you're doing," he said. "Without enough fuel, you won't get the intensity of training you need to get improvements."

Others were more skeptical and said people shouldn't exercise without having at least a small snack first.

"I think it's actually a pretty bad idea," said Dr. Alexis Chiang Colvin, a sports medicine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who has worked with professional football and hockey teams.

"If your blood sugar is low, you could wind up getting dizzy and you might not be able to exercise as well as if you were well-nourished," she said. Colvin recommended having something small like a banana before training. She also warned the strategy might make people more prone to injury and that eating was important so the body would have enough nutrients to recover from a bout of exercise.

Hespel acknowledged the method wasn't for everybody and that aside from the pain of struggling through an exercise session while hungry, there are other potential pitfalls.

"When you postpone breakfast to exercise, it is possible you might eat more afterwards," he said. "People exercising (without eating) need to respect all the normal strategies of weight control like not overeating."

Daniel Kobbina, a personal trainer who also runs a martial arts school in London, said the method requires discipline — but it works.

"If you train on an empty stomach, you'll see that six-pack a lot sooner," he said.

Air pollution may help trigger cardiac arrest

 

Reuters Health

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The dirtier the air, the more likely people are to suffer sudden cardiac arrest, new research from Australia shows.

Particulate matter -- tiny specks of soot, dust, and other pollutants in the air that can be breathed deep into the lungs -- has been "consistently" linked to increases in deaths from heart disease and clogged arteries, Dr. Martine Dennekamp of Monash University in Melbourne and her colleagues note.

But studies looking at whether air pollution specifically ups the risk of heart attack or cardiac arrest have had mixed results.

Airborne particles are harmful to people with existing health problems, the researchers add, but they could also trigger heart attack or even sudden death in people with no apparent symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

To investigate, Dennekamp and her team looked at 8,434 cases of sudden cardiac arrest among people 35 and older that occurred in metropolitan Melbourne between 2003 and 2006.

After a rise in concentration of the tiniest airborne particles (particles less than 2.5 microns across, known as PM2.5), the likelihood of cardiac arrest rose, and stayed higher than average for two days. For every 4.26 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 concentrations, the risk of cardiac arrest was 4 percent higher than average for the next 48 hours.

An individual's risk of suffering sudden cardiac arrest is quite low; the American Heart Association estimates that there's about one cardiac arrest per 2,000 people every year in North America. And the study does not prove that pollution causes more cardiac arrests, as the researchers did not find out whether participants in the study also smoked or had other risk factors for heart disease.

Carbon monoxide levels also were associated with increases in cardiac arrest risk, although the effect wasn't as strong as it was for PM2.5. None of several other pollutants the researchers measured, including larger airborne particles, affected risk. The effect was strongest for people 65 to 74 years old, and weakest for those 75 and older.

Australia currently has an "advisory standard" limiting PM2.5 concentrations to 25 micrograms per cubic meter or less, the researchers note.

Given that an increase of less than 5 micrograms per cubic meter was tied to significant health effects, they add, "the present study suggests an increase in the risk of cardiac effects at concentrations below the current air quality standards in Australia."

Source:  http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Abstract/publishahead/Outdoor_Air_Pollution_as_a_Trigger_for.99685.aspx

 Epidemiology, online May 19, 2010.

Breathing Exercises May Boost Athletes' Performance

 

HealthDay News

Thursday, June 3, 2010

THURSDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- Doing daily breathing exercises to strengthen inhalation muscles and reduce their need for oxygen helps boost performance during endurance sports such as cycling and swimming, a new study shows.

Indiana University researchers found that inspiratory muscle training (IMT) significantly reduced the amount of oxygen required by breathing muscles during exercise, making more oxygen available for other muscles.

IMT involves the use of a hand-held device that creates resistance while inhaling, requiring a person to make greater use of inspiratory muscles.

The study involved 16 male cyclists, aged 18 to 40. After six weeks of IMT training, inspiratory muscles required about 1 percent less oxygen during low-intensity exercise and 3 percent to 4 percent less oxygen during high-intensity exercise.

The findings were to be presented June 3 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore.

"The study helps to provide further insight into the potential mechanisms responsible for the improved whole-body endurance performance previously reported following IMT," Louise Turner, a researcher in the kinesiology department, said in a news release.

Besides improving the performance of endurance athletes, IMT has been used to treat patients with lung diseases, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about COPD.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pain Med May Affect Breast Cancer Recurrence

 

HealthDay News

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WEDNESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- The painkiller a woman takes after a mastectomy may influence the odds of breast cancer recurrence, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Catholic University of Louvain (Leuven) in Belgium looked for links between painkiller use and breast cancer recurrence in 327 women from one to four years after they underwent a mastectomy.

Women who received a powerful prescription painkiller called ketorolac (sold as Toradol and Acular) which is related to aspirin and ibuprofen, were less likely to develop a recurrence of breast cancer. Their rate was 6 percent compared to 17 percent for those who received other drugs for pain.

The link between the drug and lower rate of recurrence remained even after the researchers adjusted for factors such as patient age and stage of cancer.

The study, published in the June issue of the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, adds to a growing body of literature that indicates pain-relieving drugs can affect cancer.

