News Briefs – November 2010

MULTIVITAMIN USE MAY PREVENT HEART ATTACKS IN WOMEN 

A study of 31,671 women has found that, compared to taking no supplements at all, regular daily use of multivitamins over a minimum ten-year period reduced the incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack), at least among those who had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the start of the study. There was no similar benefit for women who had a history of CVD. But among those with no CVD history, supplements other than multivitamins had little effect on heart attack risk; multivitamins alone reduced heart attack risk by 27%; and multivitamins taken with other supplements lowered heart attack risk by 30%. Multivitamins were estimated generally to contain close to the recommended allowances for vitamins A, C, D, and E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid. The relationship is not necessarily one of cause-and-effect and further study is needed on the exact contents of multivitamins, the required duration of use, and the reason that supplements had no heart benefit for women with CVD. This study was released September 22, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SYMPTOMS EASED BY ‘MINDFULNESS MEDITATION’

A study has determined that learning mindfulness meditation can help Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients with the fatigue, depression and other life challenges that usually accompany the disease. The effect lasted for six months. For the study, 150 MS patients were assigned either to regular medical care alone or to medical care plus weekly classes lasting two and a half hours; the classes included mental and physical exercises aimed at developing nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment, or “mindfulness.” Those who went through the mindfulness training were far better able to cope with fatigue and depression; in fact, mindfulness helped reduce depressive symptoms by over 30%. Mindfulness is a concept that might be described as “calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself.” This study was the largest of its type and is considered to have been well-conducted. The study was published in the September 28, 2010 issue of the journal, Neurology.

STRONG LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION AND DIABETES

A study has found a strong link between particulate air pollution and adult diabetes; and between pollution and inflammation, which may contribute to insulin resistance, which in turn is linked to diabetes. The study focused on a particular size of fine particulates in air pollution (0.1 to 2.5 nanometers in size), the same size associated with a key component of haze, smoke and motor vehicle exhaust. Researchers adjusted the data to rule out the effects of known diabetes risk factors, including obesity, exercise, geographic latitude, ethnicity and population density. But there was still a very strong correlation between air pollution and the incidence of diabetes. The study team did not point to air pollution as necessarily being a cause of diabetes but it came across as a valid predictor of the disease. Even within U.S. counties falling within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits for air pollution exposure, those with the highest levels of exposure were 20% more likely to develop diabetes. The team suggested EPA standards may not be adequate to protect people from pollution. Released September 29, this study will be published in the October 2010 issue of Diabetes Care.

JUST ENOUGH SLEEP MAY BE KEY TO LONGEVITY

A study suggests that “just enough sleep” may be the best way to extend lifespan. What is just enough? A study has shown that sleeping less than five hours a night or sleeping more than 6.5 hours may increase mortality. Prior research showed that sleeping 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night was associated with the best survival. But in this new study, perhaps surprisingly, the best survival rates among 459 women aged 50 to 81 were observed to be among those who slept between five and 6.5 hours a night. Researchers suggested that those who were worried that they were not getting enough sleep may be relieved to know that 6.5 hours is enough to support an extended lifespan; but researchers stressed that, contrary to previous evidence, more than 7.5 hours may be detrimental. Also, obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where people stop breathing during sleep, seems to reduce longevity for younger women but it was not shown to affect lifespan for individuals over 60 years of age. The study was released by the journal Sleep Medicine.

EXERCISE REDUCES BREAST CANCER RISK

A study has found that, compared to women who do not exercise, postmenopausal women who exercise vigorously for as little as two hours a week have a 64% lower risk of developing breast cancer. For the purposes of this study, more than two hours of aerobics, running or similar activity over the span of a week counted as vigorous activity. Vigorous exercise did not significantly benefit pre-menopausal women but a larger sample might have a different outcome. Also, moderate exercise such as walking provided a 17% reduced risk of breast cancer. The study subjects were all postmenopausal African-American women. This is significant because, although more white women are diagnosed with breast cancer, more African-American women develop postmenopausal breast cancer. Also, previous studies suggest that physical activity may help fight diabetes and high blood pressure, diseases that occur at high rates among African-American women, four out of five of whom are either obese or overweight. This study was presented at the Third Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, hosted in Miami from September 30 to October 3, by the American Association for Cancer Research. The study has not yet been published.

