Red onion effective at killing cancer cells, study says
University of Guelph (Ontario)
If you’re looking for a flavorful way to help fight and prevent cancer, add red onion to your shopping list. It will be worth the effort … as you will soon see why.
In the first study of its kind, University of Guelph researchers looked at how the Ontario-grown red onion and several others affected the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. Their findings indicate that all onions are not created equal.
The Canadian researchers looked at five different kinds of onion in total from the province of Ontario. They assessed the onions in terms of their effects against cancer cells and their ability to prevent cancer. Of the five species tested, the Ruby Ring red onion was the most effective.
Few people are aware that onions are somewhat of a superfood. Hopefully, studies like these will help to change that. Onions in general have very high concentrations of the flavonoid quercetin. However, the Ruby Ring Ontario red onion has particularly high levels of these compounds as compared with other species.
In the study, colon cancer cells were placed in direct contact with quercetin that was extracted from the five onion varieties studied. It was found that all of the onion types created an unfavorable environment for cancer cells and initiated cancer cell death, or apoptosis. Communication between the cancer cells seems to be disrupted by the compounds in the onions, and this can help to fight and prevent cancer.
The study also showed that the Ruby Ring red onion was high in anthocyanin, a compound that helps to enrich the scavenging properties of quercetin. This in turn supports quercetin in fighting cancer cells and helping to prevent cancer.
Anthocyanin is the molecule that gives vegetables like red onions their rich, deep color. This is in keeping with the general increased healthbenefits that can be gained from other dark or brightly colored vegetables and fruits. The recent onion study results were published in the journal Food Research International.
While all of the onions studied showed the ability to inhibit cancer cells, red onions were particularly effective. Their beneficial compounds blocked the production of both colon cancer cells and breast cancer cells within the controlled conditions of the study.
The next step is to complete human trials to further explore the cancer fighting effects of onions. Researchers are also working on an extraction technique to isolate the quercetin in onions so that it can be administered as a cancer therapy.
In the meantime, finding ways to include more of this cancer-fighting superfood into your diet can allow you to experience many health benefits. Enjoy red onions in salads, on sandwiches and cooked into soups, stews and stir-fry dishes.
Age and aging have critical effects on the gut microbiome
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, October 4, 2021
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have found that aging produces significant changes in the microbiome of the human small intestine distinct from those caused by medications or illness burden. The findings have been published in the journal Cell Reports.
"By teasing out the microbial changes that occur in the small bowel with age, medication use and diseases, we hope to identify unique components of the microbial community to target for therapeutics and interventions that could promote healthy aging," said Ruchi Mathur, MD, the study's principal investigator.
Research exploring the gut microbiome, and its impact on health, has relied predominantly on fecal samples, which do not represent the entire gut, according to Mathur. In their study, investigators from Cedars-Sinai's Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program analyzed samples from the small intestine–which is over 20 feet in length and has the surface area of a tennis court–for examination of the microbiome and its relationship with aging.
"This study is the first of its kind to examine the microbial composition of the small intestine of subjects 18 years of age to 80. We now know that certain microbial populations are influenced more by medications, while others are more affected by certain diseases. We have identified specific microbes that appear to be only influenced by the chronological age of the person," said Mathur, an endocrinologist and director of the Diabetes Outpatient Treatment & Education Center.
The 21st century has been referred to as the "era of the gut microbiome" as scientists turn considerable attention to the role trillions of gut bacteria, fungi and viruses may play in human health and disease. The microbiome is the name given to the genes that live in these cells. Studies have suggested that disturbances in the constellations of the microbial universe may lead to critical illnesses, including gastroenterological diseases, diabetes, obesity, and some neurological disorders.
While researchers know that microbial diversity in stool decreases with age, Cedars-Sinai investigators identified bacteria in the small bowel they refer to as "disruptors" that increase and could be troublesome.
"Coliforms are normal residents of the intestine. We found that when these rod-shaped microbes become too abundant in the small bowel–as they do as we get older–they exert a negative influence on the rest of the microbial population. They are like weeds in a garden," said study co-author Gabriela Leite, Ph.D.
Investigators also found that as people age, the bacteria in the small intestine change from microbes that prefer oxygen to those that can survive with less oxygen, something they hope to understand as the research continues.
"Our goal is to identify and fingerprint the small intestinal microbial patterns of human health and disease. Given the important role the small bowel plays in absorption of nutrients, changes in the microbiome in this location of the gut may have a greater impact on human health, and warrants further study," said Mark Pimentel, MD, director of the MAST program and a co-author of the study.
