Thursday, February 28, 2013

Acupuncture brief but effective for allergic rhinitis

An 8-week course of acupuncture had statistically significant but short-lived benefits for people with seasonal allergic rhinitis. 8 weeks after the treatment ended, the effects were no longer noticeable, as reported in the Feb. 19 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine

The researchers looked at acupuncture combined with rescue medication as needed, sham acupuncture with as-needed medication, and rescue medication alone. The rescue medication used in the study was cetirizine (Zyrtec, Reactine) but patients were permitted to use an oral corticosteroid if the rescue drug was inadequate. 

Acupuncture patients had an average quality of life score that was 0.5 points better than those in the sham group and 0.7 points better than those in the medication-only group.  They also had rescue medication scores that were 1.1 points better than those in the sham group and 1.5 points better than those in the rescue medication group.
 
Steve: By receiving acupuncture, patients could reduce that amount of antihistamine, plus increase the quality of life. The study did not look at maintenance treatments, which would be an obvious recommendation for someone using acupuncture for rhinitis.

Chiropractic for low back pain

Current evidences suggest that manual therapy (MT) induces an immediate analgesic effect through neurophysiologic mechanisms at peripheral, spinal and cortical levels. The aim of this BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders study was first, to assess whether MT has an immediate analgesic effect, and second, to compare the lasting effect on functional disability of MT plus exercise to sham therapy (ST) plus exercise. The study confirmed the immediate analgesic effect of MT over ST. Followed by specific active exercises, it reduces significantly functional disability and tends to induce a larger decrease in pain intensity, compared to a control group. These results confirm the clinical relevance of MT as an appropriate treatment forlow back pain.

98 year-old researcher's cholesterol conclusion

A 98-year-old researcher argues that, contrary to decades of clinical assumptions and advice to patients, dietary cholesterol is good for your heart -- unless that cholesterol is unnaturally oxidized (by frying foods in reused oil, eating lots of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats, or smoking).

The researcher, Fred Kummerow, an emeritus professor of comparative biosciences at the University of Illinois, has spent more than six decades studying the dietary factors that contribute to heart disease. In a new paper in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease, he reviews the research on lipid metabolism and heart disease with a focus on the consumption of oxidized cholesterol -- in his view a primary contributor to heart disease.

Many of Kummerow's insights come from his relentless focus on the physical and biochemical changes that occur in the arteries of people with heart disease. For example, he has worked with surgeons to retrieve and examine the arteries of people suffering from heart disease, and has compared his findings with those obtained in animal experiments.

Oxidized fats contribute to heart disease (and sudden death from heart attacks) in an additional way, Kummerow said. He and his collaborators found that when the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the so-called "bad cholesterol") is oxidized, it increases the synthesis of a blood-clotting agent, called thromboxane, in the platelets.

If someone eats a diet rich in oxysterols and trans fats and also smokes, he or she is endangering the heart in three distinct ways, Kummerow said. The oxysterols enhance calcification of the arteries and promote the synthesis of a clotting agent. And the trans fats and cigarette smoke interfere with the production of a compound, prostacyclin, which normally keeps the blood fluid.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Organic tomatoes superior to conventional

The hypothesis that tomato fruits from organic farming and greater stressing conditions associated with organic farming leads to more nutritional compounds, such as phenolics and vitamin C, recently got tested. The research report on tomatoes compared the weights and biochemical properties of tomatoes from organic and conventional farms. 

The researchers found that tomatoes grown on organic farms were approximately 40% smaller than those grown by conventional techniques but they accumulated more compounds linked to stress resistance, along with higher concentrations of sugars and vitamin C (55%). 

According to the authors, organic farming exposes plants to greater stress than conventional farming and they suggest that this increased stress may be the reason organic tomatoes had those higher levels of sugars, vitamin C and pigment molecules like lycopene, an anti-oxidant compound – all of which are associated with the biological response to stress. 

Based on these observations, the authors suggest that growing strategies for fruits and vegetables should aim to balance plant stress with efforts to maximize yield and fruit size, rather than trying to eliminate stress to increase yields. PLoS ONE February, 2013

Mediteranean diet reduces cardiac events

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study found. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

Bonnie: This should not surprise any readers of this blog.

The diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk.


