Archives for: September 2003
STUDY: Herbal remedy secret uncovered
JOURNAL: Bradford School of Pharmacy
AUTHORS: Professor Adrian Williams
ABSTRACT: Researchers from the Bradford School of Pharmacy say it contains powerful anti-inflammatory agents which can be absorbed into the skin.
COMMENTARY: They suggested it may protect damaged blood vessels.
Arnica is used in creams to treat a wide variety of ailments, including bruising, muscle ache and sprains.
Professor Adrian Williams and colleagues tested a product containing arnica in their laboratory. They examined it to see if it could pass through human skin.
Initially, their tests showed that it could not be absorbed by the skin.
However, after 12 hours they discovered that two components had permeated the skin.
Further tests found that these were anti-inflammatory agents called sesquiterpene lactones, which are found in arnica.
The scientists believe that this may explain why arnica may prevent bruising.
Professor Williams said: "This is good evidence that these are the vasoactive agents that prevent bruising."
"To prevent bruising the agents will have to act quickly to stop capillary bleeding.
"Active agents are presumably getting through the skin but in such small quantities that it takes 12 hours for the amount to be detectable. "For such low concentrations to be effective, the active agents must be very potent."
At present, arnica preparations are not standardised which means some may contain more of these active ingredients than others. This may explain why some people claim it doesn't work while others insist it does.
Professor Williams suggested that one approach may be to purify just these active ingredients. However, because they are present in such small concentrations this is unlikely to be commercially viable.
As a result, Professor Williams and his team are now looking at ways of manufacturing these agents.
JOURNAL: Neuropsychology, July 2003
AUTHORS: S. Chan, PhD
ABSTRACT: Children with music training have significantly better verbal memory than their counterparts without such training.
COMMENTARY: These findings underscore a kind of cognitive side effect that could help people recovering from brain injury as well as healthy children. When experience changes a specific brain region, other skills supported by that region also may benefit.
Psychologists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied 90 boys ages 6-15. Half had musical training, ranging from one to five years, through a string orchestra program at school and classical music lessons playing Western instruments.
Their schoolmates had no musical training.The researchers, led by Agnes S. Chan, PhD, gave the children verbal memory tests, to see how many words they recalled from a list, and a comparable visual memory test for images. Students with musical training recalled significantly more words than the untrained students, and they generally learned more words with each subsequent trial of three.
After 30-minute delays, the trained boys also retained more words than the control group. There were no such differences for visual memory. Verbal learning performance rose in proportion to the duration of musical training.
Even fewer than six years of musical training can boost verbal memory, the researchers reported. More training may be even better because of a greater extent of cortical reorganization in the left temporal region.The more that music training stimulates the left brain, they explained, the better that side can handle other assigned functions, such as verbal learning.
They likened the effect to “cross-training for the brain.” Similarly, said Dr. Chan, “Students with better verbal memory probably will find it easier to learn in school.” Dr. Chan and colleagues Yim-Chi Ho, MPh, and Mei-Chun Cheung, PhD, followed up a year later with the 45 orchestra students. Thirty-three boys were still in the program, and nine had dropped out fewer than three months after the first study.
A third group of 17 children had started music training after the initial assessment.The beginner’s group initially showed significantly lower verbal learning ability than the more experienced groups, but a year later they showed significant improvement in verbal learning. The boys in the group that continued with their music training also improved significantly.
Those who dropped out of training did not improve further, but they didn’t backtrack either. After a year they didn’t lose the verbal memory advantage they had gained prior to stopping lessons.
Music training during childhood is a kind of sensory stimulation that “somehow contributes to the reorganization and better development of the left temporal lobe in musicians, which in turn facilitates cognitive processing mediated by that specific brain area, i.e., verbal memory,” the researchers proposed.They contrasted their evidence with inconclusive reports that listening to Mozart improves spatiotemporal reasoning, which most researchers have been unable to replicate.
However, it’s too simplistic to divide brain functions, such as music, strictly into left or right, Dr. Chan said, because “our brain works like a network system—it is interconnected, very co-operative and amazing.” Most importantly, the authors said their findings “suggest specific experience might affect the development of memory in a predictable way in accordance with the localization of brain functions.
