Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baking blueberries changes their polyphenol content -- and possibly their health benefits

Blueberries are called a "superfood" for their high polyphenol content, but when served as warm, gooey pie filling or when lending bursts of sweet flavor to a muffin, their "super" health benefits change. Scientists studied how cooking and baking affect the increasingly popular fruit's polyphenols and reported their mixed findings — levels of some of these substances rose while others fell — in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Ana Rodriguez-Mateos and colleagues note that eating blueberries is associated with several health perks including improved thinking, reduced risk for heart disease and reduced inflammation. Research suggests that a set of natural plant compounds called polyphenols lend the fresh fruit these benefits. But consumers don't always enjoy blueberries raw. Some methods of processing, such as juicing and canning, lower polyphenol levels by 22 to 81 percent. However, no studies have tested whether using blueberries in breads, muffins or pies affects their polyphenol content. Rodriguez-Mateos' team sought to test the stability of these health-promoting compounds during cooking, proofing (when the dough rises before cooking) and baking.

They found that all three processes had mixed effects on blueberries' polyphenols including anthocyanin, procyanidin, quercetin and phenolic acids. Anthocyanin levels dropped by 10 to 21 percent. The levels of smaller procyanidin oligomers got a boost while those of the larger ones dipped. Phenolic acid levels increased. Other compounds such as quercetin remained constant. They say that the good retention of polyphenols observed in their study might be due to the use of yeast, which may act as a stabilizing agent during baking. "Due to their possible health benefits, a better understanding of the impact of processing is important to maximize the retention of these phytochemicals in berry-containing-products," the researchers state.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weight at time of diagnosis linked to prostate cancer mortality

Men who are overweight or obese when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than men who are of healthy weight, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published today in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. In patients with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, the researchers also found an even stronger correlation between obesity and mortality.

This study included 751 Kaiser Permanente patients with prostate cancer who underwent radical prostatectomy, an operation that includes removal of the prostate and surrounding tissue. The researchers explored the association between the patients' body mass index and prostate cancer mortality, adjusted for tumor aggressiveness and other characteristics.

The researchers found men who died from prostate cancer were 50 percent more likely to be overweight or obese at diagnosis compared to men who did not die from the disease. Men with high Gleason scores, a rating of the aggressiveness of prostate cancer cells, had the highest association between BMI and death, specifically men with Gleason scores of 8 or higher. The Gleason score ranges from 2 to 10, with the highest number representing the greatest likelihood of tumor cells spreading.

"We found among patients undergoing surgical treatment for prostate cancer, weight at time of diagnosis is more strongly correlated with prostate cancer survival than many other factors researchers have studied in the past, including some prostate cancer treatments," said lead author Reina Haque, PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif. "Moving forward, we are hoping future studies will examine the effect of weight loss and other lifestyle modifications on prostate cancer mortality."

Additional studies are needed to determine which lifestyle modifications, such as diet or exercise, could prolong a prostate cancer patient's life. Further investigation also is needed to determine if the findings of this study, which looked at men who had prostate cancer surgery, apply to men who received other treatments such as radiation or hormone therapy.

Although the connection between men's weight at prostate cancer diagnosis and likelihood of survival has been examined, many previous studies were limited by self-reported body weight data or it was unclear when the BMI data were obtained. So the link between obesity and prostate cancer mortality remains controversial. However, the methodology of this study was different because the researchers used BMI collected from medical records, instead of self-reported data. The researchers identified men who died of prostate cancer and compared their BMI at time of diagnosis to controls to determine if body weight is related prostate cancer death. The biological relationship between obesity and prostate cancer prognosis is still not understood, and is an active area of research.

Sedentary behavior linked to recurrence of precancerous colorectal tumors

Men who spend the most time engaged in sedentary behaviors are at greatest risk for recurrence of colorectal adenomas, benign tumors that are known precursors of colorectal cancers, according to results presented here at the 12th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held Oct. 27-30.

The majority of colorectal cancers arise from precursors called colorectal adenomatous polyps, or colorectal adenomas, which can be removed during a colonoscopy. Although there is extensive evidence supporting an association between higher overall levels of physical activity and reduced risk of colorectal cancer, few studies have focused on the impact of sedentary behavior on colorectal cancer risk.

"Sedentary behavior is emerging as a risk factor for poor health," said Christine L. Sardo Molmenti, PhD, MPH, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York. "Even among those who fulfill daily recommendations for physical activity, lengthy periods of sedentary behavior have been associated with early morbidity and mortality, leading to the 'active couch potato' paradigm.

"To our knowledge, this study is the first to specifically investigate the association between sedentary behavior and recurrence of colorectal adenomas. Given the substantial increase in risk of colorectal adenoma recurrence (45%) we observed for men with the highest sedentary time, we believe it would be beneficial to see 'reduce prolonged sitting time' added to the list of public health recommendations currently in place for health promotion and disease prevention."

Sardo Molmenti and colleagues performed a pooled analysis of participants of two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III clinical trials conducted at the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health: The Wheat Bran Fiber Study and the Ursodeoxycholic Acid Trial.

All participants in the trials had one or more colorectal adenomas removed during a colonoscopy conducted in the six months prior to their trial enrollment. Among the participants were 1,730 who had completed a self-administered questionnaire that included questions about leisure, recreational, household, and other categories of activity at enrollment, and had undergone a follow-up colonoscopy.

When the researchers analyzed all the data together, they found no association between activity type and colorectal adenoma recurrence. However, when they examined the data for men and women separately, they found that men who reported spending more than 11.38 hours a day engaged in sedentary behaviors, such as writing, typing or working on a computer, and reading, were 45 percent more likely to experience colorectal adenoma recurrence compared with men who spent fewer than 6.90 sedentary hours a day. No association between sedentary time and colorectal adenoma recurrence was observed for women.

Further analysis showed that men who reported high levels of sedentary behaviors and low levels of participation in recreational activities such as walking, jogging, and playing golf, were 41 percent more likely to experience colorectal adenoma recurrence compared with men who reported low levels of both sedentary behaviors and recreational activity. According to Sardo Molmenti, this confirms that sedentary behavior appears to independently contribute to increased cancer risk beyond the accompanying reduction in physical activity.

The researchers plan to conduct further studies to determine more clearly the role of sedentary behavior in cancer risk. According to Sardo Molmenti, new tools and methods are needed to better classify and quantify sedentary behaviors.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Allopurinol: less than half of patients reach recommended treatment goal

AstraZeneca and Ardea Biosciences today presented results from a large study of allopurinol, a treatment commonly used to lower uric acid in patients with gout. The LASSO (Long-term Allopurinol Safety Study evaluating Outcomes in gout patients) study was a multinational, 6-month, open, prospective observational study involving 1,735 patients with gout and was designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of medically appropriate doses of allopurinol. Results of the LASSO study showed no new safety signals with allopurinol doses of approximately 300mg/day. The study also revealed that at the time of last dose fewer than half (43%) of patients taking allopurinol achieved the target serum uric acid (sUA) level of <6.0 mg/dL, the level recommended by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). Results of the LASSO study were presented today at the ACR Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Allopurinol, the most commonly used treatment to lower blood uric acid levels in gout, is a generic treatment that has been available for more than 50 years. It is a xanthine oxidase inhibitor, a class of drugs intended to reduce the body's production of uric acid. Allopurinol is recommended at doses between 100mg and 900mg per day, depending upon disease severity. The LASSO study encouraged investigators to increase, or titrate, the dose of allopurinol over the six months of the study to a medically appropriate dose. There was a high rate of adherence to therapy (97% across doses) and the most commonly used dose was 300mg. Approximately 45% of patients finished on the same dose as their baseline dose. Results show that even among patients titrated to final doses above the most commonly used dose of 300mg/day, approximately 46% did not reach target sUA levels of <6.0 mg/dL.

"Gout is a painful form of arthritis that is often misunderstood and inadequately treated. The LASSO study demonstrates that many patients with gout fail to reach the recommended treatment goal," said study co-author Nicola Dalbeth, MD of the University of Auckland. "Failing to reach the recommended sUA target leaves patients with gout at risk for further disease progression and long-term consequences of gout."

The results of this large, multinational, prospective observational study of gout are consistent with published literature confirming many patients do not reach sUA targets with allopurinol therapy as currently used.

Specific findings from LASSO include:

- The study revealed no new safety signals with allopurinol (approximately 300mg/day).
- There were no cases of allopurinol hypersensitivity syndrome in this study.
At the time of last dose 43% of all patients in the study achieved target sUA levels of <6.0 mg/dL.
- Of patients in the study at final doses above 300mg/day, approximately 54% achieved target sUA levels of <6.0 mg/dL.
- Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis with a prevalence of 8 million in the U.S. Gout is commonly misrepresented as a lifestyle disease. While diet can contribute to elevated levels of uric acid, the majority of uric acid is produced by the body's naturally occurring processes, and gout is most often caused by the inefficient excretion of uric acid by the kidneys.
- In patients with gout, abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood known as hyperuricemia lead to deposition of needle-like crystals in joints and soft tissues throughout the body, causing inflammation. Hyperuricemia results when the kidneys do not efficiently remove enough uric acid, or when the body produces too much. A person's genetics play a significant role in their risk of developing gout. The most common symptom of gout is extremely painful arthritis. Over time, the deposits of uric acid crystals may lead to joint damage, visible nodules called tophi, and impaired quality of life. Additionally, gout has been associated with serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and kidney damage.

Moderate exercise not only treats, but prevents depression

Physical activity is being increasingly recognized as an effective tool to treat depression. PhD candidate George Mammen’s review published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has taken the connection one step further, finding that moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term.

This is the first longitudinal review to focus exclusively on the role that exercise plays in maintaining good mental health and preventing the onset of depression later in life.

Mammen—who is supervised by Professor Guy Faulkner, a co-author of the review— analyzed over 26 years’ worth of research findings to discover that even low levels of physical activity (walking and gardening for 20-30 minutes a day) can ward off depression in people of all age groups.

Mammen’s findings come at a time when mental health experts want to expand their approach beyond treating depression with costly prescription medication. “We need a prevention strategy now more than ever,” he says. “Our health system is taxed. We need to shift focus and look for ways to fend off depression from the start.”

