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Olive oil protects the liver
An article published online on October 28, 2010 in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism reports the finding of Mohamed Hammami and his colleagues at the University of Monastir in Tunisia of a protective benefit for extra-virgin olive oil against oxidative stress in the liver.
The researchers tested the effect of olive oil in rats given the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid which has a damaging effect on the liver via the depletion of antioxidants and induction of oxidative stress. The animals received whole olive oil, the hydrophilic fraction of the oil or the lipophilic fraction for four weeks. Five control groups received no herbicide and/or oil.
While all of the rats that received the herbicide developed significant damage to the liver, those that were treated with extra virgin olive oil or the hydrophilic fraction had an increase in antioxidant enzyme activity and decreased liver damage markers.
"Olive oil is an integral ingredient in the Mediterranean diet,” noted Dr Hammami, who is also affiliated with Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University. “There is growing evidence that it may have great health benefits including the reduction in coronary heart disease risk, the prevention of some cancers and the modification of immune and inflammatory responses. Here, we've shown that extra virgin olive oil and its extracts protect against oxidative damage of hepatic tissue.”
"The hydrophilic fraction of olive oil seems to be the effective one in reducing toxin-induced oxidative stress, indicating that hydrophilic extract may exert a direct antioxidant effect on hepatic cells,” he remarked. “However, more detailed studies about the effect of antioxidant compounds separately and/or their interactions are necessary to substantiate these observations.”
Higher potassium levels associated with lower diabetes risk
Having a higher serum potassium level may be protective against the development of type 2 diabetes, according to the results of a study published in the October 25, 2010 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
Johns Hopkins University researchers evaluated data from 11,530 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Participants were aged 45 to 65 upon enrollment between 1986 and 1989. Blood samples obtained upon enrollment were analyzed for serum potassium, and dietary potassium intake was calculated from dietary questionnaire responses. Diabetes diagnoses were ascertained during follow-up visits scheduled every three years over a 9 year average period, which was followed by 8 years of annual telephone contact.
Over the follow-up period, 1,475 participants developed diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes increased with declining levels of potassium. Subjects whose potassium levels were lowest at less than 4 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) experienced a risk of diabetes that was 64 percent greater than those who had high-normal levels of 5 to 5.5 mEq/L. Levels of 4.0 to 4.5 mEq/L were associated with a similar increase.
Low dietary potassium was also predictive of the development of diabetes. Subjects whose intake was among the lowest 25 percent of participants had a risk of developing diabetes that was 37 percent higher than those whose intake was among the top quarter.
“Our study suggests an inverse relationship between serum potassium levels and risk of incident diabetes mellitus in middle aged adults,” Ranee Chatterjee, MD, MPH and coauthors write. “Clinical trials should be developed to assess if increasing serum potassium, through medications, pharmacologic supplementation, or increased dietary intake—all relatively simple interventions—could indeed reduce the risk of incident diabetes mellitus,” they conclude.
Lung transplant rejection associated with deficient vitamin D levels
On October 18, 2010 at The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2010 annual meeting in Toronto, it was reported that those who receive a transplanted lung could have a greater likeliness of transplant rejection if they are deficient in vitamin D.
Researchers at Loyola University Health System evaluated 64 men and 58 women who underwent lung transplantation between January, 2005 and June, 2008 at Loyola University Medical Center. Reasons for transplantation included pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While the vitamin D status of 32 percent of the patients was unknown, deficiency, as determined by post-transplantation levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (the active form of vitamin D), was identified in half of the subjects.
Over half of those who were deficient in vitamin D experienced an increase in acute rejection during the first year after receiving a transplant, compared with 19 percent of patients with sufficient levels. An increase in airway inflammation was also associated with vitamin D deficiency.
The authors of the abstract hypothesize that vitamin D helps regulate immune function in lung transplant patients, which results in immunosuppression and better outcomes.
"Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among lung transplant recipients," observed study investigator Pauline Camacho, MD, who is the director of the Loyola University Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease Center. "This study shed greater light on the serious impact that this deficiency has on lung transplant patients."
“To our knowledge, this is the first study that has shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and rejection among lung transplant recipients,” the authors announce. “A follow up study will be looking at the effect of vitamin D therapy on acute and chronic rejection rates, pulmonary function, and long term survival.”
Burns deplete vitamin E
In an article published online on September 29, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute and the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston report that alpha-tocopherol, a fat-soluble nutrient commonly known as vitamin E, rapidly declines in the fatty tissue of children who experienced third-degree burn injuries.
