Thursday, November 30, 2006

Low Vitamin D and cancer

Low vitamin D status may raise cancer risk NutraIngredients USA 11/30/06 "The link between vitamin D intake and protection from cancer dates from the 1940s when Frank Apperly demonstrated a link between latitude and deaths from cancer, and suggested that sunlight gave “a relative cancer immunity.”..."Vitamin D levels have been linked to skin colour – darker skinned people produce less vitamin D on exposure to the sun, relative to fair-skinned people...Giovannucci and his colleagues calculated that, after accounting for various risk factors, darker skinned men had a significantly higher risk of total cancer incidence (30 per cent increase), total cancer mortality (89 per cent increase) and death from digestive system cancers (124 per cent increase), than their white counterparts..."

The study doesn't prove low vitamin D causes cancer. But it appears that high levels of vitamin D do seem to help prevent and fight a very large number of organ cancers. You can either get it through exposure to the sun, or through the diet. There have been studies and meta studies that show UV exposure and the protective effect against organ cancers outweighs the risk of skin cancer. But obviously if you've had skin cancer or think you might be prone to it, that's a big reason to go the supplement route.

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Green Tea fights skin cancer

Green Tea helps reverse the effects of sun damage and even fight skin cancer New York Post 11/28/06 ""It's been known that green tea's polyphenols and epigallocatechins are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory in nature, but the fact that they can also fight cancer and reverse sun damage is new,"...Titled "Green tea and skin cancer: photoimmunology, angiogenesis and DNA repair," the study by Suchitra Katiyar, Craig A. Elmets and Santosh K. Katiyar has yet to discover how much green tea one actually needs to drink to achieve benefits "

Lots about hot drinks today. I could dig up a great article about hot coco to make this look like a hot drink blog. I'll spare you and say that hot coco with real cocoa is probably way better than tea or coffee combined.

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Green tea improves blood lipid levels

Green tea improves blood lipid levels NutraIngredients USA 11/27/06 "The new study, led by Susana Coimbra from the University of Porto and in collaboration with researchers at the University of Beira Interior, evaluated the effect of drinking one litre of green tea every day for four weeks on the blood lipid profiles of 29 healthy volunteers (age range 22-63, average BMI 25 kg per sq. m, 22 women)... A reduction in LDL-cholesterol was observed in 90 per cent of the subjects (average decrease of 8.9 per cent from baseline), and an increase in HDL-cholesterol was observed in 69 per cent of the subjects (average increase of 4 per cent from baseline)"

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Coffee lowers diabetes risk

Coffee drinkers show lower diabetes risk Reuters/Yahoo!News 11/30/06 "among more than 12,000 middle-aged adults, those who drank four or more cups of coffee each day had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely had a possibility is that certain coffee components -- such as magnesium or chlorogenic acid -- improve the body's regulation of blood sugar...researchers, led by Nina P. Paynter, a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health"

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RU-486 and breast cancer

Abortion pill compound fights breast cancer Reuters/Yahoo!News 11/30/06 "A team led by University of California at Irvine scientist Eva Lee found that the compound, mifepristone, prevented breast tumors by blocking progesterone in mouse breast tissue cells"

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

That Prenatal Visit May Be Months Too Late

That Prenatal Visit May Be Months Too Late NYTimes 11/28/06 "The problem, doctors say, is that by the first prenatal visit, a woman is usually 10 to 12 weeks pregnant. “If a birth defect is going to happen, it’s already happened,” said Dr. Peter S. Bernstein, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center ...The new guidelines, issued by the CDC and Prevention last spring, include 10 specific health care recommendations and advise prepregnancy checkups that include screening for diabetes, H.I.V. and obesity; managing chronic medical conditions; reviewing medications that may harm a fetus; and making sure vaccinations are up to date."

Also in the recommendations is to take prenatal vitamins months before pregnancy and to get weight down as close to normal for height as can be.

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Pregnancy and Alcohol

I was disappointed at the rather unscientific and irresponsible article in the NYtimes about alcohol and pregnancy that seems to give a view that moderate drinking while pregnant is safe. The author appears to have missed the relevance of a lot of recent research - most of which is found in New Scientist 6/29/06 (pay article) titled "Sobering news for pregnant women" where they catalog the research showing that even light drinking has the potential to alter the development of the fetus.

If you insist on drinking then take choline during pregnancy which seems to offer some protection against the neuronal apoptosis that alcohol can induce in the fetal brain during the 2nd trimester.

"Peter Hepper at Queen's University, Belfast, UK, examined the movements of fetuses scanned on ultrasound in response to a noise stimulus. Having asked women about their drinking habits, they compared the responses of fetuses exposed to low levels of alcohol - between 1 and 6 British units per week, each containing 10 millilitres of alcohol - and those exposed to none. When tested between 20 and 35 weeks, the fetuses exposed to alcohol tended to show a "startle response" usually found only in the earlier stages of pregnancy, when the nervous system is less developed"

"When Ed Riley and colleagues at San Diego State University in California looked at children's brains using magnetic resonance imaging, they found obvious changes in the brain structure of children whose mothers drank very heavily, but also some changes in children born to moderate drinkers. For example, there were abnormalities in the corpus callosum, the tract of fibres connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The greater the abnormality, the worse the children performed on a verbal learning task."

