Monthly News Updates

September 2012
CHOLINE IN PREGNANCY MAY REDUCE STRESS DISEASES IN CHILD: New research suggests that mothers-to-be taking in choline amounts that are almost twice the recommended level may give birth to an infant with lower cortisol levels, which may improve the response to stress and reduce the risk of some stress-related diseases during the lifetime of the child. Choline at higher levels appears to trigger epigenetic changes that ultimately lead to lower cortisol levels. (Epigenetic changes affect how a gene functions, even if the gene itself is not changed. High levels are linked to problems ranging from mental health to metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.) Choline is available in some foods and in supplements. Top food sources include beef liver, wheat germ, cod, cauliflower, and milk. Current dietary (food) recommendations are 480 mg of choline daily; the study treated some women with 930 mg. Maternal blood, cord blood and placenta tissue were collected to measure the blood levels of cortisol and the expression levels of genes that regulate cortisol; those from mothers who consumed the higher levels of choline showed reduced cortisol. This study was released earlier and then print-published in the August 2012 issue of the FASEB journal. It has now been made available online at with subscription or fee payment.
In an analysis of 143 studies at Loyola University, researchers found that moderate drinking lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by 23 percent.
EVEN MILD DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, HURTS THE HEART: A study has found that even mild depression or anxiety can raise the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes; and the greater the level of psychological distress, the higher the odds of death from heart disease. (Antidepressants, which may improve depression, are themselves linked to a greater risk of heart disease.) The lead researcher suggested that possibly, treatment of these very common, minor symptoms can reduce this increased risk of death. The team analyzed 10 studies of men and women, which included data on more than 68,000 adults aged 35 and older. Each study looked for connections between chronic psychological distress and the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes, including cancer. Even very mild, or subclinical, depression or anxiety raised the risk of all-cause death, including cardiovascular disease, by 20 percent; and even mild psychological distress raised the risk of death from heart disease alone by 29 percent. For high levels of depression or anxiety, the risk of all-cause death rose 94 percent. The link may arise from increased cortisol, chronic inflammation, and unhealthy lifestyle factors. This study was released July 31, 2012 by the British Medical Journal; it is now available online at without cost.
WEIGHT TRAINING CAN REDUCE THE RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES: Researchers have identified a link between a 34 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and participating in weight training exercise for an average of 30 minutes a day, five days a week; and the study team also found that combining daily weight training with aerobic exercise such as running or brisk walking reduces the risk of diabetes by a total of 59 percent. (Previous studies have reported a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes among those who participate in aerobic exercise; but this is the first study to examine the role of non-aerobic weight training in diabetes risk reduction.) The results suggest that weight training can be a valuable alternative for cutting the risk of type 2 diabetes among people who, due to other health issues, are unable to take part in aerobic exercise. It also suggests that people who combine the two can cut their diabetes risk by more than half. This study was first released online August 6, 2012, in advance of print publishing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. The full study can now be read online at with access fee or journal subscription.
Diacetyl, a compound found in margarine, microwave popcorn, and to some extent in fermented beverages such as beer and wine, intensifies the plaque-forming effects of Alzheimer’s disease, reports the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
GRAPEFRUIT JUICE CUTS NEED FOR CANCER DRUG: Scientists have found that a glass of grapefruit juice a day lets patients derive the same benefits from an anti-cancer drug as they would get from more than three times as much of the drug by itself. The combination could help patients avoid side effects associated with high doses of the drug and reduce the cost of the medication. Researchers studied the effects that foods have on the uptake and elimination of drugs used for cancer treatment, and found that eight ounces a day of grapefruit juice slows the body metabolism of a drug called sirolimus, which is sometimes taken by people with cancer. Without taking more drug quantity, patients taking grapefruit juice increased their blood levels of the drug by 350 percent. Grapefruit juice appears to work by inhibiting enzymes in the intestine that break down the drug, and works within a few hours. Drugs are sometimes prescribed to work with cancer drugs so lower doses can be used, lowering side effects; but grapefruit juice has the advantage that it is non-toxic, with no risk of overdose. This study was published in the August 2012 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research. The full-text study is now available online at with access fee or subscription.
TAI CHI SHOWN TO IMPROVE COPD EXERCISE CAPACITY: A study has found that a form of Tai Chi known as Sun-style can be used effectively for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to improve exercise capacity and quality of life in people and may be beneficial as a form of pulmonary rehabilitation. (It is well known that moderate forms of exercise can help COPD patients to improve their exercise tolerance, symptoms of breathlessness and their overall quality of life. This form of Tai Chi has been shown to help people with chronic conditions such as arthritis and involves less difficult movements enabling people of all ages to perform this martial art.) Compared to those completing the standard medical management program for COPD, those completing the Tai Chi exercise training were found to be able to walk significantly longer in a walking test, and had improved scores on a standard quality of life test. The research also found the intensity of the Tai Chi program was moderate, meeting recommendations for COPD patients. This study was released August 9, 2012 ahead of print in the European Respiratory Journal. It has now been made available online at with access fee or subscription.
Studies show that beer raises HDL (good) cholesterol, and in moderation, can lower their risk of heart attacks by up to 40 percent and the risk of stroke by 20 percent.
SMOKING SHARPLY INCREASES RISK OF IMMUNE SYSTEM, BLOOD, AND BONE MARROW CANCERS: Scientists have shown that women who smoke dramatically increase their risk of developing certain cancers of the blood, immune system, and bone marrow; and their risks of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and some bone marrow cancers were doubled by smoking about 20 cigarettes a day; blood cancer risks were also increased among smokers, but to a lesser extent. (The results confirm existing evidence on the impact of smoking on Hodgkin lymphoma, and on the link with other types of lymphoma, leukemia and cancers of the bone marrow. Few people realize that smoking raises the risk of many types of cancer, not just lung cancer, and also the risk of heart attack and stroke. Smoking causes a fifth of all new cancer cases. Half of all long-term smokers die from their habit.) The results are considered especially sound due to the very large number of subjects studied: 1.3 million middle-aged women. The study followed these women for a 10-year period. This study was announced August 9, 2012 and will be published in an upcoming issue of the British Journal of Cancer. It has been made accessible online at with access fee or subscription.
YO-YO DIETING DOES NOT AFFECT METABOLISM OR FUTURE WEIGHT LOSS: Researchers have found that the prevalent habit of repetitive gain and loss of weight, called weight cycling or yo-yo dieting, does not affect future ability to lose weight; and does not affect body metabolism or body composition. (Two thirds of the population is overweight, and half of all women are now trying to lose weight. Obesity increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and many cancers. The relationship between body fat and production of certain hormones and inflammatory markers is believed to increase cancer risk.) This is the first such study, and the study author suggested a history of weight cycling should not deter weight loss efforts. Scientists measured weight loss and physiological outcomes of overweight, inactive women, some with a lifetime history of yo-yo dieting. All subjects followed a 12-month diet and exercise regimen. The program effect was the same for weight cyclers as the controls, in terms of weight loss and body composition. This study was released August 14, 2012 by the journal Metabolism, but will not be published until a future issue. It has now been made available online at with a subscription or access fee.
The idea that shaving causes hair to grow back faster or thicker or darker is really just a old myth.
THOSE WITH TYPE O BLOOD AT LOWEST RISK OF HEART DISEASE: Scientists have found that, compared with those who have type O blood, people with type A, B, or AB have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). The study included over 27,000 men and 62,000 women, who were studied for 24 and 26 years, respectively. (Previous data on this subject were conflicting and this very large study is considered scientifically reliable.) People with type AB blood are at greatest risk of coronary heart disease, with a 23 higher risk than those with type O. People with type B blood have an 11 percent greater risk of CHD than those with type O; and those with type A blood have a 5 percent greater heart disease risk than those with type O. All of the findings were found to be significant associations, meaning they were too substantial to be due to chance variations. The team advised it is best to know your heart disease risk numbers, because you can then reduce that risk by adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as eating right, exercising and not smoking. This study was released online ahead of print in a future issue. It can now be read online at to journal subscribers or those who pay an access fee.
COCOA IMPROVES MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT IN ELDERLY: Scientists have found convincing new evidence confirming previous research showing that regular consumption of cocoa flavanols improves cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or memory decline. (Flavanols are natural compounds that are particularly abundant in cocoa; substantial evidence has shown that consuming cocoa flavanols provides potent antioxidants and helps support healthy circulation and cardiovascular health. Previous studies finding a cognitive benefit were either short-term or failed to show a consistent cognitive improvement.) In the study, test subjects showed significant improvement in scores of cognitive ability and verbal fluency after 8 weeks of consuming a daily drink of cocoa. Cocoa was also shown in the study to beneficially modulate insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and lipid peroxidation. This study was released August 14, 2012 and will be published in a future issue of Hypertension. It can now be accessed online at with access fee or journal subscription.
HIGHER TOTAL DIETARY FAT INTAKE LOWERS MORTALIY FOR MEN, BUT NOT FOR WOMEN: Scientists have concluded that for men, a higher overall intake of fat of all types results in a lower mortality rate generally, as well as a lower risk of death from cancer and other diseases; but they also concluded that this relationship does not hold true for women. (Dietary guidelines generally recommend avoiding a high-fat diet, as well as a diet high in saturated fats. However, the relationship between fat subtypes and mortality remains unclear, especially in a population with a relatively low intake of fat, such as Japan). Focusing on Takayama, Japan, researchers followed a total of 28,356 residents who did not have cancer, stroke, or coronary heart disease, and followed their health parameters for a full 16 years. They found that, in men, a high intake of fat of all types was associated with a decrease in all-cause mortality; and they also found that a high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) alone also decreased death risk among men. Those males who fell within the highest fifth of the population in terms of overall dietary fat intake showed a significant decrease in mortality rates from cancer and from other diseases, although there was no decrease in deaths from cardiovascular disease. Contrasting the men, women who fell within the highest fifth of overall fat intake did not show a decrease in mortality; in fact, women whose intake of specifically saturated fatty acids (SFA) ranked among the highest fifth of the population significantly higher mortality. This study is published in the September 1, 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. It can be accessed online now at with subscription or fee.
High-protein diets and high-carbohydrate diets resulted in the same weight loss in studies that very accurately kept calories the same in each diet.
WOMEN WITH ALZHEIMER’S DETERIORATE FASTER THAN MALE PATIENTS: Scientists have discovered that women with Alzheimer’s disease show greater mental deterioration than men with the disease, even when at the same stage of the condition. (Alzheimer’s disease is the most common progressive condition affecting memory, thinking, behavior and emotion. There are 30 million people in the world with dementia, with 4.6 million new cases every year. Incidence is greater among women than men, with the difference increasing with age.) Surprisingly, female patients also scored lower in verbal skills, which is the opposite of the situation among the general population where women show higher verbal ability than men on average. The reason for the more rapid deterioration of women patients may be due to estrogen loss in women, or it may stem from men having a greater unused cognitive reserve. Further study is needed to explain this difference. This research was a meta-analysis, which combined the observations of 15 different studies. This study was released August 23, 2012, but will not appear in print until an upcoming issue of Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology. It is available online now at without cost.
INADEQUATE SLEEP NEW RISK FACTOR FOR AGGRESSIVE BREAST CANCERS: Scientists have found a link between biologically more aggressive breast cancers and women who get six or fewer hours of nightly sleep. (Short sleep duration has been linked to greater risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This is the first study to suggest a link between cancer the level of aggressiveness of breast cancer and the number of routine sleep hours.) Aggressiveness of cancer was measured using a score known as the Oncotype DX tumor recurrence score, which assigns a tumor recurrence number based on the expression level of 21 genes. More aggressive and recurring breast cancer tumors were observed in women getting the least sleep. All women showing greater cancer aggressiveness with reduced sleep were post-menopausal; there was no correlation in pre-menopausal women. It is well known that there are different mechanisms underlying pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancers. The data suggest that sleep may affect carcinogenic pathway specifically involved in the development of post-menopausal breast cancer, but not pre-menopausal cancer. This study as published in the August 2012 issue of the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, and it has now been made available online at for a fee or subscription.
A Tufts University study found that beer drinkers had a higher bone density than abstainers, but those who drank more than two beers a day increased their risk for fractures.
CALORIE RESTRICTION SHOCKER: CR FAILS TO EXTEND HUMAN LIFESPAN: A 25-year study on rhesus monkeys has found that a calorie restriction (CR) diet, in which 30 percent fewer calories than normal are consumed, does not extend lifespan or reduce age-related deaths in primates, nullifying the promising 2009 results of a 20-year study on the same species. (CR involves substantially reducing daily calorie intake without reducing nutrition. In the 2009 study, investigators found that 13 percent of the dieting group died from age-related causes, compared with 37 percent of the control group. In studies on other species, animals fed 10 percent to 40 percent fewer calories lived 30 percent longer, and in some studies, twice as long. If valid, this longevity effect would’ve translated to a maximum human lifespan of roughly 130 to 150 years.) CR did extend some health aspects in both studies. The 2009 study found that age-related disease, including diabetes, arthritis, diverticulosis and cardiovascular problems, occurred at an earlier age among the control group; the new study found healthier hearts and immune systems and lower rates of diabetes, cancer or other ills.

Since the 1930s, studies on different species have shown that CR extends maximum lifespan, rather than simply increasing lifespan within the normal maximal range; in other words, CR was shown to raise the absolute ceiling to which a healthy member of any species could possibly live. In prior research, conducted on mice, rats, worms, flies and yeast, CR was also shown to produce greater youthfulness, and reduce disease and disability, during the senior years. Yet the longevity effects were not found with certain species of mice, suggesting before now that genetics may play a role in CR. Limited human studies have been underway.

The newest rhesus study found no longevity effect while the earlier rhesus study found a significantly longer lifespan and a lower risk of many age-related diseases among CR monkeys; however, the newest study found a lower cancer risk if CR was begun during adolescence. Scientists speculate the different results may reflect different nutrition and genetics; the primates in the latest study had more diverse genetic origins, and their diet was slightly better, and also included vitamin and mineral supplements. The diet used in the study that showed a CR-longevity benefit was less healthy; so eating less of that diet would produce longevity effects unrelated to calorie restriction itself.

The news is a huge blow to many who believed CR would expand the maximum human life span among practitioners, and those who hoped a single genetic protein or switch might turn on longevity. Scientists will now start looking at CR effects on cell metabolism, gene expression, insulin signaling pathways and other basic biological processes to pinpoint how reducing calorie intake may attenuate the negative consequences of aging. The researchers suggested it is time to realize that better health does not correspond well with longer life, despite entrenched belief. This study was reported August 29, 2012 in the online issue of the journal Nature. It can now be read in full online at with fee or subscription.
WEEKLY CONSUMPTION OF CHOCOLATE MAY HELP PREVENT STROKE IN MEN: Scientists have found that men who fall into the highest 25 percent of weekly chocolate consumption have a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than those who fall into the lowest 25 percent of weekly chocolate consumption. On average this group consumed 63 grams per week, equal to a third of a cup of chocolate chips. This study is the first to find stroke protection tied to weekly consumption rather than overall longer-term intake. (A previous review of five studies found that men who overall consumed the highest levels of chocolate were 19 percent less likely to suffer a stroke relative to men with the lowest consumption levels.) The study author suggested the beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in the cocoa. (Cocoa is the main component of chocolate.) Flavonoids appear to protect against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting, and anti-inflammatory properties, and they may protect against stroke by decreasing blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reducing blood pressure. This research was released August 29, 2012 ahead of later publication in the journal Neurology. It is now available online at with journal subscription or payment of an access fee.
August 2012
CAFFEINATED COFFEE LOWERS RISK OF MOST COMMON FORM OF SKIN CANCER: Researchers report that increased consumption of caffeinated coffee reduces the risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, by 21 percent for women, but only by 10 percent for men. (Basal cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer.) These figures result from a comparison between the fifth of the population consuming the most caffeinated coffee and the fifth consuming less than one cup a month, including those drinking none at all. Scientists also found a similar relationship between a reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma and the ingestion of caffeine from all sources combined, which includes tea, cola and chocolate. Decaffeinated coffee consumption, however, was not associated with a similar decrease in skin cancer risk. Neither caffeine or coffee was linked to a reduced risk of other forms of skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. The results of this study confirm previous published research on mice. This study was released July 2, 2012 by the journal Cancer Research, although it will not be published until a future issue. It is available online now at with access fee or journal subscription.
FIVE CUPS OF COFFEE DAILY LOWERS CHANCES OF IVF SUCCESS: A study has clarified the contradictory results of previous studies concerning the effects of caffeine on the chances of success with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, by finding that the consumption of five cups of caffeinated coffee daily marks the point above which IVF success is diminished, by about 50 percent, and below which it has no effect. (Many studies found no effect of caffeine on IVF results; others suggested an effect; the current study explains the contradiction.) Although coffee was the vehicle of caffeine delivery studied in the almost 4,000 women pursuing IVF treatment, it was the caffeine content in five or more cups of coffee daily that reduced the odds of success; in other words, no effect on IVF success has been observed for decaffeinated coffee. The study described the extent of this effect as “comparable to the effect of smoking,” which has been found in earlier studies to lower IVF success ratio. This study was presented in Istanbul late on July 3, 2012 at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. It will not be published or posted until a later date.
ALGAE EXTRACT INCREASES GOOD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS: A study has found that an extract from algae raises blood levels of the so-called good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein or HDL, something few agents can do, suggesting the algae extract could become an important tool for regulating cardiovascular disease. (Medications for the control of high plasma cholesterol levels, such as statins and numerous dietary supplements, primarily function by lowering levels of the so-called bad cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins, or LDL. Very few agents will raise blood levels of good cholesterol, which lowers cardiovascular risk, in part by carrying cholesterol out of the arterial wall.) In addition to boosted good cholesterol levels, the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol improved significantly. This result was found in hamsters; if replicated in humans, it may decrease the risk of heart disease. The extract used is termed ProAlgaZyme. This study was released ahead of print and has now been made available online at the site of the Journal of Nutrition and Dietary Supplements at without cost.
Despite the famous 5-second rule, food that has been on the floor for 5 seconds is as contaminated as food left much longer, says Loyola University expert Jorge Parada.
TURMERIC LOWERS DIABETES RISK IN PEOPLE WITH PREDIABETES: A component of turmeric, or curcumin, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and improves beta-cell function in adults with prediabetes, according to a new study. Scientists randomly assigned 240 adults with prediabetes to receive oral curcumin or placebo twice a day. After nine months, 16.4 percent of the placebo group were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus. But among the treatment group, none of the subjects was diagnosed with diabetes. Also, curcumin treatment was associated with significantly improved beta-cell function. (Beta cells store and release insulin, a hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood.) There were very few adverse effects. This study was released July 6, 2012, by the journal Diabetes Care. It can be read online at with subscription or fee.
