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April 1, 2020  

Vitamin A deficiency associated with severe mycoplasma pneumoniae infection in children

Peking University (China), March 31, 2020

 

According to news originating from Beijing, People’s Republic of China, research stated, “Children with vitamin A, D, and E deficiency are susceptible to respiratory infections. However, the correlations between the levels with Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia (MPP) and patient MPP occurrence is still unclear.”

Our news journalists obtained a quote from the research from Peking University, “This study aims to measure and compare the serum levels in severe (sMPP) and non-severe MPP (nsM PP) and to investigate the correlations between their levels and the occurrence of MPP. A total of 122 children were enrolled, including 52 sMPP and 70 nsMPP aged 0-15 years old in 2015-2018. The serum levels of vitamins A, D, and E were measured and compared, and two-category logistic regression was used for correlation analysis of vitamins A, D, and E levels with nsMPP and sMPP. The age was older (7.12 vs. 4.01 y, P=0.002) in the sMPP samples than that in the nsMPP samples. Vitamin A deficiency was present in both the nsMPP and sMPP samples; its level was significantly lower (0.15 +/- 0.06 vs. 0.19 +/- 0.07, P=0.0193) in the sMPP serum than that in the nsMPP serum. Vitamins E and D in the sMPP samples were significantly lower (vitamin E 7.43 +/- 1.55 vs. 8.22 +/- 2.22, P=0.0104; vitamin D 23.08 +/- 11.0 vs. 32.07 +/- 19.2, P=0.0007) than that in the nsMPP group; both sMPP and nsMPP did not show a deficiency of vitamins E and D. Logistic regression analysis revealed that vitamin A deficiency was significantly (OR 0.001, 95% CI: 0.001-0.334, P=0.009) associated with sMPP, and vitamin A supplementation could reduce the incidence of sMPP. In y sMPP, the incidence of vitamin A deficiency was 62.5%, while >= 6 y, 85%, showing a significant difference. Vitamin A level in <6 y sMPP was significantly lower than that in >= 6 y sMPP. Vitamin A deficiency is associated with sMPP and more likely present in the younger sMPP samples.”

According to the news editors, the research concluded: “Therefore, it is important to watch and supplement vitamin A in M. pneumoniae infection patients.”

 

 

Regular exercise benefits immunity -- even in isolation

University of Bath (UK), March 31, 2020

 

Being in isolation without access to gyms and sports clubs should not mean people stop exercising, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bath. Keeping up regular, daily exercise at a time when much of the world is going into isolation will play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy immune system.

The analysis, published in the international journal Exercise Immunology Review, involving leading physiologists Dr James Turner and Dr John Campbell from the University of Bath's Department for Health, considers the effect of exercise on our immune function.

Over the last four decades, many studies have investigated how exercise affects the immune system. It is widely agreed that regular moderate intensity exercise is beneficial for immunity, but a view held by some is that more arduous exercise can suppress immune function, leading to an 'open-window' of heightened infection risk in the hours and days following exercise.

In a benchmark study in 2018, this 'open window' hypothesis was challenged by Dr Campbell and Dr Turner. They reported in a review article that the theory was not well supported by scientific evidence, summarising that there is limited reliable evidence that exercise suppresses immunity, concluding instead that exercise is beneficial for immune function.

They say that, in the short term, exercise can help the immune system find and deal with pathogens, and in the long term, regular exercise slows down changes that happen to the immune system with ageing, therefore reducing the risk of infections.

In a new article, published this month, leading experts, including Dr Turner and Dr Campbell, debated whether the immune system can change in a negative or positive way after exercise, and whether or not athletes get more infections than the general population. The article concludes that infections are more likely to be linked to inadequate diet, psychological stress, insufficient sleep, travel and importantly, pathogen exposure at social gathering events like marathons -- rather than the act of exercising itself.

Author Dr James Turner from the Department for Health at the University of Bath explains: "Our work has concluded that there is very limited evidence for exercise directly increasing the risk of becoming infected with viruses. In the context of coronavirus and the conditions we find ourselves in today, the most important consideration is reducing your exposure from other people who may be carrying the virus. But people should not overlook the importance of staying fit, active and healthy during this period. Provided it is carried out in isolation -- away from others -- then regular, daily exercise will help better maintain the way the immune system works -- not suppress it."

