All Posts tagged research

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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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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Experts find clue to yo-yo dieting

Scientists may have discovered a way of identifying dieters who are prone to piling the pounds back on after weight loss. A study at Maastricht University’s Department of Human Biology found a link between a gene involved in regulating blood pressure and post-diet weight gain in women. Women who regained weight after slimming had a high change in the concentration of a particular protein in their blood during dieting, research showed. Researchers now hope to develop a test to indicate how prone people are to yo-yo dieting.

Edwin Mariman, professor of functional genetics at Maastricht, said: “It was a surprising discovery, because until now there has been no clear link between this protein and obesity. “We do not yet have an explanation for the results, but it does appear that it should be possible within a few years to use this finding to develop a test to show who is at high risk of putting weight back on after a diet.”

Hospitals already conduct tests for the protein, known as the angiotensin I converting enzyme (ACE). But the test is currently carried out to check its activity in regulating blood pressure, rather than its concentration. Up 80% of dieters suffer from the yo-yo effect, returning to their original weight within a year.

The study looked at around 100 women aged 20 to 45, half of whom had maintained their post-diet weight and half of whom had put weight back on. The findings of the research have been published by Dr Ping Wang, a scientist in Professor Mariman’s research group, in the online scientific journal PloS ONE.

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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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Vegetarian diet helps with kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients who consume a diet high in vegetables rather than meat may prevent the accumulation of toxic phosphorus levels, according to a study published online Dec. 23 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.Sharon M. Moe, M.D., of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, and colleagues conducted a crossover trial in nine patients with a mean estimated glomerular filtration rate of 32 ml/min to compare vegetarian and meat diets containing equivalent nutrients prepared by clinical research staff.

The investigators found that one week of a vegetarian diet led to lower serum phosphorus levels, decreased phosphorus excretion in the urine, and reduced fibroblast growth factor-23 levels compared with a meat diet, despite equivalent protein and phosphorus concentrations in the two diets.

“In summary, this study demonstrates that the source of protein has a significant effect on phosphorus homeostasis in patients with CKD. Therefore, dietary counseling of patients with CKD must include information on not only the amount of phosphate but also the source of protein from which the phosphate derives,” the authors write.

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Garlic protection from Osteoarthritis

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia have discovered that women who consume a diet high in allium vegetables, such as garlic, onions and leeks, have lower levels of hip osteoarthritis. The findings, published in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders journal, not only highlight the possible effects of diet in protecting against osteoarthritis, but also show the potential for using compounds found in garlic to develop treatments for the condition. A relationship between body weight and osteoarthritis was previously recognised, although it is not yet completely understood. This study is the first of its kind to delve deeper into the dietary patterns and influences that could impact on development and prevention of the condition.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in adults, affecting around 8 million people in the UK, and women are more likely to develop it than men. It causes pain and disability by affecting the hip, knees and spine in the middle-aged and elderly population. Currently there is no effective treatment other than pain relief and, ultimately, joint replacement.

The study, funded by Arthritis Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and Dunhill Medical Trust, looked at over 1,000 healthy female twins, many of whom had no symptoms of arthritis. The team carried out a detailed assessment of the diet patterns of the twins and analysed these alongside x-ray images, which captured the extent of early osteoarthritis in the participants’ hips, knees and spine. They found that in those who consumed a healthy diet with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, particularly alliums such as garlic, there was less evidence of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint.

To investigate the potential protective effect of alliums further, researchers studied the compounds found in garlic. They found that that a compound called diallyl disulphide limits the amount of cartilage-damaging enzymes when introduced to a human cartilage cell-line in the laboratory. Dr Frances Williams, lead author from the Department of Twin Research at King’s College London, says: “While we don’t yet know if eating garlic will lead to high levels of this component in the joint, these findings may point the way towards future treatments and prevention of hip osteoarthritis. “It has been known for a long time that there is a link between body weight and osteoarthritis. Many researchers have tried to find dietary components influencing the condition, but this is the first large scale study of diet in twins. If our results are confirmed by follow-up studies, this will point the way towards dietary intervention or targeted drug therapy for people with osteoarthritis.”

Professor Ian Clark of the University of East Anglia said: “Osteoarthritis is a major health issue and this exciting study shows the potential for diet to influence the course of the disease. With further work to confirm and extend these early findings, this may open up the possibility of using diet or dietary supplements in the future treatment osteoarthritis.”