Experience might affect the development of cognitive functions in a systematic fashion.”While more research is needed, knowledge of this mechanism can “stimulate further investigation into ways to enhance human brain functioning and to develop a blueprint for cognitive rehabilitation, such as using music training to enhance verbal memory,” they concluded.
STUDY: acupuncture helps
JOURNAL: Rheumatology 2003; 42: 1149-1154
AUTHORS: A. Josefson and M. Kreuter1
ABSTRACT: Compared with ondansetron treatment alone, the combined acupuncture–ondansetron treatment significantly decreased both the severity of nausea and the number of bouts of vomiting 24 and 48 h after the subjects had received acupuncture at the first treatment session.
COMMENTARY: Combined treatment with acupuncture and ondansetron reduces the severity and the duration of chemotherapy-induced nausea as well as the number of bouts of vomiting as compared with ondansetron therapy alone, in patients with rheumatic diseases.
JOURNAL: Royal Society Journal Proceedings
AUTHORS: Dr. Caroline Rae
ABSTRACT: Researchers from the University of Sydney and Macquarie University in Australia have found that the popular sports endurance supplement creatine, which is found in muscle tissue, boosts memory and intelligence.
COMMENTARY: In a double-blind study, forty-five vegetarian adults received 5 grams creatine per day or a placebo for six weeks, followed by a six week period during which no supplement was given, after which followed another six week period during which each group received the regimen not previously received.
Participants completed tests for memory and intelligence at the study's onset, at the end of the first six weeks, and at the end of the final six week treatment period. It was found that creatine supplementation improved brain function, similar to improvements previously discovered for creatine in the heart and other muscle tissue.
Lead researcher Dr. Caroline Rae explained, "The level of creatine supplementation chosen was 5 grams per day as this is a level that has previously been shown to increase brain creatine levels. This level is comparable to that taken to boost sports fitness.
Vegetarians or vegans were chosen for the study as carnivores and omnivores obtain a variable level of creatine depending on the amount and type of meat they eat - although to reach the level of supplementation in this experiment would involve eating around 2 kilograms of meat a day!" She added, "The results were clear with both our experimental groups and in both test scenarios: creatine supplementation gave a significant measurable boost to brain power.
These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance. Increasing the energy available for computation increases the power of the brain and this is reflected directly in improved general ability."
STUDY: Note for B's and AB's to keep nitric oxide levels elevated
JOURNAL: Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine
AUTHORS: Jason Allen, Ph.D.,
ABSTRACT: Duke University Medical Center researchers have shown an association between changes in nitrate, a biochemical marker of nitric oxide production, and physiological changes in arteries' reaction to stress. They hope their discovery could eventually lead to a non-invasive method of determining which patients are at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
COMMENTARY: Such a simple diagnostic is important, they said, because up to half of patients who develop heart disease do not have the typical risk factors. Furthermore, using this new approach, the researchers demonstrated that exercise improved the marker in patients at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
In their pilot study, the researchers linked the systemic production of nitric oxide, a chemical known to play a key role in controlling the ability of arteries to constrict or relax, with changes in the endothelial lining of arteries after being stressed.
In addition to its ability to dilate arteries, nitric oxide has other properties that protect against cardiovascular disease, such as inhibiting blood platelet clumping, preventing smooth muscle proliferation within the artery and inhibiting the immune response.
On the other hand, other risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, mental stress and smoking can reduce nitric oxide's protective properties, said the researchers. It is believed that these patients produce more oxygen free radicals, impairing the ability of the body to respond appropriately to nitric oxide. These oxygen free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that are the potentially destructive byproducts of the disease process.
Nitricycle increases our nitric oxide leves naturally.
STUDY: Infants who consume grain products before the age of three months are most at risk of having pancreas damage and becoming diabetic.
JOURNAL: Journal of the American Medical Association (2003;290:1713–28)
ABSTRACT: Introducing grains early in infants’ diets may increase their risk of developing childhood-onset diabetes (type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), according to two separate studies in Journal of the American Medical Association (2003;290:1713–28).
These findings suggest that infants who consume grain products before the age of three months are most at risk of having pancreas damage and becoming diabetic.
