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Archive for March, 2014

Zinc Deficiencies Are A Global Concern



Although other vitamins and nutrients get more attention in the media, experts now believe as many as two billion people around the world have diets deficient in Zinc. Studies at Oregon State University and elsewhere are raising concerns about the health implications this means for infectious disease, immune function, DNA damage and cancer.

One new study has found DNA damage in humans is caused by only minor zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency is quite common in the developing world. Even in the United States, about 12 percent of the population is probably at risk for Zinc deficiency, and perhaps as many as 40 percent of the elderly, due to inadequate dietary intake and less absorption of this essential nutrient, experts say. Many or most people have never been tested for Zinc status.

“Zinc deficiencies have been somewhat under the radar because we just don’t know that much about mechanisms that control its absorption, role, or even how to test for it in people with any accuracy,” explained an associate professor with the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU, and international expert on the role of dietary zinc.

Studies have shown that Zinc is essential to protecting against oxidative stress and helping DNA repair, meaning that in the face of Zinc deficiency, the body’s ability to repair genetic damage may be decreasing even as the amount of damage is increasing.

Two studies recently published, in the Journal of Nutrition and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found significant levels of DNA damage both with laboratory animals and in apparently healthy men who have low Zinc intake. Zinc depletion caused strands of their DNA to break, and increasing the intake of Zinc reversed the damage back to normal levels.

“In one clinical study with men, we were able to see increases in DNA damage from zinc deficiency even before existing tests, like decreased plasma zinc levels, could spot the zinc deficiency. An inadequate level of Zinc intake clearly has consequences for cellular health.”

Many Zinc studies have focused on prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, because the prostate gland has one of the highest concentrations of Zinc in the body, for reasons that are not clearly known.

When prostate glands become cancerous, their level of Zinc drops precipitously, and some studies have suggested that increasing Zinc in the prostate may at least help prevent prostate cancer and could potentially be a therapeutic strategy. There are concerns about the relationship of Zinc intake to esophageal, breast, and head and neck cancers. And the reduced Zinc status that occurs with ageing may also contribute to a higher incidence of infection and autoimmune diseases, researchers said in one study in the Journal of Nutrition.

Zinc is naturally found associated with proteins in such meats as beef and poultry, and in even higher levels in shellfish such as oysters. It’s available in plants but poorly absorbed from them, raising additional concerns for vegetarians. And inadequate intake is so prevalent in the elderly, the researcher said, that they should usually consider taking a Zinc supplement and multivitamin to ensure adequate levels.

Zinc is an essential micronutrient for numerous cellular processes. “The consequences of Zinc deficiency in adults have not yet been sufficiently studied despite the recognition of symptoms of Zinc deficiency for decades,” researchers wrote in one recent report. “A considerable body of evidence suggests that Zinc deficiency may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, including cancer. This link may be attributed to the role of Zinc in antioxidant defence and DNA damage repair.”

This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

Who Is Less Likely to Develop Cancer?

ImageVegetarians will develop less blood, bladder and stomach cancer than meat eaters, according to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer.

The grouping of two studies featured more than 61,000 vegetarians over a time span of 12 years and found they contracted less cancer, independent of factors such as smoking, alcohol use and obesity than those who consumed meat or fish or both.

Differences in stomach and bowel cancer rates were not as pronounced as may have been expected based on previous research. It is interesting to note, vegetarians had slightly higher, but not significantly so, rates of colon and rectum cancer.

Cervical cancer rates were twice that of meat-eaters among vegetarians. Breast and prostate cancer rates were similar, although there was less risk for prostate cancer among fish eaters than meat eaters.

Participants were drawn from a pool of British men and women who were either meat eaters and/or fish eaters or vegetarians. Of the total study population, 3,350 were diagnosed with one or more of the twenty cancers the researchers tested for.

They noted that 33 out of a hundred meat eaters will develop some form of cancer compared to 29 out of 100 non-meat eaters.

For some cancers such as multiple myeloma, which strikes bone marrow, vegetarians were 75 per cent less likely develop the condition.

Cancers of the blood and lymph such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma were 50 per cent less likely in vegetarians than carnivores.”At the moment these findings are not strong enough to ask for particularly large changes in the diets of people following an average balanced diet. More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences,” explained the lead researcher from the Cancer Research UK epidemiology unit at Oxford University.

The researchers said the reasons for lower cancer rates among vegetarians were not clear but suggested it could be down to viruses and mutation-causing compounds found in meat such as N-nitroso which are thought to damage DNA.

The temperatures at which meats are cooked could also produce damaging carcinogens.

The study population contained 15,571 men and 45,995 women, one third of whom were vegetarian.

Levels of physical activity were higher in vegetarians and fish-only eaters than in meat eaters, who also had higher body mass index readings (BMIs).

But the researchers said none of the findings were conclusive despite some evidence linking, for instance, high intake of fruit and vegetables and onset rates of some cancers.

“There is also some evidence that a high intake of fruit and vegetables might reduce the risk for stomach cancer, but the data are not consistent and, although on average vegetarians eat more fruit and vegetables than meat eaters, the difference in intake is modest,” they wrote.

Source: British Journal of Cancer (2009) 101, 192-197. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6605098 ‘Cancer incidence in British vegetarians’

This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

High Blood Pressure Linked To Memory Problems



High blood pressure is linked to memory problems in people over 45, according to research published in the print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study found that people with high diastolic blood pressure, which is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading, were more likely to

 have cognitive impairment, or problems with their memory and thinking skills, than people with normal diastolic readings.

For every 10 point increase in the reading, the odds of a person having cognitive problems was seven percent higher. The results were valid after adjusting for other factors that could affect cognitive abilities, such as age, smoking status, exercise level, education, diabetes or high cholesterol.

The study involved nearly 20,000 people age 45 and older across the country who participated in the Reasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study and had never had a stroke or mini-stroke. A total of 1,505 of the participants, or 7.6 percent, had cognitive problems, and 9,844, or 49.6 percent, were taking medication for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is defined as a reading equal to or higher than 140/90 or taking medication for high blood pressure.

“It’s possible that by preventing or treating high blood pressure, we could potentially prevent cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia,” explained a research team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, including members of the American Academy of Neurology.

Research has shown that high diastolic blood pressure leads to weakening of small arteries in the brain, which can result in the development of small areas of brain damage.

They explained more research is needed to confirm the relationship between high blood pressure and cognitive impairment.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The REGARDS study is one of the largest population- based studies of risk factors for stroke. These latest data suggest that higher blood pressure may be a risk factor for cognitive decline, but further studies will be necessary to understand the cause-effect relationship.

The deputy director of the American Academy of Neurology noted “The National Institutes of Health is now organizing a large clinical trial to evaluate whether aggressive blood pressure lowering can decrease a number of important health outcomes including cognitive decline.”

Adapted from materials provided by American Academy of Neurology.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

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