Oct
08
2022

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

A recent study showed that plant-based meat alternatives are healthier than the original meat dishes. This spread into various health websites on the Internet. One example is this one.

Some statistics about plant-based meat alternatives

Plant-based meat alternatives came to the market in the 1960’s. At that time, they consisted mainly of soy. Later textured vegetable protein joined soy products. Today they consist of pea protein, soy, potato, oils, various binders and flavorings to mimic the texture and flavor of meat.

The global plant-based meat market was about 5 billion USD last year. It is projected to increase by 19% from 2022 to 2030. The plant-based dairy alternatives market totaled 11 billion in 2020. The estimate is that this will grow to 32 billion in 2031.

How healthy are plant-based substitutes?

In the center of this discussion is the publication of Christopher J. Bryant from the Bath University in England. This publication reviewed 43 studies regarding plant-based substitutes regarding healthiness and environmental sustainability. In the following I am discussing the findings, particularly about health benefit of plant-based foods versus meat-based foods.

Problems with our current food consumption

There are several problems with human diseases that are transmitted from wildlife. HIV arouse from hunting of non-human primates. Rabies was transmitted in South America by vampire bats from cattle to humans. Early cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) came from contact with wild life. Finally, bats transmitted the SARS coronavirus-like virus from wild animals and live animal markets to humans. Subsequently human to human transmission caused the spread of Covid all around the world as a pandemic.

Use of antibiotics in feedlots

In order to control diseases in closely kept animal feedlots farmers feed the livestock antibiotics. This helps to contain infections, but it also poses a grave problem to humans as antibiotics become more and more resistant. Superbugs developed this way. 18% of meat imported from China was contaminated with Salmonella. 88% of those exposed to contaminated meat were resistant to at least one antibiotic. But 58% were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

A Harvard study from Boston showed in 2020 that red meat and processed red meat consumption caused 15% more heart attacks compared to those who substituted the protein source with plant-based foods. The same study also noted that the heart attack rates were about 15% less for subjects who substituted meat with plant products in comparison to meat eaters. 

Other results of the study

Several of the reviewed studies compared the nutritional profile of plant-based meat with the animal-based counterparts. Plant-based meat was significantly lower in saturated fat, and protein. However, they were significantly higher in fibre and salt. 40% of meat products were classified as ‘less healthy’. In comparison to that investigators assessed that only 14% of plant-based meat was ‘less healthy’. When saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and overall calorie content were tabulated, plant-based meat products compared favorably to meat. But salt content was often too high in plant-derived foods.

Plant-based burgers were much healthier than conventional beef-burgers, as they contained no cholesterol, less trans-fatty acids and less saturated fat. Vegetable-based food that contains pea protein is particularly valuable with regard to a high protein content.

Criticism of plant-based meat alternatives

At the present time many plant-based meat products have too much sugar and salt in it, but lack iron and vitamin B12. Various authors suggested that the food industry should add iron and vitamin B12 to their products and reduce the sugar and salt content.

Muscle synthesis

Mycoprotein is the active biochemical that builds up the protein of the muscle mass in man. Non-animal-derived dietary protein contains ample amounts of mycoprotein according to this publication. These authors investigated the ingestion of mycoprotein in a dose-response manner. They also measured insulin levels for 4 hours after ingestion of plant-derived mycoprotein. Insulin levels remain higher than normal for a sustained period.

Weight loss

A 2017 study showed that 40 grams of mycoprotein, which is the equivalent of 18 grams of protein was sufficient to lead to a robust muscle synthetic response. 60 g of mycoprotein (27 g protein) provided an optimal response regarding muscle synthesis. Gram for gram milk protein and mycoprotein were equivalent in amino acid bioavailability. Several studies examined weight loss following mycoprotein meals. One study found in overweight patients that chicken protein consumption was  higher in comparison to consumption of plant mycoprotein. The mycoprotein consuming group chose to eat 10% less calories than the chicken control group.

Greenhouse gas emissions and other factors

The publication cited above also included a lot of findings regarding how plant-derived food saves greenhouse gas emissions and other facts. For instance, the pork supply chain requires 3.3-times more fertilizer and 1.6-times more pesticides than the production of plant-derived food. What this means is that plant-derived foods are more environmentally sustainable than animal products.

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

Conclusion

Plant-derived foods have improved in the past few decades. Pea-derived plant products are now equivalent in terms of protein content to milk and meat. By eating more plant-derived food people consume less meat, which helps the environment, but also benefits the person who eats it. We know that with the consumption of a certain amount of plant-derived food less people develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. 40 grams of mycoprotein, which is the equivalent of 18 grams of protein was sufficient to lead to a robust muscle synthetic response.

Consumer beware

It is important to realize that not all is well with the list of “fake meat” and other highly processed plant-based products. Consumers must read the list of ingredients. If a product contains a laundry list of ingredients that not even an adult can pronounce and understand, it is very likely a highly processed food product that only pretends to be good for you. Should the sodium content be too high, steer away from it. High sugar content means that you put it back in the shelf. All in all, eating more plant-derived foods makes you healthier and improves the environment at the same time. But it is up to us to be discriminating colourful advertising from a nutritionally sound product.

