Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prunes and blueberries might have less antioxidant effect than thought

Not all fruit antioxidants behave alike, USDA 6/13/07 "Not all fruit antioxidants behave the same according to a recent study conducted by USDA researchers, information that reinforces the need for further research into how antioxidants perform in, led by Ronald Prior...As part of the US Department of Agriculture's study, nutritionists from the Agricultural Research Service assessed antioxidant capacity (AOC) measured as Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)...They were given blueberries, grapes, kiwifruit, strawberry, cherry and dried plums...the high antioxidant content of plums, the fruit did not in fact raise the AOC plasma levels in participants. This was attributed to the fact plums contain chlorogenic acid, a phytochemicals not easily absorbed by humans...results for blueberries, which are lauded for their high antioxidant content, were somewhat more surprising. The nutritionists needed significantly large servings - a half-cup serving of the berries - in the study in order to elevate AOC levels...Consumption of grapes and kiwi in the study boosted plasma AOC levels, but the authors said they were not certain which compounds were responsible for this..."

This is a bit surprising. Prunes take a hit. I'll wait for further research before I lessen my intake. And one of the kings of antioxidants the blueberry also takes a knock. Obviously we need much more nuanced research into how antioxidants affect us. For instance there's little study of the many changes to cellular signalling of certain antioxidants - like curcumin.

For reference the same researcher did a similar study on cocoa. Cocoa in the right form is probably better for you than blueberries and can be cheaper. I noticed this week that Hershey's have finally put the number of mg's of flavanols in each serving of some of their higher end chocolates. I hope Dove follows suite. After what Norman Hollenberg of Harvard said of chocolates key antioxidant - that it should be considered as important as penicillin - I'm expecting an all out cocoa war on store shelves for the next few years.

For an alternative theory of how flavanols work look at this research out of OSU - very compelling in parts. Interesting article and well worth visiting.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Herbs can reduce cancer causing compounds in cooked meat

Brush On The Marinade, Hold Off The Cancerous Compounds ScienceDaily 6/27/07 "“Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) in foods have been in the spotlight for many years,” Smith said. “They are carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds that are found at parts per billion levels in cooked fish and meats.”...Previous research has shown that grilled beef is a major source of dietary HCAs when cooked at temperatures from 375 degrees F (190.5 degrees C) and above...Cooking meats with natural antioxidants decreases or eliminates HCAs on meat,” ...such as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. Most of these herbs are rich in three compounds – carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid – that are potent antioxidants...after marinating them with a commercial product containing rosemary and thyme, the cooked product’s level of reduced HCAs – an 87 percent decrease ..."

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Echinacea may prevent colds

Echinacea Could Cut Chance Of Catching Cold By More Than Half, Study Suggests ScienceDaily 6/25/07 ""Echinacea may not only help reduce the symptoms of a cold but may help prevent infection with some cold viruses...People who took echinacea had a 58 percent lower risk of catching a cold, according to the researchers, who did not study the herb's effects directly but looked at the results of 14 studies in an approach called a meta-analysis...Dr. Craig Coleman of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, who led the research, cautioned that the studies only involved 1,600 people. They also involved various echinacea products, so it was still difficult to know for sure if and how echinacea might work to prevent colds..."Someone needs to do a really large, well-done, randomized trial. That is unlikely to occur because there is a lack of funding," Coleman said...drug companies cannot patent such a widely used herbal product, he noted...In 2005, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found echinacea was of no benefit in stopping colds. Coleman said it only looked at part of the also appeared as if echinacea reduced the duration of a cold by 1.4 days on average...Patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis should be particularly careful, he said. In addition, echinacea affects a liver enzyme that breaks down some drugs, so using it with prescription medications could cause drug interactions."

The echinacea debate continues.

Personally I think I've had better luck with things like Cold FX (polyfuranosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides of ginseng) and lately with ImmunExtra (Phenylpropanoid Polysaccharide Complex found in certain pine cones)- both of which I have no ties to. But of course how do you really know these work? That's the rub. Did I get less colds because of them... or for some other reason? Anyway the research behind immunomodulatory effects of polysaccharides seems to grow. It is likely that the polysaccharides in echinacea are some of the key compounds that are helping fight off colds. Likewise for astralagus, yogurt, mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, etc), oats, larch arabinogalactan ,etc -interesting pattern right? A better discussion and topic of research then might be what types of polysaccharides at what doses are optimal for long term human health.