Co-author, Dr John Campbell added: "People should not fear that their immune system will be suppressed by exercise placing them at increased risk of Coronavirus. Provided exercise is carried out according to latest government guidance on social distancing, regular exercise will have a tremendously positive effect on our health and wellbeing, both today and for the future."

Regular moderate intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, running or cycling is recommended, with the aim of achieving 150 minutes per week. Longer, more vigorous exercise would not be harmful, but if capacity to exercise is restricted due to a health condition or disability, the message is to 'move more' and that 'something is better than nothing'. Resistance exercise has clear benefits for maintaining muscles, which also helps movement.

At this current time in particular, the researchers underline the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene when exercising, including thoroughly washing hands following exercise. To give the body its best chance at fighting off infections, they suggest in addition to doing regular exercise, people need to pay attention to the amount of sleep they get and maintain a healthy diet, that is energy balanced to account for energy that is used during exercise. They hope that this debate article will lead to a wave of new research exploring the beneficial effects of exercise on immune function.

 

 

Exercise training better than weight loss for improving heart function in type 2 diabetes

University of Leicester (UK), March 31, 2020

 

Researchers in Leicester have shown that the function of the heart can be significantly improved in patients with type 2 diabetes through exercise.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and conducted at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) - a partnership between Leicester's Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University - also showed that a low-energy diet did not alter heart function in the same patient group.

Dr Gaurav Gulsin, a BHF Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Leicester, trainee heart doctor, and a lead author of the study, said: "Heart failure is one of the most common complications in people with type 2 diabetes, and younger adults with type 2 diabetes already have changes in their heart structure and function that pose a risk of developing heart failure. We wanted to confirm the abnormalities in the structure and function of the heart in this patient population using the latest scanning techniques, and explore whether it is possible to reverse these through exercise and/or weight loss."

Eighty-seven patients between 18 and 65 years of age with type 2 diabetes were recruited to the study. Participants underwent echocardiography and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to confirm early heart dysfunction, and exercise tests to measure cardiovascular fitness. They were then randomised into one of three groups: routine care, supervised aerobic exercise training, or a low-energy meal replacement programme. Each programme had a 12-week duration. Seventy-six patients completed the full 12 weeks. Thirty six healthy volunteers were enrolled as a control group.

The study found that patients who followed the supervised exercise programme had significantly improved heart function compared with the control group, and had also increased their exercise capacity. Whilst the low energy diet did not improve heart function, it did have favourable effects on the structure of the heart, vascular function and led to the reversal of diabetes in 83 per cent of this arm of the study population.

Gerry McCann, NIHR Research Professor and Professor of Cardiac Imaging at the University of Leicester and a consultant cardiologist at Leicester's Hospitals, was senior author on the study. He said: "Through this research we have shown that lifestyle interventions in the form of regular exercise training may be important in limiting and even reversing the damage to heart structure and function seen in younger adults with type 2 diabetes. While losing weight has a beneficial effect on heart structure, our study shows that on its own it does not appear to improve heart function.

"It may seem obvious, but if we can empower patients with type 2 diabetes to make changes to their daily routines through exercise and healthy eating, we may help them reduce the risk of heart failure and even early death. By using imaging techniques such as MRI we can actually show them the benefits their changes are making to their hearts."

The research team recognised the study population was relatively small. In addition, nearly 1 in 5 patients in the exercise arm of the study did not complete all 36 sessions, which may limit its application in future clinical practice.

 

 

Vitamin D proven to protect against respiratory infections

 Queen Mary University (UK), March 29, 2020

 

 

Adequate vitamin D levels are critical to immune system health and a range of other health areas.  In fact, science clearly suggests that maintaining proper levels can help us to avoid dementias like, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

 

This essential vitamin is best produced by exposing the body to the sun and can help to keep our muscles and bones healthy.

 

A new meta-analysis has confirmed that proper supplementation has a protective effect against colds and flu.  There had been some confusion about this in recent years due to conflicting results from past studies; however, the efficacy of this nutrient in fighting respiratory infection has now been verified.