Aug
13
2022

New Immunotherapy Approach against Cancer

A recent publication reported about a new immunotherapy approach against cancer. The model it dealt with was a very vicious brain cancer with the name glioblastoma. The results of this research were subsequently transferred to another vicious cancer, osteosarcoma, which is a form of bone cancer with a very poor prognosis. Researchers have to do further clinical experiments to establish this new immunotherapy in osteosarcoma patients. Physicians completed the following experiments and clinical studies.

Oncolytic virus Delta-24-RGD can lead to remission in glioblastoma patients

Researchers at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain together with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the US investigated glioblastoma patients. They found that treatment of glioblastoma patients with oncolytic viruses Delta-24-RGD led to a greater than 3-year remission in 20% of cases. Normally, patients with a glioblastoma survive only 9 months on average. 12% had a greater than 95% reduction in the size of the tumor. This was a phase 1 clinical study with 37 patients who had recurrent malignant glioblastoma. The authors said: “Oncolytic adenoviruses are attractive therapeutic agents because they can kill tumor stem cells and induce cell death by several mechanisms, including direct lysis, expression of toxic proteins, induction of cytokines, and T-cell–mediated immunity.” The particular oncogenic virus that the researchers used was an adenovirus Delta-24-RGD.

Transferring glioblastoma results to a cure for osteosarcoma

The same researchers wanted to see whether the cure rates of treating patients with glioblastoma was transferable to other cancer patients. In particular they were interested in patients with osteosarcoma, which is a similarly vicious cancer. Advanced osteosarcoma has a survival rate of 27% after 5 years. The researchers first did experiments with a human osteosarcoma cell line in tissue culture and at the same time a murine osteosarcoma cell line. Later they tested the action of oncolytic viruses Delta-24-RGD in a mouse model.

Experiments with osteosarcoma cells in tissue culture

The advantage of such experiments is that you can control all the parameters easily in a Petri dish. But critics say that this is far removed from osteosarcoma behavior in humans. Researchers found that the oncolytic virus Delta-24-RGD killed many osteosarcoma cells in vitro. They also were able to insert a new gene into the oncolytic virus, which was equally effective in killing osteosarcoma cells. They called this virus Delta-24-ACT.

Curing osteosarcoma in a mouse model

Next the researchers tested effectiveness of the oncolytic viruses, Delta-24-ACT and Delta-24-RDG in mice. They injected osteosarcoma cells from tissue culture into the tibia of mice. Tumor growth was subsequently measured. The experimental groups were given two oncolytic virus infections, the control group did not. On day 10 and 18 the researchers could see that controls had faster growing tumors compared to the experimental groups. The experimental groups had less tumor side effects. And the experimental mice survived longer than the controls. Further research showed that the oncolytic viruses produced a 4-1BBL protein, which stimulated the animals’ immune system to fight the osteosarcoma.

New immunotherapy approach against cancer: Effector T cells

Researchers could prove that in mice treated with oncolytic viruses it was the special protein (4-1BBL) that stimulated T lymphocytes to become killer T cells. They in turn attacked the osteosarcoma cells.

New immunotherapy approach against cancer: The need for human research

Doing research in humans is more complicated than in a mouse model. But in order to improve survival rates in patients with osteosarcoma human research is absolutely essential. However, research is complex and the effects of oncolytic viruses is only in the 20% range with regard to increasing survival. This requires more research. It may be that instead of oncolytic viruses a stimulatory protein would arm T cells to become killer T cells that fight the cancer.

New Immunotherapy Approach against Cancer

New Immunotherapy Approach against Cancer

Conclusion

Glioblastoma patients had a better survival after treatment with oncolytic viruses Delta-24-RGD. Researchers translated this type of research to another cancer, osteosarcoma. This also has a poor prognosis, Researchers did experiments in tissue culture and in a mouse model. They were able to show that oncolytic viruses produced a 4-1BBL protein, which stimulated the animals’ immune system to fight the osteosarcoma. Specifically, the protein armed T lymphocytes and turned them into killer T lymphocytes. These destroyed osteosarcoma cells in tissue culture or in the mouse model. It is encouraging to see positive results in a laboratory setting of a tissue culture. The step further in an animal experiment is also a positive achievement. More research will improve the cure rates of osteosarcoma. The effective treatment of osteosarcoma in humans is still far away! The next step is human research that shows improvements in patients’ survival rates.

May
07
2022

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

This article describes the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen.

