Archives for: February 2004
STUDY: Something to Try
JOURNAL: American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting
AUTHORS: Chi S. Chae, Alma Arnold
ABSTRACT: Maryland researchers have uncovered clues to the therapeutic effects of an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. And the findings, one of the researchers notes, suggest that microbes may be slow to develop resistance to the herb.
COMMENTARY: Rubricine, a bright red extract of the roots of the Arbenia euchroma plant, has been used in Asia for centuries as a dye and also to help heal wounds and treat burns. The extract contains six closely related compounds and appears to have antibacterial properties.
The compounds fight bacteria with a two-edged sword--both killing them and holding down bacterial growth. Most antibiotics have one, but not both, of these properties.
The components of rubricine appear to fight fungi as well. Tests showed rubricine was also effective against bacteria that were resistant to several antibiotics.
They studied the mutagenicity and toxicity of rubricin and its components. Mutagenicity means the ability of a substance to cause genetic mutations in living things. They found that the rubricin compounds were not mutagenic, and were completely non-toxic. And in some cases they were able to blunt the action of other compounds that are mutagenic.
STUDY: Green Tea's Importance
JOURNAL: Chemical Research in Toxicology.
AUTHORS: Gasiewicz and Palermo
ABSTRACT: Green tea is an even more potent cancer fighter than once thought. Researchers have discovered that chemicals in the tea shut down a key molecule that tobacco influences to cause cancer.
COMMENTARY: Scientists have already documented that green tea contains antioxidants that neutralized harmful free oxygen molecules that can damage cells. Green tea has been touted as a natural medicine against cancer, heart disease and other ailments in Asia for thousands of years.
But researchers at the University of Rochester in New York went beyond antioxidants and focused on tea chemicals that inhibit a molecule called the aryl hydrocarbon (AH) receptor. It plays a role in activating genes related to cancer.
Thomas Gasiewicz, head of environmental medicine at the university, previously showed that both tobacco smoke and dioxin can manipulate the molecule to throw cancer switches in genes.
STUDY: What to do about our aging bones? More Info
JOURNAL: The New England Journal of Medicine
AUTHORS: Dennis Black
ABSTRACT: Combining an experimental calcium-controlling hormone that builds bone with a popular osteoporosis drug does not increase bone density any more than the hormone alone.
COMMENTARY: The interim results come from a one-year study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, in 238 post-menopausal women.
Some received only Preos, a bioengineered full-length version of human parathyroid hormone, some only Fosamax, an osteoporosis drug sold by Merck & Co., while others were treated with both drugs.
Bone mineral density at the spine increased in all the treatment groups, but was highest, at a rate of 6.3 percent, in the parathyroid hormone group. The volume of spongy bone at the center of the spine also increased, but the 24 percent increase in the parathyroid hormone group was about twice that found in either of the other groups.
Increased bone density at the hip was highest with Fosamax, but the volume of bone was actually higher with Preos.
For previously untreated patients, the data now suggest that if therapy with parathyroid hormone is contemplated, it should be used alone
An aging U.S. population is becoming more susceptible to bone-thinning osteoporosis, which affects 8 million women and 2 million men and causes more than 1.5 million fractures a year.
Preos, under development by NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., is part of a new class of injected osteoporosis drugs that build bone rather than simply prevent bone loss as patients age.
Older drugs like Fosamax are part of a class called biphosphonates that work by stopping or slowing bone loss.
Earlier research had suggested that dual use of the drugs might improve outcomes since they have different mechanisms of action.
Parathyroid hormone-induced increases in bone size are perhaps more important in terms of mechanical strength, and the addition of Fosamax to the regimen impairs the ability of the hormone to induce these changes.
In the study's second year, patients on Preos will discontinue injections, and will be given either Fosamax or a placebo to see if bone gains are maintained.
If the bone-building effects of Preos are shown to continue even after a patient stops the therapy, it would make sense to treat more moderately affected osteoporosis patients.
