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15 September 2009

How manuka honey helps fight infection

Manuka honey may kill bacteria by destroying key bacterial proteins. Dr Rowena Jenkins and colleagues from the University of Wales Institute - Cardiff investigated the mechanisms of manuka honey action and found that its anti-bacterial properties were not due solely to the sugars present in the honey. The work was presented this week (7-10 September), at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was grown in the laboratory and treated with and without manuka honey for four hours. The experiment was repeated with sugar syrup to determine if the effects seen were due to sugar content in honey alone. The bacterial cells were then broken and the proteins isolated and separated on a system that displayed each protein as an individual spot. Many fewer proteins were seen from the manuka honey-treated MRSA cells and one particular protein, FabI, seemed to be completely missing. FabI is a protein that is needed for fatty acid biosynthesis. This essential process supplies the bacteria with precursors for important cellular components such as lipopolysaccarides and its cell wall. The absence of these proteins in honey-treated cells could help explain the mode of action of manuka honey in killing MRSA.

"Manuka and other honeys have been known to have wound healing and anti-bacterial properties for some time," said Dr Jenkins, "But the way in which they act is still not known. If we can discover exactly how manuka honey inhibits MRSA it could be used more frequently as a first-line treatment for infections with bacteria that are resistant to many currently available antibiotics".

Low Vitamin D Increases Flu Death Risk in Kids

So far, Swine flu, H1N1, has killed thirty-six children in U.S. and analysis of CDC data indicates Vitamin D deficient children at higher risk of death. The CDC did not realize they discovered this. However, anyone familiar with the Vitamin D literature will recognize it.

Almost two-thirds of the dead children had epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other neurodevelopmental conditions like mental retardation. All of these neurological conditions are associated with childhood Vitamin D deficiency. Exacerbating the problem further, many of these kids take anticonvulsant drugs, which lower Vitamin D levels.

58 million American children are Vitamin D deficient; 7.6 million are severely deficient. When researchers looked at more than 6,000 American kids (age one to 21) who were carefully selected to be representative of the average American child. 9 percent of the kids had 25(OH)D levels less than 15 ng/mL and 70 percent had levels less than 30 ng/mL.

More Confirmation That Cell Phones Cause Brain Tumors

A recent review of studies assessed whether there was epidemiologic evidence for an association between long-term cell phone usage and the risk of developing a brain tumor.

In order to be included in the analysis, studies were required to have been published in a peer-reviewed journal, included participants who had used cell phone for 10 or more years, and analyzed the side of the brain tumor relative to the side of the head preferred for cell phone usage. Eleven long-term epidemiologic studies fit the criteria.

The results indicated that using a cell phone for 10 or more years approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same side of the head as that preferred for cell phone use.

UK professor says supplements are a waste of time

Related topics: Omega-3, Industry, Antioxidants, carotenoids, Dosage forms, Minerals, Nutritional lipids and oils, Phytochemicals, plant extracts, Vitamins & premixes, Bone & joint health, Eye health

The likes of vitamin A and vitamin C are a waste of money for most people and can even be detrimental to health, a UK-based nutrition professor has told the British Science Festival.

Professor Brian Ratcliffe, the program leader of nutrition and dietetics at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, told the Festival many food supplements were ineffective for the majority of people and overuse of vitamin C for example, could lead to stomach problems.

Vitamin A was singled out as easily exceeding recommended levels if a consumer was to combine multivitamin use with a fish oil supplement. Potential side effects included headaches and nausea, osteoporosis, and eye and liver damage.

His statements have been picked up in the UK mainstream press in the past couple of days. Industry associations were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Professor Ratcliffe, who is an adviser to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), was also unavailable for comment.

The National Association of Health Stores issued a statement backing supplement use, as a way of compensating for nutrient-poor diets: “Evidence amassed by the Food Standards Agency tells us that the concept of the healthy, balanced diet still eludes the overwhelming majority of the British public.”

“And, of course, if you are ill, smoke, drink alcohol or exposed to environmental toxins such as traffic fumes your body benefits from a higher intake of vitamins and minerals and of course, if you are eating less than a certain number of calories such as when you are dieting, it is more difficult to get the nutrients you need from food.”

Professor Ratcliffe provides no supporting evidence to back his statements, and notes taking food supplements can be dangerous for those who may be taking pharmaceuticals.