"John Olney, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, has examined the impact of alcohol on developing rodent brains as a model for what happens in humans. Six years ago Olney and others showed that alcohol causes neurons in the developing rat brain to undergo programmed cell death, or apoptosis"

The research by Olney shows that the timing of alcohol has an effect. The first trimester affects facial development and other physical features and gestures, the second trimester affects different levels of brain function depending again when the alcohol hits and what part of the brain is forming. Olney believes that even small amounts of alcohol (50mg per 100 ml of blood) can potentially kill 20 million neurons in the fetus. In the third trimester alcohol can throw off circadian rhythms in the offspring. So as children they sleep poorly and are prone to a host of other psychiatric conditions like depression. Based on what Olney has seen in his research he thinks it would be safest to abstain.

It's possible that for some women a small amount of alcohol over an extended time on a full stomach might have little or no impact on a fetus. But how would you know if you metabolize alcohol in the right way, or that you ate enough to blunt the effect of the alcohol, or that you drank slowly enough for it not to effect the fetus, or that you didn't go over the level at which neurons die in the fetus? Is it worth the risk if only to partake in a brief cultural ritual, or to momentarily feel more social?

The BBC has covered this 9/18/02 "Professor Peter Hepper, of Queen's University, Belfast, said that there was a growing body of evidence linking even moderate alcohol use in pregnancy to deficits in children.
He said: "If it was proven that drinking any amount of alcohol in pregnancy caused you to be born with the tip of your finger missing - something that would hardly affect your life at all - then it would be banned instantly."

Of course brain damage is much harder to measure... and so likely goes unnoticed except for dramatic cases.

More here, here, here and here

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Aging Gene Also Protects Against Prostate Cancer Development

Aging Gene Also Protects Against Prostate Cancer Development ScienceDaily 11/29/06 "Cancer scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have shown that a gene that is involved in regulating aging also blocks prostate cancer cell growth. The researchers, led by Kimmel Cancer Center director Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., hope the newly found connection will aid in better understanding the development of prostate cancer and lead to new drugs against the disease...SIRT1 is a member of a family of enzymes called sirtuins that have far-reaching influence in all organisms, including roles in metabolism, gene expression and aging...“This study shows that there is potentially new opportunity for these cancer patients with drugs that regulate SIRT1,” "

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Old World Red Wines May be Healthier

Tannins in European, Age-Worthy Reds May Add to Heart-Healthy Effects WebMD 11/29/06 "The study's researchers say their results suggest the Old World winemaking techniques that ensure a higher amount of tannins produce wines that are healthier for the heart and may contribute to the longer longevity seen in regions known for producing such wines..."The traditional production methods used in Sardinia and southwestern France ensure that the beneficial compounds, procyanidins [tannins], are efficiently extracted," says researcher Roger Corder of Queen Mary's William Harvey Research Institute of the University of London...The study found that wines made from the Tannat grape in southwest France were highest in these beneficial tannins"

The researches recommend Cabernet Sauvignon and other Madiran wines like Tannat, Cabernet Frank and Fer Servadou.

You could also eat a tid bit of dark chocolate and get far more procyanidins.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ecstasy Can Harm The Brains Of First-time Users

Ecstasy Can Harm The Brains Of First-time Users ScienceDaily 11/28/06 "even a small amount of MDMA, better known as ecstasy, can be harmful to the brain..."We found a decrease in blood circulation in some areas of the brain in young adults who just started to use ecstasy," said Maartje de Win, M.D., radiology resident at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam...results showed a decrease in verbal memory performance among low-dose ecstasy users compared to non-users"

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New Urine Test ID's Prostate Cancer

Genetic Test Finds Prostate Cancer, but Can't Tell if It's Deadly WebMD 11/28/06 "The test, from San Diego-based Gen-Probe, is approved in some European countries but not in the U.S. It detects genetic material -- RNA -- from prostate cancer gene 3 or PCA3"

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Treating Allergies With Allergic Food

Treating Allergies With Allergic Food WebMD 11/28/06 "Early findings suggest that this gradual challenge approach increases tolerance to problem foods, senior researcher A. Wesley Burks, MD...Burks is a professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center...In the peanut study (currently unpublished), children were initially given the equivalent of 1/3,000 of a peanut. Most were eating a peanut a day within six months with little reaction...Most children outgrow their food allergies, but there is currently no way to tell which ones will and which ones won't"

When it's life or death with a thousandth of a peanut, or an egg, this is a big story. Let's hope the research proves true.

On a related note I remember exposure therapy was used for those that are lactose intolerant - I believe showing that with time even these folks could break down lactose.

