Friday, December 08, 2006

Complaints about Memory

Complaints About Memory Are Associated With Alzheimer-Related Brain Damage

Memory complaints could offer an early warning system for Alzheimer's disease
CHICAGO, IL -- December 1, 2006 -- Researchers at Rush University Medical Center found that having complaints about memory problems is associated with changes in the brain related to Alzheimer's disease. They reported their findings in the November 2006 issue of Neurology.
The researchers looked at the association between memory problems reported by study participants and signs of disease found in their brains after death. The study looked at autopsies of 90 older adults from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The study included both participants who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (23) and those that showed no clinical signs of the disease (67).
"One of the most interesting findings of the study was that individuals who had yet to have any clinical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease still showed a strong link between their self-reported memory complaints and brain pathology associated with Alzheimer's disease," said Lisa L. Barnes, PhD, from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "This information may allow us to use memory complaints as a measure to intervene at an early point in the disease process."
To measure memory complaints participants were asked two questions:
How often do you have trouble remembering things?
How is your memory [now] compared to 10 years ago?
The researchers combined the answers to these two questions to create a scale to measure the severity of memory complaints. They used the memory scores taken closest to time of death. They also adjusted for confounding factors that might be related to memory problems like age, sex, and level of education.
The researchers then compared this scale with the levels of damage to the brain revealed during autopsy. The damage specifically looked at was the amount of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain at the time of death. These plaques and tangles are the type of damage most closely linked to Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that each unit of Alzheimer-related pathology was associated with one point higher score on the memory complaint scale. "Our results suggest that older persons with and without dementia possess some insight to their level of functioning, and this insight is related to actual changes in the brain," said Barnes. "The data suggests that if you're having complaints there's probably something going on. In other words, if mom notices that there's something different about her memory, we need to listen closely and investigate further."
The study shows that memory complaints should be taken seriously and not seen as just part of the aging process. "In my opinion, it is possible to preserve your memory into old age," said Barnes. "Memory loss is not an inevitable consequence of aging.
In fact, if you think you are having memory problems, you should probably see your doctor. As Barnes noted, "although not all memory complaints will lead to Alzheimer's disease, our data support the idea that memory complaints in older adults may represent the presence of significant Alzheimer's disease pathology in the brain."
"I don't want to cause concern for people who experience occasional memory loss, like losing their keys or forgetting their wife's birthday," said Barnes. "The important point in our study was that the people who hadn't developed Alzheimer's disease by the time they died, but complained about their memory performance, already had Alzheimer's pathology in their brains. We don't know whether they might have eventually developed the disease had they lived longer. The data suggest, however, that memory complaints may be an early sign of disease in some people."
The researchers at Rush are grateful for the remarkable dedication and altruism of the volunteers participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, which leads the Federal effort to support and conduct basic, clinical, and social and behavioral studies on aging and on Alzheimer's disease.
SOURCE: Rush University Medical Center

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Walnuts protect arteries from effect of fatty foods


Walnuts protect arteries from effects of fatty foods

from Heartwire — a professional news service of WebMD

Sue Hughes

October 10, 2006 (Barcelona, Spain) - Another study has suggested that eating walnuts can reverse the impairment of endothelial function associated with eating a fatty meal. But olive oil did not have the same beneficial effect.

Senior author of the study, Dr Emilio Ros (Hospital Clínico, Barcelona, Spain), explained to heartwire: "When we eat a fatty meal, inflammatory molecules are increased that prevent the endothelium from producing nitric oxide, which thus leads to endothelial dysfunction. In our study, eating a handful of walnuts prevented the increase in the inflammatory substances and the endothelial dysfunction, whereas olive oil prevented the increase in inflammatory molecules but did not prevent the endothelial dysfunction associated with eating fatty food. Olive oil does have some beneficial effects--it is not bad, but walnuts are better."

Ros et al have previously reported a study showing eating walnuts over a four-week period can improve endothelial dysfunction. The current study, published in the October 17, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, adds to this by showing that the effect is seen after just one serving.

But Ros said that people should not be told that they can continue eating unhealthy fats provided they add walnuts to their meals. Instead, they should consider making walnuts part of a healthy diet that limits saturated fats.

He noted that walnuts have several components that could be contributing to their benefits. These include polyunsaturated fats, including alpha-linolenic acid; arginine, which is a precursor of nitric oxide; and many antioxidants. "It could be any one of these or maybe all three together that protect the vessels." Olive oil also contains antioxidants but has more mono- rather than polyunsaturated fats, and it does not contain arginine or omega-3 oils, he added.

He said that while walnut oil would probably also be somewhat beneficial, eating the nuts themselves was a better option, as the oil does not contain all the beneficial components. "The oil contains the fats and the fat-soluble antioxidants, but it does not contain arginine, which is not fat soluble," he explained to heartwire. He also pointed out that it was better to eat the raw nuts, rather than cooking them, as heating could inactivate some of the beneficial components.