VITAMIN D LEVELS LOWER IN AFRICAN-AMERICANS

African-American women have lower levels of vitamin D, according to a new study. Also, vitamin D production is linked to a lack of sunlight, or to dark pigmentation, both of which block the sun’s harmful rays. Further, vitamin D deficiency is associated with a greater risk of aggressive breast cancer. “We know that darker skin pigmentation acts somewhat as a block to producing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which is the primary source of vitamin D in most people.” Despite the differing use of sunscreen, vitamin D deficiency was found to exist in 60% of African-American women, compared to 15% of white women. This study of 107 women corroborates other research showing racial differences in vitamin D status and provides further support for a protective role of vitamin D in breast cancer, particularly for highly aggressive forms. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency was high, suggesting the need for monitoring of vitamin D levels among breast cancer patients. Patients with “triple-negative breast cancer” were found to have the lowest vitamin D levels. Results showed an eight times greater risk of breast cancer among those with vitamin D deficiency. Further study may prove that vitamin D supplementation is an effective intervention strategy against breast cancer. This study was presented at the third conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, held in Miami, Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 2010 by the American Association for Cancer Research.

AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENT MAY INCREASE LONGEVITY

A year after a study found a supplement comprised of three amino acids extends the lifespan of single-celled yeast, a new study has found the same supplement increases the longevity of mice by 12%. The supplement in each case contained three “branched-chain amino acids,” namely leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The study mice were middle-aged males and, in addition to standard mouse food, some mice were given the amino acid supplement in their drinking water over several months. The mice with the spiked water lived longer and showed an increase in mitochondria in cardiac and skeletal muscles. (Mitochondria are components that fuel cells.) The supplement-fed mice also showed an increase in SIRT1, a gene linked to longevity, as well as greater defence against free radicals – cellular garbage that damages cells. Amino acids are components of protein but the effect is only seen with individual amino acids because they don’t need to be digested. The benefits of this supplement mirrored, according to the study leader, the benefits of the diet known as calorie restriction. This study was published in the October 6, 2010 issue of the journal, Cell Metabolism, and is available online without charge at https://bit.ly/cFSJ2V.

VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY LINKED TO OBESITY IN CHILDREN 

A study has found an association between lower blood levels of vitamin D and higher levels of adiposity in 479 school-age children. Adiposity is the amount of fat stored in the body and is considered a strong risk factor for diabetes. Body Mass Index (BMI) readings are not always good indications of the amount of fat in the body. For this reason, researchers used several different measures to determine adiposity or “fatness” in these children, over a 30 month period: BMI, waist circumference (WC), skin-fold thickness ratio, and height. Using these indicators and specialized statistical analysis techniques, they found that adiposity was higher in these children to the extent that the blood levels of vitamin D were lower.
Vitamin D levels are measured in nanomoles per litre or nmol/L; deficiency was defined as less than 50, insufficiency as 50 to less than 75, and sufficiency as 75 or more nmol/L.
This study was released October 6, 2010 but won’t be published until a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is now accessible online at https://bit.ly/bltKxJ to subscribers and those who pay an access fee.

STUDY UNCOVERS HOW NIACIN LOWERS TRIGLYCERIDES

A study has discovered the mechanism by which niacin, also known as vitamin B3, reduces the body’s blood levels of triglycerides and increases blood levels of high-density lipoproteins, also known as HDL or “good” cholesterol. High blood lipid levels, or high blood fats, pose a serious risk for developing heart disease. These blood lipids are made up of cholesterol and triglycerides that circulate in the bloodstream as lipoproteins. To treat the triglyceride side of high blood lipids, niacin is often used effectively. Until this study, it has been believed that niacin works by preventing the release of fatty acids from fat tissues. But researchers have now found that niacin suppresses a particular chemical reaction in the liver and in so doing, lowers the amount of a specific protein (apoC3) that is available to metabolize triglycerides. Less apoC3 means a faster removal of lipids from the body. Researchers would like to harness niacin’s ability to lower triglycerides while avoiding the side effects associated with high dosages, such as face flushing, gastrointestinal discomfort, elevated blood sugar and other problems. This study was posted online in the October 6, 2010 issue of the journal, Cell Metabolism.

