Sunday, August 31, 2008

Study Review Shows Soy Protein Promotes Healthy Cholesterol Levels

According to a review, published online in the journal Atherosclerosis, soy protein has a beneficial effect for improving lipid profiles in people with mildly elevated cholesterol levels.

Authors of the study randomly searched Medline databases to find trials that matched pre-determined criteria for their research, choosing studies that evaluated the effect of 25 grams of soya protein on blood lipid levels, with the range between 15 and 40 grams. Thirty studies met the criteria, and the average soya intake was 26.9 g.

They found that the “inclusion of modest amounts soya protein (ca. 25 g) into the diet of adults with normal or mild hypercholesterolaemia resulted in small, highly significant reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, equivalent to ca. 6% LDL reduction. The authors concluded, “This practically achievable intake, particularly when combined with other dietary measures, can make a useful contribution to blood cholesterol management.”

Diabetes Care. 2008; 31:648-654.

Soy Studies

Past studies have shown that soy protein benefits patients with type 2 diabetes as well. The April 2008 issue of Diabetes Care published a study led by Leila Azadbakht, PhD, from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Isfahan, Iran, and colleagues, showing that soy protein consumption…”significantly affected cardiovascular risk factors and kidney-related biomarkers among type 2 diabetic patients with nephropathy (kidney disease." (1)

Soy has also been found to reduce blood pressure in post-menopausal women, suggesting that “a handful of dry-roasted, unsalted soy nuts is an especially convenient and satiating option for patients”. The study, from Medscape “Best Evidence Review”, enlisted 60 women, 12 of whom had high blood pressure. The results found that half cup of unsalted, dry-roasted soy nuts containing 25 g of soy protein and 101 mg of aglycone isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glycitein) daily significantly lowered blood pressure and reduced LDL and apolipoprotein B levels by 11 and 8 percent respectively.(2)

Try substituting soy protein for meat whenever possible. There are many satisfying products available, even for hard core meat lovers. Check out 25 Ways to Enjoy Soy Foods, from the Soy Foods Association of North America. You’re sure to find something appealing and above all, healthy. It’s important to remember that better health can come from simple dietary changes.

(2) Hypertension and Soy: A Best Evidence Review

Source:Atherosclerosis: September 2008 (Vol. 200, Issue 1, Pages 13-27) ◦

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Combination Exercise Benefits Patients with Coronary Artery Disease

Patients with coronary artery disease are likely to experience many benefits when exercise programs combine aerobic training (AT) with resistance training (RT), according to the results of a new study, published in the September issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Recent guidelines for patients with coronary artery disease recommend that patients perform one set of six to ten repetitions of RT. According to Susan Marzolini, from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues, "Although recommendations for the AT prescription are widely known, the RT prescription when combined with AT remains unclear.”

The authors enrolled 72 patients with known coronary artery disease for the study. The participants were randomly assigned aerobic training (5 days/week) or resistance and aerobic training combined. The group performing the combination exercises was given one to three resistance training exercises in addition to aerobics, two days per week. Fifty-three subjects completed the program which measured VO2(peak), ventilatory anaerobic threshold(VAT), body composition, strength, endurance and adherence to the program.

Compared to the AT group, the AT/RT group experienced reduced body fat, and greater increase in strength and endurance. Patients who were given three sets of resistance training exercise had lower adherence to the number of sets performed versus those who were given just one set. Increase in VO2(peak) was not significantly different between the two groups. VAT improvements were significant in the group who performed three sets of resistance exercises versus one, as were gains in lean muscle mass.

The authors conclude, "The combination of RT and AT yields greater improvements in cardiovascular endpoints of exercise performance, skeletal muscle function, and body composition compared to AT alone, in spite of a 28% reduction in the actual AT training stimulus. These data strongly support a combined training intervention in CAD patients, and supports the use of multiple-set RT for patients desiring an increased RT stimulus."

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008;40:1557-1564.

Combined exercise works better
Men with Muscles Live Longer - Study

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zoledronic Acid Prevents Bone Loss During Treatment for Breast Cancer

According to a study report from the Austrian Breast and Colorectal Cancer Study Group trial-12 (ABCSG-12), published online August 20 in Lancet Oncology, premenopausal women undergoing breast cancer treatment were able to prevent bone loss when Zolendronic acid was given in conjunction with chemotherapy. The study also reports that bone mineral density improved five years after treatment was discontinued.

Previous studies have shown that Zoledronic acid also prevents early breast cancer relapses, when combined with endocrine therapy. In the current study, designed to measure the effects of the drug on bone mineral density, the researchers also found that even more significant improvements two years after ending treatment.

Michael Gnant, MD, professor of surgery at the Medical University of Vienna and president of the Austrian Breast and Colorectal Cancer Study Group says, "With endocrine therapy for premenopausal women, there is substantial bone loss... this can be corrected with an easy and harmless treatment. We do recommend adjuvant zoledronic acid for the exact patient group described in this trial."