The team measured adipose alpha-tocopherol levels in eight children a week following their injuries and at varying intervals up to one year. After three weeks, vitamin E was depleted to levels that averaged nearly half of those measured during the first week, despite the provision of 150 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E in the children’s diets. The decline observed in the study is greater than what might normally occur in a matter of years.
"This is one of the first studies we've done that measures vitamin E in the body tissues of children," commented lead author and Linus Pauling Institute professor Maret G. Traber, who is a leading expert on vitamin E. "Vitamin E in adipose tissue does not fluctuate much on a short-term basis. To find this level of vitamin E loss in such a short time was dramatic, unexpected and somewhat alarming."
"Unfortunately, with the modern American diet too many people are getting most of their vitamin E from foods that aren't particularly good for them, things like ice cream or potato chips," she added. "It's probable that most people don't get enough of this vitamin at all, and that's one of the reasons we're looking at people who have suffered severe illness or injury, in which vitamin E deficiencies may complicate other health problems."
Dr Traber suggests conducting a study in which burn victims are provided with 400 IU of vitamin E per day, a level that many people consume.
Vitamin D deficiency associated with osteoporosis in IBD patients
The American College of Gastroenterology's 75th Annual Scientific meeting held in San Antonio, Texas was the site of a presentation by Baylor College of Medicine Assistant Professor of Medicine Dr Bincy P. Abraham of the finding of an increased incidence of deficient vitamin D levels among inflammatory bowel disease patients with low bone density.
Dr Abraham evaluated data from 161 patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease who participated in a study conducted between 2008 and 2010. Serum samples were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D and bone density was measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan.
Osteoporosis or osteopenia was revealed in 22 percent of the subjects. Those with abnormal bone density were over eight times likelier to be deficient in vitamin D than those with normal scans.
"We aimed to determine the association between vitamin D deficiency and abnormal bone density in IBD patients," Dr Abraham stated. "IBD patients with an abnormal bone density exam had a significantly higher rate of vitamin D deficiency than those who had normal DEXA scans.”
Crohn’s disease patients who were deficient in the vitamin had a four times greater risk of abnormal bone density than those with ulcerative colitis. "This finding is not surprising since Crohn's disease usually affects the small intestine, which is the part of the gut that absorbs the most nutrients," Dr Abraham noted.
"Abnormal bone density was relatively high among our IBD patients with vitamin D deficiency irrespective to age, gender or corticosteroid use that would place them at a significantly higher risk of having an abnormal DEXA result," he added. "It remains important for those caring for IBD patients to evaluate for vitamin D nutritional deficiency and for its potential consequence of osteopenia or osteoporosis."
Treatment with beta-carotene improves retinitis pigmentosa in some patients
On October 18, 2010 at the 2010 American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) - Middle East-Africa Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO) Joint Meeting held in Chicago, it was reported that beta-carotene, a carotenoid that acts as a precursor to vitamin A, helps improve vision in patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of inheritable disorders of the retina which is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Retinitis pigmentosa frequently begins with the onset of night blindness in childhood followed by the loss of peripheral vision, resulting tunnel vision and the possibility of eventual blindness. The AAO-MEACO meeting is the largest and most comprehensive ophthalmic education conference worldwide.
In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover trial, Ygal Rotensteich, MD and colleagues administered capsules containing 9-cis beta-carotene (a form of beta-carotene that has been shown to be effective against one type of night blindness) to 29 retinitis pigmentosa patients. Participants were evaluated for visual acuity and field, and by electroretinogram before and after 90 days of treatment.
A third of the subjects showed improvements following treatment with beta-carotene. While those who benefited did not comprise the majority of subjects, the finding holds promise for a significant number of people faced with the possibility of incurable blindness. "We recommend repeating the study with patients with the genetic forms of RP that would be most likely to respond to oral beta carotene," Dr Rotensteich stated. "We know its positive effect is associated with retinoid cycle defect, which is involved in some but not all forms of RP. Also, future research should look for the optimal beta carotene dosage."
Quercetin as good as resveratrol in fighting inflammation
Research described online on October 13, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that the ability of quercetin to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance in human fat cells is equal to or greater than that of resveratrol, a well-known plant compound that has an anti-inflammatory benefit. Quercetin is a flavonol found in plants including apples, onions, capers, lovage and grapes which have known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Michael K. McIntosh and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro pretreated cultured human adipocytes (fat cells) with quercetin or trans-resveratrol, followed by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), a proinflammatory cytokine that contributes to chronic, low grade inflammation, which occurs in obesity.