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Violent video games and our brains

Violent video game effects linger in brain Reuters/Yahoo!News 11/28/06 "Teens who play violent video games show increased activity in areas of the brain linked to emotional arousal and decreased responses in regions that govern self-control...Those who played the violent video game showed more activation in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional arousal, and less activation in the prefrontal portions of the brain associated with control, focus and concentration than the teens who played the nonviolent game...Dr. Vincent Mathews, a professor of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis "

It's going to take a while before a better understanding of how certain video games affect kids brains and adult brains. For instance does Age of Empires activate the same areas as a first person shooter like Medal of Honor? And are there lasting effects or only short term effects? And how negative are the effects? The indications so far are that first person shooters aren't doing kids any favors. I haven't seen much research on fps games on adults. More research to come. We need much more.

For now it seems like a safe guideline for kids is the game rating system - with occasional exceptions to a higher rating for certain resource allocation games like AOE or Civ series - few games work the logic/planning centers of the brain like these.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

White Tea Beats Green Tea In Fighting Germs

While we're still on white tea being better than green tea ScienceDaily 5/25/04 "studies conducted at Pace University have indicated that White Tea Extract (WTE) may have prophylactic applications in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries...The anti-viral and anti-bacterial effect of white tea (Stash and Templar brands) is greater than that of green tea...White tea extract exhibited an anti-fungal effect on both Penicillium chrysogenum and Saccharomyces cerevisiae...White tea extract may have application in the inactivation of pathogenic human microbes, i.e., bacteria, viruses, and fungi...Milton Schiffenbauer, Ph.D., a microbiologist and professor in the Department of Biology at Pace University's Dyson College of Arts & Sciences and primary author of the research"

Of course white tea is a tid bit more expensive and harder to find than green tea - so there's that.

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Green tea and cholesterol

Green tea improves blood lipid levels NutraIngredients USA 11/27/06 "Coimbra and her colleagues report that at the end of the intervention period significant beneficial improvements were observed in the lipid profile of the volunteers. A reduction in LDL-cholesterol was observed in 90 per cent of the subjects (average decrease of 8.9 per cent from baseline), and an increase in HDL-cholesterol was observed in 69 per cent of the subjects (average increase of 4 per cent from baseline)...The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, reported to be the most specific lipid risk factor for CVD, decreased by six per cent after four weeks of tea drinking."

More evidence of the value of green tea. Of course white tea has even more health value and actually tastes good. Tea tip of the day - combine any variety of white tea with rooibos tea for an exceptional flavor. First and probably my last tea tip.

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Pycnogenol for ADHD

Pycnogenol reduces hyperactivity, increases concentration in ADHD RxPG News 6/17/06 "There was a significant drop in hyperactivity and inattention compared to start of the study and placebo...results for motor-visual coordination and concentration showed a significant increase for participants who took Pycnogenol after one month of the study period compared to before the study started...esearchers also found that, one month after termination of treatment, symptoms returned to their levels as measured before the study started in the Pycnogenol group, strongly suggesting the antioxidant's effect on reducing ADHD symptoms... According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.8% of American Children are diagnosed with ADHD and 4.3% of children are taking medication for this disorder"

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Future smokers may be programmed in womb

Future smokers may be programmed in womb Reuters/Yahoo!News 11/27/06 "children of women who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to become smokers than other youngsters..."Our findings suggest a direct effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on young adults' development of regular smoking and provide yet another incentive to persuade pregnant women not to smoke and to discourage young women from ever taking it up," Dr Abdullah Al Mamun, of the University of Queensland..."

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Bacon and cancer

Bacon tied to greater bladder cancer risk Reuters/YahooNews 11/27/06 "people who ate bacon five times a week or more were nearly 60-percent more likely to develop bladder cancer, while those who ate skinless chicken this frequently had a 52-percent greater risk of the disease...Some meat products contain nitrosamines, which are known to cause bladder cancer... researchers suggest that nitrosamines, heterocyclic amines, or both are responsible..."

It seems like one of the lessons here is don't expose meat to super high temperatures. So bake rather than fry and leave the skin on. Oh and don't eat the piggies in any form... pigs are people too. Well close enough so that we shouldn't be munching on them.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fish oils, vitamins, herbs helpful for depression

Diet and nutrition may play a key role in helping people fight depression Reuters/MedlinePlus 11/23/06 "A number of nutrients, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, St. John's Wort and several B vitamins, have the potential to influence mood by increasing the absorption of chemical messengers in the polyunsaturated fatty acid, are protective against depression... the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 may also be important...Another candidate for dietary prevention of depression is the amino acid tryptophan...studies investigating whether the B vitamin folate, vitamins B6 and B12, and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) play a role in depression have had conflicting results..."

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Harder The Exercise The Better

Walking not enough for significant exercise benefits EurekAlert 9/20/06 ""Generally, low-intensity activity such as walking alone is not likely going to give anybody marked health benefits compared to programs that occasionally elevate the intensity"...Of the 128 sedentary men and women who completed the six-month research program, those who took part in a more active traditional fitness regimen increased their peak oxygen uptake, an indicator of aerobic fitness, by 10 per cent. Those who took part in the walking program experienced a four per cent increase. Systolic blood pressure also dropped by 10 per cent for the traditional fitness group, compared to four per cent for the group who just walked."