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Why the rise in Multiple Sclerosis

New research may help explain why multiple sclerosis rates have risen sharply in the U.S. and some other countries among women, while rates appear stable in men.The study could also broaden understanding of how environmental influences alter genes to cause a wide range of diseases. The causes of multiple sclerosis (MS) are not well understood, but experts have long suspected that environmental factors trigger the disease in people who are genetically susceptible. In the newly published study, researchers found that women with MS were more likely than men with MS to have a specific genetic mutation that has been linked to the disease.

Women were also more likely to pass the mutation to their daughters than their sons and more likely to share the MS-susceptibility gene with more distant female family members. If genes alone were involved, mothers would pass the MS-related gene to their sons as often as their daughters, said researcher George C. Ebers, MD, of the University of Oxford. Ebers’ research suggests that the ability of environmental factors to alter gene expression — a relatively new field of genetic study known as epigenetics — plays a key role in multiple sclerosis and that this role is gender-specific.

The theory is that environmental influences such as diet, smoking, stress, and even exposure to sunlight can change gene expression and this altered gene expression is passed on for a generation or two. “The idea that the environment would change genes was once thought to be ridiculous,” Ebers says. “Now it is looking like this is a much bigger influence on disease than we ever imagined.”

The study by Ebers and colleagues included 1,055 families with more than one person with MS. Close to 7,100 genes were tested, including around 2,100 from patients with the disease. The researchers were looking for MS-specific alterations in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene region. They found that women with MS were 1.4 times more likely than men with the disease to carry the gene variant linked to disease risk. A total of 919 women and 302 men had the variant in the MHC region, compared to 626 women and 280 men who did not have it.

The study appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of Neurology.

Epigenetics is not evolution. Genetic alterations linked to environmental assaults can be passed down for a generation or two, but DNA usually rights itself over time, Ebers says. “This may explain why we hardly ever see MS in families over more than three generations,” he says. Earlier studies by Ebers and colleagues suggest that vitamin D deficiency may be the environmental stressor that triggers the MS-linked gene alterations. Rates of the disease are highest among people living farthest from the equator, and there is widespread speculation that lack of vitamin D due to low sun exposure may explain this. Other than Ebers’ research team, Orhun Kantarci, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is one of the few researches studying epigenetics as it relates to multiple sclerosis.

Kantarci calls the new research a potentially important piece of the puzzle to explain the gender difference in MS, but he adds that the research must be replicated. “This study provides more questions than answers, but it is very interesting,” he says. “We are learning that inheritance isn’t as simple as [Gregor] Mendel described.”

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Tomatoes Fight Cholesterol

If you want to wage battle against cholesterol and other lipids (fat) that can contribute to vascular disease, then make tomatoes a big part of your diet. Scientists say this popular fruit contains a nutrient that can fight vascular disease such as stroke and arteriosclerosis.

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Tomatoes fight more than cholesterol and fat

Excessive levels of lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream, a condition known as dyslipidemia, can lead to potentially deadly diseases such as arteriosclerosis, cirrhosis, and stroke. Scientists from Kyoto University and New Bio-industry Initiatives, Japan, report that a compound called 9-oxo-octadecadienoic extracted from tomatoes can boost oxidation of fatty acids and contribute to the regulation of lipid metabolism by the liver. These qualities indicate that 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid can fight cholesterol and other lipids and therefore help prevent vascular diseases.

Vascular disease is a general term used to describe diseases that affect the blood vessels. The Vascular Disease Foundation offers information on nearly two dozen different conditions that fit this category, including abdominal aortic aneurysm, carotid artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, lymphedema, peripheral artery disease, and stroke.

Tomatoes are also valued for other health benefits. Much research has been dedicated to a potent antioxidant in tomatoes, lycopene, and its potential in the fight against various types of cancer, and especially prostate cancer. Tomatoes also contain excellent levels of other nutrients, including niacin, which helps lower cholesterol; and potassium, which reduces blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Teruo Kawada, who is from Kyoto University and who led the study, noted that “Finding a compound which helps the prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases in foodstuffs is a great advantage to tackling these diseases. It means that the tomato allows people to easily manage the onset of dyslipidemia through their daily diet.” To help the fight against cholesterol and other fats that contribute to vascular disease, enjoy more tomatoes.

SOURCES:
Kim YI et al. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research doi:10.1002/mnfr.201000264

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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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