News Briefs – September 2005

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Perpetual Protein or Cloning Nightmare?

A research team is proposing a new technique that would allow meat to be grown in a laboratory for mass consumption, according to a report. Researchers in the U.S. say the technology now exists to produce processed meats such as burgers and sausages, starting with cells taken from cows, chickens, pigs, fish or other animals. Growing meat without the animal would not only reduce the need for the animals — which often are kept in less than ideal conditions — but may also address a number of environmental ills blamed on meat production. Meat cells would be grown on large sheets and scraped off as needed. Meat could be designed with low fat content or with no fat at all and created pretty much on demand without the vagaries of pricing stemming from supply fluctuations. Animal rights groups and vegans might be supportive. Is this a perpetual protein machine or the ultimate cloning nightmare? Good or bad or just plain weird, this could yet become a highly controversial issue; it could yet become a reality.

First-Ever Study: Lifestyle as Treatment for Cancer

A radical ultra low-fat diet and other lifestyle changes may help keep early-stage prostate cancer from worsening, says an attempt to test the theory. Cancer prevention via lifestyle has never been studied previously.

Heart-health guru Dean Ornish’s studies show that a low-fat and otherwise healthy regimen can help heart disease. But why test the lifestyle on prostate cancer? There is some evidence that diets high in fat increase the risk of prostate cancer and that certain foods — such as broccoli or the nutrient lycopene from cooked tomato products — are protective.

Men with early-stage prostate cancer who make drastic changes to their diet and lifestyle may stop or perhaps even reverse the progression of their illness. This study is one of the scientific trials to demonstrate that lifestyle changes may affect the progression of a cancer.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in North American men after lung cancer; and it’s the most common form of cancer among men in Europe.

A team from the University of California in San Francisco recruited 93 men with biopsy-proven prostate cancer who had decided not to follow conventional treatment for the disease. They were randomly divided into two groups.

The first group was placed on a vegan diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. They also received supplements of soy, vitamins and minerals and participated in moderate aerobic exercise, yoga and meditation and a weekly support group session. None of the men in this group had conventional prostate cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy during the study but obviously, their lifestyle and diet were excellent.

The second group made no changes to diet and lifestyle. Six members of this group underwent conventional treatments because their disease progressed.

After one year, PSA levels — levels of a protein marker for prostate cancer — decreased in the group who had changed their lifestyle. In contrast, PSA levels increased in the comparison group. Other cellular tests suggested the diet wasn’t just affecting PSA production, Ornish said.

There was a direct correlation between the degree of lifestyle change and the changes in PSA, said the scientists.

“Changes in diet and lifestyle that we found, in earlier research, could reverse the progression of coronary heart disease may affect the progression of prostate cancer as well,” said Ornish, MD and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He is likely the most famous advocate of a low-fat diet.

Ornish stressed that his study doesn’t mean men should opt for diet over conventional therapy. He added that men with prostate cancer who undergo conventional treatments may also benefit from making comprehensive lifestyle changes.

The study was published in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of Urology.

‘Cold’ Reaction to Cold Study

A highly publicized study in the August of the New England Journal of Medicine reported that — contrary to long-standing belief — echinacea is ineffective in both preventing colds and treating cold-related symptoms. More studies are expected but in the meantime, the non-profit American Botanical Council (ABC), an Austin, Texas-based research and education organization is questioning the validity of the latest clinical research.

First, the extracts used were made in a university laboratory and do not correlate with commercial echinacea products currently available to consumers, says ABC. Second, the dosages used in this trial were probably too low. The echinacea preparations used in the study might have shown activity at more frequent dosing intervals or higher dosage levels, according to the group’s newest press release.

The trial utilized three doses of 1.5 millilitres each of the three laboratory-produced echinacea extracts — presumably equivalent to about 300 mg of the dried powdered root in each dose. That’s equivalent to 900 mg per day of the dried root. This level was chosen for the trial because it is the dose recommended by the German government’s expert herb panel called the Commission E.

According to ABC, various international monographs have acknowledged the generally higher dose used for echinacea root products. The World Health Organization (WHO) monograph for echinacea root lists a dosage of 3 gm per day of the dried root. This same dosage is also acknowledged in the more recently developed draft monographs on echinacea from the Canadian Natural Health Products Directorate.

“This is not a definitive trial on the efficacy of echinacea, nor should the results be generalized to echinacea preparations widely available,” said Mark Blumenthal, Founder and Executive Director of ABC, in an interview with Vitality.

