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Tomatoes are likely to reduce depression

Tomatoes are likely to reduce depression

In a new study, researchers found that those who eat tomatoes two to six times a week were 46 per cent less likely to suffer the blues than those eating them less than once a week.

Eating them every day slashed the risk by 52 per cent, according to the study.

But other fruits and vegetables do not have the same benefits. Eating healthy foods like cabbage, carrots, onions and pumpkins appeared to have little or no effect on psychological well-being, the study found.

Tomatoes are good source of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their deep red colour and has been linked with reducing the risk of prostate cancer and heart attacks.

The team of researchers from China and Japan, led by Dr Kaijun Niu from China’s Tianjin Medical University, wanted to investigate preliminary reports that lycopene might also promote psychological and well as physical health by reducing oxidative stress, or damage to healthy brain cells.

They analysed the mental health records and dietary habits of just under 1,000 elderly Japanese men and women aged 70 or over.

The researchers said they cannot be sure if lycopene in tomatoes directly affects the mind, or whether it simply protects against the depression caused when people develop potentially fatal diseases like cancer.

“These results suggest that a tomato-rich diet may have a beneficial effect on the prevention of depressive symptoms. In contrast, no relationship was observed with intake of other kinds of vegetables,” the Daily Mail quoted the researchers as writing in a report on the findings published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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Possible link between pesticides in water and allergies

A new study has suggested that allergies may be linked to pesticides found in tap water.

Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology used existing government data to see whether people with more dichlorophenols in their urine were more likely to have food allergies. Dichlorophenols are a kind of chlorine in certain pesticides that are known to kill bacteria, and in theory, they could be killing the naturally occurring bacteria in humans’ digestive systems, causing food allergies.

“We wanted to see if there was an association between certain pesticides and food allergies, and we were specifically interested in dichlorophenols because those were the ones that had this antibacterial effect,” said lead researcher Dr. Elina Jerschow. “When researchers have compared bacteria from the bowel in healthy kids versus bacteria in the bowel for kids that have lot of allergies, they’ve noticed a big difference.”

The number of children and teens with food or digestive allergies in the United States has increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, according to a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 3 million people under 18 years old.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to the CDC report. Symptoms can range from mouth tingling to anaphylaxis, which is the swelling of the throat and tongue and can lead to death.

Jerschow clarified that the researchers were only looking for a statistical association, meaning they were not able to examine patients to see how these chemicals physically caused their allergies. Because it’s only an association, these findings could mean that the chemicals caused the food allergies, or it could mean the food allergies caused the chemicals in the urine. That part is not yet clear.

“While the study does not allow concluding that pesticides are responsible for the allergies, it certainly raises the possibility and justifies pursuing the kinds of studies that can help sort of if these pesticides are, indeed, the cause,” said Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, who directs the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center at North Shore University Hospital. He was not a researcher involved in the study.

Spaeth said the study findings fit in with a growing evidence that pesticide exposure can damage the immune system, which could increase allergies as well.

Researchers were surprised to find that dichlorophenol levels in urine didn’t vary between urban and rural areas, Jerschow said. They concluded that even those who opted for bottled water instead of tap water could ingest the pesticide chemical from eating fruit, fruit juices and foods with cocoa powder, like chocolate.

As such, Jerschow said the research is still too preliminary to suggest that people should change their eating or drinking habits.

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Diet and Depression

A world-first trial to test if a healthy diet can improve the mental health of people with depression is being conducted by Deakin University researchers.

“With depression predicted to become the second-most common cause of disability in the world by 2020, there is an urgent need to look at new ways of treating this illness”, said Associate Professor Felice Jacka, who is leading the study. “While there is now compelling new evidence to suggest that diet plays an important role in the risk of developing depression, there is no existing information on the impact of an improved diet on existing depressive illness. Through this study we want to answer the critically important and frequently asked question ‘If I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?’” Associate Professor Jacka said.

The research team from Deakin’s School of Medicine is now calling on people in Melbourne aged over 18 years with major depression to sign on for the trial which is funded for three years by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The trial will involve taking part in either a three month diet program or social support program. Each program comprises seven 45—60 minute sessions at the research base in Collingwood. In the near future, the trial will also commence at Barwon Health in Geelong.

This trial builds on previous research that has looked at the connection between diet and mental health, including previous studies by Associate Professor Jacka. “I have been involved in five large-scale studies that have examined the connection between aspects of diet and mental health. The results of these studies have linked a healthy diet with a reduced likelihood of having depression,” she said. “It is now time to test whether improving someone’s diet makes them feel better if they are already depressed.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the trial can call 03 8415 0944 or email diet@barwonhealth.org.au

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World Diabetes Day – 14 November

World Diabetes Day – 14 November

Australian diabetes organisations are participating in the World Diabetes Day monument challenge, where over 600 buildings will light up across the world to raise awareness of diabetes and reflect the International Diabetes Federation theme: Diabetes education and prevention.