Quercetin and resveratrol were rapidly taken up by the adipocytes. Both compounds lowered TNF-a induced expression of inflammatory genes, including interleukin 6, interleukin 8 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, as well as the secretion of these proinflammatory compounds. The effect of quercetin was greater than that of resveratrol. Quercetin was also found to have a greater impact on other factors, including the ability to reduce nuclear factor-kappa B transcription and insulin resistance induced by TNF-a.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that quercetin and trans-resveratrol aglycones are taken up by primary human adipocytes,” the authors write. “Notably, consuming whole foods or supplements rich in phytochemicals such as quercetin and resveratrol provide many important health benefits. These benefits are most likely due to their ability to attenuate oxidative stress and inflammation, as shown in the current study and in other in vitro studies.”
“These data suggest that quercetin is equally or more effective than trans-resveratrol in attenuating TNF-a–mediated inflammation and insulin resistance in primary human adipocytes,” they conclude.
Review affirms efficacy for several anti-anxiety supplements
Shaheen E. Lakhan and Karen F. Vieira of the non-profit Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in Los Angeles selected 24 studies, including a total of 2,619 participants, which tested the anti-anxiety effect of passionflower, kava, St John’s wort, L-lysine and magnesium. Fifteen of the 21 randomized controlled trials included in the review showed positive effects for the nutrients under study. Passionflower, kava, and a combination of L-lysine and L-arginine were concluded to have significant effects against anxiety, while the evidence in favor of St John’s wort and magnesium was mixed.
Concerning kava’s potential deleterious effect on the liver, Drs Lakhan and Vieira remark that serious side effects may have been due to poor quality kava, as well as other factors including overdose. “Of the 435 clinical trial participants taking kava supplements in our review, some at high doses, no liver issues were reported,” they write. “Therefore, the current review supports the conclusion that liver toxicity is indeed a rare side effect.”
"For all three of the herbal supplements we reviewed, more research needs to be done to establish the most effective dosage and to determine whether this varies between different types of anxiety or anxiety-related disorders,” Dr Lakhan stated. “Herbal medicines hold an important place in the history of medicine as most of our current remedies, and the majority of those likely to be discovered in the future, will contain phytochemicals derived from plants."
Vitamin D deficiency associated with increased body mass index in children
An article published online on October 6, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports an association with vitamin D deficiency and increased adiposity in school-aged children.
Eduardo Villamor of the University of Michigan and his colleagues enrolled 3,202 boys and girls residing in Bogota, Columbia, who were between 5 and 12 years of age. Blood samples were analyzed for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels upon enrollment, and height, weight, subscapular-to-triceps skinfold-thickness ratio and waist circumference (which is used to evaluate central adiposity) were measured. Anthropometric measurements were repeated yearly over a median follow-up period of 30 months.
Ten percent of the children were found to be deficient in vitamin D and 46.4 percent had insufficient levels. Those who were deficient in the vitamin or had insufficient levels experienced a greater change in body mass index than children who had sufficient vitamin D levels, in addition to greater increases in skinfold-thickness and waist circumference.
The authors remark that the dramatic rise in obesity rates among children is of concern because obesity during childhood is a risk factor for cardiometabolic disease later in life. Insufficient levels of vitamin D could play a role in childhood obesity due to the vitamin’s influence on the break down and formation of lipids in fat cells. Additionally, studies using cultured cells have revealed that vitamin D can inhibit the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma, a regulator of adipogenesis.
“Vitamin D serostatus was inversely associated with the development of adiposity in school-age children,” the authors conclude. “Randomized intervention studies are needed to ascertain the effect of improving vitamin D status in children on the risk of obesity and other risk factors for chronic disease.”
Higher levels of B vitamins predict lower risk of colorectal cancer
European researchers report in the October, 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention the discovery of a correlation between higher levels of vitamins B2 and B6 and a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
The study included 1,365 individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 2,319 age and gender-matched control subjects who were participants in the Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Blood samples obtained upon enrollment between 1992 and 1998 were analyzed for vitamins B2, B6 and B12, and 8 variants of genes that encode enzymes related to one-carbon metabolism, which involves these vitamins. The subjects were followed for a median of 3.6 years.
Vitamin levels were lower in smokers compared to nonsmokers, and vitamin B12 tended to be higher in participants under 60 years of age than in older subjects. For those whose vitamin B2 levels were among the top one-fifth of participants, there was a 29 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer compared with those whose levels were among the lowest fifth. Among those whose vitamin B6 levels were highest, the risk was 32 percent lower than those whose levels were lowest. There were no significant associations for vitamin B12 or the genetic polymorphisms with colorectal cancer.
“The present study is the largest prospective study on plasma B-vitamins and colorectal cancer risk published so far,” the authors announce. They suggest that the associations observed in the current research may be due to mechanisms that do not involve one-carbon metabolism.