Heart disease experts said the study was a triumph because it showed that a diet is powerful in reducing heart disease risk, and it did so using the most rigorous methods. Scientists randomly assigned 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.

In the end, they decided to randomly assign subjects at high risk of heart disease to three groups. One would be given a low-fat diet and counseled on how to follow it. The other two groups would be counseled to follow a Mediterranean diet. At first the Mediterranean dieters got more intense support. They met regularly with dietitians while the low-fat group just got an initial visit to train them in how to adhere to the diet followed by a leaflet each year on the diet. Then the researchers decided to add more intensive counseling for them, too, but they still had difficulty staying with the diet.


Bonnie: Notice how important counseling was to this study?

One group assigned to a Mediterranean diet was given extra virgin olive oil each week and was instructed to use at least 4 tablespoons a day. The other group got a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and was instructed to eat about an ounce of them each day. An ounce of walnuts, for example, is about a quarter cup — a generous handful. The mainstays of the diet consisted of at least 3 servings a day of fruits and at least two servings of vegetables. Participants were to eat fish at least three times a week and legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils, at least three times a week. They were to eat white meat instead of red, and, for those accustomed to drinking, to have at least 7 glasses of wine a week with meals. They were encouraged to avoid commercially made cookies, cakes and pastries and to limit their consumption of dairy products and processed meats.

Bonnie: The requirements of this study are not too much to ask. It is just funny how much PR this study is getting when the benefits of the Mediterranean way of eating is old news.

Big Dairy petitions to add unlabeled, hidden artificial sweeteners

In the latest of Big Food's seemingly endless jaw-dropping incidents, Big Dairy is petitioning the FDA to change the definition of milk. They want to add sweeteners and artificial sweeteners to a multitude of dairy products, but still call it milk, thus avoiding any label changes. If they get their wish, the only way the consumer would know if their dairy products are sweetened or artificially sweetened would be to taste it!

Here is the petition: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/02/20/2013-03835/flavored-milk-petition-to-amend-the-standard-of-identity-for-milk-and-17-additional-dairy-products

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Flu vaccine did nothing for seniors this season.

This season's flu vaccine was almost completely ineffective in people 65 and older, which could explain why rates of hospitalization and death have been some of the highest ever recorded for that age group, according to early estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For people under 65, getting vaccinated this season reduced the need to go to the doctor for the flu by one-half to two-thirds.

For those 65 and older, though, it helped in just 9% of cases, a number too low to be statistically significant, according to a report in the CDC's Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report released Thursday. The study was based on a survey of 2,697 children and adults by the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network from Dec. 3, 2012, through Jan. 19, 2013.

Researchers don't know why the vaccine was unhelpful for older people.

When broken into age groups, the vaccine's overall effectiveness was:
6 months to 17 years, 58%.
18 to 49 years, 46%.
50 to 64 years, 50%.
65 and older, 9%.

Choosing Wisely: Unnecessary tests and procedures

United States specialty societies representing more than 500,000 physicians developed lists of Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question in recognition of the importance of physician and patient conversations to improve care and eliminate unnecessary tests and procedures.

These lists represent specific, evidence-based recommendations physicians and patients should discuss to help make wise decisions about the most appropriate care based on their individual situation. Each list provides information on when tests and procedures may be appropriate, as well as the methodology used in its creation.

http://www.choosingwisely.org/doctor-patient-lists/
 

The extraordinary science of addictive junk food

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?ref=health&_r=0#commentsContainer

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Landmark United Nations report comes down hard on environmental chemicals

Many synthetic chemicals, untested for their disrupting effects on the hormone system, could have significant health implications according to the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO.

The joint study calls for more research to understand fully the associations between endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) -- found in many household and industrial products -- and specific diseases and disorders. The report notes that with more comprehensive assessments and better testing methods, potential disease risks could be reduced, with substantial savings to public health.

Human health depends on a well-functioning endocrine system to regulate the release of certain hormones that are essential for functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood. Some substances known as endocrine disruptors can alter the function(s) of this hormonal system increasing the risk of adverse health effects. Some EDCs occur naturally, while synthetic varieties can be found in pesticides, electronics, personal care products and cosmetics. They can also be found as additives or contaminants in food.

