Meat and cheese may be as bad for you as smoking

meat cheese

That chicken wing you’re eating could be as deadly as a cigarette. In a new study that tracked a large sample of adults for nearly two decades, researchers have found that eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet—a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.

“There’s a misconception that because we all eat, understanding nutrition is simple. But the question is not whether a certain diet allows you to do well for three days, but can it help you survive to be 100?” said corresponding author Valter Longo, the Edna M. Jones Professor of Biogerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

Not only is excessive  consumption linked to a dramatic rise in cancer mortality, but middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources—including meat, milk and cheese—are also more susceptible to early death in general, reveals the study to be published March 4 in Cell Metabolism. Protein-lovers were 74 percent more likely to die of any cause within the study period than their more low-protein counterparts. They were also several times more likely to die of diabetes. But how much protein we should eat has long been a controversial topic – muddled by the popularity of protein-heavy diets such as Paleo and Atkins. Before this study, researchers had never shown a definitive correlation between high  and .

Rather than look at adulthood as one monolithic phase of life, as other researchers have done, the latest study considers how biology changes as we age, and how decisions in middle life may play out across the human lifespan.

In other words, what’s good for you at one age may be damaging at another. Protein controls the growth hormone IGF-I, which helps our bodies grow but has been linked to cancer susceptibility. Levels of IGF-I drop off dramatically after age 65, leading to potential frailty and muscle loss. The study shows that while high protein intake during middle age is very harmful, it is protective for older adults: those over 65 who ate a moderate- or high-protein diet were less susceptible to disease.

The latest paper draws from Longo’s past research on IGF-I, including on an Ecuadorian cohort that seemed to have little cancer or diabetes susceptibility because of a genetic mutation that lowered levels of IGF-I; the members of the cohort were all less than five-feet tall. Read full article.

Source: Medicalxpress

Studie: Gewaltspiele machen Kinder aggressiver

Gewaltspiel

Langzeitbeobachtung von 3.000 Schülern über zwei Jahre

Gewalt in Videospielen und ihre Auswirkung auf die Personen vor dem Monitor sind ein Dauerbrennerthema. Speziell nach Amokläufen junger Menschen, wie sie sich etwa in Winnenden, Erfurt oder Columbine ereigneten, steht das Medium immer wieder in der Kritik.

Nun legen Forscher der Iowa State University das Ergebnis einer zweijährigen Untersuchung vor, die in Singapur durchgeführt wurde. 3.034 Mädchen und Jungen der dritten, fünften, siebten und achten Schulstufe wurden dazu mehrmals über ihre Videospielgewohnheiten und ihrer Einstellung zu Gewalt befragt.

Gewaltbereitschaft unter jungen Spielern nahm zu

Die grundsätzliche Erkenntnis ist, dass feindselige Einstellungen gegenüber anderen und Gewaltfantasien innerhalb des Beobachtungszeitraums leicht abnahmen. Ein wenig überraschendes Ergebnis, da Kinder im Laufe der Zeit immer weniger aggressiv handeln, da sie lernen, Konflikte anders zu lösen.

Interessant ist jedoch ein Blick auf jene jungen Probanden, die öfter gewalthaltige Games als ihre Altersgenossen spielten. Bei diesen beobachteten die Wissenschaftler im Vergleich eine Zunahme an aggressivem Verhalten und gewalttätigen Tendenzen, fasst das Time Magazinezusammen. So antworteten sie auf die Frage, ob es akzeptabel sei, andere Kinder zu schlagen, wenn sie etwas negatives über einen selbst sagten, häufiger mit Ja und befürworteten generell häufiger aggressive Reaktionen auf Provokation, selbst wenn diese nicht absichtlich geschehe.

Je länger der Zeitraum des regelmäßigen Konsums der Spiele andauerte, desto wahrscheinlicher war es, dass die Kinder darüber fantasierten, eine Person zu schlagen, die sie nicht mochten.

Unterschiedliche Ergebnisse

Frühere Studien weisen darauf hin, dass Gewaltgames möglicherweise temporär Änderungen der Gehirnfunktion herbeiführen. So nahm die Aktivität in Regionen, die mit Emotionen, Aufmerksamkeit und der Hemmung von Impulshandlungen in Zusammenhang stehen, ab. Ein Effekt, der sich auf lange Sicht manifestieren könnte.

Weitere Untersuchungen wiederum fanden einen Zusammenhang zwischen Spielen mit gewalttätigen Inhalten und dem Verlust von Empathiefähigkeit, den wiederum andere Forscher nicht feststellen konnten.

Kein Letztstand

Der Direktor des Psychologie-Institutes der Stetson University sieht bislang keine starke Beweislast für einen Zusammenhang zwischen dem Spielen solcher Games und aggressiverem Verhalten und verweist hierzu auf die Kriminialitäts-Statistiken. Mit der Etablierung von Videospielen als Massenmedium – in den USA spielen laut Times etwa 90 Prozent aller Kinder Videospiele, viele davon mit Gewaltinhalten – sei kein Anstieg an Gewaltverbrechen unter Erwachsenen einhergegangen.

Seiner Ansicht nach beziehen viele Untersuchungen in diesem Bereich andere Faktoren – wie psychische Erkrankungen oder Gewalt in der Familie – nicht mit ein. Auch der Studienleiter der Iowa State University, Craig Anderson, sieht die Ergebnisse der Forschungsarbeit nicht als Abschluss der Debatte, zumal der Ansatz, die Kinder sich selbst einzuschätzen, tendenziell nicht so zuverlässig ist wie Fremdbeobachtung.

Eltern und Händler gefragt

Zu erwähnen ist, dass es in der Regel um Konsum von Spielen geht, die gemäß Alterseinstufung eigentlich nicht für Kinder und junge Teenager gedacht sind. Die Aufgabe, solche Inhalte (egal ob Games, Filme oder anderes) nicht in die Hände junger Nutzer gelangen zu lassen, obliegt primär den Erziehungsberechtigten. Mit der Durchsetzung der Altersempfehlungen im Verkauf ist wiederum der Handel beauftragt.

Source: Der Standard

Antioxidants Can Make Cancers Worse

Photo credit: Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic, via Wikimedia Commons

While many proponents of dietary antioxidants or supplements will claim they have incredible anticancer properties, amongst other things, the literature on these molecules is conflicting and animal and human studies of antioxidants as a potential cancer therapy have been largely disappointing. In fact, some trials have even found that antioxidant supplements can worsen some cancers. For example, vitamin E increases cancer burden and mortality in mouse models of lung cancer. This was particularly surprising since certain properties of cancer cells seemed to suggest that, in theory, they should be beneficial. The subject is therefore confusing and calls for much needed clarification.

In an attempt to address this issue, two researchers scoured the literature and came up with a hypothesis that may explain why these supplements are ineffective as a cancer therapy. The study has been published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Their research is centered on the systems at play within cells that maintain a balance between oxidizing and anti-oxidizing molecules. These molecules are involved in so called redox reactions that involve the transfer of electrons from one agent to another. These reactions control certain cellular processes and also generate energy.

While oxidants are critical to cellular function, if they are produced in excess they can damage the cell. Cells produce natural antioxidants to prevent this from happening, but in cancer cells the balance is disrupted and high levels of these so called reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced, promoting cancer. This is because ROS can cause genetic mutations and activate pathways that stimulate cell growth. It therefore seemed logical to conclude that antioxidants would thwart cancer progression, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The researchers suggest that this is because antioxidants from the diet or supplements aren’t getting to the right place in the cell, where ROS are produced and accumulate, rendering them useless.  However, they note the successes of antioxidants that have been modified in such a way that they are targeted to a specific cellular location- the sausage-shaped energy factories called mitochondria.

They also propose a mechanism for the tumor-accelerating properties of dietary antioxidants. Certain cellular proteins that have tumor suppressive properties are actually activated by ROS; therefore decreasing ROS prevents their activation and subsequent action. Furthermore, some tumor promoting proteins are attenuated by ROS.

Interestingly, the levels of natural antioxidants are also boosted in cancer cells, which seems to be a mechanism to prevent uncontrolled damage by the high levels of ROS. They therefore suggest therapies designed to boost the levels of oxidants in cells could be beneficial. Indeed, radiotherapy and certain chemotherapies depend on ROS to kill the cells.

To conclude, the researchers suggest that inhibiting antioxidant proteins may be a useful strategy to combat cancer. Studies so far in rodent models of certain cancers have shown promise. The challenge that scientists are presented with is identifying antioxidants and pathways that are used by cancer cells, not normal cells. They therefore suggest that antioxidant profiling of tumor cells and neighboring normal cells may yield useful results that could ultimately help identify potential therapeutic targets. Read more

Boosting the immune system to treat brain cancer

A-New-Approach-for-Treating-Brain-CancerResearchers identify mechanism implicated in brain cancer and a drug that decreases brain tumor growth.

Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) have made a discovery that could lead to better treatment for patients suffering from brain cancer. Despite current treatment strategies, the median survival for patients with the most aggressive brain cancer – called glioblastoma, is 15 months. Less than five per cent of patients survive beyond five years.

HBI member V. Wee Yong, PhD and research associate Susobhan Sarkar, PhD, and their team including researchers from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and the university’s Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute, looked at human brain tumour samples and discovered that specialized immune cells in brain tumour patients are compromised. The researchers took this discovery and, in an animal model, identified a drug that is able to re-activate those immune cells and reduce brain tumour growth, thereby increasing the lifespan of mice two to three times. Their discovery will be published December 8th in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

Our brains normally contain specialized cells, called microglia, that defend against injury or infection. “Microglia are the brain’s own dedicated immune system,” explains Yong. “And in this study, we have formally demonstrated for the first time that these cells are compromised in living brain tumour patients.” As with other forms of cancer, brain tumours start as individual stem-like cells – called brain tumour initiating cells (BTICs). These cells quickly divide and grow, eventually forming a mass, or tumour. Yong and his team have discovered that the tumour disables microglia, permitting the rapid proliferation of BTICs, which ultimately leads to brain tumour growth.

“We refer to this as the battle for the brain, in which early on in the disease, the microglia are trying to destroy the brain tumour initiating cells,” says Yong. “But over the course of time, the tumour disables the microglia and we start to see more initiating cells and more rapid tumour growth. We have sought to tip the battle in favour of the brain to suppress the tumour.”

In addition to discovering this mechanism, Yong and Sarkar also identified a drug – amphotericin B (AmpB) – to reactivate microglia that in an animal model, showed a significant reduction in brain tumour growth. “This drug was able to re-activate the disabled microglia,” says Sarkar, “thus restoring the body’s natural defense mechanisms and restricting the growth of brain tumour initiating cells.”

The drug they identified is a powerful agent that is already used clinically to treat severe fungal infections of the brain and spinal cord. “It’s a rather harsh medication,” says Yong. “But we have demonstrated that this drug can be used in very small doses where it is not only well tolerated, but it is also effective in re-programming microglia.” Yong and Sarkar hope this discovery will lead to clinical trials and ultimately to a new standard of care for brain tumour patients.

The finding has already garnered attention from researchers across Canada, including internationally recognized brain tumour scientist and neurosurgeon Dr. James Rutka. “This research is highly significant as it implies that a commercially available drug, amphotericin B, which has never been used before for patients with gliomas, may be a novel treatment to consider in future trials of patients with this frequently lethal cancer,” says Dr. Rutka, Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto.

The funding was provided by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions/Alberta Cancer Foundation. V. Wee Yong is a Canada Research Chair in Neuroimmunology.

Source: Innovations Report

Treat snoring to avoid deadly heart failure

snoring

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea have the same early cardiovascular damage as diabetics, according to research presented at EUROECHO and other Imaging Modalities 2012. The study ¹ was presented by Dr Raluca Mincu from Bucharest, Romania.

EUROECHO and other Imaging Modalities 2012 is the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) ², a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)3.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder that has been associated with cardiovascular disease. OSA increases the risk of hypertension, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, stroke, sudden cardiac death and heart failure. Dr Mincu said: “There are not enough studies in the medical literature on early cardiovascular dysfunction in patients with OSA, when active steps can be taken to prevent progression to heart failure.” She added: “Because OSA leads to so many cardiovascular disorders, we compared early cardiovascular dysfunction in OSA patients and patients with diabetes mellitus, which is a typical risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

The study assessed endothelial and arterial function in 20 patients with moderate to severe OSA (and no diabetes), 20 patients with treated type 2 diabetes mellitus (matched for age, sex and cardiovascular risk factors), and 20 healthy controls (age and sex matched). In all subjects, arterial function was assessed by intima-media thickness (IMT). Arterial stiffness was measured by young elastic modulus, beta stiffness index, arterial compliance, first systolic peak and second systolic peak. Endothelial function was assessed by flow mediated dilatation (FMD).

Dr Mincu said: “Patients with moderate to severe OSA had endothelial dysfunction and higher arterial stiffness than controls, and their results were similar to patients with diabetes mellitus. This suggests that OSA is associated with a high risk for cardiovascular disease.” She added: “Patients in the OSA and diabetes groups had a higher intima-media thickness, which shows that their arteries are remodelled in a pathological way.”