More information

For more about breast cancer treatment, see the National Cancer Institute.

Study confirms link between migraines and stroke

 

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who suffer migraines are about twice as likely as people without the painful headaches to suffer a stroke caused by a blood clot, a new research review finds.

The analysis, which combined the results of 21 previous studies, confirms a connection between migraines and ischemic stroke -- the most common form of stroke, occurring when a clot disrupts blood flow to the brain.

Across the studies, migraine sufferers were about twice as likely to suffer an ischemic stroke as people without migraines, according to findings published in the American Journal of Medicine.

Experts are not sure why the relationship exists, and it is not yet known whether the migraines themselves directly lead to strokes in some people.

It's likely, however, that a common underlying process contributes to both migraines and stroke risk, said Dr. Saman Nazarian, the senior researcher on the new study and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

For now, he told Reuters Health in an email, the bottom line for migraine sufferers is that they should be particularly vigilant about controlling any modifiable risk factors for stroke that they may have.

Some of those risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

"The main thing I would want (people) to take away from this is that if they get migraines, they should address stroke risk factors," Nazarian said. "They should not smoke and they should watch their blood pressure and have it treated if it is high."

Experts also generally say that people with migraines should remember that while the headaches are linked to a relatively increased risk of stroke, the absolute risk to any one person remains fairly low.

In one recent study of 6,100 adults with migraines, for example, 2 percent reported a history of stroke, versus 1.2 percent of 5,243 adults who did not suffer from migraines.

The current findings are based on 21 international studies conducted between 1975 and 2007 and involving more than 622,000 adults with and without migraines.

Most of the studies took into account a number of factors that might help explain any connection between migraine and stroke risk -- such as age, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking habits and weight.

Even with those factors considered, migraines themselves were linked to a two-fold increase in stroke risk when Nazarian's team combined the results of all 21 studies.

The precise cause of migraines is not fully understood, but the pain involves constriction, and then swelling, of brain blood vessels. One theory is that people with migraine may have dysfunction in the blood vessels throughout the body, which may explain the increased risk of stroke and, as some previous studies have found, heart attack.

No one yet knows whether treating and preventing migraine attacks can do anything to affect people's risk of cardiovascular problems.

On one hand, researchers have noted, drugs that prevent migraine attacks could theoretically lower the risk of cardiovascular problems. On the other hand, certain medications might have negative effects; some anti-inflammatory painkillers have been linked to cardiovascular risks, while migraine drugs known as "ergots" tend to constrict blood vessels throughout the body.

The current study received no drug industry funding, according to Nazarian's team, and none of the researchers reports any industry ties.

Source: http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(10)00129-4/abstract

 American Journal of Medicine, online May 20, 2010.

Chocolate may cut cholesterol but only in some people: study

Reuters Life

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Eating chocolate could bring down cholesterol levels -- but only in small amounts and only in some people, according to an analysis of eight studies.

Dr. Rutai Hui of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing and colleagues found chocolate only helped people who already had risk factors for heart disease and only when consumed in modest amounts.

Eating moderate amounts of cocoa could be "a worthwhile dietary approach" for preventing high cholesterol in certain groups of people, the researchers concluded in a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28202v1).

The analysis came after several studies suggested that chocolate may be good for your health.

One study released in March showed that among 19,300 people, those who ate the most chocolate had lower blood pressure and were less likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years.

But, like the new analysis, that research came with caveats; the difference in chocolate consumption between the top and bottom chocolate-consuming groups was around 6 grams, or about one-seventh of a Hershey's milk chocolate bar.

Hui and his colleagues searched the medical literature to find studies that looked at how cocoa affected blood fats, or lipids, and found eight trials including 215 people.

When all studies were analyzed together, the researchers found eating cocoa cut levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, by about 6 mg/dL and reduced total cholesterol by the same amount.

But cocoa had no effect on cholesterol in the three highest-quality studies.

Further analysis showed that only people who ate small amounts of cocoa, an amount containing 260 milligrams of polyphenols or less, experienced cholesterol lowering effects. People who consumed more showed no effect. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, chocolate and red wine. A 1.25-ounce bar of milk chocolate contains about 300 milligrams of polyphenols.

The researchers also found that healthy people didn't get any cholesterol-lowering benefits from cocoa, but people with risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, saw their LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol drop by around 8 mg/dL each.

"Future research efforts should concentrate on higher-quality and more rigorous randomized trials with longer follow-ups to resolve the uncertainty regarding the clinical effectiveness," said Hui and his team.

"Then we can really eat chocolate without feeling guilty."

(Reporting by Reuters Health, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

Vaccine against deadly brain cancer shows promise

 

By Deena Beasley

Reuters

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A small, early-stage trial of a therapeutic brain cancer vaccine developed by ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd showed that nearly half the patients were alive without their cancer worsening 18 months after diagnosis, the company said on Wednesday.

The Phase 1 trial involved 16 patients with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer.

They were treated with ICT-107, an experimental dendritic cell based cancer vaccine, following the standard care of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

"We are targeting specific antigens that are on cancer stem cells ... the only population of cells that can really propagate a tumor," said Dr. John Yu, director of surgical neuro-oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and ImmunoCellular's chief scientific officer.