DOGS MAY PROTECT BABIES FROM SOME TYPES OF INFECTION: New research has found that babies who spend more time with pet dogs inside the home are about 30 percent less likely to develop infectious respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal-free; this supports the previous theory that during the first year of life, contacts with animals leads to better greater immune resistance during childhood. The effect was stronger in homes where a pet dog was inside the house for at least six hours a day, and the link was stronger for dogs than cats. The respiratory symptoms observed in the study included cough, wheezing, rhinitis (stuffy or runny nose), and fever. The reason for the link was not clear, but the scientists speculated that the contact with a wider selection of bacteria from exposure to these pets taught maturing immune cells to react differently to bacteria. The improvement was significant, even after researchers ruled out other factors that could boost infection risk, such as not having been breastfed, attending daycare, being raised by smokers or parents with asthma, or having older siblings in the household. This study will be published in a future issue of the journal Pediatrics, but was released online on July 9, 2012. It can be read at without cost.
Dieters are better able to keep off lost weight if they eat a breakfast that includes dessert, according to a study released June 2012.
NUTRIENT COCKTAIL IMPROVES MEMORY IN ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS: Scientists have now confirmed prior research indicating that a particular nutrient cocktail improves memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease patients apparently by stimulating the growth of new synapses, which are key brain connections gradually lost by these patients. The results confirm and expand on the findings of an earlier trial of the nutritional supplement. (The ideal treatment would be block the degradation of synapses, but this cocktail was designed to increase their formation to offset the loss.) The cocktail, originally developed by the same researchers, includes a mixture of three naturally occurring dietary compounds: choline, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, and uridine. Choline is found in meats, nuts and eggs; DHA is found in fish, eggs, flaxseed and meat from grass-fed animals; and uridine is produced by the liver and kidneys and is present in some foods as a component of RNA. These nutrients are precursors to the lipid molecules that, along with specific proteins, make up brain-cell membranes, which form synapses. To be effective, all three precursors must be administered together. Souvenaid is not yet available as a product. Results of the clinical trial were released July 10, 2012 on the website of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Some supplementary data can be accessed at without cost.
People who eat their food quickly are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than those who take their time during meals, reports a June 2012 study.
CHEMICALS IN TOILETRIES LINKED TO DIABETES RISK IN WOMEN: A study found an association between increased body concentrations of phthalates in women and an increased risk of diabetes. (Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals commonly found in personal care products such as moisturizers, nail polishes, soaps, hair sprays and perfumes. They are also used in adhesives, electronics, toys and a variety of other products.) The researchers analyzed urinary concentrations of phthalates in 2,350 women and found that those with higher levels of phthalates were more likely to also have diabetes. They broke these results down by type of phthalate. For instance, participants with the highest levels of mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate had almost twice the risk of diabetes compared to those with the lowest levels of those specific phthalates. The scientists cautioned this does not show high phthalate levels cause diabetes; it could be the other way around, because phthalates are present in some medications and devices used to treat diabetics. More research is needed. This study was released July 13, 2012 in an ahead-of-print issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. An abstract is now available, and the full study will soon be available, at without cost.
SUPPLEMENT BOOSTS BODY PRODUCTION OF PRIMARY ANTIOXIDANTS: Scientists have found that steamed and dried Korean red ginseng promotes increased levels of potent, primary antioxidants naturally produced by the body. (Food antioxidants may help, but it is primarily the production by the body of its own natural antioxidants that provides crucial protection against metabolic damage to body cells and organs. Called primary antioxidants, they include superoxide dismutase or SOD, glutathione peroxidase or GPx, and catalase, which help prevent tissue and organ damage, and accelerated aging.) The researchers divided the participants into three groups. Daily for eight weeks, one group took 10 capsules of 300 mg of Korean red ginseng; the second group took 10 capsules of 600 mg of Korean red ginseng; and the third group took 10 inactive capsules. Supplementation boosted production of primary antioxidants. The high-dose group showed higher levels of superoxide dismutase; and both the high-dose and low-dose groups showed higher levels of glutathione peroxidase and catalase. Both also showed lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol. A special measurement also confirmed decreased DNA damage. This study will be published in a future issue of Nutrition Journal but was released online July 17, 2012. It is available at without cost.
The number one cause of death among the 1.5 million people with AIDS who died last year was tuberculosis.
BINGE DRINKING INCREASES COGNITIVE DECLINE RISK IN SENIORS: Researchers have found that those aged 65 or older who binge drink alcohol twice a month or more are two-and-a-half times more likely to fall into the group experiencing the greatest 10 percent of decline in cognitive function and two-and-a-half times more likely to be in the group experiencing the greatest 10 percent of decline in memory. (Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion. The risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is greater among those who experience cognitive decline. Binge drinking was previously shown to increase the risk of damaging the cardiovascular system, and of developing heart disease.) The research also found that those seniors who binge drink just once a month are 62 percent more likely to be in the group experiencing the greatest 10 percent of decline in cognitive function, and 27 percent more likely to be in the group experiencing the greatest 10 percent of memory decline. Adjustments were made to allow for other known risks for cognitive decline, such as age. (The team also found that the percentage of seniors in the study who participated in binge drinking once a month or more to be 8.3 percent of men and 1.5 percent of women, placing more men at risk; binge drinking twice a month or more was reported to apply to 4.3 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women.) Presented July 18, 2012 at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2012 in Vancouver, this study has not yet been published or posted.
DIETARY ANTIOXIDANTS MAY CUT PANCREATIC CANCER RISK: Researchers have found that higher intake of foods containing antioxidant vitamins C, E, and selenium may help lower the risk of pancreatic cancer by two thirds. If the link turns out to be causal, one in 12 pancreatic cancers might be prevented by increased dietary intake. (Pancreatic cancer kills over 250,000 people annually and has the worst prognosis of any cancer, with a mortality rate of 95 percent; risk factors include genes, smoking, and type 2 diabetes.) Dietary selenium intake in the top 25 percent was linked to a 50 percent drop in risk; combined dietary intake of vitamins C and E and selenium in the top 25 percent was linked to a 67 percent drop in risk. The scientists warned that this link stemmed from an increased intake of these antioxidants from food, but supplements did not produce the same effect. They also warned this is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship; higher dietary intake of these antioxidants and the lower pancreatic cancer risk could both result from a third cofactor. This study, released online July 23, 2012 by the journal Gut, will be published in a future issue. It is accessible now at with journal subscription or fee.
People exposed to second hand smoke show a higher rate of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and a higher body mass index (BMI) than those not exposed, according to a study released in June 2012.
MODERN SEDENTARY LIFESTYLES SHOWN NOT TO BE CAUSE OF OBESITY: A study has essentially disproved the longstanding theory that the current obesity epidemic stems from reduced levels of physical activity between our prehistoric ancestors and modern Western populations, strongly suggesting that obesity is caused simply by increased food consumption. To approximate the daily physical exercise of our earliest ancestors, scientists measured the daily energy expenditure (calories burned per day) among the Hadza, a population of traditional hunter-gatherers living in the open savannah of northern Tanzania. Despite spending their physically demanding days trekking long distances to forage for wild plants and game, the Hadza were found to burn no more calories each day than adults living in the US and Europe. The team ran several analyses accounting for the effects of body weight, body fat percentage, age, and gender. In all analyses, daily energy expenditure among the Hadza hunter-gatherers was indistinguishable from that of Westerners. Finding habitual metabolic rates to be constant across radically diverse lifestyles suggests greater food intake is the underlying cause of obesity, leaving the overweight unable to blame modern job requirements or lifestyles. This study was released July 25, 2012 and the full-text report is now available online at without cost.
Less than 20 percent of people know that smoking can cause leukemia and cancers of the liver, pancreas, bowel, kidney, bladder, cervix, ovary, and stomach, according to a July, 2012 study, while 80 percent know it causes cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, and of course, lung.
LOW VITAMIN D LEVELS LINKED TO HIGHER MORTALITY AMONG OLDER ADULTS: A new study concludes that among older adults, low levels of vitamin D can mean a 30 percent greater risk of death. Also, frail older adults with low levels of vitamin D tripled their risk of death over people who were not frail and who had higher levels of vitamin D. (About 70 percent of North Americans, and up to a billion people worldwide, have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Past studies have separately associated frailty and low vitamin D levels with a greater mortality risk, but this is the first study to look at the combined effect.) The scientists defined frailty as when a person experiences a decrease in physical functioning characterized by at least three of the following five criteria: muscle weakness, slow walking, exhaustion, low physical activity, and unintentional weight loss; people are considered pre-frail when they have one or two of the five criteria. The team suggested that older adults should try to get more exercise outdoors in the sun; and that there is an opportunity for intervention with those who are in the pre-frail group, but who could live longer, more independent lives if they get proper nutrition and exercise. It is important to note that a causal effect could not be ascertained; that is, it is not clear whether frailty resulted from low vitamin D, or whether people became vitamin D deficient due to health problems that made them frail. This study was released July 26, 2012 by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is now available online at with access fee or journal subscription.
People who use one of the online anti-depression programs, MoodGYM or BluePages, have a better quality of life and are better able to recognize and correct future depressive episodes, according to a journal study released July, 2012. (These two anti-depression program sites are available at, and at, respectively).
JULY 2012
BLUEBERRIES SPEED MUSCLE REPAIR AFTER STRESS OF EXERCISE: BLUEBERRIES SPEED MUSCLE REPAIR AFTER STRESS OF EXERCISE: Researchers concluded that consumption of blueberries hastened repair of the normal minor damage incurred during from strenuous exercise. Subjects were given blueberry smoothies before, during, and for two days after the exercise strength tests designed to strain the thigh muscle of one leg. Blood samples were taken to monitor the leg's recovery. Several weeks later, the exercise was repeated on the other leg, but a smoothie without blueberries, and therefore with different polyphenol content, was consumed instead. The blood samples showed that the blueberry smoothie, although possessing the same total antioxidant content as the control smoothie, produced a higher level of antioxidant defense in the blood. This was associated with improved rate of recovery. Scientists stressed the product was whole blueberries, not a supplement; and speculated anthocyanin content caused this result. This research was financed in part by the New Zealand government, but blueberry producers were not involved in any way. This study was released online early by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Although it will be published in a future print issue, it is available online now as a provisional full-text version at without cost.
ANTIOXIDANT REDUCES DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR IN AUTISTIC CHILDREN: Researchers have found that a specific antioxidant, called N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), may reduce irritability and repetitive behavior in children with autism. (A key priority for researchers has been to find new medications to treat the associated symptoms of autism, which include aggression and irritability, often involving throwing, kicking, hitting others. Anti-psychotics are used but can cause adverse effects such as involuntary movements, metabolic syndrome, and weight gain.) The study investigated 31 children aged 3 to 12 years who had autism. The children were given either NAC or placebo for 12 weeks. They took 900 mg daily for 4 weeks, then 900 mg twice daily for 4 weeks, and finally, 900 mg three times daily for 4 weeks. Those taking NAC scored lower on a standard scale of irritability than the placebo group. Results were not quite as effective as standard autism medications but side effects were milder; NAC effects can include decreased appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. However, before NAC can be recommended for children with autism, larger trials are needed in order to verify these results. The study was published in the June 2012 issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry. It is available in its full-text version online now at without cost.
BETWEEN CALCIUM AND HEART ATTACK RISK CLARIFIED: Scientists have completed a large, 11-year study that found that calcium-rich foods lower heart attack risk by 31 percent, while calcium supplements raise heart attack risk by 86 percent. (Over the past decade, calcium pill usage has climbed to the point where it is one of the most popular supplements. Several previous studies found the same results as the current study.) The current study included about 24,000 women aged 35 to 64 and free of heart disease. Researchers tracked the calcium intake from food, from supplements, and from both combined, for 11 years. They found that women who get their calcium exclusively from food, such as dark green leafy vegetables, showed no increased risk of heart attack. But they found that, if needed, calcium pills should be taken with caution, because supplemental calcium appears to cause calcification, or hardening, of the coronary arteries, triggering heart problems. For some reason, calcium consumed as food does not seem to have this negative effect. This study was released early by the journal, Heart. It is available online at, where it can be accessed now without cost.
Women with clinical depression and vitamin D deficiency experienced improved depression after bringing up their vitamin D levels, a study reported June 25, 2012.
PEOPLE DRINKING TOO MUCH WATER, JOURNAL REPORTS: In a review of current water consumption trends, a public health journal reports that our bodies require roughly two liters of overall fluid per day, from all food and beverage sources combined--but not two liters of actual water as commonly believed. Most water needs are satisfied by the water content of food, such as fruits and vegetables, and also from beverages such as coffee, tea and juices. An editorial in the journal suggested that advice to drink two liters of water itself is driven by vested interests that promote the bottled water industry. The investigation refuted the idea, promoted by many, that increased consumption of water causes weight loss; weight loss requires a low-calorie diet, regardless of water consumption. Caffeinated beverages are often said to cause dehydration, but researchers stressed this is untrue; the water content vastly outweighs the very minimal dehydration effect. This study was published in the June 2012 issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. It is now available online to the public at with free registration and payment of an article access fee.
SLEEP-DEPRIVED BRAIN ACTIVATED BY SIGHT OF JUNK FOOD: Scientists have used MRI scans to prove that reward areas of the brain have a specific neuronal response to the sight of unhealthy food during periods of four hours of sleep nightly, resulting in the consumption of more food and more fatty food than during periods of nine hours of sleep nightly. The same, reward-linked regions of the brain were not activated when sleep-restricted subjects were shown healthy food. This suggests a strong link between shorter sleep periods and brain-triggered consumption of unhealthy foods, modulated by the reward mechanism of the brain. (Previous research had shown restricted sleep leads to increased food consumption in healthy people and a self-reported increase in the desire for sweet and salty food after a period of sleep deprivation. The current study provides the brain imaging proof of this neurocognitive connection between greater consumption, higher fat intake and obesity.) This study was presented Sunday, June 10, 2012 in Boston at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. It has not yet been journal-published or posted.
The ancient Tibetan goji berry could help fight blindness caused by long-term diabetes, according to studies conducted by University of Sydney researchers.
SLOW WALKING CAN SIGNAL EARLY DEMENTIA: A slower pace of walking speed in later life has been found in a new study, to signal the early stages of a form of dementia known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study involved 93 people age 70 or older who lived alone, and used a new technique that included installing infrared sensors in the ceilings of homes to detect walking movement in hallways. This new monitoring method gave investigators an accurate idea of how even subtle changes in walking speed may correlate with the development of MCI. Over a three-year period, participants were given memory and thinking tests and had their walking speed monitored at their homes unobtrusively. They were placed in groups of slow, moderate or fast based on their average weekly walking speed and how much their walking speed fluctuated. Researchers found that people with non-memory related MCI were nine times more likely to be in the slow walker group. This research appears in the June 12, 2012, print issue of the journal Neurology. It is available online now at with access fee or subscription to the journal.
MODERN WESTERN DIET MAY TRIGGER COLITIS: Scientists have found that some saturated fats in the modern Western diet trigger events that alter composition of intestinal bacteria, which upsets the immune-bacteria balance; unleashes an unregulated, tissue-damaging immune response; and produces inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There appears to be genetic link to IBD, but researchers found that a second event is often needed to elevate that increased genetic risk to actual disease. That second event may be initiated by lifestyle changes such as environmental triggers or dietary changes. In the mouse study, diets high in concentrated milk fats produced higher inflammatory levels than low-fat diets or diets high in polyunsaturated fats. (Concentrated milk fat is a powdered substance that remains when fat has been separated from butter and dehydrated.) Progress understanding IBD has stressed gene variants that increase risk. But this study puts the focus on changing environmental factors that might trigger IBD in high-risk patients. It is important to remember that this research was conducted on mice. This study was released June 13, 2012 by Nature, although it will not appear in print until a future issue of the journal. It is available online now at with fee payment.
A Journal of the American Medical Association study found that smoking males, smoking females, and nonsmoking males all have a 4 times higher bladder cancer risk than nonsmoking females.
SHOCKER—NEITHER TESTOSTERONE NOR GROWTH HORMONE INCREASE MUSCLES: Two new studies have found that, despite longstanding belief, there is no increase in muscle growth or protein synthesis as a result of testosterone or growth hormone levels. (Bodybuilders have long believed these hormones drive muscle synthesis. But as a Canadian scientist involved in both studies stressed, "That is simply not the case.") First, researchers examined physiological responses of men and women to intense exercise. The bodies of all participants synthesized muscle protein at the same rate despite 45-fold higher testosterone levels among men. Second, scientists analyzed hormonal levels of males following each training episode for five days a week for 12 weeks. Muscle gains ranged from virtually nothing to over 12 pounds, but there was no relationship between individual muscle gain and corresponding testosterone level. Large gains were found as often with lowest testosterone levels as with highest. The first study was published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology and is accessible at with subscription or fee. The second study is published in the July 2012 issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology and is available at cost-free.
ANTIOXIDANT VITAMINS BOOST HEALTH—BUT NOT LIFESPAN: Scientists have concluded that long-term daily supplementation of vitamins known as antioxidant vitamins—commonly believed to reduce health risks associated with free radical damage—does not result in an overall increase in average lifespan; however, questions remained unanswered. (A large 2008 Cochrane Collaboration study had similar findings.) Vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and selenium—which are found mainly in fruits, vegetables and supplements—are considered antioxidant nutrients because of their antioxidant effect. The scientists did no original research, because they used a meta-analysis, a method that combines all the measured observations of all previously published, controlled studies into one set of results, as if they were one large study. This meta-analysis included a total of 296,707 people from 78 separate studies, lasting up to 12 years, using daily dosages that ranged from the lowest levels to levels much higher than those found in the average diet. Daily dosages varied but, at the highest levels, dosages were: 2000 mg vitamin C; 50 mg of beta-carotene; 5,000 IU of vitamin E; 200,000 IU of vitamin A; and up to 200 mcg of selenium. Although lifespan was assessed, health quality was not. (Why higher antioxidant intake, which is generally viewed as beneficial to health, did not result in greater longevity is not clear. However, it is possible that there are negative effects from very high dosages that, in the study, offset the positive effects of optimal dosages; more is not necessarily better, beyond a certain point.) This study was not affiliated with any industry interests; just released by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, it has now been made available online at with access fee.
Real fruit juice holds about the same amount of sugar as sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Reducing either by one cup a day decreases diabetes risk by 7 to 8 percent, found a 2012 Harvard study.
