News Briefs – December 2010

DIABETES CASES COULD TRIPLE BY 2050

A new U.S. federal government study warns that the number of American adults with diabetes could double or triple by 2050 if current trends continue. Among the reasons provided for the projected steep rise are an aging population, an increase in minority groups at higher risk for diabetes, and the fact that diabetes patients are living longer. Although largely preventable, type-2 diabetes will afflict one-fifth and one-third of all adults, projects the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the number of new cases will jump from 8 per 1,000 in 2008 to 15 per 1,000 in 2050, according to the study. Diabetes remains the leading cause of kidney failure, new cases of blindness for those under age 75, kidney failure, and preventable leg and foot amputation among adults. Older age, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, family history, developing diabetes while pregnant, and race/ethnicity are risk factors for type-2 diabetes. However, regular physical activity and proper nutrition can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and help control the disease. This study was published in the October 22, 2010 issue of Population Health Metrics. 

HEAVY SMOKING IN MIDLIFE DOUBLES LATER ALZHEIMER’S RISK

A first-of-its-kind study of 21,123 people has concluded that heavy smoking in middle age more than doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in later life. Race and gender made no difference to the outcome and the actual increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia risk was found to be 114 percent. Smoking contributes to oxidative stress and inflammation, believed to be important in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, this study did not find an association between smoking and dementia for those who were nonsmokers at middle age, defined as 50-60 years old, or who smoked less than half a pack a day during this period. (Smoking is already known to increase the risk of most diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke, and of death.) Because smoking is a risk factor for stroke, it may be through miniature, unnoticed strokes that it raises the risk of vascular dementia. This study was released October 25, 2010, but will not appear in print until the February 28, 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

LIFESTYLE TIPS COULD PREVENT A QUARTER OF ALL BOWEL CANCER CASES

Lifestyle changes in just five areas could prevent twenty-three percent of all cases of colorectal cancer, reports a new study. Those healthy lifestyle areas are: physical activity, waist circumference, smoking, alcohol, and diet. The advice for each of those areas is: being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day; having no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a week for men; being a non-smoker; having a waist circumference below 88 cm (34.5 in) for women and 102 cm (40 in) for men; and consuming a healthy diet, respectively. The researchers merged recommendations from the World Health Organization, World Cancer Research Fund, and the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. The study found that if everyone adhered to only one recommendation, thirteen percent of all colorectal cancer cases could be prevented. Bowel cancer is rare in people under 40 and so the study focussed on 55,487 men and women aged 50 to 64, following them for almost 10 years. This study was published in the October 26, 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal.

FREQUENT WHITE RICE CONSUMPTION INCREASES DIABETES RISK

A study of 25,666 men and 33,622 women in Japan, where white rice is a staple, has found that women who consume a lot of white rice have an increased risk of developing diabetes 2, compared to women who eat less. The link for men was less clear. Men who ate white rice most often exhibited a greater risk of diabetes – unless they were often engaged in strenuous activity. It has been suggested that refined carbohydrates cause a deterioration of the glucose metabolism process but whether this applies to refined rice has never been determined. (Processors remove the outer husk and mill away the layers of bran to refine white or “polished” rice. Brown rice also lacks its outer husk, but retains the nutritious bran. Wild rice is not actually rice at all; it is a wild aquatic grass of North America.) This study was released October 27, 2010 but won’t be published until a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is available online at https://bit.ly/aUuI01 to subscribers or those who pay the article access fee.

OLIVE OIL PROTECTS AGAINST LIVER DAMAGE

According to a new study, extra virgin olive oil has the capacity to offset some of the damage to liver tissue caused by an insufficient supply of antioxidants. An herbicide (‘2,4-Dichloro-phenoxyacetic acid’) was fed to four groups of rats who were also fed: no olive oil, whole olive oil, hydrophilic fraction olive oil extract, or the lipophilic fraction extract, respectively. This herbicide is known to cause, if ingested in substantial amounts, depletion of antioxidants and resultant oxidative stress to the liver. All rats developed significant liver damage due to oxidation, but those on a diet of whole olive oil or hydrophilic extract of olive oil sustained less damage. The hydrophilic fraction of olive oil appears to be the protective factor for protecting against toxin-induced oxidative stress. Olive oil is a main component of the so-called Mediterranean diet and is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. This study was released October 29, 2010 by the journal, Nutrition and Metabolism.