"Eat a handful of nuts every day"

"I would recommend that people eat a handful of walnuts every day--about six to eight nuts. They could eat these before or after a meal or as part of the meal--for example, in salads and desserts. Or they could replace unhealthier options that are usually used for snacks," he advised.

The current study had a crossover design and involved 24 nonsmoking adults with normal body weights and blood pressures, half of whom had normal cholesterol levels and half had moderately high levels. Each was asked to follow a cholesterol-lowering Mediterranean diet for two weeks before the study and throughout its duration. They were provided with two high-fat meals, eaten one week apart. The meals were identical, consisting of a salami-and-cheese sandwich on white bread and a small serving of full-fat yogurt. For one meal, the researchers added about 5 teaspoons (25 mL) of olive oil. For the other, they added 40 g of walnuts, or about eight shelled nuts. Venipunctures and ultrasound measurements of brachial artery endothelial function were performed after fasting and four hours after test meals.

Results showed that in both study groups, flow-mediated dilation (a measure of endothelial dysfunction) was worse after the olive oil meal than after the walnut meal. Levels of oxidized LDL decreased after both meals, as did concentrations of soluble inflammatory cytokines and adhesion molecules. But the adhesion molecule E-selectin was reduced more after the walnut meal.

Nuts may contribute to Mediterranean diet benefits?
Commenting on the study in a journal press release, Dr Robert Vogel (University of Maryland, College Park), who did not participate in the study, said: "This demonstrates that the protective fat from walnuts actually undoes some of the detrimental effects of a high-saturated-fat diet, whereas a neutral fat, such as olive oil, does not have as much protective ability. This raises a very interesting issue, because many people who eat a Mediterranean diet believe the olive oil is providing the benefits. But this research and other data indicate that's not true. There are probably other factors in the diet, including that it is a relatively rich source of nuts. This is not to say that olive oil is bad, but it's not the key protective factor in the Mediterranean diet." Vogel added that research continues to indicate that all monounsaturated-rich foods, including olive oil, likely are relatively neutral in terms of their ability to protect vascular health. On the other hand, he said, omega-3 rich oils and fats--including walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseed oil--"are probably quite protective."

  1. Cortés B, Núñez I, Cofán M, et al. Acute effects of high-fat meals enriched with walnuts or olive oil on postprandial endothelial function. J Am Coll Cardiol 2006; 48:1666-1671.

The complete contents of Heartwire, a professional news service of WebMD, can be found at, a Web site for cardiovascular healthcare professionals.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

KETAMINE aids the chronically depressed


Report: Ketamine aids the chronically depressed


NIMH researchers gave low dosages of ketamine to 18 chronically depressed patients, and their condition improved within two hours. Snip from  The Washington Post article by Neely Tucker: (See link above)

Ketamine, sweet ketamine, answer to our glutamatergic dreams. In the long November night of the soul, in the ever-dark downpour of depression, it turns out that there might be a better umbrella than Prozac and Zoloft and Paxil and their serotonin-loving ilk. Of course, when it comes to antidepressants, nobody really knows anything, anyway, so why not go with ketamine,

This Wikipedia item includes links to previous studies on the drug's effectiveness as an antidepressant.

ALL of this is interesting reading

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cancer cell 'executioner' found

Cancer cell 'executioner' found
Scientists have developed a way of "executing" cancer cells.

Healthy cells have a built-in process which means they commit suicide if something is wrong, a process which fails in cancer cells.

The University of Illinois team created a synthetic molecule which caused cancer cells to self-destruct.

Cancer experts said the study, in Nature Chemical Biology, offered "exciting possibilities" for new ways of treating the disease.

These findings present an exciting new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of some cancers
Dr Michael Olsen, Cancer Research UK

One of the hallmarks of cancer cells is their resistance to the body's cell suicide signals, which allow them to survive and develop into tumours.

All cells contain a protein called procaspase-3, which the body should be able to turn into caspase-3 - an executioner enzyme.

But this transformation does not happen in cancer cells, even though certain types, such as colon cancer, leukaemia, skin and liver cancers paradoxically have very high levels of procaspase-3.

Healthy cells unaffected

The researchers examined more than 20,000 structurally different synthetic compounds to see if any could trigger procaspase-3 to develop into caspase-3.

They found the molecule PAC-1 did trigger the transformation, and cancer cells from mice and from human tumours could be prompted to self-destruct - a process called apoptosis.

The more procaspase-3 a cancer cell had, the less of the molecule was needed.

Healthy cells, such as white blood cells, were found to be significantly less affected by the addition of PAC-1 because they had much lower levels of procaspase-3, so cell-suicide could not be triggered.

When the scientists tested PAC-1 on cancerous and non-cancerous tissue from the same person, the tumour cells were 2,000-fold more sensitive to PAC-1.

Since different levels of procaspase-3 were found in the cell lines studied, the researchers suggest some patients would be more responsive to this therapy than others, so the it might one day be possible to tailor treatments to individual patients.


Professor Paul Hergenrother, who led the research, said: "This is the first in what could be a host of organic compounds with the ability to directly activate executioner enzymes.

