March 31, 2008

Hormone Therapy for Menopause - Increased Risk of Breast Cancer

Women who take combination (estrogen plus progestin) hormone therapy for menopause continue to be at increased risk of breast cancer, even years after stopping therapy. Also, women on combination hormone therapy for menopause are also at increased risk of stroke, blood clots, heart disease and cancer.

WHI Follow-up Study Confirms Health Risks of Long-Term Combination Hormone Therapy Outweigh Benefits for Postmenopausal Women

New results from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) confirm that the health risks of long-term use of combination (estrogen plus progestin) hormone therapy in healthy, postmenopausal women persist even a few years after stopping the drugs and clearly outweigh the benefits.

Researchers report that about three years after women stopped taking combination hormone therapy, many of the health effects of hormones such as increased risk of heart disease are diminished, but overall risks, including risks of stroke, blood clots, and cancer, remain high. The WHI is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Results of the WHI three-year follow-up study of the estrogen-plus-progestin clinical trial are published in the March 5, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The good news is that after women stop taking combination hormone therapy, their risk of heart disease appears to decrease," noted Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., NHLBI director. "However, these findings also indicate that women who take estrogen plus progestin continue to be at increased risk of breast cancer, even years after stopping therapy. Today's report confirms the study's primary conclusion that combination hormone therapy should not be used to prevent disease in healthy, postmenopausal women."

The FDA recommends that hormone therapy never be used to prevent heart disease, and, when hormone therapy is used for menopausal symptoms, it should only be taken at the smallest dose and for the shortest time possible.

The new findings are from a follow-up study of 15,730 postmenopausal women with an intact uterus, ages 50 to 79 years (average age of 63) at enrollment, who participated in the WHI estrogen-plus-progestin clinical trial.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive a combination of estrogen (0.625 milligrams of conjugated equine estrogens per day) plus progestin (2.5 mg of medroxyprogesterone acetate) or placebo (inactive pill). The main estrogen-plus-progestin study was stopped in 2002 after an average of 5.6 years of treatment due to an increase in breast cancer. Women on combination hormone therapy were also at increased risk of stroke, blood clots, and heart disease, while their risk of colorectal cancer and hip fractures was lower, compared to women who did not take hormone therapy.

The follow-up study began in July 2002 after women in the study were instructed to stop taking combination hormone therapy, and continued through March 2005, with participants followed for an average of 2.4 years.

All study participants were examined at least once a year by a WHI clinician and received an annual breast examination and mammogram, with biopsies performed as needed.

During the follow-up study, the numbers of heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots were not significantly different between the two groups (overall, 343 cardiovascular events among those who initially received hormone therapy versus 323 among those who did not).

In addition, the number of deaths was not significantly different (233 women who had been in the hormone therapy group died, versus 196 women who had been in the placebo group).

"After being on combination hormone therapy for several years, the women's risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly higher – from a 29 percent increase in heart attacks to a 41 percent increase in strokes and nearly twice the risk of serious blood clots – compared to the women who did not take hormones," said Michael S. Lauer, M.D., director of the NHLBI Division of Prevention and Population Sciences.

"While it is reassuring that heart attack risk decreased and that the risks for stroke and blood clots did not grow after the women stopped taking hormones, this study provides further evidence that five years of combination hormone therapy is harmful. All the accumulated risks do not simply disappear."

The study also found that other effects of combination hormones, such as decreased risk of colorectal cancer and hip fractures, also stopped when therapy ended.

"We continue to encourage women to use hormones only if needed for menopausal symptoms, and for the shortest time possible, and to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle, that is, engage in regular physical activity, maintain a healthy body weight, consume a diet low in saturated fat, and to not smoke, to reduce their risks of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases," said Marcia Stefanick, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., and a coauthor of the paper, as well as chair of the WHI Steering Committee.

She added that women should know their cholesterol and blood pressure levels and other health risks and take preventative measures, as needed.

In contrast to the other effects, the risk of breast cancer continued at a rate similar to that seen during treatment. Women who had stopped taking estrogen plus progestin were about 27 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than the women who didn’t take hormones during the study, with 79 women in the post-treatment group developing breast cancer during the three-year follow-up study, compared to 60 women in the non-treatment group.

"The hormones’ effects on breast cancer appear to linger," noted Leslie Ford, M.D., associate director for clinical research in the Division of Cancer Prevention of the NIH's National Cancer Institute. "These findings reinforce the importance of women getting regular breast exams and mammograms, even after they stop hormone therapy."

Researchers also report a 24 percent increased risk of developing any form of cancer among women who had been in the treatment group. Overall, there were 63 more diagnoses of cancer during the follow-up study, or three per 1,000 participants per year, among women who had taken combination hormone therapy compared to women who did not take hormones during the study (281 diagnoses compared to 218). A more detailed analysis on the cancer findings is underway.

"The continued increased risk of breast cancer clearly plays a role in the increased overall risk of cancer years after stopping long-term estrogen plus progestin therapy, and it is important that we continue to follow these women," added Stefanick, noting that the new results provide further evidence that the health risks of long-term combination hormone therapy outweigh the benefits.

The WHI is a major, 15-year research program designed to address the most frequent causes of death, disability, and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. The principal findings from the two WHI hormone therapy trials, which studied 27,347 postmenopausal women on estrogen plus progestin, estrogen-alone, or placebo, found that the overall risks of long-term use of hormone therapy outweigh the benefits.

Both of these trials were stopped early because of increased health risks and failure to prevent heart disease, a key question of the studies.

In addition to NCI, NHLBI collaborates on the WHI with the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute on Aging, and the Office of Research on Women’s Health, all parts of the NIH. Wyeth-Ayerst Research provided the medication and placebo for the hormone study.

To interview Dr. Lauer, call the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236. To speak with Dr. Ford, please contact the NCI Office of Media Relations at (301) 496-6641. To speak with Dr. Stefanick, please contact Susan Ipaktchian at 650-725-5375

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute News Room.

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March 29, 2008

Celiac Disease Diet: Oats Intolerance Does Exist

Oats in the diet are not safe for all people with celiac disease. Photo by Doug WilsonMost patients with celiac disease can eliminate their symptoms by life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet. This means no wheat, rye, barley, and, until recently, no oats in their diet. Some recent studies suggested that oats did not cause the intestinal inflammation characteristic of celiac disease, and therefore oats are now often included in the celiac disease diet.

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages part of the gut (the small intestine) and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Patients with celiac disease do not tolerate a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley.

When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. The disease is quite serious in some patients, but eating a strictly gluten-free diet can eliminate all of the symptoms.

Unfortunately, wheat, barley, and rye products like flour are found in many common foods, and patients have to avoid them for the rest of their lives.

A study by Ludvig Sollid and colleagues in the October 2004 issue of PLoS Medicine suggests that oats are not safe in all cases.

The researchers applied the current understanding of celiac disease and a range of molecular pathology tools to studying the response to oats of nine patients with celiac disease.

The nine patients were not a random sample: all of them had been eating oats, and four of them had shown clinical symptoms after oats ingestion. All patients were on a gluten-free diet and ate oats that were free of contamination by other cereals.

The goal of the study was to characterize the intestinal T cell response to oats in these patients, and to relate it to clinical symptoms and intestinal biopsy results.

Three of the four patients who had reported problems after eating oats showed intestinal inflammation typical of celiac disease.

Contrary to other studies, this one demonstrates that oats intolerance does exist in some people with celiac disease. These patients have an immune reaction to oats that is similar to the reaction most celiac disease patients have to wheat, barley, and rye.

However, identical reactions were also seen in two of the patients who were clinically tolerant to oats. They had oats-reactive intestinal T cells which may or may not lead to enhanced susceptibility to oats intolerance.

Oats are not safe for all people with celiac disease, but future studies are needed to determine the frequency of oats intolerance.

Patients who eat oats as part of a gluten-free diet should discuss their diet and any symptoms with their doctors; doctors should keep in mind that patients might develop symptoms when they eat oats.

(2004) Oats Intolerance in Celiac Disease. PLoS Med 1(1): e23 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.. Copyright: © 2004 Public Library of Science. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License.