Mammen acknowledges that other factors influence a person’s likelihood of experiencing depression, including their genetic makeup. But he says that the scope of research he assessed demonstrates that regardless of individual predispositions, there’s a clear take-away for everyone. “It’s definitely worth taking note that if you’re currently active, you should sustain it. If you’re not physically active, you should initiate the habit. This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review of Daily Aspirin Dosage Highlights Concerns About Side Effects

Researchers at Warwick Medical School have published the most comprehensive review of the benefits and risks of a daily dose of prophylactic aspirin and warn that greater understanding of side effects is needed.
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The possible benefits of a daily dose have been promoted as a primary prevention for people who are currently free of, but at risk of developing, cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer.

However, any such benefit needs to be balanced alongside a fuller understanding of the potentially harmful side effects such as bleeding and gastrointestinal problems.

The paper, published by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, reviews the wealth of available randomised controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, allowing the team from Warwick Evidence to quantify those relative benefits and risks.

The reported benefits of taking aspirin each day ranged from 10% reduction in major cardiovascular events to a 15% drop in total coronary heart disease. In real terms, that would ultimately mean 33-46 fewer deaths per 100,000 patients taking the treatment.

There was also evidence of a reported reduction in incidents of colorectal cancer, which showed from approximately five years after the start of treatment. This would equate to 34 fewer deaths from colorectal cancer per 100,000 patients.

The adverse effects of aspirin were also noted with a 37% increase in gastrointestinal bleeding (an extra 68-117 occurrences per 100,000 patients) and between a 32%-38% increase in the likelihood of a haemorrhagic stroke (an extra 8-10 occurrences per 100,000 patients).

Aileen Clarke, Professor of Public Health Research and Director of Warwick Evidence at Warwick Medical School, said, "This study looks deeper into the range of research on regular aspirin use than anything before, using more innovative methods, and it makes it clear that there is an incredibly fine balance between the possible benefits and risks of the intervention. We need to be extremely careful about over-promoting aspirin intervention without having first fully understood these negative side effects

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The risk for colorectal cancer from eating red or processed meat

A common genetic variant that affects 1 in 3 people significantly increases the risk of colorectal cancer from the consumption of red meat and processed meat, according to a study presented today at the annual American Society of Human Genetics 2013 meeting, the largest gathering of human geneticists in the world.

In addition to identifying a gene that raises risk for colorectal cancer from eating red or processed meat, the study — the first to identify the interactions of genes and diet on a genome-wide scale — also reveals another specific genetic variation that appears to modify whether eating more vegetables, fruits and fiber actually lowers your colorectal cancer risk.

"Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer. Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile. This information can help us better understand the biology and maybe in the future lead to targeted prevention strategies," said lead author Jane Figueiredo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

"But we are not saying that if you don't have the genetic variant that you should eat all the red meat you'd like," Figueiredo added. "People with the genetic variant allele have an even higher increased risk of colorectal cancer if they consume high levels of processed meat, but the baseline risk associated with meat is already pretty bad."

We've all heard reports about how certain foods may lower or raise the risk for certain diseases, such as cancer. But how our personal genetic variations modify the effects of diet on disease has not yet been thoroughly investigated, said senior author Ulrike Peters, Ph.D., M.P.H, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Public Health Sciences Division.

The researchers systematically searched the more than 2.7 million genetic sequences for interactions with consumption of red and processed meat. The study looked at 9,287 patients with colorectal cancer and a control group of 9,117 individuals without cancer.

The risk of colorectal cancer associated with processed meat was significantly higher among people with the genetic variant rs4143094, the study shows. This variant is located on the same chromosome 10 region that includes GATA3, a transcription factor gene previously linked to several forms of cancer. The transcription factor encoded by this gene normally plays a role in the immune system, but carries this genetic variant in about 36 percent of the population.

The researchers speculate that the digestion of processed meat may promote an immunological or inflammatory response that may trigger tumor development. The GATA3 transcription factor normally would help suppress the immunological or inflammatory response. However, if the GATA3 gene region contains a genetic variant, it may encode a dysregulated transcription factor that impacts its ability to suppress the response.

But other genetic vatiants may be beneficial: On chromosome 8, another statistically significant diet-gene interaction was found in variant rs1269486. For people with this variant, eating your fruits and veggies may be even better for you when it comes to colorectal cancer risk, the research shows.

The study is part of an ongoing collaboration among multiple institutions worldwide, the international NIH-funded Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (GECCO).

"GECCO aims to continue to discover additional colorectal cancer-related variants by investigating how genetic variants are modified by other environmental and lifestyle risk factors, including biomarkers as well as how they influence patient treatment response and survival," Peters said, emphasizing how much further research is required to uncover the specific mechanisms by which genes modulate the intake of certain foods on colorectal cancer risk.

Colorectal cancer is a multi-factorial disease attributed to lifestyle, environmental and genetic causes, and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women across most racial groups. Over 30 genetic susceptibility alleles for colorectal cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. They include rare variants that have a strong impact on risk and common variants that are low risk.

"Colorectal cancer is a disease that is strongly influenced by certain types of diets," Figueiredo said. "We're showing the biological underpinnings of these correlations, and understand whether genetic variation may make some people more or less susceptible to certain carcinogens in food, which may have future important implications for prevention and population health."

Stigmasterol fights Alzheimer's (and cancer and heart disease?)

"Plant sterols are present in various combinations in nuts, seeds and plant oils. As plant sterols are the equivalents of animal cholesterol, they can in principal influence metabolic processes, where cholesterol is involved," explained Marcus Grimm, Head of the Experimental Neurology Laboratory at Saarland University. "Because they also lower cholesterol levels, they are extensively used in the food industry and as dietary supplements."

High cholesterol levels have long been discussed to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. "Studies have already shown that cholesterol promotes the formation of so-called senile plaques," said Grimm. These plaques, which are composed of proteins, particularly beta-amyloid proteins, deposit at nerve cells within the brain and are regarded as one of the main causes of Alzheimer's disease.

The research team based at Saarland University's medical campus in Homburg collaborated with scientists from Bonn, Finland and the Netherlands to examine how the sterols that we ingest influence the formation of these plaque proteins. It was found that one sterol in particular, stigmasterol, actually inhibited protein formation. Stigmasterol is most readily found in soybean oil.

"Stigmasterol has an effect on a variety of molecular processes: it lowers enzyme activity, it inhibits the formation of proteins implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease, and it alters the structure of the cell membrane," explained Dr Grimm. "Together, these effects synergistically reduce the production of beta-amyloid proteins." The research team has been able to confirm the positive effect of stigmasterol in tests on animals.

Overall, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the various plant sterols influence different cellular mechanisms and therefore have to be assessed individually. "Particularly in the case of Alzheimer's disease, it seems expedient to focus on the dietary intake of specific plant sterols rather than a mixture of sterols," explained Dr Grimm. In future studies, the research team wants to determine which other cellular processes in the brain are affected by phytosterols.

Research has also indicated that stigmasterol may be useful in prevention of certain cancers, including ovarian, prostate, breast, and colon cancers. Studies have also indicated that a diet high in phytoesterols may inhibit the absorption of cholesterol and lower serum cholesterol levels by competing for intestinal absorption.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flu Vaccine Associated With Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Events

Receiving an influenza vaccination was associated with a lower risk of major adverse cardiovascular events such as heart failure or hospitalization for heart attack, with the greatest treatment effect seen among patients with recent acute coronary syndrome (ACS; such as heart attack or unstable angina), according to a meta-analysis published in the October 23/30 issue of JAMA.

“Among nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors, there remains interest in a potential association between respiratory tract infections, of which influenza and influenza-like illnesses are common causes, and subsequent cardiovascular events,” according to background information in the article. Several epidemiological studies have suggested a strong inverse relationship between influenza vaccination and the risk of fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events.

Jacob A. Udell, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.P.C., of the University of Toronto, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of all randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of influenza vaccine that studied cardiovascular events as efficacy or safety outcomes to determine if influenza vaccination is associated with prevention of cardiovascular events. The researchers identified five published and 1 unpublished RCTs of 6,735 patients (average age, 67 years; 51 percent women; 36 percent with a cardiac history; average follow-up time, 7.9 months) that met inclusion criteria for the study. Analyses were stratified by subgroups of patients with and without a history of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) within 1 year of randomization.

In the 5 published RCTs, 95 of 3,238 patients treated with influenza vaccine (2.9 percent) developed a major adverse cardiovascular event compared with 151 of 3,231 patients (4.7 percent) treated with placebo or control within 1 year of follow-up, an absolute risk difference favoring flu vaccine of 1.74 percent. The addition of the unpublished data did not materially change the results (2.9 percent influenza vaccine vs. 4.6 percent placebo or control).

Coffee consumption reduces risk of liver cancer

Coffee consumption reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40 percent, according to an up-to-date meta-analysis published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. Further, some data indicate that three cups of coffee per day reduce liver cancer risk by more than 50 percent.

"Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health, and particularly the liver," said Carlo La Vecchia, MD, study author from the department of epidemiology, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri," and department of clinical sciences and community health, Università degli Studi di Milan, Italy. "The favorable effect of coffee on liver cancer might be mediated by coffee's proven prevention of diabetes, a known risk factor for the disease, or for its beneficial effects on cirrhosis and liver enzymes."

Researchers performed a meta-analysis of articles published from 1996 through September 2012, ultimately studying 16 high-quality studies and a total of 3,153 cases. This research fills an important gap as the last meta-analysis was published in 2007, and since then there has been data published on more than 900 cases of HCC.

Despite the consistency of results across studies, time periods and populations, it is difficult to establish whether the association between coffee drinking and HCC is causal, or if this relationship may be partially attributable to the fact that patients with liver and digestive diseases often voluntarily reduce their coffee intake.

"It remains unclear whether coffee drinking has an additional role in liver cancer prevention," added Dr. La Vecchia. "But, in any case, such a role would be limited as compared to what is achievable through the current measures."

Primary liver cancers are largely avoidable through hepatitis B virus vaccination, control of hepatitis C virus transmission and reduction of alcohol drinking. These three measures can, in principle, avoid more than 90 percent of primary liver cancer worldwide.

Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, and the third most common cause of cancer death. HCC is the main type of liver cancer, accounting for more than 90 percent of cases worldwide. Chronic infections with hepatitis B and C viruses are the main causes of liver cancer; other relevant risk factors include alcohol, tobacco, obesity and diabetes.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Resveratrol could fight Alzheimer's

The major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), present in about two-thirds of people who develop the disease, is ApoE4, the cholesterol-carrying protein that about a quarter of us are born with. But one of the unsolved mysteries of AD is how ApoE4 causes the risk for the incurable, neurodegenerative disease. In research published this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Buck Institute found a link between ApoE4 and SirT1, an "anti-aging protein" that is targeted by resveratrol, present in red wine.

