The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
To improve students' mental health, study finds, teach them to breathe
When college students learn specific techniques for managing stress and anxiety, their well-being improves across a range of measures and leads to better mental health, a new Yale study finds.
The research team evaluated three classroom-based wellness training programs that incorporate breathing and emotional intelligence strategies, finding that two led to improvements in aspects of well-being. The most effective program led to improvements in six areas, including depression and social connectedness.
The researchers, who reported findings in the July 15 edition of Frontiers in Psychiatry, said such resiliency training programs could be a valuable tool for addressing the mental health crisis on university campuses.
"In addition to academic skills, we need to teach students how to live a balanced life," said Emma Seppälä, lead author and faculty director of the Women's Leadership Program at Yale School of Management. "Student mental health has been on the decline over the last 10 years, and with the pandemic and racial tensions, things have only gotten worse."
Researchers at the Yale Child Study Center and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI) conducted the study, which tested three skill-building training programs on 135 undergraduate subjects for eight weeks (30 hours total), and measured results against those of a non-intervention control group.
They found that a training program called SKY Campus Happiness, developed by the Art of Living Foundation, which relies on a breathing technique called SKY Breath Meditation, yoga postures, social connection, and service activities, was most beneficial. Following the SKY sessions, students reported improvements in six areas of well-being: depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect, and social connectedness.
A second program called Foundations of Emotional Intelligence, developed by the YCEI, resulted in one improvement: greater mindfulness—the ability for students to be present and enjoy the moment.
A third program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which relies heavily on mindfulness techniques, resulted in no reported improvements.
In all, 135 Yale undergraduate students participated in the study.
Across college campuses, there has been a significant rise in student depression, anxiety, and demand for mental health services. From 2009 to 2014, students seeking treatment from campus counseling centers rose by 30%, though enrollment increased by just 6% on average. Fifty-seven percent of counseling center directors indicated that their resources are insufﬁcient to meet students' needs.
The researchers say resiliency training tools can address the overburdening of campus counseling centers directly. In the sessions. "Students learn tools they can use for the rest of their lives to continue to improve and maintain their mental health," said co-first author Christina Bradley '16 B.S., currently a Ph.D. student at University of Michigan.
Researchers administered the training sessions in person, but the courses can also be taken remotely.
"Continually adding staff to counseling and psychiatric services to meet demand is not financially sustainable—and universities are realizing this," Seppälä said. "Evidence-based resiliency programs can help students help themselves."
Davornne Lindo '22 B.A., a member of the Yale track team who participated in the SKY Campus Happiness program, said practicing breathing techniques helped her to manage stress from both academics and athletics. "Now that I have these techniques to help me, I would say that my mentality is a lot healthier," Lindo said. "I can devote time to studying and not melting down. Races have gone better. Times are dropping."
Another participant in the SKY program, Anna Wilkinson '22 B.A., said she was not familiar with the positive benefits of breathing exercises before the training, but now uses the technique regularly. "I didn't realize how much of it was physiology, how you control the things inside you with breathing," Wilkinson said. "I come out of breathing and meditation as a happier, more balanced person, which is something I did not expect at all."
Meta-analysis concludes efficacy for ginkgo cognitive function support and safety in Alzheimer disease
Hubei university - China
According to news originating from Hebei, People’s Republic of China, by NewsRx correspondents, research stated, “The objective of this study was to investigate the efficacy and safety of Ginkgo biloba preparation for the treatment of Alzheimer disease (AD). Both English (PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library databases, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register) and Chinese (WanFang, Chinese Biomedical, CNKI, and VIP databases) databases were systematically and independently searched by 2 authors from their inception until July 3, 2019.”
Our news journalists obtained a quote from the research, “All relevant studies included AD patients who were treated with Ginkgo biloba. The efficacy and safety of the medicine were used as the main measurement index. Seven studies (N=939) were identified and analyzed. When compared with placebo, Ginkgo biloba showed exact validity in cognitive function and global clinical assessment (cognitive function section: risk ratio=1.98, 95% confidence interval=1.52-2.59, Z=5.12, p<0.001; according to Clinical Global Impression Change: odds ratio=3.119, 95% confidence interval=2.206-4.410, Z=6.44, p<0.001). Adverse events were mild.”
According to the news editors, the research concluded: “Ginkgo biloba preparation has reliable efficacy of cognitive function and global clinical assessment and safety in the treatment of AD.”
Higher BPA levels linked to more asthma symptoms in children
Johns Hopkins University
Children in low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore tended to have more asthma symptoms when levels of the synthetic chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) in their urine were elevated, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine.
While some products, including baby bottles, no longer contain BPA, exposures to BPA remain almost universal, and there are still concerns that, especially in childhood, those exposures might have a health impact.
Boys with elevated BPA were found to be at higher risk for having more asthma symptoms, the study found. The researchers found no statistically significant link between BPA levels and asthma symptoms among the girls in the study. The researchers also found that higher levels of two common chemicals closely related to BPA--BPS and BPF--were not consistently associated with more asthma symptoms. Like BPA, BPS and BPF are found in many consumer products, including food cans and beverage bottles.
For their analysis, the researchers examined clinical data and urine samples, taken at three-month intervals over a year, from 148 predominantly Black children in Baltimore. They found consistent links between higher BPA levels in urine and measures of recent asthma severity.
The study, published July 28 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is thought to be the first to examine children's environmental exposures to BPA, BPS, and BPF and their associations with asthma severity.
"Our findings suggest that additional studies are needed to examine this BPA-asthma link, given the high burden of pediatric asthma and widespread exposure to BPA in the United States," says lead author Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Bloomberg School. "This is especially important given that Black Americans have higher asthma rates than whites and also, according to CDC data, have higher exposure to these chemicals than whites."
BPA is a chemical building block used to make polycarbonate plastic as well as some epoxies. Produced at the rate of about 7 million tons per year worldwide, it can leach from polycarbonate bottles into the liquids they contain, and from epoxies that line cans of soup and other food items. A 2011 study published found that eating soup from cans lined with BPA-containing epoxy caused study participants' BPA levels to rise by a factor of almost 20.
BPA can activate estrogen receptors on cells, which suggests that it may have hormone-like effects--disrupting human biology even at very small exposure levels. Animal studies have found evidence that the chemical can have pro-inflammatory effects. Epidemiological studies have found that people with higher BPA levels in their urine are more likely to have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and some other conditions. Children are in principle more vulnerable, to the extent that they use BPA-containing products more often than adults do. Due to consumer concerns, companies stopped making BPA-containing baby bottles and sippy cups more than a decade ago, and have largely switched to non-BPA can epoxies.
BPS and BPF are close chemical relatives, or analogs, of BPA, and are found, for example, in can-linings and thermal-printer receipts--often as replacements for BPA. They too can interact with estrogen receptors, although very little is known about their health impacts at current exposure levels.
In the new study, Quirós-Alcalá and colleagues examined the link between BPA and asthma. More than 25 million Americans, including about one out of twelve children, have this airway inflammatory disorder.
While prior studies in children have linked higher BPA levels to a greater likelihood of developing asthma, the researchers here looked for a link between BPA exposure and the extent of symptoms in established asthma--or asthma "morbidity," as epidemiologists call it.
To do this, they analyzed clinical data, as well as stored urine samples, from the Mouse Allergen and Asthma Cohort Study (MAACS), which was conducted from 2007 to 2010 in Baltimore and covered 148 asthmatic children between 5 and 17. The study included 85 boys and 63 girls. Most of the children (91 percent) were Black, and most (69 percent) came from households with annual incomes below $35,000. Each child in the study was evaluated by doctors every three months for a year, and at these visits the child's caregiver filled out a questionnaire about the child's recent asthma symptoms and medical care.
Quirós-Alcalá and her colleagues found BPA in every urine sample taken during the study, with a mean concentration of 3.6 nanograms per milliliter--consistent with one study of low-income minority children in the U.S., but several times higher than levels measured in other groups.
The children in the study varied greatly in their urine BPS levels, and the researchers found that a ten-times-greater level of BPS was associated with a 40 percent increased chance of having had "coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness" in the prior two weeks, along with an 84 percent and 112 percent increased chance of reporting an acute care or an emergency-room visit in the prior three months.
When the researchers analyzed the children by sex, they found that these associations remained statistically significant only for the boys.
The analysis also showed that BPS and BPF levels in urine of the 148 children were much lower on average than those for BPA, and in some urine samples were not found at all. Higher BPS or BPF levels were not consistently associated with more asthma morbidity.
This was an associational study and does not prove that BPA exposures caused health effects, but it suggests that more conclusive studies of cause and effect should be done, the researchers say.
"If these findings are confirmed in future studies, then avoiding or limiting contact with BPA sources may be advisable for families who have children with asthma," Quirós-Alcalá says.
Calcium and vitamin D nutrient deficiencies lead to higher risk for osteoporosis
Study finds calcium and vitamin d nutrient deficiencies lead to higher risk for osteoporosis in low income US population
Pharmavite LLC, the makers of Nature Made vitamins, minerals and supplements, announced the publication of a research article in the journal PLoS ONE, which examines inadequate nutrient intake and its relationship to poor bone health, specifically risk of osteoporosis. The research was a cross sectional analysis of the U.S population [from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data], with a specific focus on those below the poverty line with food insecurities.
Poverty can be a barrier to routinely acquiring adequate nutrient intakes, specifically for calcium and vitamin D, to ensure bone health with the ultimate goal of preventing of osteoporosis. Age, gender and dietary intake are major factors that contribute to osteoporosis prevalence. This study examined the relationship between markers of poverty with calcium and vitamin D intake and osteoporosis in Americans, 50 years and older.
"This study continues to demonstrate how prevalent nutrient deficiency is among the U.S. population, and even more so, among lower income individuals and those with food insecurities. Yet, we know that nutrient adequacy is imperative in supporting overall health and wellness, including immune health, at a time when that is heavy on everyone's mind," said Susan Hazels Mitmesser, PhD, Vice President of Science & Technology at Pharmavite.
In the U.S., 25% of older Americans live below the poverty line. Within this population, 68% have inadequate calcium intakes, and 46% have inadequate vitamin D intakes. Gender, ethnic, and socio-economic differences impact overall risk for inadequate calcium and vitamin D intakes and subsequent osteoporosis risk, as seen in some of the study key findings:
- American women over the age of 50 consistently have inadequate calcium intake regardless of their economic status.
- Inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D affects poverty-stricken men more than women with respect to osteoporosis risk.
- Non-Hispanic Black men with a low income have two times greater risk for developing osteoporosis.
"Improving the consumption of nutrient-rich and fortified foods among individuals that live in poverty can help to decrease their chances of developing osteoporosis. Additionally, dietary supplements can play a critical role in helping any underserved population meet their nutrition needs --including making supplements readily available through programs like SNAP, for example," adds Mitmesser. "Our research demonstrates that participants with SNAP benefits and more access to food, have fewer nutrient inadequacies which helps them meet their nutrition needs."
It has been estimated in the U.S. population age 50 and older, about 10.2 million suffer from osteoporosis, and 80% of these affected cases are females. In addition, there are potentially 43.4 million people, or 44% of the population with osteopenia, which is a bone condition that often leads to osteoporosis. More than two million osteoporosis-related fractures occur annually, leading to more than 19 billion dollars in health care costs in the US.
Study: Vitamin C plus quercetin a solid remedy for coronavirus
New research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology has revealed that vitamin C combined with quercetin represents a powerful natural remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
Entitled, “Quercetin and Vitamin C: An Experimental Synergistic Therapy for the Prevention and Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Related Disease (COVID-19),” the paper takes a detailed look at the antiviral properties of these two nutrients, which together show incredible promise in helping Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) patients recover.
It explains that quercetin has the ability to interfere “at multiple steps of pathogen virulence,” including at “virus entry, virus replication, (and) protein assembly” to inhibit the viral infection and proliferation. And when combined with vitamin C, quercetin is effective “for both the prophylaxis and the early treatment” of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as other respiratory tract infections.
In case you are unfamiliar with it, quercetin is a plant pigment in the flavonoid family that possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-protective properties. It has also been studied extensively for its ability to inhibit polymerases, proteases, and reverse transcriptase, as well as to suppress DNA gyrase and bind viral capsid proteins.
This might sound like complicated language to the average “Joe,” but suffice it to say that quercetin, especially when amplified by the presence of vitamin C, obstructs viral infection, as well as viral replication and proliferation.
Exercise in early life has long-lasting benefits
Exercise in early life counteracts some of the damaging programming effects of a high-fat diet, a new Auckland study shows.
University of Auckland (New Zealand), July 30, 2020
The researchers, from the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, found that bone retains a "memory" of exercise's effects long after the exercise is ceased, and this bone memory continues to change the way the body metabolises a high-fat diet, and published these results in Frontiers in Physiology.
The research team compared the bone health and metabolism of rats across different diet and exercise conditions, zeroing in on messenger molecules that signal the activity of genes in bone marrow. Rats were either given a high-fat diet and a wheel for extra exercise in their cage, a high-fat diet but no wheel, or a regular diet and no wheel. In the rats given a high-fat diet and an exercise wheel, the early extra physical activity caused inflammation-linked genes to be turned down.
High-fat diets early in life are known to turn up, or increase the activity of other genes that cause inflammation. Inflammation is the body's natural self-protective response to acute infection or injury, but the ongoing, low-grade inflammation linked to high-fat diets can harm cells and tissues and raise the risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Exercise also altered the way the rats' bones metabolised energy from food, changing energy pathways that disrupt the body's response to a high-calorie diet.
"What was remarkable was that these changes lasted long after the rats stopped doing that extra exercise - into their mid-life," says Dr Justin O'Sullivan, a molecular geneticist at the Institute. "The bone marrow carried a 'memory' of the effects of exercise. This is the first demonstration of a long-lasting effect of exercise past puberty. The rats still got fat, but that early extra exercise basically set them up so that even though they put on weight they didn't have the same profile of negative effects that is common with a high fat diet."
Dr O'Sullivan says this may help scientists understand why, even though obesity and diabetes are often linked, some people with obesity do not develop diabetes. "It also strongly emphasises the health benefits of exercise for children."
Dr' O'Sullivan's co-investigators were PhD student Dharani Sontam, Professor Mark Vickers, and Professor Elwyn Firth, all from the Liggins Institute.
With rising rates of overweight and obesity in children, it is important to understand the effects of these conditions on bone health, says Professor Vickers, an obesity specialist. "Obesity is governed by many genes. This work highlights the utility of small animal models in teasing out gene-environment interactions in health and disease."
Professor Firth, who studies bone development, explains that childhood and adolescence are periods of rapid bone growth. "If you reach optimal bone mass early in life, you're less likely to suffer from broken bones or other bone-related problems as an adult. Load-bearing from exercise and higher bodyweight is good for growing bones, but this and other evidence shows that if the extra weight comes from higher body fat mass, bone development may be subnormal," he says. "Bone metabolism strongly influences energy metabolism in the body, and metabolism - what you do with energy from diet - is the central crux of why some children and adults become obese."
The team hopes to repeat the experiment to see if the changes persist into old age, and if varying the exercise - when it begins, how much the rats do, and how long they do it for - could alter other genes, affecting other aspects of fat metabolism beneficially.
Molecular mechanisms: Could omega-3 metabolite offer hope in battle against age-related diseases?
Louisiana State University, 28-Jul-2020
A signalling molecule produced by the the omega-3 fatty acid DHA could be used to target age-related conditions and diseases including stroke and Alzheimer’s, new research suggests.
A greater understanding of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) could lead to effective targets and therapies for a variety of diseases, according to a new review published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The team from LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine reported that DHA has been found to produce signalling molecules (docosanoids) when the body’s state of equilibrium is altered due to disease or injury.
One docosanoid in particular, Neuroprotectin D1 (NDP1), is said to protect neurons in the retina and brain, causing researchers to believe this could be a possible route of therapy.
“It is our hope that this knowledge will contribute to managing early stages of such devastating diseases as Alzheimer’s stroke, traumatic brain injury, age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and others,” said lead researcher Professor Nicolas Bazan.
Omega-3 and health
Omega-3, found in foods such as salmon, tuna, algae and walnuts, is well-researched and has many suggested and established health benefits, including established EFSA claims relating to the the maintenance of normal vision, brain function, function of the heart, maintenance of normal blood triglycerides level normal blood pressure.
Furthermore, research has suggested that omega-3 may play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease , reducing cardiovascular disease risk and decreasing mortality rates in postmenopausal women .
According to the omega-3 index, an 8% percentage of omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) + DHA in red blood cells is desirable, while a score of 4% is considered a danger zone.
DHA and NPD1
The new review sheds light on the role of DHA and its NDP1 metabolite on homeostasis changes in the body.
According to the team behind the study, the molecule provokes neuroprotection in cases of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and in experimental stroke. Administration of the molecule was also found to reduce stroke damage and also save tissue in the rim surrounding the stroke core, said Bazan and colleagues.
Furthermore, in case of Alzheimer’s disease, NPD1’s inflammatory properties have been suggested to play a part in preventing the progression of the disease.
Previous research has shown clinical symptoms of early-stage Alzheimer’s include neuro-inflammation, damage to dendritic spines and problems with cell-to-cell communication, all of which coincide with decreased DHA levels in the brain.
Could DHA prevent cell death?
The US-based researchers suggest that NPD1’s inflammatory properties help restore a state of equilibrium in the body, aiding the recovery of cells, and preventing cell death.
“Cell death is considered to be reversible until a first ‘point-of-no-return’ checkpoint is passed,” said Bazan, who noted that although cells can die in multiple ways, by far the most studied forms of cell death are apoptosis and necrosis.
“In degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, age-related macular degeneration and stroke, dysregulation of apoptosis is a central event,” he said.
However, the team believes that NPD1 can prevent cells from reaching this ‘checkpoint’ in cell death activation pathways, including apoptosis, necrosis, necroptosis, pyroptosis, and pyrnecrosis.
“Understanding the molecular mechanisms of action of dietary essential fatty acids will lead to effective treatments of diseases and conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and other retinal and neurodegenerative diseases,” Bazan said.
The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
Green tea ingredient may ameliorate memory impairment, brain insulin resistance, and obesity
Northwest A&F University (China), July 28, 2020
A study published online in The FASEB Journal, involving mice, suggests that EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the most abundant catechin and biologically active component in green tea, could alleviate high-fat and high-fructose (HFFD)-induced insulin resistance and cognitive impairment. Previous research pointed to the potential of EGCG to treat a variety of human diseases, yet until now, EGCG's impact on insulin resistance and cognitive deficits triggered in the brain by a Western diet remained unclear.
"Green tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and is grown in at least 30 countries," said Xuebo Liu, Ph.D., a researcher at the College of Food Science and Engineering, Northwest A&F University, in Yangling, China. "The ancient habit of drinking green tea may be a more acceptable alternative to medicine when it comes to combatting obesity, insulin resistance, and memory impairment."