SENIORS FEAR OF FALLING

Among seniors, one of the key independent risk factors for falling is having a fear of falling. A study reported in the August 20, 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal found that even among elderly persons with a very low physiological risk of falling, and no other reason to fall, their actual fall rate coincided with their perceived risk and fear of falling. A greater number of these low-physiological-risk, but high-perceived-risk fall victims were women. Patients who fear falling should receive advice and interventions on how to avoid falling.

CAN PROBIOTICS REDUCE PRE-TERM DELIVERIES?

A Norwegian study has found that a higher intake of probiotic dairy products by pregnant women results in a reduced risk of spontaneous preterm deliveries (fewer than 37 gestational weeks). Pregnant women were divided into three groups: those who consumed no milk containing probiotic lactobacilli, those with a low intake, and those with a high consumption level. Researchers hypothesized that probiotics may reduce the number of pregnancy complications that arise from microbial infection. The study team noted that preterm deliveries pose a significant problem. This study was released online by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition but won’t be published in print until a future issue.

PHYSICAL FITNESS CUTS FREQUENCY OF COLDS

A study has found that those who get aerobic exercise more often have a reduced frequency of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), such as colds. The effect also was seen in those who perceive themselves as physically fit; the severity of cold symptoms was 41 percent less for those who believed they were fit and 31 percent reduced for those who were, in fact, the most active. The total number of days with cold symptoms was about half for those who reported getting aerobic activity five days a week or more, compared to those with the most sedentary lifestyles. Researchers speculate that the effect works this way: bouts of aerobic exercise boost immune system cells, but they fall back a few hours later; but each exercise round may increase surveillance by the immune system, of harmful viruses and bacteria. Regardless of exercise, honourable mention for getting fewer URTIs went to those who were male, older, and married. This study was released November 1, 2010 and will be published in a future issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

BLACK RASPBERRIES CUT COLON CANCER RISK

A study has concluded that consumption of black raspberries is highly effective in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. In a mouse study, researchers fed two groups a Western-style diet (high in fat and low in calcium and vitamin D). They then altered the diet of the test group so that 10% of its food intake was comprised of freeze-dried black raspberry powder, which continued for 12 weeks. In the test group, the raspberry supplement produced a broad range of protective effects in the intestine, colon, and rectum, and inhibited tumour formation. The black raspberries inhibited tumour development by suppressing a protein, known as beta-catenin. Tumour incidence was reduced by 45% and the number of individual tumours was reduced by 60%. Because black raspberries also reduce inflammation, this food may also help prevent a variety of inflammatory diseases, including heart disease. This study was released November 2, 2010 by the journal, Cancer Prevention Research.

FURTHER EVIDENCE OF RESVERATROL’S CANCER PREVENTIVE EFFECT

A study has found further evidence that resveratrol contributes to cancer chemopreventive activity (helps prevent cancer). In previous research on rodents, this polyphenol found in plants, notably in red grape skins and wine, has been shown to reduce levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone similar to insulin. Researchers studied 40 human volunteers to assess effects of repeated dosing with resveratrol on two hormones: IGF-1 and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3). A reduction in these factors is associated with anticancer activity. Subjects ingested resveratrol for 29 days, in dosages of 0.5, 1.0, 2.5, or 5.0 grams. There was a decrease for all volunteers in circulating IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 hormones, but the greatest decrease was noted for those on 2.5 grams a day. Also, resveratrol was found to be safe, except that the higher dosages (2.5 and 5.0 grams) caused mild to moderate gastrointestinal problems. The study team concluded high resveratrol dosing contributes to cancer preventive activity in humans. This study was released November 2, 2010 online by the journal, Cancer Research.

