News Briefs – May 2010

THIS DIET PROTECTS AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S

A study has identified a combination of foods that reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Scientists defined various dietary patterns among 2,148 persons. One diet type stood out as effective against AD – the one including high intakes of nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, salad dressing, fruits and cruciferous and dark and green leafy vegetables; and low consumption of high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat and butter. This suggests that this diet’s nutrients work synergistically; that no single nutrient offers sufficient effect. Just released, this study will be published in the June 2010 issue of Archives of Neurology.

‘ADDED SUGAR’ LINKED TO CARDIOVASCULAR RISKS

A study of 6,000 adults, reported in the April 21, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, links the amount of sweetened foods and beverages consumed to an increase in cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers looked at the processed foods people consumed and divided them into five groups, depending on their overall intake of added sugar. Fruit was not included because its sugar is not added. The biggest consumers of added sugar – ingesting 46 teaspoons per day – suffered higher blood triglycerides, bad cholesterol and other cardiovascular risks than the lowest consumers, who ingested just three teaspoons.

VITAMIN D MAY REDUCE DIABETES RISK

Following previous research that hinted at the same link, a new seven-year study concludes that higher levels of vitamin D are significantly associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. After accounting for other risk factors, the study team found that those who were rated in the highest third of vitamin D blood levels exhibited a 40% reduced risk of diabetes 2, compared to those in the lowest third. This study was released early, ahead of its publication in print in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

SUPPLEMENTAL LYCOPENE AS EFFECTIVE AS FOOD

A French study suggests that lycopene – a beneficial substance found in cooked tomatoes and tomato juice and paste – offers protection against prostate cancer, whether ingested as lycopene-rich red tomato paste or purified lycopene supplements. Lycopene-free yellow tomato paste offered no protection. Prostate cancer cells were incubated in the blood taken from thirty volunteers who had been taking these three different items. Specific prostate cancer-linked proteins were then measured to judge protective effect. Best food sources of lycopene are processed tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit. Released April 14, the study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

CUT SATURATED FATS PROPERLY

A study concludes that replacing dietary saturated fat with carbohydrates can increase or decrease heart risks, depending on what foods are selected as replacements. Those who replaced saturated fats with carbohydrates scoring low on the “glycemic index” (GI) reduced their heart attack risk. Those who replaced saturated fats with high-GI carbohydrates increased heart attack risk. Low-GI foods digest slowly, causing gradual fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin; high-GI foods digest quickly, causing sudden fluctuations. For your GI score, check https://www.glycemicindex.com/. Released April 7, the study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

DIET INCREASES THIRD GENERATION’S CANCER RISK

A high-fat diet during a woman’s pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer in her daughters and granddaughters, suggests a study presented April 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, DC. Researchers believe that excess fat consumption causes epigenetic – or inheritable genetic – changes that result in an increase in what are called “terminal end buds” in breast tissue. These buds are believed to be where breast cancer develops, and having more buds increases cancer risk. The risk to granddaughters may be as much as 60% greater.

OMEGA-3 DOSE FOR CANCER PREVENTION DETERMINED

Evidence of the breast cancer prevention benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids continues to fuel interest in the potential role of dietary fat content in reducing breast cancer risk. But the dose of fish-oil omega-3 fats needed to achieve maximum breast cancer prevention without adverse effects has remained undefined – until now. A study released on March 24, 2010, and slated to be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported that effectiveness and safety can be achieved in dosages of omega-3 fatty acids at the level of 7.56 grams – DHA and EPA combined. This high amount was well tolerated. Omega-3 is found in various foods such as walnuts, spinach, flax seeds, and fatty cold-water fish.

FISH LINKED TO FEWER HEART-RELATED DEATHS

After studying a large population with a low fish intake, Dutch scientists have identified a link between comparatively higher intakes of either fish or omega-3 fatty acids, and a lower risk of fatal heart attacks and fatal coronary heart disease. There was no link to nonfatal heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in supplements; oily fish, including salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and to a lesser extent, tuna; flaxseeds; and some fruits and vegetables, including strawberries and broccoli. This study is expected to appear in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

ESSENTIAL OILS EFFECTIVE AS ANTIBIOTICS

A new study suggests some essential oils could be a cheap and effective alternative to antibiotics. In fact, essential oils might be used to combat drug-resistant hospital super-bugs, according to research presented April 1 at the Society for General Microbiology’s meeting in Edinburgh. Thyme essential oil was the most effective and was able to almost completely eliminate bacteria within 60 minutes. Essential oils of oregano, basil, peppermint, and cinnamon also showed anti-bacterial activity.
The therapeutic value of essential oils has been shown for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including acne, dandruff, head lice and oral infections. These oils are being included in food stuffs to replace synthetic chemicals that act as preservatives.