HIDDEN VITAMIN IN MILK YIELDS REMARKABLE BENEFITS: Scientists have found that nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is a compound naturally found in small quantities in milk, triggers accelerated fat burning; and increases energy and muscle performance; and prevents weight gain, even when combined with a high-fat diet and a lack of exercise. NR is a vitamin precursor and cousin to the B vitamin, niacin. It activates a metabolism-boosting gene known as SIRT1, similar in effect to the red wine component resveratrol. NR travels deep inside body cells where it enhances the activity of mitochondria, the energy-producing part of each body cell. By increasing cellular energy in this way, NR protects the body from metabolic syndrome, a condition linked to weight gain and diabetes. The scientists behind this study described NR as "a hidden vitamin," that is "nothing short of astonishing," delivering "the health benefits of a low-calorie diet and exercise—without doing either one." Tested only on mice so far, human studies—and possibly one day, supplement availability—are expected down the road. NR is found in all body cells and in many non-milk foods, but only in very tiny amounts. (Sponsored by both Swiss and Finnish universities, the study was not affiliated with any industry sponsors.) This study will appear in a future issue of the journal Cell Metabolism. It has been released early and is accessible online now at with subscription or fee.
OLIVE OIL LINKED WITH LOWER MORTALITY IN POPULATION STUDY: Researchers have used a population-based survey of over 40,000 people to find an association between the highest consumption of olive oil and a lower mortality rate. (Olive oil consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of several chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease or CVD. However, data on the effects of olive oil on overall mortality are scarce.) In comparison with those who never consumed olive oil, those who consumed the highest levels were associated with a 26 percent lower risk of mortality and a 44 percent reduced risk of dying specifically of CVD. Also, for each increase in olive oil intake of 10 grams per 2000 calories, there was a corresponding decrease of 7 percent in mortality rate and a 13 percent reduction in CVD risk. This provides further evidence on the beneficial effects of one of the key Mediterranean dietary components; but because it is an epidemiological report, the link should not be taken to necessarily be one of cause-and-effect. This study was published in the July 1, 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It has been made available online now at with subscription or access fee.
FATHERS WHO SMOKE BEFORE CONCEPTION DAMAGE OFFSPRING DNA: Scientists have found that men who smoke before conception of their child cause damage to the genes of their offspring that increases the risk of cancer, especially leukemia, and other diseases. (It was previously shown that smoking can cause damage to a fetus during pregnancy, but this is the first study to find that the damaged DNA of male smokers is itself a risk even before conception.) This confirms that smoking is a human gene mutagen, and further reveals that smoke-damaged DNA material can be passed to future generations. Because fertile sperm cells take about three months to fully develop, it would be necessary for future fathers to quit smoking well in advance of conception to avoid passing on damaged genetic material. This study was released online June 22, 2012 on the website of the FASEB Journal, in advance of being published in a future issue. It can be accessed now at with subscription or access fee payment.
LOW VITAMIN D LEVELS LINKED TO HIGHER RISK OF DIABETES TYPE 2: Scientists have found an association between low blood levels of vitamin D in those with prediabetes and the odds of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of related risk factors that often lead to type 2 diabetes or heart disease. (Prediabetes is a condition of high blood sugar levels, not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes, with increased risk of acquiring the diabetes.) People with the highest levels of serum vitamin D showed a 48 percent lower risk of having metabolic syndrome than did those with the lowest vitamin D levels. Researchers measured blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the common way to determine vitamin D levels in the body; adequate levels according to the Institute of Medicine are between 20 and 30 ng per mL. Those with the highest levels, a median of 30.6 ng per mL, were found to have about one half the odds of having metabolic syndrome, compared to those with the lowest levels, whose median was 12.1 ng per mL. This study was presented June 25, 2012 in Houston at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society. It has not yet been published or posted.
Vitamin D3 is significantly better than vitamin D2 at raising blood levels of the active form of vitamin D, reports a study in the June 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
NUT-RICH, LOW-CALORIE DIET REDUCES WEIGHT AS WELL AS LOW-CAL DIET: Scientists have found that an almond-enriched diet with produced the same weight loss after 18 months as a low-calorie diet; the almond-enriched diet produced slightly less weight loss after six months but showed improved blood fats profiles. (Increased nut consumption has been advocated due to health benefits, but their high-calorie content has prompted concern they may not be appropriate for obese individuals.) This study enlisted overweight and obese individuals who were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group followed a low-calorie diet completely free of nuts while the other group pursued a low-calorie diet but also consumed a substantial intake of almonds. After six months, the nut-free diet had produced a weight loss of 16.28 pounds while the almond-enriched diet produced a significantly lower weight loss of 12.1 pounds. However, the almond group were also found to have greater reductions in total cholesterol, HDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides compared to the nut-free group. After 18 months, weight loss had become equal among the two groups, as did lipid profiles. Released June 27, 2012, this study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It can be accessed online now at without cost.
VEGETABLE-RICH DIET REDUCES RISK OF PANCREATITIS: A study has determined that individuals who consume more than four servings of vegetables a day are 44 percent less likely to develop acute pancreatitis than people who eat one serving a day, although the same relationship was not found for higher fruit intake. (Acute pancreatitis, sometimes life-threatening, is the sudden onset of inflammation of the pancreas that sometimes causes a pain behind the breastbone, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea; it can be caused by gallstones, alcohol misuse, infection, autoimmune response, or digestive enzymes being activated too early, inside the pancreas where they are produced.) The study of 80,000 adults sought to find out if an imbalance in antioxidant levels, associated with dietary factors, increased the risk. Earlier studies have associated acute pancreatitis with excessive production of free radicals; also, levels of antioxidant enzymes that remove free radicals often are increased during an attack. The failure to find a lower risk with higher fruit intake reinforces earlier research linking fructose with free radical production. This study was released ahead of print by the journal Gut, and will appear in a future issue. It is available to read online now at with subscription or fee.
The average cheeseburger portion in the US 20 years ago had 333 calories, compared to many today that provide over 600 calories.
June 2012
APARTMENT DWELLERS OFTEN AFFECTED BY UNWANTED TOBACCO SMOKE: A study has found that one third of apartment dwellers are regularly subjected to unwanted cigarette smoke in their buildings. Tenants with children were 50 percent more likely to be subjected to smoke in the building. Researchers excluded from the study, anyone in whose apartment someone had smoked during the previous three months. Scientists reported that 26 percent were subjected to smoke within their building. When they included only apartment dwellers with children living at home, they found that a greater proportion, 41 percent, was subjected to smoke. Of those subjected to smoke within their building, half of these people were subjected to cigarette smoke within their own apartments, despite the absence of smokers in their home. About 12 percent of subjects encountered the cigarette smoke of others within their apartment building on a daily basis. The lead study author reported that this exposure is sufficient to place children, and those with some health conditions, at risk for respiratory diseases and illness. Presented in Boston at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies on May 1, 2012, this study has not yet been published or posted online.
FAT-FIGHTING EFFECTS OF BLACK PEPPER REVEALED: A study has finally explained the long-known ability of black pepper, and the component known as piperine that gives it its characteristic taste, to block the formation of new fat cells, and help promote healthy weight. (Previous studies had shown that piperine reduces fat levels in the bloodstream and has other beneficial health effects. Black pepper and the black pepper plant have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine to treat gastrointestinal distress, pain, inflammation and other disorders. However, scientists have known little about how piperine works at the molecular level.) The scientists used lab studies and computer models to learn that piperine interferes with the activity of genes that control the formation of new fat cells. In this way, piperine may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps keep fat in check in other ways. This finding may lead to wider use of piperine or black-pepper extracts in fighting obesity and related diseases. Published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, this study has now been made available online at without cost.
OMEGA-3 FOODS MAY REDUCE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S: Scientists have linked eating foods containing omega-3 fatty acids with lower blood levels of amyloid beta, a protein strongly related to Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems. (The plaques and tangles that are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are actually clumps of this amyloid beta. While amyloid serves positive functions in the body, the amyloid mechanisms are out of control in a person with Alzheimer’s disease, and their levels are very high.) The study investigated beta-carotene, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin E, omega-6, saturated fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 was the only nutrient that showed an association with lower amyloid levels. A 2010 study showed a 40 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease among those who ate more foods with high levels of omega-3, although the reason was not clear; this new study suggests higher omega-3 levels reduce levels of the protein involved in the disease process. Non-fish sources of omega-3 include kale, tofu, soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and supplements. This study was released online May 2, 2012, but will not appear until a future issue of the journal Neurology. It is accessible online at with access fee or subscription.
Vitamin D3 is significantly better than vitamin D2 at raising blood levels of the active form of vitamin D, reports a study in the June 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
EXPOSURE TO DAYLIGHT HELPS PREVENT SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS: Scientists have finally explained the extreme differences among different countries in terms of the number of cases of myopia, also called short-sightedness; and that difference is the degree of regular exposure to daylight and the sun. (Up to 90 percent of students in East Asia--in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea--have myopia, but only 2 to 3 percent of students in Africa.) The cause was not genetics, nutrition, or time spent reading or working on a computer; only increased time spent indoors was directly related to myopia, with East Asian students commonly spending their entire day inside school. The vitamin D in sunlight was not a factor either. Daylight itself was found to stimulate release of dopamine, a chemical known as a neurotransmitter. Higher levels of dopamine help to prevent the eyeball from growing to be elongated, which is what causes the distorted focus of myopia. The scientists reported that children spending about 2 to 3 hours outdoors each day were “probably reasonably safe.” This study was published in the May 5, 2012 issue of the journal, The Lancet. It can be accessed online at with payment of an access fee or a journal subscription.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT SHOWS PROMISE AGAINST AMD BLINDNESS: Uncontrolled case studies have tentatively shown that a non-prescription nutraceutical medicine, used by the researchers as a last resort in serious cases of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, may be able to restore vision to patients facing permanent loss of sight. (AMD is a disorder in which abnormal blood vessels grow inside the visual center, or macula, of the eyes.) AMD patients undergoing standard drug injections cannot risk their progress by switching to an alternative treatment; also, some supplements such as resveratrol, can interfere with certain medicines. However, in a few cases of patients over 75 for whom drug injections had not proved effective, researchers administered an experimental oral supplement. This branded formulation contains trans resveratrol, vitamin D, quercetin, rice bran phytate, and ferulic acid. This product may beneficially switch numerous genes off or on, notably the sirtuin 1 DNA repair “survival” gene, which is an effect that mimics calorie restriction diets. This was not a scientific study, because there was no placebo control. But improvements were seen in 16 out of the 17 patients, and vision was restored to one patient within 5 days. Three of these cases were detailed in a presentation in Fort Lauderdale on May 6, 2012, at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. The researchers warned that AMD patients should consult a health practitioner before taking this supplement or changing their prescribed therapy. The study has not been published or posted, but a brief abstract is available at
A short 20 years ago, the average cheeseburger portion in North America contained 333 calories, while many cheeseburgers today deliver over 600 calories.
BLUEBERRIES SPEED MUSCLE REPAIR AFTER STRESS OF EXERCISE: Researchers concluded that consumption of blueberries hastened repair of the normal minor damage incurred during from strenuous exercise. Subjects were given blueberry smoothies before, during, and for two days after the exercise strength tests designed to strain the thigh muscle of one leg. Blood samples were taken to monitor the leg’s recovery. Several weeks later, the exercise was repeated on the other leg, but a smoothie without blueberries, and therefore with different polyphenol content, was consumed instead. The blood samples showed that the blueberry smoothie, although possessing the same total antioxidant content as the control smoothie, produced a higher level of antioxidant defense in the blood. This was associated with improved rate of recovery. Scientists stressed the product was whole blueberries, not a supplement; and speculated anthocyanin content caused this result. This research was financed in part by the New Zealand government, but blueberry producers were not involved in any way. This study was released online May 7, 2012 by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Although it will be published in a future print issue, it is available online now as a provisional full-text version at without cost.
EATING FAST LINKED TO TWICE THE RISK OF DIABETES: A study has found that people who eat fast are 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes than those who take their time eating. It is important to note that this link does not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Researchers also found that those with diabetes were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and a much lower level of education. The findings were presented May 9, 2012 at the joint International Congress of Endocrinology and European Congress of Endocrinology in Florence, Italy. It has not yet been published or web-posted. To lower the risk of diabetes, there are steps that can be taken, which are outlined at the website of the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at
Taking prenatal vitamin supplements early in pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of miscarriage, according to a study from the University of North Carolina.
ONE IN SIX CANCERS CAUSED BY INFECTIONS: Researchers have concluded that two million cases of cancer per year worldwide, or one sixth of all cancer cases, are caused by infections of viruses, bacteria, and parasites; and that the infection-triggered cancers are one of the largest and most preventable cancer groups. The study examined statistics for 27 cancers in 184 countries. It was found that, of the 7.5 million cancer deaths annually, 1.5 million of those deaths occurred as a result of a cancer triggered by infection. Many of those infections were estimated to have been preventable or treatable. This means that, although cancer is generally considered a major non-communicable disease, a sizable proportion of cancers are in fact, infectious. Most infection-related cancers were cervical, gastric, or liver cancer. In women, cervical cancer accounted for half of all cancers; in men, gastric and liver cancer accounted for 80 percent of cancers. The scientists suggested that greater adherence to public health measures intended to prevent the spread of infections could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer internationally. Examples of cancer-causing infections include helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human papillomaviruses. This study will be published in a future issue of the journal, The Lancet Oncology. However, it is accessible online now at with subscription or access fee.
DID YOU KNOW…?A recent study in Diabetes Care found that a greater variety of fruits and vegetables was linked to a much greater reduction in the risk of diabetes than a higher number of servings.
NUTRITION BAR FORMULATION LOWERS RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: Scientists have found that twice-daily consumption of a specially formulated nutrition bar results in improved biological factors linked to protection against cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and oxidative stress, within two weeks. The nutrition bar was developed by prominent biochemist Bruce Ames and a team at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture. The goal was to produce a nutrient-dense food to promote optimum health among those with imperfect diets. It has a specific, defined composition that is low in calories, and high in fruit, fiber, vitamins, minerals, polyphenolics, beta-glucan, and the omega-3 fat, docosahexaenoic acid. Consumption over two weeks increased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and decreased levels of homocysteine, changes associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Regular consumption also increased levels of glutathione, associated with greater antioxidant capacity. Two other bars were developed to improve insulin resistance, inflammation, and LDL (bad) cholesterol. The team hopes to combine all three bars into one. This study will appear in the August 2012 issue of FASEB, the experimental biology journal. However, it is available online now at with subscription or fee.
A May 17, 2012 epidemiological study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that drinking two to three cups of coffee daily, whether caffeinated or decaf, regardless of type, lowers the risk of dying, at any age, by 10 percent for men—and by 13 percent for women.
ITAMIN K2 MAY UNDO THE EFFECTS OF PARKINSON’S: Scientists have shown that vitamin K2 can revitalize the mitochondria within cells, which might prove effective in undoing the effects of a genetic deficiency that leads to Parkinson’s disease. (Mitochondria are the energy-producing units within cells. In Parkinson’s patients, certain genetic mutations disrupt the activity of mitochondria and the transport of electrons. As a result, the mitochondria no longer produce sufficient intracellular energy, causing cells in certain parts of the brain to die off. This disrupts communication among neurons, causing Parkinson symptoms.) When researchers bred fruit flies to have the same genetic defects as Parkinson’s patients, the flies developed defective mitochondria, which generated insufficient energy to allow them to fly. When these flies were given vitamin K2, electron transport in their mitochondria improved; mitochondrial energy production was restored; and their ability to fly improved. This shows that vitamin K2 restores defective mitochondria; and defective mitochondria are the direct cause of Parkinson’s symptoms. Vitamin K2 is found in meat, eggs, dairy, and supplements. This study was released on May 12, 2012. It will appear in a future issue of the journal Science, but is accessible online now at with subscription or access fee.
SHORT-TERM RELIEF FROM AIR POLLUTION BOOSTS HEART HEALTH: Scientists have found that airborne pollution is linked to mechanisms for cardiovascular disease, and that even a short-term reduction in exposure to air pollution, lasting only a couple of months, results in measurable improvements in cardiovascular health. The Chinese government shut down factories and traffic during the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics to meet its commitment to reduce its massive pollution levels to qualify to host the international games. Nonsmoking, disease-free subjects were assessed twice before the July 20 shutdown, twice again during the shutdown, and another two times after the September 17 resumption of normal pollution-generating activities. The researchers measured changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and biomarkers for systemic inflammation and blood coagulation. During the brief period of reduced air pollution, blood coagulation factors were reduced as well as blood pressure, and these cardiovascular disease factors increased again very shortly after the return to normal pollution levels. This study was released May 16, 2012 by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Although it will not appear in print until a future issue of the journal, the full study can be read online at without cost.
Some young people today think GMO means “genetically modified organic,” according to one online journalist who had been interviewing young people about genetically modified foods.
TIMING OF MEALS OFFERS NATURAL PROTECTION AGAINST DIABETES, OBESITY: A study has found that an extended daily fasting period, keeping all eating within the normal overall mealtime range, overrides a high-fat diet and prevents obesity, diabetes and liver disease. In other words, extending the normal period of time between the first and last meal of the day appears to be the prime underlying reason for metabolic changes that cause a high-fat diet to produce high levels of blood sugar, elevated cholesterol, liver damage, and weight gain, regardless of calorie intake or fat intake. Surprisingly, high consumption of fat or calories did not negatively affect blood glucose or weight so long as eating was strictly confined to an eight-hour period of the day, with zero consumption during the extended daily fasting period between the last meal and the first. The study showed that the body makes and stores glucose and fat throughout the period between first and last meal, but halts production and storage during the fasting period, regardless of overall fat or calories consumed. This implies that low-fat and low-calorie diets may have far less beneficial impact on health than previously believed; it suggests that it is, instead, the total number of consecutive hours of fasting during each day that lowers metabolic risks for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. After many hours without eating, the liver turns on enzymes that shut down sugar production, convert cholesterol to bile acids, burn fat, reduce fat accumulation in the liver, down-regulate inflammation, improve motor coordination, promote nutrient homeostasis, repair damaged cells, activate gene signaling pathways, and build new DNA. Spreading intake of the same number of calories over a longer portion of the day, or snacking after the last meal of the day, may yet prove to be the prime cause for the current epidemics of obesity and metabolic syndrome, as well as cardiovascular disease and liver steatosis. This study publishes in the June 6, 2012 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism. It can now be accessed online at with subscription or fee.