This research is part of Cedars-Sinai's ongoing REIMAGINE study: Revealing the Entire Intestinal Microbiota and its Associations with the Genetic, Immunologic, and Neuroendocrine Ecosystem.
Study finds no association between caffeine intake and invasive breast cancer risk
University of Buffalo, September 28, 2021
Researchers from the University at Buffalo conducted a study of nearly 80,000 postmenopausal women in the U.S. to determine whether caffeine consumption from coffee and tea has any association with invasive breast cancer.
The average age when U.S. women reach menopause, 51, also happens to coincide with the age group—50- to 64-year-olds—that has the highest reported caffeine consumption. In addition to that, the average age of breast cancer diagnosis in the U.S. is 62.
This overlap of age at menopause, age at diagnosis of breast cancer and age with high caffeine consumption gave greater weight to the importance of clarifying whether caffeine intake impacts breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
It does not, according to the UB researchers' findings, published in August in the International Journal of Cancer.
"From our literature review, many studies have found significant associations between coffee and/or tea consumption and reduced breast cancer incidence whereas a few studies have reported elevated risk. Our study, however, found no association," said study first author Christina KH Zheng, who worked on the study while completing her master's in epidemiology at UB. She is now a surgical resident in the MedStar Baltimore general surgery program.
"About 85% of Americans drink at least one caffeinated beverage a day. It is important for the public to know whether consumption of caffeinated beverages has beneficial or harmful effects on breast cancer, the most common type of cancer and second-leading cause of cancer death for U.S. women," said Lina Mu, MD, Ph.D., the study's senior author, who is an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at UB.
"The overlap of age at diagnosis of breast cancer and age with high consumption of caffeine, and the inconsistent findings from previous studies motivated us to study whether this lifestyle factor could affect breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women," said Kexin Zhu, a study co-first author and epidemiology Ph.D. student in UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Researchers looked at a sample of 79,871 participants in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Participants have for decades now completed yearly health questionnaires that help researchers learn more about diet and exercise habits, as well as disease, and any possible linkages.
After a median follow-up of 16 years, there were 4,719 cases of invasive breast cancer identified.
At first glance, women who reported drinking two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 12% higher risk of invasive breast cancer compared to non-drinkers. But that association was not statistically significant after adjusting for lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption.
"Seeing null results after adjusting for lifestyle, demographic and reproductive factors informs us of the complexity that is the relationship between caffeine intake and invasive breast cancer risk," Zheng said.
"Some lifestyle factors, like drinking alcohol and physical activity, might be associated with both coffee intake and breast cancer risk," Zhu explained. "Therefore, they might confound the initial positive associations. After we took the lifestyle factors into account, the results suggested that regular coffee drinking might not have an impact on invasive breast cancer risk."
The risk of invasive breast cancer was even higher—22%—for women who reported drinking two to three cups of decaffeinated coffee each day. It was slightly lower when adjusted for lifestyle variables (smoking history, alcohol consumption, physical activity, etc.), and the association was not statistically significant when further accounting for reproductive variables such as family history of breast cancer and number of children
The researchers were unable to determine if the elevated risk is due to the decaffeinated nature of the coffee, the amount consumed, or another factor unique to this population that was not accounted for in the study.
The researchers did not observe a significant association between overall tea consumption and invasive breast cancer. Additional research needs to be done in order to understand whether different types of teas have different effects on breast cancer risk, Zhu said.
Liver function improves with the consumption of Broccoli sprout extract
Tokai University Tokyo Hospital (Japan), October 5, 2021
A Japanese study of broccoli sprouts and liver function has found the sulforaphane-rich food to be highly beneficial. An extract from broccoli sprouts given to male participants was shown to improve hepatic abnormalities and overall liver function significantly.
For the study, the researchers conducted a double blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial of males with fatty liver disease. The subjects received either extract of broccoli sprouts in capsule form, or a placebo. The capsules contained glucoraphanin, a precursor for the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts.
A number of key liver function markers were measured before and after the trial. It was determined that dietary supplementation with extract of broccoli improved liver functioning by decreasing alkali phosphatase activity and oxidative stress markers.
Broccoli sprout extract was also found to prevent NDMA-induced chronic liver failure in rats. The researchers believe the antioxidants in broccoli sprouts are effective in suppressing the mechanisms of liver failure at a cellular level.
The reduction of oxidative stress is crucial in protecting the liver and improving its health, and broccoli is loaded with health-supporting antioxidants.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is also reaching epidemic proportions, with nearly 30 percent of Americans (90 million people) having some level of the disease. Like hep C, NAFLD can result in liver failure and cancer of the liver in the most severe cases.
