News Briefs – December 2012 / January 2013

Researchers have shown that large doses of vitamin C can actively protect against bone loss.

VITAMIN C FOUND TO HELP PREVENT BONE LOSS

For the first time, researchers have shown that large doses of vitamin C actively protect against bone loss and osteoporosis, at least in mice, suggesting therapeutic potential. (Osteoporosis, which affects large numbers of elderly women and men, is a disease in which bones become brittle and easy to fracture. The medical world has known for some time that low intake of vitamin C can cause brittle bones, and that higher vitamin C intake is generally associated with higher bone mass, but the effect of supplementation was not clear.)
Large doses of vitamin C were given to mice that had just had their ovaries removed, a surgery known to reduce bone density. The supplements prevented the expected bone loss by actively stimulating osteo-blasts, or premature bone cells, to differentiate into mature, mineralizing specialty cells. This triggered new bone formation, offsetting post-surgery loss. Bones measured were the lumbar spine, femur, and tibia bones. In an interview, the lead researcher cautioned that these results need to be verified in humans.
This study was published online October 8, 2012 by the journal, PLoS One. The full report is available online at https://tinyurl.com/8mutsr5 free of charge.

VITAMIN K SUFFICIENCY LINKED TO LOWER RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES

Scientists have found that those who have a higher consumption of foods containing phylloquinone, also known as vitamin K, are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Diet was initially assessed for 1,069 subjects, and then reassessed annually over a five-year period. The occurrence of Type 2 diabetes was also assessed during follow-up.
After adjustment for potential confounders, risk of incident (fully manifest) diabetes was 17 percent lower for each additional intake of 100 micrograms of phylloquinone each day. Moreover, subjects who deliberately increased their dietary intake of vitamin K during the follow-up had a 51 percent reduced risk of incident diabetes compared with subjects who decreased or did not change the amount of phylloquinone intake.
This study was released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on October 3, 2012. It will appear in a future issue, but is accessible online now at https://tinyurl.com/8luok2s with subscription or access fee payment.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Brown rice absorbs higher levels of arsenic than white, according to test results, due to the fact that the absorptive bran is left on brown rice; however, these higher levels are still low, and brown rice is still a healthier choice than white from a nutritional and fibre standpoint.

TEA CONSUMPTION MAY REDUCE RISK OF DIGESTIVE CANCERS

Scientists have found a connection between increased tea consumption and a reduced risk of digestive cancers. (Digestive cancers include colorectal, stomach, and esophageal cancers. Past data from in vitro and animal studies have suggested a protective role for tea against development of digestive system cancers, but human studies have been inconsistent.)
Data from a population-based study of middle-aged and older Chinese women was analyzed. Follow-up over a median of 11 years assessed incidence of cancers of the stomach, esophagus, colorectal, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder or bile duct cancers. Women who consumed tea three or more times per week, for more than six months, had a 14 percent lower risk of all digestive cancers, compared to women who never drank tea. The risk reduction increased as the amount of tea and years of consumption increased: 150 or more grams of tea a month showed a 21 percent reduced risk. The tea most frequently consumed by women in the study was green tea. The strongest reduced risk was for colorectal and stomach-esophageal cancers.
This study was published in the November 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is available at https://tinyurl.com/9qmsf7a.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Between a loss of iodine in the diet over the last 50 years, and iodized salt restrictions by some, iodine deficiencies are now appearing in the modern diet.

OBESITY PROMOTES TUMOUR GROWTH REGARDLESS OF DIET

Researchers have finally discovered why obese persons are more susceptible to cancer and often have poorer prognoses compared to lean individuals: a type of fat tissue found in overweight people plays a direct role in cancer tumour growth regardless of diet, nutrition, or other lifestyle factors. (Studies of the population have clearly established that there is a link between obesity and cancer.) The scientists found that, despite identical diets, tumours grew much faster in obese mice than they did in lean mice. Also, there were far more white adipose tissue cells, called adipose stromal cells, in obese mice than in lean mice. Turning to the role of these cells, the study team learned that cancer induced mobilization of adipose stromal cells into the circulation and into tumours; once in the tumours, some of these cells developed into fat cells, while others were incorporated into tumour-associated blood vessels. Tumour-associated blood vessels support tumour growth by bringing in oxygen and nutrients vital for cancer cell survival and proliferation. More fat cells in tumours cause increased growth and malignancy. The study was reported October 15, 2012 in Cancer Research and is available at https://tinyurl.com/8gqf6qk without charge.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Perhaps in conflict with his public image, natural health guru Dr. Andrew Weil has advocated low-dose aspirin “as a tonic and preventive that everyone should consider.” Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid or ASA, is derived from white willow bark. (Editor’s note: During an appearance on the Dr. Oz show a few years ago, not only did Dr. Weil endorse the daily use of aspirin, he also said his favourite food was white pasta.)