COMMENTARY: In the first new study, 1,183 children at increased risk of developing IDDM (born to at least one parent with IDDM or a carrier of a gene that predisposes to IDDM) were followed for an average of four years. Information on the infant’s diet was collected every three months for 15 months, including the dates foods were introduced, frequency of exposure to various foods, and types of foods consumed. Blood samples were collected periodically to measure antibodies that attack the pancreas.
Infants exposed to any grains before the age of four months or after the age of six months had a higher risk of developing antibodies to the pancreas compared with children who were introduced to grains between the ages of four and six months.
This suggests that there may be an optimal window to introduce grain products without increasing IDDM risk. Several studies have found an association between IDDM and early consumption of gluten, a protein found primarily in wheat, oats, rye, and barley.
As a result, some physicians have recommended rice-based cereals instead. However, no significant difference was observed between gluten and rice grain products, suggesting that introducing any grains outside of the two-month window may increase IDDM risk.
In the second new study, 1,610 children born of IDDM parents were followed for up to 11 years. Dietary questionnaires were taken at birth, at age nine months, and at 2, 5, 8 and 11 years. In addition to measuring antibodies to the pancreas, other tests to evaluate gluten sensitivity were also performed, since some studies suggest an association between IDDM and gluten sensitivity (celiac disease).
Antibody production against cells in the pancreas was significantly increased in children who were fed gluten-containing foods in their first three months of life. However, no significant rise in antibodies against the pancreas occurred when children received gluten after six months.
Although the timing of introducing grains into an infant’s diet continues to be debated among physicians, both new studies showed that feeding grains to a child under the age of three months may increase the risk of IDDM. No increase in risk was observed in children who were breast-fed or formula fed, suggesting these may be the best food sources early in life.
STUDY: Study suggests link to cancer
JOURNAL: The Lancet
AUTHORS: Anthony Swerdlow
ABSTRACT: A new study raises a red flag about human growth hormone (HGH) — a drug approved to help very short children grow that’s becoming popular among athletes who want to bulk up and middle-aged people trying to combat the effects of aging.
COMMENTARY: IN A STUDY published in The Lancet medical journal, researchers from Britain’s Institute of Cancer Research followed more than 1,800 people who received HGH as children. Fifteen to 40 years later, they were significantly more likely to develop, and die of, cancer.
Specifically, there were risks about tenfold for colorectal cancer and Hodgkin’s disease. Swerdlow also found the patients had a threefold increased risk of dying from cancer overall.
The scientists say those who got growth hormone years ago as children need to be followed closely. The data do not show conclusively whether cancer incidence is increased by growth hormone treatment, but they do suggest the need for increased awareness of the possibility of cancer risks, and for surveillance of growth-hormone-treated patients.
STUDY: Greek cuisine and plenty of sex help to ensure a long and healthy life
JOURNAL: International Cancer Congress
AUTHORS: Walter Willett
ABSTRACT: Greek cuisine and plenty of sex help to ensure a long and healthy life, and to keep cancer and heart disease at bay.
COMMENTARY: It looks like the Greek diet in many ways is the optimum diet.A Greek diet -- with plenty of fruit and vegetables all year round and olive oil instead of butter and lard -- was the best way to keep a range of cancers at bay, while the sturdy diet of northern Europe was like a ticking bomb.
The traditional northern European diet comes pretty close to a worst-case diet, and we have imported that into the United States. That means large amounts of red meat and dairy fat and low amounts of fruit and vegetables.
Remember sex -- safe sex is a positive physical exercise.
BEWARE OF BEING OVERWEIGHT as the cancer risk of being overweight was almost as bad as smoking, especially for cancer of the colon and kidney cancer as well as for post-menopausal breast cancer.
Additionally even the slightest hint of a beer-belly was a cause for concern. Big is dangerous.
Even the average belly adds to the risk and the fatter you are the higher the risk. Most people should aim to keep the weight they had in their early twenties. But nature made weight control an uphill struggle as humans gain weight as they grow older even if they eat the same amount of food.
The way to beat the system is to gradually increase physical exercise as you get older. Studies showed that women in Sweden and Japan were the best weight-watchers around.
It is humanly possible.
