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September 21, 2020  
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Vitamin D supplementation can reduce cancer death risk by 16%, study shows

Cornell University, September 18, 2020


A recent review published in the British Medical Journal analyzed studies on vitamin D supplementation. Researchers from the United States and China found that it reduces the risk of cancer-related death by 16 percent.

Vitamin D linked to reduced risk of cancer death

There are three sources of vitamin D: from one’s diet, from supplements and through sunlight exposure. In the case of the latter, the body naturally produces the micronutrient, leading to its moniker “the sunshine vitamin.”

The cancer-related benefits of vitamin D have been reported numerous times in the past. One of the first studies demonstrated a link between non-skin cancers and the levels of sunlight that fall in different geographic latitudes. According to its lead researcher, Frank Apperly, the sunlight gave “a relative cancer immunity.”

While Apperly’s study was largely ignored during its time, it was rediscovered later on and more studies on the link between cancer and vitamin D appeared. For instance, previous research proposed that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of colon and prostate cancer.

For the current study, the researchers looked at 52 randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of vitamin D supplementation to those of a placebo or no treatment. About 7,450 participants were included in the studies.

Results showed that vitamin D supplementation reduced cancer death risk by 16 percent. The finding was particular to cancer-related death as all-cause mortality risk remained virtually unchanged after supplementation.

The researchers added that the reduced risk of cancer death was best observed among participants who took supplements of vitamin D3 — what the human body produces naturally upon exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D3 is also found in animal-based foods such as egg yolk and fish oil.

They recommended taking vitamin D3 supplements for at least three years to reap its benefit. They explained that among the trials that they examined, those that involved longer supplementation showed greater evidence for the cancer-related benefit of vitamin D3. 

“Another finding from subgroup analysis suggested that […] the benefit of reduced mortality was seen in trials with longer follow-up but not in those with a shorter follow-up. According to these findings, supplementation with vitamin D3 for at least three years should be considered,” wrote the researchers.

More studies on the anti-cancer benefit of vitamin D

Recent studies also found the link between reduced risk of cancer-related death and vitamin D supplementation.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers looked at previous research that examined the use of vitamin D versus a placebo over at least three years. The studies included almost 80,000 cancer patients with an average age of 68.

They found that those who took vitamin D supplements for three years and more had a 13 percent reduced risk of cancer-related death.

“The difference in the mortality rate between the vitamin D and placebo groups was statistically significant enough that it showed just how important it might be among the cancer population,” said lead author Tarek Haykal of the Michigan State University and the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan.

In another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers randomly assigned half of 25,800 participants to vitamin D supplementation and the other half to a placebo. They were followed up for an average of five years.

The researchers found that cancer-related deaths in the vitamin D group were reduced by 17 percent compared to the placebo group. When participants had been taking vitamin D for more than two years, deaths were reduced by 25 percent.

These findings illustrate that vitamin D can help reduce the risk of dying from cancer.



Mango Leaf Extract's brain-boosting capabilities revealed after 5 year R&D study

Northumbria University (UK), September 16, 2020

A new study has been published that builds upon previous research showing ‘experiential’ benefits from the Zynamite ingredient platform. The new clinical trial, led by Professor David Kennedy, Director of the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University and published in Nutrients, suggests a rapid and sustained boost for a wide range of cognitive functions after a single use of the ingredient. Zynamite is a patent-pending, proprietary Mangifera indica extract, standardized to ≥ 60% mangiferin, developed from sustainably harvested mango leaves. A self-affirmed GRAS ingredient, it has a portfolio of safety data and has been the subject of three pre-clinical and now seven clinical studies that demonstrate performance enhancement in both cognitive and physical performance. 

The new study is indicative of a robust and continuing program of scientific study supporting Zynamite and underscores its potential as a leading ingredient for cognitive and physical performance. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, published in 2019, was conducted to determine whether a single dose of Zynamite administered one hour before exercise would increase cycle-sprint performance. Subjects performed three Wingate sprint tests interspaced by 4 minutes and a final 15-second sprint after induced ischemia (blood flow restriction, which simulates exhaustion). Peak power was improved by 3.8% in one hour compared to placebo in subjects who took just one dose of Zynamite. Of note, the amount of quercetin in Zynamite (140 mg) is significantly lower than amounts of quercetin shown to produce ergogenic effects in previous studies, suggesting that this combination may have synergistic effects.