The debate between 10,000 steps walking vs running has always seemed a bit odd. Just look at athletes. Clearly their bodies are radically different... and healthier than those that just walk.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Pets and Cancer Drugs

In Trials for New Cancer Drugs, Family Pets Are Benefiting, Too NYTimes 11/24/06 "Most of the trials, often sponsored by drug companies or medical device makers, involve pets with cancer — a leading natural cause of death in older dogs — in which the animals receive groundbreaking drugs or other treatments that are eventually meant for people...Treating dogs gives researchers an idea of whether and how the treatment will work in people, while at the same time possibly helping the pets...“It can help in reshaping the image of animals in science, from being considered tools to being considered patients,”"

What an encouraging trend.
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Higher Resting Heart Rate May Boost Death Risk

Higher Resting Heart Rate May Boost Death Risk HealthDay 11/16/06 "study of more than 4,300 men, aged 42 to 53, found that those whose resting heart rate increased over five years were nearly 50 percent more likely to die over a 20-year span than men whose rate stayed the same or decreased...A long-term decrease in resting heart rate reduced death risk by nearly 20 percent...A resting heart rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute (bpm) is normal. People in excellent physical condition have a resting heart rate of about 40 to 50 bpm...cannot say for sure whether the increase in resting heart rate is only a marker for some other disease process or whether it is directly associated with mortality"

My hunch is that the resting heart rate is almost always tied to fitness levels and levels of SOD, CAT and GPX - internal antiox. enzymes that have profound effects on health. But it certainly does make sense that if you are fighting a chronic illness, or sudden powerful disease that the body might ramp up the heart rate. Anytime I've been ill, even with a cold, the bpm goes up.

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High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Boosts Disease Risk Later in Life

Threat of stroke, heart attack and midlife high blood pressure all increase, study finds HealthDay 11/17/06 "Women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy have a higher risk of stroke, heart and kidney disease later in life..."High blood pressure in pregnancy appears to be an under-recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease later in life," Garovic said. About 10 percent of pregnancies are affected by high blood pressure...Women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy had twice the risk of stroke as those who had normal pressure during pregnancy. They also had 1.5 times the risk of heart attack and 1.5 times the risk of developing high blood pressure after age 40...The women with high blood pressure during pregnancy tended to be obese compared with the women who did not get it."

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Living to Be 100 May Depend on Mom

The younger your mother, the better your odds of extreme longevity, study finds HealthDay 11/20/06 "Your chances of living to 100 may depend on how young your mother was when she gave birth to you, say U.S. researchers...A team at the University of Chicago found that people born to women younger than 25 were about twice as likely to live for a century or longer than people born to older mothers...The study of 198 centenarians born in the United States from 1890-1893 found that first-born children were more likely to live to 100 than later-born siblings. After further analysis, the researchers concluded that this longevity advantage among first-born children was largely linked to the fact that they were born when their mothers were in their teens or early 20s...Women are three to five times more likely than men to reach 100 years."

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Tastebuds key to health

How we taste involves complex interaction of nose, brain and more MSNBC - 11/20/06 "And if you think the brussels sprouts are bitter, well, blame how many taste buds you were born with, not the intensely people sense different flavors seems to affect how healthy they are...Supertasters may be more at risk of developing colon cancer as a result, says a recent University of Connecticut study...One in four people is what scientists call a supertaster, born with extra taste buds...They find some vegetables horribly bitter, and hate the texture. They get more burn from chili peppers, and perceive more sweetness than other people. Nor do they care for fat. They tend to be skinny because they’re such picky eaters...nontasters make up another quarter of the population. They like veggies, but unfortunately prefer heart-clogging fat, too, along with sweets and alcohol"

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Vitamin E may protect against cancer, heart ills

Vitamin E may protect against cancer, heart ills MSNBC 11/22/06 "a study of 29,092 Finnish men in their 50s and 60s who were smokers, those with the highest concentrations of vitamin E in their blood at the study’s outset were the least likely to die during the follow-up period, which lasted up to 19 years...The optimum concentration appeared to be 13 to 14 milligrams vitamin E per liter of blood, with higher concentrations offering no additional benefit.
Because trials of vitamin E supplements have shown no effect on mortality, the findings don’t suggest that they would be beneficial, but do suggest that people can benefit from getting more vitamin E in their diet through foods such as “nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dark-green leafy vegetables,” the researchers conclude"

The debate on vit. e goes on.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How Do You Get Your Kids To Eat Their Veggies?