The Buck researchers found that ApoE4 causes a dramatic reduction in SirT1, which is one of seven human Sirtuins. Lead scientists Rammohan Rao, PhD, and Dale Bredesen, MD, founding CEO of the Buck Institute, say the reduction was found both in cultured neural cells and in brain samples from patients with ApoE4 and AD. "The biochemical mechanisms that link ApoE4 to Alzheimer's disease have been something of a black box. However, recent work from a number of labs, including our own, has begun to open the box," said Bredesen.

The Buck group also found that the abnormalities associated with ApoE4 and AD, such as the creation of phospho-tau and amyloid-beta, could be prevented by increasing SirT1. They have identified drug candidates that exert the same effect. "This research offers a new type of screen for Alzheimer's prevention and treatment," said Rammohan V. Rao, PhD, co-author of the study, and an Associate Research Professor at the Buck, "One of our goals is to identify a safe, non-toxic treatment that could be given to anyone who carries the ApoE4 gene to prevent the development of AD."

In particular, the researchers discovered that the reduction in SirT1 was associated with a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein (APP) is processed. Rao said that ApoE4 favored the formation of the amyloid-beta peptide that is associated with the sticky plaques that are one of the hallmarks of the disease. He said with ApoE3 (which confers no increased risk of AD), there was a higher ratio of the anti-Alzheimer's peptide, sAPP alpha, produced, in comparison to the pro-Alzheimer's amyloid-beta peptide. This finding fits very well with the reduction in SirT1, since overexpressing SirT1 has previously been shown to increase ADAM10, the protease that cleaves APP to produce sAPP alpha and prevent amyloid-beta.

AD affects over 5 million Americans – there are no treatments that are known to cure, or even halt the progression of symptoms that include loss of memory and language. Preventive treatments are particularly needed for the 2.5% of the population that carry two genes for ApoE4, which puts them at an approximate 10-fold higher risk of developing AD, as well as for the 25% of the population with a single copy of the gene. The group hopes that the current work will identify simple, safe therapeutics that can be given to ApoE4 carriers to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Learning new skills keeps an aging mind sharp

Older adults are often encouraged to stay active and engaged to keep their minds sharp, that they have to "use it or lose it." But new research indicates that only certain activities — learning a mentally demanding skill like photography, for instance — are likely to improve cognitive functioning.

These findings, forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that less demanding activities, such as listening to classical music or completing word puzzles, probably won't bring noticeable benefits to an aging mind.

"It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas. "When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone."

The new findings provide much-needed insight into the components of everyday activities that contribute to cognitive vitality as we age.

"We need, as a society, to learn how to maintain a healthy mind, just like we know how to maintain vascular health with diet and exercise," says Park. "We know so little right now."

For their study, Park and colleagues randomly assigned 221 adults, ages 60 to 90, to engage in a particular type of activity for 15 hours a week over the course of three months.

Some participants were assigned to learn a new skill — digital photography, quilting, or both — which required active engagement and tapped working memory, long-term memory and other high-level cognitive processes.

Other participants were instructed to engage in more familiar activities at home, such as listening to classical music and completing word puzzles. And, to account for the possible influence of social contact, some participants were assigned to a social group that included social interactions, field trips, and entertainment.

At the end of three months, Park and colleagues found that the adults who were productively engaged in learning new skills showed improvements in memory compared to those who engaged in social activities or non-demanding mental activities at home.

"The findings suggest that engagement alone is not enough," says Park. "The three learning groups were pushed very hard to keep learning more and mastering more tasks and skills. Only the groups that were confronted with continuous and prolonged mental challenge improved."

The study is particularly noteworthy given that the researchers were able to systematically intervene in people's lives, putting them in new environments and providing them with skills and relationships:

"Our participants essentially agreed to be assigned randomly to different lifestyles for three months so that we could compare how different social and learning environments affected the mind," says Park. "People built relationships and learned new skills — we hope these are gifts that keep on giving, and continue to be a source of engagement and stimulation even after they finished the study."

Park and colleagues are planning on following up with the participants one year and five years down the road to see if the effects remain over the long term. They believe that the research has the potential to be profoundly important and relevant, especially as the number of seniors continues to rise:

"This is speculation, but what if challenging mental activity slows the rate at which the brain ages?" asks Park. "Every year that you save could be an added year of high quality life and independence."

Low vitamin D levels raise anemia risk in children

Low levels of the "sunshine" vitamin D appear to increase a child's risk of anemia, according to new research led by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The study, published online Oct. 10 in the Journal of Pediatrics, is believed to be the first one to extensively explore the link between the two conditions in children.

The researchers caution that their results are not proof of cause and effect, but rather evidence of a complex interplay between low vitamin D levels and hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding protein in red blood cells. The investigators say several mechanisms could account for the link between vitamin D and anemia, including vitamin D's effects on red blood cell production in the bone marrow, as well as its ability to regulate immune inflammation, a known catalyst of anemia.

To capture the interaction between the two conditions, researchers studied blood samples from more than 10,400 children, tracking levels of vitamin D and hemoglobin. Vitamin D levels were consistently lower in children with low hemoglobin levels compared with their non-anemic counterparts, the researchers found. The sharpest spike in anemia risk occurred with mild vitamin D deficiency, defined as vitamin D levels below 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Children with levels below 30 ng/ml had nearly twice the anemia risk of those with normal vitamin D levels. Severe vitamin D deficiency is defined as vitamin D levels at or below 20 ng/ml. Both mild and severe deficiency requires treatment with supplements.

When investigators looked at anemia and vitamin D by race, an interesting difference emerged. Black children had higher rates of anemia compared with white children (14 percent vs. 2 percent) and considerably lower vitamin D levels overall, but their anemia risk didn't rise until their vitamin D levels dropped far lower than those of white children. The racial difference in vitamin D levels and anemia suggests that current therapeutic targets for preventing or treating these conditions may warrant a further look, the researchers say.

"The clear racial variance we saw in our study should serve as a reminder that what we may consider a pathologically low level in some may be perfectly adequate in others, which raises some interesting questions about our current one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and supplementation," says lead investigator Meredith Atkinson, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatric kidney specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Untreated, chronic anemia and vitamin D deficiency can have wide-ranging health consequences, including organ damage, skeletal deformities and frequent fractures, and lead to premature osteoporosis in later life.

Long known for its role in bone development, vitamin D has recently been implicated in a wide range of disorders. Emerging evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels may play a role in the development of certain cancers and heart disease and lead to suppressed immunity, the researchers note.

Anemia, which occurs when the body doesn't have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells, is believed to affect one in five children at some point in their lives, experts say. Several large-scale studies have found severe vitamin D deficiency in about a tenth of U.S. children, while nearly 70 percent have suboptimal levels.

Mediterranean-style Diet Boosts Fertility

Women who watch their weight and closely follow a Mediterranean-style diet high in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish and beans may increase their chance of becoming pregnant, according to dietitians at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).

"Establishing a healthy eating pattern and weight is a good first step for women who are looking to conceive," said Brooke Schantz, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, LUHS. "Not only will a healthy diet and lifestyle potentially help with fertility, but it also may influence fetal well-being and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy."

Thirty percent of infertility is due to either being overweight or underweight, according to the National Infertility Association. Both of these extremes in weight cause shifts in hormones, which can affect ovulation. Reducing weight by even 5 percent can enhance fertility.

Schantz recommends the following additional nutrition tips for women who are looking to conceive:

-Reduce intake of foods with trans and saturated fats while increasing intake of monounsaturated fats, such as avocados and olive oil

-Lower intake of animal protein and add more vegetable protein to your diet

-Add more fiber to your diet by consuming whole grains, vegetables and fruit

-Incorporate more vegetarian sources of iron such as legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and whole grains

-Consume high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy

-Take a regular women's multivitamin

Approximately 40 percent of infertility issues are attributed to men, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Among them is low sperm count and poor sperm motility, which are common in overweight and obese men.

"Men who are looking to have a baby also have a responsibility to maintain a healthy body weight and consume a balanced diet, because male obesity may affect fertility by altering testosterone and other hormone levels," Schantz said.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vitamin D does not contribute to kidney stones, study asserts

Increased vitamin D levels may prevent a wide range of diseases, according to recent studies. However, some previous studies led to a concern that vitamin D supplementation could increase an individual's risk of developing kidney stones.

However, a study of 2,012 participants – published in the American Journal of Public Health –found no statistically relevant association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25 (OH)D) serum level in the range of 20 to 100 ng/mL and the incidence of kidney stones.

This study – led by Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, adjunct professor in the Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine – used data from the nonprofit public health promotion organization GrassrootsHealth to follow more than 2,000 men and women of all ages for 19 months.

Only 13 individuals self-reported a kidney stone diagnosis during the study.

"Mounting evidence indicates that a Vitamin D serum level in the therapeutic range of 40 to 50 ng/mL is needed for substantial reduction in risk of many diseases, including breast and colorectal cancer," said Garland, adding that this serum level is generally only achieved by taking vitamin supplements. "Our results may lessen concerns by individuals about taking vitamin D supplements, as no link was shown between such supplementation and an increased risk for kidney stones."

The study did show that older age, male gender and higher body mass index (BMI) were all risk factors for developing kidney stones. According to the researchers, individuals with high BMI need higher vitamin D intake than their leaner counterparts to achieve the same 25 (OH)D serum level.

Omega-3 protects brain

According to a new study, high long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content in blood may lower the risk of small brain infarcts and other brain abnormalities in the elderly. The study was published in Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the Cardiovascular Health Study in the USA, 3,660 people aged 65 and older underwent brain scans to detect so called silent brain infarcts, or small lesions in the brain that can cause loss of thinking skills, dementia and stroke. Scans were performed again five years later on 2,313 of the participants.

Research shows that silent brain infarcts, which are only detected by brain scans, are found in about 20% of otherwise healthy elderly people.

The study found that those who had high long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content in blood had about 40% lower risk of having small brain infarcts compared to those with low content of these fatty acids in blood. The study also found that people who had high long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content in blood also had fewer changes in the white matter in their brains.

Previously in this same study population, similar findings were observed when comparing those with high or low intake of fish. High content of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in blood is a marker for high intake of fatty fish, so the results from the current study support the beneficial effects of fish consumption on brain health.

