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March 2007

Lipoic Acid May Guard Against Alzheimer’s

The antioxidant lipoic acid may aid in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, particularly in their early stages, report Australian scientists.* Despite extensive study into the causes and progression of Alzhei-mer’s, a neuroprotective treatment—particularly for early-stage disease—is not yet available for clinical use.

The scientists noted that lipoic acid acts in several ways to improve brain health in Alzheimer’s sufferers. Alzheimer’s is associated with deficits of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine and its receptors. Lipoic acid activates an enzyme that facilitates increased acetylcholine production. Lipoic acid also reduces inflammation and acts as a powerful antioxidant, while increasing the availability of glucose for use by brain cells.

These observations suggest that lipoic acid may come to play an important role in averting mind-robbing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

—Dale Kiefer


* Holmquist L, Stuchbury G, Berbaum K, et al. Lipoic acid as a novel treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Sep 19; [Epub ahead of print]

Low Magnesium and Fiber Intake Linked to Inflammation

Higher intake of magnesium and fiber is associated with lower levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), according to a new report.* An important marker of inflammation, hs-CRP has been tied to elevated cardiovascular disease risk.

Using food-frequency questionnaires, researchers determined the fiber and magnesium intake of 1,653 study participants. Height, weight, blood pressure, and waist circumference were measured, and blood samples were analyzed for glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), triglycerides, and hs-CRP.

Subjects in the lowest third of magnesium and fiber intake were three to four times more likely to have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or elevated hs-CRP (3 mg/L or higher). Low magnesium intake was independently correlated with elevated hs-CRP, but not with metabolic syndrome or diabetes, while low fiber intake was independently associated with a greater risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and elevated hs-CRP.

—Dayna Dye


* Bo S, Durazzo M, Guidi S, et al. Dietary magnesium and fiber intakes and inflammatory and metabolic indicators in middle-aged subjects from a population-based cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):1062-9.

Eating Red Meat May Raise Breast Cancer Risk

Consuming red meat is strongly linked to the risk of developing hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in premenopausal women, according to a new report by researchers at Harvard Medical School.1

After examining nutritional intake data for more than 90,000 premenopausal women aged 26-48, the scientists compared information on red meat intake with reported incidences of breast cancer, and monitored the women for 12 years.

Greater red meat intake was strongly linked to an elevated risk of both estrogen-receptor-positive and progesterone-receptor-positive breast cancers.1 However, red meat intake was not linked to either estrogen-receptor-negative or progesterone-receptor-negative breast tumors.1 Estrogen- and progesterone-positive breast cancer tumors are “fueled” by the presence of these female hormones and are considered distinct from hormone-negative tumors, differing in both incidence rates and risk factors.2

—Dale Kiefer


1. Cho E, Chen WY, Hunter DJ, et al. Red meat intake and risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Nov 13;166(20):2253-9.

2. Colditz GA, Rosner BA, Chen WY, Homes MD, Hankinson, SE. Risk factors for breast cancer according to estrogen and progesterone receptor status. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Feb 4;96(3):218-28.

Pancreatic Cancer Linked to High Sugar Intake

People who consume a large amount of sugar each day run a markedly higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, notes a recent study.* Among the most lethal of cancers, pancreatic cancer kills about 30,000 Americans every year.

Of nearly 80,000 men and women whose diets were studied from 1997 to 2005, 131 developed pancreatic cancer. Those who drank carbonated or syrup-laden drinks even twice a day were 90% more likely to contract pancreatic cancer than those who never drank them. Those who added sugar to their foods or beverages at least five times daily had a 70% higher risk of contracting the disease compared to those who did not.

This study clearly establishes a link between pancreatic cancer and high sugar consumption, which scientists believe may contribute to pancreatic cancer by causing frequent after-meal high blood sugar, thus increasing insulin demand and decreasing insulin sensitivity.

—Robert Gaston


* Larsson SC, Bergkvist L, Wolk A. Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):1171-6.