A Recipe for Coaxing Your Kids to Eat Their Vegetables The Wall Street Journal Online 11/21/06 "Try, try and try again. One of the biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to kids and food is that they give up too soon. But Pennsylvania State University researchers have conducted studies using foods that most kids don't typically eat a lot of, such as vegetables and Asian dishes. They discovered it can take up to 15 exposures to a new food before a child will accept and animals are naturally neophobic -- meaning they have an instinctive tendency to reject an unknown taste as a way to protect themselves from foods that will make them sick. If parents would keep trying, putting the food on the table and asking kids to just take a bite, most kids will eventually learn to accept a new food, says Dr. Birch...Don't react. Child experts say parents need to stay low key when offering a food. Don't bribe or threaten punishment, and don't celebrate when kids eat their vegetables. Studies show that when kids are cajoled into eating a food or even rewarded or praised for eating it, the child often develops an aversion to it...Use tasty toppings. Use foods like ketchup, cheese sauce and ranch dressing"

This might make sense for most kids... but not for me and my loathing of brussel sprouts. Which brings up the issue of super tasters and having more taste buds than average that bring out the bitter taste in veggies. It could be that no matter how hard you try, or how persistent you are... your child will never enjoy veggies like broccoli all that much.

Gotta love the term "neophobic." That's a wonderful descriptor, but it's new to me... so I'm afraid of it.

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You are what your grandma ate

God knows what gramdma threw down her pie hole... but a part of that made you! And possibly your children and so on.

Study in mice finds eating habits affect traits in future generations McClatchy News Service 11/15/06 "Previously, scientists thought parents passed their genes on to their offspring, and no further. But recent studies have suggested that environmental influences on those genes can also be inherited...The implications for public health are enormous," said nutritional epigeneticist Robert Waterland of Baylor College of Medicine..."Most people don't want to believe this kind of inheritance is real. We want to believe that everything is encoded in the genes"...studied a special strain of mice with a genetic mutation that causes their coats to be yellow and also increases their chance of obesity, diabetes and cancer...supplements such as folate, choline, vitamin B12 and zinc added to the diet of a pregnant yellow-coated mouse could silence the mutant gene that produces the yellow coat in their offspring."

Now it appears that such supplements can silence the gene for a few generations. In this case the epigenetic change is good (and note those are mostly the prenatal supplements). However the darker side of epigenetic changes can be seen with cigarette smoke which can change genes leading to ADHD and asthma . What about other household, urban or rural chemicals (pesticides, insecticides and herbicides esp.) that have the potential to turn our genes on or off? There's a huge story brewing here.

Is there a more exciting area of science right now?

Good epigenetics blog here.

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DHA may lower dementia risk

High blood DHA levels may lower dementia risk YahooNews/Reuters 11/21/06 " High blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which belongs to the class of nutrients called essential fatty acids, may protect against the development of dementia and perhaps Alzheimer's and women with the highest DHA levels had a 47 percent reduction in risk of developing dementia and a 39 percent reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's disease compared with those with less DHA...180 milligrams DHA per day ( is enough to see this benefit)"

Yet more evidence that DHA is profoundly useful to the health of the brain - from before birth, throughout life.

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Onions and Garlic May Prevent Cancers

Study Shows Eating Lots of the Pungent Herbs May Keep Certain Types of Cancer at Bay WebMD 11/21/06 "Researchers found moderate consumption of onions appeared to reduce the risk of colorectal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers...The protective effect was even greater among those who ate the most onions compared to those who ate the least. People who ate the most onions also had a lower risk of oral and esophageal cancers than those who ate the least...Moderate use of garlic was also associated with a lower risk of colorectal and renal cell (a type of kidney cancer) cancers...People who ate the most garlic had a lower risk of all cancers except breast and prostate cancers"

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Prenatal DHA for Boost In Babies Intelligence

DHA supplements at pregnancy boost babies' intelligence NutraIngredients 9/1/03 "Researchers in Norway examining the effects of DHA on mental development found that those children whose mothers had a higher intake of DHA during pregnancy scored higher on intelligence and achievement tests at four years of age than those whose mothers took fatty acids not containing DHA...The team found that children born to mothers who had taken the cod liver oil during pregnancy and lactation scored significantly higher (approximately 4.1 points) on the Mental Processing Composite of the K-ABC test compared to children whose mothers had received corn oil"

Full Research Report

The researchers used about 1200mg of DHA daily. This is significantly more than usually recommended. There's a hint in the research that even more is better, but sheesh, how many capsules do these poor women have to swallow?

So again, Choline, DHA and Exercise are potent brain boosters that apparently last a lifetime. Why these aren't getting more press can only be explained in the past by the lack of enough children being born to mothers who had enough of those three.

More on choline here.

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Diet vs Exercise

Weighing Benefits Of Exercise, Diets: Both Work For Weight Loss, But Dieters Also Lose Muscle ScienceDaily 11/17/06 "those who dieted and those who exercised lost a significant amount of weight, according to findings from an NIH-funded study on whether a calorie-restriction diet can extend lifespan. However, while exercisers maintained their strength and muscle mass and increased aerobic capacity, those who dieted lost muscle mass, strength and aerobic capacity...It's important that dieting not be seen as a bad thing because it provides enormous benefits with respect to reducing the risk of disease and is effective for weight loss," Weiss says. "Furthermore, based on studies in rodents, there is a real possibility that calorie restriction provides benefits that cannot be achieved through exercise-induced weight loss"

Of course there really is no "vs", it's both. Easier said than done alas.

