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26 February 2010

Exercise Reduces Anxiety of Chronic Disease

Exercise may benefit the mental well-being of those with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, a new study suggests.

The results show that patients who participated in exercise training programs reported, on average, a 20 percent reduction in their anxiety symptoms compared to those who did not exercise.

Such feelings of worry and nervousness are common among patients with chronic diseases and may decrease their quality of life and make them less likely to stick to treatment plans, the researchers say. However, the study indicates that exercise may offer a way to treat anxiety without using prescription drugs that may cause adverse side effects, they say.

"Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that physical activities such as walking or weightlifting may turn out to be the best medicine that physicians can prescribe to help their patients feel less anxious," said study-author Matthew Herring, a doctoral student in the department of kinesiology at the University of Georgia.

Low-cost and effective treatments for anxiety will become even more necessary with an increasingly aging population, Herring said.

While much research has focused on the role of exercise in alleviating depression symptoms, comparatively few studies have specifically examined the effect of exercise on anxiety, according to Herring.

Herring and his colleagues analyzed the results of 40 so-called "randomized clinical trials," a type of study that is often looked upon as providing the highest quality research evidence. The studies involved nearly 3,000 patients with chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and chronic arthritis pain.

The largest reductions in anxiety were seen in patients who exercised for more than 30 minutes during a single session.

In terms of the entire program length, shorter programs, around three to 12 weeks, were actually found to be more effective than longer ones at decreasing anxiety symptoms. The researchers speculate this result may be due to the tendency for patients not to follow through with longer training programs. "Better participation rates likely will result in greater anxiety reductions," Herring told LiveScience in an email.

The researchers note that many of the reviewed studies did not include sufficient information on how well participants adhered to their exercise program, or whether they were taking other medications, which may have influenced the study's results. Future studies should address these shortcomings to better understand how much exercise is needed to decrease anxiety, the researchers say. In addition, research should include "understudied" diseases, such as lupus and epilepsy, and examine the effects of exercises that are perhaps not as widely used, such as resistant training, they say.

The Claim: To Cut Calories, Eat Slowly

For ages, mothers have admonished children at the dinner table to slow down and chew their food. Apparently, they’re onto something.

Researchers have found evidence over the years that when people wolf their food, they end up consuming more calories than they would at a slower pace. One reason is the effect of quicker ingestion on hormones.

In a study last month, scientists found that when a group of subjects were given an identical serving of ice cream on different occasions, they released more hormones that made them feel full when they ate it in 30 minutes instead of 5 . The scientists took blood samples and measured insulin and gut hormones before, during and after eating. They found that two hormones that signal feelings of satiety, or fullness — glucagon-like peptide-1 and peptide YY — showed a more pronounced response in the slow condition.

Ultimately, that leads to eating less, as another study published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggested in 2008. In that study, subjects reported greater satiety and consumed roughly 10 percent fewer calories when they ate at a slow pace compared with times when they gobbled down their food. In another study of 3,000 people in The British Medical Journal, those who reported eating quickly and eating until full had triple the risk of being overweight compared with others.

In other words, experts say, it can’t hurt to slow down and savor your meals.

25 February 2010

High levels of vitamin D in older people can reduce heart disease and diabetes

Middle aged and elderly people with high levels of vitamin D could reduce their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes by 43%, according to researchers at the University of Warwick.

A team of researchers at Warwick Medical School carried out a systematic literature review of studies examining vitamin D and cardiometabolic disorders. Cardiometabolic disorders include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods and is also produced when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are good sources of vitamin D, and it is also available as a dietary supplement.

Researchers looked at 28 studies including 99,745 participants across a variety of ethnic groups including men and women.

The studies revealed a significant association between high levels of vitamin D and a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (33% compared to low levels of vitamin D), type 2 diabetes (55% reduction) and metabolic syndrome (51% reduction).

The literature review, published in the journal Maturitas, was led by Johanna Parker and Dr Oscar Franco, Assistant Professor in Public Health at Warwick Medical School.

Dr Franco said: "We found that high levels of vitamin D among middle age and elderly populations are associated with a substantial decrease in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

"Targeting vitamin D deficiency in adult populations could potentially slow the current epidemics of cardiometabolic disorders."

All studies included were published between 1990 and 2009 with the majority published between 2004 and 2009. Half of the studies were conducted in the United States, eight were European, two studies were from Iran, three from Australasia and one from India.

