HEALTH NEWS: Cruciferous Vegetables Block Cancer; Supplements Improve Parkinson’s; Air Pollution and Kidney FailureMichael Downey September 1, 2016
Cruciferous Compound Blocks Mouth, Neck Cancers
A new study demonstrates that sulforaphane, a potent compound in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, activates a protective genetic pathway that detoxifies carcinogens in the body, providing protection from mouth and neck cancers. (About 30,000 new oral cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. annually, with about 8,000 deaths. Medical treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, but they can be disfiguring and costly. Repeated exposure to carcinogens is the greatest risk factor for head and neck cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in sulforaphane, shown to protect against environmental carcinogens.)
Investigators treated human head and neck cancer cells with different doses of sulforaphane and then compared them with healthy throat and mouth cells. Sulforaphane encouraged cells to increase levels of a protein that turns on specific genes that induce carcinogen detoxification, protecting cells from cancer. Next, for several days, 10 volunteers drank or swished juice mixed with broccoli sprout extract, and the same protective genetic pathway was activated in their mouths, showing that sulforaphane was absorbed directly into the at-risk tissue. Then, the extract was tested on mice, which responded by developing fewer tumours. The team has initiated a clinical trial of broccoli seed powder on humans at higher risk of mouth and neck cancer. This study was released June 23, 2016 in the Online First section of the site of the Cancer Prevention Research. It will appear later in a print issue of this journal. The study can be read at https://tinyurl.com/zdugek4 for a fee.
Natural Supplement Shown to Improve Parkinson’s Disease
According to a newly released study, n-acetylcysteine, commonly known as NAC, delivers substantial benefits in the management of Parkinson’s disease. (NAC, recognized as one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals, is an oral pill supplement available in health food and nutrition stores. It is also used in emergency medical settings in an intravenous form to protect the liver in cases of acetaminophen overdose. Current treatments for Parkinson’s disease are generally limited to temporarily replacing dopamine in the brain as well as some medications designed to slow progression of the disease process. Oxidative stress in the brain is believed to play a critical role in the Parkinson’s disease process, and this stress also lowers levels of glutathione, a chemical produced by the brain to counteract oxidative stress.)
In this study, the scientists found that n-acetylcysteine has a unique physiological effect that enables dopamine neurons to recover some function. Researchers placed Parkinson’s patients, who were asked to continue their current standard treatment, into two groups. One group received daily oral NAC (600 mg twice daily) and intravenous NAC (once weekly) for three months. The second group received only their standard care. Evaluation of the study subjects consisted of a Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) score and a special brain scan that measures the level of dopamine transporters in the basal ganglia, the area most affected by Parkinson’s. Compared to controls, patients receiving NAC had improvements of 4% to 9% in dopamine transporter binding, and also had improvements in their UPDRS score of about 13%. Standard medical interventions do not have this degree of effect. This research was early-released June 16, 2016 by the journal PLOS ONE and will appear in a future print issue. The study can be read at https://tinyurl.com/zlujybv free of charge.
Air Pollution Linked To Development Of Kidney Failure
Researchers have found that airborne particulate matter appears to increase the risk of developing membranous nephropathy, an immune disorder of the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure, and they have called for attention to be focused on the role that air pollution plays in the development of kidney disease in urban areas. (Air pollution is already known to cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but the extent to which it impacts other aspects of health, such as the kidneys, has remained unclear.)
The study team analyzed data on kidney biopsies taken over 11 years from 71,151 patients from 938 hospitals in 282 Chinese cities, encompassing all age groups. Regions with the highest levels of fine-particulate air pollution had the highest rates of membranous nephropathy. On average, the risk of developing membranous nephropathy was demonstrated to have increased 13% every year over the 11-year study period, while the proportion of other major kidney conditions remained stable over the same period. The study showed that this kidney disorder has doubled in frequency over the last decade and corresponds closely with regional distribution of particulate air pollution. This study was released on June 30, 2016 and will appear in a future issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The full study is available now at https://tinyurl.com/gpd7d9w for a fee.