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Negative Personality May Hurt Heart

Study Ties Combination of 4 Negative Traits to Men's Heart Disease Risk WebMD 11/17/06 "Men with a strong mix of anger, depression, hostility, and anxiety may be more likely to develop coronary heart disease...Anger, anxiety, depression, and hostility each independently predicted heart disease.
But the mix of those traits, reflected in the combination score, "was the most powerful predictor of heart disease," Suarez says...The study doesn't prove negative personality traits cause heart disease. And it doesn't show exactly how negative personality traits may have affected the men's hearts."

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Research shows health benefits of cranberries

Cranberries are full of antioxidants, can cut bad cholesterol and fight infections MSNBC 11/20/06 "A compound Howell discovered in cranberries, proanthocyanidine, prevents plaque formation on teeth; mouthwashes containing it are being developed to prevent periodontal disease...can kill the H. pylori bacteria, which can cause stomach cancer and ulcers...may increase levels of HDL, or good cholesterol and reduce levels of LDL...may prevent tumors from growing rapidly or starting in the first place...can block urinary infections by binding to bacteria so they can’t adhere to cell walls"

I really don't like cranberries, but with so much promise maybe I'll give them another try this T-day.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Prenatal Choline For A Smarter Baby and Adult

Nutrient during pregnancy 'super-charges' brain NewScientist 3/12/04 "Taking a nutrient called choline during pregnancy could "super-charge" children's brains for life, suggests a study in rats."..."due to having bigger brain cells in vital areas"..."Choline, a member of the vitamin B family, is found in egg yolks, liver and other meats "..."US Institute of Medicine added choline to the list of essential nutrients, particularly for pregnant women, in its 2003 recommendations"..."The neurons of rats born to mothers given extra choline fired electrical signals more rapidly and for longer periods, indicating a capacity to communicate more easily"..."Previous work by Steven Zeisel at the University of North Carolina has shown choline alters a crucial gene by adding a methyl group on to it. This switches off the gene, CDKN-3, which usually inhibits cell division in the memory regions of the brain"
Prenatal Choline Supplements Make Brain Cells Larger, Faster
"The implications for humans are profound, said the researchers, because the collective data on choline suggests that simply augmenting the diets of pregnant women with this one nutrient could affect their children's lifelong learning and memory. In theory, choline could boost cognitive function, diminish age-related memory decline, and reduce the brain's vulnerability toxic insults"

This is very promising research not only for the brain boost the child/adult gets but also the ability for the brain to resist age related cognitive decline. It appears that the crucial time for a boost in choline is in the second half of pregnancy. But since choline is important for the development of the brain throughout pregnancy and the 1st year of the child - it appears that choline should probably be taken early on and through the 1st year where it will pass through lactation. A study in Denver commencing soon will be providing 900mg of choline throughout pregnancy. This appears to be well within safe levels for the mother and child and should allow for some methylation of the cdkn3 gene so that a boost to memory centers occurs.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommends 450mg of choline for pregnant women and 550mg for lactating women. But the key question is at what levels does choline methylate, or turn off the cdkn3 gene that limits stem cell proliferation in the hippocampus. The studies on rodents seem to use 3 or more times the amount of their regular intake of choline. The research so far seems to indicate that the more choline that is ingested the greater the gene silencing that occurs - the more certain sections of the brain are enhanced.

It doesn't appear that an optimal dose for humans has been set, although I suspect that lead researchers in this field have a general idea. As I understand it,1-2gms a day is a level where apparently there are no side effects for most people. 3-5gms a day has been determined to be the upper limit of most people - beyond that is nausea and other side effects.

Other proven brain boosters during the prenatal period are:

DHA (docosahexanoic acid ) from fish oil or from microalgae.


One thing to consider if supplementing with choline is what form of choline you are taking and then find out what percentage of that form is elemental choline (the usable form).

Eggs seem like an ideal source of choline, but eggs apparently range from 125mg of choline to 350mg. Why? I have no idea. Diet? Lifestyle of chicken? Genes?

More info here , here and here .

Update: 2008.05.07 The latest research on choline and IQ here. The thumbnail sketch is that choline in normal concentrations does not seem to affect IQ up to the age of 5. It does not address supplemental choline. What remains to be seen is whether elevated levels of choline, beyond normal concentrations, have an effect in humans as it appears to have in rodents. Also this is only research up to age 5. It will be interesting to see if there is any differences at age 10 regarding those children with lowest prenatal choline levels vs those with the highest.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Two Threatening Bird Flu Mutations

Scientists ID Bird Flu Mutations Likely to Trigger Human Pandemic WebMD 11/15/06 - "The two human mutations give the bird flu virus the ability to attach to human cells. It's the kind of mutation seen early in the 1918, 1957, and 1968 flu pandemics, warn Shinya Yamada of the University of Tokyo and colleagues."