STUDY: New research suggests what’s good for heart is good for brain
JOURNAL: International Alzheimer’s Conference
AUTHORS: Dr. Robert Green
ABSTRACT: Mounting evidence indicates the risk factors for heart disease — high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight, high cholesterol and lack of exercise — also may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.
COMMENTARY: NEW STUDIES establish the big picture for the first time, giving scientists a better understanding of how to reduce the likelihood the disease.
Over the last few years, hints of a connection between Alzheimer’s and lifestyle have emerged, but scientists have become increasingly interested in investigating such a link and are just now beginning to realize that what is good for the heart may also be good for the brain.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss, disorientation, depression and decay of bodily functions. The disease afflicts about 12 million people worldwide, including more than 4 million Americans. It is increasing so fast that more than 22 million people worldwide will be affected by 2025, experts predict.
Scientists do not know what causes the sticky brain deposits that inevitably kill off neural cells until memory disintegrates and ultimately the patient dies. The biggest risk for Alzheimer’s is simply age: Alzheimer’s cases double with every five years of age between 65 and 85.
While more research is necessary, especially in the form of prevention trials, we’re seeing the strongest evidence yet that there is a relationship between healthy aging and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
One 21-year study, by Miia Kivipelto of the University of Kuopio in Finland, examined 1,449 people. It found that the high cholesterol and high blood pressure seemed to be more strongly linked to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s than was a certain gene variation.
Since high blood pressure can be controlled, we may have identified something people can do to lower their chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Bottom line is to age well and control diseases like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.
STUDY: Those with male pattern baldness may increase hair growth by taking a preparation containing saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)
JOURNAL: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2002;8:143–52)
ABSTRACT: Those with male pattern baldness may increase hair growth by taking a preparation containing saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and beta-sitosterol (a compound found in many edible plants), according to a new study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2002;8:143–52).
COMMENTARY: Male pattern baldness is a hereditary condition that most often affects men, but may affect women as well. Hair loss often starts with a receding hairline and continues in a horseshoe pattern, leaving hair on the sides and back of the head mostly unaffected.
Although the exact reason that such hair loss occurs is not clear, some studies suggest that excessive conversion of testosterone to another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) may be an underlying cause.
Conventional medicines used to treat male pattern baldness are designed to block the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Topical application of minoxidil (Rogaine®) and taking oral finasteride (Propecia®) have been shown to inhibit this conversion and to increase hair growth, but both medications have been linked with several adverse side effects, including fast heart rate, headaches, impotence, and decreased libido.
Saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol have been shown to block the production of DHT in men suffering from enlargement of the prostate (or benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is also due to excessive amounts of DHT), but this is the first study to demonstrate that these compounds also help with hair loss—and without causing significant side effects.
In the new study, 19 men between the ages of 23 and 64 years with mild to moderate hair loss were given either a placebo or a supplement containing 400 mg of a standardized extract of saw palmetto and 100 mg of beta-sitosterol per day. After about five months, hair growth in 60% of the men taking the herbal combination had improved compared with their initial evaluation. In contrast, only 11% of those receiving the placebo improved.
Although the number of men in the study was small and the results were not statistically significant (which means the improvement may have occurred by chance alone), the findings are encouraging for millions of men (and possibly women) with male pattern hair loss, and offers a relatively safe alternative for those who want to take a natural approach to treat this condition. Larger studies are needed to confirm the benefit of saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol, as reported in this preliminary study.
In addition, women of childbearing age should not use saw palmetto without medical supervision because it has not been proven to be safe during pregnancy and lactation.
At the present time, there is no known cure for male pattern baldness. Both conventional and natural treatments can help control the hair loss as long as one maintains the treatment, though it will often recur once the treatment is discontinued. Given the safety of saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol, they seem a reasonable first line of treatment for mild to moderate male pattern baldness before considering conventional medications.
STUDY: MCP for Prostate
JOURNAL: Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, December 2003
AUTHORS: Dr. Stephen Strum
ABSTRACT: Men with prostate cancer who have not responded to conventional treatments may benefit from supplements containing a modified form of a fruit ingredient.
COMMENTARY: After 13 men with prostate cancer that did not respond to conventional treatment tried supplements containing modified fruit pectin (MCP) for 12 months, 7 of the 10 men who completed the study showed signs that their tumors were becoming less aggressive.
