Alcohol Health Benefits To Strengthen Bones

Men and postmenopausal women who have a drink or two a day seem to have stronger bones than either nondrinkers or heavy drinkers according to the first-ever study to look at bone density and intake of different types of alcohol – beer, wine and hard liquor. It appears that drinking alcohol is a good idea to strengthen bones.

Moderate drinking like this has already been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, though an increase in some cancers.

It all comes down to balancing the risks against the benefits to your individual health – only you and your doctor can do this.

“We were looking at the relationship between different types of alcohol and bone mineral density [BMD] because there is a controversy about how it might affect bone,” explains researcher Katherine L. Tucker, lead on the study and also director of the Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Boston’s Tufts University.

Other colleagues come from across the U.S. as well as from the UK and Thailand. The report is published in April’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The subjects in the study were part of the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, an offshoot of the Framingham Heart study.

This study started in 1948 and was meant to look at risks for cardiovascular disease.

In 1971 the adult children of the original study subjects and their spouses were recruited to keep the study going – they’d have to complete a series of questionnaires, have an exam and some tests every four years.

The team looked at data on drinking habits as well as bone strength at specific hip sites and the lumber spine. Most participants were overweight, though few smoked.

While alcohol might be protective to men (average age 61) and postmenopausal women (average age 62), women who hadn’t gone through menopause (average age 48) saw no relationship between alcohol intake and bone strength.

For postmenopausal women, it was wine that seemed to offer the most benefit; for men it was the beer, though this might be just because these are the preferred drinks of men and women.

Hard liquor was less protective, which suggests the alcohol is not what provides the benefit, perhaps its something else in the beer and wine does this instead.

Beer is known to have silicon that’s been linked to stronger bones, while wine has polyphenols that have been associated with protection from heart disease. Maybe bone strength too.

Men who had one or two drinks of beer had 3-4% higher bone mineral density than nondrinkers.

Postmenopausal women who drank more than 2 drinks a day had a 5-8% better bone mineral density measurement than those who didn’t drink.

However, for men, more than two drinks a day brought a 3-5% lower bone mineral density – so more is absolutely not better here.

It’s important to know that the alcohol servings used for the work were small, one serving was a 356 ml glass, bottle or can of beer, or 118 ml serving of red or white wine. The hard liquor was measured as one serving being 42 ml of liquor.

Continues below…


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Want Stronger Bones? Have A Drink (Or Two) A Day continued

Postmenopausal women have to balance a choice about alcohol intake with the belief that any intake puts you at an increased risk for breast cancer.

Moderate drinking has also recently (Feb. 2009) been found to account for 13% of breast, liver, rectum and upper respiratory/digestive tract cancers based on a study that involved more than 1.2 million middle-age women.

“Moderate intake of beer or wine is good for bone, but heavy drinking is bad,” Tucker continues, and drinking heavily is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis.

When it comes to alcohol intake, despite it’s apparent ability to strengthen bones, your best bet is to keep the three basics of good nutrition in mind – moderation, balance and variety.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

The Dangerous Red Meat Health Connection

In the largest study of its kind, involving over half a million men and women, older Americans who eat large amounts of red meat like beef, pork and lamb, as well as processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts were found to have a greater risk of death from either heart disease or cancer, making it a dangerous red meat health connection.

This study supports the long-standing advice of other experts to limit both these kinds of meats, and appears in the March 23, 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers looked at over 545,000 subjects aged 50 to 71 years old, recruited from AARP members as part of the National Institutes of Health Diet and Health Study, and asked about their eating habits.

The results did rely on subjects remembering what they ate, and this isn’t always accurate. Also, the pool of subjects was drawn from a group thought to be healthier than other Americans, which means the findings might not apply to everyone, but they are certainly representative.

Over 70,000 of the subjects died during the decade long study, and the researchers accounted for risk factors like smoking, high BMI (body mass index) and family history of cancer in their analysis.

Still the findings point an accusing finger at red and processed meats.

Eating a quarter pound hamburger daily gave a 22% higher risk of dying from cancer; 27% higher risk of dying from heart disease as compared to subjects who ate just 5 ounces of meat a week.

Women who ate a lot of red meat had a 20% higher risk of dying of cancer; 50% higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less of this type of meat.

