News Briefs – May 2007Michael Downey May 1, 2007
According to a new study, there appears to be a relationship between consuming large amounts of dairy products and an increase in the rate of Parkinson’s disease in men. The research does not necessarily equate to a cause-and-effect link and the reason for this relationship remains a puzzle. However, researchers found that among more than 130,000 U.S. adults followed for nine years, men who ate the largest amount of dairy foods had an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder in which movement-regulating cells in the brain die or become impaired. The extent of the Parkinson’s risk increased in step with increased consumption of dairy. This link was particularly strong for milk.
The results were more ambiguous among women, however. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It echoes other studies that also pointed to a dairy-Parkinson¹s link among men, but also, not among
Men with the highest levels of dairy consumption were 60 per cent more likely to develop the disease than those who consumed the least amounts of dairy, the study found. Men in the highest-intake group consumed an average
of 815 grams of dairy per day, which is roughly equivalent to three to four glasses of milk; those in the lowest-intake group consumed 78 grams of dairy per day, on average. Milk, rather than dairy products like yogurt and cheese, explained most of the association.
FISH OIL PROMOTES INFANT IMMUNITY
Known to boost immune function in adults, fish oil supplements help the immune system mature in infants, according to recent study results published in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
Researchers from Copenhagen University and the Technical University of Denmark jointly conducted an intervention in 64 healthy Danish infants, who received either cow¹s milk, infant formula alone, or formula with fish oil from 9 to 12 months of age. The researchers measured numerous immune indicators.
Results showed feeding milk rather than formula did not affect immune function. However, several indicators of immune system development were higher with fish-oil-enriched formula.
The published study concluded that fish oil supplements in infants may aid immune development.
DHA MAY DELAY ALZHEIMER’S
Past studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help Alzheimer’s disease patients but a new study shows that they may also delay the onset of the disease.
This study, conducted on genetically modified mice, is the first to show that an omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can slow the accumulation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, both signatures of Alzheimer’s.
DHA is found in fish, eggs, organ meats, micro-algae, fortified foods and supplements.
The same study team previously found that the risk of Alzheimer’s can be reduced by mental exercise and managing stress. The lead study author, Kim Green, stated that various factors may reduce the risk: mental stimulation,
exercise, avoiding stress, various dietary intakes, and DHA. The University of California Irvine study was published in the April 18, 2007 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
(In an unrelated study in the March 2007 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3 was found to promote higher bone mineral density in the bones of young men.)
GREEN TEA AGAINST HIV
Drinking green tea could help in the fight against HIV according to a new study. Researchers found a green tea component, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), prevents HIV from binding to immune system cells by getting there first. Once EGCG has bound to immune system cells there is no room for HIV to take hold in its usual fashion.
However, experts said the joint UK-US study was at a very preliminary stage. Researchers said that drinking green tea could reduce the risk of becoming infected by HIV and could slow down the spread of HIV. It is not a cure.
Research is currently underway in order to determine how much effect can be expected from different amounts of the tea. The tests were conducted on cells in test tubes and will have to be done using animals to confirm the
findings. The green tea lab study appears in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Anything that boosts the immune system is beneficial for people with HIV, said the researchers, but green tea can’t be a substitute for the use of condoms and other prevention techniques.
Green tea has been linked to a positive effect on a wide range of conditions, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer¹s.
GRAPE SEED & SKIN CANCER
Chemicals found in grape seeds may help ward off skin cancer caused by regular exposure to the sun, according to the results of an animal study reported March 26 in Chicago at the 223rd annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, exposed hairless mice to ultraviolet-light. Some of the mice were fed a standard diet supplemented with grape seed proanthocyanidins (GSPs), while control mice were fed a standard diet without this supplement. Dietary supplementation with GSPs inhibited light-induced production of cancer, reported Santosh K. Katiyar, the study team leader. Also, the tumours that did result were 78 per cent smaller.
GSPs have antioxidant activity, and UV-induced oxidative stress has been linked to the induction of skin cancers.
“It suggests that regular consumption of GSPs as a dietary supplement may be beneficial for the prevention of skin cancers,” Katiyar explained in an e-mail communication.
CALCIUM, VITAMIN D FOR COLORECTAL CANCER
People who consume relatively high levels of calcium and dairy products and take vitamin D supplements seem to be protected to some degree against colorectal cancer, researchers have found. High total calcium intake either from food or supplements lowered the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women. Comparing the highest calcium intakes with the lowest, the risk of developing colorectal cancer was reduced by 30 per cent for men and by 36 per cent for women. Vitamin D lowered the risk in men but not in women.
”Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide, and dietary factors are considered to be important in its risk,” said study leader Song-Yi Park, PhD, of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, in an interview with Vitality magazine. The study appeared in the March 2007 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
BREAST CANCER DOWN SINCE HORMONES STOPPED
New US government numbers provide the strongest evidence yet that synthetic menopause hormone supplements (HRT) can raise the risk of breast cancer. Rates of the disease leveled off in 2004 after plunging in 2003 the year
after millions of women stopped taking HRT because a big study had tied them to higher heart, stroke and breast cancer risks. Coincidentally, a study in the April 18, 2007 issue of The Lancet found HRT increases a woman¹s risk
for ovarian womb and breast cancer. Risks returned to normal a few years after supplementation stopped.