A year after diagnosis, all of the patients were alive. After two years, 80% were alive.

Historically, after a year with standard treatment, 61% of glioblastoma patients are alive, and 26.5% are alive after two years, according to the company.

In the ImmunoCellular trial, median overall survival had not yet been reached at the 26.4 months analysis point, with 12 out of 16 patients alive. Seven patients continued to live with no disease progression.

Side effects seen in the trial included fatigue and skin rash.

Dr. Yu said ImmunCellular is planning a mid-stage trial of the vaccine that would include between 30 and 50 patients.

Peaches, Plums Induce Deliciously Promising Death of Breast Cancer Cells

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 2, 2010) — Breast cancer cells -- even the most aggressive type -- died after treatments with peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research recently, and scientists say the results are deliciously promising. Not only did the cancerous cells keel over, but the normal cells were not harmed in the process.

AgriLife Research scientists say two phenolic compounds are responsible for the cancer cell deaths in the study, which was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. The phenols are organic compounds that occur in fruits. They are slightly acidic and may be associated with traits such as aroma, taste or color.

 

"It was a differential effect which is what you're looking for because in current cancer treatment with chemotherapy, the substance kills all cells, so it is really tough on the body," said Dr. David Byrne, AgriLife Research plant breeder who studies stone fruit. "Here, there is a five-fold difference in the toxic intensity. You can put it at a level where it will kill the cancer cells -- the very aggressive ones -- and not the normal ones."

 

Byrne and Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos originally studied the antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums and found them to match or exceed the blueberry which had been considered superior to other fruits in those categories.

"The following step was to choose some of these high antioxidant commercial varieties and study their anticancer properties," Cisneros-Zevallos said. "And we chose breast cancer as the target because it's one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern."

 

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 192,370 new cases of breast cancer in females and 1,910 cases in males in 2009. That year, 40,170 women and 440 men died from breast cancer. The World Health Organization reports that breast cancer accounts for 16 percent of the cancer deaths of women globally.

Cisneros-Zevallos, an AgriLife Research food scientist, said the team compared normal cells to two types of breast cancer, including the most aggressive type. The cells were treated with an extract from two commercial varieties, the "Rich Lady" peach and the "Black Splendor" plum.

 

"These extracts killed the cancer cells but not the normal cells," Cisneros-Zevallos said.

A closer look at the extracts determined that two specific phenolic acid components -- chlorogenic and neochlorogenic -- were responsible for killing the cancer cells while not affecting the normal cells, Cisneros-Zevallos said.

 

The two compounds are very common in fruits, the researchers said, but the stone fruits such as plums and peaches have especially high levels.

 

"So this is very, very attractive from the point of view of being an alternative to typical chemotherapy which kills normal cells along with cancerous ones," Byrne added.

 

The team said laboratory tests also confirmed that the compounds prevented cancer from growing in animals given the compounds.

 

Byrne plans to examine more fully the lines of the varieties that were tested to see how these compounds might be incorporated into his research of breeding plums and peaches. Cisneros-Zevallos will continue testing these extracts and compounds in different types of cancer and conduct further studies of the molecular mechanisms involved.

 

The work documenting the health benefits of stone fruit has been supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.

Journal Reference:

Giuliana Noratto, Weston Porter, David Byrne, Luis Cisneros-Zevallos. Identifying Peach and Plum Polyphenols with Chemopreventive Potential against Estrogen-Independent Breast Cancer Cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009; 57 (12): 5219 DOI: 10.1021/jf900259m

 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

 

A little chocolate might help cut cholesterol

 

Reuters Health

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Eating chocolate could bring down cholesterol levels in some people, a new analysis of eight studies shows.

But chocolate lovers shouldn't take the news as license to indulge. Chocolate only helped people who already had risk factors for heart disease, and only when consumed in modest amounts, Dr. Rutai Hui of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing and colleagues found.

Several studies have suggested that chocolate may be good for you. One study released in March showed that among 19,300 people, those who ate the most chocolate had lower blood pressure and were less likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years. But like the new analysis, that research came with caveats; the difference in chocolate consumption between the top and bottom chocolate-consuming groups was around 6 grams, or about one-seventh of a Hershey's milk chocolate bar.

In the new analysis, Hui and colleagues searched the medical literature to find studies that looked at how cocoa affected blood fats, or lipids, and found eight trials including 215 people. When all studies were analyzed together, the researchers found eating cocoa cut levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, by about 6 mg/dL and reduced total cholesterol by the same amount. But cocoa had no effect on cholesterol in the three highest-quality studies.

Further analysis showed that only people who ate small amounts of cocoa, an amount containing 260 milligrams of polyphenols or less, experienced cholesterol lowering effects; people who consumed more showed no effect.

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, chocolate and red wine. A 1.25-ounce bar of milk chocolate contains about 300 milligrams of polyphenols.

The researchers also found that healthy people didn't get any cholesterol-lowering benefits from cocoa, but people with risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, saw their LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol drop by around 8 mg/dL each.

