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Herbal Remedies July 2004
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Natural Health Newsletter Issue 230
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SELENIUM: ANOTHER SUPPLEMENT THAT PROTECTS THE PROSTATE
By Greg Arnold, May 5, 2004, Abstracted from "Good News For Men And Dogs" in the October 2003 issue of Alternative Medicine
Bring up the topic of prostate cancer and men start to get nervous. As the number one killer of men, with 200,000 new diagnoses each year and 30,000 deaths, they have a right to get nervous. With early detection almost mandatory to ensure survival, methods of prevention have gained popularity in recent years. With Saw Palmetto as the clear-cut favorite for helping prevent prostate cancer, other supplements are being sought. One such supplement receiving almost universal praise is a well-known antioxidant: selenium. Selenium
Although the latest study on selenium claimed it to not have a significant effect on prostate cancer, practically all other research has pointed to the contrary. In fact, a recent review of research studying selenium's effect on prostate cancer states selenium to be a "viable option to reduce the morbidity and mortality of prostate cancer".
One recent study4 study found low serum selenium levels to show a "statistically significant" inverse relationship with overall accumulated DNA damage, which increases susceptibility to cancer and other degenerative diseases. Not only does selenium help induce cell death of prostate cancer cells, but it helps preserve normal prostate epithelial. Researchers have identified an enzyme, caspase 3, as playing a critical role in the cells death process of prostate cancer cells.
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B-VITAMINS: YOUR KEY TO PREVENTING FRACTURES?
By Greg Arnold, May 19, 2004, Abstracted from "Homocysteine Levels and the Risk of Osteoporotic Fracture" in the May 13, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine
Just as taking a multi-vitamin supplement has now been suggested to help prevent chronic disease,1 B-vitamins are now being proposed as a way to help prevent osteoporotic fractures.
A new study published in the May 13, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers studied 2406 subjects (all older than 55 years of age) who participated in two separate prospective, population-based studies. The two studies were the Rotterdam Study, which examined 1,115 subjects, and the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) that studied 1291 subjects. The follow-up times for these studies ranged from 2.7 years in the LASA study to 8.1 years in Rotterdam study.
Of the 2,406 subjects studied, osteoporotic fractures occurred in 191 subjects. Although the risk was identical in both men and women, those with the highest homocysteine levels had nearly double the risk of having an osteoporotic fracture compared with the lowest homocysteine levels. The researcher went on to conclude that "An increased homocysteine level appears to be a strong and independent risk factor for osteoporotic fractures in older men and women."
In an effort to lower homocysteine levels, researchers point to B-vitamins as a viable option. B-vitamins, particularly folic acid, act as cofactors for enzymes that help lower homocysteine levels. Unfortunately, researchers have not figured out exactly how homocysteine affects bone integrity.
The results of this study also agree with data analyzed from the Framingham study that showed the risk of hip fracture to increase by nearly a factor of four in men and a factor of two in women for the highest quartile of plasma homocysteine levels.
Homocysteine has already been implicated as a factor in heart disease.3 Despite this new study on homocsyteine, some doubt has already surfaced as to whether homocysteine is truly responsible for osteoporotic fractures.4 Regardless, the role of B-vitamins in the body, from proper nerve function to preventing some forms of anemia, should be reason enough to start supplementing B-vitamins.
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CHILDREN'S HEALTH - TACKLING AUTISM WITH PROBIOTICS
Republished with permission from NutraIngredients.com, May 5, 2004
Probiotics could play an important role in helping autistic children by tackling the neurotoxins and bacteria in the gut which can cause the condition, according to new research in the UK. Findings from a team led by Professor Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbiology and head of the Food Microbiology Sciences Unit at the University of Reading, were released earlier this week. "We have good evidence to show that children with autism have a gut flora which produces toxins, and that neurotoxins and bacteria in the gut are producing this metabolite," said Professor Gibson.
His research team, screening stool samples from 150 autistic children in the US, found a very high prevalence of the harmful bacteria, clostridia. A second research program examining the gut flora of 60 British autistic children also revealed high levels of clostridia, which were not present in their non-autistic brothers and sisters.
"We are now screening several strains of probiotic bacteria to see which will intervene against these clostridia. Human trials will start later this year using the probiotic which performs best," said Professor Gibson.
Catherine Collins, chief dietitian at the department of nutrition and dietetics at St. George's Hospital London, added: "Probiotics are beginning to join mainstream medicine in hospitals where their use is extending into the care of critically ill patients. They are proving a valuable adjunct to treating patients with diarrhea caused by antibiotics used to treat multiple infections."
The findings were released to coincide with the launch in the UK of a new prebiotic juice drink under the ProViva brand owned by Sweden's Skane Dairy. ProViva Shot! is an 80ml version of the ProViva juice drink already available in 1-litre cartons, and like its parent contains Lactobacillus plantarum 299v active bacteria, licensed from biotech firm Probi.
ProViva was developed in Sweden for use after surgery in patients whose digestive system was not working properly. The dairy-free fruit-based drink also provides the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, and was recently awarded a health claim by the Swedish Nutrition Foundation, the first for a European probiotic.