Making sense of conflicting advice on calcium intake

In recent years, studies have reported inconsistent findings regarding whether calcium supplements used to prevent fractures increase the risk of heart attack.

Now, in an assessment of the scientific literature, reported as a perspective piece in the October 17, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a UC San Francisco researcher says patients and health care practitioners should focus on getting calcium from the diet, rather than supplements, when possible.

"Osteoporosis may result from inadequate calcium intake and it's quite common for certain segments of our population, such as the elderly, to consume less than the recommend amount," said Douglas C. Bauer, MD, UCSF professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "But a high calcium diet should be the preferred method to receive adequate amounts of the nutrient. The Institute of Medicine's recommended dosage for post-menopausal women over the age of 50 and men over 70 is 1,200 mg per day.

"If it is not possible to consume enough calcium from the diet, the use of calcium supplements is most likely safe and not associated with cardiovascular outcomes," he said.

Calcium supplements are known to have several side effects, the most common being indigestion and minor constipation, and kidney stones are a rare complication. However, several recent studies have suggested that calcium supplements can also lead to an increase risk of heart attacks.

A 2010 British Medical Journal study, which pooled nearly a dozen randomized trials, concluded that calcium supplements "are associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction [heart attacks]" and went on to say, " As calcium supplements are widely used, these modest increases in risk of cardiovascular disease might translate into a large burden of disease in the population."

A 2013 JAMA Internal Medicine non-randomized study examined 11,778 cardiovascular-related deaths and found an increased risk with calcium supplement use. The authors concluded, "high intake of supplemental calcium is associated with an excess risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) death in men but not in women."

However, several other studies have shown no relationship between the use of calcium supplements and cardiovascular events.

For example, a 2010 meta-analysis that included all of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial participants showed "no significant relationship between supplementation and cardiovascular events" in three trials of calcium supplements alone.

Bauer recommends consuming dairy products to increase one's dietary intake of calcium as well as food products that are fortified with extra calcium, such as kale, broccoli and Bok Choy.

Dr. Bauer has received research support from Amgen and Novartis in the past for his work on independent adjudication of endpoints in clinical trials unrelated to calcium, which ended two years ago.

Study strengthens link between low dietary fiber intake and increased cardiovascular risk

A new study published in the December issue of The American Journal of Medicine shows a significant association between low dietary fiber intake and cardiometabolic risks including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular inflammation, and obesity. Surveillance data from 23,168 subjects in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2010 was used to examine the role dietary fiber plays in heart health.

In the current study investigators have taken a closer look at possible sex, age, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in dietary fiber consumption, as well as examined the association between dietary fiber intake and various cardiometabolic risk factors.

Dietary fiber, which previous studies have shown may assist in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, is thought to play an important role in reducing cardiovascular risk. Despite this knowledge, investigators found that dietary fiber intake was consistently below recommended intake levels for NHANES participants.

The Institute of Medicine defines recommended intake levels according to age and sex: 38g per day for men aged 19-50 years, 30g per day for men 50 and over, 25g for women aged 19-50 years, and 21g per day for women over 50. Using data from NHANES 1999-2010, the study reveals that the mean dietary fiber intake was only 16.2g per day across all demographics during that time period.

"Our findings indicate that, among a nationally representative sample of nonpregnant US adults in NHANES 1999-2010, the consumption of dietary fiber was consistently below the recommended total adequate intake levels across survey years," says senior investigator Cheryl R. Clark, MD, ScD, Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. "Our study also confirms persistent differences in dietary fiber intake among socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic subpopulations over time."

The research team found variations according to race and ethnicity, with Mexican-Americans consuming higher amounts of dietary fiber and non-Hispanic blacks consuming lower amounts of dietary fiber compared with non-Hispanic whites.

The study highlights the importance of increasing dietary fiber intake for US adults by showing a correlation between low dietary fiber and an increased risk for cardiovascular risk. Participants with the highest prevalence of metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and obesity were in the lowest quintile of dietary fiber intake.

"Overall, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and obesity each decreased with increasing quintiles of dietary fiber intake," comments Clark. "Compared with participants in the lowest quintile of dietary fiber intake, participants in the highest quintile of dietary fiber intake had a statistically significant lower risk of having the metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and obesity."

This new data analysis emphasizes the importance of getting adults across diverse ethnicities to increase their dietary fiber intake in order to try and mitigate the risk for cardiovascular damage.

"Low dietary fiber intake from 1999-2010 in the US and associations between higher dietary fiber and a lower prevalence of cardiometabolic risks suggest the need to develop new strategies and policies to increase dietary fiber intake," adds Clark. "Additional research is needed to determine effective clinical and population-based strategies for improving fiber intake trends in diverse groups."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cinnamon May Help Ease Common Cause of Infertility

Cinnamon has long been used to add flavor to sweet and savory foods. Now, preliminary research suggests the spice may also help jump-start irregular menstrual cycles in women affected by a common infertility disorder.

A small study by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City found that women with polycystic ovary syndrome who took inexpensive daily cinnamon supplements experienced nearly twice the menstrual cycles over a six-month period as women with the syndrome given an inactive placebo. Two of the women in the treated group reported spontaneous pregnancies during the trial.

"There is a lot of interest in homeopathic or natural remedies for this condition," said study author Dr. Daniel Kort, a postdoctoral fellow in reproductive endocrinology at the medical center. "This may be something we can do using a totally natural substance that can help a large group of patients."

The study was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at a meeting of the International Federation of Fertility Societies and American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Boston.

An estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of women of childbearing age have polycystic ovary syndrome, with up to 5 million Americans affected. Polycystic ovary syndrome, which involves many of the body's systems, is thought to be caused by insensitivity to the hormone insulin. Typical symptoms include menstrual irregularity, infertility, acne, excess hair growth on the face or body, and thinning scalp hair.

Treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome currently includes weight loss, ovulation-inducing drugs such as clomiphene (brand name Clomid) and diabetes medications such as metformin, said Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

Kort said that it's not yet clear exactly why cinnamon may work to regulate menstrual cycles in those with polycystic ovary syndrome, but it may improve the body's ability to process glucose and insulin. Prior research among diabetic patients suggested the spice can reduce insulin resistance.

Of the 16 patients who completed Kort's trial, 11 were given daily 1,500-milligram cinnamon supplements and five were given placebo pills. Diet and activity levels were monitored, and patients completed monthly menstrual calendars.

After six months, women receiving cinnamon had significant improvement in menstrual cycle regularity, having an average of nearly four menstrual periods over that time compared to an average of 2.2 periods among the placebo group. Two women reported spontaneous pregnancies after three months of cinnamon treatment, meaning they became pregnant without additional help.

Polycystic ovary syndrome "is one of the most common causes why women don't have regular menstrual cycles," Kort said. "But the clinical consequences later in life are truly great -- from an increased risk of diabetes and glucose intolerance to endometrial cancer. Many women can go their whole lives without regular menstrual cycles, and it doesn't necessarily bother them until they want to have children."

The 1,500-milligram cinnamon dose was chosen for this trial because it was between the 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily that seemed to have metabolic effects on diabetic patients in earlier research, Kort said. But all doses in that range are cheaply obtained, costing pennies per capsule.

"Compared to most medical therapies these days, the cost is very small," he said.

Although the study suggests a link between cinnamon and improvement of polycystic ovary syndrome, it doesn't establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Still, Hershlag called the study "welcome and interesting" and said he sees no reason women with polycystic ovary syndrome shouldn't use more cinnamon in their food or take cinnamon supplements.

"Any work that's something nutritional in nature and seems to affect the abnormal physiology of polycystic ovaries is welcome," Hershlag said. "If they want to spice up their life and take it, that's fine . . . but I think the best thing to do when you have polycystic ovaries is to be under the control of a physician."

Some women with polycystic ovary syndrome from Kort's clinic are already trying cinnamon supplementation at home in the hopes of regulating their own menstrual cycles, he said, although he acknowledged the spice wasn't likely to be a cure-all for the condition.

"It's unlikely to be the sole source of improvement or to change entire (treatment) protocols," he said. "It's not going to regulate every patient who takes it, but a good percentage who take it may experience some benefit, and the side effects are low. It's relatively cheap and well tolerated."

Some day, Kort added, he hopes to organize a larger trial examining the issue.

Data and conclusions presented at scientific conferences are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

DIM Protects against cancer and radiation

Georgetown University Medical Center researchers say a compound derived from cruciferous vegetable such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli protected rats and mice from lethal doses of radiation.

Their study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests the compound, already shown to be safe for humans, may protect normal tissues during radiation therapy for cancer treatment and prevent or mitigate sickness caused by radiation exposure.

The compound, known as DIM (3,3'-diindolylmethane), previously has been found to have cancer preventive properties.

"DIM has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for years, but this is the first indication that DIM can also act as a radiation protector," says the study's corresponding author, Eliot Rosen, MD, PhD, of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For the study, the researchers irradiated rats with lethal doses of gamma ray radiation. The animals were then treated with a daily injection of DIM for two weeks, starting 10 minutes after the radiation exposure.

The result was stunning, says Rosen, a professor of oncology, biochemistry and cell & molecular biology, and radiation medicine. "All of the untreated rats died, but well over half of the DIM-treated animals remained alive 30 days after the radiation exposure."
Rosen adds that DIM also provided protection whether the first injection was administered 24 hours before or up to 24 hours after radiation exposure.

"We also showed that DIM protects the survival of lethally irradiated mice," Rosen says. In addition, irradiated mice treated with DIM had less reduction in red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets — side effects often seen in patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.

Rosen says this study points to two potential uses of the compound. "DIM could protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer, but could also protect individuals from the lethal consequences of a nuclear disaster."

Rosen and study co-authors Saijun Fan, PhD, and Milton Brown, MD, PhD, are co-inventors on a patent application that has been filed by Georgetown University related to the usage of DIM and DIM-related compounds as radioprotectors.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction helps lower blood pressure,

Blood pressure is effectively lowered by mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for patients with borderline high blood pressure or "prehypertension." This finding is reported in the October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

"Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range," writes Joel W. Hughes, PhD, of Kent State (Ohio) University and colleagues.