Eating moderate amounts of cocoa could be "a worthwhile dietary approach" for preventing high cholesterol in certain groups of people, Hui and colleagues conclude in a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Future research efforts," they say, "should concentrate on higher-quality and more rigorous randomized trials with longer follow-ups to resolve the uncertainty regarding the clinical effectiveness. Then we can really eat chocolate without feeling guilty."

Source: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28202v1

Targeted Immunotherapy Shows Promise for Metastatic Breast, Pancreatic Cancers

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2010) — Early trials using targeted monoclonal antibodies in combination with existing therapies show promise in treating pancreatic cancer and metastatic breast cancer, according to research that will be presented by investigators from the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology June 4 through 8. One study uses an antibody to enhance the effectiveness of a breast cancer vaccine developed at Penn to treat women with advanced breast cancer, while a pancreatic cancer trial uses an immune-enhancing antibody to increase the effectiveness of a current standard drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.

In the first new study, investigators used an antibody previously approved by the FDA to enhance the effectiveness of a therapeutic vaccine for women with advanced breast cancers. ("Phase I study of anti-CD25 mAb daclizumab to deplete regulatory T cells prior to telomerase/survivin peptide vaccination in patients with metastatic breast cancer" -- Oral Abstract #2508.) The antibody, known as anti-CD25 mAb dacluzimab, targets T regulatory cells (Tregs), naturally occurring cells which tumors harness to dampen the body's normal immune response. Until now, these cells have represented an obstacle to cancer immunotherapy. The Penn Medicine team's approach uses the antibody to turn off the Treg cells' function in the immune system and boosting the effectiveness of a telomerase/survivin peptide vaccine made to tackle the cancer.

 

The study demonstrated that a single infusion of the antibody given a week before patients received the vaccine results in "rapid, marked and prolonged" loss of Tregs without toxicity in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Six of the 10 patients who received the treatment exhibited a stabilization of their disease. Data for overall survival is not yet available, but the Penn researchers say the results represent significant promise for treating the patient population that does not respond to standard therapies.

 

"Many of these women have already been treated with and failed several chemotherapy regimens, but using this approach they were able to receive multiple doses of the vaccine without experiencing any of the toxicities that often accompany chemotherapy," says senior author Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, an associate professor in the division of Hematology/Oncology. "For this group of patients, an extended period of stable disease represents an encouraging result." He and his team plan to begin much larger studies in the near future, and ultimately, to expand the new combined approach to women who are currently in remission but at very high risk of relapse.

 

Tregs play an important role in the body's normal immune response. When they are absent or severely depleted, the result is autoimmune problems. To date, however, research has not shown any long-term effects of this targeted immune suppression in the treated patients, which is an important consideration in expanding the trials to women without known active disease.

 

"Ten years ago, we didn't even know Tregs existed," Vonderheide says. "Our lack of knowledge about the intricacies of the normal immune system and the ways in which tumors can exploit the immune response severely limited the success of previous attempts at cancer immunotherapy. The early results were quite modest and very transient. It has taken five years to develop an understanding of how these cells work, but we have now reached the point where we are on the cusp of a whole new era in cancer immunotherapy."

 

In second immunotherapy-related study, Penn researchers utilized CP-870,893, a CD40 agonist monoclonal antibody produced by Pfizer that enhances anti-tumor cellular immunity by activating tumor antigens and triggering the release of inflammatory cytokines. ("Phase I study of CD40 agonist monoclonal antibody (CP-870,893) with gemcitabine in pancreatic cancer" -- Poster Presentation 2539.) The antibody was combined with the chemotherapy agent gemcitabine to treat pancreatic cancer patients who had not received any previous chemotherapy. The Phase I study demonstrated that the combined therapy produced promising results without causing any significant toxicity. Three of the first 21 patients treated experienced partial regressions of their tumors, and 11 patients' diseases stabilized, with the positive effects of the treatment observed in both the primary and metastatic tumors. Additional studies are underway to evaluate this treatment approach in larger groups of patients.

 

"The model for this research moves from the lab to the clinic and then back to the lab," says Hematology/Oncology physician Gregory Beatty, MD, who led the study with Peter O'Dwyer, MD, a professor of Hematology/Oncology. "With this approach, we cannot only measure the effects of the treatment, but also understand exactly what is going on at the cellular level and then use that information to develop our next generation of clinical interventions. Our goal is to re-educate the immune system to mount a specific inflammatory response to the tumor. By killing the cancer cells, the chemotherapy in effect alerts the immune system to the location of the tumor and provokes an immune response aimed at the cancer cells."

 

Currently, fewer than 10 percent of pancreatic cancer patients respond to gemcitabine alone, and most combination therapies studied have not produced more encouraging results -- responses, when they do occur, generally only last for about two months. The new combination therapy, however, appears to produce a significantly higher response rate, with an average duration of five to six months.

 

"This is an encouraging result against a cancer for which the outlook has been so grim for so long," says Vonderheide, who is also a co-author of the pancreatic cancer study. "We can honestly say now that the prospects for patients with pancreatic cancer are beginning to improve. What we are seeing, though, is just the tip of the iceberg. Patients and their families need to know this is no longer a disease against which we are helpless, and physicians must help their patients to seek clinical trials at the earliest point."