Taking vitamin D at least as effective as flu shot in fighting respiratory infection

 

The study was conducted by Queen Mary University of London, and it pooled raw data from nearly 11,000 participants. In the meta-analysis, 25 double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trials looked at both vitamin D2 and D3 supplementation and its effects on cold or flu risk.

 

The reduction of acute respiratory infection risk through taking vitamin D3 supplementation was at least as effective as getting a flu shot.  The protective effects of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had the most dramatic positive results in those who had the lowest baseline levels to begin with.  And, another important point, regular doses were more effective than less frequent doses.

 

These study results emphasize the importance of getting enough of this fat-soluble secosteroids through supplementation and food sources.  Keep in mind, 25-hydroxyvitamin D supplementation is especially important in geographic regions that are prone to lots of rain and cloudy weather, as residents of these areas will likely not receive adequate sunlight for its production.

 

In addition to a stronger immune system and support of numerous aspects of physical health, 25-hydroxyvitamin D also helps to regulate blood sugar and mood. There are two types: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.  Of the two, D3 is the dynamic type that’s triggered by sunlight exposure. In fact, some estimates put vitamin D3 at 300 percent more effective than vitamin D2.

 

Fortified foods tend to contain vitamin D2, so the better choice for this vitamin is to get plenty of sunshine and/or take a supplement containing D3.  While sunlight does not actually contain 25-hydroxyvitamin D, it is essential in promoting its natural production inside the body.

Vitamin D3 supplements and natural food sources

 

Some great food choices include, free-range, egg yolks; wild-caught fish and organic, non-GMO soy.  Of course, many dairy products have this vitamin – but, it is often the less beneficial D2 variety and dairy-rich foods tend to promote allergies in many people. (especially if the dairy is highly-processed)

 

When it comes to supplementation, amounts as high as 10,000 IU per day have been taken to raise blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D; however, the average ideal dose can range from 2,000 to 6,000 IU per day depending upon your current health status. Your best bet is to get a blood test to determine your current status, then ask your doctor to help you determine the best course of action.

 

 

Vitamin B12 measurements across neurodegenerative disorders

University of California, March 30, 2020

 

According to news reporting out of the University of California by NewsRx editors, research stated, “Vitamin B12 deficiency causes a number of neurological features including cognitive and psychiatric disturbances, gait instability, neuropathy, and autonomic dysfunction.”

The news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from University of California: “Clinical recognition of B12 deficiency in neurodegenerative disorders is more challenging because it causes defects that overlap with expected disease progression. We sought to determine whether B12 levels at the time of diagnosis in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) differed from those in patients with other neurodegenerative disorders. We performed a cross-sectional analysis of B12 levels obtained around the time of diagnosis in patients with PD, Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). We also evaluated the rate of B12 decline in PD, AD, and MCI. In multivariable analysis adjusted for age, sex, and B12 supplementation, we found that B12 levels were significantly lower at time of diagnosis in patients with PD than in patients with PSP, FTD, and DLB. In PD, AD, and MCI, the rate of B12 decline ranged from - 17 to - 47 pg/ml/year, much greater than that reported for the elderly population.”

According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “Further studies are needed to determine whether comorbid B12 deficiency affects progression of these disorders.”

 

 

Physical activity contributes to positive mental well-being in menopausal women

University of Jyväskylä (Finland), April 1, 2020

 

A recent study has found that late menopausal status is associated with an elevated level of depressive symptoms that indicate the negative dimension of mental well-being. However, menopause was not linked to positive dimensions of mental well-being in women aged 47 to 55. The results also suggest that a high level of physical activity was linked to fewer depressive symptoms, higher satisfaction with life and higher positive affectivity in menopausal women.

"According to our research, postmenopausal women had more depressive symptoms than peri- or premenopausal women," says doctoral student Dmitriy Bondarev from the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. "At the same time menopause was not related to positive mental well-being."

The menopausal transition is divided into three stages. Pre-menopause begins five to ten years before the menopause with gradual irregularity in menstrual cycles. Perimenopause is the time prior to last menstruation, when the function of the ovaries noticeably fades away. Postmenopause is the time after the last menstruation.