Mindfulness Practice Leads to Drop in Blood Pressure

The study included 56 women and men diagnosed with prehypertension -- blood pressure that was higher than desirable, but not yet so high that antihypertensive drugs would be prescribed. Prehypertension receives increasing attention from doctors because it is associated with a wide range of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. About 30% of Americans have prehypertension and may be prescribed medications for this condition.

One group of patients was assigned to a program of MBSR: eight group sessions of 2½ hours per week. Led by an experienced instructor, the sessions included three main types of mindfulness skills: body scan exercises, sitting meditation, and yoga exercises. Patients were also encouraged to perform mindfulness exercises at home.

The other "comparison" group received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. This "active control" treatment group was not expected to have lasting effects on blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements were compared between groups to determine whether the mindfulness-based intervention reduced blood pressure in this group of people at risk of cardiovascular problems.

Patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements. Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention.

Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group.

Mindfulness-based interventions Could 'Prevent or Delay' Need for Antihypertensive Drugs Ambulatory monitoring is an increasingly used alternative to clinic-based blood pressure measurements. However, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring showed no significant difference in blood pressure with the mindfulness-based intervention.

"Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions," according to Dr Hughes and coauthors. It has been suggested that MBSR and other types of meditation may be useful in lowering blood pressure. Previous studies have reported small but significant reductions in blood pressure with Transcendental Meditation; the new study is the first to specifically evaluate the blood pressure effects of mindfulness-based intervention in patients with prehypertension.

Although the blood pressure reductions associated with mindfulness-based interventions are modest, they are similar to many drug interventions and potentially large enough to lead to reductions in the risk of heart attack or stroke. Further studies are needed to see if the blood pressure-lowering effects are sustained over time.

The researchers argue that mindfulness-based interventions may provide a useful alternative to help "prevent or delay" the need for antihypertensive medications in patients with borderline high blood pressure.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Latest Health Research

I've done a comprehensive review of the research on the Health Benefits of Statins. I take a statin, but even before I did so, I took the natural substitute red yeast rice.

I also take aspirin. I have updated my review of the Health Benefits of Aspirin.

I put an awful lot of work into these two reviews, so would very much appreciate it if you would check them out.

Meanwhile, here's a summary of the latest research news:

I don’t take any herbal supplements:

Study: Herbal products omit ingredients, contain fillers

Consumers of natural health products beware. The majority of herbal products on the market contain ingredients not listed on the label, with most companies substituting cheaper alternatives and using fillers, according to new research from the University of Guelph. "We found contamination in several products with plants that have known toxicity, side effects and/or negatively interact with other herbs, supplements and medications."

I don’t think I had all that high amounts of abdominal fat in my middle age, but my memory of that period may not be crystal clear:

Fat May Be Linked to Memory Loss

Although there are several risk factors of dementia, abnormal fat metabolism has been known to pose a risk for memory and learning. People with high amounts of abdominal fat in their middle age are 3.6 times as likely to develop memory loss and dementia later in their life.

I don’t lift weights, and my own weight is not as much of an issue as it used to be, but my own kind of aerobic fitness may also help here:

When it comes to the good cholesterol, fitness trumps weight

These findings suggest that regular weight training might improve HDL function and protect against heart disease, even in those who remain overweight. Although indices of weight were associated with HDL cholesterol function, differences in fitness, the authors say, may be a better measure of who has healthier functioning HDL cholesterol, and therefore, who is at risk of heart disease. "The role of obesity in the risk of coronary heart disease may indeed be largely accounted for by differences in fitness," the authors say.

My soccer games are kind of marathons (2-2.5+ hours each) but I would like to think that I am properly prepared:

Running a marathon can be bad for the heart, especially in less prepared runners

Investigators who studied a group of recreational marathon runners have established that strenuous exercise such as running a marathon can damage the heart muscle. Although they found the effect is temporary and reversible, they warn that these effects are more widespread in less fit distance runners and that recreational distance runners should prepare properly before marathons.

In the you can’t win department:

Good Cholesterol Increases Breast Cancer Risk

High levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the "good cholesterol," are thought to protect against heart disease. However, what’s good for one disease may not be good for another. High levels of HDL have also been linked to increased breast cancer risks and to enhanced cancer aggressiveness in animal experiments.


Physical activity = lower breast cancer risk

A large new American Cancer Society study adds to increasing evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Researchers say moderate recreational activity was associated with a 14 percent lower risk and high physical activity with a 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who were active at the lowest level.

I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, nuts, legumes and cereals:

High Dietary Intake of Polyphenols Are Associated With Longevity

It is the first time that a scientific study associates high polyphenols intake with a 30% reduction in mortality in older adults. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found largely in fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, nuts, legumes and cereals. More than 8,000 different phenolic compounds have been identified in plants. Polyphenols have antioxidant, antiinflammatory, anticarcinogenic, etc. effects.

I get most of my exercise away from work which apparently is better , although I am not sure why (maybe people are too tense while exercising at work?):

Some Exercise Can Help Prevent High Blood Pressure

Exercising during your leisure time could help prevent high blood pressure, but being physically active at work doesn't seem to provide the same benefit, according to a new review.

I eat a large portion of oatmeal 6 days a week for breakfast:

Oats may deserve the well-earned status of "super grain"

Oats are a nutritious whole grain with evidence to show that oats are even more complex than previously thought. They possess a wide spectrum of biologically active compounds including carotenoids, tocols (Vitamin E), flavonoids and avenanthramides – a class of polyphenols.

In addition to avenanthramides, oats and oat products have many bioactive compounds that may provide health benefits. Oats and oat-containing products that meet a minimum level of oat beta-glucan are allowed to bear a Food and Drug Administration-approved health claim for cholesterol-lowering benefits. Studies also suggest oats can enhance satiety and may also help reduce the risk of other chronic conditions.

I get 8-9 hours of sleep every night – plus naps on weekends, so I guess I'm OK on this:

Sleeping too little – or too much – associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links too little sleep (six hours or less) and too much sleep (10 or more hours) with chronic diseases – including coronary heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and obesity – in adults age 45 and older.

I will definitely start strength training when I hit 90:

Strength training benefits ninety-year-olds

After doing specific training for 12 weeks, people over the age of 90 improved their strength, power and muscle mass. This was reflected in an increase in their walking speed, a greater capacity to get out of their chairs, an improvement in their balance, a significant reduction in the incidence of falls and a significant improvement in muscle power and mass in the lower limbs.

I am now drinking moderate amounts of coffee (for my health and improved athletic performance):

Moderate coffee consumption = lower risk of mortality

Among recent studies, a new review paper highlights that for most healthy people, moderate coffee consumption is unlikely to adversely affect cardiovascular health. Furthermore a new paper concluded that higher green tea and coffee consumption is inversely associated with risk of CVD and stroke in the general population. One study found a 21% increase in mortality rate in those drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week. However recent data from a meta-analysis and systematic review assessed 23 studies and concluded that coffee consumption is, in fact, inversely related to the risk of mortality.

I eat lots of beets:

Beets could lower risk of heart disease

New research from the University of Reading has shown that eating four slices of bread containing beetroot lowers blood pressure and improves the function of blood vessels, significantly improving heart health.

Noted without comment:

Multivitamins with minerals may protect older women with invasive breast cancer

Exercise boosts brain health

Statin medications may prevent dementia and memory loss with longer use

Statins May Boost Your Gums' Health, Too

Resveratrol remains effective at fighting cancer even after it has been metabolized

Link Found Between High-Fat, High-Calorie Diet and Pancreatic Cancer

Eating more calories in the morning helps overcome reproductive difficulties

Walnuts in one's diet can protect against diabetes and heart disease

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Study: Herbal products omit ingredients, contain fillers

Consumers of natural health products beware. The majority of herbal products on the market contain ingredients not listed on the label, with most companies substituting cheaper alternatives and using fillers, according to new research from the University of Guelph.

The study, published today in the open access journal BMC Medicine, used DNA barcoding technology to test 44 herbal products sold by 12 companies.

Only two of the companies provided authentic products without substitutions, contaminants or fillers.

Overall, nearly 60 per cent of the herbal products contained plant species not listed on the label.

Researchers detected product substitution in 32 per cent of the samples.

More than 20 per cent of the products included fillers such as rice, soybeans and wheat not listed on the label.

"Contamination and substitution in herbal products present considerable health risks for consumers," said lead author Steven Newmaster, an integrative biology professor and botanical director of the Guelph-based Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO), home of the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding.

"We found contamination in several products with plants that have known toxicity, side effects and/or negatively interact with other herbs, supplements and medications."

One product labelled as St. John's wort contained Senna alexandrina, a plant with laxative properties. It's not intended for prolonged use, as it can cause chronic diarrhea and liver damage and negatively interacts with immune cells in the colon.

Several herbal products contained Parthenium hysterophorus (feverfew), which can cause swelling and numbness in the mouth, oral ulcers, and nausea. It also reacts with medications metabolized by the liver.

One ginkgo product was contaminated with Juglans nigra (black walnut), which could endanger people with nut allergies.

Unlabelled fillers such as wheat, soybeans and rice are also a concern for people with allergies or who are seeking gluten-free products, Newmaster said.

"It's common practice in natural products to use fillers such as these, which are mixed with the active ingredients. But a consumer has a right to see all of the plant species used in producing a natural product on the list of ingredients."

Until now, verifying what's inside capsules or tablets has posed challenges, Newmaster said. His research team developed standard methods and tests using DNA barcoding to identify and authenticate ingredients in herbal products.

"There is a need to protect consumers from the economic and health risks associated with herbal product fraud. Currently there are no standards for authentication of herbal products."

Medicinal herbs now constitute the fastest-growing segment of the North American alternative medicine market, with more than 29,000 herbal substances sold, he said.

More than 1,000 companies worldwide make medicinal plant products worth more than $60 billion a year.

About 80 per cent of people in developed countries use natural health products, including vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies.

Canada has regulated natural health products since 2004. Regulators face a backlog of licence applications, and thousands of products on the market lack a full product licence. Globally, regulatory problems involving natural health products continue to affect consistency and safety, Newmaster said.

"The industry suffers from unethical activities by some of the manufacturers."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fat May Be Linked to Memory Loss

Although problems with memory become increasingly common as people age, in some persons, memories last long time, even a life time. On the other hand, some people experience milder to substantial memory problems even at an earlier age.

Although there are several risk factors of dementia, abnormal fat metabolism has been known to pose a risk for memory and learning. People with high amounts of abdominal fat in their middle age are 3.6 times as likely to develop memory loss and dementia later in their life.