DID YOU KNOW…?Wind farms in the US kill more than 400,000 birds a year, including many eagles. By 2030, that mortality is expected to reach one million annually.
The component piperine that gives black pepper its characteristic taste, blocks the formation of new fat cells, according to a recent study.
CHILDHOOD ETS RISKS PERSIST WELL INTO ADULTHOOD: Scientists have discovered that the already known health risks to children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) result in greater prevalence of respiratory problems, chronic lung deficits, asthma, wheeze, chronic bronchitis, cough, and chronic cough that persists well beyond childhood and throughout adulthood, and that these effects occur regardless of whether these children later take up smoking themselves. Chronic bronchitis is a significant risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) development in late life; the researchers concluded that children who enter adulthood with bronchitis as a result of early-life exposure to ETS, have greater odds of acquiring COPD as seniors. Researchers have warned of the health risks of passive smoke, especially among children of smoking parents; but this is the first study to prove these risks last a lifetime. Future studies are needed to determine possible synergistic effects of personal smoking and exposure to parental smoking on the risk of COPD mortality in middle to late adult life. This study was presented for the first time on May 20, 2012 at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Francisco. It has not yet been published or posted online.
LOW DIETARY VITAMIN D LINKED TO STROKE: An epidemiological study has concluded that for men, an overall lower vitamin D intake from food sources is an independent risk factor for having a stroke or a thromboembolic stroke over a 34-year period. (Vitamin D deficiency has been reported in limited studies to increase cardiovascular disease risk, especially the risk of stroke. Further study has been needed.) The association between low dietary levels of vitamin D and stroke was found in Japanese-American men aged 45 to 68 years. Compared to those in the quarter of the population with the highest food intake of vitamin D, men in the lowest quarter showed a 22 percent greater risk of having a stroke over the 34-year follow-up and a 27 percent higher chance of having a thromboembolic stroke. No association was found between food-sourced vitamin D intake and hemorrhagic strokes. Further study is required to assess whether vitamin D supplements would help prevent strokes; also, studies are needed on women. This study was posted online May 24, 2012, at the website of the journal Stroke. It will be published in a future issue. It is available online at now with fee or subscription.
SOLVENTS AT WORK TIED TO COGNITIVE PROBLEMS IN LESS-EDUCATED: A study has found that occupational exposure to solvents is associated with reduced thinking skills later in life among those who have less than a full high school education. The study involved 4,134 people who worked at the French national gas and electric company, most of whom worked there for their entire career. Lifetime exposure to four solvents was assessed: chlorinated solvents, petroleum solvents, benzene, and non-benzene aromatic solvents. Only 16 percent of those with higher education had cognitive impairment, compared to 32 percent of those who did not complete high school, even if they had the same amount of exposure to solvents. Compared to higher-educated people, those with lower education levels showed a 14 percent greater chance of cognitive problems from long-term exposure to chlorinated and petroleum products; a 24 percent greater chance of impairment from benzene; and a 36 percent greater chance of cognitive problems from exposure to non-benzene aromatic solvents. It is possible that education builds greater cognitive reserve to function despite damage. This study was published in the May 29, 2012 issue of the journal, Neurology. It can be accessed at with access fee or subscription.
Combined with diet and lifestyle changes, red yeast rice supplements can lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol by 20 per cent, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
TART CHERRIES HAVE HIGHEST ANTI-INFLAMMATORY EFFECT OF ANY FOOD: A study has found that tart cherries greatly reduce inflammation, especially for people afflicted with joint disease and arthritis (Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and is characterized by inflammatory pain.) The researchers reported tart cherries to be superior to all other foods in both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In a study of women aged 40 to 70 with osteoarthritis, the researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers, most especially for women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study. Responsible for the bright red color of tart cherries, antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins have been specifically linked to high antioxidant capacity and reduced inflammation, at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications. In a past study, in 2010, subjects who drank tart cherry juice while training for a long distance run reported significantly less pain after exercise than those who did not. This study was presented May 30, 2012 in San Francisco at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine conference. It has not yet been published or made available online.
May 2012
BMI MEASURE HAS GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATED OBESITY RATES: A study has found that despite the common estimate that about 35 percent of people are obese, the percentage is actually about 64 percent when measured properly, using a type of x-ray scan instead of the usual, outdated height-weight formula known as body mass index or BMI, with rates for men similarly underestimated. The study used a body scan known as the dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan or DXA, a direct simultaneous measure of body fat, muscle mass, and bone density. In fact, some people classed obese using the BMI index would not be obese using the scan, because it is the proportion of the body made up of fat that determines obesity, not muscle mass; the BMI index does not take muscle and fat proportions into account. But using the DXA, as many as 39 percent of those people classed by their BMI number to be merely overweight, get shifted into the obese category when assessed by the more accurate DXA scan of their muscle, bone and fat proportions. This study was published online April 2, 2012 by the journal PloS ONE, and is accessible online now at without cost.
CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES IMPROVE BREAST CANCER SURVIVAL: Researchers have found that greater consumption of cruciferous vegetables during the 36 months following a breast cancer diagnosis is associated with a lower risk of mortality from breast cancer, lower risk of mortality from all causes, and lower risk of breast cancer recurrence. (The cruciferous vegetable family includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and others.) The study included 4,886 women diagnosed with breast cancer ranging from stage 1 to stage 4. The improved survival rates with greater cruciferous intake were dose-dependent, meaning scientists found no cutoff point for benefit: every increase in intake was linked to reduced mortality. It is important to note the difference in cruciferous choices between Western countries and the location of the research, which was China. The most commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables in China include turnips, Chinese cabbage (bok choy) and greens; in Western countries, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are the more commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables. The level of beneficial bioactive compounds such as isothiocyanates and indoles do vary by type of cruciferous item. This study was presented April 3, 2012 in Chicago at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. It has not yet been published or posted.
HIGH-FAT DIET CAUSES ARTERY DAMAGE IN JUST SIX WEEKS: A study has concluded that consumption of a high-fat diet results in damaging changes in the arteries in just six weeks, far more quickly than previously imagined. While most experts have assumed that it takes years of a high-fat intake to produce the mechanical and structural changes that lead to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, research on rodents showed that these changes were clearly evident at just six weeks. The smaller (thoracodorsal) arteries showed increased stiffness, while the larger (carotid) arteries did not lose their flexibility during this short period. All arteries, however, showed certain negative structural changes. This research suggests that the earliest stages of obesity trigger cardiovascular disease; that serious artery damage from a high-fat diet targets the smaller arteries first; and, above all, that cardiovascular damage from a high-fat diet can begin rapidly, in just six weeks. Released early, this study will be published in a future issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research. It has now been made available online at with subscription to the journal or payment of an access fee.
Healthcare and social costs of smoking are $193 billion annually in the US alone, greater than the $150 billion cost of not exercising, reported the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
EXCESS BODY WEIGHT LINKED TO PROSTATE CANCER RECURRENCE: Scientists have uncovered a link between a higher level of excess body weight, as measured by the body mass index (BMI), and an increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence. The risk for prostate cancer recurrence was judged based on blood prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, physical exams and prostate cancer biopsy results. The higher prostate cancer risk was not limited to obese men, but was found in increasing BMI levels in overweight men as well. Men whose BMI placed them in the upper 25 percent of the population were nearly 8 times more likely to have prostate cancers that had a moderate-to-high risk for recurrence after treatment compared with men whose BMI was in the lower 25 percent of the population. The recurrence rate increased directly as the BMI increased. The researchers stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life. This study was presented April 4, 2012 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago. It has not yet been published in a journal or posted online.
BERRIES REDUCE PARKINSON’S RISK: Scientists have found that men who regularly consume flavonoids-rich foods may significantly reduce their risk for developing Parkinson’s disease, but no such effect protection was found among women. (Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds, including anthocyanins, present in many plant foods and drinks, including berries, apples, certain vegetables, tea and red wine. Parkinson’s is a neurological disease caused by the death of certain brain cells, resulting in insufficient dopamine, which affects ability to control movement.) In this research, the main protective effect appeared to come from a subclass of flavonoids known as anthocyanins, which are present in berries such as blackcurrants and blackberries, and in other fruits, and in certain vegetables, such as aubergines.) The study adds weight to the growing body of evidence that regular consumption of certain flavonoids may lower the risk for developing a wide range of human diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia, and some cancers. However, it is the first to show the compounds may protect neurons against brain diseases such as Parkinson’s Released early by the journal Neurology, this study will appear in a future issue but is available online now at with subscription or access fee.
Elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease who get infections in places outside the brain may double their degree of memory loss, reports the journal Neurology.
NEW DATABASE REVEALS FOODS MOST PRONE TO FOOD FRAUD: Scientists have compiled and released the first known public database combining reports on food fraud that employed specialized analytical detection methods, and it highlights the most fraud-prone ingredients in the food supply. (Food fraud pertains to those items that are deliberately mislabeled, or have been adulterated with other ingredients, for economic gain.) Based on a review of records from scholarly medical journals, the top seven adulterated ingredients in the database include orange juice, coffee, and apple juice, but the most commonly adulterated foods are olive oil, milk, honey, and saffron. The most potentially dangerous issues with food fraud included spices that had been diluted with lead chromate and lead tetraoxide; substitution of Chinese star anise with toxic Japanese star anise; and melamine adulteration of high protein content foods, including pet foods. The high-tech analytical techniques included high-performance liquid chromatography, and infrared spectroscopy. The research compiles journal studies from 1980 to 2010. This complete report is now accessible online at with subscription to the Journal of Food Science or payment of an access fee. It was also published in the April 2012 issue of that journal.
TOO LITTLE OR DISRUPTED INTERNAL CLOCK INCREASES DIABETES RISK: Scientists have learned that short sleep duration, or sleep that disrupts the circadian clock, impairs glucose regulation and metabolism, possibly increasing the risk of obesity or diabetes. Volunteers were tested in labs for over five weeks. Sleeping only 5.6 hours a day, in conjunction with sleeping at a variety of times during each day, was seen as equivalent to a shift worker who has trouble getting sufficient sleep by day in addition to sleeping at a time not in keeping with his normal circadian sleep rhythm; it is also similar to repeated jet lag. People who maintained this regime for three weeks developed a lower metabolic rate and a higher level of blood sugar after meals, which is the normal result of the pancreas producing an insufficient supply if insulin. This pattern can increase the risk of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes. This research is considered superior to epidemiological studies of larger populations, because there was a controlled intervention allowing a before-and-after measurement. This study was published online April 11, 2012 by the journal, Science Transactional Medicine. It has now been made available online at with subscription or fee.
Unlike the spice itself, high-strength turmeric extracts inhibit the accumulation of amyloid, a protein fragment considered to be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, reports the journal Current Alzheimer’s Research.
PHTHALATES LINKED TO DIABETES RISK: Researchers have found a link between moderate exposure of seniors to chemicals known as phthalates, found in cosmetics and plastics, and a doubling of their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although they warned that further studies are needed to draw conclusions. They also found that certain phthalates were associated with disrupted insulin production in the pancreas. It was not apparent what biological mechanisms might underlie these connections. (Most people come into daily contact with phthalates because they are used as softening agents in plastics and as carriers of perfumes in cosmetics and self-care products.) As expected, diabetes was more common among participants who were overweight and had high blood-fat levels. But the study of 1,000 people also found a connection between blood levels of some phthalates and increased prevalence of diabetes even after adjusting for obesity, blood lipids, smoking, and exercise. Individuals with elevated phthalate levels had roughly twice the risk of developing diabetes compared with those with lower levels. This study was released April 12, 2012 and will be published in a future issue of the journal Diabetes Care. Meanwhile, it is available online at with journal subscription or article access fee.
AIR POLLUTION INCREASES RISK OF HOSPITALIZATION FOR LUNG, HEART DISEASE: Researchers have found that long-term exposure to a type of air pollution, known as fine particles, increases the risk of being hospitalized as an older adult, for heart disease, pneumonia, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. This is the first study to look at the link between long-term effects of exposure to fine particles in the air and rates of hospital admission. Prior studies have reported an association between hospitalization and exposure to air particles on day of hospital admission or several days before, leaving unclear how many extra admissions occurred in the long run; they also included primarily urban patients. The researchers estimated concentrations in different geographical areas, of fine air particles known as PM2.5, which are air matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. This is narrower than a human hair and includes particles such as soot from vehicles, wood burning, and certain industrial processes. They can be quite risky when they lodge in the lungs, causing inflammation there and in the rest of the body, and contributing to lung and heart disease. This research was published online April 17, 2012 in the journal PLoS ONE. The full-text study is accessible online at without charge.
Supplementing with 400 mcg of folic acid daily for 16 weeks lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow in those with peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study in the British Journal of Surgery.
VITAMIN C MODERATELY LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE: A review and meta-analysis of studies has found that supplemental doses of vitamin C has some effect on high blood pressure, although the benefit is moderate and further study is required. (Other non-drug hypertension interventions include exercise, weight loss, and reduced salt intake. A meta-analysis amalgamates previous results.) Of 29 trials, the median dose was 500mg of supplemental vitamin C, median duration of supplementation was 8 weeks, and the number of test participants was 10 to 120. Overall, there was a mild average lowering of systolic blood pressure, the upper blood pressure number, of 3.84 mm Hg; diastolic blood pressure, the lower number, dropped by an average of 1.48 mm Hg. Singling out those persons who had been diagnosed hypertension, there was a more significant decrease in systolic pressure of 4.85 mm Hg, and a decrease in the diastolic reading of 1.67 mm Hg. The 500 mg average dose of vitamin C is equivalent to 6 cups of orange juice. This study was released early and is published in the May 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is accessible now at with a fee or journal subscription.
CHILDREN EXPOSED TO TOO MUCH HARMFUL BACKGROUND TV: Researchers have concluded that children from the age of 8 months to 8 years are being exposed to a surprisingly high 4 hours per day of harmful background TV noise. (Previous research has shown that children with a high exposure to background TV noise have been linked to poor performance in cognitive and reading tasks. This is the time spent in the presence of TV noise at a time when the child is not actively watching TV.) The study found that exposure to harmful amounts of background TV was more common among the younger children and among Asian-American children. This study will be presented May 24, 2012 at the annual conference of the International Communication Association in Phoenix. The study team stressed that the finding should be a warning to parents and daycare providers to shut off the television when no one is watching, and consider the consequences of having a television in the bedroom of a child. The full study is not accessible, because it has not yet been published or posted online.
As many as one in 10 people are estimated to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is characterized by abdominal pain.
NEEM TREE EXTRACTS MAY BLOCK SPREAD OF HIV VIRUS WITHIN THE BODY: Preliminary results suggest there are compounds in neem tree extracts that target a protein essential for HIV to replicate. (Extracts from the leaves, bark and flowers of the neem tree are used in India as an alternative medicine to fight against pathogenic bacteria and fungi; the tree grows in India and East Africa.) Two earlier studies had shown that when HIV-AIDS patients in Nigeria and India were given neem extracts, the amount of HIV particles in their blood dropped. This study investigated further, first by making computer models of the HIV proteins key to the life cycle of the virus. Then, investigators also modeled 20 compounds present in various types of neem extracts. The research team discovered that most of the neem compounds attacked the HIV protease, a protein essential for making new copies of the virus. The scientists are now working on test-tube experiments to see if actual neem compounds have the same effect suggested by the computer models. This study was presented at the April 22, 2012 session of the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego. It has not yet been posted or published.
DARK CHOCOLATE MAY IMPROVE CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS: Researchers have concluded that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving levels of blood sugar and profiles of fats, although it must be eaten in moderation, because it can easily increase daily intake of saturated fat and calories. (Dark chocolate contains higher levels of flavanols than milk chocolate. Animal studies suggest that flavanols may improve chronic inflammation, blood vessel health, and circulating lipid levels. However, few controlled human intervention studies have been conducted.) In the study, dark chocolate increased HDL or good cholesterol levels; and decreased LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels. Subjects were assigned randomly to consume 50 grams daily of either regular dark chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa; or 50 grams daily of the same dark chocolate that had been overheated; or 50 grams daily of white chocolate, which contains no cocoa. After 15 days, compared to participants assigned to the white chocolate group, those consuming either form of dark chocolate had lower blood glucose and LDL, and higher HDL. Results from this study were presented on April 24, 2012 at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego. It has not yet been published or posted online.
Compounds in blueberries might have a powerful effect on formation of strong, healthy bones, reported research in the Journal of Bone and Mineral.
FISH OIL MAY REDUCE PERIODONTAL DISEASE SYMPTOMS: A review of past studies has found that evidence is accumulating that omega-3 fatty fish oil may be effective in reducing periodontal symptoms, but there is a need for more well-designed studies that evaluate the supplement alone, instead of in combination with aspirin as in many past studies. (Periodontitis is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth; it affects more than half of adults and is linked to an increased risk of stroke and other heart problems. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty cold water fish, and in flaxseed oil and other sources. Many studies have tested fish oil against gum disease but often in conjunction with aspirin, complicating the findings.) The evidence was not conclusive, although the researchers noted that the intake of fish oil is separately recommended for health benefits beyond the teeth. There are no serious dangers to consuming fish oil, although very high levels may delay clotting time or cause gastric upset. Results from this study were presented on April 24, 2012 at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego. They have not yet been published or posted online.
OREGANO COMPOUND KILLS PROSTATE CANCER CELLS: A study has found that carvacrol, a constituent in oregano, induces apoptosis or a form of cell suicide, in prostate cancer cells, suggesting it may have some potential to treat this disease, the second leading cause of cancer death among men. (Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the prostate gland and usually occurs in older men. Recent data show that about 1 in 36 men will die of prostate cancer. Oregano, the common seasoning herb, has long been known to possess a variety of beneficial health effects including anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Apoptosis occurs when a cell internally programs its own death.) The research is continuing so that scientists can determine the signaling pathways that the compound uses. The ability of oregano to result in the death of prostate cancer cells suggests potential as an anticancer agent, making it similar to turmeric in effect. Oregano is classified by the government as GRAS, meaning generally recognized as safe. The results of the study were presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting on April 24, 2012 in San Diego. It has not yet been published or posted online.
Weight training helps retain muscles in older people, but by a surprising mechanism. It may rejuvenate muscle blood flow, suggests a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
ANTIDEPRESSANTS DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD, REPORTS REVIEW: Scientists reviewing past studies have suggested that antidepressants known as SSRIs may cause more harm to different body areas than the potential benefit of improved emotion and mood. (Most antidepressants prescribed are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which cause the brain to retain more of the neurotransmitter serotonin, increasing levels and diminishing an abnormally negative-skewed outlook.) The research confirmed that the greatest proportion of the serotonin in the body is not used only in the brain to regulate mood; more is used to regulate many different processes such as digestion, forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction, and early development. These other, non-brain functions are affected by changes in local levels of serotonin caused by SSRIs. The team found that drug-altered serotonin levels throughout the body increase the risk of problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development; digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating; abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly; and, when antidepressants are used in infants, developmental problems. Released April 24, 2012, this study will not appear until a future issue of Psychology and Psychiatry, but is accessible online now at without fee.
