NEWS BRIEFS – December 2013/January 2014Michael Downey December 10, 2013
The Latest Research on Nutrition, Health & Anti-Aging from Around the World
MULTI-MINERAL-VITAMIN PILLS CUT BREAST CANCER MORTALITY
Researchers have found that postmenopausal women who developed invasive breast cancer, and who were taking supplements containing both multivitamins and minerals, had a 30% lower risk of dying from their disease compared with non-users. (Multivitamin-mineral supplements are the most commonly consumed diet-ary supplements among adults, usually containing 20 to 30 vitamins and minerals.)
This analysis drew data from two larger studies that included a combined total of 161,608 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 when they first joined the study. The researchers focused on the 7,728 women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during the earlier research and followed them for seven years. About 38% of the women with invasive breast cancer were using the supplements, and the vast majority of them were taking the supplements before their breast-cancer diagnosis.
A comparison of mortality rates revealed that the patients who took multivitamin-mineral pills had a 30% reduced risk of death from their disease relative to patients who did not. Such epidemiological or non-intervention studies cannot prove cause-and-effect, but the researchers did find the correlation persisted after adjusting the results to allow for many possible confounding factors such as age, education, ethnicity, alcohol use, physical activity, smoking status, and diabetes. The new research, published October 10, 2013 in the journal Breast Cancer Research, is available online https://tinyurl.com/nmswr88 with fee payment or subscription.
HIGH OMEGA-3 FATS LINKED TO REDUCED BRAIN ABNORMALITIES
According to a new study, high blood levels of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid may reduce the risk of small, silent brain infarcts and other brain abnormalities in the elderly. (A silent brain infarct is the death of brain cells as a result of a local obstruction in blood supply. Research shows that silent brain infarcts, which are only detected by brain scans, are found in about 20% of otherwise healthy elderly people. Consumption of tuna or other broiled or baked fish, but not fried fish, is associated with fewer subclinical brain abnormalities. However, this study compared brain abnormalities with blood markers for high intake of fatty fish, instead of relying on questioning subjects about their fish consumption.)
In the research, 3,660 people aged 65 and older underwent brain scans to detect either silent brain infarcts or small lesions in the brain that can cause loss of thinking skills, dementia and stroke. Scans were performed again five years later on 2,313 of the participants. Scientists found that those who had high long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content in their blood had about 40% lower risk of small brain infarcts compared to those with low content of these fatty acids in blood. The study also found that people who had high long-chain omega-3 content in blood also had fewer negative changes in the white matter in their brains. These results support the beneficial effects of fish consumption on brain health.
This research was released October 10, 2013, ahead of publication in a future issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association. The complete study can now be read online at https://tinyurl.com/mgq8vef without charge.
FLU SHOTS CAN TRIGGER REACTION AMONG THOSE ALLERGIC TO GELATIN
A case report study has shown that those who are allergic to gelatin, which often causes a sensitivity reaction in those affected when they eat marshmallows or gummy bears, can have a mild to severe allergic reaction to the flu shot. (Gelatin is used in the flu shot, as well as other vaccines, as a stabilizer. Gelatin can contain proteins derived from cow, pig or fish. Gelatin can be found in a variety of foods and pharmaceuticals, including gummy vitamins, marshmallows and candy. Many people believe that those with an egg allergy should not receive the vaccination, but last month a study found that even those with a severe egg allergy can receive the vaccine safely without special precautions. Instead, gelatin is now shown to be a possible risk to allergic individuals.)
This study found that those with a known allergy to gelatin can experience allergic reactions to the flu vaccine such as hives, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. There could even be a serious life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. This study was presented November 10, 2013 at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Baltimore.
TEA CONSUMPTION LINKED TO LOWER STROKE RISK
A new review has found that overall past evidence supports the hypothesis that tea consumption might lower the risk of stroke. (The present analysis was conducted in response to inconsistent epidemiologic studies on the relation between consumption of tea and cardiovascular diseases. It looked at the relationship between tea or tea flavonoids and cardiovascular disease risk.)
The scientists conducted a review of previously published studies that are known as meta-analyses, studies that combine observations from a variety of studies. A consistent, dose-response association was found between tea consumption and both incidence of strokes and stroke mortality. The risk of stroke incidence was 21% lower among those with a high intake of tea relative to those with a low tea intake. The difference in consumption between the high and low intake groups was estimated to be three cups of tea daily. Because this was a review of epidemiological studies, not intervention studies, this correlation does not necessarily translate to a cause-and-effect link.
This study was released October 30, 2013 but will not be published until a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It can be accessed online now at https://tinyurl.com/lz9ea9j with subscription or access fee.