“Unfortunately, the conclusion that may be drawn by some media who report this study may state that ‘echinacea is ineffective,’ but this would be an incorrect conclusion based on the design of this study and the evidence in the existing literature.”

Pineapple Stems — Future Cure for Cancer?

Preliminary but cutting edge research prompts us to ask this question: Is it possible that someday, the stem of pineapples will lead to a new cancer-fighting supplement?

Two molecules isolated from an extract of crushed pineapple stems have shown promise in fighting cancer growth.

One molecule called CCS blocks a protein called ras, which is defective in approximately 30% of all cancers. The other, CCZ, stimulates the body’s own immune system to target and kill cancer cells.

The research was carried out by Queensland Institute of Medical Research and reported in Cancer Research UK. The organization’s Julie Sharpe, PhD, commented to Vitality that, “The origin of many anti-cancer drugs can be found in nature” and this newest discovery may turn out to be a huge breakthrough in focused cancer treatment, as opposed to more generalized cancer prevention.

We know what you’re thinking and yes, you’re dead-on. These molecules are found in bromelain — but only in minute quantities. Still, concentrated extracts of pure CCS and CCZ may one day become a new, all-natural treatment option.

Folate: Best Supplement for Alzheimer’s

No nutrient can lower Alzheimer’s risk better than folate, also known as folic acid, says new research.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine, in a study appearing in the August 2005 issue of the journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, have used a long-term National Institute on Aging study of diet and brain aging to examine the effect of folate, antioxidants and nutrients in diet and supplementation, and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the researchers, consuming the daily recommended allowance of folate reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease — and reduces it more effectively than all other nutrients or supplements.

Garlic and Stomach Cancer

According to an August 9, 2005 report by the Xinhua News Agency, also reported in Science and Technology Daily, scientists in China found that garlic may retard multiplication of stomach cancer cells and cause the cancer cells to die.

The research was jointly conducted by experts from Beijing Genome Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Clinical Tumour Institute of Beijing University, and the Beijing Tumour Prevention and Treatment Research Institute.

The researchers also found that stomach cancer is caused by many factors including the framework of cell, energy metabolism and control of cell multiplication. Garlic was found to affect this latter factor in the cause of stomach cancer.

The lab study will have to be confirmed by further testing on live animal subjects.

Unlike in North America where heart disease is the number one killer, cancers have topped the causes of all deaths in China.

Kellogg’s Trashes Apples

An advertising campaign aimed at children promotes Kellogg’s Apple Jacks as an alternative to real apples — by disparaging the real thing as being sour and otherwise inferior to the sugary breakfast cereal. The ads are coming under fire from the Produce for Better Health Foundation, a non-profit education and marketing organization aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, and the non-profit nutrition and food-safety watchdog group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Both groups want Kellogg’s to discontinue the ad campaign and to promise not to steer kids away from healthy foods in the future.

The ads and accompanying web site depict a fictional character named “Bad Apple” as “sour” and “grouchy” — in contrast to a Jamaican-accented cinnamon stick character described as “laid back” and “happy.” The ad tells kids that “Apple Jacks doesn’t taste like apples” — as if that’s a good thing — ”because the sweet taste of cinnamon is the winner, mon.”

The cereal has more sugar and more salt than apples or apple juice concentrate.

Curcumin Kills Cancer Cells

Curcumin inhibits proliferation of, and promotes the programmed death of, skin cancer cells. That’s the conclusion of a study published in the August 2005 edition of the journal, Cancer.

In a lab study, researchers at the University of Texas treated three melanoma cell lines with curcumin. The turmeric compound retarded and even killed the melanoma cells; it also slowed the action of several cancer-driving factors.

Further study is required with living test subjects.

Grape Seed Protects Brain

According to research published in the August 2005 issue of Neuroscience Letters, grape seed extract enhanced antioxidant activity in the brains of aged rats.

The extract also decreased the incidence of free radical-induced “lipid peroxidation” — that’s an oxygen-produced deterioration of fat cells.

Research shows that the activity of antioxidants is reduced in the brains of aged rats. But in cases where grape seed extract supplements were administered, antioxidant activity was normalized; and cellular deterioration due to oxidation was reduced.

No Actual Fruit Was Harmed . . .

