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Posts tagged ‘Diet’

Low-fat diets ‘better than cutting carbs’ for weight loss

Herb that could make you live longer

Dr Mahtab Jafari studies Rhodiola rosea, an herb that has been found by a team of UCI researchers in Irvine, California, to extend lifespan in a population of fruit flies by 24%.

A STUBBY little plant from the icy permafrost of Siberia just might help you feel better and live longer, University of California-Irvine researchers say.

They found fruit flies fed extracts of Rhodiola rosea, or “golden root”, live 24% longer than their otherwise healthy peers. The research itself is a sign of the times: Today’s physicians are becoming more open to the idea of using herbal remedies to treat their patients, and they need the science to back it up.

“Potentially, humans – healthy or not – could live longer by consuming this root,” said the study’s lead investigator, Mahtab Jafari, of the department of pharmaceutical sciences at UCI. “So far, we’ve only seen the effect in flies, worms and yeast. But nothing quite like this has been observed before.”

Drugs today are typically designed to treat deficiencies or illnesses – to fix things once they’re broken. “Currently, the main drug that’s been shown to extend life span, resveratrol, only really works if you’re diabetic or overweight – that is, if you’re unhealthy to begin with.”

Resveratrol, found in red wine, limits the body’s access to calories and fat. It’s been shown to extend the life span of obese mice by about 30 percent. Researchers think they’ll find similar life-extending properties in obese humans, but the drug probably won’t do much for humans who are already slim.

But people of all weights and waistlines could benefit from the extracts of Rhodiola rosea, Jafari’s findings suggest. “It’s always a jump from animal model to human, but we share 75% of our disease genes with fruit flies,” Jafari said.

“And if you look at the molecular pathways we study in flies, they’re also highly conserved. You can find the same pathways in nearly all living things: flies, worms, rats, humans. It’s scientific to think that if Rhodiola works in flies, it may also work on humans.”

The researchers aren’t sure how Rhodiola rosea is keeping the flies alive, but the answer probably lies in the snowy barrens of the Baikal Mountains. Herbalists have used the plants for hundreds of years to treat the seasonal depression that’s rampant there.

At some point, the herb found its way across the Altai Mountains into Mongolia and northern China, where it’s commonly used in salads or brewed into tea.

But Western doctors only began to pay attention in 2007, when an Armenian clinical trial showed 500 milligrams of Rhodiola rosea extract helped treat mild to moderate depression. It’s also recently gained recognition among practitioners of “naturopathic” or herbal medicine in the United States.

Dayna Kowata, a naturopath and acupuncturist at UCI’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, said she hadn’t heard of it until last year.

“I was exposed to it at a lecture for naturopaths and got the chance to try it afterward,” Kowata said. “The effects on me were immediate and pronounced, so it’s become a part of my tool kit since then.”

Modern medicine owes a lot to plant extracts. Plant-derived medicines – including aspirin, digoxin and codeine – accounted for more than a quarter of all prescriptions filled last year. Still, many American doctors remain leery of natural remedies. Harriet A. Hall, a retired physician and regular columnist in Skeptic magazine, wrote that she doesn’t like the way herbal medicine is marketed today.

“In pharmacology, we start with plants and go on to test and purify the components found there,” she wrote. “(However) there have been many, many reports of herbal remedies being contaminated with heavy metals, carcinogens, insect parts, toxins, pharmaceutical drugs and other contaminants.”

Kowata said she has never faulted Western doctors for dismissing Eastern remedies. “It’s the way they’ve been trained,” she said.

“They don’t approach the problem from a holistic approach by default.”

When presented with anecdotal evidence about herbal remedies, practitioners of mainstream medicine often point to psychological factors such as the placebo effect.

“Personal experience and testimonials are notoriously unreliable; that’s why we do science,” Hall wrote.

But UCI researchers didn’t use humans to reach their conclusions. “I admit the placebo effect is powerful – but on humans. Flies don’t lie!” Jafari said.

That’s because the placebo effect is based on emotion and cognition, and as far as scientists know, fruit flies don’t have either.

“I came into this work as a skeptic like all of my colleagues,” Jafari said. “But I’m a big believer now. Our science just isn’t advanced enough to understand all they do and how they do it.”

The biggest news may not be that researchers have found something that can make you – well, fruit flies – feel better and live longer.

The fact that scientists found the substance in an herbal form of Rhodiola rosea signals that doctors are willing to resort to herbal remedies to treat their patients. – The Orange County Register/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

via Herb that could make you live longer – Alternatives | The Star Online.

