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Apr 25, 2012

Cruciferous Vegetables Improve Breast Cancer Survival

Cruciferous vegetables have become recognized for some of their protective effects against many types of cancers.  These include foods like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, Chinese cabbage/bok choy, and other greens. 

The results of a new study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 103rd Annual Meeting indicate that Chinese breast cancer patients experienced improved survival when consuming cruciferous vegetables.  Researchers found that as more cruciferous vegetables were consumed, total mortality risk lowered by 27%.  Mortality risk specific to breast cancer decreased by 22%, while the risk for recurrence went down by 21%. 

The study population was a large group, including 4886 Chinese women with stage I to IV breast cancer.  All were between the ages of 20 and 75, and recruited within 6 months of diagnosis.  Researchers collected data on clinical, sociodemographic, and lifestyle factors, as well as consumption of cruciferous vegetables.  

Sarah J. Nechuta, PhD, and the other researchers involved in the study observed that cruciferous vegetable consumption during the first 36 months after initial diagnosis was linked to lowered total mortality, mortality specific to breast cancer, and recurrence.  This proved to be the case after adjustments were made to account for variables such as demographics, lifestyle factors, and clinical characteristics.  

As with any study, it is important to take note of the type of population studied and realize that the results and conclusions may not be applicable to all population groups.  More research is certainly needed to more fully understand the effects of cruciferous vegetables on breast cancer survival.  Still, a reasonable take home message from this particular study and others like it is to “Eat your veggies and include plenty of cruciferous ones!”

Dr. Shana McQueen

Apr 24, 2012

Tumor Cells Targeted With Green Tea Extract and Quercitin Combination

Compounds found in green tea have long been recognized for having anti-cancer effects in the body.  The antioxidants contained in green tea can promote apoptosis, otherwise known as programmed cell death, in cancer cells that have gone “out of control”.  Regular consumption of green tea has been linked with a lowered risk for many types of cancers, including cancers of the skin, breasts, lungs, colon, and more.  A study published in Food and Function discusses the relationship between polyphenols (powerful plant compounds) in green tea and the flavonoid known as quercetin.  Quercetin, a constituent found in many types of fruits and vegetables, has been found to work synergistically with green tea, as it apparently increases levels of green tea polyphenols inside cancer cells.  This ultimately helps components within green tea to act with a higher level of potency.

Quercetin is known for its ability to act as a methylation inhibitor in the body.  Since green tea catechins naturally become methylated upon ingestion, rendering them less beneficial as anti-cancer compounds, scientists observed the effects of giving quercetin with green tea.  For a period of two weeks, researchers gave mice known to have severe immunodeficiency brewed green tea, a diet that included 0.4% quercetin, or a combination of both.  The group of mice given both green tea and quercetin were noted to have 2-3-fold increased levels of total and non-methylated green tea catechins (specifically the catechins called EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate). 

Overall, study results showed that combining quercitin with green tea catechins led to a dramatic improvement in cancer-fighting ability in vivo.  The combination increased cellular adsorption of EGCG by four-fold in lung cancer cells and two-fold in kidney cancer cells.        

The team of researchers, from Rutgers University, concluded that "in order to have a maximum anticancer effect, green tea or green tea extract should be used together with quercetin."  They also pointed out how catechins found within green tea show higher antioxidant abilities when compared with vitamins C and E.  Recommendations of 3-5 cups of freshly brewed green tea daily in combination with quercetin from either food or supplementation were made as a way of maximizing cancer-prevention benefits. 
Dr. Shana McQueen

Apr 23, 2012

Nutrition Prevents Eyes from Aging

Whether it’s our eyes, skin, internal organs, blood vessels, or brain we are looking to prevent from aging too quickly, nutritional status is one of the key determining factors.  Our health and longevity largely depend on whether we receive the daily nutrients required to minimize cellular aging and damage.  According to a panel of roundtable experts organized by the Ocular Nutrition Society (ONS), a number of nutrients are particularly effective in promoting eye health.  Some of these include zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids. 

