Thursday, October 25, 2012

Aspirin blocks tumor growth in some colorectal cancer

Aspirin has the potential to block tumor growth in certain patients with colorectal cancer, according to an editorial in the Oct. 25, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine by a University of Alabama at Birmingham oncologist. In a study that appears in the same issue, researchers examined the use of aspirin in the treatment outcomes of patients with colorectal cancer.

Researchers collected experimental data from 964 patients with colorectal cancer, separating them into two groups based on the presence or absence of a mutation within the PIK3CA gene. The authors found that the use of aspirin after diagnosis in patients with the gene mutation was associated with a 46 percent reduction in overall mortality and an 82 percent reduction in colorectal cancer-specific mortality. In contrast, aspirin use in patients without the mutation did not affect either overall or colorectal-specific mortality.

“Approximately 17 percent of patients with colorectal cancer have a tumor that carries a mutated PIK3CA gene,” says Boris Pasche, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology. “Hence, more than one in every six patients with locally advanced colorectal cancer may benefit from this therapy.”

Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in the United States and the fourth worldwide.

Over the past decade, little progress has been made in the treatment of locally advanced colorectal cancer, which is defined as cancer that has spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes but has not metastasized, or spread to other organs. “While several new drugs have proven useful in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, only one of them has demonstrated efficacy in locally advanced colorectal cancer,” Pasche says.

Pasche notes that the sample size for the current study was small. Only 66 patients with the PIK3CA mutation used aspirin after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer and only three of them died of colorectal cancer during the follow-up. “Although we are intrigued about these findings, they are still preliminary, and larger prospective studies need to be conducted,” says Pasche.

One cause of concern is that aspirin is known to increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic strokes, Pasche notes. Although many Americans use baby aspirin daily to reduce their risk of heart disease, patients are generally only advised to do so when their cardiac risk is presumed to outweigh the risk of taking aspirin.

“We haven’t reached the point where we can make a big leap and advise patients to take aspirin to prevent cancer recurrence after surgery, but we are accumulating more information that helps us understand the role that aspirin can potentially play in cancer,” says Pasche. “As it is with any type of cancer treatment, we need to examine the benefits against the risks, but aspirin may well become one of the oldest drugs to be used as a 21st-century targeted therapy.

Resveratrol falls short in health benefits for healthy women

Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine thought to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk of heart disease and increase longevity, does not appear to offer these benefits in healthy women, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates.

The study, reported online Oct. 25 in Cell Metabolism, involved 29 post-menopausal women who did not have type 2 diabetes and who were reasonably healthy. For 12 weeks, half took an over-the-counter resveratrol supplement, and the rest got a placebo, or sugar pill.

"Resveratrol supplements have become popular because studies in cell systems and rodents show that resveratrol can improve metabolic function and prevent or reverse certain health problems like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer," says senior investigator Samuel Klein, MD, director of Washington University's Center for Human Nutrition. "But our data demonstrate that resveratrol supplementation does not have metabolic benefits in relatively healthy, middle-aged women."

The results were somewhat surprising because earlier studies suggested that drinking red wine lowers the risk of health problems.

"Few studies have evaluated the effects of resveratrol in people," Klein explains. "Those studies were conducted in people with diabetes, older adults with impaired glucose tolerance or obese people who had more metabolic problems than the women we studied. So it is possible that resveratrol could have beneficial effects in people who are more metabolically abnormal than the subjects who participated in the study."

Klein, the Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science, directs the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science and the Center for Applied Research Sciences. He says many people who have heard about red wine's health benefits want to take resveratrol supplements to get the benefits of red wine without consuming large amounts of alcohol. In recent years, annual U.S. sales of resveratrol supplements have risen to $30 million.

As part of the study, Klein and his colleagues gave 15 post-menopausal women 75 milligrams of resveratrol daily, the same amount they'd get from drinking 8 liters of red wine, and compared their insulin sensitivity to 14 others who took a placebo.

The team measured the women's sensitivity to insulin and the rate of glucose uptake in their muscles, infusing insulin into their bodies and measuring their metabolic response to different doses.

"It's the most sensitive approach we have for evaluating insulin action in people," he says. "And we were unable to detect any effect of resveratrol. In addition, we took small samples of muscle and fat tissue from these women to look for possible effects of resveratrol in the body's cells, and again, we could not find any changes in the signaling pathways involved in metabolism."

But if resveratrol doesn't have a health benefit, then why are red wine drinkers less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes? Klein says there may be something else in red wine that provides the benefit.

"The purpose of our study was not to identify the active ingredient in red wine that improves health but to determine whether supplementation with resveratrol has independent, metabolic effects in relatively healthy people," he says. "We were unable to detect a metabolic benefit of resveratrol supplementation in our study population, but this does not preclude the possibility that resveratrol could have a synergistic effect when combined with other compounds in red wine."

Lonely older adults face more health risks

Adopting a positive attitude later in life positively alters body functions, Concordia study shows

Always look on the bright side of life. Thanks to a new study from Concordia University, this catchy refrain offers a prescription for staying healthy during one's golden years.

Research has shown that lonely older adults are at greater risk of developing health problems but a new study by Carsten Wrosch, a professor in Concordia's Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development, offers hope. In a forthcoming article in Psychosomatic Medicine, Wrosch proves that older adults who approach life with a positive outlook can reverse the negative health issues associated with a lonely life.

"Our aim was to see whether using self-protective strategies, such as thinking positively and avoiding self-blame in the context of common age-related threats could prevent lonely older adults from exhibiting increases in stress hormones and inflammatory biomarkers," explains Wrosch, who co-authored the article with Concordia's PhD graduate, Rebecca Rueggeberg, and colleagues Gregory Miller from the University of British Columbia and Thomas McDade from Northwestern University in Illinois.

To test this, the research team followed 122 senior citizens over a six-year period. They measured self-protective strategies with a questionnaire where participants were asked to rate statements such as, "Even if my health is in very difficult condition, I can find something positive in life," or "When I find it impossible to overcome a health problem, I try not to blame myself." The research team also measured loneliness by asking participants to what extent they felt lonely or isolated during a typical day.

Wrosch and his colleagues also used saliva and blood samples to measure how much cortisol and C-reactive protein (CRP) the participants produced. These two biological markers were chosen because cortisol is responsible for stress-related changes in the body; and people with elevated CRP are at increased risk of inflammatory illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Their findings showed that, among lonely older adults, the use of positive thinking helped protect against an increase in cortisol secretion. Four years down the road, further tests showed the participants' CRP levels had improved. In essence, lonely older adults who reframe problematic health circumstances positively and do not blame themselves for negative health issues can decrease health threats associated with stress and inflammation. For those older adults who did not report feelings of loneliness, this type of thinking had no effect – supposedly because their social networks may help them deal with age-related problems.

Overall, these findings could contribute to successful aging. "It's my hope that our research may improve clinical treatment of lonely older adults," says Wrosch. "Older adults can be taught through counseling or therapy to engage in self-protective thoughts like staying positive when it comes to their own health. That means a better quality of life, both physically and mentally – something we all want at any age."

Omega-3 Intake Heightens Working Memory in Healthy Young Adults

While Omega-3 essential fatty acids—found in foods like wild fish and grass-fed livestock—are necessary for human body functioning, their effects on the working memory of healthy young adults have not been studied until now.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that healthy young adults ages 18-25 can improve their working memory even further by increasing their Omega-3 fatty acid intake. Their findings have been published online in PLOS One.

“Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best,” said Bita Moghaddam, project investigator and professor of neuroscience. “We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.”

Led by Rajesh Narendarn, project principal investigator and associate professor of radiology, the Pitt research team sought healthy young men and women from all ethnicities to boost their Omega-3 intake with supplements for six months. They were monitored monthly through phone calls and outpatient procedures.

Before they began taking the supplements, all participants underwent positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, and their blood samples were analyzed. They were then asked to perform a working memory test in which they were shown a series of letters and numbers. The young adults had to keep track of what appeared one, two, and three times prior, known as a simple “n-back test.”

“What was particularly interesting about the presupplementation n-back test was that it correlated positively with plasma Omega-3,” said Moghaddam. “This means that the Omega-3s they were getting from their diet already positively correlated with their working memory.”

