Health News Briefs – December 2011 /January 2012

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A study has found that a diet lacking cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.) results in a poorly functioning immune and repair system by causing a 70 to 80 percent reduction in important immune cells called intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs). The researchers fed mice a diet low in these vegetables. After three weeks, they observed lower levels of certain cell-surface proteins called aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhRs), which appear to be regulated by compounds found in cruciferous vegetables. The study found that lower levels of these AhR proteins directly causes lower levels of the key immune cells known as IELs. The IEL immune cells are found in the gut and on the skin, where they restrict the numbers and types of microbes in these areas; trigger antimicrobial proteins; and speed the repair of injured tissue. These findings cannot be directly extrapolated to humans, but suggest it may a good idea to include cruciferous vegetables in the diet to keep the immune and repair system from failing. This study was released Oct. 13, 2011, and is scheduled for a future issue of the journal Cell.


Researchers have concluded that healthier dietary choices by pregnant women can reduce the risk of some birth defects, including neural tube defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, suggesting that some maternal dietary approaches and peri-conceptional (about the time of conception) multivitamin use could lead to a reduced risk of other birth defects. (Previous similar research has tended to focus on one vitamin at a time, but this research takes into account the fact that nutrition is more complex. Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects, but it does not prevent all birth defects. While grains and other foods are fortified with folic acid, additional amounts ingested from fortified foods may not be appropriate for all adults, such as those already receiving ample quantities.) Overall diet quality was determined, for the year before pregnancy, based on indices that reflected the Mediterranean diet, and the US Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid. This study was released October 3, 2011, but it will not be published until a future issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.


Researchers have found that older people who rate their own health as poor or fair are up to 70 percent more likely to develop dementia later in life, and that this personal assessment may be a useful way for practitioners to assess the risk of dementia, especially among those who show no memory problems or other preliminary symptoms. These results held even when the team made allowances for existing health conditions, such as high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The study tracked 8,169 people aged 65 or over for seven years. Those who rated their health as poor or fair showed a risk of dementia that was higher by 70, and 34 percent, respectively. The link was even greater for those who showed no cognitive problems at the time they rated their own health; those without memory or cognitive problems who rated their health as poor showed a 100 percent higher dementia risk. This study was released October 5, 2011 but will not be published in print until a future issue of the journal Neurology. It is available online now at https:// with subscription or access fee.


Even a short-term restriction, during adolescence, of the hours spent sleeping may prevent the balanced growth and depletion of brain synapses, possibly interfering with the massive rewiring of the nerve circuits that occurs during adolescence and that affects brain maturation and function. This may affect normal brain development – even from just one night’s reduction of required sleep duration. Frequent periods of sleep deprivation could have a lasting effect on normal brain “wiring” during the important adolescent years. (Brain synapses are junctions at which molecules known as neurotransmitters are emitted by a neuron to electrochemically excite other neurons or cells. Mental disorders such a schizophrenia often begin during adolescence, but their cause is not known.) Earlier studies found that adult synapses become smaller during sleep, presumably preparing them for the waking hours when they grow stronger again in response to new experiences (synaptic homeostasis); synapses are created, eliminated and replaced in an ongoing pattern that follows the sleep cycle. However, the study found that the synapses of mice that were briefly prevented from sleeping had a different pattern of synapse growth and depletion, despite the fact that the entire period of the study was only 8-10 hours. This study was released October 9, 2011 by the journal Nature Neuroscience, and will be published in a future issue. It is available online now at with subscription or article access fee.


Researchers have concluded that use of certain prescription medicines of various types, including antihistamines and diuretics, are the cause of about ten percent of all cases of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) such as frequent urination, in men. (LUTS is a set of symptoms associated with aging that includes frequent urination, weak stream, post-void dribbling, and hesitancy in initiating the stream.) An enlarged prostate, known as benign prostate hyperplasia, is considered the main cause of LUTS, and past research has found that certain medications can make enlarged prostate symptoms worse. However, this study found that these drugs can also cause LUTS, most especially in men who do not have enlarged prostate. All six drug groups surveyed – antidepressants, antihistamines, bronchodilators, anticholinergics, sympathomimetics, and diuretics – caused urinary symptoms in some men. Diuretics in particular, sometimes referred to as water pills, were linked with frequent urination, and cause three percent of LUTS. Antidepressants cause four percent of LUTS, and bronchodilators cause two percent. Released October 10, 2011, this study will appear in a future issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. It is accessible now online at with subscription or fee.


