STUDY: Eating right can lower cancer, heart disease risks
JOURNAL: American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)
ABSTRACT: Along with national statistics identifying an increase in both adult and childhood obesity, new studies show that the negative effects of obesity and excess calorie consumption give us even more reasons for concern. A recent report from AARP, the organization for people age 50 and over, cautions, “Although Americans age 50+ are healthier, with fewer smoking and more using preventive services and trying to exercise, obesity could cancel out many of the gains.”
COMMENTARY: A landmark report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), on how eating habits influence cancer risk, concludes that maintaining a healthy weight probably plays a significant role in preventing several cancers. Since then, studies have demonstrated that excess calorie consumption can affect insulin metabolism, possibly increasing the risk of colon and other cancers.
Avoiding excess calories, on the other hand, reduces possible cancer-causing damage to our genes’ DNA and enhances its repair. Research at the National Cancer Institute, for example, shows that moderate restriction of calorie consumption reduces the number of pre-cancerous intestinal polyps in mice with a genetic tendency to develop these cancers.
Controlling excess weight seems to offer heart health benefits as well. We’ve known for some time that obesity is linked to high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of heart disease. One of the newer heart risks under study involves levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which seems to be a marker of infections or inflammation in the body. Higher CRP is also often seen in conjunction with obesity, suggesting that obesity may somehow be associated with low-grade inflammation. A recent study in the journal Circulation, involving obese women with elevated CRP, showed that when they lost an average of 33 pounds, their CRP levels dropped 32 percent.
Experts are cautious about responding to this growing list of weight-related hazards with over-zealous approaches. Studies show that when people try to lose weight by overly restricting calories or the foods allowed, they often rebound with tendencies to binge.
Research shows that the increase in obesity in our country has come at a time of greatly increasing portion sizes, so simply cutting back to more appropriate portions may be all that’s needed.
AICR encourages consumers to use a common-sense approach to weight control with its “New American Plate.” This new approach to eating, which calls for at least two-thirds of our plates to be filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains, will automatically lower our calorie counts. Even better, with this approach we also boost our intake of the nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals that help protect against cancer and heart disease.
STUDY: A fairly large decrease in CRP levels with vitamins.
JOURNAL: Nutrition Week 2003
AUTHORS: Dr. Timothy S. Church
ABSTRACT: Multivitamin use is associated with a significant reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, which could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
COMMENTARY: The findings are based on a study of 88 subjects who were randomized to receive a multivitamin or placebo once daily for 6 months. CRP and vitamin levels were measured at baseline and at the end of the trial.
"The study was originally designed to assess the effects of multivitamin use on LDL and homocysteine levels. After some reports suggested that vitamin E may decrease CRP levels, I decided to reanalyze the blood samples from our study to determine the effect of multivitamin use on CRP levels," Dr. Church added.
To eliminate the potential confounding effects of perimenopause, the researchers limited their analysis to blood samples taken from men or postmenopausal women.
Dr. Church presented his team's findings at Nutrition Week 2003, an annual meeting sponsored by the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
"In the multivitamin group, we observed a fairly large decrease in CRP levels," Dr. Church noted. After adjustment, the mean CRP decline was -0.58 mg/L (p = 0.02). In contrast, a slight increase in CRP levels (+0.18 mg/L) occurred in the placebo group.
The magnitude of the reduction is probably too great to be accounted for by the vitamin E present in the formulation, Dr. Church said. "Based on recent reports, I think the effect was probably due to the vitamin B6 and C present.
STUDY: Findings from a new study add to a growing body of evidence that vasectomy does not increase the risk of prostate cancer.
JOURNAL: Journal of Urology 2002;168:1408-1411.
AUTHORS: Dr. Martha K. Terris
ABSTRACT: Concern about a possible link between vasectomy and prostate cancer first arose from reports published in the late 1980s.
Following analysis of additional data from these studies, researchers concluded that vasectomy was probably not a risk factor for prostate cancer.
COMMENTARY: Most recently, researchers studying men in New Zealand, a country with the highest vasectomy rate in the world, found no association between vasectomy and prostate cancer, even 25 years or longer after the procedure had been performed.