POTATOES AND GA

All potatoes contain a toxic substance, called glycoalkaloid (GA). When given to animals in large quantities, GA causes cancer. But don’t throw out that sack of spuds. In the quantities we encounter in taters, GA is harmless. In fact, some of the health benefits from produce are believed to come from the plant’s own toxins, which also act as natural, built-in pesticides. (Editor’s note: Because some commercial potatoes are sprayed with fungicides to inhibit mould, choose organic spuds whenever possible.)

VITAMIN D LINKED WITH REDUCED SYMPTOMS IN MS PATIENTS

Associations between vitamin D and brain tissues in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients have not been investigated previously. But a new study has found that vitamin D metabolites (the products of vitamin D metabolism) have a protective effect against the degree of both disability and brain atrophy in MS patients. For 193 MS patients, researchers determined brain tissue injury using MRI scans; assessed degree of clinical disability using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and the MS Severity Scale (MSSS); and measured blood levels of vitamin D metabolites. (The metabolites measured were 25-hydroxyvitamin D3; 25-hydroxyvitamin D2; 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3; and 24(R), 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3.) The study team concluded that higher levels of vitamin D metabolites in the blood provide protection against brain atrophy and disability in MS patients. (In particular, the study found strongest protection with the metabolite 24, 25(OH)2VD3.) Although further study is needed, the outcome suggests that higher vitamin D intake reduces MS symptoms and progression. This study was released November 3, 2010 by the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry with Practical Neurology, but it will not be published until a future issue of the journal. It is available online at https://bit.ly/9hdQR0 with subscription or fee payment.

VITAMIN D SUFFICIENCY CUTS LEUKEMIA (CLL) MORTALITY BY HALF

A deficiency of vitamin D has been linked previously to a generally higher risk of cancer, but studies have never looked at the vitamin’s relation to leukemia. Now, a study has concluded that patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), who had sufficient levels of vitamin D at the time of initial diagnosis, experienced slower progression of the disease and were about half as likely to die from it. Researchers also found that increasing vitamin D levels in CLL patients produced longer survival times, and decreasing vitamin D levels resulted in shorter intervals between diagnosis and cancer progression. CLL is normally a slower progressing cancer and typically, treatment for CLL patients, even  if they are diagnosed at an early stage, is not initiated until symptoms develop, leaving patients feeling that there is nothing they can do. Further studies may prove that the patients can use this period to boost their levels of vitamin D and have levels monitored by their health practitioner. Vitamin D is available from sunlight, certain foods such as fatty fish and eggs, and from supplements. This study was released November 3, and will be published in a future issue of the journal, Blood. It is available online at https://bit.ly/cqyfP6

LOWER FOLATE LEVELS LINKED TO DEPRESSION

A study has found that boosting folate, or folic acid, intake should be considered as a means to ward off the onset of clinical depression. The study looked at depressive symptoms as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) and at blood levels of folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine for 2,524 adults aged 20 to 85 years. Overall, women showed a higher score than men on the PHQ, indicating a greater incidence of depression. Also, blood levels of vitamin B12 and homocysteine showed no apparent association with depression generally, although older adults did show a higher risk of depression if they had higher homocysteine levels. However, people in the lowest third of blood levels of folate, compared with those in the highest third of folate status, showed a 37% greater risk of having significant depression symptoms. The researchers concluded that mental health outcomes might be improved if health practitioners took into account the dietary and supplement folate, or folic acid, intake of patients. Published in Nov/Dec issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

TAI CHI RELIEVES ARTHRITIS PAIN

The largest study to date on the Arthritis Foundation’s Tai Chi program has found that participants – including those with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia – showed moderate improvement in pain, fatigue, stiffness, and well-being. While some received no tai chi intervention, others took the eight-week, twice-weekly tai chi course. All were assessed after the eight weeks by physical measures, such as walking speed and balance testing, as well as by self-reported differences. Individuals were recruited from urban and rural areas and from a southeastern state (North Carolina) and a northeastern state (New Jersey). Participants were included, even if they were unable to stand, so long as they could perform tai chi movements. Results proved consistent across these different groups. This study was presented November 8 at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Atlanta.

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.

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 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.

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