News Briefs – May 2009

BEANS FIGHT OFF PERIPHERAL ARTERY DISEASE

A new clinical study by researchers at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) shows that daily consumption of pulses – beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas – leads to major improvements in blood vessel function in individuals with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition in which blood flow to the limbs is reduced. Study findings were presented on April 20 at the Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans.

Over 10 million people in North America suffer from PAD and many more are undiagnosed. PAD is a form of atherosclerosis, a progressive disease that leads to narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels in the legs. PAD causes pain, cramping or numbness when walking and, in severe cases, can lead to amputation.

The clinical study showed that eating half a cup of pulses a day for eight weeks resulted in significant improvements in arterial function such as increased blood flow and decreased arterial stiffness.

“Eating pulses brings back that arterial flexibility and may actually reverse the disease process,” explained CCARM team leader Dr. Peter Zahradka, who conducted the study with human nutritionist Dr. Carla Taylor, as well as Dr. Randy Guzman, a vascular surgeon at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

“We were astonished when we saw the results – the improvement in vessel function through diet was much greater than our best expectations.”

Regular pulse consumption also reduced the body mass index of study participants and significantly reduced circulating total and LDL cholesterol levels. Study findings also showed that regular pulse consumption increased the dietary intake of fibre, folate, Vitamin C, iron, zinc, potassium and protein.
 

FLAT SOFT DRINKS FOR KIDS’ SICK TUMMIES? A MYTH

Parents are making children suffering from vomiting and diarrhea even sicker by giving them flat coke and lemonade, or even fruit juices, experts say. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said it was a myth that flat soft drinks could help ease bouts of gastroenteritis. Instead, NICE said bad cases of stomach bugs in children under five needed to be treated with rehydration drinks.

“Severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting leading to dehydration need treating with oral rehydration solution immediately,” said Stephen Murphy, who chaired the panel drawing up the guidance, in an e-mail interview. He said the combination of sugar and salt in rehydration drinks was the key to helping the body absorb fluids, whereas the likes of coke, fruit juices and lemonade had too much sugar.

OMEGA PROTECTION AGAINST PARKINSON’S?

Omega-3 fatty acids protect brain cells by preventing the misfolding of a protein from a gene mutation in Parkinson’s disease, U.S. researchers said.

Nicolas Bazan, PhD, of Louisiana State University and his colleagues developed a cell model with a mutation of the “Ataxin-1 gene.”  The defective gene induced the misfolding of the protein produced by the gene. The misshapened proteins cannot be properly processed by the cell machinery, resulting in tangled clumps of toxic protein that eventually kill the cell.

In addition to Parkinson’s, Spinocerebellar Ataxia (a disabling disorder that affects speech, eye movement, and hand coordination at early ages of life) is another disorder resulting from the Ataxin-1 misfolding defect. The researchers found that the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, protects cells from this defect.

The findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition, Experimental Biology 2009 annual meeting in New Orleans, April 20.

 

WALNUTS DELAY BREAST CANCER

Scientists at an April conference in the U.S. presented the results of a study in which they found that eating walnuts appeared to help delay the onset of breast cancer in laboratory mice.

Although at least one expert warned that studies in mice don’t necessarily translate to humans, the study team suggested that the essential omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols in walnuts may confer similar benefits on humans, so people should consider reaching for walnuts instead of less healthy foods when they fancy a snack.

Dr Elaine Hardman, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia, presented the findings of the study to the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, on April 20 in Denver, Colorado. Hardman has spent 15 years studying the role of diet in cancer.

For the study, Hardman and colleagues fed mice a diet whose human equivalent would be 2 ounces of walnuts a day (2 ounces is about 57 grams or the weight of an average egg). Another group of mice were fed a control diet more typical of the American diet.

Using standard tests they found that the walnut group had significantly lower incidence of breast cancer tumours, fewer glands with a tumour and the tumours were smaller. Hardman explained that the lab mice typically have 100% tumour incidence at five months, but for the walnut group this was delayed by at least three weeks. Hardman said last year, when she and colleagues published similar findings in the peer reviewed journal Nutrition and Cancer, that scientists are starting to understand that diet probably accounts for one to two thirds of all cancers.