All five parameters of arterial stiffness were significantly higher in the OSA and diabetes mellitus groups compared to controls. FMD was lower in these groups, meaning they had poorer endothelial function than controls.

Dr Mincu said: “Patients should realise that behind snoring there can be a serious cardiac pathology and they should get referred to a sleep specialist. If they are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, they are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and need to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle to reduce that risk.” She added: “Although OSA treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is inconvenient – it requires sleeping with a mask – patients should use it because it can reverse the parameters measured in our study.”

Dr Mincu concluded: “Our study is a signal for cardiologists, pneumologists and general practitioners to work together to actively diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, administer the appropriate treatment (CPAP) and assess arterial function. This will help avoid progression of early cardiovascular dysfunction through to heart failure, the final stage of heart disease.”

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¹ Obstructive sleep apnea determines endothelial dysfunction and increased arterial stiffness, similarly with diabetes mellitus (abstract 50318)

² About the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI):
The European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) is a registered branch of the ESC. Its aim is to promote excellence in clinical diagnosis, research, technical development and education in cardiovascular ultrasound and other imaging modalities in Europe. It was formerly called the European Association of Echocardiography (EAE).

³ About the European Society of Cardiology (ESC): The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) represents more than 75,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. Its mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

Source: Innovations Report

Mental Illness Associated With Shorter Lifespan More Than Heavy Smoking

Mental Illness

Approximately 9.6 million American adults have been diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI), and a new study indicates that this could have a bigger impact on lifespan than smoking cigarettes, due to an increased risk of suicide and other high-risk behaviors. A team of researchers led by Seena Fazel of Oxford University came to this conclusion following a meta-analysis of over 400 papers. Their full analysis was published in World Psychiatry

The average lifespan in the US and UK is 76.4 and 79.5, respectively. Smoking heavily can take an average of 8-10 years off of that time. However, mental illness and the tendency for suicide and other high-risk behavior including substance abuse can reduce the average lifespan by 10-20 years. The meta-analysis considered over 400 papers and ultimately used 20 papers to compare 20 different mental illnesses in a total of 1.7 million people and over 250,000 fatalities. Where longevity is concerned, certain mental illnesses are on par with smoking a pack or more a day.

“There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviors are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide,” explained Fazel in a press release. “The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor.”

Of course, not all illnesses had equal risk. Those with bipolar disorder have an average lifespan decreased by 9-20 years. Schizophrenia is 10-20 years, depression is 7-11, and those who abuse drugs and alcohol could have their lives reduced by as much as 9-24 years.

A lesser known aspect of mental illness is the profound physical effects it can have. The total breadth of physical ailments is quite extensive, but it spans metabolic disorders, respiratory disease, sexual disorders, cardiovascular disease, and even pregnancy complications. Mental illness can exacerbate certain physical ailments, as they are less likely to seek appropriate medical care.

However, Fazel believes this unfortunate trend can be reversed: “All of this can be changed. There are effective drug and psychological treatments for mental health problems. We can improve mental health and social care provision. That means making sure people have straightforward access to health care and appropriate jobs and meaningful daytime activities. It’ll be challenging, but it can be done.” He also adds that mental and physical health should be treated hand in hand, and not as two separate entities. Considerable money has been spent researching and educating the public about the dangers of tobacco, and Fazel believes a similar approach should be taken with mental health.

“People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society,” Fazel continues. “This work emphasizes how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate healthcare and advice, which is not always the case. We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking.” Full article

Source IFL Health and Medicine / Photo Credit: Porsche Brosseau via flickr

Lack of sleep alters human gene activity

Research from the University of Surrey has found that as little as one week of inadequate sleep is enough to alter the activity of hundreds of human genes.

Latest research from the University of Surrey has found that as little as one week of inadequate sleep is enough to alter the activity of hundreds of human genes. The research monitored the activity of all genes of the human genome and found that inadequate sleep (less than 6 hours a night) affects the activity of over 700 of our genes. These included genes which are linked to controlling inflammation, immunity, and the response to stress.

Furthermore, the research shows that inadequate sleep reduced the number of genes that normally peak and wane in expression throughout the 24-hour day from 1,855 to 1,481. The authors found that the number of genes affected by sleep deprivation was seven times higher after a week of insufficient sleep.
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