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A new study suggests that higher serum alpha-tocopherol concentration is associated with decreased risk of developing prostate cancer, particularly among smokers.

Vitamin E compounds are thought to have potential prostate cancer preventive effects, but serologic investigations of tocopherols, and randomized controlled trials of supplementation in particular, have been inconsistent. Given the biological plausibility that vitamin E could impact cancer risk through several mechanisms, scientists in US and UK recently conducted a nested case-control study to investigate the relationship between serum alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol and prostate cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO).

This trial examined 680 prostate cancer cases and 824 frequency-matched controls. Serum concentrations of alpha- and gamma-tocopherol from participants were determined at baseline and in subsequent screening exams. The trial foud that higher serum alpha-tocopherol was associated with significantly lower prostate cancer risk. By contrast, risk was non-significantly elevated among men with higher gamma-tocopherol concentrations. The inverse association between prostate cancer and alpha-tocopherol was restricted to current and recently former smokers, but was only slightly stronger for smokers with aggressive disease.

Cigarette smokers have increased oxidative stress, and although circulating tocopherol concentrations tend not to differ between smokers and nonsmokers, smokers have increased rates of a-tocopherol disappearance. Therefore, the stronger risk reduction with higher serum a-tocopherol concentrations among smokers is biologically plausible.

Results from this trial suggest that higher alpha-tocopherol may be beneficial with respect to prostate cancer risk among smokers. Further studies are warranted for a more complete understanding of the vitamin E-prostate cancer relation.

Weinstein SJ, et al. (2012). PLoS ONE 7(7): e40204. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040204

A latest study found that ginkgo biloba may be beneficial in slowing down the cognitive decline in the elderly population.

Age-related cognitive decline is one of the main challenges of mental health research. As no curative treatment for dementia presently exists, an alternative would be to find strategies that could contribute to attenuating cognitive decline in the elderly. In France, Ginkgo biloba extract has been marketed for more than thirty years as a medication for memory impairment, and is well-known for its effect on the protection of neuronal cell membranes from free radical damage.

In a recent cohort study, French scientists assessed the association between intake of ginkgo biloba extract and cognitive function of elderly adults over a 20-year period. The data were gathered from the prospective community-based study ‘Paquid’. This study included a sample of 3612 non-demented participants aged 65 and over at baseline. Three groups were compared: 589 subjects reporting use of a ginkgo biloba extract; 149 subjects reporting use of piracetam – a nootropic drug; and 2874 subjects not reporting use of either. Decline on MMSE (as an evaluation of mental status), verbal fluency and visual memory over the 20-year follow-up was analysed with a multivariate mixed linear effects model.

A significant difference in MMSE decline was observed in both of the treatment groups compared to the ‘neither treatment’ control group. The ginkgo biloba group declined less rapidly than the ‘neither treatment’ group, whereas the piracetam group declined more rapidly. Regarding verbal fluency and visual memory, no difference was observed between the ginkgo biloba group and the ‘neither treatment’ group, whereas the piracetam group declined more rapidly.

In conclusion, cognitive decline in a non-demented elderly population was lower in subjects who reported using ginkgo biloba than in those who did not. It appears that ginkgo biloba supplementation may have beneficial effect on long-term cognitive decline.

Amieva H, et al (2013). PLoS ONE 8(1): e52755. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052755

A recent European study found that a diet that promotes low-carbohydrate, high-protein intake could be putting women at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Overweight and obesity are risk factors for several common chronic diseases, and they have become endemic in most economically developed countries and beyond. Many dietary regimens have been proposed as conducive to weight control, with one diet style that encourages reduced carbohydrate intake, thereby encouraging high protein intake. Low carbohydrate-high protein diets may have short term effects on weight control; however concerns have been raised with respect to cardiovascular risks.

