What's Hot

What's Hot


November 2002

What's Hot Archive


November 29, 2002

Vitamin D needed by girls to attain peak bone mass

A study of peripubertal Finnish girls published in the December 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found those with low levels of vitamin D to be at risk of failing to reach maximum peak bone mass. Reduced peak bone mass during skeletal development is related to osteoporosis.

The researchers followed 171 Finnish girls ages nine to fifteen for three years. Information obtained from food-frequency questionnaires provided data concerning calcium and vitamin D intake. Blood samples were obtained at the study's onset and at one and three years and were analyzed for serum vitamin D and other factors. Bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and hip were measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. All subjects received multivitamin supplements that contained the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D.

For all subjects, serum vitamin D levels measured at the study's onset were found to be significantly correlated with the change in bone mineral density at the lumbar spine and femoral neck over the three year period. When examined according to pubertal stage, girls with advanced sexual maturation diagnosed with severe vitamin D deficiency had a 4% lower bone mineral density accumulation in the lumbar spine over the course of the study than those with normal vitamin D. When vitamin D intake was examined, girls in this group whose consumption was highest had a 27% greater difference in change than those who had the lowest intake.

The researchers recommend that, "Dietary enrichment or supplementation with vitamin D should be seriously considered to ensure an adequate vitamin D status during the peripubertal years." (Lehtonten-Veromaa MKM, Mottonen, TT, Nuotio, IO et al, "Vitamin D and attainment of peak bone mass among peripubertal Finnish girls: a 3-y prospective study," Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:1446-53)

—D Dye


November 25, 2002

Iron overload related to increased cardiovascular risks in premenopausal women

A study that will appear in the December 2002 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reiterates the danger of elevated iron stores and cardiovascular disease risk in women of reproductive age. Although iron deficiency is frequently a problem in this group, the proportion of women who are iron replete has risen in industrialized countries. Iron is a mineral essential to human life, but high levels have been shown to promote peroxidation and tumorigenesis.

The Emory University researchers evaluated information obtained from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Healthy, nonpregnant women, ages 20 to 49, were divided according to whether their serum ferritin concentrations were low, medium or high. Data was included from 1,178 non-Hispanic Caucasians, 1,093 African-Americans and 1,075 Mexican-American women. The researchers examined data on body mass index, triglycerides, total and HDL cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure.

Among all racial groups, indicators of cardiovascular disease, were significantly associated with higher serum ferritin values. The strongest association was observed for Mexican-American women, who had higher glucose and triglycerides and lower HDL values than the other racial groups examined, despite having lower iron stores, suggesting a specific racial response.

—D Dye


November 22, 2002

AHA report affirms aspirin reduces initial heart attack risk by one third

On November 17, the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions reported the findings of a meta-analysis of five trials, which concluded that the drug reduced the risk of first heart attack by 32%, as well as offering a 15% reduction in combined risk of heart attack, vascular death and stroke. The report was authored by researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center & Miami Heart Institute, Charles H Hennekins MD and Rachel S Eidelman MD. Dr Hennekins published the landmark Physician's Health Study findings in 1988, which found a 44% risk reduction of first heart attack in subjects who randomly received aspirin. The study was concluded ahead of time because of this significant finding.

The current report supports recent AHA guidelines recommending aspirin for men and women who have a 10% ten year risk of a first coronary event, as well as the similar position of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force .

Dr Hennekins stated, "The individual trials and their meta-analysis strongly support the recent AHA recommendation. The more widespread and appropriate use of aspirin in primary prevention could avoid more than 160,000 heart attacks and many other vascular events each year . . . We found that the current totality of evidence strongly supports our initial findings from the Physicians' Health Study that aspirin significantly reduces the risk of a first heart attack in apparently healthy individuals. These data, along with the findings that aspirin reduces the risk of death by 23% if given during a heart attack and by 15% in a wide range of people who have survived prior cardiovascular events, demonstrate that more widespread and appropriate use of aspirin in secondary and primary prevention would avoid many premature deaths and heart attacks."

—D Dye


November 21, 2002

Zinc supplements lower mortality in children with diarrhea

Diarrhea is strongly associated with childhood mortality in developing countries. In research published in the November 9 2002 issue of British Journal of Medicine, an international team of scientists evaluated 8,070 Bangladeshi children with diarrhea, and found significantly lower rates of hospitalization and death and those given zinc supplements than in those who did not receive them.