This consumption level might seem pretty extreme, and perhaps not what most of us eat each day. In 2003-2004, the most recent year’s statistics are available, adults on average ate 2.5 ounces of red meat per day.

“The consumption of red meat was associated with a modest increase in total mortality,” said Rashmi Sinha, lead author of the study.

Processed meats carried slightly lower overall risks than red meat according to the research.

Also important to note, people whose diets had more white meat (chicken and fish) were found to have lower risks of death.

“This fits together with the findings of the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Cancer Society, which recommend limiting the consumption of red meat,” added Sinha, who is a senior investigator with the nutrition epidemiological branch at the Cancer Institute.

Just why are red meats so bad for our bodies?

No one has pinned down the answer quite yet.

Some experts believe the trouble might come from the iron and fat in the meats, others blame the salt, nitrates/nitrites of processed meats.

Not only that, when meat is cooked (especially fried or charbroiled) at high temperatures substances are created that can be mutagenic or even carcinogenic. In other words – trouble.

Another argument for cutting out the red meats?

Livestock contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that have been implicated in global warming.

Barry Popkin, who wrote an accompanying editorial to the study, suggests, “We’ve promoted a diet that has added excessively to global warming.”

Continues below…


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Medical Doctor Reveals The Shocking Truth

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The Danger Of Eating Too Much Red Or Processed Meat continued

Most experts suggest that meat should not be eliminated entirely from your diet, but rather become a supporting part of meals along with other healthy options.

Choose fish, poultry or beans as an alternative to the red meats. Leaner cuts can also be part of a healthy diet, and according to the American Meat Institute are an excellent source of iron, B12 and zinc, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.

If you have risk factors for heart disease or cancer, you’ll want to talk to your own doctor to find out what diet and lifestyle changes you can make to today to help keep your body healthy and disease free. Don’t let the link between red meat and health be your downfall.

A Third Of Americans Have High Triglyceride Levels

So what are triglycerides and does it matter if you have high triglyceride levels?

Beyond keeping track of your blood pressure and cholesterol, there’s another number to you need to know – triglycerides.

These fatty particles in your blood are very important to your heart health, but they don’t get all the attention cholesterol does.

Yet about one third of American adults have triglyceride levels that are considered either borderline or too high, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control that’s just been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

If you’ve had your cholesterol tested, you were probably told that triglycerides at levels of 150 – 199 milligrams per deciliter are borderline high; over 200 milligrams per deciliter are too high.

Note: Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the U.S. and some other countries, while Canada and most of Europe measures cholesterol in millimoles per liter of blood.

Very high triglyceride levels can cause inflammation of the pancreas.

Men are more likely than women, and Caucasians at greater risk than African Americans or Mexican Americans to have high triglycerides.

If you have other risk factors for heart disease you need to take your risks seriously and do something about them.

This is especially true if your waist measurement is over 40 inches (101.6 centimeters) if you’re a man, more than 35 inches (88.9 centimeters) if you’re a woman – this body shape makes you more likely to develop heart disease.

If you’re too heavy, too inactive, drink too much or eating lots of saturated fat you likely have higher triglyceride levels. It seems that the body stores extra calories as triglycerides and keeps them stored in your fat cells.

Hormones then release the triglycerides to give you energy between meals. Of course if you’re eating more calories than you burn, like so many of us do, you’ll probably have high triglycerides (known technically as hypertriglyceridemia).

Cholesterol testing involves a simple blood test, known as a lipid panel, or lipid profile to check your cholesterol levels – the total number, as well as LDL and HDL cholesterol and these often sadly overlooked triglyceride levels.

The best way to fight back against high triglycerides is to lose the extra weight – which only comes from eating right and being more active.

Swapping healthy fats for unhealthy ones, especially if your triglycerides are between 155 and 500 milligrams per deciliter is a smart move.

You’ll also want to eat more soluble fiber found in foods like oatmeal, beans, fruits and veggies.

Only when lifestyle changes aren’t enough, prescription medications like statins, fibrates, niacin and fish oil that may also be helpful – discuss these options with your doctor.

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A Third Of Americans Have High Triglycerides continued

You should know that high cholesterol has no symptoms, but genetics (close family members with high cholesterol or heart disease) might make you more prone to having it, even if you do everything right when it comes to diet and exercise.