After six months of taking Lovaza—an Omega-3 supplement approved by the Federal Drug Administration—the participants were asked to complete this series of outpatient procedures again. It was during this last stage, during the working memory test and blood sampling, that the improved working memory of this population was revealed.

“So many of the previous studies have been done with the elderly or people with medical conditions, leaving this unique population of young adults unaddressed,” said Matthew Muldoon, project coinvestigator and associate professor of medicine at Pitt. “But what about our highest-functioning periods? Can we help the brain achieve its full potential by adapting our healthy behaviors in our young adult life? We found that we absolutely can.”

Although the effects of Omega-3s on young people were a focus, the Pitt team was also hoping to determine the brain mechanism associated with Omega-3 regulation. Previous rodent studies suggested that removing Omega-3 from the diet might reduce dopamine storage (the neurotransmitter associated with mood as well as working memory) and decrease density in the striatal vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 (commonly referred to as VMAT2, a protein associated with decision making). Therefore, the Pitt researchers posited that increasing VMAT2 protein was the mechanism of action that boosted cognitive performance. Unfortunately, PET imaging revealed this was not the case.

“It is really interesting that diets enriched with Omega-3 fatty acid can enhance cognition in highly functional young individuals,” said Narendarn. “Nevertheless, it was a bit disappointing that our imaging studies were unable to clarify the mechanisms by which it enhances working memory.”

Ongoing animal modeling studies in the Moghaddam lab indicate that brain mechanisms that are affected by Omega-3s may be differently influenced in adolescents and young adults than they are in older adults. With this in mind, the Pitt team will continue to evaluate the effect of Omega-3 fatty acids in this younger population to find the mechanism that improves cognition.

Other Pitt researchers involved in the project include William G. Frankle, professor of psychiatry, and Neal S. Mason, research assistant professor of radiology.

The paper, “Improved Working Memory but No Effect on Striatal Vesicular Monoamine Transporter Type 2 after Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation” was published online Oct. 3 by PLOS One and supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.

Exercise boosts satisfaction with life

Had a bad day? Extending your normal exercise routine by a few minutes may be the solution, according to Penn State researchers, who found that people's satisfaction with life was higher on days when they exercised more than usual.

"We found that people's satisfaction with life was directly impacted by their daily physical activity," said Jaclyn Maher, graduate student in kinesiology. "The findings reinforce the idea that physical activity is a health behavior with important consequences for daily well-being and should be considered when developing national policies to enhance satisfaction with life."

The team examined the influence of physical activity on satisfaction with life among emerging adults ages 18 to 25 years because this population's sense of well-being appears to worsen more quickly than at any other time during adulthood.

"Emerging adults are going through a lot of changes; they are leaving home for the first time and attending college or starting jobs," said Maher. "As a result, their satisfaction with life can plummet. We decided to focus on emerging adults because they stand to benefit the most from strategies to enhance satisfaction with life."

The researchers recruited two groups of college students at Penn State. The first group, consisting of 190 individuals, entered information into a diary every day for eight days. The second group, consisting of 63 individuals, entered information into a secure website every day for 14 days. Both groups answered questions aimed at determining participants' satisfaction with life, physical activity and self-esteem. The personalities of all participants in the first group were assessed at the outset of the study using the Big Five Inventory short form.

For the second group (the 63 individuals who filled out questionnaires online for 14 days), the researchers wanted to further investigate whether physical activity was indeed, the cause of participants' increased satisfaction with life rather than some other factor such as mental health, fatigue, or Body Mass Index.

"Shifts in depression, anxiety and stress would be expected to influence a person's satisfaction with life at any given point in time," said David Conroy, professor of kinesiology. "In addition, fatigue can be a barrier to engaging in physical activity, and a high Body Mass Index associated with being overweight may cause a person to be less satisfied in a variety of ways."

By controlling for these variables, the researchers were able to determine that the amount of physical activity a person undertakes in a particular day directly influences his or her satisfaction with life. Specifically, the team found that by exercising just a little more than usual a person can significantly improve his or her satisfaction with life.

The results appeared online this week in the journal Health Psychology.

"Based on these findings, we recommend that people exercise a little longer or a little harder than usual as a way to boost satisfaction with life," said Conroy.

Millions May Be Taking Vitamin D Unnecessarily

Under the latest guidelines from the Institute of Medicine, it's possible that almost 80 million Americans who've previously been considered as having low levels of vitamin D don't need supplements of this nutrient at all, according to a new study.

Older guidelines had suggested that anyone with a blood level of vitamin D that was less than 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) needed to boost their levels, but the newer Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines say that a minimum level of 20 ng/mL is sufficient.

However, not all experts agree with the new guidelines from the IOM, a nonprofit American organization that dispenses health advice.

"The IOM guidelines are so different than the Endocrine Society's guidelines that this study will just add to the controversy," said lead study author Dr. Holly Kramer, an associate professor of medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. "We really need clinical trials to settle the whole issue, but what's clear is that these threshold levels make a huge difference in how many people would be taking vitamin D."

The Endocrine Society is an international group of endocrinologists.

Why worry about your vitamin D intake? Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, and it's necessary to prevent the disease known as rickets. The nutrient has also been implicated as potentially beneficial for a number of conditions. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher risks of some autoimmune diseases, and may make people more susceptible to infection.

In addition, noted Dr. Robert Heaney, a professor of medicine at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., low vitamin D has also been associated with high blood pressure, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome -- a group of symptoms that signal higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Heaney is a member of the Endocrine Society's task force on vitamin D guidelines.

"Vitamin D is necessary in most cells in our body, probably all cells," Heaney said. "When you have adequate vitamin D, all of the body's systems tend to work well." But, "there is no consensus on what normal levels are in the field of nutrition," he added.

For the current study, Kramer and her colleagues reviewed data on more than 15,000 adults from the third U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and linked that information to 18 years of information from the National Death Index to determine if vitamin D had an effect on mortality rates.

The researchers found that in people with impaired kidney function, about 35 percent had vitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL. In people with healthy kidneys, about 30 percent had levels below 20 ng/mL, according to the study.

But for the older, higher vitamin D threshold, 76.5 percent of people with impaired kidney function would be considered to have low levels of vitamin D, as would 70.5 percent of people with healthy kidneys.

"Even under the new guidelines, there are still a fair number of people who are considered deficient or insufficient," Kramer said.

There was a big difference in mortality rates for those who had the lowest levels of vitamin D -- less than 12 ng/mL -- compared to those with levels between 24 and 30 ng/mL. But after that, Kramer said, there wasn't much difference in mortality between the groups.

Heaney also noted how findings varied according to vitamin D levels.

He said that while there wasn't a huge effect from group to group depending on vitamin D levels, there was "a continuing downward trend" with less mortality as vitamin D levels went up.

So where does that leave people trying to decide whether to take the supplements?

Kramer said that right now the decision may depend on your personal situation, and suggested talking to your doctor about whether extra vitamin D is necessary for you. People with certain medical conditions need to be on vitamin D. But, she said that others are taking supplements who don't need to and that it's just a waste of their money.

For his part, Heaney noted that taking vitamin D and other nutrients may be akin to changing the oil in your car. "If you don't change the oil, your car runs well now, but it may break down sooner," he said.

In terms of side effects, Kramer said, too much vitamin D can increase the risk of kidney stones, but in general, it's a well-tolerated supplement. The upper safe limit for daily intake is 4,000 international units, according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, though most people take a much lower dose.

Results of Kramer's study are published in the Oct. 24 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Moderate Drinking Good; Binge Drinking Bad

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine each day has generally been considered a good way to promote cardiovascular and brain health. But a new Rutgers University study indicates that there is a fine line between moderate and binge drinking -- a risky behavior that can decrease the making of adult brain cells by as much as 40 percent.

In a study posted online and scheduled to be published in the journal Neuroscience on November 8, lead author Megan Anderson, a graduate student working with Tracey J. Shors, Professor II in Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, reported that moderate to binge drinking -- drinking less during the week and more on the weekends -- significantly reduces the structural integrity of the adult brain.

"Moderate drinking can become binge drinking without the person realizing it," said Anderson."In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory."

