Low Vitamin D May Be Deadly

Low vitamin D levels in the body may be deadly, according to a new study hinting that adults with lower, versus higher, blood levels of vitamin D may be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin mostly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, but also found in foods and multivitamins.

Dr. Annamari Kilkkinen, at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues compared blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in 2,817 men and 3,402 women in Finland.

At enrollment, participants were just over 49 years old on average, and had no indicators of cardiovascular disease, the researchers note in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

During follow-up of about 27 years on average, 640 of the participants (358 men) died from heart disease and another 293 (122 men) died from stroke.

Compared with participants' with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest had 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, Kilkkinen noted in an email to Reuters Health.

There was a "particularly striking association" between vitamin D levels and stroke deaths, the researcher noted, in that having the lowest vitamin D seemed to confer "twice the risk," compared with having the highest vitamin D.

Allowing for age, gender, and other demographic factors, plus alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and season in which vitamin D levels were obtained did not significantly alter these associations.

In this study, vitamin D levels were "substantially lower" than levels thought to be sufficient, and "somewhat lower" than those reported in previous studies in other European and American populations.

However, there is no "absolute consensus" as to what the optimal range of vitamin D should be, the investigators note. Also, it's not known whether low vitamin D actually causes increased risk for heart disease or stroke. Clearly, further study is needed, they conclude.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, October 15, 2009

Curry Compound Kills Cancer

A molecule found in a curry ingredient can kill esophageal cancer cells in the laboratory, suggesting it might be developed as an anti-cancer treatment, scientists said on Wednesday.

Researchers at the Cork Cancer Research Center in Ireland treated esophageal cancer cells with curcumin -- a chemical found in the spice turmeric, which gives curries a distinctive yellow color -- and found it started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours.

The cells also began to digest themselves, they said in a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Previous scientific studies have suggested curcumin can suppress tumors and that people who eat lots of curry may be less prone to the disease, although curcumin loses its anti-cancer attributes quickly when ingested.

But Sharon McKenna, lead author of the Irish study, said her study suggested a potential for scientists to develop curcumin as an anti-cancer drug to treat esophageal cancer.

Cancers of the esophagus kill more than 500,000 people across the world each year. The tumors are especially deadly, with five-year survival rates of just 12 to 31 percent.

McKenna said the study showed curcumin caused the cancer cells to die "using an unexpected system of cell messages."

Normally, faulty cells die by committing programed suicide, or apoptosis, which occurs when proteins called caspases are 'switched on' in cells, the researchers said.

But these cells showed no evidence of suicide, and the addition of a molecule that inhibits caspases and stops this "switch being flicked' made no difference to the number of cells that died, suggesting curcumin attacked the cancer cells using an alternative cell signaling system.

U.S. researchers said in 2007 they had found curcumin may help stimulate immune system cells in the Alzheimer's disease.

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Diet and Exercise May Prevent Diabetes

People on the brink of developing diabetes who get a lot of support and encouragement to diet and exercise can turn things around and avoid the disease, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

"Millions of people could delay diabetes for years and possibly prevent the disease altogether if they lost a modest amount of weight through diet and increased physical activity," said Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. MORE>>>>>>>>>>

Fiber Keeps Diseases at Bay

Insoluble dietary fiber, or roughage, not only keeps you regular but also plays a vital role in the immune system, keeping certain diseases at bay, say Australian scientists.

The indigestible part of all plant-based foods pushes its way through most of the digestive tract unchanged, acting as a kind of internal broom. When it arrives in the colon, bacteria convert it to energy and compounds known as "short chain fatty acids." These are already known to alleviate the symptoms of colitis, an inflammatory gut condition.

Similarly, probiotics, and prebiotics, food supplements that affect the balance of gut bacteria, reduce the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, also inflammatory diseases. Until now, no one has understood why.

Doctoral student Kendle Maslowski and professor Charles Mackay from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research made new sense of such known facts by describing a mechanism that links diet, gut bacteria and the immune system. They demonstrated that GPR43, a molecule expressed by immune cells and previously shown to bind short chain fatty acids, functions as an anti-inflammatory receptor, MORE>>>>>>>>>

Fewer Televisions Help Dieters

What's the secret of success of people who lose lots of weight and keep it off for many years? A new study suggests predictable factors like exercise and control over eating play a role, but so do factors in the home like fewer TVs and more exercise equipment. MORE>>>>>>>>>>>>


LONG-term mobile phone users could face a higher risk of developing cancer in later life, according to a decade-long study.

The report, to be published later this year, has reportedly found that heavy mobile use is linked to brain tumours.

The survey of 12,800 people in 13 countries has been overseen by the World Health Organisation.

Preliminary results of the inquiry, which is looking at whether mobile phone exposure is linked to three types of brain tumour and a tumour of the salivary gland, have been sent to a scientific journal.

