Saturday, April 28, 2012
Western diets are typically low in fibre and have been linked with a higher incidence of bowel cancer. Even though Australians eat more dietary fibre than many other western countries, bowel cancer is still the second most commonly reported cancer in Australia with 30 new cases diagnosed every day.
Dr David Topping, from CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship, said this is referred to as 'the Australian paradox'.
"We have been trying to find out why Australians aren't showing a reduction in bowel cancer rates and we think the answer is that we don't eat enough resistant starch, which is one of the major components of dietary fibre," Dr Topping said.
Resistant starch is a component of dietary fibre that resists digestion in the small intestine and instead passes through to the bowel where it has positive effects on bowel health. Resistant starch is sometimes called the third type of dietary fibre (in addition to soluble and insoluble fibre) and is found in legumes, some wholegrain breads and cereals, firm bananas and cooked and cooled potatoes, pasta and rice.
These findings, published in the latest issue of The Journal of Nutrition, reinforce the fact that dietary fibre is beneficial for human health, but go further to show that fibre rich in resistant starch is even better.
"It's not just the amount of fibre that we eat that's important, but the diversity of fibre in our diet," Dr Topping said.
"We studied various sources of resistant starch, including corn and wheat, and the results suggest they could all protect against DNA damage in the colon, which is what can cause cancer."
Dr Trevor Lockett, colorectal cancer researcher with CSIRO's Preventative Health Flagship, said Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of bowel cancer in the world.
"Research suggests that improving our diets could go a long way to reducing our personal risk of developing this disease, which would also have the follow-on benefit of reducing healthcare costs associated with bowel cancer.
"These new studies suggest that increasing the amount of resistant starch in our diets may be one important step along the path to reducing the burden of bowel cancer. It takes about 15 years from the time of the first bowel cancer-initiating DNA damage to the development of full-blown bowel cancer, so the earlier we improve our diets the better," Dr Lockett said.
The recommended intake of resistant starch is around 20 grams a day, which is almost four times greater than a typical western diet provides. Twenty grams is equivalent to eating three cups of cooked lentils.
"Currently, it is difficult for Australians to get this much from a typical diet," Dr Topping said.
"We have already had success in developing barley with high levels of resistant starch, and now our focus is on increasing the levels of resistant starch in commonly consumed grains like wheat. These grains could then be used in breads and cereals to make it easier for Australians to get enough resistant starch from their diet."
Friday, April 27, 2012
Aging may seem unavoidable, but that's not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the April 27th issue of the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explaining that it is what you do in old age that matters more when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain not what you did earlier in life.
"Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain," says Lars Nyberg of Umeå University in Sweden.
Education won't save your brain -- PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don't count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement.
Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years.
"There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance," Nyberg says.
The researchers say this new take on successful aging represents an important shift in focus for the field. Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in aging. The research team now argues for the importance of avoiding those age-related brain changes in the first place. Genes play some role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, are critical.
Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the age of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages.
"Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence for marked heterogeneity in brain aging," the scientists write. "Critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance. In other words, maintaining a youthful brain, rather than responding to and compensating for changes, may be the key to successful memory aging."
Government regulators and the scientific community should work to ensure that they give clear guidance to the public about dietary supplements and cancer risk, according to a commentary published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Evidence from animal, in vitro and observational studies has suggested that taking dietary supplements may lower cancer risk. However, the small number of randomized controlled studies, the gold standard in evidence-based medicine, has not confirmed this - and some studies have actually shown that supplements may increase cancer risk. Still, the supplement industry is booming, with estimated annual sales at $30 billion in the U.S.
To examine the potential role of dietary supplements and cancer risk, Maria Elena Martinez, Ph.D., of the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center and colleagues, looked at observational studies of several supplements, including anti-oxidants, folic acid, vitamin D, and calcium. Several observational studies found that diets high in fruits and vegetables were associated with lower risk of certain cancers, including respiratory and gastrointestinal. Specifically, with respect to anti-oxidant supplements, the authors found that: "The importance of oxidative stress for carcinogenesis does not establish that the administration of supplemental antioxidants will protect against the carcinogenesis that oxidative stress may induce."
Furthermore, they write, "Supplementation by exogenous antioxidants may well be a two-edged sword; these compounds could, in vivo, serve as pro-oxidants or interfere with any of a number of protective processes such as apoptosis induction." Indeed, several antioxidant trials the researchers examined reported increased cancer risks with supplementation. They looked at trials with supplements using folic acid, vitamin D and calcium, among other compounds.
The researchers caution against taking dietary supplements for cancer prevention, adding that many expert committees and organizations have concluded that nutritional supplements have little or no benefit in cancer prevention. They say that more randomized control trials - spanning many years instead of just a few - are needed to verify the effect of nutritional supplementation in cancer risk.
Meanwhile, people continue to take supplements, spurred by manufacturers' suggestions that supplements are healthy at best and harmless at worst. Furthermore, believers in supplements assume that they are well regulated, the authors write. "These beliefs underscore the need for efforts by scientists and government officials to encourage the public to make prudent decisions based on sound evidence with respect to use of dietary supplements for cancer prevention."
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Weight training at a lower intensity but with more repetitions may be as effective for building muscle as lifting heavy weights says a new opinion piece in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.
"The perspective provided in this review highlights that other resistance protocols, beyond the often discussed high-intensity training, can be effective in stimulating a muscle building response that may translate into bigger muscles after resistance training," says lead author Nicholas Burd. "These findings have important implications from a public health standpoint because skeletal muscle mass is a large contributor to daily energy expenditure and it assists in weight management. Additionally, skeletal muscle mass, because of its overall size, is the primary site of blood sugar disposal and thus will likely play a role in reducing the risk for development of type II diabetes."
The authors from McMaster University conducted a series of experiments that manipulated various resistance exercise variables (e.g., intensity, volume, and muscle time under tension). They found that high-intensity muscle contractions derived from lifting heavy loads were not the only drivers of exercise-induced muscle development. In resistance-trained young men a lower workout intensity and a higher volume of repetitions of resistance exercise, performed until failure, was equally effective in stimulating muscle proteins as a heavy workout intensity at lower repetition rates. An additional benefit of the low-intensity workout is that the higher repetitions required to achieve fatigue will also be beneficial for sustaining the muscle building response for days.
New guidelines from the American Cancer Society say for many cancers, maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can reduce the chance of recurrence and increase the likelihood of disease-free survival after a diagnosis. The recommendations are included in newly released Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors, published early online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
Increasing evidence shows that for many cancers, excess weight, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition increase the risk of cancer recurrence and reduce the likelihood of disease-free and overall survival for cancer patients. "The data suggests that cancer survivors, just like everyone else, benefit from these important steps," said Colleen Doyle MS RD, American Cancer Society director of nutrition and physical activity and co-author of the guidelines. "While we've published previous reports outlining the evidence on the impact of nutrition and physical activity on cancer recurrence and survival, this is the first time the evidence has been strong enough to release formal guidelines for survivorship, as we've done for cancer prevention. Living a physically active lifestyle and eating a healthy diet should absolutely be top of mind for anyone who's been diagnosed with cancer. "
The report was last updated in 2006, and was first created in 2001. For the update, a group of experts in nutrition, physical activity, and cancer survivorship evaluated the scientific evidence and best clinical practices related to optimal nutrition and physical activity after the diagnosis of cancer. Among the review's conclusions:
Avoiding weight gain throughout treatment may be important not only for survivors who are overweight, but also those of normal weight.