DIETARY PROBIOTICS REDUCE METABOLIC SYNDROME
A diet that contains Lactobacillus probiotic has been found to combat markers and symptoms for metabolic syndrome. (Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. Gut bacteria can affect the metabolic functions of healthy humans. Higher values for body mass index, as well as for blood pressure, are recognized symptoms of metabolic syndrome.) For three weeks, scientists tested a 1500 calorie-a-day diet supplemented with 50 grams of cheese containing the probiotic Lacto-bacillus plantarum TENSIA on 25 Russian adults with obesity and high blood pressure. A group of 15 adults followed the same diet except that the cheese did not contain probiotic. The cheese for each group provided 175 of their daily calories. Body mass index (BMI) was significantly reduced (p = 0.031) in the probiotic cheese group versus the control cheese group.
Also, the probiotic group was found to have lower systolic blood pressure in mornings. The final version of the study will be published in a future issue of Nutrition Journal. A provisional version was posted online October 12, 2013 and can be read now at https://tinyurl.com/m8mnccy free of charge.
VEGETABLE COMPOUND PROTECTS TISSUES AGAINST RADIATION
Scientists have reported that a compound known as DIM, found in a class of vegetables known as cruciferous or brassica, may protect normal tissue during radiation therapy or during a nuclear plant accident or mitigate against radiation sickness. (The compound, known as DIM, which is short for 3,3′-diindolylmethane, is derived from cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Previously shown to be safe for humans, DIM has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for years, but this is the first indication that DIM can also act as a radiation protector.)
The research was conducted on mice and rats, which were irradiated once with a lethal dose of gamma ray radiation. The animals were treated with a daily injection of DIM for two weeks, starting 10 minutes after the single radiation exposure. All of the untreated rats died, but well over half of the DIM-treated animals were still alive thirty days after the radiation exposure. Further research showed DIM provided radiation protection whether the first injection was administered 24 hours before or up to 24 hours after radiation exposure. Irradiated mice treated with DIM also had less of a reduction in red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets – side effects often seen in patients undergoing radiation therapy for cancer. This study points to two potential uses of the compound. DIM might protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer. It might also protect against lethal consequences of a nuclear disaster.
This research was published October 14, 2013 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The complete version of this study is now available online at https://tinyurl.com/lrw5svk without cost.
ONE IN 2,000 BRITONS CARRY MAD COW PROTEIN
Researchers have found that about one person in 2,000 in Britain carries a protein linked to the human version of mad cow disease, a figure higher than previous estimates. They warned that action should be taken to fight wider contamination through blood transfusions and surgical instruments. But how many people will actually develop the crippling and always fatal disease is unknown. (This study is the most exhaustive attempt yet to quantify the risk to Britons from the human variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or vCJD. This is a brain-destroying disorder, the suspected cause of which is eating beef contaminated with a piece of protein called a prion. The related mad cow disease, officially called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), erupted in Britain and spread to other countries through cattle exports.)
Experts are struggling to calculate the risk for people exposed to the rogue prion protein behind CJD, called abnormal PrP. The problem is that little is known about the incubation time for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, although it is likely to be long, and not everyone who carries the prion may develop the disease itself. Researchers analyzed 32,441 appendixes that were removed at 41 British hospitals, and tested them for PrP. Sixteen samples were positive, a figure that, when extrapolated across the population equates to around one in 2,000. (This compares with a previous sample study that put the figure at an average of one in 4,000.) The study team suggested a broad range of Britons may carry the prion and warns the authorities to maintain their guard. The study author suggested that a broad range of people could be carriers of a prion disease who may not develop the disease themselves. The research was published online by the British Medical Journal on October 15, 2013. The full-text version of the study is available at https://tinyurl.com/ok3a4x7 without charge.
HIGH BLOOD SUGAR IN NON-DIABETICS LINKED TO MEMORY LOSS
New research suggests that people with high blood sugar levels, even those who do not have diabetes, may have an increased risk for developing cognitive impairment. (Previous research has shown that people with Type 2 diabetes, a disorder that causes blood sugar levels to become too high, may increase the risk of dementia. Diabetes is considered a risk factor for vascular dementia as it can damage blood vessels in the brain. This form of dementia is often caused by reduced or blocked blood flow to the brain. This new study now shows that even those without diabetes who have high blood sugar levels may be at risk for impaired memory skills.) The scientists analyzed 143 people with an average age of 63, who were free of diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is impaired glucose intolerance. They excluded those who were overweight, consumed more than 3.5 servings of alcohol per day, and those who already had memory and thinking impairments.
The participants underwent blood glucose tests and were required to carry out memory tests. One of the tests required subjects to recall a list of 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them. They also carried out brain scans in order to measure the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain linked to memory. Results showed that participants who had lower blood sugar levels obtained higher scores on the memory tests, compared with those who had higher blood sugar levels. In the word recall test, the researchers found that remembering fewer words was linked to higher blood sugar levels. The researchers suggested that avoidance of obesity; consuming a diet rich in fibers, vegetables, protein, and whole-grain products; and undertaking physical activity on a regular basis can lower blood glucose levels that in turn can help prevent mental decline.
