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Curry protects against fatty liver disease

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Curcumin, a natural phytochemical from turmeric that is used as a spice in curry, holds promise in treating or preventing liver damage from an advanced form of a condition known as fatty liver disease, new Saint Louis University research suggests. Curcumin is contained in turmeric, a plant used by the Chinese to make traditional medicines for thousands of years. SLU's recent study highlights its potential in countering an increasingly common kind of fatty liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Linked to obesity and weight gain, NASH affects 3 to 4 percent of U.S. adults and can lead to a type of liver damage called liver fibrosis and possibly cirrhosis, liver cancer and death.

“My laboratory studies the molecular mechanism of liver fibrosis and is searching for natural ways to prevent and treat this liver damage,” said Anping Chen, Ph.D., corresponding author and director of research in the pathology department of Saint Louis University. The findings were published in the September 2010 issue of Endocrinology. “While research in an animal model and human clinical trials are needed, our study suggests that curcumin may be an effective therapy to treat and prevent liver fibrosis, which is associated with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).”

High levels of blood leptin, glucose and insulin are commonly found in human patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes, which might contribute to NASH-associated liver fibrosis. Chen's most recent work tested the effect of curcumin on the role of high levels of leptin in causing liver fibrosis in vitro, or in a controlled lab setting. “Leptin plays a critical role in the development of liver fibrosis,” he said.

High levels of leptin activate hepatic stellate cells, which are the cells that cause overproduction of the collagen protein, a major feature of liver fibrosis. The researchers found that among other activities, curcumin eliminated the effects of leptin on activating hepatic stellate cells, which short-circuited the development of liver damage (Courtesy of EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS).

Reference: Youcai Tang, Anping Chen. Curcumin Protects Hepatic Stellate Cells against Leptin-Induced Activation in Vitro by Accumulating Intracellular Lipids. Endocrinology Vol. 151, No. 9 4168-4177 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 9 4168-4177 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. doi:10.1210/en.2010-0191

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Premenopausal Visceral Fat a Risk Factor for Osteoporosis

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Young premenopausal women with excessive amounts of visceral fat are at increased risk for osteoporosis, according to new research presented at the Radiological Society of North America 96th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting. For years, it was believed that obese women had a lower risk of developing osteoporosis and that the mechanical loading from excess weight was good for their bones. It now appears that having too much fat, particularly deep abdominal fat, might be damaging to bone health, Miriam A. Bredella, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, told meeting attendees. “With this ongoing obesity epidemic, we were actually seeing more and more young women breaking their forearms or their wrists, and the single biggest risk factor in this group was actually increased body weight,” she told Medscape Medical News. “We thought we should look take a closer look at whether obesity really did protect against osteoporosis.”

Dr. Bredella and her team studied 50 premenopausal women whose mean body mass index was 30 kg/m2 (range, 19 to 46). The women underwent assessment of L4 bone marrow fat with magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy as a measurement of lumbar bone density. In addition, abdominal subcutaneous, visceral, and total fat depots and trabecular bone mineral density of L4 were assessed using quantitative computed tomography. “Using MR spectroscopy was a new thing that we did in this study. MR spectroscopy is a technique that is more sophisticated than the regular bone density test. It does not involve radiation,” Dr. Bredella explained. “With this test, we could actually look inside the bones and see how much fat was in the bones.”

These examinations revealed an inverse association between visceral fat and bone mineral density (r = –0.31; P = .03) and between vertebral bone marrow fat and bone mineral density (r = –0.45; P = .001). The researchers also found that there was a positive correlation between bone marrow fat and visceral fat (r =.28; P = .04) that was independent of bone mineral density.

However, there was no significant correlation between either subcutaneous fat or total fat and bone marrow fat or bone mineral density. “The more deep belly fat you have, the more fat you have in your bones, and the more fat you have in the bones, the weaker they will be,” Dr. Bredella said. “All things being equal, if you have 2 obese women and one has a lot of deep belly fat and the other one has exactly the same weight but her fat is distributed more superficially around the hips and thighs, then the woman with the deep belly fat will have weaker bones.”

She suggested that belly fat weakens bones because this type of fat secretes adipokines, which weaken bones. “It is important for people to be aware that obesity is a risk factor for more than diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” she said. “Now they need to know that excess belly fat is a risk factor for bone loss.”

Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 96th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting: Abstract SSJ17-05. Presented November 30, 2010.

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Link between snoring and heart disease

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Many people snore. Many people have heart attacks. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh say they have found a connection between the two conditions. “People often report in primary care offices that they or their spouse complains of loud snoring, that they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. And we as sleep researchers were interested in how this broad array of sleep symptoms that are often reported might relate to later cardiovascular risk,” lead research author Wendy Troxel of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said.

Previous research has looked at the link between heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea, a problem where excess tissue blocks the airway during sleep. But this study looked purely at snoring. “There are some people with loud snoring who don't have obstructive sleep apnea,” Troxel continued.

In Troxel's government-funded study, more that 800 relatively healthy people ages 45 to 78 were followed for three years. High blood sugar and low levels of good cholesterol, both risk factors for heart disease, were twice as likely to present in the participants who reported frequent, loud snoring.