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Vitamin D may increase physical performance for seniors

More vitamin D can put more pep in seniors' steps Reuters/Yahoo!News 6/26/07 "Declining physical performance among some Dutch seniors may not be a simple consequence of aging, it may actually be due to a vitamin D co-author Dr. Paul Lips, of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and his colleagues write...vitamin D status is not uncommon among seniors, which may be explained by their decreased exposure to sunshine, reduced dietary consumption of vitamin D, and reduced capacity to naturally synthesize the vitamin. This deficiency is known to result in bone loss and fractures, among other bone and muscle-related problems...nearly half (47 percent) of the seniors had low vitamin D levels at the start of the study, and their deficiency was associated with poorer physical performance than their peers. Over the 3-year study, these vitamin D-deficient adults were also twice as likely as their peers to exhibit a decline in physical performance, such as taking longer to rise from a sitting position..."

More on the many benefits of vitamin D at the Mayo Clinic. I like their grading system - but they might want to upgrade the "C" rating for vitamin D on cancer. I'd bet the researchers studying how vitamin D can help prevent and fight a variety of cancers would expect at least a "B" grade for D. Their rating on muscle strength and physical performance will, if this study holds up, have to be qualified.

Few sites are as comprehensive as Mayo (thanks to their cooperation with Natural Standard) and one can't fault them too much if a few of their grades are a bit out of date in the ever changing world of health science. Although if by next year some grades haven't changed... I'll fault.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Prenatal omega-3 boosts baby's brainpower

Prenatal omega-3 may boost baby's brainpower Reuters/Yahoo!News 6/22/07 "Children whose mothers get enough omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy may have sharper problem-solving skills in infancy...Researchers found that 9-month-olds whose mothers had eaten DHA-fortified bars during pregnancy performed better on a test of problem-solving abilities than infants whose mothers had not added DHA to their diets...experts recommend that pregnant women get 300 milligrams (mg) of DHA each day...U.S. women meet this goal...It's not entirely clear what the better problem-solving performance at 9 months of age will mean later in life. However, other studies have found that DHA supplements during pregnancy seem to offer a "developmental advantage" later in childhood as well, Dr. Carol J. Lammi-Keefe, a co-author on the current study...One study found that giving women fish oil during pregnancy and during the first few months of breastfeeding seemed to boost their children's IQ scores at age 4..."DHA during pregnancy has benefits for infant neural development, and most pregnant women can benefit from increasing the intake of DHA in their diets,"..."

Best to get your DHA from either algae based capsules, or fish oil. Both will be safer - no heavy metals issue associated with actual fish.

But again, if it's brain boosting you want for your child, omega-3's offer only a small boost compared to what choline appears to offer.

Also 300mg of DHA is probably too low. Research from Norway has shown greater benefits with higher amounts of DHA. As with choline, I'm sure you'll see the recommended prenatal dose grow year after year. In the Norwegian study they used 1200mg a day. It's the over cautious school of medicine that is at work here. If you want to wait another decade or two before everything is conclusive, stay at the low doses of these. If you want greater health and intellectual benefit for your child - the research is fairly clear - go with a higher dose.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Provigil Relieves "Chemobrain"

Provigil Boosts Memory, Concentration in Women Receiving Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer WebMD 6/5/07 "...“After just four weeks of treatment, we saw improvements in their ability to recall,” says researcher Sadhna Kohli, PhD...“Those who continued taking the drug for eight weeks saw improvements in attention,” ...Provigil seems to boost brainpower without causing the jittery, restless feelings induced by amphetamines, Kohli explains. It stimulates the brain only when it is required, with effects dissipating in about 12 hours. As a result, sleep-deprived college students, athletes, soldiers, or others who want to gain an edge in a competitive environment sometimes seek out the drug, calling it a “genius pill.”..."

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Omega 3 fatty acids and prostate cancer

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help Slow Prostate Cancer Growth ScienceDaily 6/21/07 ""This study clearly shows that diet can tip the balance toward a good or a bad outcome," said senior researcher Yong Q. Chen, Ph.D...Mice with the tumor suppressor gene remained free of tumors and had 100 percent survival, regardless of diet. In mice with the gene defect, survival was 60 percent in animals on the high omega-3 diet, 10 percent in those on the low omega-3 diet and 0 percent in those on the high omega-6 diet..."This suggests that if you have good genes, it may not matter too much what you eat," said Chen, a professor of cancer biology. "But if you have a gene that makes you susceptible to prostate cancer, your diet can tip the balance. Our data demonstrate the importance of gene-diet interactions, and that genetic cancer risk can be modified favorable by omega-3 PUFA."..."

