Oct
01
2004

Studies Show Ginseng Works

As early as 25 A.D. a medical journal praised ginseng “the imperial herb” because of its nontoxic and rejuvenating properties. In the meantime 16-31% of Americans have consumed ginseng in the hope to increase their health and wellness. It is mostly the root of ginseng, which is used for medical purposes, and it is sold either whole, as a powder, or as a water- or alcohol based extract.
Among the many medically active ingredients, the ginsenosides are the most intensely studied substances.
There are well designed clinical studies which have tested ginseng’s ability to modulate diabetes, heart disease, mental function and physical performance. In the meantime there is enough evidence, which shows that Panax quinquefolius (its botanical name) can reduce blood glucose in individuals with and without type 2 diabetes.
Another study examined ginseng and its influence on blood pressure readings. Patients with type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes) who received a dosage of 3 grams daily over a period of 8 weeks achieved a reduction in their blood pressure readings, making it safe to take and also as an adjunct in the management of blood pressure.

Cognitive performance may be influenced positively by ginseng, however it is dependent on the dose, which is used. A lower dose of 200 mg reduced the mental performance, whereas a dose of 400 mg significantly improved accuracy in a demanding test.
Ginseng has not found to be effective to improve physical performance or be a weapon against fatigue.
In a 12- week trial patients received ginseng as a general supplement together with multivitamins or multivitamins alone. Ginseng significantly improved the quality of life, which could not be achieved with multivitamins alone.

Studies Show Ginseng Works

Studies Show Ginseng Works

Taking all the findings together, it is evident, that ginseng has beneficial properties for patients with diabetes, and it is also useful to improve cognitive function. Ginseng may reduce blood pressure readings, but more studies are needed. The blood pressure reducing effect seems marginal and ginseng, if taken for this purpose, should be used only as an adjunctive treatment along with the regular medication. As far as physical performance is concerned, it seems to be of little use. It does not show any interaction with prescription drugs, and for this reason it can be considered safe for general use.

More info on:

Diabetes: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/diabetes/type-2-diabetes/

Heart disease: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/

Alzheimer’s disease: http://nethealthbook.com/neurology-neurological-disease/alzheimers-dementia-and-delirium/

Reference: The Whitehall-Robins Report, September 2004, Vol.13,No.3

Last edited Oct. 27, 2014

Sep
01
2004

Stop That Heart Attack

There is a window of opportunity for the patient who is rushed to hospital with a heart attack.

To be precise: if the patient is brought to hospital without delay, and there are changes in the ECG, which traces the heartbeat, and there are changes that point to the possibility of a heart attack, there is a chance to administer medication that prevents blood clots. If these “clot busters” are administered within one hour, as many as 25 % of heart attacks in the making can be aborted. This procedure is called “fibrinolysis”.

Dr. Paul Armstrong, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, explains, that the aborted heart attack (or “aborted MI”) is a new term in cardiology. If treatment is received early, the patient will avoid heart muscle damage. Even if the treatment with the anti-clotting medication is given after only two hours, the patients still have a more favorable outcome. Patients with aborted heart attacks also have smaller infarcts than those who go on to have a full-blown MI (or heart attack). Dr. Armstrong points out that it is important to not only watch out for known high-risk factors (previous coronary artery bypass surgery, hypertension and diabetes), but also to pay close attention to treating the patient early.

Stop That Heart Attack

Stop That Heart Attack

More info on heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Reference: The Medical Post, July 27,2004, Vol.40, No. 29,pg.8

Last edited October 26, 2014

Jul
01
2004

Flu Shots For Young Children And Pregnant Moms

It may be summer, but next winter will be there and along with it the threat of flus.
Flu shots are offered in fall, and especially people with health problems (like asthma or diabetes, just to name a few) and seniors have been the primary target groups for public vaccination programs. U.S. health authorities now have also added young children under 2 to the program.

