Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nutrition Rating Symbols Should Appear In Front Of Drink And Food Packaging

A system with symbols to illustrate the calorie, trans fats, sodium and added sugars should be displayed in the front of drink and food packaging, says the Institute of Medicine, USA, in a new report. The new system should be used on all foods and drinks - they should replace current systems placed on packaging. It is important for customers to know clearly and rapidly details on their products' serving size and nutritional characteristics.

Committee chair Ellen Wartella, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Professor of Communication, professor of psychology, and director, Center on Media and Human Development, School of Communication, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., said:

"Our report offers a path to develop an Energy Star equivalent for foods and beverages. A successful front-of-package nutrition rating system would enable shoppers to instantly recognize healthier products by their number of points and calorie information. It would encourage food and beverage producers to develop healthier fare and consumers to purchase products that are lower in calories and food components that contribute to chronic disease."

Symbols used to reflect nutritional value and health benefits would form a rating system, the authors explain; the more points a product has, the healthier it is. The focus would be on energy content (calories), saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. Foods and beverages that scored below certain points would be below acceptable recommended levels.

The points system would have a maximum of three points - a product could earn 1 point for sodium, one for added sugars and one for trans fats and saturated fats, below a certain level in each case. A product with three points would be deemed healthy.

The IoM (Institute of Medicine) gives the example of whole wheat bread versus graham crackers:
  • Whole wheat bread - this would qualify for 3 points
  • Graham crackers - this would earn 2 points (bad fats and sodium below the thresholds)
The points would be clearly placed on the product in the form of check marks, stars, or some other kind of icon. The symbol would be decided by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

A separate set of criteria would be used to decide whether a product is eligible to earn points. Any product that exceeded the eligibility criteria would be banned from displaying any points. Hence, a sugar-sweetened soda might have low sodium and saturated or trans fats, but because its sugar content is very high, the manufacturer would not be allowed to place the points reflecting the low bad fats and low sodium content.

Regardless of how many points a product earns, calories per serving should be prominently displayed in a way that is familiar or user friendly for the consumer, such as calories per slice or per cup.

There should be an indication on the front of the package where nutritional information is on the back, in case the purchasers requires additional data on the healthfulness of the food or drink.

This report has been done in two phases. During Phase 1, the Committee focused on displaying symbols and points to reflect the sodium, calories, and saturated or trans fats, because they are strongly linked to the risk of developing chronic diseases. In Phase 2 they decided that information on added sugars should also be displayed.

Americans were urged to cut down on their consumption of food and beverages that had added sugars in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Those guidelines were issued after the release of the first report.

Several products have been deemed 'high in added sugars' by the USDA (Department of Agriculture) - they have been placed in a category called 'Sugars, Sweets, and Beverages'. Products in this category are not allowed to earn points in this new proposed system.

The authors of the report say that retail outlets and food manufacturers should make sure the symbols are displayed in consistent locations so that shoppers can rapidly learn how to compare different products across categories.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Better Diet Equals Better Sperm

Two studies presented at a conference in the US this week suggest that better diets make for better sperm: one compared a Western diet hight in red meat to one high in fish, vegetables and whole grains and found the latter was linked to higher sperm motility, and the second found that a diet high in trans fats was linked to lower sperm counts.

Dr Edward Kim, President of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, said in a statement:

"We are still exploring the impact of nutrition on male fertility, but even these initial studies point to a link between a good diet and reproductive health for men."

From the first study presentation, delegates at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Orlando, Florida, learned how an international team from the Harvard School of Public Health, University of Rochester and the University of Murcia in Spain conducted an analysis of data taken from the University of Rochester's Young Men's Study that recruited men aged 18-22 to fill in questionnaires about their diet and have their semen tested.

The tests took standard measures of semen quality, including sperm concentration, motility (ability to move properly toward the egg) and morphology (having the right shape to penetrate the egg).

In their statistical analysis, the researchers adjusted the results to rule out the potential influence of other factors such as race, smoking status and BMI. They then analyzed the men's results according to two factors: those whose diets were high in intake of red meat and refined grains (the "Western" diet), and those with a more "Prudent" diet, with high intakes of fish, vegetables and whole grains.

The results showed that following a Prudent diet was linked to higher sperm motility, while sperm morphology showed no particular links with diet, and after the researchers adjusted for total calorie intake, neither did sperm concentration.

From the second study presentation, delegates at the meeting learned how researchers recruited men attending the Fertility Center at Massachusetts General Hospital to fill in food journals and agree to undergo semen tests. In this study, a subset of the participants also had their semen tested for trans fats.

