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B12 May Help Prevent Brain Shrinkage

A new study suggests that having adequate vitamin B12 helps to minimize the brain shrinkage that occurs with aging. This is not the first study to find this either, and previously both folate and B12 have been found to benefit the brain in more ways than one.

This new study investigated the interrelations of serum B12 markers with brain volumes, cerebral infarcts, and performance in different cognitive measures.

Results showed that concentrations of all vitamin B12-related markers (methylmalonate, cystathionine, 2-methylcitrate, and homocysteine) but not serum vitamin B12 itself, were associated with global cognitive function and with total brain volume.

Methylmalonate levels were associated with poorer episodic memory and perceptual speed, and cystathionine and 2-methylcitrate with poorer episodic and semantic memory. Homocysteine concentrations were associated with decreased total brain volume.

The researchers concluded, "methylmalonate, a specific marker of B12 deficiency, may affect cognition by reducing total brain volume whereas the effect of homocysteine (nonspecific to vitamin B12 deficiency) on cognitive performance may be mediated through increased white matter hyperintensity and cerebral infarcts. Vitamin B12 status may affect the brain through multiple mechanisms."

Source: Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures: a cross-sectional examination

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Pea Protein Shows Prebiotic Effect

I was doing some research on a project and came across this article. Now, contrary to this blog's mission, it's not technically a newly published study, but since it was published at the start of this year, I say close enough.

Why I thought this was interesting is that when it comes to "prebiotics," I typically think of soluble fibre (or "fiber" for my growing American readership). This study found that protein isolated from peas (Pisum sativum), has a beneficial effect on the bacterial population in the gut.

As nutritional substrates, proteins are prone to spontaneously occurring non-enzymatic glycosylation (glycation, which is just the addition of a sugar molecule) which can alter their molecular structure, making them highly bioactive. This study aimed to determine the impact of glycated pea proteins on the intestinal bacteria from a healthy human. 

The analyses revealed that the glycated pea proteins affected the growth of gut good/commensal bacteria, particularly lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, whose levels increased significantly. There was a corresponding shift in the bacterial metabolites with increased levels of the short chain fatty acids (SCFAs); acetate, propionate lactate and butyrate. Such changes in microbial composition may beneficially impact the intestinal environment and exert a health-promoting effect in humans.

Source: The study on the impact of glycated pea proteins on human intestinal bacteria

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Honey for Healing Wounds, Ulcers, and Burns

Came across this article recently published... but since I'm writing this on the weekend -- when I should really be packing like mad to get ready for a move next month -- I've just copied/pasted most of the abstract here...

The widespread existence of unhealed wounds, ulcers, and burns has a great impact on public health and economy. Many interventions, including new medications and technologies, are being used to help achieve significant wound healing and to eliminate infections. Therefore, to find an intervention that has both therapeutic effect on the healing process and the ability to kill microbes is of great value.

Honey is a natural product that has been recently introduced in modern medical practice. Honey's antibacterial properties and its effects on wound healing have been thoroughly investigated. Laboratory studies and clinical trials have shown that honey is an effective broad-spectrum antibacterial agent.

This paper reviewed data that supports the effectiveness of natural honey in wound healing and its ability to sterilize infected wounds. Studies on the therapeutic effects of honey collected in different geographical areas on skin wounds, skin and gastric ulcers, and burns are reviewed and mechanisms of action are discussed. (Ulcers and burns are included as an example of challenging wounds.)

The data show that the wound healing properties of honey include stimulation of tissue growth, enhanced epithelialization, and minimized scar formation. These effects are ascribed to honey's acidity, hydrogen peroxide content, osmotic effect, nutritional and antioxidant contents, stimulation of immunity, and to unidentified compounds.

Prostaglandins and nitric oxide play a major role in inflammation, microbial killing, and the healing process. Honey was found to lower prostaglandin levels and elevate nitric oxide end products. These properties might help to explain some biological and therapeutic properties of honey, particularly as an antibacterial agent or wound healer. The data presented here demonstrate that honeys from different geographical areas have considerable therapeutic effects on chronic wounds, ulcers, and burns. The results encourage the use of honey in clinical practice as a natural and safe wound healer.