In a small study, researchers have found that a substantially different assortment of bacteria in the saliva of some people is an indicator of their diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and is an effective way to identify those at risk of this particularly deadly cancer. The team analyzed the saliva of a total of 38 healthy patients and compared the bacterial profile with that of the saliva of 38 patients with pancreatic cancer that had not spread. Two species occurred less often in pancreatic cancer patients, while one species showed up more often. (The species indicating pancreatic cancer by their absence were Neisseria elongata and Streptococcus mitis; the species linked to cancer by its presence was Granulicatella adjacens.) It is not clear whether the different makeup of mouth bacteria is a trigger for pancreatic cancer, or is a symptom of the cancer. Mouth bacteria analysis may provide an early warning to seek further tests, leading to earlier detection and improved outcomes. The study was released October 12, 2011 by the journal Gut, but will not appear in print until a future issue. It is available online now at with subscription or fee.


A study has found that reducing the protein portion of the diet from 15 percent to 10 percent can increase calorie intake by 12 percent in just four days, suggesting that proper protein consumption levels play a key role in avoiding obesity. Also, 70 percent of the increased calorie intake was the result of snacking, which often involves less than ideal nutrition choices. The researchers found that the body has a specific appetite for protein and when protein consumption is low, it drives the body to increase energy intake, which means a higher calorie intake. The study may mean that, when the body automatically increases its calorie intake in response to a decrease in protein consumption, more calories come from the readily available choices of foods rich in fat and carbohydrates, which are calorie-rich. Diets that cut protein intake may contribute to weight gain. This study was released October 12, 2011 by the journal PLoS One and will appear in a future issue. However, it is available online now at without cost.


Watermelons trigger a loss of fat with no loss of lean tissue, resulting in weight loss, reported an October 2011 study on animals that were fed watermelon juice for eight weeks. They also showed fewer lesions linked to hardening of the arteries, and lower cholesterol.


A new study is both surprising and disturbing: surprising because it was conducted by grade school students and subsequently accepted for scientific presentation; and disturbing because it found that, although one in four kindergarten students were not able to distinguish between medicine and candy, the same inability to make this distinction was found for one in five of their teachers. Twenty candies and medical pills were shown to 30 very young students and 30 adult teachers, who were asked if they were looking at a candy or a pill. The teachers fared only slightly better than the students, many of whom could not read. The most common mistakes included mistaking Mylanta and Tums for SweeTARTS, and Sine-off for Reeses Pieces. The study, conducted by children who are now in grade seven, also surveyed how these medicinal items are stored at home. It was found that 78 percent of both teachers and students did not safely store medicines in locked, or even out-of-reach, places. This unpublished study was presented October 17, 2011 in Boston at American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference, by students of Ayer Elementary School in Cincinnati.


Researchers have found that teens who experience the regular disruption to their circadian cycles that is a part of shift work, before the age of 20, have a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, or MS. (Circadian cycles are the daily cycles of the body. Disruption of these patterns is believed to disturb melatonin secretion and increase inflammatory responses, promoting disease. These disruptions were previously linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease, thyroid disorders, and cancer. MS is a central nervous system, autoimmune inflammatory disorder that has an environmental component, which can include lifestyle factors.) Shift work was defined as permanent or alternating working hours between 9 pm and 7 am. Subjects ranged in age from 16 to 70. Results showed a two-fold increase in MS risk for those who worked night shifts for three years or longer before age 20, compared to those who had never worked these off-hours. The exact mechanism for the increased risk of MS is not known. This study was released October 17, 2011 by the Annals of Neurology and will publish in a future issue. It is available online at with subscription or fee.


A study has found strikingly high levels of a bacterium known as Fusobacterium within colorectal tumours, suggesting that this bacterium could be the underlying cause of colorectal cancer, and may hold the key to diagnosing, treating, and preventing this cancer. (Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Tumours often contain microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria – usually in small amounts. A large number of bacterial cells suggests, but does not prove, that the bacterium may cause colorectal cancer.) Analysis of eighteen samples, half normal colon tissue and half colorectal cancer tissue, turned up unusually large volumes of Fusobacterium. The researchers stressed this does not mean this bacterium causes colorectal cancer; these tumors may simply provide the bacteria with a hospitable environment. However, Fusobacterium is linked to inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which increases the risk of colorectal cancer. The study was released October 18, 2011 and will be published in a future issue of Genome Research. It is accessible online at with subscription or article access fee.