Liu and colleagues divided 3-month-old male C57BL/6J mice into three groups based on diet: 1) a control group fed with a standard diet, 2) a group fed with an HFFD diet, and 3) a group fed with an HFFD diet and 2 grams of EGCG per liter of drinking water. For 16 weeks, researchers monitored the mice and found that those fed with HFFD had a higher final body weight than the control mice, and a significantly higher final body weight than the HFFD+EGCG mice. In performing a Morris water maze test, researchers found that mice in the HFFD group took longer to find the platform compared to mice in the control group. The HFFD+EGCG group had a significantly lower escape latency and escape distance than the HFFD group on each test day. When the hidden platform was removed to perform a probe trial, HFFD-treated mice spent less time in the target quadrant when compared with control mice, with fewer platform crossings. The HFFD+EGCG group exhibited a significant increase in the average time spent in the target quadrant and had greater numbers of platform crossings, showing that EGCG could improve HFFD-induced memory impairment.
"Many reports, anecdotal and to some extent research-based, are now greatly strengthened by this more penetrating study," said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
Medieval medicine remedy could provide new treatment for modern day infections
University of Warwick UK, July 28, 2020
Antibiotic resistance is an increasing battle for scientists to overcome, as more antimicrobials are urgently needed to treat biofilm-associated infections. However scientists from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick say research into natural antimicrobials could provide candidates to fill the antibiotic discovery gap.
Bacteria can live in two ways, as individual planktonic cells or as a multicellular biofilm. Biofilm helps protect bacteria from antibiotics, making them much harder to treat, one such biofilm that is particularly hard to treat is those that infect diabetic foot ulcers.
Researchers at the University of Warwick, Dr Freya Harrison, Jessica Furner-Pardoe, and Dr Blessing Anonye, have looked at natural remedies for the gap in the antibiotic market, and in the paper, 'Anti-biofilm efficacy of a medieval treatment for bacterial infection requires the combination of multiple ingredients' published in the journal Scientific Reports today the 28 July, researchers say medieval methods using natural antimicrobials from every day ingredients could help find new answers.
The Ancientbiotics research team was established in 2015 and is an interdisciplinary group of researchers including microbiologists, chemists, pharmacists, data analysts and medievalists at Warwick, Nottingham and in the United States.
Building on previous research done by the University of Nottingham on using medieval remedies to treat MRSA, the researchers from the School of Life Sciences at University of Warwick reconstructed a 1,000-year-old medieval remedy containing onion, garlic, wine, and bile salts, which is known as 'Bald's eyesalve', and showed it to have promising antibacterial activity. The team also showed that the mixture caused low levels of damage to human cells.
They found the Bald's eyesalve remedy was effective against a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive wound pathogens in planktonic culture. This activity is maintained against the following pathogens grown as biofilms:
1. Acinetobacter baumanii- commonly associated with infected wounds in combat troops returning from conflict zones.
2. Stenotrophomonas maltophilia- commonly associated with respiratory infections in humans
3. Staphylococcus aureus- a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning.
4. Staphylococcus epidermidis- a common cause of infections involving indwelling foreign devices such as a catheter, surgical wound infections, and bacteremia in immunocompromised patients.
5. Streptococcus pyogenes - causes numerous infections in humans including pharyngitis, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, cellulitis, rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
All of these bacteria can be found in the biofilms that infect diabetic foot ulcers and which can be resistant to antibiotic treatment. These debilitating infections can lead to amputation to avoid the risk of the bacteria spreading to the blood to cause lethal bacteremia.
The Bald's eyesalve mixtures use of garlic, which contains allicin, can explain activity against planktonic cultures, however garlic alone has no activity against biofilms, and therefore the anti-biofilm activity of Bald's eyesalve cannot be attributed to a single ingredient and requires the combination of all ingredients to achieve full activity.
Dr Freya Harrison, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick comments:
"We have shown that a medieval remedy made from onion, garlic, wine, and bile can kill a range of problematic bacteria grown both planktonically and as biofilms. Because the mixture did not cause much damage to human cells in the lab, or to mice, we could potentially develop a safe and effective antibacterial treatment from the remedy.
"Most antibiotics that we use today are derived from natural compounds, but our work highlights the need to explore not only single compounds but mixtures of natural products for treating biofilm infections. We think that future discovery of antibiotics from natural products could be enhanced by studying combinations of ingredients, rather than single plants or compounds. In this first instance, we think this combination could suggest new treatments for infected wounds, such as diabetic foot and leg ulcers. "
Jessica Furner-Pardoe, from the Medical School at the University of Warwick comments:
"Our work demonstrates just how important it is to use realistic models in the lab when looking for new antibiotics from plants. Although a single component is enough to kill planktonic cultures, it fails against more realistic infection models, where the full remedy succeeds."
In previous research Christina Lee, from the School of English at the University of Nottingham, had examined the Bald's Leechbook, an Old English leatherbound volume in the British Library, to see if it really works as an antibacterial remedy. The Leechbook is widely thought of as one of the earliest known medical textbooks and contains Anglo-Saxon medical advice and recipes for medicines, salves and treatments. Christina adds: "Bald's eyesalve underlines the significance of medical treatment throughout the ages. It shows that people in Early Medieval England had at least some effective remedies. The collaboration which has informed this project shows the importance of the arts in interdisciplinary research."
First clinical trial of its kind studies whether cannabidiol could help treat cannabis use disorder, compared to placebo
University of Bath (UK), July 28, 2020
Prescription medication of cannabis extract cannabidiol, or CBD, is safe for daily use in treating cannabis use disorder, and could help people to cut down on cannabis use, according to an initial randomised controlled trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.
The study is the first to report that daily prescribed medical-use CBD use can cause reduction in cannabis use among people with cannabis use disorder, but the four-week study was not designed to provide robust estimates of the magnitude or duration of efficacy and further studies are needed.
Researchers found an optimal daily dose of between 400mg and 800mg of CBD, which is considerably higher than concentrations found in CBD products that are available without prescription (which typically contain around 25mg CBD). They warn that such products should not be used for medicinal purposes.
The authors say that these findings are important in light of major policy changes surrounding the production and sale of cannabis products, increases in the number of people entering treatment for cannabis use disorders worldwide, and the current absence of recommended treatments for cannabis use disorder.
Dr Tom Freeman, the study's lead author and Director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath, UK, said: "Our study provides the first causal evidence to support cannabidiol, or CBD, as a treatment for cannabis use disorders. This is encouraging, as there are currently no drug treatments for cannabis addiction. CBD products are widely available in many countries but we would not advise people to self-medicate with these products. People with concerns about their cannabis use should always speak to a healthcare professional in the first instance." 
Cannabis addiction affects an estimated 22 million people worldwide - similar to the prevalence of opioid use disorders - and the proportion of people seeking help for cannabis use disorders has risen in all world regions apart from Africa. However, there are currently no medications recommended for the treatment of cannabis use disorders.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of more than 80 chemicals present in cannabis. By itself, CBD has been reported to induce feelings of relaxation and calm, but it does not cause the "high" associated with cannabis use, which is caused by a different chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. As a result, CBD is sold legally in many countries in oils, capsules, creams, tea and other products.
Previous studies have suggested that taking CBD products could help to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people who are actively trying to quit cannabis use. However, it hasn't been possible to determine whether these effects were due to CBD, because the studies either used an open-label design (where the participants knew what medications they were taking and so the results could have been biased), or CBD was given together with THC so it wasn't possible to say to which chemical the effects were attributable.
In this latest study, researchers carried out the first randomised clinical trial of cannabidiol for the treatment of cannabis addiction. All 82 people who took part in the study had been diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder of at least moderate severity, which means they experienced at least four out of 11 possible symptoms of addiction. They had all expressed a desire to quit within the next month, and had tried to quit on at least one occasion before.
Participants were randomly assigned to treatment groups and asked to take two capsules of CBD twice daily for four weeks. The placebo group were given sham capsules containing no CBD, while the others received a daily dose of either 200mg, 400mg or 800mg CBD. All of the participants received six counselling sessions designed to help them quit using cannabis, which took place before and during the study period.
Weekly urine samples were tested for levels of THC to assess how much cannabis had been consumed in the past week. Participants were also asked to report how many days they had abstained from using cannabis that week.
The trial used an adaptive design to identify which doses of CBD were effective or ineffective compared to placebo. In the first stage of the trial, 12 people per group were assigned to either placebo, 200mg, 400mg or 800mg CBD (48 total). After the first phase of the study, the 200mg dose was found to be ineffective and these participants were removed from the trial. A further 34 people were recruited to the second stage of the study and randomly assigned to receive daily doses of either the placebo (11 people), 400mg CBD (12 people) or 800mg CBD (11 people).
Daily CBD doses of 400mg and 800mg were both found to reduce participants' cannabis intake (reducing THC levels in the urine by -94.21ng/mL and -72.02ng/mL, respectively). In addition, abstinence from cannabis use increased by an average of 0.5 days per week in the group who received the 400mg daily dose of CBD and 0.3 days per week in the group who received 800mg CBD daily.
The researchers observed no difference in side effects experienced by the placebo group and those receiving any dose of CBD. 77 of 82 participants completed the treatment and those who dropped out did so because of missing study visits, being lost to follow up, not taking the study medication, or taking additional medications, and not because of the CBD treatment. There were no serious adverse events during the study, suggesting that CBD is safe and well tolerated at the doses tested.
Professor Valerie Curran, senior author and Director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at University College London, UK, said: "Our findings indicate that CBD doses ranging from 400mg to 800mg daily have the potential to reduce cannabis use in clinical settings, but higher doses are unlikely to bring any additional benefit. Larger studies are needed to determine the magnitude of the benefits of daily CBD for reducing cannabis use." 
The study was carried out over a four week treatment period with follow up extending to six months. The researchers say additional research is needed to investigate the extent to which their findings translate to different durations of treatment. Studies are also needed to investigate whether CBD directly reduces cannabis use or if it reduces other mental health symptoms which might indirectly affect cannabis use, such as anxiety.
Pessimistic outlook on life linked to life expectancy
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (Australia). July 28, 2020
A new QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute study has found people who are strongly pessimistic about the future are at greater risk of dying earlier than those who are not pessimists.
The researchers also found, however, that being an optimist did not extend life expectancy.
The lead researcher, Dr. John Whitfield from QIMR Berghofer's Genetic Epidemiology group, said study participants who scored higher on pessimism in a questionnaire were likely to die on average two years earlier than those with low scores.
"We found people who were strongly pessimistic about the future were more likely to die earlier from cardiovascular diseases and other causes of death, but not from cancer," Dr. Whitfield said.
"Optimism scores on the other hand did not show a significant relationship with death, either positive or negative.
"Less than nine percent of respondents identified as being strongly pessimistic. There were no significant differences in optimism or pessimism between men and women. On average, an individual's level of either optimism or pessimism increased with age.
"We also found depression did not appear to account for the association between pessimism and mortality."
The researchers used data collected from almost 3,000 participants who completed the Life Orientation Test as part of a broader questionnaire that looked at the health of Australians aged over 50 between 1993 and 1995.
The participants were invited to agree or disagree with a number of statements including positive statements such as, 'I'm always optimistic about my future' or negative statements such as, 'If something can go wrong for me, it will'.
The participants' details were then cross checked with the Australian National Death Index in October 2017 to find out how many people had died and their cause of death. (More than 1,000 participants had died.)
Previous studies have shown a correlation between optimism and pessimism and specific diseases such as cardiovascular disease or stroke, but most previous studies also put optimism and pessimism on one scale.
This resulted in people who received low scores on the pessimism questions being classed as optimists, but Dr. Whitfield said that was not always an accurate reflection of people's outlooks.
"Optimism and pessimism are not direct opposites," Dr. Whitfield said.
"The key feature of our results is that we used two separate scales to measure pessimism and optimism and their association with all causes of death.
"That is how we discovered that while strong pessimism was linked with earlier death, those who scored highly on the optimism scale did not have a greater than average life expectancy.
"We think it's unlikely that the disease caused the pessimism because we did not find that people who died from cancer had registered a strong pessimism score in their tests. If illness was leading to higher pessimism scores, it should have applied to cancers as well as to cardiovascular disease."
Dr. Whitfield said the research findings raised questions about the practical health benefits of training people out of pessimism.
"Understanding that our long term health can be influenced by whether we're a cup-half-full or cup-half-empty kind of person might be the prompt we need to try to change the way we face the world, and try to reduce negativity, even in really difficult circumstances."
The study findings have been published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.
Wealthier men are more likely to develop high blood pressure
Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine (Japan), 26 July 2020:
Working men with higher incomes are more likely to develop high blood pressure, reports a study presented at the 84th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Japanese Circulation Society (JCS 2020).
JCS 2020 takes place online from 27 July to 2 August in conjunction with the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology Congress 2020 (APSC 2020). Joint scientific sessions are being held by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and JCS as part of the ESC Global Activities programme.1
"Men with higher incomes need to improve their lifestyles to prevent high blood pressure," said study author Dr. Shingo Yanagiya of the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan. "Steps include eating healthily, exercising, and controlling weight. Alcohol should be kept to moderate levels and binge drinking avoided."
More than one billion people have high blood pressure worldwide.2 Around 30-45% of adults are affected, rising to more than 60% of people over 60 years of age. High blood pressure is the leading global cause of premature death, accounting for almost 10 million deaths in 2015. Of those, 4.9 million were due to ischaemic heart disease and 3.5 million were due to stroke.
Japan alone has more than 10 million people with high blood pressure, and the number continues to rise. Dr. Yanagiya said: "High blood pressure is a lifestyle-related disease. As a physician seeing these patients I wanted to know if risk varies with socioeconomic class, to help us focus our prevention efforts."
This analysis of the J-HOPE3 study examined the relationship between household income and high blood pressure in Japanese employees. A total of 4,314 staff (3,153 men and 1,161 women) with daytime jobs and normal blood pressure were enrolled in 2012 from 12 workplaces.
Workers were divided into four groups according to annual household income: less than 5 million, 5 to 7.9 million, 8 to 9.9 million, and 10 million or more Japanese yen per year. The researchers investigated the association between income and developing high blood pressure over a two-year period.
Compared to men in the lowest income category, men in the highest income group were nearly twice as likely to develop high blood pressure. Men in the 5 to 7.9 million and 8 to 9.9 million groups had a 50% higher risk of developing high blood pressure compared to men with the lowest incomes, although the positive association did not reach statistical significance in the 8 to 9.9 million group.
The findings were consistent regardless of age, and were independent of baseline blood pressure, worksite, occupation, number of family members, and smoking. The relationships were slightly weakened after accounting for alcohol consumption and body mass index (BMI; kg/m2), both of which were higher for men in the higher income groups.
In women, there was no significant link between income and blood pressure. However, women with higher household income tended to have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
"Some previous Japanese surveys have reported that higher household income is associated with more undesirable lifestyles in men, but not in women," said Dr. Yanagiya. "Our study supports this: men, but not women, with higher household incomes were more likely to be obese and drink alcohol every day. Both behaviours are major risk factors for hypertension."
He concluded: "Men with high-paying daytime jobs are at particular risk of high blood pressure. This applies to men of all ages, who can greatly decrease their chance of a heart attack or stroke by improving their health behaviours."
Dr. Yusuke Yoshikawa, public relations coordinator for JCS 2020, said: "Hypertension is one of the most important risk factors of cardiovascular disease in Japan, because the average daily salt intake in Japan (approx. 10 g/day) is much higher than desired. As the current guidelines2 strongly recommend healthy lifestyle to control high blood pressure, this study suggests a potential key to successful intervention for those who are at risk of heart disease and stroke."
Professor Michel Komajda, a Past President of the ESC and course director of the ESC programme at JCS 2020, said: "The ESC is delighted to be part of JCS 2020 in Kyoto. We value our special partnership with JCS and the high quality of Japanese research. Japan is among the top submitters of abstracts to ESC Congress."
Acute exercise has beneficial effects on the immune system during prostate cancer
Victoria University (Australia), July 28, 2020
New research published this week in Experimental Physiology found that in prostate cancer survivors, a moderate bout of exercise kept the cell count of certain type of immune cells at a normal level, suggesting the exercise is safe for prostate cancer survivors. After 24 hours after a moderate bout of cycling, the immune cell count of natural killer (NK) cells, part of the body's first line of defence, had returned to resting levels.
Prostate cancer treatments, including androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), have numerous adverse effects that reduce physical function and quality of life. Exercise is recommended for cancer survivors to reduce the side effects of treatment and has shown to have many benefits.
However, the effects of prostate cancer treatment and acute exercise on the immune system have only been briefly examined. Exercise oncology guidelines were initially based on the responses seen in healthy, older adults. But individuals with cancer have different physiological responses to exercise, many of which we are only just beginning to understand.
Exercise helps the immune system mobilise by causing NK cells to move into the blood and be transported them to areas of need, such as sites of infection or tumours. At the tissues, these cells move out of circulation and in cancer patients they can the infiltrate the tumour and potentially slow the tumour's rate of growth. This has been shown very elegantly in animal models but the exercise and immune response in cancer survivors is limited, with only a few studies in prostate cancer.
The researchers, based at Victoria University in Australia, had volunteers (11 cancer survivors currently receiving ADT treatment, and 14 men with prostate cancer not on ADT, and 8 healthy controls) completed a cycling task to determine their maximal aerobic fitness.
The researchers chose to use a moderate intensity exercise session that was consistent with current exercise oncology guidelines but was also a bout that would be practical for prostate cancer survivors to perform on their own.
To ensure that the exercise bout used to stimulate the immune system was the same degree of difficulty for everyone, they standardised based on their maximal effort.
To determine immune function, they obtained blood samples before exercise, immediately after and 2h after they finished cycling. The participants then came back the next day (24h) after exercise, and immune function was assessed again after one night of recovery. They also measured several key hormone levels, including adrenaline and noradrenaline, as they play a role in activating and mobilising the NK immune cells.
The researchers found that 24 hours after a moderate bout of cycling, the immune cell count of natural killer (NK) cells, part of the body's first line of defence, had returned to resting levels.
They also showed that the immune cell mobilisation with exercise does not appear to be significantly altered during prostate cancer treatment, which provides direct evidence that acute exercise that falls within current oncology guidelines also appears to be beneficial for the immune system.
A limitation of the study is the modest sample size, and also that they examined cytokines and proteins that are related to NK cell function but did not directly assess the killing capacity of the NK cells.
Erik D Hanson, first author on the study said,
"One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with these men is how willing these men are to help their fellow prostate cancer survivors. Many of them realise that these studies are not likely to benefit them directly. However, they do not hesitate to volunteer and are willing to do just about whatever is asked of them for the collective good."
Study shows mango consumption has positive impact on inflammatory bowel disease
Texas A&M University, July 29, 2020
Initial results of a study by researchers in the department of nutrition and food science at Texas A&M University in College Station show mango consumption has a positive impact on people with inflammatory bowel disease.
Dr. Susanne Talcott, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist, and others recently investigated the use of fresh mangoes as an adjuvant to conventional therapy in mild to moderate inflammatory bowel disease.