If this is you, you want to get a baseline cholesterol test by age 20 (or as early as you can), and follow-ups every five years afterward.

Catching the problem early gives you the best chance to treat conditions right off the bat and retain your health.

Dr. Barge Nordestgaard of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who’s done research linking high triglycerides to cardiovascular disease but wasn’t involved in the CDC studies, believes that high triglyceride levels are as dangerous as high cholesterol to your heart health.

If your number is higher than it should be, now is the time to make the changes to bring high triglyceride levels down.

Dogs May Hold Key to How to Fight Cancer

Experts at the Cleveland Clinic have successfully treated cancer in dogs, and this could lead to an interesting new strategy on how to fight cancer in people as well.

At the 237th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Joseph A. Bauer, PhD presented research on just this topic, building on more than 60 years of scientific effort toward developing a B12 based attack against cancer.

The story begins with a “miracle dog” by the name of Oscar, a ten year old Bichon Frise who had a very aggressive type of cancer known as anal sac adenocarcinoma.

After being treated with the standard chemotherapy and radiation, with no improvement, poor Oscar was left unable to walk and with about three months to live.

As a last hope, Bauer and his colleagues gave the super sick pooch a cancer killing medicine known as nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl for short).

Within 14 days his cancer had improved significantly and he was back on his feet.

The compound has since been given to other dogs with promising results and no negative side effects. This drug targets cancer cells like the fabled “Trojan horse”, a way to cause damage and death, but delivered by being hidden inside something that looks harmless.

The medication is made of nitric oxide that’s attached to vitamin B12. Researchers know that receptors on cell surfaces will attract the vitamin and assist it in getting into the cell.

Cancer cells have extra B12 receptors; the drug spots these and is taken in by the unsuspecting cancer cell. Once inside, the nitric oxide is released and the cell dies. Genius, pure genius.

Bauer’s team is using ultrasound and MRI imaging to keep an eye on tumor size in all three of the dogs currently under treatment.

After 9 months of NO-Cbl the spinal tumor of a 6 year old golden retriever, Buddy, has been reduced by 40%, and the inoperable thyroid cancer of a 13 year old female giant schnauzer by 77% in just ten weeks of treatment.

A fourth dog, Haley, also a golden retriever, is being treated for a spinal tumor. Once the team successfully treats ten dogs with the drug, they’ll try for FDA approval to test the medication in people.

Bauer believes firmly that what works in these animals holds promise for treating their owners as well. Despite what you might think, mice aren’t the only good subjects to use for such research.

He points out that people and dogs are genetically similar – enough to make a successful case for approval from the FDA.

Continues below…


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This Doctor Dropped 10 Sizes – Discover Her Shocking Secret

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The Cancer Fighting Drug Uncovered Thanks To Man’s Best Friend continued

Interesting to know that the National Cancer Institute collects data on pets, which makes sense if you think about it.

After all, they breathe the same air; drink the same water and eat processed foods just as we do.

“We are one of the few research groups that is offering to treat dogs with cancer that otherwise have no hope,” Bauer points out. “With no other options available, most people in this situation opt to euthanize so that their pets don’t go through the pain of disease and trauma of surgery.”

The good news for dog owners is that this treatment also offers hope for a faithful friend who may be one of the estimated 6 million dogs in the U.S. alone diagnosed with cancer each year.

It’s a rare thing for research to uncover a treatment that can be used for animals, and may realistically hold promise for people on how to fight cancer.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

Brown Adipose Tissue Burns Calories Faster

Did you know that fat comes in two distinct, if unimaginative, colors – white which offers insulation and stores extra energy, and brown adipose tissue which burns energy to produce heat?

Brown fat (as much as 5% of their body weight) helps keep newborns warm, but no one knew how much adults retain, or how active it might be.

Some thought adults had none of this “good” fat; others were convinced that it had no connection to extra weight or obesity. The latest research in this area changes all that.

Studies have been going on for decades looking at brown fat (known to science as brown adipose tissue) in the hope of finding ways to unlock its secrets.

Now a trio of reports appearing in the April 9, 2009 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) confirm finding brown fat in adults, and that it can be detected by exposing subjects to cold temperatures.

