Inflammation is the root cause of wide-ranging medical problems, including the development of diseases ranging from cancer, diabetes and arthritis to neurodegenerative conditions and cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. It is also a key player in premature aging and early death.
“For thousands of years people used natural remedies to try — and sometimes succeed — in curing their ailments and preserving their youth,” said Professor Declan Naughton from Kingston University’s School of Life Sciences. “Now the latest research we have carried out suggests a number of naturally occurring substances may offer the hope of new treatments to block the progression of inflammation.”
The study builds on work undertaken by Naughton and Kingston University Ph.D. student Tamsyn Thring, along with the technical team from Neal’s Yard Remedies, a British beauty brand. They tested 21 plant extracts for evidence of their efficiency in fighting cancer and also in the battle against aging. Of the 21 extracts, three — white tea, witch hazel and rose — showed considerable potential because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, with white tea displaying the most marked results.
“Indeed it appeared that drinking a simple cup of white tea might well help reduce an individual’s risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or even just age-associated wrinkles,” Naughton said.
Obese women are often warned by their doctors to avoid contraceptives containing estrogen, such as the pill, patch and vaginal ring because of a higher risk for pregnancy-related complications.
This problem inspired researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) to conduct a first-of-its-kind study on the effects of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) containing the hormone progestin for this group of special women.
“Contraceptive studies often only look at normal-weight women,” said Penina Segall-Gutierrez, co-investigator of the study and an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and family medicine at the Keck School. “Studies such as this are necessary because, today, one-third of women in the U.S. are overweight and one-third are obese.”
The results indicate otherwise healthy but obese women of reproductive age have a slightly higher increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who use non-hormonal birth control.
However, the final conclusion was that progestin-releasing LARC contraceptives appear to be safe for use by obese women, but further investigation is definitely warranted to see if the metabolic effects that were observed persist or are only temporary.
Professor Segall-Gutierrez said: “Overall, we’re finding that methods such as the progestin injection and the progestin skin implant, which both have higher circulating progestin, may have an increased risk for metabolic changes compared to methods like the IUD, which only has a local effect — in the uterus.”
In developed countries, heart disease is the single largest cause of death, responsible for 65,000 deaths each year in the U.K. In the United States, that number is a shocking 600,000.
The University of Oxford recently concluded the largest study ever undertaken in the U.K. comparing rates of heart disease between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, involving 45,000 volunteers from England and Scotland, of whom 34 percent were vegetarian.
Participants in the study were recruited throughout the 1990s and tracked until 2009, during which time researchers identified 1,235 cases of heart disease. This comprised 169 deaths and 1,066 hospital diagnoses, identified through hospital records and death certificates. Heart disease cases were validated using data from the Myocardial Ischaemia National Audit Project.
The results demonstrated that the risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease is 32 percent lower in vegetarians than in people who eat meat and fish. The vegetarians in the study had lower blood pressures and cholesterol levels than non-vegetarians, which is thought to be the main reason behind their reduced risk of heart disease.
Tim Key, co-author of the study and deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, said: “The results clearly show that the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in comparable non-vegetarians.”
Negative stories seem to dominate the news these days. But good news stories of young activists taking stands against injustices like bullying or poverty, or promoting access to education and other worthy causes are becoming more prevalent.
What fuels the desire in certain young people to make the world a better place, and why are some more proactive than others in making a change, however large or small?
New research published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence shows that the way young people care for their friends affects apathy or empathy, and directly relates to a teen’s concern with making a difference.
“Increasing our understanding of adolescents’ relationships with friends can help us understand what kind of adults they might become,” says Anna-Beth Doyle, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Concordia University’s Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
The researchers found that adolescents who had caring relationships with their friends were more likely to develop a concern for others beyond their immediate circle. “The real-life experience of caring for friends seems to give teens an abstract model of the importance of offering care to future generations,” says Heather Lawford, primary author of the study. “Adolescents may learn to apply this empathic concern to the welfare of their community.”
According to Lawford and Doyle, “This research has an important message for teachers, parents and psychologists involved with adolescents: if we can successfully foster young teens showing care for their friends, we have a good chance of also fostering a desire to leave a positive mark on their community and the world.”
A team of Italian, Serbian and Spanish researchers has confirmed that consumption of strawberries can provide a protective effect in the stomachs of mammals.
Laboratory rats given ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and then examined by the research team showed fewer ulcerations in the stomachs of those rats that had eaten strawberry extract (40 milligrams/day per kilo of weight) for 10 days before being given alcohol.
