Berries for Inflammation and Osteoarthritis Treatment

How might berries improve human health, healthy aging, and quality of life?  Maybe, due to their anti-inflammatory effects, since inflammation can be an underlying contributing factor in the “development, progression, and complication” of a number of chronic diseases. Higher intake of anthocyanins, the brightly-colored pigments in berries, has been associated with anti-inflammatory effects, which may be “a key component” underlying the associated reduction in chronic disease risk. But these are all just associations. You can’t prove cause and effect until you put it to the test.

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that blueberry smoothies could turn off inflammation genes. (This is measuring the expression of pro-inflammatory genes in white blood cells taken from individuals before and after six weeks of drinking placebo smoothies with no blueberries.) They got worse over time. Six weeks later, more inflammatory chemicals pouring out, whereas the blueberry group started out about the same at week zero, but six weeks of daily blueberries and, the expression of inflammatory genes went down.

“In addition to attenuating inflammation,” they demonstrate that “blueberry consumption was able to significantly decrease the levels of free radicals” in their bloodstream: no change in the placebo group, but after six weeks of blueberry smoothies, the amount of free radicals in their blood was  extinguished by half. Okay, but does all that antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power actually translate into clinical benefits? For example  what is the effect of blueberry consumption on recovery from excessive weight lifting-induced muscle damage?

A randomized crossover study: a blueberry smoothie or antioxidant-matched placebo smoothie five and 10 hours prior to, and then 12 and 36 hours after, exercise-induced muscle damage. The smoothies were about a cup and a half of frozen strawberries, a banana, and apple juice, or without the berries, but dextrose and vitamin C added to match it for calories and antioxidant power. Even so, the blueberries worked better at mopping up free radicals. Here’s the oxidative stress without the blueberries: it goes up and stays up. But, with the blueberries, it comes right down. Yeah, but what we care about is the recovery of muscle strength, so you can jump right back into training. Same drop in peak torque 12 hours later, but a day later, significantly faster restoration of peak muscle strength, demonstrating that the ingestion of blueberries can accelerate recovery — something that may be especially relevant to athletes who compete over successive days.

That’s all well and good, but what about using berries to treat inflammatory diseases like arthritis?  Yes, they may have protective effects against arthritis in a rat — significantly reducing “paw volume”— how swollen their paw gets when you inject it with some inflammatory irritant. But there had never been any human arthritis berry studies, until now.

Remember that amazing study where strawberries alone could reverse the progression of precancerous lesions? The strawberries were dramatically downregulating pro-inflammatory genes. Give strawberries to diabetics for six weeks, and not only does their diabetes get better, their C-reactive protein levels, a marker of systemic inflammation, drops 18%. Even just a single meal can help. Have people eat a largely unhealthy breakfast, and the level of inflammatory markers goes up over the next six hours, but less so if you added just five large strawberries to the meal.

So, can “strawberries improve pain and inflammation” in confirmed knee osteoarthritis? No fair that the title ruined the suspense, but yes, osteoarthritis patients randomized to get like a pint and a half of strawberries a day for 12 weeks and yeah, certain inflammatory markers plummeted on the strawberries. But did they actually feel any better? Significant reductions in constant pain, intermittent pain, and total pain. The “first clinical study on the effects of…berries” on human arthritis, and found that a “simple dietary intervention, the addition of berries to one’s diet, may have a significant impact on pain, inflammation, and overall quality of life in obese adults with [osteoarthritis].”

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6udzAvvacQ#action=share

Top 5 Foods That Help You Fight Coronavirus

corona_virus

Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to prevent getting the novel (new) SARS coronavirus that leads to COVID-19. The good news is, it’s a lot like the common flu and for most healthy people, recovery is quick and it’s not a big deal.  The bad news is, it spreads easily, it has at least 10 times the mortality rate of the regular flu, and we don’t have a vaccine yet.

So, if you are immunocompromised, older, working with the sick, or just interested in boosting your immune system, you might be interested to know about a study back in 2005 that found that the presence of nitric oxide significantly inhibited the replication cycle of SARS coronavirus. In other words, nitric oxide disrupts the virus’ ability to grow.

What Is Nitric Oxide?

Nitric oxide is used by the body for cell signaling, blood vessel dilation to promote better blood flow and there’s evidence that it helps lower blood pressure and improve brain function. How can we get more nitric oxide? We can boost our nitric oxide simply by the foods we eat.

Top 5 Nitric Oxide Sources

Here are the top 5 sources of plant-based nitric oxide, so you can better defend against coronavirus if it ever enters your body. Why wait for a man-made vaccine when we can have, as Hippocrates put it, “food be [our] medicine.”

