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27 May 2010

Fewer sugary drinks may lower blood pressure: study

They found overweight people with high blood pressure who drank one less sugar-laden beverage a day significantly lowered their blood pressure over 18 months.

For most Americans this means cutting soft drink intake in half.

"We found if you lower your consumption of sugary drinks, it may help you reduce your blood pressure," said Dr. Liwei Chen of Louisiana State University Health Science Center, whose findings appear in the journal Circulation.

"If you reduce your consumption by two servings, you would probably lower your blood pressure even more," Chen said in a telephone interview.

The study adds to mounting pressure on U.S. food and beverage companies as newly passed health reform legislation shifts the nation's focus on ways to prevent disease as well as treat it.

Too much sugar not only makes people fatter, but is also a key culprit in diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

Several states, including New York and California, have weighed a tax on sweetened soft drinks to defray the cost of treating obesity-related diseases.

A report by the U.S. Institute of Medicine in February declared high blood pressure a "neglected disease" in the United States, accounting for one in six deaths and adding $73 billion a year in health costs.

Chen's study looked specifically at the effect of sugar intake on blood pressure. The team used data on 810 adults aged 25 to 79 with borderline high blood pressure -- readings of 120/80 to 139/89 -- and stage I hypertension -- readings of 140/90 and 159/99

At the start of the study, people drank 10.5 ounces (310 ml), or roughly one serving, of sweetened beverages a day. They included drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup such as soft drinks, fruit drinks and lemonade.

After 18 months, average consumption had fallen by half a serving, and both the systolic blood pressure -- the "top number" blood pressure reading when the heart beats -- and diastolic blood pressure -- the "bottom number" reading between beats -- had fallen significantly.

They said drinking one less soft drink a day resulted in a 1.8 millimeters of mercury drop in systolic pressure and cut diastolic pressure by 1.1 millimeters of mercury.

"Weight loss is part of the reason but not all," Chen said, noting that even after controlling for that, the improvement in blood pressure was statistically significant.

She said American adults drink an average of 2.3 servings (28 ounces/828 ml) of sugar-sweetened beverages per day.

The American Beverage Association says sugar-sweetened drinks do not pose any particular health risk, and are not a unique risk factor for obesity or heart disease.

25 May 2010

Vitamin E may protect lungs

People who take vitamin E supplements regularly for years -- whether they are smokers or nonsmokers -- may lower their risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the lung condition that is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is often, but not always, caused by smoking.

While the risk reduction is relatively small, 10 percent, COPD is a common and life-threatening condition in which a decline in lung function can be slowed down but not reversed. COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue.

"The effect appears to be modest. But for something for which there isn't really any effective therapy and tends to be a degenerative condition, anything that would reduce the risk even somewhat is not an insubstantial benefit," says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston who was not involved in the study.

Exercise may keep cancer patients healthier during, after treatment

CHICAGO – Breast and prostate cancer patients who regularly exercise during and after cancer treatment report having a better quality of life and being less fatigued, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

"Using exercise as an approach to cancer care has the potential to benefit patients both physically and psychologically, as well as mitigate treatment side effects," says study lead author Eleanor M. Walker, M.D., division director of breast services in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital.

"Plus, exercise is a great alternative to patients combating fatigue and nausea who are considering using supplements which may interfere with medications and chemotherapy they're taking during cancer treatment."

Dr. Walker will present a poster with the study's design and intervention methods June 7 at the 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago. The abstract is now available online at

To study how exercise impacts cancer patients, Dr. Walker and her colleagues at Henry Ford's Josephine Ford Cancer Center and the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute developed a unique program called ExCITE (Exercise and Cancer Integrative Therapies and Education).

ExCITE works with patients who are receiving cancer treatment to create individualized exercise programs. Some patients come into one of Henry Ford's fitness centers to workout, while others have plans that allow them to exercise at home during various stages of their care.

The study group thus far includes 30 female breast cancer patients and 20 prostate cancer patients, all ranging in age from 35 to 80. All were newly diagnosed when they began ExCITE. The study followed the patients during treatment and for one-year following completion of cancer treatment.

Before beginning the exercise program, Henry Ford's Preventative Cardiology Division measured the patients' exercise capacity, skeletal muscle strength and endurance. General blood work, metabolic screens, bone density and inflammatory biomarkers also were obtained at the start of the program.

Exercise and diet recommendation for each patient were based on their baseline exercise tolerances, weight, overall health, and type of cancer treatment they would receive. Acupuncture was used for patients who experienced hot flashes, pain, nausea/vomiting, insomnia and neuropathy as the result of cancer treatment.

Cheryl Fallen of Gross Pointe Park, Mich., was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer while she took part in the ExCITE program. Through a mix of exercise, acupuncture and good nutrition, she didn't experiencing some of the more common side-effects from treatment – nausea, fatigue and trouble with memory.

"ExCITE offers cancer patients a way to holistically approach their cancer care by tailoring a specific exercise routine to fit the needs of the patient, whether it's rehabilitation after surgery, or to enhance circulation or improve the immune system prior to chemotherapy or radiation," says Fallen.

When her white blood cell count fell during chemotherapy, Fallen would work out at home using an exercise band or by walking outdoors. When she was well enough to return to the gym, her workouts consisted of using the exercise ball and treadmill, and doing other strength-training exercises.

"Overall, the program makes you feel better about yourself. It's a positive support for cancer patients, and I really think it's allowed me to be more productive during my treatment," says Fallen.

Study of the ExCITE program is ongoing, with Dr. Walker and her colleagues continuing to investigate the potential benefits of exercise for cancer patients.

Ginger May Ease Muscle Pain

Ginger root has been used as a folk remedy. Now researchers have found evidence that daily ginger consumption reduces muscle pain caused by exercise.

The study, which will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Pain, was funded by the McCormick Science Institute — yes, an offshoot of the company that makes and sells spices.

While ginger had been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, its effect on experimentally-induced human muscle pain was largely unexplored, said University of Georgia researcher Patrick O'Connor. It was also believed that heating ginger, as occurs with cooking, might increase its pain-relieving effects.

O'Connor directed two studies examining the effects of 11 days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on muscle pain.

Participants in the studies, 34 and 40 volunteers, respectively, consumed capsules containing two grams of either raw or heat-treated ginger or a placebo for 11 consecutive days. On the eighth day they performed 18 extensions of the elbow flexors with a heavy weight to induce moderate muscle injury to the arm. Arm function, inflammation, pain and a biochemical involved in pain were assessed prior to and for three days after exercise.

The studies showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced the exercise-induced pain by 25 percent, and the effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.

The study involved a small number of individuals, however, and further study would be needed to confirm the results.

"The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high," O'Connor said. "Muscle pain generally is one of the most common types of pain and eccentric exercise-induced muscle pain specifically is a common type of injury related to sports and/or recreation (e.g., gardening). Anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it."