In a recent Lifestyle and Health Cohort study, researchers examined the long term consequences of low carbohydrate-high protein diet on cardiovascular health, among a random sample group of 43396 Swedish women, aged 30-49 years at the beginning of the study and were followed-up for an average of 15.7 years. The main outcome measures are the association of  incidence of cardiovascular diseases, after adjustment for smoking, alcohol use, hypertension, fat intake and physical activity.

The study found that a one tenth decrease in carbohydrate intake or increase in protein intake or a 2 unit increase in the low carbohydrate-high protein score were all statistically significantly associated with increasing incidence of cardiovascular disease overall. In practical terms, a 20g decrease in daily carbohydrate intake and a 5g increase in daily protein intake would correspond to a 5% increase in the overall risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researcher concluded that low carbohydrate-high protein diets, used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins, are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

This study involved relatively young women, making the findings directly relevant to the demographic that often resorts to restrictive weight-loss diets such as restriction of carbohydrate with unavoidable increases in protein intake, however ignores the fundamental lifestyle factors to weight gain such sedentary habit, compulsive food consumption, and imbalanced dietary structure.

Pagona Lagiou et al. BMJ 2012;344:e4026 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4026


Three Worst Diets to Avoid in 2013

If weight loss is one of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, then starting on the right track, instead of falling into traps of fad diets, will help you succeed.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘2011-12 Australian Health Survey’ found that around 35% of women aged 18-24 years are either overweight or obese.  According to survey conducted in October 2012 by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), 42% of women in this age group are hoping to lose weight in the New Year.  To help people get started on the right track for 2013, and stop them from trying the endless array of fad diets, DAA has released a list of three worst diets to avoid based on an online vote by 230 registered dietitians nationwide.

From a list of nine popular diets, the Lemon Detox Diet was deemed the ‘worst’ by experts for the second consecutive year, with almost three quarters (74%) of the dietitians voting against it.  The Acid and Alkaline Diet and The Six Weeks to OMG Diet were amongst the worst three diets attracting votes from 42 and 40 per cent of nutrition experts respectively.

“Don’t put your health in the hands of celebrities-endorsed diets or products that make miraculous weight and fat-loss claims. Like many things in life, good health takes perseverance and commitment to a healthy lifestyle,” said Ms McGrice, DAA Spokesperson and Accredited Practicing Dietitian.  She also advised people to “Start with small, sustainable changes like having more home-cooked meals and going for regular walks. Extreme diet measures are unnecessary and counterproductive.”

Australia’s nutrition experts give some tips on how to ditch fad diets in 2013
1.    Watch out for gimmicks or quick fixes. Being healthy takes time.
2.    Everyone wants that miracle diet that solves all problems. The truth isn’t sexy, but it works: A wholesome, nutritious, balanced diet.
3.    Carbohydrates are essential for effective brain function. Low carbohydrate diets won’t help you perform at your best.
4.    Get half vegetables, one quarter carbohydrates and one quarter protein on your plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
5.    No need to ban certain foods – you’ll only crave them more. Plan small amounts of ‘treat’ foods into your week and take time to taste and enjoy them. Enjoy quality over quantity.

Media Release, Dieticians Association of Australia, 8 January 2013

A study of healthy older men shows a correlation between multivitamin use and beneficial effects on mood and decreased stress.

Previous research has shown a correlation between deficiencies in certain micronutrients, such as vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, and negative mood symptoms, anxiety, and depression. Multivitamin supplements contain a range of these micronutrients, therefore maybe effective in improving moods.

A study performed by the National Institute of Complementary Medicine investigated the effects of a multivitamin, mineral, and herbal supplement on mood and stress in a group of healthy, older male volunteers. This was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comprised of fifty men between the ages of 50-69. The trial took place over an 8 week period; the subjects were randomly assigned to take either a daily supplement that contained vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts, or a placebo, and completed a series of stress and mood questionnaires before and after the 8 week supplementation period.

In comparison with the placebo group, the supplement group showed a significant reduction on an anxiety and stress scale, an improvement in alertness, and an improvement in general daily function.
While this study only looked at healthy older men, the researchers believe that the results are relevant to all older people, and could be applicable to a much wider population citing evidence from other researches. Furthermore, this study examined the effects of chronic multivitamins supplementation over the period of several weeks; other studies have observed that acute mood improvements can also take place.