Shors and Anderson worked with postdoctoral fellow Miriam Nokia from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland to model moderate to heavy drinking in humans using rodents that reached a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent -- the legal driving limit in the United States and many other countries -- and found that brain cell production was affected negatively.

The researchers discovered that at this level of intoxication in rats -- comparable to about 3-4 drinks for women and five drinks for men -- the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain were reduced by nearly 40 percent compared to those in the abstinent group of rodents. The hippocampus is a part of the brain where the new neurons are made and is also known to be necessary for some types of new learning.

This level of alcohol intake was not enough to impair the motor skills of either male or female rats or prevent them from associative learning in the short-term. Still, Anderson said, th

is substantial decrease in brain cell numbers over time could have profound effects on the structural plasticity of the adult brain because these new cells communicate with other neurons to regulate brain health.

"If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life," said Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology. "It's something that you might not even be aware is occurring."

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men who drink 14 drinks a week and women who drink seven are considered at-risk drinkers. Although college students commonly binge drink, according to the institute, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involved adults age 26 and older.

"This research indicates that social or daily drinking may be more harmful to brain health than what is now believed by the general public," she said.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Herbal and dietary supplements can adversely affect prescribed drugs

Findings could be just the tip of the iceberg says accompanying editorial

A number of herbs and dietary supplements (HDS) can cause potentially harmful drug interactions, particularly among people receiving medication for problems with their central nervous or cardiovascular systems.

Those are the key findings of an extensive research review published in the November issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

Researchers examined 54 review articles and 31 original studies. They found that the greatest problems were caused by interactions between prescribed drugs and HDS that included ingredients such as St John's Wort, magnesium, calcium, iron or ginkgo.

"Consumer use of HDS has risen dramatically over the past two decades" says co-author Dr Hsiang-Wen Lin from the College of Pharmacy, China Medical School, Taiwan.

"In the USA, for example, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of patients with chronic diseases or cancer use them and that many patients take them at the same time as prescribed medication.

"Despite their widespread use, the potential risks associated with combining HDS with other medications, which include mild-to-severe heart problems, chest pain, abdominal pain and headache, are poorly understood."

Key findings of the review included:

- The literature covered 213 HDS entities and 509 prescribed medications, with 882 HDS-drug interactions described in terms of their mechanisms and severity.
- Warfarin, insulin, aspirin digoxin and ticlopidine had the greatest number of reported interactions with HDS.
- More than 42 per cent of the drug interactions were caused by the HDS altering the pharmacokinetics of the prescribed drugs - the process by which a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolised and eliminated by the body.
- Just over 26 per cent of the total were described as major interactions.
- Among the 152 identified contraindications, the most frequent involved the gastrointestinal system (16.4%), neurological system (14.5%) and andrenal ⁄ genitourinary diseases (12.5%).

Flaxseed, echinacea and yohimbe had the largest number of documented contraindications.
"Our extensive review clearly shows that some HDS ingredients have potentially harmful drug interactions that are predominately moderate in their severity" says Dr Lin. "It also showed that herbal and botanical remedies were more likely to have documented drug interactions and contraindications than the other dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids."

In an editorial on the review, Professor Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter says that the authors provide an impressively complete overview of a fascinating and potentially important subject.

"Survey after survey shows that large proportions of the population are trying 'natural' remedies for illness-prevention, all sorts of ailments, diseases or for states of reduced well-being" he says. "Most experts therefore agree that the potential for such interactions is substantial.

"Despite this consensus and despite the considerable amount of documented harm generated by such interactions, our current knowledge is still woefully incomplete."

Professor Ernst believes that the number of interactions between HDS and prescribed drugs could be under-reported and just the tip of the iceberg.

He feels that the situation calls for rigorous research, increased awareness of possible HDS prescription interactions by physicians and patients and greater government control of this public health issue.

"Patients deserve reliable information, and it is our duty to provide it" he says. "We have to become vigilant and finally agree to monitor this sector adequately. Each individual doctor can contribute to this process by routinely including questions about alternative medicine use in their medical history taking."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The complex association between moderate alcohol consumption and breast cancer

An excellent review article from two scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the USA to be published in Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2012, describes the epidemiologic and basic scientific evidence linking alcohol consumption to the risk of breast cancer.

The authors point out deficiencies in the epidemiologic data, especially that the pattern of drinking (regular moderate versus binge drinking) has generally not been taken into consideration, important given that binge drinking is associated with much higher blood alcohol concentrations and acetaldehyde accumulation. Further, epidemiologic studies usually provide data for only a short period of time, while the development of cancer may relate to exposures over many decades. The authors also comment upon the effect that under-reporting of alcohol by study participants could exaggerate effects on cancer risk from light drinking. They discuss two hypotheses that could relate alcohol to breast cancer risk: alcohol as a breast tumour promoter, and alcohol as a weak cumulative breast carcinogen, and present evidence from epidemiology and basic science that would relate to each hypothesis.

Overall, Forum reviewers were enthusiastic about this review paper, considering that it clearly outlined some of the difficulties scientists have in determining the causes of cancer. They agreed with the authors' statements regarding the necessity to consider the overall net effects of moderate drinking, including reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease and total mortality. They also agreed that future epidemiologic studies should focus on the pattern of drinking, i.e. little and often versus episodic and not just the average weekly amount of alcohol, and with their suggestions for future animal studies. One Forum reviewer cautioned that our understanding of the causes of breast cancer is still very incomplete, limiting our ability to provide well-founded recommendations to the public regarding moderate drinking as it relates to breast cancer risk.

Lifting weights protects against metabolic syndrome

People who lift weights are less likely to have metabolic syndrome—a cluster of risk factors linked to heart disease and diabetes, reports a study in the October issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

"Lifting weights may play a role in reducing the prevalence and risk of metabolic syndrome among U.S. adults," according to the study by Peter M. Magyari, PhD, HFS, CSCS, and James R. Churilla, PhD, MPH, MS, RCEP, CSCS, FACSM of Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida, Jacksonville.

About Nine Percent of Americans Lift Weights…

The researchers analyzed data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an ongoing, nationally representative study of health risk factors. In the survey, respondents were simply asked whether they lifted weights; the responses were analyzed for association with the presence of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors linked to increased rates risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. People with at least three out of five risk factors—large waist circumference (more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women), high triglyceride levels, reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, or "good" cholesterol), elevated blood pressure, and high glucose levels—are considered to have metabolic syndrome.

Of 5,618 U.S. adults who had fasting blood samples for analysis, 8.8 percent answered yes to the question about lifting weights. Lifting weights was about twice as common in men than women: 11.2 versus 6.3 percent. It was also more common among younger people—lifting weights became less frequent for people aged 50 years and older.

White and black Americans were about equally likely to lift weights, while Mexican Americans were least likely. People at higher socioeconomic levels were also more likely to say they lifted weights.

…Reducing the Odds of Metabolic Syndrome by 37 Percent

This cross-sectional analysis of the 1999-2004 NHANES data found a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome among people who reported lifting weights: 24.6 percent, compared to 37.3 percent in those who did not lift weights. After adjustment for demographic factors, lifting weights was associated with a 37 percent reduction in the odds of metabolic syndrome.

Several recent studies have evaluated the impact of exercise for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome. Resistance exercise, including weight-lifting, may have protective effects. Research has linked greater muscle strength and muscle mass to lower rates of metabolic syndrome. Since lifting weights increases muscle strength and mass, it might also help to decrease the development of metabolic syndrome.

The new study provides population-level data showing that people who lift weights are less likely to have the risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome. This suggests that incorporating weight lifting or other forms of resistance exercise into physical activity programs might be an effective way to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, both for individuals and in the population.

"Exercise professionals should strongly encourage the activity of lifting weights among adults of all ages to promote metabolic health," Drs Magyari and Churilla conclude. These efforts should focus on groups with lower rates of weight lifting: women, older adults, Mexican Americans, and lower-income people. The authors acknowledge some significant limitations of their study—such as a lack of detailed information on weight lifting and other types of resistance exercise, including manual labor.

Do organic foods bring a significant benefit to children?

