All Posts tagged evidence

Alternative allergy tests are misleading

There is no scientific evidence that complementary therapies or kits sold through websites can identify allergies, the UK NHS watchdog NICE says. It says sites for services such as hair analysis use plausible stories but are not backed up by scientific evidence.  It is publishing new guidance to help doctors in England and Wales identify when a child may have allergy problems. NICE says some parents end up turning to alternative therapies after a perceived lack of help from their GPs.

It is estimated that one in 20 young children has a food allergy. Dr Adam Fox, an allergy specialist based at the Evelina Children's Hospital in London, says not all children suffer immediate and obvious symptoms. “Food allergies can actually be extremely subtle. Lots of children have eczema, colic or spit up more food than usual. For some of those children the underlying problem is an allergy to something within their diet.”

The guidelines include detailed advice about how to recognise symptoms and when to refer to specialists. Dr Fox, who helped write the guidelines for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), says he often sees parents in his specialist clinic who have wasted money on complementary or alternative tests.

The review by NICE looked for any scientific research of the usefulness of approaches including hair analysis and Vega testing, which uses mild electric currents, or kinesiology, in diagnosing allergies in children. “The websites are very well put together, the stories behind them are plausible, but we were unable to find any evidence to support them,” says Dr Fox. He says there are two types of testing used in NHS clinics – skin prick and blood sample – which are backed by scientific research. NICE is warning that parents sometimes turn to alternative tests when they have failed to convince their family doctor to listen to their concerns.

It took Alison Berthelson more than two years to get an allergy diagnosis for her first son Harris. She had been to the local surgery several times when he suffered rashes and stomach upsets without any particular cause being identified. After Harris ate a small piece of chocolate containing nuts he suffered a more extreme reaction, becoming agitated, with an extreme rash covering his entire body. The out-of-hours GP gave her son a medicine to reduce swelling, but did not send him on to hospital as an emergency. “It was really very terrifying, terrifying at the time because we didn't know what was happening, and terrifying later when we did know what had happened and how lucky we were.” A new GP correctly diagnosed possible food allergies, and sent Harris for testing at a specialist NHS clinic. He now has to avoid nuts, sesame and some other ingredients used in prepared foods.

Allergies on rise The number of children suffering from food allergies appears to be increasing, although experts are at a loss to understand exactly why. Family doctors are now more likely to see very young children suffering allergic reactions. Dr Joanne Walsh, a GP involved in drafting the advice, says she now sees several children a week with suspected allergic reactions. Some are babies just a couple of weeks old. By gradually eliminating, and reintroducing different foods, she can help parents manage the allergy without the need for hospital visits. “There's nothing more rewarding than a parent coming back and saying it's like having a different child.”

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Yet another benefit of green tea

For thousands of years, the people of China, Japan, India, and Thailand have consumed green tea and used it medicinally to treat everything from headaches to heart diseases. Over the past few decades, however, research in both Asia and the West have taken place providing scientific evidence of green tea’s numerous health benefits. As a whole, studies indicate that regular consumption of green tea may slow or prevent conditions including high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, impaired immune disease and liver disease. In yet another recent study on the beverage’s healthful properties, published in the academic journal Phytomedicine, researchers have found evidence that enzymes in the drink may help in fighting Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Researchers at the Newcastle University have also found that the Chinese brew may also play a vital role in guarding against cancer. The Newcastle team focused on whether or not once the tea was in the digestive system if the protective properties were still as effective. “What was really exciting was that we found when green tea is digested, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer’s,” said Ed Okello, from the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. “The digested compounds also had anti-cancer properties, significantly slowing down the growth of tumour cells which we were using in our experiments,” Okello said.

Previous studies have shown that polyphenols, present in black and green tea, bind with the toxic compounds and protect brain cells. When ingested, the polyphenols are broken down to produce a mix of compounds and it was these the team tested in their research. According to Okello, there are many factors that together have an influence on diseases such as cancer and dementia – a good diet, plenty of exercise and a healthy lifestyle are all important. “But I think it’s fair to say that at least one cup of green tea a day may be good for you and I would certainly recommend it,” he added.

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Almonds ward off diabetes, says study

Eating almonds could help prevent diabetes and heart disease, according to a study.

The research found incorporating the nuts into our diets may help treat type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 per cent of all cases.

As well as combating the condition, linked to obesity and physical inactivity, it could tackle cardiovascular disease, the report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition said.

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the world, and sufferers have a shortage of insulin or a decreased ability to use the hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to enter cells and be converted to energy.

When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood and over time, damage vital organs.

The study found consuming a diet rich in almonds may help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease LDL-cholesterol levels in those with pre-diabetes, a condition in which people have blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

Researchers looked at the effects of consuming an almond-enriched diet on 65 adults with pre-diabetes (48 women and 17 men) with an average age in the mid-50s.

