STUDY: Eat your Greens
JOURNAL: Lancet 2003;361:1316
AUTHORS: Dr. Gad Barkai
ABSTRACT: Impaired folate status may increase the risk of Down's syndrome.
COMMENTARY: Mothers of infants with Down's syndrome are believed to have an elevated risk for abnormal folate metabolism that could result in aneuploidy, Dr. Gad Barkai, of Sheba Medical Centre, Tel Hashomer, Israel, and colleagues explain. However, evidence regarding the rate of genetic polymorphisms in mothers with Down's syndrome offspring is inconsistent.
The multinational research team found that Downs' syndrome and neural tube defects (NTD) arise more often in the same families than would be expected from the incidence of each disorder considered separately.
It is on the basis of such an association, and knowledge that folate supplementation reduces the risk of NTD, that they recommend preconception folate supplementation for mothers at risk.
Dr. Barkai's group reviewed the record of 493 families referred to the Sheba Medical Centre between 1971 and 2001 because of prior pregnancies affected by NTD or isolated hydrocephalus. The families included those with at least one sibling in addition to the proband.
Among the 1492 at-risk pregnancies, there were 11 with Down's syndrome. This rate is significantly higher than the 1.87 affected Down's syndrome cases that would be expected among women of the same age in the general population (p < 0.00001), their report indicates.
They also examined data from 516 families who underwent genetic counseling in the Ukraine because of their risk of Down's syndrome. Among 1847 pregnancies, seven families had children affected by NTD. Again, this is a significant increase from the 1.37 cases expected in the general population (p = 0.0005).
Dr. Barkai's team maintains that genomic instability is minimized when maternal plasma folate exceeds 34 nmol/L and homocysteine levels are kept below 7.5 mcg/L. To achieve such levels, folate intake should be no lower than 5 mg/day.
STUDY: Don't Stress Out
JOURNAL: American Journal of Epidemiology 2003;157:14-24.
AUTHORS: Dr. Nancy Dole
ABSTRACT: While studies on the effects of stress during pregnancy have yielded conflicting results, the latest report finds that it may raise a woman's risk of premature delivery.
COMMENTARY: Pregnant women who said they were experiencing high levels of stress from events such as marital separation, problems with in-laws or issues at work were 80% more likely to have a preterm delivery than those who reported low stress levels.
Overall, there were 71 preterm births and 402 full-term births among women reporting high stress, compared with 39 preterm births and 416 full-term births in the low-stress group.
Among those most at risk are women in low socioeconomic groups who may get inadequate prenatal care and have constant worries about critical issues such as paying rent and putting food on the table.
"Stress is a fight-or-flight kind of phenomenon," Heyl said, explaining that pregnant women under stress may have increased steroid secretions in the womb that can stimulate cellular receptors that control uterine contraction and relaxation. "Chronic stress could over-stimulate those receptors," he said.
The new study involved 1,962 pregnant women who were being treated at two prenatal clinics in North Carolina. In addition to their medical exams, the women were instructed to complete and mail in a survey that asked various questions about their psychological state, stressful life events, social support and other issues that might impact their pregnancies.
There's a general feeling that if women recognize the stress in their lives and can do some stress reduction during pregnancy they can change this risk.
JOURNAL: J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:825-828.
AUTHORS: Dr. Eva S. Schernhammer
ABSTRACT: Women who work regular night shifts appear to be at increased risk for colorectal cancer.
COMMENTARY: The findings support earlier research showing that women who work night shifts have a higher risk of breast cancer.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 4% of adults work rotating night shifts.
Shift work is known to disrupt normal melatonin production and increase levels of other hormones such as estrogen.
Malignancies in women are often associated with estrogen levels, but in the case of colon cancer the data are beginning to show that it may be melatonin, not estrogen, that is influencing cancer risk.
The researchers studied 78,586 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study. The nurses who worked night shifts at least three times a month for 15 years or more had a 35% greater risk of developing colorectal cancer compared with women who did not work rotating night shifts.
STUDY: Get Your Proberry
JOURNAL: BMJ 2003;326:1235-1240.
AUTHORS: Alexander Sutton
ABSTRACT: A meta-analysis of data from randomised clinical trials supports the efficacy of neuraminidase inhibitors for treating and preventing influenza.
COMMENTARY: The analysis of 17 treatment trials and seven prevention trials by researchers at the University of Leicester showed that oseltamivir (Tamiflu; Roche) and zanamivir (Relenza; GlaxoSmithKline) reduced the odds of developing flu by about 70-90% and cut the duration of symptoms by about a day.
The drugs are both effective at reducing the length of symptoms and incidence if properly administered. They have to be given within 48 hours of onset.
Bottom Line is to get your Proberry.
STUDY: Summer fruit a major source of antioxidants
JOURNAL: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
ABSTRACT: New government research shows that tomatoes should not be considered our only major source of lycopene, the phytochemical (natural plant substance) that could help prevent certain cancers and other health problems. Watermelon is just as good a source.
COMMENTARY: Lycopene is the substance that gives tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and red and pink grapefruit their characteristic color. Besides adding color, lycopene seems to be a powerful antioxidant. It neutralizes highly unstable molecules that would otherwise react with and damage our cells.
In a large Harvard University study, the risk of prostate cancer was a third lower in men who ate the most tomato products compared to men who ate the least, and many researchers believe lycopene was the reason. Later studies also linked greater consumption of foods high in lycopene with a lower risk of prostate and other cancers.
According to a new report published in Agricultural Research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) tested 13 varieties of watermelon for lycopene content and found that watermelon contains more than tomatoes do. The amount of lycopene varied among varieties (red seedless have most) as well as growing conditions.
Even without these new findings about lycopene, watermelon has always been an excellent choice for snacks, desserts and salads. Each cup (about half a large slice) offers about 14 milligrams of vitamin C (16 to 19 percent of recommended daily intake). Watermelon also offers a weight-control bonus. A one-cup serving can satisfy a sweet tooth with just 49 calories, making it one of the fruits least concentrated in sugar and calories.