Source: Honey for wound healing, ulcers, and burns; data supporting its use in clinical practice.
(full-text pdf article available by following the link)

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Another Study Supports Coffee's Anti-Diabetic Effects

In previous studies, coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. The aim of this newly published study was to evaluate the effects of regular and decaffeinated coffee on biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

45 healthy overweight volunteers (who were nonsmokers and regular coffee consumers) were randomized into a parallel-arm intervention trial. Participants were assigned to consumption of 5 cups (177 mL each) per day of instant caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, or water (as the control group) for 8 weeks.

In comparison to the water group, results revealed that caffeinated coffee was associated with a 60% decrease in a compounded called IL-6 (affects glucose homeostasis and metabolism directly and indirectly). Levels of adiponectin (a compound that's important for insulin sensitivity) also decreased in the caffeinated coffee group, but not the decaffeinated or water groups.

...so let's go for coffee.

Source: Effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes: A randomized controlled trial

For other posts discussing coffee's health benefits, search for "coffee" in the search bar in the upper right-hand side (above the ads)

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B5 (as Pantethine) Lowers Cholesterol

Pantethine is considered the "active" form of B5 (not to be confused with pantothenic acid, which is another form of B5, common in nutritional supplements). It's been used as an OTC drug for cholesterol for over 20 years in Japan, but only very slowly gaining acceptance in North America. Maybe this new study can help spur people to consider natural and safe alternatives to pharmaceutical interventions to cholesterol issues.

In this new study, two groups used pantethine at doses of 600 and 900 mg. At the end of the study, the pantethine groups showed modest decreases in LDL (4%) and total cholesterol (3%) over the placebo group.

Source: Pantethine, a derivative of vitamin B5 used as a nutritional supplement, favorably alters low-density lipoprotein cholesterol metabolism in low– to moderate–cardiovascular risk North American subjects: a triple-blinded placebo and diet-controlled investigation

Even though these results were statistically significant, I'm surprised at the results, and would have expected to see much greater reductions. According to a meta-analysis published in 2005, pantethine was shown to have much greater benefits, with the most benefit being a huge decrease in triglyceride levels. In this meta-analysis (which combined results from 28 previous clinical trials), results showed pantethine, after 4 weeks lowered LDL by 20.1%, total cholesterol by 15.1%, and triglycerides by 32.9%.

From my clinical experience, I'd say the therapeutic dose is 900 mg/day (I think 600 mg is too low), but that's just me, and the evidence does suggest some people will get results with doses as low as 600 mg daily.

Now for a separate discussion...

I've come across a number of studies in the last couple weeks, and I've covered them here almost daily. For those who subscribe by email, I want your feedback. Is this too much? I don't want to become a bother like some believe Dr. Mercola's emails have become (I get them daily). Keep in mind I only post when I find a new study...there have been weeks where I don't discuss a single study. Post a comment below to let me know your thoughts. I'm always looking for ways to improve this blog and make it more relevant.

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Nuts & Olive Oil Better Than Drugs for Cardiovascular Disease

Preliminary results from a large, multi-centre, randomized, controlled, parallel-group, clinical trial are revealing that a traditional Mediterranean diet (TMD) is more protective of cardiovascular disease risk than drugs.

Study participants were assigned to a low-fat diet (the control group), or two versions of the TMD:
  1. TMD + virgin olive oil, or
  2. TMD + nuts
A 3-month evaluation was performed, after which some impressive results started to become apparent, emphasizing the advantage a healthy diet has over prescription drugs.

The authors said, "a modification in the entire diet pattern managed to achieve in just one year, results that pharmaceutical drugs did not -- even after two years of treatment."

Final results are to be published once the clinical trial is completed next year.

Source: Effect of a traditional Mediterranean diet on apolipoproteins B, A-I, and their ratio: A randomized, controlled trial

Here are a couple other olive oil studies I covered previously:

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Reduce Stroke Risk with "White Flesh" Fruits & Veggies

In recent years, you may have heard nutritionist recommend you eat the colours of the rainbow. This is because the colour of the edible portion of fruits and vegetables reflects the presence of pigmented bioactive compounds (e.g., carotenoids, anthocyanidins, and flavonoids).