WOMEN AT HIGHER RISK FROM HIGH G.I. DIET 

A study has found that a specific type of high-carbohydrate diet increases coronary heart disease risk in women – but not in men. The greater risk stems – not from high-carbohydrate diets – but specifically from high-carbohydrate diets scoring high on the Glycemic Index (GI). Low-GI foods digest slowly, causing gradual fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin; high-GI foods digest quickly, causing sudden fluctuations. Women eating the highest-GI foods had a 2.24 times higher risk of coronary artery disease than women consuming the lowest-GI diet. For foods’ GI scores, check https://www.glycemicindex.comhttps://glycemicindex.com/” href=”https://glycemicindex.com/”>/. The study was published in the April 12, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

MEAT LINKED TO BLADDER CANCER

Although it’s long been known that meat cooked at high temperatures generates a compound (heterocyclic amines) that can cause cancer, a new study specifically links regular meat consumption and well done meat, with a one-and-a-half times greater risk of bladder cancer. Consumption of beef steaks, pork chops and bacon raised bladder cancer risk significantly. If fried, then chicken and fish also raised bladder cancer risk. Men’s bladder cancer risk is much higher than women’s. The 12-year Texas study was presented April 19 in Washington, DC, at the 101st annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

NEWS NOTES

· Omega-3 fatty acids linked to lower risk of endometriosis: Women whose diets are rich in foods containing omega-3 oils might be less likely to develop endometriosis, while those whose diets are heavily laden with trans fats might be more likely to develop the debilitating condition, suggests new research published in the March 24, 2010 issue of Europe’s leading reproduction medicine journal, Human Reproduction. Endometriosis is a debilitating medical condition in females in which cells appear and flourish in areas outside the uterine cavity, most commonly on the ovaries.

· Vitamin B6 protects against cancer: Mounting evidence indicates that vitamin B6, a coenzyme involved in nearly 100 enzymatic reactions, may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. But to test this theory, scientists conducted a meta-analysis – a study that combines the results of a number of previously conducted studies – and concluded that adequate intake and blood levels of this vitamin do lower the risk of getting colorectal cancer. Those with the highest consumption of vitamin B6 had a lower risk of colorectal cancer than those with the lowest intake of this vitamin. This study was reported March 17, 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

(Editor’s Note: B vitamins are best taken in combination with each other, as a B complex, due to their synergistic effects.)

· Middle aged women require an hour of daily exercise: One hour of moderate exercise every day is needed to prevent weight gain in middle-aged women, reports a study published in the March 25, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study included over 34,000 women whose average age at the start of the 13-year study was 54. The study stressed the need for “moderate” exercise, such as brisk walking.

We recommend that exercise routines should be discussed with your health practitioner before they are begun, to ensure they are not overly stressful for your general and cardiovascular health. Start with a shorter exercise time and gradually work your way up to an hour.

· Flaxseeds lower cholesterol in men: A new study shows that consuming 150 milligrams (about three tablespoons) of flaxseed lignans daily decreases cholesterol in men, but not women, by almost 10% within three months. The flaxseed lignan tablets actually used for convenience in this Iowa State University study of 90 individuals are not yet available in Canada. However, flaxseeds can be ground into meal or sprinkled on foods (whole seeds are not very digestible). These results were presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2010, between April 24 and 28, in Anaheim, California.

· Seaweed fights body’s fat absorption: Seaweed can cut the amount of fat absorbed by the body by up to 75%, according to a new study presented at the American Chemical Society Spring Meeting in San Francisco on Friday, March 26. Newcastle University (UK) researchers tested 60 naturally occurring fibers to determine fat digestion. They found that a small amount of alginate – a natural fiber in seaweed – prevents the body from absorbing fat faster than any over-the-counter anti-obesity treatment. If added to commonly eaten food products, suggested the study, “up to three-quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body.”

· Overeating mirrors drug addiction in brain: A study released March 28 found that some of the neurological (brain) mechanisms behind compulsive eating are identical to those behind drug addiction. Rats given a high-fat, high-calorie diet for three years showed depletion in the chemical makeup of the brain’s pleasure center. This triggered overeating in an attempt to regain lost satisfaction. The same chemical process occurs when rats consume cocaine or heroin. Even electric shocks would not deter overeating, which researchers found compelling. This study was published in the April 2010 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

· Depression linked to diabetes: A higher degree of depression symptoms is associated with a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes, concludes a study published in the April, 2010 issue of the journal, Diabetes Care. The 6,111 test subjects – who were diabetes-free and aged 50 and over – were assessed for their degree of depressive symptoms. After 45.8 months, depressive subjects were found to have a higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes, even allowing for age, health conditions, lifestyle factors and antidepressant use. If you suspect you suffer from major depressive disorder – sometimes called clinical depression – talk to your naturopathic physician or seek help from a professional counsellor.

· Breakfast fat may metabolize fats later: What you eat for breakfast turns on your metabolism’s programming for the day, according to a study released March 30 and to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Obesity. The Alabama research found that eating fat at breakfast turned on the body’s ability to metabolize all food types, including fat, for the day. But a high-carbohydrate breakfast turned on only the carbohydrate-burning mechanism, allowing unburned fat consumed during the day to add weight and promote insulin resistance. Metabolic syndrome’s symptoms include abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, insulin resistance and other cardiovascular risk factors. (Ed. note: Good fats include cold pressed flaxseed, coconut, olive, and fish oils.)