The results showed that the higher the trans fats in the diet, the lower the sperm concentration. Such a diet was also tied to higher levels of trans fats in the sperm and the seminal plasma or fluid.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD

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Turning Up The Heat To Kill Cancer Cells: The 'Lance Armstrong Effect'

The "Lance Armstrong effect" could become a powerful new weapon to fight cancer cells that develop resistance to chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments, scientists say in a report in the ACS journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Robert Getzenberg and Donald Coffey explain that many advances have occurred in the 40 years since President Nixon declared a "War on Cancer" on December 23, 1971. However, cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide, claiming almost 8 million lives annually. Patients with some forms of cancer respond well to treatment, while others have disease that becomes resistant to every known treatment. Patients with testicular cancer have a high survival rate - more than 70 percent - even if the cancer metastasizes, or spreads. For example, Lance Armstrong, the famous cyclist, beat metastatic testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain, and then went on to win the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times. But patients with pancreatic cancer have only a 25 percent survival rate in the first year and a 6 percent survival rate by the fifth year after diagnosis. Why is this?

Getzenberg and Coffey realized that the microenvironment of testicular cancer cells was a little different. Testicles are usually several degrees cooler than the rest of the body, owing to their position outside the body. When cancer cells from the testicles spread to other organs, such as the lungs or brain, they encounter a warmer environment. The researchers propose that this warmth shocks the tumor cells, making them more susceptible to conventional cancer therapies, which leads to a higher survival rate among testicular cancer patients. This is the so-called "Lance Armstrong effect." The researchers describe tests now underway on nanoparticle therapies to specifically heat other types of tumors above their normal temperatures to see whether this effect holds true for non-testicular cancers.

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Higher Levels Of Estrogen, Testosterone, Linked To Increased Breast Cancer Risk

Post-menopausal women with high levels of hormones such as estrogen or testosterone are known to have a higher risk of breast cancer. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Breast Cancer Research looked at eight different sex and growth hormones and found that the risk of breast cancer increased with the number of elevated hormones - each additional elevated hormone level increased risk by 16%.

Researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School used blood samples collected from nurses up to nine years before health information, including their breast cancer status, was recorded. Post-menopausal women who were diagnosed with breast cancer were matched to two controls of a similar age.

The highest levels of circulating estrogens (estrone and estrogen), prolactin, and androgens (testosterone, androstenedione, DHEA, or DHEA-sulfate) were individually associated with between 50 and 200% increase in breast cancer risk. The number of different hormones elevated above normal further increased risk, so that women with one elevated hormone had an increased risk of 10% (compared to normal levels), but the risk for women with five or six elevated hormone levels was doubled, and that for women with seven or eight was tripled. All these risks were slightly higher for women with ER positive disease.

Dr Shelley Tworoger, from Brigham and Women's Hospital, commented that, "Elevated estrogens had the biggest effect on risk, especially for ER positive cancer. However, androgens, and prolactin also contribute to increasing risk of breast cancer. These hormones are known to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab and, while androgens can be converted to estrogen in the body, these hormones have also been found to stimulate cancer cell growth in the absence of ER. Our results suggest that models used to assess breast cancer risk could be improved by taking into account multiple sex hormone and growth hormone levels."

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Study Implicates Hyperinsulinemia In Increased Incidence Of Autism

A review of the genetic and biochemical abnormalities associated with autism reveals a possible link between the widely diagnosed neurological disorder and Type 2 diabetes, another medical disorder on the rise in recent decades.

"It appears that both Type 2 diabetes and autism have a common underlying mechanism - impaired glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia," said Rice University biochemist Michael Stern, author of the opinion paper, which appears online in this month's issue of Frontiers in Cellular Endocrinology.

Hyperinsulinemia, often a precursor to insulin resistance, is a condition characterized by excess levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance is often associated with both obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

"It will be very easy for clinicians to test my hypothesis," said Stern, professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice. "They could do this by putting autistic children on low-carbohydrate diets that minimize insulin secretion and see if their symptoms improve."

Stern said the new finding also suggests that glucose tolerance in pregnant women may need to be addressed more seriously than it is now.

Stern said he first realized there could be a common link between Type 2 diabetes and autism a few years ago, but he assumed someone else had already thought of the idea.

Stern's lab, which is located at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative, specializes in investigating the genetic interactions associated with genetic diseases like neurofibromatosis, a disorder in which patients are several times more likely to be afflicted with autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) like Asperger's syndrome.

Autism and ASD are neurological disorders that have a strong but poorly understood genetic basis. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about nine out of 1,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with ASD.

Stern said at least four genes associated with increased frequency in autism are known to produce proteins that play key roles in a biochemical pathway known as PI3K/Tor. Stern said he had been studying a form of abnormal function in the synapses of fruit flies that was remarkably similar to abnormalities observed in rats and mice with defects in a different pathway known as mGluR-mediated long-term depression.

"I had also spent a lot of time thinking about insulin signaling because another project in my lab is an endocrinology project in which we're studying how key proteins involved in insulin signaling affect the timing of metamorphosis in fruit flies," Stern said.

From his studies in both areas, Stern knew two things: PI3K/Tor was the major pathway for insulin signals within cells, and insulin could affect synapses in a remarkably similar way to the mGluR defects associated with autism.

"When I read that the incidence of autism was increasing, and combined that with the fact that the incidence of Type 2 diabetes is also increasing, it seemed reasonable that each increase could have the same ultimate cause - the increase in hyperinsulinemia in the general population," Stern said. "I didn't do anything with this notion for a few years because it seemed so obvious that I figured everyone already knew this hypothesis, or had tested it and found it was not true."

