News Briefs – June 2010

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Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have found an association between the level of leisure time physical exercise and a future risk of developing fibromyalgia. The research team also identified Body Mass Index (BMI) as an independent risk factor for fibromyalgia. Details of the study appeared in the May 2010 issue of Arthritis Care & Research. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by widespread pain lasting more than three months and tender point sites in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms and legs. Associated features often include unexplained fatigue, sleep disturbances, headache, cognitive difficulty, and mood disturbances. The prevalence of fibromyalgia increases with age and is considerably higher among women than men. While regular exercise and healthy BMI are always positive health measures, speak to your physician if you feel you may be exhibiting some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.


Many treatment-resistant depressed patients do not respond to antidepressant drugs or suffer troublesome side effects. But a study suggests some patients suffering from major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, may do better by getting zapped by a large electromagnet. The non-invasive procedure shows that patients experienced significant antidepressant effects with few side effects, using the procedure known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Of the patients receiving rTMS, 14% achieved remission, compared to 5% of patients receiving the control (simulated) treatment. The study appears in the May 2010 issue of the journal, Archives of General Psychiatry.


Although human babies can express discomfort and pain through facial expressions, it has never been proven that nonhuman animals can do so. But researchers have discovered precisely measurable expressions in mice exposed to moderate pain; and developed the subtle Mouse Grimace Scale (MGS). The MGS should facilitate human-pain research, improve veterinary care – and prevent unnecessary lab-mice suffering. Experiments could also determine if the MGS works for other species. The study was released online May 9 as a brief abstract but will be published in full-text in a future issue of Nature Methods.


A new study suggests a new form of curcumin can treat breast cancer. A compound in the Indian spice turmeric, curcumin contains potentially anti-cancer components called polyphenols. Now scientists have created a special molecular form known as curcumin microparticles, which can be injected under the skin. They found a single injection boosted curcumin levels for almost a month and showed marked anticancer activity in mice. A brief summary of this study was released May 11, 2010 but the full text version won’t be available until a future issue of both the online and print editions of the journal, Cancer Research.

(Editor’s note: Curcumin supplements and turmeric in food have also shown cancer-preventive effects.)


A study has concluded that the Greek diet, which is generally similar to the plant-based Mediterranean diet (MD), is a rich source of a variety of antioxidants, including flavonoids, proanthocyanidins and other antioxidant micro-components. The researchers suggest this may be the reason for the health benefits of the MD. Over 200 foods and recipes were involved in the study, and their consumption was estimated using dietary statistics on over 28,000 Greeks. Antioxidants are molecules that can stop chain reactions, called oxidation, which potentially can damage cells. A brief summary was released May 12, 2010 and further details, which will appear in a future print issue of the Journal of Nutrition, are now available online – with fee payment or journal subscription – at: .


The level of sleep known as deep sleep, which is about 10 to 20% of sleep time in young men, is when recuperation of body and mind is optimal. Men’s deep sleep begins to diminish around age 40; and by age 50, decreases to five to seven per cent of total sleep. For men over 60, deep sleep can disappear altogether. Male testosterone drops by one to two per cent a year after age 30 and scientists have long suggested sleep loss may cause the hormonal drop. But a new study suggests it’s the other way around: decreases in testosterone lower the high synchronization required between (also diminishing) brain cells, affecting sleep. This brief summary was presented in Montreal on May 13 at the annual conference of the Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS); it is not expected to be published.


A study has determined that the day-to-day functioning of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients is much more improved by an increase in the number and variety of daily physical activities such as walking to the bank or doing housework, than by an increase in formal exercise routines. In other words, formal exercise programs can increase physical fitness in COPD patients but the resultant day-to-day functional ability is still very limited by disease severity; but those who had a more active, task-oriented lifestyle – without formal exercise – were better able to rise above their COPD severity. COPD refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema, in both of which the airways of the lungs become narrowed. This study was presented May 16 at the American Thoracic Society’s 2010 annual conference in New Orleans and will be published in detail, online and in print, at some future point.