Neurological scientists at the Rush University Medical Center in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health have discovered that same protein that controls fat metabolism in the liver resides in the memory center of the brain (hippocampus) and controls memory and learning.

Results from the study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health were recently published in Cell Reports.

“We need to better understand how fat is connected to memory and learning so that we can develop effective approach to protect memory and learning,” said Kalipada Pahan, PhD, the Floyd A. Davis professor of neurology at Rush University Medical Center.

The liver is the body’s major fat metabolizing organ. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha) is known to control fat metabolism in the liver. Accordingly, PPARalpha is highly expressed in the liver.

“We are surprised to find high level of PPARalpha in the hippocampus of animal models,” said Pahan.

“While PPARalpha deficient mice are poor in learning and memory, injection of PPARα to the hippocampus of PPARalpha deficient mice improves learning and memory," said Pahan.

Since PPARalpha directly controls fat metabolism, people with abdominal fat levels have depleted PPARalpha in the liver and abnormal lipid metabolism. At first, these individuals lose PPARalpha from the liver and then eventually from the whole body including the brain. Therefore, abdominal fat is an early indication of some kind of dementia later in life, according to Pahan.

By bone marrow chimera technique, researchers were able to create some mice having normal PPARalpha in the liver and depleted PPARalpha in the brain. These mice were poor in memory and learning. On the other hand, mice that have normal PPARalpha in the brain and depleted PPARalpha in the liver showed normal memory.

“Our study indicates that people may suffer from memory-related problems only when they lose PPARalpha in the hippocampus”, said Pahan.

CREB (cyclic AMP response element-binding protein) is called the master regulator of memory as it controls different memory-related proteins. “Our study shows that PPARalpha directly stimulates CREB and thereby increases memory-related proteins”, said Pahan.

“Further research must be conducted to see how we could potentially maintain normal PPARalpha in the brain in order to be resistant to memory loss”, said Pahan.

Other Rush researchers involved in this study include Avik Roy, PhD, research assistant professor; Malabendu Jana, PhD assistant professor; Grant Corbett, neuroscience graduate student; Shilpa Ramaswamy, instructor; and Jeffrey H. Kordower, PhD, the Jean Schweppe Armour professor of neurological sciences.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common human disorder associated with memory loss. This disease slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Nationwide, the total payments for services for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will total $203 billion in 2013. By 2050, the total costs are expected to increase 500 percent to a staggering $1.2 trillion.

Multivitamins with minerals may protect older women with invasive breast cancer

Findings from a study involving thousands of postmenopausal women suggest that women who develop invasive breast cancer may benefit from taking supplements containing both multivitamins and minerals. The new research, published today in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, found that the risk of dying from invasive breast cancer was 30 percent lower among multivitamin/mineral users compared with nonusers.

"Our study offers tentative but intriguing evidence that multivitamin/mineral supplements may help older women who develop invasive breast cancer survive their disease," said Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., lead author of the study and distinguished university professor emerita of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

Multivitamin/mineral supplements are the most commonly consumed dietary supplements among U.S. adults. They usually contain 20-30 vitamins and minerals, often at levels of 100 percent of U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances or less, and the usual label recommendation is to take them daily.

The research was conducted as part of the Women's Health Initiative Clinical Trials and the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study. Combined, the two studies include data from 161,608 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 when they first joined the study. These women were enrolled at 40 clinical centers throughout the United States during the years 1993-1998.

The current study focused on 7,728 participants who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during the WHI and were followed for an average of seven years after their diagnosis. Invasive breast cancer is defined as cancer that has spread outside the membrane of the milk glands or ducts and into the breast tissue. Two common types of invasive breast cancer are invasive ductal carcinoma and infiltrating lobular carcinoma.

After enrolling in the WHI and during repeated follow-up visits, all participants provided extensive information about their health including whether or not they had taken a multivitamin/mineral supplement at least once a week during the prior two weeks.

About 38percent of the 7,728 women who developed invasive breast cancer during the WHI were using the supplements. The vast majority were taking the supplements before their breast-cancer diagnosis. A comparison of mortality rates revealed that women with invasive breast cancer who took multivitamin/mineral supplements were 30 percent less likely to die from their cancers than women with invasive breast cancer who hadn't taken the supplements.

Could differences between the multivitamin/mineral users and nonusers account for this finding? The researchers looked at many possible confounding factors including additional supplements that the women took, their smoking status, education, race/ethnicity, weight, depression, alcohol use, physical activity, age at breast cancer diagnosis, and diabetes. The association between regular use of multivitamin/mineral supplements and reduced risk of death persisted even after these factors were taken into account.

"Controlling for these other factors strengthens our confidence that the association we observed – between taking multivitamin/mineral supplements and lowering breast-cancer mortality risk among postmenopausal women with invasive breast cancer – is a real one," said Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller, who also holds the Dorothy and William Manealoff Foundation and Molly Rosen Chair in Social Medicine Emerita. "But further studies are needed to confirm whether there truly is a cause-and-effect relationship here. And our findings certainly cannot be generalized to premenopausal women diagnosed with invasive cancer or to other populations of women."

When it comes to the good cholesterol, fitness trumps weight

There's no question that high levels of good cholesterol—also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—seem to be protective against heart disease. Rather than depositing fat into the blood vessels the way the "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein (LDL)) does, HDL appears to carry cholesterol away from blood vessels to the liver. From there, the liver processes it for removal from the body.

However, adequate levels of HDL might not be enough. Several recent studies have suggested that many cases of heart disease occur in people with normal levels of HDL cholesterol. Consequently, some researchers believe that even if people have adequate amounts of HDL cholesterol, it might not work well. Such HDL may not fulfill this molecule's other important duties in the body, such as reducing inflammation and acting as an antioxidant.

Because exercise has the potential to protect against heart disease in a variety of ways, Christian K. Roberts and his colleagues at UCLA tested whether HDL in men who weight trained regularly behaved in a healthier way than HDL in sedentary men. They found that the men who didn't exercise were more likely than those who weight trained to have dysfunctional HDL. Having faulty HDL was associated with numerous other risk factors for heart disease, including high triglycerides and a higher trunk fat mass. This finding held true regardless of the men's weight, which suggests that maintaining a "healthy" weight isn't as important for healthy cholesterol function as being active by regularly performing strength training.

The article is entitled "Untrained Young Men Have Dysfunctional HDL Compared to Strength Trained Men Irrespective of Body Weight Status." It appears in the Articles in PresS section of Journal of Applied Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society. It is available online at


The researchers worked with 90 men between the ages of 18 and 30 who already had established exercise habits. They separated these participants into three groups: lean men who weight trained at least four times each week, overweight men who also weight trained at least four times each week, and overweight men who had no structured exercise regimen. The researchers took some basic physical measurements from the volunteers, including height and weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and body composition. They tested the volunteers' muscle strength and their carotid artery thickness (a sign of heart disease), and they took a blood sample. The researchers analyzed that sample for a variety of different molecules present, including cholesterol, insulin, various markers for heart disease including triglycerides and C-reactive protein, and sex hormones. They also checked the volunteers' HDL to see how well it functioned as an antioxidant, a sign of how well their HDL works in general.


The study authors found that HDL functioned better in the participants who had a regular weight-lifting program, regardless of their weight—overweight exercisers' HDL has similar effectiveness as an antioxidant as the lean exercisers' HDL cholesterol. Both groups' HDL performed significantly better than those who didn't exercise. Such dysfunctional HDL was associated with numerous other factors associated with heart disease, such as elevated triglycerides and trunk fat mass.

Importance of the Findings

These findings suggest that regular weight training might improve HDL function and protect against heart disease, even in those who remain overweight. Although indices of weight were associated with HDL cholesterol function, differences in fitness, the authors say, may be a better measure of who has healthier functioning HDL cholesterol, and therefore, who is at risk of heart disease.

"The role of obesity in the risk of coronary heart disease may indeed be largely accounted for by differences in fitness," the authors say.

Running a marathon can be bad for the heart, especially in less prepared runners

Investigators who studied a group of recreational marathon runners have established that strenuous exercise such as running a marathon can damage the heart muscle. Although they found the effect is temporary and reversible, they warn that these effects are more widespread in less fit distance runners and that recreational distance runners should prepare properly before marathons. Their findings are published in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Previous reports have established that a significant percentage of sports competitors show signs of heart muscle injury and cardiac abnormalities after prolonged exercise. In a new study designed to evaluate what kind of stress running a marathon puts on the heart, and whether this might cause permanent damage, investigators evaluated 20 recreational distance runners aged between 18 and 60 who were scheduled to take part in the Quebec City Marathon and who had no known cardiovascular disease or drug treatment. The participants were all amateur runners. Those who had run another marathon less than two months before recruitment or during the study period were excluded.

The runners were extensively observed and tested six to eight weeks before the marathon and on the day itself. They were tested again within 48 hours after completing the marathon, including a second MRI study and final blood sampling. This timeframe guaranteed adequate rehydration (assessed according to hemoglobin level) and a return to baseline hemodynamic state (assessed according to heart rate and blood pressure) after the race, but was short enough to observe any significant myocardial changes before recovery. All runners with decreased left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), a measure of cardiac pumping efficiency, after the race compared with baseline underwent a third MRI study after three months of rest to check whether it had reversed.

Investigators noted that the race induced a decrease in left and right ventricular function in half of the amateur distance runners. When a lot of the heart was affected, the heart also showed swelling and reduced blood flow. "We first established that marathon related segmental function decrease – observed in more than half of all segments – is associated with a decrease in resting perfusion and increase in myocardial edema," observes senior author Eric Larose, DVM, MD, FRCPC, FAHA, of the Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (IUCPQ), Canada. "We also found that heart muscle changes were more common and widespread in runners with lower fitness and less training. Finally, we observed that these changes were transient," he continues.

The investigators do not believe these temporary changes are a cause for concern. "Segmental function decrease is associated with poor prognosis in the presence of CAD or cardiomyopathy. Segmental dysfunction also indicates a poor prognosis in adults without cardiovascular disease. Although we don't know whether such changes mean that recreational runners are at risk, the attendant edema, and reduced perfusion suggest transient injury," says Larose.

"The changes are more widespread among those with lower fitness levels and less training," observes Larose, who is professor of medicine at Université Laval and a cardiologist and clinical researcher at IUCPQ. "Although no permanent injury was observed in this group of runners, the findings suggest that there may be a minimum fitness level needed beyond which the heart can bounce back from the strain of training and running a long race. Furthermore, these results emphasize the need for proper preparation before recreational distance runners engage in a marathon race," he concludes.

