An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure!

Archive for May, 2014

Mediterranean Diet May Help Fight Depression

Studies Suggest That a Mediterranean Diet 
Is Associated With Reduced Risk of Depression

People who regularly follow the Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, 
fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish, appear less likely to develop depression, 
according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General 
Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
The lifetime prevalence of mental disorders has been found to be 
lower in Mediterranean than Northern European countries, according to 
background information in the article. One logical explanation is that the 
diet commonly followed in the region may be protective against depression. 
Previous research has suggested that the monounsaturated fatty acids in 
olive oil which is used abundantly in the Mediterranean diet, may be 
associated with a lower risk of severe depressive symptoms.
Researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and 
Clinic of the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, studied 10,094 
healthy participants who completed an initial questionnaire between 
1999 and 2005. Participants reported their dietary intake on a food 
frequency questionnaire, and the researchers calculated their adherence 
to the Mediterranean diet based on nine key components (high ratio of 
monounsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids; moderate intake
of alcohol and dairy products; low intake of meat; and high intake of 
legumes, fruit and nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish).
After a midpoint (median) of 4.4 years of follow-up, 480 new cases 
of depression were identified, including 156 in men and 324 in women.
Individuals who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had a greater
than 30 percent reduction in the risk of depression than whose who had the 
lowest Mediterranean diet scores. 
“The specific mechanisms by which a better adherence to the Mediterranean 
dietary pattern could help to prevent the occurrence of depression are not well 
known,” the authors said. Components of the diet may improve blood vessel 
function, fight inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease and repair oxygen-
related cell damage, all of which may decrease the chances of developing 
“However, the role of the overall dietary pattern may be more important than 
the effect of single components. It is plausible that the synergistic combination 
of a sufficient provision of omega-three fatty acids together with other natural 
unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants from olive oil and nuts, flavonoids and 
other phytochemicals from fruit and other plant foods and large amounts of 
natural folates and other B vitamins in the overall Mediterranean dietary pattern 
may exert a fair degree of protection against depression,” the authors concluded.

B Vitamins Help Slow Process of Brain Atrophy in People With Memory Problems

Daily supplements of B vitamins can reduce
the rate of brain shrinkage by 50% in elderly
people who suffer from mild memory problems,
an Oxford University study has shown.


The two-year randomized clinical trial is the largest
to study the effect of B vitamins on mild cognitive
impairment, and one of the first disease-modifying
trials in the Alzheimer’s field to show positive results
in people.

Around 1 in 6 elderly people over the age of 70 has
mild cognitive impairment, experiencing problems with
memory, language, or other mental functions, but not to
a degree that interferes with daily life. Around half of
people with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop
dementia, mainly Alzheimer’s disease, within five years
of diagnosis.

Certain B vitamins including : folic acid, vitamin B6 and
vitamin B12  are known to control levels of the amino acid
homocysteine in the blood, and high levels of homocysteine
are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

The Oxford research team set out to see whether
supplements of the B vitamins that lower homocysteine
could slow the higher rate of brain shrinkage (atrophy)
observed in mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s.

The study followed 168 volunteers aged 70 or over with
mild memory problems, half of whom took high dose
B vitamin tablets for two years and the other half a placebo
tablet. The researchers assessed disease progression in
this group by using MRI scans to measure the brain atrophy
rate over a two-year period. The findings are published in
the journal PLoS ONE.

The team found that on average the brains of those taking
the folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 treatment shrank at a rate
of 0.76% a year, while those in the placebo group had a
mean brain shrinkage rate of 1.08%. People with the
highest levels of homocysteine benefited most, showing
atrophy rates on treatment that were half of those on

Along with rate of brain shrinkage, the team from the
Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Aging (OPTIMA)
also monitored cognitive test scores, revealing that those
with the slowest rate of shrinkage scored more strongly.

The team suggests that, since the rate of brain atrophy
is known to be more rapid in those with mild cognitive
impairment who go on to develop Alzheimer’s, it is possible
that the vitamin treatment could slow down the development
of the disease. Clinical trials to test this should now be
carried out, they add.

“It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay
the development of Alzheimer’s disease in many people
who suffer from mild memory problems,” said Professor
David Smith of the Department of Pharmacology at Oxford
University, a co-leader of the trial. “Today there are about
1.5 million elderly in UK, 5 million in USA and 14 million
in Europe with such memory problems.”