The study was sponsored by EcoNugenics, the company that sells the MCP supplements used in the current research.
All of the men underwent previous treatment for their tumors, including surgery and radiation, after which they had all experienced an increase in prostate specific antigen (PSA) in their blood, a sign their cancer was continuing to grow.
During the study, reported in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, Guess and his team asked 13 men with prostate cancer to take six capsules of MCP three times per day for one year, for a total daily dose of 14.4 grams.
Among the 10 patients who completed the study, seven experienced a slower rise in blood levels of PSA, a sign that their tumors were becoming less aggressive.
STUDY: Daily consumption of whole-grain oat cereal reduces blood pressure
JOURNAL: Journal of Family Practice 2002;51:353-359, 369
AUTHORS: Joel J. Pins
ABSTRACT: Daily consumption of whole-grain oat cereal reduces blood pressure, and in patients already taking blood pressure medication, allows a decrease in dosage, investigators report.
COMMENTARY: In one of two studies, Joel J. Pins of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis and colleagues gave volunteers with high blood pressure either 137 grams of oat cereal daily, with approximately 12 grams of total fiber and 6 grams of soluble fiber, or wheat cereals with total fiber of approximately 3 grams and soluble fiber of less than 1.1 grams.
The researchers report that among the 45 study participants consuming oats daily, 73% were able to reduce their blood pressure medication. After 12 weeks, average total cholesterol dropped by 15% and LDL ("bad") cholesterol dropped by 16%, and blood glucose levels improved significantly. However, during the 6 weeks after the study, two thirds of participants had to resume their previous dose of medication.
In comparison, 42% of the 43 study participants given the wheat cereal diet were able to decrease their dose of blood pressure medication but experienced no significant reduction in total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol levels.
In a second study, the Minneapolis investigators assigned 18 people with untreated high blood pressure to a similar intervention or "control" diet. Again, those in the oat cereal group, but not in the control group, experienced a decrease in blood pressure after 6 weeks. Changes in cholesterol were also similar.
Physicians may be justified in recommending to their (patients with high blood pressure) a dietary regimen that includes the daily consumption of whole-grain oats (equaling 6 grams of soluble fiber) in conjunction with their usual therapy.
STUDY: People who exercise regularly appear to be less likely than couch potatoes to catch colds
JOURNAL: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2002;34:1242-1248
AUTHORS: Dr. Charles E. Matthews
ABSTRACT: People who exercise regularly appear to be less likely than couch potatoes to catch colds, US researchers report.
The research provides evidence that being active may actually reduce the number of colds people get in a year.
COMMENTARY: Given that colds are a leading cause of visits to the doctor and missed work days employers might do well to encourage their workers to get off their duffs on a regular basis.
While getting a cold is generally a minor nuisance for the individual, the wider public health implications are that being active may also reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity in the workplace by reducing the number of individuals getting a cold.
The findings were obtaines from surveys of 547 healthy adults, administered at regular intervals over the course of a year. During the study period, the participants noted how many colds they had experienced, and how often they engaged in moderate physical activity.
For the purposes of the investigation, exercise considered moderate or vigorous included anything that people engaged in during their daily lives that was more strenuous than a walk, including household, occupational and leisure activities.
The average adult develops between two and five colds each year. However, the investigators report in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, people who reported being the most active had 25% fewer colds over the course of a year, relative to those who were the least active.
Previous studies have suggested that extremely low or high levels of activity can have negative effects on the immune system, thereby increasing the risk of developing colds. For example people who run a marathon appear to have a significantly higher risk of a cold during the week after the race than non-runners.
In contrast, moderate levels of activity have been hypothesized to be associated with enhanced immune function, and the data--indicating a reduced risk for infection--are consistent with this hypothesis.
STUDY: Less Sleep More Heart Disease
JOURNAL: Professional Sleep Societies'
AUTHORS: Dr. Najib Ayas
ABSTRACT: Women who regularly don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from heart disease
COMMENTARY: But women who slept for more than 9 hours also had an increased risk of heart attack, Dr. Najib Ayas of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, reported at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies' annual meeting.