"Inflammatory bowel disease presents a major risk factor for colon cancer with the most common forms of this disorder being Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis," Talcott said. "Previous studies indicate that IBD affects about 1.5 million individuals in the U.S., about 2.2 million in Europe and many more in other countries."
"Colorectal cancer can develop from precursor lesions that can be caused by inflammatory bowel disease over periods of 10 to 15 years, which provides an extended time for preventive measures," she said.
Talcott said multiple studies have demonstrated the health benefits of secondary plant compounds in fruits and vegetables including pomegranate, citrus and curcuminoids, and polyphenolics have been found to reduce inflammatory processes in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases.
"However, few human clinical studies using polyphenolics in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease have been conducted," she said.
Mangos are rich in gallotannins, a group of large molecular polyphenols that can be broken down to small, absorbable, bioactive molecules by certain intestinal bacteria.
To investigate the impact of mango polyphenolics on humans, Talcott's team, which included husband Dr. Stephen Alcott, also an AgriLife Research scientist, designed a clinical trial conducted at Texas A&M. Trial subjects were recruited in the College Station area and at the Ertan Digestive Disease Center at the Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston under the direction of Dr. Andrew Dupont, MD.
The study was designed as a controlled clinical pilot trial in subjects with mild-to-moderate active Crohn's disease or mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis. Subjects ate mango as an adjunct to their common drug treatment for mild-to-moderate IBD.
Male and female individuals from 18 to 79 years old with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis were enrolled in the study. Those included were individuals undergoing current or previous IBD drug treatment within the past six months and those on a stable drug regimen for at least three weeks before the start of the treatment phase of the study.
Excluded from the study were those with chronic health conditions or recurrent hospitalizations, as well as those who smoked more than one pack of cigarettes per week, had a current liver or renal dysfunction, were pregnant or lactating or had a known lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Also excluded were those with planned or scheduled IBD-related surgery, current IBD-related intestinal stricture, current infection with C. difficile or a previous bowel resection.
Medical personnel evaluated more than 300 subjects for the study based on medical records or surveys. Twenty subjects participated in some aspect of the study, including the screening, with 14 completing the study.
Subjects were provided with and asked to include 200-400 grams of commercially available frozen mangos of the Keitt variety in their daily diet. They were asked to increase their mango consumption slowly over the first week.
"Since the tolerability of large amounts of fiber-rich fruit varies between subjects and for each patient over time, this study allowed subjects to consume mango within a range rather than a fixed amount," Talcott said. "This range was from 200 grams twice daily to 400 grams three times a day."
She said subjects could skip their mango consumption or reduce it to accommodate any possible digestive issues, but were required to document their daily mango intake. Subjects who underwent an endoscopy before the beginning of this study were asked to wait at least one week before the study treatment could be started. The treatment phase of the study was eight weeks.
"Despite a relatively small subject number, this study yielded significant findings and several biomarkers would have been significantly reduced with a higher number of subjects," Talcott said.
She said symptoms of ulcerative colitis were significantly reduced in the test subjects and several biomarkers associated with inflammation were decreased after eight weeks of mango consumption. Additionally, the presence of GRO, a molecule associated with colon cancer growth, was significantly reduced.
"Intestinal Lactobacilli and other beneficial probiotic bacteria were significantly increased after the consumption of mango as were certain short-chain fatty acids essential for a healthy intact intestinal tract," she said.
Talcott said high endotoxin levels are not only associated with intestinal inflammation but also with other chronic inflammatory diseases, but after eight weeks of mango consumption, high endotoxin levels in blood plasma were significantly decreased.
"Taken together, our results indicate mango intake exerted beneficial effects in the progression and severity of the IBD after eight weeks of nutritional intervention," she said.
She noted mango consumption might also mitigate inflammation in part by improving the composition of the intestinal microbiota and decreasing the serum endotoxin level.
"All subjects who completed the study stated they would continue to consume mangoes regularly and will recommend this to others who suffer from IBD and also tell their physicians," Talcott said.
She said if mango or any other polyphenolic-rich food can be identified as helpful in shortening or reducing severity of episodes of inflammatory bowel disease, the addition of mango polyphenolics to conventional IBD drug treatment could have a significant positive impact on public health.
Meta-analysis supports potential of omega-3s for ADHD
Kings College London, July 28, 2020
Omega-3s fatty acid supplements may improve symptoms and cognitive performance in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a meta-analysis of gold standard clinical trials.
Data from seven clinical trials involving over 500 children and adolescents indicated that omega-3s were associated with improvements in clinical symptoms of ADHD, while data from three clinical trials involving over 200 children and adolescents indicated a positive impact on cognitive measures associated with attention.
“[W]e provide strong evidence supporting a role for n3-PUFAs deficiency in ADHD, and for advocating n-3 PUFAs supplementation as a clinically relevant intervention in this group, especially if guided by a biomarker-based personalization approach,” wrote the authors, led by Jane Pei-Chen Chang from King’s College London, in Neuropsychopharmacology .
Boosting EPA/DHA intakes
Commenting independently on the meta-analysis, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED): “In the past, I've been lukewarm on whether or not increasing EPA/DHA intake benefits children with ADHD. Results from this meta-analysis put me a little closer to believing.
“Minimally, given the low side effect profile of omega-3s versus the drugs of choice to treat ADHD, I would highly recommend first increasing intake of EPA/DHA. This is particularly true if a child doesn't eat at least two servings of fatty fish a week or doesn't take an omega-3 supplement on a regular basis.”
The new meta-analysis was performed using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines and used established scientific literature databases to identify appropriate studies for inclusion.
Data from seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with 534 young people indicated that that omega-s3 supplementation significantly improved inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, according to parental reports.
Additional analysis revealed that the improvements in hyperactivity were only observed when doses of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) of 500 mg/day or more were used.
Interesting, the researchers did not find improvements in hyperactivity and inattention when they looked at teacher’s reports, unlike what was reported by parents.
Omega-3 supplements were associated with improvements in select measures of cognitive performance, said the researchers.
“N-3 PUFAs are crucial for optimal neurotransmitter function: for example, incorporating more EPA and DHA in the cell membrane can increase cholesterol efflux, modulate lipid raft clustering and disruption, and affect the function of the dopamine transporter (DAT), which in turn may affect attention and executive function by regulating synaptic dopamine levels,” wrote the researchers.
Data from case-control studies were also collected to assess if omega-3 levels were also associated with ADHD, with results indicating that children and adolescents with ADHD had lower levels of EPA, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid),and total omega-3s.
“In the context of ‘personalised medicine’, it is tempting to speculate that a subpopulation of youth with ADHD and with low levels of n-3 PUFAs may respond better to n-3 PUFAs supplementation, but there are no studies to date attempting this stratification approach,” wrote the researchers. “However, we have [previously] shown that individuals at genetic risk of developing depression in the context of the immune challenge, interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha), have lower levels of RBCs n3-PUFAs, and that n-3 PUFAs supplementation prevents the onset of IFN-alpha-induced depression, arguably by replenishing the endogenously low anti-inflammatory PUFAs in the ‘at risk’ individuals.”
Consuming alliums like onions and garlic found to lower colorectal cancer risk by 79 percent
China Medical University, July 24, 2020
In a recent study published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, Chinese researchers found that eating high amounts of allium vegetables corresponded to a 79 percent reduction in colorectal cancer risk.
According to senior author Zhi Li from The First Hospital of China Medical University, their findings highlight a trend: The greater the amount of alliums consumed, the better the protection against colorectal cancer.
Higher allium consumption linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer
For their research, the team compared the food intake of 833 colorectal cancer patients to that of 833 healthy participants (controls) who matched them in terms of age, sex and area of residence. The researchers used food frequency questionnaires to collect the participants’ dietary information.
The researchers found that those who consumed high amounts of allium vegetables had a 79 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Li said that their findings shed light on the role of lifestyle intervention in the prevention of colorectal cancer.
However, Mary Flynn, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University in Rhode Island, noted that although these findings are interesting, it bears stressing that the colorectal cancer patients had a greater family history of the disease than the controls.
The colorectal cancer patients also smoked more and reported consuming less fruits, more alcohol and almost double the amount of red meat than the controls. Together, Flynn says that these factors may have influenced the significant reductions in colorectal cancer risk observed.
On the other hand, the link between allium consumption and lower colon cancer risk remained even after these differences were factored into the analysis, suggesting that allium vegetables like onions, garlic, leeks and shallots do have strong cancer-fighting potential.
The study is one of many that report the anti-cancer benefits of allium vegetables, which are attributed to their sulfur-containing active components. (Related: Researchers explore the anti-cancer potential of a local onion from Iran.)
Garlic, onion and other alliums: promising candidates for holistic cancer treatment
Alliums like onions and garlic are among the most studied cancer-fighting foods, besides cruciferous vegetables, because of their abundance of phenolic compounds.
In a recent article published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, a team of scientists from the U.S. highlighted the ability of allium vegetables to prevent different types of cancer.
In particular, multiple mechanistic studies agree that the sulfur-containing compounds in alliums are responsible for their anti-carcinogenic properties. Some of these compounds include allicin, alliin and ajoene.
According to several epidemiological studies, increased intake of these allium components is linked to a decreased risk of certain cancers, such as stomach, colon, esophageal and prostate cancer.
In another recent article published in the journal Food Research International, researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada found a local variety of red onions to be the most effective at killing both colon and breast cancer cells.
The team attributed the cancer-fighting potential of Ontario-grown red onions to their high quercetin and anthocyanin content. Both flavonoids have been studied in the past as chemopreventive agents in several cancer models.
Taken together, these studies offer ample proof that allium vegetables are excellent natural medicines for various types of cancer.
Link confirmed between a healthy diet and prostate cancer prevention
An INRS team shows an association between eating habits and prostate cancer
National Institute for Scientific Research (Montreal), July 28, 2020
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that more than 23,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020. Among other risk factors, more and more studies point to diet as a major factor in the development of prostate cancer, as it is for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Using data from a study conducted in Montreal between 2005 and 2012, a research team led by Professor Marie-Élise Parent of Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) has shown a link between diet and prostate cancer in the article "Dietary Patterns Are Associated with Risk of Prostate Cancer in a Population-Based Case-Control Study in Montreal, Canada", published in Nutrients in June.
Three main dietary profiles analyzed
INRS PhD student Karine Trudeau, the lead author of the study, based her analysis on three main dietary profiles: healthy diet, salty Western diet including alcohol, and sugar-rich Western diet with beverages. The first profile leans heavily towards fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins like tofu and nuts. The salty Western diet with alcohol includes more meat and beverages such as beer and wine. The third profile is rich in pasta, pizza, desserts, and sugary carbonated drinks. The study took age, ethnicity, education, family history, and date of last prostate cancer screening into account.
Marie-Élise Parent and Karine Trudeau found a link between a healthy diet and a lower risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, a Western diet with sweets and beverages was associated with a higher risk and seemed to be a factor in more aggressive forms of cancer. The study did not show any clear link between a Western diet with salt and alcohol and the risk of developing the disease.
Moving away from the typical approach used in epidemiological studies, which involves looking at one nutrient or food group at a time, the researchers collected data from a broader dietary profile. "It's not easy to isolate the effect of a single nutrient," explained Ms. Trudeau. "For example, foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, promote iron absorption. Calcium is often found in dairy products, which also contain vitamin D. Our more targeted approach takes this synergy into account to produce more meaningful results that public health authorities can use to formulate recommendations. Rather than counting on one miracle food, people should look at their overall diet."
"For a long time we've suspected that diet might play a role in the development of prostate cancer, but it was very hard to pinpoint the specific factors at play," said Professor Parent. "This study is significant because it looks at dietary habits as a whole. We've uncovered evidence that, we hope, can be used to develop prevention strategies for prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men in Canada and many other countries."
In addition to INRS faculty and students Marie-Élise Parent, Karine Trudeau, Christine Barul, and Marie-Claude Rousseau, Ilona Csizmadi (Cumming School of Medicine) participated in the research. The study was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the Cancer Research Society (CRS), Fonds de la recherche du Québec--Santé (FRQS), and Ministère de l'Économie et de l'Innovation (MEI).
Study reveals humans are impatient, even down to seconds
Ohio University, July 28, 2020
An Ohio University study seeking to understand the psychological mechanisms of waiting for a larger reward in contrast to instant gratification with a smaller reward was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, a flagship journal of the American Psychological Association.
The research team discussed in their paper how their findings show that people are impatient not only when thinking about whether to wait or not for a larger reward in the abstract, but they are even more impatient when they actually must wait to receive a larger reward. In the study, the amounts and delays were small (in cents and seconds), but even in the small-scale participants demonstrated myopic behavior, as in preferring the smaller payoff sooner.
"In this particular paper, we're interested in how people make decisions that entail comparing the time that it takes to get something versus how much one will get," said Dr. Claudia González Vallejo, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology and second author of the paper. "Those types of experiments are under an umbrella of what is called intertemporal choice, which refers to studying how people make tradeoffs between amounts, either to gain or to lose, relative to the timing of those."
The paper's lead author is Dr. Ping Xu, currently of Shenzhen University's School of Psychology, and the third author is Dr. Benjamin Vincent of University of Dundee's School of Social Sciences.
The paper is based on Xu's dissertation from 2019 as she graduated from OHIO under Dr. González Vallejo's mentoring. "I feel lucky, honored and touched. I am proud of my team," Xu said of having the paper finally published.
In the study, the researchers made a realistic situation in which participants could actually experience the time of waiting to receive something, with payoffs and units of time adjusted to be smaller altogether, while at a computer.
This worked by having a participant make decisions between coins that were small and could be received immediately, or larger ones that required a waiting period in seconds before they could be picked up. For each choice, the participant could thus wait and get something larger, or take the smaller reward. Two groups received identical choice options but differed on whether they had to wait to receive the larger payoff after each choice was made or not. In other words, one group experienced the delay after each selection, whereas the other group did not and expected waiting at the end of the experiment instead.
Before the results, González Vallejo thought that the time to wait was so small that it wouldn't matter to participants. If it was only a few seconds, surely they would take the larger reward every time, she thought. However, that was not the result.
"We found that in both situations, people did make the tradeoff between time and money. It wasn't that they would just go for few more cents every time because the amounts of time were too small to even think about them. So, delays matter—even seconds to people matter," González Vallejo said. "In general, people are just very impatient."
Xu said, "[The results] overturned our initial plans and predictions, and led us towards something surprising, or to a direction we had never thought of."
Using mathematical modeling, two reasons for the findings include that time feels longer when experiencing it and the amount of the reward is devalued when it is delayed, with the study finding support for both reasonings. Future empirical tests are needed to test these ideas further.
Although the research project was started a couple years ago, González Vallejo noted that the findings can be applicable to the current pandemic.
For example, while some countries implemented earlier and longer lockdowns and mask mandates, others showed hesitation to implement such policies or did not wait through the mandates long enough for cases to decrease substantially, with cases continuing to grow.
"I think a lot of experts right now come together and agree on some studies that have shown that if [the United States] had remained in lockdown, or if lockdowns were done earlier and longer, perhaps things would have unfolded differently," González Vallejo said. "Waiting is not easy, as our study showed, and I think future research in terms of analyzing different countries' policies with that in mind will show how some policies requiring patience ended up giving different outcomes for this pandemic."
Publishing in a flagship APA journal is extremely competitive and difficult, thus relief exists among the team for the accomplishment to have the work finally published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General after several months.
"When I saw the final publication, I felt that I have graduated for the second time," Xu said. "I am lucky having [that] kind of experience."
Low plasma 25(OH) vitamin D level associated with increased risk of COVID-19 infection
Bar Ilan University (Israel), July 28, 2020
Vitamin D is recognized as an important co-factor in several physiological processes linked with bone and calcium metabolism, and also in diverse non-skeletal outcomes, including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cognitive decline, and infections. In particular, the pronounced impact of vitamin D metabolites on the immune system response, and on the development of COVID-19 infection by the novel SARS CoV-2 virus, has been previously described in a few studies worldwide.
The collaborative group of scientists from the Leumit Health Services (LHS) and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University aimed to determine associations of low plasma 25(OH)D with the risk of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization. Using the real-world data and Israeli cohort of 782 COVID-19 positive patients and 7,807 COVID-19 negative patients, the groups identified that low plasma vitamin D level appears to be an independent risk factor for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization. The research was just published in The FEBS Journal.
"The main finding of our study was the significant association of low plasma vitamin D level with the likelihood of COVID-19 infection among patients who were tested for COVID-19, even after adjustment for age, gender, socio-economic status and chronic, mental and physical disorders," said Dr. Eugene Merzon, Head of the Department of Managed Care and leading researcher of the LHS group. "Furthermore, low vitamin D level was associated with the risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection, although this association wasn't significant after adjustment for other confounders," he added. "Our finding is in agreement with the results of previous studies in the field. Reduced risk of acute respiratory tract infection following vitamin D supplementation has been reported," said Dr. Ilan Green, Head of the LHS Research Institute.
"According to our analysis, persons that were COVID-19 positive were older than non-infected persons. Interestingly, the two-peak distributions for age groups were demonstrated to confer increased risk for COVID-19: around ages 25 and 50 years old," said Dr. Milana Frenkel-Morgenstern, the leader of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine research group. "The first peak may be explained by high social gathering habits at the young age. The peak at age 50 years may be explained by continued social habits, in conjunction with various chronic diseases," Dr. Frenkel-Morgenstern continued.
"Surprisingly, chronic medical conditions, like dementia, cardiovascular disease, and chronic lung disease that were considered to be very risky in previous studies, were not found as increasing the rate of infection in our study," noted Prof. Shlomo Vinker, LHS Chief Medical Officer. "However, this finding is highly biased by the severe social contacts restrictions that were imposed on all the population during the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, we assume that following the Israeli Ministry of Health instructions, patients with chronic medical conditions significantly reduced their social contacts. This might indeed minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection in that group of patients," explained Prof. Vinker.
Dr. Dmitry Tworowski and Dr. Alessandro Gorohovski. from the Frenkel-Morgenstern laboratory at Bar-Ilan University's Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, suggest that the study will have a very significant impact. "The main strength of our study is its being large, real-world, and population-based," they explained. Now researchers are planning to evaluate factors associated with mortality due to COVID-19 in Israel. "We are willing to find associations to the COVID-19 clinical outcomes (for example, pre-infection glycemic control of COVID-19 patients) to make the assessment of mortality risk due to COVID-19 infection in Israel," said Dr. Eugene Merzon.
Oral N-acetylcysteine improved cone function in retinitis pigmentosa patients
Johns Hopkins University, July 23, 2020
According to news reporting out of Baltimore, Maryland, by NewsRx editors, research stated, “In retinitis pigmentosa (RP), rod photoreceptors degenerate from 1 of many mutations, after which cones are compromised by oxidative stress. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) reduces oxidative damage and increases cone function/survival in RP models.”