World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated every year on 14th November.  The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations.  WDD engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses.  WDD became an official United Nations Day in 2007 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/255.  The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight.

For more information visit www.worlddiabetesday.org

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Most Brits are “replete’ in iron

A UK report has found most Brits gain adequate levels of iron, but warned that the elderly, small children, girls, some women and the poor may be susceptible to deficiencies and should consider iron supplementation among other measures. “While most people in the UK are iron replete, health professionals need to be alert to increased risk of iron deficiency anaemia in toddlers, girls and women of reproductive age (particularly those from low income groups) and some adults aged over 65 years,” wrote the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA).

“Those with symptoms suggesting iron deficiency anaemia should receive appropriate clinical assessment and advice, including dietary advice on how to increase their iron intakes and to consider use of iron supplements if required.” The report updated COMA’s 1998 finding that high levels of red meat consumption were linked to colorectal cancer and also investigated the effects of reduced iron-rich red meat consumption. COMA concluded that a, “healthy balanced diet, which includes a variety of foods containing iron” is the best way to attain, “adequate iron status”.

“Such an approach is more important than consuming iron-rich foods at the same time as foods/drinks that enhance iron absorption (e.g., fruit juice, meat) or not consuming iron rich foods with those that inhibit iron absorption (e.g., tea, coffee, milk),” the committee said.

On the issue or red meat consumption COMA found that reduced red meat consumption levels would not cause widespread iron deficiencies. “Adults with relatively high intakes of red and processed meat (around 90 g/day or more) should consider reducing their intakes. A reduction to the UK population average for adult consumers (70 g/day cooked weight) would have little impact on the proportion of the adult population with low iron intakes.”

Current UK guidelines state that 3.2 oz (90g) is a healthy daily portion of red meat, and that only those who eat more than 5oz (140g) need to cut back. However some research has challenged these levels. A 2005 European study found those who regularly eat more than 5.6oz (160g) of red meat daily increase their risk of contracting bowel cancer by a third. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund report in 2007 concluded that there was a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of bowel cancer.

The COMA report follows research from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) which contradicts these recommendations

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Increased B vitamins may ease PMS

Higher intakes of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin from the diet may reduce the incidence of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by about 35 percent, suggest new findings. According to a new paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the link between B vitamins and PMS is biologically plausible since B vitamins such as thiamine and riboflavin are known to play important roles in the synthesis of various neurotransmitters involved in PMS.

While most women experience mild emotional or physical premenstrual symptoms, as many as 8-20 per cent of women experience symptoms severe enough to meet the definition of premenstrual syndrome, which can substantially interfere with daily activities and relationships. The new study, performed by researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Harvard, and the University of Iowa, indicates that increase intakes of certain B vitamins from food sources may help reduce the incidence of PMS.

Using data from 1,057 women with PMS and 1,968 women without PMS participating in the Nurses' Health Study II cohort, the researchers found that women with the highest average intakes of riboflavin two to four years prior to diagnosis were associated with a 35 percent lower incidence of PMS than women with the lowest average intakes. On the other hand, the researchers did not observe any benefits with other B vitamins, including niacin, folate, B6, and B12. In addition, supplemental intakes of these vitamins was not linked to PMS incidence, they added. “We observed a significantly lower risk of PMS in women with high intakes of thiamine and riboflavin from food sources only,” wrote the researchers. “Further research is needed to evaluate the effects of B vitamins in the development of premenstrual syndrome.”

Beyond the B vitamins, there is also some evidence for the potential of a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to lower the risk of developing PMS, a condition that affects up to a fifth of all women. According to a study published in 2005 in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Vol. 165, pp1246-1252), researchers from the University of Massachusetts and GlaxoSmithKline reported for the first time that calcium and vitamin D may help prevent the initial development of PMS.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.009530 “Dietary B vitamin intake and incident premenstrual syndrome” Authors: P.O. Chocano-Bedoya, J.E. Manson, S.E. Hankinson, W.C. Willett, S.R. Johnson, L. Chasan-Taber, A.G. Ronnenberg, C. Bigelow, E.R. Bertone-Johnson

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Pecans Can Prevent Heart Disease

A new research study from Loma Linda University (LLU) demonstrates that naturally occurring antioxidants in pecans may help contribute to heart health and disease prevention; the results were published in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

Pecans contain different forms of the antioxidant vitamin E — known as tocopherols, plus numerous phenolic substances, many of them with antioxidant abilities. The nuts are especially rich in one form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherols. The findings illustrate that after eating pecans, gamma-tocopherol levels in the body doubled and unhealthy oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood decreased by as much as 33 percent. Oxidized LDLs may further contribute to inflammation in the arteries and place people at greater risk of cardiovascular problems. “Our tests show that eating pecans increases the amount of healthy antioxidants in the body,” says LLU researcher Ella Haddad, DrPH, associate professor in the School of Public Health department of nutrition. “This protective effect is important in helping to prevent development of various diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”