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll in 2001, one third of the population, or 37%, obtain at least 8 hours of sleep at night. Thirty-one percent report getting less than 6 hours per night.
Beyond daytime drowsiness, sleep deprivation has also been linked to poor health.
The investigators studied 71,617 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study who were aged 45 to 65 and had no reported heart disease. The women reported how long they slept nightly in 1986, after which the researchers followed them for 10 years.
A total of 934 heart attacks and other coronary events, both fatal and nonfatal, occurred among the women during the study period. Women who reported sleeping 5, 6 or 9 or more hours of sleep a night were at greater risk of having a heart attack or other event, the team found.
Using women who got 8 hours of sleep as a reference point, the researchers found that women who slept less than 5 hours a night had an 82% greater risk of heart disease. Women who slept 6 hours had a 30% increased risk, and those who slept 9 hours or longer showed a 57% increased risk.
One major advantage to the study is that it had information on study participants' lifestyles, including factors that can boost heart disease risk such as "diabetes, snoring, hypertension, depression, shift work, alcohol use and smoking and use of aspirin.
After adjusting for these factors, the short- and long-sleeping women's risk was lowered, but was still greater than for women who slept 8 hours. Women who slept 5 hours or less a night had a 39% increased risk of heart disease, while those who slept 9 hours or longer had a 37% increased risk.
Ayas acknowledged that his study had several limitations, including the fact that the women reported their own sleep times and only gave information for 1986. Also, he said, the results aren't applicable to men.
STUDY: Women who feel stressed on a day-to-day basis are more likely to die
JOURNAL: Circulation 2002;106
AUTHORS: Dr. Hiroyaso Iso
ABSTRACT: Women who feel stressed on a day-to-day basis are more likely to die from stroke and heart disease than their more mellow peers, even when they do not have other risk factors, researchers report.
COMMENTARY: The results are based on data from more than 73,000 people aged 40 to 79 enrolled in a Japanese study on cancer. The findings confirm the results of numerous studies on the relationship between mental stress and heart disease and stroke among white men. In the current report, participants were asked to rate the level of stress in their daily lives.
According to the results, Japanese women reporting high levels of mental stress were more than twice as likely to die from stroke and heart disease than women reporting low stress levels, over the following 8 years.
Stressed-out women were on average younger, more educated, less active and thinner, and were more likely to have a history of high blood pressure and diabetes. They also smoked more and were more likely to have a full-time job compared with more relaxed women, according to Dr. Hiroyaso Iso from the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki-ken, Japan, and colleagues.
The association between mental stress and death from heart disease and stroke was weaker among men for reasons that are not clear. Stressed out men were more likely to die of a heart attack, but there was no association between stress and stroke or coronary heart disease, Iso and colleagues report.
Nonetheless, the findings add evidence that stress can affect the body in a way that raises the risk of chronic disease. Mental stress can raise blood pressure and heart rate, increase the risk of developing blood clots, cause blood vessels to constrict, and make the body less sensitive to insulin. All of these factors may make a person more susceptible to chronic disease.
The present study provides...evidence that perceived mental stress has the potential effect of increasing the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.
Although the underlying mechanisms are not well established, individuals with high mental stress should be regarded as a high-risk group for stroke among women, and individuals with coronary heart disease should be regarded as a high-risk group for stroke among men and women.
Bottom line is to do everything in your power to reduce your levels of stress.
JOURNAL: Journal of Medical Virology, December 2003
AUTHORS: Dr. Bruno Pozzetto
ABSTRACT: A persistent enterovirus infection in muscles may be to blame for some cases of chronic fatigue syndrome (sometimes called fibromyalgia) and others with chronic inflammatory muscle disease.
COMMENTARY: They team detected genetic material (specifically RNA) from enteroviruses in 20 percent of muscle biopsies from patients with chronic inflammatory muscle diseases and 13 percent of patients with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, but not from healthy volunteers.
The findings favor a persistent infection involving defective viral replication as a cause of these conditions.
Such infections have been documented in the heart, with possible involvement in heart enlargement; in pancreatic cells, possibly linked to juvenile diabetes; and in the central nervous system in association with a syndrome that afflicts aging survivors of polio, the researcher explained. However, the link between these diseases, as well as chronic inflammatory muscle diseases, and viral persistence is not clear.