Cancer and diet: Why is nutrition overlooked?

Hospital food

Thousands of scientific papers have been published on the link between diet and the treatment and prevention of cancer. But in practice food is still considered a marginal aspect of cancer care.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (MM), a cancer of the bone marrow, in December 2011.

At every chemo session I was offered a white bread sandwich, a fizzy drink, and a chocolate bar or packet of biscuits.

Nurses told me that there was no point in worrying about what I ate. “Worrying” is not what I or any other patient wants to do.

We want to know what will help us get through treatment in the best way possible, and what, if anything, might keep a recurrence at bay – and that includes how diet may help.

We do not want to feel like a helpless pawn in a big and overwhelming system.

But unless you are very lucky, you will not be told about any of the latest food-related research when you enter the parallel universe that is cancer treatment.

Previously I have made three editions of Radio 4’s The Food Programme about cancer and diet, and it is a subject close to my heart.

The last one on prostate cancer in 2009 was eye-opening.

Geoff Tansey, who I had known for many years as one of the UK’s serious thinkers and writers about food policy, got in touch to say he had prostate cancer, was facing surgery and would the Food Programme like him to keep a diary.

Can a Mediterranean diet help prevent cancer?

Italian food

Conner Middelmann-Whitney is a nutritionist and cook who specialises in the impact of diet on cancer prevention:

“There are a lot of things we can do that influence our cancer risk.

The world cancer research fund back in 2007… concluded that 60% of all cancers of the oesophagus, 45% of all colo-rectal cancers and 38% of breast cancers could be prevented if people ate a healthy diet, had a healthy body weight and engaged in regular physical activity.

The Mediterranean diet is a very natural, organic way of eating and you don’t have to live near the Mediterranean to eat that way.

It involves a lot of plant foods, a lot of healthy fats, nothing is excluded, which I think is a very important aspect of the Mediterranean diet.

A lot of people think that eating a healthy diet and a cancer protective diet means cutting all sorts of favourite foods out of your diet and that actually isn’t so.

The only foods that are omitted are heavily processed foods, refined flours and sugars and fats.

Seasonal vegetables and fruits, olive oil, lots of pulses and whole grains, herbs and spices, these very nourishing foods really make up the core of the Mediterranean diet.”

Try BBC Food’s Italian recipes

Research on the importance of diet in the prevention, complementary treatment and after-care of the commonest forms of prostate cancer is well-documented.

Professor Margaret Rayman, who runs the UK’s only post-graduate course for medics on nutritional medicine at the University of Surrey has written a book on it: Healthy Eating for Prostate Care.

Not that that made any difference to the doctors who treated Geoff Tansey.

They did not know about the research, and were uninterested in the fact that in the weeks after diagnosis he changed his diet dramatically (he went vegetarian and gave up dairy foods) which brought down his PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) levels equally dramatically.

PSA is a protein in the blood that is produced by the prostate gland. The higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer.

Although there are no proven ways to prevent cancer, the NHS says eating a healthy balanced diet can help reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.

“We need to focus on the use of novel therapies that we have available,” says Dr Brian Durie, a specialist in Myeloma cancers in the US.

“In addition to that we can have an enhancement of the quality of life.

“We need to have good food, an avoidance of bad food and so one can treat the cancer and improve the quality of life.

“But it’s important not to be relying on the food.

“In the UK we don’t have enough of those randomised studies to say that ‘if you eat enough cabbage and broccoli and fruit juices and have some turmeric and maybe some wine and chocolate, yes this can be helpful, but it’s not going to be enough to cure cancer’.”

Professor Rayman says today more studies have been done, and there is more evidence, but medical attitudes remain much the same.

Our research confirmed that in most cancer centres in the UK, diet is still seen as almost meaningless in cancer treatment and aftercare.

Yet there is good science available on the subject, though not a lot of it is what medics call “gold standard” science.

There are almost no double-blinded, large scale, studies done on people because they are expensive, very hard to do and there is no financial incentive.

Who would make serious profit out of the discovery that mushrooms kill cancer cells?

Most of the research has been done on cancer cells in the laboratory or on animals. What the best of it shows is interesting implications in a range of foods.

Red grapes: BBC Food
Resveratrol, a chemical compound found in red and purple grapes has been studied for its anti-cancer properties

One of the best-researched foods (in the US and Ireland) is the spice turmeric.

Curcumin is a chemical compound found in the root of turmeric, which hasa general anti-inflammatory effect and quite specific effects on several forms of cancer, including mine.