Stern said he changed his mind a few months ago when a health care consulting firm asked him to provide input about autism.

"In preparing for this interview, I discovered that gestational diabetes was the most important identified maternal risk factor for autism, but that 'no known mechanism could account for this,'" Stern recalled. "When I read this, I was speechless. That's when I realized that this was not obvious to others in the field, so I decided to write this up with the hope that clinicians might become aware of this and treat their patients accordingly."

In writing the article, Stern said he learned that the role of insulin in cognitive function is becoming more widely accepted.

"I was checking to see if insulin was known to affect synaptic function, and I learned that the nasal application of insulin is already being tested to see if it is beneficial for both Alzheimer's and schizophrenia."

Stern said he also found preliminary studies that indicated that low-carb diets were therapeutic for some individuals with autism and ASD.

"Based on what's already in the literature, insulin needs to be taken seriously as a causative element in autism," Stern said. "I hope that clinicians will take the next step and put this to a rigorous test and determine how to best use this information to benefit patients."

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Women Do Not Get Enough Vitamin D During The Menopause

A healthy diet is especially important during the menopause a period in which the risk of suffering from health problems increases. Various studies analyse the diet of peri and postmenopausal women in Spain alongside the troubles that come with this transition. The results show that all of those groups studied have a deficient intake of vitamin D.

Marina Pollán, researcher at the Carlos III Institute of Health and one of the authors of the study explains that "biological and physiological changes in women caused by the menopause come with a greater risk of developing health problems in which diet plays an important role. These include diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer."

Therefore, the analysis of dietary patterns during and after the menopause is of particular interest because of its health implications. However, in Spain there have been very few studies that have assessed the diet of peri- and postmenopausal women.

In order to study these dietary habits, the authors of the study analysed 3574 women from the age of 45 to 68 from October 2007 to July 2008. Each programme contained a minimum of 500 women from seven Spanish cities (La Coruña, Barcelona, Burgos, Palma de Mallorca, Pamplona, Valencia and Zaragoza) and involved a food frequency questionnaire validated by the Spanish population.

The results show that obesity rates stand at 29% whereas 42% of subjects are overweight. Average calorie intake was 2053 kilocalories (with 43% of energy intake coming from carbohydrates, 36% from fats and 20% from proteins). Researchers highlight that practically all of the women received the recommended intake of all the vitamins, apart from D and E.

The case of vitamin D is striking given that none of the groups reached 50% of their RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). The average total intake was 2.14 micrograms per day, which constitutes just 39% of the RDA for women of this age group.

"A diet with less fat and protein that is high in vegetables, nuts, and carbohydrate-rich foods will even out the energy balance and corrects levels of vitamin D and E,"according to the researchers. "This is especially important in places that are far away from the Mediterranean Sea where women have a greater tendency to fall short of the current recommendations."

A greater risk of obesity

Another study lead by Faustino R. Pérez-López, coordinator of the study group of the Spanish Association for the Study of the Menopause, links body weight with metabolic and hormonal parameters in 574 postmenopausal women.

Published in the Gynecological Endocrinology journal, the results confirm that Body Mass Index (BMI) during the menopause increases with ages, the time that the menopause began, the number of children and also with blood sugar levels, triglyceride levels and systolic blood pressure.

Pérez-López points out that "this allows us to propose lifestyles changes that could improve quality of life and reduce the mortality rate associated with obesity if they are adopted early on."

Body fat mass distribution, weight regulation and hormone secretion of fat are all different when it comes to men and women. Abdominal obesity is more frequent in postmenopausal women. It increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnoea, cancer, arthrosis, mental health problems and even death.

Furthermore, peri- and postmenopausal obesity intensifies the symptoms of the menopause and it is associated with a lower quality of life than that of women of normal weight. "Experimental studies of animals and women show that treatment with ovarian hormones can impede weight gain and muscle mass loss," according to the researcher.

Sexuality during the menopause

Another study by Faustino R. Pérez-López, published in the Journal of Sex Medicine, deals with the female sexuality during the menopause. This is usually characterised by organic changes within themselves and their partner alike, previous sexual dysfunctions and socio-demographic factors that change from region to region, or even from one period of time to another.

Experts used the Changes in Sexual Function Questionnaire (CCFS) which consists of 14 simple questions. Its results show that 64.1% of the 117 volunteers (between February and November of 2010 in the Hospital Central de Asturias in Oviedo and the Hospital Cabueñes in Gijón, Spain) admitted to suffering from female sexual dysfunction.

Pérez-López outlines the importance of highlighting that "a third of Western women display some form of sexual dysfunction throughout their lives. This sometimes comes hand in hand with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and a decrease in their quality of life."

Sexual arousal problems are related to a lowered quality of life and also to urogenital tract problems whereas orgasm problems maintain a link with a decrease in the quality of life. Signs of depression are associated with the supposed onset of female sexual dysfunction.