The study concluded that supplementation with a multivitamin, mineral and herbal formulation may be useful in improving alertness and reducing negative mood symptoms and may also improve feelings of general day-to-day well-being.

E Harris, J Kirk, R Roswell, et al. Human Psychopharmacology 2011. 26(8):560-7

A review of clinical trials shows that saw palmetto is a promising phytonutrients in improving nocturia in men with BPH.

BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia) is a common disease of elderly men and a risk factor for developing prostate cancer later in life. It affects approximately 50% of men in their 50s with increasing prevalence up to 90% of men in their 80s and older.

There has been growing interest in phytotherapeutic agents, both in Europe and North America, for the treatment BPH, especially as a consequence of patients’ dissatisfaction with the adverse effects of the medical alternatives. One of the most frequently prescribed and studied such agent is Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) extract, derived from the berry of the dwarf palm tree.

Saw palmetto was used traditionally to treat urogenital irritations. However its mechanism of action and therapeutic effect remains unknown. In a recent review of current studies regarding the use of Saw Palmetto extracts for benign prostatic hyperplasia, the researchers proposed multiple likely mechanisms of action that have been attributed to this extract, including antiandrogenic action, an anti-inflammatory effect, prolactin signal modulation, and an antiproliferative effect exerted through the inhibition of growth factors.

Regarding efficacy, analysis of the existing clinical database indicates that Saw Palmetto extracts may be considered a viable first-line therapy for treating BPH-related Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms. They offer significant improvements of urinary status while having a favourable safety profile. European Association of Urology guidelines state that Saw Palmetto extracts significantly reduce nocturia in comparison with placebo.

The current results of phytotherapy with Saw Palmetto extracts are very promising. However, its method of action is still to be clarified. More high-quality, randomized, placebo-controlled, long-term studies are required in order to demonstrate without doubt the true therapeutic value of Saw Palmetto extracts. In addition, quality and potency of herbal extracts vary significantly based on extraction and preparation methods used. Consumers are advised to pay particular attention on differentiating between Saw Palmetto products that are registered as medicine and those considered to be general dietary supplements.

In epidemiological studies, regular intakes of lycopene and high blood levels of the carotenoid have been associated with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. It has been suggested that there may be a possible beneficial role of lycopene in patients diagnosed with BPH. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, German scientists investigated whether intake of lycopene supplements inhibits disease progression in patients with BPH, improving clinical diagnostic markers and symptoms of BPH.

Forty patients, aged between 45-70 yrs with BPH were recruited to participate in this study. They were randomly assigned to receive either a lycopene supplement (15 mg/day) or a placebo for 6 months. The effects of the intervention on carotenoid status, clinical diagnostic markers of prostate proliferation, and symptoms of the disease were assessed at baseline, and at 1, 3, and 6 months intervals.

After 6 months, lycopene supplementation decreased PSA levels in men, whereas there was no change in the placebo group. The plasma lycopene concentration increased in the group taking lycopene but other plasma carotenoids were not affected.

Clinical examinations for enlargement of the prostate in the placebo group showed 24% and 27% increases in prostate volume and weight. In contrast, in the lycopene group, slight and nonsignificant 5% and 3% increases in volume and weight occurred. Prostate enlargement tended to be slower in the lycopene group compared with the placebo group.

Symptoms of the disease, as assessed via the International Prostate Symptom Score questionnaire, were improved in both groups with a significantly greater effect in men taking lycopene supplements.

In conclusion, this study indicates that lycopene supplementation at a dose of 15 mg/day for 6 months, may inhibit disease progression and may ameliorate symptoms in BPH patients.

Petrisor Geavlete et al; Ther Adv Urol (2011); 3(4):193-198
Silke Schwarz et al.; J. Nutr. 2008; 138: 49–53

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