The participants were split up, and the group on the almond-enriched diet showed greater improvements in insulin sensitivity and clinically significant reductions in LDL-cholesterol compared with the nut-free group.

Dr Michelle Wien, assistant research professor in nutrition at Loma Linda University's School of Public Health, said, “We have made great strides in chronic disease research from evidence of effective treatment to evidence of effective prevention.”

The principal researcher for the study, conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, added, “It is promising for those with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development.”

An estimated 55 million people in Europe have been diagnosed with diabetes, and the figure is expected to rise to 66 million by 2030.

There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, which may be autoimmune, genetic, or environmental. It accounts for five per cent of all cases. Type 2 diabetes most often occurs in people older than 40.

Around 60 million people in Europe have pre-diabetes. People with the condition have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Almonds are cholesterol-free and compared with other nuts, they are the highest in six essential nutrients – fibre, magnesium, protein, potassium, copper and vitamin E.

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Neanderthals may have feasted on meat and two veg diet

Scientists have upgraded their opinion of Neanderthal cuisine after spotting traces of cooked food on the fossilised teeth of our long-extinct cousins. The researchers found remnants of date palms, seeds and legumes – which include peas and beans – on the teeth of three Neanderthals uncovered in caves in Iraq and Belgium. Among the scraps of food embedded in the plaque on the Neanderthals' teeth were particles of starch from barley and water lilies that showed tell-tale signs of having been cooked. The Ice Age leftovers are believed to be the first direct evidence that the Neanderthal diet included cooked plants as well as meat obtained by hunting wild animals.

Dolores Piperno, who led the study at the archaeobiology laboratory at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, said the work showed Neanderthals were more sophisticated diners than many academics gave them credit for. Piperno said the discoveries even raised the possibility that male and female Neanderthals had different roles in acquiring and preparing food. “The plants we found are all foods associated with early modern human diets, but we now know Neanderthals were exploiting those plants and cooking them, too. When you cook grains it increases their digestibility and nutritional value,” she added.

The findings bring fresh evidence to the long debate over why Neanderthals and not our direct ancestors, the early modern humans, went extinct. The last of the Neanderthals are thought to have died out around 28,000 years ago, but it is unclear what role – if any – modern humans played in their demise. “The whole question of why Neanderthals went extinct has been controversial for a long time and dietary issues play a significant part in that,” Piperno said. “Some scholars claim the Neanderthals were specialised carnivores hunting large game and weren't able to exploit a diversity of plant foods. “As far as we know, there has been until now no direct evidence that Neanderthals cooked their foods and very little evidence they were consuming plants routinely.”

Piperno's team was given permission to study the remains of three Neanderthal skeletons. One was unearthed at the Shanidar cave in Iraq and lived 46,000 years ago. The other two were recovered from the Cave of Spy in Belgium, and date to around 36,000 years ago. The scientists examined three teeth from the Iraqi Neanderthal and two from each of the Belgium specimens. To look for traces of food on them, they scraped fossilised plaque from each tooth and looked at it under a microscope. Grains from plants are tiny, but have distinct shapes that the scientists identified by comparing them with a collection at the Smithsonian's herbarium. The researchers also cooked a range of plants to see how their appearance changed.

They collected 73 starch grains from the Iraqi Neanderthal's teeth. Some of these belonged to barley or a close relative, and appeared to have been boiled in water. “The evidence for cooking is strong. The starch grains are gelatinised, and that can only come from heat associated with cooking,” Piperno said. Similar tests on the Belgian Neanderthals' teeth revealed traces of cooked starch that probably came from parts of water lilies that store carbohydrates. Other cooked starch grains were traced back to sorghum, a kind of grass.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

In Piperno's opinion, the research undermines one theory that suggests early modern humans drove the Neanderthals to extinction by having a more sophisticated and robust diet. The work also raises questions about whether Neanderthals organised themselves in a similar way to early hunter-gatherer groups, she said. “When you start routinely to exploit plants in your diet, you can arrange your settlements according to the season. In two months' time you want to be where the cereals are maturing, and later where the date palms are ready to pick. It sounds simplistic, but this is important in terms of your overall cognitive abilities. “In early human groups, women typically collected plants and turned them into food while men hunted. To us, and it is just a suggestion, this brings up the possibility that there was some sexual division of labour in the Neanderthals and that is something most people did not think existed.”

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White rice increases diabetes risk

Japanese women who eat three or more bowls of rice a day face a 50 percent greater risk of developing diabetes than those who eat one bowl, according to research by the National Cancer Center and other institutions. Although it has long been known that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates can increase the risk of developing the disease, the study was the first of its kind to explore the connection between eating rice and developing diabetes.