Omega-3 Fats Linked To Lower Mortality From All Causes
A new analysis has found that the risk of death from any cause is reduced by 9% among those with the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake when compared to those with the lowest intake of omega-3 fats. Examining specific doses, an intake of 300 mg a day was found to be associated with a 6% lower risk of all-cause mortality. (All-cause mortality refers to the overall risk of dying from any cause, whether related to disease, violence, accident or any other cause.)
The meta-analysis of 11 prospective observational studies demonstrates that each 1% increment of omega-3s in the total level of fatty acids in the blood appear to be associated with a 20% decrease in risk of all-cause mortality. The study author commented that this is an important finding for the potential contribution of adequate omega-3 intake to public health. This study was released early online on June 16, 2016 at the site of Scientific reports and will be published in a later issue of the journal. The full study can now be read online at https://tinyurl.com/jz6l25s free of charge.
DID YOU KNOW…?
A new JAMA study has found that one in three seniors who spend time in a hospital leave with at least one type of antibiotic-resistant superbug bacteria on their hands.
Aloe Vera Lowers Blood Sugar For Diabetics
Scientists have demonstrated that aloe vera provides significant anti-diabetic effects for those who have Type II diabetes. They found that aloe vera keeps blood sugar in check. (For 6,000 years, aloe or aloe vera plants have been used in phytotherapy, dermatology, and cosmetics in the form of gels and creams. Previous clinical research has shown that the antioxidant properties of aloe vera may improve certain skin conditions, gastro-intestinal conditions, and cell aging. Aloe is native to Africa and certain Indian Ocean islands and is gown industrially in the U.S., the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Mexico.)
Researchers reviewed nine studies exploring the benefits of aloe for Type II diabetes patients, and according to the various sets of data, taking aloe as an oral supplement can significantly reduce the level of glucose in the blood and reduce HbA1c, or glycated hemoglobin, which indicates the average blood glucose level over the previous three months. Regularly taking aloe vera stimulates the secretion of insulin. Patients with higher blood sugar levels benefited the most from the effects of aloe vera. For aloe vera juice, the maximum daily dose is a recommended 50 ml, while the recommended dose for capsules is 200 to 300 mg per day.
This study was published in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and has been posted online at https://tinyurl.com/jrl87mb
Zinc Lozenges May Shorten Duration Of Common Colds
A new study reports that zinc acetate lozenges may reduce the duration of the common cold by nearly three days. (For treating the common cold, zinc lozenges are dissolved slowly in the mouth. Interest in zinc lozenges started in the early 1980s from the serendipitous observation that the cold of a young girl with leukemia rapidly disappeared when she dissolved a therapeutic zinc tablet in her mouth instead of swallowing it. Since then, over a dozen studies have been carried out to find out whether zinc lozenges are effective, but the results of those studies have been contradictory.)
Among 199 patients with the common cold who participated in three randomized placebo-controlled trials, the effect of zinc lozenges was not modified by allergy status, smoking, symptom severity, age, sex, or ethnic group. Unlike previous studies that showed that zinc lozenges worked better on colds for those with allergies, this study found that they are just as effective for those with and without allergies. The author advised that common cold patients should be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day. This study has just been accepted for publication in a future issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. An unedited, full-text copy has been posted online and is available at https://tinyurl.com/jfzaw4h free of charge.
Pomegranate Molecule Inhibits Major Cause Of Aging
Scientists have discovered that a molecule produced from pomegranate is transformed by microbes in the intestinal tract in such a way that it then protects the body from one of the main mechanisms of aging. The results, tested so far only on nematodes and rodents, can only be described as remarkable. Human clinical trials are now underway. As we age, the cells of the body have an increasingly difficult time maintaining the mitochondria, the tiny energy power plants within each cell. No longer able to carry out their vital energy function, mitochondria accumulate within cells, weakening various kinds of tissue they make up, including muscles.