Intentional weight loss after recovering from cancer treatment among overweight and obese patients may be associated with health-related benefits.
Evidence strongly suggests that exercise is not only safe and feasible during cancer treatment, but that it can also improve physical functioning, fatigue, multiple aspects of quality of life, and may even increase the rate of completion of chemotherapy.
Physical activity after cancer diagnosis is associated with a reduced risk of cancer recurrence and improved overall mortality among multiple cancer survivor groups, including breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer.
Among breast cancer survivors, physical activity after diagnosis has consistently been associated with reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer-specific mortality. Results from observational studies suggest that diet and food choices may affect cancer progression, risk of recurrence, and overall survival in individuals who have been treated for cancer.
For example, a dietary pattern high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish was found to be associated with reduced mortality compared with a dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of refined grains, processed and red meats, desserts, high-fat dairy products, and French fries in women after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Compelling evidence exists against the use of select supplements in certain oncology populations; therefore, health care professionals and survivors need to proceed with caution.
"As more people survive cancer, there is increasing interest in finding information about food choices, physical activity, and dietary supplements to improve treatment outcomes, quality of life, and overall survival," said Doyle. "Our report summarizes the findings of this expert panel, and is intended to present health care providers with the best possible information with which to help cancer survivors and their families make informed choices related to nutrition and physical activity."
The recommendations also include specific guidance for people diagnosed with breast, colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, lung, prostate, head and neck, and hematologic cancers. It also includes a section with answers to common questions about alcohol, organic foods, sugar, supplements, and several other areas of interest.
A new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that certain berries may delay memory decline in older women
Berries are good for you, that's no secret. But can strawberries and blueberries actually keep your brain sharp in old age? A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) finds that a high intake of flavonoid rich berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, over time, can delay memory decline in older women by 2.5 years. This study is published by Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, on April 26, 2012.
"What makes our study unique is the amount of data we analyzed over such a long period of time. No other berry study has been conducted on such a large scale," explained Elizabeth Devore, a researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH, who is the lead author on this study. "Among women who consumed 2 or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week we saw a modest reduction in memory decline. This effect appears to be attainable with relatively simple dietary modifications."
The research team used data from the Nurses' Health Study—a cohort of 121,700 female, registered nurses between the ages of 30 and 55—who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976. Since 1980, participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption. Between 1995 and 2001, memory was measured in 16,010 subjects over the age of 70 years, at 2-year intervals. Women included in the present study had a mean age of 74 and mean body mass index of 26.
Findings show that increased consumption of blueberries and strawberries was associated with a slower rate of memory decline in older women. A greater intake of anthocyanidins and total flavonoids was also associated with reduced memory decline. Researchers observed that women who had higher berry intake had delayed memory decline by up to 2.5 years.
"We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries appear to slow progression of memory decline in elderly women," notes Dr. Devore. "Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to reduce memory decline in older adults."
Coronary artery disease continues to be a major cause of death in the U.S., killing hundreds of thousands of people per year. However, this disease burden isn't evenly divided between the sexes; significantly more men than women are diagnosed with coronary artery disease each year. The reasons behind this difference aren't well defined. Though some studies have shown that men's hearts become more constricted than women's during exercise, letting less blood flow through, women are more likely than men to have symptoms of heart trouble after emotional upsets.
Searching for the reasons behind these disparities, Charity L. Sauder, Alison E. Thompson, Terrell Myers, and Chester A. Ray, all of Penn State College of Medicine, investigated the effects of mental stress on blood flow through the heart. Their findings show that coronary blood flow actually increases in men during mental stress, but shows no change in women. These results may explain why women could be more susceptible to adverse cardiac events when under stress.
An abstract of their study entitled, "Effect of Mental Stress on Coronary Blood Flow in Humans," was discussed at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012 at the San Diego Convention Center. The abstract is sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), one of six scientific societies sponsoring the conference which last year attracted some 14,000 attendees.
Stressing the Sexes
The researchers recruited 17 healthy adults, a near equal mix of men and women. Each volunteer had his or her heart rate and blood pressure measured at rest, as well as coronary vascular conductance, a Doppler ultrasound measure of blood flow through the coronary blood vessels of the heart.
These volunteers then underwent the same tests while participating in three minutes of mental arithmetic, in which the researchers had them sequentially subtract 7 starting with a random number. To increase the stress load, researchers lightly badgered the volunteers during the task, urging them to hurry up or telling them they were wrong even when they gave the correct number. At the end of the task, they underwent the same three heart function tests again.
Results showed that at rest, men and women showed little differences between the three tests. During the mental arithmetic task, all the volunteers showed an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, regardless of sex. However, while the men showed an increase in coronary vascular conductance under stress, the women showed no change.
Taking Differences to Heart
This differing characteristic could potentially predispose women to heart problems while under stress, says study leader Chester Ray. He adds that the results came as a surprise, since previous studies men have significantly less blood flow than women during the physical stress of exercise, and could explain why women tend to have more heart troubles after stressful events, such as losing a spouse. The findings also reemphasize the importance of mental stress in affecting health.
"Stress reduction is important for anyone, regardless of gender," he explains, "but this study shines a light on how stress differently affects the hearts of women, potentially putting them at greater risk of a coronary event."
Further research, he says, could discern the mechanism behind this difference, leading to more targeted treatments and prevention efforts for women at risk of coronary artery disease.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Following the discovery in a new study that mice have a higher risk of developing cancer after eating the popular British-made low-calorie artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda), a leading cancer scientist calls for urgent research.
Dr. Morando Soffritti, director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy will present the findings of the study for the first time at the Childhood Cancer 2012 conference in London.
Hundreds of millions of people all around the world consume artificial sweeteners, which can be found in a large variety of foods and drinks, including soft drinks, cakes and foods for diabetics, as well as medicines. The increasing problem of obesity in developed countries, which started in the 70's in Europe and the U.S., has led to increasing demands for reduced-calorie foods and drinks. However, the expansion of the artificial sweetener market has also led to rising concerns amongst consumers in terms of safety and potential long-term health effects, especially with regard to the potential cancer risks.
According to earlier studies by Dr Soffritti and team, approximately 3,000 rodents who were fed with aspartame, the most commonly used artificial sweetener, had a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer; the risk period was calculated from conception until death.
Until now, food safety experts have deemed aspartame to be safe for human consumption, however, rising health concerns have prompted the European Food Safety Authority to conduct a new investigation, the findings of which are expected to be published later this year.
Dr Soffritti explained:
"Our early studies in rats showed increases in several types of cancer, and, in our most recent aspartame studies, we observed a statistically significant increase of liver and lung tumors in male mice. This shows aspartame causes cancer in various places of the body in two different species. Health concerns over aspartame are leading consumers to switch to the widely promoted alternative: sucralose. Now that we have found evidence of a link between sucralose and cancer in mice, similar research should be urgently repeated on rats, and large scale observational studies should be set up to monitor any potential cancer risk to human health."
During their study, Dr Soffritti's team fed 843 mice, from the time they were fetuses until the time they died, with various doses of sucralose. According to post-mortems, the more sucralose male mice consumed, the higher was their likelihood of developing leukemia.
Dr Soffritti strongly advises major consumers, such as children and pregnant women to avoid consuming artificial sweeteners whenever possible until appropriate studies provide sufficient evidence that rodents are no longer underlying the risk of cancer, and that the risk of cancer in humans, due to artificial sweeteners, has therefore been eliminated.