· For women, early chemical exposure riskiest: Women might increase two- to seven-fold, their post-menopausal breast cancer risk by exposure to certain workplace chemicals before their mid-thirties. A study published April 1, 2010 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that women occupationally exposed to acrylic fibers had a seven-fold risk of breast cancer, while those exposed to nylon fibers doubled their risk. Other risky chemicals included rayon fibers and some petroleum products. The Canadian team admits their findings could be due to chance but they’re consistent with theories that breast cells are more chemical-sensitive when they’re still active – before a woman reaches her 40s.

· Sleep deprivation increases men’s food intake: Sleep deprivation raises the blood level of the compound ghrelin and lowers the level of leptin. A French study examined the effects of these changes on men’s net calorie intake. In comparison to an 8-hour sleep group, men limited to a 4-hour sleep, for one night only, consumed 22 per cent more calories the next day and were more active despite sleepiness. Increased calorie intake substantially exceeded increased output, suggesting sleep deprivation could be an obesity factor. This study is expected to appear in the June 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

· Two B vitamins fight heart disease: Results of a 14-year study of 58,730 people were released April 16 and suggest a link between a diet high in two B vitamins and a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Diets rich in folate and vitamin B6 were linked with fewer deaths from heart failure for men; and fewer deaths from stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease for women. Vitamin B12, however, showed no such link. The study will appear in a future issue of the journal, Stroke. Folate sources include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. B6 sources include vegetables, fish, liver, meats and whole grains.

• Exercise in pregnancy linked to baby’s birth weight: A study released online today found pregnant women regularly performing moderately strenuous, aerobic—not weight-bearing—exercise gave birth to babies with modestly reduced weight.  Increased weight at birth is considered to increase the risk of an individual developing obesity during childhood. Even a modest reduction in birth weight may have long-term health benefits for offspring by lowering this risk. Participants were assigned five 40-minute sessions a week of stationary cycling. The study was published in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

• Heart defects linked to mother’s weight: A study concludes the more obese a woman is when conceiving, the greater the risk her baby will have a congenital heart defect.   Risk for obese women is 15 per cent greater; for morbidly obese women, 33 per cent greater; and for merely overweight women, no increased risk. Overweight is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9; obese means a BMI of 30 and up. Calculate your BMI by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/index.html. Newly released, this National Institutes of Health study will publish in a future issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

• Alcohol and obesity – greater effect together: Two studies published April 10, 2010 in the British Medical Journal conclude that the combined risk of liver disease from alcohol consumption and from obesity is far greater than the sum of these two effects together. Both obesity and alcohol are linked—separately—to cirrhosis of the liver and death from cirrhosis. But together, the effect is far greater. Obese men who consumed 15 or more alcoholic drinks per week experienced nearly 18 times the relative risk of dying from chronic liver disease as compared to their obese counterparts who drank significantly less alcohol.

• Hardening of arteries now common in young: A new study suggests an unsettling conclusion: that atherosclerosis, also called peripheral vascular disease or hardening of the arteries, now afflicts many younger men and women.  Research on 994 patients under age 56 who were treated at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine Vascular Center, found severe, premature artery disease—to the extent of causing “advanced damage”—in over 88 per cent. In atherosclerosis, arteries narrow when the walls thicken with a build-up of fatty materials, such as cholesterol. The study was presented April 10 at the American Heart Association conference in San Francisco.

• Pistachios improve cholesterol and antioxidant levels: Compared to other nuts, pistachios are high in the antioxidants lutein, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol. Pennsylvania researchers studied the effect of adding pistachios to the diets of patients with high LDL, or bad, cholesterol. After adding one or two daily servings to different diets, both groups experienced a moderate decrease in LDL cholesterol and an increase in antioxidants in the blood. This suggests pistachios help lower bad cholesterol and offer added benefits from antioxidants. A serving is 32-63 grams. The study will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Nutrition, likely June, 2010.

• Memory failing? Relax! If you have a bad memory, relaxation might help. Scientists have pinpointed “relaxation neurons,” brain cells that appear to work together to improve memory during learning. The same brain waves linked with memory and learning — known as theta waves — are also linked with relaxation, daydreaming and drowsiness. In other words, relaxed brains learn better and increase memory recall.

• Flaxseeds lower cholesterol in men: A new study shows that consuming 150 milligrams (about three tablespoons) of flaxseed lignans daily decreases cholesterol in men, but not women, by almost 10% within three months. The flaxseed lignan tablets actually used for convenience in this Iowa State University study of 90 individuals are not yet available in Canada. However, flaxseeds can be ground into meal or sprinkled on foods (whole seeds are not very digestible). These results were presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2010, between April 24 and 28, in Anaheim, California.

• Seaweed fights body’s fat absorption: Seaweed can cut the amount of fat absorbed by the body by up to 75%, according to a new study presented at the American Chemical Society Spring Meeting in San Francisco on Friday, March 26. Newcastle University (UK) researchers tested 60 naturally occurring fibers to determine fat digestion. They found that a small amount of alginate – a natural fiber in seaweed – prevents the body from absorbing fat faster than any over-the-counter anti-obesity treatment. If added to commonly eaten food products, suggested the study, “up to three-quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body.”

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