The UN study, which is the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, highlights some associations between exposure to EDCs and health problems including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.

Human exposure can occur in a number of ways

EDCs can enter the environment mainly through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste. Human exposure can occur via the ingestion of food, dust and water, inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and skin contact.

"Chemical products are increasingly part of modern life and support many national economies, but the unsound management of chemicals challenges the achievement of key development goals, and sustainable development for all," said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"Investing in new testing methods and research can enhance understanding of the costs of exposure to EDCs, and assist in reducing risks, maximizing benefits and spotlighting more intelligent options and alternatives that reflect a transition to a green economy," added Mr Steiner.

More research is needed

In addition to chemical exposure, other environmental and non-genetic factors such as age and nutrition could be among the reasons for any observed increases in disease and disorders. But pinpointing exact causes and effects is extremely difficult due to wide gaps in knowledge.

"We urgently need more research to obtain a fuller picture of the health and environment impacts of endocrine disruptors," said Dr Maria Neira, WHO's Director for Public Health and Environment. "The latest science shows that communities across the globe are being exposed to EDCs, and their associated risks. WHO will work with partners to establish research priorities to investigate links to EDCs and human health impacts in order to mitigate the risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations."

The report also raises similar concerns on the impact of EDCs on wildlife. In Alaska in the United States, exposure to such chemicals may contribute to reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation in some deer populations. Population declines in species of otters and sea lions may also be partially due to their exposure to diverse mixtures of PCBs, the insecticide DDT, other persistent organic pollutants, and metals such as mercury. Meanwhile, bans and restrictions on the use of EDCs have been associated with the recovery of wildlife populations and a reduction in health problems.

Recommendations

The study makes a number of recommendations to improve global knowledge of these chemicals, reduce potential disease risks, and cut related costs. These include:

  • Testing: known EDCs are only the 'tip of the iceberg' and more comprehensive testing methods are required to identify other possible endocrine disruptors, their sources, and routes of exposure. 
  • Research: more scientific evidence is needed to identify the effects of mixtures of EDCs on humans and wildlife (mainly from industrial by-products) to which humans and wildlife are increasingly exposed.
  • Reporting: many sources of EDCs are not known because of insufficient reporting and information on chemicals in products, materials and goods.
  • Collaboration: more data sharing between scientists and between countries can fill gaps in data, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies.
"Research has made great strides in the last ten years showing endocrine disruption to be far more extensive and complicated than realized a decade ago," said Professor Åke Bergman of Stockholm University and Chief Editor of the report. "As science continues to advance, it is time for both management of endocrine disrupting chemicals and further research on exposure and effects of these chemicals in wildlife and humans."

The report is available online at: http://www.who.int/entity/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/index.html

Telomeres may account for common cold frequency

We keep hearing that word, telomeres. Most often linked to longevity, researchers have identified a biological marker in the immune system that -- beginning at about age 22 -- may predict our ability to fight off the common cold. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that the length of telomeres -- protective cap-like protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes -- predicts resistance to upper respiratory infections in young and midlife adults. 

Telomere length is a biomarker of aging with telomeres shortening with increasing chronological age. As a cell's telomeres shorten, it loses its ability to function normally and eventually dies. Having shorter telomeres is associated with early onset of aging related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, and with mortality in older adults. Unknown until now is whether telomere length plays a role in the health of young to midlife adults.

The increased importance of telomere length with age is likely because the younger participants had fewer very short telomeres, or that their young immune systems were able to compensate for the loss of effective cells.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Big Food Acting Like Big Tobacco

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/12/us-chronic-disease-idUSBRE91B00D20130212

Drinking raises cancer risk

According to a new report in American Journal of Public Health, alcohol is to blame for one in every 30 cancer deaths each year in the United States. The connection is even more pronounced with breast cancer, with 15 percent of those deaths related to alcohol consumption, the researchers added. 

Surprisingly, 30 percent of all alcohol-related cancer deaths were linked to drinking 1.5 drinks or less a day, the report found. While moderate drinking has been associated with heart benefits, the researchers noted that with all the problems it is related to, alcohol causes 10 times as many deaths as it prevents. Along with breast cancer in women, cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus were also common causes of alcohol-related cancer deaths in men, accounting for about 6,000 deaths each year.