The score from the CCFS showed a positive correlation between the educational attainment of the woman and her partner and the frequency with which she engages in sexual relations. They showed a negative correlation with depression," according to the conclusions of Pérez-López, who points out that more studies are necessary before we take these findings as a given when talking about other population groups.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Exercise Safe In Pregnancy But Does Not Guarantee Weight Control

It is safe to do most forms of exercise during pregnancy, but expectant mothers should be aware that physical activity alone will not prevent them from putting on excessive weight, Brazilian researchers revealed in BJOG - An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy, or being overweight during pregnancy raises certain risks for the mother and child - there is a greater chance the baby might have a birth defect, while the mother may suffer from high blood pressure and other health problems.

Simony Nascimento, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UNICAMP Medical School, Campinas, Brazil, and team set out to determine how effective and safe physical exercise might be regarding maternal and perinatal outcomes and the perception of QoL (quality of life) in overweight/obese pregnant mothers.

They carried out a randomized, controlled clinical trial on 82 pregnant women aged at least 18 years. Their BMI (body mass index) before they were pregnant was at least 26. All the women were from 14 to 24 weeks pregnant.

BMI is a rough measurement of a person's weight in relation to their height. An individual of normal weight has a BMI of between 18 and 25, overweight is between 25 and 30, and obese is 30+.

They were randomly selected into two groups:
  • The study group - they did exercise with supervision and were given counseling on home exercise or daily walking, nutrition and weight gain.
  • The control group - they were monitored through a standard prenatal care program. There was no extra information or supervision on exercise, etc.
The researchers' focus (primary outcomes) was how much weight the mothers' gained during the program, as well as how much excessive weight they gained during their pregnancy. They also gathered data on the participants' blood pressure, perinatal outcomes and quality of life.

The researchers found that:
  • 47% of those in the study group gained more weight than they should have done, compared to 57% of those in the control group.
  • Gestational weight gain was the same in both groups.
  • Blood pressure was similar in the two groups
  • There was no statistical difference in the weight gain experienced by obese women in both groups - from 23 to 24 pounds
  • Overweight women gained 22 pounds (average) in the study group and 36 pounds in the control group
  • Most of the mothers in both groups had C-section deliveries
  • Babies' health at birth were similar in both groups
The authors caution that this was a small study.

In an Abstract in the journal, the authors concluded:

"The exercise program was not associated with control of gestational weight gain in our sample as a whole, but was beneficial for lower gestational weight gain in overweight women. Exercise was not associated with adverse perinatal outcomes and did not affect variation in arterial blood pressure or the perception of QoL."

Written by Christian Nordqvist

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Junk Food Shown To Cause Infertility In Younger Men

A joint American and Spanish study released this week shows that Junk food, especially foods with trans fats, can make healthy young men infertile by damaging their sperm.

Fertility experts from Harvard University and the University of Murcia, in southern Spain, analyzed sperm from hundreds of men aged between 18 and 22 and found those whose diet consisted more of junk food had lower quality sperm than those with a healthier diet.

The men were all assessed to ensure they were in good health and had no other issues that might effect their fertility and the sperm of those with "junk" diets seemed less likely to survive inside the womb so they could fertilize the egg and this was even the case if the men were at a balanced weight and took regular exercise.

Japanese scientists looking for similar traits focused more around exercise, showed that of the 215 men they studied those who took moderate exercise, even just brisk walking, had sperm with better swimming abilities than those who were less active.

In other fertility news, researchers from Oxford University in England, have come up with a new technique to increase the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Generally speaking when doctors fertilize eggs under lab conditions with a hope to implant them, in the women that is having trouble conceiving for whatever reason, more than half of the embryos have genetic defects. These defects are known as aneuploidies and in short the cells have too many or too few chromosomes. Unfortunately its hard to detect these problems and obviously fertility doctors want to avoid implanting these embryos.

The new technique from Oxford allows testing for new types of genetic defects and during tests on more than 200 eggs and embryos the research showed it was possible to measure the mitochondria and telomeres with considerable accuracy.

Once the link between the characteristics and the fertility rates are measured, it will become easier to select only the best embryos to implant during IVF.

Written by Rupert Shepherd.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

New Breeds Of Broccoli Remain Packed With Health Benefits

Research performed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and published recently in the journal Crop Science has demonstrated that mineral levels in new varieties of broccoli have not declined since 1975, and that the broccoli contains the same levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and other minerals that have made the vegetable a healthy staple of American diets for decades.

"This research provides data on the nutritional content of broccoli for breeders to consider as they further improve this important vegetable," said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency. "The research demonstrates how ARS is helping to find answers to agricultural problems that impact Americans every day, from field to table."

A team of three scientists evaluated the mineral content of 14 broccoli cultivars released over a span of more than 50 years: ARS geneticist and research leader Mark Farnham at the agency's U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C.; plant physiologist Michael Grusak at the USDA-ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas; and Clemson University scientist Anthony Keinath.

The researchers grew the 14 cultivars in two field trials in 2008 and 2009, and harvested florets for testing.

"Our studies show that not much has changed in terms of mineral content in the last 35 years in a crop that has undergone significant improvement from a quality standpoint and that was not widely consumed in the United States before the 1960s," said Farnham.

