Archives for April 2012

Societal Control of Sugar Essential to Ease Public Health Burden

Robert H. Lustig, MD, and a team of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers argue that sugar should be controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health. In a new report, they maintain that sugar is fueling a global obesity pandemic, contributing to 35 million deaths annually worldwide from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

 

 

Non-communicable diseases now pose a greater health burden worldwide than infectious diseases, according to the United Nations. In the United States, 75 percent of health care dollars are spent treating these diseases and their associated disabilities.

Robert Lustig, MD

In the Feb. 2 issue of NatureRobert Lustig, MD, Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, and Claire Brindis, DPH, colleagues at UCSF, argue that sugar’s potential for abuse, coupled with its toxicity and pervasiveness in the Western diet, make it a primary culprit of this worldwide health crisis.

This partnership of scientists trained in endocrinology, sociology and public health took a new look at the accumulating scientific evidence on sugar. Such interdisciplinary liaisons underscore the power of academic health sciences institutions like UCSF.

Sugar, they argue, is far from just “empty calories” that make people fat. At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver – the least understood of sugar’s damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled during the past 50 years and is viewed as a key cause of the obesity epidemic. But obesity, Lustig, Schmidt and Brindis argue, may just be a marker for the damage caused by the toxic effects of too much sugar. This would help explain why 40 percent of people with metabolic syndrome — the key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer — are not clinically obese.

“As long as the public thinks that sugar is just ‘empty calories,’ we have no chance in solving this,” said Lustig, a professor of pediatrics, in the division of endocrinology at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF.

“There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates,” Lustig said. “But sugar is toxic beyond its calories.”

Limiting the consumption of sugar has challenges beyond educating people about its potential toxicity. “We recognize that there are cultural and celebratory aspects of sugar,” said Brindis, director of UCSF’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS). “Changing these patterns is very complicated.”

According to Brindis, effective interventions can’t rely solely on individual change, but instead on environmental and community-wide solutions, similar to what has occurred with alcohol and tobacco, that increase the likelihood of success.

Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH

The authors argue for society to shift away from high sugar consumption, the public must be better informed about the emerging science on sugar.

“There is an enormous gap between what we know from science and what we practice in reality,” said Schmidt, professor of health policy at UCSF’s IHPS and co-chair of UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (CTSI) Community Engagement and Health Policy Program, which focuses on bridging academic research, health policy, and community practice to improve public health. In order to move the health needle, this issue needs to be recognized as a fundamental concern at the global level,” she said.

The paper was made possible with funding from UCSF’s CTSI, UCSF’s National Institutes of Health-funded program that helps accelerate clinical and translational research through interdisciplinary, interprofessional and transdisciplinary work.

Claire Brindis, DPH

Many of the interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption can be models for addressing the sugar problem, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces.

“We’re not talking prohibition,” Schmidt said. “We’re not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives. We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. For more information, please visit http://www.ucsf.edu.

Photos by Susan Merrell

 

Reference 

Lustig RH, Schmidt LA, Brindis CD. Public health: The toxic truth about sugar. Nature 2012; 482 (7383): 27-9.

 

Codex Alimentarius (Lecture)

The UN plan to eradicate Organic Farming & to destroy the Natural Health Industry

Never heard of Codex Alimentarius? That’s exactly what they want!

With biting political analysis, Ian R. Crane probes (2007) the track record of those who openly crave the introduction of a One World hierarchical Government. Exposing the agenda of those who have presided over events leading directly to the launching of illegal wars in Afghanistan & Iraq and who continually demonstrate their desire to perpetuate a state of permanent global conflict; whilst systematically eroding personal freedom, through the process of gradualism.

So what does all this have to do with Organic Farming and Natural Health? Part of the New World Order agenda is to remove the requirement for food labelling & to restrict and ultimately prohibit the sale of all natural health products. According to John Hammell, a legislative advocate and the founder of International Advocates for Health Freedom (IAHF), here is what we have to look forward to:

“If Codex Alimentarius has its way, then herbs, vitamins, minerals, homeopathic remedies, amino acids and other natural remedies you have taken for granted most of your life will be gone. The name of the game for Codex is to shift all remedies into the prescription category so they can be controlled exclusively by the medical monopoly and its bosses, the major pharmaceutical firms.”