According to the American Cancer Society, it's not entirely clear how alcohol might raise cancer risk. Alcohol might act as a chemical irritant to sensitive cells, impeding their DNA repair, or damage cells in other ways. It might also act as a "solvent" for other carcinogens, such as those found in tobacco smoke, helping those chemicals enter into cells more easily. Or alcohol might affect levels of key hormones such as estrogen, upping odds for breast cancer.

Bonnie: This finding is not consistent with what has been shown in previous studies. While drinking in moderation is always recommended, I would not give up your glass of wine just yet. If a family history of cancer exists, then you can certainly consult with a trusted licensed health professional.

Supplement may ease stress reponse

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130218/entlife/702189993/

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Vital gluten the reason for increase in celiac?

A recent ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study found no clear evidence to support the idea that celiac disease is increasing in prevalence because farmers are growing strains of wheat that contain more gluten.

There is no questioning the evidence that the incidence of celiac disease increased during the second half of the 20th century. Some estimates indicate that the disease is four times more common today. One leading explanation suggests that it results from wheat breeding that led to production of wheat varieties containing higher levels of gluten. However, the study examined the scientific evidence for that hypothesis and found that gluten levels in various varieties have changed little on average since the 1920s.

Overall gluten consumption, however, has increased due to other factors. One involves increased consumption of a food additive termed "vital gluten," which has tripled since 1977. Vital gluten is a food additive made from wheat flour, and it is added to various food products to improve their characteristics, such as texture. Overall consumption of wheat flour also has increased, so that people in 2000 consumed 2.9 pounds more gluten annually than in 1970, nearly a 25 percent increase.

Ways to sharpen your sense of smell

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323696404578300182010199640.html

The bitter truth about Splenda

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/bitter-truth-about-splenda

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is nanotechnology the next GMO?

Bonnie: For the last five years, we have warned about the lack of regulation of nanotechnology. If it continues to proliferate at the pace it is now with no intervention, it will make genetically modified organisms (GMOs) look like a blip on the radar. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/business/nanoparticles-in-food-raise-concern-by-advocacy-group.html?ref=health&_r=0

Cranberry and pomegranate for glycemic control?

Tannin compounds from cranberries and pomegranate may slow the digestion of starch and offer specific dietary approaches to control blood sugar levels, suggests a new study in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Extracts from cranberry in particular were associated with significant inhibition of the starch digesting enzymes alpha-amylase and glucoamylase, with pomegranate and grape tannins also showing good inhibitory effects. This inhibitory effectiveness suggests the likelihood of specific dietary approaches for modulating digestion rates in vivo and thus assisting in control of blood glucose levels.


Current glucosidase inhibitors, such as acarbose and miglitol, are said to produce diarrhea and other intestinal disturbances.
 

In general, larger and more complex tannins, such as those in pomegranate and cranberry, more effectively inhibited the enzymes than did less polymerized tannins, such as cocoa.

Study: natural substances can be as effective as synthetic drugs

In a first-ever comprehensive study of 124 natural product combinations, a team of researchers found that certain combinations of natural products can be as effective as human-made drugs in acting against specific disease processes.  

Published in PLOS ONE in, the research showed that active ingredients in combinations of natural products can achieve the same level of potency as synthetic anticancer and antibacterial drugs but they have to be taken in larger quantities or for a longer period of time.

Through an analysis of more than 1,601 previous studies conducted on natural products and 190 human-made drugs, the researchers found that natural products are generally 10 to 100 times weaker than human-made drugs. 


The lead author said, "There have been claims that natural products simply have a placebo effect. In our study, we looked at more than 100 types of natural product combinations that are perceived to be the best and found that it is possible for natural products to achieve the same effectiveness as human-made drugs. However, the probability of finding such combinations based on traditional methods is low as the natural products have to be of sufficient potency and taken in the right combination."

The team will continue to conduct more research in this area, in particular, to determine how to achieve the same level of effectiveness for natural products as synthetic drugs. Their research will focus on popular herbal products and frequently prescribed traditional medicine.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Certain foods, nutrients are good for sleep

A new study in journal Appetite shows for the first time that certain nutrients may play an underlying role in short and long sleep duration and that people who report eating a large variety of foods -- an indicator of an overall healthy diet -- had the healthiest sleep patterns.