SKIPPING MEALS LINKED TO HIGHER RISK OF DIABETES TYPE 2: A study has found that people who skip breakfast have a 21 percent greater risk of developing diabetes type 2, and those who ate only one or two times a day showed a 25 percent higher risk of getting diabetes compared to those who ate three meals daily. These differences in diabetes risk persisted after taking into account the differences in diet quality and in body mass index (BMI). Also, those who have three meals a day but also snack between meals have a greater diabetes risk than those who do not snack, but only if they also have a higher BMI. The study included a total of 29,206 men who were followed for 16 years. Until now, little has been known about the effect of meal patterns on the risk of developing diabetes type 2. This study was published in the May 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is accessible online now at with subscription to the journal or payment of an article access fee.
April 2012
TIME SPENT SITTING INCREASES DIABETES TYPE 2 RISK FOR WOMEN: A study has found a direct link, for women, between time spent sitting and risk of developing diabetes type 2; the link was very weak not for men. Scientists assessed over 500 people aged of 40 or more, recording amount of time spent sitting over one week, and levels of specific chemicals in their bloodstream associated with diabetes and metabolic dysfunction. Women who spent the longest time sitting had higher levels of insulin, as well as higher amounts of C-reactive protein and chemicals released by fatty tissue in the abdomen, leptin, and interleukin6, and which indicate problematic inflammation. The risk for men was very weak, possibly because women tend to snack when sitting, or because men are more physical when not sitting. The implication is that even those women who get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily are still at higher risk of diabetes type 2 if they spend the rest of the day sitting. This study was published in the March 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and is available online at with subscription or study access fee.
DIETARY VITAMIN D MAY REDUCE BONE FRACTURE RISK IN GIRLS: Researchers have found an association between a higher intake of vitamin D from food sources and a reduced risk of stress fractures, at least in adolescent and pre-adolescent girls and especially among girls involved in at least one hour a day of high-impact activity. (Stress fractures, a relatively common sports-related injury, occur when stresses on a bone exceed its capacity to withstand and heal from those forces.) Scientists studied 6,712 girls aged 9 to 15 at the start of the project and followed up over seven years. Dairy and calcium intakes were not found to lower stress fracture risk; in fact, high calcium intakes were linked to higher fracture risk, although further study is needed for clarification. However, vitamin D intakes from food sources were found to correlate to a lower risk of stress fracture. Further study would be necessary to determine whether supplemental vitamin D would have a similar preventive effect against stress fractures. This study was released March 5, 2012 and will be published in a future issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It has been made available online now at with subscription or access fee.
CURED MEAT LINKED TO HOSPITAL READMISSIONS FOR LUNG PATIENTS: Scientists have completed research that shows that consumption of cured meat, such as salami, sliced ham, sausages, hot dogs or bacon, increases the risk of hospital readmission for COPD patients. (COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a narrowing of the airways as a result of the co-occurrence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which leads to limitation of airflow into and out of the lungs and shortness of breath. It is caused by an abnormal inflammatory response to toxic gases, usually tobacco smoke.) The study showed that those who regularly eat substantial amounts of cured meats, defined as the equivalent of more than one slice of ham per day, were more likely to suffer exacerbated symptoms that led to admission to hospital. However, the study advised that avoiding smoke would be more protective than avoiding cured meat. Negative effects of cured meats may result from the nitrites used as preservatives and from anti-bacterial agents in the meat. This study was released March 8, 2012, but will not be published until a future issue of the European Respiratory Journal. It is not yet available online.
MATERNAL OBESITY MAY AFFECT BRAINS OF PREMATURE INFANTS: A study has concluded that the obesity of a mother may contribute to cognitive impairment in an infant child who is born very premature. (Mental developmental delay is one of the main remaining risks for babies born at less than seven months. Over 30,000 babies are born extremely prematurely in the US every year.) Researchers evaluated the cognitive skills of babies at the age of two, who had been born before 28 weeks of gestation, using the Mental Development Index (MDI) portion of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, a commonly used measure of cognitive function. Maternal obesity correlated with impaired early cognitive performance. Obesity has been linked to inflammation, and inflammation can damage the developing brain. It is still not known whether the obesity-related inflammation in the mother is transmitted to the fetus. Scientists are conducting a study that follows these same babies into mid-childhood to determine long-term cognitive problems. This study was published in the March 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics. It is available online now at with subscription or access fee.
A study published in the November, 2008 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who avoided peanuts under age two were 10 times as likely to develop peanut allergy as those who were exposed to peanut during infancy.
EATING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES PRODUCES ‘ATTRACTIVE’ SKIN COLOR: Scientists have found that fruit and vegetable consumption is correlated with higher levels of the redness and yellowness of the skin, changes that are assessed by others as increased attractiveness. To investigate whether the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten by an individual affects skin color, researchers monitored the produce intake for 35 individuals over six weeks. They found that skin redness and yellowness increased with increasing fruit and vegetable consumption; they also found that these changes in skin color were associated with increased attractiveness, possibly because they convey a subconscious impression of good health. Most of the participants in the study were Caucasian; further work must be done to fully understand potential diet effects on skin color in other populations. (A previous study found that skin color is a strong indicator of how attractive a person is seen to be, and that greater tones of red and yellow generally represent the most attractive color. Smokers have fewer blood vessels in their skin, reducing their rosy color; and those who eat fewer carotenoid pigments from vegetables and fruits have a reduced golden glow.) This study was published March 7, 2012 in the journal PLoS One and is available online now at without fee.
According to a UCLA study, exercise provides greater cardio benefit when taken with the amino acid L-arginine, and vitamins C and E, which combine to boost levels of nitric oxide, which protects the arteries and heart from damage.
EVEN MODEST RED MEAT CONSUMPTION INCREASES MORTALITY RATE: Researchers have discovered that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat correlates to a 13 percent higher death rate from any cause; and one serving of processed meat correlates to a 20 percent higher death. Every additional serving increased mortality risk by another 12 percent. During the 28-year study of over 121,000 men and women, 9.3 percent of male deaths and 7.6 percent of female deaths could have been prevented if subjects had limited intake of all kinds of red meat to less than one-half serving per day. Replacing one daily serving of red meat with another protein choice resulted in a lower risk of mortality: 7 percent lower risk of death for one substitution with fish; 14 percent lower for poultry; 19 percent lower for nuts; 10 percent for legumes; 10 percent for low-fat dairy products; and 14 percent lower death rate for one substitution with whole grains. Also, red meat correlated to a greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. This study was released March 12, 2012 and will be published in a future issue of the Archives of Medicine. The full study is available now at without cost.
WHITE RICE RAISES RISK OF DEVELOPING DIABETES TYPE 2: Researchers have found that greater consumption of white rice raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Among Asians, those consuming the greatest amount of white rice show a 55 percent higher risk of diabetes than those consuming the least. In any population, every additional 158 grams of white rice per day increases the risk of diabetes type 2 by a further 11 percent; and women from any population showed a stronger association between white rice consumption and diabetes risk. White rice is a simple carbohydrate that ranks high on the glycemic index (GI); foods with a higher GI rank are linked to a higher risk of diabetes. Brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice, including vitamins, fiber, and magnesium, some of which are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The researchers suggested that Asians populations, known to eat more white rice, are at greater risk of diabetes, and advised that people in all populations consume more whole grains. This study was posted online March 15, 2012 by the British Medical Journal. It will be published in a future print issue but is available now at without cost.
Women use an average of 12 personal care products to start each day, reports the Canadian Breast Cancer Society. The ingredients, including paraben, phthalates and placenta extracts, may be absorbed by the body and the long-term effects are not yet clear.
MAGNESIUM PROMOTES REDUCTIONS IN BLOOD PRESSURE: A research review that investigated previous studies on the subject has found that supplemental magnesium intake is linked to a small but significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings; and greater intake of magnesium was associated with a greater blood pressure reduction. (Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death. Elevated blood pressure or hypertension is a major risk factor for mortality from cardiovascular and renal disease. Causes of hypertension can include smoking, sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in sodium and an inadequate intake of other minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.) Until now, there has been inconclusive evidence on the effect of magnesium on blood pressure, with some studies showing no association. But when all evidence from previous studies was combined, including data from 1173 persons in total, the link was discovered. The dosages of magnesium supplements in the various studies ranged from 120 mg to 973 mg. This recently released review will be published in the July 2012 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It can be accessed online now at the journal site at with subscription or access fee.
BETTER DIET, EXERCISE COULD PREVENT 25 PERCENT OF ALL CANCERS: Researchers have concluded that improved eating habits and more exercise could prevent 25 percent of cancers of all types, and a better lifestyle would have the greatest impact on the incidence of colorectal cancer and breast cancer. The researchers reported that this substantial reduction in cancer cases would occur if there were greater consumption of vegetables, less sedentary lifestyles, lower rates of obesity and overweight, higher dietary fiber, more moderate alcohol consumption, avoidance of first- and second-hand cigarette smoke, and a reduction in the consumption of red meat, especially processed meat. The research was conducted in Australia, where cancer represents about 19 percent of the overall disease burden, as measured by financial cost, mortality and a range of other factors. The research is expected to have similar implications for other Western countries. The research team stressed that all of these cancer-prevention factors are within individual control. This study was published March 19, 2012 in the Medical Journal of Australia. It is available online now at without cost.
HIGHER ABDOMINAL FAT LINKED TO GREATER MENTAL DECLINE: A study has found that older adults with a high body mass index (BMI) are more likely to suffer from decreased cognitive function; and the prevention of obesity, particularly central obesity, may be important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia. There was a direct association between the amount of fat around the abdomen and cognitive decline. A total of 250 people over age 60 were included in the five-year research project. The relationship between BMI and abdominal fat on one hand, and mental decline on the other, was found among those between 60 and 70 years of age, but did not appear to hold true for those over 70. In addition, those with higher BMI showed a greater risk of high blood pressure. This study was released March 22, 2012 by the journal Age and Ageing. It is now accessible online at without cost.
Two pots of yogurt may reduce bladder cancer risks by up to 40 per cent, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
FURTHER EVIDENCE OF ALZHEIMER’S-LINKED DIABETES TYPE 3: Two studies have added to the considerable evidence that a form of diabetes known as diabetes type 3 is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD); and that treating insulin resistance can improve the cognitive dysfunction of, and may even prevent, AD. (Brains of AD patients have low insulin levels; and diabetics have a higher risk of developing AD.) The first study examined insulin signaling in human brain tissue, postmortem, finding that low activation of insulin signaling molecules was closely related to poor memory and cognitive function; also, insulin resistance was found to be a common, early feature of AD. The second study also found impaired insulin signaling in Alzheimer-brain tissue of animals and primates; and treating insulin resistance in mice with a form of AD (using an anti-diabetic drug) did more than simply normalize insulin signaling: it triggered remarkable cognitive and memory improvement. Research has not proved a causal link; however, these studies suggest one type of diabetes triggers AD. Both studies are published in the April 2, 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The first study is now online at; the second study is online at Both are available without cost.
POPCORN PROVIDES MORE ANTIOXIDANTS THAN FRUITS OR VEGETABLES: A study has found that air popped popcorn contains a much higher concentration of the healthful substances known as polyphenols than is found in fruits and vegetables, and popcorn is also a concentrated source of whole grain and fiber. Fruit, vegetables and popcorn all contain polyphenols, but researchers reported that air popped popcorn is only about four percent water, while fruits and vegetables are about 90 percent water. As a result, the polyphenols in popcorn are densely packed while the polyphenols in fruits and vegetables are diluted in a solution that is almost completely water. Also, the often-hated hulls contain the greatest concentration of the polyphenols in popcorn, as well as high fiber. The scientists noted popcorn is the only snack food that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain, while other foods labeled whole grain need to contain only 51 percent; one popcorn serving provides 70 percent of the daily whole grain intake. However, microwaving doubles the fat content over popping and lightly oiling yourself. The study was presented live on March 26, 2012 in San Diego at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society. It has not yet been published or posted.
Despite common belief about rising cancer rates, the overall rate of new cancers, for men, women and children, declined every year from 2004 to 2008, the last year for which figures are available, reported the US government on March 28, 2012. Cancer deaths rates also declined. The complete report is online without cost at
SIDESTEPPING OBSTACLES, OVER HALF OF ALL CANCERS ARE PREVENTABLE: A study concluded over half of all cancers would be prevented if society acted on knowledge we already have; but attitudes need to change. Implementing cancer prevention knowledge would slash heart disease and other chronic conditions too. One of many obstacles listed was unrealistic skepticism that cancer is preventable: yet 75 percent of all lung cancer would disappear if smoking were eliminated. Research focuses short-term: yet prevention takes decades to show up. Research focuses too much on a cure and not enough on prevention. Society slows progress by focusing on individual cancers, such as breast cancer and not enough on cancer as a whole. There is insufficient collaboration across disciplines, and little information sharing between scientists and the public about living healthier lives. People act too late: vaccines against cancer-causing viruses need to given before becoming sexually active; and colonoscopies should be scheduled earlier and at regular intervals. Scientists should highlight risk factors when apparent instead of waiting to pinpoint the biological mechanism by which the factors cause cancer. This report, published in the March 28, 2012 issue of Science Translational Medicine, is accessible online at with a fee.
GREEN COFFEE BEANS TRIGGER SUBSTANTIAL WEIGHT LOSS: A study has confirmed that ground green coffee beans can produce a substantial weight loss in a relatively short period of time, with a fraction of an ounce daily triggering a loss of 10.6 percent of body weight on average within 22 weeks. (Green coffee beans are not roasted, and are available as extract capsules that have almost no caffeine.) The study involved 16 overweight or obese people aged 22-26 years who took capsules of the extract or capsules containing a placebo, an inactive powder. The subjects took a low dose of 700 mg daily for six weeks, then a higher dose of 1,050 mg of the extract for six weeks, and finally a placebo for six weeks with a brief washout period between phases. All participants were monitored over the study period; their calories, carbohydrates, fats and protein intake did not change at all over the course of the study, nor did their exercise regimen change. Over 22 weeks, participants lost an average of 17 pounds, representing a 10.5 percent decrease in body weight and a 16 percent decrease in body fat. This study was presented March 29, 2012 in San Diego at the national meeting and exposition of the American Chemical Society. The full-text study is now available online at without cost.
Insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes, is improved by eating chocolate or cocoa, according to the February 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
VITAMIN D INHIBITS PROSTATE CANCER CELL PROLIFERATION: Scientists have found that extremely large, short-term doses of vitamin D resulted in reduced markers for cell proliferation, and increased markers for inhibitory activity, in men with prostate cancer. (The role of vitamin D in prostate cancer is controversial; some experts suggesting a role, but others warn that excess vitamin D intake should be avoided.) In the new study, researchers gave 66 men scheduled for prostate removal, daily vitamin D in doses of 400 IU, or 10,000 IU, or 40,000 IU, for 3-8 weeks before their operation. They found that each higher dosage, right up to the large 40,000 IU dose, correlated to further increases in calcitriol (a hormone made from vitamin D), lower prostate levels of Ki67 (a protein indicating prostate cancer cell growth), and higher levels of molecules called microRNA (indicating higher activity inhibiting cancer cell growth). The team warned against regular doses higher than 4,000 IU daily; some patients were given 40,000 IU only because of the short pre-surgery time frame.) This study was presented March 31, 2012 in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. It has not yet been published or posted online.
June 2010
CAFFEINE AFFECTS GRANDCHILDREN’S BIRTH WEIGHT: A Dutch study examined the effects of a high intake of caffeine from coffee and tea during pregnancy on fetal growth and development. Babies of women with a high caffeine intake – defined as six or more cups a day – were smaller in length. More surprising, the offspring of mothers who had a high caffeine intake during pregnancy tended to have an increased risk of giving birth to babies that were small for their gestational age. Released at the end of April, this study will be published in print in a future, as yet unknown, issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
ADULT DEATHS ARE NOT DROPPING: While child and maternity death rates have plunged worldwide, a study concludes that premature death rates among adults 15 to 60 years of age have not declined and vary wildly between countries. The US premature death rate exceeded those of all European countries and several other countries. The study was published April 30, 2010 in the medical journal, The Lancet. In a separate study, researchers found that Canadians enjoy an extra 2.7 years of healthy lifetime, compared to Americans. This second study was published in the April 29, 2010 issue of Biomed Central’s journal, Population Health Metrics.
‘GREEN’ EXERCISE BOOSTS MENTAL HEALTH: Exercising in the green, natural environments has long been known to boost – not necessarily the physical health benefit – but one’s mood, self-esteem and odds of avoiding mental illness such as depression and other psychological conditions. But a study has pinpointed exactly how much time spent working out in green environments – not sitting around outside but actually exercising in those parks, gardens, nature trails and nature-heavy environments – is required to achieve maximum mental health benefit. And it’s a mere five minutes. The study conclusions were released on May 1, by the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
A reduced risk of later food allergies might result from delaying the introduction of certain solid foods into an infant’s diet. One 2009 study suggested that delaying the introduction of eggs, oats or wheat until the age of six months lowered the risk of later development of food allergies. And late introduction of potatoes or fish may lower the risk of developing allergies to any inhaled allergens such as pollen, animal pollen and dust mites.
OLIVE OIL MAY PREVENT COLITIS: A higher consumption of oleic acid could prevent half of all cases of ulcerative colitis, suggests a new study. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil and supplements. For 11 years, researchers followed 25,000 people who did not have this disease and assessed their diets. Those who consumed the most oleic acid showed a 90 percent lower incidence of getting ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disorder characterized by ulcers or sores. The study’s conclusions were presented today, May 2, at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.