Good Cholesterol Increases Breast Cancer Risk

High levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the "good cholesterol," are thought to protect against heart disease. However, what’s good for one disease may not be good for another. High levels of HDL have also been linked to increased breast cancer risks and to enhanced cancer aggressiveness in animal experiments. Now, a team of researchers led by Philippe Frank, Ph.D., a cancer biologist in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, has shown that an HDL receptor found on breast cancer cells may be responsible for this effect, proposing a new molecular target that could help treat the disease.

"If we can block the activity of the HDL receptor in breast cancer, we may be able to limit the harmful effects of HDL, while maintaining levels that are beneficial for blood vessels," says Dr. Frank. The work was published online September 24th in the journal Breast Cancer Research.

To study the effect of HDL on cancer cells at the molecular level, Dr. Frank and colleagues exposed breast cancer cell lines to HDL and noticed that signaling pathways involved in cancer progression were activated, and that the cells began to migrate in an experimental model mimicking metastasis.

The researchers then limited the expression of the HDL receptor called SR-BI in the cells using silencing RNA to reduce the receptor’s levels. In response, the activities of the signaling pathways that promote tumor progression were reduced. In addition, cells with fewer SR-BI receptors displayed reduced proliferation rates and migratory abilities than cells with normal SR-BI levels. Most importantly, reduced SR-BI levels were associated with reduced tumor formation in a mouse model of tumorigenesis. The researchers then blocked the SR-BI receptor in a breast cancer cell line with a drug called BLT-1 and noticed reduced proliferation and signaling via proteins linked to tumor formation.

This study supports the idea that HDL plays a role in the development of aggressive breast cancers and that inhibiting its function via SR-BI in breast cancer cells may stall cancer growth.

Additional studies will be needed to develop more specific drugs to inhibit SR-BI. "Also, we need to understand what levels of cholesterol are required by the tumor before trying to reduce or modify lipid levels in cancer patients," says Dr. Frank. “We hope this study will lead to the development of new drugs targeting SR-BI or cholesterol metabolism and eventually preventing tumor progression,” he adds.

Exercise boosts brain health

Research has shown that exercise is good for the brain. Now investigators have identified a molecule called irisin that is produced in the brain during endurance exercise and has neuroprotective effects. Researchers were able to artificially increase the levels of irisin in the blood to activate genes involved in learning and memory. The findings, published online October 10 in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism, may be useful for designing drugs that utilize this exercise-induced molecule to guard against neurodegenerative diseases and improve cognition in the aging population.

While it's known that exercise can boost cognitive function and lessen symptoms of neurological diseases like depression, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease, the mechanisms underlying these effects are unclear. One important player is thought to be a growth factor named brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Through experiments conducted in mice, investigators led by Dr. Bruce Spiegelman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School found that a molecule called FNDC5 and its cleavage product, irisin, are elevated by endurance exercise in the brain and increase BDNF expression. On the other hand, mice genetically altered to have low irisin levels in the brain had reduced levels of BDNF.

The team also found that raising levels of irisin in the circulation caused the molecule to cross the blood brain barrier, where it increased expression of BDNF and activated genes involved in cognition.

"Our results indicate that FNDC5/irisin has the ability control a very important neuroprotective pathway in the brain," says Dr. Spiegelman. The researchers next plan to work on developing a stable form of the irisin protein that can be given to mice by injection and may augment the brain's natural anti-degeneration pathways.

Health Benefits of Aspirin Updated

Review of Daily Aspirin Dosage Highlights Concerns About Side Effects

Researchers at Warwick Medical School have published the most comprehensive review of the benefits and risks of a daily dose of prophylactic aspirin and warn that greater understanding of side effects is needed.
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The possible benefits of a daily dose have been promoted as a primary prevention for people who are currently free of, but at risk of developing, cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer.

However, any such benefit needs to be balanced alongside a fuller understanding of the potentially harmful side effects such as bleeding and gastrointestinal problems.

The paper, published by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, reviews the wealth of available randomised controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, allowing the team from Warwick Evidence to quantify those relative benefits and risks.

The reported benefits of taking aspirin each day ranged from 10% reduction in major cardiovascular events to a 15% drop in total coronary heart disease. In real terms, that would ultimately mean 33-46 fewer deaths per 100,000 patients taking the treatment.

There was also evidence of a reported reduction in incidents of colorectal cancer, which showed from approximately five years after the start of treatment. This would equate to 34 fewer deaths from colorectal cancer per 100,000 patients.

The adverse effects of aspirin were also noted with a 37% increase in gastrointestinal bleeding (an extra 68-117 occurrences per 100,000 patients) and between a 32%-38% increase in the likelihood of a haemorrhagic stroke (an extra 8-10 occurrences per 100,000 patients).

Aspirin for Primary Prevention in Men When Cancer Mortality Benefit Added

A research team, including UNC scientists, reports that including the positive effect of aspirin on cancer mortality influences the threshold for prescribing aspirin for primary prevention in men. The benefit of aspirin for cancer mortality prevention would help offset the risks and thus lower the age and increase the number of men for whom aspirin is recommended.

Aspirin May Lower Melanoma Risk

Overall, women who used aspirin had a 21 percent lower risk of melanoma relative to non-users. Each incremental increase in duration of aspirin use (less than one year of use, one to four years of use, and five or more years of use) was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of melanoma. Thus, women who used aspirin for five or more years had a 30 percent lower melanoma risk than women who did not use aspirin. The researchers controlled for differences in pigmentation, tanning practices, sunscreen use, and other factors that may affect skin cancer risk.
Aspirin Every Other Day May Lower Women's Colon Cancer Risk

Taking a low-dose aspirin every other day may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a study that focused on nearly 40,000 women aged 45 and older.

The protection does seem to take some time to surface, said researcher Nancy Cook, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "After 10 years, we started to see an effect," she noted.

"After 18 years of follow-up, we saw a 20 percent reduction in colon cancer over the whole time period," she said. When they looked at the 10-to-18 year mark, the reduction was 42 percent, she said.

Aspirin use = lower risk of death from chronic liver disease

Aspirin use is associated with a decreased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma and death from chronic liver disease (CLD), according to a study published November 28, 2012 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer, occurs mainly among patients with CLD.

Study participants who used aspirin had a 41% reduced risk of HCC and a 45% reduced risk of death from CLD, whereas those who used non-aspirin NSAIDs experienced a 26% reduced risk of CLD mortality but no reduced risk of HCC.

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 and a certain gene mutation. 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.

Aspirin may decrease risk of aggressive form of ovarian cancer

Aspirin May Slow Brain Decline

Aspirin use and the risk of prostate cancer mortality

Study: daily aspirin linked to lower cancer mortality

For the current study, American Cancer Society researchers led by Eric J. Jacobs, Ph.D., analyzed information from 100,139 predominantly elderly participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort who reported aspirin use on questionnaires, did not have cancer at the start of the study, and were followed for up to 11 years. They found daily aspirin use was associated with an estimated 16% lower overall risk of cancer mortality, both among people who reported taking aspirin daily for at least five years and among those who reported shorter term daily use. The lower overall cancer mortality was driven by about 40% lower mortality from cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (such as esophageal, stomach, and colorectal cancer) and about 12% lower mortality from cancers outside the gastrointestinal tract.

The reduction in cancer mortality observed in the current study is considerably smaller than the 37% reduction reported in the recent pooled analysis of randomized trials. The authors note that their study was observational, not randomized, and therefore could have underestimated or overestimated potential effects on cancer mortality if participants who took aspirin daily had different underlying risk factors for fatal cancer than those who did not. However, the study's large size is a strength in determining how much daily aspirin use might lower cancer mortality

Aspirin use responsible for a 57 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer death

Aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids work together to fight inflammation

Statin and Aspirin Use Linked to Improved Survival in Women with Endometrial Cancer

Regular use of low-dose aspirin may prevent the progression of breast cancer

Aspirin reduces risk of Barrett's esophagus & cancer

Aspirin use appears to reduce the risk of Barrett's esophagus (BE), the largest known risk factor for esophageal cancer, according to a new study (July, 2012) in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. Those taking aspirin were 44 percent less likely to have BE.

Aspirin before heart surgery reduces the risk of post-operative acute kidney failure

Aspirin May Guard Against Skin Cancer

Colon Cancer Survival Improves With Aspirin

Colon cancer patients who take aspirin regularly shortly after diagnosis tend to live longer, researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre, the Netherlands, reported in the British Journal of Cancer. (April, 2012) Those taking a daily dose of aspirin for nine months or more after diagnosis had a 30% lower risk of cancer-related death compared to non-users. Even taking aspirin regularly for any length of time reduced the risk of death (by 23%).

Aspirin's potential role in reducing the risk of cancer death

A new report by American Cancer Society scientists says new data showing aspirin's potential role in reducing the risk of cancer death bring us considerably closer to the time when cancer prevention can be included in clinical guidelines for the use of aspirin in preventive care. The report, published early online in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology (April, 2012), says even a 10% reduction in overall cancer incidence beginning during the first 10 years of treatment could tip the balance of benefits and risks favorably in average-risk populations.

Current guidelines for the use of aspirin in disease prevention consider only its cardiovascular benefits, weighed against the potential harm from aspirin-induced bleeding. While daily aspirin use has also been convincingly shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and recurrence of adenomatous polyps, these benefits alone do not outweigh harms from aspirin-induced bleeding in average-risk populations. But recently published secondary analyses of cardiovascular trials have provided the first randomized evidence that daily aspirin use may also reduce the incidence of all cancers combined, even at low doses (75-100 mg daily).

The report says recently published meta-analyses of results from randomized trials of daily aspirin treatment to prevent vascular events have provided provocative evidence that daily aspirin at doses of 75 mg and above might lower both overall cancer incidence and overall cancer mortality.

Why Don't More Women Take a Daily Aspirin to Prevent Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, and evidence-based national guidelines promote the use of daily aspirin for women at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. However, less than half of the women who could benefit from aspirin are taking it,.

Aspirin: High or Low Dose? No significant difference.

Aspirin lowers trans fat-related stroke risk in older women

Older women whose diets include a substantial amount of trans fats are more likely than their counterparts to suffer an ischemic stroke, a new study shows.