The authors found that total caloric intake varied across groups. Short sleepers consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers, followed by very short sleepers, followed by long sleepers. Food variety was highest in normal sleepers, and lowest in very short sleepers. Differences across groups were found for many types of nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Very short sleep was associated with less intake of tap water, lycopene (found in red- and orange-colored foods), and total carbohydrates, short sleep was associated with less vitamin C, tap water, selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish), and more lutein/zeaxanthin (found in green, leafy vegetables), and long sleep was associated with less intake of theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), dodecanoic acid (a saturated fat) choline (found in eggs and fatty meats), total carbohydrates, and more alcohol.


The authors note that short sleep and long sleep both have negative health consequences.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Nutrition economics: food as an ally of public health

According to a study in British Journal of Nutrition, non-communicable diseases are a major and increasing contributor to morbidity and mortality in developed and developing countries. Much of the chronic disease burden is preventable through modification of lifestyle behaviors, and increased attention is being focused on identifying and implementing effective preventative health strategies.

Nutrition has been identified as a major modifiable determinant of non-communicable diseases. The recent merging of health economics and nutritional sciences to form the nascent discipline of nutrition economics aims to assess the impact of diet on health and disease prevention, and to evaluate options for changing dietary choices, while incorporating an understanding of the immediate impacts and downstream consequences.

In short, nutrition economics allows for generation of policy-relevant evidence, and as such the discipline is a crucial partner in achieving better population nutritional status and improvements in public health and wellness. 

Future studies must further examine the role of nutrition and its potential to reduce the public health burden through alleviating undernutrition and nutrition deficiencies, promoting better-quality diets and incorporating a role for functional foods.

WHO issues new sodium/potassium guidelines

Adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, and at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day, according to new guidelines issued by the WHO. A person with either elevated sodium levels and low potassium levels could be at risk of raised blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

WHO Press Release:

Sodium is found naturally in a variety of foods, including milk and cream (approximately 50 mg of sodium per 100 g) and eggs (approximately 80 mg/100 g). It is also found, in much higher amounts, in processed foods, such as bread (approximately 250 mg/100 g), processed meats like bacon (approximately 1,500 mg/100 g), snack foods such as pretzels, cheese puffs and popcorn (approximately 1,500 mg/100 g), as well as in condiments such as soy sauce (approximately 7,000 mg/100 g), and bouillon or stock cubes (approximately 20,000 mg/100 g).

Potassium-rich foods include: beans and peas (approximately 1,300 mg of potassium per 100 g), nuts (approximately 600 mg/100 g), vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and parsley (approximately 550 mg/100 g) and fruits such as bananas, papayas and dates (approximately 300 mg/100 g). Processing reduces the amount of potassium in many food products.

Currently, most people consume too much sodium and not enough potassium.

“Elevated blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease and stroke – the number one cause of death and disability globally,” says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. “These guidelines also make recommendations for children over the age of 2. This is critical because children with elevated blood pressure often become adults with elevated blood pressure.”

The guidelines are an important tool for public health experts and policymakers as they work in their specific country situations to address noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Public health measures to reduce sodium and increase potassium consumption and thereby decrease the population’s risk of high blood pressure and heart disease can include food and product labelling, consumer education, updating national dietary guidelines, and negotiating with food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods.

WHO is also updating guidelines on the intake of fats and sugars associated to reduced risk of obesity and noncommunicable diseases.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Vegetarians must supplement with B12

A new study from the February issue of Nutrition Reviews states that vegetarians are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency due to suboptimal intake. Reported B12 deficiency rates reported for specific populations were as follows: 
  • 62% among pregnant women
  • Between 25% and 6% among children
  • 21–41% among adolescents
  • 11–90% among the elderly. 
  • Higher rates of deficiency were reported among vegans compared with vegetarians and among individuals who had adhered to a vegetarian diet since birth compared with those who had adopted such a diet later in life. 
The main finding is that vegetarians develop B12 depletion or deficiency regardless of demographic characteristics, place of residency, age, or type of vegetarian diet. Vegetarians should thus take preventive measures to ensure adequate intake of this vitamin, including regular consumption of supplements containing B12.