The environmental working group (EWG) defined the “dirty dozen” as crops, which farmers pollute by repetitive spraying. Notably, this is a list of the 12 most insecticide-sprayed crops like strawberries, spinach, tomatoes and others. It is important to realize that in the last few years, the EWG added the 15 clean crops. For this reason, if you want to avoid toxins on your food you exchange the 12 dirty dozen for organically grown crops. Specifically, you can also rest assured that the pollution levels in your food is of no concern, when you add the “clean fifteen” since these crops are relatively non-polluted. By all means, I have used this shopping guide for over 10 years and always look for the yearly updates.

The dirty dozen

Here is the dirty dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard & mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bells and hot peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

It is important to realize that certain agricultural methods lead to the insecticide contamination of the dirty dozen. It may come as a surprise that not only spinach, strawberries and cherries, but also apples, grapes, celery and tomatoes are very contaminated. I buy only organic equivalent versions of the dirty dozen.

The list of the clean fifteen

Here is the list of the clean fifteen:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Honeydew melon
  9. Kiwi
  10. Cabbage
  11. Mushrooms
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Mangoes
  14. Watermelon
  15. Sweet potatoes

These are crops that you can buy and eat, because they are not contaminated with insecticide spray. There is a yearly update on the website, which informs you of any changes of the contaminated crops. So far little has changed over several years.

According to the CNN article cited in the beginning of this article 70% of the clean fifteen list have no detectable residues of pesticides. Just under 5% of this list had two or more pesticide residues. For this reason I would label those as relatively non- polluted.

Why pesticides are dangerous

Toxicity of pesticides depends on the chemical configuration. Some are more toxic than others. But in combination pesticides are much more toxic than each one of them alone. Some pesticides irritate the skin, others the eyes. Other chemicals are toxic to the nervous system and the hormone system. And on the long-term pesticides can cause cancer.

Specific toxins

  • DCPA http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/DCPA.htm is a general herbicide that farmers spray on several vegetable crops. It was banned by the European Union in 2009.
  • Nut and fruit tree farms use Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide, which farmers also spray on broccoli and cauliflower. The EPA banned this substance in February 2022. Chlorpyrifos contains an enzyme that causes neurotoxicity in children. It also causes neurodevelopmental effects in children.
  • Organophosphates block acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that inactivates acetylcholine. Toxicity of organophosphates comes from poisoning with acetylcholine, which overstimulates muscles. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organophosphate_poisoning#Pathophysiology The brains of babies and children are very sensitive to the toxic effect of organophosphates.
  • A number of pesticides are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. This can have permanent or long-lasting effects on the reproductive development. https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?Lab=NHEERL&dirEntryId=212273

 Complaints of the industry about the EWG

The industry has repeatedly complained about the EWG that the publication of the dirty dozen would harm the sales of crops. But studies done by the EWG showed that only 1 in 6 consumers are buying less vegetables and fruit. Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at the EWG with expertise in toxic chemicals and pesticides said: “The study actually shows that just over half of people surveyed said the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list made them more likely to buy fruits and vegetables.”

Here is what the consumer can do  

  • Rinse fruit and vegetables before you serve it; this removes surface toxins
  • Buy food from a local farmer; you can enquire about his farming practices.
  • Buy produce in season; if you buy organic crops they are most reasonable are that time, and you can prepare or freeze the fruit and vegetables for future use.
The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Conclusion

The environmental working group (EWG) developed the concept of the 12 dirty dozen and the clean fifteen crops. The consumer needs to know the 12 dirty dozen, as he/she has to buy organic crops as a replacement for this. On the other hand, you can buy the 15 clean crops, but you first need to know what is on the list. Knowledge is power, and knowing about these crops ensures that you keep insecticides, fungicides and herbicides out of your body. This information is not only important for adults and youth, but particularly important for babies and small children. Chlorpyrifos, which was banned in February of 2022 in the US causes neurotoxicity in children. But it also causes neurodevelopmental effects in children. The cleaner the crops are that we eat, the healthier our bodies are.

Mar
07
2022

T-Cell Immunotherapy Cures Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

T-cell immunotherapy cures chronic lymphocytic leukemia after 10 years. Researchers were able to use the blood of leukemia patients and modify immune cells to attack their cancer cells. Specifically, they introduced a chimeric antigen receptor into immune cells from patients in the lab. Subsequently they transfused the modified immune cells back into the leukemia patients. After 10 years researchers detected the same active cytotoxic T lymphocytes in both chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, which contained the chimeric antigen receptor marker. This means that active cytotoxic lymphocytes, that also have the name of killer T cells, continued to eliminate any pathological cells from the lymphocytic leukemia patients.

The immune system explained

The immune system can respond with two major responses. The B lymphocytes originate from the bone marrow and turn into antibody producing plasma cells. With viruses this system works very well as it inactivates viruses that the immune system recognizes don’t belong into the body. The other branch of the immune system are the thymus-processed T cells. These are important to eradicate cancer cells. They are also called CD4 cells or cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Often tumor cells produce specific proteins that suppress the immune cells. But the researchers of these two chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients managed to introduce a chimeric antigen receptor into the CD4 cells that specifically targeted the leukemia cells. The immune system in these patients was working optimally and remained active for 10 years.