ASPIRIN RAISES RISK OF CROHN’S DISEASE: A large study involving 200,000 volunteers has found that people who take aspirin every day for a year or more could be as much as five times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease. The risk of ulcerative colitis was not found to be higher. Crohn’s is characterized by inflammation and swelling of any part of the digestive system. If you take aspirin regularly, or have been advised to do so, consult with your natural health physician. This study was presented May 3, at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans and has not been scheduled to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
PREVENTIVE MEDICINE COULD SLASH DEATH RATES: A new study using mathematical models to predict how greater use of preventive health would influence death rates has found that 50,000 to 100,000 deaths in people under age 80 could be prevented each year. The findings came as a surprise to the study team, which looked at the cumulative impact of employing preventive strategies such as smoking cessation; better screening for cholesterol and blood pressure levels and cancer; and earlier treatments. The study was released in early May but will not be published until the June, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
ALCOHOL IN PREGNANCY COULD CAUSE LEUKEMIA IN CHILDREN: A study released online today by the journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that women who drink during pregnancy might be increasing the risk of acute myeloid leukemia in their children by 56 percent. The amount of alcohol consumed was not assessed and women were simply designated as yes or no - drank during pregnancy or didn’t. Despite recommendations against drinking during pregnancy, 12 percent of American - and 59 percent of Australian - women still do. The study details will be published in a future, not-yet-decided issue of the journal.
Contrary to common belief, even skim milk is not fat-free: five percent of skim milk's calories come from fat. A full 34 percent of the calories contained in partly skimmed of "two percent" milk come from fat. It's called two percent milk because the fat content makes up two percent of the total weight of the milk. Whole milk contains 48 percent fat by calories. (For comparison, lean hamburger runs about 64 percent fat by calories.)
SERVING STRATEGY INCREASES CHILDREN'S VEGETABLE INTAKE: A study has found that serving hungry pre-school children carrots, by themselves, ten minutes before the main course of lunch arrives, results in children voluntarily consuming a far greater quantity of any other vegetables included in the main course. It also decreases calories consumed and increases the nutritional value. One ounce of pre-lunch carrots doubled the amount of broccoli eaten at lunch compared to children given no carrots; two ounces of pre-lunch carrots tripled the broccoli consumed at lunch. The study appears in the May 5, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
MAGNET THERAPY FOR DEPRESSION: Many treatment-resistant depressed patients do not respond to antidepressant drugs and yet suffer troublesome side effects. But a study suggests some patients suffering from major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, may do better by getting zapped by a large electromagnet. The non-invasive procedure shows patients experienced significant antidepressant effects with few side effects, using the procedure known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Of the patients receiving rTMS, 14 percent achieved remission, compared to 5 percent of patients receiving the control - or simulated - treatment. The study appears in the May, 2010 issue of the journal, Archives of General Psychiatry.
MATERNAL SMOKING LINKED TO ODDS OF ADOLESCENT SMOKING: A US government study shows those aged 12 to 17 who live with mothers who smoke or had a major depressive episode – depression – during the past year, are much more likely to smoke. The adolescents’ were three times more likely to smoke if their mothers smoked; two times more likely if their mothers suffered depression during the past year; and four times more likely if their mothers both smoked and suffered depression. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health report was posted May 7, 2010 on the Office of Applied Studies website and can be read in non-technical detail at
STUDY SAVES LAB MICE FROM NEEDLESS SUFFERING: Although human babies can express discomfort and pain through facial expressions, it has never been proven that nonhuman animals can do so. But researchers have discovered precisely measurable expressions in mice exposed to moderate pain; and developed the subtle Mouse Grimace Scale (MGS). The MGS should facilitate human-pain research, improve veterinary care – and prevent unnecessary lab-mice suffering. Experiments could also determine the MGS works for other species. The study was released online May 9, 2010 as a brief abstract but will be published in full-text format in a future issue of the journal, Nature Methods.
BRAN REDUCES DIABETICS' MORTALITY: A 26-year study on 7,822 diabetic women has found a higher intake of whole grain - but especially of bran, a whole grain component rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber - lowers the risk of death from cardiovascular disease among women with type 2 diabetes by 35 percent. Also, for this group, greater whole grain, and especially bran, intake reduces the overall risk of death from all causes by 28 percent. "Higher intake" means the top 20 percent of average bran consumption. This brief summary was released May 10, 2010 but details won't be made available until a future issue of the journal, Circulation.
Your body may make better use of supplemental vitamin D if you take it with your largest meal of the day, boosting its uptake over a two- to three-month period, by as much as 56 percent, according to a study at the Cleveland Clinic, detailed in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Vitamin D is loosely linked with a decreased risk of autoimmune disorders. If you’re considering taking vitamin D supplements, talk to your natural health practitioner about dosages.
INJECTABLE CURCUMIN CAN RETARD CANCER: A new study suggests a new form of curcumin can treat breast cancer. A compound in the Indian spice turmeric, curcumin contains potentially anti-cancer components called polyphenols. But when taken by mouth, curcumin’s bioavailability, or absorption level, is very limited. Scientists created a special molecular form known as curcumin microparticles, which can be injected under the skin. They found a single injection boosted curcumin levels for almost a month and showed marked anticancer activity in mice. A very brief summary of this study was released May 11, 2010 but the full text won’t be available until a future issue of both the online and print editions of the journal, Cancer Research.
'GOOD FATS' BENEFIT: A study suggests foods rich in good fats may partly offset the risk factors for ischemic heart disease (IHD). Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and aging are risk factors for IHD, a reduced blood supply to the heart. But IHD rates are low in Spain, where risk factors are high. So scientists compared blood levels of unsaturated fats in healthy people with those showing signs of IHD and concluded greater levels of oleic, alpha-linolenic and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids – found in olive oil, walnuts and fish, respectively – protected against IHD. This brief summary was released May 12 but details are withheld until a future issue of the online and print editions of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
MEDITERRANEAN DIET CONFIRMED RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS: A study has concluded that the Greek diet, which is generally similar to the plant-based Mediterranean diet (MD), is a rich source of a variety of antioxidants, including flavonoids, proanthocyanidins and other antioxidant micro-components. The researchers suggest this may be the reason for the health benefits of the MD. Over 200 foods and recipes were involved and their consumption was estimated using dietary statistics on over 28,000 Greeks. Antioxidants are molecules that can stop chain reactions, called oxidation, which potentially can damage cells. A brief summary was released May 12, 2010 and further details, which will appear in a future print issue of the Journal of Nutrition, are now available online - with fee payment or journal subscription - at:
TESTOSTERONE-SLEEP LINK: The level of sleep known as deep sleep, which is about 10 to 20 percent of sleep time in young men, is when recuperation of body and mind is optimal. Men's deep sleep begins to diminish around age 40; and by age 50, decreases to five to seven percent of total sleep. For men over 60, deep sleep can disappear altogether. Male testosterone drops by one to two percent a year after age 30 and scientists have long suggested sleep loss may cause the hormonal drop. But a new study suggests it's the other way around: decreases in testosterone lower the high synchronization required between (also diminishing) brain cells, affecting sleep. This brief summary was presented in Montreal on May 13 at the annual conference of the Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS); at this time, it is not expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
GENES DETERMINE FAT LOCATION: A study explains why men accumulate excess adipose, or fat, tissue on the belly while women accumulate fat on their hips. Genetic composition of the fat stored in these different areas is almost completely different. Almost all of the genes found in male belly fat were different from the genes found in female hip fat. This shocked researchers who had expected the reverse – that almost all the genes in that fat tissue would be the same between the sexes. Given the differences in genetic makeup, a woman’s fat cannot be expected to behave in the same way, or locate in the same place, as a man’s fat tissue. Published in the May 14, 2010 issue of the International Journal of Obesity, further details of this study are available only to subscribers or those willing to pay a fee, at:
ACTIVITY, NOT JUST EXERCISE, IMPROVES COPD: A study has determined that the day-to-day functioning of COPD - or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - patients is much more improved by an increase in the number and variety of daily physical activities such as walking to the bank or doing housework, than by an increase in formal exercise routines. In other words, formal exercise programs can increase physical fitness in COPD patients but the resultant day-to-day functional ability is still very limited by disease severity; but those who had a more active, task-oriented lifestyle – without formal exercise - were better able to rise above their COPD severity. COPD refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, in both of which the airways of the lungs become narrowed. This study was presented May 16 at the American Thoracic Society’s 2010 annual conference in New Orleans and will be published online and in print at some future point.
With all the bottled waters on the market today, it's difficult to tell one type from another. Here are a few of the definitions. Usually, mineral water contains at least 500 parts per million dissolved mineral solids such as sodium, magnesium or calcium. Sparkling water is carbonated water in which the gases dissolved in the water are "captured" in the water by capping the bottle before they can escape. Club soda is artificially carbonated tap water to which minerals have been added. Seltzer is artificially carbonated tap water that frequently is flavored or sweetened, making it high in calories.
PROCESSED MEAT LINKED TO HEART DISEASE: Regular consumption of processed meat such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats or processed deli meats could result in a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study. The research did not find a greater risk of heart disease or diabetes as a result of greater consumption of unprocessed red meat such as from beef, pork or lamb. Most dietary guidelines recommend a lower intake of red meat but little research focuses on the issue of red meat versus processed red meat. Processed meat was defined as any meat involving smoking, curing, salting or chemical preservatives. The study was released May 17; the full-text version will be published in a future edition of both the online and print editions of the journal, Circulation.
VISUAL TASK REDUCES FOOD CRAVINGS: Developing vivid mental images of nonfood items, or watching them on a screen, can reduce or eliminate food cravings, suggests a new study. Food cravings are different from hunger in that they focus on specific foods. Mental imagery has been found to be a strong component of food cravings and in fact, mathematical and memory performances are reduced when food cravings – and the strong visual imagery of specific foods - are present. New evidence shows that switching the imagery to something else, such as a rainbow or a flickering pattern, and even certain odors, can decrease cravings. The study suggests that smart phones and other devices could be harnessed to reduce cravings for both food and drugs. This study was published in the May 18, 2010 edition of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science; access to details is limited to registered members of the media or the Association for Psychological Science.
DIET LOWERS RISK OF HEART ATTACK: Portugal and Galacia - a region in northwest Spain - are known for very low rates of death from acute myocardial infarction (AMI), or heart attack. To assess whether diet plays a role, researchers studied what they termed the South European Atlantic Diet (SEAD), which is traditional in these regions. This diet includes fruit, sausage, potatoes, olive oil, legumes, vegetables, whole-grain bread, wine and most notably, a very large intake of cod, other fish and soup. Those subjects who scored in the highest quarter of adherence to the SEAD experienced a 33 percent lower incidence of nonfatal acute myocardial infarction (AMI) than the quarter that least adhered to this diet. The team concluded that overall, the SEAD may be behind the lower risk; but added that some SEAD foods could help prevent AMI while others may not. This brief summary was released May 19. Further details won’t be available until a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
AB FAT RAISES LATER DEMENTIA RISK: Otherwise healthy adults may be at risk for dementia in later life as a result of excess abdominal fat during middle-age, suggests a new study. Those who had higher obesity measures such as Body Mass Index (BMI) or waist-to-hip ratio showed a greater rate of dementia factors such as brain volume or white matter volume. This study carries more weight because it included 733 subjects while previous studies showing similar results included fewer than 300 people. It also showed a stronger connection between dementia and fat located specifically around the abdomen. Dementia can result from irreversible causes such Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Huntington’s disease, or from reversible conditions such as brain tumor, medication reaction or metabolic issues. This brief summary was released May 20, but further details won’t be available until a future edition of the Annals of Neurology.
YOGA HELPS CANCER SURVIVORS: As many as two thirds of cancer patients suffer regularly from fatigue and difficulty sleeping long after their treatments have been discontinued. But a new study offers these people the promise of better sleep and improved quality of life. Researchers found that cancer survivors who perform gentle yoga twice a week report they sleep better, feel less tired and enjoy better quality of life. The regimen included "breathing exercises, gentle Hatha and restorative yoga postures and mindfulness exercises." The largest study of its type, this brief outline was released May 20. Full details will be available when the study is formally presented at the June, 2010 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Evidence is growing that air pollution, especially fine particulate matter, can trigger cardiovascular death within a few hours of exposure among those who are at risk. Long-term exposure can shorten lifespan by a few months to a few years. To cut the risk of pollution-triggered death, seek treatment for underlying heart risk factors: blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Also, those with heart problems should monitor air quality reports and stay indoors or limit activity during high-particulate days. For guidance, speak to your natural health practitioner; for detailed information, visit:
DIABETES 2 RAISES RISK OF VARIOUS CANCERS: A large study of type 2 diabetes patients - so large that it involved half of all type 2 diabetics in Sweden - has found them to be at increased risk of many types of cancer. The reason for the higher risk is still not clear but may result, conclude researchers, from "the profound metabolic disturbances of the underlying disease." The highest risks were found for liver and pancreatic cancers, which occurred six times and four times more often, respectively, among type 2 diabetics. Risks were also greater for upper aero-digestive tract, esophageal, colon, rectal, lung, cervical, endometrial, ovarian and kidney cancers. Interestingly, there was a lower risk of prostate cancer. This brief summary was released early online, but the full-text version of this study will be published in the June, 2010 issue of The Oncologist.
SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES LINKED TO HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: A study suggests that reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks results in a reduction of blood pressure readings among adults. In this study of 810 adults, reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by just one serving a day produced a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic readings – meaning the upper and lower numbers in a blood pressure reading. An analysis of diet drink and caffeine consumption showed no blood pressure effect, suggesting that it is the actual sugar content of these beverages that is producing the higher blood pressure readings. Sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages have previously been associated with a higher risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. A brief summary of this study was released May 24 but details will not be made available until the study is published in the online and print editions of a future issue of the journal, Circulation.
FOLATE MAY PREVENT ALCOHOL DAMAGE IN FETUSES: A study on mice suggests that high levels of the B vitamin folate – folic acid – prevented heart-related birth defects caused by alcohol exposure during early pregnancy, a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol-related congenital heart defects often develop in the embryo during a period when a woman may still be drinking because she does not yet know she is pregnant, a period of perhaps 16 to 18 days. The dose of folate required was considerably larger than the standard dietary recommendation of 400 micrograms. The researchers stressed that the protective effect was only seen when folate was taken very early in pregnancy and prior to the time of alcohol exposure. The study was released in brief summary format but the full-text version is available for the payment of a fee at the following web page of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology:
BRUSHING TEETH MAY CUT HEART RISK: Research released today by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests that those who brush their teeth less than twice a day experience a 70 percent greater risk of heart disease. The 8-year study of 11,869 men and women also showed that those with generally poor dental hygiene had higher levels of certain inflammatory markers – such the C-reactive protein – often seen as heart disease risk factors. Despite the pronounced difference in risk between those brushing twice daily and once daily, the overall risk of heart disease from inadequate dental hygiene was still low for both groups. Details of the study appear in the May 29, 2010 issue of the BMJ.
PRENATAL EXPOSURE TO BPA AND DES MAY CAUSE BREAST CANCER: Research now released suggests that exposure in the womb to the chemicals bisphenol-A (BPA) and diethylstilbestrol (DES) can induce genetic changes that increase an offspring's risk of developing breast cancer as an adult. BPA, DES and similar compounds are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are substances in the environment that interfere with the proper functioning of hormones and affect how genes are expressed in breast tissue. Exposure to these compounds before birth increased in mice, levels of a protein called EZH2, which is associated with higher breast cancer risk. It's important to note that mouse studies do not necessarily apply to humans; but females known to be exposed pre-birth should be monitored for breast cancer as adults, the study authors recommend. The study will appear in a future issue of the journal, Hormones and Cancer but is currently available online free of charge in its full-text version at:
HOW ACUPUNCTURE WORKS NOW CONFIRMED: Clarifying how acupuncture may work to reduce pain, a study shows that, at the site applied, acupuncture needles increase levels of a molecule called adenosine, a natural compound that regulates sleep, anti-inflammatory responses - and painkilling. Research previously showed an increase in brain-signaling and painkilling endorphins when the central nervous system is affected by acupuncture. But this study found that stimulation of nerve endings not linked to the brain and spinal cord also increase levels of adenosine. Mice bred to have no adenosine received no pain benefit from acupuncture; mice whose adenosine was "turned on" received benefit without acupuncture; and mice with normal adenosine had pain reduced by two thirds while adenosine levels at the needle site jumped 24 times normal levels. This study will be published in a future issue of Nature Neuroscience, no sooner than the July 2010 issue and usually, full details would be available before then only with subscription or fee payment. However, this full-text study was released May 30 without cost at:
Personally mixing and applying insecticides just six times a year may be a factor in acquiring autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and especially, rheumatoid arthritis. One 2009 study suggested the risk for those personally handling insecticides on farms may be twice as high compared to those who do not use, or come into contact with, these sprays. Is it skin exposure? Inhalation? This research was preliminary and further studies are needed.
Even at low levels generally considered to pose little or no risk, exposure to environmental lead might increase - by as much as 2.3 times - the risk of depression and panic disorder but not of generalized anxiety disorder. That was the suggestion of a Canadian study appearing in the December, 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Gender and ethnicity were also factors and the researchers stressed that lead exposure cannot be determined to be a cause of these psychological problems.
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May 2010
FOR WOMEN, EARLY CHEMICAL EXPOSURE RISKIEST: Women might increase two- to seven-fold, their post-menopausal breast cancer risk - by exposure to certain workplace chemicals before their mid-thirties. A study published April 1, 2010 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found women occupationally exposed to acrylic fibers had a seven-fold risk of breast cancer, while those exposed to nylon fibers doubled their risk. Other risky chemicals included rayon fibers and some petroleum products. The Canadian team admits findings could be due to chance but they’re consistent with theories that breast cells are more chemical-sensitive when they’re still active – before a woman reaches her 40s.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION INCREASES MEN’S FOOD INTAKE: Sleep deprivation raises the blood level of the compound ghrelin and lowers the level of leptin. A French study examined the effects of these changes on men’s net calorie intake. In comparison to an 8-hour sleep group, men limited to a 4-hour sleep for one night only, consumed 22 percent more calories the next day and were more active despite sleepiness. Increased calorie intake substantially exceeded increased output, suggesting sleep deprivation could be an obesity factor. Just released, this study is expected to appear in the June, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
FISH LINKED TO FEWER HEART-RELATED DEATHS: After studying a large population with a low fish intake, Dutch scientists have identified a link between comparatively higher intakes of either fish or omega-3 fatty acids, and a lower risk of fatal heart attacks and fatal coronary heart disease. There was no link to nonfatal heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in supplements; oily fish, including salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and to a lesser extent, tuna; flaxseeds; and some fruits and vegetables, including strawberries and broccoli. This newly disclosed study is expected to appear in the June, 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
ESSENTIAL OILS COULD BE CHEAP ALTERNATIVE TO ANTIBIOTICS: Some effective and inexpensive essential oils might be used to combat drug-resistant hospital super-bugs, according to not-yet-published research just presented at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Edinburgh. Thyme essential oil was the most effective and was able to almost completely eliminate bacteria within 60 minutes. Almost as effective was cinnamon oil. The therapeutic value of essential oils has been shown previously for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including acne, dandruff, head lice and oral infections. These oils are being included in food stuffs to replace synthetic chemicals that act as preservatives.
PISTACHIOS IMPROVE CHOLESTEROL AND ANTIOXIDANT LEVELS: Compared to other nuts, pistachios are high in the antioxidants lutein, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol. Pennsylvania researchers studied the effect of adding pistachios to the diets of patients with high LDL, or bad, cholesterol. After adding one or two daily servings to different diets, both groups experienced a moderate decrease in LDL cholesterol and an increase in antioxidants in the blood. This suggests pistachios help lower bad cholesterol and offer added benefits from antioxidants. A serving is 32-63 grams. The just-released study will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Nutrition, likely June, 2010.
EXERCISE IN PREGNANCY LINKED TO BABY'S BIRTH WEIGHT: A study released online today found pregnant women regularly performing moderately strenuous, aerobic – but not weight-bearing – exercise gave birth to babies with modestly reduced weight. Increased weight at birth is considered to increase the risk of an individual developing obesity during childhood. Even a modest reduction in birth weight may have long-term health benefits for offspring by lowering this risk. Participants were assigned five 40-minute sessions a week of stationary cycling. The study was released online early and will be published in the May, 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
If you want to maintain your muscles, emphasize fruits and vegetables - not protein - in your diet. According to a 2008 study at Tufts University, that's because produce is a good source of potassium. Our bodies convert protein and cereal grains, both heavily represented in the North American diet, into acid residues. This triggers the breakdown of muscle to produce ammonia, which removes the excess acid. Potassium-rich diets are alkaline - the opposite of acidic - and buffer acids without sacrificing muscle.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WEAKLY LINKED TO CANCER PREVENTION: A large study has found that the link between a high consumption of fruits and vegetables and a reduced overall risk of cancer is not as strong as commonly believed. An increase of 200 grams a day of produce reduced cancer risk by only three percent. Numerous previous studies have strongly linked produce consumption with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, as well as some specific cancers. The new study was released April 6 but will be published in a future issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
CUT SATURATED FATS PROPERLY: A study concludes that replacing dietary saturated fat with carbohydrates can increase or decrease heart risks, depending on what foods are selected as replacements. Those who replaced saturated fats with carbohydrates scoring low on the "glycemic index" (GI) reduced their heart attack risk. Those who replaced saturated fats with high-GI carbohydrates increased heart attack risk. Low-GI foods digest slowly, causing gradual fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin; high-GI foods digest quickly, causing sudden fluctuations. For GI scores, check Released April 7, the study will publish in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
HEART DEFECTS LINKED TO MOTHER’S WEIGHT: A study concludes the more obese a woman is when conceiving, the greater the risk her baby will have a congenital heart defect. Risk for obese women is 15 percent greater; for morbidly obese women, 33 percent greater; and for merely overweight women, no increased risk. Overweight is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9; obese means a BMI of 30 and up. Calculate your BMI by visiting Released late on April 7, this National Institutes of Health study will publish in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
ALCOHOL AND OBESITY – GREATER EFFECT TOGETHER: Two studies published April 10, 2010 in the British Medical Journal conclude that the combined risk of liver disease from alcohol consumption and from obesity is far greater than the sum of these two effects together. Both obesity and alcohol are linked - separately - to cirrhosis of the liver and death from cirrhosis. But together, the effect is far greater. Obese men who consumed 15 or more alcoholic drinks per week experienced nearly 18 times the relative risk of dying from chronic liver disease as compared to their obese counterparts who drank significantly less alcohol.
HARDENING OF ARTERIES NOW COMMON IN YOUNG: A new study suggests an unsettling conclusion: that atherosclerosis, also called peripheral vascular disease or hardening of the arteries, now afflicts many younger men and women. Research on 994 patients under age 56 who were treated at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine Vascular Center, found severe, premature artery disease – to the extent of causing “advanced damage” – in over 88 percent. In atherosclerosis, arteries narrow when the walls thicken with a build-up of fatty materials, such as cholesterol. The study was presented April 10 at the American Heart Association conference in San Francisco.
SPICES REDUCE MEAT RISK: A study concludes that adding antioxidant-rich spices to hamburger meat during cooking reduces levels of malondialdehyde, a product of fat oxidation that increases the risk of hardening of the arteries and cancer. Cooked fat can oxidize in meat itself or in the stomach but spices were found to cut the levels of this risky compound detected in the burger and in subjects' urine and blood. At 11 grams per burger, the spicing was far greater than normal and was mostly oregano and paprika. The just-released study will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Is it feed a cold, starve a fever? Or starve a cold, feed a fever? Actually, neither. This old saying popularized by Mark Twain has no merit. When you're sick, whether you have a cold or a fever or both, you need the same liquids and nutrients you needed when you were well or you'll take longer getting better. Don't feel like eating solids? Then opt for liquid nutrition such as tomato juice, protein drinks or soup. And of course, talk to your health practitioner.
DIET INCREASES HEART RISK: A study has found that a specific type of high-carbohydrate diet increases coronary heart disease risk in women – but not in men. The greater risk stems – not from high-carbohydrate diets – but specifically from high-carbohydrate diets scoring high on the Glycemic Index (GI). Low-GI foods digest slowly, causing gradual fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin; high-GI foods digest quickly, causing sudden fluctuations. Women eating the highest-GI foods had 2.24 times the risk of women consuming the lowest-GI diet. For foods' GI scores, check The study was published in the April 12, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
DIET PROTECTS AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S: A study has identified a combination of foods that reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Scientists defined various dietary patterns among 2,148 persons. One diet type stood out as effective against AD: one including high intakes of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, fruits and cruciferous and dark and green leafy vegetables; and low consumption of high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat and butter. This suggests that this diet’s nutrients work synergistically; that no single nutrient offers sufficient effect. Just released, this study will be published in the June, 2010 issue of Archives of Neurology.
LYCOPENE SUPPLEMENTS EQUALLY EFFECTIVE: A study suggests lycopene – a beneficial substance found in cooked tomatoes, tomato juice and paste – offers protection against prostate cancer whether ingested as lycopene-rich, red tomato paste or purified lycopene supplements. Lycopene-free yellow tomato paste offered no protection. Prostate cancer cells were incubated in the blood taken from thirty volunteers who had been taking these three different items. Specific prostate cancer-linked proteins were measured to judge protective effect. Best food sources of lycopene are processed tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit. Released April 14, the study will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Contrary to common belief and some media articles, hair does not grow back any faster, coarser or darker after you shave it. This finding stems all the way back to a 1928 clinical trial and has been confirmed many times since. When hair grows back after shaving, it just seems coarser because it lacks the fine taper of unshaved hair. Also, it may seem darker because it hasn't been exposed to the sun like the unshaved hair it replaced.
FISH CUTS OVARIAN CANCER RISK: Although meat and fish intakes were previously associated with some cancers, a study has uncovered the links between ovarian cancer and the consumption of total meat, red meat, poultry, fish and processed meat. Australian researchers studied the eating habits of 4,240 women and concluded that total meat and red meat have no association with ovarian cancer. Poultry showed a slight reduction in risk and fish showed a significant reduction. But processed meat caused a significant increase in ovarian cancer risk. Disclosed April 14, this study will appear in a future edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
HERBICIDE LINKED TO HYPERTHYROIDISM: A study reminds us environmental factors can increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. Exposure to TCDD, a dioxin compound in Agent Orange, may triple the incidence of Graves' disease. Agent Orange was the name given to an herbicide used by the US military in Vietnam. Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder, typically resulting in hyperthyroidism - overactive thyroid. Interestingly, exposure reduced the risk of hypothyroidism - underactive thyroid. Researchers stressed that study limitations mean the results are not conclusive. The study was presented April 15 in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
TWO VITAMINS LOWER HEART RISK: A 14-year study of 58,730 people suggests a link between a diet high in two B vitamins and a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Diets rich in folate and vitamin B6 were linked with fewer deaths from heart failure for men; and fewer deaths from stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease for women. Vitamin B12, however, showed no such link. Released April 16, this study will appear in a future issue of the journal, Stroke. Folate sources include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. B6 sources include vegetables, fish, liver, meats and whole grains.
VITAMIN D MAY REDUCE DIABETES RISK: Following previous research that hinted at the same link, a new seven-year study concludes that higher levels of vitamin D are significantly associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes 2. After accounting for other risk factors, the study team found that those who were rated in the highest third of vitamin D blood levels exhibited a 40 percent reduced risk of diabetes 2, compared to those in the lowest third. This study has just been released ahead of its publication in print in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
SEDENTARY ACTIVITIES INCREASE ARTERY THICKENING: Over three years, people who spent much of their time in sedentary activities developed substantially-increased thickness in two inner layers of the key artery that supplies the head and neck with oxygen-rich blood. The artery is the carotid artery and the inner layers are called the intima and media. Thickness in the carotid artery increases the risk of stroke. Those who took part in vigorous physical activity showed a much lower increase in thickness of this artery over the same period. Released April 17, this study will appear in a future issue of the European Heart Journal.
MEAT LINKED TO BLADDER CANCER: Although it’s long been known that meat cooked at high temperatures generates a compound (heterocyclic amines) that can cause cancer, a new study specifically links regular meat consumption and especially well done meat, with a one-and-a-half times greater risk of bladder cancer. Consumption of beef steaks, pork chops and bacon raised bladder cancer risk significantly. When fried, chicken and fish did the same. Men’s bladder cancer risk is much higher than women’s. The 12-year Texas study was presented April 18 in Washington, DC, at the 101st annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Chickpeas come in a variety of colors that pack a much greater nutritional punch than the more common beige strain. Black, red, brown, green, rubiginous (rust), gray and yellow chickpeas provide 13 times more polyphenols, up to 11 times more flavonoids and up to 31 times more antioxidant activity than the beige strain, according to the Journal of Food Science. All chickpeas are packed with protein.
PATIENTS DELAY STROKE HELP: Despite guidelines suggesting patients suffering minor strokes be examined within 24 hours, a study concludes 70 percent don't even recognize the symptoms. British researchers found 30 percent of patients suffering a minor stroke or TIA – transient ischemic attack, a mild but potentially risky stroke – delay seeking medical attention for over 24 hours. And many of these visit physicians instead of going to a hospital. It's crucial to recognize the signs of a TIA or stroke, which are provided at: The just-released study will be published in a future edition of the journal, Stroke.
DIET INCREASES GRANDDAUGHTER’S CANCER RISK: A high-fat diet during a woman’s pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer in her daughters and granddaughters, suggests a study presented April 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, DC. Researchers believe excess fat consumption causes epigenetic – or inheritable genetic – changes that result in an increase in what are called “terminal end buds” in breast tissue. These buds are believed to be where breast cancer develops and having more buds increases cancer risk. The risk to granddaughters may be as much as 60 percent greater.
BODY MASS INDEX LINKED TO BREAST CANCER: A study presented on the afternoon of April 20, in Washington, DC, at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests that women whose body mass index (BMI) increases substantially between ages 20 and 50 have an 88 percent higher risk of breast cancer after menopause, compared to women with a stable BMI. Women whose BMI increased later – after age 50 – had a 56 percent greater risk. Scientists speculate that estrogen, a hormone produced in body fat, causes breast cells to multiply too quickly, leading to breast cancer. To calculate your BMI, visit
If you have a bad memory, relaxation might help. Scientists have pinpointed "relaxation neurons," brain cells that appear to work together to improve memory during learning. The same brain waves that are linked with memory and learning - known as theta waves - are also linked with relaxation, daydreaming and drowsiness. In other words, relaxed brains learn better and increase memory recall.
ADDED SUGAR LINKED TO CARDIOVASCULAR RISKS: A study of 6,000 adults, reported in the April 21, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, links the amount of sweetened foods and beverages consumed to an increase in cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers looked at the processed foods people consumed and divided them into five groups, depending on their overall intake of added sugar. Fruit was not included because its sugar is not added. The biggest consumers of added sugar – ingesting 46 teaspoons per day – suffered higher blood triglycerides, bad cholesterol and other cardiovascular risks than the lowest consumers, who ingested just three teaspoons.
ALCOHOL LINKED TO CANCER, AGING: A study presented early morning April 21, in Washington, DC, at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research found that heavy alcohol consumption has a dramatic effect on a major cellular indicator of aging and cancer risk. Telomeres - caps at the ends of DNA pieces known as chromosomes - tend to shorten over time in a process seen as aging itself, as well as a risk factor for cancer. The shocking study showed regular consumption of four or more alcoholic drinks a day resulted in telomeres about half the length of telomeres in subjects drinking less.
RESVERATROL'S PROTECTIVE EFFECT EXPLAINED? A mouse study may finally have uncovered how resveratrol, a compound found in the skins and seeds of red grapes, protects the brain during a stroke. Research has long linked red wine with a reduced cardiovascular disease risk but the actual mechanism by which it works has never been clear. Resveratrol seems to increase levels of an enzyme – heme oxygenase – that shields brain nerve cells from stroke damage. When a stroke hits, the brain is protected by the elevated enzyme levels. Just released online, this study will appear in a future issue of the journal Experimental Neurology.
MEDITERRANEAN DIET'S SECRET REVEALED? A study may have uncovered why the so-called Mediterranean diet helps prevent metabolic syndrome, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Olive oil, which figures very prominently in this diet, is a good source of compounds called phenols. Extra-virgin olive oil is an even richer source of phenols. Researchers found that olive oil phenols appear to repress genes that promote inflammation, which can play a role in these conditions. (However, many suggest olive oil's monounsaturated fatty acids may be behind its health properties.) This just-released study will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal, BMC Genomics.
MODERATE DRINKING'S BENEFITS SEPARATE FROM LIFESTYLE: A study suggests the known link between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of diabetes type 2 is due to the alcohol intake itself and not to healthful lifestyle factors drinkers might have that teetotalers might not. Diabetes risk was assessed for each subject who fit three of these four categories: normal weight, physically active, nonsmoking and healthy diet. Of that healthy group, moderate drinkers still experienced a 40 percent lower incidence of diabetes than teetotalers. This newly-released study will be published in a yet-to-be-decided issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
When it comes to salt, your taste buds may be fooling you and risking your health. Salt that rests on the surface of a food tastes salty but salt mixed throughout a food does not. For example, a serving of corn flakes contains 200mg of sodium, representing more salt than a serving of potato chips, which holds 180mg of sodium. Reducing your sodium intake can lower your risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. But taste is definitely not the best way to judge a food's salt content. Check the nutrition panel.
FOLATE FORTIFICATION RISKY? A study of postmenopausal breast cancer risk shows inconclusive but interesting associations with folate, a B vitamin. The study separately examined dietary folate and total folate intakes. Dietary folate includes food naturally containing folate plus food fortified with this vitamin. Total folate includes these dietary sources plus supplements. Those consuming the most dietary folate showed a modestly higher breast cancer risk. Subjects getting the most total folate intake did not, suggesting dietary sources – not supplements – may be risky. This study will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If concerned, talk to your physician.
DIET QUALITY AFFECTS FETAL GROWTH: Several studies have found obesity during pregnancy to put newborns at risk but a new study looks at the effect on fetal growth of the mother's diet quality. Spanish scientists assessed first-trimester diet quality of 787 pregnant women using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), published by Harvard University researchers in 2003. Babies born to women scoring highest on the AHEI were of healthier weight. They were not, however, of healthier head circumference or length (height). The study was released early but will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
HALF OF WATER SAMPLES CONTAIN DRUGS: Tiny traces of various medicines and personal care products were found in half the 115 water samples taken from home and business drinking water supplies in Delaware, according to a new study. The substances showing up in public water sources include caffeine; the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole; the painkiller ibuprofen; a medical-imaging aid called iopromide; estrogens; antidepressants; cholesterol drugs; nicotine; and triclosan, an ingredient used in soaps and antibacterial hand cleaners. The effects of these drugs on humans or fish are unknown. Released April 27, the study was conducted by the Delaware state Division of Public health.
POLLUTION AFFECTS YOUNG HEARTS: A study concludes that hearts show the effects of air pollution at a young age and endotoxins – bits of inactivated bacteria – that ride on pollutants may make the problem worse. The body reacts to particulate matter and endotoxins with inflammation. This can lead to chronic inflammation in the heart or other organs. Researchers examined the hearts of 21 adults, average age 18, who lived in Mexico City before dying in accidents. Mexico City has perhaps the worst air pollution in North America. This study was presented April 28 at the Experimental Biology 2010 conference in Anaheim.
ENVIRONMENT BEHIND MS? A jarring study on identical twins has reported powerful evidence of a link between the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) and a non-inherited environmental factor. Researchers could not rule out a genetic predisposition altogether but an extremely in-depth analysis of the genes of pairs of identical twins showed no genetic differences between them that would account for the fact that one developed MS and his twin did not. The study also specifically examined the autoimmune genes and also found no difference. The study is the cover article in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature.
Even at low levels generally considered to pose little or no risk, exposure to environmental lead might increase - by as much as 2.3 times - the risk of depression and panic disorder but not of generalized anxiety disorder. That was the suggestion of a Canadian study appearing in the December, 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Gender and ethnicity were also factors and the researchers stressed that lead exposure cannot be determined to be a cause of these psychological problems.
A compound in blackcurrants may enhance the body’s natural defense mechanisms to reduce the lung inflammation that accompanies allergy-induced asthma, which would ease breathing difficulties in allergic individuals. Fruit consumption generally, has been known to ease breathing in allergy-related asthma by calming inflammation. But research on blackcurrants has shown how this fruit can have this effect. An antioxidant known as epigallocatechin was found to be particularly effective in blocking inflammation-causing reactions and may become a natural alternative for treating allergy-related asthma.
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April 2010 News Update
BRIEF EXERCISE SPURTS OFFSET AGING: Brief spurts of exercise may offset the aging effect associated with stress, according to a study released by the journal, PLoS One. Fourteen minutes of exercise per day, three days per week may be sufficient to offset the aging effect of stress on telomeres, short pieces of DNA that shorten – or age – with time and stress. Tiny pieces of DNA known as telomeres tend to shorten over time in reaction to various forms of stress. This shortening is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and death. This recent research shows that even a modest amount of exercise – any amount of exercise, several times a week that induces sweating or offsets the shortening of telomeres – can safeguard against the shortening of telomeres that is linked with stress and causes aging. Released May 29 in summary form, this study will be published in its full-text format in a future issue of PLoS One.