Our news journalists obtained a quote from the research from Johns Hopkins University, “We tested the safety, tolerability, and visual function effects of oral NAC in RP patients. Subjects (n = 10 per cohort) received 600 mg (cohort 1), 1200 mg (cohort 2), or 1800 mg (cohort 3) NAC bid for 12 weeks and then tid for 12 weeks. Best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), macular sensitivity, ellipsoid zone (EZ) width, and aqueous NAC were measured. Linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate the rates of changes during the treatment period. There were 9 drug related gastrointestinal adverse events that resolved spontaneously or with dose reduction (maximum tolerated dose 1800 mg bid). During the 24-week treatment period, mean BCVA significantly improved at 0.4 (95% CI: 0.2-0.6, P< 0.001), 0.5 (95% CI: 0.3-0.7, P< 0.001), and 0.2 (95% CI: 0.02-0.4, P = 0.03) letters/month in cohorts 1, 2, and 3, respectively. There was no significant improvement in mean sensitivity over time in cohorts land 2, but there was in cohort 3 (0.15 dB/month, 95% CI: 0.04-0.26). There was no significant change in mean EZ width in any cohort. Oral NAC is safe and well tolerated in patients with moderately advanced RP and may improve suboptimally functioning macular cones.”
According to the news editors, the research concluded: “A randomized, placebo-controlled trial is needed to determine if oral NAC can provide long-term stabilization and/or improvement in visual function in patients with RP.”
Excessive screen time for toddlers linked to less physical activity, stunted development
National University of Singapore, July 21, 2020
As the world continues to advance, technology is becoming a bigger part of every child’s development. Playing on various digital devices for too long, however, can be just as bad for kids as it is for adults. A recent study says excessive screen time may stunt a child’s growth, especially if they start using devices around age two or three.
Researchers in Singapore examined over 500 children. Their findings lead them to recommend parents follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which advise limiting a child’s screen time to one hour per day. This amount should be even less for children younger than five.
Tracking the many forms of screen time
Study authors say screen time tends to replace time children usually spend sleeping or engaging in physical activity. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including high risk of obesity and lower mental development.
Until this report, researchers say most studies focus on school-aged children and adolescents, producing mixed results.
“We sought to determine whether screen viewing habits at age two to three affected how children spent their time at age five. In particular we were interested in whether screen viewing affected sleep patterns and activity levels later in childhood,” researcher Falk Müller-Riemenschneider explains in a media release.
Parents were asked to report on their children’s screen time at age two and again one year later. Activities like playing video games, watching TV, and using a tablet or phone were all included in the results.
When the children turned five, they continuously wore an activity tracker for seven days. That tracker monitors sleep, time spent sitting, and how much light-to-strenuous physical activity the youngsters get.
How do youngsters spend their time?
On average, the average child watches 2.5 hours of television. TV is the most used device. Children spending at least three hours a day in front of a screen are also spending an average of 40 more minutes sitting down compared to more active five year-olds.
The results also reveal children at age five are also less active if they’ve been using devices too much early on. Those youths are getting about 30 minutes less light activity each day and 10 minutes less vigorous exercise as well.
“Our findings support public health efforts to reduce screen viewing time in young children,” Bozhi Chen from the National University of Singapore says.
Sleep habits do not seem to be heavily affected by too much screen usage.
Room for improvement
Researchers note the results also need to take into account biases by the parents. They believe some adults may leave out information on their child’s diet, sleep patterns, and environmental factors such as childcare.
Dr. Dorothea Dumuid of the University of South Australia, who is not a part of the study, argues the findings aren’t enough to definitively link screen time with reduced physical activity.
“In this rapidly evolving digital age, children’s screen use is a key concern for parents and medical bodies. Guidelines to limit screen time have been released by many governments and WHO, however, screens offer digital and social connectedness and educational opportunities,” she says. “Future research is needed to assess the influence of media content, to determine optimum durations of screen time.”
Chen and the team from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health say more studies are necessary to determine the long-term health effects of the growing digital influence on kids.
Research shows Mexican walnut can protect the kidneys from ischemic injury
Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León School of Medicine (Mexico), July 24, 2020
Some species from the genus Juglans – the largest and most widely distributed of the eight genera in the walnut family – have diverse biological activities, such as anti-hypertensive, antioxidant, lipolytic (fat-metabolizing), anti-hyperglycemic, anti-lipidemic and anti-proliferative properties. Studies suggest that these activities may be useful in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments, ranging from minor complaints like diarrhea and stomach pain to more serious conditions like arthritis, diabetes and cancer.
Juglans mollis, commonly known as Mexican walnut, is traditionally used to make medicine in northeastern Mexico. Parts of this medium-sized tree are said to be effective against microbial infections and ulcers. Although reports about its biological properties vary, the bark extract of the Mexican walnut tree has consistently been found to have antioxidant, hepatoprotective and anti-mycobacterial activities.
In a recent study, Mexican researchers evaluated the biological activity of Mexican walnut bark extract. Specifically, they investigated whether it can protect against damage caused by ischemia-reperfusion (I/R). Also known as reoxygenation injury, I/R damage occurs when blood supply to a section of tissue or an organ returns (reperfusion) after a period of ischemia, or lack of oxygen.
The researchers reported their findings in an article published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Mexican walnut bark exhibits kidney-protective activity
Oxidative stress – an imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants – and inflammation are two events involved in I/R injury. But recent studies suggest that Mexican walnut has antioxidant properties that can help reduce the damage caused by I/R.
To determine if it can protect the kidneys from I/R damage, the researchers tested its bark extract on a rat model of I/R injury. They divided 24 rats into four groups, which were designated as the sham group, the I/R group, the extract group and the extract plus I/R group.
The researchers pretreated two groups with the bark extract (300 mg/kg) for seven?days before inducing I/R. This step involved clamping the renal hilums for 45 minutes then reperfusing the kidneys for 15 hours.
The researchers then took blood samples to evaluate the levels of kidney function markers (i.e., alanine aminotransferase (ALT), blood urea nitrogen and creatinine), oxidative stress markers (i.e., superoxide dismutase (SOD) and malondialdehyde (MDA)) and pro-inflammatory molecules (i.e., interleukin-1B (IL-1B), IL-6 and TNF-a).
The researchers found that the extract plus?I/R group had lower creatinine, ALT, MDA, IL-1B, IL-6 and TNF-a levels than the I/R group. On the other hand, the extract plus?I/R group had higher levels of SOD, an antioxidant enzyme, than the sham group. These findings suggest that the Mexican walnut bark extract can not only reduce kidney injury but also improve blood antioxidant levels.
In addition, compared with the sham group, the researchers observed no biochemical or histological damage in the rats treated with the extract. The rats in the extract?plus?I/R group also had less histological damage than the rats in the I/R group. (Related: Black cumin prevents kidney damage.)
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that the bark of the Mexican walnut tree can protect against I/R-induced kidney damage. This activity may be attributed to the plant’s ability to decrease inflammation and modulate oxidative stress markers (SOD and MDA).
Magnesium-Rich Foods and Why You Need Them
You may have a low level of magnesium in your diet that is preventing you from reaping important health benefits
Magnesium (Mg) is considered a healthy mineral essential to your body, but it is estimated that 75% of Americans and people around the world are well below the recommended daily intake of Mg.[i] Luckily, there is an easy fix, since magnesium is bountiful in many foods.
Bright leafy greens/veggies (magnesium gives them that rich green color) top the magnesium-dense list including spinach, chard, broccoli and kale, followed closely by legumes such as lima beans, black beans, peas and edamame (soybean).[ii] When it comes to snacks, seeds[iii] (pumpkin and flax), nuts[iv] (almonds, cashews, peanut butter) and dark chocolate[v] pack a high magnesium punch.
Healthy omega-3 fats and magnesium are also abundant in salmon, tuna and avocado.[vi] Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, buckwheat and even wild rice (technically a grass) are filled with magnesium.[vii] For a list of the top 25 magnesium-rich foods, see Table 1.
25 Foods Rich in Magnesium
Magnesium (100% Daily Value = 420 mg)
1 cup cooked
157 mg (37%)
157 mg (37%)
Seeds (Pumpkin and Squash)
156 mg (37%)
1 cup cooked
126 mg (30%)
1 cup cooked
120 mg (29%)
118 mg (28%)
6 oz fillet (high in mercury)
109 mg (26%)
105 mg (25%)
90 mg (21%)
86 mg (20%)
1 cup or 1 ounce dry
65 mg (15%)
1 ounce square (70% cocoa)
64 mg (15%)
60 mg (14%)
58 mg (14%)
½ fillet (178 grams)
53 mg (13%)
52 mg (12%)
50 mg (12%)
½ cup (don't overcook)
50 mg (12%)
50 mg (12%)
1 cup cooked
50 mg (12%)
49 mg (12%)
47 mg (11%)
Flaxseed Oil or Flaxseed
1 Tablespoon or ½ Tablespoon
42 mg (10%)
1 cup sliced
41 mg (10%)
1 cup (raw)
37 mg (8%)
Benefits of Eating Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium in your diet helps to prevent diseases and lessen the harshness of some diseases if you get them. Magnesium has neuroprotective, cardio-protective, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and hypoglycemic properties.
A magnesium deficiency or low level of magnesium in your food creates an out of balance condition in your body linked to many diseases from diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome to depression and neurological disorders.
Magnesium has many protective properties, such as glucose or blood sugar moderating and insulin regulating, lowering risk for Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and improving outcomes for Type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Magnesium intake significantly improved glucose parameters in people with diabetes and also improved insulin-sensitivity parameters in those at high risk of diabetes in a review of 18 randomized clinical trials, including a total of 670 diabetic and 453 at risk for diabetes patients.[viii]
In another meta-analysis of 637,922 individuals, the risk of T2D was reduced by 17% across all the studies; 19% in women and 16% in men when magnesium was increased in their diet.[ix]
A magnesium deficiency is seen as a contributing factor in insulin resistance for T2D patients.[x] In a 2017 study of 71 children with T1D, magnesium supplementation improved glycemic control and lipid profiles while decreasing complications such as hypomagnesaemia (clinical magnesium deficiency).[xi] For the 52,684 without known diabetes, dietary magnesium was found to lower fasting glucose and insulin, two risk factors for diabetes.[xii]
Because of chronic diseases, medications, decreases in food crop magnesium contents, and higher availability of refined and processed foods, the vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency (often undiagnosed) and magnesium dietary supplementation is an easy and low cost way to lower the risks for a variety of heart diseases.[xiii]
In a meta-analysis of 532,979 participants from 19 studies, the greatest risk reduction for cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurred when magnesium intake increased from 150 to 400 milligrams (mg) per day.[xiv] In a meta-analysis of 48 genetic studies with a total of 60,801 coronary artery disease (CAD) cases and 123,504 non-cases, researchers found that serum magnesium levels are inversely associated with risk of heart disease.[xv]
Magnesium supplementation is also seen as a successful preventative mechanism (by improving lipid profiles, fasting glucose and blood pressure)[xvi] to heart disease complications (a leading cause of death from T2 diabetes).[xvii],[xviii]
Generally, the triad of obesity, high blood pressure and impaired glucose tolerance, as in T2D (insulin resistance), is referred to as metabolic syndrome.[xix] In a meta-analysis of six studies, including a total of 24,473 individuals and 6,311 cases of metabolic syndrome, a higher dietary magnesium level lowered the risk of metabolic syndrome by 17%.[xx]
Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to lower blood pressure measures significantly in those with high blood pressure taking anti-hypertensive medication (135 subjects); systolic blood pressure decreased by 18.7 points and diastolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 10.9 points.
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Antioxidant-rich powders from blueberry, persimmon waste could be good for gut microbiota
Polytechnic University of Valencia (Italy), July 24, 2020
Feeding the world's growing population in a sustainable way is no easy task. That's why scientists are exploring options for transforming fruit and vegetable byproducts -- such as peels or pulp discarded during processing -- into nutritious food ingredients and supplements. Now, researchers reporting in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have shown that blueberry and persimmon waste can be made into antioxidant-rich powders that might have beneficial effects on gut microbiota.
In recent years, fruit and vegetable powders have become popular as a way to add beneficial compounds, such as polyphenols and carotenoids (two types of antioxidants), to the diet, either by consuming the powders directly or as an ingredient in food products. However, in many cases these healthful compounds are present at similar or even higher levels in byproducts compared to those in other parts of the fruit or vegetable. Noelia Betoret, María José Gosalbes and colleagues wanted to obtain powders from persimmon and blueberry wastes, and then study how digestion could affect the release of antioxidants and other bioactive compounds. They also wanted to determine the effects of the digested powders on gut bacterial growth.
The researchers obtained powders from persimmon peels and flower parts, and from the solids left behind after making blueberry juice. The type of powder, drying method, fiber content and type of fiber determined the release of antioxidants during a simulated digestion. For example, freeze-drying preserved more anthocyanins, but these were more easily degraded during digestion than those in air-dried samples. Then, the team added the powders to a fecal slurry and conducted a mock colonic fermentation, sequencing the bacteria present before and after fermentation. Incubation with the fruit powders resulted in an increase in several types of beneficial bacteria, and some bacteria grew better with one powder compared to the other. These findings indicate that persimmon and blueberry waste powders could be included in food formulations to boost the content of carotenoids and anthocyanins, which could have a positive impact on human health, the researchers say.
Plant-based diets shown to lower blood pressure even with limited meat and dairy
Consuming a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure even if small amounts of meat and dairy are consumed too, according to new research
University of Warwick (UK), July 27, 2020
Consuming a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure even if small amounts of meat and dairy are consumed too, according to new research from the University of Warwick.
Published online by a team from Warwick Medical School in the Journal of Hypertension today (25 July), they argue that any effort to increase plant-based foods in your diet and limit animal products is likely to benefit your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease. They conducted a systematic review of previous research from controlled clinical trials to compare seven plant-based diets, several of which included animal products in small amounts, to a standardised control diet and the impact that these had on individuals' blood pressure.
Plant-based diets support high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, limiting the consumption of most or all animal products (mainly meat and diary). (See Notes to Editors for further details)
High blood pressure is the leading risk factor globally for heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. A reduction in blood pressure has important health benefits both for individuals and for populations. Unhealthy diets are responsible for more deaths and disabilities globally than tobacco use, high alcohol intake, drug use and unsafe sex put together. An increased consumption of whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fruit, as achieved in plant-based diets, could avert up to 1.7, 1.8, 2.5 and 4.9 million deaths globally respectively every year according to previous research.
Vegetarian and vegan diets with complete absence of animal products are already known to lower blood pressure compared to omnivorous diets. Their feasibility and sustainability are, however, limited. Until now, it has not been known whether a complete absence of animal products is necessary in plant-based dietary patterns to achieve a significant beneficial effect on blood pressure.
Lead author Joshua Gibbs, a student in the University of Warwick School of Life Sciences, said: "We reviewed 41 studies involving 8,416 participants, in which the effects of seven different plant-based diets (including DASH, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan, Nordic, high fibre and high fruit and vegetables) on blood pressure were studied in controlled clinical trials. A systematic review and meta-analysis of these studies showed that most of these diets lowered blood pressure. The DASH diet had the largest effect reducing blood pressure by 5.53/3.79 mmHg compared to a control diet, and by 8.74/6.05 mmHg when compared to a 'usual' diet.
"A blood pressure reduction of the scale caused by a higher consumption of plant-based diets, even with limited animal products would result in a 14% reduction in strokes, a 9% reduction in heart attacks and a 7% reduction in overall mortality.
"This is a significant finding as it highlights that complete eradication of animal products is not necessary to produce reductions and improvements in blood pressure. Essentially, any shift towards a plant-based diet is a good one."
Senior author Professor Francesco Cappuccio of Warwick Medical School said: "The adoption of plant-based dietary patterns would also play a role in global food sustainability and security. They would contribute to a reduction in land use due to human activities, to global water conservation and to a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emission.
"The study shows the efficacy of a plant-based diet on blood pressure. However, the translation of this knowledge into real benefits to people, i.e. its effectiveness, depends on a variety of factors related to both individual choices and to governments' policy decisions. For example, for an individual, the ability to adopt a plant-based diet would be influenced by socio-economic factors (costs, availability, access), perceived benefits and difficulties, resistance to change, age, health status, low adherence due to palatability and acceptance.
"To overcome these barriers, we ought to formulate strategies to influence beliefs about plant-based diets, plant food availability and costs, multisectoral actions to foster policy changes focusing on environmental sustainability of food production, science gathering and health consequences."
Health and happiness depend on each other
Georgetown University, July 22, 2020
Good health and a happy outlook on life may seem like equally worthy yet independent goals. A growing body of research, however, bolsters the case that a happy outlook can have a very real impact on your physical well-being.
New research published in the journal Psychological Science shows that both online and in-person psychological interventions -- tactics specifically designed to boost subjective well-being -- have positive effects on self-reported physical health. The online and in-person interventions were equally effective.
"Though prior studies have shown that happier people tend to have better cardiovascular health and immune-system responses than their less happy counterparts," said Kostadin Kushlev, a professor in Georgetown University's Department of Psychology and one of the authors of the paper, "our research is one of the first randomized controlled trials to suggest that increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health."
Intervention for Healthy Outcomes
Over the course of six months, Kushlev and his colleagues at the University of Virginia and the University of British Columbia examined how improving the subjective well-being of people who were not hospitalized or otherwise undergoing medical treatment affected their physical health.
A group of 155 adults between the ages of 25 and 75 were randomly assigned either to a wait-list control condition or a 12-week positive psychological intervention that addressed three different sources of happiness: the "Core Self," the "Experiential Self," and the "Social Self."
The first 3 weeks of the program focused on the Core Self, helping individuals identify their personal values, strengths, and goals. The next 5 weeks focused on the Experiential Self, covering emotion regulation and mindfulness. This phase also gave participants tools to identify maladaptive patterns of thinking. The final 4 weeks of the program addressed the Social Self, teaching techniques to cultivate gratitude, foster positive social interactions, and engage more with their community.
The program, called Enduring Happiness and Continued Self-Enhancement (ENHANCE), consisted of weekly modules either led by a trained clinician or completed individually using a customized online platform. None of the modules focused on promoting physical health or health behaviors, such as sleep, exercise, or diet.
Each module featured an hour-long lesson with information and exercises; a weekly writing assignment, such as journaling; and an active behavioral component, such as guided meditation.
"All of the activities were evidence-based tools to increase subjective well-being," Kushlev noted.
When the program concluded, the participants were given individual evaluations and recommendations of which modules would be most effective at improving their happiness in the long term. Three months after the conclusion of the trial, researchers followed up with the participants to evaluate their well-being and health.
A Happy Future
Participants who received the intervention reported increasing levels of subjective well-being over the course of the 12-week program. They also reported fewer sick days than control participants throughout the program and 3 months after it ended.
The online mode of administering the program was shown to be as effective as the in-person mode led by trained facilitators.
"These results speak to the potential of such interventions to be scaled in ways that reach more people in environments such as college campuses to help increase happiness and promote better mental health among students," Kushlev said.