Some statistics regarding chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Here are some statistics of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). There were about 61,090 new cases of leukemia and 23,660 deaths from leukemia in 2021 in the US. Among these were 21,250 new cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). There were about 4,320 deaths from CLL. The average lifetime risk of getting CLL is 1 in 175 people or 0.5% of the population. The risk of getting CLL is slightly higher for men than women. CLL is a leukemia of older people, the average age at the time of diagnosis is 70 years. CLL is rare under the age of 40 and extremely rare in children.

Potential serious side effects of T-cell immunotherapy

Dr. David Porter, one of the authors of the study published in Nature said that this type of immunotherapy can have serious side effects. He added that therapies have become safer over the years. Oncologists are giving immunotherapies like the one which I described to hundreds and thousands of patients.

Here are the more common side effects.

  • The tumor lysis syndrome: when the tumor cells are all attacked at the same time, there is a lot of tumor cell destruction and the contents of the cells end up in the blood. This makes the patient rather sick for a few days. There can be serious electrolyte abnormalities that have to be countered with intravenous fluids. The toxins can also cause kidney damage, which physicians monitor closely.
  • Cytokine release syndrome: With this syndrome people develop a high fever, nausea, vomiting, much like a severe flu. They also develop muscle aches and joint pains. Patients can develop extremely low blood pressure. This occurs because fluid leaks into the lungs, which also causes problems breathing.
  • Neurologic toxicity: There can be a loss of speech and thought disturbances. Seizures can develop and the patients may turn comatose. Nevertheless most patients recover from this spontaneously.

Details of one case of CLL with successful treatment

Doug Olson was one of the patients who was studied in the publication in Nature. His original diagnosis was chronic lymphocytic leukemia when he was 49 years old. For 6 years he did not need much treatment. But then his leukemia flared up and chemotherapy got his CLL into remission for 5 years. Generally, leukemia behaves this way that treatment gets it into remission (meaning the leukemia is controlled). But on another occasion, it gets into a relapse, which means the leukemia flares up again. 11 years after the original diagnosis of the CLL there was a rapid decline due to another relapse. In a bone marrow biopsy 50% of the white blood cells were CLL and 50% were normal.

Infusion of CAR-T cells

He received his first infusion of CAR-T cells in September of 2010. Following this he became very sick and the oncologist hospitalized him for three days. One week later the oncologist could not find any more cancer cells in his body. But the cancer specialists were very reluctant to call it a cure at that time. Fast forward 10 years. And now there are still no cancer cells in Doug’s body. The blood analysis showed that active CAR-T cells are in Doug’s blood monitoring for him that no CLL cells reoccur. Now, 21 years after the initial diagnosis of his CLL the oncologists are convinced that the T-Cell Immunotherapy was what cured Doug.

Discussion

CLL is a special form of blood cancer. Chemotherapy has been successful in increasing survivor rates over the years. But the end of the patient with CLL comes from a final relapse of this leukemia form, which eventually no longer responds to chemotherapy. The researchers in this publication used a novel immunotherapy approach, where they introduced a chimeric antigen receptor into immune cells of patients in the lab. Subsequently they transfused this back into the leukemia patients.

T-cell Immunotherapy used surveillance T cells successfully

These modified immune cells became the “surveillance team” that eradicated new CLL cells and destroyed them on an ongoing basis. This immune therapy is getting rid of the last CLL tumor cell. The two cases described in this paper and investigated thoroughly after 10 years of immunotherapy intervention were completely free of CLL cells in their bone marrow biopsies. Two cases are not enough data, but it is a powerful result for a pilot study. Oncologists have to produce much larger clinical trials with more patients. This establishes that this new immunotherapy is superior to conventional chemotherapy and indeed prolongs survival compared to chemotherapy alone.

T-Cell Immunotherapy Cures Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

T-Cell Immunotherapy Cures Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Conclusion

This pilot study showed that the immune system can be stimulated to suppress and eradicate leukemia (CLL) cancer cells. The authors introduced a chimeric antigen receptor into immune cells that were taken from patients. The researchers obtained blood samples. Then they introduced a chimeric antigen receptor into immune cells in the lab. Subsequently they injected these CAR-T cells back into the CLL patients. In these patients the CAR-T cells behaved like surveillance cells, which eradicated leukemia cancer cells on an ongoing basis. After 10 years of follow-up in two patients in this pilot study the clinicians could not find any CLL cancer cells in their bone marrows, but the CAR-T cells were still present. This type of study is encouraging as it is a model for immunotherapy of other cancers. It is a promising start, but obviously researchers need to do more studies to fine-tune cancer immunotherapy.

Sep
04
2021

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% compared to a control group with a meat containing diet. One subgroup changed the diet from a regular diet to a plant-based diet over 13 years. This reduced the risk ratio by 61% for heart attacks and strokes when assessed later.