"The potential effectiveness of compounds such as PAC-1 could be predicted in advance, and patients could be selected for treatment based on the amount of procaspase-3 found in their tumour cells."

Cancer Research UK expert Dr Michael Olson, who is based at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, said: "These findings present an exciting new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of some cancers.

"It remains to be seen which, if any tumour types consistently express elevated procaspase-3. That will tell us how many patients could potentially benefit from the drug.

"Clinical trials will be needed to confirm whether procaspase-3 causes any adverse effects in humans."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/08/27 23:51:33 GMT


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Getting Through The Day When Your Anxieties Are out of Control

What do you do when your fears and anxieties overwhelms you as soon as you get up in the mornings? Well the first thing you need to do is to seek the services of a professional and/or counselor who can teach you how to manage your fears and give you the help that you need. Until you can meet with someone, what can you do in the meantime to cope with your fears?

The first step is to take a deep breathe and try to find something to do to get your mind off of the problem. A person could take a walk, listen to some music, read the newspaper, watch TV, play on the computer or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things. This will distract you from your current problem. Most importantly, doing something will give you the self confidence that you can still function and that you can get through the rest of the day.

Another thing to remind yourself is that things change and events do not stay the same. For instance, you may feel overwhelmed in the mornings with your anxiety and feel that this is how you will feel the rest of the day. This isn't correct. No one can predict the future with 100 Percent accuracy. Even if the thing that you feared does happen there are circumstances and factors that you can't predict which can be used to your advantage. You never know when the help and answers you are looking for will come to you.

I was told by a counselor that your anxiety and worry decrease over time. Your anxieties may seem intense at the moment, but that won't be like that forever. Your worry will eventually decrease. I asked a professional why does the worry and anxiety decrease over time and she told me, "Because it just does".

In every anxiety related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn't work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to play on the computer to help you feel better. The next time you feel anxious you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by playing on the computer. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety at the present time.

Don't forget to Pray and ask God for help. A person can only do so much. Asking God for help can give us additional resources to help manage our fears and anxieties. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask him.

As a Layman, I realize it is not easy to deal with all of our fears. When your fears and anxieties have the best of you, seek help from a professional. The key is to be patient, take it slow, and not to give up. In time, you will be able to find those resources that will help you with your problems.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Meals High in Saturated Fat Impair 'Good' Cholesterol's Ability to Protect Against Clogged Arteries

BETHESDA, MD -- August 8, 2006 -- Before you bite into that burger or devour that doughnut, first chew on this: New research shows that just one meal high in saturated fat can affect the body's ability to protect itself against some of the underlying causes of heart disease and stroke.The research, conducted at The Heart Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, appears in the Aug. 15, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.According to the study, even a single meal high in saturated fat can reduce the ability of the body's "good" cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins (HDL), to protect the inner lining of the arteries from inflammatory agents that promote the formation of artery-clogging plaques. A single high-fat meal also can affect the ability of the arteries to expand in order to carry adequate blood to tissues and organs.On the other hand, according to the research, eating a meal high in polyunsaturated fat, a healthier form of fat, can increase the anti-inflammatory properties of HDL, helping to protect the inner lining of the arteries, called the endothelium, from plaque buildup."The take-home, public-health message is this: It's further evidence to support the need to aggressively reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed in the diet," said researcher Stephen J. Nicholls, MB, BS, PhD, now a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "This study helps to explain the mechanisms by which saturated fat supports the formation of plaques in the arterial wall, and we know these plaques are the major cause of heart attack and stroke."Saturated fats are found in both animal and plant products, and typically are solid at room temperature. Examples include butter, lard and palm oil. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend that people limit their intake of saturated fat to no more than 7% of their total daily calories. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, come mainly from plants and are liquid at room temperature. Examples include sunflower and corn oil.For the study, Dr. Nicholls and his colleagues recruited 14 healthy volunteers and supplied them with two meals, eaten one month apart. The volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 40, were examined and had blood drawn before eating (following an overnight fast), three hours after eating and again six hours after eating their supplied meals. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which meal was eaten during which visit.The meals were identical, except that one was high in saturated fat (coconut oil), while the other was high in polyunsaturated fat (safflower oil). Each meal consisted of a slice of carrot cake and a milkshake. All meals were specially prepared so that each participant consumed 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight or 1 gram of fat for every 2.2 pounds. (For a 150-pound person, that's nearly the fat equivalent of eating a double cheeseburger, a large order of french fries and a large milkshake at one meal.)In examining the volunteers, Dr. Nicholls and his colleagues found that after three hours, the saturated fat meal had reduced the ability of the endothelium to expand the arteries in order to increase blood flow. The researchers determined this by using a blood pressure cuff to restrict blood flow and then monitoring the body's response. The polyunsaturated meal also reduced this ability slightly, but the results were not statistically significant.After six hours, researchers found the meal high in saturated fat had diminished the protective qualities of HDL, allowing more inflammatory agents to accumulate in the arteries than had been present before the volunteers ate. The polyunsaturated meal, however, seemed to boost the anti-inflammatory abilities of the body's good cholesterol, with the researchers finding fewer inflammatory agents in the arteries than before the volunteers ate."In putting this all together," Dr. Nicholls said, "we have a difference between the two meals regarding a number of factors that influence the early stages of plaque formation. We have a situation where consumption of a single meal containing a high level of saturated fat is associated with impairment of vascular reactivity and impairment of a normal protective property of HDL. In contrast, consumption of a meal high in polyunsaturated fat results in HDL that is more protective."It is a small study," he concluded, "but I think the findings have broad implication because diet and exercise are the cornerstones of all strategies for preventing heart disease."Robert Vogel, MD, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, did not participate in the research, but agrees it provides "one more nail in the coffin" against eating diets high in saturated fat."This study helps to flesh out just why we shouldn't eat too much saturated fat," Dr. Vogel said. "Traditionally, we think of unhealthy foods as raising cholesterol or raising blood pressure, but this demonstrates that depending on what you eat, you can actually change the effect of HDL typically thought of as 'good' cholesterol from protective to detrimental. This opens up new insights and avenues for research."SOURCE: American College of Cardiology