However, while many focus on the more vibrant colours (reds, oranges, yellows, greens, etc.), the white fruits and vegetables have been neglected. Maybe not for long though.

The authors of this new study wondered, which fruit and vegetable colour groups contribute most to the reduction in stroke incidence. In order to determine the answer, they examined associations between consumption of fruit and vegetable colour groups with 10-year stroke incidence.

This was a prospective, population-based cohort study, including 20,069 men and women age 20-65 years and free of cardiovascular diseases at baseline.

Fruits and vegetables were classified into 4 color groups: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white fruit and vegetables.

Higher intake of white fruits and vegetables was inversely associated with incident stroke. Each 25 g/day increase in white fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with a 9% lower risk of stroke. Apples and pears were the most commonly consumed white fruit and vegetables (55%). However, at least in this study, green, orange/yellow, and red/purple fruits and vegetables were not related to incidence of stroke.

Source: Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke

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Drink Coffee to Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Prostate exams are actually not this bad...as long as you don't ask a bull to do it.
Coffee contains diverse biologically active compounds that include caffeine, minerals, and phytochemicals. In previous studies, coffee consumption has been consistently associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and its effects on insulin, sex hormones, and antioxidants may also be relevant to prostate cancer.

However, epidemiological studies of coffee consumption and prostate cancer have generally reported null results, although most lacked a wide range of coffee intakes and a large number of case subjects and none specifically examined advanced disease.

Therefore, the authors of this new study sought to avoid the pitfalls of previous studies, and hypothesized that coffee may be associated with lower risk of more advanced prostate cancers because the associations of insulin, antioxidants, and androgens.

They conducted a prospective analysis of 47,911 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who reported intake of regular and decaffeinated coffee in 1986 and every 4 years thereafter. .

The average intake of coffee in 1986 was 1.9 cups per day. Men who consumed six or more cups per day had a lower relative risk for overall prostate cancer compared with nondrinkers, and this association was stronger for lethal prostate cancer.

The inverse association with lethal cancer was similar for regular and decaffeinated coffee (indicating it isn't the caffeine that offers the protective benefits, which was the case in another study on coffee for Alzheimer's disease I covered in the past).

Source: Coffee Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk and Progression in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study

For further reading, here are some other studies I've covered on coffee:
...and some other posts regarding prostate cancer:

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Probiotic Supplement Shown to Minimize the Symptoms of IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an extremely common functional disorder affecting between 15-20% of all people in the US. It's a functional disorder characterized by chronic vague cramping, abdominal pain, and altered bowel habits in the absence of any detectable pathology. Through the evolution of medicine, IBS has been referred to by diverse terms such as spastic colon, nervous colon, and so on. IBS is not a clinically defined illness and traditionally is a diagnosis of exclusion. Although many pathophysiologic factors have been implicated, in recent years researchers have considered food intolerance, imbalance of the intestinal microflora, and colonic malfermentation as potential factors responsible for symptoms of IBS.

Current treatment options for IBS are considered unsatisfactory, and probiotics are one promising therapeutic alternative.

This newly published clinical study was conducted to determine the potential of a multispecies probiotic supplement, Multi-Flora Plus (marketed in Canada by Innovite Health as Adult Daily Probiotics) in the treatment of IBS. Patients with chronic IBS were treated with a 2 capsules/day of a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS®-1 strain, Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. longum, and B. lactis for two months.

The most significant improvement in symptoms occurred after two months of treatment, with 84% of the patients showing improvement in abdominal pain, 73.9% in bloating, 92% in belching, 88% in flatulence, 90.9% in diarrhea, and 86.9% in constipation. In addition, no clinically evident adverse effects from the use of Multi-Flora Plus probiotic were reported.

Over the past few months, I've covered numerous studies on probiotics where it was found to:
So many benefits! And the research is sure to keep pouring in. So if you're not taking a probiotic supplement yet...get with the times!