Menopause occurs on average between the ages of 46 and 52 and signifies the aging of a woman's reproductive system, which has a far-reaching effect on many bodily functions. However, the link between menopause and psychological functioning in middle-aged women has been investigated less.

The findings of the study indicate that irrespective of the menopausal status, physical activity was beneficial for mental well-being in middle-aged women.

"Physically active women had lower depressive symptoms, had higher positive affectivity scores and were more satisfied with life in comparison to inactive women," Bondarev explains. "Thus, being physically active during the menopausal transition may help to withstand the negative influence of menopause on depressive symptomatology and spare positive mental well-being."

The study is a part of the Estrogenic Regulation of Muscle Apoptosis (ERMA) study involving over 1,000 women aged 47 to 55 living in Jyväskylä, Finland. In the present study, the menopausal stage was determined by the serum hormone concentrations and menstrual diaries. Mental well-being and physical activity were self-reported by the participants.

 

Complementary and integrative medical treatment interventions for increased intestinal permeability

Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, April 1, 2020 

Researchers from Australia explored the treatment interventions complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) practitioners use to manage an emerging health condition like increased intestinal permeability (IP), as well as the association these methods have on the observed time to resolve the condition. Their findings were published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

  • The researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey of Australian naturopaths, nutritionists, and Western herbal medicine practitioners through the Practitioner Research and Collaboration Initiative (PRACI) network.
  • They considered the frequencies and percentages of the treatment methods, including chi-square analysis, to examine the associations between treatment methods and observed time to resolve IP.
  • The researchers reported that 36 CIM practitioners responded to the survey. These practitioners use a multi-modal approach for the management of IP.
  • Almost 93 percent of the respondents use three or more categories of treatment interventions, namely, nutritional, herbal, dietary and lifestyle interventions.
  • The researchers also found that the main treatments prescribed for IP include:
    • Zinc (85.2 percent)
    • Multi-strain probiotics (77.8 percent)
    • Vitamin D (75 percent)
    • Glutamine (73.1 percent)
    • Turmeric (73.1 percent)
    • Saccharomyces boulardii (70.4 percent)
  • They also reported that CIM practitioners ask patients with IP to reduce their intake of alcohol (96.3 percent), gluten (85.2 percent) and dairy products (75 percent).
  • In addition, CIM practitioners frequently advise evaluation of antibiotics (75 percent) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (73.1 percent) prescriptions.
  • They observed that IP takes longer to resolve when patients do not reduce the intensity of their exercise.

The researchers concluded that their findings align with pre-clinical research, suggesting that CIM practitioners prescribe in accordance with published literature. They also recommend that CIM practitioners use numerous integrative treatment methods for the management of IP.

 

 

Burgers, other foods consumed at restaurants, fast food outlets, cafeterias, associated with higher levels of phthalates

George Washington University.  March 29, 2020

 

Dining out more at restaurants, cafeterias and fast-food outlets may boost total levels of potentially health-harming chemicals called phthalates in the body, according to a study out today. Phthalates, a group of chemicals used in food packaging and processing materials, are known to disrupt hormones in humans and are linked to a long list of health problems.

The study is the first to compare phthalate exposures in people who reported dining out to those more likely to enjoy home-cooked meals. People who reported consuming more restaurant, fast food and cafeteria meals had phthalate levels that were nearly 35 percent higher than people who reported eating food mostly purchased at the grocery store, according to the study.

"This study suggests food prepared at home is less likely to contain high levels of phthalates, chemicals linked to fertility problems, pregnancy complications and other health issues," says senior author Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. "Our findings suggest that dining out may be an important, and previously under-recognized source of exposure to phthalates for the U.S. population."

Lead author Julia Varshavsky, PhD, MPH, at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, Zota, and their colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The 10,253 participants in the study were asked to recall what they ate and where their food came from in the previous 24 hours. The researchers then analyzed the links between what people ate and the levels of phthalate break-down products found in each participant's urine sample.