In addition to snorers, participants who had trouble falling asleep and had unrefreshing sleep were also at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, when additional heart disease risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of triglyceride fats are present. “Sleep complaints aren't just benign annoyances but something that can really foretell important health consequences,” Troxel stressed, “and they should really be discussed with [medical] providers and referred for further treatment if necessary.”

The research conducted at Pitt was an observational study. Patients were not treated to see whether decreasing snoring could lower the risk of heart disease. Rather, the study shows that snorers should pay particular attention to their heart disease risk factors.

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Pesticides linked to ADHD

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Organophosphate pesticides act by disrupting neurotransmitters, particularly acetylcholine, which plays an important role in sustaining attention and short-term memory.

“Given that these compounds are designed to attack the nervous system of organisms, there is reason to be cautious, especially in situations where exposure may coincide with critical periods of fetal and child development,” said he study's lead author Amy Marks.

Earlier this year, a different study by researchers at Harvard University associated greater exposure to organophosphate pesticides in school aged children with higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms.

“These studies provide a growing body of evidence that organophosphate pesticide exposure can impact human neurodevelopment, particularly among children. We were especially interested in prenatal exposure because that is the period when a baby's nervous system is developing the most,” said Eskenazi.

More than 300 children were tested and the researchers were continuing to follow the children as they get older and expect to present more results in the years to come. The current findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Source: New York Post

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Eating a sensible diet improves lung health

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Steering clear of full-fat, fried, and processed foods is not just good for overall health, it could help prevent chronic lung conditions, a large UK study has revealed.

Led by Seif Shaheen, Professor of Respiratory Epidemiology at Barts and The London School of Medicine, the study – involving 1,551 men and 1,391 women with an average age of 66 – showed that those whose diet favoured fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish and wholegrain products had far better lung function than those who chose a diet high in fat, sugar and processed food.

The diets of those involved were investigated to assess what kinds of food they consumed on a regular basis. Their lung function was also tested using a spirometer, a device which measures the amount of air that a person can blow out of their lungs in one second. This simple test illustrates how healthy the lungs are, and determines whether any blockage or obstruction exists in the airways. If the airways are obstructed, the person is diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The study also revealed that the beneficial effects of the sensible diet were particularly strong in men who smoked.

Lung health in particular may be positively affected by a sensible diet because of the antioxidants contained in fruit and wholegrains, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish – that protect the lungs against the adverse effects of smoking.

Professor Shaheen said: “Whilst cessation of smoking is still the number one way to improve lung health, this study is important because it suggests that cases of COPD might be prevented if people, especially male smokers, ate more fruit and vegetables, oily fish and wholegrain cereals, and less white bread, sugar, full fat dairy products, fried food and processed meat. However, the only way to confirm this would be to carry out a randomised controlled trial.”

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Link between diet soft drink and preterm delivery

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Could drinking one or more artificially sweetened, carbonated diet sodas a day boost a woman's odds of premature delivery? A new study from Denmark suggests such a link.dblclick('xxlA');

The researchers looked at the soft drink habits of nearly 60,000 Danish women enrolled in a national study there from 1996 to 2002. The investigators found a link between the intake of diet carbonated drinks and, to a lesser extent, diet noncarbonated drinks and delivering a baby early.

The study is published online and in the September print issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the report, the researchers conclude: “Daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery.”

The researchers defined preterm as delivering before 37 weeks' gestation. They categorized the women into groups depending on beverage drinking habits: those who never drank soft drinks or those who drank less than one per week, one to six per week, one each day, two or three per day, or four or more daily. In all, 4.6 percent of the women delivered early, and one-third of those deliveries were medically induced. The team found no association between the premature delivery and the intake of carbonated drinks sweetened with sugar.

However, compared with those who never drank the beverages, women who downed four or more diet (artificially sweetened) carbonated drinks a day were 78 percent more likely to deliver early than women who never drank the beverages. And those who had four or more diet, noncarbonated drinks daily were 29 percent more likely to deliver early. Those who had one or more carbonated diet drinks a day were 38 percent more likely to deliver early.

Why the diet drinks, especially, were linked with early delivery is not known, but the researchers speculate that the link may be driven by high blood pressure disorders in pregnancy. They note that other studies have found a link between soft drinks and high blood pressure in non-pregnant women.

 

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Omega 3s could improve metabolic syndrome outcomes

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Positive effects

The new study looked into the effects of four different diet combinations on blood lipid metabolism, in 117 patients with metabolic syndrome.

In accordance with previous suggestions, the researchers found that a low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet had “several detrimental effects”, including significantly increasing total triglyceride levels, and triglyceride rich lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

In contrast, intake of the same diet supplemented with omega-3 was found to have no effects on blood lipid levels, with researchers observing that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, or a low-fat diet rich in complex carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids, resulted in lower circulating blood lipid levels than a diet rich in high saturated fats or a diet low in fats and high in complex carbohydrates.

The data from the study suggest a place for higher omega-3 intake in people with metabolic syndrome, and supports previous research that suggests monounsaturated fatty acids can have a positive effect on blood lipid levels.