Research has also been conducted on berries containing ellagic acid, which seems to curb cancer cells’ ability to grow their own blood supply,mushrooms (the polysaccharides), green tea, as well as the cabbage and onion families.

From my experience as a cancer patient I think many people fear that they are being ungrateful for the medical care they have had by bringing up issues such as diet.

I am overwhelming grateful to the team who treated me and still check on me, at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London – they personify the best of the NHS in love, caring and medical brilliance, and they always make me laugh.

But why can’t we build on that– by bringing good nutrition and good food into that world-class care and treatment?

As my consultant Professor Jamie Cavenagh said: “I think we should take more of a ‘Why not?’ attitude.

“Why not advise patients to eat better, add turmeric to their diet, drink more green tea, take exercise?”

It won’t do you any harm, and it might well do you a lot of good.

By Sheila DillonPresenter, Radio 4’s Food Programme


Eating Strawberries and Blueberries Cuts Heart Attack Risk by Third

(Photo : Angelo DeSantis/Flickr) Three or more weekly servings of blueberries and strawberries could cut women’s risk of heart attack by a third.

Three or more weekly servings of blueberries and strawberries could cut women’s risk of heart attack by a third, according to a new study.

They study published in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that these berries contained high levels of beneficial dietary flavonoids called anthocyanins that may help dilate arteries, combat the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits.

Researchers said that these dietary flavonoids are also found in grapes, wine, blackberries, eggplant and other fruits and vegetables.

While other foods can also benefit heart health, the researchers specifically chose to analyze blueberries and strawberries because they are the most eaten berries in the United States.

“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” senior author Eric Rimm said in a statement.

“This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts,” added Rimm, who is also an associate professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

Rimm and his team from Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, conducted a prospective study among 93,600 women between the ages of 25 and 42 who were registered with the Nurses’ Health Study II.

The women had completed surveys about their diet every four years for 18 years.

Researchers said that during the study, there were 405 heart attacks. The findings show that women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries were 32 percent less likely to have a heart attack compared to women who ate the berries only once a month or less. What’s more, the findings were true even in women who ate a diet rich in other fruits in vegetables.

“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” Aedín Cassidy, lead author and head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, said in a statement.

Researchers said that the findings were independent of other risk factors like age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.

Should you diet if you’re pregnant?

Years ago, women were told they were eating for two – so what is the best course of action?

Portrait of a beautiful pregnant woman looking at camera. Studio shot.

The general advice is to eat healthily and stay active. Photograph: Elina Manninen / Alamy/Alamy

It is one of the upsides of pregnancy, enjoying your food without worrying about your weight. Of course there are limitations (no pate, soft cheese or shellfish) but you can still snack with impunity. Or can you? A study in the BMJ that analysed research from 44 other studies involving 7,278 pregnant women, shows that those who watched their weight were 3.84kg lighter and had fewer complications (such as premature birth and pre-eclampsia) than those who didn’t.

So should you stop eating for two and start counting the calories again?

The solution

The advice to eat for two when you’re pregnant has been out of date for years. But this new study does not suggest you should go on a calorie-restricted diet or any diet that would ordinarily make you lose weight if you stuck to it.

Instead it advises that you might want to control the weight you put on in pregnancy so it doesn’t get out of hand. However, if you weigh more than 100kg your doctor or midwife might get you to watch your calorie intake more closely.

The research suggested that women who exercised put on less weight over their pregnancy than those who didn’t, but only by 0.7kg. Women who were on these diets did not have babies that were significantly lighter than mothers who did not diet.

Previous studies have shown that women who are already overweight or who become obese in pregnancy, risk complications not just at birth (including a higher rate of caesarean section, blood loss and infections afterwards) but as their children become adults. A study looking at the link between mothers’ weight gain and the weight of their children found that decades later their children were more likely to be obese if their mothers had been so during pregnancy.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence does not say that pregnant women should be weighed regularly. They used to be but this was stopped because such measures did not identify women at risk of pre-eclampsia, as was intended. But this research is unlikely to change guidance just yet. The findings aren’t clear on whether it is riskier to be obese before you get pregnant (so there isn’t much to be done to reduce your risk once pregnant) or if you put on too much weight during pregnancy.

The amount of weight that women normally put on varies – and includes not only the baby but the fluid around it, the placenta and the increase in fluid circulating around the body, as well as fat – but should be between 8-14 kg. Much of this weight gain will generally occur in the third trimester.

So, while pregnant women should not go on calorie-controlled diets, this research does suggest that eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and not becoming obese when you are expecting are good things to aspire to.


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