The findings are expected to put pressure on the British Government – which has insisted that mobile phones are safe – to issue stronger warnings to users.

Green Tea Reduces Risk of Dying from Pneumonia

Drinking green tea continues to show health benefits, particularly among women, hints a new study from Japan.

Drinking five or more cups a day cut the risk by "47 percent in Japanese women," but not Japanese men, Ikue Watanabe, from Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan noted in an email to Reuters Health.

Pneumonia risk seems to be reduced even by drinking small amounts of green tea.

Drinking as little as one cup or less of green tea per day was associated with 41 percent less risk of dying from pneumonia among Japanese women, the investigators found.


Ban on fast-food eateries is no fat cure, study says

A regulation banning the establishment of new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles is unlikely to curb obesity rates, according to a study by researchers at Santa Monica think tank Rand Corp.

Concerned about high levels of obesity, the lack of traditional grocery stores and a proliferation of fast-food eateries, the Los Angeles City Council approved a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in one of the poorest sections of the city last year. It has extended the ban through March of next year.

"We argue that the premises for the ban were questionable," Roland Sturm and Deborah Cohen write in today's online edition of the journal Health Affairs.

The study was based on InfoUSA business data and a survey of 1,480 Los Angeles County residents. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health, with no financial support from the fast-food industry, Sturm said.

Contrary to "conventional wisdom," the density of fast-food chain restaurants per capita is actually less in South Los Angeles than in other parts of the city, said Sturm, a Rand senior economist.

"If you look at it per 100,000 residents, the area is not overrun with McDonald's," Sturm said. "The story about fast-food chains does not hold up."

Though the authors noted that obesity takes a "disproportionate toll on minority populations, especially among African American and Hispanic youth" who live in South Los Angeles, limiting the type of restaurants that move to the area isn't likely to solve the problem.

Policy choices such as forcing restaurants to print calorie and nutrition information on their menus and reducing the availability of snack food and sodas is likely to be more effective in combating obesity than restricting the areas where fast-food establishments can open, Strum said.

One outside nutrition expert was not surprised by the findings.

"What we know already, and this study confirms, is that people living in poor inner-city areas do not have easy access to healthful, affordable food, especially fresh food. Lack of food access is highly correlated with diet-related health conditions," said Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University.

Though she doesn't object to the type of moratorium Los Angeles enacted, Nestle said there are plenty of other things the city can do "to encourage more healthful food consumption in low-income areas." She said cities could start with improving nutrition and nutrition education in schools as well as encouraging farmers markets, fruit-and-vegetable carts and community gardens.

Patricia Williams, a McDonald's franchise owner with nine restaurants in Southern California, including South Los Angeles, said, "There are some neighborhoods in South Los Angeles that would probably benefit from a McDonald's. So the moratorium should be looked at on a case-by-case basis."

Almost 26% of the residents of South Los Angeles are considered obese, according to the study. That compares with about 18% of the residents of Los Angeles County who live in higher-income neighborhoods, the study's authors wrote.

They found that the far wealthier West Los Angeles has 29 fast-food chain establishments, 14 small food stores and 10 large supermarkets per 100,000 residents. South Los Angeles, by comparison, has 19 fast-food chain restaurants, 58 small food stores and three large grocery stores.

The authors said those data were at odds with "media reports about an over-concentration of fast-food establishments" in South Los Angeles.

Among those reports, the study cited a chart that accompanied a July 30, 2008, story in The Times. The chart said fast-food establishments represented 45% of all restaurants in South Los Angeles. That was a higher percentage than in any other section of the city.

Doug Smith, The Times' director of computer-assisted reporting, who analyzed the data, said the different findings arose from the newspaper study's including small independent restaurants with seating for 10 or fewer people. The Rand study focused primarily on fast-food chains -- leading to a smaller count.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, whose 8th District includes part of the area where the moratorium is in force, took exception to the Rand report.

"Anybody who in the year 2010 thinks they can compare South Los Angeles to West Los Angeles is going to be faulty. You just can't make comparisons between the two communities," said Parks, who is a proponent of the ban.

He said his 8th District desperately needed more sit-down restaurants, supermarkets and other sellers of fresh food and produce.

"We are the most underserved community in L.A. for everything but fast food. There are a parade of people who have to leave the 8th District to purchase their basic food and household needs," Parks said.

South Los Angeles is often labeled a "food desert" because of its lack of large traditional grocery stores that are the typical source of healthful foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

However, the study found no difference in fruit and vegetable consumption between residents of South Los Angeles and people in other areas. Likewise, there was no difference in the proportion of people who participate in 300 minutes of exercise or more per week.