Three compounds have been linked to slower cancer growth before: omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols.

However, some experts remain skeptical, and one in particular, Peter Shields, PhD, deputy director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, DC, warned against using results in mice to make recommendations about human diets.

According to a press statement, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the California Walnut Commission jointly sponsored the research by Hardman and colleagues, but Marshall University said neither organization was involved in the interpretation or reporting of the findings.

B VITAMINS REDUCE MIGRAINE FREQUENCY, SEVERITY

Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid may reduce the frequency, severity and disability of migraines, according to findings to be published in an upcoming issue of Pharmacogenetics and Genomics. Daily supplements of these vitamins were found to produce a two-fold reduction in migraine disability.

About 12 to 15% of people suffer from migraines, with twice as many women as men affected. The headaches are sometimes preceded by flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms or legs, or anxiety. Sufferers generally experience a pounding sensation on one side of their head and many undergo nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and noise. The symptoms are often severe and debilitating.

Scientists recruited 52 people diagnosed with migraines. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either vitamin supplements or a placebo for six months. The supplements were associated with a reduction in the prevalence of migraine disability from 60% at the start of the study to 30% after 6 months. No reduction was observed in the placebo group. Reductions in the frequency of the headache and the severity of the pain were also observed in people in the B vitamin group, while no such changes were observed in the placebo group.

PIPING HOT TEA IS CANCER RISK

Drinking steaming hot tea has been linked with an increased risk of esophageal (food tube) cancer. A study found that drinking black tea at temperatures of 70 degrees Celsius or higher, increased the risk. This could explain the increased esophageal cancer risk in some non-Western populations. Adding milk, as most tea drinkers in Western countries do, cools the drink enough to eliminate the risk.

Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea, drinking hot tea (65 to 69 degrees Celsius) was associated with twice the risk of esophageal cancer. And drinking very hot tea (70 degrees Celsius or more) was associated with an eight-fold increased risk. Esophagus cancers kill more than 500,000 people worldwide each year. The study was published in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal.

NEWSNOTES

  • Low lead levels still affect children: Even low levels of lead in the blood during early childhood can adversely affect how the child’s cardiovascular system responds to stress and could lead to hypertension later in life, according to a study from the State University of New York at Oswego. The study, “Lead Exposure and Cardiovascular Dysregulation in Children,” was presented during the 122nd annual meeting of The American Physiological Society in New Orleans, April 20. One of the study’s most important findings is that all of the children had very low lead levels and still experienced some negative cardiovascular effects.

(Editor’s note: Research has found that two of the main sources of lead contamination are: 1. renovating houses, which disturbs old lead-based paint residues, and 2. industrial chemicals in the environment. For tips on detoxing lead and heavy metals, using oral chelation, etc, see Helke Ferrie’s article from June 2005 Vitality Magazine, archived online at: www.vitalitymagazine.com/getting_the_lead_out)