However, the risk of stroke associated with trans fat intake was lower among women taking aspirin, according to the findings from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.

The study of 87,025 generally healthy postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 found that those whose diets contained the largest amounts of trans fats were 39 percent more likely to have an ischemic stroke (clots in vessels supplying blood to the brain) than women who ate the least amount of trans fat. The risk was even more pronounced among non-users of aspirin: those who ate the most trans fat were 66 percent more likely to have an ischemic stroke than females who ate the least trans fat.

However, among women who took aspirin over an extended period of time, researchers found no association between trans fat consumption and stroke risk – suggesting that regular aspirin use may counteract trans fat intake's adverse effect on stroke risk among women.

Regular aspirin intake halves hereditary cancer risk

Higher daily dose of aspirin prevents heart attacks

Using information from diabetic patients in these studies, Simpson discovered that patients with previous cardiac episodes who were taking a low dose of aspirin daily had very little benefit in terms of prevention of a second heart attack or a decreased risk of mortality. However, in patients taking higher doses of aspirin, the risk of a repeat heart attack and/or death was significantly lower.

Aspirin reduces the risk of cancer recurrence in prostate cancer patients

After 10-years from completion of treatment, 31% of the men who took aspirin developed recurrence compared with 39% of non-aspirin users. There was also a 2% improvement in 10-year prostate cancer related survival associated with aspirin use

Aspirin may lower the risk of pancreatic cancer

Results showed that people who took aspirin at least one day during a month had a 26 percent decreased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who did not take aspirin regularly. The effect was also found for those who took low-dose aspirin for heart disease prevention at 35 percent lower risk.

Daily Aspirin at Low Doses Reduces Cancer Deaths

A daily low dose of aspirin significantly reduces the number of deaths from a whole range of common cancers, an Oxford University study has found.

The 20% drop in all cancer deaths seen in the study adds new evidence to the debate about whether otherwise healthy people in their 40s and 50s should consider taking a low dose of aspirin each day.

Aspirin is already known to be beneficial for those at high risk of heart disease. But among healthy people, the benefit in lower chances of heart problems only marginally outweighs the small risk of stomach bleeds.

The large size of the effect now seen in preventing cancer deaths may begin to tip the balance in favour of taking aspirin.

The results, published in the Lancet, showed that aspirin reduced death due to any cancer by around 20% during the trials. But the benefits of aspirin only became apparent after taking the drug for 5 years or more, suggesting aspirin works by slowing or preventing the early stages of the disease so that the effect is only seen much later.

After 5 years of taking aspirin, the data from patients in the trials showed that death rates were 34% less for all cancers and as much as 54% less for gastrointestinal cancers, such as oesophagus, stomach, bowel, pancreas and liver cancers.

The researchers also wanted to determine if the benefits from aspirin continued over time. By using cancer registries and death records, they were able to follow up what had happened to participants in three of the trials.

They showed that risk of cancer death over a period of 20 years remained 20% lower for all solid cancers among those who had taken aspirin (even though they would have been unlikely to have continued taking aspirin after the trials finished), and 35% lower for gastrointestinal cancers.

It took about 5 years to see a benefit in taking aspirin for oesophagus, pancreatic, brain, and lung cancer; about 10 years for stomach and bowel cancer; and about 15 years for prostate cancer. The 20-year risk of death was reduced by about 10% for prostate cancer, 30% for lung cancer, 40% for bowel cancer and 60% for oesophagus cancer.

Low dose of aspirin wards off bowel cancer

Even the lowest possible dose of aspirin (75 mg) can ward off bowel cancer, if taken regularly, finds research published online in the journal Gut.

After a year, taking daily low dose aspirin was associated with a 22% reduced risk of developing bowel cancer, and the magnitude of the reduction in risk was cumulative, rising to 30% after five years.

The benefits of aspirin treatment significantly outweigh the risk of a major hemorrhage

The American Heart Association:

“Background— Low-dose aspirin is an important therapeutic option in the secondary prevention of myocardial infarction (MI) and ischemic stroke, especially in light of its unique cost-effectiveness and widespread availability. In addition, based on the results of a number of large studies, aspirin is also widely used in the primary prevention of MI. This review provides an update of the available data to offer greater clarity regarding the risks of aspirin with respect to hemorrhagic stroke, as well as insights regarding patient selection to minimize the risk of this complication.

Summary of Review— In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and ischemic events, the evidence supports that the benefits of aspirin treatment significantly outweigh the risk of a major hemorrhage. The evidence from primary prevention of MI studies, including that from the recent Women’s Health Study evaluation of aspirin use in healthy women, demonstrate that the increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke is small, is comparable to the secondary prevention studies, and fails to achieve statistical significance. A reasonable estimate of the risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with the use of aspirin in primary prevention patients is 0.2 events per 1000 patient-years, which is comparable to estimates of the risk associated with the use of aspirin in secondary prevention patients.

Conclusions— When considering whether aspirin is appropriate, the absolute therapeutic cardiovascular benefits of aspirin must be balanced with the possible risks associated with its use, with the most serious being hemorrhagic stroke.”

Another study ( ) had revealed that the 100 mg dose of aspirin every other day caused a 24 percent drop in the risk of ischemic stroke, which is the more common kind of stroke, and an insignificant increase in the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, hence the overall reduction in stroke risk of 17 percent. .

Aspirin use lowers breast & ovarian cancer risk

Breast Cancer Patients Who Take Aspirin Reduced Risk of Metastasis and Death by Half

An analysis of data from the Nurse’s Health Study, a large, ongoing prospective observational study, shows that women who have completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer and who take aspirin have a nearly 50 percent reduced risk of breast cancer death and a similar reduction in the risk of metastasis.

Aspirin can reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease

Different types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, appear to be equally effective in lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the largest study of its kind published in the May 28, 2008, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Experts have debated whether a certain group of NSAIDs that includes ibuprofen may be more beneficial than another group that includes naproxen and aspirin.

Using information from six different studies, researchers examined data on NSAID use in 13,499 people without dementia. Over the course of these six studies, 820 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found that people who used NSAIDs had 23 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who never used NSAIDs. The risk reduction did not appear to depend upon the type of NSAID taken.

Aspirin at night = significant reductions in blood pressure

Data unveiled at the American Society of Hypertension's Twenty Third Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition (ASH 2008) revealed for the first time that people with prehypertension who are treated with aspirin may experience significant reductions in blood pressure—but only if they take the pill before bedtime, and not when they wake up in the morning.

Aspirin may reduce risk of breast cancer

Aspirin can prevent liver damage that afflicts millions, Yale study finds

Using Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke - U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations

Patients and clinicians should consider risk factors-- including age, gender, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking and risk of gastrointestinal bleeding-- before deciding whether to use aspirin to prevent heart attacks or strokes, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. These recommendations do not apply to people who have already had a heart attack or stroke.

• The USPSTF recommends the use of aspirin for men age 45 to 79 years when the potential benefit due to a reduction in myocardial infarctions outweighs the potential harm due to an increase in gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

• The USPSTF recommends the use of aspirin for women age 55 to 79 years when the potential benefit of a reduction in ischemic strokes outweighs the potential harm of an increase in gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

• The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention in men and women 80 years or older.

• The USPSTF recommends against the use of aspirin for stroke prevention in women younger than 55 years and for myocardial infarction prevention in men younger than 45 years.

Aspirin Improves Survival in Women with Stable Heart Disease, According to WHI Study

Compared to those who did not report taking aspirin, regular aspirin users had a 25 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 14 percent lower risk of death from any cause. There were no significant differences in death rates or other outcomes between women taking 81 mg of aspirin compared to those taking 325 mg.

Benefits of aspirin for treating osteoporosis

Aspirin reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.

Aspirin Better Heart Treatment for Men than Women

Aspirin therapy is a cornerstone in managing heart disease because it inhibits blood clotting. Aspirin therapy can reduce the risk of a nonfatal heart attack or stroke by about 23 percent, and an estimated 20 million men and women take a low dose of aspirin (81-325 mg daily) to control heart disease.

Aspirin Fights Cancer

A daily dose of adult-strength aspirin may modestly reduce cancer risk in populations with high rates of colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer if taken for at least five years.

Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues looked for associations between long-term daily aspirin use (at least 325mg/day) and cancer incidence in a group of nearly 70,000 men and 76,000 women. Aspirin use was determined by a questionnaire.

During the 12 year follow-up, nearly 18,000 men and women in the study were diagnosed with cancer. The researchers found that daily use of adult-strength aspirin for at least five years was associated with an approximately 15 percent relative reduction in overall cancer risk, though the decrease was not statistically significant in women. Additionally, aspirin use was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer and a 30 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer in men and women, compared to people who didn't take aspirin. There was no effect on risk in other cancers examined—lung cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma, leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer. Aspirin use for less than five years was not associated with decreased cancer risk.

Long-term aspirin = reduced risk of dying in women

Women who reported using aspirin currently had a 25 percent lower risk of death from any cause than women who never used aspirin regularly. The association was stronger for death from cardiovascular disease (women who used aspirin had a 38 percent lower risk) than for death from cancer (women who used aspirin had a 12 percent lower risk).

"Use of aspirin for one to five years was associated with significant reductions in cardiovascular mortality," the authors write. "In contrast, a significant reduction in risk of cancer deaths was not observed until after 10 years of aspirin use. The benefit associated with aspirin was confined to low and moderate doses and was significantly greater in older participants and those with more cardiac risk factors."

Aspirin saves lives of cancer patients suffering heart attacks, despite fears of bleeding

Heart attack patients with low platelets who did not receive aspirin had a seven-day survival rate of 6 percent, compared with 90 percent survival in those who received aspirin. Dr. Durand notes that there were no severe bleeding complications in patients who used aspirin. Conversely, patients with low platelet counts who formed a blood clot and were not exposed to aspirin died.

The beneficial effect of aspirin also was seen in patients with normal platelet counts. Seven-day survival was 88 percent in aspirin-treated patients as compared to 45 percent in patients who did not receive aspirin, the researchers found.

Durand observed that these deaths rates are abnormally high. "In the non-cancer patient with acute coronary syndrome anywhere in the United States, an expected seven-day mortality is less than 1 percent," he says.

Low-dose aspirin offers lower chance of asthma

In a large, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 22,071 healthy male physicians, taking a low-dose of aspirin every other day lowered the risk of receiving an initial asthma diagnosis by 22 percent.