RED MEAT COMPONENTS COMBINE TO PROMOTE BLADDER CANCER

Scientists have shown that two components of red meat – dietary protein and iron – can combine to form powerful carcinogens known as N-nitroso compounds, which increase risk for bladder cancer. Individuals with reduced ability to reverse these effects due to a genetic variation may be at higher risk. Dietary protein contains amino acids which are naturally metabolized by the body into amines. Red meat also contains heme iron. When the heme iron combines with amines, cancer-causing nitrosamines are formed. Nitrosamine formation occurs predominantly in the stomach and intestines; as a result, researchers have studied and found links between consumption of both red meat and processed meat, and gastric and colorectal cancer.
However, there is evidence these reactions also occur in the bladder, particularly in the presence of infection. This study found that secondary organs, such as the bladder, are also affected, especially in people with certain genetic variations in DNA repair enzymes. These results support recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund to limit red meat intake and avoid processed meats. This study was presented October 17, 2012 in Anaheim at the International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. It has not yet been published or posted.

DAILY MULTIVITAMINS REDUCE CANCER OCCURRENCE IN MEN

Scientists have reported a study finding that daily use of a common multivitamin reduced the risk for total cancer occurrence by about 8 percent in a population of men followed for more than a decade. (More than half of North Americans take some kind of vitamin supplement, and the most commonly taken is a multivitamin. Until now, no one has ever done a long-term trial to determine the potential health benefits or downsides of taking a multivitamin for a long period of time.)
The study team used new data from the Physicians’ Health Study II, which included 14,641 male physicians aged 50 or older from the U.S. They randomly assigned participants to a multivitamin or no multivitamin between 1997 and June 2011. During the median follow-up of 11.2 years, researchers recorded 2,669 cancer cases, including 1,373 prostate cancer cases and 210 colorectal cancer cases. When examining outcomes at study end, the researchers found an 8 percent reduction in total cancer occurrence among participants assigned to multivitamin use. The lead researcher said in a phone interview: “There also seemed to be a greater effect in people with previous cancer.”
Although prostate cancer was the most commonly occurring cancer in this population, there was no direct effect of multivitamin use on prostate cancer occurrence, while some other cancers were reduced by about 12 percent. This result suggests there are anti-cancer benefits from a multivitamin, at least for men, even among those who seem well-nourished. The finding is particularly significant because the subjects were randomly assigned multivitamins, while studies examining those who already take multivitamins are often inaccurate due to other attitudes, dietary intakes, and habits in the type of people who make that choice. The lead scientist emphasized that the effects were still modest and that multivitamin use should only be considered in addition to other habits, such as stopping smoking and increasing exercising, which literature has shown are effective in preventing cancer and other diseases. The group plans to follow this population to determine if this effect strengthens over time. In addition, more studies on multivitamin use in women are needed. This study was presented October 17, 2012 in Anaheim at the AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. It was simultaneously published in the October 17, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It can be read online at https://tinyurl.com/9ewn7fh with access fee.

EATING CHERRIES LOWERS RISK OF GOUT ATTACKS

A study has found that gout patients who consumed cherries over a two-day period showed a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks. (Gout is an inflammatory arthritis triggered by urate, a crystallization of uric acid in the joints, causing pain and swelling. Prior studies suggested cherry products have urate-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties.) This is the first study to assess whether cherry consumption could lower risk of gout attacks. The 633 participants were asked about the date of gout onset, symptoms, medications, and risk factors, including cherry and cherry extract intake in the two days prior to the attacks. Of those who had ingested some form of this fruit, 35 percent ate fresh cherries, 2 percent ingested cherry extract, and 5 percent consumed both. A cherry serving was one half cup of, or 10 to 12, cherries. Gout flare risk decreased further with every cherries serving, up to three servings over two days; more than three servings did not provide any additional benefit. The lead researcher cautioned, in a phone interview with News Briefs, that clinical trials are needed to confirm causality. This study was released September 28, 2012 by the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. It is now accessible online at https://tinyurl.com/8qfzez2 for a fee.