“The long-term effect of the low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet, pre vs. post intervention phases, showed several beneficial effects of long chain omega-3 PUFA supplementation,” stated the researchers.

“Our data suggest that long-term intake of an isocaloric, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet supplemented with long chain omega-3 … have beneficial effects on postprandial lipoprotein response in patients with metabolic syndrome,”

Source: The Journal of Nutrition
“A Low-Fat, High-Complex Carbohydrate Diet Supplemented with Long-Chain (n-3) Fatty Acids Alters the Postprandial Lipoprotein Profile in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome”
Authors: Y. Jimenez-Gomez, C. Marin, P. Perez-Martinez, et al

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Mediterranean Diet Increases Fertility

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Before treatment, the couple completed detailed questionnaires on their eating habits over the past month. When the researchers analysed the data, they identified two common diet patterns among the women. 1). The Mediterranean diet – defined as high in vegetables, vegetable bits, fish and beans, but low in snack foods and 2). The health conscious diet – which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish, and low in meat and snack foods.

The researchers found there was no link between the health-conscious diet and rates of pregnancy. But, the group that most closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet was more likely to become pregnant. The researchers did not assess pregnancy outcome, so the diet's relationship to the ultimate success of fertility treatment is not clear.

The Mediterranean and health-conscious diets had many similarities, but there are a few potential reasons why the former may affect fertility treatment success said the researchers.

One is the high intake of vegetable oils in the Mediterranean diet. Researchers noted that the Omega-6 fatty acids in these oils are the precursors to hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, in turn, are involved in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy maintenance.

In addition, the study found that women who most closely followed the diet Mediterranean way had higher levels of vitamin B6. One previous study found giving vitamin B to women who were having difficulty getting pregnant increased their chances of conception.

Still, diet is part of a person's overall lifestyle and the study could not account for all of the factors that could clarify the connection between the natural ways to Increase fertility Mediterranean diet and pregnancy rates

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Diet Cola Sucks Calcium Out of Wormen’s Bones

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In an earlier investigation, the researchers had looked at the hormonal effects of diet cola ingestion on parathyroid hormone, calcium, phosphorus, insulin, alkaline phosphotase, and ghrelin.

The researchers thought that because of the phosphorus load, PTH would surge, but they found exactly the opposite, “which was that it comes down and sort of comes back to baseline; alkaline phosphatase increases also,” Larson said. “We thought, 'Well, that suggests there's some turnover of bone going on, and maybe there's some calcium being mobilized and it's going out in the urine and that might partially account for the fracture risk and decreased bone density that's being described.”

With results from that earlier study as the impetus, Larson and colleagues undertook the current study, for which they recruited 20 healthy women, ages 18 to 40.

Exclusion criteria were fracture within the prior six months, known bone disease or vitamin D deficiency, steroid or diuretic use, breast-feeding, and vitamin D supplementation above the current U.S. recommended daily allowance.

The participants were randomized to drink 24 ounces of either water or diet cola on two study days. Urine was collected for three hours after ingestion of the designated beverage and assayed for calcium, phosphorous, and creatinine using standard assays.

Data were analyzed on 16 participants; four were excluded because of lab error or failure to comply with the study protocol, the researchers said.

In addition to the higher calcium and phosphorus excretion, the investigators also found that normalized calcium and phosphorous excretion per gram of creatinine showed a trend in the same direction as total calcium and phosphorous per three hours. That figure did not achieve statistical significance, however.

Although the study was small, “it does look like there was a statistically significant rise in urine calcium,” said Larson. “The important part about that is that Diet Coke has no calcium content.”

Compared with milk, which also causes a rise in urine calcium but is replacing calcium at the same time, diet colas “would [create] an overall negative body calcium balance and that could partially explain why they appear to be bad for bones,” she said.

Although the study is too small to draw any firm conclusions, “certainly my personal practice among adolescent girls who tend to be concerned about their weight — and who drink diet beverages while they are in that critical period of bone formation — is to just try and counsel them to set habits of drinking calcium-containing beverages and maintaining adequate vitamin D,” said Larson.

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, of the University of California San Diego, called the study “fabulous.”

Barrett-Connor, who was not involved in the study, said that although it was a small and short-term trial, “it fits with all my preconceived ideas” about the nutritional problems with diet soda. “This [is new] but it just makes sense.”

The study was funded by the Walter Reed Department of Clinical Investigations.

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Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Parkinsons

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Writing in an editorial in the US journal Archives of Neurology, Marian Evatt, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, says that health authorities should consider raising the target vitamin D level. “At this point, 30 nanograms per millilitre of blood or more appears optimal for bone health in humans. “However, researchers don't yet know what level is optimal for brain health or at what point vitamin D becomes toxic for humans, and this is a topic that deserves close examination.”

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson's UK, said: “The study provides further clues about the potential environmental factors that may influence or protect against the progression of Parkinson's. “A balanced healthy diet should provide the recommended levels of vitamin D. “Further research is required to find out whether taking a dietary supplement, or increased exposure to sunlight, may have an effect on Parkinson's, and at what stage these would be most beneficial.”

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