Details of this study

There were 4946 adults as participants of this 32-year study. They were recruited in 1985 and 1986, at which time none of them had cardiovascular disease. The study completed in 2018. The results were published on Aug. 4, 2021. The researchers assessed the plant-centered diet quality using a tool with the name “A Priori Diet Quality Score” (APDQS). The higher the score, the higher the quality of the food. This means the person consumed nutritionally rich plant foods, limited amounts of high-fat meat products and less healthy plant foods.

Although a plant-rich diet consisted primarily of nutritionally rich plant foods, small amounts of animal products were also allowed. This involved low-fat dairy products, non fried poultry and steamed or grilled fish. This made the diet tastier and ensured that people would stick to this diet for decades.

Improvements of heart attack rates with plant-centered diet

After 32 years 289 cases of cardiovascular disease developed. The researchers compared participants with the highest food quintile to participants with the lowest food quintile. As mentioned, the risk for participants on a plant-based diet was 52% lower to get a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a subgroup changed from a higher risk (fatter meals, meat, less vegetables) diet to a lower risk diet (lean fat, lean poultry, vegetables). Physicians followed this subgroup for 13 years and the risk ratio for heart attacks and strokes fell by 61%.

Comparison to other diet studies

There are other studies that looked at the effect of diet changes on the risk of developing heart disease. One such study examined 86 cross-sectional studies and 10 prospective studies in a meta-analysis. Vegetarian diets reduced deaths from heart attacks by 25% and brought down the incidence of total cancer rates by 8%. A vegan diet reduced the risk of total cancer by 15%.

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. The question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with 12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which otherwise increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that there is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means that the limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. After dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

A 2012 study from Spain has found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil increases the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles have the name HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles. This cleans out plaques from arteries more effectively than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Conclusion

Several large, well-controlled studies showed that there are pronounced effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. Heart attack rates and mortality rates were reduced by 25% to 73% on a Vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet. When people combine a plant-centered diet with regular physical exercise they also live longer. One of the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil. It contains polyphenols that lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also increases the larger particles of HDL cholesterol with the name HDL2. HDL2 is more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL cholesterol from arterial plaques.

What you can eat on a plant-centered diet

A plant-centered diet incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Instead of large portions of beef and sausages shift to seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines), walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed. The statistics clearly showed the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife with a reduction of heart attacks and mortality.

Some of the text above was published previously here.

Jun
26
2021

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

A British study concluded that being a morning person can prevent depression. It was reviewed also in CNN. The study used sleep data from 85,000 UK participants in the Great Britain Biobank Study. They wore wrist activity monitors that provided sleep data. Researchers compared the sleep data with the self-reported mood changes. They found that if the sleep pattern is misaligned with the circadian rhythm, those who are night owls are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders. The controls were those who were morning persons. They were not affected by the misalignment effect.

Normal sleep pattern

Natural sleep habit or the circadian rhythm starts between 10 PM and 11 PM and continues for 7 to 8 hours. Your hormones are replenished during your sleep. This helps your body’s hormones and the immune system to restore itself overnight.

“The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms”. This is what sleep specialist Kristen Knutson said. She is an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Reclaim your natural sleep habit

The key is to learn to live within your circadian rhythm pattern. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and will stop you from falling asleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid caffeine-containing beverages. If you cannot live without your favourite cup of java, switch to the decaffeinated version. Stop using LED lights (from TV, computers, tablets or smartphones) 2 hours prior to your bedtime. Use dark curtains and enjoy a comfortable bed. Maybe read that thriller, earlier in the day instead of making it your bedtime story. And do yourself a favour: you do not need the eleven o’clock news on TV!  They will probably stop you from falling asleep. Go to sleep between 10PM and 11PM.

Children can have problems with sleep disturbances and depression

Another study published March 22, 2021 in the Jama Network showed that depression had an association with sleep disturbances in youth and children.

A meta-analysis of 16 publications looked at depression and disturbed sleep. It showed that depression was 1.5-fold higher in sleep disturbed youths/children compared to controls with a normal sleep pattern.

Other studies re. being a morning person can prevent depression

Another study with Dr. Knutson as the lead author appeared in 2018. The authors found that various health conditions, mood disorders and mortality were on the increase the more the sleep rhythm deviated from the circadian rhythm. Morning persons were protected from this effect. But night shift workers and night owls were at a higher risk of disease. Specifically, they found the following associations for evening types.

  • Evening types compared to morning types had a 1.94-fold risk of psychological disorders
  • The risk of diabetes was 1.30-fold for evening types
  • Neurological disorders had a 1.25-fold risk in evening types
  • Gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders occurred 1.23-fold more often in evening types
  • respiratory disorders were 1.22-fold more common in evening types
  • Evening types had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality

The researchers concluded that externally imposed timing of work and social activities has potentially serious health consequences.

Circadian misalignment responsible for disease

Dr. Knutson also said: “Circadian misalignment could also lead to inadequate sleep duration and quality, which could also impair mood and exacerbate mood disorders.”