Colon cancer patients who take aspirin regularly shortly after diagnosis tend to live longer, researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre, the Netherlands, reported in the British Journal of Cancer.
The authors explain that NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) have been known to have a preventive role with regards to colorectal cancer, and in particular, aspirin. Recently, some studies and experts have suggested that regular aspirin may have a therapeutic role too. However, studies so far have not been conclusive.
Dr Gerrit-Jan Liefers and team set out to determine what the therapeutic effect of aspirin/NSAIDs as adjuvant treatment might be on colorectal cancer patients after diagnosis. They carried out an observational population-based study.
They gathered prescription data from the PHARMA linkage systems, focusing on patients who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer (1998-2007). They selected people from the Eindhoven Cancer Registry, a population-based cancer registry.
Patients were classified into:
* Pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis - aspirin/NSAID users
* Pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis - non-aspirin/NSAID users
* Just post-diagnosis - aspirin/NSAID users
* Just post-diagnosis - non-aspirin/NSAID users
Out of 4,481 participants:
* 26% (1,1176) of them were non-aspirin/NSAID users
* 47% (2,086) of them were pre- and post-diagnosis aspirin/NSAID users
* 27% (1,219) of them were just post-diagnosis aspirin/NSAID users
Those taking a daily dose of aspirin for nine months or more after diagnosis had a 30% lower risk of cancer-related death compared to non-users. Even taking aspirin regularly for any length of time reduced the risk of death (by 23%).
"A new study suggests that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one," says Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology, and cell and developmental biology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "For patients, this could mean that daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack."
What's the connection between light and a myocardial infarction, known commonly as a heart attack?
The answer lies, perhaps surprisingly, in the circadian rhythm, the body's clock that is linked to light and dark. The circadian clock is regulated by proteins in the brain. But the proteins are in other organs as well, including the heart.
Eckle and Holger Eltzschig, MD, a CU professor of anesthesiology, found that one of those proteins, called Period 2, plays a crucial role in fending off damage from a heart attack. With an international team of expert scientists, including collaborators from CU's Division of Cardiology and the mucosal inflammation program, they published their findings in the April 15, 2012 edition of the research journal Nature Medicine.
During a heart attack, little or no oxygen reaches the heart. Without oxygen, the heart has to switch from its usual fuel – fat – to glucose. Without that change in heart metabolism, cells die and the heart is damaged.
And here's where the circadian rhythm comes in. The study showed that the Period 2 protein is vital for that change in fuel, from fat to glucose, and therefore could make heart metabolism more efficient. In fact, Strong daylight activated Period 2 in animals and minimized damage from a heart attack.
Chocolate, considered by some to be the “food of the gods,” has been part of the human diet for at least 4,000 years; its origin thought to be in the region surrounding the Amazon basin. Introduced to the Western world by Christopher Columbus after his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, chocolate is now enjoyed worldwide. Researchers estimate that the typical American consumes over 10 pounds of chocolate annually, with those living on the west coast eating the most. Wouldn’t it be great if only chocolate were considered healthy?
In fact, chocolate is a great source of myriad substances that scientists think might impart important health benefits. For instance, it contains compounds called “flavanols” that appear to play a variety of bodily roles including those related to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Many large-scale human studies have documented a statistical correlation between flavanol intake and risk for cardiovascular disease. And animal studies suggest that this relationship may be due to the physiologic effects that flavanols have on chronic inflammation, blood vessel health, and circulating lipid levels. However, few controlled human intervention studies have been conducted to test the direct effect of chocolate consumption on these variables.
To help fill this knowledge gap, researchers at San Diego State University tested their hypothesis that chocolate, in particular dark chocolate which contains higher levels of flavanols than milk chocolate, may protect against the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, blood flow, and improving blood lipid levels. In this prospective, controlled human intervention study, 31 fortunate subjects were assigned randomly to consume either a daily serving (50 grams) of either regular dark chocolate (70% cocoa), dark chocolate (70% cocoa) that had been overheated or “bloomed,” or white chocolate (0% cocoa). The subjects were asked to consume the chocolate for 15 days. Blood pressure, forearm skin blood flow, circulating lipid profiles, and blood glucose levels were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.
When compared to participants assigned to the white chocolate group, those consuming either form of dark chocolate had lower blood glucose and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the “bad” form) levels coupled with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the “good” form).
The researchers concluded that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving glucose levels and lipid profiles. However, they cautioned that—although habitual dark chocolate consumption may benefit one’s health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease—it must be eaten in moderation because it can easily increase daily amounts of saturated fat and calories. Indeed, the authors commented, "We had great compliance with our study subjects because everybody wanted to eat chocolate. We actually had to tell them not to eat more than 50 grams a day
Periodontitis, inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth, affects more than half of adults and is linked to an increased risk of stroke and other heart problems. To evaluate whether fish oil supplementation could be an adjunct therapy for periodontitis, Dr. Alison Coates from the University of South Australia and colleagues from the School of Dentistry at University of Adelaide in Australia reviewed evidence from eight unique studies that involved humans.
Their review of these studies showed that improvements in clinical measures were common in all studies, but were scientifically significant in two that used a combination of fish oil and aspirin. Although this is not conclusive evidence, intake of fish oil is recommended for health benefits beyond the teeth.
"I would recommend that people ensure they have a sufficient intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in their diet for general health," said Coates. "In Australia, these types of fatty acids are considered to be essential with ~500 mg recommended as the suggested dietary target. This equates to approximately 2 fatty fish meals per week."
There are no serious dangers to consuming fish oil. At high levels of fish oil above the GRAS limit, people may experience a delayed clotting time and at very high doses potential gastric upset. If people are taking blood thinning medication, then they should consult with a doctor.
The group reports that the evidence for fish oil being effective in reducing periodontal symptoms is building but there is a need for more well designed studies that evaluate the supplement both alone and in combination with aspirin to be able to tease out whether fish oil by itself is effective. It is important that compliance to treatment is considered and that the dose and length of supplementation is appropriate. A clinical trial is underway in Australia that is investigating the effects of fish oil as adjunct therapy for periodontitis.
Oregano, the common pizza and pasta seasoning herb, has long been known to possess a variety of beneficial health effects, but a new study by researchers at Long Island University (LIU) indicates that an ingredient of this spice could potentially be used to treat prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the prostate gland and usually occurs in older men. Recent data shows that about 1 in 36 men will die of prostate cancer. Estimated new cases and deaths from this disease condition in the US in 2012 alone are 241,740 and 28,170, respectively. Current treatment options for patients include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and immune therapy. Unfortunately, these are associated with considerable complications and/or severe side effects.
Dr. Supriya Bavadekar, PhD, RPh, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at LIU's Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is currently testing carvacrol, a constituent of oregano, on prostate cancer cells. The results of her study demonstrate that the compound induces apoptosis in these cells. Apoptosis, Dr. Bavadekar explains, is programmed cell death, or simply "cell suicide." Dr. Bavadekar and her group are presently trying to determine the signaling pathways that the compound employs to bring about cancer cell suicide.
"We know that oregano possesses anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties, but its effects on cancer cells really elevate the spice to the level of a super-spice like turmeric," said Dr. Bavadekar. Though the study is at its preliminary stage, she believes that the initial data indicates a huge potential in terms of carvacrol's use as an anti-cancer agent. "A significant advantage is that oregano is commonly used in food and has a 'Generally Recognized As Safe' status in the US. We expect this to translate into a decreased risk of severe toxic effects."