Drinking hot tea or coffee reduces the presence in the nasal cavity of the virulent microbe, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, by 50 percent. And those who regularly drank both tea and coffee saw a 67 percent reduction, according to a July 2011 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.


A research team has found that drinking a greater volume of low-sugar fluids reduces the risk in men of developing bladder cancer; that men drink fewer liquids as they age; and that physicians should recommend greater low-sugar fluid intake to at-risk patients. The large study included 47,909 men aged 40 to 75, and covered a 22-year period with participants completing a questionnaire every four years. Those generally receiving a greater fluid intake had a lower incidence of bladder cancer, although the study did not determine the reason for this protective effect. It was hypothesized that fluids may flush out potential carcinogens before they have the opportunity to cause the tissue damage that can lead to bladder cancer. The association between greater fluid intake and lower cancer risk was stronger among the youngest men in the study. Also, men were found to drink less fluid, especially water, as they aged. This study was first presented October 24, 2011 at the international conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Boston. It has not yet been published or posted online.


Researchers conducting an analysis of previous studies have determined that – with the exception of aspirin – use of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) significantly increases the risk of renal cell carcinoma, or RCC. (Renal cell carcinoma is a type of kidney cancer that starts in the lining of very small tubes, or tubules, in the kidney.) Previous studies showed mixed results but this study combined evidence from 18 prior studies and found a clear risk of RCC with non-aspirin NSAIDs. While other NSAIDs increased the risk of RCC by 26 percent, acetaminophen was found to raise the risk of RCC by 33 percent. However, the evidence did not show a link between aspirin and renal cell carcinoma. This study was first presented October 25, 2011 at the international conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Boston. It has not yet been published or posted online.


A study has found that indoor tanning raises the risk of developing three common skin cancers, and that risk increases by 11 to 15 percent for every four tanning sessions within a one-year period. (Tanning bed use remains widespread with over 10 percent of Americans using a facility at least several times a year.) This 20-year study of over 73,000 women found  that indoor tanning increased the risk for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma by 15 percent for every four visits made to a tanning booth per year, compared to non-users. The risk for melanoma increased by 11 percent for every four visits made to a booth per year, compared to non-users. The effect was seen to be more predominant during the high school or college years. For some reason, the risk for basal cell carcinoma was higher when tanning was done during the high school or college years, compared to use during the ages of 25 to 35. Presented October 25, 2011 at the conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, this study has not yet been published or posted.


An analysis of statistical data has shown that adopting seven simple lifestyle changes can add a decade or more of healthy years to life, and that people who follow all seven steps can expect to live an additional 40 to 50 years after the age of 50. This translates to a 90 percent chance of living to age 90 or 100 free of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Adopting all seven lifestyle habits involves: being active, knowing and controlling cholesterol, following a healthy diet, knowing and controlling blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, managing diabetes, and staying tobacco- and smoke-free. These lifestyle changes tend to compress life-threatening diseases into the final stages of life. (Heart disease and stroke rates have declined significantly over the past half century, but this health dividend is being offset by a large increase in obesity and diabetes rates.) This study was presented October 23, 2011, at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver. It has not been published or posted online.


People assume that they can easily burn off a sweet treat with a little exercise. But two pieces of sugar-laden candy can add up to 480 calories, and burning off that many calories requires a 160-pound person to walk for 157 minutes, run fast for 29 minutes, or golf for 88 minutes, carrying clubs.


A study has found that female night shift workers have a greater incidence of metabolic syndrome and a greater incidence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including higher blood pressure and increased abdominal circumference. In fact, the research found metabolic syndrome among 74 percent of those who had been working night shifts for more than 15 years. Because so many men perform night shift work, previous research has largely reflected cardiovascular risks among male night workers; this study focused only on women doing shift work in two hospitals in southeastern Ontario, including various positions such as nursing, administrative staff, and lab technicians. The reason for the greater risk of both metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease is not known, but it may involve a disruption of biological rhythms, sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns. (Earlier Statistics Canada numbers found that shift workers were more likely to cut back on sleep, and spend less time with their spouses, compared with regular day workers.) This study was presented October 23, 2011 in Vancouver at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2011. It has not been published or posted.