LIFESTYLE INTERVENTIONS EFFECTIVE FOR OVERWEIGHT INDIVIDUALS

An intensive intervention among obese and overweight persons was proven effective in cutting weight and improving cardiometabolic risks. Obese and overweight individuals were divided into two groups. One group walked briskly 60 minutes a day, five days a week for a year; the other entered the same program at the six-month mark. Both groups spent the entire year on a weight-loss diet, involving liquid and prepackaged meal replacements. After six months, the exercise-and-diet group had lost a substantial 24 pounds while the diet-only group lost a still substantial 18 pounds. At year-end, the weight loss was similar for each group: 27 and 22 pounds. Both groups showed significant improvement in cardiometabolic factors: waist circumference, abdominal fat, liver fat, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Researchers concluded that intensive intervention dramatically reduces overweight risks, such as diabetes and heart disease. The study was released October 9 in San Diego at the Obesity Society’s 28th Annual Scientific Meeting and was published in the October 27, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION LINKED TO LOWER BREAST CANCER RISK

An analysis of information derived from a long-term study of 59,000 women has found that eating more vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of developing a particular type of breast cancer, a type with a generally poorer prognosis. (All of the participants in the study were African American women and this type of cancer, “estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer,” is more common in this population.) The incidence of this type of cancer was 43% lower among women consuming at least two vegetables per day compared with women who ate fewer than four vegetables per week. Specific vegetables had a greater impact on this cancer: in particular, cruciferous vegetables and carrots were linked to a lower risk. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, and cabbage, all sources of glucosinolates, which may help through their effects on both estrogen metabolism and detoxification enzymes. Carrots contain carotenoids, which may help through their antioxidant properties. The study was released October 11, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

CLOSER TO UNDERSTANDING MEDITERRANEAN DIET BENEFITS 

A study suggests a mechanism by which the Mediterranean diet may positively affect health, lending credence to the diet’s benefit. This diet is known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality; but it is not known exactly how it could work. (The Mediterranean diet is high in olive oil, legumes, fruits, and vegetables; moderate in dairy products, wine and fish; and low in meat.) The study set out to determine if “lipid peroxidation” was behind the effect. (Lipid peroxidation is another term for damage caused by free radicals, which are essentially molecular garbage in the body and which steal electrons from the fat in cells, causing cellular damage.) For 259 women, the study assessed indicators of lipid peroxidation and adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Results showed that the more a woman followed the diet, the lower was her lipid peroxidation and the higher was her vitamin C concentrations. The researchers concluded lower oxidation may indeed be how this diet reduces cardiovascular risk. Released October 13, 2010, the study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

YOGA FIGHTS FIBROMYALGIA SYMPTOMS

A study has found that yoga produces improvements among fibromyalgia (FM) patients, in terms of pain, fatigue, mood, acceptance, and pain “catastrophizing.” (Pain catastrophizing is unnecessarily viewing pain as being awful, horrible and unbearable. Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened and painful response to physical pressure that would not normally produce pain.) Conventional therapy for FM includes medication accompanied by exercise. But researchers involved 25 of 53 women in a regular class that included 40 minutes of gentle stretching poses; 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation (awareness of breathing, and awareness of awareness itself); 10 minutes of breathing techniques (full yogic breath); 20 minutes of educational presentations on the application of yogic principles to optimal coping; and 25 minutes of group discussions. Following treatment, the yoga participants showed marked improvements in pain, functioning and attitude, as well as more involvement in life. This study was released October 14, and is being published in the November 2010 issue of the journal, Pain. It is available online at https://bit.ly/ aH0xM9 to subscribers or those who pay the fee.