 

The breast cancer study will be presented as an oral abstract at the Developmental Therapeutics Clinical Pharmacology and Immunotherapy session on June 8 from 9:30 to 12:30 p.m. The pancreatic cancer study will be presented at the poster session on Developmental Therapeutics on June 7 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online May 26, 2010.

Study: 10 minutes of exercise, hour-long effects

By Lauran Neergaard

AP Medical Writer

The Associated Press

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WASHINGTON – Ten minutes of brisk exercise triggers metabolic changes that last at least an hour. The unfair news for panting newbies: The more fit you are, the more benefits you just might be getting.

We all know that exercise and a good diet are important for health, protecting against heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. But what exactly causes the health improvement from working up a sweat or from eating, say, more olive oil than saturated fat? And are some people biologically predisposed to get more benefit than others?

They're among questions that metabolic profiling, a new field called metabolomics, aims to answer in hopes of one day optimizing those benefits — or finding patterns that may signal risk for disease and new ways to treat it.

"We're only beginning to catalog the metabolic variability between people," says Dr. Robert Gerszten of Massachusetts General Hospital, whose team just took a step toward that goal.

The researchers measured biochemical changes in the blood of a variety of people: the healthy middle-aged, some who became short of breath with exertion, and marathon runners.

First, in 70 healthy people put on a treadmill, the team found more than 20 metabolites that change during exercise, naturally produced compounds involved in burning calories and fat and improving blood-sugar control. Some weren't known until now to be involved with exercise. Some revved up during exercise, like those involved in processing fat. Others involved with cellular stress decreased with exercise.

Those are pretty wonky findings, a first step in a complex field. But they back today's health advice that even brief bouts of activity are good.

"Ten minutes of exercise has at least an hour of effects on your body," says Gerszten, who found some of the metabolic changes that began after 10 minutes on the treadmill still were measurable 60 minutes after people cooled down.

Your heart rate rapidly drops back to normal when you quit moving, usually in 10 minutes or so. So finding lingering biochemical changes offers what Gerszten calls "tantalizing evidence" of how exercise may be building up longer-term benefits.

Back to the blood. Thinner people had greater increases in a metabolite named niacinamide, a nutrient byproduct that's involved in blood-sugar control, the team from Mass General and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard reported last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Checking a metabolite of fat breakdown, the team found people who were more fit — as measured by oxygen intake during exercise — appeared to be burning more fat than the less fit, or than people with shortness of breath, a possible symptom of heart disease.

The extremely fit — 25 Boston Marathon runners — had ten-fold increases in that metabolite after the race. Still other differences in metabolites allowed the researchers to tell which runners had finished in under four hours and which weren't as speedy.

"We have a chemical snapshot of what the more fit person looks like. Now we have to see if making someone's metabolism look like that snapshot, whether or not that's going to improve their performance," says Gerszten, whose ultimate goal is better cardiac care.

Don't expect a pill ever to substitute for a workout — the new work shows how complicated the body's response to exercise is, says metabolomics researcher Dr. Debbie Muoio of Duke University Medical Center.

But scientists are hunting nutritional compounds that might help tweak metabolic processes in specific ways. For example, Muoio discovered the muscles of diabetic animals lack enough of a metabolite named carnitine, and that feeding them more improved their control of blood sugar. Now, Muoio is beginning a pilot study in 25 older adults with pre-diabetes to see if carnitine supplements might work similarly in people who lack enough.

Next up: With University of Vermont researchers, she's testing how metabolic changes correlate with health measures in a study of people who alternate between a carefully controlled Mediterranean diet and higher-fat diets.

"The longterm hope is you could use this in making our way toward personalized medicine," Muoio says.

Editor’s Note: Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.

Calcium Supplements: Too Much of a Good Thing?

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2010) — Negative health effects linked to taking too much supplemental calcium are on the rise, according to a commentary appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). The incidence of the so-called milk-alkali or calcium-alkali syndrome is growing in large part because of widespread use of over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements.

The milk-alkali syndrome arose in the early 1900s when patients ingested abundant amounts of milk and antacids to control their ulcers. This practice increased individuals' risk of developing dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood, which could cause high blood pressure and even kidney failure. The incidence of the milk-alkali syndrome declined when newer ulcer medications became available, but it appears to be on the rise again thanks to increased use of over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements used mainly as preventive and treatment measures for osteoporosis. In many cases, patients with the syndrome require hospitalization.

 

Stanley Goldfarb, MD and Ami Patel, MD (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine) recommend changing the name of the milk-alkali syndrome to the calcium-alkali syndrome because the condition is now associated with a large intake of calcium, not milk. Postmenopausal women, pregnant women, transplant recipients, patients with bulimia, and individuals who are on dialysis have the highest risks of developing the calcium-alkali syndrome due to various physiological reasons.

 

According to the authors, the obvious preventive strategy against the calcium-alkali syndrome is to limit the intake of calcium to no more than 1.2 to 1.5 grams per day. "Calcium supplements taken in the recommended amounts are not only safe but are quite beneficial. Taken to excess is the problem," said Dr. Goldfarb. "Even at the recommended dose, careful monitoring of any medication is wise and yearly determinations of blood calcium levels for those patients taking calcium supplements or vitamin D is a wise approach," he added.