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gene-expression biomarkers as tool to measure anti aging drugs effectiveness

Gene-expression biomarkers: A tool for developing longevity-enhancing drugs? Ouroboros 6/19/07 "The discovery (and approval) of anti-aging pharmaceuticals is hindered by at least one major practical impediment: Measurement of the simplest biological endpoint of interest — length of lifespan — takes a long time. This is true even if one focuses first on shorter-lived model organisms: a normal healthy mouse can live for several years in a laboratory environment, and if this mouse is taking an effective longevity drug then (by assumption) one will take longer than that to observe the increase in lifespan...Consequently, much attention has been paid to the idea of aging biomarkers, i.e., phenotypes that can be measured throughout the lifespan and that reflect the percent of lifespan that has elapsed...Gene expression measurements are excellent biomarkers: they are both quantitative (”I am expressing three times as much of gene A at age 2 than I was at age 1″), and also robust — because one can measure all of the genes in the genome simultaneously, using microarrays or similar approaches, small perturbations in the levels of single transcripts don’t obscure the overall picture...One major advantage of using gene expression biomarkers to monitor the effect of candidate longevity drugs is that one doesn’t have to wait a human lifetime (or even a mouse lifetime) in order to observe clues that a drug have anti-aging activity"

The anti-diabetic drug metformin is mentioned as hitting some of the genetic biomarkers as CR. More at Ouroboros. Which brings up a question that Ouroboros raised a short while back - might CR and CR drug mimics cause depression? Does metformin cause depression? It doesn't appear to. In the list of adverse effects, depression is not one. Oddly, raised levels of homocysteine for long term users and also decreased B-12 absorption (the two are related) are listed as side effects. If metformin does increases lifespan for us, it does it in the face of some popular but crude aging biomarkers like homcysteine levels.

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Low-carb diet bad for gut health?

Low-carb diet bad for gut health? 6/19/07 "Eating a low-carbohydrate diet, like the once fashionable Atkins diet, may adversely affect the numbers of certain types of bacteria in the gut of obese men...may also adversely affect the gut bacterial populations that beneficially produce a substance called butyrate, which has been shown to be important for keeping the gut healthy including helping to prevent colorectal cancer..."The changes in faecal butyrate in the present study represent the largest reported in a human dietary trial and provide the strongest evidence to date that butyrate production is largely determined by the content of fermentable carbohydrate in the diet," wrote lead author Sylvia Duncan..."Furthermore, this study has provided clear evidence that the proportions of certain groups of colonic bacteria, as monitored in faecal samples, respond to dietary carbohydrate intake," ...Levels of so-called beneficial bacteria, particularly the bifidobacteria were also detrimentally affected by decreasing carb levels..."

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Isradipine slows and might stop Parkinson's disease

Drug Slows And May Halt Parkinson's Disease ScienceDaily 6/12/07 "...The drug rejuvenates aging dopamine cells...D. James Surmeier, the Nathan Smith Davis Professor and chair of physiology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and his team of researchers have found that isradipine, a drug widely used for hypertension and stroke, restores stressed-out dopamine neurons to their vigorous younger selves. The study is described in a feature article in the international journal Nature, which will be published on-line June 10...Isradipine may also significantly benefit people who already have Parkinson's disease. In animal models of the disease, Surmeier's team found the drug protected dopamine neurons from toxins that would normally kill them by restoring the neurons to a younger state in which they are less vulnerable...When he gave the mice isradipine, it blocked the calcium from entering the dopamine neuron. At first, the dopamine neurons became silent. But within a few hours, they had reverted to their childhood ways, once again using sodium to get their work done. ..."This lowers the cells' stress level and makes them much more resistant to any other insult that's going to come along down the road. They start acting like they're youngsters again," Surmeier said... "

Steve - caught this tonight. You might know about it already - seems promising. Maybe Isradipine would help with your dad.

Infants and Antibiotics: Asthma Risk?