UK supplement sales falling

His comments come at a time when vitamin sales are falling in the UK, at least according to analyst, Mintel, which predicts sales will slide from €155m in 2004 to below €100m by 2014 – a near 50 per cent decline.

Can Chocolate Cure a Headache?

Decades of research have shown that chocolate has several beneficial physiological effects, most notably on heart health. A new study suggests that cocoa powder has a healing effect on inflamed cells related to migraine headaches. However, the results of the study contradicts previous theories that chocolate triggers migraines in some people.

Dark chocolate, which should be at least 60 percent cocoa by weight, is one of the richest sources of the bioflavonoid antioxidants that counteract cell damage. Milk chocolate, which contains a much lower percentage of cocoa, confers less than half of the benefits of dark chocolate, and white chocolate has no such health benefits because it lacks cocoa. In addition, if chocolate is eaten in large amounts, its sugar and calorie content could negate the positive effects of its antioxidants and other chemicals.

No guidelines have yet been determined about how to consume dark chocolate to maximize the health benefits.

14 September 2009

7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat

1) Improved cardiovascular risk factors

Saturated fat plays a key role in cardiovascular health. The addition of saturated fat to the diet reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a) that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease. Research has shown that when women diet, those eating the greatest percentage of the total fat in their diets as saturated fat lose the most weight.

2) Stronger bones

Saturated fat is required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone. According to one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats and human health, Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D., there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50 percent of the fats in your diet as saturated fats for this reason.

3) Improved liver health

Saturated fat has been shown to protect the liver from alcohol and medications, including acetaminophen and other drugs commonly used for pain and arthritis.

4) Healthy lungs

For proper function, the airspaces of the lungs have to be coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant. The fat content of lung surfactant is 100 percent saturated fatty acids. Replacement of these critical fats by other types of fat makes faulty surfactant and potentially causes breathing difficulties.

5) Healthy brain

Your brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol. The lion’s share of the fatty acids in the brain are actually saturated. A diet that skimps on healthy saturated fats robs your brain of the raw materials it needs to function optimally.

6) Proper nerve signaling

Certain saturated fats, particularly those found in butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil, function directly as signaling messengers that influence metabolism, including such critical jobs as the appropriate release of insulin.

7) Strong immune system

Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

Organic is Healthier and More Nutritious According to New Study

A new report by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) has found that organic foods are better for you and contain less pesticides and nitrates, which have been linked to a range of health problems including diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Andre Leu, Chairman of the Organic Federation of Australia, says the up-to-date exhaustive and critical evaluation of the nutritional quality of organic food and has found organic foods have higher levels of minerals and antioxidants.'

"The AFSSA study has been published in the peer reviewed scientific journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development ensuring that it has met rigorous scientific standards," Leu said.

The major points of The French Agency for Food Safety study are:

1. Organic plant products contain more dry matter (more nutrient dense)

2. Have higher levels of minerals

3. Contain more anti-oxidants such as phenols and salicylic acid (known to protect against cancers, heart disease and many other health problems)

4. Organic animal products contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids (protect against heart disease)

5. Carbohydrate, protein and vitamin levels are insufficiently documented

6. 94-100% of organic foods do not contain any pesticide residues

7. Organic vegetables contain far less nitrates, about 50% less (high nitrate levels are linked to a range of health problems including diabetes and Alzheimer's)

8. Organic cereals contain similar levels of mycotoxins as conventional ones

How greens may protect the heart

Researchers have discovered a possible reason why green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are good for the heart.

Their work suggests a chemical found in the vegetables can boost a natural defence mechanism to protect arteries from disease.

The Imperial College London team hope their work could lead to new dietary treatments to prevent heart problems.

Much heart disease is caused by the build up of fatty plaques in the arteries known as atherosclerosis.

However, arteries do not get clogged up with these plaques in a uniform way.

Bends and branches of blood vessels - where blood flow is disrupted and can be sluggish - are much more prone to the build-up.

The latest study has shown that a protein that usually protects against plaque build up called Nrf2 is inactive in areas of arteries that are prone to disease.

However, it also found that treatment with a chemical found in green "brassica" vegetables such as broccoli can activate Nrf2 in these disease-prone regions.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Evans said: "We found that the innermost layer of cells at branches and bends of arteries lack the active form of Nrf2, which may explain why they are prone to inflammation and disease.

"Treatment with the natural compound sulforaphane reduced inflammation at the high-risk areas by 'switching on' Nrf2.