During the meeting, 8 experts in ophthalmology, optometry, diet and nutrition, and primary care, discussed the necessity for Americans to be informed of how their eye health is related to nutrition.  "There is not one "magic bullet" nutrient but a combination of nutrients that work together to support eye and body health," according to Dr. Anshel.  “We must remember that the eye is a part of the body and closely related to brain tissue. Whole body treatments can be very effective in treating eye conditions."

Professor of Ophthalmology at the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, Paul S. Bernstein, noted that there "is strong basic science support for the value of lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids in promoting eye health, and we all are eagerly awaiting the release of AREDS2 results approximately one year from now."  The AREDS2 stands for the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2.  It is a randomized, multi-center trial with the goal of assessing the “the effects of oral supplementation of macular xanthophylls (lutein and zeaxanthin) and/or long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid) [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) on the progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).” 

Dr. Shana McQueen


Apr 19, 2012

Anti-Diabetic Substance Contained in Licorice Root

Licorice root is a medicinal herb with a substantial list of health benefits used in both modern and ancient times.  

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have identified a substance contained within this herb with anti-diabetic properties.  Found in the roots of the licorice plant as well as the fruit of the Amorpha fruticosa bush, amorfrutins are apparently not only helpful in lowering blood sugar levels, but also act as anti-inflammatories and can prevent fatty liver.  They also happen to be tolerated well.      

"The health-beneficial effects are based on the fact that the amorfrutin molecules dock directly onto a receptor in the nucleus called PPARĪ³," according to scientist Sascha Sauer.  Cellular metabolism of fats and glucose is affected by actions happening via the PPARĪ³ receptor.  As amorfrutin molecules bind the receptors, certain genes get activated that lead to a lowering of fatty acids and glucose circulating in the blood.  As blood glucose levels go down, so, too does insulin resistance and type II diabetes.  

According to Sauer, “Drinking licorice tea or eating licorice will not help to treat diabetes” due to the concentration of amorfrutins not being high enough in the tea or licorice root alone.  Special extraction steps were used in the study as a way of generating adequate concentration levels.   
Dr. Shana McQueen

Apr 18, 2012

Exposure to Phthalates Tied to Diabetes

According to a Swedish study recently published online in Diabetes Care, common chemicals known as phthalates are linked with the development of diabetes in older adults.  Phthalates are found in numerous products of our modern world, including plastics, cosmetic products, some medications, and even certain types of medical equipment.

The study population involved 1016 people who were 70 years and older.  Researchers examined the participants’ medical histories, exercise habits, smoking habits, and educational background.  They also took blood samples, analyzing both lipid and glucose levels.  Out of all the participants, 119 had diabetes while 88 had a history of diabetes that averaged nearly 9 years.  Four of the participants had diabetes for over 20 years.  (In this study, diabetes was defined as having a fasting blood glucose result of more than 7.0 mmol/L).      

After analyzing serum levels of phthalate metabolites, the researchers noticed that in almost all (96%) of the individuals with diabetes, 4 of 10 phthalate metabolites were detected.  These include mono (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, monoethyl phthalate (MEP), monoisobutyl phthalate (MiBP), and monomethyl phthalate (MMP).  These metabolites are frequent ingredients found in personal care products.

Three of the phthalate metabolites studied by the researchers were linked with a 25-30% higher diabetes risk.  "Although our results need to be confirmed in more studies, they do support the hypothesis that certain environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes," according to Dr. Monica Lind.

Dr. Shana McQueen

Apr 4, 2012

Thyme: An Effective Remedy for Acne?

According to new research presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Dublin, the medicinal herb known as thyme may be a more effective solution for acne than prescribed skin medications.  

The bacterium known to play a major role in acne is Propionibacterium acnes.  This bacterium is involved in skin infection, and contributes to formation of a wide number of blemishes on the skin, including white heads and cysts.  After researchers tested the effects of different herbal tinctures, including thyme, marigold, and myrrh, on this bacterium, thyme was found to be the most successful of all three in killing the bacteria within a five-minute period.  In fact, the thyme tincture was found to have even more antibacterial activity than benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in the majority of acne creams and washes.      