  1. Beetroot Juice – Beets are the king of raising nitric oxide levels. Beets have a lot of nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide. According to one study, consuming a beetroot juice supplement raised nitric oxide levels in the subjects by 21% in 45 minutes. Another study showed drinking just 3.4 ounces of beetroot juice every day significantly raised nitric oxide levels in men and women. 3.4 ounces is about what TSA lets you take on the plane for carry-on liquids so it’s definitely not much.
  2. Garlic – Maybe this is why people have taken garlic for colds for centuries. Garlic boosts levels of nitric oxide by activating nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme involved in the conversion of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine. So if you’re taking arginine supplements, garlic will help turn more of it into nitric oxide. One study showed that aged garlic extract temporarily increased blood nitric oxide levels by up to 40% within an hour and another study found that aged garlic extract also helped maximize nitric oxide absorption by the body.
  3. Leafy Greens – Green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, arugula, and celery are packed with nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in your body. One study found that regularly eating green leafy vegetables was associated with healthy levels of nitric oxide in the body so this is the single best way to keep elevated levels of nitric oxide in your body. Time to start eating more salads!
  4. Citrus Fruits – Or anything high in vitamin C. But of course oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit are all excellent sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a critical role in health and raises levels of nitric oxide by increasing its bioavailability and maximizing absorption. Research also shows that it may increase levels of nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme necessary for the production of nitric oxide.
  5. Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, cashews, walnuts, chia seed, flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seeds have a lot of arginine, a type of amino acid that assists in the production of nitric oxide. Research suggests that getting arginine from foods like nuts and seeds in your diet can help increase nitric oxide levels in your body. For example, a large study involving 2,771 people showed that a higher intake of arginine-rich foods was associated with higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood. Another study found that supplementing with arginine increased levels of nitric oxide after just two weeks.

Now here’s our natural drug disclaimer (just like the one’s on TV). Warning: Eating more of the foods listed in our Top 5 Foods to Fight Coronavirus is not only going to help with coronavirus, but elevated nitric oxide levels may lower your blood pressure, improve circulation, and improve mental cognition.

The Whole package-Synergistic effects

This below is an Abstract from Article that shows that healing and protecting properties of the carotenoids from tomatoes working in the best way when those  are in the combination, as God created them!

“For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD Isaiah 66.2

Synergistic effects

Lycopene is the major carotenoid in tomatoes. Tomatoes contain a matrix of many bioactive components, including vitamin C, vitamin E, other carotenoids (a-, β-, γ- carotene, lutein), and flavonoids. Their synergistic interactions, when used in combination, may be responsible for the observed beneficial effects of tomato-based products. This study investigated the synergistic antioxidant activity of lycopene in combination with β-carotene, vitamin E, and lutein. A liposome system was used to test the synergistic antioxidant activity. The carotenoid mixtures were more efficient in protecting liposome from oxidation than the individual carotenoid .Research Article

Authors: Shi, John | Kakuda, Yukio | Yeung, David

Are Multivitamins Just a Waste of Money?

About one in three Americans take a multivitamin. Is that helpful, harmful, or just a harmless waste of money? In 2011, the Iowa Women’s Health Study reported that multivitamin use was associated with a higher risk of total mortality, meaning that women who took a multivitamin appeared to be paying to live shorter lives. But this was just an observational study—researchers didn’t split women up into two groups and put half on multivitamins to see who lived longer. All they did was follow a large population of women over time, and found that those that happened to be taking multivitamins were more likely to die. But maybe they were taking multivitamins because they were sick. The researchers didn’t find any evidence of that, but ideally we’d have a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial, where thousands were followed for over a decade, with half given a multivitamin and half a placebo. That’s what we got the following year in 2012 with theHarvard Physicians’ Study II. And after a decade, the researchers found no effect on heart attack, stroke, or mortality.

The accompanying editorial concluded that multivitamins are a distraction from effective cardiovascular disease prevention. The message needs to remain simple and focused: heart disease can be largely prevented by healthy lifestyle changes.

The researchers did, however, find that for men with a history of cancer, the multivitamin appeared to be protective against getting cancer again, though there was no significant difference in cancer mortality or cancer protection in those who’ve never had cancer before. Still, that’s pretty exciting. It is just one study, though. Ideally we’d have maybe 20 of these placebo-controlled trials and then compile all the results together. That’s what we got in 2013—a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that analyzed twenty-one trials and more than 90,000 individuals. The analysis found no influence on mortality either way. Some found more cancer mortality, some found less cancer mortality, but all in all it was a wash.

And that was heralded as good news. After the Iowa Women’s Health Study came out we were worried multivitamins could be harming millions of people, but instead they don’t appear to have much effect either way. The accompanying editorial asked whether meta-analyses trump observational studies. The Iowa Women’s Health Study followed tens of thousands of women for nearly 20 years. What if we put all the studies together, the big observational studies along with the experimental trials? And that’s what we got in December 2013. The reviewfor the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, highlighted in my video, Should We Take a Multivitamin? found that multivitamins appear to offer no consistent evidence of benefit for heart disease, cancer, or living longer.

But aren’t vitamins and minerals good for us? One explanation for this result could be that our bodies are so complex that the effects of supplementing with only one or two components is generally ineffective or actually does harm. Maybe we should get our nutrients in the way nature intended, in food.

The accompanying editorial to the December 2013 review concluded that enough is enough. We should stop wasting our money on vitamin and mineral supplements. Americans spend billions on vitamin and mineral supplements. A better investment in health would be eating more fruits and vegetables. Imagine if instead we spent those billions on broccoli?

I’ve previously addressed multivitamins in my videos Are Multivitamins Good For You? and Multivitamin Supplements and Breast Cancer (with a follow-up in my Q&A Is multivitamin use really associated to an increased risk of breast cancer?). I also touched on potential risks in Dietary Theory of Alzheimer’s.

With the exception of vitamins D and B12 (Vitamin Supplements Worth Taking), we should strive to get our nutrients from produce, not pills.

What about fish oil supplements? Check out Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?

-Michael Greger, M.D.

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. Continue reading