Diet quality affects fetal growth: Several studies have found obesity during pregnancy to put newborns at risk but a new study looks at the effect on fetal growth of the mother’s diet quality. Spanish scientists assessed first-trimester diet quality of 787 pregnant women using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), published by Harvard University researchers in 2003. Babies born to women scoring highest on the AHEI were of healthier weight. They were not, however, of healthier head circumference or length (height). The study was released early but will appear in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Half of water samples contain drugs: Tiny traces of various medicines and personal care products were found in half the 115 water samples taken from home and business drinking water supplies in Delaware, according to a new study. The substances showing up in public water sources include caffeine; the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole; the pain killer ibuprofen; a medical-imaging aid called iopromide; estrogens; antidepressants; cholesterol drugs; nicotine; and triclosan, an ingredient used in soaps and antibacterial hand cleaners. The effects of these drugs on humans or fish are unknown. Released April 27, 2010, the study was conducted by the Delaware state Division of Public health.

Herbicide linked to hyperthyroidism: A study reminds us that environmental factors can increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. Exposure to TCDD, a dioxin compound in Agent Orange, may triple the incidence of Graves’ disease. Agent Orange was the name given to an herbicide used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, typically resulting in hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Interestingly, exposure reduced the risk of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Researchers stressed that study limitations mean the results are not conclusive. The study was presented April 15, 2010, in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Pollution affects young hearts: A study concludes that hearts show the effects of air pollution at a young age and endotoxins (bits of inactivated bacteria) that ride on pollutants may make the problem worse. The body reacts to particulate matter and endotoxins with inflammation. This can lead to chronic inflammation in the heart or other organs. Researchers examined the hearts of 21 adults, average age 18, who lived in Mexico City before dying in accidents. Mexico City has perhaps the worst air pollution in North America. This study was presented April 29, 2010, at the Experimental Biology 2010 conference in Anaheim.

Environment behind MS? A jarring study on identical twins has reported powerful evidence of a link between the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) and a non-inherited environmental factor. Researchers could not rule out a genetic predisposition altogether but an extremely in-depth analysis of the genes of pairs of identical twins showed no genetic differences between them that would account for the fact that one developed MS and his twin did not. The study also specifically examined the autoimmune genes and also found no difference. The study was the cover article of the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature.

Caffeine affects grandchildren’s birth weight: A Dutch study examined the effects of a high intake of caffeine from coffee and tea during pregnancy on fetal growth and development. Babies of women with a high caffeine intake – defined as six or more cups a day – were smaller in length. More surprising, the offspring of mothers who had a high caffeine intake during pregnancy tended to have an increased risk of giving birth to babies that were small for their gestational age. Released early to News Briefs, this study will be published in print in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Adult deaths are not dropping: While child and maternity death rates have plunged worldwide, a study concludes that premature death rates among adults 15 to 60 years of age have not declined and vary wildly between countries. The U.S. premature death rate exceeded those of all European countries and several other countries. The study was published April 29 2010, in the medical journal, The Lancet. In a separate study, researchers found that Canadians enjoy an extra 2.7 years of healthy lifetime, compared to Americans. This second study was published in the April 29 2010 issue of Biomed Central’s Population Health Metrics.

Olive oil may prevent colitis: A higher consumption of oleic acid could prevent half of all cases of ulcerative colitis, suggests a new study. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil and supplements. For 11 years, researchers followed 25,000 people who did not have this disease and assessed their diets. Those who consumed the most oleic acid showed a 90% lower incidence of getting ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disorder characterized by ulcers or sores. The study’s conclusions were presented on May 2, at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.

Aspirin raises risk of Crohn’s disease: A large study involving 200,000 volunteers has found that people who take aspirin (ASA) every day for a year or more could be as much as five times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation and swelling of any part of the digestive system. If you take aspirin regularly, or have been advised to do so, speak with your natural health physician about it. This study was presented May 3, at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.