Study links rising stress, depression in US to pandemic-related losses, media 

University of California at Irvine, September 19, 2020

Experiencing multiple stressors triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic—such as unemployment—and COVID-19-related media consumption are directly linked to rising acute stress and depressive symptoms across the U.S., according to a groundbreaking University of California, Irvine study.

The report appears in Science Advances.

"The pandemic is not hitting all communities equally," said lead author E. Alison Holman, UCI professor of nursing. "People have lost wages, jobs and loved ones with record speed. Individuals living with chronic mental and physical illness are struggling; young people are struggling; poor communities are struggling. Mental health services need to be tailored to those most in need right now."

In addition, the research highlights the connection between mental health and exposure to media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting the need to step away from the television, computer or smartphone to protect psychological well-being.

"The media is a critical source of information for people when they're faced with ambiguous, ongoing disasters," said Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychological science and one of the study's principal investigators. "But too much exposure can be overwhelming and lead to more stress, worry and perceived risks."

With funding from a National Science Foundation RAPID grant, Holman, Silver, and co-investigators Dana Rose Garfin and Rebecca R. Thompson conducted a national survey of more than 6,500 U.S. residents in March and April 2020, as illness and deaths were rising around the country. Using the NORC AmeriSpeak panel, the study was the first of its kind to examine early predictors of rising mental health problems across the nation. The design let researchers evaluate the effects of the pandemic as it was unfolding in real time.

"Over the course of the study, the size of the pandemic shifted dramatically," Holman said. Accordingly, people surveyed later in the study period reported the highest rate of acute stress and depressive symptoms.

The UCI team's findings offer insights into priorities for building community resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Those with pre-existing mental and physical conditions are more likely to show both acute stress and depressive symptoms.
  • Secondary stressors—job and wage loss, a shortage of necessities—are also strong predictors in the development of these symptoms.
  • Extensive exposure to pandemic-related news and conflicting information in the news are among the strongest predictors of pandemic-specific acute stress.

"It's critical that we prioritize providing resources to communities most in need of support right now—the unemployed, poor or chronically ill people, and young people," Holman said. "We also encourage the public to limit exposure to media as an important public health intervention. It can prevent mental and physical health symptoms and promote resilience."


Curcumin protects bone properties and microarchitecture in type 2 diabetes with osteoporosis

Zhaoqing Medical College (China) and Inner Mongolia Medical University, September 17, 2020


According to news reporting originating in Guangdong, People’s Republic of China, research stated, “Type 2 diabetic osteoporosis (T2DOP) has become a common secondary cause of osteoporosis that accelerates bone loss and leads to bone fractures. The aim of the current study was to investigate the association between the anti-osteoporotic effect of curcumin (Cur) and the transforming growth factor (TGF)beta /Smads signaling pathway.”

The news reporters obtained a quote from the research from the Department of Pharmacy, “Male Sprague-Dawley rats were used in the experiments. The type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) animals were treated with Cur for 8 weeks and blood lipid markers, bone microstructure and bone biomechanics were then evaluated. The mRNA expression levels of TGF beta 1, type I TGF beta receptor (T beta RI), T beta RII and Smad2/3 were determined using reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and immunohistochemistry. The body weight of rats with type 2 diabetes-induced osteoporosis increased (P <0.05), while the lipid (total cholesterol, triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein) and fasting blood glucose levels were decreased by Cur (P <0.05). In addition, Cur significantly improved bone biomechanical properties (maximum load, breaking load, elastic load and the bone rigidity coefficient) and preserved bone microarchitecture (P <0.05). The RT-qPCR and IHC results revealed that Cur increased TGF <beta >1, T beta RI, T beta RII and Smad2/3 expression levels and promoted Smad2/3 phosphorylation in bones.”

According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “The present results also indicated that Cur regulated lipid and glucose levels, improved bone biomechanical properties and preserved bone microarchitecture, and that these effects may be mediated via TGF beta /Smad2/3 pathway activation.”



20 Minutes in Nature a Day Is Your Ticket to Feeling Better

University of Michigan, September 19, 2020


Nature soothes our stressed-out souls. We instinctively know nature is the best prescription, but research is revealing how little time we need to set aside to reap the benefits.

In one study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers tried to identify the most effective "dose" of nature within the context of normal daily life. As more doctors prescribe nature experiences for stress relief and other health benefits — sometimes referred to as a "nature pill" — the study's authors hoped to clarify the details of these treatments. More biophilia is generally better for us, but since not everyone can spend all day in deep wilderness, the study looked for a sweet spot.

"We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us," says lead author MaryCarol Hunter, an associate professor at the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, in a statement. "Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature."