The team found that 61 percent of the participants reported dining out the previous day. In addition, the researchers found:

  • The association between phthalate exposure and dining out was significant for all age groups but the magnitude of association was highest for teenagers;
  • Adolescents who were high consumers of fast food and other food purchased outside the home had 55 percent higher levels of phthalates compared to those who only consumed food at home;
  • Certain foods, and especially cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, were associated with increased levels of phthalates—but only if they were purchased at a fast-food outlet, restaurant or cafeteria. The study found that sandwiches consumed at fast food outlets, restaurants or cafeterias were associated with 30 percent higher phthalate levels in all age groups.

"Pregnant women, children and teens are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals, so it's important to find ways to limit their exposures," says Varshavsky, who is also a postdoctoral scientist at the University of California, San Francisco. "Future studies should investigate the most effective interventions to remove phthalates from the food supply."

A previous study by Zota and colleagues suggested that fast food may expose consumers to higher levels of phthalates. That study found that people who ate the most fast food, burgers, fries and other foods, had phthalate levels that were as much as 40 percent higher than people who rarely ate such foods

The new study looked more broadly at dining out—not just at fast-food outlets—and found that it was significantly associated with increased exposure to phthalates. The authors say the findings are worrisome because two-thirds of the U.S. population eats at least some food outside the home daily.

Additional authors of the study include Rachel Morello-Frosch at the University of California, Berkeley, and Tracey Woodruff at the University of California, San Francisco.

The team used an innovative method of assessing real-world exposures to multiple phthalates, called cumulative phthalate exposure, which takes into account evidence that some phthalates are more toxic than others. The National Academies of Sciences has weighed in twice on phthalates—first in a 2008 report, they recommended using cumulative risk assessments in order to estimate the human health risk posed by this class of chemicals; and then in 2017 with a report finding that certain phthalates are presumed to be reproductive hazards to humans.

Many products contain phthalates, including take-home boxes, gloves used in handling food, food processing equipment and other items used in the production of restaurant, cafeteria and fast food meals. Previous research suggests these chemicals can leach from plastic containers or wrapping into food.

If verified by additional research, the findings from this study suggest that people who love dining out are getting a side of phthalates with their entrée.

Home-cooked meals may be one way to limit exposure to these harmful chemicals. "Preparing food at home may represent a win-win for consumers," adds Zota. "Home cooked meals can be a good way to reduce sugar, unhealthy fats and salt. And this study suggests it may not have as many harmful phthalates as a restaurant meal."

At the same time, phthalate contamination of the food supply also represents a larger public health problem, one that must be addressed by policymakers. Zota and Woodruff's previous research shows that policy actions, such as bans, can help reduce human exposure to harmful phthalates.

 

Fracking chemical may interfere with male sex hormone receptor

University of California at Davis, March 31, 2020

 

A chemical used in hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, has the potential to interfere with reproductive hormones in men, according to research accepted for presentation at ENDO 2020, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, and publication in a special supplemental section of the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

The study found the chemical can block the effects of testosterone and other male sex hormones known as androgens.

"Possible adverse health outcomes associated with anti-androgen exposure are abnormal reproductive function, male infertility and disrupted testicular and prostate development," said lead researcher Phum Tachachartvanich, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis in Davis, Calif.

Hydraulic fracturing technology has significantly improved the yield of oil and natural gas extraction from unconventional sources. Fracking involves drilling and hydraulic extraction by injecting mixtures of industrial chemicals at high pressure into horizontal bore wells. Fracking chemicals contaminate the environment, including lake, groundwater and wastewater, and they are likely to affect everyone that is exposed to this group of chemicals, according to Tachachartvanich.

"The widespread use of fracking has led to concerns of potential negative impacts on both the environment and human health," Tachachartvanich said. "Everyone should be concerned about fracking as the wastewater generated has potential endocrine-disrupting effects, which can adversely affect the general population."

The researchers used a computer model to rank 60 hydraulic fracturing chemicals used in California, based on the predicted potential of each chemical to interfere with androgens' ability to bind with cells in the body. Based on the rankings, they used a cell model to verify the top five fracking chemicals that showed the highest potential to interfere with this process.

They then measured the androgen binding activity in the cell model for each chemical. Of the five HF chemicals tested, only one - Genapol-X100--significantly inhibited androgen binding activity. "This suggests Genapol-X100 has endocrine-disrupting abilities," Tachachartvanich said.

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