Broccoli florets in the study were tested for levels of calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sodium, phosphorous, sulfur and zinc. Results indicated significant cultivar differences in floret concentrations of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous and zinc, but not of potassium, manganese, molybdenum or sulfur. There was no clear relationship between mineral concentration and release year.

"For broccoli cultivars grown during the past 35 years, when hybrids became the standard cultivar, evidence indicates that mineral concentrations remain unchanged," said Farnham. "As broccoli breeders continue to improve this crop in the future, data from this study can serve as a very useful guide in helping breeders understand the variation in mineral concentrations they should expect among their breeding stocks and also provide a realistic baseline that should be maintained as other characteristics are manipulated in the future."

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eating green veggies improves immune defenses

Researchers reporting online in the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, on October 13th have found another good reason to eat your green vegetables, although it may or may not win any arguments with kids at the dinner table.

It turns out that green vegetables -- from bok choy to broccoli -- are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.

"It is still surprising to me," said Marc Veldhoen of The Babraham Institute in Cambridge. "I would have expected cells at the surface would play some role in the interaction with the outside world, but such a clear cut interaction with the diet was unexpected. After feeding otherwise healthy mice a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, I was amazed to see 70 to 80 percent of these protective cells disappeared."

Those protective IELs exist as a network beneath the barrier of epithelial cells covering inner and outer body surfaces, where they are important as a first line of defense and in wound repair.

Veldhoen's team now finds that the numbers of IELs depend on levels of a cell-surface protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which can be regulated by dietary ingredients found primarily in cruciferous vegetables. Mice lacking this receptor lose control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface, both in terms of their numbers and composition.

Earlier studies suggested that breakdown of cruciferous vegetables can yield a compound that can be converted into a molecule that triggers AhRs. The new work finds that mice fed a synthetic diet lacking this key compound experience a significant reduction in AhR activity and lose IELs. With reduced numbers of these key immune cells, animals showed lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. When the researchers intentionally damaged the intestinal surface in animals that didn't have normal AhR activity, the mice were not as "quick to repair" that damage.

As an immunologist, Veldhoen says he hopes the findings will generate interest in the medical community, noting that some of the characteristics observed in the mice are consistent with those seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

"It's tempting to extrapolate to humans," he said. "But there are many other factors that might play a role."

For the rest of us, he says, "it's already a good idea to eat your greens." Still, the results offer a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet.

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Ginger Root May Protect From Colon Cancer

A select group of 30 volunteer patients were administered with a Ginger Root Supplement or placebo and after a month showed a promising decrease in many of the inflammation markers in the colon.

Inflammation of the colon is an indicator believed to be a precursor to colon cancer. Thus reducing inflammation is an important step in colon cancer prevention.

Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and colleagues, enrolled 30 patients and randomly assigned them to two grams of ginger root supplements per day or placebo for 28 days.

Zick commented that :

"We need to apply the same rigor to the sorts of questions about the effect of ginger root that we apply to other clinical trial research. Interest in this is only going to increase as people look for ways to prevent cancer that are nontoxic, and improve their quality of life in a cost-effective way."

The study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, measured standard levels of colon inflammation and saw real reductions in most of the markers, and others trending towards significant reductions.

The team says that Phase II trials are now required to validate the initial results. It's interesting to see a herb that is not under patent, being treated with the same methodical approach used to test pharmaceutical drugs in which there is obviously a far greater vested interest in studying and proving their validity. Many doctors complain that natural medicine is unproven "witchery" but when you think into it, it's only because there is no real financial interest or profit incentive to spending thousands testing a product which is common property.

In Summary :

--Reductions of markers like PGE2 may be a biomarker for colon cancer prevention. --Phase II study conducted in humans requires validation. --Natural supplement use could be potential cancer prevention strategy

Ingwer 2 fcm
Ginger may have colon cancer prevention qualities

Zick is a naturopathic doctor (N.D.), who has followed a four year degree that places traditional medical education alongside training in natural therapies, diet, nutrition and other alternative treatments. Her program is one of only eight in the US, compared with 135 regular medical schools.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and University of Michigan Clinical Research Center and the Kutsche Family Memorial Endowment. The ginger extract was donated by Pure Encapsulations (Sudbury, MA).

Written by Rupert Shepherd

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FDA Allowed Unsafe Seafood Onto Market After BP Oil Spill Disaster

A study accuses the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of allowing seafoods with unsafe levels of contaminants to enter the food chain after the BP oil disaster. A study carried out by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspective reports that the FDA underestimated the risk of cancer from accumulated contaminants in the seafood - especially the risk for pregnant mothers and children who live in the area.

In some cases, the FDA let through foods with 10,000 times too much contamination. The federal Agency is also accused of not identifying the risks for children and pregnant mothers. It appears the FDA used faulty assumptions and obsolete risk assessment methods.

The NRDC has today filed a petition urging the FDA to set limits on PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that can be present in seafood. It is vital that the country's pregnant mothers, children, and individuals with high seafood consumption be protected, the NRDC added.

BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico - (NASA's Terra satellite on May 24, 2010)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as PAHs, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons or polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are powerful atmospheric pollutants, consisting of fused aromatic rings that contain no heteroatoms or carry substituents. The simplest form of PAH is naphthalene. PAHs can be found in tar deposits, coal and oil; they are also produced as a by-product of burning fossil or biomass fuels.

PAHs are of concern to human health because some of their compounds have been linked to cancer risk - there is also talk of their mutagenic (can cause genes to mutate) and teratogenic (can cause birth defects) harms. PAHs may be present in cooked foods - cooking meat at very high temperature, such as barbecuing or grilling can raise their PAH levels. Smoking fish may also have a similar effect. PAHs can also cause liver damage.

FDA underestimated risks to pregnant mothers and children

One of the researchers, Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, said:

"Our findings add to a long list of evidence that FDA is overlooking the risks from chemical contaminants in food. We must not wait for people to get sick or cancer rates to rise, we need FDA to act now to protect the food supply."

The authors of the study concluded:

"FDA risk assessment methods should be updated to better reflect current risk assessment practices and to protect vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children."

In her blog, Rotkin-Ellman wrote that the FDA had calculated that 123,000 micrograms of naphthalene per kg of shrimp was a safe level for human consumption. According to the calculations of her team, the limit should have been 5.91 micrograms if pregnant women and children who eat a lot of seafood are to be protected. Even for non-pregnant adults, they worked out that the safe limit should only be 46.99 micrograms of naphthalene per kg of shellfish.

According to the scientists calculations, if 1,000 pregnant women and their children consumed Gulf seafood with contamination limits set by the FDA, 20 of the children born to those women would be at considerable risk of cancer caused by the contamination.

Rotkin-Ellman wrote:

"This is not public health protection. Major reforms are needed at FDA to better safeguard our food supply."

When Rotkin-Ellman and team gathered data on testing of PAH levels of shellfish after the BP oil spill, they found that up to 53% of the tested shrimps had PAH levels above their own revised safety limits for pregnant mothers and children (who eat a lot of shellfish).

Rotkin-Ellman added:

"Instead of saying it was safe for everyone to eat, pregnant women and children should have been warned and advised to reduce their Gulf shellfish consumption."

The scientific team say they have been concerned about this issue for some time. They could not understand how the FDA had deviated so much from the guidelines of other agencies and even its own prior practice after previous oil spills.

To find out why, they asked the FDA for documents under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). After a year of non-stop wrangling to get the appropriate documents, through the FOIA request, they discovered that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had proposed stricter health protections from contamination - these proposals were ignored. Even some FDA staff, apparently, said the protections should be stronger.

In an email, the EPA told the FDA that it underestimated the risks for many seafood consumers, particularly those living on the Gulf Coast.

Written by Christian Nordqvist

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UK Needs To Cut 5bn Calories A Day To Tackle Obesity

Announcing an ambitious government "Call to Action" to tackle obesity among Britons, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said on Thursday that the UK population has to cut 5 billion calories from its daily diet, the equivalent of 20 premiership football pitches covered in cheeseburgers, or four Olympic sized swimming pools full of caffè latte.

"We have to halt and then reverse the tide of obesity in this country," he told the press.

The Call to Action announces a new goal for reversing the overweight and obesity trend in England. Speaking at the launch, Lansley said businesses have to take part as well, alongside government and NGOs. There is an urgent need to change the environment people live in, and to help each and every person make healthier choices so that by 2020 there is a trend to reduce the excess weight of the nation.

Lansley said while the government has a role to play, it can't do it alone.

"We need to work in a broad partnership with local authorities, businesses, charities, health professionals and individuals," he urged.

"We have already seen how we can move further, faster through the Responsibility Deal and I am now challenging business to help us make even greater progress," said Lansley, explaining that reducing the number of calories in people's daily diet was an "essential" part of the plan.

"It can happen if we continue action to reduce calories in everyday foods and drinks, and if all of us who are overweight take simple steps to reduce our calorie intake," he added.

Over 60% of England's adults and one third of her 10 and 11-year-olds are either overweight or obese.

England's Department of Health says that eating and drinking too many calories is the heart of the obesity problem.

It says that on average, men should consume no more than 2605 calories a day, and women no more than 2079. This is according to a recent detailed analysis by the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).

Professor Alan Jackson, who chairs the SACN's Energy Requirements working group, said they used the most up to date methods and concluded the average energy requirements for the UK needed revising.

"This information is crucial for health professionals and those planning menus for specific groups, for example, people in care homes," said Jackson.

However, in reality, most adults are eating more calories than they need, even more than the new figures published today.

On average, an obese man regularly consumes around 500 kcal more than a healthy weight man every day.

"Most people would be surprised to realise how much they are overeating -- on average we are consuming around 10% more calories than we need," said Jackson, explaining that this was why the UK has an obesity problem, and it "is clear we cannot carry on eating this amount of excess without serious public health consequences".

England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies expressed her support for the Call to Action. She said everyone needs to be more honest with themselves about what they eat and drink, and for most people, adults and children alike, that means eating and drinking less.