MONTHLY HORMONAL CYCLES LINKED TO ABILITY TO CONCENTRATE

A new study on rats has confirmed a previously suspected, biological link between an individual’s current estrogen level and her ability to pay attention, focus and learn. Women have high estrogen levels when they are ovulating and prior research has shown that these are the times when they have trouble focusing and learning. Until now, it was not known whether the increase in fogginess and the increase in the level of this hormone constituted a cause-and-effect link. But researchers used rats to study how estrogen affects their “latent inhibition,” which is a form of memory formation, which is essential learning. They found that rodents with low estrogen levels learned to associate a stimulus with a specific sound tone far faster than those with high estrogen levels, showing that, even in a different species, estrogen itself has a direct effect on the brain by inhibiting cognitive ability. Further study may explain how it does this. This study was released ahead of print publication in a future issue of the journal Brain and Cognition. It is available at the journal’s site with the payment of a fee.

STUDY HIGHLIGHTS BLOOD PRESSURE RISK IN OVERWEIGHT CHILDREN

A 10-year study has found that children with a high Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body weight, are at greater risk for developing high blood pressure, and that even a small reduction in a child’s BMI can have a substantial reduction in risk. The effect of extra weight on the systolic blood pressure of children in the highest 15 percentile of BMI was as much as 4.6 times the effect on the systolic reading of normal-weight children. (The systolic measure is the upper number in a blood pressure reading, and represents the measure of the force of blood against the artery walls when the pumping heart contracts.) Studies do not normally separate normal- and over-weight children and as a result, the effect of higher BMI on normal weight children is overestimated while the effect of BMI on overweight children is underestimated; this research is important because it clarifies the greater effect for overweight kids. This study was presented at the American Heart Association’s HBPR (High Blood Pressure Research) scientific sessions held in Washington, DC, October 15, 2010. The study has not yet been journal-published and is not yet available online.

MAGNETIC THERAPY HELPS WITH TOUGH-TO-TREAT DEPRESSION

A study has found that magnetic therapy provides benefits that work in the long term against major depressive disorder, especially against cases that are resistant to traditional drug therapy. This treatment previously has been shown to work against acute symptoms in the short term; now, it has been found to work effectively in the long-term in cases where traditional antidepressants are used as well. The magnet therapy appeared to work over a six-month period and produced no further risks than present with drug therapy. The magnet therapy involves intense magnetic pulses known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. In the study, TMS was increased whenever symptoms worsened and this appeared to be effective in the long run. In TMS, an electromagnetic coil placed on the head delivers brief magnetic pulses through the scalp and into the part of the brain linked to depression, the left prefrontal cortex. The pulses, about as strong as those in a standard MRI scan, stimulate the nerve cells in that region. It’s thought that this stimulation resets electrical activity in this region, thereby improving depression. This study was published in the October 2010 issue of the journal, Brain Stimulation and is now available online at https://bit.ly/b1uOzn to subscribers and those who pay the article access fee.

FRUCTOSE INTOLERANCE COMMON IN CHILDREN WITH ABDOMINAL PAIN

A study has concluded that many children suffering with chronic abdominal pain have fructose intolerance or malabsorption, but the condition can be managed effectively with a low-fructose diet. (Fructose, or fruit sugar, is the simplest and most water-soluble version of sugar and should not be confused with high-fructose corn syrup, which is a family of mixtures of fructose and glucose. Fructose intolerance occurs when the digestive system has impaired fructose-handling compounds. It is similar to lactose intolerance, with which people lack the correct enzyme to digest milk sugar.) To test children who suffered from chronic abdominal pain, researchers gave them what is known as a breath hydrogen test (BHT). A high reading taken periodically after consumption of fructose indicates the child is fructose intolerant (just as a high reading taken periodically after consuming lactose indicates lactose intolerance). Fructose is found in fruit, some prepackaged foods, soft drinks and honey, making it difficult to avoid. But half of afflicted children managed to avoid fructose long-term and their symptom relief was immediate. This study was presented October 18, 2010 at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 75th annual scientific meeting in San Antonio but has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY LINKED TO BREAST CANCER