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg; behind the Codex Alimentarius Commission are the United Nations and the World Health Organization, working in conjunction with the multinational pharmaceutical cartel and international banks. It is now a criminal offence in parts of Europe to sell herbs as foods. An agreement called EEC6565 equates selling herbs as foods to selling other illegal drugs. Action is being taken to accelerate bringing other European countries into ‘harmonisation’.

Yet Ian’s message is not all doom and gloom, concluding that the unfolding events present us with significant opportunity for true Political Alchemy.

 

Keeping Track to Selenium Metabolism

The technique allows for infinitesimal amounts of selenium to be quantified in their different chemical forms.

Spanish and Danish researchers have developed a method for the in vivo study of the unknown metabolism of selenium, an essential element for living beings. The technique can help clarify whether or not it possesses the anti-tumour properties that have been attributed to it and yet have not been verified through clinical trials.

“It is vox populi that doctors around the world recommend selenium supplements to complement traditional therapy against cancer and the AIDS virus but the truth is that the basics of these properties are not clear,” explains to SINC Justo Giner, a chemist from the University of Oviedo (Spain).

“Even the general metabolism of selenium has not been completely cleared up,” adds Giner who, along with other researchers at the same university and the University of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Copenhagen (Denmark), has developed a new methodology for discovering how this element moves around living organisms. The study has been published in the March issue of the ‘Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry’ journal.

The in vivo study was carried out on laboratory rats, which were administered a stable metabolic tracer of enriched selenium (77Se). According to the researcher, “it opens the door for transferring this method to clinical trials on humans given that innocuous, non-radioactive isotopes are used.”

In line with expected findings, the results reveal that selenium concentrations in biological tissue, blood and urine samples can indeed be analysed. Therefore, mass spectrometry techniques are employed along with a second isotopic tracer (74Se), which helps to quantify “with unequivocal precision” infinitesimal amounts of selenium in its different chemical forms that are distributed by the body.

Selenium is an antioxidant and plays an important role in the body’s immune response. Understanding the path that it takes from the moment it is administered to when it is excreted could help to clarify its metabolism and its possible protecting effect against cancer and HIV.

The ideal dose of selenium

The main sources of selenium come from foods such as yeasts, animal products (meat, seafood, dairy products) and vegetables like broccoli, wheat-germ, nuts (especially Brazil nuts), oats, garlic and barley. The current recommended daily intake of selenium is approximately 55 micrograms for women and 70 micrograms for men.

Selenium deficiency is associated with different pathologies like endemic cardiomyopathy, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, haemolysis and muscular dystrophy. Furthermore, thyroid metabolism is affected by selenium levels since the glands deiodinasa enzymes are in fact selenoproteins.

In contrast though, when intake is higher than nutritional requirements, selenium is considered a ‘nutraceutical’. Mainly thanks to its antioxidant properties this means that it is beneficial for the health as long as it does not surpass the threshold in which it starts to become toxic.

 

Reference

Lunøe K, Martínez-Sierra JG, Gammelgaard B, Alonso JI. Internal correction of spectral interferences and mass bias for selenium metabolism studies using enriched stable isotopes in combination with multiple linear regression. Anal Bioanal Chem 2012; 402 (9): 2749-63.