Link Between Antibiotic Use by Infants and Development of Asthma WebMD 6/11/07 "Infants who receive antibiotics in their first year of life are more likely to develop asthma by age 7, and multiple courses of the drugs boost the risk more..."In children receiving five or more courses of antibiotics in the first year, the risk of asthma was 1.5 times more likely than in children getting no antibiotics [during their first year]," study researcher Anita Kozyrskyj, PhD..."The link between antibiotics and asthma was seen in children born to mothers without asthma, who are considered at low risk," ...the study shows having a dog in the household while the child is a baby confers a protective effect...Dogs bring in different germs," she says. And that could strengthen a child's immunity...cats didn't offer the same effect, she says, and may actually boost risk, although the evidence for that in the study was weak...speculates that because antibiotics can kill off the microflora (natural bacteria) in your intestinal tract, "it may change your immune system, making you more vulnerable to developing asthma."...asthma is a complex disease. "It's also genetic. We've identified one factor." But many factors underlie the condition...if your child does need an antibiotic, you can ask your child's doctor if it is possible to use a narrow-spectrum antibiotic rather than a broad-spectrum (effective against a wider range of bacteria) cephalosporin (a class of antibiotics). In her study, she also found that broad-spectrum cephalosporin antibiotics (such as Ceftin and Cefzil) boosted the risk of getting asthma more than other antibiotics..."

The evidence for hygeine hypothesis of the immune system grows. One of the criticisms of this hypothesis has been that it cannot explain the raising rates of asthma in inner city kids. Maybe now it can, in part.

ScienceDaily on this same topic back in 2003. BBC on this in 2006.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Milk now ok with tea?

Tea—Milking It Science News 6/2/07 "...Janet A.M. Kyle and her colleagues at the Rowett Research Institute purchased different teas from local stores, brewed them up, and then assayed their antioxidant activity. In a paper published online and in an upcoming Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they report finding some brand-related differences in the inherent antioxidant activity of a brew. The good news: Adding milk doesn't alter that activity. ...they found, adding milk to tea doesn't diminish the amount of antioxidants—such as the epigallocatechin gallate, which many commercial teas tout as EGCG—that ends up in tea-drinkers' blood. So, it appears one can safely boost the protein content of your brew, by adding milk, without sacrificing tea's antioxidant bounty... "

Although milk may bind to quercetin and kaempferol, in this study it doesn't appear to diminish antioxidant activity in the body. Another larger study should put this debate to rest. I'm hoping that milk proves to be ok, because I've been missing it in my tea.

Earlier research found that the caseins in milk bound up the catechins in tea so that the cardiovascular benefit of tea was greatly minimized.

So who's right? Stay tuned.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vitamin D Reduces Cancer Risk

Study: Vitamin D Reduces Cancer Risk Washington Post via 7/8/07 "...vitamin D cut the risk of several types of cancer by 60 percent overall for older women in the most rigorous study yet..."The findings ... are a breakthrough of great medical and public health importance," declared Cedric Garland, a prominent vitamin D researcher at the University of California-San Diego. "No other method to prevent cancer has been identified that has such a powerful impact."...The skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight's ultraviolet rays. This study used that same form of the vitamin, known as D3 or cholecalciferol. Multivitamins usually carry a much weaker variant known as D2, but D3 is available in stand-alone dietary supplements...The research team gave 1,000 daily international units of vitamin D...And when the first-year cancers were excluded _ the ones mostly likely present before the study began _ the findings were stronger still: a 77 percent lower risk for the combo group...Joan Lappe, the study's lead researcher, said it "just adds to the great bunch of evidence that we need to have better vitamin D nutrition."..."

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Prenatal vitamins cut childhood cancers

Moms' prenatal vitamins cut childhood cancers Reuters/Yahoo!News 7/7/07 "Women who take multivitamins before and during pregnancy apparently reduce the chances that their offspring will develop certain types of childhood tumors...taking a multivitamin before and in early pregnancy reduced the risk of childhood leukemia by 36 percent...also associated with a 47 percent reduced risk of neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor arising in nerve tissue, and a 27 percent decreased risk of childhood brain tumors...Koren's team suspects that folic-acid containing multivitamins in particular are behind the decrease in these childhood cancers, but "the available data do not allow determination of which of the constituent(s) may cause these protective effects."Nonetheless, they conclude: "Given that women who are considering pregnancy are generally advised to supplement with folic acid, the results from this study suggest that supplementation with a folic acid-containing multivitamin may be a preferred method.""