“’These are immensely promising results but we do need
to do more trials to conclude whether these particular
B vitamins can slow or prevent development of Alzheimer’s.
So I wouldn’t yet recommend that anyone getting a bit older
and beginning to be worried about memory lapses should
rush out and buy vitamin B supplements without seeing a
doctor,” the researchers said.

Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust,
Rebecca Wood  said: “These are very important results,
with B vitamins now showing a prospect of protecting
some people from Alzheimer’s in old age. The strong
findings must inspire an expanded trial to follow people
expected to develop Alzheimer’s, and we hope for
further success.

“We desperately need to support research into dementia,
to help avoid the massive increases of people living with
the condition as the population ages. Research is the
only answer to what remains the greatest medical
challenge of our time.”

Professor Chris Kennard, chair of the Medical Research
Council’s Neurosciences and Mental Health Board which
co-funded the study, said: “This MRC-funded trial brings
us a step closer to unravelling the complex neurobiology
of aging and cognitive decline, which holds the key to the
development of future treatments for conditions like
Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings are very encouraging and we look forward
to further research that is needed in order to test whether
B vitamins can be recommended as a suitable treatment.”

Story Source: University of Oxford.

Journal Reference:
“Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate
of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment:
A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
 PLoS ONE, 2010

Soft Drink Consumption May Increase The Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

According to a report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers &
Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer
Research, consuming two or more soft drinks per week
increased the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by nearly
twofold compared to individuals who did not consume soft

Although relatively rare, pancreatic cancer remains one of the
most deadly; Only 5 percent of people who are diagnosed are
alive five years later.

Mark Pereira, Ph.D., senior author on the study and associate
professor in the School of Public Health at the University of
Minnesota, said people who consume soft drinks on a regular
basis, defined as primarily carbonated sugar-sweetened
beverages, tend to have a poor behavioral profile overall.

However, the effect of these drinks on pancreatic cancer may
be unique.

“The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the
level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to
pancreatic cancer cell growth,” said Pereira.

For the study, a research team followed 60,524 men and women
in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years. During that
time, there were 140 pancreatic cancer cases. Those who
consumed two or more soft drinks per week (averaging five per
week) had an 87 percent increased risk compared with individuals
who did not.

No association was seen between fruit juice consumption and
pancreatic cancer.

The researchers noted, although the study was conducted in
Singapore, the results are likely applicable to the United States.
“Singapore is a wealthy country with excellent health care. Favorite
pastimes are eating and shopping, so the findings should apply to
other western countries,” they explained.

These study results are intriguing but have some key limitations
that should be considered in any interpretation.

“Although this study found a risk, the finding was based on a
relatively small number of cases and it remains unclear whether
it is a causal association or not. Soft drink consumption in
Singapore was associated with several other adverse health
behaviors such as smoking and red meat intake, which we can’t
accurately control for,” explained an editorial board member of
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Journal Reference: Soft Drink and Juice Consumption and Risk
of Pancreatic Cancer: The Singapore Chinese Health Study
Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention

Fruit & Veggies May Prevent Lymph Cancers


Increased intakes of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, says a new study from the Mayo Clinic

Intakes of vitamin C, alpha-carotene, and antioxidant compounds known as proanthocyanidins were associated with reductions in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma of 22, 29, and 30 percent, respectively, according to findings published in the International Journal of Cancer.

From a nutritional food perspective, the researchers report that yellow-orange and cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, were found to confer the greatest risk reductions.

This has mechanistic implications (potential synergies between antioxidants; other anti-carcinogenic compounds in these foods) and also suggests that prevention approaches will likely need to be targeted towards foods and specific antioxidant-rich food groups.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that starts in the lymphatic system and encompasses about 29 different forms of lymphoma. According to the American Cancer Society, over 50,000 new cases are diagnosed in the US every year.

Study Details In collaboration with scientists from the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic researchers examined data from 35,159 Iowa women aged between 55 and 69 participating in the Iowa women’s health study. Diets were analyzed using a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire.

Over 20 years of follow-up, a total of 415 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma weredocumented. Intakes of 204 or more servings per month (about 7 servings

per day) of all fruit and vegetables were associated with a 31 percent reduction in NHL risk, compared to intakes of less than 104 servings per month.

High intakes of yellow-orange vegetables (14 or more servings of per month) were associated with a risk reduction of 28 percent, as were four or more broccoli servings per month, compared to people who are no broccoli.

Considering the nutrients, in addition to the risk reductions associated with increased intakes of vitamin C, alpha-carotene, and the antioxidants known as roanthocyanidins, increased intakes of manganese from dietary sources was also associated with a risk reduction of about 40 per cent.