Bilberry extract shows anti-diabetes benefits: Mouse study

Consumption of bilberries may reduce the levels of glucose in the blood, and provide a means of reducing the risk of diabetes, say the results of a study from Japan.

The potential anti-diabetes effects of the berries are linked to the anthocyanin content, which may affect the action of various proteins involved in the glucose transport and fat metabolism, according to findings published in The Journal of Nutrition.

With the number of people are affected by diabetes in the EU 25 projected to increase to 26 million by 2030, up from about 19 million currently – or 4 per cent of the total population –approaches to reduce the risk of diabetes are becoming increasing attractive.

If further studies, particularly in humans, support the potential benefits of bilberries it could see an interesting addition to the market.

The statistics are even more startling in the US, where almost 24 million people live with diabetes, equal to 8 per cent of the population. The total costs are thought to be as much as $174 billion, with $116 billion being direct costs from medication, according to 2005-2007 American Diabetes Association figures.

Study details

Led by Takanori Tsuda from Chubu University, the Japanese researchers looked at how bilberries may influence glucose and lipid metabolism in mice with a genetic predisposition for diabetes. The animals were fed a diet with or without supplemental bilberry extract (27 g/kg diet, Tama-Biochemicals, Japan) for five weeks.

At the end of the study, the results showed that consumption of the bilberry extract was associated with lower blood glucose levels and increased insulin sensitivity. This was linked to an activation of a protein which stimulates lipid breakdown in liver and muscle and modulates insulin secretion by the pancreas called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK).

Increases in levels of a glucose transporter were also noted by the researchers, and this was accompanied by a simultaneous activation of an enzyme linked to fatty acid synthesis (acetyl-CoA carboxylase), and inactivation of enzymes that play a role in fat metabolism.

“Our findings provide a biochemical basis for the use of bilberry fruits and also have important implications for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes,” wrote the researchers.

Bilberry info

Bilberries are closely related to the North American blueberry but contain a very distinct anthocyanin profile. Bilberry extracts are relatively expensive. Concerns are rife within the industry of lower-price extracts reported to be mixed with mulberry or black bean skins or azo-dyes.

Concerns were raised in 2006 when Australian scientists discovered that azo dyes were used to mimic the colour of bilberries in a commercial product (J. Agric. Food Chem, Vol. 54, Issue 19, pp. 7378 -7382). This has since expanded to reports of mulberry or black bean skins being used to increase the anthocyanin content of the extracts.

The anthocyanins content is used as the standard for bilberry, and UV spectrometry is needed to verify the 25 per cent anthocyanins. However, according to unconfirmed reports, this has led to extracts masquerading as bilberry but actually containing mulberry (22-24 per cent), or black bean skin (20 per cent).

Green tea may be good for your eye

A new study suggests drinking green tea often mat help protect against common eye diseases like glaucoma.

The study in the current issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that catechins are absorbed by the lens, retina and other parts of the eye and reduce oxidative stress in the eye.

Catechins found in green tea are known antioxidants which are believed to prevent damage caused by oxidation.

This is an animal model study in which the authors gave green tea to rats and then tested their eyes to see if catechins had any effort on their eyes.

Chi Pui Pang and colleagues from the Chinese University of Hong Kong found the green tea compounds did reduce oxidative stress in the eye for up to 20 hours.

Previously known green tea health benefits include prevention of cancer and depression and weight loss among other things. It is known that green tea components like EGCG promote death of cancerous cells or apoptosis.

Very high omega-3 intakes linked to big health benefits

Intakes of omega-3 exceeding levels consumed by the general US population may significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease, suggests a new study with Yup'ik Eskimos.

High levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) were associated with lower levels of triglycerides, as well as higher levels of HDL cholesterol, according to data from 357 Yup'ik Eskimos published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Raised levels of the fatty acids were also associated with decreased levels of markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced in the liver and is a known marker for inflammation. Increased levels of CRP are a good predictor for the onset of both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. CVD causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year.

The study of omega-3 intakes in inuits is nothing new. The first reports of the heart health benefits of the marine fatty acids were reported in the early 1970s by Jørn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The young Danes sought to understand how the Greenland Eskimos, or Inuit as they prefer to be called, could eat a high fat diet and still have one of the lowest death rates from cardiovascular disease on the planet.