The randomized, controlled trial was conducted in the Matlab area of Bangladesh, in which diarrhea accounts for approximately one third of all deaths in children age one to four. Children 3 to 59 months old were enrolled from November 1998 to October 2000. During the first four months of the trial, 40% of diarrheal episodes were treated with zinc supplements. This rate rose to over 80% in the seventh month and remained at that level. The treated children received 20 milligrams elemental zinc per day for two weeks during each episode of diarrhea.

In the children who lived in areas randomized to receive the zinc supplements, duration of diarrheal episodes and hospital admission rates were 24% lower than the comparison group. Deaths not due to injuries were 51% lower in those who received zinc than in those who did not. This difference was almost entirely due to a decrease in diarrhea and lower respiratory infections deaths.

Study coauthor and associate professor, International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Abdullah H Baqui, stated, "The lower rates of child morbidity and mortality with zinc therapy represent substantial benefits from a simple and inexpensive intervention that can be incorporated within existing diarrheal disease control efforts which should significantly improve child health and survival."

—D Dye


November 20, 2002

American Heart Association recommends omega-3s

In the November 19, 2002 issue of the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association issued a statement recommending that healthy people consume omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plants to protect their hearts. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while plant foods such as soybeans and flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

The new report takes into account the latest findings on omega-3 consumption and heart disease risk reduction, as well as recent Environmental Protection Agency and FDA guidance concerning the presence of contaminants such as mercury. The report concludes that for children, pregnant and lactating women, the risk of exposure to contaminants through frequent fish consumption is higher than the risk of cardiovascular disease, but for men and postmenopausal women, the benefits of fish consumption far outweigh the risks.

Although research on omega-3s is still ongoing, so far the fatty acids have been found to decrease the risk of sudden death and arrhythmia, decrease blood clots, lower triglyceride levels, reduce growth of atherosclerotic plaque, lower blood pressure and improve arterial health. The authors note that for patients with coronary artery disease, the recommended dose of greater than one gram per day omega-3 may be difficult to achieve through diet alone, therefore these individuals should consider supplements. Supplements may also be indicated for individuals with high triglycerides, for which two to four grams per day omega-3 is required.

Lead author Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD summarized, "Omega-3 fatty acids are not just good fats; they affect heart health in positive ways . . . We have found that the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on heart disease risk is seen in relatively short periods of time. The research shows that all omega-3 fats have cardioprotective benefits, especially those in fish."

—D Dye


November 15, 2002

Total antioxidant potential lowers stomach cancer risk

An article that appeared in the October 2002 issue of the journal Gastroenterology, showed that the total antioxidant potential from fruits and vegetables in the diet is inversely related to the risk of gastric cancer. The study is the first to examine the total antioxidant potential of the diet rather than the effects of single dietary antioxidants.

European researchers interviewed 505 Swedish patients with newly diagnosed gastric adenocarcinoma and 1116 individuals without the disease in regard to the consumption of 45 different food and beverage items for the past twenty years. The researchers also collected blood samples from 298 of the gastric cancer patients and 244 controls to determine the presence of antibodies to the bacteria H pylori, which greatly increases the risk gastric cancer.

The total radical-trapping antioxidant potential for the plant foods consumed by the participants was calculated by the researchers. Of foods included in the study, garlic, kale and spinach had the highest antioxidant potential values. It was found that the total antioxidant potential for the group without cancer was higher than that of the cancer patients, owing to a higher intake of plant foods. Participants who had never smoked and who had the greatest intake of antioxidants experienced the lowest risk of gastric cancer, which was 45% lower than that of long-term smokers with the lowest antioxidant intake. When the subgroup who were infected with H pylori were examined separately, it was found that subjects who tested positive in the top half of antioxidant consumption lowered their relative risk of gastric cancer by 40% compared to those whose consumption of antioxidants was in the lower half.

The study demonstrated that eating even low levels of fruits and vegetables may lower gastric cancer risk by at least 30%, through the plant foods' antioxidant action.

—D Dye


November 13, 2002

Giving and living

A five-year study scheduled to be appear in the journal Psychological Science, has found a 60% reduction in the risk of dying within that period for people who are helpful to others compared to individuals in the same age group who provide less assistance to others. The study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, analyzed information on 423 couples who were part of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Changing Lives of Older Couples Study.