Arentz-Hansen H, Fleckenstein B, Molberg O, Scott H, Koning F, et al. (2004) The Molecular Basis for Oat Intolerance in Patients with Celiac Disease. PLoS Med 1(1): e1 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.. Copyright: © 2004 Arentz-Hansen et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License.

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March 27, 2008

Women Benefit More From Quitting Smoking Than Men

Quitting Smoking - Lung Health Benefits - Women benefit more from quitting smoking than men.

New findings from the Lung Health Study (LHS) indicate that, in general, women’s lung function improves significantly more than men’s after sustained smoking cessation.

LHS researchers previously published results showing that both men and women benefit from smoking cessation; this new analysis indicates that the benefits to the lungs are greater in women than in men. The results are published in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the study followed more than 5,300 middle-aged smokers for five years. All participants had mild or moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In the first year after quitting, women’s lung function improved more than twice that of the men’s. Among those who quit, improved lung function remained greater for women than for men throughout the study, although the differences between the genders narrowed over time. The decline in lung function in those who continued to smoke was on average similar for men and women.

Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of COPD, a slowly progressive disease of the lung that is characterized by a gradual loss of lung function. COPD is the fourth most common and the most rapidly increasing cause of death in the United States. Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive bronchitis, or a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis are forms of COPD.

Dr. Gail Weinmann, a lung specialist with the NHLBI, is available to comment on the study and on the health benefits of smoking cessation. To arrange an interview with Dr. Weinmann, please call the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236.

Source: NHLBI. Used with permission.

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March 26, 2008

Can Grapes Prevent Type 1 Diabetes?

Can Grapes Prevent Type 1 Diabetes?Researchers have for the first time determined that some component of table grapes prevented the progression of type 1 diabetes in mice and increased their survival. Susan Zunino’s experiment apparently is the first to show a link between eating grapes and preventing progression of type 1 diabetes. That was in contrast to diabetic mice that were not fed grapes.

Susan J. Zunino, an Agricultural Research Service molecular biologist, working with Storms and Charles Stephensen, a physiologist at the Davis research center, conducted the research.

Scientists provided the fruit in the form of a freeze-dried powder made from table grapes, the kind sold fresh in the produce section of supermarkets.

The powder, provided by the California Table Grape Commission, made up 1 percent of the chow fed to some of the mice. That’s the human equivalent of about six servings of grapes per day.

At present the researchers don’t know which grape compounds provided the protective effect.

Similarly, the exact sequence of steps that led to the protection is also not yet proven. But the scientists think that the grape phytochemicals may have prevented unwanted entry of immune cells into the pancreas.

Mice fed the grape powder had fewer immune cells in the pancreas than did the other mice in the experiment.

But what’s the relation between immune cells in the pancreas and type 1 diabetes?
Immune cells in the pancreas can mistakenly attack specialized cells known as “beta cells.” Beta cells produce insulin, which is needed to help regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. If immune cells in the pancreas attack and kill beta cells, the pancreas can run out of beta cells. When that happens, type 1 diabetes can result.

People with type 1 diabetes have to carefully monitor the amounts of sugar-containing foods they eat, including sweet, fresh table grapes. How ironic that this luscious fruit might actually hold a key to preventing the progression of type 1 diabetes. This may be a perplexing riddle of Nature - perhaps one that Zunino’s team will soon solve.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 1 in every 400-600 children and adolescents in the U.S. population has type 1 diabetes.

If the results from this study of 30 laboratory mice hold true for humans, the research could offer new options for protection against this chronic autoimmune disease.

By Marcia Wood, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff, USDA-ARS. Photo courtesy USDA, ARS.

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March 23, 2008

Macular Deterioration and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macular Deterioration and Age-Related Macular Degeneration - When you can't see well enough to jot down a grocery list, or to drive, you lose your independence. Carol Ann Holcomb, Kansas State University associate professor of human nutrition, knows these challenges from her work researching age-related macular degeneration. She has studied both the physical and emotional changes in people who develop this disease.

According to Holcomb, age-related macular degeneration is a common eye disease that results in the loss of central vision. As a person ages, the risk of developing the problem increases.

Twenty percent of people ages 65-74 and 35 percent of people ages 75-84 are at risk of developing some form of age-related macular degeneration. Data are limited for those over age 85.

"For the population 65 and over, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment," she said. "The National Eye Institute predicts that by the year 2010, the disease will be more common than the two other eye diseases that affect the older population, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, combined."

Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the macula is damaged or deteriorates in one or both eyes. The macula, not much larger than a capital "O" on a typewriter, is a small region on the retina where light is focused.

"You need it to see fine details for everyday tasks such as writing, driving, reading and sewing," she said.

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration - "dry" and "wet." About 90 percent of people who are diagnosed with macular changes have the dry form. With the dry form, the light-sensing cells in the eye break down and the tissue thins. Vision loss is gradual and painless.

"Early signs are the increased time it takes to adapt to light/dark environments, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to glare," Holcomb said.

About 10 percent of people with the dry form will progress to the wet form. New blood vessels develop in the macula in an effort to supply blood and nutrients to the thinning tissue and damaged light-sensing cells. These new blood vessels are fragile and often leak blood and fluid, resulting in a greater and more rapid loss of central vision.

"There will be a very rapid loss of the ability to read or to recognize another person's face, to drive, to do anything that involves detailed vision straight ahead. If your vision is changing rapidly, for example if you're looking at a telephone pole and instead of that pole being straight, it's wavy, it means that there's some hemorrhaging occurring."

Hemorrhaging can be stopped in only 15 to 20 percent of the cases, and only after a series of treatments, she said.

"They can use what they call a photo coagulation process - they use a laser beam to seal off those blood vessels so they don't leak," Holcomb said. "Unfortunately, after a series of treatments, it may leave scar tissue that further damages a person's eye sight."

While the disease causes a loss primarily in central vision - a person can still see peripherally - complete blindness is not associated with age-related macular degeneration. However, a person may meet the criteria for legal blindness and receive services from programs designed for people with low vision.

Holcomb said making lifestyle changes can help ease the psychological changes in people with the disease. Learning to use sharp color contrasts - a white cup for coffee or a light plate with dark foods, for example, and using talking devices such as clocks and modifying furniture placements all can help ease the psychological effects.

"Right now, the levels of depression, discouragement and embarrassment are very high," she said. "People were embarrassed by spilling things, having to ask for help and not being able to use their favorite recipes," she said. "Adapting your lifestyle early on can help you deal with having it."

Unless something is discovered to prevent this disease, low-vision will continue as a major problem for older adults, Holcomb said.

"And it's not a pretty picture as far as what can and cannot be done right now," she said. Studies have shown certain foods may reduce a person's risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Foods high in antioxidants, food sources of lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc are recommended in addition to a low-fat diet.

According to Holcomb, there are other ways to reduce the risk of developing the disease, including having annual eye exams by professionals, protecting eyes from sunlight exposure by wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses; eliminating smoking; controlling high blood pressure; and getting regular physical activity.

Prepared by April Blackmon. For more information contact Carol Ann Holcomb at 785-532-0152. Used with permission.

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March 21, 2008

Age-related Macular Degeneration - Tips to Reduce Your Risk

Macular Deterioration - Tips to reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration

While the cause of age-related macular degeneration is unknown, there are several risk factors that have been associated with changes in the eye and ways to reduce the risk of developing the disease, according to Kansas State University researcher Carol Ann Holcomb.

Risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration include age, eye color, ethnicity and a family history of the disease, she said. According to Holcomb, age has been the most significant risk factor in all major population-based studies.

"The lighter a person's eyes early in life or as a result of aging the more prone they are to develop degenerative changes in the macula," she said. "The prevalence of the disease is also highest in Caucasians, compared to Blacks and Hispanics in the United States. Twin studies and studies of siblings with the disease have shed light recently on a potential role for heredity or family history."

While nothing can be done to decrease those factors, other risks can be tackled, such as high blood pressure, sunlight exposure and smoking.

  • Protect your eyes from damaging sun light, particularly UVB rays. Wear tinted glasses and a cap, hat or visor with a brim. About 37 percent of the exposure of the eyes to sun light can be blocked by wearing a hat with a wide brim on it.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Eat the daily recommended levels of fruits and vegetables, and include green leafy vegetables for their anti-oxidant properties. A pigment called lutein has the most promise and may even be protective. Lutein is prevalent in green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli and can also be found in certain yellow vegetables, such as corn and squash, and egg yolk.