"Some researchers have previously shown that eating pizza may cut down cancer risk. This effect has been mostly attributed to lycopene, a substance found in tomato sauce, but we now feel that even the oregano seasoning may play a role," stated Dr. Bavadekar. "If the study continues to yield positive results, this super-spice may represent a very promising therapy for patients with prostate cancer."
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The herpes zoster vaccine, also known as the shingles vaccine, is generally safe and well tolerated according to a Vaccine Safety Datalink study of 193,083 adults published online in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
More than 1 million people develop shingles every year in the United States. Shingles is a painful contagious rash caused by the dormant chickenpox virus which can reactivate and replicate, damaging the nerve system. The elderly are especially vulnerable because immunity against the virus that causes shingles declines with age.
The VSD project is a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and integrated care organizations, including Kaiser Permanente. The VSD project monitors immunization safety and addresses the gaps in scientific knowledge about any rare and serious events that occur following immunization.
This study examined adverse events after the zoster vaccine was administered to 193,083 adults aged 50 and older from Jan. 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2008. Vaccination data were retrieved from electronic health records and collected from eight managed care organizations participating in the VSD project.
Researchers found a small increased risk of local reactions from 1 to 7 days after vaccination. These findings corroborate clinical trials of the vaccine in which there was evidence of a minor local reaction at the injection site in the form of redness and pain.
The study found no increased risk for cerebrovascular diseases; cardiovascular diseases; meningitis, encephalitis, and encephalopathy; Ramsay-Hunt syndrome; or Bell's palsy.
"It's good to know there is no serious adverse reaction to the zoster vaccine. The study supports the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendation and reassures the general public that the vaccine is safe," said study lead author Hung Fu Tseng, PhD, MPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif.
The herpes zoster vaccine was licensed in 2006, but few people have been vaccinated, national data shows. The ACIP recommends the vaccine for healthy people ages 60 years and older. In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the herpes zoster vaccine in individuals 50 to 59 years of age. The study results released today provide important safety data for people in this age group as well as adults 60 and older.
This is the latest in a series of published Kaiser Permanente studies conducted to better understand vaccine effectiveness and safety. Among these studies were:
- Dr. Tseng published a study last year in the journal Vaccine which found that administering both the pneumococcal and the herpes zoster vaccines at the same time is as beneficial as if they are administered separately. - In 2011, Dr. Tseng published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found that the shingles vaccine is associated with a 55 percent reduced risk of developing the disease. - Another study by Dr. Tseng in JAMA in 2010 found the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination is not associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks or strokes in men.
Two Kaiser Permanente studies found that the combination vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox is associated with double the risk of febrile seizures for 1- to 2-year-old children, compared to same-day administration of the separate vaccine for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and the varicella vaccine for chickenpox.
Other Kaiser Permanente studies found children of parents who refuse vaccines are nine times more likely to get chickenpox and 23 times more likely to get pertussis – commonly known as whooping cough -- compared to fully immunized children.
Another study found that herpes zoster is very rare among children who have been vaccinated against chickenpox.
A new study by researchers at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia shows that implementing a seniors' exercise program, specifically one using resistance-training, can alter the trajectory of decline. Perhaps most importantly, the program improved the executive cognitive process of selective attention and conflict resolution as well as associative memory, which are robust predictors of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.
The research led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, principal investigator with the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and the Brain Research Centre at VCH and UBC, and co-investigators from the Department of Psychology and Division of Geriatric Medicine at UBC, and Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, was published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Over the course of six months, the study team followed 86 senior women with probable mild cognitive impairment. The randomized controlled trial is the first to compare the efficacy of both resistance and aerobic training to improve executive cognitive functions - such as attention, memory, problem solving and decision making - necessary for independent living. The trial also assessed the effect of both types of exercise on associative memory performance and corresponding functional brain plasticity.
Both types of exercise were performed twice weekly for six months. Participants were measured with a series of cognitive tests and brain plasticity was assessed using functional MRI. The results showed resistance-training significantly improved executive cognitive functions, associative memory performance, and functional brain plasticity. In contrast to previous studies in healthy older adults, aerobic training did not demonstrate any significant effect for cognitive and brain plasticity.
"There is much debate as to whether cognitive function can be improved once there is noticeable impairment," says Liu-Ambrose, "What our results show is that resistance training can indeed improve both your cognitive performance and your brain function. What is key is that it will improve two processes that are highly sensitive to the effects of aging and neurodegeneration: executive function and associative memory -- often impaired in early stages of Alzheimer's disease."
This work builds on the same researcher team's Brain Power Study, published in the January 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and July 2011 issue of Neurobiology of Aging, which demonstrated that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly progressive strength training improved executive cognitive function and functional brain plasticity in healthy women aged 65- to 75- years- old and provided lasting benefits.
Coinciding with the study, the team has developed and launched an informative YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG6sJm2d4oc of the resistance training exercises used in the study.
"Exercise is attractive as an prevention strategy for dementia as it is universally accessible and cost-effective," says Liu-Ambrose, who is who is also an assistant professor, in the Department of Physical Therapy at UBC and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and CIHR New Investigator scholar. "By developing this YouTube video we can help translate our findings directly to the senior population and fitness instructors who are working with them."
"The elderly often forsake their lifelong activities in exchange for the safety, security, and care of institutional living," says Editor-in-Chief Bill Ferguson, PhD. "This trade-off need not require the sacrifice of physical activity and fitness. Furthermore, videogames offer an escape from routine. All of these benefits can improve the well-being of elderly adults."
Digital games offer a home-based method to support behavior modification, motivating patients to take better care of themselves and to self-mange chronic conditions. Recommendations for how to use and integrate videogame technology in the rehabilitation and training of older adults are presented in the review article "Interactive Videogame Technologies to Support Independence in the Elderly." Videogames offer a good alternative to traditional forms of aerobic exercise, according to the authors, Hannah Marston, PhD, German Sport University Cologne, Germany, and Stuart Smith, PhD, Neuroscience Research, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia.
Another article in the issue describes a study performed in three European countries that defined and compared the specific features of videogames that would most interest older adults. Unai Diaz-Orueta, PhD, Matia Gerontological Institute Foundation-INGEMA (Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain), and colleagues from Spain, The Netherlands, and Greece identified several main factors that motivate interest in gaming: the social aspect of the experience; the challenge it presents; the combination of cognitive and physical activity; and the ability to gain specific skills as a result of gaming. They present their findings in the article entitled "What is the Key for Older People to Show Interest in Playing Digital Learning Games? Initial Qualitative Findings from the LEAGE Project on a Multicultural European Sample."