Conducted over five years from the early 1990s, the study covered about 60,000 people aged 45 to 74 in Iwate, Nagano, Ibaraki, Okinawa and four other prefectures. Of the subjects, 1,103–625 men and 478 women–developed diabetes during the study period.

Women who ate three bowls of rice a day were 1.48 times more likely to develop diabetes than those who ate one serving daily, the study found. Eating four or more bowls of rice a day raised the risk of women developing diabetes to 1.65 times that of women who ate only one bowl of rice a day. However, among women who performed physical labor or exercised vigorously for at least one hour a day, there was no significant difference in their risk of developing diabetes regardless of whether they habitually gorged on the grain.

For men, there was less evidence of a connection between rice intake and diabetes risk.

But regardless of gender, the less physical exercise a person did, the higher their risk of developing the disease.

While it is possible that eating a lot of rice can contribute to the onset of diabetes in some women, the study produced no conclusive evidence that overindulging is a direct cause of diabetes. Researchers at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine who analyzed the study’s results said it was important to monitor rice intake as part of maintaining a balanced diet.

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Almonds can fight diabetes

Here is another reason to make the tasty almonds a part of your daily diet. The humble tidbit nuts that combine tons of essential nutrients in one delicious package are an effective weapon in fighting type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, claims a new study. According to researchers, almonds added to the diet have a favorable effect on blood cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity, two vital risk factors that can trigger diabetes and heart problems.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Michelle Wien, Assistant Research Professor in Nutrition at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health stated, “We have made great strides in chronic disease research from evidence of effective treatment to evidence of effective prevention. “It is promising for those with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development.”

In a bid to assess the impact of almond enriched diet as a prescription for physical wellness, the researchers conducted a study. The focus of the study was to analyze the effect of the humble nut on the progression of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The investigators enrolled a group of 65 adults comprising 48 women and 17 men with pre-diabetes in their mid-50s. The study subjects were split into two groups. As a part of the study, one group was assigned to almonds while the second formed the control group. The control group followed a diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).The group assigned to almonds conformed to a similar diet but also added 20 percent calories from almonds. All the participants were asked to consume the same amount of calories from carbohydrate-containing foods, such as pasta, bread, and rice. However, those consuming the almond-enriched diet reported a lower intake of carbohydrate-containing food items.

After a period of 16 weeks, the investigators compared the insulin and cholesterol levels of both the groups. It was noticed that people consuming almond-enriched diet exhibited marked improvement in their insulin sensitivity and a dramatic reduction in LDL cholesterol as opposed to those eating the nut-free regular diet.

The study was conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The findings of the research are published in the ‘Journal of the American College of Nutrition

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Metabolic Syndrome more likely in people with Psoriasis

Having psoriasis appears to double the risk that a person will also have a dangerous clustering of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes known as metabolic syndrome, a new study shows. Previous research has found patients with psoriasis to be at higher risk for getting diabetes and high blood pressure, but the new study, which is in the Archives of Dermatology, is one of the first to document the broader complement of cardiovascular risks associated with the disease.

“It is more than skin deep,” says Abrar Qureshi, MD, MPH, co-author of the paper and vice chairman of the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. “We like to tell patients that psoriasis is a systemic disease. The risk for metabolic syndrome is high.”

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which the body overproduces skin cells, causing a thick, scaly, red rash to appear on the palms, soles of the feet, elbows, scalp, or lower back. It is thought to be one manifestation of chronic, body-wide inflammation. Metabolic syndrome is defined as having at least three of the following risk factors for heart disease and diabetes: high blood pressure, too much belly fat, high fasting blood sugar, low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, and high levels of bad blood fats called triglycerides. Studies have shown that having metabolic syndrome dramatically increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers say it's difficult to know which of the two might be driving the other. “There's evidence on both sides of the fence,” says lead study author Thorvardur Jon Löve, MD, of Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland. “There's evidence that obesity drives the development of psoriasis. There's also evidence that inflammation drives some components of insulin resistance. It's a real chicken and egg problem at this point.”

Metabolic Syndrome and Psoriasis

The new study used blood test results from nearly 2,500 people who participated in the government-sponsored National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2006. None had previously been diagnosed with diabetes. Among study participants who said that a doctor had diagnosed them with psoriasis, 40% had metabolic syndrome, compared to just 23% of those who did not have psoriasis.

The association was particularly strong in women. Nearly half of women with psoriasis had metabolic syndrome, compared to just one in 5 women without psoriasis. In contrast, psoriasis appeared to raise a man's risk of having metabolic syndrome by only about 4%. “When you get this constellation of factors together, the risk is higher than the sum of the individual factors,” Löve says. “Visit your primary care physician and bring this up.”