In other words, circadian misalignment to circadian rhythm problems. This can cause mood disturbances, but eventually lead to the diseases listed above.

Evidence of health risks in night shifts workers

The medical literature is full of examples that the health of night shift workers is significantly affected by circadian misalignment. Here are a few examples.

1.Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts workers. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were part of a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep.

One example of such a study comes from Milan, Italy. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A480.1

In this 2018 study researchers compared 46 nurses who had worked in night shifts with 51 nurses working day shifts. Among the night shift workers breast cancer was common, but not among day workers.

Shortened telomeres, hypomethylation of BRC1 gene and p53 gene

In the night shift nurses from Milan there was hypomethylation of the breast cancer gene BRC1. There was also hypomethylation of the general cancer gene p53. At the same time significant telomere shortening occurred in night shift nurses who had worked night shifts for more than 15 years. This likely all worked together in causing night nurses to develop breast cancer more frequently.

Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10PM and 11PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Night owls delay going to sleep by 2 to 3 hours.

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression (click image to enlarge)

Conclusion

A publication in Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that evening person (night owls) are more likely to develop depression. This is in comparison to morning persons. As discussed, other researchers showed that evening persons also can develop diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition, respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal disorders are more common in night owls as well. When it comes to mortality, evening persons have a 10% increase of mortality over morning persons. There is a large body of literature regarding diseases of night shift workers. Night Shift work is perhaps the most extreme example of a circadian misalignment. It leads to poor sleep, inflammation in the body, increased cancer risk and higher mortality compared to day shift workers.

Prevent telomere shortening

Even the telomeres get shortened in night owls and night shift workers. We can prevent problems like these by going to bed in time and sleeping according to our circadian rhythm. If you had a poor night’s sleep, make up for it with the help of an afternoon nap. Do not sleep all afternoon though; half an hour or one hour will be enough. Even a short, restful nap after coming home from work can restore your feeling of wellness.

Jan
23
2021

Review about Human Oncolytic Virus Research in 2020

The British Medical Journal published a review about human oncolytic virus research in 2020. That is to say, the BMJ published this report in July 2020. On the negative side, the report is rather complex with many technical terms. With this in mind, I will keep it as simple as possible for this summary. Notably, oncolytic viruses are a new way of treating cancer. Adenovirus was the most common oncolytic virus in use by cancer research in the past 20 years. It must be remembered, researchers applied this to mainly melanoma and gastrointestinal cancers. In the past I discussed the use of oncolytic viruses in a related post.

History of licencing of oncolytic viruses

  1. The first oncolytic virus was licenced in 2004 in Latvia. This was an RNA virus derived from the native ECHO-7 strain of a picornavirus, called Rigvir. This oncolytic virus was approved for treating melanomas.
  2. Shortly after, in 2005, China approved a genetically modified adenovirus, H101 as an oncolytic virus. The approval was for the treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma combined with chemotherapy.
  3. In 2015, the U.S. the FDA approved T-VEC (Talimogene laherparepvec), an attenuated herpes simplex virus, type 1. This new oncovirus encodes granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). This is effective for the local treatment of inoperable, recurrent melanoma. It works for cutaneous, subcutaneous and nodal lesions in patients with recurrent melanoma after initial surgery.

Review of 20 years of human oncolytic virus research

The investigators reported about 97 clinical trials with oncolytic viruses performed between 2000 and 2020. That is to say, this involved 3233 patients with cancer. Most of these trials were phase I (50.5%) trials. There were an additional 6.2% studies, which were phase I/II. 11.3% were phase II clinical trials and only 2.1% were phase III clinical trials. 29.9 % of the literature did not specify what type of trial the investigations were about. However, they likely belonged into the phase I category as they reported on first trials of a therapy on man.

Oncolytic viruses derive from various types of viruses 

The number of studies that used a certain virus-derivative are included in brackets. It must be remembered that most of the studies dealt with six viruses: adenoviruses (30), herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) (23), reovirus (19), poxvirus (12), Newcastle disease virus (NDV) (5) and measles virus (3).

Stimulation of the immune system through GM-CSF

In 24 studies the researchers introduced GM-CSF transgene into an oncolytic virus. GM-CSF is a glycoprotein that is normally produced by granulocytes, a type of white blood cell. In this case, it stimulates dendritic cells, the precursors of T cells to produce killer T cells. Notably, this stimulates the immune system to better fight cancer.

Types of cancer targeted with oncolytic viruses

It is important to realize that the majority of the studies treated melanoma cases and gastrointestinal cancers. Namely, gastrointestinal cancers included esophageal cancer, gastric (stomach) cancer, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. There were 30 studies involving melanomas with 1000 patients. There were 76 clinical trials regarding gastrointestinal cancers with 577 patients.

Moreover, other cancers where oncolytic viruses were studied were head and neck cancer (15 studies) breast and gynecological cancers (31 studies), genitourinary cancers (26 studies), and sarcomas (16 studies).