Preventive medicine could slash death rates: A new study using mathematical models to predict how greater use of preventive health would influence death rates has found that 50,000 to 100,000 deaths in people under age 80 could be prevented each year. The findings came as a surprise to the study team, which looked at the cumulative impact of employing preventive strategies such as smoking cessation; better screening for cholesterol and blood pressure levels and cancer; and earlier treatments. The study was released in early May but will not be published until the June 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Good fats protect against heart disease: A study suggests that foods rich in good fats may partly offset the risk factors for ischemic heart disease (IHD). Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and aging are risk factors for IHD, a reduced blood supply to the heart. But IHD rates are low in Spain, where risk factors are high. So scientists compared blood levels of unsaturated fats in healthy people with those showing signs of IHD and concluded that greater levels of oleic, alpha-linolenic and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids – found in olive oil, walnuts and fish, respectively – protected against IHD. This brief summary was released May 12 but details are withheld until a future issue of the online and print editions of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

‘Green’ exercise boosts mental health: Exercising in green, natural environments has long been known to boost – not necessarily the physical health benefit – but one’s mood, self-esteem and odds of avoiding mental illness such as depression and other psychological conditions. But a study has pinpointed exactly how much time spent working out in green environments – not sitting around outside but actually exercising in those parks, gardens, nature trails and nature-rich environments – is required to achieve maximum mental health benefit. And potentially shocking to many, it’s a mere five minutes. The study conclusions were released May 1, by the journal Environmental Science & Technology and will appear in print in a future issue.

Serving strategy increases children’s vegetable intake: A study has found that serving hungry pre-school children carrots, by themselves, ten minutes before the main course of lunch arrives, results in children voluntarily consuming a far greater quantity of any other vegetables included in the main course. It also decreases calories consumed and increases the nutritional value. One ounce of pre-lunch carrots doubled the amount of broccoli eaten at lunch compared to children given no carrots; two ounces of pre-lunch carrots tripled the broccoli consumed at lunch. The study appears in the May 5, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Alcohol in pregnancy could cause leukemia in children: A study released online May 6, 2010, by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that women who drink during pregnancy might be increasing the risk of acute myeloid leukemia in their children by 56 per cent. The amount of alcohol consumed was not assessed and women were simply designated as yes or no – drank during pregnancy or didn’t. Despite recommendations against drinking during pregnancy, 12 per cent of US – and 59 per cent of Australian – women still do. The study details will be published in a future, not-yet-decided issue of the journal.

Adolescents of depressed mothers more likely to smoke: A US government study shows those aged 12 to 17 who live with mothers who smoke or had a major depressive episode – depression – during the past year, are much more likely to smoke. The adolescents’ were three times more likely to smoke if their mothers smoked; two times more likely if their mothers suffered depression during the past year; and four times more likely if their mothers both smoked and suffered depression. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health report was posted May 7, 2010 on the Office of Applied Studies website and can be read in non-technical detail at

Bran reduces diabetics’ mortality: A 26-year study on 7,822 diabetic women has found a higher intake of whole grain – but especially of bran, a whole grain component rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber – lowers the risk of death from cardiovascular disease among women with type 2 diabetes by 35 per cent. Also, for this group, greater whole grain, and especially bran, intake reduces the overall risk of death from all causes by 28 per cent. “Higher intake” means the top 20 per cent of average bran consumption. This brief summary was released May 10, 2010 but details won’t appear until a future issue of the journal, Circulation.

Genes Determine Fat Location: A study explains why men accumulate excess adipose, or fat, tissue on the belly while women accumulate fat on their hips. Genetic composition of the fat stored in these different areas is almost completely different. Almost all of the genes found in male belly fat were different from the genes found in female hip fat. This shocked researchers who had expected the reverse – that almost all the genes in that fat tissue would be the same between the sexes. Given the differences in genetic makeup, a woman’s fat cannot be expected to behave in the same way, or locate in the same place, as a man’s fat tissue. This study was published in the May 14, 2010 issue of the International Journal of Obesity and further details are available, only to subscribers or those willing to pay a fee, at:

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