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1 in 3 believe cancer is down to fate

A new UK research has found that more than a third believe cancer is down to fate and there is nothing they can do to avoid it. Cancer Research UK stated that one in five men and women feared cancer ahead of debt, knife crime, Alzheimer's disease and losing their job whereas 34 percent believed the disease was down to fate, rising to 41 percent of those aged 55 to 64.

The findings come in the midst of growing evidence suggesting lifestyle factors such as losing weight, taking exercise, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer.

The survey questioned more than 2,000 adults aged 16 and over. Those questioned were asked to choose what they feared most from a list including developing Alzheimer's, being in debt, old age, being the victim of knife crime, cancer, being in a plane crash, motor neurone disease, being in a car accident, having a heart attack, losing your job and losing your home.

More people (20 per cent) overall chose cancer than anything else, followed by 16 per cent who feared Alzheimer's disease the most. Among adults up to the age of 44, cancer was feared most by 25 per cent while 7.5 per cent feared Alzheimer's most. For those aged over 65, Alzheimer's was feared most by 30 per cent while 14 per cent feared cancer most.

John Fyall, Cancer Research UK's spokesman for Scotland, said: “It's absolutely vital for us to get the message out that people can do something to alleviate their emphatic fear of cancer. Cancer is no longer the death sentence people still seem to dread,” the Scotsman quoted, John Fyall, Cancer Research UK's spokesman for Scotland, as saying. “Spotting early signs and symptoms of what could be cancer – but probably isn't – and getting these checked out by a doctor means that the disease can be diagnosed more quickly,” he added.

Teresa Nightingale, general manager of the World Cancer Research Fund, said, “It is a concern that so many people think cancer is a matter of fate, because there is now strong scientific evidence that people can make relatively simple changes to reduce their risk.” “Scientists estimate about a third of the most common cancers in the UK could be prevented just by eating a healthy, plant-based diet, being regularly physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. This includes about 40 per cent of breast and bowel cancer cases,” she added. Nightingale further informed that, “The strong evidence that diet, activity and weight affect our risk, together with other well-known risk factors such as smoking and sunburn, means that cancer is actually a largely preventable disease.” (ANI)

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New Evidence for Eye-Protective Effects of Omega-3-Rich Fish, Shellfish

Researchers at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wanted to know how the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) would be affected in a population of older people who regularly ate fish and seafood, since some varieties are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in omega-3s probably protects against advanced AMD, the leading cause of blindness in whites in the United States, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and other recent studies. High concentrations of omega-3s have been found in the eye's retina, and evidence is mounting that the nutrient may be essential to eye health. The new research, led by Sheila K. West, PhD, was part of the Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) study.

Food intake information with details on fish and shellfish consumed was collected over one year using a validated questionnaire for 2,391 participants aged 65 to 84 years who lived along Maryland's Eastern Shore. After dietary assessment was complete, participants were evaluated for AMD. Those with no AMD were classified as controls (1,942 persons), 227 had early AMD, 153 had intermediate-stage disease, and 68 had advanced AMD. In the advanced AMD group, the macular area of the retina exhibited either neovascularization (abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding) or a condition called geographic atrophy. Both conditions can result in blindness or severe vision loss.

“Our study corroborates earlier findings that eating omega-3-rich fish and shellfish may protect against advanced AMD.” Dr. West said. “While participants in all groups, including controls, averaged at least one serving of fish or shellfish per week, those who had advanced AMD were significantly less likely to consume high omega-3 fish and seafood,” she said.

The study also looked at whether dietary zinc from crab and oyster consumption impacted advanced AMD risk, but no significant relationship was found. Zinc is also considered protective against AMD and is included in an AMD-vitamin/nutrient supplement developed from the AREDS study. Dr. West speculated that her study found no effect because the levels of zinc obtained from seafood/fish were low compared to supplement levels.

The research is published in the December issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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Diet Advice can help control diabetes

Individuals with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes know that maintaining a nutritious diet is one of the most important things they can do to control their disease. The findings of a new study suggest that the services of a registered dietitian may help individuals accomplish this goal.

A team of investigators from the American Dietetic Association reviewed evidence from previous research and summarized their findings in a report published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

In their write-up, researchers laid out a set of exhaustive dietary guidelines for individuals affected by diabetes. Researchers said that the services of registered dietitians may be key in helping individuals follow the guidelines, which could help them significantly improve their condition.

“The evidence is strong that medical nutrition therapy provided by registered dietitians is an effective and essential therapy in the management of diabetes. Registered Dietitians are uniquely skilled in this process,” said Marion Franz, who led the investigation.

The guidelines developed by the research team lay out 29 nutritional points that can help diabetics improve their blood sugar control.

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