Tags: Liver | Cancer | Olive | Oil | Heart | Disease | Fibromyalgia

Liver Cancer, Olive Oil, Heart Disease, Fibromyalgia, More

Saturday, 09 September 2006 12:00 AM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. New Compound Protects Against Liver Cancer
2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps Combat Degenerative Diseases
3. ‘Type A' Personality Not Linked to Heart Disease
4. Birth Control Pill for Men
5. Cough Medicine Treats Fibromyalgia
6. Tea Beats Water for Health
7. Aspirin May Increase Birth Defects
8. Eat Berries for Sharp Brains

 

1. New Compound Protects Against Liver Cancer

Scientists have discovered a compound that may block the development of liver cancer. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have identified a new compound called CDDO-Im that has already been effectively used to prevent liver cancer in lab animals — and it promises to work in humans at doses a hundred times lower than other compounds known to prevent cancer.

The icing on the cake is that CDDO-Im could be effective in preventing not just liver cancer, but also colon, prostate, and gastric cancers, which, just like liver cancer, involve inflammation. It may even help prevent asthma and emphysema.

CDDO-Im belongs to a class of cancer-fighting compounds called "triterpenoids," all of which are derived from oleanolic acid, a natural substance found in many plants. CDDO-Im is believed to work by activating Nrf2, which directs enzymes to turn on the cell's defense mechanisms and take out harmful chemicals.

In the experiment, rats were treated with varying doses of CDDO-Im. Two days later, the rats were given a cancer-causing toxin called aflatoxin. CDDO-Im treatment at the lowest dosage led to an 85 percent reduction in pre-cancerous lesions, and the highest dosage resulted in a 99 percent reduction.

The lead author of the study, Bloomberg professor Thomas Kensler, Ph.D., believes CDDO-Im may also work well in humans. "If this compound can produce such a potent and dramatic reduction in the number pre-cancerous growths, it should have an equally dramatic impact on the development of actual cancer," Kensler said. "This study suggests that we may be on the right track in terms of chemoprevention. It may open the door for a new class of compounds that could prevent a number of diseases."

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps Combat Degenerative Diseases

The so-called Mediterranean Diet and its supposed health benefits have been touted since the 1960s when the first studies were carried out by American nutrition expert Ancer Keys. Are the benefits real? If they are, what exactly makes the diet so good for you? As it turns out, a new study shows that the benefits are very real, and at least one of the keys to the diet is extra-virgin olive oil.

The study was carried out by The Environmental, Biochemical and Nutritional Analytical Control research group working with the University of Granada. Researchers began by examining a series of existing studies which established that the overall incidence of disease is lower in Italy, Greece, and Spain than in Northern European countries. The fact that these three Mediterranean countries are the main producers of olive oil then led the researchers to take a very close look at olive oil and all of its properties.

They collected samples from 15 olive oil mills, and, using the latest analytical techniques, found that extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants that can combat degenerative diseases. Specifically, the researchers found that consuming olive oil, which is high in polyphenols (natural antioxidants), helps relieve oxidative stress and also helps prevent osteoporosis and cell aging.

The conclusion drawn by the directors of the study, professors Alberto Gutiérrez and Antonio Carretero, is unequivocal: "As preventive substances, polyphenols help to combat any oxidative disease associated with the degenerative process."

3. ‘Type A' Personality Not Linked to Heart Disease

It's OK to be Type A, at least as far as your heart health is concerned. Hard-charging, pedal-to-the-metal Type A people (and you know who you are) can relax (that is, if you can relax) when they learn the results of an in-depth genetic study of a large population: There is no close link between a person's behavior and a person's health.

The study found that genes do indeed contribute to a person's health, and that genes do in fact contribute to behavior. But it turns out that these are two different types of traits, and they aren't closely tied together, contrary to earlier studies as well as conventional wisdom.

The findings are among the first of a huge, 10-year study of a single population of four neighboring villages on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The study, which involved over 6,000 people, is a joint project of Italian and U.S. researchers. Sardinia was chosen because its homogeneous, closely related population (one family included 600 cousins) made for a stable genetic norm. One of the researchers, Gonçalo Abecasis of the University of Michigan, said, "If you look at small families it's much harder to separate what's genes and what's environment."

Statistical analysis of the group showed a clear genetic component for 98 different traits, but no connection was made between personality and cardiovascular function. "We don't see it," one of the researchers said.

What makes the difference between this study and earlier supposedly accurate studies linking health and behavior? The difference, Abecasis believes, is that, in the past, studies of twins have provided this kind of data, and that statistical biases skewed the results because the data essentially came from just one pair of relatives. "To avoid such problems, this analysis of more than 34,000 relative pairs focused on more distantly related individuals," he said.

4. Birth Control Pill for Men

Men may soon be able to bear their share of family planning. Since the advent of the birth control pill in the 1960s, women have used pills, patches, and implants to avoid becoming pregnant, but guys had only two choices — a condom or a vasectomy. That may soon change.

Researchers are testing forms of hormonal contraception for men that would temporarily stop the production of sperm. Formulations include an androgen and a progestin, which work together to block the production of sperm in much the same way female birth control pills prevent eggs from being released. These formulations have been even more effective at preventing pregnancy than condoms, but scientists have questioned whether or not the effects are permanent.

A study that reviewed male contraceptives has shown that after quitting the contraceptive, most men become fertile once again within five months, and 90 percent were fertile within a year.