This study was released October 23, 2013 and will be published in a future issue of Neurology Journal. The full-text version can be accessed online now at https://tinyurl.com/l9xr4rc for a fee.
TYLENOL COMBINED WITH ALCOHOL DOUBLES KIDNEY DISEASE RISK
Scientists have reported that combining the recommended dose of acetaminophen, and a light to moderate amount of consumed alcohol, can more than double the risk of kidney disease, increasing the risk by 123%. (The pain reliever acetaminophen is also known by its trade name Tylenol. Previously, chronic acetaminophen use and chronic alcohol abuse both have been separately linked to kidney and liver disease.) The study established only an association between an acetaminophen-and-alcohol combination and increased risk for kidney disease, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship. For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 10,000 people who participated in an earlier health and nutrition survey, which had included questions about alcohol consumption, acetaminophen use, and health problems.
Unlike previous research, the study found that neither normal use of acetaminophen nor light to moderate drinking posed a potential threat to kidneys when undertaken separately. Nearly half of the people who combined the two, however, reported health problems related to their kidneys. People who buy acetaminophen over the counter are often also casual alcohol users and may not know that there can be a harmful interaction, the study presenter advised. This study was presented November 4, 2013 at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Boston.
BLUEBERRIES MAY HELP PREVENT DIABETES AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
New research shows that regular long-term wild blueberry diets may help improve or prevent pathologies associated with Metabolic Syndrome, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Wild blueberry consumption (equivalent to two cups daily in human terms) for eight weeks regulated and improved balance between relaxation and constriction factors in the vascular wall, improving blood flow and blood pressure regulation of rats with Metabolic Syndrome. (Wild blueberries are a rich source of phytochemicals called polyphenols, reported by a growing number of studies to exert a wide array of protective health benefits. Metabolic Syndrome is a group of risk factors characterized by obesity, hypertension, inflammation, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction. It affects 37% of North American adults. Many substances found in food have the potential to prevent Metabolic Syndrome, reducing the need for medication and medical intervention.) This study was released online on November 6, 2013 by the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism in advance of publication. The full study is now accessible at https://tinyurl.com/m4ffmyl without cost.
BLOOD PRESSURE DRUGS RISKY FOR CERTAIN ALLERGY SUFFERERS
Scientists have discovered that those who suffer from a specific type of allergy known as oral allergy syndrome, and who also take a type of high blood pressure medication called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, may experience extreme and potentially lethal reactions when they subsequently bite into certain common fruits. These symptoms include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, and even a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Case studies found that use of ACE inhibitors can cause what is known as a priming effect in people who suffer from oral allergy syndrome, which is also known as pollen-food syndrome. This primes the individual for an allergic reaction that is much more severe than usual.
(Not everyone with a pollen allergy will experience oral allergy syndrome when eating raw produce. But in people with this syndrome, exposure to pollen to which they are allergic results in a reaction when they are soon after exposed to a certain produce. Generally, those allergic to birch pollen react when they later eat apple, almond, carrot, celery, cherry, hazelnut, kiwi, peach, pear, or plum; those allergic to grass pollen react when they later eat celery, melons, oranges, peaches, or tomato; and those allergic to ragweed pollen react when they later eat banana, cucumber, melons, sunflower seeds, or zucchini. Patients with this syndrome often incorrectly assume they have a food allergy.)
Oral allergy symptoms are typically mild, including mouth and throat discomfort, swelling and itching. But the usual reactions became more extreme, potentially serious, for patients on the ACE inhibitor drugs. When the scientists advised syndrome patients to avoid raw produce, and switched them from ACE inhibitors, no further oral allergy symptoms occurred.
This study was presented November 10, 2013 at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Baltimore. Details will be published and posted at a later date and are not yet available.
MEDICAL JOURNAL ISSUES DIRE WARNING ABOUT ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT INFECTIONS
A strong warning has been issued by the prominent medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases about the rising concern among researchers about the potential danger of superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. (Warnings about the over-prescription of antibiotics are not new. But there has been a rising concern among researchers that the danger is not a far-off concern but is possible in the very near future. In just 20 years, routine surgeries such as hip replacements have reached the point where they could result in death if the patient develops an antibiotic-resistant infection. As doctors prescribe antibiotics for minor infections that would heal themselves anyway, bacteria mutate to develop a resistance. Patients often demand antibiotics. Pharmaceutical companies have not developed a new class of anti-microbials since 1987 because it is no longer profitable to do so.)
Authors of The Lancet article indicate that death rates from bacterial infections might return to those of the early 20th century. Treat-ments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs could spiral as doctors resort to more expensive antibiotics and longer hospital admissions.
This article was posted online on November 17, 2013 ahead of publication in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The full article can be read at https://tinyurl.com/mchaf8g without cost.
Michael Downey is a former columnist with Vitality Magazine.