"Sulforaphane is found naturally in broccoli, so our next steps include testing whether simply eating broccoli, or other vegetables in their 'family', has the same protective effect.

"We also need to see if the compound can reduce the progression of disease in affected arteries."

Targeted approaches

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: "These fascinating findings provide a possible mechanism by which eating vegetables protects against heart disease.

"As well as adding evidence to support the importance of eating 'five-a-day', the biochemistry revealed in this research could lead to more targeted dietary or medical approaches to prevent or lessen disease that leads to heart attacks and strokes."

Using normal mice, and mice engineered to lack the Nrf2 protein, the research found that in straight sections of arteries Nrf2 was present in the endothelial 'lining' cells.

Through its action on other proteins, it prevented the cells from becoming inflamed, an early stage in the development of atherosclerosis.

In the lining cells of disease-prone sites - such as bending or branched arteries - Nrf2 was attached to a protein that made it inactive. This stifled its protective properties.

But the addition of sulforaphane re-activated Nrf2 in the disease-prone regions of the artery, restoring the cells' ability to protect themselves from becoming inflamed.

The researchers believe that this will enable these artery regions to remain healthy for longer, or even reduce the progression of existing disease.

Yoga Classes Help Lower Back Pain

Yoga classes helped people with chronic lower back pain improve their mood and ability to function, and it eased their pain more than conventional treatment alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

People who were assigned to take yoga for two months experienced a 29 percent reduction in functional disability and a 42 percent reduction in pain, the authors reported in the September 1 edition of the journal Spine. Yoga was also associated with a 45.7 percent decrease in symptoms of depression over conventional therapy alone.

"Yoga improves functional disability, pain intensity, and depression in adults with [chronic lower back pain]," Dr. Kimberly Williams of West Virginia University and colleagues concluded. "There was also a clinically important trend for the yoga group to reduce their pain medication usage compared to the control group."

How Coconut Oil Could Help Reduce The Symptoms Of Type 2 Diabetes

A new study in animals demonstrates that a diet rich in coconut oil protects against 'insulin resistance' (an impaired ability of cells to respond to insulin) in muscle and fat. The diet also avoids the accumulation of body fat caused by other high fat diets of similar calorie content. Together these findings are important because obesity and insulin resistance are major factors leading to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

The study is also interesting because it helps explain human studies showing that people who incorporate medium chain 'fatty acids', such as those found in coconut oil, into their diets can lose body fat.

Dr Nigel Turner and Associate Professor Jiming Ye, from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, compared fat metabolism and insulin resistance in mice fed coconut oil and lard based diets. Their findings are now published online in the international journal Diabetes.

"The medium chain fatty acids, like those found in coconut oil, are interesting to us because they behave very differently to the fats normally found in our diets," said study leader Nigel Turner.

"Unlike the long chain fatty acids contained in animal fats, medium chain fatty acids are small enough to enter mitochondria - the cells' energy burning powerhouses - directly, where they can then be converted to energy."

"Unfortunately the downside to eating medium chain fatty acids is that they can lead to fat build up in the liver, an important fact to be taken into consideration by anyone considering using them as a weight loss therapy."

Fat storage is determined by the balance between how much fat is taken in by cells and how much of this fat is burned for energy. When people eat a high fat diet, their bodies attempt to compensate by increasing their capacity to oxidise fat. The medium chain fatty acid (coconut oil) diet was more effective at increasing the oxidative capacity of muscle than the long chain fatty acid (lard) diet leading to less fat storage in muscle and better insulin action.

According to Turner, the lard-based diet used in this research is similar to the diet eaten by people in the Western world. "Its fatty acid composition is about 40% saturated fats, 40% monounsaturated fats and 20% polyunsaturated fats, of which the vast proportion is omega-6, rather than omega-3," he said.

"Obese humans usually eat 40-50% of their calories as fat. Our mice were fed 45% of their calories as fat."

"No high fat diet is good, and the normal dietary combination of long chain fats leads to an overload that our bodies can't cope with. Therefore high consumption of common dietary fats is contributing directly towards the global escalation of obesity and Type 2 diabetes."

"If someone is trying to prevent weight gain, we can see they may benefit from substituting oils containing medium chain fatty acids for other oils in their diet, as long as consideration is given to the potential problem of excess fat in the liver. Other natural dietary alternatives, such as fish oil, might be helpful because the fatty acids in fish oil are thought to exert a lot of their beneficial effects through improving fat oxidation in the liver."