Still, male contraception won't be as simple as taking a pill each day. Dr. Peter Liu, who co-authored the study, thinks male contraception will consist of a monthly injection of an androgen, such as testosterone, coupled with a daily pill or implanted capsule of progestin.

Liu predicts the new form of male contraception will be popular once it is available. "Couples want to share the responsibility of family planning, and this allows them to do it," said Liu.

5. Cough Medicine Treats Fibromyalgia

A common ingredient in many over-the-counter cough syrups may ease the pain of fibromyalgia. The condition, which affects one in nine people, baffles science and is hard to diagnose. It can cause severe muscle pain and fatigue, along with other symptoms such as depression, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown.

The nerve cells in fibromyalgia victims become extremely sensitive and sometimes cause exquisite pain with even minor physical contact such as a pat on the back. There is no cure, but a new treatment offers hope.

Researchers at the University of Florida have found that dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in cough syrups, blocks chemical reactions that send pain signals to the spinal cord. Patients in clinical trials who took dextromethorphan had a temporary reduction in the intensity of their pain connected with minor physical contact.

Doctors warn patients not to self-medicate. The amounts of dextromethorphan need to be four to five times higher than those in over-the-counter cough syrups, and a medicine with an elevated level of dextromethorphan isn't available to the public yet. High-dosage side effects can include confusion and memory problems.

"It would be a disservice to start to recommend that either patients or physicians begin experimenting right away with dextromethorphan, because I think there are some important questions about how to minimize the side effect," said fibromyalgia expert Laurence Bradley, Ph.D.

Sources: Ivanhoe, WebMD, NYM.org

6. Tea Beats Water for Health

A group of British researchers is urging people to drink more tea because the brew packs some potent health benefits — more so than water. "Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it's got two things going for it," Dr. Carrie Ruxton of Kings College in London told the BBC.

Ruxton and her colleagues reviewed more than 10 years of research on black tea and concluded that, contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content in tea does not cause dehydration. Their study appears in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The health benefits of a "cuppa" are compelling. Studies have shown that drinking at least three cups of tea daily reduces the risk of heart disease, raises levels of antioxidants that protect against DNA damage and premature aging, may inhibit bacteria that cause bad breath and dental plaque, and possibly reduces the risk of colorectal, skin, and ovarian cancers. Tea may also help improve bone mineral density.

People who are sensitive to caffeine have the option of decaffeinated tea. There is no evidence that tea is harmful, although it may impair our ability to absorb iron from food. Experts advise that anyone who is at risk for anemia should not drink tea at mealtimes.

In the United States, approximately 85 percent of the tea consumed is iced. While tea itself contains zero calories, sweeteners and other flavorings may not be calorie-free and can contribute to weight gain.

Zero-calorie sweeteners and chemical additives found in some tea beverages have been linked to neurological disorders that contribute to a multitude of health problems, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, seizures, headaches, and strokes. Earlier this year, a panel of U.S. scientists recommended drinking up to eight servings of iced or hot unsweetened tea per day.

7. Aspirin May Increase Birth Defects

Women who take NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, during the first three months of pregnancy, increase their chances of having a baby with birth defects. Canadian researchers found that moms-to-be who took the drugs were more likely to have babies with congenital problems, especially heart defects. They were also more likely to miscarry, particularly if they took the drugs close to the time of conception.

Anick Berard of St. Justine Hospital in Montreal studied over 36,000 women. Of those who filled a prescription for NSAIDs, 8.8 percent had babies with congenital anomalies. Of those who didn't fill a prescription, 7 percent had congenital anomalies. Also 16.1 percent of the moms who had taken NSAIDs had multiple birth defects compared with 14.2 percent of those who did not take the drugs.

The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 10 percent to 45 percent of pregnant women take aspirin during their first trimester. Previous studies have indicated that taking NSAIDs toward the end of a pregnancy can cause problems, but the new study indicates that women who take painkillers early in their pregnancy may be putting their babies at risk.

Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, appears to be a safe alternative.

Sources: Daily Mail, Women's Health, Science Daily

8. Eat Berries for Sharp Brains

Diets rich in berries may help your brain stay sharp as you age. A recent Tufts study found that lacing food with berry extract improved the cognitive skills of aging rats.

Psychologist Barbara Shukitt-Hale and her colleagues divided a group of young male rats into three groups. The first group got plain food. The second group got the same food laced with strawberry extract. The third group was also fed the same but laced with blueberry extract.

After two months, half of the rats from each group were doused with radiation to increase the rate of aging. Afterwards, the rats spent four days learning how to swim through an underground maze to a hidden platform. Researchers then moved the platform to another area and watched the rats to see if they could find it. After testing, researchers measured the levels of dopamine, a chemical that helps the brain function, in the rats' brains. A lack of dopamine can cause a decrease in memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.

The radiated rats that ate the plain chow had the lowest levels of dopamine and performed the worst on maze tests. But the radiated rats that ate the food with berry extract didn't show any decrease in skills levels and performed the same as those rats that hadn't been radiated.

Not only could berries help slow the mental decline associated with aging, they could also be helpful for cancer patients undergoing radiation. "It might be that eating blueberries or other berries in the months before radiation therapy can cutback on cognitive and motor deficits [caused by] the therapy," said Dr. James Joseph of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition and Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, who has also been studying the effects of berries on the brain.

Sources: CBS News, Seattle PI

 

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. New Compound Protects Against Liver Cancer 2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps Combat Degenerative Diseases 3. 'Type A' Personality Not Linked to Heart Disease 4. Birth Control Pill for Men 5. Cough Medicine Treats...
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Saturday, 09 September 2006 12:00 AM
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