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Ω Vitamin E in Diet Protects Against Many Cancers
While the question of whether vitamin E prevents or promotes cancer has been widely debated in scientific journals and in the news media, scientists at the Center for Cancer Prevention Research, at Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, believe that two forms of vitamin E -- gamma and delta-tocopherols -- found in soybean, canola and corn oils as well as nuts do prevent colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers. "There are studies suggesting that vitamin E actually increases the risk of cancer and decreases bone density," says Chung S. Yang, director of the center. "Our message is that the vitamin E form of gamma-tocopherols, the most abundant form of vitamin E in the American diet, and delta-tocopherols, also found in vegetable oils, are beneficial in preventing cancers while the form of vitamin E, alpha- tocopherol, the most commonly used in vitamin E supplements, has no such benefit." Yang says Rutgers scientists conducting animal studies for colon, lung, breast and prostate cancer found that the forms of vitamin E in vegetable oils, gamma and delta-tocopherols, prevent cancer formation and growth in animal models. This is good news for cancer research. Recently, in one of the largest prostate cancer clinical trials in the United States and Canada, scientists found that the most commonly used form of vitamin E supplements, alpha-tocopherol, not only did not prevent prostate cancer, but its use significantly increased the risk of this disease among healthy men.Ω Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help to Reduce the Physical Harm Caused by Smoking Ω Soda Consumption Increases Overall Stroke Risk, Coffee Lowers Risk Ω Consuming Low-Fat Rather Than High Fat Dairy Food May Reduce Your Risk Of Stroke
Ω Meditation Makes You More Creative Ω Modest Alcohol Consumption Lowers Risk of Liver Disease Ω Alcohol In Moderation Lowers Risk Of Second Heart Attack Ω
The any-cause mortality risk for men who survived a first heart attack and who consumed about two alcoholic drinks daily over an extended period of time was 14% lower, and the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was 42% lower than in men who did not consume alcohol. Scientists know that amongst the healthy population, moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and death.Exercise reduces risk of death from cardiovascular disease in people with high blood pressure Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk, Even If You Start Late
Doing exercise every day can considerably reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, even if you start becoming physically active after 80 years of age. The results of a study indicate that all physical activities including exercise as well as other activities such as cooking, washing the dishes, and cleaning are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle.Positive Feelings May Help Protect Cardiovascular Health Fiber protects against cardiovascular disease -- especially in women
Women who ate a diet high in fibre had an almost 25 per cent lower risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease compared with women who ate a low-fibre diet. In men the effect was less pronounced. However, the results confirmed that a high-fibre diet does at least protect men from stroke. The exact reason for the difference between the sexes is unclear. However, a probable explanation is that women consume fibre from healthier food sources than men do. Women ate a lot of fibre in the form of fruit and vegetables, whereas the most important source of fibre for men was bread.Tree Nut Consumption = Lower Body Weight & Fewer Health Risks Aspirin = cancer prevention
A new report by American Cancer Society scientists says new data showing aspirin's potential role in reducing the risk of cancer death bring us considerably closer to the time when cancer prevention can be included in clinical guidelines for the use of aspirin in preventive care. The report, published early online in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology, says even a 10% reduction in overall cancer incidence beginning during the first 10 years of treatment could tip the balance of benefits and risks favorably in average-risk populations. Current guidelines for the use of aspirin in disease prevention consider only its cardiovascular benefits, weighed against the potential harm from aspirin-induced bleeding. While daily aspirin use has also been convincingly shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and recurrence of adenomatous polyps, these benefits alone do not outweigh harms from aspirin-induced bleeding in average-risk populations. But recently published secondary analyses of cardiovascular trials have provided the first randomized evidence that daily aspirin use may also reduce the incidence of all cancers combined, even at low doses (75-100 mg daily). The report says recently published meta-analyses of results from randomized trials of daily aspirin treatment to prevent vascular events have provided provocative evidence that daily aspirin at doses of 75 mg and above might lower both overall cancer incidence and overall cancer mortality.
Eating flavonoids protects men against Parkinson's disease
Ω Men who eat flavonoid-rich foods such as berries, tea, apples and red wine significantly reduce their risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Ω Keeping mentally fit through board games or reading may be the best way to preserve memory during late life.
Ω Why Don't More Women Take a Daily Aspirin to Prevent Heart Disease? Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, and evidence-based national guidelines promote the use of daily aspirin for women at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. However, less than half of the women who could benefit from aspirin are taking it. Ω Warning: Farm-Raised Salmon Is a Serious Health Hazard
The primary health concern stems from nasty chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These pesticide chemicals were banned in the U.S. in 1976 due to their cancer-causing potential and other negative health effects. Unfortunately, PCBs are persistent organic pollutants, which means that they take a very long time to leave our environment. They still exist in our oceans and waterways and are detectable in the flesh and fat of wild fish. The high levels of PCBs found in farm-raised salmon come from their food supply. The salmon are fed a high-protein diet derived from smaller feeder fish. This process concentrates the PCBs to dangerously high amounts.Caffeine and Exercise May Be Protective Against Skin Cancer
The combined effects of exercise plus caffeine consumption may be able to ward off skin cancer and also prevent inflammation related to other obesity-linked cancers.Eating Cruciferous Vegetables May Improve Breast Cancer Survival
After adjusting for demographics, clinical characteristics and lifestyle factors, the researchers found cruciferous vegetable intake during the first 36 months after breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a reduced risk for total mortality, breast cancer-specific mortality and disease recurrence. Survival rates were influenced by vegetable consumption in a dose-response pattern. As women ate more of these vegetables, their risk of death or cancer recurrence decreased. Women who were in the highest quartiles of intake of vegetables per day had a 62 percent reduced risk of total mortality, 62 percent reduced risk of breast cancer mortality, and 35 percent reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, compared to women with the lowest quartile of intake.Low Glycemic Index Foods at Breakfast Can Control Blood Sugar Throughout the Day Benefits of Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are plant-based components that are thought to promote health, such as beta carotene and lycopene. They are typically found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas. Dark chocolate contains phytonutrients that can be very beneficial for health. However, the message to consumers must stress that these benefits are limited to dark chocolate – not milk chocolate – and that eating too much of any kind of chocolate can lead to serious health conditions such as obesity. Best are “strongly flavored, darkly colored” foods.
Monday, April 23, 2012
High normal blood pressure becomes less of a risk factor for incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD) with age, according to a new study presented April 20 at the World Congress of Cardiology.
The study, carried out over 9.3 years, evaluated the risk of different blood pressure categories among 6,273 participants aged 30 years old and above. The results showed that the risk of developing incident CVD and CHD was significantly higher in people with high normal blood pressure during middle-age (between 30 and 60 years of age) than for people with the same high normal blood pressure aged 60 years and older. Incident CVD and CHD risk was, however, similarly high in people with diagnosed high blood pressure across all age-groups.
"These results reinforce the fact that high blood pressure is a serious risk for CVD in all age groups," said Dr. F. Hadaegh, Prevention of Metabolic Disorders Research Center, Tehran, Iran. "However, the results also suggest that when looking to manage high normal blood pressure resources should be focused on those individuals that are in middle age."
High blood pressure is defined as a repeatedly elevated systolic pressure of 140 mmHg or higher OR a diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or higher. This study was carried out over 9.3 years and the study protocol established before new guidelines around high normal blood pressure were adapted. In 2003, the Joint National Committee 7(JNC7) from the United States introduced the concept of prehypertension into guidelines categorizing the individuals with systolic blood pressure between 120-139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure between 80-89 as prehypertension groups.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce the physical harm caused by smoking, according to a new study presented April 20 at the World Congress of Cardiology.
The study, carried out in Greece, assessed the effect of four-week oral treatment with 2 g/day of omega-3 fatty acids on the arterial wall properties of cigarette smokers. The results showed that short-term treatment with omega-3 fatty acids improves arterial stiffness and moderates the acute smoking-induced impairment of vascular elastic properties in smokers.
"These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the detrimental effects of smoking on arterial function, which is an independent prognostic marker of cardiovascular risk," said Dr. Gerasimos Siasos, University of Athens Medical School, 1st Department of Cardiology, "Hippokration" Hospital. "The cardioprotective effects of omega-3 fatty acids appear to be due to a synergism between multiple, intricate mechanisms involving anti-inflammatory and anti-atherosclerotic effects. Furthermore, AHA recommends that people without documented history of coronary heart disease should consume a variety of fish (preferably oily -- rich in omega-3 fatty acids) at least twice per week."
Researchers from Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute and Harvard University have found that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas is associated with a higher risk of stroke. Conversely, consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee was associated with a lower risk.
The study -- recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition -- is the first to examine soda's affect on stroke risk. Previous research has linked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout and coronary artery disease.
"Soda remains the largest source of added sugar in the diet," said Adam Bernstein, MD, ScD, study author and Research Director at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute. "What we're beginning to understand is that regular intake of these beverages sets off a chain reaction in the body that can potentially lead to many diseases -- including stroke."
The research analyzed soda consumption among 43,371 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study between 1986 and 2008, and 84,085 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study between 1980 and 2008. During that time, 2,938 strokes were documented in women while 1,416 strokes were documented in men.
In sugar-sweetened sodas, the sugar load may lead to rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin which, over time, may lead to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and inflammation. These physiologic changes influence atherosclerosis, plaque stability and thrombosis -- all of which are risk factors of ischemic stroke. This risk for stroke appears higher in women than in men.
In comparison, coffee contains chlorogenic acids, lignans and magnesium, all of which act as antioxidants and may reduce stroke risk. When compared with one serving of sugar-sweetened soda, one serving of decaffeinated coffee was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke.
In addition, study findings show that men and women who consumed more than one serving of sugar-sweetened soda per day had higher rates of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and lower physical activity rates. Those who drank soda more frequently were also more likely to eat red meat and whole-fat dairy products. Men and women who consumed low-calorie soda had a higher incidence of chronic disease and a higher body mass index (BMI). The investigators controlled for these other factors in their analysis to determine the independent association of soda consumption on stroke risk.
"According to research from the USDA, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has increased dramatically in the United States over the past three decades, and it's affecting our health," said Dr. Bernstein. "These findings reiterate the importance of encouraging individuals to substitute alternate beverages for soda."
Saturday, April 21, 2012
If you eat low-fat dairy foods, you may be reducing your risk of stroke.
In a Swedish study published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke, people who drank low-fat milk and ate low-fat yogurt and cheese had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who consumed full-fat dairy foods.
Among 74,961 adults 45 to 83 years old, those who ate low-fat dairy foods had a 12 percent lower risk of stroke and a 13 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than those who ate high-fat dairy foods.
Participants were free of heart disease, stroke and cancer at the start of the study. All completed a 96-item food and beverage questionnaire to determine dietary habits. Food and drink consumption frequency was divided into eight categories, ranging from never to four servings per day.
During the 10-year follow-up, 4,089 strokes occurred (1,680 in women and 2,409 in men): 3,159 ischemic, 583 hemorrhagic and 347 unspecified strokes.
"This is the largest study to date to examine the association between consumption of total, low-fat, full-fat and specific dairy foods and the risk of stroke in adult men and women," said Susanna Larsson, Ph.D., the study's first author and associate professor of epidemiology in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, National Institute of Environmental Medicine, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
"From a public health perspective, if people consume more low-fat dairy foods rather than high-fat dairy foods, they will benefit from a reduced risk of stroke and other positive health outcomes."
The benefits of low-fat dairy foods are likely due to the vitamins and minerals they contain: calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin D.
"It is possible that vitamin D in low-fat dairy foods may explain, in part, the observed lowered risk of stroke in this study because of its potential effect on blood pressure," Larsson said.
Low-fat dairy food is one part of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, which reduces blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke.
Northern Europeans and North Americans traditionally consume much more dairy foods than other global populations. So switching to low-fat dairy products could impact stroke risk for millions of people, Larsson said. More research on the link between low-fat dairy consumption and risk of stroke is needed, Larsson said.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University, published 19 April in Frontiers in Cognition.
This study is a clear indication that the advantages of particular types of meditation extend much further than simply relaxation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we think and how we experience events.
Two ingredients of creativity
The study investigates the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.
* Divergent thinking
Divergent thinking allows many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
* Convergent thinking
Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular probem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch'. The particpants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, 'long'.
Analysis of meditation techniques
Colzato used creativity tasks that measure convergent and divergent thinking to assess which meditation techiques most influence creative activities. The meditation techniques analysed are Open Monitoring and Focused Attention meditation.
* In Open Monitoring meditation the individual is receptive to all the thoughts and sensations experienced without focusing attention on any particular concept or object.
* In Focused Attention meditation the individual focuses on a particular thought or object.
Different types of meditation have different effects
These findings demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. After an Open Monitoring meditation the participants performed better in divergent thinking, and generated more new ideas than previously, but Focused Attention (FA) meditation produced a different result. FA meditation also had no significant effect on convergent thinking leading to resolving a problem.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
People with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD) who consume alcohol in modest amounts – no more than one or two servings per day – are half as likely to develop hepatitis as non-drinkers with the same condition, reports a national team of scientists led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
The findings are published in the April 19, 2012 online issue of The Journal of Hepatology.
NALFD is the most common liver disease in the United States, affecting up to one third of American adults. It’s characterized by abnormal fat accumulation in the liver. The specific cause or causes is not known, though obesity and diabetes are risk factors. Most patients with NAFLD have few or no symptoms, but in its most progressive form, known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, there is a significantly heightened risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver-related death.
NALFD is also a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Patients with NAFLD are approximately two times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than from liver disease. The study’s authors wanted to know if the well-documented heart-healthy benefits of modest alcohol consumption outweighed alcohol’s negative effects.
“We know a 50-year-old patient with NAFLD has a higher risk of CVD,” said Jeffrey Schwimmer, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego, director of the Fatty Liver Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and senior author. “Data would suggest modest alcohol consumption would be beneficial (in reducing the patient’s CVD risk) if you don’t take liver disease into account. When you do take liver disease into account, however, the usual medical recommendation is no alcohol whatsoever.”
Schwimmer and colleagues discovered that the benefits of modest alcohol consumption were compelling, at least in terms of reducing the odds of patients with NAFLD from developing more severe forms of the disease. Patients with NASH are 10 times more likely to progress to cirrhosis, the final phase of chronic liver disease. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing an estimated 27,000 Americans annually.
“Our study showed that those people with modest alcohol intake – two drinks or less daily – had half the odds of developing NASH than people who drank no alcohol,” said Schwimmer. “The reasons aren’t entirely clear. It’s known that alcohol can have beneficial effects on lipid levels, that it increases ‘good’ cholesterol, which tends to be low in NAFLD patients. Alcohol may improve insulin sensitivity, which has a role in NAFLD. And depending upon the type of alcohol, it may have anti-inflammatory effects.”
The study also found that in patients with NAFLD, modest drinkers experienced less severe liver scarring than did lifelong non-drinkers.
The study did not evaluate the effects of different types of alcohol, such as beer or spirits. Schwimmer said to do so would require a much larger study. Also, the study’s findings do not apply to children. All of the participants in the study were age 21 and older.
The current paper is based on analyses of 600 liver biopsies of patient’s with NAFLD by a national panel of pathologists who had no identifying clinical information about the samples. The study excluded anyone who averaged more than two alcoholic drinks per day or who reported consuming five or more drinks in a day (binge-drinking) at least once a month. All of the patients were at least 21 years of age.
Schwimmer said the findings indicate patients with liver disease should be treated individually, with nuance.
“For a patient with cirrhosis or viral hepatitis, the data says even small amounts of alcohol can be bad. But that may not be applicable to all forms of liver disease. Forty million Americans have NAFLD. Physicians need to look at their patient’s overall health, their CVD risk, their liver status, whether they’re already drinking modestly or not. They need to put all of these things into a framework to determine risk. I suspect modest alcohol consumption will be an appropriate recommendation for many patients, but clearly not all.”
New study presented at the World Congress of Cardiology organized by the World Heart Federation
In the study, all-cause and CVD mortality risks were found to be significantly higher among study participants that didn't exercise compared with active participants at all blood pressure levels. Moreover, the excess mortality risks of physical inactivity, when converted into a "blood pressure equivalence of physical activity" measurement, revealed that physical inactivity was similar to a rise in mortality risk equivalent to an increase in blood pressure of 40-50 mmHg.
"The risk of developing CVD has been proven to increase significantly as blood pressure increases; and reducing blood pressure to reduce CVD risk is an important treatment goal for all physicians," said CP Wen, Institute of Population Health Science, National Health Research Institute, Taiwan. "This study is the first to quantify the impact of exercise on the risk profile of people with high blood pressure. Appreciating this relationship will hopefully help to motivate people with high blood pressure that are inactive to take exercise."
Dr Wen continued, "To date, exercise and high blood pressure have been managed separately, with people mainly being concerned about their blood pressure readings. However, these results suggest that doctors should also discuss the importance of physical exercise as a means to manage the CVD and all-cause mortality risk."
The prospective study of 434,190 individuals in Taiwan was conducted over a period of 12 years. Of the participants 54 per cent were classified as inactive, 22 per cent as low active and 24 per cent were considered to be medium, or above, active. All-cause and CVD mortality risk of inactive subjects were compared with active subjects. The blood pressure equivalence of physical activity was then identified by the difference in mortality risks between physically inactive and active subjects.
Hypertension and CVD
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the major preventable risk factors for premature death from CVD worldwide. High blood pressure contributes to around half of all CVD and the risk of developing CVD doubles for every 10-point increase in diastolic blood pressure.
High blood pressure that is left untreated can greatly increase a person's risk of developing CVD. Treating raised blood pressure has been associated with a 35 per cent reduction in the risk of stroke and at least a 16 per cent reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction.
Doing exercise every day can considerably reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, even if you start becoming physically active after 80 years of age, researchers from Rush University Medical Center reported in the journal Neurology. Increased physical activity may include becoming involved in daily chores, such as housework, the authors added.
Lead author, Dr. Aron S. Buchman, said:
"The results of our study indicate that all physical activities including exercise as well as other activities such as cooking, washing the dishes, and cleaning are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle.
This is the first study to use an objective measurement of physical activity in addition to self-reporting. This is important because people may not be able to remember the details correctly."
Dr. Buchman and team set out to measure total daily non-exercise and exercise physical activities among 716 seniors, with an average age of 82 years. They were all from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. None of them had any signs of dementia. They all wore a device which monitors their physical activity, called an actigraph. The device is worn on the dominant wrist. The participants wore the actigraph for 10 days.
The researchers recorded data on all their exercise and non-exercise physical activities. The seniors also underwent yearly cognitive tests (the study was ongoing) to measure their thinking abilities and memory. The study-participants also reported on their social and physical activities.
Over an average period of 41 months, 71 seniors developed AD (Alzheimer's disease).
Total exercise as well as exercise intensity affect Alzheimer's risk
The authors found that the 10% least physically active seniors in their study were 2.3 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, compared to the 10% most active.
They also found that exercise intensity impacted on Alzheimer's risk. Those in the bottom 10% of physical activity intensity were 2.8 times as likely to develop AD, compared to those in the top 10%.
Dr. Buchman said:
"Since the actigraph was attached to the wrist, activities like cooking, washing the dishes, playing cards and even moving a wheelchair with a person's arms were beneficial. These are low-cost, easily accessible and side-effect free activities people can do at any age, including very old age, to possibly prevent Alzheimer's."
The researchers said that by 2030, the number of people in the USA over 65 years of age will double to 80 million.
Dr. Buchman said:
"Our study shows that physical activity, which is an easily modifiable risk factor, is associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. This has important public health consequences."
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Over the last few decades numerous studies have shown negative states, such as depression, anger, anxiety, and hostility, to be detrimental to cardiovascular health. Less is known about how positive psychological characteristics are related to heart health. In the first and largest systematic review on this topic to date, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that positive psychological well-being appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.
The study was published online April 17, 2012 in Psychological Bulletin.
The American Heart Association reports more than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day, an average of one death every 39 seconds. Stroke accounts for about one of every 18 U.S. deaths.
"The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with reduced risk of CVD regardless of such factors as a person's age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight," said lead author Julia Boehm, research fellow in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at HSPH. "For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50% reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers," she said.
In a review of more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases, Boehm and senior author Laura Kubzansky, associate professor of society, human development, and health at HSPH, found there are psychological assets, like optimism and positive emotion, that afford protection against cardiovascular disease. It also appears that these factors slow the progression of disease.
To further understand how psychological well-being and CVD might be related, Boehm and Kubzansky also investigated well-being's association with cardiovascular-related health behaviors and biological markers. They found that individuals with a sense of well-being engaged in healthier behaviors such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, and getting sufficient sleep. In addition, greater well-being was related to better biological function, such as lower blood pressure, healthier lipid (blood fat) profiles, and normal body weight.
If future research continues to indicate that higher levels of satisfaction, optimism, and happiness come before cardiovascular health, this has strong implications for the design of prevention and intervention strategies. "These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health," Kuzbansky said.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) is a prospective cohort study of 51,529 US male health professionals. During the follow up of these men between 1986 to 2006, published in the European Heart Journal, 1,818 men were confirmed with incident non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) – a non fatal heart attack. Among heart attack survivors, 468 deaths were documented during up to 20 years of follow up. Repeated reports were obtained on alcohol consumption every four years. Average alcohol consumption was calculated prior to and then following the MI.
The overall results show that, in comparison with no alcohol consumption, the pre-MI and the post-MI intakes of light (0.1-9.9 g/day of alcohol, or up to one small typical drink) and moderate (10.0-29.9 g/d, or up to about 2 ½ to 3 drinks) amounts of alcohol were both associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular morality among these men.
The significant reductions in all-cause mortality risk (22% lower for 0.1-9.9 g/day and 34% lower for 10.0 – 29.9 g/day, in comparison with non-drinkers) were no longer present for those who drank more than 30 g/day; for this highest consumer group, the adjusted hazard ratio was 0.87 with 95% CI of 0.61-1.25.
There are a number of other informative and interesting results described from this study. First, there was little change in reported alcohol intake prior to and following the MI: drinkers tended to remain drinkers of similar amounts. Few non-drinkers began to drink after their heart attack; among heavier drinkers, there was a tendency to reduce drinking (but very few stopped drinking completely). Further there were no significant differences in outcome according to type of beverage consumed although, interestingly, lower hazard ratios were seen for consumers of beer and liquor than of wine. While the authors state that the effects of alcohol were stronger for the association with non-anterior MI's, the relative risk (versus non-drinkers) for all-cause mortality were little different: among the moderately drinking men the relative risks were 0.58 for anterior MI and 0.51 for other types of MI.