  • Get an annual eye examination.

  • Participate in a regular physical activity.
For more information, Holcomb recommends "Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight," a book by Dr. Lylas G. and Marja Mogk.

Prepared by April Blackmon. For more information contact Carol Ann Holcomb at 785-532-0152.

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March 20, 2008

Portobello and Other Mushroom Facts

Little-Known Mushroom FactsPortobello and Other Mushroom Facts: Americans love mushrooms, now more than ever. Per capita mushroom consumption in the United States increased from 3.7 pounds in 1993 to 4.2 pounds in 2000. Sales of the U.S. mushroom crop totalled 851 million pounds, and consumers spent $912 million on them. Mushrooms are a good source of selenium, potassium, and copper, and some types have significant amounts of three B-complex vitamins.

Little-Known Mushroom Facts

  • One portabella mushroom has more potassium than a banana; white and crimini mushrooms are also good sources. Potassium helps the human body maintain normal heart rhythm, fluid balance, and muscle and nerve function.

  • Mushrooms contain significant amounts of selenium, which plays an important role in the immune system, thyroid system, and male reproductive system. It also works closely with vitamin E to produce antioxidants that help the body fight cell-damaging free radicals.

  • Mushrooms are an excellent source of copper, a mineral that the body needs to produce red blood cells and for other functions.

  • Mushrooms have significant amounts of three B-complex vitamins—riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid—particularly riboflavin. The B vitamins help release energy from the fat, protein, and carbohydrates in food.

  • Truffles, or subterranean mushrooms, are the world's most expensive vegetable. One variety, Tuber melanosporum, can cost between $800 and $1,500 a pound.

  • The largest living organism ever found is a honey mushroom, Armillaria ostoyae. It covers 3.4 square miles of land in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, and it's still growing.

Source: USDA, Agricultural Research Service. Photo courtesy of USDA, ARS. Used with permission.

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March 18, 2008

Foods That Increase Leptin and Foods That Decrease Leptin

Study finds more fat in the diet reduces leptin levels while a diet higher in carbohydrates raises leptin levels.

Intent on helping Americans fight obesity, Agricultural Research Service scientists are probing the role that leptin - a protein - plays in regulating appetite and weight gain...Read full article

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March 16, 2008

Facts about Food Irradiation

Molecular biologist Chris Sommers (left) and microbiologist Glenn Boyd vacuum-seal hotdogs to get them ready for irradiation. Photo by Stephen Ausmus.Facts about Food Irradiation: The irradiation process involves passing food through an irradiation field; however, the food itself never contacts a radioactive substance. Also, the ionizing radiation used by irradiators is not strong enough to disintegrate the nucleus of even one atom of a food molecule.

Radioactivity in foods can occur by two routes: contamination of foods with radioactive substances or by penetration of energy into the nuclei of the atoms that make up the food. (Idaho State University).

The following is an overview of irradiation, and some the findings over the years of chemist Donald W. Thayer at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

He was the first to discover that irradiation could control the meat-contaminating pathogen E. coli 0157:H7. He has also found that irradiation kills the Cyclospora parasite on raspberries and strawberries.

Irradiation passes through food in the form of radiant energy, without leaving any residue. Ionizing radiation, which produces enough energy to kill bacteria and other pathogens in food, involves the use of gamma rays produced by cobalt or cesium, or X-rays or electrons from machine sources. The Food and Drug Administration has declared that low-dose irradiation of food presents no health risk.

In the 1920's, a French scientist discovered that irradiation could preserve food. During World War II, the U.S. Army tested irradiation on fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat. Irradiated food has been routinely used for years by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Donald W. Thayer, a research chemist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and colleagues at ARS' Food Safety Research Unit of the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, have been testing irradiation on food for 16 years.

Not only does irradiation extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, but it also kills pests. Thayer likens irradiation to pasteurization. "When used with the proper handling and processing techniques, irradiation greatly reduces the risk that contaminated meat, poultry and other foods will reach consumers," he says."

"Irradiation reduces the chance of foodborne pathogens reaching the consumer," says Thayer. "Scientific studies conducted worldwide over the past 40 years have shown irradiation to be a wholesome process."

According to Thayer, during the irradiation process, food never comes in contact with any radioactive material. The gamma rays, X-rays, or electrons used in the process do not make food radioactive.

Irradiation, he says, is similar to exposure to sunlight or being X-rayed for medical reasons. Specific doses of radiation can kill rapidly growing cells, such as those of insects or spoilage and pathogenic bacteria. But the process has little effect on the food itself because there is no cellular activity in the food. The changes that do occur are similar to the effects of canning, cooking or freezing food.

One concern raised with irradiation is that it may affect the nutritional aspect of food. Thayer reports that irradiation can minimally affect some very sensitive vitamins like B1 in pork.

"But it has been estimated that if all the pork in the United States were to be irradiated, Americans would lose only 3.2 percent of the vitamin B1 in their diets," Thayer says. "Irradiation converts small amounts of vitamin C in fruit to another equally usable form, so nothing is lost. In fact, multigenerational studies of animals fed irradiated foods show that not only is it safe, but the nutritive value remains virtually unchanged."

Herbs, spices and seasonings can introduce bacteria that may cause spoilage or foodborne disease in food that must be stored or transported before reaching consumers. Some commercial food processors treat spices with methyl bromide to kill insects or with ethylene oxide to control bacteria and mold. Both these chemicals are extremely toxic.

But most spices, herbs and dry vegetable seasonings in the United States are treated with ionizing radiation, which was sanctioned for this particular use by FDA in 1986.

In 1963, FDA authorized the first use of irradiation to treat food in the United States. Wheat and wheat flour were irradiated to rid them of insects. An electron beam - a result of collaborative research between ARS and the U.S. Army - is used to kill insects on about 400,000 tons of wheat a year at the port of Odessa, Ukraine. This irradiation treatment is not used in the United States because for the time being we have other fumigants and methods of getting pests out of grain.

It was 23 years later, in 1986, that irradiation was approved to control insects and inhibit growth and ripening in fruits, vegetables, and grain.

Irradiation increases the shelf life of very perishable sweet onions to three months and not only extends the shelf life of tomatoes, but also allows them to be picked when fully ripe. Most flavorless tomatoes taste that way because they're picked green to ensure they get to market before they rot.

Zapped by irradiation, mushrooms can last for three weeks without browning or cap separation and strawberries can stay in the refrigerator for three weeks without decay or shrinkage.

Even the dreaded Cyclospora parasite succumbs to irradiation. Thayer and colleagues have completed four studies of this pest that has recently been found on raspberries and strawberries.

"We used a dose of irradiation that is recommended for fresh fruit on raspberries infected with Cyclospora. Not only does irradiation inactivate the parasite, but it also doubles the raspberries' shelf life," Thayer reports. "More research is planned on irradiating Cyclospora, but it reacts in much the same way as Toxoplasma gondii, a species of organism that continues to sporulate after irradiation but does not multiply in its host."

Most of Thayer's irradiation work has been with meat to rid it of harmful microorganisms that cause foodborne illnesses.

He was the first to discover that E. coli 0157:H7 could be controlled by radiation and he and colleagues have successfully used irradiation against other foodborne pathogens including Bacillus cereus, Clostridium botulinum, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Toxoplasma gondii on meat and poultry.

The FDA's 1990 approval to use irradiation on poultry to eliminate harmful pathogens was, in part, a result of Thayer's research, as was the Dec. 2, 1997, approval to irradiate red meat.

In addition to USDA scientists and the FDA, the list of endorsers of irradiation includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Army, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association, American Meat Institute, Institute of Food Technologists, and National Food Processors Association. The World Health Organization and the Codex Alimentarius Commission sanction the use of irradiation, which is also being used in about 40 countries.

Doris Stanley, USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Photo courtesy USDA, ARS. Used with permission.

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March 15, 2008

Skin Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

Eighty to eighty-five percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas and the remaining percentage are squamous cell carcinomas, with the latter being the more invasive of the two and underlying most of the deaths attributable to these tumors. (J Invest Dermatol 1994, 102:6S-9S).