"Obesity is a leading cause of serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We must get to grips with the problem now to save lives and money in the future," she urged, explaining that:

"Most of us are eating or drinking more than we need to and are not active enough. Being overweight or obese is a direct consequence of eating more calories than we need. Increasing physical activity is a part of the equation, but reducing the amount of calories we consume is key."

She also emphasized that businesses, local authorities and other sectors have to play their part, but it is also up to individuals to take responsibility:

"This means thinking about what we eat and thinking about the number of calories in our diets to maintain a healthy weight," said Davies.

The Call to Action aims to reverse the tide of obesity by 2020, that is by then, the number of overweight or obese people has to be falling. In order to do this, the plan recognizes the following needs:
  • A new approach that helps people reach and maintain a health weight.
  • Full collaboration from public, private, NGO sectors to change the daily living environment of individuals.
  • Continued investment in Change4Life, the UK government's public health programme that started in January 2009 and encourages people to "eat well, move more, live longer". Partners include major food producers and retailers, as well as sports and health organizations.
  • Local authorities to use their new powers to ring fence public health money and make a differene in their local communities.
  • Reduce the nation's daily calorie intake by 5bn a day.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD

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Testing protein leverage in lean humans: a randomised controlled experimental study

Proper protein intake crucial for moderating energy intake, keeping obesity at bay
Obesity is a growing problem worldwide, but proper protein consumption can help keep it at bay, according to a paper published Oct. 12 in the online journal PLoS ONE. The researchers found that, when subjects were fed a 10% protein diet, they consumed 12% more energy over four days than they did on a 15% protein diet. Moreover, 70% of the increased energy intake on the lower protein diet was attributed to snacking. When the protein content was further increased to 25%, however, the researchers observed no change in behavior relative to the 15% protein diet.

It had previously been suggested that protein content plays an important role in determining overall energy intake, and thus affects obesity, but until this study, experimental verification had been lacking. To test the hypothesis, the researchers tested 16 female and 6 male participants, all lean and in good health. The subjects spent four days on each of the three diets, which were made as similar as possible in factors such as palatability, availability, variety, and appearance, and their intake was monitored.

According to Dr. Alison Gosby, "the results show that humans have a particularly strong appetite for protein, and when the proportion of protein in the diet is low this appetite can drive excess energy intake. Our findings have considerable implications for bodyweight management in the current nutritional environment, where foods rich in fat and carbohydrate are cheap, palatable and available to an extent unprecedented in our history."

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Sidewalks, Crime Affect Women's Physical Activity Throughout U.S

Getting women to meet the U.S. federal government's recommended level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity remains a huge challenge. A large new study shows that where women live affects just how likely they are to exercise.

The study, appearing online and in the November issue American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that women throughout the United States, in both urban and suburban areas, were more likely to walk where they felt safe and had access to sidewalks and other community resources.

"The results from this study confirm what we know about the health benefits of living in neighborhoods with access to recreation facilities and resources such as shops and stores," said Keshia Pollack, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who is familiar with the study.

"The bottom line is when people have access to these types of resources, they are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations," said Pollack, who specializes in formulating policies to create safe and healthy environments.

Researchers from Purdue University evaluated responses from almost 69,000 women between ages 40 and 60 who took part in the Nurses' Health Study II in 2005. The survey asked women whether they had shopping and free recreational facilities within walking distance, whether they had sidewalks and about their perception of crime in the area. Women also responded to items on how much time they spent walking, running or biking outdoors.

Just 24 percent of the women met the recommended activity level calculated by time spent and pace used for walking, jogging, running or bicycling, or combinations of those each week.

The study found that an increase in positive environmental characteristics improves the odds that women will be physically active in all regions of the country. Crime had a negative influence on physical activity in most regions. Having sidewalks made it more likely for women to meet weekly walking guidelines in the Midwest and South, but not in the Northeast and West.

"We need policies that create healthy and safe environments where people live, work, and play," Pollack said.

Troped PJ, et al. Perceived built environment and physical activity in U.S. by women by sprawl and region. Am J Prev Med 41(5), 2011.

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Physical Activity Affected By More Intersections - Good For Adults, No So Good For Children

High intersection density and well-connected streets in towns and cities may discourage children from being active and exercising outdoors, according to a Queen's University study.

"We've known for a while that high street connectivity - well-connected streets and a high density of intersections in a given area - helps adults stay physically active since it makes it easier and more efficient for them to walk to work or a local store," says Graham Mecredy, the lead researcher and a graduate student in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. "However, our findings suggest that high street connectivity has the opposite effect on children's physical activity."

By mapping physical activity results from the 2006 Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey (HBSC) onto street data provided by a geographical information system, the team found that youth aged 11 to 16 years who live in neighbourhoods with streets that are well connected tend to have lower physical activity levels than youth who live in neighbourhoods with streets that are modestly or poorly connected.

"Playing street hockey is an example of how street connectivity and density can influence the physical activity of youth," says Mr. Mecredy. "When traffic increases, or when you don't have access to a quiet cul-de-sac, the game and the associated physical activity may both disappear."