DID YOU KNOW…?

A 2012 study found that long periods of sitting increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, no matter how much exercise is undertaken during the rest of the day.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Just six months of exercise can improve memory, language, thinking, and judgment by almost 50 percent.

CHINESE HERBS SHOW PROMISE FOR LUNG CANCER AND FLU

In three separate studies, researchers have found indications that three Chinese herbs show promise of significant benefits for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and seasonal influenza. These herbs are known as JHQG, BFXL, and BFHX, and the researchers suggested that these herbs could be used as alternative treatments for these conditions. The studies found prolonged survival in patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer compared with patients receiving standard care; safe and effective management of IPF and improved patient quality of life; and fever was reduced in patients with influenza, compared with placebo.
This study was presented in Atlanta on October 22, 2012, during CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

BEAN CONSUMPTION CAN IMPROVE DIABETIC OUTCOMES

Scientists have found that those with Type 2 diabetes who regularly consume beans and other legumes can significantly improve their blood sugar and blood pressure levels. (Previous studies linked beans to a reduced risk of cancer and obesity.) Why legumes have this effect was not determined. But chickpeas, lentils, peas, and beans are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, protein, minerals, and fibre, and are low on the glycemic index, a measure of sugar in foods; and these factors may help explain the benefits. The study team randomly assigned 121 patients with Type 2 diabetes to eat one cup of legumes a day or whole-wheat products. Over three months, they found that those eating legumes saw an improvement in their blood sugar of 0.5 percent compared with 0.3 percent for those eating whole-wheat products. The effect on systolic blood pressure was more significant, with a reduction of 4.5 mm Hg among the legumes group, compared with a reduction of 2.1 mm Hg among the whole-wheat group. This research was published online October 22, 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine and can now be accessed at https://tinyurl.com/8hhrwa6 with fee or subscription.

CHRONIC CONSTIPATION LINKED TO COLORECTAL CANCER, GROWTHS

According to a new study, patients with chronic constipation may be at increased risk for colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms, which are new growths. (Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in North America. Chronic constipation, one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints, is a condition of typically fewer than three bowel movements a week and stool-passing difficulties that tend to recur.) Researchers investigated the prevalence of colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms in 28,854 patients with, and 86,562 without, chronic constipation from 1999 to 2011. Patients with diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea were excluded. Researchers found that both colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms are more prevalent in chronic constipation (CC) patients; and that among those people without diagnosed colorectal cancer, those with CC have a 1.78 times higher risk of developing colorectal cancer and a 2.70 times higher risk of developing benign neoplasms. After adjusting for age, gender, family history, and other factors, scientists still found a consistently high link. Although this link may or may not be one of cause-and-effect, it is possible that longer bowel transit times increase the duration of contact between colonic mucosa tissue and concentrated carcinogens in the lumen, such as bile acids or other carcinogens. These findings, unveiled in Las Vegas on October 24, 2012 at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, have yet to be published.

SOFT DRINKS ASSOCIATED WITH SIGNIFICANT STROKE RISK IN WOMEN

Researchers have uncovered a much greater risk of ischemic stroke among women with the highest intake of soft drinks relative to those with the lowest; perhaps surprisingly, this applies to both sugar-sweetened and low-calorie versions. (Soft drink intake has been associated with obesity and diabetes, but its relationship with cardiovascular risk has not been clear. Ischemic stroke is the type caused when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.)
The study followed 39,786 men and women, aged 40 to 59, for 18 years, and found no significant link between soft drinks and stroke risk in men. However, there was a dramatic association between highest soft drink consumption, at least one drink daily, and the risk of stroke in women; general stroke risk was 22 percent greater, and ischemic stroke risk was 83 percent greater.
This study was released October 17, 2012 and will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It can be accessed at https://tinyurl.com/bwm29qf with fee or subscription.