A paper presented in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology reported on five cases of non-melanoma skin cancer occurring in welders, an occupation in which there is potential for intense exposure to non-solar ultraviolet irradiation. (Clin Exp Dermatol. 2000 Jan;25(1):28-9).

A Canadian study found elevated risks for squamous cell carcinomas in people exposed to insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and seed treatments as well petroleum products, grease, and several other exposures.

Elevated risks of basal cell carcinomas were seen in people exposed to fibreglass dust and dry cleaning. Also, prior non-diagnostic X-ray treatment for skin conditions increased risk of both cancers. (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1996, 5:419-424).

Several studies have shown an association between cumulative ultraviolet exposure and risk of basal cell carcinoma, although the magnitude of risk conferred has been small.

Other studies have failed to find a significant association between estimated cumulative sun exposure in adulthood and the presence of basal cell carcinoma.

Curaderm BEC5 - a natural cure for non-melanoma skin cancers

Other non-ultraviolet environmental exposures that have been associated with increased risk of basal cell carcinoma include ionising radiation, high dietary energy (especially fat), low intake of vitamins, and various chemicals and dust. Exposure to arsenic predisposes to multiple basal cell carcinomas. (BMJ. 2003 October 4; 327(7418): 794–798).

Analysis of the major occupational groups showed that, in the context of basal cell carcinoma, professionals and technicians have an increased risk of developing this type of cancer. When all occupations and both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas were analysed jointly, miners and quarrymen, secondary education teachers and masons registered excess risk.

Separate analysis of the results by type showed a higher risk of basal cell carcinoma for railway engine drivers and firemen, farmers and salesmen, in addition to the above three occupations.

The occupations that registered a higher risk of squamous cell carcinomas (though not of basal cell carcinoma) were those involving direct contact with livestock, and the groups encompassing other construction workers and stationary engine and related equipment operators. (BMC Public Health 2007, 7:180doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-180).

It has also been reported that 2% of such tumours could be associated with exposure to radon in the UK. (Health Phys 2003, 85:733-739).

The results of our study show a strong association between the occupation of miner and both types of non-melanoma skin cancer, with the strength of association for basal cell carcinomas being double that for squamous cell carcinomas.

The explanation for this result might partly lie in the above-mentioned exposure to radon in the case of basal cell carcinomas; and possibly lie in exposure to arsenic in the case of squamous cell carcinomas. (BMC Public Health 2007, 7:180doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-180).

Overall, an increased risk of both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas was found in relation to therapeutic ionizing radiation and were most pronounced for those irradiated for acne exposure.

For squamous cell carcinomas, an association with radiotherapy was observed only among those whose skin was likely to sunburn with sun exposure. (Arch Dermatol. 2000 Aug;136(8):1007-11).

In our study, farmers/animal husbandry workers were observed to register an increased risk of developing both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, despite our efforts to adjust for exposure to solar radiation.

It is well known, however, that farmers suffer from multiple exposures, ranging from pesticides to hazardous air pollutants, due to their use of different types of machinery and plants.

Among workers in direct contact with livestock, risk is apparently higher for squamous cell carcinomas. Although there is a slight possibility of false diagnoses of squamous cell carcinomas in the case of viral warts, such a problem would seem unlikely, in view of the fact that the cases were reviewed by a panel of pathologists who verified the diagnoses. (BMC Public Health 2007, 7:180doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-180).

In Conclusion: This study shows the association between non-melanoma skin cancer and certain occupations. For non-melanoma skin cancer as a whole, miners and quarrymen, secondary education teachers, and masons register excess risk, regardless of exposure to solar radiation and phenotype (such as skin, hair or eye color).

Basal cell carcinomas prove more frequent among railway engine drivers and firemen, farmers and salesmen, in addition to the above-mentioned 3 occupations.

The occupations that register a higher risk of squamous cell carcinomas (though not of basal cell carcinomas) are those involving direct contact with livestock, other construction workers not elsewhere classified and stationary engine and related equipment operators not elsewhere classified.

Exposure to hazardous air pollutants, arsenic, ionizing radiations and burns might well explain a good part of the associations observed in this study. (BMC Public Health 2007, 7:180doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-180).

Berta Suárez, Gonzalo López-Abente, Carmen Martínez, Carmen Navarro, Maria José Tormo, Stefano Rosso, Simon Schraub, Lorenzo Gafà, Hélène Sancho-Garnier, Janine Wechsler and Roberto Zanetti. Occupation and skin cancer: the results of the HELIOS-I multicenter case-control study. BMC Public Health 2007, 7:180doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-180. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License.

March 14, 2008

Alternative to Skin Cancer Surgery

Dermatologists at Royal London Hospital and nine other United Kingdom skin cancer treatment centres have supported claims that Curaderm-BEC cures skin cancer and is a viable alternative to conventional surgery, chemotherapy and laser treatments.

Dermatologists applied the topical cream twice daily to the cancer lesion and within weeks, laboratory biopsies confirmed the BEC cream eliminated all traces of cancer.

This discovery is a major medical breakthrough, as skin cancer is quickly becoming a health epidemic.

Skin cancer management usually involves surgery, and the risks of surgical intervention are well known. Excision of skin cancer, such as a Basel Cell Carcinoma (BCC), from the facial area often involves reconstructive surgery, which can be both time consuming and costly.

Dr. Sangeeta Punjabl of the Royal London Hospital concluded the Curaderm-BEC evaluation by stating, "We consider that this rate of treatment success more than justifies the physician considering BEC as an alternative to currently predominant treatment such as surgical excision or cryotherapy.”

The product consists of a patented biochemical (BEC) which is extracted from plants and a specialised cream formulation.

Keratolytic and other agents in the cream soften and peel of the first layer of skin allowing the anti-cancer bio-chemical BEC to reach deep into the affected skin tissue.

This active ingredient has an incredible capacity to select between cancerous and healthy cells. Once inside a cancer cell, the phytochemicals proceed to digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates, resulting in the destruction and sudden death of the cancer cell.

Over the past decade, similar successful claims have also been observed in independent studies by practicing doctors in the USA and Australia.

In Australia, the skin cancer capital of the world, over 50,000 consumers have chosen Curaderm-BEC to eliminate cancer lesions. The independent skin cancer clinics positive conclusions are expected to provide further comfort to medical practitioners and consumers, proving that Curaderm-BEC is a safe skin cancer care alternative to surgery. (PRWeb March 17, 2005).

Clinical research and more information is available online at

March 11, 2008

Natural Remedies for Diabetes Management

Natural Remedies for Diabetes Management: Cinnamon, Gymnema, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Chromium and Cloves have all proven very useful remedies in diabetes management.

Studies Show that Gymnema sylvestre is a Natural Remedy for Diabetes Management.

Studies show that Gymnema Sylvestre helps control both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Gymnema is a well-proven natural treatment for diabetes, and it has been used for this purpose for over 2,000 years and has proved to be very effective in type 1 diabetes.

In human studies, the most common doses of Gymnema sylvestre used for blood sugar control were 400 mg to 600 mg per day.

Gymnema sylvestre is commonly added to many different herbal combination products, but the majority of studies used GS4, a standardized product that contains only gymnema sylvestre. Standardization by the manufacturer should assure the same amount of active ingredient in every batch of the commercial preparation. (DrugDigest).

Doses of 400 mg to 600 mg per day correlates to about 8 to 12 grams per day of the dried herb in tablet form. Therefore taking 4 grams in tablet form two to three times a day would give a total daily dose of 8 to 12 grams. Some practitioners find Gymnema works best when taken before meals.

A WebMD Medical News article (9 October 2000) related the story of a 71-year-old woman whose doctor had prescribed a widely used drug glyburide (Micronase) used to stimulate the pancreas to make insulin, which can help control blood sugar in a person with type 2 diabetes.

According to the woman she was frequently hitting blood sugar highs and lows. She had been using the drug for six years but fours years prior to the abovementioned report she had dumped glyburide and started taking the herbal product Beta Fast GXR which contains the herb Gymnema without her doctor’s knowledge for three of those years.

She said her doctor may not have noticed the change because her blood sugar checks always turned out so well. The woman also watches her diet and tests her blood sugar daily. (WebMD Medical News 9/10/2000).

So what is Gymnema?

Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) is a climbing plant that grows in open woods and bushland at an altitude of m in India, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and South Africa. Gymnema is also known as gurmar, gurmabooti, periploca of the woods, and meshasringi (ram’s horn). The Hindu word gurmar best describes the primary use of gymnema.

“Gurmar” translates in English as “sugar destroyer”. The translation is literal: When Gymnema is applied to the mouth, it prevents the taste buds from perceiving sweet tastes. Chewing chocolate is like chewing butter. Grains of sugar are like grains of sand. Gymnema is a well-proven treatment for diabetes, and it has been used for this purpose for over 2,000 years.

In my own clinical experience, I have found Gymnema to be the best herb available for treating this condition and controlling excessive blood sugar levels. (Kerry Bone, FNIMH, FNHAA, Nutrition and Healing Newsletter, January 2002).

Gymnema is best known for its apparent ability to lower blood sugar levels.

Results from case reports and studies in humans and animals suggest that it may work in several ways to help control both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

First, the acids contained in gymnema sylvestre seem to decrease the amounts of sugar that are absorbed from foods. As a result, blood sugar levels may not increase as much as usual after meals.

Secondly, gymnema sylvestre may promote the production of insulin by the body. It is possible that gymnema sylvestre may even prompt the pancreas to develop more beta cells - the source of insulin. It may also make body cells more responsive to the insulin that is available. (DrugDigest).

The first scientific confirmation of Gymnema’s effects on glucose in human diabetics was in 1926 when it was demonstrated that the leaves of Gymnema reduced urinary glucose. (K.G. Gharpurey, Indian Medical Gazette 1926; 61: 155).

Four years later it was shown that GS (Gymnema sylvestre) had a blood glucose lowering effect when there was residual pancreatic function, but was without effect in animals lacking pancreatic function, suggesting a direct effect on the pancreas.

Despite the promise of these initial results, scientific inquiry into the effect of GS on diabetics was not seriously resumed until 1981 when it was again demonstrated that oral administration of the dried leaves of GS brings down blood glucose and raises serum insulin levels, recorded during an oral glucose tolerance test in diabetic animals and healthy human volunteers. (Parenting Naturally).

An unusual attribute of Gymnema sylvestre of great interest is its ability to lower blood sugar by increasing insulin output by apparently regenerating beta cells which are the cells that manufacture and secrete insulin.

As abnormalities in beta cell number and/or function are directly related to both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, it appeared that Gymnema sylvestre was a major discovery in the battle against one of the most common disorders in the world.

In 1990 researchers at the University of Madras in India orally administered Gymnema extract to on group of diabetic rats while another group acted as controls and were not given Gymnema.

A toxic agent was used to chemically destroy the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas of each rat thereby causing diabetes.

In the group of rats receiving Gymnema leaves in any form, whole or extracted, their fasting blood glucose levels returned to normal within 20 to 60 days.

In addition, their insulin levels rose toward normal levels and the number of beta cells in the pancreas (the cells that manufacture and secrete insulin) increased. Their findings were published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct;30(3):265-79).

Another 1990 study by researchers at Kobe University School of Medicine, Japan, and published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, concluded that gymnema is useful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic rats were divided into two groups and fed either a normal diet or one supplemented with an extract of Gymnema. After four weeks the rats supplemented with the Gymnema extract showed reduced glucose levels in the “fed state” and an improvement in glucose tolerance. (Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1990 May-Jun; 9(2): 143-8).

Of course, what works well in test animals may not work in the same way or at all in humans, but this is not the case with Gymnema sylvestre. There have been numerous human clinical trials that have all had positive results.

In a 1990 study, researchers at the University of Madras in India, 22 patients with type 2 diabetes who were non-insulin-dependent were given 400 milligrams of Gymnema extract daily, in two divided doses, in addition to their normal dose of oral hypoglycemics for 18 to 20 months.

Ages ranged from 40 to 62 years and disease duration from 1 to 12 years. Over the duration of treatment, Gymnema significantly lowered fasting blood glucose levels (average of 174mg/dl to 124mg/dl).

Participants in the Gymnema group also had a significant reduction in hemoglobin A1c. (Hemoglobin A1C is tested to monitor the long-term control of diabetes and is increased in the red blood cells of persons with poorly controlled diabetes. From this test clinicians can estimate the average blood glucose level during the preceding two to four months. The target for most people is below 7).

Twenty-one of the 22 diabetic patients were able to reduce their intake of drugs, while five patients were able to stop their conventional drugs completely, maintaining normal glucose levels with the Gymnema supplements alone.

Also, their Insulin levels increased significantly compared to those on drugs alone. The authors suggested that this increase in insulin levels was probably due to regeneration or repair of beta cells facilitated by Gymnema.

All of the above contrasts significantly to the diabetic group on drugs alone. Their fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c had elevated slightly and their drug doses either stayed the same or rose over the trial period. (J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct; 30(3): 295-300).

The above study demonstrates that the use of Gymnema may result in the need for smaller doses of oral diabetes drugs to control the disease. However, it is important that people with this disease don’t abandon proven ways to manage it, from a healthy diet to regular exercise and medications when needed.

In another study in 1990 carried out by the same research group at the University of Madras, India, 27 participants with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes, ages from 10 to 50 years and with varying disease duration, were supplemented with 400 milligrams of Gymnema extract daily in two divided doses.

All were using daily insulin injections. After 6 to 8 months of treatment with the Gymnema extract the average insulin requirements were decreased from 60 to 45 units per day and fasting blood glucose levels were lowered.

In fact, one patient with a type 1 diabetes duration of 10 years and another with a lesser duration were able to discontinue insulin usage completely. These improvements continued through out the trial till its completion.

One has to find it remarkable that, compared to conventional treatment, patients with type 1 diabetes for 25 years responded equally as well as those who had been diagnosed for only one year when given the Gymnema extract supplement. So, there appears to be no time limitation on Gymnema use to still receive benefits.

This contrasts significantly to the diabetic group not taking Gymnema and receiving insulin alone for a year. Their insulin requirements either remained the same or increased and their average insulin usage was almost double that of the Gymnema group. Also, the drop in fasting blood glucose was statistically insignificant in this group.

In addition, cholesterol levels also returned to near normal levels and triglycerides were lowered in the group taking Gymnema. (J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct; 30(3): 281-94).

In 1997 Japanese researchers at the Nippon Veterinary and Animal Science University, Tokyo, Japan, decided to test Gymnema inodorum, since it has an advantage that it does not suppress sweetness nor is it bitter in taste.

Their conclusions, published in The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, was that their studies suggested Gymnema inodorum inhibits the increase in the blood glucose levels by interfering with the intestinal glucose absorption process. (J Vet Med Sci. 1997 Sep; 59(9): 753-7).

In a study, published in the Diabetes In Control Newsletter (30/10/2001), conducted by Diabetes Educators, under the protocols established by Diabetes in Control and Informulab of Omaha, NE, the makers of Beta Fast GXR®, Gymnema Sylvestre was found to lower HbA1c from 10.1% to 9.3%.

HbA1c or Hemoglobin A1C is tested to monitor the long-term control of diabetes and is increased in the red blood cells of persons with poorly controlled diabetes. From this test clinicians can estimate the average blood glucose level during the preceding two to four months. The target for most people is below 7.

The study included 65 participants with type 2 diabetes, some diet controlled others insulin dependent, ages 18 to 73 and was conducted for a ninety day period. Patients were given Beta Fast GXR® brand of Gymnema Sylvestre containing 400mg leaf extract per tablet twice daily.

An interesting observation made by the researchers was that the higher the participants initial HbA1c values (and therefore the less controlled their diabetes) the more significant the results.

In the group of participants that started with an HbA1c above 10% the Gymnema Sylvestre supplementation lowered HbA1c from 11.1% to 9.9% (1.2% decrease) compared with the group that started at 9% or above, HbA1c was lowered from 10.1% to 9.3% (0.8% decrease). (Diabetes In Control Newsletter, Issue 76 (1) : 30 Oct 2001).

The reduction of HbA1c in this study is of great importance as an improvement in glycemic control reduces the risk of complications from diabetes.

Glycemic control is a medical term referring to the typical levels of blood sugar (glucose) in a person with diabetes type 2.

Much evidence suggests that many of the long-term complications of diabetes, especially the microvascular (smaller blood vessels) complications, result from many years of hyperglycemia (elevated levels of glucose in the blood). Good glycemic control, in the sense of a “target” for treatment, has become an important goal of diabetes care. (Wikipedia).

In 2003 researchers, reporting in the journal Pharmacological Research, found that Oral administration of 200 mg of Gymnema montanum extract per kg of body weight to diabetic rats for 3 weeks resulted in a significant reduction in blood glucose levels and an increase in insulin levels.

There was also a decrease in free radical formation in the blood of the diabetic rats.

Supplementing with Gymnema montanum resulted in an increase in glutathione (which has many functions in a cell include activating certain enzymes and destroying toxic compounds and chemicals that contain oxygen). Vitamin C and vitamin E levels were also increased thereby clearly showing the antioxidant properties of Gymnema montanum.

These effects were compared with glibenclamide, an anti-diabetic drug (Diabeta®, Glynase® Micronase® Daonil®, Semi-Daonil® Euglucon®. Also sold in combination with metformin under the trade name Glucovance®.) The researchers concluded that the results suggest that Gymnema montanum extract was more effective than the drug glibenclamide. (Pharmacological Research. 2003 Dec; 48(6): 551-6).

Why is this antioxidant activity of Gymnema so important in diabetes management?

The above study shows that Gymnema appears to recycle available vitamin C and E.

The prevalent long term depletion of vitamin C, common in diabetes, may contribute to depressed immune function, compromised wound healing ability and reduced blood vessel integrity. These and other related aliments can possibly be arrested and reversed by vitamin C supplementation. (Dr. Brian Jakes, Jr. Diabetes In Control July 2002).

C-reactive protein is linked to cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes.

“Having both diabetes and an elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) level compounds one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, for which people with diabetes are at particularly high risk,” scientists writing in the American Journal of Nursing report in their review. (Life Extension Foundation Daily News 10/04/06).

Vitamin C supplements can reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and chronic disease risk in humans, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Participants who took about 500 milligrams of vitamin C supplements per day saw a 24 percent drop in plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) levels after two months.

“C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation, and there is a growing body of evidence that chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Gladys Block, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and public health nutrition and lead author of the study.

The researchers say that long-term adverse health effects occur when inflammation persists at low levels. This chronic inflammation, with persistent elevated levels of CRP, has been found among smokers and Type 2 diabetics, as well as among overweight or obese persons.

The researchers noted that in other studies, higher doses of vitamin E produced lower CRP levels among Type 2 diabetics and healthy individuals. (Sarah Yang, Media Relations, University of California, Berkeley, 12/4/2004).

Recent clinical trials confirm the uses of typical antioxidants alone or in combination with other natural supplements may delay or even prevent the normal progression of diabetic complications.

Importantly, none of the participants in these studies reported any adverse side effects, although many patients developed hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and required a lowering of their dose of conventional oral medication or insulin.

Therefore, any diabetic that uses GSE (Gymnema Sylvestre Extract) must carefully monitor blood glucose levels and adjust their medication, in consultation with their physician, to maintain desired blood glucose levels.

This is because improved insulin production and release during GSE supplementation may result in over-medication, and therefore low blood glucose levels, unless the dosage of conventional oral medication or insulin is lowered. Since most diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels on a daily basis, this shouldn’t present a problem.

Japanese researchers conducted a study in 2004 using both male and female rats to determine Gymnema sylvestre toxicity.

One group of rats was fed a normal diet, the other group supplemented with Gymnema at increasing doses for 52 weeks. The researchers concluded there were no toxic effects in rats treated with Gymnema sylvestre at up to 1.00% in the diet for 52 weeks. This equated to an average of 504 mg/kg/day for male rats and 563 mg/kg/day for female rats daily intake over the period. (Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2004; 45(1):8-18).

What dose size of Gymnema is required to reduce blood glucose in humans efficiently?

This can vary widely depending on numerous factors including the specific type of herb used and the patient being treated.

Gymnema can work quite quickly to control blood sugar levels. Used on its own, it will not drop blood sugar so far as to cause hypoglycemia. However, there is the risk this could happen if it is used together with insulin or anti-diabetic drugs. So in these cases, Gymnema should only be taken under professional supervision. (Kerry Bone, FNIMH, FNHAA, Nutrition and Healing Newsletter, January 2002).

Aside from lowered blood sugar and increased effects of anti-diabetic drugs following chronic use of gymnema, no significant adverse effects have been reported with the herb, in several studies up to 20 months long.

Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, and medication adjustments may be necessary. (MedlinePlus).

Signs that blood sugar may be too low include shakiness, sweating, confusion, distorted speech, and loss of muscle control.

Studies Show that Cinnamon is a Natural Remedy for Diabetes Management.

Type 2 Diabetes - Cinnamon and Blood Sugar Levels - Several compounds isolated from cinnamon may one day become the key natural ingredients in a new generation of products aimed at lowering blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The polyphenolic polymers in cinnamon bark have antioxidant effects, which may provide synergistic benefits to persons with various forms of diabetes.

In 2004 ARS scientists and colleagues isolated and characterized several polyphenolic polymer compounds from cinnamon bark that could one day become natural ingredients in products aimed at lowering blood sugar levels.

The newly identified chemical structures were recently named in a patent application and described in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. ARS chemist Richard A. Anderson co-authored the study with colleagues at the Beltsville (Maryland) Human Nutrition Research Center and two universities.

Impaired sugar and fat metabolism is present in millions of people and may lead to type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In test tube assays using fat cells, the polyphenolic polymers were found to increase sugar metabolism a whopping 20-fold.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas to regulate sugar metabolism. In people with type-2 diabetes, either the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or the body is unable to use it correctly. Both conditions lead to unhealthy blood levels of sugar that would otherwise provide energy to muscles.

During a decade of efforts to find natural compounds that could help maintain normal blood sugar levels, the scientists tested several components of cinnamon. The newly characterized chemical structures are closely related to a previously reported chemical derivative of cinnamon, MHCP—methylhydroxychalcone polymer. The researchers also tested scores of other plant extracts, but none displayed insulin-enhancing activity near that of cinnamon.

"These new compounds increase insulin sensitivity by activating key enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors, while inhibiting the enzymes that deactivate them," says Anderson, who is with the Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory.

"Polyphenols are known for their antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory functions, but they have not been commonly known to improve insulin function," he says. "The polyphenolic polymers in cinnamon bark have antioxidant effects, which may provide synergistic benefits to persons with various forms of diabetes."

The researchers reported that less than a half-teaspoon of cinnamon daily for 40 days reduced by about 20 percent the blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels of 60 volunteers in Pakistan with Type 2 diabetes.

Table cinnamon is made from cinnamon bark and contains both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds. Fat-soluble compounds may accumulate in the body if ingested over a long period.

At this time, there is no data on potential effects of long-term ingestion of table cinnamon. But the newly defined chemical structures noted above are isolated from water extracts of cinnamon and appear to be nontoxic in any quantity, according to Anderson.

He is with the BHNRC's Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory in Beltsville.

"Insulin Imitators: Polyphenols Found in Cinnamon Mimic Job of Hormone" was published in the April 2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. Source: Rosalie Marion Bliss, United States Department Of Agriculture, USDA, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff. Used with permission.

Studies Show that Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a Natural Remedy for Diabetes Management.

One of alpha-lipoic acid's primary uses is to treat nerve damage, including diabetic neuropathy, a dangerous long-term complication of diabetes that causes pain and loss of feeling in the limbs.

Alpha lipoic acid enhances glucose uptake in type 2 diabetes, inhibits glycosylation (the abnormal attachment of sugar to protein), and has been used to improve diabetic nerve damage and reduce pain associated with that nerve damage. (Free Radic Biol Med 1995;19:227-50).

Over the past 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled, and children are being diagnosed with diabetes in alarming numbers. Diabetes has rapidly emerged as a leading culprit in the epidemic of heart disease that is sweeping the country, and it is a leading cause of amputation and blindness among adults.

As a powerful antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid positively affects important aspects of diabetes, including blood sugar control and the development of long-term complications such as disease of the heart, kidneys, and small blood vessels. (Arzneimittelforschung. 1995 Aug;45(8):872–4; Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Aug;27(3-4):309–14; J Am Soc Nephrol. 2002 Jan;13(1):108–16; Diabetes Care. 1995 Aug;18(8):1160–7; Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jan 7;326(1):197–202).

Lipoic acid plays a role in preventing diabetes by reducing fat accumulation.

In animal studies, lipoic acid reduced body weight, protected pancreatic beta cells from destruction, and reduced triglyceride accumulation in skeletal muscle and pancreatic islets (Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2004 Dec;13(12):1641–3; Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jan 7;326(1):197–202).

It's difficult, however, to obtain therapeutic amounts of this vitamin like substance through diet alone. Instead, many experts recommend using supplements to get the full benefits of alpha lipoic acid.

Alpha lipoic acid is an approved treatment for diabetic neuropathy in Germany. Many studies in both animals and humans have produced promising results with lipoic acid in preventing diabetic neuropathy. It has been used for years for this purpose in Europe.

German researchers, reporting in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine, conducted a placebo-controlled study of 72 patients with type-2 diabetes. Some participants were supplemented with alpha-lipoic acid in various doses while the others were given a placebo (sugar pill).

They concluded that the results suggest oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid can improve insulin sensitivity by 25% after 4 weeks of treatment in patients with type-2 diabetes. All benefited from lowered glucose levels. There were no significant differences among the three doses of Alpha lipoic acid, suggesting that 600 mg/day may be the maximum effective dose. (Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Aug;27(3-4):309-14).

Alpha lipoic acid speeds the removal of glucose from the bloodstream, partly by enhancing insulin function, and it reduces insulin resistance, a foundation of many cases of coronary heart disease and obesity.

In the treatment of diabetes, the recommended dose is 300 to 600 mg daily. Alpha lipoic acid supplementation is very safe. In over 30 years of extensive use and testing in European clinical trials in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, there have been no reported side effects. (Quillin,1998, Murray, 1996).

Because alpha-lipoic acid has been associated with improved blood sugar control, people with diabetes should follow their blood sugar levels carefully when taking this supplement in order to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Your doctor may decide that a reduction in dosage of insulin or oral blood sugar-lowering drugs is needed if you are taking this supplement.

It should also be noted that 600 mg/day doses were mainly used for diabetic neuropathy. Lower doses can be effective in diabetes blood sugar control, especially when included with other products such as gymnema, vanadium, bitter melon, fenugreek and chromium (which itself helps prevent and possibly reverse diabetic neuropathy).

Many healthcare practitioners suggest a limit of 100 milligrams per day unless specifically advised for a specific condition such as diabetes.

Alpha lipoic acid has a dual role in human health; it is a powerful antioxidant and is a key component for producing cellular energy. It is involved in the metabolic process of converting carbohydrates into energy. Carbohydrates, protein and fat are all broken down and formed into ATP, the universal energy source used by the body.

Alpha-lipoic acid assists the body’s energy production and acts as a powerful antioxidant, helping to treat diabetic neuropathy (nerve-damage caused by the disease), protecting the liver, preventing cataracts, boosting immune function, and possibly helping to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Because alpha-lipoic acid can pass easily into the brain, it has protective effects on the brain and nerve tissue and shows promise as a treatment for stroke and other brain disorders involving free radical damage.

It has been suggested that alpha lipoic acid may slow aging of the brain and that it may be an anti-aging substance in general.

In the November 2006 edition of Diabetes Care, researchers from Russia and Israel reported on a 5 week randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial using alpha lipoic acid in 181 patients suffering with high blood sugar and damaged nerve endings.

Researchers measured various symptoms including stabbing and burning pain, tingling and numbness in the feet in these patients who suffered with malfunction of the peripheral nerves.

The groups that received alpha lipoic acid 600 mg to 1,800 mg daily had an overall reduction in symptoms by about 50% compared to the placebo group. (Diabetes Care. 2006 29: 2365-2370).
Evidence indicates that 150 mg of alpha lipoic acid, taken daily for one month, improves visual function in people with glaucoma. (Vestn Oftalmol 1995;111:6-8).

Researchers have demonstrated, in a 16-week randomized trial, that lipoic acid, in oral doses of 600 milligrams daily for eight weeks, significantly inhibits the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol in healthy humans.

In addition, our supplies of several different antioxidants, including vitamins E and C, cannot be successfully maintained in the absence of lipoic acid. It appears to recycle available vitamin C and E.

Other antioxidants seem to benefit equally from the presence of lipoic acid. These antioxidants include coenzyme Q, glutathione, and NADH (a form of niacin). Because lipoic acid is used to help regulate blood sugar, individuals with diabetes may be at special risk of deficiency. (Worlds Healthiest Foods).

Conclusions from various studies – From 2004 - 1992:

Alpha-Lipoic acid supplementation represents an achievable adjunct therapy to help prevent vision loss in diabetic patients. (Diabetes. 2004 Dec; 53(12): 3233-8).

The blood pressure-lowering effect of lipoic acid in fructose rats may be related to improvement in insulin sensitivity. (J-Comp-Physiol-[B]. 2004 Nov; 174(8): 587-92).

The combined antioxidant and hypoglycemic (lowering the concentration of glucose in the blood) actions of lipoic acid both may contribute to its utility in preventing renal (kidney) injury and other complications of diabetes. (J-Am-Soc-Nephrol. 2002 Jan; 13(1): 108-16).

These data indicate that lipoic acid is effective in the prevention of early diabetic glomerular injury (capillary blood vessels in the kidneys) and suggest that this agent may have advantages over high doses of either vitamin E or vitamin C. (J-Am-Soc-Nephrol. 2001 Jan; 12(1): 124-33).

…recent trials have demonstrated that lipoic acid improves glucose disposal in patients with type II diabetes. In experimental and clinical studies, lipoic acid markedly reduced the symptoms of diabetic pathologies, including cataract formation, vascular damage, and polyneuropathy [Polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder that occurs when many peripheral nerves throughout the body malfunction simultaneously]. (Nutrition. 2001 Oct; 17(10): 888-95).

The results suggest that oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid can improve insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes. (Free-Radic-Biol-Med. 1999 Aug; 27(3-4): 309-14).

These data provide evidence that treatment with alpha-lipoic acid improves significantly the imbalance between increased oxidative stress and depleted antioxidant defence even in patients with poor glycemic control and albuminuria. (Free-Radic-Biol-Med. 1999 Jun; 26(11-12): 1495-500). Albuminuria is the presence of excessive protein (chiefly albumin but also globulin) in the urine; usually a symptom of kidney disorder.

In conclusion, intravenous treatment with alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) over 3 weeks is safe and effective in reducing symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and oral treatment with 800 mg/day for 4 months may improve cardiac autonomic dysfunction in NIDDM [non insulin dependant diabetes mellitus – type 2 diabetes]. (Diabetes. 1997 Sep; 46 Suppl 2S62-6).

This is the first clinical study to show that alpha-lipoic acid increases insulin stimulated glucose disposal in NIDDM [non insulin dependant diabetes mellitus – type 2 diabetes]. The mode of action of ALA and its potential use as an anti-hyperglycemic agent require further investigation. (Arzneimittelforschung. 1995 Aug; 45(8): 872-4).

These results suggest a potential for the therapeutic use of lipoic acid against diabetes-induced complications. (Free-Radic-Res-Commun. 1992; 17(3): 211-7).

Studies Show that Cloves are a Natural Remedy for Diabetes Management.

One of two studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2006 meeting, in San Francisco, demonstrated that extracts of cloves were found to improve the function of insulin and to lower glucose, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes.

Earlier studies had shown these positive effects in laboratory studies; the study presented at Experimental Biology provides the first evidence of these beneficial effects in humans taking the equivalent of one to two cloves per day.

Dr. Alam Khan, Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan, a former postdoctoral student and Fulbright Fellow in the Anderson laboratory, reports the first study of the effect of cloves on insulin function in humans. (Medical News Today 9/4/2006).

The clove study involved 36 men and women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Three groups of patients consumed either one, two or three grams of cloves for 30 days in capsule form, while a fourth consumed none of the spice.

At the end of the study, regardless of the amount of cloves consumed, all those who ingested cloves showed a drop in glucose, triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Blood levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol were not affected among the clove eaters. Those who did not ingest cloves experienced no changes. (HealthDay News 5/4/2006).

Dr. Khan says the finding that intake of 1 to 3 grams of cloves per day lowered risk factors of diabetes without changing HDL [cholesterol] concentration suggest strongly that cloves are beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. (Medical News Today 9/4/2006).

“The people who would benefit the most are those who have impairments in their blood sugar,” said Anderson. “These are the 40 million people with metabolic syndrome who are pre-diabetic, people with type 2 diabetes, and even the severely diabetic and the severely overweight - although they may not benefit as much because the impairments in their insulin are much, much worse.” (HealthDay News 5/4/2006).

Co-authors of the study in addition to Dr. Khan and Dr. Anderson are Dr. Syed Saceed Qadir, Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan, and Dr. Khan Nawaz Khattak, HMC, Hayatabad, Peshawar, Pakistan. The research was supported by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

“This abstract extends this work to humans and demonstrates that consumption of as little as 1 g of cloves by people with type 2 diabetes leads to improvements in blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and triglycerides,” Anderson commented. “The major contribution of this study is that it demonstrated that consumption of cloves may be important in the alleviation of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in humans.” (Medscape Medical News April 4, 2006).

Cloves contains significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has made it the subject of numerous health studies, including studies on the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride, digestive tract cancers, and joint inflammation.

Clove also contains a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also contribute to clove’s anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) properties. Cloves are an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of calcium and magnesium. (WHF The George Mateljan Foundation).

Indian researchers, reporting in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids in 2000, compared the antioxidant properties of seven spice extracts (garlic, ginger, onion, mint, cloves, cinnamon and pepper).

They found the highest antioxidant activities in cloves, followed by cinnamon, pepper, ginger, garlic, mint and onion. The antioxidant activity of these spice extracts were retained even after boiling for 30 min at 100 degrees C, indicating that the active components are not destroyed by heat. (Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids 2000 Feb;62(2):107-10).

Studies Show that Chromium is a Natural Remedy for Diabetes Management.

In 1957, a compound in brewers’ yeast was found to prevent an age-related decline in the ability of rats to maintain normal levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. Chromium was identified as the active ingredient in this so-called “glucose tolerance factor” (GTF) in 1959.

In the 1960s, chromium was found to correct glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in deficient animals, two indicators that the body is failing to properly control blood-sugar levels and which are precursors of type 2 diabetes. (National Institutes of Health).

New research suggests that rather than being a part of the GTF, chromium is at the centre of a very small protein molecule that helps activate insulin receptors in our body’s cells. If this is true, then it means that chromium may help insulin work more effectively in the cells of our bodies.

Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes have lower blood levels of chromium than those without the disease. Chromium picolinate, specifically, has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Chromium in the diet is affected by many factors such as source, processing, and method of preparation. Thus, data on food composition are unlikely to provide a valid measure of the chromium status. (Diabetes Care. 2004 Sep;27(9):2211-6).

Not all chromium supplements are equal.

Science News Online reported in April 2005 that Robert DiSilvestro and Emily Dy of Ohio State University showed data at the Experimental Biology 2005 meeting in San Diego indicating that only the picolinate form of chromium is absorbed well by the body.

The report stated that according to Robert DiSilvestro about 40 percent of chromium picolinate was absorbed by people taking chromium supplements in one experiment. DiSilvestro added that absorption of other forms of the mineral in supplements ran as low as 1 percent and only about 10 percent of any form of chromium in foods is typically absorbed. (Science News Online 16/4/2005; Vol. 167, No. 16).

Additionally, an animal study conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that chromium picolinate was better absorbed by the tissues (e.g., liver and muscle) than chromium nicotinate and chromium chloride.

Absorption into the tissue is important because for a mineral to be beneficial, it must survive the digestive tract and reach the bloodstream. Otherwise, minerals pass through the body, leaving it void of necessary nutrients. (Medical News Today 7/2/2007).

Three hospitalized patients who were fed intravenously showed signs of diabetes (including weight loss, neuropathy, and impaired glucose tolerance) until chromium was added to their feeding solution.

The chromium, added at doses of 150 to 250 mcg/day for up to two weeks, corrected their diabetes symptoms. Chromium is now routinely added to intravenous solutions. (NIH, Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Chromium).

A 1999 British study published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology supported these findings.

The researchers found that blood levels of chromium are lower in diabetic subjects, with average levels of blood plasma chromium 33% lower in 93 type 2 diabetic participants compared with healthy participants.

The researchers suggested that large losses of chromium over many years may worsen an already compromised chromium status in people with diabetes type 2 and might contribute to the developing of insulin resistance seen in these patients. (Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology 13:57–61, 1999).

This was again supported by a 2001 Austrian study published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research which reported significantly lower chromium levels in the blood of type 2 diabetic individuals compared with non diabetic healthy people. (Biological Trace Element Research 79:205–219, 2001).

In 1979 Richard A. Anderson, PhD, a U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition research scientist together with his colleagues conducted a large human trial with 180 participants (men and women) with type 2 diabetes.

All participants continued to take their normal medications and were instructed to continue with their normal eating and living habits.

They were divided into three groups, one of which took 1000 micrograms of chromium daily in two divided doses for four months. The second group took 200 micrograms of chromium daily in divided doses while the other group was given a placebo.

A significant improvement in HbA1c levels was observed after only 2 months in the group taking 1000 micrograms of chromium and in both groups taking chromium after 4 months. (Hemoglobin A1C is tested to monitor the long-term control of diabetes and is increased in the red blood cells of persons with poorly controlled diabetes. From this test clinicians can estimate the average blood glucose level during the preceding two to four months. The target for most people is below 7).

Fasting glucose was also lower after 2 months in the group taking the higher dose of chromium and in both groups taking chromium after 4 months. Total cholesterol also decreased after 4 months in the group taking 1000 micrograms of chromium daily. (Diabetes. 1997 Nov; 46(11):).

The body’s chromium content may be reduced under several conditions.

Diets high in simple sugars (comprising more than 35% of calories) can increase chromium excretion in the urine. Infection, acute exercise, pregnancy and lactation, and stressful states (such as physical trauma) increase chromium losses and can lead to deficiency, especially if chromium intakes are already low. (NIH Office of Dietary Supplements).

Scientists believe that insulin uses chromium as an assistant (technically, a cofactor) to “unlock the door” to the cell membrane, thereby allowing glucose to enter the cell.

More than 15 scientific studies support the safety and role of chromium in improving insulin function and glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes and related conditions. “There is strong scientific evidence to suggest that supplemental chromium picolinate may improve insulin sensitivity, blood glucose control, and cardiovascular risk factors in adults with type 2 diabetes,” according to Dr. Kaufman, former president of the American Diabetes Association and specialist in pediatric endocrinology. (PRNewswire-FirstCall 15/2/2005).

In 2004 a researcher from Louisiana State University System and another from Harvard School of Public Health reviewed the literature to date and noted as part of their review that two of the three studies that failed to document significant positive effects of chromium on insulin or glucose metabolism used a poorly absorbed inorganic formulation, and the third administered a very low dose of chromium picolinate. (Reviewed in Diabetes Care. 2004 Nov;27(11):2741-51).

Too little chromium can mean not enough insulin, which leads to poor use of blood sugar. When this happens, the body uses fats, instead of glucose, for energy. Consequently, there’s a reserve of cholesterol left in the blood, creating a veritable garbage dump in the arteries. (Brenda D. Adderly, M.H.A.)

If you take people in the general population with slightly elevated blood sugar and give them chromium supplements, you’ll see a drop in blood sugar in 80 to 90 percent of them. (Dr. Richard A. Anderson, U.S. Department of Agriculture).

Copyright 2007 Kevin Flatt. Reproduction of any information on other websites is PROHIBITED.

Disclaimer: The information and opinions on this website is for information purposes only and is believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. Readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.


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FDA Approves First Qualified Health Claim for Chromium Picolinate Diabetes

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Copyright 2007 Kevin Flatt. Reproduction of any information on other websites is PROHIBITED.

Disclaimer: The information and opinions on this website is for information purposes only and is believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. Readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.