The company expects in November to have results from a study in rats of whether Preos raises the risk of bone cancer. Forteo carries a warning that rats developed bone cancer after taking high doses of the drug for most of their lives. Neither drug has been linked to tumors in humans.
STUDY: Stop with the antibiotics if not needed
JOURNAL: Pediatrics (2003;111:E574–E579)
ABSTRACT: An herbal eardrop formula relieves the pain of acute otitis media in children better than other common treatments.
COMMENTARY: Acute otitis media (AOM, inflammation of the middle ear) is one of the most common illnesses of early childhood, affecting 93% of all children in the United States at least once by age seven.
The hallmark of AOM is ear pain, and redness and swelling of the ear drum can be seen on examination. Fever, runny nose, sore throat, and other symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection sometimes accompany AOM. Studies have shown that bacterial infection is rarely the cause of AOM.
Viral infection and allergy are believed to be more common causes. Antibiotics have been found to be ineffective in most cases, and current guidelines recommend topical anesthetics as the first treatment for AOM. Nevertheless, AOM remains the most common reason for prescription of antibiotics in children in the United States, a practice that contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and poses a major threat to worldwide health.
A total of 171 children with AOM participated in the current study. The children were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: group A received herbal eardrops alone; group B received herbal eardrops plus an oral antibiotic (amoxicillin); group C received anesthetic eardrops alone; and group D received anesthetic eardrops plus oral amoxicillin.
Eardrops were given three times per day, five drops each time, for three days. Parents and children used a rating scale to report ear pain levels 30 minutes after each use of the eardrops. The average level of ear pain dropped 95.9% in children receiving herbal eardrops alone, but only 90.9% in children receiving herbal eardrops plus amoxicillin.
The herbal eardrops used in the current study contained garlic, mullein, calendula or marigold, St. John’s wort, lavender, and vitamin E in a base of olive oil.
This formula has herbs that have demonstrated antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects in test tubes. Furthermore, some of these herbs have been shown to stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
The results of this study show that antibiotics do not contribute to the beneficial effects of eardrops in the treatment of AOM, and that these herbal eardrops are more effective than anesthetic eardrops at relieving the pain of AOM. Therefore, herbal eardrops represent a reasonable and safe therapy for providing pain relief in children with AOM.
STUDY: If you really need it !!!!
JOURNAL: Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, September 2003
AUTHORS: Dr. Emmanuel Oger
ABSTRACT: For women who need estrogen replacement to deal with severe symptoms of menopause, a patch may be better than taking pills.
COMMENTARY: Oral estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is known to raise the risk of blood clots forming in veins, a.k.a. venous thrombosis. However, through-the-skin delivery of ERT doesn't have this effect, according to a study conducted in France.
Oral but not transdermal ERT significantly altered the effect of a blood compound known as activated protein C on the regulation of a clotting factor, thrombin.
Moreover, after six months, markers of blood coagulation activity were significantly higher in the oral estrogen arm than in the transdermal or placebo arms of the trial.
"Taken together, these data provide a plausible biologic mechanism to the clearly demonstrated association between oral estrogen and venous thrombosis," the team writes.
Furthermore, Oger said, the results add to a "strong body of biological evidence that suggests a lower risk for venous thrombosis, if any, among users of the (estrogen) skin patch."
Just last month, a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, showed that women currently taking oral ERT were four times more likely to develop venous thrombosis than were current estrogen patch users.
Once again we need to be very careful regarding HRT. Please consult a professional who is up on all the latest research.
STUDY: Eat your fish especially if you have Cancer
JOURNAL: Gut 2003;52:1479-1486.
AUTHORS: Dr. K. C. H. Fearon
ABSTRACT: The use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements may promote weight gain and increase lean body mass (LBM) in cancer patients with cachexia.