Other drugs given along with oncolytic viruses

It must be remembered that of the 97 total studies 62.9% were clinical trials where oncolytic viruses were the only therapy. In 37.1% of the studies physicians gave the oncolytic viruses along with cytotoxic chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiotherapy.

Side effects of treatment with oncolytic viruses

The safety profile for treatment with oncolytic viruses appears to be tolerable. Fever was common, as were chills. Some patients reported nausea and vomiting, flu-like symptoms, fatigue and pain. But these symptoms disappeared within a few days.

Suppression of the bone marrow for a period of time was common, but more so when there was a combination of  oncolytic viruses with chemotherapy. None of the patients transmitted viruses to household contacts or the healthcare team.

Antitumor activity in clinical trials with involvement of oncolytic viruses

An analysis of clinical responses to oncolytic virus therapy showed the following:

  • 1% had disease control, which broke down as follows (items 2,3 and 4)
  • 4% complete control (=cure)
  • 7% partial control
  • 12% stable disease
  • 9% No response to treatment with oncolytic viruses

HSV-1 derived oncolytic viruses had the best response. The responses were not as good with adenovirus, reoviruses and with vaccinia viruses.

Discussion

Researchers of the BMJ publication analysed 97 clinical trials regarding oncolytic viruses over the past 20 years. This showed a number of points worth mentioning.

  1. The goal of oncolytic virus therapy is to induce tumor cell death. Physicians could achieve this indirectly by stimulating the immune system. Oncolytic viruses can stimulate both the innate immune system and the tumor-specific adaptive immune response.
  2. In the earlier years a lot of clinical trials investigated the safety of oncolytic viruses. But it became clear that oncolytic viruses were safe and fairly well tolerated.
  3. Many clinical trials involved oncogenic viruses with GM-CSF recombinant genes. This gene makes the oncolytic virus produce the GM-CSF protein, which stimulates dendritic cells. The end result is that the immune system produces more killer T cells that attack cancer cells, which results in higher cure rates.

More problems with oncolytic viruses

  1. There are still many questions about how oncolytic viruses stimulate the immune system. More basic research is necessary in this field. Despite 20 years of research the cure rate of 3.4% and achieving partial control and stable disease in another 17.7% is not acceptable. Perhaps combinations with other cancer treatment methods may improve the cancer cure rates. The reviewers suggested one such combination, namely immune checkpoint blockade with oncolytic virus therapy.
  2. There is no resolution about which route of administering oncolytic viruses is best. Intratumor application in melanoma cases seems the be optimal. But other solid tumors are difficult to reach. In these cases, intravenous applications were a choice. In this case oncolytic viruses experience dilution in the blood and do not have a high enough concentration when they arrive at the cancer.
Review about Human Oncolytic Virus Research in 2020

Review about Human Oncolytic Virus Research in 2020

Conclusion

In a review researchers discussed the use of oncolytic viruses in cancer therapy over 20 years . Oncolytic viruses are derivatives mostly from adenoviruses, herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), reovirus, poxvirus, Newcastle disease virus (NDV) and the measles virus. In various clinical trials researchers found that disease control was achieve in only 21.1% of treated cases. There was a cure rate of 3.4%, but another 17.7% had partial control of the cancer or stable disease. But 78.9% of treated patients showed no response to treatment with oncolytic viruses. Obviously more research is necessary to improve the cure rates in cancer patients treated with oncolytic viruses. Clinical trials with combinations of immune checkpoint blockade and oncolytic virus therapy would also be helpful. All in all, oncolytic therapy is at this point not yet an effective form of treatment for cancer.

Jan
09
2021

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Notably, the January 2021 issue of the Life Extension magazine informs you that melatonin is more than a sleeping aid. It contains an interview between Dr. Roman Rozencwaig and a Life Extension (LE) magazine reporter. It must be remembered that Dr. Rozencwaig dedicated much of his career to the healing effects of melatonin. Another keypoint is that in 1987 Dr. Rozencwaig published a paper together with two other researchers. Specifically, it showed that melatonin production by the pineal gland declines in older age. Markedly, they stated that this is the reason why people age and why diseases of aging develop. Another key point is that Dr. Rozencwaig also stated that taking oral melatonin can promote a healthier life.

Melatonin deficiency causing aging and various illnesses

With the aging process the pineal gland calcifies and melatonin production is steadily declining. Surely, along with this is a deterioration of the circadian hormone rhythm. Meanwhile, the neuroendocrine system in the brain gets disorganized. Accordingly, this causes various diseases to occur. To emphasize, Dr. Rozencwaig says that a proper balance between melatonin and neurotransmitters is what we need to maintain health and longevity. As a result, a daily intake of melatonin supports healthy aging and longevity.

The many clinical effects of melatonin

Oral melatonin tablets help you to fall asleep easier, particularly the population that is older than 60 years.