Three patients with chronic inflammatory muscle disease and four patients with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome were positive for enterovirus RNA.
JOURNAL: University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Medicine
AUTHORS: Grace Sun
ABSTRACT: They can happen in a matter of seconds, but can incapacitate people for the rest of their lives. Strokes are sudden, quick and, in many cases, permanent.
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Medicine believe that help may be as close as the local grocery store’s produce section.
COMMENTARY: "For years, scientists have advocated drinking a glass of red wine once or twice a day to help with cardiovascular health," said Grace Sun, a professor of biochemistry and part of a husband-wife research team at MU. “Our research has shown that a compound in red wine or grapes can have a similar impact on brain health, and in some cases, may help minimize the damage to the brain when a stroke occurs.
When a stroke happens due to a blockage of blood flow to the brain, no oxygen or nutrients can enter the affected region of the brain. Soon after, neurons in the affected area of the brain begin to release excitatory amino acid neurotransmitters that encourage calcium to move into the neurons.
This calcium influx generates “reactive oxygen species,” or “free radicals,” that can be very damaging. Studies with animal models indicate that the influx of calcium and generation of free radicals can result in delayed cell death, a process that occurs over the next few days.
However, Sun, and her husband, Albert Sun, a professor of pharmacology at MU, discovered that resveratrol, a compound found in grapes, can absorb the free radicals and stop them from doing any further damage to the brain or individual cells. While some damage to neurons is still sustained, the researchers found a remarkable difference between brain cells that had been treated with resveratrol and those that had not.
“In the study with the animal model, the compound was helpful if taken both before and after a stroke,” Grace Sun said. “We are continuing to search for compounds in our everyday diet that have lasting impacts on our health. This is just one example.”
Red wine contains high amounts of resveratrol, but it is also found in enriched grape skins. The husband and wife team are part of the MU Center for Phytonutrient and Phytochemical Studies directed by Dennis Lubahn, an associate professor of biochemistry. The Center conducts research on botanical compounds and their effects on human health.
This research on resveratrol was published in the Journal of Brain Research and was funded by a $5.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
STUDY: Here we go again
AUTHORS: Ronald Hites
ABSTRACT: Farmed salmon contains far more toxic chemicals than wild salmon -- high enough to suggest that fish-eaters limit how much they eat.
COMMENTARY: The culprit is "salmon chow" -- the feed given to the captive fish, the researchers report in this week's issue of the journal Science.
Many health experts urge people to eat fish such as salmon because it contains healthy fats, especially the omega-3 fatty acids that can lower the risk of heart disease and perhaps have other health benefits, too.
But the researchers, as well as environmental groups, said the findings in Science indicate that people should choose their fish carefully. They should also demand that salmon be clearly labeled to indicate whether it is farmed or wild so they can make informed choices about which fish to eat.
The team at Indiana University, University at Albany, Cornell University and elsewhere analyzed toxic contaminants in 700 farmed and wild salmon taken from markets in 16 cities in Europe and North America.
"We think it's important for people who eat salmon to know that farmed salmon have higher levels of toxins than wild salmon from the open ocean," environmental affairs professor Ronald Hites of Albany, who led the study, said in a statement.
They looked for 13 different chemicals known to build up in the flesh of fish, including polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene, dieldrin, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, heptachlor epoxide, cis-nonachlor, trans-nonachlor, gamma-chlordane, alpha-chlordane, Mirex, endrin and DDT.
Some are pesticides, others are industrial by-products, and many are known or suspected cancer-causing agents.
Farmed salmon taken from markets in Frankfurt, Edinburgh, Paris, London, Oslo, Boston, San Francisco, and Toronto had the highest levels, and the researchers said consumers should eat no more than one-half to one meal of salmon per month. A meal was eight ounces (one-quarter of a kg) of uncooked meat.
Farmed salmon from supermarkets in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, New York and Vancouver had toxins high enough to suggest that people eat no more than two salmon meals a month, based on Environmental Protection Agency standards.
In contrast, it would be safe to eat up to eight meals a month of wild salmon, they said. Other groups note that walnuts, flaxseeds and other non-fish sources are rich in omega-3s.