Study participants who received endocrine therapy alone were found to lose 11.3% and 7.3% of baseline lumbar spine and trochanter bone density respectively. Two years after treatment, there was no improvement. However, the women who received zoledronic acid showed improvement in bone density in both areas after 60 months.

The Importance of Strong Bones

Loss of bone density results in osteoporosis. Osteopenia is the term used for decreased bone mass. Bone mineral density tests measure the health of your bones, and are important in measuring a persons’ risk for fracture and injury – a problem that can cause permanent disability.

Risk factors include the use of certain medications, conditions such as anorexia, smoking and alcohol, family history, advancing age, and being Caucasian or Asian.

Though bone mineral density may return in women receiving breast cancer treatment, the author of the current study writes, “Currently, nobody can realistically say what consequence a long-term period of reduced bone-mineral density will have on later bone integrity." Anyone with chronic medical problems may be at risk. Ask your doctor for a bone density test if you have any risk factors or warning signs of bone loss or osteoporosis.

Source: Lancet Oncol. 2008; 9:840-849. Published online August 20, 2008.

Helpful Link:

Bone Health for Life

Friday, August 22, 2008

HPV Vaccine Caution Still Urged

Charlotte Haug, MD, PhD, from the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, in Oslo, writing a commentary in the August 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine urges caution regarding large scale programs for HPV vaccination, primarily because there are “too many unanswered questions”.

Dr. Haug says, "The real impact of HPV vaccination on cervical cancer will not be observable for decades. Rational choices about the introduction of medical interventions that might do good in the future but for which evidence is insufficient, especially since we will not know for many years whether the intervention will work or — in the worst case — do harm?"

The editorial accompanies a study published in New England Journal of Medicine, which uses a mathematical model to show the cost effectiveness of disseminating the vaccine in the United States. The study expects that the vaccine will be effective lifelong if highly targeted to girls, age 12. According to the conclusion, “The cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination will depend on the duration of vaccine immunity and will be optimized by achieving high coverage in preadolescent girls, targeting initial catch-up efforts to women up to 18 or 21 years of age, and revising screening policies.”

Dr. Haug feels the model is “quite optimistic, saying testing trials and follow-up are still needed. One of the major questions that exist is whether the vaccine will last throughout life. If not, screening again becomes more effective than catch up programs.. In addition, studies haven’t proven whether the vaccine has the same effect on older women as pre- adolescents, something that to date is presumed.

The next few years should reveal more, but in the meantime, Dr. Haug is urging more research. She concludes, “We should concentrate on finding more solid answers through research rather than base consequential and costly decisions on yet-unproven assumptions."


Related: HPV Vaccine Causes Public Concern despite FDA/CDC Support

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Highly Effective Flu Vaccine Developed by UTMB Researchers

Researchers from the University of Texas, through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have developed a promising universal flu vaccine, effective against several strains of flu. Flu vaccine is due for major revision, and speculation has existed that manufacturers may not be able to meet the demand in time for flu season.

Christine Turley of the University of Texas at Galveston and director of clinical trials and clinical research at the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development at UTMB is the principal investigator of the study. The vaccine, (VaxInnate M2e), according to Turley is “very promising, based upon the immune responses and tolerability we saw in the clinical trial participants… which has the potential to be a safe, highly effective and much-needed option to prevent seasonal and pandemic influenza A."

The results of the vaccine trial will be reported in October at the Interscience Conference on Agents and Chemotherapy and the Infectious Disease Society of America (ICAAC/IDSA).

Included in the trial was an evaluation of the methods used to develop and produce the flu vaccine - time being of the essence. Vaxxinate's technology is such that, should the vaccine prove successful, we can expect timely delivery of the flu vaccine to meet national and international demands.


UTMB researchers test new vaccine to fight multiple influenza strains

Flu Vaccine Due for Major Changes – First Time Recommendation from Government Advisory Board

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Silver Coated Breathing Tubes may Save Lives

According to the August 20 publication of Journal of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), using breathing tubes (endotracheal tubes) lined with silver may help save lives by preventing pneumonia in patients who require mechanical ventilation for more than twenty-four hours. The associated term is ventilator acquired pneumonia (VAP), a condition that contributes to a significant number of deaths in patients who require assisted breathing in a hospital setting, such as the intensive care unit.

The silver lining in the tube acts by reducing "VAP incidence by preventing bacterial colonization and biofilm formation". Colloidal silver has long been touted by naturopaths as the “antibiotic of the future”, and researchers have continued to develop the application in lieu of antibiotics.