An 11-year study of 16,608 women aged 50 to 79 with no prior hysterectomy has found that postmenopausal women who are on a specific type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which included both estrogen plus progestin, have a greater risk of invasive breast cancer and a higher risk of death due to breast cancer. The HRT group also had a higher risk of breast cancer with lymph node involvement, which is a serious complication. The HRT in the study was conjugated equine estrogens (0.625 mg/day) plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (2.5 mg/day). Among these subjects, 23.7 percent of the HRT group had breast cancers with lymph node involvement compared to 16.2 percent who were not on HRT. Also, combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was found to interfere with breast cancer detection, leading to cancers among HRT patients being diagnosed at more advanced stages. This study was published in the October 20, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It is available online now at https://bit.ly/d7NXd5 to subscribers and those who pay an article access fee.

BEST DIET FOR PREGNANT WOMEN WHO ARE OBESE

A study suggests that a low-glycemic load (low-GL) diet for pregnant women who are also obese could possibly help prevent premature births and other negative maternal and infant outcomes. (A low-GL diet contains fewer carbohydrates that, in a particular quantity, cause sustained spikes in blood sugar; such spikes may increase diabetes risk.) Forty-six overweight or obese pregnant women were assigned randomly to either a low-GL or a low-fat diet. Those on the low-GL diet experienced longer pregnancy duration, greater baby head circumference, and improved maternal cardiovascular risk factors. Specifically, mothers on the low-GL diet showed smaller increases in triglycerides, less total cholesterol, and greater decreases in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation. The researchers concluded that large-scale studies are warranted to evaluate whether dietary intervention during pregnancy to lower GL could help prevent premature births as well as other baby and mother health issues. For information on a low-GL diet, talk to your naturopathic health practitioner. This study was released October 20, 2010 and will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online at https://bit.ly/cnB4lN for subscribers and those who pay the access fee.

OFFSPRING OF OBESE FATHERS MAY BE MORE PRONE TO DIABETES

A rodent study has found a greater – but non-genetic – risk of type 2 diabetes among daughters of obese fathers. Researchers stressed that this is not a case of genetic inheritance but rather, the result of how gene expression is affected by lifestyle choices and affects the health of offspring later in their life. All rats in the study were genetically identical but one group was fed a diet overloaded with fat and containing 40 percent more calories. Bred with females of normal weight and diet, the high-fat group produced daughters with smaller pancreatic islets (the site of insulin production) and a greater risk of diabetes later in life. Data on male offspring were not available because early findings showed a more pronounced effect on daughters, prompting researchers to focus on female pups. These results do not necessarily mean the effect is the same in humans but suggests potential consequences of today’s obesity epidemic. This study was released October 20, 2010 but will not be published in print until a future issue of the journal, Nature. It is available online at https://www.nature.com/register/nature to those who register for free and pay an access fee.

BACTERIA COULD BOOST BROCCOLI’S CANCER-FIGHTING POWER

A study concludes that certain bacteria in the colon promote the release of sulforaphane, the powerful cancer-fighting agent in broccoli, from its parent component. Many people overcook broccoli, destroying the plant enzyme that provides sulforaphane. But these results suggest the colon microbiota can salvage sulforaphane that otherwise would be lost. Researchers proved this theory by injecting glucoraphanin, the parent compound for sulforaphane, directly into the tied-off lower gut of rats. They then tested for, and found, sulforaphane in the blood flowing from the gut to the liver, proving lower intestine bacteria had pulled sulforaphane from the injected glucoraphanin, making it available to the body. The researchers suggest that it may be possible to boost the activity of the bacteria and therefore, pull even more of the powerful anti-cancer sulforaphane out of the broccoli we eat, either by feeding probiotics such as fiber to the gut bacteria, or by serving broccoli with a probiotic sauce containing these specific bacteria. This study was released October 22, 2010 but will not be print-published until the November 2010 issue of the journal, Food & Function. It is now available online, free of charge, at https://bit.ly/9r66fR after free registration.

