Mediterranean-style diets linked to better brain function in older adults
American Geriatrics Society, July 26, 2021
Eating foods included in two healthy diets--the Mediterranean or the MIND diet--is linked to a lower risk for memory difficulties in older adults, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, nuts, olive oil and fish. Processed foods, fried and fast foods, snack foods, red meat, poultry and whole-fat dairy foods are infrequently eaten on the Mediterranean diet.
The MIND diet is a version of the Mediterranean diet that includes 15 types of foods. Ten are considered "brain-healthy:" green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Five are considered unhealthy: red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried/fast foods.
Researchers examined information from 5,907 older adults who participated in the Health and Retirement Study. The participants filled out questionnaires about their eating habits. Researchers then measured the participants' cognitive abilities--mostly on their memory and attention skills.
The researchers compared the diets of participants to their performance on the cognitive tests. They found that older people who ate Mediterranean and MIND-style diets scored significantly better on the cognitive function tests than those who ate less healthy diets. In fact, older people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had 35% lower risk of scoring poorly on cognitive tests. Even those who ate a moderate Mediterranean-style diet had 15% lower risk of doing poorly on cognitive tests. The researchers noted similar results for people who ate MIND-style diets.
This study suggests that eating Mediterranean and MIND-style diets is linked to better overall cognitive function in older adults, said the researchers. What's more, older adults who followed these healthy diets had lower risks for having cognitive impairment in later life, noted the researchers.
Postmenopausal women can dance their way to better health
New study suggests that dancing improves cholesterol levels, physical fitness, self-image, and self-esteem in postmenopausal women
North American Menopause Society, July 28, 2021
Women often struggle with managing their weight and other health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, once they transition through menopause. A new study suggests that dancing may effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures. As a result of all these changes, postmenopausal women often suffer from decreased self-image and self-esteem, which are directly related to overall mental health.
Physical activity has been shown to minimize some of the many health problems associated with menopause. The effect of dancing, specifically, has already been investigated with regard to how it improves body composition and functional fitness. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness together in postmenopausal women.
This new study was designed to analyze the effects of dance practice on body composition, metabolic profile, functional fitness, and self-image/self-esteem in postmenopausal women. Although the sample size was small, the study suggested some credible benefits of a three-times-weekly dance regimen in improving not only the lipid profile and functional fitness of postmenopausal women but also self-image and self-esteem.
Dance therapy is seen as an attractive option because it is a pleasant activity with low associated costs and low risk of injury for its practitioners. Additional confirmed benefits of regular dancing include improvement in balance, postural control, gait, strength, and overall physical performance. All of these benefits may contribute to a woman’s ability to maintain an independent, high-quality lifestyle throughout her lifespan.
Study results are published in the article “Dance practice modifies functional fitness, lipid profile, and self-image in postmenopausal women.”
“This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women. In addition to these benefits, women also probably enjoyed a sense of comradery from the shared experience of learning something new,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.
Impact of vitamin D on response to anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha therapy in children with inflammatory bowel disease
Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, July 20, 2021
According to news reporting originating in Boston, Massachusetts, research stated, “Experimental studies have shown that vitamin D has an immunomodulatory effect on the innate and adaptive immune systems. Associations between vitamin D deficiency and development or progression of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) are reported, but a cause-and-effect relationship between pretreatment 25 hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels and response to anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha (anti-TNF) therapy is not established.”
The news reporters obtained a quote from the research from MassGeneral Hospital for Children, “This retrospective study evaluated pediatric IBD patients who had 25(OH)D levels drawn within 3 months of initiating infliximab and/or adalimumab treatment. Demographic features, Paris classification, baseline 25(OH)D levels, disease activity, and laboratory results before and after 3 months of anti-TNF therapy were collected. The interaction between vitamin D insufficiency at induction and lack of response to anti-TNF therapy at 3 months was determined. Of the 383 patients, 76 met inclusion criteria. Sixty-five patients (85.5%) had Crohn disease (CD) and 11 (14.5%) had ulcerative colitis. Seven patients had 25(OH)D levels obtained during both infliximab and adalimumab induction; hence 83 subjects were evaluated (infliximab: 70 patients, adalimumab: 13 patients). 25(OH)D <30 ng/mL was found in 55 of 83 (66.3%) subjects. There were no differences in gender, IBD type, disease activity scores between vitamin D-sufficient and vitamin D-insufficient groups. In CD, proximal gastrointestinal tract inflammation was associated with vitamin D insufficiency (P = 0.019), but other Paris classification parameters and laboratory results were similar in 2 groups. Early termination of anti-TNF therapy was significantly higher in patients who had vitamin D insufficiency (14.5% vs 0%, P = 0.034).”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “Vitamin D insufficiency before anti-TNF treatment may result in poor response to induction therapy.”
This research has been peer-reviewed.
Exploring empathy in everyday life
University of Toronto, July 27, 2021
Researchers at the University of Toronto are studying our capacity for empathy, or our ability to sense and understand someone else's emotions, and are debunking some common misconceptions along the way.
Their work, recently published in the journal Psychological Science, is potentially important since empathy is fundamental to maintaining meaningful and healthy relationships, making it a big part of our daily lives.
"We want to get a description of empathy by looking at it in everyday life, across different emotions and social contexts," says Greg Depow, a Ph.D. student who is studying social psychology at U of T Scarborough.
"We want to study empathy more in environments closer to how it is actually experienced in real life."
The study, which was co-authored with Professor Michael Inzlicht, looked at perceptions of empathy in 246 American adults. Depow says one goal of the research is to fill in gaps from previous work to offer a deeper, more authentic view of empathy. This was done by looking at who is more likely to be empathetic and how often we take the opportunity to empathize per day. The research also looked at how empathy impacts subjective well-being, which is the scientific term for happiness and sense of purpose in life.
Opportunities to empathize with others occur when one observes the emotions of another person or stranger. This can be done in person or even on social media—for example, when you notice a friend's emotional status or posts.
The researchers found that people will empathize when they recognize the opportunity to do so, but often notice other people's emotions without flagging them as opportunities to empathize.
"People were seeing these emotional experiences of other people, but weren't flagging them as opportunities to empathize," Depow says. "If you crunch the numbers a bit, it seems as though a third of emotions people see in daily life are not seen as empathy opportunities."
Learning what differentiates missed and flagged opportunities may be key to learning how to recognize and provide opportunities empathy more successfully, Depow says.
"One thing that I'm interested in is differentiating missed opportunities from the ones people are noticing. This is important because people may be missing opportunities to connect with others and promote happiness for both parties."
While previous studies have typically focused on how empathy is measured based on the suffering of strangers and its effects on the empathizer, it turns out people are three times more likely to empathize with positive emotions than negative ones.
"If I look just at negative emotions that people are empathizing with, that's actually associated with reduced subjective well-being," Depow says. "[But] because people are empathizing with positive emotions three times as often, overall empathy is associated with increased subjective well-being."
Who we empathize with is also an important factor. Most studies tend to focus on how people empathize with strangers, but Depow says the evidence shows that people are more likely to support those who are close to them.
He adds that confidence appears to affect our experience with empathy. People who are confident about their experiences seem to experience increased levels of well-being.
"People find empathy difficult more or less in different situations and that seems to change people's experience of empathy and the extent to which they empathize."
The researchers also found that receiving empathy ourselves may make us more receptive to empathizing with others. By contrast, those who empathized with others were no more or less likely to notice another opportunity to empathize with someone else.
Lycopene corrects metabolic syndrome and liver injury induced by high fat diet through antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifibrotic pathways
Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (Saudi Arabia), July 22, 2021
According to news reporting from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, research stated, “Obesity is a global epidemic disease that is closely associated with various health problems as Diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular, and metabolic disorders. Lycopene (LYC), a red-colored carotenoid, has demonstrated various promising therapeutic effects.”
The news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, “Hence, the potential of LYC was studied against high fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity and metabolic disturbances in rats. Animals fed on HFD and orally supplemented with LYC (25 and 50 mg/kg) or simvastatin (10 mg/kg) every day for 3 months. The results revealed that long-term consumption of HFD significantly increased weight gain, liver weight, cholesterol, triglycerides (TG), apolipoprotein-B (Apo-B), low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-c) levels, as well as decreasing the high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-c) levels. Moreover, high blood glucose and insulin levels accompanied by low peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPAR-g) were recorded in HFD group. Further, HFD rats displayed lower levels of antioxidant biomarkers (SOD, CAT, GPx, GR and GSH), in addition to higher levels of MDA, NO and inflammatory mediators (IL-1b, TNF-a, and MPO). Marked increases were observed in atherogenic index, lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase together with fibrosis markers (TGF-b1 and a-SMA) in rats fed on HFD. Comparing to model group, LYC was able to effectively reverse HFD-mediated alterations at dose dependent manner. Altogether, dietary supplementation of LYC successfully reversed HFD-induced alterations through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fibrotic properties.”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “Hence, LYC displayed a therapeutic potential to manage obesity and its associated pathologies.”
Olive Oil Improves Metabolic & Cardiovascular Parameters
Sapienza University (Italy), July 1, 2021
Unrefined and mechanically-extracted from olives, extra virgin olive oil is abundant in monounsaturated fat. Francesco Violi, from Sapienza University (Italy),, and colleagues enrolled 25 healthy men and women, who consumed meals consisting of a typical Mediterranean diet– abundant in fruits, vegetables and grains, with fish as the protein source. For one meal, they also consumed an additional 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of extra virgin olive oil; for the second meal, the subjects consumed an additional 10 grams of corn oil. Blood tests conducted before and two hours after the meals revealed that blood sugar rose after eating in all the participants (a normal reaction); but blood sugar rose much less post-meal among those who consumed olive oil (as compared corn oil). Further, the team observed that after meals with corn oil, participants had significantly higher levels of LDL cholesterol (as compared to the extra virgin olive oil meals). The study authors conclude that: “[extra virgin olive oil] improves post-prandial glucose and LDL-C, an effect that may account for the antiatherosclerotic effect of the Mediterranean diet.”
Melatonin May Improve Survival in Late-Stage Lung Cancer Patients After Surgical Resection
Study finds benefits for recurrence prevention and mortality
Seattle Integrative Oncology, June 30, 2021
To evaluate the impact of melatonin on lung cancer recurrence and mortality after surgical resection within a 5-year period, as well as to elaborate on impacts of quality of life, symptoms, and immune function
Multicenter, 2-arm, placebo-controlled, double-blind, phase 3, randomized, controlled trial with participants receiving 20 mg melatonin versus placebo
Adults with primary non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) eligible for complete surgical resection participated in the study. Researchers excluded patients if they were already taking melatonin, had an incomplete resection, or were pregnant or breastfeeding. They enrolled and randomized a total of 709 patients (356 melatonin group, 353 placebo group) from across 8 centers. Mean age was 67.2 ± 8.5 years. In the melatonin group, 46.6% of participants were male, and 40.7% of participants in the placebo group were male. Of the participants, 2.2% in the melatonin group received preoperative chemotherapy or radiation versus 3.9% of the placebo group. In the melatonin group, 13.2% were current smokers, and 14.6% of the placebo group were current smokers. The melatonin group had 78.6% who were past smokers, and 73.9% of the placebo group were past smokers.
Study Parameters Assessed
The 2 groups of lung cancer patients, those taking melatonin and those not taking melatonin, were compared using numerous statistical tests to see if melatonin delayed the cancer from progressing or increased how long the patients survived. The primary outcome was 2-year disease-free survival (DFS). DFS up to 5 years post-surgery was also compared to Kaplan-Meier curves.
Melatonin has long been a favorite substance used within the naturopathic and allopathic medicine world for its notable benefits in addressing insomnia and circadian regulation.1
This study’s relevance goes beyond improvements in sleep, as it speaks to the potential for improvement in survival, specifically for late-stage lung cancer patients.
Lung cancer continues to be the cancer with the second-highest incidence in both sexes, behind prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women; it also has the highest mortality rate among all cancers for both sexes around the world.2 Additionally, there has been a trend of new cancer diagnoses in nonsmokers who tend to be women with adenocarcinoma, found at a later and more advanced stage.3 All these factors have us looking for more avenues for improved treatment with less impact on quality of life.
Studies looking at the benefit of melatonin in NSCLC patients undergoing chemotherapy show favorable outcomes, specifically in enhancing effectiveness of chemotherapy and reducing toxicity.4 There have been fewer studies looking at outcomes following surgical resection, which makes this current study significant.
Melatonin continues to be studied, with recent articles referencing its multitude of benefits.5 There are many therapeutic potentials for this substance for lung cancer, as well as a variety of other tumor types. Gurunathan et al mention specifically in their review that “The combination of melatonin with conventional drugs improves the drug sensitivity of cancers, including solid and liquid tumors.”
Further studies ideally should also look at the combination of melatonin with some of the more novel oral-targeted medications such as erlotinib and osimertinib, which clinicians are implementing as first-line treatment for late-stage disease.
We as clinicians are eternally searching for methods to improve quality of life and extend survival for our patients. Although the numbers of late-stage patients in this trial were small, the implications are very positive and will likely help to usher in similar studies.
This study will likely encourage more practitioners to supplement their stage III and stage IV NSCLC patients with 20 mg of melatonin, especially after surgical resection. However, given the abundance of data on benefit during chemotherapy as well, there is a greater likelihood that the majority of late-stage patients would benefit from the addition of melatonin.
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