Four hundred twenty-three couples were interviewed to obtain information in regard to their level of assistance to relatives, friends and neighbors as well as the amount of emotional support that gave and received to their spouse. Over the course of the five years, 134 participants died. After controlling for age, gender, emotional and physical health, it was found that people who reported that they provided no help to others had twice the risk of dying during the five year period than those who reported being helpful.

Lead author and University of Michigan Institute for Social Research psychologist Stephanie Brown noted that these findings may be explained by the evolutionary advantages of assisting others. She stated, "Older adults may still be able to increase their fitness (defined as the reproductive success of individuals who share their genes) by becoming motivated to stay alive and prolonging the amount of time they can contribute to family members. Of course, this possibility relies on the assumption that a motivation for self-preservation can influence mortality. And in fact, there is evidence to suggest that individuals with a 'fighting spirit' survive longer with cancer than individuals who feel helpless or less optimistic about their chances for survival. Now it seems that the same may be true of a 'giving spirit."

—D Dye


November 11, 2002

Zeaxanthin protects the eye in animal study

Two studies published this month, in the November 2002 issues of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science and Experimental Eye Research, have found a protective benefit in the eye for the carotenoid zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin and lutein are carotenoids found in the diet that are are powerful antioxidants and are taken up by the retina of the eye. Their concentration is particularly high in the macula area, and some studies have suggested that they may help protect against macular degeneration.

The researchers, from Schepens Eye Research Institute and Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, used quail as an animal model because the birds' retinas resemble that of humans. In the first study, carotenoid-deficient quail were divided into groups that received a diet supplemented with or without zeaxanthin for one week. The birds were then exposed to damaging light. It was found that retinas containing the highest concentration of zeaxanthin showed minimal damage, while low zeaxanthin levels correlated with severe damage.

The second study utilized quail that received carotenoid-deficient, normal or zeaxanthin-supplemented diets for six months before the birds were exposed to damaging light. Again, extensive damage to the retina was found in birds that were carotenoid deficient, demonstrated by dead and dying photoreceptors. Quail who received zeaxanthin experienced the least amount of retinal damage.

Principal investigator C. Kathleen Dorey, commented, "Our studies showed that light damage was strongly influenced by the amount of zeaxanthin in the retina, and that significantly greater retinal protection was provided at dietary levels higher than those normally occurring in the diet. Zeaxanthin has been extensively studied for safety and has been reviewed as a dietary ingredient by the FDA. We hope this work further stimulates interest in clinical trials, and believe that zeaxanthin has a potential to eventually complement other strategies to improve the treatment of this vision-robbing disease."

—D Dye


November 08, 2002

Evidence that increased reactive oxygen species are link between magnesium deficiency and hypertension

The relationship between high blood pressure and magnesium deficiency has been explored in several studies, producing conflicting evidence. A study published in the November 2002 issue of the Journal of Hypertension submits the hypothesis that insufficient levels of magnesium may lead to hypertension by increasing the formation of reactive oxygen species, harmful molecules that cause oxidative damage.

The University of Montreal researchers divided stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats into three groups that received a control diet containing normal levels of magnesium, a magnesium-free diet and a high magnesium diet, and systolic blood pressure was measured each week for sixteen weeks. In a second experiment, stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats received a control diet, a magnesium-free diet and a magnesium-free diet combined with Tempol, a superoxide dismutase mimetic for seven weeks. Superoxide dismutase is one of the antioxidants naturally produced in the body.

Rats in the low magnesium group experienced an exacerbation in the development of hypertension after five weeks, accompanied by a reduction in oxidative stress markers which increased rapidly after two weeks. The ability of blood vessels to dilate in response to acetylcholine was decreased in the low magnesium group compared to controls. Vessel wall hypertrophy was greater and vascular superoxide higher in the rats who received the magnesium deficient diet compared to those on the high magnesium diet. However, rats on magnesium-free diets receiving Tempol did not experience a progression of hypertension or the vascular changes seen in magnesium deficient rats who did not receive the antioxidant.

In an accompanying editorial, Richard D Bukoski writes that the research provides, "the first link between an essential dietary nutrient and the key molecular pathways involved in regulating vascular smooth muscle growth and structure." (Journal of Hypertension 2002, 20:2141-2143)

—D Dye


November 06, 2002

Hibernation compound protects against stroke damage

Research conducted by Medical College of Georgia neuroscientist Dr Cesario V Brolongan, reported at the annual meeting of the International College of Geriatrics this month has found that a compound that squirrels use to hibernate helps protect the striatum of the brain from up to 75% of the damage that occurs during a stroke. The compound, known as delta opioid peptide, puts cells in a reversible state of suspended animation. Delta opiod peptide, which also exists in humans, may also help to protect brain cells from damage induced by Parkinson's disease. The findings were also reported partially in the journals Cell Transplantation and NeuroReport.