Most of us have small deposits of this fat around our collarbones and in the neck area, with women having two times as much (estimated to be about a half ounce) on average, then men do.

In some cases, those who had more active areas of brown fat were not as heavy… leaving experts to wonder at the working of this type of fat.

“Fifty grams of maximally activated brown fat accounts for 20 percent of your resting energy expenditure,” explains Dr. Aaron Cypress of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, who led one of the studies. “If you add that up, that’s 400 or 500 calories per day. So maybe a little of this good fat could go a long way.

In a second study, Finnish researcher Dr. Kirsi Virtanen of the University of Turku and colleagues used positron emission tomography (PET) scans to locate active brown fat deposits in healthy volunteers.

The brown fat became more active when the subjects were left in a chilly room for several hours. Experts found that this fat, unlike the white kind, burns calories faster in colder temperatures.

In the study, the metabolism was an average 15 times higher than in the area where the white fat cells reside.

Could brown fat play a role in our metabolism also?

A third work, also appearing in the same issue of the NEJM, conducted by a team at Maastricht University Medical Center found that obese men had less brown fat than subjects who were leaner.

They also found that people have less brown fat as they age, and that spending even a small amount of time in a chilly place can activate this type of fat.

These studies show that adults do have functional brown fat in our bodies. Though no one knows what role brown fat might play in weight loss in the future, researchers are hoping for big things.

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Brown Fat Burns Calories Faster; Activated By Cold continued…

Maybe research will uncover a way to help the body produce more brown fat; or just activate the potentially good fat cells we have now. Perhaps a drug could target some parts of brown fats metabolic mechanisms, perhaps a procedure could remove the brown fat, amplify it somehow and return it to the body.

Cypress sees activation as key, though whether this would make people lose weight has yet to be tested.

Who knows if turning on this type of fat might just not make the body want to eat more?

If you’d like to try and activate your own stores of brown adipose tissue, turn down the thermostat, or spend more time outdoors in a cooler climate. Temperatures of 61 degrees were used on the research subjects, and might be enough to have your own heat generating, fat burning engine humming along in no time.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

Burning The Midnight Oil Linked To Artery Problems

If you regularly stay up to catch the late show with the host of your choice, or watch the end of a favorite classic movie, you might be more than a bit drowsy the next day, you might also be putting yourself at risk for some pretty dangerous artery problems.A first ever study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 58th Annual Scientific Sessions, looks at bedtimes and health, and finds that men who go to bed after midnight have much more arterial stiffening, an early signal of atherosclerosis (plaque build up on the insides of the arteries).

“There have been many studies about the relationship between sleep – mainly sleep duration – and occurrence of disease, but it remains unclear how bedtime affects cardiovascular risk factors and arterial stiffness, which is the first indication of hardening of the arteries,” explained Yu Misao, MD, PhD, the study author.

Could the late bedtimes be affecting the health of your heart?

The study by Misao and colleagues set out to answer just this question by testing 251 healthy men no older than 60.

The subjects had what amounted to an annual checkup where their blood pressure, weight, waist circumference, body mass index (BMI) and lipid levels were all measured and recorded.

Using brachial ankle pulse wave velocity, the men were examined for evidence of any arterial stiffening, and the participants also filled out questionnaires about sleep habits.

Six hours, 20 minutes sleep a night was the average, and most of the subjects reported going to bed at 11:30 pm.

The research found that the fewer hours a man slept each night, the higher his blood pressure, triglyceride levels and blood cholesterol levels were.

“This is consistent with previous reports showing that short sleep duration may negatively affect cardiovascular risk factors,” Misao explains.

How much the subjects slept appeared to have no bearing on arterial stiffness.

What the team did next was to divide the subjects into three groups according to how many hours they slept at night – less than 6, 6-7 or 7+ hours.

In each group, the subjects who went to bed before midnight had the more relaxed arteries, as compared to men who went to bed after 12:00.

No one knows why this might be, though Misao speculates that being up later allows for more snacking, (and other unhealthy behaviors for the heart) leading to obesity, a known risk factor for heart disease.

Another theory holds that going to bed after midnight might activate the sympathetic nervous system – known to speed up body functions like heart rate as well as managing how the body reacts to stress.

Perhaps burning the midnight oil might throw your internal biological clock off and cause problems in ways we don’t yet understand.