Even though exposures (such as alcohol) for cardiovascular events (such as MI) may be different after a person has an event than it was before the event, in this study the reductions in risk were almost the same. For example, both for alcohol intake reported prior to a MI, and that after a non-fatal MI, the risk of mortality was about 30% lower for moderate drinkers than it was for abstainers. This suggests that, in terms of reducing cardiovascular disease, alcohol may have relatively short-term effects, suggesting that frequent but moderate consumption (of under 30g a day for men) may result in the best health outcomes.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Foods high in fibre provide good protection against cardiovascular disease, and the effect is particularly marked in women. This is shown in a new study from Lund University in Sweden.
The study, which was recently published in the scientific journal PLOS One, involved the study of the eating habits of over 20 000 residents of the Swedish city of Malmö, with a focus on the risk of cardiovascular disease. The importance of 13 different nutrient variables (aspects of fibre, fats, proteins and carbohydrates) was analysed.
"Women who ate a diet high in fibre had an almost 25 per cent lower risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease compared with women who ate a low-fibre diet. In men the effect was less pronounced. However, the results confirmed that a high-fibre diet does at least protect men from stroke", says Peter Wallström, a researcher at Lund University and the primary author of the article.
The exact reason for the difference between the sexes is unclear. However, a probable explanation is that women consume fibre from healthier food sources than men do. Women ate a lot of fibre in the form of fruit and vegetables, whereas the most important source of fibre for men was bread.
"The difference in the results for men and women shows that we need to pay more attention to gender when we conduct research on diet", says Peter Wallström.
However, the researchers did not identify any definite links between the other nutrients in the study and cardiovascular disease, for example the proportion of saturated fat or sugar in the diet.
"These results should be interpreted with a certain amount of caution. Almost everyone eats more saturated fat than recommended, including the participants in many other population studies. It is therefore difficult to compare recommended and high fat intake. Other types of study that have been carried out have shown that those who limit their fat and sugar intake are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease", says Peter Wallström.
Peter Wallström is sceptical of 'extreme' diets and says that the dietary recommendations from the National Food Administration are good, despite having received criticism:
"The National Food Administration's dietary advice, which is based on extensive research, is well balanced. In the short term, most weight-loss diets achieve their aim as long as you follow them. However, we know too little about the long-term effects to be able to recommend more drastic changes to one's diet", says Peter Wallström.
Data for the study has been taken from the Malmö Diet and Cancer population study, which has involved 30 000 Malmö residents since the start of the 1990s. The participants have given blood samples and detailed information about their diet.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers compared risk factors for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome of nut consumers versus those who did not consume nuts. Tree nut (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) consumption specifically, was associated with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (good cholesterol) and lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation which can lead to a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease.
“One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to nonconsumers. The mean weight, BMI, and waist circumference were 4.19 pounds, 0.9kg/m2 and 0.83 inches lower in consumers than non-consumers, respectively,” stated Carol O’Neil, PhD, MPH, RD, lead author on the paper and Professor at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.
The study looked at 13,292 men and women (19+ years) participating in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Intake was from 24-hour recall data and tree nut consumers were defined as those who consumed ≥ ¼ ounce/day.
Tree nut consumption was associated with a five percent lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. In addition, tree nut consumers had a lower prevalence of four risk factors for metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels and low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels.
Moreover, previous research by the same authors, showed that although tree nut consumption in the U.S. population is relatively low (mean intake of 1.19 ounces/day for nut consumers) nutrient intakes and diet quality were significantly improved when tree nuts were consumed. The latter appear to be associated with a greater intake of whole grains, fruits, and less saturated fatty acid, sodium and calories from solid fats, alcohol and added sugars. As a result, Dr. O’Neil recommends, “Tree nuts should be an integral part of a healthy diet and encouraged by health professionals—especially registered dietitians.”
Consumers of OOHN, including tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts), had higher intakes of energy, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats) and dietary fiber, and lower intakes of carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium than non-consumers.
“Adult consumers also had a 19% decreased risk of hypertension and a 21% decreased risk of low high-density lipoprotein (HDL--the good cholesterol) levels—both risk factors for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease,” stated Carol O’Neil, PhD, MPH, RD, lead author on the paper and Professor at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.
According to Dr. O’Neil, “We decided to look at OOHN specifically because this shows an individual’s conscious decision to consume nuts, which may be associated with a desire for a healthier lifestyle.” Interestingly, the percent of OOHN consumers increased with age: 2.1% ± 0.3%, 2.6% ± 0.3%, 6.5% ± 0.5%, and 9.6% ± 0.5% of those aged 2 to 11, 12 to 18, 19 to 50, and 51+ years, respectively. The two latter groups were combined into a single group of consumers aged 19+ years for subsequent analyses.
“In all of the age groups, although energy intake was higher in OOHN consumers than non-consumers, neither weight nor body mass index (BMI) was higher. This suggests that OOHN consumers are better able to balance energy intake with energy output than non-consumers,” stated Dr. O’Neil. This research comes on the heels of another study by the same authors, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, which showed that tree nut consumers specifically (ages 19+) had lower body weight, as well as lower BMI and waist circumference compared to non-consumers. The mean weight, BMI, and waist circumference were 4.19 pounds, 0.9kg/m2 and 0.83 inches lower in consumers than non-consumers, respectively.
“These new data, along with previous research, show once again that nuts can and should play an important role in a healthy diet,” adds Maureen Ternus, M.S., R.D., Executive Director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF). “With current nut consumption well below the recommended 1.5 ounces of nuts per day (in the FDA qualified health claim for nuts and heart disease) people should be encouraged to grab a handful of nuts every day. Eat them as a snack or throw some on yogurt, salad or oatmeal.”
Maureen Ternus, M.S., R.D., Executive Director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF), adds, “In light of these new data and the fact that the FDA has issued a qualified health claim for nuts and heart disease with a recommended intake of 1.5 ounces of nuts per day, we need to educate people about the importance of including tree nuts in the diet. And, since February is heart month, this is a great reason to go nuts for your health!”
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Results of a meta-analysis published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, indicate that there is not enough evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supplements have a secondary preventive effect against overall cardiovascular events among individuals who have a history of heart disease.
According to the researchers, results from some earlier trials indicate that omega-3 fatty acid supplements are effective in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, the evidence remains inconclusive.
In order to analyze the link between the omega-3 supplements such as, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and the risk of developing heart disease among individuals with a history of CVD, Sang Mi Kwak, M.D., of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Detection, Republic of Korea, and colleagues, conducted a meta-analysis of 14 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, conducted between June 1995 and November 2010.
In total, 20,485 individuals with a history of heart disease participated in the trials. 78.5% of the participants were men and the mean age of study participants was 63.4 years old. In addition, the daily dose of DHA or EPA ranged from 0.4 to 4.8 grams per day. Follow-up for participants ranged from 1 to 4.7 years.
The researchers said:
"Our meta-analysis showed insufficient evidence of a secondary preventive effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplements against overall cardiovascular events.
Likewise, we found no beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on other cardiovascular evens, such as sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarction (fatal or nonfatal heart attack), angina and unstable angina, congestive heart failure, and transient ischemic attack and stroke, or on all-cause mortality."