The conclusions of the study, published in PLoS ONE, proved that a diet rich in strawberries can have a beneficial effect when it comes to preventing gastric illnesses that are related to the generation of free radicals or other reactive oxygen species. The berry could very well slow down the formation of stomach ulcers in humans.
Gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach mucous membrane, is related to alcohol consumption but can also be caused by viral infections or by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (such as aspirin) or medication used to treat against the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Maurizio Battino, coordinator of the research group at the Marche Polytechnic University (UNIVPM, Italy) said: “In these cases, the consumption of strawberries during or after pathology could lessen stomach mucous membrane damage.”
Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, has found that not all dairy products are equally beneficial in promoting strength.
Specifically, the study, which was recently published in the journal Archives of Osteoporosis, found that milk and yogurt are associated with higher bone mineral density (BMD) in the hip, but not the spine, while cream may be associated with lower BMD overall.
“Dairy foods provide several important nutrients that are beneficial for bone health,” says lead author Shivani Sahni, Ph.D., Musculoskeletal Research Team, IFAR. “However, cream and its products such as ice cream have lower levels of these nutrients and have higher levels of fat and sugar. In this study, 2.5 to 3 servings of milk and yogurt intake per day were associated with better bone density. More research is needed to examine the role of cheese intake (some of which can be high in fat and sodium), and whether individual dairy foods have a significant impact in reducing fractures.”
Thirty-four million Americans have low bone density, putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis and fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist. About one-quarter of those who suffer a hip fracture die within a year of the injury.
A recent study sought to determine if modernization, which often correlates with a sedentary lifestyle, is a major contributing factor to obesity and heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
The study centered on the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the lowland’s of Bolivia’s Amazon basin, for whom heart disease is practically non-existent, cholesterol is low and obesity is rare. The Tsimane rarely partake in smoking.
The findings were surprising. The lifestyle of typical Tsimane men proved more active than the average American (particularly due to their labor-intensive jobs), but their physical activity level did not significantly separate them from other developed populations. They were not more vigorously active than athletic Americans.
According to researcher Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, that finding was consistent with the theory that excess food intake, not physical activity, is more responsible for the obesity epidemic seen especially in Americans over the past several decades.
In light of Lance Armstrong’s finally coming clean about doping during a career that included winning seven Tour de France titles, researchers at London’s Kingston University felt compelled to share with the World Anti-Doping Agency an interesting discovery they made.
Red wine can increase testosterone, a performance-enhancing hormone; yet it causes the findings of a drug test that measures testosterone in urine to be distorted, because it reduces the amount of testosterone secreted by the body.
Testosterone is a naturally occurring steroid hormone present in both men and women. It can increase muscle mass, boost stamina and speed recovery. In the professional sporting world, athletes are prohibited from taking testosterone or a synthetic version of it. Drinking red wine, however, is not against the rules.
Lead researcher Declan Naughton of the university’s School of Life Sciences stressed that the research had been conducted so far in test-tube experiments and had yet to be carried out on humans.
“A full clinical study would be needed to determine the effects on people but, if the same results were found, it would confirm that compounds in red wine can reduce the amount of testosterone in urine and give a boost to testosterone levels,” he said.
Personality may not only dictate if you’d be a contender for Mr. or Miss Congeniality, but may also play a significant role in how the brain makes choices that affect your health.
In a study that spanned more than 40 years, researchers found that changeable personality characteristics may be an important determining factor affecting a person’s health, in addition to genetic and environmental factors.
In the 1960s, more than 2,000 elementary-school students in Hawaii received personality assessments. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Aging, researchers were able to complete medical and psychological examinations for 60 percent of the original group who, as adults, agreed to further studies starting in 1998.
Colleagues found that children lower in conscientiousness — traits including being irresponsible and careless — had worse health 40 years later, including greater obesity and higher cholesterol. The study builds on past work showing that more conscientious children live longer.
“Personality develops in childhood and is probably most malleable in childhood,” said Sarah Hampson of the Oregon Research Institute. “Parents and schools shape personality, and this is our opportunity to support the development of conscientiousness — planfulness, ability to delay gratification, [and] self-control.”
This information was shared at a recent annual meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology and was part of a larger collection of work on understanding personality for decision-making, longevity and mental health.
If you’ve visited a doctor’s office with stomach complaints in recent years, it’s likely you were tested for H. pylori, an ancient bacterium that has survived for decades in the mucous layer of the stomach lining. Because of better sanitation and widespread use of antibiotics, H. pylori is not as prevalent in developed countries; and it actually may have some positive benefits for its human hosts.