“This European population-based study is the first to indicate that vitamin B2 is inversely associated with colorectal cancer, and is in agreement with previously suggested inverse associations of vitamin B6 with colorectal cancer,” they note.
Walnuts boost ability to handle stress
The current issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published the finding of Sheila G. West and her associates at Penn State University of an improved response to stress among those who consumed walnuts and walnut oil.
“People who show an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk of heart disease," explained Dr West, who is an associate professor of biobehavioral health. "We wanted to find out if omega 3-fatty acids from plant sources would blunt cardiovascular responses to stress."
In a crossover study, Dr West’s team gave 22 healthy men and women with elevated cholesterol an average American diet, the same diet in which walnuts and walnut oil substituted for some of the fat, or the same diet in which some of the fat was substituted with walnuts, walnut oil and flax oil for six weeks. After each six week period, participants received a different diet, so that each subject received all three diets by the end of the study.
Stress was induced in the study by asking participants to give a speech and by immersion of a foot in cold water, during which blood pressure was measured to evaluate the subject’s response. For those who received walnuts and walnut oil, both resting blood pressure and blood pressure during the stressful event were reduced compared with measurements in those who did not receive walnuts. Participants who received flax oil did not experience further benefits in addition to those conferred by walnuts, with the exception of a reduction in C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
"These results are in agreement with several recent studies showing that walnuts can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure," Dr West stated. "This work suggests that blood pressure is also reduced when a person is exposed to stress in their daily life."
Deficient vitamin D levels in African-American women linked to elevated breast cancer risk
The Third American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities was the site of a presentation by University of South Carolina associate professor of epidemiology Susan Steck, PhD, MPH of a greater incidence of vitamin D deficiency among African-American women, which was associated with an increased likelihood of aggressive breast cancer.
"We know that darker skin pigmentation acts somewhat as a block to producing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which is the primary source of vitamin D in most people," noted Dr Steck.
Vitamin D has been found to help inhibit cell proliferation and induce programmed cell death and differentiation in normal and cancerous breast cells. Dr Steck and her associates measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in 60 African-American and 47 Caucasian women aged 33 to 84 who were diagnosed with breast cancer during the previous 5 years. Vitamin D levels among African American women averaged 19.3 nanograms per milliliter, compared to 29.8 ng/mL in Caucasians. Deficiency, defined as 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/mL occurred in 60 percent of African-American participants, and just 15 percent of Caucasian women.
The researchers found an association between the lowest vitamin D levels and a greater risk of triple-negative breast cancer, which is not responsive to estrogen and progesterone. Additionally, women who were deficient in vitamin D were more than 8 times likelier than nondeficient women to have aggressive disease.
“This study corroborates other research showing racial differences in vitamin D status and provides further support for a protective role of vitamin D in breast cancer, particularly for highly aggressive disease,” the authors conclude. “The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency was high, suggesting the need for monitoring of vitamin D levels among breast cancer patients.
Garlic shows promise for protection against cardiomyopathy
In an article published online on September 13, 2010 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Taiwan researchers report a protective effect for garlic against the development of diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy, a heart disorder characterized by inflammation and weakening of the heart muscle that is a major cause of death among human diabetics.
Wei-Wen Kuo of China Medical University and colleagues evaluated garlic’s effects in rats in which diabetes was induced by the administration of streptozotocin. Ten, 50 or 100 milligrams garlic oil per kilogram body weight or corn oil was delivered by stomach tube every other day for 16 days. An additional group of nondiabetic rats served as controls.
Echocardiograms of the heart were performed before and 16 days following the administration of garlic, and apoptosis (programmed cell death) oxidative stress, and other factors were evaluated. Garlic oil significantly decreased cardiac contractile dysfunction induced by diabetes, with those that received the higher doses experiencing function similar to nondiabetic rats. Additionally, the decline in the antioxidant superoxide dismutase-1, and the increase in lipid peroxidation and apoptosis that was observed in the hearts of the diabetic animals was dose-dependently reduced in animals that received garlic. The benefits appear to be associated with garlic’s numerous antioxidant compounds.
“Our results show that garlic oil supplementation for diabetic rats leads to several alterations at multiple levels in hearts including cardiac contractile functions and structures, myosin chain gene expressions, oxidative stress, and apoptosis and related signaling activities,” the authors conclude. “All of these phenomena might be associated with the antioxidant potential of garlic oil, which is attributed to the presence of organosulfur compounds that modulate the cardiac antioxidant activity. A future study to investigate the individual garlic oil constituent compounds on improving diabetic cardiac dysfunction is needed.”