Journal Reference:

A. M. Patel, S. Goldfarb. Got Calcium? Welcome to the Calcium-Alkali Syndrome. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2010; DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2010030255


Genes and lifestyle pose separate breast cancer risks

 

By Kate Kelland

Reuters

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) – Common genetic differences have a limited role in causing breast cancer and work independently of lifestyle factors such as weight, diet and breastfeeding which are still more important, British scientists said on Wednesday.

In a study of more than 17,000 women, researchers found that although certain common gene variants raise the risk of developing breast cancer, they add to, but do not multiply, the risks posed by lifestyle factors like obesity or drinking.

The findings did not include the breast cancer genes known as BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 that occur much more rarely but which confer a high risk on women who have them.

"This is reassuring because...it means that whatever you inherit in terms of common gene variants, the effect of things such as maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake and being careful about HRT are still really important for reducing breast cancer risk," Ruth Travis of Oxford University's cancer epidemiology unit said in telephone interview.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in wealthy nations. Worldwide, it kills around half a million people each year.

British scientists said last month they had found five common genetic factors linked to the risk of developing breast cancer, adding to 13 other common genetic risk variants. Combined, these common gene factors explain around eight percent of the risk of getting the disease.

Travis worked with Jane Green, also of Oxford University, and colleagues to study 7,160 women with breast cancer and 10,196 women without. The women gave blood samples for genetic testing and information about their lifestyles.

The researchers looked at the risk of breast cancer for 12 genetic variants -- known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, (SNPs) -- in the women's DNA.

They related these to 10 known environmental breast cancer risk factors: age at puberty onset, number of births, age at first birth, breastfeeding, menopausal status, age at menopause, use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), weight, height, and alcohol consumption.

"None of the 120 comparisons yielded significant evidence of gene-environment interactions," they wrote in their study, which was published in The Lancet medical journal.

"Genes account for only a small proportion of breast cancers," Green said. "The main risk factors remain the lifestyle factors such as childbearing, use of HRT, obesity and alcohol consumption."

"The good news is that some of these are modifiable, so by changing their behavior women can alter their risk of breast cancer," she added.

A study published in the United States last year found that nearly 40 percent of all breast cancer cases there could be prevented if women kept a healthy weight, drank less alcohol, exercised more and breastfed their babies.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

Some Antidepressants May Bump Up Cataract Risk

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2010) — Seniors who take SSRI antidepressants may be more likely to develop cataracts, says the first major study to examine this interaction. The risk appears to increase by about 15 percent, which in the United States would translate to 22,000 cataract cases attributable to antidepressant use.

The study, led by Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Canada, assessed data for nearly 19,000 people age 65 or older, all of whom also had cardiovascular disease. Their records were compared to about 190,000 controls.

 

The effect was strongest for three SSRIs: Luvox (fluvoxamine) increased risk by 39 percent, Effexor (venlafaxine) by 33 percent and Paxil (paroxetine) by 23 percent. The apparent increased risk was associated only with current, not past, drug use. Some antidepressants did not appear to be associated with cataract risk, but this could have been because the numbers of study participants using these drug types were too small to show effects, or because only specific agents in certain medications are related to cataract formation. These questions need further study.

 

"The eye's lens has serotonin receptors, and animal studies have shown that excess serotonin can make the lens opaque and lead to cataract formation," Dr. Etminan said. "If our findings are confirmed in future studies, doctors and patients should consider cataract risk when prescribing some SSRIs for seniors," he added.

Earlier research linked beta blocker medications and oral and inhaled steroids to higher cataract risk, and a recent Swedish study suggests that women's hormone replacement therapy may also raise risk.

Journal Reference:

Mahyar Etminan, Frederick S. Mikelberg, James M. Brophy. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and the Risk of CataractsA Nested Case-Control Study. Ophthalmology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2009.11.042


Farm kids at lower allergy risk, even in their 70s

 

By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The anti-allergy effects of an agricultural upbringing persist well into old age, new research from Sweden shows.

Dr. Jonas Eriksson of the University of Gothenburg and colleagues found that people who spent the first five years of their lives on a farm were about 20 percent less likely to have itchy, runny eyes and noses due to allergies, from age 16 up through to age 75.

So-called allergic rhinitis has become increasingly common since the mid-20th century, Eriksson and his team note, although the reasons for the increase are unknown. A study they conducted found nearly 30 percent of adults in West Sweden had the condition. "The prevalence found in this study is high, but in some countries, e.g. Australia, even higher prevalence has been reported," Eriksson told Reuters Health via e-mail.

A number of studies have found allergies are less common among children and adults raised on farms but it has not been known if this protection lasts into middle and old age.

To investigate, Eriksson and his colleagues surveyed 18,087 residents of West Sweden about their respiratory health and whether they lived on farms as children. They also looked at whether living in a more urban setting during adulthood affected allergic rhinitis risk.

Twenty percent of people who'd lived on a farm up to age 5 had allergic rhinitis, compared to 28 percent of people who hadn't been raised on a farm. The effect was strongest among 16- to 30-year-olds (20 percent vs. 31 percent), and weakest among 61- to 75-year-olds (17 percent vs. 19 percent).