Exposure to environmental toxins exacerbates liver conditions as well, with the glyphosate found in weed killers, like Roundup, particularly harmful.
The good news is that liver conditions are preventable by embracing a healthy lifestyle. Eating plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes can do wonders for liver health.
As evidenced by the recent research out of Japan, sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts can be a key component in supporting healthy liver function. Milk thistle, vitamin E, black seed oil and dandelion root have also shown effectiveness in supporting and detoxifying the liver.
How cannabis-like substances keep the brain in balance
Utrecht University (Netherlands), October 4, 2021
Whenever we learn, remember or forget something, a surprisingly active role is played by cannabis-like substances in the brain. Researchers at Utrecht University found that the substances actively balance connections in the brain that allow cells to either activate or inhibit each other. The discovery reveals how brain cells influence each other, and how psychiatric disorders can arise when this process goes wrong.
Although wisdom comes with age, our brain does not store every single experience or lesson learned. In addition to learning and remembering, our brains are also equipped to forget irrelevant things or drop unused skills. In order to find a balance in this, brain cellsconstantly communicate with each other through connections that activate or inhibit the cells. Researchers from Utrecht University discovered that brain cells can form new, inhibitory connections via so-called endocannabinoids. They reported their discovery in Journal of Neuroscience.
Endocannabinoids derive their name from the cannabis plant, which contains similar substances. The researchers discovered the role of endocannabinoids when they induced brain cells of mice to strengthen activating connections. In response, the brain cells also started making new inhibitory connections. The researchers found that endocannabinoids kickstarted the new connections.
Surprisingly active role
The researchers were surprised to find that these substances play such an active role. "Nobody expected this from endocannabinoids," says research leader Dr. Corette Wierenga, neurobiologist at Utrecht University.
It was already known that endocannabinoids can influence the functioning of our brains. But until now researchers assumed that the substances were merely involved in adjusting existing connections. "Now it appears that the system of endocannabinoids can actively push the production of new inhibitory connections, with which brain cells actively regulate the balance."
Psychiatric disorders caused by imbalance
The discovery could help scientists to better understand how psychiatric disordersand other abnormalities in the brain develop. In many of these disorders, the balance between inhibitory and activating connections is disturbed. During an epileptic seizure, for example, this balance is seriously disturbed. Although in many other disorders the disturbance is more subtle, for example in schizophrenia, the impact can still be equally profound.
The balance between activating and inhibiting connections in our brain is constantly being adjusted in response to our experiences. Whenever we experience something, the connections change, and the brain must restore the balance. Cannabis use can disrupt that balance.
"Occasional cannabis use will not seriously disturb the balance," says Wierenga. "But if the balance is disturbed for a longer period, it can cause problems. For example, children of mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy can experience problems with neurological development."
Early stages of life
The balance is especially important in early stages of life, Wierenga says. "During our development, brain connections are constantly changing. Especially during that period, it is important that inhibitory and activating connections remain coordinated. If the coordination is malfunctioning or disturbed, you can imagine that the system becomes disrupted. And unfortunately, disruptions that occur so early cannot be easily repaired later in life."
According to Wierenga, such disruptions can lead not only to loss of memory, but also initiate more serious consequences. For example, the brain might grow out to less adaptive to stressful situations. "When this happens, things get out of hand more easily in the brain, because inhibition and activation are out of balance. That could lead to learning and behavioral problems."
Predicting and preventing disorders
Creating a deeper understanding of the role endocannabinoids play in the brain, could lead to psychiatric disorders being more predictable or even prevented in the future. The publication in Journal of Neuroscience now sets out a new direction in which more knowledge can be built up. Wierenga: "Ultimately, as a researcher, we want to understand how brain cells coordinate the balance and what happens when that balance is disturbed.
Glycerin is safe, effective in psoriasis model
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, October 4, 2021
Patients with psoriasis have reported that glycerin, an inexpensive, harmless, slightly sweet liquid high on the list of ingredients in many skin lotions, is effective at combatting their psoriasis and now scientists have objective evidence to support their reports.
They found that whether applied topically or ingested in drinking water, glycerin, or glycerol, helps calm the classic scaly, red, raised and itchy patches in their psoriasismodel, Dr. Wendy Bollag, cell physiologist and skin researcher at the Medical College of Georgia and Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and her colleagues report in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
The studies also provide more evidence of the different ways glycerin enables the healthy maturation of skin cells through four stages that result in a smooth, protective skin layer. Psoriasis is an immune-mediated problem that typically surfaces in young adults in which skin cells instead multiply rapidly, piling up into inflamed patches.