– Flu can trigger heart attack: A new study in the August 18, 2007 issue of the European Heart Journal shows that influenza can trigger heart attacks, meaning deaths from the flu can result from indirect causes related to the
– Taking vitamin K? Choose K2 over K1: A new study published in the April 15, 2007 issue of Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology, reveals greater benefits from supplementation with vitamin K2 over the K1 version of this vitamin in promoting bone and cardiovascular health. The four-part human study demonstrated that vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7 or MK-7) is superior to vitamin K1 in absorption, bioavailability and efficacy.
-Herbal cancer cure? Study findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on April 17 offer hope of a future treatment for pancreatic cancer, a cancer that is very difficult to treat.
The traditional Indian Ayurvedic herbal preparation known as Triphala slowed the growth of human pancreatic tumours grafted onto mice. Triphala is made from three different tree fruits. Scientists stressed the research is still at a very early stage.
– Murder, blackmail – and spiked supplements? Some firms may give the supplement industry a bad name – but none as much as this one. A legal battle between the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Georgia-based Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals over the ephedra ban has taken a turn for the dramatic. Legally filed government court documents suggest some shocking business practices. They allege the firm: plotted to kill an FDA agent; planned to blackmail an assistant US attorney; spiked dietary supplements with drugs; imported illegal steroids; made fake Ecstasy tablets and sold them on the street; marketed a muscle-building drink as a cleaning solution to avoid federal investigators; and sold “Canadian-made” drugs that were, in fact, made in Belize. Anyone looking for a realistic plot for a novel?
– Lighting up wrinkles skin: Not only can it wrinkle the face and turn it yellow – but smoking can do the same to the whole body, researchers reported in the March 20, 2007 issue of the Archives of Dermatology. Smoking affects the skin all over the body – even skin protected from the sun – although researchers did not fully understand exactly why. Previous studies focused only on facial skin.
– Organic milk from non-organic cows? South of the border, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has called for a boycott of the “organic” milk sold by Aurora Organic and by its partner Horizon Organic – the company that supplies Wal-Mart. The OCA alleges that Horizon simply buys cows from conventional farms and then installs them on the organic farm and milks them. It was also alleged that the cows have no freedom to pasture and were
fed genetically modified grains and slaughterhouse waste. The OCA also alleged that Silk brand soymilk imports most of its organic soy from China where organic standards are suspect.
– Calorie restriction clue: Numerous studies over many decades on many species – including primates, which are most like humans – have proved that a very-low calorie diet, also known as “calorie restriction” or CR, actually
increases the maximum lifespan of all species tested. But no one knows why. Vitality has now learned that scientists at Nestle Purina Research Centers in Switzerland and the US have completed a new canine study that will be
published soon. The study confirms that dogs live two years longer on CR – but also suggests a possible explanation for the effect: symbiotic bacteria in the gut may be affected by reduced calories and may in turn, influence energy metabolism and disease processes. The study will be reported in the May 4, 2007 issue of the Journal of Proteome Research.
– Cured meats damage lungs: Frequent consumption of cured meats results in lower lung function test scores and increases the odds of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a large survey of adults in the US. The study is reported in the April 16, 2007 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Cured meats include bacon, sausage, luncheon meats and cured hams, all of which are high in
– Chondroitin falls short: A new study released by ConsumerLab.com has found that 40 per cent of chondroitin products randomly sampled off retailers shelves did not contain the chondroitin promised. One brand, Nature Plus
Ultra Maximum Strength, did not contain any chondroitin at all. It may help to buy only products that carry the USP, ConsumerLab.com or NSF stamp; the stamps do not guarantee safety or effectiveness but they do signify the
product has been tested and verified to contain the key ingredients in the correct amounts and to be contaminant-free.
– Cocoa soothing: According to a meta-analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, four of the five trials involving cocoa drinkers revealed a reduction in blood pressure. Readings for cocoa drinkers were lower by an
average of 4.7 millimeters of mercury for systolic (that’s the upper number of your blood pressure reading) and an average 2.8 millimeters lower for diastolic (the lower number), compared with those who didn’t drink cocoa.
– Herb combats bladder infection: Forskolin, an herbal extract derived from the Indian coleus plant, may improve treatment of bladder infections when it is taken with antibiotics, suggests a new study in the April 2007 issue of
Nature. About 90 per cent of bladder infections are caused by E. coli bacteria, which affect women four times more often than men, sometimes recurring repeatedly.
– Tai chi health benefit: Researchers found older people who performed the slow, graceful movements of tai chi three times a week had a better immune response against the virus that causes shingles than those who only got
health education, according to the most rigorous test to date. The reason is not clear. Shingles is a painful skin rash that can pop up in people who have had chickenpox. The research, conducted by the University of California
Los Angeles, was reported in April 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
– Dirt means happiness: Exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system, UK scientists say. Lung cancer patients treated with Mycobacterium vaccae – the “friendly” bacteria normally found in soil have anecdotally reported improvements in their quality of life. Mice exposed to the same bacteria made more of the brain’s ‘happy’ chemical, serotonin, Bristol University scientists reported in the April 2007 issue of the journal,
Neuroscience. Common antidepressants work by boosting this brain chemical.
– Organic kiwi higher antioxidant activity: The nutritional profile of kiwi fruit grown organically is healthier than conventionally grown fruit, American researchers have reported in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. The team compared kiwi fruit grown on the same soil type and environmental conditions and found that the organic kiwi contained higher phenol levels. Carl Winter, PhD, director of the Food Safe Program at the University of California, Davis, commented that this higher level, however, may not result in any health benefits.