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


just that

Quote of the Week

Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.- Margaret Thatcher

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Heat may be key to cancer therapy

Heat may be key to cancer therapy
Researchers believe they have found out why so many men with testicular cancer survive against the odds.

Testicular cancer, such as that famously conquered by Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, is often treatable even when it has spread.

Experts at Johns Hopkins University say the cells are super-sensitive to body heat making them more vulnerable.

And heat therapy may be used to combat other cancers they write in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The testes are a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body as sperm are sensitive to heat and tend to die when they are placed at the normal body temperature of 37C.

"We tried to put our heads together about what we know about the differences between testicular and other cancers"
Professor Robert Getzenberg

Professor Robert Getzenberg and colleagues at Johns Hopkins Medical School say several pieces of evidence suggest that testicular cancer cells may also have this sensitivity to heat, making them more amenable to treatment, a phenomenon they term the 'Lance Armstrong effect'.

So, when the cells spread to other areas of the body, they may be weakened by higher temperatures, becoming more susceptible to chemotherapy or radiotherapy than other types of cancer.

Studies in men who have a condition in which the testes do not descend and remain in the body show that the nuclear matrix, the protein scaffolding in the control centre of the cell, becomes 'wrecked' and is heat sensitive.

Professor Getzenberg and his team are now experimenting with different methods of weakening the nuclear matrix in cancer cells by heat.

"We tried to put our heads together about what we know about the differences between testicular and other cancers. There is an amazing difference in treatment success and we wanted to come up with a simple idea that has a biological basis."

Professor Getzenberg said heat, or hyperthermia, is a very old form of cancer therapy but in order to make it a successful it needs to be targeted specifically at cancer cells.

"Some groups are doing localised heating of tumours but the real advance would be to move this into people with systemic disease. These are not big golf ball size tumours they're small tumours that you can't really see."

"We need to think how we can target these cancer cells anywhere in the body."


Professor Getzenberg is using nanotechnology to target iron particles directly to cancer cells.

These 'nanoparticles' can be developed to be attracted to specific markers present on the surface of cancer cells.

Once attached to the cancer cells they can be heated using an external magnetic field, weakening the cells and hopefully making them more susceptible to chemotherapy or radiation.

The team are currently assessing this technique for treating prostate cancer in animal models.

"These nanoparticles exist now and can be used in the body. The advantages are you don't have to put them in every cell as long as you are getting a warming environment," he said.

"We are also working on study on bladder cancer looking at putting a warm solution in the bladder, using a more localised approach."

Ed Yong, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "If cancer cells can be shown to be susceptible to higher temperatures, heat therapy may well become an option for treating cancer patients.

"To be effective, the heat must be targeted to cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Nanoparticles can provide a way of doing this.

"Nanotechnology is a very exciting new field of science and it is set to play an increasing role in detecting and treating cancers."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/07/25 23:07:24 GMT