A nature pill can be a low-cost, low-risk way to curb the negative health effects of urbanization and indoor lifestyles. To find the most efficient dosage, Hunter and her co-authors asked 36 city dwellers to have nature experiences of at least 10 minutes three times per week over eight weeks. (A nature experience was defined as "anywhere outside that, in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they've interacted with nature," Hunter explains.) Every two weeks, the researchers collected saliva samples to measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol, both before and after the participants took their nature pill.

The data showed that just a 20-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. The effect was most efficient between 20 to 30 minutes, after which benefits continued to accrue but at a slower rate. Researchers in the United Kingdom who analyzed the routines of roughly 20,000 people came up with a similar prescription: 2 hours a week totalspent in a park or woodland setting will improve your health.

Nature Time Doesn't Have to Mean Exercise, Either 

Those results dovetail with the findings of other studies, one of which found that spending 20 minutes in an urban park can make you happier, regardless of whether you use that time to exercise. That study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research,

"Overall, we found park visitors reported an improvement in emotional well-being after the park visit," lead author and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Hon K. Yuen said in a statement. "However, we did not find levels of physical activity are related to improved emotional well-being. Instead, we found time spent in the park is related to improved emotional well-being."

For this study, 94 adults visited three urban parks in Mountain Brook, Alabama, completing a questionnaire about their subjective well-being before and after their visit. An accelerometer tracked their physical activity. A visit lasting between 20 and 25 minutes demonstrated the best results, with a roughly 64 percent increase in the participants' self-reported well-being, even if they didn't move a great deal in the park. That last point is particularly positive since it means almost anyone can benefit from visiting a nearby park, regardless of age or physical ability.

The study's co-author and another UAB professor, Gavin Jenkins, acknowledges the study pool was small, but its findings illustrate the importance of urban parks.

"There is increasing pressure on green space within urban settings," Jenkins said in the statement. "Planners and developers look to replace green space with residential and commercial property. The challenge facing cities is that there is increasing evidence about the value of city parks but we continue to see the demise of these spaces."

In another review published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers at Cornell University examined the results of 14 studies that focused on the impact of nature on college students. They found that you might not even need the full 20 minutes to reap the benefits of some outdoor time. The studies showed that as little as 10–20 minutes of sitting or walking in nature can help college students feel happier and less stressed.

“It doesn’t take much time for the positive benefits to kick in,” said lead author Gen Meredith, associate director of the Master of Public Health Program and lecturer at the College of Veterinary Medicine, in a statement. “We firmly believe that every student, no matter what subject or how high their workload, has that much discretionary time each day, or at least a few times per week.”



Astaxanthin Supplementation Reduces Depression and Fatigue in Healthy Subjects

BGG North America and BGG, Beijing, August 26 2020

Objective: Natural Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae (NAX) has been researched in hundreds of clinical trials, pre-clinical animal studies and in-vitro surveys for various bioactive properties that indicate potential preventive and therapeutic health benefits. Among the most widely-researched properties of astaxanthin in the literature are broad-spectrum anti-inflammato- ry activity and powerful antioxidant capacity. In addition, both human and animal research have revealed a wide range of potential benefits for neurological and eye health, cardiovascular function, exercise endurance, enhancement of the immune response and skin health. This study’s goal was to explore the effects of a daily dose of 12 mg per day of NAX on psychological mood state in healthy subjects.


Methods: This study employed placebo control and parallel design under double blind conditions. A total of 28 healthy subjects, half male and half female, with a median age of 42, supplemented with 12 mg per day of NAX or placebo. Before Day 0 and again at the end of the 8-week supplementation period, subjects completed a validated Profile of Mood States (POMS) survey to assess global mood state (GM) and related subscales: Vigor (V), Tension (T), Depression (D), Anger (A), Fatigue (F) and Confusion (C).

Results: Significant improvements were found in the NAX treatment group for positive mood state parameters: GM (+11%, p < 0.05) and V (+5%, NS); and negative mood state parameters: D (-57%, p < 0.05), F (-36%, p < 0.05), T (-20%, NS), A (-12%, NS), and C (-28%, NS).

Conclusions: While previous studies have shown NAX supplementation to improve parameters associated with brain health (neuro- inflammation and cognition), these data are the first to suggest that natural astaxanthin supplementation reduces negative mood state parameters (depression and fatigue) and improves global mood state and thus supports mental wellness.



Excessive exercise may tire your mind and body, reveals study

Pitie Salpetgriere University (France), September 18, 2020


Too much exercise can make your brain tired too, suggests a study published in the journal Current Biology.