Many chemicals can build up in the body, staying for years or even a lifetime. But the body also processes some out, so experts can figure out a safe or acceptable level of intake.
The study fits in with other research on chemicals in salmon. Two studies published in the journal Chemosphere last year found elevated levels of PCBs, certain pesticides, and flame retardants in farmed salmon.
And last year the Environmental Working Group said it found elevated PCB levels in farmed salmon filets taken from 10 U.S. grocery stores.
"This unquestionably large, new study strongly confirms earlier research, and it leaves little room for the farmed fish industry to argue away the problems of polluted farmed seafood," the Environmental Working Group's Jane Houlihan said.
JOURNAL: Journal of the National Cancer Institute
ABSTRACT: Smoking increases a woman's chance of getting breast cancer.
COMMENTARY: Researchers found the incidence of breast cancer was about 30 percent higher in current smokers than among women who had never smoked.
The study by the California Department of Health Services involved 2,005 women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 1996 and 2000.
Looking more closely at smokers, the researchers also found an increased breast cancer risk for women who started smoking before age 20, who began smoking at least five years before their first full-term pregnancy, and who had a longer duration of smoking or who smoked at least 20 cigarettes per day.
There was no statistically significant increase in breast cancer risk among former smokers, and there was no evidence of a link between passive smoking exposure and breast cancer risk.
JOURNAL: Allergy 2003;58:1033-1036.
AUTHORS: Dr. Rudiger von Kries
ABSTRACT: Allowing cats to be in a child's bedroom starting the first year of life may prevent the later development of atopic asthma.
COMMENTARY: Although many reports have shown an anti-asthma effect for early cat exposure, others have actually tied such exposure to an increased risk of asthma. These seemingly discordant findings may relate to the timing and intensity of exposure.
In the current study, Dr. Rudiger von Kries, from the Institute for Social Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Munchen, Germany, and colleagues evaluated the effect of pet exposure on asthma risk in 8216 children, 5 to 7 years of age, living in rural regions of Bavaria.
In children with pets, exposure was divided into three groups: pet keeping in the first year of life but not later on, continuous exposure from the first year of life onwards, and current pet keeping but not during the first year of life. In addition, the parents of such children were asked whether the pet was allowed in the child's bedroom.
In general, pet exposure had no bearing on the risk of atopic disease, the researchers found. However, children continuously exposed to cats who had cats allowed in their bedrooms were 67% less likely than others to develop atopic asthma and 45% less likely to develop hay fever.
"We hypothesize that allowing cats in the child's bedroom from the first year of life onwards might be an indicator of early and intensive exposure to cats which appears to protect against the development of atopic asthma," the authors note.
STUDY: Watch the NSAID'S
JOURNAL: Am J Med 2003;115:462-466.
AUTHORS: Dr. Dan Caspi
ABSTRACT: Low-dose aspirin therapy may have a significant adverse effect on renal function in elderly patients.
COMMENTARY: "Although low-dose aspirin is used by many elderly patients, monitoring of renal function is currently not recommended," Dr. Dan Caspi, of Tel Aviv Medical Center, Israel, and colleagues note. "We recently reported transient retention of uric acid and creatinine caused by aspirin doses of 75 to 325 mg/d."
To further investigate, the team examined the renal effects of 100 mg/d of aspirin, including post-treatment effects, in 83 stable geriatric patients treated with low-dose aspirin for 2 weeks and 40 controls. The researchers collected blood samples, and examined 24-hour urinary collections for creatinine and uric acid, at baseline and weekly for 5 weeks.
Urinary excretion of creatinine decreased in 60 (72%) of patients and excretion of uric acid decreased in 54 (65%) after 2 weeks of aspirin therapy. Mean clearance of uric acid also decreased in these patients. During this same time, the team observed increases in serum blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, and uric acid levels (p < 0.05).
"Deterioration from baseline levels was significantly greater (and more prevalent) in the aspirin-treated group than in the 40 control patients," Dr. Caspi and colleagues write.
The authors found that parameters improved after withdrawal of aspirin. However, 3 weeks after cessation of aspirin therapy, 48% of the patients (35/73) had a persistent decline in creatinine clearance of at least 20% lower than baseline, compared with 8% of controls (3/36; p < 0.001).