This step has been taken, as babies and young children are at a substantially increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has just release a new recommendation, that all women who are pregnant during the influenza season should get flu shots. Pregnant women who contract influenza frequently have an increased rate of complications, including pneumonia, tachycardia (rapid heart beat), and contractions.
Even though most pregnant women are young and healthy, their hospital admission rate during the flu season is similar to what you see in the elderly.
Statistics show that generally only 12% of women with uncomplicated pregnancies get vaccinated. With the threat of a severe strain of influenza A, which showed its aggressive and widespread activity last winter, it can be expected that there will be an increased demand for flu shots this year.

Flu Shots For Young Children And Pregnant Moms

Flu Shots For Young Children And Pregnant Moms

References: The Medical Post, May 18, 2004, pg. 8 and 9

Last edited December 8, 2012

Jun
01
2004

Take A Deep Breath For Insulin

Patients with diabetes sometimes find it difficult to face the daily insulin injections.
Studies by Dr. Robert A. Gerber from Pfizer Global Research and Development in Groton, Mass. are showing that improvements in the lab tests for the diabetes marker hemoglobin A1C were similar for patients who received insulin inhalations to those patients who received the conventional injections.

The ease of use, comfort, as well as the overall satisfaction of inhalation as opposed to injection rated high. Long-term improvement in the control of blood sugar is maintained up to the 1 year follow-up.
In the future the patients may very well have the choice between inhalation and injection of insulin. Even though the 1 year follow-up results are in, longer follow-up studies are needed, before insulin shots become a thing of the past.

More info on diabetes: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/diabetes/type-2-diabetes/

Based on Diabetes Care 2004; 27:1318-1323

Take A Deep Breath For Insulin

Take A Deep Breath For Insulin

Comment on Nov. 5, 2012: Pfizer marketed the inhalable insulin under the brand name “Exubera”. It was available in the US from Sept. 2006 onward after FDA approval. The inhalable insulin was proven to be as effective as the injectable insulin, but the cost of Exubera was prohibitive and Pfizer had to discontinue the production after October of 2007 as it was unlikely to be cost-effective, just 1 year and 1month after its initial release.

Last edited October 26, 2014

May
01
2004

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Can Be Postponed

In a well-controlled study that was published earlier in 2004 Dr. Johanna M. Seddon

has shown that age-related blindness (AMD) is caused from an inflammation in the blood vessels, which is associated with an elevated blood marker, called C-reactive protein (CRP). The authors of this study also showed that the dry form of AMD would tend to deteriorate with age and/or from smoking cigarettes into the more serious wet form, a common cause of blindness.

The inflammatory component of cardiovascular disease is known to be controlled by the use of aspirin (ASA) or the statins, medication that is known to lower the bad LDL cholesterol. It is with this background that the author of the study that I am reviewing here, Dr. Jacque L. Duncan from the University of California at San Francisco, has examined the effects of ASA and of statins on AMD. 326 patients with AMD (204 with dry AMD, 104 with wet AMD from blood vessels forming underneath the retina and 18 with geographic atrophy) were followed between January 1990 and March 2003. Patients were at least 60 years old or older and followed at the San Francisco VA Hospital Eye Clinic.
Dr. Duncan found that patients with blindness due to wet AMD used ASA or statins significantly less than patients with stable AMD. Moreover, he found that patients who had AMD and took statins were 49% less likely to develop wet AMD and if they took ASA the were 37% less likely to develop wet AMD.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Can Be Postponed

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Can Be Postponed

The study also suggests that there is a link between the inflammatory process that leads to heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and the further deterioration to blindness when dry AMD is not treated on the other hand. The notion that inflammation is the missing link in both of these processes is a relatively new finding.

More information about Macular Degeneration here.

Based on article by Dr. Jacque L. Duncan in the American Journal of Ophthalmology 2004;137: 615-624.

Last edited October 26, 2014

Mar
01
2004

Ankle Blood Pressure Reveals Diabetic Problems

One of the complications of diabetes is that ity leads to clogged arteries from peripheral artery disease and this can lead to heart attacks, strokes and circulation problems in the legs.