U.S. CHILDREN DRINK TOO LITTLE WATER, STUDY

A study of 3,978 children aged 2 to 19 years of age has found that a large proportion of American kids drink less water than is recommended as the minimum daily amount. Sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for much of their fluid intake. Also, the researchers concluded that children who do consume the most water each day are less likely to consume sugary drinks and high-calorie foods. Only 15 to 60 percent of boys, and 10 to 54 percent of girls, depending on age, drink the minimum amount of water recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, dry mouth and even impaired cognition and mental performance. The study looked at water intake from all sources, including water itself, water in moist foods, moisture in all beverages, such as milk and juice. As children aged, their water consumption increased while their intake of nutritive beverages such as milk and fruit juice decreased. This just-released study will be published in the October 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available at https://bit.ly/cIOrCT with journal subscription or access fee.

DIM LIGHT DURING SLEEP TIME CAN INCREASE WEIGHT, WITHOUT ADDITIONAL CALORIES

A study conducted on mice has found that exposure to even a dim light at night (LAN) can increase weight by 50 percent over those who experience a normal dark-light sleep time, even if they do not consume more calories. The reason seems to be that mice exposed to even a dim light at night (LAN) during normal sleep hours have a tendency to eat at times that they normally wouldn’t. This resulted in weight gain and in impaired glucose tolerance, which is a risk factor for diabetes. The researchers believe LAN could disrupt levels of the hormone melatonin, which is involved in metabolism. In addition, it may disrupt the expression of clock genes, which help control when animals feed and when they are active. This shows that the Western tendency towards obesity may not be tied exclusively to food consumption or even to a lack of exercise: it may be related to late-night computer viewing and television use, which in turn disrupts normal eating schedules, and therefore, metabolism. This study was released ahead of future print publication by the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is available now online at https://bit.ly/aP9GGS for subscribers or those who are willing to pay an article access fee.

SKIPPING BREAKFAST LINKED TO HEART AND DIABETES RISK

A study has linked habitually skipping breakfast to greater cardiometabolic risk factors, also known as metabolic syndrome. Cardiometabolic risk factors are measures making up a constellation of apparently separate risk factors – such as waist circumference (WC), fasting insulin, higher LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and high total cholesterol – that often precede development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. (A quarter of normal weight and 50 percent of overweight, people suffer metabolic risk factors.) Children who were then 9 to 15 years of age were asked in 1985, if they ate breakfast or not; then they were examined 19 to 21 years later. Compared to those who regularly ate breakfast both during childhood and adulthood, those who regularly skipped breakfast both during childhood and adulthood, were found to have a WC that was almost 2 inches greater, higher fasting insulin, higher overall cholesterol, and higher LDL cholesterol. The quality of foods consumed at breakfast affected cardiometabolic risk factors to some degree, but the effect of skipping breakfast remained significant despite actual foods consumed. Released October 6, 2010, this study won’t be published until a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available now online at https://bit.ly/c26AG0 to subscribers or those who pay an access fee.

SECOND HAND SMOKE TRIPLES BREAST CANCER RISK

A study of 1,108 women – half of whom had confirmed breast cancer – has found that cigarette smoke can triple the risk of breast cancer among women who are exposed to it. Smoking produces both mainstream smoke and environmental smoke. Mainstream smoke is drawn through the cigarette and exits through the mouthpiece during inhalation; environmental smoke is emitted from the smoldering tobacco during between puffs. This study shows that environmental smoke increases breast cancer risk in the same way that mainstream smoke does. Whether a woman was pre-menopausal or postmenopausal did not affect their risk factor. Women who actively smoked showed a 20 percent higher breast cancer risk but only if smoking began between puberty and the birth of the first child. All of the women in the study were Mexican. This study was presented in Miami at the American Association for Cancer Research’s third conference on the Science of Cancer health Disparities, which ran from September 30 to October 3, 2010. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