Tropicana Peach Papaya drink contains no peach juice — and no papaya juice. In fact, the very small amount of juice in this drink is actually pear juice made from concentrate. To settle a lawsuit brought by the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Tropicana parent PepsiCo has agreed to drop from the label, the words “Made with REAL Fruit Juice.” The package will still carry photos of fresh peaches and papaya.

The company will also drop the “real juice” claim from labels for its Tropicana Strawberry Melon. Reason? That’s right. It contains no strawberry juice. And no melon juice.

And in Another August CSPI Lawsuit Settlement . . .

Sleepy regulators at the Food and Drug Administration have known for years that the “blueberries” in Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles are phony, despite the bounty of plump berries bursting forth on the product labels. But it took the threat of a lawsuit from CSPI to get Aunt Jemima’s attention.

In a settlement struck between CSPI and Aunt Jemima’s corporate parent, Pinnacle Foods, the company promises to more clearly indicate that the product is artificially flavoured and that the “blueberries” in question are imitation. In return, CSPI won’t haul Aunt Jemima before a judge.

CSPI is currently suing Quorn Foods, which makes meat substitute made from processed fungus. Many consumers experience nausea, severe vomiting, diarrhea or anaphylaxis after eating Quorn products.

“The FDA could certainly use more staff to be on the lookout for deceptive labelling or unhealthful additives,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.

“But frankly, even when you hand them the most egregious examples on a silver platter they tend to take years to act, if they act at all.”

Dietary Cataract Prevention

Vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids may have a definite impact on the development of eye cataracts — but not necessarily the same impact — according to a study in the August 2005 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Age-related cataracts — the world’s leading cause of blindness — affect more than 22 million North Americans over the age of 40 years. Surgical correction is currently the only known option for intervention but researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University recently sought, in three different studies, to determine if prevention is possible.

In one study, researchers analyzed the diets and examined the eyes of a group of Boston-area women over the course of five years. Women who reported supplementing their diets with vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant — for 10 years or more had significantly less progression of cataract development at the five-year follow-up exam.

A similar relative decrease in cataract progression was seen in women who reported higher intakes of two of the B vitamins — riboflavin and thiamine — when compared to women with lower intakes.

The study concluded that “vitamin supplementation, particularly long-term use of vitamin E, may slow down cataract development.” Previous work with the same nurses’ study subject group found a similar role for vitamin C in the prevention of cataracts.

On the other hand, the results were not so clear when they looked at dietary fat.

In the same population of women, the team found that high dietary intake of either omega-6 or omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or both, may actually increase the risk of developing cataracts. Omega-6 is found in sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils; and omega-3 is found in canola, flaxseed and soybean oils.

The fat portion of this study is not consistent with earlier findings and further study may be required to draw conclusions.

In another study that was recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers observed that higher overall fat intake increased the risk of cataract development or progression, while omega-3 fatty acids — in particular, the types found in dark-fleshed fish — appeared to contribute to the prevention of cataract formation.

Determining ways to delay age-related cataract formation through diet or even through supplementation, would enhance the quality of life for many older people and reduce the need for surgery.

Citrus Fights Arthritis

Increasing intake of the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, found in citrus fruits, may reduce the risk of developing inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, report UK researchers.

Prior studies have suggested that the antioxidant potential of dietary carotenoids may protect against the oxidative damage that can result in inflammation.

A team from the University of Manchester and the University of Cambridge in the UK studied the diets of more than 25,000 subjects. A follow-up identified new cases of inflammatory polyarthritis — inflamed joint fluid in two or more joints.

The average daily intake of beta-cryptoxanthin was 40% lower in those who developed the condition, while zeaxanthin intake was 20% lower.

The researchers revealed their findings in the August 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They concluded that “a modest increase in beta-cryptoxanthin — equivalent to one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice a day — may reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis.”

The conclusions are considered more reliable because they confirm an earlier finding.

Beta-Cryptoxanthin is found in papaya, mango, peaches, oranges, tangerines, bell peppers, corn and watermelon, as well as egg yolk and butter. To absorb it, it’s important to consume a small amount of fat.

This phytochemical is also known as cryptoxanthin, cryptoxanthol and hydroxy-beta-carotene. It is often found in supplement form as an ingredient of “mixed carotenoids.”

Childhood Cancer-Pollution Link

Exposure soon after birth, or even before, to combustion gases and particularly engine exhaust, is strongly linked to the development of childhood cancers like leukemia, according to a report appearing in the August 2005 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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

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