COMMENTARY: The findings are based on a study of 200 cachetic patients with advanced pancreatic cancer who were randomized to receive a diet supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids or a control supplement lacking these fatty acids for 8 weeks. The subjects were instructed to consume two cans per day of the assigned supplement.
Among patients in the omega-3 supplement group, elevated eicosapentaenoic acid levels were tied to weight and LBM gain, the researchers state.
The investigators also found that weight gain was associated with an improved quality of life in patients who received the test supplement.
STUDY: Make sure you are getting your antioxidants
JOURNAL: J Clin Invest 2003;112:915-923.
AUTHORS: Dr. Timothy J. Chambers
ABSTRACT: Although the link between estrogen deficiency and bone loss is well established, the mechanisms involved are unclear. Now, new study findings indicate that the association is mediated by thiol antioxidants in osteoclasts.
COMMENTARY: In other body regions, estrogen has been shown to suppress reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are known to stimulate osteoclasts. Therefore, it is possible that estrogen deficiency promotes bones loss by facilitating ROS stimulation of osteoclasts. Specifically, antioxidant levels may be low when estrogen is lacking.
In vitro analysis revealed that estradiol increased antioxidant levels in osteoclast-like cells. Treatment with a glutathione stimulator prevented osteoclast formation, whereas treatment with a glutathione inhibitor had the opposite effect. Treatment with estradiol as well as the glutathione stimulator suppressed expression of TNF-alpha, a cytokine strongly linked to estrogen-deficiency bone loss.
"These results have important implications for bone biology and the treatment of osteoporosis", the researchers state. Although further studies are needed to determine the exact mechanism of bone loss, "our results predict that osteoporosis should be prevented by therapies that increase oxidant defenses in bone," they add.
STUDY: Stop drinking soda pop
JOURNAL: 25th ASBMR: Abstract SU259
AUTHORS: Katherine Tucker, PhD
ABSTRACT: Women who drink dark colas daily may have lower bone density than those who drink clear soda, according to findings of a study of women who were part of the Framingham Offspring Cohort.
COMMENTARY: The problem appears to be increased levels of phosphoric acid, which can interfere with bone absorption. A typical can of cola contains 44 to 62 mg of phosphoric acid per 12 ounce serving, and diet cola contains 27 to 39 mg.
Data were presented on a total of 1,672 women and 1,148 men studied from 1996 to 2001. Bone mineral density (BMD) measurements were taken at the spine and three sites of the hip. The cohort was divided into two groups, those who consumed cola daily and those who drank cola (or other sorts of carbonated beverages including clear sodas) once a week or less.
The average daily phosphorus level of cola drinkers was 1,146 mg compared with 1,105 mg in nondaily cola drinkers, but this included all dietary sources.
Among the female subjects, regular cola drinkers had decreased BMD compared with the infrequent drinkers. BMD was 2.3% lower in the trochanter, 3.3% lower in the femoral neck, and 5.1% lower in Ward's area.
STUDY: Mother Nature Best
JOURNAL: Annals of Family Medicine
AUTHORS: Preventive Services Task Force
ABSTRACT: Simply telling a new mother to breastfeed, or even giving her a pamphlet laying out the benefits, is not enough to really encourage the practice.
COMMENTARY: Women need to be coached at length on how and why to breastfeed, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of medical experts that advises government health agencies, says in new recommendations.
The science backing breastfeeding is clear -- breastfed babies are healthier and less susceptible to disease, they may have better brain development and they have stronger bonding with their mothers.
They are less prone to be either underweight or overweight and breastfeeding also helps a mother lose the weight gained during pregnancy.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for a full two years while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least one year and longer if possible.
Yet in 2001 only 69.5 percent of new U.S. mothers said they had ever breastfed their newborns and just 32 percent are still breastfeeding at six months.
Low-income mothers are the least likely to breastfeed.
The new recommendations, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, suggest that doctors encourage new mothers to enroll in educational breastfeeding classes that address techniques, common problems, benefits, myths and skills training.
