NEWS BRIEFS: Vitamin D for Heart Health; B-3 for Alzheimer’s; Soft Drinks Affect Fertility

Vitamin D3 may reverse the damage that high blood pressure, diabetes and atherosclerosis inflict on the cardiovascular system

VITAMIN D MAY REVERSE VASCULAR DAMAGE

For the first time, scientists have identified the role that vitamin D plays in preserving cardiovascular health. They used nanosensors and a cell model to identify the molecular mechanisms that vitamin D3 can trigger in the endothelium, which is the thin layer of tissue that lines blood vessels.

Often thought of simply as an inert lining that allows water and electrolytes to pass in and out of the bloodstream, the endothelium layer is now known to act more like an organ, the cells of which carry out many biological functions. Changes to the endothelium have been linked to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, tumour growth, virus infections, and atherosclerosis. Vitamin D3 sources include supplements, egg yolks, and oily fish.

The new study suggests that vitamin D3, a version of vitamin D that our bodies produce naturally when we expose our skin to the sun (without sunscreen), plays a key role in repairing the damage to the endothelium that occurs in these diseases. The senior author indicated that many people who have heart attacks also have a vitamin D3 deficiency, although it does not mean the deficiency caused the heart attack.

The findings suggest that vitamin D3 is a powerful trigger of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an important signaling role in the control of blood flow and the formation of blood clots in blood vessels. The study suggests that vitamin D3 has the potential to significantly reverse the damage that high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other diseases inflict on the cardiovascular system. This study was published in the January 19, 2018 issue of the International Journal of Nanomedicine. It be read at https://tinyurl.com/ycmqmslk free of charge.


TRANSPORTATION NOISE INCREASES HEART DISEASE RISK

A new study has found that noise may disrupt the body on the cellular level in a way that increases the risk of common heart disease risk factors. (There has been growing evidence connecting environmental noise such as road traffic and aircrafts, to the development of heart disease such as coronary artery disease, arterial hypertension, stroke, and heart failure.)

Researchers looked at previous noise studies, and the accumulated evidence suggested that noise induces a stress response that activates the sympathetic nervous system and increases levels of hormones. These body reactions to stress ultimately lead to vascular damage. This evidence strengthens the concept that transportation noise contributes to the development of heart disease risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes, because noise is associated with oxidative stress, vascular dysfunction, and metabolic abnormalities.

The authors looked at some mitigation strategies such as traffic management, development of low-noise tires, and air traffic curfews that may help reduce hazardous noise, but they stressed that other strategies are needed. This study was published in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The full study report can be downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/ya62rakc for a fee.


SOFT DRINKS REDUCE PREGNANCY ODDS

Researchers have found that the intake of one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day, by either partner, is associated with a decreased chance of getting pregnant. (The amount of added sugar in the American diet has increased dramatically over the last 50 years, and much of that increase comes from higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, which constitute approximately a third of the total added sugar consumption in the American diet. While consumption of these beverages has been linked to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, early menstruation, and poor semen quality, few studies have investigated the relationship between sugary drinks and fertility. About 15 per cent of couples in North America experience infertility.)

Participants completed a comprehensive baseline survey on medical history, lifestyle factors, and diet, including their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. Female participants then completed a follow-up questionnaire every two months for up to 12 months or until pregnancy occurred. Both female and male intake of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with 20 per cent reduced probability of conception. Females who consumed at least one soda per day had 25 per cent lower chance of getting pregnant, and male consumption of at least one soda per day was associated with 33 per cent lower chance of getting pregnant. This study was posted online, ahead of publication in the journal Epidemiology. The study can be downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/y762poe9 for a fee.


VITAMIN B3 VARIANT APPEARS TO REVERSE ALZHEIMER’S IN MICE

New research shows that nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B, prevents brain damage in mice, suggesting a potential new therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in humans. (Nicotinamide riboside, or NR, is a variant of nicotinamide. Nicotinamide is also known as vitamin B3. In a previous study, large doses of nicotinamide reversed Alzheimer’s-related memory loss in mice. This new study focused on NR itself and its ability to repair brain DNA.)

The study author explained that a deficiency in the ability of the brain to repair its DNA leads to dysfunction in the mitochondria, or energy-generating components, of brain cells; this in turn leads to reduced neuron production and neuronal dysfunction. NR is critical for mitochondrial health and production, stem cell self-renewal, and neuronal stress resistance.

The team added NR to the drinking water of mice that had been genetically engineered to develop the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, including toxic buildups of the proteins tau and amyloid beta, dysfunctional synapses, and neuronal death, all of which resulted in cognitive deficits. The mice drank the water for three months. Compared with controls, the NR-treated mice had less of the damaging protein tau in the brain, less DNA damage, and more neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire itself and store new memories).

Also, fewer neurons died or were damaged in these mice. Remarkably, in the memory section of the brain (the hippocampus), NR removed existing DNA damage. All positive brain changes produced better results on cognition tests, maze tasks, and object recognition tests, and treated mice also demonstrated stronger muscles and better gait.

This study was posted online February 5, 2018, ahead of eventual publication in the journal PNAS. The full study report can be viewed now at https://tinyurl.com/ya2drfaa by journal subscribers or those who pay the access fee.


