Search This Blog

4 June 2010

Grilling this weekend? Some spices may play role in reduced cancer risk

Researchers report that adding certain spices to your burgers before tossing them on the grill this summer will not only add to the flavor of the meat, but they can also cut the risk of cancer long associated with the cooking of beef.
Scientists at Kansas State University found that three spices in particular — fingerroot, rosemary and tumeric — seem to direct the greatest amount of antioxidant activity toward preventing the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs, they note, are the cancer-causing compounds that are produced when foods such as beef are barbecued, grilled, broiled or fried.

Specifically, the three spices appeared to cut back on HCA production by upwards of 40%, the team observed, thereby significantly reducing the HCA-associated risk for developing colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, mammary and prostate cancers.

"Cooked beef tends to develop more HCAs than other kinds of cooked meats such as pork and chicken," KSU food chemistry professor J. Scott Smith noted in a news release. "Cooked beef patties appear to be the cooked meat with the highest mutagenic activity and may be the most important source of HCAs in the human diet."

Therefore Smith and his colleagues looked into the HCA-inhibiting potential of six spices: cumin, coriander seeds, galangal, fingerroot, rosemary and tumeric.

Of all those investigated, rosemary came out on top as the strongest protector against HCA.

The authors suggested that consumers integrate these spices into their menus when appropriate, noting that some, such as rosemary, come in an extract form that has demonstrated HCA inhibition of 61% to 79%.

They pointed out that spicing allows for the sort of high-temperature cooking (above 352 degrees Farenheit) that is typically recommended for safe grilling, while at the same time blocking the increased HCA production that is known to occur when the flames intensify.

Smith and his team plan further research to see what other marinades and powders might do by way of HCA curtailment — they noted that earlier work has shown that marinating steaks with particular herbs and spices effectively lowers HCA production.

A little chocolate might help cut cholesterol

But chocolate lovers shouldn't take the news as license to indulge. Chocolate only helped people who already had risk factors for heart disease, and only when consumed in modest amounts, Dr. Rutai Hui of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing and colleagues found.

Several studies have suggested that chocolate may be good for you. One study released in March showed that among 19,300 people, those who ate the most chocolate had lower blood pressure and were less likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years. But like the new analysis, that research came with caveats; the difference in chocolate consumption between the top and bottom chocolate-consuming groups was around 6 grams, or about one-seventh of a Hershey's milk chocolate bar.

In the new analysis, Hui and colleagues searched the medical literature to find studies that looked at how cocoa affected blood fats, or lipids, and found eight trials including 215 people. When all studies were analyzed together, the researchers found eating cocoa cut levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, by about 6 mg/dL and reduced total cholesterol by the same amount. But cocoa had no effect on cholesterol in the three highest-quality studies.

Further analysis showed that only people who ate small amounts of cocoa, an amount containing 260 milligrams of polyphenols or less, experienced cholesterol lowering effects; people who consumed more showed no effect.

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, chocolate and red wine. A 1.25-ounce bar of milk chocolate contains about 300 milligrams of polyphenols.

The researchers also found that healthy people didn't get any cholesterol-lowering benefits from cocoa, but people with risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, saw their LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol drop by around 8 mg/dL each.

Eating moderate amounts of cocoa could be "a worthwhile dietary approach" for preventing high cholesterol in certain groups of people, Hui and colleagues conclude in a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Future research efforts," they say, "should concentrate on higher-quality and more rigorous randomized trials with longer follow-ups to resolve the uncertainty regarding the clinical effectiveness. Then we can really eat chocolate without feeling guilty."

31 May 2010

Rheumatoid arthritis 'on the rise in women'

One of the most common forms of arthritis is on the rise among women in the US, according to a study.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota say rheumatoid arthritis cases rose 2.5% between 1995 and 2007, after 40 years of decline, but fell among men in the same 12-year period,

Rheumatoid arthritis affects around 350,000 people in the UK.

The condition is a form of arthritis which happens when the body's immune system attacks joints.

This causes pain and swelling, which can lead to problems with mobility.

It often starts between 40 and 50 years of age and women are three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.

The study looked at cases of rheumatoid arthritis in Minnesota between 1995 and 2007.

They examined the medical records of 1,761 residents in Olmsted County.

They found cases of rheumatoid arthritis increased by 2.5% per year from 1995 to 2007, while it fell in men by 0.5%.

Study leader Dr Sherine Gabriel said: "We observed a modest increase of rheumatoid arthritis incidence in women during the study period, which followed a sharp decline in incidence during the previous four decades."

Previous studies have found a link between cigarette smoking and rheumatoid arthritis.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with the development of the condition.

Commenting on the work, published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, Ailsa Bosworth, Chief Executive of UK charity the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said the findings were a concern.

She said: "I would like to assure people living with rheumatoid arthritis that in the last 10 years due in part to the use of biological therapies and tighter control of the disease at an earlier stage that more and more people with this long-term condition are managing to stay working and live very full productive lives.

"However more definitely needs to be done to raise public awareness of rheumatoid arthritis and that people raise their risk of developing the disease if they smoke."