STUDY FINDS MANY ARTHRITIS PATIENTS IMPROVE WITH COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE THERAPY

A new study reports that nearly a quarter of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis used complementary and alternative therapy (CAT) to help manage their condition. Researchers interviewed 250 patients, aged between 20 and 90 years, of whom 67 percent had rheumatoid arthritis and the remainder had osteoarthritis. They found that 23 percent used CAT in addition to prescribed drugs, and that 64 percent of those patients felt that the therapy was beneficial, reporting improvements in pain intensity, sleeping patterns and activity levels. The study underlines the importance of healthcare professionals being knowledgeable about the potential use of CAT when providing medical care to patients with arthritis.
A quarter of the patients using CAT also sought medical care because of CAT side effects, but they were not serious and were reversible. The most common side effects included skin problems (16 percent) and gastrointestinal problems (9 percent). The most common CAT used was herbal therapy (83 percent), followed by exercise, massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and dietary supplements.
This study is now available online at https://tinyurl.com/aykqoxs with access fee or subscription, and appears in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

MODERATE-HIGH ALCOHOL INTAKE DECREASES NEW BRAIN CELLS

A study has concluded that moderate drinking and binge drinking may have no noticeable effects on motor skills or overall daily functioning in the short-term, but decreases the making of new adult brain cells by as much as 40%, significantly reducing brain structural plasticity and having an adverse long-term effect on learning and memory. (Light drinking each day, defined as two drinks for men and one drink for women, is generally considered beneficial for cardiovascular and brain health. Both higher levels and binge drinking are known to have health risks. Binge drinking means higher consumption on certain days. Reduced brain plasticity lowers the ability to learn and retain new information. New neurons are crucial for communicating with other neurons to regulate brain health.)
In rats given daily alcohol equivalent to five drinks for men and 3-4 drinks for women for just two weeks, nerve cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain where new neurons are made, dropped 40% lower than those in abstinent rats.
This study is published in the November 8, 2012 issue of Neuroscience. It can be accessed online https://tinyurl.com/c83gwyd with subscription or fee.

DIETARY CHOICES LINKED TO ASTHMA AND HAYFEVER

A study has found that men and women who are middle-aged or older and whose consumption of meat, poultry, and fish places them in the highest population quartile, have a higher risk of diagnosed asthma and hay fever  despite other differences between genders. Over 156,000 Australians aged 45 years or more were tracked for three years. The scientists divided dietary choices into different food  groups. Men with the highest intakes of meat  had the highest asthma and hay fever rates; the same held true for men with the highest cheese, poultry, and seafood intakes. Women with the highest intake of meat had the highest asthma and hay fever rates; the same held true for poultry and seafood, but not cheese. However, only the women (but not men) with the highest fruit and vegetable intake also had higher asthma and hay fever rates. And in contrast, only the women (but not men) with the highest intake of brown bread and cheese had a lower rate of asthma (but not a lower rate of hay fever). This study was published October 12, 2012 in Nutrition Journal and is available at https://tinyurl.com/9br9ag3 without  cost.

GUT BACTERIA INCREASES FAT ABSORPTION

New research reveals that Firmicutes, microbes living in the human gut, increase the absorption of dietary fats, causing the human host to extract more fat and calories from the same amount of food. (Previous studies showed that gut microbes help break down complex carbohydrates, but their role in dietary fat metabolism remained a mystery, until now. Firmicutes constitute the largest portion of the mouse and human gut microbiome and are involved in energy resorption and obesity. Earlier research linked a higher relative abundance of gut Firmicutes with obesity in humans, but the reason had not been clear.) This is the first study to show that intestinal flora can increase the metabolism of fat. The scientists also found that dietary changes may affect the relative abundance of Firmicutes in the gut; for instance, mice and fish that were deprived of food for several days had lower levels relative to fish fed regularly. The findings may lead to therapies to help prevent diseases linked to fat ingestion, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. The research was published in the September 13, 2012 issue of Cell Host & Microbe. It is available now online at https://tinyurl.com/9hltl8g without cost.

Michael Downey is a columnist with Vitality Magazine, contributing his News Briefs column every month.

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