Tuesday, May 27, 2008

USDA Study Shows Plant Sterols Lower Cholesterol

People already eating a low-fat diet to reduce cholesterol might lower it more dramatically by consuming a soybean extract with high levels of substances called plant sterols, according to preliminary new research. Volunteers in the research study consumed the soybean sterols as an ingredient in low- and reduced-fat salad dressings.

"The research is preliminary but offers new evidence that soybean and other plant extracts containing sterols can increase the cholesterol-lowering benefits of a healthy low-fat diet," said Floyd P. Horn, Administrator of the Agricultural Research Service. "People who want to reduce their cholesterol through diet may see better results by including low-fat foods having added sterols as part of their low-fat diet."

The study's lead researcher, chemist Joseph T. Judd of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD., presented the findings on April 18th 2008 at the Experimental Biology 2000 meeting in San Diego. Judd led the study at ARS' Belstville Human Nutrition Research Center in 1999.

Horn said cholesterol reductions nearly doubled in the study's 53 men and women volunteers when their low-fat diet included two daily servings (4 tablespoons total) of salad dressing containing soybean sterols. The volunteers consumed the sterols--2.2 grams or about ½ teaspoon--daily for three weeks of the six-week study period.

Plant sterols are ingredients in a number of plants and fat-based foods on the market including salad dressings. Potential health benefits of plant sterols, including cholesterol reduction, have been studied for decades. Judd said the Beltsville study was unique in examining plant sterols as part of a tightly controlled low-fat diet because most studies have looked at sterol effects in diets higher in fat. In other words, the effects of plant sterols would be expected to make some impact on a diet high in fat and where cholesterol levels were high as a result. The Beltsville study demonstrated the power of plant sterols more dramatically because it showed that the soybean extracts could lower cholesterol of people already consuming a heart-healthy diet.

Sterol esters like the ones used in the study lower cholesterol in two possible ways: By limiting its intestinal absorption, and by binding to bile in the intestines and causing bile to be excreted, thus forcing the liver to have to use up more cholesterol in order to make more bile.

The volunteers began the study with their levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol in the mildly elevated range. For six weeks, they ate all their meals at the Beltsville center. For three of those weeks, their daily diet included the addition of 2.2 grams of soybean sterols as an ingredient in salad dressing. On the low fat diet alone, without plant sterols, the volunteers' total and "bad" cholesterol levels dropped 7.3 and 8.4 percent, respectively. With the sterols, the reductions nearly doubled: 14.1 and 18.2 percent respectivelly.

"I was surprised at the magnitude of the effect," said Judd. "And, the volunteers' levels of 'good' (HDL) cholesterol stayed the same."

Overall fat intake in the study diet amounted to 32 percent of total calories.

Of note, five of the 53 volunteers lowered their cholesterol only during the part of the study that included sterol esters. "Many people with high cholesterol," Judd explained, "do not respond to a low-fat diet alone and rely on cholesterol-lowering drugs. The question is, could dietary plant sterols also help these kinds of people?"

Judd conducted the study with chemist Beverly Clevidence, who leads the center's Phytonutrients Laboratory, along with physiologist David Baer of the Diet and Human Performance Laboratory, and nutrition scientists Shirley Chen and Gert Meijer of Lipton.

The plant sterols used in the study are present in low concentrations in many raw and refined vegetable-based foods including vegetable oils. A typical Western diet provides approximately 0.25 g of plant sterol per day.

"It would be impractical to try to consume 2.2 grams a day of sterols from refined oils or other foods," Judd noted. A more practical way to get the levels of plant sterols used in the study is to supplement.

Source: www.ars.usda.gov

Thursday, May 22, 2008

China Adopts Western Diet; Birth Defects and Cancer on the Rise

According to state-run media reports in China, rates of breast cancer and birth defects are on the rise there, largely due to the increasing adoption of a Western-style diet and a boom in coal mining, respectively.

Citing an article in the "China Daily," rates of breast cancer in Shanghai have increased by 31 percent in the last 10 years, to a current rate of 55 per 100,000 women. Rates in Beijing have increased by 23 percent over the same period, up to 45 per 100,000.

Concurrently, the number of obese Chinese has reached 60 million. While that is less than five percent of the population (compared with 30 percent in the United States), it is nevertheless equivalent to the entire population of France.

"Unhealthy lifestyles are mostly to blame for the growing numbers," explained Qiao Youlin of the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Among the lifestyle factors that Qiao cited are poor diets, increasing pollution, and stress. The Chinese diet has changed dramatically in the past few years, as people have increasingly adopted the high-fat, high-junk food diet common in the West and begun rejecting the traditional high-nutrient diet rich in vegetables, grains and soy.

At the same time, China's rapid industrialization has led to a new threat of environmental pollution. Birth defects in coal mining areas of the country have also skyrocketed in recent years, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency. The rate of birth defects in China increased by almost 50 percent between 2001 and 2006, up to 145.5 defects per 10,000 births, or nearly 1.5 percent. But according to Xinhua, the rate is substantially higher in the coal mining regions of Shanxi province.

The most common varieties of cancer in China are breast and cervical cancer.