Friday, June 23, 2006

Hypertension Drug Reverses Death of Cells

WEST LAFAYETTE, I.N. -- April 18, 2006 -- Purdue University researchers have identified a drug commonly used to treat hypertension that may also reverse damage from spinal cord injuries, cancer and Parkinson's disease.A research team led by Riyi Shi and Richard Borgens found that hydralazine, a medication that relaxes veins and arteries, may be an antidote for acrolein, a deadly toxin that is produced after a nerve cell is injured.New findings based on research at the cellular level are detailed in two studies published Monday, April 17 in the Journal of Neuroscience.In the first article, researchers examine how acrolein attacks and kills cells. In the second article, they demonstrate that cell death caused by acrolein (a-KRO-le-an), a byproduct of an injury, can be reversed when hydralazine is administered."This is probably the most important fundamental discovery we have made at the Center for Paralysis Research because we are saving nerve cells from death," said Borgens, Mari Hulman George Professor of Applied Neurology in the School of Veterinary Medicine and founder of the paralysis research center where the research was conducted."Initially we may use this discovery for spinal cord injury and stroke, but we can expect further studies will look at how it works against a whole spectrum of injury and disease," he said.Purdue researchers collected data on acrolein from cell cultures and found that the potent toxin can destroy entire groups of cells in less than 12 hours. But they also determined that the cells would survive if the toxin were treated with hydralazine that acts very much like an antidote, Borgens said."We analyzed other natural toxins as well, and our success has been remarkable," Borgens said. "We found that more than 80% of the cells can be saved with hydralazine."Acrolein stays in the body for days and is responsible for secondary damage that keeps injured cells from healing. The idea to use hydralazine against acrolein is a logical extension of research on the toxin, such as the use of a beta blocker against high blood pressure or chicken soup for a cold, Shi said."Acrolein is one of the causes of free radicals that are known to damage cells, so it makes sense to stop them from ever being produced," said Shi, who is associate professor of basic medical science in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. "With hydralazine, we are attacking the root of the problem rather than the symptom."Acrolein is a type of cell toxin called an aldehyde; and the drug, hydralazine, is effective because it has the ability to trap aldehydes and stick to them. Once hydralazine binds to the aldehyde, the toxin is neutralized, deactivated and secreted, Shi said.The Purdue researchers started looking at alternative methods to save cells because other studies that had tried to use antioxidants to deactivate free radical molecules had failed in human clinical trials in traumatic brain injuries, strokes and spinal cord injuries."If we intervene early enough, we may have the ability to slow down the process of diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which would be significant," Shi said. "If we can prevent these diseases from getting worse, we can give people a better quality of life."Peishan Liu-Snyder, who graduated last summer and will be a post-doctoral fellow at Brown University in June, also was part of the Purdue research team. She became interested in research at the Center for Paralysis Research when it focused on the use of liquid polymers that prevent nerve cells from rupturing, enabling them to heal themselves."We found hydralazine works well after the initial injury period because it targets the secondary injury process," said Liu-Snyder. "It binds to the acrolein to inactivate its toxicity."The research on hydralazine is now in the animal-studies phase.In the laboratory, hydralazine treatments were added to cell cultures damaged by acrolein, and the deterioration of the nerve fibers was stopped. But hydralazine is not suitable for injury victims because it lowers blood pressure, and it is not likely to be the final solution, Borgens said. Researchers at the Center for Paralysis Research are teaming with department head Stephen Byrn, and Dan Smith, a post-doctoral fellow, both from industrial and physical pharmacy in Purdue's College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences, to develop new drugs based on the activity and structure of hydralazine."Hydralazine is a remarkable drug, but it's not suitable for cases of traumatic injury where the last thing you want to do is lower blood pressure," Borgens said. "We've embarked on a program now to build a new drug that will do better job than hydralazine and not carry with it any unwanted side effects. We either have to make something completely different or else combat blood-pressure issues with other medications."One other laboratory, the University of Adelaide in Australia, is studying the effects of hydralazine on natural poisons. While Purdue researchers are looking at hydralazine's effect on acrolein in nerve cells, the Australian lab is concentrating on the molecular mechanisms to determine how it works.The Center for Paralysis Research was established in 1987 both to develop and to test promising methods of treatment for spinal cord injuries. The center uses its close affiliation with the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences in Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine to move basic laboratory methods into clinically meaningful veterinary testing.This research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, predoctoral fellowship funds, the State of Indiana, and gifts from Mari Hulman George and Helen Skinner, as well as general funds from Purdue's Center for Paralysis Research.SOURCE: Purdue University

Monday, March 13, 2006

10 Ways Sugar Harms Your Health

Lynn Prowitt-Smith

How could something so sweet leave such a bitter mark on your health? Here are 10 ways sugar harms your health.

1. Sugar causes blood glucose to spike and plummet.

Unstable blood sugar often leads to mood swings, fatigue, headaches and cravings for more sugar. Cravings set the stage for a cycle of addiction in which every new hit of sugar makes you feel better temporarily but, a few hours later, results in more cravings and hunger. On the flip side, those who avoid sugar often report having little or no cravings for sugary things and feeling emotionally balanced and energised.

2. Sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Large-scale studies have shown that the more high-glycaemic (Gi) index foods a person consumes (those that quickly affect blood sugar), including foods containing sugar, the higher their risk for becoming obese and for developing diabetes and heart disease. Emerging research is also suggesting connections between high Gi diets and many different forms of cancer.

3. Sugar interferes with immune function.

Research on human subjects is scant, but animal studies have shown that sugar suppresses immune response. More research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms; however, we do know that bacteria and yeast feed on sugar and that, when these organisms get out of balance in the body, infections and illness are more likely.
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4. A high-sugar diet often results in chromium deficiency.

It's sort of a catch-22. If you consume a lot of sugar and other refined carbohydrates, you probably don't get enough of the trace mineral chromium, and one of chromium's main functions is to help regulate blood sugar. According to scientists, most of us don’t get enough chromium in our diets. Chromium is found in a variety of animal foods, seafood and plant foods. Refining starches and other carbohydrates rob these foods of their chromium supplies so think wholegrain!