Recommendations were recently given to physicians in the December edition of the medical journal Diabetes Care that circulation problems in diabetics need to be monitored more stringently to avoid needless amputations.

Medically these circulation problems that affect mainly lower legs and feet are known as “peripheral vascular disease” (or PVD for short). PVD can be detected by the physician checking for ankle pulses. Another valuable and very simple test is to measure the blood pressure in the arm and at each ankle (using the stethoscope just under the inside (medial) ankle bone. If there is a major discrepancy between the arm and ankle blood pressure or if the ankle pulse is missing, this would be a sign of possible PVD. With a diabetic patient it would still be important to get the hemoglobin A1C under control through exercise, a low glycemic diet and possibly anti-diabetic medication. But the patient likely would have to be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon for further testing in order to find out whether there would be hardening of the arteries with circulation problems in the lower leg, the ankle or foot.

Ankle Blood Pressure Reveals Diabetic Problems

Ankle Blood Pressure Reveals Diabetic Problems

Dr. Peter Sheehan, the director of the Diabetes Foot & Ankle Center at the New York University school of medicine, stated that many patients and doctors overlook how frequent this condition is. About 33% of diabetic patients who are older than 50 years have PVD, but only a fraction know about it until it is too late. Once a patient has PVD in one of the legs there is a 4-fold risk of getting a heart attack or a stroke, because the hardening of the arteries is happening simultaneously in all of the body’s arteries. If the blood pressure is normal at the ankle, Dr. Sheehan recommends to check it again in 5 years.

Who should have the blood pressure check at the ankle? Here is a table that summarizes Dr. Sheehan’s recommendations.

Which diabetic needs the ankle blood pressure check?
High risk group: Remarks or more detail:
Anyone with leg PVD* symptoms legs tired or hurting when walking
Young diabetics
with other risks
smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes present for more than 10 years are such risk factors
diabetics 50 years of age and over particularly when the hemoblobin A1C is high and other risk factors are present
*PVD peripheral vascular disease

Why is it so important to screen for circulation problems in the lower legs? Because this is the area where diabetics tend to get problems that often result in amputations of a foot or lower leg below the knee. With early detection of these problems and intervention by a cardiovascular surgeon often disastrous outcomes can be avoided.

More info is available at:

Diabetes: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/diabetes/type-2-diabetes/

High blood pressure: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/

Last edited October 26, 2014

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Mar
01
2004

Less Diabetes With Coffee

A Dutch Study has shown previously that coffee consumption was reducing the risk for developing diabetes. Now Dr. Salazar-Martinez and co-workers have confirmed this in a study involving even larger numbers of both men and women. This was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and the research team is from the Harvard School of Public Health, Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. A total of 41,000 men and 84,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Followup Study were followed between 12 and 18 years. 1,333 men and 4,085 women developed diabetes during the time of observation. All of the data was analyzed carefully by controlling for other factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure etc. to be certain that the only difference in the observed groups was the amount of coffee consumed.

According to the authors the gender differences are probably unimportant and may have to do with the different sample sizes. However, as the graph shows clearly, with the consumption of around 4-5 cups of coffee per day there is a significant 30 % drop in risk to develop diabetes.

The Dutch Study showed a 50% drop in risk with 7 cups or more per day and the study here suggests a similar drop with 6 cups or more.

Less Diabetes With Coffee

Less Diabetes With Coffee

Dr. Frank Hu, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, who co-authored this study stated that physicians should still recommend to patients first to exercise and to loose weight to control diabetes. It would be premature to recommend heavy coffee consumption to patients for diabetes control.

Diabetes risk decreases with coffee consumption (%reduction)
 Less Diabetes With Coffee1

This beneficial effect was also observed to a lesser extent with decaffeinated coffee, but not with tea. According to Dr. Hu caffeine, chlorogenic acid and magnesium likely play a role in the protective effect with regard to diabetes prevention. Further studies will be done to see whether diabetes patients who drink coffee have a better outcome when they develop a heart attack.