"We have experimental data now to show what these patients with psoriasis are reporting," says Bollag, who nearly 20 years ago first reported in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology that glycerin, a natural alcohol and water attractor known to help the skin look better, also safely helped it function better by helping skin cells mature properly.
Bollag's early report led to many anecdotal reports from individuals and their reports ultimately led to the newly published study.
Topically, glycerin is known to have a soothing, emollient effect. But another key part of its magic, which Dr. Bollag has helped delineate, is its conversion to the lipid, or fat, phosphatidylglycerol, which ultimately regulates the function of keratinocytes, our major skin cell type, and suppresses inflammation in the skin.
Glycerin gets into the skin through avenues like aquaporin-3, a channel expressed in skin cells, and the MCG scientists have shown that once inside, aquaporin 3 funnels glycerin to phospholipase-D-2, an enzyme that converts fats in the external cell membrane into cell signals, ultimately converting glycerin to phosphatidylglycerol.
In 2018, Bollag and team reported that topical application of phosphatidylglycerol reduced inflammation and the characteristic raised skin patches in a mouse model of psoriasis. This time they decided to look at the impact of its widely available precursor glycerin.
For the new studies, they used imiquimod, which is known to produce psoriasis-like plaques on humans using it for problems like genital warts and some skin cancers, to produce an animal model. The mice either drank the sweet natural alcohol or the scientists applied it topically. Either way, glycerin helped reduce development of the characteristic skin lesions, the scientists report, a finding which helps underline that glycerin works in more than one way to improve the skin condition.
Externally, glycerin showed its action as an emollient because even in mice missing phospholipase-D-2, it was beneficial. Additionally, topically it appears to compete with hydrogen peroxide for space inside the aquaporin 3 channel. Hydrogen peroxide is commonly known as a mild antiseptic but we produce it as well and at low levels it's a cell signaling molecule. But at high levels, hydrogen peroxide produces destructive oxidative stress, which can actually cause psoriasis.
The scientists found that topical glycerin reduced the levels of hydrogen peroxide entering skin cells. When they added glycerin and hydrogen peroxide at the same time directly to skin cells, they found that glycerin protected against the oxidative stress from hydrogen peroxide.
"Glycerol is basically outcompeting the hydrogen peroxide in getting in there and preventing it from being able to enter and increase oxidative stress," Bollag says. Oil and water don't mix, so yet another way glycerin may be helpful is by supporting the skin's major role as a water permeability barrier so that, as an extreme, when we sit in a bathtub the bath water doesn't pass through our skin so we blow up like a balloon, she says.
On the other hand, when glycerin was ingested by the mice missing the phospholipase- D-2, which converts fats or lipids in a cell's membrane to signals, it simply did not work, Bollag says, which confirmed their earlier findings that internally anyway, glycerin pairs with the enzyme to produce the signal essential to skin cell maturation.
Some of their other most recent work is detailing more about how phosphatidylglycerol decreases inflammation.
Bollag would like next steps to also include clinical trials with dermatologists and patients and is working to find a formulation scientist who can make what she thinks will be the optimal combination: glycerin and phosphatidylglycerol in the same topical cream.
The addition of phosphatidylglyerol itself, rather than just the glycerin that makes it, is essentially a backup since there is some evidence that in psoriasis the essential conversion of glycerin to phosphatidylglycerol is not optimal. Bollag's lab and others have shown reduced levels of aquaporin 3 in psoriasis, which likely means less phosphatidylgycerol, so making more glycerin available may help, albeit not as efficiently, raise the availability of this lipid essential to normal skin cell proliferation.
Moving quickly into clinical trials should be comparatively easy since, as with glycerin, there already is experience with the use of phosphatidylglycerol in humans. For example, it's a component of some high-end cosmetics, Bollag says.
She suspects that this sort of two-punch combination, could help keep early signs of psoriasis at bay and, with more advanced disease, use existing psoriasis treatments to get the skin condition under control then start applying glycerin to help keep it that way.
Bollag and her colleagues reported in 2018 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology that in a mouse model of psoriasis, phosphtidylglycerol reduced inflammation and the characteristic raised skin lesions of psoriasis.
While its exact cause is unclear, psoriasis is an immune-mediated condition and patients have higher levels of inflammation, as well as too many skin cells being produced then maturing abnormally. The heightened inflammation also puts them at increased risk for problems like heart disease.
Biologics used to treat psoriasis work different ways to stem this overactive immune response but in addition to their high cost, can put the patient at risk for problems like serious infections and cancer. The only side effect she has seen in about 20 years of working with glycerin and the clinical and cosmetic use already out there, is it can leave the skin feeling slightly sticky.
Our bodies can make glycerol from the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that we eat or already have in our body.