Have an amazing weekend! It's the last official weekend of summer for us in the Northern Hemisphere (and the last weekend of winter for those south of the equator).

Source: Clinical Case Study—Multispecies Probiotic Supplement Minimizes Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Arterial Calcification Linked to Dementia

Calcification in atherosclerotic plaques (arterial calcification) is a novel marker of atherosclerosis and is related to cardiovascular disease. However, its relationship with cerebrovascular (blood vessels in the brain) disease has not been investigated extensively. So this new study investigated the relationship between calcification in various vessel beds outside the brain and imaging markers of vascular brain disease.

A total of 885 community-dwelling people (average age, 66.7 years) underwent computed tomography (CT scan) of the coronary arteries, aortic arch, and extracranial and intracranial carotid arteries to assess arterial calcification. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were performed to assess cerebral infarcts, microbleeds, and white matter lesions (WMLs). 

Results showed arterial calcification in major vessel beds outside the brain, as shown with MRI, was associated with vascular brain disease and may be linked to future risk for dementia and stroke. 

Moreover, the amount of calcified plaque outside the brain provided more information about the extent of brain changes than traditional ultrasound measures of plaque in the carotid artery.

The relationship between calcium in atherosclerotic plaque and brain changes were independent from classic cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

This may be useful to understand that calcification in coronary arteries, though far away from the brain, may indicate presence of subclinical brain disease as well. How does this translate to a clinical outcome? I think it's too early to say at this point, but does suggest preventing calcification of the arteries is a wise idea.

In another article that covered this study, I read that originally, Alzheimer's disease was thought to be caused by atherosclerosis in the brain. In 1906, when Alois Alzheimer published his very first paper in Germany, he said that Alzheimer's disease was really due to hardening of the arteries in the brain. Then, about 3 decades ago, a biochemist showed that, it has nothing to do with hardening of the arteries. It's all about amyloid--it's all about plaques and tangles in the brain--and slowly the vascular part of the story was forgotten.

However, it seems there's a revival of the vascular part of the story in the last few years and doctors are paying attention to it again.

Source: Calcification in Major Vessel Beds Relates to Vascular Brain Disease

How can you prevent this calcification? Great question. In my opinion, take vitamin K2. Here are some previous posts where I discuss this...
So cheers to vitamin K. That's K for Know, and "Knowing" is half the battle. (I know, I know...that's insanely cheesy. And yes, I actually just said that.)

...lastly, some other posts on Alzheimer's and dementia:
...and some other posts on vitamin K

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Help the Environmental Working Group Stop Childhood Obesity

Carb-loading for the main event.
Looks like it's all muscle to me little dude.

No new study to discuss today, so want to help stop childhood obesity? If that's a YES, keep reading (if NO, I'm sure the food companies love that you'll just skip this post altogether).

Food companies spend billions on advertising targeting children - $1.6 billion in 2006 alone - and now they're objecting to voluntary US government guidelines for marketing food to children.

Major food companies are lobbying the US government to withdraw the guidelines completely and instead use the industry's own definition of "responsible advertising"...this hasn't worked in the past, and repeatedly proven they cannot self-regulate. All they care about is the bottom line. They don't care if their products make kids sick.

So the Environmental Working Group has joined forces with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to take on the food industry and tell its CEOs to stop the attacks and start helping our children. They need you to stand with them to make sure they get the message loud and clear.

Due to the alarming rates of childhood obesity, in 2009, US Congress instructed the Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, and Department of Agriculture to form an Interagency Working Group (IWG) to look into child-targeted advertising and recommend standards for marketing food to children under 18.

When the IWG published its draft, voluntary guidelines in April, it suggested that food companies adopt two voluntary principles, not legally enforceable by any regulatory agency, that food advertised to children should:

  • make "a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet" by containing a significant amount of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, extra lean meat or poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, or beans.
  • have only "minimal quantities of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health and weight," such as sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugars.
These commonsense recommendations would encourage children to adopt healthy eating habits. But the goal for big food interests is an even fatter bottom line, so they're lobbying the government and calling on the IWG to throw out its voluntary proposal and use the industry's own guidelines for responsible advertising.