The message to Americans is clear: our diets, our stress, and our environment are killing us. While we may not be able to do much about work or family stress or our environment, we can at least begin eating more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and less of the calorie-rich, nutrient-depleted, highly processed junk foods. Additionally, since Westernized farming methods are partly responsible for a toxic environment, and since the same methods result in crops that are nutrient deficient, it is imperative that we supplement the diet with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that make up for what is lacking in our diets.

An article published in the November 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled, How Phytochemicals Help Fight Disease, stated, “Detailed studies at the biochemical and even molecular level are providing new information about the role phytochemicals, the active compounds in dietary fruits and vegetables, play in preventing, and sometimes treating malignant disease.” The article went on to quote Dr. Pamela Crowell of Indiana University’s School of Medicine, who said, “It would be impossible to achieve therapeutic levels [of phytonutrients] by altering the diet alone. For example, limonene is present only in orange peel, not in the rest of the fruit or juice. We worked out how many oranges you would have to eat [daily] in order to get the needed therapeutic levels of limonene. The answer came out to be about 400.”

The conclusion? Eat right, yes. But supplement the diet with phytochemicals as added protection.
To view two high-powered phytochemical products, go here:

...and here...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Soy Isoflavones Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

A new study suggests that women with high blood levels of an estrogen-like compound found in soy seem to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers found that among more than 24,000 middle-aged and older Japanese women, those with the highest levels of the soy compound, genistein, were only one-third as likely as other women to develop breast cancer over 10 years.

Genistein is one of the major isoflavones, a group of plant compounds found in soybeans, chick peas and other legumes that are structurally similar to the hormone estrogen, and are believed to bind to estrogen receptors on body cells and displace strong estrogenic hormones. The stronger estrogenic hormones, such as the ones metabolized through certain liver pathways, can contribute to cancer, while the weaker estrogens metabolized through other hepatic pathways can be protective against cancer. It is believed that certain soy compounds like genistein can displace the stronger estrogens with the protective less-estrogenic compounds.

The new findings, reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, suggest that past speculations about soy contributing to tumor development and growth is, in fact, not the case in women.

"This finding suggests a risk-reducing rather than a risk-enhancing effect of isoflavones on breast cancer, even at relatively high concentrations within the range achievable from dietary intake alone," write the researchers, led by Dr. Motoki Iwasaki of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo.

The study included 24,226 women ages 40 to 69 who gave blood samples and completed a dietary assessment, and then were followed for an average of 10 years. In that period of time, 144 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. When Iwasaki's team separated the women based on their blood levels of genistein at the beginning of the study, they found that the one-quarter with highest levels were 65 percent less likely to develop breast cancer compared to the quarter of women with the lowest genistein levels.

Iwaski stressed that most past studies on soy isoflavones and breast cancer have used dietary questionnaires. "In contrast, our study used a direct measurement of plasma isoflavone levels, which provides not only an index of intake but also of the absorption and metabolism of isoflavone," he said.

Together with past studies, the findings suggest that a high isoflavone intake may help lower breast cancer risk.

SOURCES: Journal of Clinical Oncology, April 1, 2008, and Reuters Health.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Study says Black Cohosh stops Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Extract of black cohosh may halt the growth of breast cancer cells, according to a new study published in the journal Phytomedicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Cimicifugae racemosae rhizome, also known as black cohosh, is a plant in the buttercup family that is native to eastern North America, ranging from central Georgia in the south to southern Ontario in the north, and as far west as Missouri. Black cohosh has a long history of use as a traditional medicine for gynecological problems, kidney problems and sore throat, and is most commonly used in to help relieve the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability and nervousness, and vaginal dryness. It has also been known to induce labor.

In the current study, researchers applied extracts of black cohosh to breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting. Growth of cancer cells was inhibited in cell lines that had the extract added, apparently due to an increase in programmed cell death (apoptosis). The researchers linked the cancer-inhibiting effects of black cohosh extract to its content of triterpene glycosides. It is these same compounds that are thought to exhibit the regulatory effects on Luteinizing Hormone (LH), high levels of which are associated with menopausal symptoms. In addition, phytoestrogens in black cohosh bind to estrogen receptors, producing a weak estrogen effect, while other constituents promote mild relaxation. It is this weak estrogenic effect that is thought to also be associated with lowered cancer risk, since excess estrogens are linked to various cancers.

"Taken together, these results indicate that the triterpene glycoside actein and related compounds may be useful in the prevention and treatment of human breast cancer," the researchers wrote.

Go here to read Dr. Jeffrey Bland’s position paper on the safety of Black Cohosh. http://www.metagenics.com/pdf/pp_black_cohosh.pdf

Go here to view Metagenics’ black cohosh products. http://www.metagenics.com/products/detail.asp?pid=176

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Need Input for Fall Seminar

Dear Practitioners,

For the first time in over 14 years of hosting and organizing seminars, I'm kind of at a loss for who and what to cover this fall. The two past Dr. Jay Lombard seminars were so successful and well-received that it's kind of a difficult act to follow. So I thought I would poll all of you to see if you had some preferences.

Here are the seminar speakers that are possibly available for next fall. These are subject to availability:

Please click an option in the poll section in the side bar. Thanks for your input. It's my desire to bring seminars to our area that are relevant and helpful. I appreciate your help.