Is anybody else amazed at the lackadaisical response to the greatest potential of pandemic we've had in decades? Recently the cost of global warming was put in terms of economic impact so as to get politicians to act - in the Stern Report. We need a Stern Report for a bird flu pandemic.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The End of Cavities?

Smart drug bites into tooth decay NewScientist 11/18/06 "a "smart bomb" antimicrobial drug that kills the bacteria that live in plaque could stop tooth decay in its tracks"

The idea is to kill only the bad bacteria that causes tooth decay while saving the good bacteria. The technology might also be used for other areas of infection in the body.

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Breastfeeding May Lower Diabetes Risk

Breastfeeding May Lower Diabetes Risk WebMD 11/17/06 "seven studies involving almost 77,000 people were combined, breastfeeding appeared to lower diabetes risk by roughly 39%, "

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Resveratrol, The Best Supplement?

Ok the last entry was a bit flip. So let me make the case that of all supplements, resveratrol seems to have the most promise for longevity and health. And if you find some of your resveratrol in a tipple... cheers.

A Prescription That May Extend Life NYTimes10/31/06

Red Wine Ingredient May Delay Aging WebMD 02/6/06

Red Wine's Resveratrol May Protect Against Unhealthy Diet and Prolong Life WebMD 11/01/06

Compound in Red Wine May Fight Alzheimer's WebMD 11/4/05

Red Wine Ingredient Increases Endurance, Study Shows NYTimes 11/17/06

Red Wine vs. Colon Cancer WebMD 10/24/06

Resveratrol in red wine could cut colorectal cancer risk NutraIngredientsUSA 10/23/06

Resveratrol could prevent ‘flu epidemics NutraIngredientsUSA 5/24/05

Resveratrol, may benefit heart tissue ScienceDaily 12/10/04

Resveratrol Shows Potential Effects Against COPD, Asthma, Arthritis ScienceDialy 11/1/04

A Glass of Red Wine a Day May Cut Prostate Cancer Risk in Half WebMD 9/23/04

Grapes May Minimize Brain Damage In Stroke Victims ScienceDaily 11/27/03

Resveratrol and skin cancer ScienceDaily 10/30/03

Now are all these studies of equal quality? Certainly not. And will some of them prove untrue? Maybe. But what I think can be said is that there is a growing body of research showing that resveratrol has great potential for human health and longevity. I'd argue that no other single supplement has as much potential. The money invested in David Sinclair's company Sirtris is testimony to the fact that large investors feel that resveratrol, or at least a synthetic analog, has great potential.

Maybe we'll hear more about the other antifungal compound found in grapes called pterostilbene once it can be better stabilized in supplement form. Resveratrol and pterostilbene are both phytoalexins.

Doping with Resveratrol?

Red wine component revs endurance in mice - ScienceDaily 11/17/06 "A red wine component shown to extend the lives of mice and protect them from obesity also has been shown to boost endurance"..."Mice fed large doses could run twice as far as they would normally"... the catch for humans?..."have to take hundreds of resveratrol pills or drink hundreds of glasses of wine a day to get equivalent levels tested on the mice."

How long until there are resveratrol blood tests? EGCG from green tea can raise the endurance of mice by 8% - 24%. What a shame then that athletes all over the world were shortening their lives via epo and testosterone when they could have been extending their lives and their wins with specific antioxidants.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Low Folate Diets Tied To Cancer

Low Folate Diets Found To Increase Risk Of Colorectal Cancer - ScienceDaily 11/14/06 "diets low in folate cause colorectal cancer, and follows on the heels of earlier research by the same team that revealed how high folate diets can protect against heart disease"...""None of the mice fed a control diet developed tumours whereas 1 in 4 mice on the folate-deficient diet developed at least one tumour.""..."The study also reveals that folate deficiency causes genes which usually respond to DNA damage to behave abnormally, also contributing to the development of tumours"

Dr. Bruce Ames of Berkeley has been a strong advocate of RDA levels of vitamins and minerals in supplement form. His argument is based on research that shows that deficiencies can lead to long term health problems. This research on folate backs up his position - take a daily RDA multivit supplement.

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Trans Fats horrible for Heart (not really news)

Trans Fats Up Heart Disease Risk - WebMD 11/15/06 "women who ate the most trans fats were more than three times as likely to develop heart disease as those who consumed the least." ... "trans fats are in fact one of the most dangerous forms of fat" In everything..."cookies, baked goods, popcorn, margarines, shortenings, crackers, doughnuts, chips, frozen waffles, and french fries"

What's the argument for not banning trans fats? That we might save tens of thousands of lives each year? And why must the Danish always beat us to doing the right thing? They banned industrial use of trans fats in their food supply in 2004.

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Benefits of Aspirin - cont.