It only takes about 30 seconds to complete the fields in the following pre-written letter. Click HERE to send your message.


Probiotics May Improve Antioxidant Status in Athletes

Here's a short and sweet probiotic research update...

In a small controlled study, daily supplementation with a mixture of 2 probiotic strains during 4 weeks of intense physical activity was found to increase plasma antioxidant levels, neutralizing harmful free-radicals. The authors conclude, "Athletes and all those exposed to oxidative stress may benefit from the ability of these probiotics to increase antioxidant levels and neutralize the effects of reactive oxygen species."

Source: Effect of a Probiotic Intake on Oxidant and Antioxidant Parameters in Plasma of Athletes During Intense Exercise Training 

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Dark Chocolate for Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health

More studies on chocolate just keep rolling in. Today I have, not one, but two new studies to share with you on this delectable food.

First, a systematic review and meta-analysis of one cross-sectional and six cohort studies (totaling 114,009 subjects) were analyzed, and it was concluded that higher chocolate consumption was found to be associated with a reduced risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Specifically, the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduced risk of stroke (compared to the lowest chocolate consumption).

The authors conclude, "Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders."

Source: Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis

This next study confirms the results of a study I discussed a few months ago, where dark chocolate consumption was shown to lower blood pressure. This newer study involved 14,310 adults from various regions of Jordan, and found higher that intake of dark chocolate was associated with lower blood pressure (without any particular effects on heart rate). Subjects were divided into 3 categories according to dark chocolate intake: 1) mild (1-2 bars/wk); 2) moderate (3-4 bars/wk); and 3) high (more than 4 bars/wk), and results showed that higher intakes of dark chocolate were associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, regardless of age or family history of hypertension.

Source: Dark Chocolate and Blood Pressure: A Novel Study from Jordan

Again, we're talking real chocolate here...the dark stuff. Not milk chocolate, or even worse, "candy bars" (like the ones you find at convenience stores).

Have a happy and healthy weekend!

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American Kids Not Getting Enough Vitamin D

A new study out of the US says that most American children do not get enough vitamin D from sun exposure, even during the summer months.

According to the findings, only Caucasian kids living in the northern US actually achieved the minimum daily dose of vitamin D (and this only occurred during the summer if they didn't wear sunscreen).

How the researchers came to this conclusion is that they calculated the average production of vitamin D from sun exposure based on sex, age, skin type, clothing, season, and latitude (45 degrees N for the northern kids, 35 degrees N for southern kids).

The analysis suggests that kids living in northern latitudes have a better chance of meeting the minimum vitamin D requirements from sun exposure -- perhaps since there is less emphasis on sun avoidance and sunscreen use at northern latitudes. As you go south, awareness of sun exposure increases and kids are more likely to wear sunscreen more often.

These results contradict the statement made by the American Academy of Dermatology, which said people will continue to make "ample" vitamin D (meaning only 1000 IU/day) because most get plenty of "casual" UV sun exposure.

This would clearly suggest that nutritional supplementation or food fortification is increasingly important.

Source: Solar UV Doses of Young Americans and Vitamin D3 Production

Related posts:
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Probiotics May Reduce Depression and Anxiety

There is increasing, but largely indirect, evidence pointing to an effect of "good" gut bacteria on the central nervous system (CNS). However, it is unknown whether lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus species could have a direct effect on neurotransmitter receptors in the CNS in normal, healthy animals.

GABA is the main CNS inhibitory neurotransmitter and is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes. Alterations in GABA receptors in the CNS are implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety and depression, which are highly linked with functional bowel disorders.

In this new study, researchers showed that chronic treatment with L. rhamnosus (JB-1) induced region-dependent alterations in the brain GABA. More importantly, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behaviour.

Another observation was that the neurochemical and behavioural effects were not found in mice without a fucntioning vagus nerve (identifying the vagus as a major modulatory constitutive communication pathway between the bacteria exposed to the gut and the brain).

Together, these findings highlight the important role of bacteria in the bi-directional communication of the gut–brain axis and suggest that certain organisms may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Source: Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve

Related posts:

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