The Task Force recommends against the use of packages given to mothers when they leave the hospital when they include samples of formula, which have been found to lower rates of breastfeeding.
STUDY: Beneficial flora another acknowledgement
JOURNAL: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, August 2003.
AUTHORS: Eggesbo and colleagues
ABSTRACT: Some infants who are delivered by cesarean section may have an increased risk of developing food allergies.
COMMENTARY: Investigators have identified a relationship between cesarean section delivery and subsequent food allergy in children of mothers with allergies.
Cesarean delivery might delay the growth of normal intestinal flora--bacteria that normally line the intestine--in the newborn infant.
One theory is that delays or abnormalities in the growth of these bacteria may increase the risk of allergic disease.
To further investigate, the researchers obtained data on mode of delivery, maternal or infant use of antibiotics, and potential confounding factors in a population of 2803 children.
The main outcome measures were the parent's opinions of their child's reaction to egg, fish, or nuts. The child's reaction to egg at 2.5 years of age was also objectively confirmed by laboratory tests.
For children with allergic mothers, the researchers found that cesarean section was associated with a sevenfold increased rate of parental reports of reactions to egg, fish, or nuts in children. The risk of confirmed egg allergy was increased by fourfold in these children.
There was no association between maternal or infant antibiotic use and an increased risk of food allergy.
These results "lend circumstantial support to the importance of microbiologic stimuli in early life. This might be another factor to consider when mode of delivery is discussed with pregnant women.
STUDY: Careful with those hormones
JOURNAL: Journal of the American Medical Association, October 1, 2003
AUTHORS: Dr. Jane A. Cauley
ABSTRACT: Even though hormone therapy reduces the risk of broken bones and womb cancer, the treatment's potential benefits are outweighed by a heightened risk of other diseases.
COMMENTARY: Last year, the Women's Health Initiative trial was stopped early after an increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers was seen among hormone users.
The current report represents a final analysis of data from that trial.
The trial included more than 16,000 older women who were treated with inactive placebo pills or with hormone therapy, which included a combination of estrogen and progestin. On average, the patients were followed for nearly 6 years.
According to Dr. Jane A. Cauley, of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues, 8.6 percent of women in the hormone group and 11.1 percent in the placebo group experienced a fracture. However, those in the hormone group were found to be at increased risk for a variety of diseases and death.
Even among women at high risk for fracture, the risks of hormone therapy appeared to outweigh the benefits, the authors note.
In a related study, Dr. Garnet l. Anderson, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and associates found that although hormone therapy seemed to protect against womb or endometrial cancer, this benefit was more than offset by an increase in the risk of ovarian cancer.
Anderson's group also noted an increased need for procedures to deal with womb bleeding in the hormone group. "These data provide additional support for caution in the use of...combined hormones," they conclude.
STUDY: Drink that Green Tea
JOURNAL: August 2002 Journal of Nutrition
ABSTRACT: The major angiogenic factor, known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), was inhibited in a dose dependent fashion by an extract of green tea as well as by its main catechin, EGCG.
COMMENTARY: Angiogenesis refers to the formation of new blood vessels, a process that occurs in healthy tissue but which is also used by tumors to fuel their growth. Inhibition of angiogenesis is currently being explored by cancer researchers as a method of halting tumor growth by starving the tumor nutrients that are delivered via its blood supply.
The green tea extract and EGCG were tested on cultures of healthy human umbilical vein cells and human breast cancer cells. Both extracts were found to significantly decrease the levels of VEGF when the cells of either culture were exposed to a VEGF promoter, compared to cell cultures that did not receive the extract. The green tea extract and the EGCG did not differ significantly in their effects on the cells.
Further experiments by the researchers revealed that the green tea extracts acted on a molecular level to inhibit VEGF transcription, although the authors noted that the inhibition of breast cancer angiogenesis by green tea probably involves several other pathways, through its inhibition of other angiogenic molecules.