 

Seeking HIV Treatment Clues in the Neem Tree

Preliminary data hint at how extracts from the tree, abundant in tropical and subtropical areas, may stop the virus from multiplying 

Tall, with dark-green pointy leaves, the neem tree of India is known as the “village pharmacy.” As a child growing up in metropolitan New Delhi, Sonia Arora recalls on visits to rural areas seeing villagers using neem bark to clean their teeth. Arora’s childhood memories have developed into a scientific fascination with natural products and their power to cure illnesses. Now an assistant professor at Kean University in New Jersey, Arora is delving into understanding the curative properties of the neem tree in fighting the virus that causes AIDS. Sonia Arora presented her data at a poster session Sunday, April 22, at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego. Her preliminary results seem to indicate that there are compounds in neem extracts that target a protein essential for HIV to replicate. If further studies support her findings, Arora’s work may give clinicians and drug developers a new HIV-AIDS therapy to pursue. Extracts from neem leaves, bark and flowers are used throughout the Indian subcontinent to fight against pathogenic bacteria and fungi. “The farther you go into the villages of India, the more uses of neem you see,” says Arora. Tree branches are used instead of toothpaste and toothbrushes to keep teeth and gums healthy, and neem extracts are used to control the spread of malaria. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine, a form of traditional Indian alternative medicine, even prescribe neem extracts, in combination with other herbs, to treat cardiovascular diseases and control diabetes. The neem tree, whose species name is Azadirachta indica and which belongs to the mahogany family, also grows in east Africa. Arora’s scientific training gave her expertise in the cellular biology of cancer, pharmacology, bioinformatics and structural biology. When she established her laboratory with a new research direction at Kean University in 2008, Arora decided to combine her knowledge with her long-time fascination with natural products. The neem tree beckoned. Arora dived into the scientific literature to see what was known about neem extracts. During the course of her reading, Arora stumbled across two reports that showed that when HIV-AIDS patients in Nigeria and India were given neem extracts, the amount of HIV particles in their blood dropped. Intrigued, Arora decided to see if she could figure out what was in the neem extract that seemed to fight off the virus. She turned to bioinformatics and structural biology to see what insights could be gleaned from making computer models of HIV proteins with compounds known to be in neem extracts. From the literature, she and her students found 20 compounds present in various types of neem extracts. When they modeled these compounds against the proteins critical for the HIV life-cycle, Arora and her team discovered that most of the neem compounds attacked the HIV protease, a protein essential for making new copies of the virus. Arora’s group is now working on test-tube experiments to see if the computer models hold up with actual samples. If her work bears out, Arora is hopeful that the neem tree will give a cheaper and more accessible way to fight the HIV-AIDS epidemic in developing countries, where current therapies are priced at levels out of reach of many people. “And, of course,” she notes, “there is the potential of discovering new drugs based on the molecules present in neem.”

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help to Reduce the Physical Harm Caused by Smoking

New study presented at the World Congress of Cardiology organized by the World Heart Federation 

Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce the physical harm caused by smoking, according to a new study presented yesterday (20 April 2012) at the World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The study, carried out in Greece, assessed the effect of four-week oral treatment with 2 g/day of omega-3 fatty acids on the arterial wall properties of cigarette smokers. The results showed that short-term treatment with omega-3 fatty acids improves arterial stiffness and moderates the acute smoking-induced impairment of vascular elastic properties in smokers.

“These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the detrimental effects of smoking on arterial function, which is an independent prognostic marker of cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Gerasimos Siasos, University of Athens Medical School, 1st Department of Cardiology, “Hippokration” Hospital. “The cardioprotective effects of omega-3 fatty acids appear to be due to a synergism between multiple, intricate mechanisms involving anti-inflammatory and anti-atherosclerotic effects. Furthermore, AHA recommends that people without documented history of coronary heart disease should consume a variety of fish (preferably oily – rich in omega-3 fatty acids) at least twice per week.”

The World Heart Federation strongly encourages all smokers to quit,” said Dr Kathryn Taubert, Chief Science Officer at the World Heart Federation. “The only way to protect your body from the harmful effects of tobacco is to stop smoking. We encourage all people, both smokers and non-smokers, to eat healthy diets, which includes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.”

 

Big doses of vitamin C may lower blood pressure

Taking large doses of vitamin C may moderately reduce blood pressure, according to an analysis of years of research by Johns Hopkins scientists. But the researchers stopped short of suggesting people load up on supplements.