ANTIDEPRESSANTS POSE CATARACT RISK: The first major study on this topic has shown an increased risk, among seniors, of developing cataracts as a result of taking SSRIs, the most common type of antidepressant; and a higher risk of corneal damage from amantadine, a Parkinson's disease drug. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, alleviate depression by raising low levels of serotonin in the brain. But the eye's lens also contains serotonin receptors and excess serotonin can make the lens opaque and lead to cataract formation, reports the Canadian research, which included 19,000 patients who were on at least one of these drugs and 190,000 controls, meaning people who were not. The risk was related only to current use, meaning risk disappeared after discontinuation of the antidepressants. Also, some Parkinson's patients on long-term amantadine therapy were found to have cornea changes that could lead to vision damage. The study appears in the June, 2010 issue of Opthalmology and full details are available only to journal subscribers and media.
HOW ACUPUNCTURE WORKS CONFIRMED: Clarifying how acupuncture may work to reduce pain, a study shows that, at the site applied, acupuncture needles increase levels of a molecule called adenosine, a natural compound that regulates sleep, anti-inflammatory responses - and painkilling. Research previously showed an increase in brain-signaling and painkilling endorphins when the central nervous system is affected by acupuncture. But this study found that stimulation of nerve endings not linked to the brain and spinal cord also increase levels of adenosine. Mice bred to have no adenosine received no pain benefit from acupuncture; mice whose adenosine was "turned on" received benefit without acupuncture; and mice with normal adenosine had pain reduced by two thirds while adenosine levels at the needle site jumped 24 times normal levels. This study will be published in a future issue of Nature Neuroscience and usually, full details would be available before then only with subscription or fee payment. However, this particular full-text study was recently released to the public without charge, at:
The notion that green mucus indicates the presence of an infection is false. The relevance of mucus color is a myth that even many doctors believe, according to Drs. Aaron E. Carroll and Rachel C. Vreeman, coauthors of Don't Swallow Your Gum, who write," There is no evidence…that antibiotics shorten the duration of an illness when green snot is a symptom." (The book's title refers to the often-heard myth that gum will remain in your stomach for seven years.)
SLEEP-RELATED BREATHING DISORDERS FOUND COMMON AMONG CHILDREN: A newly released study has found that as many as 18 percent of pediatric patients were found to be at risk of sleep-disordered breathing disorders (SDBD). Also, SDBD in children could not be associated with particular craniofacial or demographic factors, unlike the case in adults, making SDBD much harder to detect in children. Risk could not be linked with age, race, gender or body mass. Dentists may be able to help diagnose SDBD in children using screening questions such as snoring, sleepiness or behavioral problems. An early diagnosis is important to avoid the condition being misdiagnosed as non-sleep-related clinical disorders such as attention deficit disorder. Details will be published in a future issue of the journal Sleep but a summary of the study was presented June 5, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine in San Antonio.
VITLIGO'S MYSTERIES START TO UNRAVEL: A study has found slight variations from normal in 10 genes associated with the body's immune system in people with vitiligo, confirming this mysterious disease's autoimmune nature and pointing to a better understanding that may one day lead to more personalized treatment for vitiligo patients. Vitiligo is a complex disorder in which patches of the skin's melanin, or pigment, disappear, leaving white areas on the skin and even hair. Autoimmune disorders are those involving the body's immune system attacking healthy cells in the body. The findings suggest vitiligo involves multiple pathways, meaning the exact triggers are complicated, involving both genetics and environmental factors together. This implies cures may be complicated and may involve treatments geared to the individual. The study was described in the June 6, 2010 issue of Nature Genetics and is available in its full-text format only with subscription or the payment of a fee at:
SECOND HAND SMOKE INCREASES RISK OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS: A study has found that exposure to second hand smoke causes more than physical health problems. It leads to psychological distress and raises the risk of future mental illness among otherwise healthy adults. Nonsmokers exposed to second hand smoke showed a 50 percent greater likelihood of reporting psychological distress. Smokers were also found to be at risk and both smokers and nonsmokers exposed to frequent second hand smoke showed a higher psychiatric hospital admission rate, in addition to greater distress and psychological problems. Animal studies have previously shown that smoke can raise negativity and is a cause of depression, which is in keeping with the conclusions of this study. The new study was published online on June 7, 2010, ahead of print publication in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The full-text version of this study has been made available by the journal, without subscription or fee, at:
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS REDUCES RISK OF AGE-RELATED HEARING LOSS: A study has determined that there is an inverse association between age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, and the intake of long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids and fish. In other words, greater consumption of fish, fish oil or other omega-3 oils tended to delay or prevent age-related hearing loss. The research included 2,956 subjects who were 50 years of age or older and showed that those consuming an average of two or more servings of fish per week experienced a 42 percent reduced risk of developing presbycusis compared to those consuming less than one serving of fish a week. The study was released today, June 9, 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a summary, or abstract, format. The full-text version will be published in a future issue but is now available online with a subscription to the journal or the payment of a fee at:
EGG CONSUMPTION CLEARED IN DIABETES RISK: A study has clarified previously inconsistent and limited data on the association between eating eggs and the development of diabetes type 2 among adults. The incidence of type 2 diabetes was noted for 3,898 adult men and women who were divided into groups according to their regular egg consumption patterns: never eat eggs, fewer than one a month, 1-3 per month, 1-4 per week and almost daily. No meaningful association was found between the number of eggs consumed and diabetes risk; nor between dietary cholesterol and diabetes. Further analysis also found no link between egg consumption and fasting glucose, fasting insulin or insulin resistance, all measures of diabetes risk. Released June 9, 2010 as an abstract, or summary, the study will be published in its full-text version in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is currently available with a subscription to the journal or the payment of a fee at:
Long term use of metformin, the commonly prescribed "cornerstone" type 2 diabetes drug, increases the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. A deficiency of this vitamin raises levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood; higher levels are considered a risk factor for heart disease. Metformin causes malabsorption of vitamin B12 and this negative effect increases over time. The study establishing this link was posted online at the site of the British Medical Journal on May 20, 2010 and the full-text version is now available without the payment of a fee at:
SCIENTISTS DEVELOP LOW-ALLERGY PEANUT: Researchers have created a new, low-allergy peanut that may make life a lot easier and safer for those with severe peanut allergy. The new peanut also is expected to lower the risk of children developing peanut allergies in the first place. Developed with funding from the US Department of Agriculture, the new peanut contains none of the key proteins that are believed to spark allergies and reactions. The question now is whether peanuts missing these proteins can reproduce naturally to produce peanuts that also lack those proteins. The new plant was not genetically modified; it was the product of conventional cross-breeding. The report, which has not been published, was presented in London at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, which wrapped up June 9.
SPINAL CORD STIMULATION: NEW HOPE FOR PARKINSON’S PATIENTS? A new but very small and preliminary study indicates that spinal cord stimulation (SCS) may be able to lessen the motor, or walking, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Previous studies found motor function improvement with SCS in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and this prompted the researchers to test SCS on a single 82-year-old male with PD. Low frequency stimulation produced a noticeable worsening of locomotion symptoms; but when high-frequency stimulation was employed, symptoms and walking time greatly improved. The effect was then replicated in a second human patient. The study is too small to draw hard conclusions but suggests an area of future research. The lead author presented his findings June 14, at the biennial meeting of the American Society for Stereotactical and Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN) in New York City.
BROWN RICE DECREASES DIABETES RISK: A new study has shown a greater risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women who eat white rice compared to those who do not. Perhaps of surprise to some, the study also found a reduced risk of diabetes 2 in those who eat brown rice compared to those who do not regularly eat rice. Specifically, the risk of diabetes increased with five or more servings of rice per week; and the risk of diabetes was reduced with consumption of two or more servings of brown rice per week. Researchers estimated that replacing just one third of a daily serving of white rice with an equal amount of brown rice would decrease type 2 diabetes risk by 16 percent; replacing one third of the white rice with other whole grains such as barley or whole wheat could decrease the risk by 36 percent. This brief abstract, or summary, was released June 14, 2010 by the Archives of Internal Medicine; however, the full-text version of the study is available only with either journal subscription or the payment of a fee at:
VITAMIN D PROTECTS AGAINST VIRUSES: A new study has found that vitamin D - long associated with good bone health - provides protection against viral respiratory tract infections, reducing their incidence and severity. One example of this type of infection would be influenza. Researchers followed 198 health adults during the fall and winter of 2009 - 2010 and measured each individual's ongoing blood levels of vitamin D in a seasonal period when these levels tend to fall due to the lack of sunlight. Levels were weighed against the incidence and symptoms of respiratory infections; those with the highest vitamin D levels experienced less illness and significantly reduced days of symptoms. (Vitamin D is also known to support the body's absorption of calcium to prevent osteoporosis, and has been linked to cardiovascular health.) This study was published June 15, 2010 by the open-access journal PLoS ONE and the full-text version is now available without subscription or cost at:
Despite what some people believe, tanning beds are no safer than outdoor sunlight. A review of seven studies found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who had been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from indoor tanning before the age of 35. Melanoma is one of the less common forms of skin cancer but is responsible for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. Studies have demonstrated that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA, key genetic material, in the skin cells and can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma.
SNACKING ASSOCIATED WITH REDUCED RISK OF BEING OBESE: A new study has concluded that adolescents who regularly snack have a lower chance of being overweight or obese and of having excess abdominal weight. The data analyzed covered a five-year period and assessed both the number of snacks and the percentage of overall calories ingested during snacking. Both frequency of snacks and percentage of overall calories from snacks proved to be inversely related to obesity and abdominal weight – that is, the greater the number and caloric intake of snacks, the less the risk of being overweight, obese or having excess abdominal weight. The study was released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on June 16, 2010 in summary, or abstract, form. The full-text version is available online, with either journal subscription or the payment of a fee, at:
PRESCRIPTION DRUG EMERGENCIES NOW EQUAL ILLEGAL DRUG CASES: A new study shows that for the first time, abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications results in as many cases of emergency room (ER) visits as those resulting from cocaine, heroin or other illegal drug abuses. In 2008, there were one million ER cases of legal drug abuses, mostly painkillers and sedatives – and that was about the same number of cases of ER visits from illegal drugs. Just five years ago, statistics show, illegal drug ER incidents were double that of prescription drug cases. Some of the increase in legal drug problems may come from mixing several prescription drugs or from combining them with alcohol. The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy released a statement suggesting that, “the abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.” The report was released June 18, 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and can be read online at:
VITAMIN D LEVELS REMAIN LOW IN RHEUMATIC PATIENTS: Three separate studies paint a worrisome picture of vitamin D deficiencies among patients of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic disorders are those of the joints and connective tissue and include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and lupus, among others. Two new studies found deficient vitamin D levels in these patients. But a third new study found deficiencies of vitamin D still remained in most patients even after supplementation for six months, with 800-1000 IU. This suggests that vitamin D is a common finding in rheumatic patients and that supplementation with 800-1000 IU is insufficient to normalize levels. Would higher levels of supplementation work? The researchers report that the answer is not yet clear. All three studies were separately presented June 18 at EULAR 2010, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, in Rome. They have not been published yet.
Pecans are an antioxidant powerhouse. Of all tree nuts, pecans have the highest antioxidant content. They also fall within the top 15 foods overall that hold the greatest antioxidant content. According to a recent issue of Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research, eating just a handful of pecans a day may delay the progression of age-related motor neuron degeneration and such diseases as amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Pecans provide over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins. They are naturally cholesterol-free and, unless salted, sodium-free.
HOARDING FRIENDS, BEING LONELY AND POOR HEALTH OFTEN GO HAND IN HAND: Two studies by the same team have found that true loneliness is caused by a lack of depth in communication and connection and that it can often be an underlying health problem in people who hoard friends and have a busy social life. Meeting up with numerous friends, following them on Twitter, or staying in touch with former coworkers does not carry much clout in combating true loneliness, which is a lack of depth of one-to-one communication. And lacking this underlying deeper connection affects health in ways that are becoming clearer: it reduces the regenerative effect of sleep, the ability to cope with stress, and individuals' attention to health. The mere presence of a relationship, even a "close" one, did not affect this tendency towards loneliness and diminished health. One study appears in summary form in the June issue of the journal, Health Communication and the second will appear in a future issue. The first study is now available in full-text format but only with subscription or fee payment at:
FLAME RETARDANT AFFECTS THYROID DURING PREGNANCY: A new study has suggested risks to the fetus from a mother’s higher blood levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a family of compounds commonly found in flame retardants. Mothers with the highest levels of these compounds showed as much as 18.7 percent lower thyroid hormone levels (THS), which may have serious health impacts on newborn babies, as well as the mothers’ health. (PBDEs are a class of organobromine compounds found in common household items such as carpets, textiles, foam furnishings, electronics and plastics. U.S. fire safety standards implemented in the 1970s led to increased use of PBDEs, which can leach out into the environment and accumulate in human fat cells.) The exact pathway by which flame retardants influence thyroid hormones is unclear, although they do mimic human hormones. New “safer” brominated and chlorinated retardants are being phased in by 2013 but even their health impact has not been fully tested, suggested the researchers. The study was released in this summary, or abstract, form on June 21, ahead of its subsequent publication in print, by Environmental Health Perspectives. The full-text version will not be available until the study is published.
LACK OF REM SLEEP LINKED TO CHRONIC MIGRAINES: A new study suggests that a lack of sleep, as well as a lack during sleep of the dreaming phases known as REM, can trigger migraines and increase the risk of chronic migraines. Rapid Eye Movement or REM phases of sleep are those brief periods during which we experience dreaming. Regularly losing sleep, or sleeping but without REM periods - as often occurs when alcohol, drugs or stress are involved – increases the expression, or activity, of certain proteins related to lowering our threshold of pain. The proteins are known as p38, PKA, and P2X3 and lower expression of them can cause the pain of migraine. The study was presented in Los Angeles to the attendees of the American Headache Society’s annual scientific meeting on June 25. It has not been published and details are not yet available.
DID YOU KNOW…?Despite the often-heard notion that habitually cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis, there is simply no evidence to back this up. The noise arises from the movement of air out of spaces in the joints. It seems that knuckle-crackers are no more likely to have arthritis than those who don’t make those potentially-annoying popping sounds with their fingers.
CT SCANS MAY POSE HEALTH RISK: A study suggests that CT scans - because they are so often prescribed, sometimes unnecessary and occasionally, overdosed - may pose a greater cancer risk than previously believed. Generally, the study concludes that patients are unaware of the risks, and how often scans are ordered (or demanded by the patient) when they are not required. What are CT scans? They are basically x-rays that are super-sharp in imagery. However, they involve much higher levels of radiation than ordinary x-rays and too much radiation raises the risk of cancer over time. The study authors believe that the best way for patients to avoid long-term radiation overdoses and potential cancer risks is for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be given the right to set limits on CT scans, as it now does with drug dosages. The study was published in the June 24, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and can be read online at:
'CAUSE' OF FUNGUS-RELATED ASTHMA ATTACKS FOUND: A study has found that severe asthma attacks requiring hospitalization can result from a combination of two factors: being of a specific genetic type and being exposed to environments heavy with mold or fungus. Preventing asthma attacks is difficult without knowing the exact mechanism by which only some people become so strongly affected. But the study shows that those with certain variants of genes known as chitinases are most susceptible. Chitinase genes break down chitin, a compound in many fungi; and these genes kick into high gear, especially in the lungs, during an allergic inflammation. If researchers can someday find some therapy that blocks the activity of these chitinase genes in those who have them, they may be able to prevent asthma attacks altogether. This study was released June 25 by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in abstract, or summary, format. The full-text version is not yet available but will be published in a future issue of the journal, by which time it will be made available with subscription or payment of a fee.
NINETY PERCENT OF AMERICANS EXCEED RECOMMENDED SALT INTAKE: A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that only ten percent of American adults manage to keep their dietary sodium intake below the maximum recommended daily intake level. That grim statistic is even worse in light of the sharp recent reduction in the recommended intake level from 2,300 mg daily - which was the level set in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - to 1,500 mg, the maximum set in the 2010 version, which came out last week. The new study was based on those former, much higher recommendations and adherence to the new guidelines would be even lower. Although found naturally in some foods, sodium is a key element in added salt. Excessive salt intake is linked to high blood pressure, which in turn is linked to increased risks for stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and kidney disease. The new report was released June 25, 2010 and is available to read online free of charge at:
VITAMIN D MAY BOOST MENTAL AGILITY IN ELDERLY: Cognitive performance is much improved among the elderly who are not deficient in vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency may be common among shut-in seniors due to limited access to sunshine and other factors, according to a new study. More than 1,000 study participants who were receiving home care were assessed for vitamin D status. Only 35 percent of participants had sufficient vitamin D levels and this group scored higher on cognitive performance tests than those who were deficient or insufficient in vitamin D. Pathways for vitamin D have been identified in the hippocampus and cerebellum areas of the brain; these are regions associated with planning, processing new information and forming new memories, suggesting vitamin D is important to the cognitive process and for independent senior living. The study was released June 26 by the journal, Journals of Gerontology, Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, in a summary format. But it is available in full-text format with a journal subscription or payment of a fee, at:
NATURAL WAY TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE: A study has shown that the nitrate content of beetroot is what lowers blood pressure, an effect discovered in earlier studies. Healthy volunteers took nitrate tablets or beetroot juice and the subsequently reduced blood pressure readings in both groups pinpoint beetroot’s nitrate content as the key cause. The effect was seen within a mere 24 hours after consumption of just 250 ml of the juice, suggesting a natural means to keep blood pressure within normal range, which is important for avoiding cardiovascular disease. Also, the decrease was greater in those who started the trial with the highest blood pressure. This study was released as an abstract, or summary, on June 28 but won’t be published in print until a future issue of the journal Hypertension. The full-text version is available online now with either subscription or the payment of a fee at:
Antibiotics cannot be effective against the common cold. Nor can they have any impact on viral respiratory infections. The reason? Antibiotics target bacterial infections but are completely ineffective against viruses, such as the common cold or other "viral" infections. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, over 18 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed by U.S. doctors every year for the common cold. And over 50 million unnecessary antibiotic courses are prescribed in the U.S. annually for viral respiratory infections. Use of antibiotics where they are not potentially effective can cause a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance, in which bacteria - normally susceptible to antibiotic drugs - mutate to become immune to our strongest anti-bacterial drugs.
Most dietary sodium comes from salt. But if you think hiding the salt shaker is going to make a big difference, think again. According to a 1991 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, only about 10 percent of sodium intake comes from table salt and at-home cooking. At least 77 percent of the dietary sodium intake in the United States comes from restaurant meals and processed foods. These are the areas you may want to target, not the salt shaken on your veggies at the dinner table.
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