These findings are from a research project designed to further evaluate the health benefits of pecans, according to Dr. Haddad. She analyzed biomarkers in blood and urine samples from study participants (a total of 16 men and women between the ages 23 and 44) who ate a sequence of three diets composed of whole pecans, pecans blended with water, or a control meal of equivalent nutrient composition. The pecan meals contained about three ounces of the nut. Samples were taken prior to meals and at intervals up to 24 hours after eating. Following the test meals composed of whole pecans and blended pecans, researchers found that amounts of gamma-tocopherols (vitamin E) in the body doubled eight hours after both meals, and oxygen radical absorbance capabilities (ORAC — a scientific method for measuring antioxidant power in the blood) increased 12 and 10 percent respectively two hours after the meals. In addition, following the whole-pecan meal, oxidized LDL cholesterol decreased by 30 percent (after 2 hours), 33 percent (after 3 hours), and 26 percent (after 8 hours).

“This study is another piece of evidence that pecans are a healthy food,” says Dr. Haddad. “Previous research has shown that pecans contain antioxidant factors. Our study shows these antioxidants are indeed absorbed in the body and provide a protective effect against diseases.” Research from Loma Linda University published earlier in the Journal of Nutrition showed that a pecan-enriched diet lowered levels of LDL cholesterol by 16.5 percent — more than twice the American Heart Association’s Step I diet, which was used as the control diet in that study. Similarly, the pecan-enriched diet lowered total cholesterol levels by 11.3 percent (also twice as much as the Step I diet).

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Languages Protect from Memory Loss

People who speak more than two languages may lower their risk of memory loss or developing other memory problems, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011. “It appears speaking more than two languages has a protective effect on memory in seniors who practice foreign languages over their lifetime or at the time of the study,” said study author Magali Perquin, PhD, with the Center for Health Studies from the Public Research Center for Health (“CRP-Santé”) in Luxembourg. Perquin is helping to lead the MemoVie study which involves a consortium of partners from different hospitals and institutions.

The study involved 230 men and women with an average age of 73 who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages. Of the participants, 44 reported memory loss or cognitive problems; the rest of the group had no memory issues. Researchers discovered that those people who spoke four or more languages were five times less likely to develop memory loss or cognitive problems compared to those people who only spoke two languages. People who spoke three languages were three times less likely to have memory loss or cognitive problems compared to bilinguals. In addition, people who currently spoke more than two languages were also four times less likely to have memory loss or cognitive impairment. The results accounted for the age and the education of the participants.

“Further studies are needed to try to confirm these findings and determine whether the protection is limited to thinking skills related to language or if it also extends beyond that and benefits other areas of cognition,” said Perquin. The research was conducted in Luxembourg, where there is a dense population of people who speak more than two languages. The MemoVie study was supported by The National Research Fund (FNR) from Luxembourg.

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Soft drinks high blood pressure

Soft drinks high blood pressure

Drinking soft drinks is associated with higher blood pressure, according to a study of over 2,500 people reported this week in the journal Hypertension. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Someone with a blood pressure level in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) of 135 over 85 is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75.

The new research shows that for every extra can of soft drink consumed per day, participants on average had a higher systolic blood pressure by 1.6 mmHg and a higher diastolic blood pressure by 0.8 mmHg. This difference was statistically significant even after adjusting for factors such as weight and height. The study did not examine the mechanism that might link soft drinks with blood pressure. However, the researchers suggest that raised uric acid, which has been linked to soft drink consumption, might raise blood pressure by reducing the levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes the lining of the blood vessels.

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The association between soft drinks and higher blood pressure was especially strong in people who consumed a lot of salt as well as sugar. Diet drinks were linked with lower blood pressure levels in some analyses, but the association was not consistent or strong. Professor Paul Elliott, senior author of the study, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “It’s widely known that if you have too much salt in your diet, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure. The results of this study suggest that people should be careful about how much sugar they consume as well.”

The researchers analysed data from 2,696 volunteers aged between 40 and 59, in eight areas of the US and two areas of the UK. On four separate occasions over a period of three weeks on average, the participants reported what they had eaten in the preceding 24 hours, as well as giving urine samples and having their blood pressure measured. The volunteers were taking part in INTERMAP, the International Study of Macronutrients, Micronutrients and Blood Pressure.

The researchers also found that people who drink more soft drinks tended to have more unhealthy diets in general. As well as consuming more sugar, those consuming more than one soft drink a day consumed more calories by 397 kilocalories per day on average, and less fibre and minerals. Those who did not consume soft drinks had a lower body mass index (BMI) on average than those who consumed more than one drink per day. “Individuals who drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages appear to have less healthy diets,” said Dr Ian Brown, the study’s first author, also from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “They are consuming empty calories without the nutritional benefits of real food. They consume less potassium, magnesium and calcium.” “This is a population study,” Dr Brown added. “It can’t say definitively that sugary drinks raise your blood pressure, but it’s one piece of the evidence in a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be completed. In the meantime, we would advise people who want to drink sugar-sweetened beverages should do so only in moderation.”

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