So while staying up late might help us get things done, or give us a much needed bit of privacy after a demanding day, it may also put an undue strain on your arteries, your heart and perhaps your whole cardiovascular system.

Continues below…


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Fact: Poor Sleep Increases The Risk of Death/ Disease

Ever lain awake at night and counted the hours till dawn? Isn’t frustrating to be in bed and be unable to sleep?

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Burning The Midnight Oil Linked To Heart Disease continued

Other large studies have associated chronic sleep loss with serious conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

You don’t need a doctor to tell you that getting the right amount of rest helps you function at your best, makes you better able to mange stress and keeps your body rested and ready to handle physical challenges or fight off illness.

And while this doesn’t mean you have to change your sleeping schedule it if works for you, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the potential link between later bedtimes and heart health.

Practicing good sleep habits, including establishing a routine and restful place to sleep are all-important steps to helping you get the rest your body needs.

You might also want to focus your energy on what experts already know will help to minimize your risk for artery problems – eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising most days of the week.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

Women’s Voices Behind Sex Appeal

Why are we attracted to one person over another? Science is working to answer this question with some intriguing new research. It may be that unexpected (and some unseen) factors like biochemical odors and the women’s voices may add to the visual appeal of the face that makes your heart pound and your palms sweat.

Scent may have a huge influence on sexual attraction. Researchers Karl Grammer and Elizabeth Oberzaucher who are leading the way in this area have found that when women ovulate they send out a scent that attracts men.

When a man gets a whiff, his testosterone levels go up. This causes the male body to secrete androstenone, an odor that will repel a woman who isn’t ovulating. It’s a survival mechanism that helps to identify fertile women to a male, and serves to keep his attention and interest.

“We are innately all puppies in heat,” says sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman. “We are capable of discerning 10,000 different scents consciously. But then there’s a whole realm of unconscious scents that we’re not even aware that we’re smelling.”

Voice pitch has also been found to have a direct impact on attraction. Women with higher estrogen levels tend to have higher pitched voices, and this is more desirable to men.

During the middle of a woman’s cycle, when she’s most fertile and able to conceive a child, her voice is rated much more attractive. This according Gordon Gallup, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany.

But don’t discount the power of physical appearance just yet.

A Scottish researcher, psychologist Lisa DeBruine of the University of Aberdeen, has found that a woman’s face gets more attractive to men when she’s ovulating.

Maybe she looks healthier, or maybe there’s something else that makes females at this point look attractive to men.

Biostatistics expert Kendra Schmid has done more work in this area and looks at face symmetry using a formula that employs 29 different measurements to determine appeal on a scale of 1 to 10.

Using her formula, Brad Pitt rates a 9.3 of 10.0, the highest ever… while the rest of us rate from 4 to 6.

And then there’s this to appease all the skeptics out there…

Experts have also found that if a woman looks at a man’s face she’ll rate that face differently when supplied with a corresponding income. Not surprisingly, it seems woman rates a man higher on an attractiveness scale if he makes more money.

“It goes back again to evolution. When we were having babies who were very dependent on us, we couldn’t hunt and take care of ourselves, so we were looking for the man who had the most social status, who was the best hunter, who was going to bring home the biggest chunk of meat for our babies,” says Berman. “It’s the same thing today.”

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The Solid Science Behind Sex Appeal continued

And, according to sex therapist Berman, you can do something to assess the future of a relationship – go for the kiss. “You really learn a lot from a kiss. … Sixty-six percent of women say they would dump a guy after a bad first kiss.

It’s not only because you’re getting that good whiff of him so you’re seeing if you like the way he smells. All your senses are engaged, and you get a sense of his sensuality, his connection, whether he’s a take-charge kind of guy or more of a stepping back kind.”

Kissing frequency in a relationship is also a key indicator of happiness. A kiss of ten seconds or more every day is a great way to stay connected and keep love alive.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

Prostate Cancer Risk Cut By Eating a Rich Omega-3 Diet

Eating a rich omega-3 diet that includes foods containing essential fatty acids such as salmon and others, seems to reduce the risk of an aggressive form of prostate cancer according to research appearing in the April 2009 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

This association was most pronounced among men with a genetic predisposition to an aggressive form of this type of cancer.