NEWEST NATURAL WEAPON AGAINST SUPERBUGS MAY BE BODILY FLUIDS

A study suggests an almost-forgotten, 80-year-old idea may be a new weapon to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MSRA. Natural “lytic” enzymes are found in bodily fluids, such as tears or saliva. In 1923, Alexander Fleming noticed that lytic enzymes in mucus were effective in killing bacteria. Five years later, he discovered penicillin and lytic enzymes were quietly forgotten. Now that antibiotic resistance has developed in a number of mutating bacteria strains, probably the result of a “one size fits all” overuse of these drugs, scientists are looking again at the body’s own, long-ignored, antibiotics. Lytic enzymes are different from antibiotic drugs because each enzyme type targets a limited range of bacteria; so in theory, it should be possible to find specific natural enzymes to fight some bacteria while – unlike antibiotics – leaving friendly bacteria alone. The study pioneered a new way to observe light coming through solutions of bacteria, a process that allows researchers to assess different lytic enzymes’ abilities to destroy different unfriendly bacteria. This study was released October 4, and will be published in the December 2010 issue of the journal, Physical Biology. It is available at https://bit.ly/bilJZf but (free) registration is required.

DID YOU KNOW…?
Tea lovers’ beverage of choice lowers blood pressure. Drinking just a half-cup of green or oolong tea per day reduces a person’s risk of high blood pressure by almost 50 per cent. People who drink at least two and a half cups per day reduce their risk even more. Risk is reduced even if tea drinkers have known risk factors for high blood pressure, such as high sodium intake.

HIGHER CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D LEVELS INCREASE WEIGHT LOST THROUGH DIETING

A study has determined that the weight lost on identical weight-loss diets is greater among those with higher intakes of dairy calcium; and separately, among those with higher blood levels of vitamin D. Regardless of the specific diet, those with the highest calcium intake dropped an average of 12 pounds in two years. However, those with the lowest intake of dairy calcium lost only seven pounds on average in the same period. Aside from calcium, individuals who had the highest levels of vitamin D lost the most weight when dieting; and vitamin D levels increased as weight dropped. It did not matter whether the diet was low-fat, low-carb or Mediterranean. This confirms previous research finding that obese people have lower levels of vitamin D. Although the study assessed dairy calcium only, calcium is also available from supplements and other foods. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and is found in supplements, fatty fish and eggs. It is also manufactured by the body from direct sun exposure. This study was published in the September 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is now available online at https://bit.ly/aC1RNA for journal subscribers and those who pay an article access fee.

STRESS BEFORE CANCER THERAPY LEADS TO RECURRENCE

A study has concluded that any form of stress during the one or two days prior to treatment for cancer – even the physical stress caused by intense exercise – activates a stress-sensitive protein known as the Hsp27 protein. This protein in turn protects cancer cells, allowing them to survive the treatment, thus sabotaging therapy and leading to a recurrence of the cancer. Although breast cancer cells were the subject of the study, the researchers said this proves that all types of adenocarcinoma cells – cancer cells that originate in a gland – appear to have found a way to adapt and resist treatment by using this stress-related protein. In the face of stress, the protein is activated by the presence of what is called “heat shock factor-1” and blocks the process that kills cancer cells even after their DNA has been damaged by radiation or chemotherapy. Stress includes physical exercise and even UV radiation from sunlight. This study was released September 21, 2010 by the journal Molecular Cancer Research.

VIRUS MAY BE BEHIND OBESITY EPIDEMIC

A study has found that a gene in a specific virus can turn adult stem cells into fat cells. The study shows that many cases of obesity can be blamed on a specific virus named “human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36)”. This does not mean that obesity is always the result of a particular virus; but it does suggest that many cases of obesity may stem from infection by this virus. Another aspect of the study suggests that the weight gain effect can continue up to six months after the virus has left the body. The researchers stated that it is possible that other viruses may have a similar effect. Obesity may even be considered, suggests the study team, as a complex disease involving many different viruses. Research is needed, they say, to determine why some people with the virus develop obesity while others with the same virus do not. Ninety-seven million adult Americans are obese. Obesity increases the risk of many illnesses, including type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and osteoarthritis. This study was presented recently at the 234th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. It has not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Environmental pollutants trapped in fat cells could be released back into circulation when people shed a lot of weight. A study found strong correlation between weight loss and blood levels of six persistent organic pollutants. There is no proof that weight loss leads directly to the release of pollutants from fat cells into the blood but the evidence of the study is consistent with that mechanism, reported the researchers. The study was published in the September 7, 2010 issue of the Journal of Obesity.

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