Along with this don't forget the choline for even greater health of child - and a smarter child.

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How Curcumin Helps Fight Cancer

How Curcumin Helps Fight Cancer Medical News Today 5/31/07 "...The immune system of patients with advanced cancer is significantly weakened, mostly because the main cells that fight off tumors either cannot proliferate anymore or have died off. Curcumin was previously shown to have anti-tumor activity but its effects on the immune system were unknown - until now...Gaurisankar Sa and colleagues showed that curcumin boosts the immune system of tumor-bearing mice by restoring key immune cells called CD4 and CD8 T cells. The scientists also showed that curcumin increases the production of proteins that cause immune cells to proliferate and reduces the production of proteins that destroy immune cells..."

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Decreased vitamin D linked to shorter telomeres

Decreased Vitamin D Levels Linked to Shorter Telomeres Doctors Guide 6/5/07 "Decreased vitamin D levels are linked to shorter telomeres, the end pieces of DNA, according to a study presented here at the 89[th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society (ENDO)...The study used data from the TwinsUK cohort to assess if there was a relationship between vitamin D levels and length of telomeres, said lead investigator John Brent Richards, MD...Dr. Richards noted that telomeres shorten in length with each cell cycle and have been demonstrated to degrade when exposed to inflammation. He explained that vitamin D is thought to inhibit a pro-inflammatory response...We can think of the telomeres as having a biological clock that is ticking," explained Richards. "We know that factors such as smoking can affect telomere length."...Investigators found the difference in TRFL between the highest and lowest tertiles of vitamin D was 92.6 base pairs (P =.006). That result was equivalent to 4.2 years of telomeric aging..."What we have seen is an association," said Dr. Richards. "We can't say if vitamin D is causing this.""

4.2 years. Nothing to sneeze at... for now.

Another condemnation of inflammation and another possible accolade for vit. D. A pattern? Yerp. But who knew the two would come together around telomeres. That's news to me. I'm left wondering what other anti inflammatory agents might protect telomeres from "premature" shortening? The article isn't specific about what anti inflammatory response vit. D is causing. Is it the anti inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10?

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Calorie restriction and depression

So hungry, so sad: Calorie restriction and depression Ouroboros 5/31/07 "Mood is intimately connected to feeding behavior, which in turn impacts mood. Given that a fairly radical departure from normal feeding — calorie restriction (CR) — is one of the most widely discussed and promising means of extending lifespan in a wide range of organisms, it seems reasonable to ask whether CR significantly impacts psychology. (It has already been reported that CR in humans can result in behavioral changes including hoarding.)..."A history of caloric restriction induces neurochemical and behavioral changes in rats consistent with models of depression"..."Chronic food restriction in young rats results in depression- and anxiety-like behaviors with decreased expression of serotonin reuptake transporter"..."

An excellent post, as often is the case, by Ouroboros - much more info at link above. Chris seems to think there is some evidence of this in the research but that a rigorous long term study looking at the behavioral and neurochemical effects of CR is much needed - along with the longevity research . I agree. As he put it,

"The CR field has been good about measuring not just quantity of life but also quality — but thus far, “quality of life” has been limited to readily quantified metrics of health, rather than evidence of psychological well-being (or its lack)."

This is just anecdotal, but more often then not when I see interviews with folks practicing a true CR regimen, they manifest what seems to me a very flat affect. I've not seen much written about Roy Walford's personality before CR. But certainly in his books and interviews before CR he seemed to be a very passionate person. But he and his daughter, during CR, seemed curiously flat in interviews. I do wonder if any of Roy's friends noticed a difference. Of course it could be that during those interviews he and his daughter might not be feeling well, unrelated to CR. Any number of other variables could be affecting them - so who knows. Anyway this is my observation after watching a small number (6) of CR folks in interviews. Also, there's no way to know if the others were practicing CR correctly - or even if CR just doesn't agree with their body.

Maybe CR does not affect the brain negatively. I hope that is the case, esp. for CR mimic compounds. If it is the case that CR mimic compounds do affect the brain negatively, can you imagine a workaround arriving any time soon - other than having to take antidepressants and hoping they'll work? Neither can I.

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