A study has concluded that a vitamin B derivative called pyridorin (or pyridoxamine dihydrochloride) appears to slow or help prevent the progression of kidney disease among diabetic patients, although it does not seem to help patients with advanced kidney disease. Pyridorin targets several cellular processes that may be relevant to the progression of diabetic kidney disease. Dosages found to have no effect on advanced kidney disease patients, but found to reduce the risk of kidney disease in those with early or no kidney problems, were both 150mg twice a day, and 300 mg twice a day. This vitamin B derivative is defined as a vitamin because it acts like one in the body, where it is converted to the biologically active form of vitamin B6. Because the prevalence of diabetes is expected to double by 2030, this finding may help increasing numbers of diabetics who are known to have a higher risk of kidney disease. This study was released October 27, 2011 by the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and will appear in an upcoming issue. It is available online now at with subscription or fee.


Scientists have concluded that individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD) who have deficient levels of vitamin D show greater risk of mortality from all causes, especially cardiovascular disease, compared to CKD patients who did not have a vitamin D deficiency, and that this finding confirms current practitioner guidelines to correct vitamin D deficiencies among kidney patients. (Diabetics and those with high blood pressure are at greater risk of chronic kidney disease, which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test of creatinine levels. Vitamin D deficiency is found in the majority of patients with chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic renal disease, and this may be a factor in disease complications; until now, it has not been known if this deficiency affected death risk.) In fact, compared to CKD patients with vitamin D sufficiency, those CKD patients with the severest vitamin D deficiency had 3.79 times the risk of dying from any cause, and 5.61 times the risk of dying from cardiovascular causes. This study is published in the November 2011 issue of the journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, and is accessible online at with subscription or access fee.

To view past News Briefs by Michael Downey, go to

Vitamins Decrease Lung Cancer Risk by 50%
by Robert G. Smith, PhD

A recent study of the effect of B vitamins on a large group of participants reported an inverse relationship between blood serum levels of vitamin B6, methionine, and folate and the risk of lung cancer. High serum levels of vitamin B6, methionine and folate were associated with a 50% or greater reduction in lung cancer risk. This exciting finding has not been widely reported in the media, but it confirms a growing body of evidence gathered over the last 40 years that B vitamins are important for preventing diseases such as cancer.

The study gathered information about the lifestyle and diet of 385,000 people in several European countries. The average age was 64 years, and most had a history of drinking alcohol daily. Blood samples were then taken from these participants, and some of those (889) that developed lung cancer were analyzed for the level of several B vitamins and related biochemicals such as methionine, an essential amino acid. These nutrients were studied because they are known to be important in the metabolism of single carbon compounds, which is necessary for the synthesis and repair of DNA in the body’s tissues. Thus, B vitamins are helpful in preventing defects in DNA which can cause cancer.

Specifically, a high level of either vitamin B6, or methionine, or folate reduced the risk for lung cancer. High levels of all these nutrients together produced an even lower risk. The effects were large, so the results are highly significant.

The study divided the participants into three categories, depending on whether they currently smoked, had previously smoked, or had never smoked. While smoking is the most important lifestyle factor in the risk for lung cancer, interestingly, the effects of vitamin B6, methionine, and folate were fairly constant among the three categories. That is, those with higher levels of these B vitamins had a significantly lower risk of lung cancer no matter whether they smoked or not. The report emphasizes that this result strongly suggests that the effect of these essential nutrients in lowering the risk for cancer is real and not purely a statistical correlation. And, the report reiterates that smoking is dangerous, greatly increasing the risk for lung cancer in older people after decades of insult to the lungs.

Some widely-reported health studies have suggested that B vitamins can increase the risk of cancer. The theory is that these vitamins can help to prevent cancer from their effects in strengthening DNA synthesis and repair, but that when cancer is present, the vitamins supposedly help the cancer to grow. However, there is a long history of health studies reporting that B vitamins including folate and vitamin B6 can help to prevent many types of cancer, such as breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.

It is amazing how the news media could have missed this, but they did. In one much-publicized study it was widely claimed that “Multivitamins increase deaths in older women!” Actually, the study found that B complex vitamins were associated with a 7% decrease in mortality, vitamin C was associated with a 4% decrease in mortality, vitamin D was associated with an 8% decrease in mortality.
Essential nutrients in a well-balanced diet, including B-complex, C, D, and E vitamins, are crucial to maintaining good health into old age for a variety of reasons. Persons taking adequate levels of vitamins will live longer, with fewer heart attacks and other serious diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and dementia.

Above report courtesy of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. To subscribe: To access their archive: https:/

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