Optimizing Omega-3 Intake May Avert Kidney Cancer

Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent kidney cancer in women, says a newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.1 While omega-3 consumption is correlated with decreased risks of heart disease, depression, and breast cancer, its role in kidney cancer has previously been unknown.2-4

Scientists followed a group of 61,433 women, aged 40-76, over an average of 15 years. The women completed a food-frequency questionnaire at baseline and at the study’s end. Regular consumption of omega-3-rich fatty fish—such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring—was associated with a significantly decreased risk of developing renal cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer. By contrast, consumption of lean fish (low in omega-3 fatty acids) did not protect the women against developing kidney cancer.1

These results indicate that added protection against kidney cancer is yet another important health benefit of regularly consuming omega-3 fatty acids.

—Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, DABHM


1. Wolk A, Larsson SC, Johansson JE, Ekman P. Long-term fatty fish consumption and renal cell carcinoma incidence in women. JAMA. 2006 Sep 20; 296(11): 1371-16.

2. De Lorgeril M, Salen P. Fish and N-3 fatty acids for the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease: nutrition is not pharmacology. Am J Med. 2002 Mar;112(4):316-9.

3. Stoll AL, Severus WE, Freeman MP, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry.1999 May;56(5):407-12.

4. Maillard V, Bougnoux P, Ferrari P, et al. N-3 and N-6 fatty acids in breast cancer adipose tissue and relative risk of breast cancer in a case-control study in Tours, France. Int J Cancer. 2002 Mar 1;98(1):78-83.

Retinal Cell Transplants Help Blind Mice See

In a breakthrough operation, American and British scientists recently restored the sight of blind mice using a retinal stem cell transplant.*

The animals suffered blindness due to the loss of photoreceptor (light-sensing) cells that line the back of the eye, or retina. The functional loss of these cells causes some of the more common forms of adult blindness, including macular degeneration.

Previous attempts to restore vision using transplanted stem cells failed because the cells—master cells with the potential to become any type of cell in the body—did not develop into photoreceptors. By using precursor cells already programmed to become photoreceptors, the scientists were able to successfully restore the animals’ vision.

The study authors say continuing research could lead to the first human retinal cell transplants within a decade—a potential boon for those suffering from age-related loss of vision.

—Robert Gaston


* MacLaren RE, Pearson RA, MacNeil A, et al. Retinal repair by transplantation of photoreceptor precursors. Nature. 2006 Nov 9;444 (7116):203-7.

B-Vitamin Deficit Impairs Athletic Performance

Athletes who are deficient in B vitamins may display diminished performance in high-intensity exercise compared to those with optimal nutrient intake, according to a recent report.*

Vitamins B1, B2, and B6 are used by energy-producing pathways, while vitamins B12 and folate assist new cell synthesis and repair of damaged cells. After examining the nutritional status, dietary intake, and performance of athletes, researchers noted that increased stress on the body’s energy-producing pathways and tissues, combined with a loss of nutrients after strenuous activity and the need for extra nutrients to repair tissues, could increase B-vitamin requirements for athletes.

“Many athletes, especially young athletes involved in highly competitive sports, do not realize the impact their diets have on their performance,” the researchers noted. Since the current US RDAs for B vitamins may be inadequate for active people, the researchers advise supplementing with a multivitamin/mineral formula.

—Dayna Dye


* Woolf K, Manore MM. B-vitamins and exercise: does exercise alter requirements? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006 Oct; 16(5).

Omega-3 Therapy Relieves Depression in Children

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may help relieve clinical depression in children, according to a promising pilot study.* The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that one of every 33 children, and one of every eight adolescents, may suffer from depression.

Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 12 completed a small clinical trial in which they received either an omega-3 supplement or inactive placebo. Depression was scored using a combination of three different psychological rating scales.

While the placebo group demonstrated no improvement, seven of the ten children in the omega-3 group showed a 50% or greater reduction in depression scores, and four children achieved full remission. Omega-3 fatty acids may thus offer an effective means of managing depression in children.

—Robert Gaston


* Nemets H, Nemets B, Apter A, Bracha Z, Belmaker RH. Omega-3 treatment of childhood depression: a controlled, double-blind pilot study. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Jun;163(6):1098-100.