Men who ate one or more servings of fatty fish per week had a 63% lower risk for being diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer than men who never ate this type of fish.

This isn’t the first research to find that men who ate this type of healthy fatty fish had a decreased risk for the this most dangerous, deadly forms of cancer.

Still more clinical trials are needed to see which foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

“There is a lot of evidence that omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease and other diseases by targeting inflammation – and that may be what is going on here,” John S. Witte, PhD explains. He and researchers from the University of California, San Francisco studied 466 men with aggressive prostate cancer; 478 men without the disease.

The subjects filled out questionnaires on foods they ate, and had a genetic analysis performed so that the team could identify variants of the Cox-2 gene, which ups the chance of developing prostate cancer.

What the analysis uncovered was that men who ate little or no fatty fish and also had the Cox-2 variant were 5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer that was advanced.

The men who had eaten lots of omega-3 fatty acids had a reduced risk of disease… even those who had the genetic variant Cox-2.

This amounted to eating one or more servings of fatty fish each week.

“The increase in risk associated with having the Cox-2 variant was essentially reversed in men who ate fish one or more times a week,” says Witte.

In a 2007 study, omega-3 researcher Jorge Chavarro, PhD from Harvard Medical School and colleagues found a 41% reduction in risks of prostate cancer for men who ate more omega-3 rich food than those with lower intake.

The Harvard team also found that men who ate fatty fish before getting a prostate cancer diagnosis, and continued to do so afterward, were less likely to lose their lives to this disease.

Omega-3 has been shown to be particularly protective against the more aggressive prostate cancers.

Continues below…


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Prostate Cancer Risk Cut By Eating Fish High In Omega-3 continued

Even now, many questions remain.

No one is sure if the effect of the omega-3 in the fish works only on the aggressive form of cancer. Experts are starting to wonder if prostate cancer may be better divided into aggressive forms and more local, benign cancers.

While more work is being done, your best bet if prostate cancer is an issue, or even if it isn’t, is to consider a diet rich in omega-3s, possibly even using omega-3 supplements, to help reduce the risks.

Some of the foods you might consider including in a rich omega-3 diet (besides salmon) are halibut, sardines, shrimp, clams, catfish, cod, albacore, trout and herring as well foods like walnuts, oils like flaxseed and canola and delicious veggies like spinach.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

A Triple Dose Of Studies Highlight PCB Toxins Dangers

Exposure to specific toxins in the environment, also known as PCBs (technically called polychlorinated biphenyls), appears to have an effect on the development of brain cells according to not one or two, but three new studies.

These toxic substances in our world have long been associated with problems in children, but science could never explain precisely how PCB toxins affected the brain.

Once PCBs were used in everything from pesticides, caulking, flame retardants and electronic components, though the U.S. banned their use in the 1970s. And though that seems like long ago, these chemicals hang around in the environment because they aren’t easily broken down.

They’re still found in the air, are seeping into our water, the ground and contaminating foods like fish that we eat. This is why PCBs are still detectable in all of us, even today.

The latest group of studies has found that these environmental toxins negatively affect the development of brain cells and overexcite brain circuits. This has been linked by earlier work to developmental problems.

“We think we have identified the way in which a broad class of environmental contaminants influences the developing nervous system and may contribute to neuro-developmental impairments such as hyperactivity, seizure disorders, and autism,” explains researcher Isaac N. Pessah, PhD. The latest of the three studies appears in the April 2009 online issue of PLoS-Biology.

One surprise that came from the research is that lower levels of PCB exposures sometimes were more harmful than higher level exposures.

The first of the three studies found that exposures to low doses of PCBs impaired animal subjects’ ability to learn to navigate a maze, a common way to test learning in the lab.

It seems that even low doses of PCBs adversely affected the plasticity of the dendrites, which are key to learning and memory. Problems in this area have been implicated in conditions like autism, schizophrenia and even mental retardation.

The first study was published in the March 2009 issue of Environmental and Health Perspectives.

For the second of the studies, tissue from the animal’s hippocampus (part of the brain that manages memory and emotion) was examined in order to measure the excitability of neurons before and during exposures to two different PCBs.

The normal brain needs to strike a balance between excitation and inhibition of the neurons, as too much excitability isn’t a good thing. Disorders like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may in fact involve an imbalance between the two states.

