Friday, December 26, 2008

Jon's Health Tips - Apples

An Apple Peel a Day Could Keep Cancer at Bay

An apple peel a day might help keep cancer at bay, according to Rui Hai Liu, Cornell associate professor of food science, who has identified a dozen compounds -- triterpenoids -- in apple peel that either inhibit or kill cancer cells in laboratory cultures. Three of the compounds have not previously been described in the literature.
"We found that several compounds have potent anti-proliferative activities against human liver, colon and breast cancer cells and may be partially responsible for the anti-cancer activities of whole apples," says Liu, who is affiliated with Cornell's Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology and is senior author of the study, which is online and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In previous Cornell studies, apples had been found not only to fight cancer cells in the laboratory but also to reduce the number and size of mammary tumors in rats. The Cornell researchers now think that the triterpenoids may be doing much of the anti-cancer work.
"Some compounds were more potent and acted differently against the various cancer cell lines, but they all show very potent anti-cancer activities and should be studied further," says Liu.
With co-author Xiangjiu He, a Cornell postdoctoral researcher, Liu analyzed the peel from 230 pounds of red delicious apples from the Cornell Orchard and isolated their individual compounds. After identifying the structures of the promising compounds in the peel, the researchers tested the pure compounds against cancer cell growth in the laboratory. In the past, Liu has also identified compounds called phytochemicals -- mainly flavonoids and phenolic acids -- in apples and other foods that appear to be have anti-cancer properties as well, including inhibiting tumor growth in human breast cancer cells.
"We believe that a recommendation that consumers to eat five to 12 servings of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily is appropriate to reduce the risks of chronic diseases, including cancer, and to meet nutrient requirements for optimum health," said Liu.
The study online:

Adults who eat apples, drink apple juice have lower risk for metabolic syndrome

Apple product consumers likely to have lower blood pressure, trimmer waistlines, and more nutrient dense diets
Not eating your apple a day" Perhaps you should be. Adults who eat apples, apple juice and applesauce have a significantly reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems that are linked to numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The study results, presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting this week, were derived from an analysis of adult food consumption data collected in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the government’s largest food consumption and health database.
Dr. Victor Fulgoni analyzed the data, specifically looking at the association between consumption of apples and apple products, nutrient intake and various physiological parameters related to metabolic syndrome. When compared to non-consumers, adult apple product consumers had a 27% decreased likelihood of being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
Fulgoni notes, “We found that adults who eat apples and apple products have smaller waistlines that indicate less abdominal fat, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk for developing what is known as the metabolic syndrome.”
In addition to having a 30% decreased likelihood for elevated diastolic blood pressure and a 36% decreased likelihood for elevated systolic blood pressure, apple product consumers also had a 21% reduced risk of increased waist circumference – all predictors of cardiovascular disease and an increased likelihood of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, adult apple product consumers had significantly reduced C-reactive protein levels, another measurable marker related to cardiovascular risk.
Furthermore, apple product consumers’ diets were healthier than non-consumers – they had an overall greater intake of fruit and key nutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium. These consumers also ate less total fat, saturated fat, discretionary fat and added sugars.

Apple pectin, apple juice extracts shown to have anticarcinogenic effects on colon

The apples and apple juice you consume may have positive effects in one of the most unlikely places in the body – in the colon. New research has demonstrated that both apple pectin and polyphenol-rich apple juice components actually enhance biological mechanisms that produce anticarcinogenic compounds during the fermentation process.
Using human fecal matter as the test substance, German researchers Dr. Dieter Schrenk, M.D. and his colleagues hypothesized that the compound butyrate could be increased in the presence of apple pectin and apple juice extracts.
Butyrate has been suggested to be a chemopreventative metabolite that might prevent the occurrence of colorectal cancer, which is very common in Western industrialized countries. It is a short chain fatty acid which is seen as a major factor contributing to healthy colon mucosa. The research notes, “Butyrate not only serves as a major nutrient for the colon epithelia but is also thought to play an important role in the protective effect of natural fiber against colorectal cancer.”
So how do apple pectin and apple juice extracts play a role in increasing amounts of butyrate? The laboratory tests performed by Schrenk found that by the increased production of butyrate via the addition of apple components, histone deacetlyases (HDAC) were inhibited. With slowed production of HDAC, there would be significantly less growth of precancerous and tumor cells.
The research, published in the April 2008 issue of Nutrition, notes, “apples are a major source of natural fiber and of low molecular weight plan polyphenols in the Western diet.” The researchers conclude, “Pectin-rich apple products can thus be expected to exert anticarginogenic effects in the colon.”

Apple consumers reap heart-health benefits

Apples may prove to be a winner when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease, says a new study of more than 34,000 women. In this study, flavonoid-rich apples were found to be one of three foods (along with red wine and pears) that decrease the risk of mortality for both coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) among post-menopausal women, The findings were published in the March 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.__

Women of all ages are encouraged to consume more fruit and vegetables, including apples and apple products, for heart health. However, this study focused on postmenopausal woman, a group becoming more aware of the risk for heart disease. Using a government database that assesses the flavonoid-compound content of foods, the researchers hypothesized that flavonoid intake (in general and from specific foods), might be inversely associated with mortality from CVD and CHD among the women in the study groupSubjects selected for this research analysis were postmenopausal and part of the ongoing Iowa Women's Health Study, each of which has been monitored for dietary intake and various health outcomes for nearly 20 years._

As a result of the extensive analysis that considered what the women ate, the types of cardiovascular-related diseases they experienced, and the overall flavonoid content of an extensive list of foods, the researchers concluded that consumption of apples, pears and red wine were linked with the lowest risk for mortality related to both CHD and CVD (not just one or the other).

"Flavonoids are compounds found in small quantities in numerous plant foods, including fruits and vegetables, tea, wine, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices," say the university researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Oslo (Norway) Earlier research has indicated that flavonoids also have antioxidant properties that are linked to the reduction of oxidation of the bad (LDL - low density lipoprotein) cholesterol which have been linked in various ways with the development of CVD. According to the government database cited in this paper, apples contain a wide variety of flavonoid compounds.__

The researchers also believe this is the first prospective study of postmenopausal women to report on the intake and impact of total and specific flavonoid subclasses. They conclude, "Dietary intakes of flavanones, anthocyanins, and certain foods rich in flavonoids were associated with reduced risk of death due to CHD, CVD and all causes."__

The publication of this positive study for apples comes on the heels of updated heart disease prevention guidelines for women just released by the American Heart Association in the February 20 issue of Circulation. As part of their guidelines, AHA emphasizes that women increase their intake of fruits and vegetables to help prevent heart disease over their lifetime, not just to reduce short-term risk. Worldwide, cardiovascular disease is the largest single cause of mortality among women, accounting for one third of all deaths.

Can an apple a day keep asthma away?

Poor diets show increased respiratory symptoms in teens
Teenagers who forego a healthy and balanced diet may have a harder time catching their breath. A new study, published in the July issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), shows that a low dietary intake of certain nutrients increases the likelihood of respiratory symptoms such as asthma, especially in teens who smoke. Furthermore, a lack of these nutrients may also lead to lower lung function.
“Our study, as well as other research, suggests that higher intakes of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory micronutrients are associated with lower reports of cough, respiratory infections, and less severe asthma-related symptoms,” said lead study author Jane Burns, ScD, Harvard School of Public Health. “Teenagers who have low dietary intakes of fruit, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids are at greater risk of having asthma, emphasizing the importance of a balanced diet, composed of whole foods.”
While observing 12th-grade students from 12 communities around the US and Canada, Dr. Burns and her colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health, Health Canada, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), examined the associations of low dietary nutrient intake with low pulmonary function and respiratory symptoms. Over the period of one school year, 2,112 students completed a standardized respiratory questionnaire and a dietary questionnaire. They also answered questions about medication use, smoking habits, and recent exercise, before participating in lung function testing. Dr. Burns explained that the researchers focused on teens because it is the ideal age at which to test lung capacity and eating habits.
“During late adolescence, physical stature has, on average, been attained and lung growth closely parallels this growth. Therefore we were observing a time when lung function was close to its optimal capacity,” she said. “Also, although our diet survey targeted eating habits only during the past year, it did give us some idea of the teens’ general past diet. However, their current respiratory health may be a reflection of diet during childhood, as well as during the past year.”
The majority of adolescents in the study were white, one third was overweight, and 72% did not consume multivitamins. Also, nearly 25% reported smoking on a daily basis. Researchers also found that at least one third of the students’ diets were below the recommended levels of fruit, vegetable, vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acid intake.
“Vitamin supplements can help teens meet their daily recommended levels,” said Dr. Burns, “and surprisingly, even relatively low levels of omega-3 fatty acids appeared to protect teens from higher reported respiratory symptoms.”
Results showed that low dietary intakes of fruit, vitamins C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids were associated with decreased lung function and a greater risk of chronic bronchitic symptoms, wheeze, and asthma. These risks were further increased among students with the lowest intakes and who also smoked.
“I wish we could say that an apple a day can keep asthma away, but it’s a complex disease with a genetic component. However, it may be that certain foods can lessen or prevent asthma symptoms,” said Dr. Burns. “The most important thing to remember is that diet can have a significant impact on teens’ respiratory health. I would encourage them to make healthy eating a part of their daily routine, and stress to them that smoking is bad.” Researchers emphasized that fresh fruits make for convenient snacks. They also suggest preparing a simple, daily family meal, as a method to promote both communication and good nutrition.
“A balanced diet is not only good for lung health, but for general health,” said Mark J. Rosen, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. “Parents and physicians should work together to monitor and maintain healthy diets and lifestyles for children of all ages.”

Apples, apple juice shown to prevent early atherosclerosis

A new study shows that apples and apple juice are playing the same health league as the often-touted purple grapes and grape juice. The study was published in the April 2008 issue of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.
Researcher Kelly Decorde from the Universite Montpelier in France was part of the European research team that found apples have similar cardiovascular protective properties to grapes. The researchers also observed that processing the fruit into juice has the potential to increase the bioavailability of the naturally-occurring compounds and antioxidants found in the whole fruit.
Using a variety of established analytical techniques, aortic plaque was evaluated to determine the effectiveness in decreasing plaque that is associated with atherosclerosis.
According to the research, “This study demonstrates that processing apples and purple grapes into juice modifies the protective effect of their phenolics against diet induced oxidative stress and early atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic hamsters.”
Researchers also noted, “These results show for the first time that long-term consumption of antioxidants supplied by apples and purple grapes, especially phenolic compounds, prevents the development of atherosclerosis in hamsters, and that the processing can have a major impact on the potential health effects of a product.”
In summary, the researchers stated that their work would help provide encouragement that fruit and fruit juices may have significant clinical and public health relevance.

Apples, Apple Juice Lower Wheezing and Asthma Risk in Children

Published in the September 2007 issue of Thorax, the latest study finds that when women ate apples during pregnancy, researchers found a significant decrease in asthma and wheezing among their children when the children were followed over five years and reached five years of age.
This unique longitudinal study tracked dietary intake by 1253 mother-child pairs. According to the researchers that conducted medical evaluations for asthma and related symptoms (i.e., wheezing) in the children, they found no other association with decreased risk other than for apple consumption. The only other positive association found between prenatal food intake and risk reduction in the children was with fish intake by the mothers, for which the researchers found that children of mothers who ate fish had a lowered incidence of doctor-confirmed eczema.
A similar but different study published June 2007 also showed a link between apple juice consumption and a reduction in wheezing among children. That study was published in June’s European Respiratory Journal.
Among children who experienced what was characterized as “current wheeze” (where the child had wheezing or whistling in the chest in the last 12 months), there was a significant, dose response association between consumption of apple juice and a reduced incidence of the wheezing. The researchers found that drinking apple juice made from concentrate and consumption of bananas one or more times a day (compared to drinking apple juice or eating bananas less than once a month) was directly associated with improvement of wheezing occurences.
According to the authors of the Thorax paper, the protective effect from apples is attributable to their powerful phytochemical content, which includes flavonoids, isoflavonoids, and phenolic acids. Apples and apple products combined are the largest source of free phenolics in people’s diet in the US and in Europe.
The American Lung Association states that asthma remains a major public health concern. In 2003, approximately 20 million Americans had asthma and the condition accounted for an estimated 12.8 million lost school days in children. Asthma ranks within the top ten prevalent conditions causing limitation of activity and costs our nation $16.1 billion in health care costs annually.

Apple's benefits reach into the womb to fight asthma

Apple's benefits reach into the womb, found to be protective against childhood asthma__Eating apples while pregnant may give new meaning to an apple a day keeping the doctor away. Compelling new research has concluded that mothers who eat apples during pregnancy may protect their children from developing asthma later in life. The study was published in Thorax online.__This unique longitudinal study tracked dietary intake by nearly 2000 pregnant women, then examined the effects of the maternal diet on airway development in more than 1200 of their children five years later. Among a wide variety of foods consumed and recorded by the pregnant women, the researchers concluded that the children of mothers who ate apples had a significantly reduced risk for the development of asthma and childhood wheezing.__This study focuses on medical evaluations for asthma and related symptoms (i.e., wheezing) when the children were five years old. As a result of the evaluations cited in this research, other than apples, there were no consistent associations found between prenatal consumption of a range of healthful foods and asthma in the 1253 children who were evaluated.__Children of mothers who ate apples during pregnancy were much less likely to exhibit symptoms of asthma (including wheezing), say the researchers who hail from institutions in The Netherlands and Scotland. These same researchers previously reported positive associations between maternal consumption of vitamins A, E, D and zinc with reduced risk of asthma, wheeze and eczema in children.__The only other positive association found between prenatal food intake and risk reduction in the children was with fish, for which the researchers found that children of mothers who ate fish had a lowered incidence of doctor-confirmed eczema.__According to the research, "The present study suggests beneficial associations between maternal apple intake during pregnancy and wheeze and asthma at age five years." They add that their findings "suggest an apple specific effect, possibly because of its phytochemical content, such as flavonoids." The research paper cites other related studies on apples, including those which found that "intake of apples as a significant source of flavonoids and other polyphenols has been beneficially associated with asthma, bronchial hypersensitivity, and lung function in adults."__In 2004, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that nine million U.S. children have been diagnosed with asthma at one point in their lives and four million children suffered from asthma attacks that year. Others suffer from "hidden asthma" – undetected or undiagnosed asthma, according the American Lung Association. The cost of this disease is great – statistics show asthma to be the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children under 15 and is among the leading causes of school absenteeism.

Eating apples/fish helps vs asthma/allergies

Women who eat apples and fish during pregnancy may reduce the risk of their children developing asthma or allergic disease, suggests a new study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference, on Sunday, May 20.__The SEATON study, conducted at the University of Aberdeen, UK, found that the children of mothers who ate the most apples were less likely to ever have wheezed or have doctor-confirmed asthma at the age of 5 years, compared to children of mothers who had the lowest apple consumption. Children of mothers who ate fish once or more a week were less likely to have had eczema than children of mothers who never ate fish.__The study did not find any protective effect against asthma or allergic diseases from many other foods, including vegetables, fruit juice, citrus or kiwi fruit, whole grain products, fat from dairy products or margarine or other low-fat spreads.__The researchers studied 1212 children born to women who had filled out food questionnaires during their pregnancy. When the children were 5 years old, the mothers filled out a questionnaire about the children’s respiratory symptoms and allergies, as well as a questionnaire about their child’s food consumption.__The children were also given lung function and allergy tests. Previous studies in the same children have found evidence for protective effects of vitamin E and D and zinc during pregnancy in reducing the risk of children’s wheeze and asthma, notes researcher Saskia Willers, M.Sc. of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. If the new results are confirmed, she says, "recommendations on dietary modification during pregnancy may help to prevent childhood asthma and allergy."__Willers concludes that at least until age 5, a mother’s diet during pregnancy might be more influential on a child’s respiratory health than the child’s own diet. She notes that further study of this group of children will be needed to see whether the association with the mothers’ diet declines in older children, and if mothers’ and their childrens’ diets interact in older children.__Willers suggests that the beneficial effect of apples may come from powerful antioxidants called flavonoids, while fish’s protective effect may come from omega-3 fatty acids, which other studies have suggested have a protective effect on the heart and may have a protective effect in asthma. "Other studies have looked at individual nutrients’ effect on asthma in pregnancy, but our study looked at specific foods during pregnancy and the subsequent development of childhood asthma and allergies, which is quite new," Willers says. "Foods contain mixtures of nutrients that may contribute more than the sum of their parts."

Naturally-occurring apple compounds reduce risk of pancreatic cancer

Smokers benefit most from intake of 'hidden' plant nutrients
Eating flavonol-rich foods like apples may help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, says a team of international researchers. Quercetin, which is found naturally in apples and onions, has been identified as one of the most beneficial flavonols in preventing and reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer. Although the overall risk was reduced among the study participants, smokers who consumed foods rich in flavonols had a significantly greater risk reduction.
This study, published in the October 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, is the first of its kind to evaluate the effect of flavonols – compounds found specifically in plants – on developing pancreatic cancer. According to the research paper, “only a few prospective studies have investigated flavonols as risk factors for cancer, none of which has included pancreatic cancer. “
Researchers from Germany, the Univ. of Hawaii and Univ. of Southern California tracked food intake and health outcomes of 183,518 participants in the Multiethnic Cohort Study for eight years. The study evaluated the participants’ food consumption and calculated the intake of the three flavonols quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin. The analyses determined that flavonol intake does have an impact on the risk for developing pancreatic cancer.
The most significant finding was among smokers. Smokers with the lowest intake of flavonols presented with the most pancreatic cancer. Smoking is an established risk factor for the often fatal pancreatic cancer, notes the research.
Among the other findings were that women had the highest intake of total flavonols and seventy percent of the flavonol intake came from quercetin, linked to apple and onion consumption.
It is believed that these compounds may have anticancer effects due to their ability to reduce oxidative stress and alter other cellular functions related to cancer development.
“Unlike many of the dietary components, flavonols are concentrated in specific foods rather than in broader food groups, for example, in apples rather than in all fruit,” notes the research study. Previously, the most consistent inverse association was found between flavonols, especially quercetin in apples and lung cancer, as pointed out in this study. No other epidemiological flavonol studies have included evaluation of pancreatic cancer.
While found in many plants, flavonols are found in high concentrations in apples, onions, tea, berries, kale, and broccoli. Quercetin is most plentiful in apples and onions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Certain Vegetables Combat Cancer

Women should go for the broccoli when the relish tray comes around during holiday celebrations this season.

While it has been known for some time that eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can help prevent breast cancer, the mechanism by which the active substances in these vegetables inhibit cell proliferation was unknown - until now.

Scientists in the UC Santa Barbara laboratories of Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, and Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, have shown how the healing power of these vegetables works at the cellular level. Their research is published in this month's journal Carcinogenesis.

"Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower," said first author Olga Azarenko, who is a graduate student at UCSB. "These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.

"Our paper focuses on the anti-cancer activity of one of these compounds, called sulforaphane, or SFN," Azarenko added. "It has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death."

Azarenko made the surprising discovery that SFN inhibits the proliferation of human tumor cells by a mechanism similar to the way that the anticancer drugs taxol and vincristine inhibit cell division during mitosis. Mitosis is the process in which the duplicated DNA in the form of chromosomes is accurately distributed to the two daughter cells when a cell divides.

Hundreds of tiny tube-like structures, called microtubules, make up the machinery that cells use to separate the chromosomes. SFN, like the more powerful anticancer agents, interferes with microtubule functioning during mitosis in a similar manner to the more powerful anticancer drugs. However SFN is much weaker than these other plant-based drugs, and thus much less toxic.

"SFN may be an effective cancer preventive agent because it inhibits the proliferation and kills precancerous cells," said Wilson. It is also possible that it could be used as an addition to taxol and other similar drugs to increase effective killing of tumor cells without increased toxicity.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jon's Health Tips - Yogurt

I eat non-fat yogurt several times a week as a dessert or snack. Here’s why:

Health Benefits of Yogurt
Yogurt may not be the miracle food some have claimed, but it certainly has a lot to offer in the health department. Besides being an excellent source of bone-building calcium, it is believed that the bacterial cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus), that are used to make yogurt, carry their own health benefits.

For example, research has suggested that eating yogurt regularly helps boost the body's immune-system function, warding off colds and possibly even helping to fend off cancer. It is also thought the friendly bacteria found in many types of yogurt can help prevent and even remedy diarrhea.

For people who suffer from lactose intolerance, yogurt is often well tolerated because live yogurt cultures produce lactase, making the lactose sugar in the yogurt easier to digest (see Lactose Intolerance for advice on coping with this condition). Be sure to check the label on the yogurt carton for the National Yogurt Association's Live and Active Cultures (LAC) seal. This seal identifies products that contain a significant amount of live and active cultures. But don't look to frozen yogurt as an option; most frozen yogurt contains little of the healthful bacteria.
One research study tracked a population of 162 very elderly people for five years. The incidence of death for those subjects who ate yogurt and milk more than three times per week was 38% lower than the incidence of death those subjects who ate yogurt and other dairy foods less than once a week. (Consuming citrus fruit twice a week and a lowered consumption of meat were also associated with decreased incidence of death).
Yogurt Cuts Bladder Cancer Risk
Intakes of various foods and nutrients could influence the risk of bladder cancer, because most metabolites are excreted through the urinary bladder. With regard to dietary factors, consumption of milk and other dairy foods could potentially reduce the risk of bladder cancer.
This study aimed to examine the association between the intake of cultured milk and other dairy foods and the incidence of bladder cancer.
A statistically significant inverse association was observed for the intake of cultured milk (sour milk and yogurt). The intake of milk or cheese did not affect bladder cancer risk.
Cultured milk products contain lactic acid bacteria, which have been shown to suppress bladder carcinogenesis in rodents. The mechanism accounting for the antitumor effect of lactic acid bacteria is not clear, but it may be related to modulation of the immune system. In addition, oral administration of lactic acid bacteria has been shown to suppress food-derived urinary mutagenicity in humans, thus possibly reducing bladder carcinogenesis. The authors conclude that that a high intake of cultured milk may lower the risk of developing bladder cancer.

Dairy foods protect against many ills
Dairy foods protect against the clustering of abnormal body chemistry known as the metabolic syndrome, suggests a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health .
The syndrome has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, and premature death.
Two or more out of high blood glucose, insulin, blood fats, body fat, and blood pressure defined the presence of the metabolic syndrome in the men studied.
These men had almost double the risk of coronary artery heart disease and four times the risk of diabetes of those without the syndrome. They were also almost 50% more likely to die early.
But those who regularly drank milk and ate dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, were significantly less likely to have the syndrome.
They were 62% less likely to have it if they drank a pint or more of milk every day, and 56% less likely to have it if they regularly ate other dairy produce.
And the more dairy produce the men consumed, the less likely were they to have the syndrome.
Study suggests a little milk could go a long way for your heart
New research links drinking lowfat milk to lower risk for heart disease
Grabbing as little as one glass of lowfat or fat free milk could help protect your heart, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that adults who had at least one serving of lowfat milk or milk products each day had 37 percent lower odds of poor kidney function linked to heart disease compared to those who drank little or no lowfat milk.
To determine heart disease risk, researchers from several universities in the United States and Norway measured the kidney function of more than 5,000 older adults ages 45 to 84. They tracked eating patterns and tested albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) – a measure that when too low, can indicate poor kidney function and an extremely high risk for cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.
Researchers found that people who reported consuming more lowfat milk and milk products had lower ACR, or healthier kidney function. In fact, lowfat milk and milk products was the only food group evaluated that on its own, was significantly linked to a reduced risk for kidney dysfunction. The study authors cited other research suggesting milk protein, vitamin D, magnesium and calcium may contribute to milk's potential heart health benefits.
An overall healthy diet, including lowfat milk and milk products, whole grains, fruits and vegetables was also associated with a benefit – 20 percent lower ACR or healthier kidney function.
The National Kidney Foundation estimates that kidney disease affects about 26 million Americans – and kidney disease is both a cause and a consequence of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans. An estimated one out of three adults is currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease.
Milk provides nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein and potassium. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend drinking three glasses of lowfat or fat free milk each day.
Drinking milk may help ease the pressure
New study suggests fat-free milk may offer protection against hypertension -- a rising risk for women in this country
Women who drank more fat free milk and had higher intakes of calcium and vitamin D from foods, and not supplements, tended to have a lower risk for developing hypertension or high blood pressure, according to a new study published in the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension.
After examining the diets of nearly 30,000 middle-aged and older women, Harvard researchers found that women who consumed more low-fat milk and milk products and had diets higher in calcium and vitamin D from foods were better protected against high blood pressure. When the researchers investigated the benefits of milk specifically, they found women who drank two or more servings of fat free milk each day reduced their risk for high blood pressure by up to10 percent compared to those who drank fat free milk less than once a month. The same was not found for higher fat milk and milk products or calcium and vitamin D supplement users.
One in three American adults has high blood pressure, and an increasing number of women are living with undiagnosed hypertension, according to a second study published in the journal Circulation. The last decade has seen significant increases in uncontrolled high blood pressure for women across the nation, a condition that puts them at serious risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and even kidney failure.
Yet despite a vast body of research linking diet changes to blood pressure control, most Americans are still missing the mark on their diets. According to new research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Americans are ignoring the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, the therapeutic eating plan recommended by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute that emphasizes low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables to help reduce blood pressure levels.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jon's Health Tips - Oatmeal

I eat a big bowl of oatmeal (flavored with organic raisins) almost every day for breakfast. The reasons are outlined below. (I also eat mostly whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta when I can, and snack on whole wheat dry cereal once in a while.)

Oatmeal's Health Claims Strongly Reaffirmed

A new scientific review of the most current research shows the link between eating oatmeal and cholesterol reduction to be stronger than when the FDA initially approved the health claim's appearance on food labels in 1997.
Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, co-authors "The Oatmeal-Cholesterol Connection: 10 Years Later" in the January/February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
Anderson presents a contemporary analysis to determine if newer studies are consistent with the original conclusion reached by the FDA. His report says studies conducted during the past 15 years have, without exception, shown:_
• total cholesterol levels are lowered through oat consumption;
• low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the "bad" cholesterol) is reduced without adverse effects on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the "good" cholesterol), or triglyceride concentrations.
"Whole-grain products like oatmeal are among some of the best foods one can eat to improve cholesterol levels, in addition to other lifestyle choices," Anderson said. "Lifestyle choices, such as diet, should be the first line of therapy for most patients with moderate cholesterol risk given the expense, safety concerns, and intolerance related to cholesterol lowering drugs.”
More recent data indicate that whole-grain oats, as part of a lifestyle management program, may confer health benefits that extend beyond total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol reduction, Anderson said.
Recent studies suggest eating oatmeal may:_
• Reduce the risk for elevated blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and weight gain_
• Reduce LDL cholesterol during weight-loss
• Provide favorable changes in the physical characteristics of LDL cholesterol particles, making them less susceptible to oxidation (oxidation is thought to lead to hardening of the arteries.)
• Supply unique compounds that may lead to reducing early hardening of the arteries
“Since the 80’s, oatmeal has been scientifically recognized for its heart health benefits, and the latest research shows this evidence endures the test of time and should be embraced as a lifestyle option for the millions of Americans at-risk for heart disease,” said Anderson.

Breakfast Improves Overall Diet Quality

A groundbreaking new study shows that eaters of lower energy dense breakfast have improved diet quality, and may have a better ability to maintain a healthy weight.
The study, published in the November 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who enjoy a less energy dense morning meal have diets that are richer in important vitamins and minerals and lower in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to those who consume a more energy dense meal.
The study explored whether or not the energy density -- the number of calories in relation to the grams of foods and beverages -- consumed at breakfast predicted energy density and diet quality for the rest of the day, as well as weight among 12,000 US women and men (as assessed by BMI - body mass index).
“Our new findings carry several important implications concerning breakfast and overall health,” says study co-author, cardiologist Dr. James Rippe of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute. “Our study confirms the findings of many previous studies that eating breakfast helps maintain a healthy weight and provides multiple health benefits. However, what’s unique is that we found lower energy density breakfast foods and beverages high in nutrients, such as whole grain oatmeal and 100 percent orange juice, appear to predict better food choices for the rest of the day and may help with better management of body weight.”
The energy density concept provides new insights into better understanding weight management strategies. Recent studies have reported that individuals with lower energy density diets gain less weight as they age.
Generally, foods with the lowest energy density include fruits, vegetables, soups and whole grains that soak up water, such as oatmeal or rice. Fats and oils, fried foods, desserts, crackers and pretzels are highest in energy density. The more calories per gram of food, equals greater energy density. For example, a breakfast pastry would have more calories per gram (more energy dense) than a bowl of oatmeal and glass of 100% orange juice.
“One simple way to choose breakfast items that are low in energy density is to immediately increase the ratio of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your morning meal. These foods are less packed with calories, but nutrient-rich, providing a concentrated amount of valuable nutrients to start your day off right,” says Jeff George, vice president of research and development at Quaker Oats.
The study examined the breakfast choices and dietary patterns of a nationally representative sample of 12,000 adults using the most recent National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES) datasets from 1999-2004 for analyses. Researchers calculated and compared the energy density values for all reported breakfasts and total 24-hour diets among both breakfast eaters and non-eaters.
This research further contributes to the growing body of literature that demonstrates consuming the right foods for breakfast may help with weight management and improve dietary quality. Without breakfast, key nutrients determined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are often under-consumed in the daily diet. So it turns out that the recommendation that our mothers gave us is correct – eating breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and choosing more filling and less calorie-dense options at breakfast can make it even more essential for health and well being.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Antioxidants are unlikely to prevent aging

Diets and beauty products which claim to have anti-oxidant properties are unlikely to prevent ageing, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust. Researchers at the Institute of Healthy Ageing at UCL (University College London) say this is because a key fifty year old theory about the causes of ageing is wrong.

"Superoxide" free radicals – oxygen molecules that have an imbalance of electrons to protons – are generated in the body through natural processes such as metabolism. These free radicals can cause oxidation in the body, analogous to rust when iron is exposed to oxygen. Biological systems, such as the human body, are usually able to restrict or repair this damage.

In 1956, Denham Harman proposed the theory that ageing is caused by an accumulation of molecular damage caused by "oxidative stress", the action of reactive forms of oxygen, such as superoxide, on cells. This theory has dominated the field of ageing research for over fifty years. But now, a study published online today in the journal Genes & Development suggests that this theory is probably incorrect and that superoxide is not a major cause of ageing.

"The fact is that we don't understand much about the fundamental mechanisms of ageing," says Dr David Gems from UCL. "The free radical theory of ageing has filled a knowledge vacuum for over fifty years now, but it just doesn't stand up to the evidence."

Dr Gems and colleagues at the Institute of Healthy Ageing studied the action of key genes involved in removing superoxide from the bodies of the nematode worm C. elegans, a commonly-used model for research into ageing. By manipulating these genes, they were able to control the worm's ability to "mop up" surplus superoxide and limit potential damage caused by oxidation.

Contrary to the result predicted by the free radical theory of ageing, the researchers found that the lifespan of the worm was relatively unaffected by its ability to tackle the surplus superoxide. The findings, combined with similar recent findings from the University of Texas using mice, imply that this theory is incorrect.

"One of the hallmarks of ageing is the accumulation of molecular damage, but what causes this damage?" says Dr Gems. "It's clear that if superoxide is involved, it only plays a small part in the story. Oxidative damage is clearly not a universal, major driver of the ageing process. Other factors, such as chemical reactions involving sugars in our body, clearly play a role."

Dr Gems believes the study suggests that anti-ageing products which claim to have anti-oxidant properties are unlikely to have any effect.

"A healthy, balanced diet is very important for reducing the risk of developing many diseases associated with old age, such as cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis," he says. "But there is no clear evidence that dietary antioxidants can slow or prevent ageing. There is even less evidence to support the claims of most anti-ageing products."

The research was welcomed by Dr Alan Schafer, Head of Molecular and Physiological Sciences at the Wellcome Trust.

"With increasing lifespan comes greater exposure and vulnerability to the ageing process," comments Dr Schafer. "Research such as this points to how much we have to learn about ageing, and the importance of understanding the mechanisms behind this process. This new study will encourage researchers to explore new avenues in ageing research."

Good cholesterol isn't good enough

Researchers learn that some 'good cholesterol' isn't good enough

New article in the FASEB Journal describes how the quality of HDL cholesterol is as important as its type

If you think your levels of "good cholesterol" are good enough, a new study published in the December 2008 issue of The FASEB Journal suggests that you may want to think again. In the report, researchers from the University of Chicago challenge the conventional wisdom that simply having high levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and low levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) is necessary for good heath. Instead, they show that the good cholesterol has varying degrees of quality and that poor quality HDL is actually bad for you.

"For many years, HDL has been viewed as good cholesterol and has generated a false perception that the more HDL in the blood, the better," said Angelo Scanu, M.D., a pioneer in blood lipid chemistry from University of Chicago and first author of the study. "It is now apparent that subjects with high HDL are not necessarily protected from heart problems and should ask their doctor to find out whether their HDL is good or bad."

The researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing published research on this subject. In their review, they found that the HDL from people with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and diabetes is different from the HDL in healthy individuals, even when blood levels of HDL are comparable. They observed that normal, "good," HDL reduces inflammation, while the dysfunctional, "bad," HDL does not.

"This is yet one more line of research that explains why some people can have perfect cholesterol levels, but still develop cardiovascular disease," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Just as the discovery of good and bad cholesterol rewrote the book on cholesterol management, the realization that some of the 'good cholesterol' is actually bad will do the same."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent of all American adults have high total cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart disease. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance used by the body to maintain the proper function of cell membranes and is encapsulated within two types of proteins as it travels in the body—low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). High levels of LDL or total cholesterol are an indicator of increased risk for heart disease. High blood cholesterol elicits no physical symptoms, making medical screenings necessary for detection.