Take an aspirin with that flame-broiled burger - Reuters via Yahoo News 11/16/06 "Cooking meat at high temperatures in direct heat over an open flame can lead to the production of cancer-causing chemicals known as heterocyclic amines, or HCAs" ..."breast cancer was increased a significant 74 percent in women who ate flame-broiled foods more than twice per month compared with women who never ate flame-broiled foods"..."aspirin completely attenuated the increased risk of breast cancer"

More evidence that a daily aspirin is incredibly good for you, barring stomach ailments or internal bleeding of any kind.

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The myth of Amniocentesis risk

Amniocentesis not linked to miscarriage - Reuters via Yahoo News - 11/16/06 "Pregnancy loss was rare in women who underwent amniocentesis and the rate was comparable to that seen in women who did not have the procedure, suggesting that amniocentesis itself really didn't raise the risk of pregnancy loss.
In fact, among women older than 35 years old, the loss rate after amniocentesis (1.06 percent) was actually lower than the loss rate for women who did not undergo amniocentesis (1.92 percent), the researchers note."

Since we're expecting a child we did quite a bit of research on the risks of amnios. As we found out almost all information currently available regarding risk was unfounded and wrong. What does that say about the prenatal health field? This is the second study to find the risk to be incredibly low. Imagine all the parents who opted away from amnios and had children born with genetic diseases that cause tremendous suffering and often short lives. Needless suffering through ignorance. Let's hope obgyn's get the message soon - the old 1 in 200 miscarriage number was never accurate - not even close.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

diet, obesity, gum disease and cancer

"How Diet, Obesity And Even Gum Disease May Affect Immune System And Cancer" - Science Daily, 11/15/06

"Can diseased gums increase the risk of pancreatic cancer? Epidemiologists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston think it could, at least according to the findings of a study analyzing 16 years of health data on more than 52,000 men."

Ok I'll do the Listerine and Sonicare, but I think pancreatic cancer might be better than flossing.

Basically it's more data that inflammation equals a higher chance of cancer. Another argument for aspirin and curcumin.

Also obesity is tied to impaired immune function and greater cancer risk.

"A team of Harvard scientists has peered into 23 years of health data on more than 22,000 physicians and concluded that men who are overweight or obese years before being diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to die of the disease than those who are of normal weight. "

Remember the articles a few years back that argued that obesity had no effect on longevity.? It's not looking so good these days.

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How to live to 85

I'm always a sucker for these types of articles:

"How a Man Can Survive to 85 -- or More: Midlife Choices Put Men on Road to Healthy Old Age or Death " - WebMD, 11,14,06 -

"At middle age, there's a fork in the road for a man's health. One way leads to a two-in-three chance reaching age 85. The other cuts those odds to about one in five."

The better way is:

"No smoking
No more than two alcoholic drinks a day
Normal blood sugar
Normal blood pressure
Not overweight
Physical strength"

Also if you're a man, get married. Single men often die sooner. If you're a woman, getting hitched does nothing for your chances at longevity. Another key point is being interested in daily learning. If the noodle rots, so apparently does the rest of the body.

Nothing all that new here in the way of lessons. What's new are the statistics from the research.

There's more at WebMD - on this large study (5820 men)

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Best Health Web Sites

This is not a complete list by any means. I use many health sites on a regular basis, but the ones below I use far more often.

WebMD - (NEWS - DATABASE) One of the best health web sites in existence. Great place to keep up with health news or to gather information on a variety of diseases. With doctors reviewing every story there is a lower chance for errors.

ScienceDaily - Health & Medicine - (NEWS) Very good site to find information on the latest health and medicine news. If you like other branches of science ScienceDaily can satisfy those urges as well.

EurekAlert! - (NEWS) Great site that gives you the actual press release from the research institution where the health news comes from. The entries are usually far more detailed than average health news websites.

PubMed - (RESEARCH) The best source for looking up the research behind health news. Most of the time you can only access the abstract of an article. But even that can be quite informative. Sometimes there are full articles for free.

RxList - (DATABASE) Great site to get information on your prescription medications. - (REVIEWS) Like consumer reports, but dealing exclusively with the quality of health supplements. Some of the site is free, some of it is subscription.

Ray Sahelian, M.D. - (DATABASE) One of the best sources of information on a wide variety of supplements. Dr. Sahelian takes a cautious and scientific evaluation of supplements. - (NEWS - DATABASE) An extremely good source of information on anti-aging news. Also a very good place to look for new and alternative treatments for disease.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Herbal Database - (DATABASE) Good database on herbal supplements

University of Maryland Medical Center - (DATABASE) Alternative therapy database. Lists conditions and then recommends a list of alternative therapies that might be helpful.

University of Maryland Medical Center Herbal Database - (DATABASE) Another good database on herbal supplements.

WholehealthMD - (DATABASE) Alternative therapy database

RemedyFind - (REVIEWS) A great site that lets users rate the effectiveness of treatments for various health conditions. This goes beyond what drug makers offer and I have found with careful reading and judgement this site can offer greater insights into treatments. It's also a great place to find ideas for new treatments.

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