The report on the second study appears in the March 2009 issue of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

The third study took things to the cellular level, looking at specifically how PCBs might change the cell development (as they saw from the first study) and the level of excitement (what they found from that second study).

This time, the team exposed receptors in the brain cells that regulate the release of calcium (key to keeping signaling normal from cell to cell) to PCBs. Looking with electron microscopes, they found that PCBs bind to the receptors and hinders the release of calcium.

It’s this that may account for the findings in the other two studies.

“I think that these studies represent a kind of a turning point for our recognition of how these chemicals, PCBs, can interfere with brain development,” says R. Thomas Zoeller, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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A Triple Dose Of Studies Highlight PCB Dangers continued

Now that there’s a lab backed explanation of how PCBs do their damage, this adds even more weight to the work researchers have done to link exposures to these environmental toxins and developmental problems.

It may also help to come up with a way to evaluate the safety of other chemicals that have taken the place of PCBs, perhaps weed out the dangerous ones before they become widely used.

What’s more, the work shows us that even lower dose exposures to PCB toxins aren’t always better and may not be safe at all.

Overweight Effects Include Gum Problems

Need another reason to start losing any extra pounds you may be carrying? Here’s one… Obese men, besides the extra weight, also carry a higher risk for painful, potentially dangerous gum problems than normal weight adults according to new research.

You’ve probably heard of the milder, more reversible form of gum disease – gingivitis, where only the gums are affected. Left untreated, this can progress to periodontitis where bacteria in the plaque irritate gums and provoke an inflammatory response that can be quite destructive.

As a silently progressing condition, periodontal disease often doesn’t show symptoms until it has gotten a firm foothold in your mouth.

In this latest work, researchers looked at data for nearly 37,000 men who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) that began in 1986.

The program is designed to compliment the all-female Nurses’ Health Study and looks at the relationship between nutritional factors and the incidence of serious diseases like cancer, heart disease and vascular problems.

Lots of effort has already gone into determining the risk between gum disease and cardiovascular risk.

To see if there might be a connection between periodontal disease and obesity, the team analyzed data spanning 16 years for the subjects, all of whom were free of gum disease at the start of the study.

Data on height, weight, waist/hip measurements was collected as well as self-reported gum disease. Using the standard definition of obesity, a BMI of 30 of higher, Monik Jimenez, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that obesity brought an increased risk of periodontal disease.

Jimenez will present the findings at the 2009 International Association for Dental Research general session in Miami Beach.

Not only higher BMI’s, but waist circumferences were also linked by this study to a higher risk of gum disease. A waist measurement of 40 inches or more, considered a risk for heart disease, upped the risk of gum disease by 19% as compared to those with measurements under the 40-inch mark.

“Obesity was associated with a 29 percent increased risk of periodontal disease over the course of the study.” Jimenez said.

There was a small increase in risk of periodontal disease for those who were overweight, but not obese. This hardly compared to the risk for those carrying a lot of extra weight.

In a related work, Jimenez and colleagues at the University of Puerto Rico found that a higher waist-hip ratio (WHR) was tied to a higher risk of moderately severe gum disease in both men and women over 70 years old.

In women, an elevated waist-to-hip ratio is .88 or above; for men it’s .95 or higher. Here’s how the calculation is made, a woman with a 36-inch waist and 40-inch hips has a WHR of .90 (36/40 = .90). Subjects with elevated waist-to-hip ratios were almost 6 times more likely to have periodontal disease.

This work builds on earlier studies that associate gum disease with heart disease, as well as gum disease and cancer risk in males. Gum disease for diabetics is also known to be worse.

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Obese Adults Have Higher Risk Of Gum Disease continued

Concerned for your own gums?

Your own health?

A good approach to keeping your mouth healthy is to choose a heart healthy diet that’s also beneficial for your gums, brush and clean between your teeth several times each day, and don’t put off regular dental checkups.

Caught early, periodontal disease can be treated – so you don’t have to lose a tooth.

You might also want to consider the online risk assessment tools available to find out where you stand today. If you have symptoms of gum problems such as persistent swollen, red or bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity or bad breath, a visit to your dentist is in order to keep your mouth, and your whole body, healthy.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor