Björklund Nutrition

Research news on nutrition, environmental medicine and health

Hofmann’s Potion

This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding.

Featuring interviews with LSD pioneers, beautiful music and stunning cinematography, this is much more than a simple chronicle of LSD’s early days. It’s an alternative way of looking at the drug… and our world. (National Film Board of Canada, 2002)

Counting the cost of mercury pollution

MercuryCleaning up mercury pollution and reducing prenatal exposure to the neurotoxin methylmercury (MeHg) could save the European Union EUR 10,000 million per year, finds a new study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Environmental Health. New estimates suggest that between 1.5 and 2 million children in the EU are born each year with MeHg exposures above the safe limit of 0.58µg/g and 200,000 above the WHO recommended maximum of 2.5µg/g.

While some mercury occurs naturally in the environment for example from volcanic eruptions or forest fires, most is generated by burning fossil fuels. Marine and fresh water species bioconcentrate MeHg; consequently the main source of exposure for humans is from eating fish.

A team of researchers from across Europe used the DEMOCOPHES study of exposure to environmental chemicals to assess the impact of MeHg on humans. Hair samples of child-mother pairs, collected from 17 European countries, demonstrated that, as a lower estimate, 1,866,000 children are born in Europe exposed to toxic levels of MeHg. 232,000 of these are exposed to hazardous levels, five times higher. But not every child in Europe is equally at risk. When analysed per country, children born in Portugal and Spain were the most exposed to MeHg, and Hungary the least.

Exposure to MeHg in humans affects brain development, resulting in a lower IQ, and consequently a lower earning potential. The long term cost to society can be calculated as lifetime earning loss per person, although this estimate does not take into account other aspects of brain toxicity or risks of cardiovascular disease in adults.

Prof Philippe Grandjean explained, “If we convert the effects of MeHg on developing brains into IQ points then the benefits of controlling MeHg pollution equates to 700,000 IQ points per year and monetary benefits of EUR 8,000 to EUR 9,000 million per year for the whole of the EU. Exposure abatement would mainly benefit southern Europe .”

Once MeHg is formed, it cycles though the environment for thousands of years, exposing humans and other species to potentially toxic levels for generations. Commenting on the research Dr Elsie Sunderland said, “Mitigating the harm caused by methylmercury requires global-scale cooperation on policies and source reductions. Negotiations by the United Nations Environment Program are currently underway to address mercury emission levels.”

 

References

Bellanger M, Pichery C, Aerts D, Berglund M, Castano A, Cejchanová M, Crettaz P, Davidson F, Esteban M, Exley K, Fischer ME, Gurzau AE, Halzlova K, Katsonouri A, Knudsen LE, Kolossa-Gehring M, Koppen G, Ligocka D, Miklavcic A, Reis MF, Rudnai P, Tratnik JS, Weihe P, Budtz-Jørgensen E, Grandjean P. Economic benefits of methylmercury exposure control in Europe: Monetary value of neurotoxicity prevention. Environmental Health 2013, 12:3 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-3.

Why fish is so good for you

Scientists of Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Jena University Hospital decode the antihypertensive impact of omega-3 fatty acids.

Scientists of Jena University and Jena University Hospital now analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids and described the underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time.

Scientists of Jena University and Jena University Hospital now analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids and described the underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time.

Fish is healthy: easy to digest and with a high level of precious proteins, fish is considered an important part of a healthy diet. And with the so-called omega-3 fatty acids fish contains real ‘fountains of youth’. These fatty acids – like docosahexaeonic acid (DHA) occur mostly in fatty fish like herring, salmon and mackerel. They are thought to lower the blood pressure, to strengthen the immune system and to have positive effects on the development on the nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

“Clinical studies about the intake of nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids haven’t provided complete clarity so far,” Prof. Dr. Stefan H. Heinemann from Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) says. “The molecular impact of the omega-3 fatty acids isn’t fully understood yet,” the biophysicist continues. But now scientists of the DFG research group FOR 1738 based at Jena University are able to bring new facts to light: in two newly published articles for the well-known science magazine ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA’ they describe how they analyzed the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on a systemic level and they also described the underlying molecular mechanisms for the first time.

The teams around Prof. Heinemann (Jena University), Prof. Dr. Michael Bauer (Jena University Hospital) and Prof. Dr. Toshinori Hoshi (University of Pennsylvania) were able to show that the so-called ‘SLO1′ potassium channel is an important component in the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids. “These ionic channels act like very specific receptors for DHA and are opened by the binding of the omega-3 fatty acids,” Biophysicist Heinemann explains. In the case of other omega-3 fatty acids – like the shorter eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) extracted from plants – the impact is much weaker.

Prof. Bauer and his colleagues examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on SLO1 channels of the cardiovascular system by experimenting with mice. “Administration of DHA should result in an expansion of the blood vessels and consequently a drop in blood pressure,” the physician says. The laboratory experiments confirmed exactly that. In genetically modified mice however, which were not able to produce the SLO1 channel, the antihypertensive impact of DHA failed to appear. “Thus we were able to show for the first time that DHA directly influences the blood pressure, which is being mediated through SLO1 channels,” Bauer summarizes.

Beyond that, the scientists made another surprising discovery: a variant of DHA, which can often be found in nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, doesn’t show an antihypertensive effect. Moreover, it suppresses and even diminishes the effect of the natural DHA from fish oil. “The intake of non-natural omega-3 fatty acids can therefore also have counter-productive effects,” Prof. Bauer stresses. This is of particular importance for the nutritional supplements of patients in intensive care who are being drip-fed: their supplements of omega-3 fatty acids should be specifically aimed at and adapted to the patients’ clinical requirements.

 

References

Hoshi T, Wissuwa B, Tian T, Tajima N, Xu R, Bauer M, Heinemann SH, Hou S (2013) Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure by directly activating large-conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channelsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221997110)

Hoshi T, Tian T, Xu R, Heinemann SH, Hou S (2013) Mechanism of the modulation of BK potassium channel complexes with different auxiliary subunit compositions by the omega-3 fatty acid DHAProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222003110)

 

Pomegranate: a heart-healthy fruit

Consuming pomegranate juice regularly improves heart health(NaturalNews) Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanins. The health benefits of pomegranate juice have been compared to that of red wine, purple grape juice, and black tea. The only potential downside of fresh pomegranate juice is that it is very high in natural sugar.

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Nanoparticles loaded with bee venom kill HIV

Anti-HIV nanoparticles

Nanoparticles (purple) carrying melittin (green) fuse with HIV (small circles with spiked outer ring), destroying the virus’s protective envelope. Molecular bumpers (small red ovals) prevent the nanoparticles from harming the body’s normal cells, which are much larger in size.
Credit: Joshua L. Hood, MD, PHD.

Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown. The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Our hope is that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection,” says Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD, a research instructor in medicine.

The study appears in the current issue of Antiviral Therapy.

Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. Indeed, in addition to anti-viral therapy, the paper’s senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells.

The new study shows that melittin loaded onto these nanoparticles does not harm normal cells. That’s because Hood added protective bumpers to the nanoparticle surface. When the nanoparticles come into contact with normal cells, which are much larger in size, the particles simply bounce off. HIV, on the other hand, is even smaller than the nanoparticle, so HIV fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticle, where the bee toxin awaits.

“Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope,” Hood says. “The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus.”

According to Hood, an advantage of this approach is that the nanoparticle attacks an essential part of the virus’ structure. In contrast, most anti-HIV drugs inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate. But this anti-replication strategy does nothing to stop initial infection, and some strains of the virus have found ways around these drugs and reproduce anyway.

“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV,” Hood says. “Theoretically, there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.”

Beyond prevention in the form of a vaginal gel, Hood also sees potential for using nanoparticles with melittin as therapy for existing HIV infections, especially those that are drug-resistant. The nanoparticles could be injected intravenously and, in theory, would be able to clear HIV from the blood stream.

“The basic particle that we are using in these experiments was developed many years ago as an artificial blood product,” Hood says. “It didn’t work very well for delivering oxygen, but it circulates safely in the body and gives us a nice platform that we can adapt to fight different kinds of infections.”

Since melittin attacks double-layered membranes indiscriminately, this concept is not limited to HIV. Many viruses, including hepatitis B and C, rely on the same kind of protective envelope and would be vulnerable to melittin-loaded nanoparticles.

While this particular paper does not address contraception, Hood says the gel easily could be adapted to target sperm as well as HIV. But in some cases people may only want the HIV protection.

“We also are looking at this for couples where only one of the partners has HIV, and they want to have a baby,” Hood says. “These particles by themselves are actually very safe for sperm, for the same reason they are safe for vaginal cells.”

While this work was done in cells in a laboratory environment, Hood and his colleagues say the nanoparticles are easy to manufacture in large enough quantities to supply them for future clinical trials.

(news.wustl.edu. March 7, 2013)

 

Reference

Hood JL, Jallouck AP, Campbell N, Ratner L, Wickline SA. Cytolytic nanoparticles attenuate HIV-1 infectivity. Antiviral Therapy 2013; 19: 95-103.

 

Doctored

Doctored“Your back pain will require SURGERY”
“Without these pills, you face life-long PAIN”
“Your child’s behavior requires MEDICATION”

That’s what the doctor tells you, but who tells the doctor what to say?

A visit to the doctor can be traumatic enough. Now we learn about the “influencers” – the people you never see, but whose job it is to turn you into a compliant, pill popping, revenue generation unit. And at all costs.

Medical Inc. reveals the unseen tactics of these “influencers” in an investigation that leads to the highest levels of the American Medical Association (AMA) and reveals an alarming portrait of deception and criminality. Along the way we wonder:

  • Is much of what we “know” about modern medicine just slick marketing from companies that profit when we’re in pain (or by putting us in pain)?
  • Why aren’t we being told about the successes of natural therapies?
  • Why do so many people think chiropractors are “quacks,” nutritional supplements a waste of money, and acupuncture a fringe therapy?

Is it because the “Medical Monopoly” spends millions a year attacking, ridiculing, and trying to discredit these natural therapies? The answers are almost beyond belief, until Medical Inc. takes us into the courtroom with five chiropractors who, having been labeled “an unscientific cult,’ fought back and won a landmark verdict.

Their heroic story forms the backdrop of one of the most personally compelling documentaries ever. Because of their bravery, the medical industrial complex is no longer blocking access to safe natural alternatives, pill popping is giving way to smarter preventative care, and purveyors of sickness are being shoved aside, resulting in a healthier life for us all.

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Folic acid supplements early in pregnancy may reduce child’s risk of autism by 40 percent

Large study in Norway finds early timing of supplements is critical:

JAMAPrenatal folic acid supplements appear to reduce the risk for autistic spectrum disorders, according to a study published today (February 13) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 1 in 88 children in the U.S. have been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASDs are amongst the most heritable of mental disorders, but little is known about how the disorder develops. Consequently, methods for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment are limited.

Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is required for DNA synthesis and repair in the human body, and its naturally occurring form—folate—is found in leafy vegetables, peas, lentils, beans, eggs, yeast, and liver. Taking folic acid supplements during early pregnancy is known to protect against spina bifida and other neural tube defects in children. In the United States, Canada, and Chile, folic acid is added to flour, so as to automatically provide these supplements to consumers. Norway does not enrich its flour, and since 1998, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has recommended that all women planning to become pregnant take a daily supplement of folic acid from one month before the start of pregnancy through the first trimester.

Despite this policy, studies from North America and Europe have shown that many pregnant women have a lower dietary intake of folate than what is necessary to prevent neural tube defects.

The report in JAMA emerged from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and its sub-study of autism, the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study. This international collaboration (see list of members below) comprises the largest prospective birth cohort devoted to the investigation of gene-environment interactions and biomarker discovery for neuropsychiatric disorders.

A total of 85,176 MoBa babies—born from 2002-2008—and their parents participated in the study. Prenatal dietary habits were recorded, and families were regularly surveyed for 3-10 years to measure the development of autism spectrum disorders. A total of 270 cases of autism spectrum disorders were identified in the study population (114 autistic disorder; 56 Asperger syndrome; 100 atypical or unspecified autism; i.e., pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, PDD-NOS).

Mothers who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had a 40% reduced risk of having children with autistic disorder compared with mothers who did not take folic acid. The reduction in risk was observed in those who took folic acid during the time interval from 4 weeks before to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy. Autistic disorder is the most severe form of autism spectrum disorders in children. No reduction in risk was observed for PDD-NOS. For Asperger syndrome, the number of children was too low to obtain sufficient statistical power in the analyses.

The use of folic acid in early pregnancy increased substantially from 2002 to 2008 among women who participated in MoBa. In 2002, 43% of mothers took folic acid supplements; by 2008, 85% of mothers did. However, many women began taking folic acid later than recommended, and only half started before the beginning of pregnancy.

The timing of a mother’s intake of folate appears to be a critical factor. Her child’s risk of autism was reduced only when the supplements were taken between 4 weeks before to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy.

“We examined the rate of autism spectrum disorders in children born to mothers who did or did not take folic acid during pregnancy. There was a dramatic reduction in the risk of autistic disorder in children born to mothers who took folic acid supplements,” says Pål Surén, first author and epidemiologist at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).

The researchers also analyzed whether the risk of autistic disorder was influenced by the use of other dietary supplements. They did not find any association between the mother’s use of fish oil supplements (cod liver oil and omega-3 fatty acids) in early pregnancy and the risk of autistic disorder, and no association for the mother’s use of other vitamins and minerals.

In recent years, researchers have started to investigate whether folic acid has other beneficial effects on the development of the fetus’ brain and spinal cord. A study of language development from MoBa, published in 2011, showed that children whose mothers took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had only half the risk of severe language delay at age three years compared with other children. A separate 2011 study from the University of California, Davis, demonstrated a lower risk of autism spectrum disorders in children of mothers who had used prenatal vitamin supplements during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamin supplements contain folic acid in combination with other vitamins and minerals.

Joint senior author Ezra Susser, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, stated, “Our findings extend earlier work on the significance of folate in brain development and raise the possibility of an important and inexpensive public health intervention for reducing the burden of autism spectrum disorders.”

“This elegant work illustrates the power of the ABC cohort for not only chipping away at the riddle of what causes autism, but for developing new methods for early recognition, prevention and treatment,” says W. Ian Lipkin, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of the ABC cohort.

 

Reference

Surén P, Roth C, Bresnahan M, Haugen M, Hornig M, Hirtz D, Lie KK, Lipkin WI, Magnus P, Reichborn-Kjennerud T, Schjølberg S, Smith GD, Øyen AS, Susser E, Stoltenberg C. Association Between Maternal Use of Folic Acid Supplements and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children. JAMA 2013; 309 (6): 570-577.

 

Prenatal folic acid supplementation associated with lower risk of autism

JAMAIn a study that included approximately 85,000 Norwegian children, maternal use of supplemental folic acid from 4 weeks before to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy was associated with a lower risk of autistic disorder in children, according to a study appearing in the February 13 issue of JAMA.

“Supplementation with folic acid around the time of conception reduces the risk of neural tube defects in children. This protective effect has led to mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in several countries, and it is generally recommended that women planning to become pregnant take a daily supplement of folic acid starting 1 month before conception,” according to background information in the article. It has not been determined whether prenatal folic acid supplements protect against other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Pal Surén, M.D., M.P.H., of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, and colleagues investigated the association between the use of maternal folic acid supplements before and in early pregnancy and the subsequent risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) (autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS]) in children. The study sample of 85,176 children was derived from the population-based, prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). The children were born in 2002-2008; by the end of follow-up on March 31, 2012, the age range was 3.3 through 10.2 years (average age, 6.4 years). The exposure of primary interest was use of folic acid from 4 weeks before to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy, defined as the first day of the last menstrual period before conception. Analyses were adjusted for maternal education level, year of birth, and parity (the number of live-born children a woman has delivered).

A total of 270 children (0.32 percent) in the study sample have been diagnosed with ASDs: 114 (0.13 percent) with autistic disorder, 56 (0.07 percent) with Asperger syndrome, and 100 (0.12 percent) with PDD-NOS. The researchers found that there was an inverse association between folic acid use and subsequent risk of autistic disorder. Autistic disorder was present in 0.10 percent (64/61,042) of children whose mothers took folic acid, compared with 0.21 percent (50/24,134) in children whose mothers did not take folic acid, representing a 39 percent lower odds of autistic disorder in children of folic acid users.

Characteristics of women who used folic acid within the exposure interval included being more likely to have college- or university-level education, to have planned the pregnancy, to be nonsmokers, to have a pre-pregnancy body mass index below 25, and to be first-time mothers.

“No association was found with Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS, but power was limited. Similar analyses for prenatal fish oil supplements showed no such association with autistic disorder, even though fish oil use was associated with the same maternal characteristics as folic acid use,” the authors write.

The researchers note that the inverse association found for folic acid use in early pregnancy was absent for folic acid use in mid pregnancy.

“Our main finding was that maternal use of folic acid supplements around the time of conception was associated with a lower risk of autistic disorder. This finding does not establish a causal relation between folic acid use and autistic disorder but provides a rationale for replicating the analyses in other study samples and further investigating genetic factors and other biological mechanisms that may explain the inverse association,” the authors conclude.

 

Reference

Surén P, Roth C, Bresnahan M, Haugen M, Hornig M, Hirtz D, Lie KK, Lipkin WI, Magnus P, Reichborn-Kjennerud T, Schjølberg S, Smith GD, Øyen AS, Susser E, Stoltenberg C. Association Between Maternal Use of Folic Acid Supplements and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children. JAMA 2013; 309 (6): 570-577.

 

The World’s First Global Mercury Ban

More than 140 nations adopt treaty to cut mercury – www’s column on NewsvineGENEVA – A new and legally binding international treaty to reduce harmful emissions of mercury was adopted Saturday by more than 140 nations, capping four years of difficult negotiations but stopping short of some of the tougher measures that proponents had envisioned.

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After a week of intense negotiations, the world’s first global mercury ban is clear. While no dental amalgam phase out date has been set,  during the negotiations that led to the new treaty on mercury, article 6 on products in Annex C  Part  II, requires countries to take steps to phase down dental mercury globally. “This is the beginning of the end of dental amalgam globally,” said Michael T. Bender, MPP director. “We applaud the leadership role the US played in jump-starting support for a phase down in 2011 along with the concrete steps in Nordic countries, Switzerland and Japan in phasing out amalgam.”

 

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UN treaty on mercury expected to phase down amalgam globally

Summary of The Fifth Session of The Iintergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare A Global Legally Binding Iinstrument on Mercury: 13-19 January 2013. Earth Negotiations Bulletin 2013; 28, No. 22: 1-25.

 

UN treaty on mercury expected to phase down amalgam globally

Draws praise from consumer, dental and environmental groups:

Dental AmalgamsWhile no dental amalgam phase out date has been set, UN mercury treaty talks are expected to result in the phase down of dental mercury globally, says representatives of consumer and environmental groups attending the negotiations.  Amalgam phase down text incorporated in Annex C of Article 6 on products is expected to shortly be transmitted to the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee plenary for its approval. [1]

“This is the beginning of the end of dental amalgam globally,” said Michael T. Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, a US-based NGO, who is attending the mercury treaty talks. “We applaud the leadership role the US played in jump-starting support for a phase down in 2011 along with the concrete steps of the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Japan in phasing out amalgam.”

“Countries that have phased out amalgam recognize that mercury-free dental fillings are readily available, affordable and effective,” said Charles G. Brown, Esq., World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, a global coalition of NGOs, dentists and consumers from over 25 countries. “This pushes the reset button on dentistry. Now the rest of the world can benefit from the experience of those countries.”

The draft treat text outlines a variety measures countries can take to phase down amalgam, but shall include at least two of the several listed. These include setting national objectives minimizing dental amalgam use; promoting mercury-free alternatives for dental restoration; and discouraging insurance policies and programs that favor dental amalgam over mercuryfree alternative dental restorations.

Other measures are targeted at reducing global dental mercury pollution and involve restricting amalgam use to its encapsulated form and promoting best environmental practices in dental facilities. It also encourages dental schools to train dentists on using mercury-free alternatives and best management practice.

Many countries have already been considering similar measures, due to the significant use and release of dental mercury pollution globally. A 2012 report for the European Commission (EC) recommended phasing out amalgam in five years. [2]

The EC BIOS report also noted that mercury-free fillings appear more expensive than amalgam because of the negative external costs. Amalgam’s negative environmental effects are known and ultimately, society pays for the uncontrolled release of dental mercury, as explained in our 2012 report. [3]

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the use of mercury in tooth fillings represents some 10% of global mercury consumption, thus being among the largest consumer uses of mercury in the world. UNEP estimates global use of dental mercury at between 300 – 400 metric tonnes per year. [4]

 

Endnotes:
[1] The Negotiating Process
[2] European Commission report by BIOS
[3] Real Cost of Dental Mercury Pollution, by Concorde
[4] MAP/UNEP 2008.  Source: Mercury Policy Project