5. Sugar accelerates aging.

It even contributes to that telltale sign of aging: sagging skin. Probably another reason ever-young celebrities like Yasmin LeBon steer clear of the sweet stuff! Some of the sugar you consume, after hitting your bloodstream, ends up attaching itself to proteins, in a process called glycation. These new molecular structures contribute to the loss of elasticity found in aging body tissues, from your skin to your organs and arteries. The more sugar circulating in your blood, the faster this damage takes hold.

6. Sugar causes tooth decay.

With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, we sometimes forget the most basic damage it does. When it sits on your teeth, it creates decay more efficiently than any other food substance, and all the money in the world can’t reverse this process. For a strong visual reminder, next time the Tooth Fairy visits, try the old tooth-in-a-glass-of-Coke experiment—the results will surely convince you that sugar isn't good for your pearly whites.

7. Sugar can cause gum disease, which can lead to heart disease.

Increasing evidence shows that chronic infections, such as those that result from periodontal problems, play a role in the development of coronary artery disease. The most popular theory is that the connection is related to widespread effects from the body's inflammatory response to infection.

8. Sugar affects behaviour and cognition in children.

It is believed that one trigger of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be consumption of sugar, and many children with ADHD crave high Gi foods, which leads to hypoglycaemia. All high Gi foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, which causes a temporary surge of energy and at the same time, hyperactivity. Soon after this energy surge comes a dip in energy, with the end result being hypoglycaemia.

This will inevitably lead to irritability, poor sleeping habits and lack of concentration. In light of this, if low Gi foods are eaten most of the time, especially for breakfast, blood sugar and energy levels remain stable, and this enables the child to concentrate better and stabilise their emotions.

9. Sugar increases stress.

When we're under stress, our stress hormone levels rise. These chemicals are the body's fight-or-flight emergency crew, sent out to prepare the body for an attack or an escape. These chemicals are also called into action when blood sugar is low.

For example, after a blood-sugar spike (say, from eating a piece of birthday cake), there's a compensatory dive, which causes the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline, epinephrine and cortisol. One of the main things these hormones do is raise blood sugar, providing the body with a quick energy boost. The problem is, these helpful hormones can make us feel anxious, irritable and shaky.

10. Sugar takes the place of important nutrients.

According to nutrition scientists, research has shown that people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients –– especially vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin B-12, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Ironically, those who consume the most sugar are children and teenagers, the individuals who need these nutrients most.

Slashing Sugar

Now that you know the negative impacts refined sugar can have on your body and mind, you'll want to be more careful about the foods you choose. And the first step is getting educated about where sugar lurks -- believe it or not, a food needn't even taste all that sweet for it to be loaded with sugar.

When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide, and be aware that just because something boasts that it is low in carbs or a "diet" food, doesn't mean it's free of sugar.

Friday, March 10, 2006

DIY health checks

When the National Health Service (NHS) was established in 1944, it promised us free healthcare from the cradle to the grave. But today, with the NHS ready to do a Roman Empire and collapse under the pressure of its own weight and crippling debt, it’s time we took matters into our own hands.
The market in home health testing kits has rocketed recently, and it’s not just your common or garden pregnancy tests we’re talking about. Tests for sexually transmitted diseases and other conditions such as bowel cancer and diabetes are available over the counter – pretty handy in these times when getting an appointment with your GP isn’t as easy as it should be. While some doctors aren’t entirely happy with the increase in do-it-yourself health tests (their concern is that we might not be competent enough to carry out the test properly ourselves or could fail to understand the results) they are all relatively simple to use, and they make it easy for us to check our bodies for signs of serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Of course, there are things you should be checking yourself for regularly that don’t require any kit, such as lumps in your breast or testicles, but for a growing number of illnesses and conditions there is a simple test you can do yourself, all of which you can buy at either a chemist or online.

Bowel cancer
It’s estimated that around 6% of us will suffer from bowel cancer at some point in our lives, usually well into adulthood, and the disease is the second most deadly form of cancer after lung cancer, with around 50% of cases proving fatal. However, if the condition is caught early, this number falls considerably to 10%. One of the earliest symptoms of bowel cancer is blood in the stools and there are many easy to use take home tests that will tell you almost instantly if this is something you need to worry about. While examining your stools is something you’d only normally expect to see Dr Gillian McKeith doing on television, it’s something we should all do regularly. If you do see blood in your stools, don’t panic, it could be a number of conditions, from bowel cancer to haemorrhoids, but you should go and see your GP straight away to find out exactly what is causing it.
Click here to read more about bowel cancer and its symptoms

Diabetes, a condition where a person’s blood sugar level is higher than normal, affects 1.6 million people in the UK. This number has increased rapidly in recent years due to the massive rise in overweight and obese people in the UK, and the charity Diabetes UK estimates that there are 1 million undiagnosed diabetics in the country, a shocking statistic. Unhealthy diets, obesity and lack of exercise are the main factors contributing to diabetes, and if you’re concerned that you could be suffering from the condition, it’s important that you diagnose yourself using one of the many cheap, simple tests that take as little as 60 seconds to carry out and which can be bought at any good pharmacist. If you don’t, it’s worth noting that illnesses such as heart disease, eye damage and hardening of the arteries can occur if the condition is not managed.
Click here to read more about diabetes