Previous studies confirmed the bacterium’s link to gastric diseases ranging from gastritis to stomach cancer. However, recent research performed at NYU School of Medicine by Ye Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of population health and environmental medicine, and Martin J. Blaser, M.D., professor of internal medicine and professor of microbiology, has shown that H. pylori may be protective against childhood asthma. It’s more virulent strain (cagA) may even guard against death from lung cancer.
“We found that H. pylori is not related to the risk of death from all causes, despite it being related to increased risk of death from gastric cancer,” Chen said.
“This finding confirms earlier work, however, that gastric cancers are now uncommon in the United States. We also found that H. pylori was related to a reduced risk of stroke and lung cancer, and these effects were stronger for the cagA strain, suggesting its mixed role in human health.”
In the study, participants who were cagA-positive had a 55 percent reduction in death risk from stroke. This group also had a 45 percent reduced risk of death from lung cancer.
“The most interesting finding was that there is a strong inverse association with stroke which could be protective,” Blaser said. “There is some precedent for this and it is possible that the same cells (T reg cells) that H. pylori induces that protect against childhood asthma could be the protective agents, however, the findings need to be confirmed.”
If you have low levels of vitamin D, supplementing with the sunshine vitamin may make you less prone to respiratory tract infections and decrease reliance on antibiotics, according to a new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital.
Vitamin D has long been associated with boosting immune defenses. This recent study, published in BMJ Open, supports this notion. The results showed that symptoms of respiratory tract infection declined by almost a quarter and the use of antibiotics by almost half. Vitamin D treatment was also tolerated well by all patients and gave no serious side effects.
“Our research can have important implications for patients with recurrent infections or a compromised immune defence, such as a lack of antibodies, and can also help to prevent the emerging resistance to antibiotics that come from overuse,” says Peter Bergman, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and doctor at Karolinska University Hospital’s Immunodeficiency Unit. “On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be anything to support the idea that vitamin D would help otherwise healthy people with normal, temporary respiratory tract infections.”
A major breakthrough shows much hope for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, a complicated and devastating disease affecting both victim and loved ones.
The research, published in FASEB Journal, was carried out by scientists from the National Institutes of Health using mice diseased with the equivalent of human Alzheimer’s. When a molecule called TFP5 was injected into the mice, their symptoms reversed and memory was restored. Also remarkable is that the injections caused no toxic side effects.
TFP5 was derived from the regulator of a key brain enzyme, called Cdk5. The over activation of Cdk5 is implicated in the formation of plaques and tangles, the major hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The next step is to find out if this molecule can have the same effects in people, and if not, to find out which molecule will,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. “Now that we know that we can target the basic molecular defects in Alzheimer’s disease, we can hope for treatments far better — and more specific — than anything we have today.”
“We hope that clinical trial studies in AD patients should yield an extended and a better quality of life as observed in mice upon TFP5 treatment,” said Harish C. Pant, Ph.D., a senior researcher involved in the work from the Laboratory of Neurochemistry at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders at Stroke at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. “Therefore, we suggest that TFP5 should be an effective therapeutic compound.”
Bloodletting conjures images of medieval doctors in long robes applying leeches or small cuts to poor sick souls who likely wouldn’t survive the ancient procedure. Appearing to have little or no effect on most illness, the practice was abandoned in the 19th century. But new research in the BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine just might help bring it back.
The research demonstrated that blood donation has real benefits for obese people with metabolic syndrome. In just two sessions of bloodletting, blood pressure improved, as did markers of cardiovascular disease.
Patients with metabolic syndrome suffer from a variety of illnesses, including insulin resistance, hypertension and an increased risk of diabetes. Because the accumulation of iron in the body is associated with hypertension and diabetes, researchers from Berlin and University of Duisburg-Essen created two groups, one of which underwent iron reduction by phlebotomy — or drawing of blood.
Prof Andreas Michalsen from the Charité-University Medical Centre, Berlin, who led this research explained: “Consecutive reduction in iron stores was able to improve markers of cardiovascular risk and glycemic control. Consequently blood donation may prevent not just diabetes but also cardiovascular disease for the obese. Obviously this treatment will not be suitable for people with anemia however for those eligible for treatment blood donation may prevent escalation of their condition.”
Conventional medicine and alternative medicine most often seem to be at odds with each other. However, many people — whether due to growing skepticism, skyrocketing medical costs or desperation –are opting for alternative treatments.