In the current study, Dr. Martha K. Terris and colleagues, from Stanford University in California, compared the prostate cancer rates of 101 men with a vasectomy history with those of 202 matched control subjects. All of the men had been referred for prostate biopsy.
The prostate cancer rates in men with and without a vasectomy history were 45.5% and 48.5%, respectively (p = NS), the authors report in the October issue of The Journal of Urology.
Among men with prostate cancer, those with a vasectomy history had fewer poor prognostic indicators than those without this history.
This finding supports the theory that [men with a vasectomy history] are subject to more rigorous prostate cancer screening and are subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer at an earlier age or stage.
JOURNAL: Pediatrics, February 2004
AUTHORS: Dr. Philip Sanford Zeskind and Laura E. Stephens
ABSTRACT: Certain antidepressants taken by mothers during pregnancy can lead to disturbed behavior in their offspring, according to the results of a small study.
COMMENTARY: Antidepressants like Prozac or Paxil, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have previously been shown not to cause birth defects, the authors explain in the medical journal Pediatrics. However, only a few studies have looked at the potential neurobehavioral effects of these medications on newborns.
Dr. Philip Sanford Zeskind and Laura E. Stephens from the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, examined the neurobehavior of 34 newborn infants. Seventeen of the mothers used SSRIs during pregnancy, while the other 17 mothers did not.
The team measured the babies' motor activity, heart rate, behavioral state, sleeping state, startle responses, and tremors between 14 and 39 hours of age.
SSRI-exposed infants had significantly more tremors. These infants also had fewer changes in behavioral state and had fewer different behavioral states during the hour-long observation than did nonexposed infants, the authors report.
Infants of mothers who took SSRIs also had more active sleep, which was characterized by fewer contiguous periods of REM sleep that were longer-lasting and by more spontaneous startles or arousals, compared with nonexposed infants.
"The present study provides the first systematic evidence that prenatal SSRI exposure is significantly associated with a wide range of neurobehavioral outcomes among healthy, full-birthweight infants," the authors conclude.
"In all, results of the present study call into question the conclusion that SSRI use during pregnancy has little impact on the developing fetus and infant outcome," Zeskind and Stephens state.
Are these effects long-lasting? "At this point," the investigators say, "it is also unclear whether these outcomes are transient or provide the basis for subsequent neurobehavioral problems that may be detected with sensitive measures of neurobehavioral development at a later age."
STUDY: Males who don’t shave every day also have less sex
JOURNAL: American Journal of Epidemiology
AUTHORS: Shah Ebrahim
ABSTRACT: Men who don’t shave every day enjoy less sex and are 70 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than daily shavers, a new study shows.
COMMENTARY: A team at Bristol University who examined the link between shaving, coronary heart disease and stroke in 2,438 middle-aged Welsh men, said that men who did not shave every day were more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Over the course of the 20-year study, there were 835 deaths, they reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology. In all, 45 percent of the men who shaved less than daily died, compared with 31 percent of those who shaved at least daily.
Many of the excess deaths were due to higher rates of smoking and the poorer lifestyles of men who did not shave daily but the scientists said this did not explain their substantially raised risk of strokes.
The findings show that men who don’t shave every day are less likely to be married and are more likely to be blue-collar workers. They also have fewer orgasms, tend to be shorter, and to suffer from angina.
“The association between infrequent shaving and death is probably due to underlying smoking and social factors, but a small hormonal effect may also exist,” Professor Shah Ebrahim, of the department of social medicine, said in a statement.
He said the association with stroke did not fall away after discounting lifestyle factors and remained unexplained.the link between circulating sex hormones and beard growth was first established when a man on a remote island in the Hebrides noticed that his beard grew vigorously when he was about to rejoin his girlfriend on the Scottish mainland.
He said the low frequency of orgasm in men who did not shave regularly might be because they had low levels of testosterone or might simply reflect the fact that they were unmarried and had less opportunity for sex.
One possible explanation for the raised risk of stroke was that levels of circulating sex hormones in the body might influence the atheroma process in which fatty deposits build up in the arteries.