Residents of both West and South Los Angeles tend to eat out about 3.5 times a week, though South Los Angeles residents are more likely to obtain food from a food cart or truck rather than a sit-down restaurant, the study said. South Los Angeles residents also were likely to watch more television.

The Rand researchers attributed the greater likelihood of South Los Angeles residents to be obese to their consuming more snacks and sodas than people who lived in other areas.

"Snacks usually don't come from a restaurant," Sturm said. "They typically come from stores and vending machines."


Driving Convertibles Is Bad for Hearing

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Cruising down the highway with the top of your convertible down may feel great, but it can also permanently damage your hearing. A new study recorded noise levels in convertibles being driven at 50 to 70 mph on a par with construction sites and nearing the volume of an ear-pounding pneumatic drill. Wind noise, driving speed, road surface and traffic congestion all contributed to the ear-splitting volume. Consistent readings were recorded in the 88 to 99 decibel range with the noise level rising as speed increased. Repeated exposure to sounds over 85 decibels are widely recognized to raise the risk of permanent hearing loss. MORE>>>>>>>>>>

Chinese Herbs May Help Prevent Diabetes

A number of traditional Chinese herbs may help control blood sugar levels in people at high risk of diabetes, a new research review suggests.

The review, which examined 16 clinical trials of 15 different herbal formulations, found that the herbs generally helped lower blood sugar levels in people with "pre-diabetes" -- those with impaired blood-sugar control that can progress to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

When the researchers pooled data from eight of the studies, they found that adding an herbal remedy to lifestyle changes doubled the likelihood of participants' blood sugar levels returning to normal.

What's more, people using the remedies were two-thirds less likely to progress to diabetes during the studies, which ran for an average of nine months.

The findings appear in the Cochrane Library, which is published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. MORE>>>>>>>>>>>

Green Tea May Curb Cancer Risk

Drinking green tea may lower your risk of developing certain blood cancers, but it will take about 5 cups a day, according to a study from Japan.

Drinking green tea has been associated with lower risk of dying and heart disease deaths, Dr. Toru Naganuma, at Tohoku University School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan told Reuters Health in an email correspondence.

The current study, Naganuma said, suggests drinking green tea may have a favorable effect "for particular cancers."

After gathering information on the diets and green tea drinking habits of a large group of Japanese adults aged 40 to 79 years old, Naganuma and colleagues followed the group for development of blood and "lymph system" cancers. The lymph system is a major component of the body's immune system.

The 19,749 men and 22,012 women who participated in the study had no previous history of cancer, Naganuma and colleagues note in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

During 9 years of follow up, 157 blood, bone marrow, and lymph system cancers developed in the study group.


Chocolate, Water Blunt Pain

Chocolate activates a part of the brain that blunts pain and makes it difficult to stop eating, a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience has found.

But drinking water has the same effect and does not contribute to the growing problem of obesity, according to the study led by University of Chicago neurology professor Peggy Mason and neurobiology research associate Hayley Foo.

Mason and Foo gave rats either a chocolate chip to eat or water to drink as they lit a lightbulb underneath their cages.

The heat from the bulb normally caused the rodents to lift their paws.

But when the rats ate chocolate or drank water, their pain response to the heat was dulled and they did not lift their paws as quickly as when they were not eating. They also kept on eating.

Mason said that eating stimulates a system in the part of the brain that controls subconscious responses, which is known to blunt pain.

The natural form of pain relief may help animals in the wild avoid distraction while eating scarce food, but in modern-day humans, it could be contributing to over-eating and obesity.

"Nature provided for it being difficult to stop eating by making food scarce, particularly energy-dense, high-fat, high-calorie food. But in the modern world, we've completely messed that up," Mason told AFP.

"The cheapest thing you can get is energy-dense food and once it's readily available and you've got it nearby, you're going to eat it and you're not going to stop.

"You're destined to do that because it's a brainstem-mediated effect," she said.

Previous studies have indicated that only sugary substances had a pain-dulling effect, but the response in the rats in the University of Chicago study was the same regardless of whether they were nibbling chocolate or drinking water.

That led Mason to suggest that doctors change the way they calm patients' nerves.

"Stop giving patients lollipops," she said.

"Ingestion is a painkiller but we don't need the sugar. Water blunts pain, too," Mason said.

Two-thirds of American adults are obese or overweight, while about a third of US children are overweight and one in six are obese.

Mortality Rate 52 Percent Lower at Top Hospitals

The largest annual study of patient outcomes at each of the nation's 5,000 nonfederal hospitals found a wide gap in quality between the nation's best hospitals and all others. According to the study, issued today by HealthGrades, the leading independent healthcare ratings organization, patients at highly rated hospitals have a 52 percent lower chance of dying compared with the U.S. hospital average, a quality chasm that has persisted for the last decade even as mortality rates, in general, have declined.