French researchers found a form of mental fatigue among athletes subjected to a heavy training load. The athletes acted impulsively, having sought immediate rewards instead of bigger ones that take longer to achieve.

This form of mental fatigue affected a region of the brain that was previously linked to decreased cognitive control, said the researchers.

“The lateral prefrontal region that was affected by sport-training overload was exactly the same that had been shown vulnerable to excessive cognitive work in our previous studies,” said co-author Mathias Pessiglione of Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris.

These findings demonstrate that mental and physical activity both require cognitive control, a finding that can benefit not only athletes but also policymakers, economic leaders, students and dieters.

Poorer decision-making due to fatigue

The researchers came up with the study after observing athletes training under the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance in France, a public organization that runs elite sports programs in preparation for the Olympics.

According to the researchers, some athletes experienced an “overtraining syndrome,” in which performance levels drop as a trainee experiences an overwhelming sense of fatigue. The team wanted to know whether the syndrome was caused by the same kind of cognitive fatigue that was linked to excessive intellectual work.

For the study, they enlisted 37 competitive male endurance athletes with a mean age of 35 years. They were assigned either to continue normal training or undergo increased training intensity that went up by 40 percent per session over a three-week period. The team administered physical and behavioral tests and elicited the participants’ subjective experience of fatigue through questionnaires every two days.

Results showed that the athletes subjected to increased training intensity reported feeling more fatigued compared to the control group. They also acted more impulsively in standard tests used to evaluate economic decision-making by favoring immediate over delayed rewards. The researchers examined their brain activity as they made those choices and found diminished activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex.

“Our findings draw attention to the fact that neural states matter: you don’t make the same decisions when your brain is in a fatigue state,” said Pessiglione.

The study’s findings apply to a broad range of disciplines that include sports medicine, economics, politics, education and nutrition. According to the authors, it may be important to monitor fatigue levels in order to prevent bad decisions from being made. In turn, this can help people choose the right foods, improve study habits and manage finances better, among other applications.

Link between fatigue and poor cognitive health

Other studies also found that fatigue may have adverse effects on cognitive health.

One study examined the link between exercise and poor mental health. Participants were asked to self-report the number of days in the previous month when they felt mentally unwell. They were also asked how often they worked out during that period of time.

The researchers found that exercising for 45 minutes a day for three to five times a week offered the best mental health benefit. However, those who exercised for more than three hours a day displayed poorer mental health than even those who did not work out at all.

The researchers commented that people who exercise too much may be working themselves out to the point of exhaustion.

Meanwhile, another study looked at burnout and its effect on cognitive function. Researchers enlisted individuals who were clinically diagnosed with burnout and healthy individuals. All participants went through tests that measured their ability to regulate negative emotions.

The team found that burnout patients had a more difficult time modulating strong negative emotional responses compared to the healthy control group. (Related: Experts determine burnout and depression are closely linked.)

The findings of these studies serve as an important reminder that any physical and mental work should be done in moderation. Exhaustion has serious effects on brain health.



Headstand (Sirshasana) Does Not Increase the Blood Flow to the Brain

Saint-Petersburg State University (Russia) and Ohio State University, September 15, 2020


Objectives: Most yoga practitioners believe that headstand (Sirshasana) results in increased cerebral perfusion. This, however, is not consistent with autoregulation of the cerebral blood flow. The intent of this study was to demonstrate the effect of Sirshasana on the blood flow to the brain through ultrasound examination of the internal carotid artery (ICA).

Design, location, and subjects: The ICA blood flow was measured with pulsed Doppler in 20 men and women aged 10 to 59 years (median 43) while performing the headstand (Sirshasana). Seventeen subjects were studied in 2018 in Spain at the altitude of 2,000 m, whereas the other three females were studied at sea level.

Results: Although the diameter of the artery under examination during the headstand remained almost unchanged, the decrease in peak flow velocities in systole and diastole caused a significant decrease in arterial blood flow to the brain, followed by return to baseline values immediately after the antiorthostatic postural effect, likely due to the expected consequences of the cerebral blood flow autoregulation of the cerebral blood supply as well as the intracranial pressure.

Conclusions: Contrary to popular belief, Sirshasana does not increase blood flow to the brain through the ICA, but results in predictable reduction in cerebral blood delivery in compliance with known mechanisms of autoregulation of cerebral blood flow. Moreover, increased ICA blood flow while performing the headstand is likely to be a contraindication to this exercise.

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