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests what many of us have suspected for a while: Traditional medicine does not have all the answers — especially when it comes to dealing with back pain.
Persistent low back pain is a common ailment affecting nearly eight out of 10 Americans. It is incapacitating to the sufferer, as well as costly and difficult to treat.
David M. Eisenberg, M.D., and his colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), Group Health Research Institute (Seattle), and Brown University (Providence, R.I.) compared conventional therapy alone — defined as “usual care” — to the combination of an integrated program of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies plus usual care. They report significant differences between the two randomized patient groups in outcomes that included pain, functional status and difficulty performing routine, self-identified challenging activities.
CAM therapies were provided by a trained team of healthcare practitioners and included acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, mind-body techniques and nutritional counseling. Usual care consisted of treatments provided by subjects’ primary care physicians and typically included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical therapy and bed rest as needed, education and changes in activity levels.
The study concluded that many patients may find significant relief from an individualized, multidisciplinary, team-based model of care that includes access to licensed complementary care practitioners in addition to conventional care providers.
The puffed rice that we’re used to seeing in our breakfast cereals and snack foods now packs a powerful nutritious punch thanks to a new process that not only blows the grains up with air, but adds three times the protein.
Previously, puffed rice was created using hot steam that typically destroys heat-sensitive nutrients. But scientists, including Syed S. H. Rivi and colleagues, used a process that employs supercritical carbon dioxide. In addition to adding three times the protein as the old method, this process allows eight times more dietary fiber, plus calcium, iron, zinc and other nutrients lacking in conventionally puffed rice.
The scientists also claim their puffed rice was crispier than commercial products with a better taste and crunch.
The report, which appeared in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, states the new rice is “ideally suited for consumption as breakfast cereals, snack food and as part of nutrition bars for school lunch programs. The balanced nutritional profile and use of staple crop byproducts such as broken rice makes these expanded crisps unique to the marketplace.”
Victims of domestic violence, both men and women, can experience long-lasting effects, including mental health disorders, according to new research from King’s College of London’s Institute of Psychiatry and the University of Bristol.
Previous studies have focused on depression as the link between abuse and mental health problems, but this study was the first to look widely at the issue affecting both female and male victims.
According to the results of the study published in PLOS ONE, women with depressive disorders were about 2.5 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their adult lifetime compared to women without mental health problems. Women with anxiety disorders were more than 3.5 times more likely; and women with post-traumatic stress disorder were about seven times more likely.
As well, men with various types of mental disorders were at risk of experiencing increased domestic violence, though with less frequency than their female counterparts.
Professor Louise Howard, senior author of the study from King’s Institute of Psychiatry, stated: “In this study, we found that both men and women with mental health problems are at an increased risk of domestic violence. The evidence suggests that there are two things happening: domestic violence can often lead to victims developing mental health problems, and people with mental health problems are more likely to experience domestic violence.”
Howard concluded: “Mental health professionals need to be aware of the link between domestic violence and mental health problems, and ensure that their patients are safe from domestic violence and are treated for the mental health impact of such abuse.”
The number of people suffering from gluten intolerance and celiac disease is on the rise, and more and more attention is being paid to finding a way to help these patients enjoy a healthy, pain-free lifestyle that includes the foods they want to eat.
To that end, scientists recently reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, advancement toward development of a pill that, like lactase pills for the lactose-intolerant, would zero in on the primary culprit robbing so many of their health — peptides.
Justin Siegel, Ingrid Swanson Pultz and colleagues explain that when gluten is consumed in foods, enzymes in the stomach break it down to small pieces called peptides. For most of us, peptides are not problematic. However, for the 2 million to 3 million Americans with celiac disease, peptides trigger an autoimmune response that includes painful symptoms.
That’s where the pill idea comes in. If the peptides could be further broken-down for digestion, celiac patients could quite possibly eat foods containing gluten without ill effects.
The scientists discovered a naturally occurring enzyme that had some of the ideal properties needed to further break down the peptides into smaller pieces. Upon modification in the laboratory, the new enzyme was able to break down more than 95 percent of a gluten peptide implicated in celiac disease in acidic conditions like those in the stomach.
According to the researcher, “These combined properties make the engineered [enzyme] a promising candidate as an oral therapeutic for celiac disease.”
Rosemary, the aromatic and evergreen Mediterranean herb known for its delicate pink, purple or blue flowers, may play as significant a role in our health as it has in the culinary arts.