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease, affecting about 1 in 20 people, mainly young adults, and is sometimes referred to as the ‘silent epidemic’, so-called because it rarely presents any symptoms. There is indeed an epidemic of Chlamydia in the UK at the moment, with cases of infections having doubled in the last six years and an estimated 10% of women under 25 carrying the disease without knowing. Again, simple tests can be carried out in the comfort of your own home, and, requiring only a test kit and urine sample, you can find out almost instantly whether or not you need to seek further medical help to treat the condition. The tests search for the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis, and if detected the condition is easily treatable using antibiotics. If undetected, it can damage the reproductive system in women, which is why it’s the commonest cause of infertility.
Click here to read more about chlamydia

Starting a family can be the most exciting time for any couple, but it can also lead to heartache if one person in the relationship discovers that they are infertile. There are a number of tests that can either measure the levels of motile sperm (the type that can swim) in men or the levels of follicle stimulating hormone in woman (rising levels of this are associated with reduced fertility), but a product recently launched by Boots has made determining your fertility levels easier than it’s ever been. The Fertell fertility test will tell a woman in 30 minutes and a man in 75 minutes if they are capable of having children. This one-step product was a particular landmark as it effectively told women, by counting how many healthy eggs they had remaining in their ovaries, how long they had left to start a family, something that is particularly useful to career women, as a woman’s fertility starts to decline when she reaches 30.
Click here to read more about infertility

Blood pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 10 million people in the UK – that’s one in six of us. Blood pressure depends upon how forcefully the heart pumps blood around your body and how narrowed your arteries are, and hypertension occurs when blood is forced through the arteries at an increased pressure. One of the problems with high blood pressure is that it very rarely presents symptoms and in most cases the causes are unknown (though smoking, alcohol and obesity are contributory factors), but the consequences of leaving it untreated can be disastrous. This means that many people who have the condition are unaware that they are at increased risk of blood clots, kidney disease and heart attacks. It is therefore essential that adults over 40 check their blood pressure regularly, and with numerous take-home blood pressure monitors on the market, doing this at home is a straight-forward process.
Click here to read more about high blood pressure

High cholesterol, or hypercholesterolaemia, is one of the major contributing factors of coronary heart disease, the number one killer in the UK and most developed countries. Cholesterol is one of the body’s fats, or lipids, and is an important building block in the structure of cells and are also used to make hormones and produce energy. Cholesterol level in the blood depends to some extent on what you eat and having too much can lead to the hardening and narrowing of arteries. There is both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, and while the good kind protects the body against diseases of the arteries, the bad kind contributes to it, so it is the discrepancy between levels of the two in the body that determine the risk of heart problems. Home health tests will be able to measure the levels of both in your body and tell you if you are at risk. Meanwhile, eat a low fat diet and exercise to raise the level of good cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Click here to read more about high cholesterol levels

Prostate disorders
Not a lot of men know where their prostate is, or what it does, but particularly with older men disorders of the prostate gland can serious threaten their health. Prostate cancer, for example, is a big killer in men aged between 45 and 70, and any man in this age group should test their prostate regularly. The prostate makes and secretes prostatic fluid, one of the five fluids that make up semen. With prostate cancer, cells in the prostate start to grow out of a normal pattern and do not from into normal prostate tissue, instead turning into groups of cells, or tumours, which can then dislodge and cause tumours in other parts of the body. The likelihood of successful treatment of prostate cancer and other prostate disorders increase considerably with early diagnosis, and a quick test with a prostate screening kit will identify levels of prostate specific antigen – a chemical that appears in the bloodstream in high levels when the prostate is enlarged or cancerous - in the bloodstream and will either rule out any disorders or tell you that you need to seek medical attention.
Click here to read more about checking for prostate cancer


* To search for bowel disorders home test kits - click here

* To search for diabetes test kits - click here

* To search for chlamydia test kits - click here

*To search for fertility test kits - click here

*To search for blood pressure monitors - click here

To search for cholesterol test kits - click here

To search for prostate screening kits - click here

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Anti-cancer superfoods

Anti-cancer superfoods

The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that around 35 per cent, and possibly as many as 70 per cent, of cancers are linked to dietary factors. Learn how to reduce your risk with the right foods

The list of dietary influences on cancers is long. Diets low in fruits and vegetables are factors in many cancers, those high in salt contribute to stomach cancers and those too high in calories overall can promote hormone cancers such as breast. Smoked and burned foods, such as those cooked on barbecues, are significantly linked to many cancers. And regular alcohol intake is strongly linked to increased breast cancer risk in younger (premenopausal) women. Additionally, smoking remains one of the biggest killers as a trigger of lung cancer.

But the good news is that while some foods, and chemicals in foods, have cancer-promoting, or carcinogenic effects, many more foods have very positive effects on the initiation and progress of cancer. They have strong anti-cancer effects that have been identified in countless research papers.