DID YOU KNOW…?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently put processed meat on its list of Group 1 cancer-causing substances, along with tobacco, asbestos, and diesel fumes.


TIME AND SPEED OF EATING LINKED TO WEIGHT LOSS

Evidence now shows that slowing down the speed at which you eat, cutting out after-dinner snacks, and not eating within two hours of bedtime are all habits that are strongly associated with lower obesity and weight (BMI) and smaller waist circumference.

Scientists mined five years of health insurance data for nearly 60,000 claimants with diabetes, including measurements of weight (BMI) and waist circumference and tests for blood chemistry, urine, and liver function. Participants were quizzed about lifestyle and eating and sleeping habits. They were specifically asked about their eating speed, which was categorized as fast, normal, or slow, and whether they did any of the following three or more times a week: eat dinner within two hours of going to sleep, snack after dinner, or skip breakfast.

Compared with those who tended to gobble down their food, those who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese, rising to 42% for those who ate slowly. Snacking after dinner and eating within two hours of going to sleep three or more times a week were also strongly linked to changes in BMI. But skipping breakfast had no effect on BMI. This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. This study was published online February 12, 2018 by the journal BMJ Open. The full study report is available now at https://tinyurl.com/y9qupdsk free of charge.


DID YOU KNOW…?

• Spending five minutes writing a list at bedtime of things to do the next day aids in falling asleep, according to a recent Baylor University study. (Ed:This is likely because once it’s written down, it’s off the mind.)

• The green, leafy tops of carrots contain six times more vitamin C than the orange root itself. They also provide lots of potassium and calcium.

• A recent study found that walking at varying speeds can burn up to 20% more calories compared to a steady pace.


DRUG ERRORS LINKED TO UP TO 22,000 DEATHS A YEAR IN ENGLAND

A study has revealed that avoidable drug reactions from medication errors result in hundreds of deaths annually in England. The total number of medication errors occurring in the National Health Service in that country in a single year was found to be 237 million, and the total number of resulting deaths directly attributable to drug errors was shown to be 712. However, avoidable drug reactions from medication errors contributed indirectly to a total of between 1,700 and 22,303 deaths a year.

Of the 237 million medication errors that occur in a year, the researchers found that over one in four are likely to result in harm to patients. There is very little information on the harm that actually happens due to medication errors. The economic cost associated with adverse drug reactions had a significant cost, estimated to be about 98.5 million British pounds (137.9 million US dollars). There were anesthetic litigation claims amounting to more than 6 million pounds (8.4 million US dollars). Most of the errors with potential to cause harm happened in primary care, which is where most medicines were prescribed and dispensed. Errors were more likely to occur in older people and in patients with multiple conditions and using many medicines. The study team is calling for more work to be done on finding cost-effective ways of preventing medication errors and their potential harm to patients.

The study was published in Policy Research Unit in Economic Evaluation of Health and Care Interventions on February 22, 2018. The full study details are available now at https://tinyurl.com/yc7xebzp free of charge.


COMMON DIABETES DRUG IN PREGNANCY BOOSTS WEIGHT OF CHILDREN

Scientists have concluded that women who take a commonly prescribed diabetes medication during pregnancy may be increasing the risk that their children will develop obesity or become overweight. (A growing number of pregnant women are taking Metformin to treat gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy, or a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. When pregnant women with PCOS or gestational diabetes take Metformin, the medication crosses the placenta and is passed to the fetus.)

Parents of 292 children, who had participated in two previous clinical trials and who had PCOS, were assigned to take either metformin or a placebo during pregnancy. The researchers later reviewed body mass index (BMI) and other measurements for 161 children born following the two earlier studies. At four years of age, the children whose mothers took Metformin during pregnancy tended to weigh more than the children whose mothers took the placebo. Although Metformin did not appear to affect birth weight, the trend became apparent when children reached six months of age. At the age of four years, the children in the Metformin group had higher BMI scores and were more likely to meet the criteria for obesity or overweight than children in the placebo group.

These findings indicate more research is needed to determine the effects of this diabetes drug on children who are exposed in the womb. This study was posted online February 27, 2018. It will later appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The full manuscript can be read now at https://tinyurl.com/ycsbjdhj for an access fee.


DID YOU KNOW…?

• A study found that sugar substitutes stimulate the appetite, leading to an increase in calorie consumption of up to 30%.

• The more that young adults log onto Facebook and other social media, the more likely they are to be depressed, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study.

• An analysis of 29 randomized human studies by scientists at Johns Hopkins found that a 500 milligram tablet of vitamin C each day significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

• A study in Cell Metabolism found that four 4-minute bursts of flat-out exercise on a stationary bicycle just three days a week – a total of just 48 high-intensity minutes a week – resulted in much greater levels of age-reversing changes at the genetic and cellular levels, along with enhanced mitochondrial activity, and improved insulin sensitivity than regular weight-lifting sessions.

• A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that half of all U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes.

• Depression produces the greatest deterioration in health of all common chronic conditions. It is a particular problem among older adults.

• Research reported in 2015 links over 184,000 deaths a year with sugar-sweetened drinks.

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