The researchers screened 9417 adult patients between 2002 and 2006, randomizing 2003 of those who were expected to require mechanical ventilation for 24 hours or longer. According to the study conclusions, “Patients receiving a silver-coated endotracheal tube had a statistically significant reduction in the incidence of VAP and delayed time to VAP occurrence compared with those receiving a similar, uncoated tube.” The incidence of infection in the coated and uncoated tubes was 4.8% and 7.5% respectively. The participants were 18 years of age or older, and both males and females were included.

The findings of the study are valuable and timely when considering the ever increasing emergence of multi-drug resistant infections.

Silver-Coated Endotracheal Tubes and Incidence of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Too much Alcohol may Increase Tuberculosis Risk

Past studies have shown that drinking alcohol can improve longevity. Again, all things are best in moderation. According to a new study, excessive alcohol intake may increase the risk of active tuberculosis. The results follow a systematic review reported in the August 12 issue of BMC Public Health.

The cutoff level for defining an alcohol disorder was set at 40g per day. The investigators of the report found 3 cohort and 18 case-controlled studies, which they sub-categorized according to definition of exposure, and type of tuberculosis studied, also taking into account a variety of confounding information. The results yielded a 3.50 relative risk for tuberculosis in association with excessive alcohol consumption.

The authors write, "The risk of active tuberculosis is substantially elevated in people who drink more than 40 g alcohol per day, and/or have an alcohol use disorder. This may be due to both increased risk of infection related to specific social mixing patterns associated with alcohol use, as well as influence on the immune system of alcohol itself and of alcohol related conditions....These findings have implications for TB control strategies globally, particularly in countries where a high proportion of TB can be attributed to alcohol use."

The study is not without limitations, and may include bias regarding study results, underestimation of alcohol intake, misclassification of exposure, as well as bias in choosing control and study participants.

The authors suggest there may be benefit in further understanding “causal pathways with regards to risk of infection and risk of break down from infection to disease."

Certainly, the take home message for all of us is to moderate our activities and do our best to keep immunity intact through diet, exercise and – of course – by practicing good hand washing. It is also noteworthy that tuberculosis has been in the news a lot - the most recent news involving cases in California. Oh yes - and remain alert to alcohol related social mixing. Though that sounds tongue-in-cheek, it does have validity, especially for travelers.

BMC Public Health. Published online August 12, 2008. 2008;8:289. ◦

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Should You Eat Fish During Pregnancy?

According to a recent review from the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, there is no question that eating fish is good for everyone, even pregnant women. Unfortunately, there are also risks, as fish may contain high levels of methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenol’s (PCB’s), having a negative impact on embryonic development and maternal health. When combined, these contaminants may act synergistically causing an even greater health risk. (1)

Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial during pregnancy, helping with fetal brain development, promoting higher IQ’s in children, and decreasing the risk of premature labor and delivery and hypertension.

The author of the current review, Tiffany Dovydaitis, RN, APN writes, “...all women of childbearing age should be informed of both the benefits and risks of fish consumption.” Several conflicting studies have been conducted, but the conflicting results make it difficult to know whether the benefits outweigh the risks”. According to the author’s review, …”current fish consumption recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are based in part on the assumption that there is a threshold where potential risk outweighs benefit. One major problem with such an approach is that the scientific community does not agree on what this threshold level might be. Secondly, there are no regulatory mechanisms to ensure that the amount of contaminants contained in species of commercially caught or farmed fish is homogeneous throughout the country. A 2006 study found that methylmercury levels in fish available in Illinois supermarkets far exceeded the FDA reference levels.”

Given the confusion regarding safe levels of contaminants from consuming fish during pregnancy, combined with the risk of inadvertently consuming fish that exceeds safe levels of contaminants, the only conclusions that can be drawn are that Omega 3’s are important, and should not be completely avoided during pregnancy. Suggestions include keeping women informed about the risks of fish consumption, and which fish to avoid. Safe fish oil capsules can be obtained , but should be guided by physician recommendation because they are not FDA regulated. Pre-natal vitamins can be taken containing vegetarian sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, though the benefits of Omega 3’s from plant sources, versus marine Omega 3’s are not as well documented.



Fish Consumption During Pregnancy: An Overview of the Risks and Benefits

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Get a Good Night’s Sleep with a Back Massage

Most of us could use an extra hour of sleep. Medications for insomnia can be harmful, especially for elders. A simple back massage can help relieve insomnia, and in one study back massage was shown to improve sleep quality in critically ill patients following a six-minute back rub, in combination with muscle relaxation, mental imagery, and relaxing background music.(1)

Patients who were studied slept an hour longer than the control group, and descriptive statistics showed that quality of sleep was superior in the back massage group.

Sleep is essential for good health, recovery from illness and for promoting normal metabolism. It’s easy to forget that holistic interventions can do much to promote good health and aid recovery. Studies regarding the benefits of massage are well documented. The next time you or your partner have trouble sleeping, consider a short back massage.