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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE - BREATHING EASIER
Republished with permission from www.hsibaltimore.com, Health Sciences Institute e-Alert, May 19, 2004
It's something most of us take for granted - the ability to take a deep breath. Go ahead, take one now. Feels great, doesn't it? But what if you couldn't enjoy even a single one of those satisfying deep breaths? Not an inviting prospect, obviously.
A condition called dyspnoea is characterized by shortness of breath or labored breathing, and is a typical symptom of asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Not surprisingly, dyspnoea is often a source of ongoing anxiety among those who suffer from it. Now a new study reveals a completely natural way for patients to relieve dyspnoea, reduce anxiety, and even lead more active lives.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term, commonly used to refer to asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or any combination of the three. These diseases are quite different from one another, but their effect is the same: long-term deterioration of the respiratory system.
A team of researchers in Taiwan recently conducted a study to test the effects of acupressure in treating dyspnoea. Acupressure is a field of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which pressure is applied by hand to the same acupoints where needles would be inserted for acupuncture treatments.
The Taiwan team recruited 44 COPD patients who were randomly selected to receive either genuine acupressure, or sham acupressure. Each subject received 20 individual treatment sessions over a period of four weeks: five sessions each week, with each session lasting 16 minutes.
Before the sessions began, and again after all the sessions were completed, each of the patients completed a Pulmonary Functional Status and Dyspnoea Questionnaire. In addition, a 6-minute walking distance test was performed on each subject before and after the sessions, with close monitoring of oxygen saturation and respiratory rate before and after each walking test.
Results showed that physiological indicators, pulmonary function and dyspnoea scores, and measurements taken from the walking tests were all significantly higher in the acupressure group, compared to the sham group. Those who received the genuine acupressure reduced both anxiety and fatigue, while improving their ability to perform normal activities.
In the published study, which appeared in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, researchers concluded that acupressure "can be used as a nursing intervention to improve dyspnoea in patients with COPD."
Anyone who experiences the symptoms associated with COPD might also benefit from a dietary change.
Studies have shown that lung function deteriorates for all of us as we age, making us more susceptible to predatory viruses that cause pneumonia and other respiratory complications like dyspnoea. Fortunately, there are dietary nutrients that support healthy lung function.
In the e-alert "C-ing Stars" (6/12/02) I told you about a UK study that investigated the relationship between lung function and the intake of magnesium and vitamin C. In 1991, researchers surveyed more than 2,500 subjects to assess the relationship between diet and COPD. Nine years later, approximately one half of the original group participated in a follow-up survey. As in the first phase, each subject completed a food frequency questionnaire, as well as a questionnaire regarding respiratory symptoms, smoking, and other variables. Subjects also had breathing levels tested in each phase.
After analyzing the data, researchers reached two important conclusions: 1) Subjects who consumed higher amounts of vitamin C had better lung function than those with lower levels of vitamin C intake; and 2) Higher amounts of vitamin C and magnesium intake were associated with significantly improved lung function in the cases of those suffering from COPD.
The researchers didn't offer a recommendation about the dosage level of vitamin C required to reap the protective benefits, but the study indicates that the average participant in the survey was not supplementing with mega-doses.
Increasing vitamin C and magnesium intake is fairly simple. But finding a reliable, well-trained acupressure practitioner might be a little more involved.
In the e-Alert "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall..." (4/26/04), I shared this advice from an acupuncturist: "Just make sure the acupuncturist has a license and no complaints against him/her for unprofessional conduct or malpractice with the state Acupuncture Board."
The same advice applies to acupressurists, of course. And if you have trouble finding acupressurists in your area, check with local acupuncture practices. Some of them may also offer acupressure treatments, or may be able to recommend someone who does.
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VITAMINS & MINERALS -VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY CALLED MAJOR HEALTH RISK
Republished with permission from www.foodsafetynetwork.ca, May 21, 2004, Washington Post, Rob Stein
Many Americans, particularly African Americans, may, according to this story, be suffering from unrecognized deficiencies of vitamin D that increase the risk of bone problems and perhaps a host of other diseases, a growing number of scientists say.
The story says that pediatricians scattered around the country have been surprised to see children suffering from rickets, a bone disorder caused by vitamin D deficiency that had been largely relegated to a bygone era. A few doctors have come across adults who were disabled by severe muscle weakness and pain, sometimes for years, until they were treated for undiagnosed vitamin D deficiency.
And recent studies suggest low vitamin D may be putting the elderly at higher risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and life-threatening falls and fractures. But beyond bone and muscle problems, some evidence suggests a dearth of vitamin D may be associated with an array of more serious illnesses, including many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, depression, and immune-system disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
In response, many scientists have begun pushing to sharply boost the official recommendations for how much vitamin D everyone should get daily, either by taking supplements, by eating more food that contains the nutrient or from the sun -- a major source of vitamin D.
Suggestions that people get more sun exposure, however, have sparked an unusually intense, and sometimes bitter, debate. Skin cancer experts are alarmed that people will disregard warnings about unprotected sun exposure, making them more vulnerable to what is the most common malignancy.
The debate is complicated by the many uncertainties about vitamin D. Because the nutrient's apparently widespread functions in the body are just now being recognized, little research has been done to try to answer some of the most basic questions, such as how much is needed for optimal health.
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