“Our research suggests a modest blood pressure lowering effect with vitamin C supplementation, but before we can recommend supplements as a treatment for high blood pressure, we really need more research to understand the implications of taking them,” says Edgar “Pete” R. Miller III, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Roughly 30 percent of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, or hypertension, an important risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Successful treatment may include drugs, exercise, weight loss, and dietary changes such as reducing salt intake. Some experts believe that large amounts of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient found primarily in fruits and vegetables, could lower pressure as well, but randomized, controlled dietary intervention studies — the gold standard of nutrition research — have produced mixed results.

Miller and his colleagues reviewed and analyzed data from 29 randomized, controlled, previously published clinical trials that reported systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure values and also compared vitamin C intake to a placebo. What they found is that taking an average of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily — about five times the recommended daily requirement — reduced blood pressure by 3.84 millimeters of mercury in the short term. Among those diagnosed with hypertension, the drop was nearly 5 millimeters of mercury.

By comparison, Miller says, patients who take blood pressure medication such as ACE inhibitors or diuretics (so-called “water pills”) can expect a roughly 10 millimeter of mercury reduction in blood pressure.

Five hundred milligrams of vitamin C is the amount in about six cups of orange juice. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults is 90 milligrams.

“Although our review found only a moderate impact on blood pressure, if the entire U.S. population lowered blood pressure by 3 milliliters of mercury, there would be a lot fewer strokes,” Miller says. Miller cautions, however, that none of the studies his team reviewed show that vitamin C directly prevents or reduces rates of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

Scientists have focused on vitamin C’s potential role in blood pressure reduction because of the nutrient’s biological and physiological effects. For example, vitamin C may act as a diuretic, causing the kidneys to remove more sodium and water from the body, which helps to relax the blood vessel walls, thereby lowering blood pressure.

Nutritional supplements are a USD 28 billion-a-year industry, and marketing claims, newspaper stories and testimonials often make them hard to resist, Miller says. People often view supplements as a “natural alternative” and preferable to drugs for high blood pressure or other ailments, he adds, despite mounting evidence that many supplements don’t work and in some cases may cause harm.

“People love to take vitamins regardless of the evidence or lack of it,” Miller says. “We’re trying to raise the bar and provide evidence-based guidance about whether supplements help or actually do harm.” With respect to vitamin C, he says, the jury is still out.

Other study authors from Johns Hopkins include Stephen P. Juraschek, an M.D., Ph.D. candidate; Eliseo Guallar, M.D., Dr.Ph.; and Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., M.P.H.

 

Reference 

Juraschek SP, Guallar E, Appel LJ, Miller ER 3rd. Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2012 Apr 4. [Epub ahead of print]

 

The Obesity Epidemic Lecture

Public Lecture at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales 

This open lecture was given  on 7 February 2012 by the nutritionist Zoë Harcombe.

In the UK, obesity has increased ten fold since the 1970′s. Clearly it cannot increase ten fold again or 250% of us will be overweight. However, the prediction of the Foresight report is that 90% of today’s children will be overweight or obese by 2050. We cannot allow this to happen.

We want to be slim more than anything else in the world, so why do we have an obesity epidemic?

Read more

 

Treating Depression: Is there a placebo effect?

A Harvard scientist says the drugs used to treat depression are effective, but for many, it’s the placebo effect that’s making people feel better. 

Do antidepressants work? Since the introduction of Prozac in the 1980s, prescriptions for antidepressants have soared 400 percent, with 17 million Americans currently taking some form of the drug. But how much good is the medication itself doing? “The difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people,” says Harvard scientist Irving Kirsch. Will Kirsch’s research, and the work of others, change the USD 11.3 billion antidepressant industry? Lesley Stahl investigates (CBS News, 2012).

 

Is Sugar Toxic?

If you are what you eat, then what does it mean that the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year? Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on new research showing that beyond weight gain, sugar can take a serious toll on your health, worsening conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer. Some physicians go so far as to call sugar a toxin (CBS News, 2012).

 

FluoriNation

This is a good, but a little known documentary about water fluoridation. Directed and edited by Brandon Kovatch.