So next time you go to the supermarket, make a point of adding the following foods to your basket. By eating these foods on a regular basis you can significantly reduce your statistical risk of developing a number of types of cancer.

Effective against: most cancers
Works because: the slightly bitter flavour of broccoli (and its cousins Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower) is the reason for the impressive track record these vegetables have in deterring cancer. The bitter chemicals isothiocyanates and glucosinolates actually interfere with cancer progression and deactivate harmful oestrogens associated with hormonal cancers such as breast and ovarian cancers.

Effective against: stomach, colon and most cancers
Works because: the smelly compounds in garlic are potent anti-cancer agents. All of the onion family, including leeks and shallots, contain these compounds but garlic is the most rich. Trials have shown that chemically induced cancers can be interrupted by the active compounds formed from allicin from garlic. To get the most out of garlic chop the clove and leave it to `mature' in the air for 15 minutes, and then use it in your cooking. Heating prior to this 'maturation time' by air neutralises the important compounds.

Effective against: breast, ovarian and prostate cancers
Works because: the isoflavones the soya bean contains have a gently oestrogen-mimicking effect in the human body. This helps to block the effects of more aggressive oestrogens, both natural and those from environmental chemicals from sources such as plastics and pesticides. This has the effect of limiting the risk of hormone-linked cancers in both women and men. Tofu may be more effective than other soya products or soya supplements as it has been fermented and so some potentially negative compounds are neutralised. The Japanese and Chinese who eat tofu regularly have low risks of these cancers.

Oily fish
Effective against: colon, prostate and breast cancers
Works because: the omega-3 fatty acids have a profound effect on cell metabolism and communication. These fatty acids also act as anti-inflammatory agents, which may be a reason for their influence on colon cancer. When the diet is higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as the omega-3s, it also limits the intake and the effects of saturated fats, which are linked to increased risk of some cancers.

Green tea
Effective against: most cancers
Works because: the active compound in green tea, EGCG (epigalocatechin-3-gallate) is believed to be one of the strongest antimutagenic compounds found in plants - this means it has the effect of stopping damage at a genetic level. It can also stop tumours forming their own blood supply network. Trials suggest that fairly high intakes are needed, around 10 cups a day, so replacing all hot drinks with green tea could have a beneficial effect, but only one cup a day might not. Green tea is much lower in caffeine than black tea or coffee and so is easier on sleep patterns as well.

Wholegrain cereals
Effective against: colon and breast cancers.
Works because: The fibre in whole grains, from cereals and wholemeal bread, are important for gut and hormonal health. The fibre gives the colon something `to work with' and also promotes good bowel bacteria. Fibre is also important in eliminating excess oestrogens. Fibre-rich cereals include bran flakes, porridge oats and muesli, though it is best to choose low-salt and low-sugar versions.

Tomato puree
Effective against: prostate and breast cancers
Works because: the active compound in tomatoes is lycopene, one of the most potent free-radical scavengers, and seems to affect the activity of free-radicals created by tumours. Interestingly, the significant effects found against prostate and breast cancers are observed in cooked and processed tomato products, rather than raw tomatoes. This is because lycopene is made more absorbable by processing and so tomato juice, puree and canned tomatoes are most effective. It is even better to include a little olive oil when cooking with or consuming these because the oil increases absorption further.

Live yoghurt
Effective against: colon and breast cancers
Works because: the beneficial bacteria found in live yoghurt promotes gut health and improves the performance of the immune system. Regular yoghurt intake has been shown to increase levels of immune anti-cancer compounds such as interferon and natural killer cells. Because elimination of oestrogens happens in the colon, the health of the colon directly affects the development of breast cancer.

Oranges and carrots
Effective against: lung cancer particularly, and most cancers in general Works because: they are rich, respectively, in vitamin C and beta-carotene. All fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and many are rich in these two compounds. These water-soluble antioxidants are important at protecting lung tissue, which is a very water-rich environment. High blood levels of these antioxidants are linked to much-reduced levels of lung, and other, cancers. However taking beta-carotene in supplement form may be ill-advised for smokers as trials have shown higher mortality levels, probably as smokers' lungs already have advanced damage. A diet high in fruits and vegetables is highly protective against lung cancer and even in countries where smoking is more prevalent, such as Greece and Spain, fruits and vegetables seem to be protective.

Linseeds (also called flax seeds)
Effective against: breast and colon cancers
Works because: the lignans they contain are gelatinous fibres which are highly protective against hormonal cancers. They convert in the bowel, in the presence of beneficial bacteria (see yoghurt above) to even more potent compounds which block the effects of oestrogen. Additionally, like all fibres, they have a positive effect on bowel health - indeed one of the most effective remedies against constipation is to take one or two teaspoons of linseeds pre-soaked for 30 minutes in water or fruit juice. They are also particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Suzannah Olivier is a nutritionist and the author of many books including The Breast Cancer Prevention and Recovery Diet (Penguin £9.99). Her latest book is Food Medicine (Robinson £9.99) Visit Suzannah's website

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