“To our knowledge, an inverse association with manganese has not been previously evaluated for NHL, and thus this will require replication,” they wrote. “Foods rich in manganese include whole grains, nuts, and leafy vegetables. However, we observed no clear association with foods that are major sources of manganese.”

“These results support a role for vegetables and perhaps fruits, and associated antioxidants from food sources, as protective factors against the development of NHL and follicular lymphoma in particular,” they concluded.

Source: International Journal of Cancer “Antioxidant intake from fruits, vegetables and other sources and risk of non-hodgkin lymphoma: The Iowa women’s health study”

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.


Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Higher Death Risk



Low Levels of Vitamin D May Increase The Risk of Dying From All Causes by 150 %, Suggests a Study With Over 700 Elderly Women.

Women with blood levels of the vitamin lower than 15.3 nanograms per millilitre were more likely to die from causes such as heart disease and cancer, than women with higher levels, according to findings published in Nutrition Research.

“The present findings from this population-based cohort of aging are consistent with the association between low serum and mortality that has been described in the general population,” wrote the researchers from the Johns Hopkins University.

“In addition, a recent meta-analysis suggested that Vitamin D supplementation was associated with decreased mortality,” they added.

The researchers noted that several biologic mechanisms could explain a causal relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and mortality, with the vitamin linked to a range of effects including control of inflammatory compounds, regulating immune health and blood pressure, or reducing arterial hardening.

“The role that Vitamin D plays in different tissues may account for the associations between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality,” they said.

The general population study used data from 13,331 men and women participating in the Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES III). The results of the study made headlines around the world when published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The new study looked at Vitamin D levels in 714 community-dwelling women, aged between 70 and 79 years, participating in the Women’s Health and Aging Studies I and II.

The Johns Hopkins researchers worked in collaboration with scientists from Wake Forest University, National Institute on Aging, University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University.

Study Details

During 6 years of follow-up, 100 of the 714 women died with data showing that the main causes of death included cardiovascular disease (36 per cent), respiratory disease (18 per cent), cancer (15 per cent), and other causes (27 per cent), state the researchers.

When the researchers divided women into four groups (quartiles) according to their 25(OH)D levels, the proportion of women who died in during those 6 years in each quartile (from lowest to highest) was 19, 13,15, and 8.1 per cent, said the researchers.

Increasing blood levels of Vitamin D were linked to increasing survival rates, with women with the lowest average 25(OH)D levels having “significantly worse survival” than women with the highest average levels of 25(OH)D.

“Controlled clinical trials are needed to determine whether Vitamin D supplementation will improve health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and mortality in older adults who have insufficient levels of Vitamin D,” concluded the researchers.

Vitamin D refers to two biologically inactive precursors – D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and D2, also known as ergocalciferol. The former, produced in the skin on exposure to UVB radiation (290 to 320 nm), is said to be more bioactive.

While our bodies do manufacture Vitamin D on exposure to sunshine, the levels in some northern countries are so weak during the winter months that our body makes no Vitamin D at all, meaning that dietary supplements and fortified foods are seen by many as the best way to boost intakes of Vitamin D.

In adults, it is said Vitamin D deficiency may precipitate or exacerbate osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type-1 diabetes.

Source: Nutrition Research Volume 29, 525-530 “Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations are associated with greater all-cause mortality in older community-dwelling women”

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.


Green Tea Extracts Linked to Healthier Bones



Specific Antioxidants, Carotenoids and Phytonutrients Now Recognized For Helping Support Bone & Joint Health.

A study shows specific natural compounds from Green Tea may lead to stronger bones by promoting bone formation, while also inhibiting bone resorption, which leads to weakening.

The study looked at three tea compounds called epigallocatechin (EGC), gallocatechin (GC), and gallocatechin gallate (GCG), and found that EGC produced the greatest bone boosting potential.

“Our study has provided the first laboratory evidence on the bone promotion effects of the green tea catechin EGC as was demonstrated by the promotion of osteoblastic differentiation and inhibition of osteoclast formation,” wrote researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong report their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Osteoblasts are cells responsible for bone formation, while osteoclasts are cells which break down bone, ultimately leading to resorption and weakening.

The study is consistent with data from epidemiological studies. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol 86, pp. 1243-1247) reported that bone mineral density levels were 2.8 per cent greater in tea drinkers than non-tea drinkers, suggesting the beverage has the potential to aid in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is currently second only to cardiovascular disease in terms of global healthcare burden, according to the World Health Organization. This condition affects nearly 200 million people today but the number of sufferers is expected to increase steadily with growing numbers of elderly living longer, and obesity adding extra strain on bone health.

Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent.

The four primary polyphenols found in fresh tea leaves are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epicatechin.

EGC was found to stimulate bone mineralization, while simultaneously inhibiting the formation of osteoclasts. The other catechins were found to be less effective;

“The present study illustrated that the tea catechins, specifically EGC, had positive effects on bone metabolism through a double process of promoting osteoblastic activity and inhibiting osteoclast differentiations,” explained the researchers.

“Our observations would serve as groundwork for further studies, ” they concluded. Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

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.

Soy Intake Linked To Improved Lung Wellness



Regular consumption of soy products could decrease the risk of lung disease and breathlessness, according to a respiratory health study from Japan.

Published in the Journal Respiratory Research, the new study examined nearly 300 patients diagnosed with lung disease, and measured their reported soy food intake. “Soy consumption was found to be positively correlated with lung function and inversely associated with the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The epidemiological evidence also indicated an inverse association between total soy intake and breathlessness,” wrote the researchers from Japan and Australia.

The study was conducted on 278 Japanese patients aged 50-75, who had been diagnosed with COPD within the past four years. Another 340 participants recruited from the general Japanese population were used as a control group. All participants were tested for respiratory function. Food consumption and lifestyle characteristics were determined based on structured questionnaires.

The researchers identified the self-reporting of dietary intake as a limitation to their study, but said that they also included individual interviews with relatives in order to increase response rate and improve the accuracy y of answers. They also said all interviews were conducted by the same investigator to eliminate inter-interviewer bias. Participants were asked specifically about their soy food consumption for the five years prior to the interview date. For the purposes of the study, soy foods included tofu, natto, bean sprouts, and soy milk. Other variables measured were age, gender, body mass index, education level, physical activity, smoking status, and dietary intake of fruit, vegetables, fish, red meat and chicken.

Cautious Benefits

Overall, the researchers found that those participants diagnosed with COPD had significantly lower soy intake than controls. Researchers then examined the relationship with lung function, and found that this was positively correlated with total soy consumption.

“A significant reduction in COPD risk was evident for the highest versus lowest quartile of daily total intake of soybean products,” wrote the researchers.

The observed benefits, consistent with findings from previous studies, could be a result of the anti-inflammatory benefits of soy foods, they said, but added that more research is needed to understand the underlying biological mechanism.

“The present case-control study has suggested an inverse association between soy products and COPD risk for Japanese adults,” concluded the researchers.

“More research and/or replications are required to ascertain whether the observed findings can be generalized to other populations, before incorporating these foods into dietary guidelines so as to encourage consumption.”

“Besides experimental studies, long-term prospective cohort studies collecting detailed dietary exposure information are recommended to provide epidemiological evidence on both morbidity and mortality due to COPD.”

Source: Soy consumption and risk of COPD and respiratory symptoms: a case-control study in Japan Respiratory Research

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.


Hormone Levels Contribute To Stress Resilience


It is important to understand what biological mechanisms contribute to an individual’s capacity to be resilient under conditions of extreme stress, such as those regularly experienced by soldiers, police, and fire fighters. Researchers from Yale University and the VA National Center for PTSD have worked closely with collaborators at the Special Forces Underwater Warfare Operations Center to study special operations soldiers enrolled in the military Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC).

Dehydroepiandrosterone, commonly known as DHEA, is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Although medical scientists have known for over a decade that DHEA provides beneficial, anti-stress effects in animals, they did not know until now whether this was also true for humans.

The scientists completed psychological and hormone assessments on a group of soldiers the day before they began the month-long CDQC, and immediately after their final pass/fail exam engaged in a highly stressful, nocturnal, underwater navigation exercise.

They found that soldiers with more DHEA performed better during the final underwater navigation exam than those with less DHEA. These findings are being published by Elsevier in the August 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry.

Underwater navigation is a task that relies on an area of the brain called the hippocampus that is very sensitive to the negative effects of stress. “Laboratory studies have shown that DHEA buffers against stress, in part, by modulating receptors in this region of the brain,” explained the researchers. “These findings are important in understanding why and how soldiers may differ in their ability to tolerate stress and also raise the possibility that, in the future, compounds like DHEA might be used to protect military personnel from the negative impact of operational stress.

Clearly, additional research is still needed but these findings are a step forward in the quest to help prevent or better treat the symptoms of stress-related disorders that these high-risk individuals experience.

Journal reference: Biological Psychiatry, Volume 66, Issue 4

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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