Remember to use oil or lotion during the massage - less lotion provides better friction and allows more pressure. You may wish to use lavender scented oil for it's proven calming benefit. Start from the lower back, and apply gentle pressure with your thumbs just beside the spine, followed by longer srokes, using your palms, again on each side of the spine. If you feel comfortable, you can try a "kneading" motion around the shoulders and lower back. Remember to ask your recipient how the massage feels. You should be able to enjoy a good night's sleep with a simple and safe back massage.

If you take blood thinners or have any health problems that might be a contraindication to massage, please speak with your doctor.

Visit our store for massage oils and accessories.

(1) Am J Crit Care 1998 Jul; 7(4):288-99 Richards KC. University of Arkansas College of Nursing, Little Rock, USA. ◦

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Go Nuts for Heart Health

We’ve learned much about the role of inflammation and diet as it relates to heart disease. Consuming nuts with a meal can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels. Sudden spikes in blood sugar follow the typical Western diet of mashed potatoes and white bread. Eating almonds, pistachios, or peanuts with a high carbohydrate meal moderates inflammation, slows digestion, and decreases the amount of oxidative stress that follows a high carbohydrate meal. Nuts are also rich in antioxidants.

Studies show that people who were given a Mediterranean, versus a low fat diet, significantly lowered systolic blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and inflammatory biomarkers for heart disease after three months. The study group supplemented their diet with either walnuts (30 g/day) or virgin olive oil (1 l/week).

Other studies show you can reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease by 20 to 50 percent by eating nuts five times a week.(2) Suggestions include replacing nuts for sugary and starchy snacks such as pretzels and chips – items that are common in the American diet. Additonal benefits include lower triglyceride and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Nuts are a rich source of antioxidants, fiber, phytosterols, magnesium, and folic acid, and rich in monosaturated fats, making them an excellent heart healthy addition to your diet.

(1) Fito´ M, Guxens M, Corella D, et al. Effect of a traditional Mediterranean diet on lipoprotein oxidation. Arch Internal Med 2007;167: 1195–203.
(2) Jenkins D, Kendall C, Josse A, et al. Almonds decrease post-prandial glycemia, insulinemia, and oxidative damage in healthy individuals. J Nutr 2006;136:2987–92. ◦

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Experimental Antibody Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s Treatment

Scientists, using an experimental antibody, have successfully dissolved amyloid beta (Aβ) plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The presence of Aβ plaque in the brain has long been thought to precede the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The results of a Phase 2 study show such promise that Phase 3 trials are expected in 2009.

The agent (LY2062430, Eli Lilly), was given to patients intravenously, without safety issues according to the results, presented at the 2008 Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. The antibody successfully adhered to Aβ protein in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, facilitating removal of the detrimental deposits.

Eric Siemers, MD, medical director of the Alzheimer's disease research team at Eli Lilly says, “There was a dose response, so that patients who received more of the agent had less "free" Aβ in the blood. The effect of the antibody on the brain appears to be indirect. The team explained that as the antibody began to work, levels of Aβ in the cerebrospinal fluid began to increase. "We had to stop and think about this, and we realized that the most likely explanation for these elevated [Aβ] levels [in the CSF] was because the antibody was starting to dissolve brain plaques. The bottom line here is the results look quite good, and we didn't see any problem with this antibody," he said.

The 52 patients studied did not show any improvement in cognition, but the team says they are not surprised, given the short duration of the trial. Phase 3 trials will reveal whether the antibody will provide effective treatment for dementia. The researchers, in moving forward, say, "Based on the central safety profile and what we feel are compelling biomarker data, we've made a decision to go on to phase 3 with this antibody and will be starting a phase 3 study in 2009."

What you can do to Manage Your Risks of Alzheimer’s Disease

Remain physically active. According to William Thies, PhD, vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations for the Alzheimer’s Association, “Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or require a major time commitment. It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction."(1)

Engage in regular social interaction. Married people, and those in a couple’s relationship in mid-life, have a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Manage stress, control your risk of heart disease through diet, medication, regular exercise, and stress relief techniques (meditation, Yoga, massage, pain control and group interaction). Recently discovered risk factors for dementia include excessive worry, or ruminating about problems, and the presence of metabolic syndrome (cardiovascular related symptoms – obesity, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, and dyslipidemia).(2)

Immediate lifestyle changes have repeatedly been shown to reduce our risk of major illness, even decades from now.

Source: ICAD 2008: Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease: Abstract 08-A-2053-ALZ. Presented July 30, 2008.

(1) New Research Shows That People With Better Physical Fitness Have Less Brain Atrophy in Alzheimer's
(2) Lifestyle Factors Contribute to Lowering and Raising Risk of Alzheimer's Disease