Parents know it's important for children to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. But it's less clear whether spending the extra money on organic foods will bring a significant benefit to their children's health.

To offer guidance to parents – and the pediatricians caring for their children's health – the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has conducted an extensive analysis of scientific evidence surrounding organic produce, dairy products and meat. The conclusion is mixed: While organic foods have the same vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, lipids and other nutrients as conventional foods, they also have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children. Organically raised animals are also less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.

However, in the long term, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease. No large studies in humans have been performed that specifically address this issue.

"What's most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods. This type of diet has proven health benefits," said Janet Silverstein, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and one of the lead authors of the report. "Many families have a limited food budget, and we do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce."

The AAP report, "Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages," will be released at a news conference at 1 p.m. CT Monday, Oct. 22 at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans. It will be published in the November 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 22). The report outlines the research that has been conducted on organic foods, including convincing evidence of lower exposure to pesticides and less contamination of livestock with drug-resistant bacteria.

"At this point, we simply do not have the scientific evidence to know whether the difference in pesticide levels will impact a person's health over a lifetime, though we do know that children – especially young children whose brains are developing – are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures," said Joel Forman, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report.

If cost is a factor, families can be selective in choosing organic foods, Dr. Forman said. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables tend to have lower pesticide residues. The AAP cites organic shopper's guides like those provided by Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group as references for consumers. The AAP found no individual health benefit from purchasing organic milk, but emphasizes that all milk should be pasteurized to reduce the risk of bacterial infections. Raw milk increases the risk of serious infection with bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella.

Purchasing meat from organic farms that do not use antibiotics for nontherapeutic uses has the potential to reduce antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect people. The AAP calls for large, well-designed, prospective cohort studies that directly measure environmental exposures such as estrogen at low levels to understand the impact of hormonal exposure of children through milk and meat.

The AAP report also notes that the motivation to choose organic produce, meat and dairy products may be reasonably based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change.

"Pediatricians want families to have the information they need to make wise food choices," said Dr. Forman. "We hope that additional research will improve our understanding of these issues, including large studies that measure environmental exposures and neurodevelopment."

Metabolic factors may increase men's risk of dying from prostate cancer

High blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids, and body mass index—characteristics that are often lumped together as the metabolic syndrome—are jointly linked with an increased risk of dying from prostate cancer. That is the conclusion of a new study published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The study's results suggest that public health recommendations regarding diet and lifestyle to prevent heart disease and diabetes may also decrease a man's likelihood of dying from prostate cancer.

Researchers have little knowledge about possible links between metabolic factors, separately and combined, and men's risk of being diagnosed with or dying from prostate cancer. To investigate, Christel Häggström, MSc, Tanja Stocks, PhD, both of the Umeå University in Sweden, and their colleagues analyzed information from 289,866 men enrolled in a study called the Metabolic syndrome and Cancer project. The analysis was completed under the leadership of Pär Stattin, MD, PhD, a visiting scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

During an average follow-up time of 12 years, 6,673 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 961 died from the disease. Men in the highest categories of body mass index and blood pressure had a 36 percent and 62 percent increased risk of dying from prostate cancer, respectively. Also, when comparing a composite score of all metabolic factors, men with a high score were more likely to die from prostate cancer.

The study found no evidence for a link between high levels of metabolic factors and a man's risk of developing prostate cancer but revealed a link between these factors and his risk of dying from the disease. This suggests that while men with the metabolic syndrome are not more likely than others to develop prostate cancer, if they do develop it, they are more likely than other men to die from the malignancy. "These observations suggest that cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight and hypertension are involved in stimulating the progression of prostate cancer," said Dr. Stattin.

College education and moderate alcohol intake linked to lower COPD risk

College education and alcohol consumption may be linked to risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Oakland, California, followed 126,019 people who supplied baseline data from 1978 – 1985 through 2008 with analyses of hospitalizations attributed to COPD (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or chronic airway obstruction).

Although cigarette smoking, increasing age, and history of respiratory disease/symptoms were powerful predictors of COPD, results also showed that Asian Americans (vs whites) and college graduates (vs no college) were at a moderately lower risk for COPD, as were persons reporting 1 to 2 drinks per day (vs lifelong abstainers).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Healthy behaviors in midlife significantly increase odds of successful aging

Engaging in a combination of healthy behaviours, such as not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, exercise, and eating fruits and vegetables daily makes it significantly more likely people will stay healthy as they age, according to a study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

"Our study shows the cumulative impact of healthy behaviours on successful aging — the greater the number of healthy behaviours, the greater the benefit," writes Dr. Séverine Sabia, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL (University College London), UK, with coauthors.

Successful aging was defined as maintaining the ability to function well with good mobility, cognitive skills, respiratory function, mental health and no chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke or disability at age 60 years or older. Normal aging included people who were alive at the end of the 16-year study but who had chronic disease and/or lower scores on functioning and mental health.

"Among members of a large cohort of British men and women 42-63 years of age at baseline, all 4 healthy behaviours examined during midlife…were associated with greater odds of successfully aging during a 16-year follow-up," write the authors. "Compared with participants who engaged in no healthy behaviours, those who engaged in all 4 healthy behaviours had greater odds of aging successfully."

The study, by researchers in the UK and France, involved 5100 men and women from the Whitehall II study who did not have cancer, heart disease or stroke in the assessment phase during 1991-1994 and were followed to 2007-2009. Of the total participants, 549 died during follow-up, and 953 were classified as successfully aging while the remaining people aged normally. People in the successfully aging group were younger than the normally aging group (mean age 49.7 v. 51.3 yr), and 81% were married compared with 78% in the second group and 71% in the deceased group. Successful agers were more likely to have higher education than the normally aging group (32% v. 24%) and 18% in the deceased group. In the study population, 5% of people did not engage in any of the 4 healthy behaviours.

"Although individual healthy behaviours are moderately associated with successful aging, their combined impact is quite substantial. Multiple healthy behaviours appear to increase the chance of reaching old age disease-free and fully functional in an additive manner," conclude the authors.

Exercise may trump mental activity in protecting against brain shrinkage

Exercising regularly in old age may better protect against brain shrinkage than engaging in mental or social activities, according to a new study published in the October 23, 2012, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Research suggests that brain shrinkage may lead to problems with memory and thinking.

"People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active," said study author Alan J. Gow, PhD, with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame."

Researchers looked at medical records of 638 people from Scotland born in 1936. The participants were given MRI scans at 73 years old.

The group gave details about their exercise habits, ranging from moving only in connection with necessary household chores to keeping fit with heavy exercise or participating in competitive sports several times per week. They also reported their participation in social and mentally stimulating activities.

The study found that after three years, people who participated in more physical activity experienced less brain shrinkage than those who exercised minimally.

"Our results show that regularly exercising in old age is potentially important to protecting the brain as we age," said Gow.

Eating more legumes = lower heart disease risk

CEating more legumes (such as beans, chickpeas or lentils) as part of a low-glycemic index diet appears to improve glycemic control and reduce estimated coronary heart disease (CHD) risk in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), according to a report of a randomized controlled trial published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

Low glycemic index (GI) foods have been associated with improvement in glycemic control in patients with type 2 (DM) and have been recommended in many national DM guidelines, the authors write in the study background.

David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., of the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Canada, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial of 121 patients with type 2 DM to test the effect of eating more legumes on glycemic control, serum (blood) lipid levels and blood pressure (BP).

Patients were randomized to either a low-GI legume diet that encouraged patients to increase eating legumes by at least one cup a day or to increase insoluble fiber by eating whole wheat products for three months. Changes in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) values were the primary outcome measure and calculated CHD risk score was the secondary outcome.

"In conclusion, legume consumption of approximately 190 g per day (1 cup) seems to contribute usefully to a low-GI diet and reduce CHD risk through a reduction in BP," the authors note.

The low-GI legume diet reduced HbA1c values by -0.5 percent and the high wheat fiber diet reduced HbA1c values by -0.3 percent. The respective CHD risk reduction on the low-GI legume diet was -0.8 percent, largely because of a greater relative reduction in systolic blood pressure on the low-GI legume diet compared with the high wheat fiber diet (-4.5 mm Hg), the study results indicate.

"These findings linking legume consumption to both improved glycemic control and reduced CHD risk are particularly important because type 2 DM is increasing most rapidly in the urban environments of populations in which bean intake has traditionally been high (e.g. India, Latin America, the Pima Indians of Arizona)," the authors conclude. "Support for the continued use of such foods in traditional bean-eating communities, together with their reintroduction into the Western diet, could therefore be justified even if the effect on glycemia is relatively small, given the magnitude of the problem and the need for acceptable dietary options, especially those options that may also have a BP and cardiovascular advantage."

Poor physical performance = increased odds of dementia

Poor physical performance on activities including walking was associated with increased odds of dementia in a study of individuals 90 years and older, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Neurology, a JAMA Network publication.

Individuals 90 years and older are a unique segment of society that has not been well studied. Previous studies have suggested a relationship between poor physical performance and cognitive impairment in the younger elderly populations, according to the study background.

The study conducted by Szofia S. Bullain, M.D., and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine, involved 629 participants from the 90+ Study on aging and dementia performed at the university from January 2003 through November 2009. The average age of participants was 94 years, and most (72.5 percent) were women.

"Our cross-sectional study found a strong dose-dependent association between poor physical performance and dementia in the oldest old, with higher odds of dementia associated with poorer physical performance," the authors note. "The results reveal that even modest declines in physical performance are associated with increased odds of dementia. The strongest association is seen with gait slowing, followed by five chair stands, grip strength and standing balance."

The odds ratios for every unit decrease in a physical performance score were 2.1 for a four-meter walk, 2.1 for chair stands, 1.9 for standing balance and 1.7 for grip strength, according to the study results.

Participants who were unable to walk (score of 0) "were almost 30 times more likely to have dementia than people with the fastest walking time," the study results indicate. Even minimal slowing in the walking speed (less than or equal to 1.5 seconds, from score 4 to score 3) was associated with four times greater odds of dementia, according to the results.

"In summary, similar to younger elderly populations, our study found that poor physical performance is associated with increased odds of dementia in the oldest old. The establishment of this association may serve as a major stepping stone to further investigate whether poor physical performance is in the causal pathway and a potentially modifiable risk factor for late-age dementia," the authors conclude.

Statins may protect against esophageal cancer

Statin use is associated with protection from esophagus cancer according to a new meta-analysis of existing clinical studies exploring the cancer prevention effects of statins presented by a Mayo Clinic researcher, Dr. Siddharth Singh, at the American College of Gastroenterology 77th Annual Scientific Meeting in Las Vegas, NV.

Dr. Singh and his Mayo colleagues conducted a systematic review of eleven studies reporting 8,613 cases of esophageal cancer from studies including almost 1 million patients. Incidence of esophageal cancer is increasing in the United States, especially esophageal adenocarcinoma in patients with Barrett's esophagus.

"The meta-analysis of these studies showed a significant 30 percent reduction in esophageal cancer incidence with statins use," said Dr. Singh.

When looking more closely at the seven highest-quality observational studies among the eleven, researchers continued to find a significant chemo-protective effect with statin use. An analysis of a subset of patients with Barrett's esophagus, a pre-malignant condition associated with chronic acid reflux, revealed that, in this higher risk population, statin use was associated with a significant 41 percent decrease in the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.

Aspirin may slow the decline in mental capacity among elderly patients

A daily dose of acetylsalicylic acid equivalent to a fourth of an aspirin may slow the decline in intellectual capacity among elderly individuals with high cardiovascular risk. This is shown in a study by Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, over a five year period studied how intellectual capacity changes among 681 elderly women (70 to 92 years) with heightened risk of suffering from a heart attack, vascular spasm or stroke.

Of the 681 women, 129 received a low daily dose of acetylsalicylic acid, equivalent to a fourth of an aspirin, to prevent heart disease. The Gothenburg study shows that acetylsalicylic acid also slowed decline in brain capacity among the elderly women.

In the study, published in British Medical Journal Open, the women underwent various tests to measure their physical health and intellectual capacity, such as language and memory tests.

"At the end of the five year examination period mental capacity had declined among all the women and the portion that suffered from dementia was equally large in the entire group. However, the decline in brain capacity was significantly less and occurred at a slower pace among the women who received acetylsalicylic acid," says Silke Kern, researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy.

The effect remained even when age, genetic factors and use of anti-inflammatory drugs were taken into account.

In addition to preventing heart disease, acetylsalicylic acid has been shown to be effective against cancer according to several scientific studies. It is common practice in many countries to treat women at risk for heart disease with a small dose of acetylsalicylic acid – but not in Sweden.

Silke Kern emphasizes that the study is an observational study and that more research is necessary before any definitive conclusions can be made.

"Our results indicate that acetylsalicylic acid may protect the brain, at least among women at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. However, we do not know the long term effects of routine treatment. We certainly do not want to encourage the elderly to self-medicate with aspirin to avoid dementia," she states.

The research group in Gothenburg has now started a follow-up study that will follow the older women for an additional five years.

Exercise the body to keep the brain healthy

People who exercise later in life may better protect their brain from age-related changes than those who do not, a study suggests.

Researchers found that people over 70 who took regular exercise showed less brain shrinkage over a three-year period than those who did little exercise.

Psychologists and Neuroimaging experts, based at the University of Edinburgh, did not find there to be any benefit to brain health for older people from participation in social or mentally stimulating activities.

Greater brain shrinkage is linked to problems with memory and thinking and the researchers say their findings suggest that exercise is potentially one important pathway to maintaining a healthy brain both in terms of size and reducing damage.

The researchers also examined the brain's white matter – the wiring that transmits messages round the brain. They found that people over 70 who were more physically active had fewer 'damaged' areas – visible as abnormal areas on scanning – in the white matter than those who did little exercise.

Additionally, the researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that the over-70s taking regular exercise had more grey matter – the parts of the brain with nerve cell bodies.

The Edinburgh team used MRI scans to measure the volume of brain tissue and the volume and health of the brain's white matter in almost 700 people.

They studied levels of physical activity which ranged from moving only for necessary housework to more strenuous forms of exercise such as keep-fit or taking part in competitive sports.

Scientists also recorded whether or not the participants – all aged over 70 – took part in mentally stimulating activities such reading and participating in social groups.

Dr Alan Gow of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology who led the research, said: "Our results suggest that to maintain brain health, physical activity may be more beneficial than choosing more sedentary activities. We are excited by the next stages of this research as we seek to understand more about what might underlie the effect, but in the meantime, increasing physical activity – even a short walk each day – can only be encouraged."

Professor James Goodwin, Head of Research at Age UK who fund the Disconnected Mind research project, said: "This research is exciting as it provides vital clues as to what impacts the way our brain ages and how we could tackle mental decline. If we can establish definitively that exercise provides protection against mental decline, it could open the door to exercise programmes tailored to the needs of people as they age.

"We already know that exercise is important in reducing our risk of some illnesses that come with ageing, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. This research reemphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it's a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older."

Crusty foods may worsen heart problems

A University of Illinois study suggests avoiding cooking methods that produce the kind of crusty bits you'd find on a grilled hamburger, especially if you have diabetes and know you're at increased risk for cardiovascular disease because of your diagnosis.

"We see evidence that cooking methods that create a crust—think the edge of a brownie or the crispy borders of meats prepared at very high temperatures—produce advanced glycation end products (AGEs). And AGEs are associated with plaque formation, the kind we see in cardiovascular disease," said Karen Chapman-Novakofski, a U of I professor of nutrition.

For years nutrition experts have advised people to bake, broil, or grill their food instead of frying it, she said.

"That's still true, but you should know that AGEs—byproducts of food preparation methods that feature very high, intense, dry heat—tend to end up on other tissues in the body, causing long-term damage," she added.

If you're fighting this vascular buildup anyway, Chapman-Novakofski thinks that consuming products containing AGEs could worsen the cardiovascular complications of diabetes.

In the U of I study, the scientists compared the 10-day food intake of 65 study participants in two ethnic groups: Mexicans (who have higher rates of diabetes and a greater risk of complications from the disease) and non-Hispanic whites.