This is the first study to show that thyme (along with marigold and myrrh) is efficacious against the bacterium known to play a major role in acne.  To determine whether the herbal preparations themselves or the alcohol contained within the preparations were responsible for antibacterial activity, all tinctures were measured against an alcohol control.  The results indicated that the antibacterial action was, in fact, not just from the sterilizing effects of alcohol contained within the herbal preparations.  

Acne usually occurs as a result of a number of underlying factors.  For this reason, the best way to successfully treat this condition is comprehensively, looking at each individual person’s diet, nutritional status, digestion, hormone balance, lifestyle, and other factors.  In addition to correcting any internal imbalances that may be contributing to the acne, a healthy skin care regimen along with thyme used topically may prove to be an excellent complementary therapy.  This is especially the case since many of the commercial creams and washes available on the market contain harsh ingredients and chemicals that may be irritating to the skin, but thyme is an herb that is gentler on the skin. 

Dr. Shana McQueen


Apr 3, 2012

Infertility Treatment: Chinese Herbal Medicine More Effective Than Conventional Western Drug Therapy

When women and couples are seeking out treatment options for fertility issues, Chinese herbal medicine should not be overlooked.  Study results published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine back in December indicate that women receiving treatment in Chinese herbal medicine doubled their chances of becoming pregnant within four months compared with those undergoing conventional Western drug therapy or in vitro fertilization (IVF). 
In a systematic review including eight (non)-randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 13 cohort studies, 3 case series, and 6 case studies, researchers analyzed data from a total of 1851 women with poor fertility.  Meta-analysis of the RCTs showed that the likelihood of achieving pregnancy with Chinese herbal medicine treatment was 3.5 times higher compared with Western drug therapy over a four-month period.  Pregnancy rates were about 60% for those receiving Chinese herbal medicine compared with 32% receiving drug therapy.  Meta-analysis of selected cohort studies indicated an average clinical pregnancy rate of 50% in those being treated with Chinese herbal medicine versus only 30% in those getting IVF.  

Through their investigation, authors of the study came to recognize the crucial role that the quality of the menstrual cycle plays in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diagnosis.  They concluded that “Assessment of the quality of the menstrual cycle, integral to TCM diagnosis, appears to be fundamental to successful treatment of female infertility.”
When it comes to treatment of female infertility, TCM takes a holistic approach, aiming to treat the whole person rather than just symptoms or specific parts of the body.  TCM works to re-establish balance and reduce stress while also regulating hormones and menstruation.  As a highly effective form of medicine used widely throughout the world, those seeking help with fertility should consider TCM.  Most people find the fertility techniques used in this form of medicine to be non-invasive and highly affordable, not to mention supportive to overall well-being.   

Dr. Shana McQueen

Apr 2, 2012

Daily Soda Intake Raises Risk for Heart Attack in Men

A new study published in Circulation has found that regular intake of soda, even in moderation, has detrimental effects on health. According to Frank Hu, M.D., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, consumption of sugar in high concentrations “appears to be an independent risk factor for heart disease."

In the study, researchers monitored the diet, weight, exercise, and smoking habits of nearly 43,000 men over the period of 22 years. Blood samples were taken from about 40 percent of the participants. Results of the study indicated that the men consuming just one 12-ounce soda daily had a 20 percent elevated risk for heart attack. In addition, men who consumed any type of sugary beverage at least once each day were found to have higher triglyceride levels, lower HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels, and higher levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).

Co-author of the study, Dr. Walter Willett, pointed out that “Continually subjecting our bodies to high amounts of glucose, to high blood sugar levels that trigger large secretions of insulin results in stresses that in the long run show up as high risk of heart disease and diabetes.”

According to the researchers, 10 teaspoons of sugar are contained within a standard 12-ounce soda! While the results of this study cannot directly attribute the increased risk for heart disease to the sugar, 10 teaspoons of sugar is an obviously very large amount to consume in a relatively short amount of time.

Excessive levels of sugar in the diet are known to contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic inflammatory conditions. This study further supports the importance of limiting or even completely eliminating soda from one’s diet in order to optimize health.

Dr. Shana McQueen