Rely on gut feeling? New research identifies how second brain in gut communicates
Finders University (Australia), July 24, 2020
You're faced with a big decision so your second brain provides what's normally referred to as 'gut instinct', but how did this sensation reach you before it was too late?
The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is an extensive network of neurons and transmitters wrapped in and around the human gut with the prime function of managing digestion, but researchers at Flinders University are delving into the complexity of this brain like system to uncover it's secret capabilities.
In a new study published in the eNeuro journal, Professor Nick Spencer's laboratory has identified a particular type of neuron in the gut wall that communicates signals to other neurons outside the gut, near the spinal cord and up to the brain.
"There is significant interest in how the gut communicates with the brain as a major unresolved issue because of growing evidence that many diseases may first start in the gut and then travel to the brain, an example of which is Parkinson's Disease," says Professor Spencer.
"The new study has uncovered how viscerofugal neurons provide a pathway so our gut can "sense" what is going on inside the gut wall, then relay this sensory information more dynamically than was previously assumed to other organs, like the spinal cord and brain which influence our decisions, mood and general wellbeing."
The results reveal why the ENS might play an increasingly important part on human health, and could shed light on potential new treatments for conditions like Parkinson's disease.
This study represents a big step towards understanding ENS functions and the complexity of the gut and brain connection through the neurons that allow communication in the body.
Professor Spencer says there is increasing interest in understanding how the nervous system in the gut (ENS) communicates with the brain, to give us all those sensations we know of.
"What is particularly exciting about the gut, is that it is unlike all other internal organs (e.g. heart, liver, bladder) because the gut has its own nervous system, which can function independently of the brain or spinal cord. Understanding how the gut communicates and controls other organs in the body can lead to important breakthroughs for disease treatment and this is an important step in the right direction."
The role of functional foods in treating chronic diseases
Wuhan Sports University (China), July 24, 2020
In this study, researchers at Wuhan Sports University in China summarized several widely investigated bioactive components used as functional foods and their role in autophagy. Their review was published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.
- Functional foods, which could be either natural or processed foods that contain bioactive compounds, can provide health-promoting effects beyond basic nutrition.
- These foods also offer the benefit of preventing or treating chronic diseases.
- The bioactive components in functional foods often have pleiotropic effects, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic (cholesterol-lowering), blood sugar-regulating, cytoprotective and neuroprotective functions.
- Autophagy is a highly conserved cellular process used by the body to eliminate aberrant components in eukaryotic cells.
- It also plays an essential role in promoting health and preventing or treating several chronic diseases.
- When cells are in a stressful condition, autophagy accelerates the clearance of damaged or toxic cellular protein aggregates or dysfunctional cell organelles to maintain homeostasis.
In this review, the researchers focused on several bioactive components of functional foods, such as resveratrol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, curcumin and trehalose, and their regulatory functions in autophagy. They believe this review could serve as a reference or provide novel ideas for the development of functional foods capable of modulating autophagy for the treatment of chronic diseases.
Combination of vitamin E and Lactobacillius plantarum reverses mercuric chloride-induced neurotoxicity
King Saud University, July 23, 2020
According to news originating from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by NewsRx editors, the research stated, “Mercury is the third most hazardous heavy metal and its toxicity causes a severe health risk through unfavorable detrimental pathological and biochemical effects. Mercury is widely found in many ecological and certain occupational settings.”
Our news editors obtained a quote from the research from King Saud University: “The aim of this study is to elucidate the neuroprotective role of vitamin E (VE) and Lactobacillus plantarum (LTB) either alone or in combination against a toxic sublethal dose of Mercuric chloride (MC). First group served as a normal control group; rats from the second group were intoxicated with (5 mg/kg MC once daily); the third group was treated with VE; the fourth group was treated with LTB; and the fifth group was treated with VE and LTB. All treatments were given daily along with MC for fourteen days. The results of the current study confirmed that MC prompted an elevation in serum TNF-a, IL-6 and brain lipid peroxides, protein expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and mRNA expression of Bax and caspase-3 level as well as DNA degradation. However, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cAMP response element-binding (CREB) protein expressions, GSH level and SOD activity were down-regulated. The intake of LTB and/or VE along with MC intoxication significantly mitigated the alteration in all the previous parameters. Moreover, histopathological analysis of brain sections confirmed that MC-induced brain injury and LTB or VE alone or together were capable of ameliorating brain artitechture.”
According to the news editors, the research concluded: “The combination of LTB and VE was an effective therapy in the management of MC-induced neuroioxicity and this combination can be considered a useful therapeutic candidate against brain injury induced by MC. BDNF, MAPK and CREB protein expressions are implicated in MC -induced brain injury and its treatment.”
Plant-based diets high in carbs improve type 1 diabetes, according to new case studies
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, July 24, 2020
Plant-based diets rich in whole carbohydrates can improve insulin sensitivity and other health markers in individuals with type 1 diabetes, according to two case studies published by researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolism.
Both case studies followed individuals with type 1 diabetes who adopted plant-based diets rich in whole carbohydrates--including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The patients' health care teams tracked their blood sugar control, heart disease risk factors, and other health measurements before and after the diet change.
One case study followed a female patient who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2018. At the time, her A1c was 8.7%. She initially adopted a low-carbohydrate (less than 30 grams of carbohydrate per day), high-fat diet that was high in meat and dairy. Her blood sugar stabilized, but she required more insulin per gram of carbohydrate consumed. Her total cholesterol also increased from 175 to 221 mg/dL. In January 2019, she switched to a plant-based diet, eliminating dairy products, eggs, and meat. The patient was able to decrease her insulin dosage, maintain her A1c level at 5.4%, and drop her cholesterol level to 158 mg/dL.
"This study challenges the misconception that carbs are the enemy when it comes to diabetes," says study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee. "The patient in this case study experienced the opposite: Adding more healthful carbohydrates to her diet stabilized her glycemic control, reduced her insulin needs, and boosted her overall health."
The other individual--a 42-year-old man who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 25--eliminated animal products from his diet and switched to a whole food, plant-based diet. He increased his consumption of carbohydrates from 150 grams to 400-450 grams per day. After adopting a carbohydrate-rich plant-based diet, he lost weight, required less insulin, and reduced his A1c--a measure of blood sugar levels over a 3-month period--from 6.2% to a range between 5.5-5.8%.
The authors note that a previous small study supported the case studies' results, finding that a high-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet improved glycemic control in 10 people with type 1 diabetes. As a next step, the authors suggest that randomized clinical trials are needed to verify the case studies' findings, assess their generalizability, and quantify the effectiveness of plant-based diets in the management of type 1 diabetes.
Previous studies have found that low-fat, plant-based diets can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Research has also shown that those eating a plant-based diet have approximately half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with non-vegetarians.
"Decades of research has proven that a plant-based diet can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Now, these groundbreaking case studies are offering hope that the same may be true for those with type 1 diabetes," adds Dr. Kahleova.
Raised iron levels linked to reduced life expectancy
Imperial College London, July 24, 2020
Having too much iron in the body puts your long term health at risk but it could also take years off your life.
These are the findings of a study using large scale genetic data to assess the impacts across a population of having naturally raised levels of iron, in terms of years of life expectancy.
According to the researchers, the findings—which help to cut through the noise caused by confounding factors such as age, sex or diet—add to the increasingly complex picture of iron's role in our health and highlight the risks of having raised levels of iron.
Dr. Dipender Gill, from Imperial's School of Public Health and who supervised the study, said: "We have known for a long time that having too much or too little iron in your system can have serious impacts on your health, and that effectively modifying iron levels can help many people with underlying conditions. Our findings build on previous work to clarify that picture further, showing that people who have genetic predisposition to slightly raised levels of iron in the body have reduced life expectancy on average. While we did not look directly at the impact of taking supplements, our results suggest that there is a need to better understand the health implications of people boosting their iron levels with supplements when they don't need to."
Iron is used by the body to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen. Most people without underlying health conditions should be able to get enough iron from their diet. But disrupting the balance can lead to a host of health implications: too little iron is associated with fatigue and impaired immune system, while too much can cause liver failure, and in high enough doses can even be fatal.
A number of studies suggest small changes in iron levels can have protective and detrimental effects for different diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and infections. But the net effect of varying iron levels on life expectancy remains unclear.
In the latest study, published this month in the journal Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Gill and Mr. Iyas Daghlas from Harvard Medical School used a statistical technique called Mendelian randomization to try to explore the effect of increasing levels of iron on health—using people's genetic variation as an indicator of their iron levels.
The researchers trawled genetic data from almost 49,000 people to find genetic variants linked to iron levels. They focused on three points in the genome where a single "letter" difference in the DNA—called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)—can slightly increase or reduce a person's iron level.
When these same SNPs were then screened in a larger dataset combing lifespan data for more than one million people, they found that the genetic markers for higher iron levels on average associated with reduced life expectancy.
The analysis revealed that for every one point of standard deviation increase in genetically predicted serum iron above baseline, people had an estimated 0.7 fewer years of lifespan.
Furthermore, the findings were unlikely to be biased by lifestyle factors.
A body of work
The work builds on a number of previous studies by Dr. Gill, which have used genetic data to investigate the role of iron in hundreds of diseases.
A 2017 study revealed the link between high iron levels and lower risk of heart disease. Further studies from 2019 showed naturally higher iron levels were associated with a lower risk of high cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of arteries becoming furred with a build-up of fatty substances, but also carried with it a higher risk of blood clots and skin infections. Taken together, the studies build a complex picture of iron status in health.
The authors stress that the genetic markers themselves do not indicate reduced life expectancy or risk in the wider context, but are a tool to study how iron levels relate to health without the influence of a number of complex confounding factors such as diet, economic background, or smoking status. They add that the findings should not currently be applied clinically, at the individual level.
Dr. Gill explained: "It's important to put these findings in context. Our analysis is indirect and uses genetic data as a proxy for raised iron levels. But the clinical implications warrant further investigation and could be important for long-term health at the population level."
Mr Iyas Daghlas, from Harvard Medical School, said: "These findings should not yet be extrapolated to clinical practice, but they further support the idea that people without an iron deficiency are unlikely to benefit from supplementation, and that it may actually do them harm. We emphasize that these results should not be applied to patient populations with a compelling reason for iron supplementation, such as patients with symptomatic iron deficiency anemia, or in patients with heart failure."
Seven reasons to eat more watermelon
Life Extension, July 22, 2020
There's a reason why summer is the season for watermelon. Not only does this favorite fruit reach its peak flavors during the warmer months, watermelon is also even more nutrient-rich this time of year. From being a great source of raw lycopene to its hydrating nature, here are seven reasons to eat more watermelon. Lycopene is the pigment that gives red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit, their characteristic color. Lycopene has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers.
1. Watermelon is a top source of lycopene. Tomatoes get the glory when it comes to lycopene, but watermelon actually has more ? about 40 percent more, on average. Our bodies also absorb lycopene from watermelon more easily. Unlike tomatoes, which need to be cooked in order to maximize lycopene absorption, we can effectively absorb and reap the benefits of lycopene from raw watermelon.
2. It's hydrating.No surprise here. (It is called watermelon, after all!) But you may find it interesting that watermelon is 92 percent water, so by enjoying it, you really are eating your way toward better hydration.
3. It may improve blood pressure; is a top source of citrulline, which can help to improve blood flow and blood pressure
4. Because it's so sweet, watermelon has a reputation for being high in sugar, but most fruits arenaturally high in sugar, but they're also rich in nutrients. However, compared to sweet potatoes, watermelon has only one-fourth of the carbs and only half the sugar.
5. All of the goodness of watermelon (lycopene, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and overall antioxidants) gets better with age. The redder the fruit's flesh, the higher the nutrient concentration.
6. Most of us eat the red flesh and leave the rinds, but the rinds are entirely edible (just remove the outer peel), and are as nutritious as the flesh itself. The rinds can be sliced and added to your favorite stir-fry recipe, juiced or pureed for chilled soups.
7. It can be prepared in countless creative ways.Simply slice it and eat it plain, or with a sprinkle of salt. Or go with the classic pairing of watermelon: fresh mint and feta (or goat cheese, for a lower-sodium option). Make watermelon salsa, using watermelon in place of some (or all) of the tomatoes in your favorite salsa recipe. Grill it. Juice it. Puree it, rind and all, for soups and mocktails. The options are endless!
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD, registered dietitian with Ochsner Health System, manages the nutrition department of Ochsner Fitness Center and is founder of the Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative.
The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
How adding green tea extract to prepared foods may reduce the risk for norovirus
In study, edible coating made with tea extract killed the virus and bacteria
Ohio State University, July 22, 2020
Infusing prepared foods with an edible coating that contains green tea extract may lower consumers' chances of catching the highly contagious norovirus by eating contaminated food, new research suggests.
Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, sickens an estimated 48 million people in the United States every year and causes about 3,000 deaths. It's transmitted from person to person and through consumption of contaminated water and food.
Lots of things we consume contain what are known in the industry as edible films: They can enhance appearance, like wax that makes apples shiny; hold contents together, like plastic drug capsules; and prevent contents from seeping together by, for example, being placed between a prepared pie crust and the filling.
"In many cases, an edible film is in a product, but you are not aware of it," said Melvin Pascall, professor of food science and technology at The Ohio State University and senior study author. "We don't have to put that on the label since the material is edible. That's another way in which we use packaging - and the consumer doesn't have to know."
Some edible films are also enriched with antimicrobial agents that can kill or slow the growth of organisms that cause illness, such as E. coli and mold.
In this new study led by Pascall, adding green tea extract to a film-forming substance created a safe-to-eat barrier that killed norovirus as well as two types of bacteria.
While most antimicrobial packaging advances to date have emphasized fighting bacteria, this finding holds promise for a newer area of research into the concept of using edible film to kill a virus, Pascall said.
"Norovirus is a tough virus to work with - it is a non-enveloped virus, which is the type more resistant to sanitizers and antimicrobial agents," he said. "However, because it has public health concerns and has been implicated in a number of foodborne outbreaks, we wanted to look at the effects of green tea extract on norovirus."
The study is published in the International Journal of Food Science.
Pascall and his team created the films with a base substance called chitosan, a sugar found in the exoskeleton of shellfish. Chitosan is marketed as a weight-loss supplement and used in agricultural and medicinal applications, and has been studied extensively as a safe and readily available compound for edible film development.
Previous studies have suggested that chitosan has antimicrobial properties. But norovirus might exceed its bug-fighting abilities: In this study, the researchers found that chitosan by itself did not kill the virus.
To test the effects of green tea extract, the researchers dissolved it alone in water and added it to a chitosan-based liquid solution and dried film. Several different concentrations of the extract showed effectiveness against norovirus cells, with the highest level tested in this study killing them all in a day.
"We had tested the chitosan by itself and it didn't show much antimicrobial activity against the virus," Pascall said. "But when we added the green tea extract to chitosan, we saw that the film had antiviral properties - so we concluded the antiviral properties were coming from the green tea extract."
The scientists introduced at least 1 million virus cells to the solution and dried films. Those containing green tea extract lowered the presence of virus cells within three hours. The films with the highest concentration of green tea extract reduced norovirus to undetectable levels by 24 hours after the exposure.
Though norovirus was the focus of this work, the researchers also found that green tea extract lowered E. coli K12 and listeria innocua, surrogates for bacteria that also cause foodborne illness, to undetectable levels within 24 hours.
This study didn't identify how the killing happens - typically an antimicrobial agent disables organisms in ways that cause them to die or render them unable to reproduce. The researchers used mouse norovirus cells because human norovirus cells don't grow well in a lab setting.
There is still a lot of work to do before green tea extract-infused films are ready to enter the market. A tricky part of adding natural substances to edible packaging is ensuring that enough is used to deliver the microbe-killing effect without changing the taste or smell of the food.
"A higher concentration of a natural antimicrobial might cause a large drop in the target organism, but at the same time it defeats the purpose of the food by adding an objectionable taste or odor," Pascall said. "There is also the impact of the natural compound on the material itself - it may cause the film to become too brittle or sticky. These are things food scientists have to consider when using antimicrobial agents, especially those from natural sources."
It's also too soon to tell which kinds of food would be the best candidates for antiviral edible films made with green tea extract. It depends on whether the food would be exposed to heat, moisture or acidic conditions, for example. There is also a chance another natural substance could do an even better job - Pascall is conducting similar studies with other extracts.
The brain-boosting potential of tart cherry juice
University of Delaware, July 21, 2020
A recent study by scientists from the University of Delaware (UD) has found that drinking cherry juice has beneficial effects on memory. Published in the journal Food & Nutrition, it demonstrated that drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice every day for 12 weeks improved cognitive function in adults aged 65 to 80.
Tart cherry juice supplementation can improve cognitive performance in older adults
Lead author Chai Sheau Ching and colleagues had previously observed the beneficial effects of tart cherry antioxidants, such as melanin, melatonin and anthocyanin, on high blood pressure and cholesterol.
In particular, the team found that drinking juice made from Montmorency tart cherries, the most common cherries in the U.S., helped reduce systolic blood pressure, fight inflammation and neutralize the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
Based on these earlier findings, the team speculated that the antioxidants in tart cherries could also exert neuroprotective effects on the brain and improve cognitive abilities in older adults.
To test their hypothesis, the team asked 37 adults, aged between 65 and 80, to drink either 16 ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice or a placebo drink of the same amount every day – one in the morning and one in the evening – for 12 weeks. The team also asked the participants to maintain their diet and record their food consumption for the duration of the trial.
None of the participants had prior diagnoses of medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and neurological disorders at the time of the trial. Neither were they taking medications that might affect their cognitive abilities.
To see whether or not the cherry juice had any effect on the participant’s cognitive abilities, the team had each participant answer a series of questionnaires and tests before and after the trial period.
At the end of the experiment, the researchers found that the participants in the tart cherry group scored higher in the tests that measured subjective memory, episodic visual memory and spatial memory than the participants in the placebo group.
Compared with their pre-trial test results, the tart cherry group also experienced a four percent reduction in their movement time – the time it takes to complete a task – in the post-trial cognitive tests.
In addition, the tart cherry group had a 23 percent reduction in errors in episodic visual memory. In both the pre- and post-trial cognitive tests, the participants in the tart cherry group scored significantly higher than those in the placebo group.
These findings suggest that the antioxidants in tart cherries are behind the juice’s beneficial effects on cognition. Chai hopes that future studies can shed more light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the cognitive-enhancing effects of Montmorency tart cherries.
Cognitive health and aging
Commenting on their findings, Chai noted that cognitive health plays a key role in determining the quality of life of older adults.
According to recent reports by the World Health Organization, about 50 million people around the globe suffer from some form of dementia. And every year, 10 million cases are added to this figure. (Related: Adding more dietary choline can cut back the risk of dementia.)
Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older adults. Despite the fact that dementia is not a natural part of aging, its symptoms, including forgetfulness and difficulty communicating, are usually felt later in life.
Fortunately, an emerging body of evidence suggests that proper diet and nutrition can reduce the risk of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in old age. For instance, people can incorporate Montmorency tart cherry juice into a well-balanced diet to enhance their brain performance.