Dr Brolongan described the research: "When the animals were introduced to an experimental stroke, then injected with delta opioid peptide, we could see a reduction in the damage done by stroke; brain damage is reduced and the neurological deficits associated with stroke are definitely reduced. The oxygen needs were dramatically reduced: that is how it works to protect the brain . . . Our thinking here is that if we take this drug, probably brain cells are going to go into this mode of hibernation. So if you get a stroke or some other neurological disorder, most of the brain cells will be protected."

When delta opiod peptide was introduced into a culture of the dopamine-producing cells that are reduced in Parkinson's disease, cells who received the highest levels of the compound survived the longest. In an animal model of the disease, those who were given the most delta opiod peptide experienced the least reduction in dopamine levels.

Dr Brolongan believes that cell hibernation may have other roles, including slowing the aging process. Other researchers are exploring delta opiod peptide's possible role in extending the life of transplant organs.

—D Dye


November 04, 2002

Iron deficiency may result in neuron loss seen with aging

Researchers at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California have hypothesized that the brain cell loss observed in aging and in Alzheimer's disease and other neurologic disorders may simply be the result of iron deficiency. Acting on the knowledge that the synthesis of the major form of iron in cells known as heme declines with age, Hani Atamna, Bruce N Ames MD, and colleagues blocked heme synthesis in cultured human and rat neurons and found metabolic changes that were similar to the changes induced by Alzheimer's disease.

The scientists used two human brain cell lines and one line of rat neurons. After blocking heme synthesis and observing a decrease in mitochondrial complex IV, activation of nitric oxide synthase, changes in amyloid precursor protein, and alterations in iron and zinc status, the researchers attempted to induce the cells to multiply which led to the heme deficient cells dying, demonstrating that heme synthesis has a role in brain cell survival.

The report lists a number of similarities between the consequences of heme deficiency and "normal" aging, including loss of mitochondrial complex IV and increased oxidative stress.

The synthesis of heme depends on several nutrients, including vitamin B6, lipoic acid copper and zinc, as well as iron. The increased levels of iron that occur with aging may be a result of inefficient synthesis of heme, leading to a functional deficiency of iron. While deficiencies in iron and vitamin B6 are widespread, insufficient intake of any of these nutrients can result in diminished heme levels. Heme synthesis is also impaired by the presence of lead, aluminum and other toxic metals. These new findings suggest that some neurodegenerative disorders could be caused by dysregulated heme synthesis, which may be prevented or treated by correcting nutritional deficiencies.

—D Dye


November 01, 2002

Selenium protects against bladder tumors

A study of former smokers published in the the November 2002 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention showed that with high quantities of tissue selenium offered protection against bladder tumors. Previous research has shown the trace element may help protect against certain cancers. However, this protective benefit was not seen in nonsmokers or current smokers. The study's authors suggest that the reason for this finding may be due to selenium's antioxidant effect.

Lead study author and assistant professor of epidemiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, Maurice P.A. Zeegers offered an explanation: "The lack of effect of selenium status among nonsmokers is consistent with this hypothesis, since those who never smoked have not been exposed to smoking induced oxidative stress."

The study involved 120,852 Dutch men and women, 431 of whom had cancer of the bladder, who were part of a large population-based study on cancer and diet. Subjects completed questionnaires on cancer risk factors such as diet and smoking history. Toenail clippings from the participants were used by the researchers to measure selenium levels. While the group with the highest selenium levels, which measured 30% higher than the group with the lowest levels, experienced fewer bladder cancer diagnoses, former smokers experienced the greatest protective benefit from selenium, with 50% fewer bladder tumors than those whose selenium levels were lower. No other factor was found to have an equal impact on bladder cancer.

Dr Zeegers added, "A selenium marker should preferably reflect long-term selenium intake. Available evidence suggests that selenium levels in toenails reflect intake integrated for the previous 12 months or longer . . . Further research is needed to evaluate the influence of selenium on one of bladder cancers, the invasive form, when compared to the non-invasive form."

—D Dye


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