Despite the precedent of study in these populations, the new research, led by Zeina Makhoul from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, claims that: “Few studies have examined the associations of with biomarkers of chronic disease risk in populations with high intakes”.

In an attempt to fill this knowledge gap, they analysed blood levels of EPA and DHA in red blood cells of in a cross-section of 357 Yup'ik Eskimos.

Data showed EPA and DHA represented an average 2.8 and 6.8 percent, respectively, of the total fatty acid content of red blood cells.

In addition to the links between EPA and DHA levels and triglycerides and HDL, increased levels of DHA were positively with levels of LDL and total cholesterol, said the researchers.

While a link between EPA/DHA and CRP were reported, Makhoul and her co-workers noted that the link was stronger when EPA concentrations excessed 3 percent of fatty acids in the cells, and when DHA levels exceeded 7 percent.

“Increasing EPA and DHA intakes to amounts well above those consumed by the general US population may have strong beneficial effects on chronic disease risk,” they concluded.

In Tests, Vitamin D Shrinks Breast Cancer Cells

Doctors have known that low levels of vitamin D are linked to certain kinds of cancers as well as to diabetes and asthma, but new research also shows that the vitamin can kill human cancer cells.

The results fall short of an immediate cancer cure, but they are encouraging, medical professionals say.

JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, has studied the effects of vitamin D for 25 years.

Part of her research involves taking human breast cancer cells and treating them with a potent form of vitamin D.

Within a few days, half the cancer cells shriveled up and died. Welsh said the vitamin has the same effect as a drug used for breast cancer treatment.

"What happens is that vitamin D enters the cells and triggers the cell death process," she told "Good Morning America." "It's similar to what we see when we treat cells with Tamoxifen," a drug used to treat breast cancer.
Tumors in Mice Disappear
The vitamin's effects were even more dramatic on breast cancer cells injected into mice.

After several weeks of treatment, the cancer tumors in the mice shrank by an average of more than 50 percent. Some tumors disappeared.

Similar results have been achieved on colon and prostate cancer tumors in mice.

People should take care not to read too much into laboratory studies, said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' senior health and medical editor. Positive effects in a petri dish or in rats may not necessarily mean similar results in humans, he said

It's also easier to treat cancer in mice than in people, Besser said.

22 February 2010

Possible cancer cure found in blushwood shrub

CANCER patients are offering themselves as human guinea pigs as researchers investigate a possible cure for cancer found in north Queensland rainforests.

Scientists have identified a compound in the fruit of the native blushwood shrub that appears to "liquefy and destroy cancer with no side-effects", according to latest research.

Found deep in the remnants of a 130 million-year-old rainforest, the fruit extract may yet hold the secret antidote to Australia's No.1 killer disease.

Victoria Gordon, of EcoBiotics, an Atherton Tableland-based company, said they hoped to go to human clinical trials later this year.

Dr Gordon said a single dose injection of the extract, known as EBC-46, had been effective in 50 critically ill dogs and about a dozen cats and horses.

"This is proving to be something exceptional," she said.

"The tumour literally liquefies.

"There is a rapid knock-down of the tumour, it disintegrates within 24 hours and we have a rapid healing response.

"The biggest tumour we treated was the size of a Coke can in a dog, and that animal is fully healed and healthy."

Dr Gordon said it had worked on skin cancers, such as carcinomas and melanomas, and bone cancer, and was a possible treatment for breast, colon and prostate cancer.

But she warned wannabe human guinea pigs against seeking under-the-table treatment.

She said it was "immoral, illegal, and unscientific" to seek to be administered the drug before approval, likely to take up to seven years, by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

"We have been inundated with calls – it shows there is such a need for a breakthrough in anti-cancer treatment," she said. "Most people understand when we explain the situation."

Former breast cancer sufferer Mena Crew, 65, said many dying of cancer would "do anything for a miracle cure".

"We would all like a magic cure, that would be wonderful, and I hope in my lifetime we find it," the breast cancer support volunteer said.

She has worked with more than 200 sufferers and some victims in her role with the Cancer Council Queensland.

"I don't want to kill the enthusiasm of all the wonderful research, but until it is proven it will do the job, we recommend they go with proven and conventional treatments," she said.

"It is good, however, to think the secret antidote may be growing in the jungle above Cairns."