A follow-up study by the same team indicates that while low street connectivity increases children's activity levels, it also results in an increase in minor physical injuries related to bicycle mishaps. The researchers believe that safety initiatives for bicycle use and street designs that encourage bicycle and car separation can help mitigate these incidents.

The team hopes that the findings from both studies will help inform urban and public health policies to improve physical activity among Canadian children.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Health benefits of broccoli require the whole food, not supplements

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- New research has found that if you want some of the many health benefits associated with eating broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables, you need to eat the real thing – a key phytochemical in these vegetables is poorly absorbed and of far less value if taken as a supplement.
The study, published by scientists in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, is one of the first of its type to determine whether some of the healthy compounds found in cruciferous vegetables can be just as easily obtained through supplements.

The answer is no.

And not only do you need to eat the whole foods, you have to go easy on cooking them.
"The issue of whether important nutrients can be obtained through whole foods or with supplements is never simple," said Emily Ho, an OSU associate professor in the OSU School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute.

"Some vitamins and nutrients, like the folic acid often recommended for pregnant women, are actually better-absorbed as a supplement than through food," Ho said. "Adequate levels of nutrients like vitamin D are often difficult to obtain in most diets. But the particular compounds that we believe give broccoli and related vegetables their health value need to come from the complete food."

The reason, researchers concluded, is that a necessary enzyme called myrosinase is missing from most of the supplement forms of glucosinolates, a valuable phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables. Without this enzyme found in the whole food, the study found that the body actually absorbs five times less of one important compound and eight times less of another.

Intensive cooking does pretty much the same thing, Ho said. If broccoli is cooked until it's soft and mushy, its health value plummets. However, it can still be lightly cooked for two or three minutes, or steamed until it's still a little crunchy, and retain adequate levels of the necessary enzyme.

The new study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Broccoli has been of particular interest to scientists because it contains the highest levels of certain glucosinolates, a class of phytochemicals that many believe may reduce the risk of prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. When eaten as a raw or lightly-cooked food, enzymes in the broccoli help to break down the glucosinolates into two valuable compounds of intensive research interest – sulforaphane and erucin.

Studies have indicated that sulforaphane, in particular, may help to detoxify carcinogens, and also activate tumor suppressor genes so they can perform their proper function.

Most supplements designed to provide these glucosinolates have the enzyme inactivated, so the sulforaphane is not released as efficiently. There are a few supplements available with active myrosinase, and whose function more closely resembles that of the whole food, but they are still being tested and not widely available, Ho said.

Small amounts of the myrosinase enzyme needed to break down glucosinolates are found in the human gut, but the new research showed they accomplish that task far less effectively than does whole food consumption.

Although broccoli has the highest levels of glucosinolates, they are also found in cauliflower, cabbage, kale and other cruciferous vegetables. The same cooking recommendations would apply to those foods to best retain their health benefits, Ho said.

Many people take a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as supplements, and many of them are efficacious in that form, researchers say. Higher and optimal levels of popular supplements such as vitamins C, E, and fish oil, for instance, can be difficult to obtain through diet alone. Some researchers believe that millions of people around the world have deficient levels of vitamin D, because they don't get enough in their diet or through sun exposure.

But for now, if people want the real health benefits of broccoli, there's a simple guideline.

Eat your vegetables.

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Faulty Heart Disease Gene Modified By Eating Fruit And Raw Vegetables

genetic variant which significantly raises the risk of heart disease can be modified by eating plenty of fruit and raw vegetables so that the carrier's risk of heart disease is brought down to the same level as those without the faulty gene, researchers from McMaster and McGill universities, Canada, reported in the journal PLoS Medicine.

The long-held belief that you cannot change the genes you inherited from your parents does not appear to hold true, the authors explained.

The 9p21 genetic variants, the strongest marker for heart disease, were found to be modified when large quantities of raw vegetable, berries and fruit were consumed.

Joint lead-researcher, Dr. Jamie Engert, said:

"We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it. But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect."

The researchers gathered data on over 27,000 people from various ethnic ancestries, including Arab, Latin American, Chinese, South Asian and European. They studied what effects diet might have on the functioning and behavior of the 9p21 gene. The authors say that theirs is one of the largest gene-diet interaction studies ever carried out on cardiovascular disease.

Plenty of raw vegetables and fruit can modify faulty genes linked to heart disease

They found that people with the high risk genetic variant which considerably raises heart disease risk, ended up having the same risk of heart disease as the rest of the population if they followed a diet rich in raw vegetables, fruit and berries.

Joint lead-researcher, Sonia Anand, said:

"We observed that the effect of a high risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health."

Lead author, Dr. Ron Do, wrote:

"Our research suggests there may be an important interplay between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease. Future research is necessary to understand the mechanism of this interaction, which will shed light on the underlying metabolic processes that the 9p21 gene is involved in."

The scientists said that they do not yet know exactly why and how the diet modifies the gene.

The authors concluded in an Abstract in the journal:

"The risk of MI (myocardial infarction) and CVD (cardiovascular disease) conferred by Chromosome 9p21 SNPs appears to be modified by a prudent diet high in raw vegetables and fruits."

Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today

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