Study suggests benefit for vitamin C in endometriosis
Zhejiang University (China), July 20, 2020
According to news reporting originating in Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China, research stated, “Endometriosis is a common disease in females that seriously affects quality of life. The principal pathological process of endometriosis is pelvic inflammation, and local and peripheral fibrosis.”
The news reporters obtained a quote from the research from Zhejiang University, “Treatment of endometriosis requires both pharmacological and surgical approaches. Vitamin C can scavenge oxygen free radicals and thus accelerate repair of damaged endometrium. This aim of this study was to investigate whether vitamin C can reduce fibrosis in endometriotic lesions. After establishing a rat model of endometriosis, vitamin C solution (vitamin C group) or physiological saline solution (control group) was injected into the abdominal cavity. We compared the indices of fibrotic endometriotic lesions between the two groups. The volume of endometriotic lesions and degree of fibrosis observed in rats within the vitamin C group was significantly reduced compared with those observed in the control group. Immunohistochemistry showed that transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), alpha-SMA, and collagen type I staining in lesions of the vitamin C group was significantly less than that observed in lesions from the control group (P < 0.05). Quantitative, real-time PCR (RT-PCR) determined that relative mRNA expression levels of TGF-beta 1, CTGF, alpha-SMA, and collagen type I in lesions obtained from the vitamin C group were significantly lower than levels measured in lesions obtained from animals in the control group. Vitamin C can reduce the volume of endometriotic lesions and inhibit fibrosis of lesions in rats.”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “This study supports the use of vitamin C in the treatment of endometriosis.”
Cannabis Appears Safe And Effective At Treating Chronic Pain, New Clinical Trial Shows
Cannabis appears to be a safe and potentially effective treatment for the chronic pain that afflicts people with sickle cell disease, according to a new clinical trial co-led by University of California, Irvine researcher Kalpna Gupta and Dr. Donald Abrams of UC San Francisco. The findings appear in JAMA Network Open.
“These trial results show that vaporized cannabis appears to be generally safe,” said Gupta, a professor of medicine on the faculty of UCI’s Center for the Study of Cannabis. “They also suggest that sickle cell patients may be able to mitigate their pain with cannabis – and that cannabis might help society address the public health crisis related to opioids. Of course, we still need larger studies with more participants to give us a better picture of how cannabis could benefit people with chronic pain.”
Opioids are currently the primary treatment for the chronic and acute pain caused by sickle cell disease. But the rise in opioid-associated deaths has prompted physicians to prescribe them less frequently, leaving sickle cell patients with fewer options.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was the first to employ such gold-standard methods to assess cannabis’s potential for pain alleviation in people with sickle cell disease. The cannabis used in the trial was obtained from the National Institute on Drug Abuse – part of the National Institutes of Health – and contained equal parts of THC and CBD.
“Pain causes many people to turn to cannabis and is, in fact, the top reason that people cite for seeking cannabis from dispensaries,” Gupta said. “We don’t know if all forms of cannabis products will have a similar effect on chronic pain. Vaporized cannabis, which we employed, may be safer than other forms because lower amounts reach the body’s circulation. This trial opens the door for testing different forms of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.”
Twenty-three patients with sickle cell disease-related pain completed the trial, inhaling vaporized cannabis or a vaporized placebo during two five-day inpatient sessions that were separated by at least 30 days. This allowed them to act as their own control group.
Researchers assessed participants’ pain levels throughout the treatment period and found that the effectiveness of cannabis appeared to increase over time. As the five-day study period progressed, subjects reported that pain interfered less and less with activities, including walking and sleeping, and there was a statistically significant drop in how much pain affected their mood. Although pain levels were generally lower in patients given cannabis than in those given the placebo, the difference was not statistically significant.
Bad eating habits may cause blindness, warn researchers
University of Bristol (UK), July 20, 2020
There’s no denying that eating junk food is bad for your health, as it’s linked to obesity and an increased risk of various health problems. A report in the Annals of Internal Medicine even found that a diet full of junk food could eventually cause vision loss.
Researchers from the University of Bristol in the U.K. looked at a particular case involving a teenager who was a “fussy eater” and didn’t eat anything except junk food. Several years of following an unhealthy diet eventually made him lose his eyesight.
This unusual and shocking case highlights the dangers of an unhealthy diet. It can cause obesity and increase your risk of developing heart disease and cancer. The report also found that consuming junk food may “permanently damage the nervous system, particularly vision.”
The adverse effects of poor eating habits
The teen first experienced problems when he was 14, and he consulted a doctor due to symptoms like tiredness. His blood tests then revealed that he had anemia.
Since the teenager had B12 deficiency, he was also treated with injections of the vitamin. His physician then told him to improve his eating habits.
When the teenager turned 15, he reported more issues like hearing loss and vision problems. His physicians were baffled because the results from an MRI and eye exam were all normal. (Related: Cut the junk: Eating junk food can give you food allergies.)
After two years, the teenager’s vision worsened. At 17, an eye test revealed that his vision was 20/200 in both eyes: The threshold for being considered “legally blind” in America. Results from other tests revealed that the teenager also suffered damage to his optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the back of the eye to the brain.
Despite being told to improve his eating habits when he was 14, the teenager still had a vitamin B12 deficiency. Worse, he also had low levels of copper, selenium and vitamin D. The physicians were alarmed at these deficiencies.
After questioning the teenager, they found out that he didn’t like eating “certain textures of food.” Since elementary school, the patient followed a limited diet that consisted only of foods such as:
- Processed ham slices
- White bread
Once the doctors ruled out other possible causes for his vision loss, the patient was diagnosed with nutritional optic neuropathy or damage to the optic nerve because of nutritional deficiencies. The researchers noted that “[purely] dietary causes are rare in developed countries.” Most of the time, nutritional optic neuropathy is caused by alcohol abuse, drugs, poor diet or the malabsorption of food.
Early detection can potentially reverse vision loss due to nutritional optic neuropathy. But unfortunately for the teenager, by the time his condition was diagnosed, his vision loss was permanent.
Dr. Denize Atan, a senior lecturer in ophthalmology at Bristol Medical School and a co-author of the study, explained that eyeglasses wouldn’t help the patient’s vision since any damage to the optic nerve can’t be addressed with lenses. To prevent his vision loss from worsening, physicians prescribed the teenager nutritional supplements.
Avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder and mental health
The doctors involved in the patient’s case also referred him to mental health services for an eating disorder because there seemed to be more to his unusual diet. Unlike kids who were simply picky eaters, the teenager’s diet “was very restrictive and caused multiple nutritional deficiencies.”
They believe that the teenager might have a condition called “avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder” (ARFID). This relatively new diagnosis, previously called “selective eating disorder,” may cause a lack of interest in food or avoidance of foods with certain colors, textures or other factors without links to the patient’s body weight or shape.
Other symptoms of ARFID include:
- Abdominal pain, cold intolerance, constipation, lethargy or excess energy
- Dramatic restriction in amount or types of food eaten
- Dramatic weight loss
- Eating only certain textures of food
- Eating a limited range of preferred foods that becomes narrower over time or picky eating that worsens with time
- Fears of choking or vomiting
- Inconsistent and vague gastrointestinal issues, like an upset stomach, around mealtimes with no known cause
- No body image disturbance or fear of weight gain
ARFID often manifests in childhood, and patients tend to have a normal body mass index (BMI) like the teenaged boy, concluded the study authors.
Chronic inflammation alters the evolution of cells in the colon, study finds
Researchers have compared diseased colon with healthy tissue to better understand how inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancers
Cambridge University and Wellcome Sanger Institute, July 21, 2020
In a new study, researchers have compared diseased colon with healthy tissue to better understand how inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancers, at a molecular level. Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Cambridge University Hospitals found that the rate of DNA change within colon cells affected by IBD was more than double that in healthy colon, increasing the likelihood of these cells gaining DNA changes that could lead to cancer.
The study, published today (21 July) in Cell, also found that chronic inflammation associated with IBD disrupts the tissue structure of the colon, allowing cells to expand over an abnormally wide area. The results provide valuable insights into evolution within the body, and the development of IBD and colorectal cancers.
IBD primarily refers to ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, chronic illnesses characterised by inflammation of the digestive system that can be highly disruptive to a patient's quality of life. Between 1990 and 2017, the number of IBD cases worldwide rose from 3.7 million to 6.8 million*. The causes of the disease remain unknown, though it is thought that inflammation occurs as a result of an inappropriate immune response to gut microbes.
People suffering from IBD are at an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers compared to the general population. Patients will undergo regular surveillance for this and may, in some cases, opt to undergo surgery to remove their entire colon in order to mitigate this risk.
In this new study, clinicians at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge provided colon tissue samples donated by 46 IBD patients, along with anonymised information about their medical history and treatment. Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute then used laser-capture microdissection to cut out 446 individual crypts, the tiny cavities that make up colon tissue, so they could be whole-genome sequenced.
These sequences were analysed to discover the mutation rate in the tissue, the genetic relationship between crypts and any genes that were more mutated than normal. They were then compared to sequences from 412 crypts from 41 individuals without IBD, so that the effects of chronic inflammation on the DNA sequence could be observed.
The team found that there were more than twice as many DNA changes in the diseased tissue than in normal, and the longer the duration of the disease, the greater this excess.
The study also uncovered evidence of an evolutionary process whereby mutations in particular genes are under positive selection. Some of these positively-selected mutations were enriched in genes associated with colorectal cancers, shedding light on the link between IBD and certain cancers. The researchers also detected evidence of positive selection of mutations in genes associated with immune system regulation in the gut and the ability of the cells to fend off the bacteria resident in the colon.
Sigurgeir Olafsson, first author of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "How our bodies continue to evolve during our lifetime is a fundamental part of our biology. It has been fascinating to study the effect of a chronic disease on this process and uncover evidence that changes in the genetic sequence of gut cells could have a direct role in the onset of inflammatory bowel disease."
Dr Tim Raine, clinical lead for the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) service at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge and Honorary Faculty member at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "Colorectal cancer is one of the main clinical concerns when treating patients with IBD. In this study, we found that normal mutational processes that are operative in us all are accelerated in the IBD affected gut, leading to a more than two-fold increase in the rate at which some gut cells acquire mutations, and this underpins the increased cancer risk in IBD."
Dr Peter Campbell, an author on the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "The role of somatic mutations in cancer susceptibility has long been appreciated. It is exciting to see the methods that we and others have used to understand cancers now being applied to other common diseases. These approaches have given us unique insights into the effects of inflammatory bowel disease on the DNA sequence of the inflamed tissue."
A previously unexplained observation in IBD is that repeated flares of inflammation tend to affect the same patch of tissue, suggesting some permanent alterations to the colon. These findings highlight genetic mutations as a possible explanation, with some positively-selected mutations in immune regulation genes occurring in the same regions of the bowel affected by chronic inflammation.
Dr Carl Anderson, lead author of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "We know that DNA changes contribute to the development of cancer, but their role in common non-cancerous diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has not been extensively studied. Our study revealed that somatic changes in the DNA sequence of the cells that line our gut may contribute to the development of IBD. I strongly believe that studying somatic mutations in all common diseases, not just IBD and cancers, has the potential to provide novel insights into disease biology and highlight potential drug targets."
Studies suggest a fasting diet could boost breast cancer therapy
A USC-led team of international scientists found that a one-two punch of a fasting diet with hormone therapy may enhance the effects of breast cancer treatment
University of Southern California, July 22, 2020
A USC-led team of scientists has found that a fasting-mimicking diet combined with hormone therapy has the potential to help treat breast cancer, according to newly published animal studies and small clinical trials in humans.
In studies on mice and in two small breast cancer clinical trials, researchers at USC and the IFOM Cancer Institute in Milan -- in collaboration with the University of Genova -- found that the fasting-mimicking diet reduces blood insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) and leptin. In mice, these effects appear to increase the power of the cancer hormone drugs tamoxifen and fulvestrant and delay any resistance to them. The results from 36 women treated with the hormone therapy and fasting-mimicking diet are promising, but researchers say it is still too early to determine whether the effects will be confirmed in large-scale clinical trials.
The research was published in the journal Nature.
"Our new study suggests that a fasting-mimicking diet together with endocrine therapy for breast cancer has the potential to not only shrink tumors but also reverse resistant tumors in mice," said Valter Longo, the study's co-senior author and the director of the Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "We have data that for the first time suggests that a fasting-mimicking diet works by changing at least three different factors: IGF1, leptin and insulin."
The researchers say the two small clinical trials are feasibility studies that showed promising results, but they are in no way conclusive. They believe the results support further clinical studies of a fasting-mimicking diet used in combination with endocrine therapy in hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
The scientists also contributed to a recent clinical study of 129 breast cancer patients conducted with the University of Leiden. The results, published last month in Nature Communications, appeared to show increased efficacy of chemotherapy in patients receiving a combination of chemotherapy and a fasting-mimicking diet.
In the two new small clinical trials -- one of which was directed by the study co-corresponding author Alessio Nencioni -- patients with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer receiving estrogen therapy along with cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet seemed to experience metabolic changes similar to those observed in mice. These changes included a reduction in insulin, leptin and IGF1 levels, with the last two remaining low for extended periods. In mice, these long-lasting effects are associated with long-term anti-cancer activity, so further studies in humans is needed.
"Some patients followed monthly cycles of the fasting-mimicking diet for almost two years without any problems, suggesting that it is a well-tolerated intervention," Nencioni said. "We hope this means that this nutritional program that mimics fasting could one day represent a weapon to better fight cancer in patients receiving hormone therapy without serious side effects."
"The results in mice are very promising. And the early clinical results show potential as well, but now we need to see it work in a 300- to 400-patient trial," Longo explained.
The data also suggest that in mice, the fasting-mimicking diet appears to prevent tamoxifen-induced endometrial hyperplasia, a condition in which the endometrium (or the lining of the uterus) becomes abnormally thick. The study authors believe this potential use of the fasting diet should be explored further, given the prevalence of this side effect of tamoxifen and the limited options for preventing it.
Approximately 80% of all breast cancers express estrogen and/or progesterone receptors. The most common forms of hormone therapy for these breast cancers work by blocking hormones from attaching to receptors on cancer cells or by decreasing the body's hormone production. Endocrine therapy is frequently effective in these hormone-receptor-positive tumors, but the long-term benefits are often hindered by treatment resistance.
Several clinical trials, including one at USC on breast cancer and prostate patients, are now investigating the effects of the fasting-mimicking diets in combination with different cancer-fighting drugs.
"I like to call it the nontoxic wildcard for cancer treatment," Longo said. "These clinical studies we have just published -- together with the many animal studies published in the past 12 years -- suggest that cycles of the fasting-mimicking diet has the potential to make standard therapy more effective against different cancers, each time by changing a different factor or nutrient important for cancer cell survival."
Scientists identify 10 risk factors for Alzheimer disease
Fudan University (China), July 17, 2020
Alzheimer’s disease may be preventable by keeping an eye on key factors including weight gain, blood pressure and avoiding stress, experts say.
Researchers said many risk factors are modifiable in the fight to prevent dementia, which affects around 850,000 people in the UK, two-thirds of whom have Alzheimer’s.
Their review of existing studies found 10 risk factors had strong evidence of a link with Alzheimer’s, and people could take action to avoid them.
These included ensuring good education in early life, keeping the brain active through activities such as reading, and not being overweight or obese in later life.
People should also avoid depression, stress, high blood pressure, head trauma and diabetes to reduce their risk, they said.
Other factors had weaker links that could be adjusted, including not being obese in midlife, taking exercise, getting enough sleep, including vitamin C in the diet and not smoking.
The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, was led by Professor Jin-Tai Yu at Fudan University in China.
The researchers gathered 395 studies and came up with a list of factors that could be used by doctors to try to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
They said research into preventing dementia should continue but their report offered “clinicians and stakeholders an evidence-based guideline for Alzheimer’s disease prevention”.
Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “In recent years, research has suggested that nearly a third of dementia cases may be preventable and this review builds on this idea, specifically in relation to Alzheimer’s disease and how certain risk factors, many of which are associated with cardiovascular health, may be within our control.
“We need a deeper dive into each of these risk factors to understand how they work together on an individual level and how best to support people to manage them.
“This review demonstrates that, while observational studies are useful to help identify potential risk factors, we need to see many more interventional trials to understand what the best approaches are to preventing Alzheimer’s disease developing in the first place.
“We don’t have all the answers yet, but we do know that small steps to improving your physical and mental health can make a big difference, like walking to your local shop for milk instead of jumping in the car.”
The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
Study: Regular mushroom consumption can lead to lower prostate cancer risk
Tohoku University (Japan), July 20. 2020
Lead author and doctoral student Shu Zhang noted that the cancer-fighting effects of mushrooms appeared to be more significant in men aged 50 and older.
That said, Zhang clarified that her team did not collect information on specific mushroom species and, as such, did not elucidate the molecular mechanisms behind the fungi’s cancer-fighting effects.
Their findings have been published in the International Journal of Cancer.
Habitual mushroom consumption linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer
To see if mushrooms are potent against prostate cancer – the second most common cancer among older men – Zhang and her team looked at the data of 36,000 men between the ages of 40 and 79 for a median period of 13.2 years. Each participant had been part of either the Miyagi Cohort Study in 1990 or the Ohsaki Cohort Study in 1994.
Upon analysis of the pooled data from both cohorts, Zhang and her team found that 3.3 percent of the participants had incidents of prostate cancer based on responses from questionnaires regarding their medical histories and their eating, smoking and drinking habits.
It also appeared that mushroom consumption is inversely related to incident prostate cancer. In particular, participants who regularly ate mushrooms once or twice a week had an eight percent lower risk of prostate cancer.
Those who ate mushrooms more than three times a week, on the other hand, had an incredible 17 percent lower risk of prostate cancer.
Furthermore, Zhang notes that these effects had been especially pronounced in men aged 50 or older and in men whose diets consisted of low fruit and vegetable intake but high meat and dairy intake.
Unfortunately, the team was unable to collect information on mushroom species involved in either cohort. As such, they could not specify the species responsible for the reductions in prostate cancer risk.
Because of this, Zhang stated that the underlying mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of mushrooms on prostate cancer remain uncertain.
At High Doses Turmeric Compound Kills Virus Particles
Curcumin, a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, could help eliminate certain viruses, research has found.
A study published in the Journal of General Virology showed that curcumin can prevent Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) – an alpha-group coronavirus that infects pigs – from infecting cells. At higher doses, the compound was also found to kill virus particles.
Infection with TGEV causes a disease called transmissible gastroenteritis in piglets, which is characterised by diarrhoea, severe dehydration and death. TGEV is highly infectious and is invariably fatal in piglets younger than two weeks, thus posing a major threat to the global swine industry. There are currently no approved treatments for alpha-coronaviruses and although there is a vaccine for TGEV, it is not effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
To determine the potential antiviral properties of curcumin, the research team treated experimental cells with various concentrations of the compound, before attempting to infect them with TGEV. They found that higher concentrations of curcumin reduced the number of virus particles in the cell culture.