Eriksson and his team also found that people living in the most urban area -- within the town of Gothenburg, with a population of 700,000 -- had the highest risk of allergic rhinitis, at 28 percent; this risk steadily declined as urbanization decreased, with 23 percent of rural residents suffering from the condition.

While the protective effect of early farm life remained significant up until age 75, urbanization's effects weren't statistically significant, meaning they could have been due to chance, after age 35.

If farm life reduced a person's risk of allergic rhinitis by 20 percent, this could make a significant difference in regions like Western Sweden where the condition is common; for example, the 30 percent risk for the general adult population would drop to 24 percent for people who started their lives on a farm.

Only farms with livestock confer this protection, Eriksson noted. How contact with farm animals might cut allergy risk isn't clear, he added, although drinking unpasteurized milk and exposure to certain types of bacteria are two mechanisms that have been proposed.

How urban living might up allergy risk isn't clear either, the researcher said. "Higher levels of diesel exhaust particles in the urban environment could be one factor," he wrote.

"Hypothetically, there could also be a higher disease awareness in urban than in rural areas, which could explain some of the difference."

Source: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123442815/abstract

Allergy, online May 17, 2010.

Monday, May 31, 2010

 

Obesity and asthma are linked: study

 

By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Monday, May 31, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A new study confirms a link between obesity and asthma.

A number of studies have shown an association between obesity and asthma, both of which have become much more common over the past three decades, Dr. Jun Ma of the Palo Alto Medical Research Institute in California note in the medical journal Allergy.

Ma and her team looked at about 4,500 men and women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2005-2006. About a third were overweight, and another third were obese.

Forty-one percent had some type of allergy, while 8 percent had asthma. The researchers wanted to tease out those rates because allergy and asthma are related in some people.

Twelve percent of the obese individuals had asthma, compared to six percent of the normal-weight study participants. And the likelihood of asthma rose as the body mass index -- BMI, a relation of weight and height used to gauge obesity -- increased and waist circumferences expanded.

The risk of asthma was more than tripled for the most obese individuals compared to normal weight people.

But the reason why the two might be related is still not clear. Some researchers have suggested the system-wide, low-grade inflammation that occurs with obesity may be a factor, while others have argued that resistance to the key blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin -- which rises with excess weight -- is the reason for the link. That resistance often foretells the onset of diabetes.

Thirty-seven percent were either diabetic or had insulin resistance. The study did not find any evidence, however, that insulin resistance was responsible for the relationship, and allergy was not related to either weight or insulin resistance.

The findings don't rule out the possibility that insulin may be a link between obesity and asthma, Ma told Reuters Health by e-mail. There are a host of other potential reasons for the association, which seems complex, she added.

Source: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123423520/abstract

Allergy, published online May 7, 2010.

Prostate Cancer Vaccine Shows Few Side Effects

 

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay News

Monday, May 31, 2010

MONDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News)-- The newly approved therapeutic prostate cancer vaccine, Provenge, is safe and has few side effects, a new study finds.

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for use in men with advanced prostate cancer who had failed hormone therapy.

"Provenge was approved based on both safety and clinical data," said lead researcher Dr. Simon J. Hall, chair of urology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

This safety data shows that there are very limited side effects, Hall added.

The advantage of the vaccine for patients with metastatic hormone-resistant prostate cancer is that it has fewer side effects than chemotherapy, which is the only other treatment option for these patients, Hall explained.

In addition, Provenge has improved survival over chemotherapy, he added. The average survival time for men given Provenge is 4.5 months, although some patients saw their lives extended by two to three years.

"This is a newly available treatment, with very limited side effects, compared to anything else that a man would be considering in this state," Hall said.

Hall was to present the results on Monday at the American Urological Association annual meeting in San Francisco.

Data from four phase 3 trials, which included 904 men randomized to either Provenge or placebo, showed the vaccine extended survival, improved quality of life and had only mild side effects.

In fact, more than 83 percent of the men who received Provenge were able to do perform activities without any restrictions, the researchers noted.

In terms of side effects, the most common were flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever and headache, which were seen in 3.5 percent of the men. Usually it took only a day or two for the symptoms to resolve.

More serious side effects, such as infusion reactions, affected 3.5 percent of the patients. Cerebrovascular problems affected 3.5 percent of those who received the vaccine and 2.6 percent of those who received placebo, Hall's group found.

Dr. Nelson Neal Stone, a clinical professor of urology and radiation oncology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said that "the side effects are like having the flu and they can be managed with aspirin."

However, Stone pointed to one big drawback to Provenge: cost. "I've heard $30,000, I've heard $90,000 ... I have no idea what it's going to cost. And who's going to pay for it?" he said.

Provenge is a therapeutic (not preventive) vaccine that is made from the patient's own white blood cells. Once removed from the patient, the cells are treated with the drug and placed back into the patient. These treated cells then cause an immune response, which in turn kills cancer cells, while leaving normal cells unharmed.

According to the FDA, Provenge is given intravenously in a three-dose schedule delivered in two-week intervals.