"We found that people with higher rates of cardiovascular complications ate more of these glycated products. For each unit increase in AGEs intake, a study participant was 3.7 times more likely to have moderate to high risk for cardiovascular disease," said Claudia Luevano-Contreras, first author of the study.

The study showed that non-Hispanic whites had a higher intake of AGEs, and they consumed more saturated fats. However, the association between AGEs and cardiovascular disease was stronger than for saturated fats and heart disease, she said.

Eating less saturated fat and more fruits, vegetables, and fiber are important for people with diabetes, but this study shows that food preparation may be important too, she added.

"AGEs are higher in any kind of meat, but especially in ground meat," she said. "If you put hamburgers or brats on the grill, you'll likely have a higher AGEs content than if you chose a whole cut of meat, say round steak or chicken," said Chapman-Novakofski.

Boiling or stewing meat would reduce your AGEs intake further. And scrambling an egg with cooking spray instead of frying it leads to a significant reduction in AGEs, she added.

The scientists said more research is needed before definite recommendations can be made. They are planning another study in which they'll examine past AGEs intake of diabetes patients.

"These findings are preliminary, but they give us ample reason to further explore the association between AGEs and cardiovascular risk among people with diabetes," Chapman-Novakofski noted.

New study suggests using sedentary behavior counseling in primary care

Although primary care physicians take care of many aspects of health and disease, little is known about how they can change sedentary behavior through counseling, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Results from a new study suggest encouraging patients to decrease the time they spend sitting each day may be feasible in the primary care setting.

“Reducing sedentary time can be done by virtually everyone and requires smaller changes in energy expenditure than meeting physical activity guidelines, which usually entails a complex behavior change particularly for inactive patients,” said Kerem Shuval, Ph.D., principal investigator and assistant professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus, part of UTHealth. “Reducing sedentary time helps promote health and primary care physicians can play a major role in modifying their patients’ sedentary behavior, particularly because adults spend many of their waking hours each day sitting or in passive leisure activities.”

Results were recently published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Unlike physical activity counseling, which has been investigated over the years, sedentary behavior counseling is a new term used in this study to describe a dialogue with a patient about the harmful effects of prolonged uninterrupted sitting. The average amount of time spent sitting or reclining during waking hours in the United States is almost 8hours per day, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

In this study, Shuval and his colleagues asked adult primary care patients whether their providers asked, advised and encouraged them to modify their physical activity and sedentary behavior in the past year. The “5A” (ask, advise, agree, assist and arrange) framework was used to examine these questions.

Study results indicated that within the last year, only 10 percent of patients received sedentary behavior counseling compared to 53 percent who received physical activity counseling. No patients received a plan pertaining to decreasing sedentary behavior; however, 14 percent were provided with a written plan for increasing physical activity. More social support and specific strategies for behavior change were provided as it relates to increasing physical activity than decreasing sedentary behavior. Obese patients were more likely to receive counseling to decrease their sitting time.

“Accumulating evidence has found prolonged sitting to be associated with increased risk for chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as premature death,” said Shuval, who is also an adjunct professor at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) and a member of the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern.

Sedentary behavior has emerged as a new field of scientific investigation due to the detrimental health effects of prolonged sitting, according to Shuval. A number of studies have begun to explore the impact of interventions specifically focused on reducing and breaking up sedentary time.

“Our study provides initial insight into sedentary behavior counseling practices in the primary care setting,” said Shuval. “Additional research is needed prior to developing programs to change patients’ sedentary behavior.” Several countries have already begun to provide general recommendations to decrease sedentary time.

Jon's Health News - Latest Research

The Perfect Cartoon For This Report:

Especially worrisome news ( I see no way to avoid extensive sitting in my work and home life) but every time I read or remember about this I get up and walk around some:

Sitting for protracted periods increases risk of diabetes, heart disease and death

According to the study, those who sit for long periods have a two fold increase in their risk of diabetes, heart disease and death. Importantly, associations were independent of the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity undertaken, suggesting that even if an individual meets typical physical activity guidelines, their health may still be compromised if they sit for long periods of time throughout the day.

Good news:

Green Tea Fights Prostate Cancer

While this research showed an association between green tea and prostate cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

"Actually, several food agents have been under investigation for their protective impact," she noted. "Lycopene and omega-3 fatty acids, for example. So, I would say that if you have cancer and you want to make a decision about all of this, then think of incorporating all of those as a part of a lifestyle change. I know that if I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I would try to change my lifestyle. And that would mean, in addition to eating lots of fruits and vegetables and trying to lose weight and exercising, that I would definitely drink green tea."

Antioxidants in Tea, Fruit, Veggies Might Fight Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer patients who, before their diagnosis, routinely consumed hefty helpings of the flavonoid compounds found in plant-based foods and drinks may be at lower risk for the most aggressive form of the disease, new research suggests.

Flavonoids are found in vegetables and fruits, as well as in tea, wine, juices and cocoa. Researchers have long theorized that these particular antioxidants may help reduce cancer risk by fighting inflammation, oxidation, cell death and tumor cell growth.

Healthy diets have long-lasting positive effects

Exercise Could Fortify Immune System Against Future Cancers

Researchers may soon be able to add yet another item to the list of exercise's well-documented health benefits: A preliminary study suggests that when cancer survivors exercise for several weeks after they finish chemotherapy, their immune systems remodel themselves to become more effective, potentially fending off future incidents of cancer. The finding may help explain why exercise can significantly reduce the chances of secondary cancers in survivors or reduce the chances of cancer altogether in people who have never had the disease.

Fast walking and jogging halve development of heart disease and stroke risk factors

The findings indicate that it is the intensity, rather than the duration, of exercise that counts i

Caffeine may block inflammation linked to mild cognitive impairment

Recent studies have linked caffeine consumption to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, and a new University of Illinois study may be able to explain how this happens.

"We have discovered a novel signal that activates the brain-based inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and caffeine appears to block its activity.

Eating Tomatoes Lowers the Risk of Stroke

Sort of good news, although 7 portions a day is a real challenge:

Adhering to lifestyle guidelines reduced mortality in cancer survivors

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet improved survival after cancer diagnosis.

Plant-Based Diets Can Remedy Chronic Diseases

Eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables for happiness and mental health

Happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to a new report.

No comment:

Red meat increases risk for bladder cancer

Multivitamin use among middle-aged, older men results in modest reduction in cancer

No Benefit from Routine Health Checks

Carrying out general health checks does not reduce deaths overall or from serious diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Eating lots of carbs, sugar may raise risk of cognitive impairment

People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar, Mayo Clinic researchers have found. Those who consume a lot of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired, the study found.

Expanding waistlines may contribute to cancer

Curcumin and chemoprevention

Bachmeier therefore believes that curcumin may be useful in the prevention of breast and prostate cancers -- which are both linked to inflammation -- and in reducing their metastatic potential. "This does not mean that the compound should be seen as a replacement for conventional therapies. However, it could play a positive role in primary prevention -- before a full-blown tumor arises -- or help to avert formation of metastases. In this context the fact that the substance is well tolerated is very important, because one can safely recommend it to individuals who have an increased tumor risk."

A daily intake of up to 8g of curcumin is regarded as safe, and its anti-inflammatory properties have long been exploited in traditional oriental medicine. Men with benign hyperplasia of the prostate (BHP) are one possible target group for prophylaxis, as are women who have a family history of breast cancer. The agent might also be valuable as a supplement to certain cancer therapies. At all events, curcumin's beneficial effects must first be confirmed in controlled clinical tests. Bachmeier is now planning such a trial in patients who suffer from therapy-resistant carcinoma of the prostate.

New link between high-fat 'Western' diet and atherosclerosis identified

A diet high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fat lowers levels of problem enzyme

Aspirin may decrease risk of aggressive form of ovarian cancer

Friday, October 19, 2012

Green Tea Fights Prostate Cancer

Six cups of green tea a day may slow the progression of prostate cancer, a new study suggests.

The finding stems from research that showed prostate patients scheduled for a type of surgery known as a prostatectomy, where the prostate is removed, reduced their levels of some disease-associated inflammation by drinking lots of brewed green tea in the weeks preceding the operation. And that reduction in inflammation may inhibit tumor growth, the researchers suggested.

Their results were to be presented Thursday at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual prevention conference in Anaheim, Calif.

The notion that the polyphenol compounds found in green tea might have a protective effect against prostate cancer has yet to be confirmed outside a laboratory setting. However, this latest report builds on previous Italian research that suggested that consuming green tea extract may help lower the risk that a precancerous condition will develop into full-blown prostate cancer.

And related research that was also presented at the cancer research conference suggested that the flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables may be associated with a lower risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

However, at least one urologist, Dr. Mark Soloway, chairman emeritus of urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, pointed to the new study's limitations, and said it was too soon to say that green tea had any impact on prostate cancer.

Scientific findings presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In this latest green tea study, men who drank the beverage for three to eight weeks prior to surgery experienced a noticeable drop in both serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) concentrations and PSA protein expression by the time they went under the knife. The fall-off in such telltale signs of disease was accompanied by reductions in both disease-linked inflammation and oxidative DNA damage, the study authors said.

"To see this effect, you would need to drink a lot of green tea," stressed study author Susanne Henning, a registered dietician and adjunct professor with the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. "Two cups a day is not going to help. In fact, we had our men drink six cups spread out all throughout the day, which I think was beneficial because green tea polyphenols are excreted very rapidly, so if you drink it that way you keep your levels up. And that seems to be the important factor in keeping the protection going."

To explore the anti-cancer potential of green tea, the authors focused on 67 prostate cancer patients, all of whom were weeks away from surgery. About half the men were randomly assigned to a six-cup-a-day regimen of green tea leading up to surgery, while the others consumed water instead.

The result: Blood and urine samples analyzed alongside tissue samples taken during surgery revealed that the green tea group fared significantly better on key signs of inflammation, PSA levels and expression and DNA damage.

However, no notable difference was found between the two groups in terms of tumor cell growth.

Henning stressed the need for more research on the potential green-tea/prostate cancer connection, and her team is currently planning new animal investigations involving combinations of green tea and other natural foods.

While this research showed an association between green tea and prostate cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

"Actually, several food agents have been under investigation for their protective impact," she noted. "Lycopene and omega-3 fatty acids, for example. So, I would say that if you have cancer and you want to make a decision about all of this, then think of incorporating all of those as a part of a lifestyle change. I know that if I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I would try to change my lifestyle. And that would mean, in addition to eating lots of fruits and vegetables and trying to lose weight and exercising, that I would definitely drink green tea."

The University of Miami's Soloway said that while drinking green tea probably does not have a downside, this "limited study" does not confirm its impact as a prostate cancer intervention.

"[There's] not much solid data to prove it," he said. "This is a small study, and it would take a longer study with hundreds of patients to 'prove' its benefit."

Soloway also noted that the jury is still out on whether inflammation even plays a significant role in cancer development. "It is very much a question," he said. "Not proven at all."

But, he agreed that until larger studies come along to explore green tea's potential, "it might be worth giving it a shot."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Antioxidants in Tea, Fruit, Veggies Might Fight Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer patients who, before their diagnosis, routinely consumed hefty helpings of the flavonoid compounds found in plant-based foods and drinks may be at lower risk for the most aggressive form of the disease, new research suggests.

But the research has significant limitations, the study authors noted, so it's too soon to say that a plant-based diet protects against prostate cancer.

Flavonoids are found in vegetables and fruits, as well as in tea, wine, juices and cocoa. Researchers have long theorized that these particular antioxidants may help reduce cancer risk by fighting inflammation, oxidation, cell death and tumor cell growth.

The new study did not assess the ability of flavonoids to prevent the onset of cancer as a whole. But the investigation, involving about 1,900 patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, found that those whose diets included the highest amount of flavonoids were 25 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with the fastest-moving and harshest form of the disease compared to those who had been taking in the fewest flavonoids.

"We compared men with low-aggressive disease to high aggressive," said study lead author Susan Steck, associate professor at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health. "We did not have a healthy comparison group. So while we think that consuming more fruits and vegetables will improve the odds of not getting prostate cancer altogether, we can't say that based on our study results."

"But what we are seeing here is the impact of flavonoids on reducing the risk for aggressive prostate cancer," she added. "They may not affect your risk for getting the cancer, but it may mitigate against the kind of cancer you would get."

Steck and her colleagues are scheduled to discuss their findings Wednesday at the annual cancer prevention meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Anaheim, Calif.

The authors looked at self-reported dietary habits already in place at the time of diagnosis among their patient pool, which included 920 black men and 977 white men. No dietary intervention was imposed after diagnosis.

All the men had been enrolled in the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project.

The new study found that smokers and men younger than 65 appeared to receive the most protective benefit from fruit and vegetable consumption.

The authors identified green and black tea, as well as orange and grapefruit juice, as the prime sources of flavonoids consumed by study participants. Strawberries, onions, cooked greens, kale and broccoli also were popular flavonoid-rich foods.

No single class of plant-based food was linked on its own to the observed protective effect, leading the team to conclude that the benefit was rooted in a dietary mix of flavonoids.

Dr. Lionel Banez, assistant professor of urologic surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said the study design makes it hard to read much into the findings.

It is "difficult to be confident about the conclusions," he said, given that the current study was a backward look at patients' recollections of their pre-diagnosis diets.

Banez suggested that the findings of a flavonoid benefit would be more reliable if they had stemmed from a highly controlled study of risk levels among patients who were proactively placed on a specific dietary plan, and then tracked for the future onset of cancer.

"These results are not enough to warrant recommending plant-based diets as regimens to treat prostate cancer or prevent aggressive prostate cancer," he said.

Although the study found an association between flavonoids and risk for a form of prostate cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Because the study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Might lefties and righties benefit differently from a power nap?

People who like to nap say it helps them focus their minds post a little shut eye. Now, a study from Georgetown University Medical Center may have found evidence to support that notion.

The research, presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, found that when participants in a study rested, the right hemisphere of their brains talked more to itself and to the left hemisphere than the left hemisphere communicated within itself and to the right hemisphere – no matter which of the participants' hands was dominant. (Neuroscientists say right-handed people use their left hemisphere to a greater degree, and vice versa.)

Results of this study, the first known to look at activity in the two different hemispheres during rest, suggests that the right hemisphere "is doing important things in the resting state that we don't yet understand," says Andrei Medvedev, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown. The activities being processed by the right hemisphere, which is known to be involved in creative tasks, could be daydreaming or processing and storing previously acquired information. "The brain could be doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories," Medvedev says. "That could explain the power of napping. But we just don't know yet the relative roles of both hemispheres in those processes and whether the power nap might benefit righties more then lefties."

To find out what happens in the resting state, the research team connected 15 study participants to near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) equipment. This technology, which is low cost and portable, uses light to measure changes in oxygenated hemoglobin inside the body.

The study participants wore a cap adorned with optical fibers that delivers infrared light to the outermost layers of the brain and then measures the light that bounces back. In this way, the device can "see" which parts of the brain are most active and communicating at a higher level based on increased use of oxygen in the blood and heightened synchronicity of their activities.

"The device can help delineate global networks inside the brain — how the components all work together," Medvedev says. "The better integrated they are, the better cognitive tasks are performed."

To their surprise, the researchers found that left and right hemispheres behaved differently during the resting state. "That was true no matter which hand a participant used. The right hemisphere was more integrated in right-handed participants, and even stronger in the left-handed," he says.

Medvedev is exploring the findings for an explanation. And he suggests that brain scientists should start focusing more of their attention on the right hemisphere. "Most brain theories emphasize the dominance of the left hemisphere especially in right handed individuals, and that describes the population of participants in these studies," Medvedev says. "Our study suggests that looking at only the left hemisphere prevents us from a truer understanding of brain function." The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grants # RR025786, GM103526 and EB006589). Medvedev and his co-authors report having no personal financial interests related to this study.

Depression increased bladder cancer mortality

As part of an ongoing, large-scale epidemiologic study of bladder cancer, Chen and colleagues collected clinical and mental health information on 464 patients with bladder cancer. They assessed patients' depression levels with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D).

Depression symptoms alone affected mortality: Patients with CES-D scores of 16 or greater had a median survival time of 58 months, while those with scores below 16 had a median survival time longer than 200 months. In addition, patients with CES-D scores of 16 or greater had a 1.89-fold increased risk for all-cause mortality compared with patients with CES-D scores less than 16.

In addition, the researchers pointed to evidence that smoking cessation, weight loss and increased physical activity can potentially improve survival.

"In terms of building a prediction model for bladder cancer mortality, current models only focus on clinical variables, such as treatment and tumor stage and grade," Chen said. "Our study suggests that psychological factors and perhaps lifestyle changes could be included in this prediction model."

Red meat increases risk for bladder cancer

Two components of red meat — dietary protein and dietary iron — may combine to form powerful carcinogens, N-nitroso compounds, which increase risk for bladder cancer. Moreover, individuals with reduced ability to reverse the effects of N-nitroso compounds because of a genetic variation in their RAD52 gene could be at particularly high risk.

Chelsea Catsburg, a doctoral student at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, presented these data at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held here Oct. 16-19, 2012.

Dietary protein is made up of amino acids, which can be naturally metabolized into biogenic amines, according to Catsburg. Research has shown that the processing and storage of meat increases amine concentrations. When these amines are in the presence of nitrites, they generate nitrosamines, which have carcinogenic properties. In addition, heme iron, found in red meat, has been shown to increase the formation of nitrosamines from amines.

"Nitrosamine formation occurs predominantly in the stomach and intestines, so these exposures have been studied extensively in relation to gastric cancer and somewhat in relation to colorectal cancer," Catsburg said. "However, there is evidence that these reactions also take place in the bladder, particularly in the presence of infection."

Catsburg and colleagues had previously found that meat groups with high heme and high amine concentrations, such as salami and liver, increased risk for bladder cancer. In this study, they examined whether genetic variation in DNA repair enzymes, available to correct the damage caused by these endogenously formed carcinogens, modified these associations.

The researchers tested 627 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 27 genes involved in N-nitroso compound metabolism or DNA repair. They collected data from 355 bladder cancer cases and 409 controls in the Los Angeles Bladder Cancer Study.

"We found that a polymorphism in the RAD52 gene modified the effect of these exposures," Catsburg said. "This polymorphism is suspected to reduce the DNA repair activity of the RAD52 protein, and the association of these meat groups and bladder cancer risk was significantly higher in individuals with one or more copies of this polymorphism."

These results further support recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund to limit red meat intake and to avoid processed meats to reduce risk for stomach and bowel cancer, according to the researchers.

"This study suggests that these exposures may also affect secondary organs such as the bladder," Catsburg said. "Individuals at risk for bladder cancer may wish to avoid intake of red and processed meats, especially if they have genetic polymorphisms that reduce DNA repair activity and make them more vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens."

Further replication of this study to support an association between heme and meat intake and the risk for bladder cancer is necessary, she added.

Adhering to lifestyle guidelines reduced mortality in elderly female cancer survivors

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet improved survival after cancer diagnosis in an elderly female cancer survivor population, according to data presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held here Oct. 16-19, 2012.

Researchers examined cancer survivors' adherence to the 2007 World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) guidelines for body weight, physical activity and diet.

"Elderly female cancer survivors who achieve and maintain an ideal body weight, stay physically active and eat a healthy diet have an almost 40 percent lower risk for death compared with women who do not follow these recommendations," said Maki Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., R.D., research associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

Study participants included 2,080 women from the Iowa Women's Health Study who had a confirmed cancer diagnosis between 1986 and 2002 and who completed a follow-up questionnaire in 2004. Women provided information on body weight, physical activity level, dietary intake and other demographic and lifestyle factors.

Through annual linkage with the State of Health Registry of Iowa and the National Death Index, researchers identified 495 deaths from 2004 to 2009, including 197 from cancer and 153 from cardiovascular disease. Researchers adjusted for age, number of comorbid conditions, general health, smoking, type and stage of cancer, current cancer treatment and subsequent cancer diagnosis. They found all-cause mortality was 37 percent lower for women with the highest (6 to 8) versus the lowest (0 to 4) adherence scores.

Reaching the WCRF/AICR physical activity recommendation was also associated with lower risk for death from any cause, from cardiovascular disease or from cancer after the researchers adjusted for dietary and body weight recommendation adherence scores and other covariates.

However, reaching the dietary recommendations was not associated with mortality following adjustment for body weight and physical activity recommendation adherence scores.

Multivitamin use among middle-aged, older men results in modest reduction in cancer

In a randomized trial that included nearly 15,000 male physicians, long-term daily multivitamin use resulted in a modest but statistically significant reduction in cancer after more than a decade of treatment and follow-up, according to a study appearing in JAMA. The study is being published early online to coincide with its presentation at the Annual American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting.

"Multivitamins are the most common dietary supplement, regularly taken by at least one-third of U.S. adults. The traditional role of a daily multivitamin is to prevent nutritional deficiency. The combination of essential vitamins and minerals contained in multivitamins may mirror healthier dietary patterns such as fruit and vegetable intake, which have been modestly and inversely associated with cancer risk in some, but not all, epidemiologic studies. Observational studies of long-term multivitamin use and cancer end points have been inconsistent. To date, large-scale randomized trials testing single or small numbers of higher-dose individual vitamins and minerals for cancer have generally found a lack of effect," according to background information in the article. "Despite the lack of definitive trial data regarding the benefits of multivitamins in the prevention of chronic disease, including cancer, many men and women take them for precisely this reason."

J. Michael Gaziano, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, (and also Contributing Editor, JAMA), and colleagues analyzed data from the Physicians' Health Study (PHS) II, the only large-scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial testing the long-term effects of a common multivitamin in the prevention of chronic disease. The trial includes 14,641 male U.S. physicians, initially age 50 years or older, including 1,312 men with a history of cancer at randomization, who were enrolled in a multivitamin study that began in 1997 with treatment and follow-up through June 1, 2011. Participants received a daily multivitamin or equivalent placebo. The primary measured outcome for the study was total cancer (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer), with prostate, colorectal, and other site-specific cancers among the secondary end points.

PHS II participants were followed for an average of 11.2 years. During multivitamin treatment, there were 2,669 confirmed cases of cancer, including 1,373 cases of prostate cancer and 210 cases of colorectal cancer, with some men experiencing multiple events. A total of 2,757 (18.8 percent) men died during follow-up, including 859 (5.9 percent) due to cancer. Analysis of the data indicated that men taking a multivitamin had a modest 8 percent reduction in total cancer incidence. Men taking a multivitamin had a similar reduction in total epithelial cell cancer. Approximately half of all incident cancers were prostate cancer, many of which were early stage. The researchers found no effect of a multivitamin on prostate cancer, whereas a multivitamin significantly reduced the risk of total cancer excluding prostate cancer. There were no statistically significant reductions in individual site-specific cancers, including colorectal, lung, and bladder cancer, or in cancer mortality.

Daily multivitamin use was also associated with was a reduction in total cancer among the 1,312 men with a baseline history of cancer, but this result did not significantly differ from that observed among 13,329 men initially without cancer.

The researchers note that total cancer rates in their trial were likely influenced by the increased surveillance for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and subsequent diagnoses of prostate cancer during PHS II follow-up starting in the late 1990s. "Approximately half of all confirmed cancers in PHS II were prostate cancer, of which the vast majority were earlier stage, lower grade prostate cancer with high survival rates. The significant reduction in total cancer minus prostate cancer suggests that daily multivitamin use may have a greater benefit on more clinically relevant cancer diagnoses."

The authors add that although numerous individual vitamins and minerals contained in the PHS II multivitamin study have postulated chemopreventive roles, it is difficult to definitively identify any single mechanism of effect through which individual or multiple components of their tested multivitamin may have reduced cancer risk. "The reduction in total cancer risk in PHS II argues that the broader combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals contained in the PHS II multivitamin, rather than an emphasis on previously tested high-dose vitamins and mineral trials, may be paramount for cancer prevention. … The role of a food-focused cancer prevention strategy such as targeted fruit and vegetable intake remains promising but unproven given the inconsistent epidemiologic evidence and lack of definitive trial data."

"Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men," the researchers conclude.