The study also found that hospitals that have received the Stroke Certification from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) had an eight percent lower risk-adjusted mortality rate than hospitals that have not received this certification.


Whole Grains May Ward Off High Blood Pressure

Eating lots of whole grains could ward off high blood pressure, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In the study, men with the highest whole-grain consumption were 19 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than men who ate the least amount of whole grains.

While refining grains removes their outer coating, whole grains retain their bran and germ, so they are richer in many nutrients, Dr. Alan J. Flint of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and his colleagues note in their report.

The most recent US guidelines recommend that people get at least 3 ounces, or 85 grams, of whole grains daily, and that they consume at least half of their grains as whole grains.


Eating Licorice Can Affect Pregnant Moms Babies

Moms who eat lots of licorice while they are pregnant may affect their child�s intelligence as well as behavior. An eight-year study of children whose moms ate large amounts of licorice during their pregnancy didn�t perform as well on intelligence tests as other children. In addition, they were more likely to have short attention spans and suffer from ADHD and other disruptive behavior.


2 quick ways to lower health-care costs

To anti-capitalists, "profit" is a dirty word. Karl Marx hated profit, which he considered to be "surplus value from the exploited proletariat." Despite the spectacular collapse of the Soviet Union, a nation constructed on Marx's theory, there are still people who think "profit" is a dirty word. Many of these people are in Washington, D.C.

Sen. John Rockefeller issued a statement claiming that "… insurance companies are awash in profits." In reality, the health insurance industry stands 35th among Fortune magazine's profitability rankings, with an average profit of 2.2 percent.

Sen. Chuck Schumer doesn't think much of profit, either. He has proposed fees (taxes) that will extract $75 billion from private insurance companies over the next decade. Since taxes, or fees, are a cost of doing business that is simply passed along to the consumer, Schumer's idea is nothing more than an indirect tax that individuals will have to pay. But by applying the tax to insurance companies, Obama's promise not to increase taxes for people earning less than $250,000 can go unchallenged.

It is clear that Rockefeller, Schumer and the majority of Democrats want to reduce the cost of health care by squeezing profit out of the health insurance industry. This, of course, would kill the health insurance industry and leave the task of providing health-care services up to the government. This is the ultimate goal. Whether it's called "public option," "co-op exchange," or "single-payer," the goal is the same: Get rid of the profit private companies earn, and let government provide the service.

Don't miss the August edition of Whistleblower magazine: "Medical Murder: Why Obamacare could result in the early deaths of millions of baby boomers"

Conservatives in the Senate, in the House of Representatives and across the country know that the solution to the rising cost of health insurance is more competition. Obama and his congressional minions claim that some form of a government-controlled "public option" will increase competition.

What nonsense! Government-controlled or government-subsidized not-for-profit organizations offering health insurance is not competition; it is confiscation of the industry. Government does not level the playing field for private competitors; it levels the competitors. Unlike private insurers, a government program does not have to cover costs to stay in business. Examine other government programs, the Postal Service or Amtrak, for example. When the costs of operation exceed the revenue, Congress ups the national debt limit, borrows more money, and the government-run program continues.

Medicare and Medicaid are often held up by Democrats as great examples of government-run health-care programs that all Americans want. They are in fact an excellent example of government's ineptness at operating a business that should be left to the private sector. According to the calculations of the Medicare Trustees, Medicare is operating at a deficit every year, and to fund the program over the next 75 years at the current level of service would require $38 trillion – that's with a "T" – which amounts to 260 percent of GDP.

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Karl Marx would love this plan!

There is a way to increase competition among health insurance companies that would reduce the cost of health care almost immediately, with virtually no cost to the government or to the taxpayer. Simply let all health insurance companies compete across state lines. Costs would fall before breakfast!

Health-care costs would decline significantly if Congress would limit awards in malpractice cases. The cost of malpractice insurance – which has to be passed on to the patient – has skyrocketed beyond all reason, as the direct result of ambulance-chasing trial lawyers manufacturing outrageous payoffs in medical cases. A baby doctor in a metropolitan area may pay as much as $250,000 per year for malpractice insurance. Just to cover this insurance cost, charging $100 per patient, the doctor would have to see 69 patients per day, 365 days per year.

Congress could reduce health-care costs immediately with no cost to the taxpayer by implementing these two changes.

Obama has said he can save $500 billion by squeezing waste, fraud and abuse out of Medicare and Medicaid. Hooray! Go to it! This money could be used to provide a tax credit when low income families choose to buy health insurance.

These ideas have been advanced over and over again in Congress. Democrats have blocked every effort to pursue these solutions to the health-care cost dilemma. It would appear that their goal is not to reduce the cost of health care, but to destroy another major segment of our capitalist system in order to expand government's control over the economy – and American citizens.