In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) report that carnosic acid, a component of the herb rosemary, promotes eye health.
Using rodent models with light-induced retinal damage, Lipton’s research team found that carnosic acid protected retinas from degeneration and toxicity.
In one part of the study, the researchers induced oxidative stress on retinal cells. They found that cells treated with carnosic acid triggered antioxidant enzyme production in the cells, which in turn lowered levels of cell-damaging free radicals and peroxides.
These findings show promise that rosemary’s carnosic acid may have clinical applications for diseases that affect the outer retina, including age-related macular degeneration, the most common eye disease in the U.S.
According to Lipton, improved derivatives of carnosic acid and related compounds are being developed to protect the retina and other brain areas from a number of degenerative conditions, including age-related macular degeneration and various forms of dementia.
These days, everyone from your neighbor to your employer and, hopefully, you may be developing preparedness plans in the event of bioterrorist attacks or flu pandemics. Unfortunately, your child’s school is likely to be very unprepared.
Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the dire consequences that faced the Nation in 2009 during the H1N1 influenza pandemic-that-wasn’t resulted in 18,000 deaths worldwide, many U.S. schools are not prepared for bioterrorism attacks, outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases or pandemics, according to a study by researchers at Saint Louis University’s Institute for Biosecurity.
The study, led by Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., surveyed about 2,000 nurses working in elementary, middle and high schools across 26 States. Findings revealed that only 48 percent of schools address pandemic preparedness and only 40 percent of schools have updated their plans since the 2009 H1N1 scare that affected 214 countries.
“There is a lot of research that shows influenza spreads quickly in schools because it’s a communicable disease and kids interact closely,” Professor Rebmann said. “Schools need to have a written pandemic plan in order to be prepared to put interventions into place quickly when an event occurs.”
Published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the study also found that 44 percent of schools do not participate in community surveillance that tracks the presence of a disease based upon symptoms reported by area residents. These efforts are coordinated through local public health departments that assess indicators of biological threats.
“Health care professionals can best inform school administrators about unique aspects of pandemic planning that need to be included in school disaster plans,” Rebmann said. “Results from this study indicate that better prepared schools were ones that involved their nurses in the disaster planning committee. The school nurse is the best person in a school district to know about infection control and be able to make recommendations about the best interventions to implement during a biological event.”
While the direct impact of pet ownership on one’s health may be hard to prove, there’s little doubt that the special relationship between owner and dog plays a very therapeutic roles in our lives.
In fact, that special relationship has spawned a popular saying, “I only want to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.”
Wouldn’t it be great if, when Fido looks sweetly into your face and cocks his little head sideways, you could know whether he was communicating his affection for you or only wishing for another tasty treat? Thanks to research at Emory University, researchers may soon be able to explore and understand the mind of man’s best friend and help you answer that question.
After developing new methodology using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (the same technique that unlocked the secrets of the human brain), scientists were able to scan the brains of alert dogs who were trained to hold their heads perfectly still on a chin rest during the scanning process. The four-legged participants also wore earmuffs to protect them from the noise of the scanner.
Dog lovers may not need convincing on the merits of researching the minds of our canine companions.
“To the skeptics out there, and the cat people, I would say that dogs are the first domesticated species, going back at least 10,000 years, and by some estimates 30,000 years,” said Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher of the dog project. “The dog’s brain represents something special about how humans and animals came together. It’s possible that dogs have even affected human evolution. People who took dogs into their homes and villages may have had certain advantages. As much as we made dogs, I think dogs probably made some part of us, too.”
All procedures for the dog project were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Emory.
Acne is a four-letter word we learn to hate as teenagers; unfortunately, many of us carry that disdain into adulthood. Acne treatments can be harsh, drying and irritating, and often don’t live up to our expectations to eradicate embarrassing pimples and bumps.
However, Mother Nature has stepped up to the plate with a natural solution that seems poised to take the lead in combating Propionibacterium acnes (aka PA) — the bacteria primarily responsible for causing acne.
Researchers steeped thyme, marigold and myrrh in alcohol to extract the plant’s active compounds. They tested the resulting tinctures on the PA bacteria and found that all three herbs killed more of the bacteria than an alcohol control. But thyme — the star player — was the most effective of all. Thyme was also significantly more effective than the highest prescribed concentration of benzoyl peroxide.
The research was presented at a conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Dublin. As a conference presentation abstract, this research hasn’t been through the full peer-review process yet, as this usually takes place when research is published in journals after review for sense and validity by experts in the field.