Reference: Ann Intern Med – 6-JAN-2004; 140(1): 1-8

Last edited December 8, 2012

Mar
01
2004

Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness

Up to now age-related blindness or “age-related macular degeneration” (AMD) as it is medically called, has been a mystery. The retina is the light-sensitive area of the eye similar to the film in a camera. The “macula” is that part of the retina that has the highest visual acuity. Several studies have been conducted lately regarding age-related blindness that shed more light on this important health hazard of old age, studies that one day might even lead to a cure or powerful preventative measures to avoid it from ever developing.

One such study is the one by Dr. Johanna M. Seddon and co-workers published in the Feb. 11, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Almost 1000 patients with various degrees of age-related degrees of blindness from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) were classified by the degree of their macular degeneration. I have produced the bar graphs below based on these studies.

Four groups were defined, namely those with no AMD who served as controls, those with mild AMD, those with moderate AMD and those with severe AMD who were legally blind. They suspected that an inflammatory marker in the blood stream of these patients, called C-reactive protein (CRP), might be present in the more severe cases of blindness when compared to the control group who did not have any inflammatory changes in the macula. As can be seen by the bar graph above this is exactly what the test results indicated. They also found that smokers (blue bars) tended to have slightly worse blood tests in terms of CRP (more inflammatory substances circulating in the system) within the same severity category of the age-related eye changes.

CRP (mg/L) Levels in Various Degrees of Severity of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness

Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness

When the investigators studied the risk for the highest percentile of the CRP tests within various subgroups to show AMD they found several differences as is shown in the next table. First there was a low probability to develop AMD in a person with a normal looking macula and that risk was set at 1.0 as comparison. In contrast a person with a normal looking macula who smokes has a 1.5-fold risk of developing AMD later. Patients with a moderate degree of AMD have about a 2-fold risk of getting a severe degree of AMD later (smoking or not). It seems that once the inflammatory cycle has started, the process of causing a moderate degree of AMD is so strong that the effect of smoking will not add that much in comparison.

This is the first study of this kind that has established that CRP can be used as a screening for the risk to develop AMD. CRP has already been established as a test for monitoring progress in rheumatoid arthritis or to monitor for the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.

Another study by Dr. Johanna M. Seddon and co-workers was published recently in the Archives of Ophthalmology. 261 people aged 60 years and older with established AMD were followed for 4.6 years and checked for deterioration. 101 patients had deterioration of their AMD.

Risk of Developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in Highest CRP Percentile
 Inflammatory Marker Linked To Blindness1

The authors analyzed the patients’ diet habits and found that increased fat intake was a high risk factor for deteriorating AMD. Both vegetable and animal fat had a 2-to 3-fold increased risk for deterioration of the AMD to a more severe stage (legal blindness). Fish, omega-3 fatty acid and nuts had a protective effect, but only when omega-6 fatty acid (linoleic acid) intake was low in the same group. The studies showed that the risk of age-related blindness was reduced by 40% when patients ate nuts at least once per week. The authors concluded that a “fat conscious diet” would be good for “maintaining good eye health” and at the same time be beneficial for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

The authors will do further studies to investigate potential ways of helping patients with AMD and to understand the mechanisms of the disease process better.

References: 1. JAMA 2004;291:704-710  2. Arch Ophthalmol – 01-DEC-2003; 121(12): 1728-37

Last edited December 8, 2012

Feb
01
2004

Cinnamon A Natural Insulin Booster For Diabetics

In a recent edition of the medical journal Diabetes Care an interesting article appeared regarding the healing effects of the spice cinnamon. A medical research team in Pakistan (Dr. Khan et al.) in collaberation with a U.S. research team divided a group of 60 comparable diabetics (males and females) in the age range of 45 to 55 and fed one half different concentrations of cinnamon while the other half served as a placebo control. There were three different concentrations of capsules of cinnamon given: 1g, 3 g and 6 g. The placebo control group got capsules with inert material. Here are the results:

The placebo control group showed no change in blood values. The effect documented in this table was achieved after 40 days of cinnamon exposure and was “washed out” after 20 days. Other experiments had found that the substance MHCP (methylhydroxychalcone polymer) is the active ingredient in cinnamon that stimulates insulin and also acts on insulin receptors similar to insulin.

