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21 October 2011

Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study.

Pumpkin seed oil is rich in phytoestrogens and animal studies suggest that there is some benefit to supplementation in low estrogen conditions. This study is the first to evaluate the benefit of pumpkin seed oil in postmenopausal women.

METHODS: This pilot study was randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled. Study participants included 35 women who had undergone natural menopause or had iatrogenically entered the climacteric due to surgery for benign pathology. Wheat germ oil (placebo; n = 14) and pumpkin seed oil (n = 21) were administered to eligible participants over a 12-week period at a dose of 2 g per day. Serum lipids, fasting plasma glucose and blood pressure were measured and an 18-point questionnaire regarding menopausal symptoms was administered; the atherogenic index was also calculated. Differences between groups, as well as before and after the period of supplementation, were evaluated with Student's t-test, Wilcoxon matched-pair signed-ranked test and Mann-Whitney test, as appropriate (Stata version 10.1).

Women receiving pumpkin seed oil showed a significant increase in high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations (0.92 ± 0.23 mmol/l vs. 1.07 ± 0.27 mmol/l; p = 0.029) and decrease in diastolic blood pressure (81.1 ± 7.94 mmHg vs. 75.67 ± 11.93 mmHg; p < 0.046). There was also a significant improvement in the menopausal symptom scores (18.1 ± 9.0 vs. 13.2 ± 6.7; p < 0.030), with a decrease in severity of hot flushes, less headaches and less joint pains being the main contributors. Women in the group receiving wheat germ oil reported being more depressed and having more unloved feeling.

CONCLUSION: This pilot study showed pumpkin seed oil had some benefits for postmenopausal women and provided strong evidence to support further studies.

Vitamin D in diet and depression

Think of a study of more than 81,000 women. How much time do you think such a study would take; how much effort from the scientists? Then say it was prospective, that is, it looked into the future from the past. Dr. Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, from the University of Massachusetts, senior author JoAnn Manson, from Harvard, and 12 colleagues from the Women’s Health Initiative did just that in a paper published in October of 2011. They looked at vitamin D intake from foods and supplements and current and later symptoms of depression.

Bertone-Johnson ER, Powers SI, Spangler L, Brunner RL, Michael YL, Larson JC, Millen AE, Bueche MN, Salmoirago-Blotcher E, Liu S, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Ockene JK, Ockene I, Manson JE. Vitamin D intake from foods and supplements and depressive symptoms in a diverse population of older women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;94(4):1104-12

The authors begin,

“Vitamin D may affect the function of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are monoamine neurotransmitters that are likely involved in depression. Furthermore, vitamin D may modulate the relation between depression and inflammation.”

They assessed 81,000 women at baseline (1993 -1998) and 3 years later for depression, using a simple depression rating scale, and for total vitamin D intake from foods and supplements. Their finding:

“In cross-sectional analysis that used baseline data, women with the highest intake of vitamin D and vitamin D from food sources had a significantly lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. . . In women without depressive symptoms at baseline, a higher vitamin D intake from food as associated with a lower risk of depression at year 3.”

However, they added,

“We did not find supplemental vitamin D intakes to be consistently related to measures of depressive symptoms.”
Explaining that in their group of women, for surprising and unknown reasons, vitamin D levels were higher in women who did not use vitamin D supplements. Remember in 1998, vitamin D supplements were either cod liver oil or multivitamins, both of which contained little vitamin D and toxic amounts of preformed retinol in the 1990s.

They went on to quote studies indicating that not 90%, but only 30% of vitamin D currently comes from sunlight. “Recent evidence suggested that only ~30% of circulating 25(OH)D is the product of sunlight exposure.” The studies indicating 90% comes from sunlight expose were from the early 1980s, when 90% did come from sunlight. This change from 90% to 30% reflects just how much we have become sunless creatures. Nature must have been totally surprised, when one day in the late 1980s, we suddenly decided that the Nature’s gift of sunlight was evil.

The authors conclude,

“Our results support an inverse association of vitamin D intake from foods and the occurrence of depressive symptoms in older women.”

18 October 2011

Study finds good diet overcomes bad genes

Tuesday, October 18, 2011. In an article published online on October 11, 2011 in the journal PLoS Medicine, Dr Jamie Engert at McGill University in Montreal and his associates report that the risk conferred by a gene variant known to be a strong marker for cardiovascular disease is minimized by consuming a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. "We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it," explained Dr Engert, of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. "But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect."

The researchers genotyped four variants in the 9p21 chromosome region of 8,114 participants in the INTERHEART study, a case-control study of men and women of varying ethnic backgrounds that compared those who had had an acute non-fatal heart attack to similar subjects without heart disease. Additionally, 9p21 variants were analyzed in 19,129 participants in the FINRISK study, of whom 1,014 had cardiovascular disease. Dietary questionnaires ascertained the frequency of intake of vegetables, fruits and other foods.