The research suggests that curcumin affects TGEV in a number of ways: by directly killing the virus before it is able to infect the cell, by integrating with the viral envelope to ‘inactivate’ the virus, and by altering the metabolism of cells to prevent viral entry.
“Curcumin has a significant inhibitory effect on TGEV adsorption step and a certain direct inactivation effect, suggesting that curcumin has great potential in the prevention of TGEV infection,” said Dr Lilan Xie, lead author of the study and researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Bioengineering.
Curcumin has been shown to inhibit the replication of some types of virus, including dengue virus, hepatitis B and Zika virus. The compound has also been found to have a number of significant biological effects, including antitumor, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities. Curcumin was chosen for this research due to having low side effects according to Dr Xie.
They said: “There are great difficulties in the prevention and control of viral diseases, especially when there are no effective vaccines. Traditional Chinese medicine and its active ingredients, are ideal screening libraries for antiviral drugs because of their advantages, such as convenient acquisition and low side effects.”
The researchers now hope to continue their research in vivo, using an animal model to assess whether the inhibiting properties of curcumin would be seen in a more complex system.
“Further studies will be required, to evaluate the inhibitory effect in vivo and explore the potential mechanisms of curcumin against TGEV, which will lay a foundation for the comprehensive understanding of the antiviral mechanisms and application of curcumin” said Dr Xie.
Nitric oxide may slow progression of COVID-19
A recent review published by GW researchers suggests that nitric oxide has promise as a therapeutic to control the replication and rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2
George Washington University, July 21, 2020
Nitric oxide treatment can be pivotal in the world's fight against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a review from the George Washington University (GW). The article is published in the journal Nitric Oxide.
Nitric oxide is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory molecule with key roles in pulmonary vascular function in the context of viral infections and other pulmonary diseases. In SARS-CoV-1 infection, which led to the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, nitric oxide inhibited viral replication by cytotoxic reactions through intermediates such as peroxynitrite. It is one of several potential COVID-19 treatments included in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency expanded access program.
"Nitric oxide plays key roles in maintaining normal vascular function and regulating inflammatory cascades that contribute to acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)," said Adam Friedman, MD, interim chair and professor in the Department of Dermatology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and co-senior author of the review. "Interventions that are protective against ALI and ARDS can play a critical role for patients and health systems during the pandemic."
Coronaviruses are RNA viruses that primarily infect birds or livestock, but can mutate to be highly infectious and lethal in humans. There is currently no registered treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. The absence of a specific treatment and the high mortality rate of the virus dictate an urgent need for therapeutics that may control the replication and rapid spread of the virus.
The team, led by first author Nagasai Adusumilli, MBA, a fourth-year medical student at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, reviewed data from between 1993 and 2020 on the pathogenesis of coronaviruses and the use of nitric oxide as a treatment for respiratory illness. The authors highlight the potential for inhaled nitric oxide contributing to better clinical outcomes and alleviating the rapidly rising strain on health care capacity due to COVID-19.
As groups continue to publish more results with their respective nitric oxide platforms, the team recommends that dosing and protocol variations should be examined in evaluating the studies.
"With the emergence of COVID-19 as a pandemic with the ability to overwhelm the body and our health care infrastructure, patients have a pressing need for effective agents that can slow the disease in their bodies and in their communities," Friedman said.
The authors suggest that if nitric oxide's efficacy is illustrated for COVID-19, its use as a treatment can be pivotal in the fight against the pandemic.
Friedman has been collaborating with co-senior author Joel Friedman, MD, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics and of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, on research related to the use of nitric oxide in a broad range of medical indications for close to two decades, and together are developing nitric oxide-based therapeutics for COVID-19.
Cinnamon may improve blood sugar control in people with prediabetes
Joslin Diabetes Center (Boston), July 21, 2020
Cinnamon improves blood sugar control in people with prediabetes and could slow the progression to type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
It is estimated that nearly 90 million people in the United States have prediabetes, which occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal and often leads to type 2 diabetes. Identifying strategies to prevent the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is challenging, yet important for a large population.
"Our 12-week study showed beneficial effects of adding cinnamon to the diet on keeping blood sugar levels stable in participants with prediabetes," said the study's corresponding author, Giulio R. Romeo, M.D., of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Mass. "These findings provide the rationale for longer and larger studies to address if cinnamon can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over time."
The randomized clinical trial investigated the effects of cinnamon supplementation in 51 participants with prediabetes. Participants were given a 500 mg cinnamon capsule or placebo three times a day for 12 weeks. The researchers found that cinnamon supplements lowered abnormal fasting glucose levels and improved the body's response to eating a meal with carbohydrates, which are hallmarks of prediabetes. Cinnamon was well tolerated and was not associated with specific side effects or adverse events.
Supplements with potential to prevent Alzheimer's affect blood, but less so the brain
Omega-3 fatty acids might require larger doses to be effective -- especially for people with high-risk gene
University of Southern California, July 21, 2020
For years, a scientific puzzle has bedeviled researchers aiming to fight Alzheimer's disease, a common and incurable form of dementia.
The results of numerous lab investigations and population studies support the preventive potential of omega-3 fatty acids, "good fats" found abundantly in fish. However, to date the majority of studies evaluating omega-3s for averting or curtailing cognitive decline in human participants have failed to show benefits.
Now, a small clinical trial from USC provides important clues about this discrepancy, in the first Alzheimer's prevention study to compare levels of omega-3s in the blood with those in the central nervous system. The findings suggest that higher doses of omega-3 supplements may be needed in order to make a difference, because dramatic increases in blood levels of omega-3s are accompanied by far smaller increases within the brain. Among participants who carry a specific mutation that heightens risk for Alzheimer's, taking the supplements raised levels of a key fatty acid far less compared to those without the mutation.
"Trials have been built on the assumption that omega-3s get into the brain," said senior author Dr. Hussein Yassine, associate professor of medicine and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Our study was specifically designed to address this question."
The paper was published today in the journal EBioMedicine.
The researchers recruited 33 participants who had risk factors for Alzheimer's but were not cognitively impaired. All participants had a family history of the disease, a sedentary lifestyle and a diet low in fatty fish. Fifteen carried a gene variant called APOE4, which is linked to inflammation in the brain and increases Alzheimer's risk by a factor of four or more; the other 18 were noncarriers.
At random, participants were assigned to a treatment group or control group. Members of the treatment group were asked to take supplements containing more than 2 grams of an omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily for six months. Control group members took placebos each day over the same period. Participants in both groups also were asked to take daily B-complex vitamins, which help the body process omega-3s.
Dr. Yassine and his colleagues gathered samples of blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid -- a gauge for whether the omega-3s reached the brain -- from participants at the outset, and again at the end of the study period. The scientists looked at levels of two omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a potent anti-inflammatory that the body derives from a small portion of its DHA intake.
Higher doses for omega-3s to be effective?
The researchers found that at the end of the six months, participants who took omega-3 supplements had 200 percent more DHA in their blood compared to those who took placebos. In contrast, the DHA found in cerebrospinal fluid was only 28 percent higher in the treatment group than the control group. This result hints that measuring omega-3 levels in the blood may not indicate how much is reaching the brain.
Dr. Yassine and his co-authors also report that, within the treatment group, those without the risk-inflating APOE4 mutation showed an increase of EPA (anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid) in their cerebrospinal fluid three times greater than what was seen in carriers of the gene.
"E4 carriers, despite having the same dose, had less omega-3s in the brain," he said. "This finding suggests that EPA is either getting consumed, getting lost or not getting absorbed into the brain as efficiently with the E4 gene."
Notably, the 2-gram dose of DHA in this study far exceeded what has been used in major clinical trials testing the preventive power of omega-3s, which typically administer 1 gram or less daily.
"If you use a lower dose, you can expect a less-than-10-percent increase in omega-3s in the brain, which may not be considered meaningful," Dr. Yassine said.
The sacrifice of study participants advances Alzheimer's research
The investigators worked for two years to recruit participants for the trial. The barrier to entry came from the only method capable of extracting cerebrospinal fluid: a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. It proved challenging to find people willing to undergo that procedure, which involves a hollow needle piercing the lower back, two times.
Dr. Yassine had high praise for the study participants.
"They were generous with their time, and they were courageous to do the lumbar punctures," he said. "The main reason they did this was their desire to advance science."
The participants' bravery may pay off in the creation of even more knowledge about omega-3s and Alzheimer's.
The preliminary data from the current study was intriguing enough that the scientists were able to attract funding for a larger trial for which recruitment is underway. Following 320 participants over two years, it will examine whether high doses of omega-3s can slow cognitive decline in carriers of the APOE4 gene.
Dr. Yassine believes that the progression from a small study to a bigger one is a good model for developing therapies and preventions targeting the brain.
"These pilot studies are so important as a step toward much larger, more complicated studies," he said. "The bottom line is, before you embark upon very expensive clinical trials, you need to show proof of concept, that your drug is getting into the brain and changing biomarkers of disease in the right direction."
Efficacy of acupuncture in insomnia treatment
In this study, researchers provided updated evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for primary insomnia. Their findings were published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
- Acupuncture is widely used in Asia as an alternative therapy for insomnia.
- In Western countries, the use of acupuncture is increasing.
- To determine the suitability of acupuncture as insomnia treatment, the researchers searched 11 databases from January 2008 to October 2017 for relevant RCTs.
- Two authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias.
- The researchers performed statistical analysis using RevMan 5.3 software then combined data in a meta-analysis according to a predefined protocol.
- They also performed trial sequential analysis when appropriate and assessed the quality of evidence using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE).
- The researchers analyzed 73 RCTs that involved 5,533 participants. Their results showed that real acupuncture treatment yielded better results than no treatment by reducing the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) scores.
- Acupuncture, combined with medication, also showed better results than medication alone by decreasing PSQI total scores.
- Compared with estazolam, acupuncture exerted better effects on PSQI scores.
- It also caused fewer adverse events than western medications.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that acupuncture benefits people with insomnia by improving their sleep quality. The researchers recommend a larger sample size and more rigorously designed RCTs to explore this benefit further.
Dietary guidelines advisory committee reinforces need for increased choline intake
Vulnerable populations, including infants, toddlers, pregnant and lactating women, are at greatest risk for choline deficiency
HHS and Cornell University, July 20, 2020
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC or Committee) - a group comprised of 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts - published the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Among its findings, the Committee concluded that current choline intake levels are too low for most Americans and found low intake levels among infants and toddlers, as well as vulnerable populations like pregnant and lactating women, especially concerning.
"The Committee's scientific report shines a light on the growing body of evidence that shows choline plays a critical role in health during specific life stages," says Marie Caudill, PhD, RD, Professor, Cornell University and an internationally recognized choline researcher. "Unfortunately, consumption data tell us choline is widely under-consumed, and it's concerning that those populations who would benefit most from choline, such as pregnant and lactating women and infants and children, fall short of meeting intake targets. In fact, only 8 percent of pregnant women are meeting choline recommendations."
Choline is an essential nutrient that supports a variety of processes at all stages of life and throughout the body, including fetal and infant development; cognition and memory; energy and fitness; metabolism; and liver health. While more research is needed for choline to reach the level of a 'nutrient of public health concern,' the Committee recognized choline as a 'nutrient that poses public health challenges' for all infants and toddlers between ages 12 and 24 months; and special attention around choline inadequacies was specifically noted for girls and boys ages 9 to 14; and the vulnerable pregnant population and women who are lactating. Choline is naturally found in some foods; yet, based on typical and recommended eating patterns, it is difficult to meet daily choline needs through foods alone. In fact, the DGAC presented three food pattern styles, which generally meet all nutrient needs across the lifespan, except for a few such as choline. Importantly, the Committee noted that many supplements do not yet contain sufficient amounts of choline, indicating an important opportunity for both supplement innovations, as well as food fortification, in the future.
"The Committee's report clearly highlights the challenges of meeting choline intake targets through food alone," added Caudill. "Americans need guidance on how to choose supplements to help fill nutrient gaps, particularly for pregnant women as most recognized prenatal vitamins don't contain enough--if any--choline."
"Choline's increased recognition in the DGAC report is an important scientific milestone for the public health community," says Jonathan Bortz, MD, Senior Director, Nutrition Science, Balchem. "We are quickly approaching an inflection point in time for choline awareness. In addition to the findings released in this report, Balchem has, and will continue to support research needed to develop a blood biomarker for choline, which will provide a more accurate understanding of the level of deficiency among Americans and help to generate stronger guidance and messages."
Choline can be purchased online or in specialty stores as a stand-alone, over-the-counter supplement; incorporated into some prenatal vitamins or packaged along with prenatal vitamins; and fortified in branded milk products, specifically:
- Bayer recently launched a "One A Day Women's Prenatal Advanced Complete Multivitamin with Brain Support," that includes a side-by-side prenatal multivitamin plus a supplement that provides 110mg of choline, helping to substantially close the gap in pregnant women's daily needs.
- Danone's Horizon Organic brand developed milk for young children--Growing Years--that is fortified to contain 55mg of choline per serving, providing between 10 percent to 27 percent of children's daily needs, depending on age and gender.
"The Committee's report has provided critical research directions to help inform Balchem's long-standing commitment to choline research and science communications," added Bortz. "We look forward to continuing to support science and product innovation to ensure all Americans throughout the lifespan can benefit from increased choline, as part of healthy diets."
Older adults who can really smell the roses may face lower likelihood of dementia
University of California San Francisco, July 20, 2020
Seniors who can identify smells like roses, turpentine, paint-thinner and lemons, and have retained their senses of hearing, vision and touch, may have half the risk of developing dementia as their peers with marked sensory decline.
In a study by UC San Francisco, researchers tracked close to 1,800 participants in their seventies for a period of up to 10 years to see if their sensory functioning correlated with the development of dementia. At the time of enrollment, all participants were dementia-free, but 328 participants (18 percent) developed the condition over the course of the study.
Among those whose sensory levels ranked in the middle range, 141 of the 328 (19 percent) developed dementia. This compares with 83 in the good range (12 percent) and 104 (27 percent) in the poor range, according to the study, which publishes in Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association on July 20, 2020.
Previous research has centered on the link between dementia and individual senses, but the UCSF researchers' focus was on the additive effects of multiple impairments in sensory function, which emerging evidence shows are a stronger indicator of declining cognition.
"Sensory impairments could be due to underlying neurodegeneration or the same disease processes as those affecting cognition, such as stroke," said first author Willa Brenowitz, PhD, of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the Weill Institute for Neurosciences. "Alternatively, sensory impairments, particularly hearing and vision, may accelerate cognitive decline, either directly impacting cognition or indirectly by increasing social isolation, poor mobility and adverse mental health."
While multiple impairments were key to the researchers work, the authors acknowledged that a keen sense of smell, or olfaction, has a stronger association against dementia than touch, hearing or vision. Participants whose smell declined by 10 percent had a 19 percent higher chance of dementia, versus a 1-to-3-percent increased risk for corresponding declines in vision, hearing and touch.
"The olfactory bulb, which is critical for smell, is affected fairly early on in the course of the disease," said Brenowitz. "It's thought that smell may be a preclinical indicator of dementia, while hearing and vision may have more of a role in promoting dementia."
The 1,794 participants were recruited from a random sample of Medicare-eligible adults in the Health, Aging and Body Composition study. Cognitive testing was done at the beginning of the study and repeated every other year. Dementia was defined by testing that showed a significant drop from baseline scores, documented use of a dementia medication or hospitalization for dementia as a primary or secondary diagnosis.
Multisensory testing was done in the third-to-fifth year and included hearing (hearing aids were not allowed), contrast-sensitivity tests for vision (glasses were permitted), touch testing in which vibrations were measured in the big toe, and smell, involving identifying distinctive odors like paint-thinner, roses, lemons, onions and turpentine.
The researchers found that participants who remained dementia-free generally had higher cognition at enrollment and tended to have no sensory impairments. Those in the middle range tended to have multiple mild impairments or a single moderate-to-severe impairment. Participants at higher risk had multiple moderate-to-severe impairments.
"We found that with deteriorating multisensory functioning, the risk of cognitive decline increased in a dose-response manner," said senior author Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the UCSF departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Neurology, as well as the San Francisco VA Health Care System. "Even mild or moderate sensory impairments across multiple domains were associated with an increased risk of dementia, indicating that people with poor multisensory function are a high-risk population that could be targeted prior to dementia onset for intervention."
The 780 participants with good multisensory function were more likely to be healthier than the 499 participants with poor multisensory function, suggesting that some lifestyle habits may play a role in reducing risks for dementia. The former group was more likely to have completed high school (85 percent versus 72.1 percent), had less diabetes (16.9 percent versus 27.9 percent) and were marginally less likely to have cardiovascular disease, high-blood pressure and stroke.
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On “White Fragility”
A few thoughts on America’s smash-hit #1 guide to egghead racialism
A core principle of the academic movement that shot through elite schools in America since the early nineties was the view that individual rights, humanism, and the democratic process are all just stalking-horses for white supremacy. The concept, as articulated in books like former corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (Amazon’s #1 seller!) reduces everything, even the smallest and most innocent human interactions, to racial power contests.
It’s been mind-boggling to watch White Fragility celebrated in recent weeks. When it surged past a Hunger Games book on bestseller lists, USA Today cheered, “American readers are more interested in combatting racism than in literary escapism.” When DiAngelo appeared on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon gushed, “I know… everyone wants to talk to you right now!” White Fragility has been pitched as an uncontroversial road-map for fighting racism, at a time when after the murder of George Floyd Americans are suddenly (and appropriately) interested in doing just that. Except this isn’t a straightforward book about examining one’s own prejudices. Have the people hyping this impressively crazy book actually read it?
DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category.
If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.”
DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.
DiAngelo’s writing style is pure pain. The lexicon favored by intersectional theorists of this type is built around the same principles as Orwell’s Newspeak: it banishes ambiguity, nuance, and feeling and structures itself around sterile word pairs, like racist and antiracist, platform and deplatform, center and silence, that reduce all thinking to a series of binary choices. Ironically, Donald Trump does something similar, only with words like “AMAZING!” and “SAD!” that are simultaneously more childish and livelier.
Writers like DiAngelo like to make ugly verbs out of ugly nouns and ugly nouns out of ugly verbs (there are countless permutations on centering and privileging alone). In a world where only a few ideas are considered important, redundancy is encouraged, e.g. “To be less white is to break with white silence and white solidarity, to stop privileging the comfort of white people,” or “Ruth Frankenberg, a premier white scholar in the field of whiteness, describes whiteness as multidimensional…”
DiAngelo writes like a person who was put in timeout as a child for speaking clearly. “When there is disequilibrium in the habitus — when social cues are unfamiliar and/or when they challenge our capital — we use strategies to regain our balance,” she says (“People taken out of their comfort zones find ways to deal,” according to Google Translate). Ideas that go through the English-DiAngelo translator usually end up significantly altered, as in this key part of the book when she addresses Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” speech:
One line of King’s speech in particular—that one day he might be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin—was seized upon by the white public because the words were seen to provide a simple and immediate solution to racial tensions: pretend that we don’t see race, and racism will end. Color blindness was now promoted as the remedy for racism, with white people insisting that they didn’t see race or, if they did, that it had no meaning to them.
That this speech was held up as the framework for American race relations for more than half a century precisely because people of all races understood King to be referring to a difficult and beautiful long-term goal worth pursuing is discounted, of course. White Fragility is based upon the idea that human beings are incapable of judging each other by the content of their character, and if people of different races think they are getting along or even loving one another, they probably need immediate antiracism training. This is an important passage because rejection of King’s “dream” of racial harmony — not even as a description of the obviously flawed present, but as the aspirational goal of a better future — has become a central tenet of this brand of antiracist doctrine mainstream press outlets are rushing to embrace.
The book’s most amazing passage concerns the story of Jackie Robinson:
The story of Jackie Robinson is a classic example of how whiteness obscures racism by rendering whites, white privilege, and racist institutions invisible. Robinson is often celebrated as the first African American to break the color line…
While Robinson was certainly an amazing baseball player, this story line depicts him as racially special, a black man who broke the color line himself. The subtext is that Robinson finally had what it took to play with whites, as if no black athlete before him was strong enough to compete at that level. Imagine if instead, the story went something like this: “Jackie Robinson, the first black man whites allowed to play major-league baseball.”
There is not a single baseball fan anywhere – literally not one, except perhaps Robin DiAngelo, I guess – who believes Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier because he “finally had what it took to play with whites.” Everyone familiar with this story understands that Robinson had to be exceptional, both as a player and as a human being, to confront the racist institution known as Major League Baseball. His story has always been understood as a complex, long-developing political tale about overcoming violent systemic oppression. For DiAngelo to suggest history should re-cast Robinson as “the first black man whites allowed to play major league baseball” is grotesque and profoundly belittling.
Robinson’s story moreover did not render “whites, white privilege, and racist institutions invisible.” It did the opposite. Robinson uncovered a generation of job inflation for mediocre white ballplayers in a dramatic example of “privilege” that was keenly understood by baseball fans of all races fifty years before White Fragility. Baseball statistics nerds have long been arguing about whether to put asterisks next to the records of white stars who never had to pitch to Josh Gibson, or hit against prime Satchel Paige or Webster McDonald. Robinson’s story, on every level, exposed and evangelized the truth about the very forces DiAngelo argues it rendered “invisible.”
It takes a special kind of ignorant for an author to choose an example that illustrates the mathematical opposite of one’s intended point, but this isn’t uncommon in White Fragility, which may be the dumbest book ever written. It makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina.
Yet these ideas are taking America by storm. The movement that calls itself “antiracism” – I think it deserves that name a lot less than “pro-lifers” deserve theirs and am amazed journalists parrot it without question – is complete in its pessimism about race relations. It sees the human being as locked into one of three categories: members of oppressed groups, allies, and white oppressors.
Where we reside on the spectrum of righteousness is, they say, almost entirely determined by birth, a view probably shared by a lot of 4chan readers. With a full commitment to the program of psychological ablutions outlined in the book, one may strive for a “less white identity,” but again, DiAngelo explicitly rejects the Kingian goal of just trying to love one another as impossible, for two people born with different skin colors.
This dingbat racialist cult, which has no art, music, literature, and certainly no comedy, is the vision of “progress” institutional America has chosen to endorse in the Trump era. Why? Maybe because it fits. It won’t hurt the business model of the news media, which for decades now has been monetizing division and has known how to profit from moral panics and witch hunts since before Fleet street discovered the Mod/Rocker wars.
Democratic Party leaders, pioneers of the costless gesture, have already embraced this performative race politics as a useful tool for disciplining apostates like Bernie Sanders. Bernie took off in presidential politics as a hard-charging crusader against a Wall Street-fattened political establishment, and exited four years later a self-flagellating, defeated old white man who seemed to regret not apologizing more for his third house. Clad in kente cloth scarves, the Democrats who crushed him will burn up CSPAN with homilies on privilege even as they reassure donors they’ll stay away from Medicare for All or the carried interest tax break.
For corporate America the calculation is simple. What’s easier, giving up business models based on war, slave labor, and regulatory arbitrage, or benching Aunt Jemima? There’s a deal to be made here, greased by the fact that the “antiracism” prophets promoted in books like White Fragility share corporate Americas instinctive hostility to privacy, individual rights, freedom of speech, etc.
Corporate America doubtless views the current protest movement as something that can be addressed as an H.R. matter, among other things by hiring thousands of DiAngelos to institute codes for the proper mode of Black-white workplace interaction.
If you’re wondering what that might look like, here’s DiAngelo explaining how she handled the fallout from making a bad joke while she was “facilitating antiracism training” at the office of one of her clients.
When one employee responds negatively to the training, DiAngelo quips the person must have been put off by one of her Black female team members: “The white people,” she says, “were scared by Deborah’s hair.” (White priests of antiracism like DiAngelo seem universally to be more awkward and clueless around minorities than your average Trump-supporting construction worker).
DiAngelo doesn’t grasp the joke flopped and has to be told two days later that one of her web developer clients was offended. In despair, she writes, “I seek out a friend who is white and has a solid understanding of cross-racial dynamics.”
After DiAngelo confesses her feelings of embarrassment, shame and guilt to the enlightened white cross-racial dynamics expert (everyone should have such a person on speed-dial), she approaches the offended web developer. She asks, “Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism I perpetrated toward you in that meeting?” At which point the web developer agrees, leading to a conversation establishing the parameters of problematic joke resolution.
This dialogue straight out of South Park – “Is it okay if I touch your penis? No, you may not touch my penis at this time!” – has a good shot of becoming standard at every transnational corporation, law firm, university, newsroom, etc.
Of course the upside such consultants can offer is an important one. Under pressure from people like this, companies might address long-overdue inequities in boardroom diversity.
The downside, which we’re already seeing, is that organizations everywhere will embrace powerful new tools for solving professional disputes, through a never-ending purge. One of the central tenets of DiAngelo’s book (and others like it) is that racism cannot be eradicated and can only be managed through constant, “lifelong” vigilance, much like the battle with addiction. A useful theory, if your business is selling teams of high-priced toxicity-hunters to corporations as next-generation versions of efficiency experts — in the fight against this disease, companies will need the help forever and ever.
Cancelations already are happening too fast to track. In a phenomenon that will be familiar to students of Russian history, accusers are beginning to appear alongside the accused. Three years ago a popular Canadian writer named Hal Niedzviecki was denounced for expressing the opinion that “anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities." He reportedly was forced out of the Writer’s Union of Canada for the crime of “cultural appropriation,” and denounced as a racist by many, including a poet named Gwen Benaway. The latter said Niedzviecki “doesn’t see the humanity of indigenous peoples.” Last week, Benaway herself was denounced on Twitter for failing to provide proof that she was Indigenous.
Michael Korenberg, the chair of the board at the University of British Columbia, was forced to resign for liking tweets by Dinesh D’Souza and Donald Trump, which you might think is fine – but what about Latino electrical worker Emmanuel Cafferty, fired after a white activist took a photo of him making an OK symbol (it was described online as a “white power” sign)? How about Sue Schafer, the heretofore unknown graphic designer the Washington Post decided to out in a 3000-word article for attending a Halloween party two years ago in blackface (a failed parody of a different blackface incident involving Megyn Kelly)? She was fired, of course. How was this news? Why was ruining this person’s life necessary?
People everywhere today are being encouraged to snitch out schoolmates, parents, and colleagues for thoughtcrime. The New York Times wrote a salutary piece about high schoolers scanning social media accounts of peers for evidence of “anti-black racism” to make public, because what can go wrong with encouraging teenagers to start submarining each other’s careers before they’ve even finished growing?
“People who go to college end up becoming racist lawyers and doctors. I don’t want people like that to keep getting jobs,” one 16 year-old said. “Someone rly started a Google doc of racists and their info for us to ruin their lives… I love twitter,” wrote a different person, adding cheery emojis.
A bizarre echo of North Korea’s “three generations of punishment” doctrine could be seen in the boycotts of Holy Land grocery, a well-known hummus maker in Minneapolis. In recent weeks it’s been abandoned by clients and seen its lease pulled because of racist tweets made by the CEO’s 14 year-old daughter eight years ago.
Parents calling out their kids is also in vogue. In Slate, “Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” wrote to advice columnist Michelle Herman in a letter headlined, “I think I’ve screwed up the way my kids think about race.” The problem, the aggrieved parent noted, was that his/her sons had gone to a diverse school, and their “closest friends are still a mix of black, Hispanic, and white kids,” which to them was natural. The parent worried when one son was asked to fill out an application for a potential college roommate and expressed annoyance at having to specify race, because “I don’t care about race.”
Clearly, a situation needing fixing! The parent asked if someone who didn’t care about race was “just as racist as someone who only has white friends” and asked if it was “too late” to do anything. No fear, Herman wrote: it’s never too late for kids like yours to educate themselves. To help, she linked to a program of materials designed for just that purpose, a “Lesson Plan for Being An Ally,” that included a month of readings of… White Fragility. Hopefully that kid with the Black and Hispanic friends can be cured!
This notion that color-blindness is itself racist, one of the main themes of White Fragility, could have amazing consequences. In researching I Can’t Breathe, I met civil rights activists who recounted decades of struggle to remove race from the law. I heard stories of lawyers who were physically threatened for years in places like rural Arkansas just for trying to end explicit hiring and housing discrimination and other remnants of Jim Crow. Last week, an Oregon County casually exempted “people of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling” from a Covid-19 related mask order. Who thinks creating different laws for different racial categories is going to end well? When has it ever?
At a time of catastrophe and national despair, when conservative nationalism is on the rise and violent confrontation on the streets is becoming commonplace, it’s extremely suspicious that the books politicians, the press, university administrators, and corporate consultants alike are asking us to read are urging us to put race even more at the center of our identities, and fetishize the unbridgeable nature of our differences. Meanwhile books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, which are both beautiful and actually anti-racist, have been banned, for containing the “N-word.” (White Fragility contains it too, by the way). It’s almost like someone thinks there’s a benefit to keeping people divided.
The Gary Null Show - Our new cultural civil war over race and the shut down of free speech w/ John Whitehead
John Whitehead is a civil attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights for the persecuted and oppressed. In 1982 he founded The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit civil liberties and human rights organization headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Institute provides legal services to defend civil liberties and programs to educate the public on issues affecting their Constitutional freedoms. John gained international renown for his role as co-counsel in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton. He has filed numerous amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and has been co-counsel in several landmark Supreme Court cases. John has been the subject of many newspaper, magazine and television profiles, ranging from Gentleman's Quarterly to CBS' 60 Minutes. He is the author of “Battlefield America: The War on the American People," and "Government of Wolves: The Emerging Government Police State." John's weekly articles and column can be found on his website at Rutherford.org.
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A Revolution in American Medicine is Long Overdue
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
July 6, 2020
The sweeping occurrence of CoV19 infections has contributed to a loss of jobs, careers, regular education for our children and has adversely impacted the health of otherwise healthy people. But for tens of millions of Americans who have lost their health insurance or have not been covered, the situation is more dire. One illness, one infectious disease, could push them over the edge into insolvency and bankruptcy. Now is the opportune time to change course, bail out all Americans and cease providing taxpayer gifts to Wall Street, the rich and powerful.
The fundamental problem with Obamacare, and the proposed combination of a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, is that both leave the unconscionable profit making in the system. The medical lobbies, insurance and hospital industries and Big Pharma assure that if you are hospitalized with CoV19 and don't have insurance, you will receive a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. There is no power in the US at this moment that would prevent these private industries from foregoing a $3.5 trillion windfall profit annually. Therefore the Democrats who claim they want universal healthcare want it only on the condition that the existing system is not upended. Yet that is exactly what is demanded at this moment.
The onslaught of misinformation from the corporatist wings of both political parties and media biases against universal healthcare are obviously confusing the electorate. This confusion leaves citizens bewildered about how they will pay their bills unless a fundamental overhaul of medical insurance is undertaken. More important, what will happen if you are diagnosed with a serious illness and are not fully covered? What are your chances of joining the ranks of the 530,000 families that file bankruptcy annually for medical reasons? According to a study published last year by the American Journal of Public Health, 66.5% of bankruptcies are medically-related. In the past, it was rare for people to go bankrupt because they did not have accessible medical care. There was a time in the US when medicine carried a higher standard of ethics. The Hippocratic Oath was respected and no one was denied medical care because they could not afford it. But that was in the past. Obama's Affordable Care Act, which Biden continues to believe is a successful piece of legislation, has done little to mitigate the increasing financial burden on individuals and families. In fact, quality of healthcare has steadily declined.
Now with the CoV19 pandemic, we are witnessing patients forced to pay out of pocket enormous bills for diagnostic testing, ER visits, hospitalization and treatments. If you are returning to the country from overseas, you may be forced to pay for the time spent in quarantine even if you test negative for the virus. And the pharmaceutical and insurance industries are already capitalizing on this disaster.
The Democrat Party's full throttle assault to undermine the legitimacy of Bernie Sanders' campaign was orchestrated by the insurance and medical industrial complex, which has influenced unbridled bias across the media waves. The goal is to effectively sustain Obama's failed healthcare efforts. After listening to dozens of commentators on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the pseudo-health journalists at the New York Times, and Washington Post, the false impression was created to perceive Bernie as only offering free stuff to everyone and at enormous cost to taxpayers.
No one truly knows how much a national universal program would cost. Forecasts for a 10-year period range roughly between $13 trillion and $48 trillion. One thing is certain. The math is simple. It would be extremely expensive and for it to succeed dramatic infrastructural changes would need to be made throughout the entire healthcare system and how medicine is conventionally practiced. That conversation is long overdue.
However, perhaps this is the wrong argument because it is based upon the Democratic Party's deep seated cognitive dissonance to protect the vested interests of Wall Street's financial community, Biden's allegiance to the credit lending industry, the military industrial complex, and the pharmaceutical and agro-chemical industries. In effect, the entirety of corporate America and the deep state, its lobbyists and oligarchic billionaires, and their sounding board in the mainstream media, are on one side of the scale while the urgent humanitarian medical needs of average citizens are on the other. All that weighs on the side of Medicare for All are the educated adults, unionists, working people, and those who understand climate change and the need for a comprehensive and equitable healthcare system. This still remains to be a revolution that must take place across the nation. So, how does such a revolution get launched?
First, Medicare for All is doable and affordable. In fact, it can potentially save $1.7 trillion a year by removing from the equation unnecessary and unconscionable profit to private insurance providers, the drug makers and the large mega-hospital networks. There is no reason for having so many levels of bureaucracy between direct medical care and the patient. Every industry directly involved in providing treatment and care would continue to profit. But it would be a reasonable profit. Instead we have a medical lobby that is excessively greedy and eager to take advantage of loopholes in order to milk the system for whatever it is worth.
But we can only have a viable Medicare for All after we seriously look at what it costs to treat a patient and make efforts to reduce the exorbitant waste that has been programmed into our current system. How is it that a hospital can charge $787 for an adult and $393 for a child for a one dollar bag of intravenous saline solution, plus an additional $127 to administer it? Americans spend more on prescription medications than any other developed nation, as drug prices can soar ten times the rate of inflation. Daraprim, for example, which is prescribed to fight one of the world's most common parasitical infections that causes toxoplasmosis, can cost $45,000 per month, or $750 for a single pill that costs $13.50 to manufacture.
When we consider the costs for treating CoV19, the figures get even more outrageous. An average Medicare payment for a common respiratory infection is about $13,300, and over $40,000 for an infection requiring a ventilator. That was in 2017, and the average costs have increased 20 percent or more in less than three years. Average out of pocket costs for being hospitalized for pneumonia is $1,300 and much higher for those covered by small business insurance. Cases of uninsured people being treated for Cov19 have received medical bills upwards to $35,000 and conservatively there are 28 million uninsured citizens in the US at this moment and rising as unemployment increases. Consequently only 1 in 7 Americans polled would not seek CoV treatment because of the cost.
Based upon earlier figures between 2012-2015, about $2.6 trillion can be saved by removing bureaucratic waste and profiteering. This includes $275 billion on private insurance paperwork, $55.6 billion on liability insurance, $471 billion for insurance billing, $140 billion for medical fraud (2016), $210 billion for unnecessary medical testing, and $190 billion for wasteful administrative services. Back in 2016, the British Medical Journal reported that medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US. As a result over $1 trillion is spent on avoidable medical errors.
Universal healthcare will not break the economy. What is breaking the economy is our current broken medical system. Universal, quality care is easily within reach but only after the health of the population is given preference over the healthcare system's vulture capitalists. Then Americans will no longer have to worry about bankruptcy, which further contributes to the stresses associated with ill health, because they cannot afford the treatments or medications without putting themselves and their family into perpetual debt.
Second, providing universal healthcare does not guarantee that patients will receive quality care. If we are truly honest with ourselves and ask whether the US has the best medical care available, the answer should be a resounding no. American emergency medicine is exemplary as is specialized surgery. However, chronic care for treating heart disease, cancer, diabetes, pain management and neurological and mental health conditions has been a dismal failure. More physicians need to be brought into the system without the anxiety of paying off enormous school debt and being forced to work to exhaustion. We would be wise to make medical education free in return for young doctors committing themselves to charging reasonable fees if they wish to remain within the system. If a doctor prefers to gouge patients, that is their right to do so outside of the national system.
Finally, the US lags far behind in a implementing a national preventative program. Very little has been done to prevent diseases shown to be directly related to life-style, diet and toxic conditions in our environment. A viable prevention program would begin by supporting and mandating holistic health programs in our schools beginning with grade school. Why does offering school courses in "How to be Healthy" seem absurd when it has been shown repeatedly in the scientific peer-review literature and efforts in other advanced nations to avoid preventable illnesses and further reduce medical costs? But in order to launch a comprehensive preventative program at a national scale, only respected educated health consumers should be in charge. Entities representing private corporate interests should be prohibited since they are responsible for the medical disasters that now demand for universal healthcare. If Obamacare and the current corporate medical establishment were truly effective, there would be no discussion about Medicare for All.
Hence this program would save nearly $2 trillion a year and help prevent tens of millions of diseases. The nation would be much healthier if comprehensive measures were taken to prevent disease in the first place. During the past three years we have sent on multiple occasions suggestions for implementing a Medicare for All to the Sanders' campaign and leading Democrats in Congress. But not a single person has responded. What does that tell us about the sincerity and commitment of those who profess universal healthcare but get their funding and marching orders from the drug industry?
Richard Gale is the Executive Producer of the Progressive Radio Network and a former Senior Research Analyst in the biotechnology and genomic industries.
Dr. Gary Null is the host of the nation’s longest running public radio program on alternative and nutritional health and a multi-award-winning documentary film director, including The War on Health, Poverty Inc and Plant Codes.
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