The vaccine was developed by Seattle-based Dendreon Corp., which conducted initial studies among men with advanced prostate cancer who had already failed standard hormone treatment.

According to American Cancer Society estimates, more than 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and 27,360 men die from the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in American men, after skin cancer. More than 2 million American men who have had prostate cancer at some point are still alive today. The death rate is going down and the disease is being found earlier, according to the cancer society.

More information

For more information on prostate cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

After a point, more omega-3s don't help the heart

 

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Monday, May 31, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Memo to adults with heart disease: If you're already eating a fair amount of fish and taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, the extra boost may not be doing much to help your heart.

New research suggests that only patients with very low daily intake of certain omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and some plants and nuts, are likely to reduce their risk of heart attacks or death if they take more supplements rich in these fatty acids.

The study supports research which has shown that, after a certain point, omega-3 supplements may not do much for the heart. It also comes as a new U.S. Government Accountability Office urged more authority for the Food and Drug Administration to inspect the quality and safety of supplements, whose manufacturers often make claims not supported by data.

"Based on data from this and previous studies also in other countries, we think that it is relevant to say that most cardiac patients who are well medically treated and eat at least a certain amount of fish per week, probably will not benefit from taking omega-3 supplements," Mari Manger, the study's lead author and a PhD candidate at University of Bergen in Norway, told Reuters Health by e-mail.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed more than 2,400 Norwegians, about 80 percent of them men, being treated for heart disease. All were on cholesterol-lowering drugs.

At the beginning of the study, all patients filled out a questionnaire about their eating habits, including the fish products and supplements such as cod liver oil that they had eaten over the past year. From this, the authors calculated how much of three different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids thought to be associated with heart health the subjects were getting in their diets and supplements.

The authors then tracked the patients for an average of almost 5 years for heart-related complications, including heart attacks and death. Except for patients who consumed the lowest levels of omega-3s, there was no relationship between how much a person consumed and whether they suffered a heart attack or other complication.

Only two percent of patients in the study consumed levels of two kinds of omega-3s below the recommended level.

Eating more fish and taking more supplements didn't prevent heart problems, although high levels of omega-3s didn't hurt the patients either.

These results may be atypical, said Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, a nutritional scientist at Tufts University, because the Norwegian diet differs from that of, say, Americans, who rarely consume fish oil. "This study doesn't refute current recommendations for individuals to consume more fish," Lichtenstein, who was not involved with the study, told Reuters Health.

"The current data indicates that there's probably a threshold" of benefits for omega-3s, "and that's why the recommendation (from the American Heart Association) is two fish meals a week."

Source: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2010.29175v1

 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 19, 2010.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

 

Vitamins Fail to Protect Men Against Bladder Cancer

 

HealthDay News

Sunday, May 30, 2010

SUNDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that vitamins may do nothing to protect men against bladder cancer and might even raise the risk of another type of cancer.

In one study examining vitamin use, researchers analyzed more than 10,000 questionnaires that men filled out as they took part in prostate screenings.

More than 60 percent of the men said they took supplements, with 48 percent taking three or more. Multivitamins, fish oil, and vitamin C were the most common supplements that the men used.

"The high prevalence of supplement use reported in this study is of potential concern," the study authors wrote. "Previous studies suggest an association between multivitamin use and increased risk of advanced prostate cancer," which the earlier research had linked to men who used multivitamins seven or more times a week.

Researchers also studied 77,719 residents of Washington state, aged 50-76, who filled out surveys in 2000-2002.

Of those, 330 developed bladder cancer over the next five years. Researchers found that vitamin use didn't lower the odds of bladder cancer.

The findings are scheduled to be released Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in San Francisco.

"It's really disturbing to think that so many people are taking vitamins, assuming that these pills are providing some sort of health benefits," Dr. Mark A. Moyad, who is moderating a panel where the findings will be discussed, said in a news release. "The reality is that very little scientific research has proven vitamins to be effective in protecting against cancer."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more details on vitamins.

Radiation for Prostate Cancer May Boost Fracture Risk

 

HealthDay News

Sunday, May 30, 2010

SUNDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that prostate cancer patients who undergo three-dimensional external-beam radiation therapy may be at increased risk of breaking their hips, but they can take action to strengthen their bones after treatment.

Doctors already know that treatment with androgen-suppression therapy can weaken bones in men. And three-dimensional external-beam radiation therapy appears to boost the risk of hip fracture in women.

To understand the risk in men, researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 166,000 prostate cancer patients aged 66 and older and compared the risk of hip fracture (which takes place in the area hit by radiation) to wrist fracture (an area of the body that isn't affected by the radiation).

After adjusting their statistics so factors such as race and age wouldn't skew the results, the researchers found the radiation treatment boosted the risk of hip fracture by 58 percent but didn't increase the risk of wrist fracture.

"Maintaining bone health is an important part of treating prostate cancer patients," especially those on androgen-suppression therapy, Dr. Jeff Holzbeierlein, a spokesman for the American Urological Association, said in a news release. "These data suggest that we might consider taking similar measures with our patients who are receiving three-dimensional external-beam radiation therapy."

The findings were scheduled to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association, in San Francisco.

More information

For more on prostate cancer, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.