  • Processed tomatoes fight inflammation? According to a release issued by the Tomato Products Wellness Council, citing research presented at the Experimental Biology meeting held in New Orleans, La., processed tomato products may protect against inflammation.
  • Fish Oil Lowers cholesterol: Fish oil given to professional football players has proven to be effective for improving cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the January/February 2009 issue of Sports Health, A Multidisciplinary Approach.
  • Pistachios may lower risk of type 2 diabetes: The University of Toronto has announced a new study at the Experimental Biology Conference in New Orleans on Sunday, April 19. It shows that incorporating pistachios into a meal results in delayed emptying of the stomach and blunting of the blood sugar curve – which may be of benefit to long term blood sugar control and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
  • German GM corn outlawed: German Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner on Tuesday banned the cultivation and sale of MON 810 genetically modified corn seed, a product of the biotechnology company, Monsanto. The decision only applies to GM corn—not future genetic engineering decisions—and is justified based on a clause in an EU law that allows individual countries to impose restrictions. Currently, the banned GM corn is the only GM crop allowed in Germany, and was due to be planted in almost 9,000 acres very soon.
  • Vitamin D link to prostate cancer: Despite numerous suggestions of a link between vitamin D and prostate cancer, a large-nested, case-control study provided no evidence in support of a protective effect of circulating concentrations of vitamin D on the risk of prostate cancer. The disappointing conclusion appeared in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
  • Fears over Internet health care: Concerns have been raised about the use of the Internet and new technologies to revolutionize health care. There has been a rise in the use of online drug sales and private DNA tests and scans in recent years, says the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the UK. But the independent group said such changes may be putting patients at risk or leading to unnecessary alarm.
  • Prenatal exposure to flu may lower intelligence: Early prenatal exposure to the Hong Kong flu may have interfered with fetal cerebral development and caused reduced intelligence in adulthood, according to a new study published in April 2009 edition of the Annals of Neurology. The intelligence scores of men born in July through October of 1970, six to nine months after the main outbreak of the Hong Kong flu in Norway, were lower than the mean values for those born in the same months during the preceding and following years.
  • Vitamin D deficiency linked to asthma: A research team at Nottingham University found that people with a low intake of vitamin C had a 12 per cent increased risk of asthma, according to the April 2009 edition of the journal, Thorax.
  • Vitamin D deficiency linked to Caesarian births: Women with insufficient vitamin D intake during pregnancy may be at increased risk for birth by Caesarean section, study findings suggest. The research appears in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
  • Veggie allergies outstripping peanut allergies: Cases of oral allergies to fruit and vegetables have been increasing five fold over the past four or five years, according to a British specialist. Other specialist centres in the UK have confirmed to News Briefs that allergies to fruit and vegetables are a growing problem. Symptoms include swelling in the mouth and throat, and breathing difficulties. Pamela Ewan, PhD, an allergy consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said the rise in cases appears to be outstripping even peanut allergies. The reason for the surge in vegetable and fruit allergies is unknown. Most patients are children.

(Editor’s Note: Is it possible that the allergies are not to vegetables, per se, but to the chemicals and pesticides on them? It would be interesting to see test results on organic versus commercial vegetables in regards to allergies.)

  • Homeopathic meds ease cancer therapy effects: Some homeopathic medicines may ease the side-effects of cancer treatments without interfering with how they work, a scientific review has concluded. The April 2009 Cochrane Collaboration said, while there were few studies, it did appear that some effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy could be alleviated. It highlighted in particular, calendula to prevent dermatitis, and what is known as Traumeel S for mouth sores. But it said further work was needed to confirm these findings.
  • Clove agents fight human cancers: United Arab Emirates scientists have found a new mechanism to extract anti-cancer agents from the clove plant, and say the finding could lead to the development of new agents in the fight against the deadly disease. The team presented its findings in April at the 10th Annual Research Conference of UAE University.
  • Dietary factors in heart disease pinpointed: A review of previously published studies suggests that vegetable and nut intake and a Mediterranean dietary pattern appear to be associated with a lower risk for heart disease, according to a report published in the April 13, 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. However, intake of trans-fatty acids and foods with a high glycemic index may be harmful to heart health, says the research review.

 

HEALTHNOTES

Sanitized

Myth: Hospitals are highly sanitized environments.

Truth: Bacteria can be lurking in hospitals. Every year in the United States, 2 million Americans acquire infections in hospitals. Of this number, 90,000 die. About 70 per cent of the hospital infections are resistant to at least one class of antibiotics.

Myth pierced

Myth: A tongue piercing is safe and has no particular health risk.

Truth: Oral bacteria can get into the bloodstream through the wound in the tongue and make its way to the heart, resulting in a condition called endocarditis, a serious inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. This can be especially dangerous for those with existing heart conditions. Additionally, oral piercing can cause a whole host of complications, including damage to the teeth and gums, bleeding, nerve damage and interference with dental X-rays.

Too much of a good thing

Exercise in moderation holds numerous benefits for health. But a study of Australian Ironman Triathlon finishers strongly suggests ultra-endurance athletes can cause damage to their heart muscle that can result in abnormal heart rhythms.

This problem specifically affects the right ventricle. It was found in nearly 90 per cent of ultra-endurance athletes.

The study, which appeared in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, was performed on 15 athletes, who were examined both before and several days following the triathlon. The athletes had both electrocardiograms and echocardiograms taken, and their blood was analyzed for creatine kinase (CK) and other chemical markers of myocardial injury.

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