A buildup of dysfunctional mitochondria is also suspected of playing a role in diseases of aging, such as Parkinson’s disease. A newly identified molecule produced from pomegranate, called urolithin A, has been shown to powerfully re-launch the mitochondria clean-up process (called mitophagy). Testing on nematodes showed that urolithin A increased their life span by 45%. Testing on mice showed that urolithin A triggered a robust cellular recycling process that significantly reduced the number of dysfunctional mitochondria. At old age, these mice showed 42% better endurance when running than non-supplemented mice.
Pomegranates do not contain urolithin A, but it is produced by gut microbes from pomegranate. However, how much is produced depends on what flora are present in the gut, and some people do not produce any at all. The study authors are working on a method to deliver finely calibrated doses of urolithin A. It is now being tested on humans in European hospitals. Because mitochondria processes are similar across species in what is called parallel evolution, the study team suggested that it would be surprising if the molecule did not work on humans to fight the muscular degeneration that occurs with age and possibly, to counteract other aging effects. Precursors to urolithin A are also found in smaller amounts in many nuts and berries. This study was released online July 11, 2016 by Nature Medicine. The full study can be read now at https://tinyurl.com/z3dmkat for an access fee.
Reducing Sugar Intake Slashes Heart Risk Factors Within Days
A remarkable new study shows that eliminating much of the dietary sugar normally consumed by some individuals results in huge cardiovascular health improvements in as little as nine days. (Many people worry about consuming excess simple carbohydrates, but this study clarifies that calories in the form of sugar are not at all like calories from other carbohydrates, even from simple carbs such as refined grains. Researchers showed that sugar is directly related to heart health in ways that other carbs have not been generally documented to be.)
This study was conducted on 37 obese children, aged 9 to 18, who had metabolic syndrome, meaning they were at high risk for heart disease and Type II diabetes. They were given a diet that mirrored whatever diet they had already been following, but with the exception that it cut out most sugar and fructose. The diet for each participant contained food and drinks that totalled the exact same number of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates as his or her former diet; however, foods high in added sugars, such as sweet pastries and sweetened yogurts, were replaced by the same calories from bagels and pizza. This lowered dietary sugar for each subject from an average of 28% of total calories to an average of just 10%; it also lowered fructose from an average of 12% of total calories to an average of just 4% of total calories. After only nine days, triglycerides had dropped an average of 33% (triglycerides are tied to heart disease); a protein called apoC-III dropped 49% (this protein is linked to high triglycerides); and small, dense LDL cholesterol dropped significantly (LDL is a risk factor for heart disease). This study is compelling, because without changing body weight or total carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, scientists were able to improve cardiovascular risk factors unrelated to weight loss. This study was posted online as a corrected proof, awaiting finalization for publishing in the journal Atherosclerosis. The full proof can be read now at https://tinyurl.com/hh6ccjw
Daily Exposure To Artificial Light May Cause Premature Aging
Researchers have shown that excessive exposure to artificial light may have a damaging effect on health. When the current researchers exposed mice to constant (24-hour) artificial lighting for over 24 weeks (about an eighth of their life span), they exhibited many detrimental side effects and a decline in quality of health.
The artificial light-exposed mice experienced the same, negative, physiological changes normally only observed in old animals. There was a reduction in skeletal muscle function, their bones deteriorated, and pro-inflammatory signs were observed. However, when the standard light-dark cycle and normal circadian rhythm (biological clock function) was restored for a period of two weeks, the negative effects in these same mice appeared to largely reverse.
Future studies will involve focus on effects of light-dark cycles on the immune system. With generally constant exposure of patients in hospitals to at least some artificial light, the researchers hope to investigate possible health benefits to exposing patients to normal light and dark cycles. This study was released early on the site of Current Biology, ahead of publishing in a future issue of the journal. The full-text study is now available online at https://tinyurl.com/hlvkh54 free of charge.