Cinnamon A Natural Insulin Booster For Diabetics

Cinnamon A Natural Insulin Booster For Diabetics

Dr. Richard A. Anderson and his colleagues at the Human Nutrition Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture had already published a number of medical papers on the effects of cinnamon. He was the co-author of this study from the Department of Human Nutrition, NWFP Agricultural University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

Effect of cinnamon on blood values of diabetics
Blood component
investigated:
% Reduction
of blood test:
Blood sugar
level

18-29%
Triglycerides (blood
fat value)
23-30%
LDL cholesterol
(damaging cholesterol)
7-27%
Total cholesterol 12-26%
HDL cholesterol
(protective cholesterol)
unchanged

The interesting observation here is that several cardiovascular risk factors (blood sugar, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol) are simultaneously being reduced with something as simple as cinnamon powder. The authors stated that the cinnamon oil is not effective, only the cinnamon powder or a cinnamon stick dipped into tea (the water soluble component of cinnamon or MHCP). Dr. Anderson also warned not to make the mistake to eat more cinnamon buns or apple pie as there would be unhealthy amounts of sugar, starch and fat added. He suggested that the best to do instead would be to simply sprinkle cinnamon powder over whatever you are presently eating, as this will reduce the risk of getting diabetes or will reduce the risk of a heart attack in diabetics.

This article based on: “Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care – 01-DEC-2003; 26(12): 3215-8.

Here is a link to diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes).

Last edited December 8, 2012

 

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Dec
01
2003

Fat Cells Secrete Hormones That Raise Blood Pressure

Fat cells are known to secrete a number of substances that affect the lining of the arteries and that are also known to be associated with the metabolic syndrome. One of the observations that physicians were aware of for some time is that aldosterone, a hormone from the adrenal glands, is often elevated in patients with high blood pressure and obesity or people who are overweight.

Dr. Ehrhart-Bornstein and her group from the University Medical Center, Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf in Germany investigated this interaction between fat cell metabolites and the cells of the adrenal cortex in more detail. They used a tissue culture model with human adrenocortical cells (NCI-H295R). To their surprise they found two separate hormone factors that were produced by fat cells and that showed in the tissue culture system a 7-fold increase in aldosterone hormone release. As aldosterone is a mineralocorticoid hormone they called these new releasing hormones mineralocorticoid-releasing factors. Further characterization of these factors demonstrated that one was of a higher molecular structure and was heat-sensitive, the other one was smaller in size and was more heat resistant. Each factor alone lost much of the aldosterone releasing activity, but when recombined they had 93% of the original action. Synthesis of messenger RNA inside the adrenocortical cells was stimulated by a factor of 10-fold from the action of the mineralocorticoid-releasing factors. Other hormones were also somewhat stimulated such as release of cortisol by a 3-fold increase and DHEA by a 1.5-fold increase. Other known substances from fat cells were entirely ineffective in this testing system.

Fat Cells Secrete Hormones That Raise Blood Pressure

Adipose cells secreting aldosterone releasing factor

When asked how this new research might fit in with the observation that loss of fat through calorie restriction has a beneficial effect on high blood pressure, the authors commented that with less fat storage in fat cells during weight loss the production of mineralocorticoid-releasing factors would go down significantly and aldosterone would be released at a much lower rate thus decreasing blood pressure through the aldosterone/angiotensin/renin mechanism.

Nov. 12, 2003 paper on which this write-up is based: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC283571/

Last edited October 26, 2014