But besides that, melatonin has many other clinical effects.

  • Melatonin improves immunity, which improves resistance against infections. It helps also in cancer prevention
  • Melatonin maintains the circadian hormone rhythm by synchronizing pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production
  • It protects the brain and may prevent Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others
  • Melatonin modulates anti-inflammatory cytokinins in different diseases

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin slows down the aging process. There are multiple intertwining reasons for this. 

Melatonin’s actions against the aging process 

  • Melatonin regulates gene expression. This means that some signs and symptoms of aging can be reversed through genetic switches
  • Because melatonin regulates the immune response, the body is more protected against viral, bacterial and parasitic infections
  • Melatonin helps to overcome chronic inflammation that produces cytokines
  • Melatonin is also liver-protective through stimulation of an enzyme (AMPK). This enzyme regulates cellular metabolism.
  • There are other processes that melatonin is involved in: energy metabolism by protection and restoration of mitochondria.
  • Melatonin protects against osteoporosis by balancing and regulating bone formation versus bone loss.

More actions of melatonin

  • An important function of melatonin is the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  • Melatonin regulates sirtuins, which are proteins that maintain cellular health. They protect you from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes, dementia and more
  • As already mentioned, melatonin is a neuroprotective agent and may prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Melatonin stimulates apoptosis of cancer cells.
  • Oral health and melatonin are related. Melatonin suppresses herpes infections and periodontal disease. Melatonin prevents oral cancers to a certain degree. In addition, dental implants survive better when melatonin is present in saliva.

Prevention of cognitive decline

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin stops much of the cognitive decline of aging. To achieve this the following processes take place.

  1. Melatonin improves the sleeping pattern and increases the amount of REM sleep.
  2. During sleep melatonin removes toxic amyloid and tau proteins. We know that with Alzheimer’s disease these are the proteins that accumulate in the brain.
  3. Melatonin improves myelination of white matter in the brain. This prevents brain atrophy of old age.
  4. The brain is metabolically very active and produces toxic free radicals. But melatonin is a strong antioxidant dealing with free radicals. Melatonin can cross the blood brain barrier and stimulates enzyme production to eliminate toxic reactive oxygen species.
  5. Chronic inflammation also increases with age, but melatonin deals with this condition in the brain.
  6. Here are 3 subtypes of melatonin receptors. The body integrates the multitude of actions of melatonin with the help of these receptors.
Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Conclusion

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that has many other useful protective qualities as explained. The body integrates various functions like anti-aging, anti-free radical activity, neuroprotection in the brain and more. Melatonin even synchronizes pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production. This helps to integrate the effect of melatonin, which benefits the body in many ways. Melatonin prevents Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia. Melatonin production deteriorates from the age of about 60 onwards. It is important to supplement with melatonin at nighttime from that age on. Usually, you only need small amounts of melatonin, between 1mg and 3 mg at bedtime. This prevents most of the serious diseases of old age, stimulates your immune system and lets you age gracefully.

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Sep
19
2020

Hair Style Products are Mostly Safe

A recent study concluded that hair style products are mostly safe when it comes to causing cancer. In the past there was some concern that the dyes for hair coloring could cause cancer. In a previous blog I mentioned that hair stylists are at a greater risk for developing bladder cancer.  But in customers who had their hair colored this was more difficult to prove. The new study reviewed by CNN was based on a large cohort of 117,200 female nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

These 30-55-year-old nurses were observed for 36 years. Detailed information about hair coloring was part of the study.

Results of the hair coloring study

Women with light and medium use of hair dyes did not develop non-melanoma skin cancers, hematopoietic cancers or squamous skin cancers. The same was true for bladder cancer, melanoma, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, progesterone receptor positive breast cancer and hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Furthermore hair coloring did not cause brain cancer, colorectal cancer, kidney cancer and lung cancer. 5% of women who ever used hair dyes did develop basal cell skin cancer; there was a total of 22,560 basal cell cancers that occurred.

The BJM showed that women who colored their hair regularly (termed “cumulative dose”) developed 24%-31% more breast cancer. This breast cancer was estrogen negative breast cancer (31%) and progesterone negative breast cancer (24%). They also developed 24% more ovarian cancers and 17% colorectal cancer than controls who did not dye their hair. Myeloid leukemias were also more common in the heavy use hair coloring group with 29% and follicular lymphomas with 13%. Other forms of leukemia were not more frequent.

Discussion

50% to 80% of women and about 10% of men ages 40 and older are using hair dye regularly in the United States and Europe. The above cited cancer frequencies were based on women with dark hair and a cumulative dose of more than 200 applications of permanent hair dye. Translated into years of application of hair dye this means coloring your hair for 16 to 17 years, if you color your hair once a month. The study is very powerful due to the large number of women examined and the amazingly long time of 36 years of observation.

Heavy use, medium and light use of hair dyes

It is interesting to note that only the heavy use of hair dye resulted in a few significant cancer figures. The light use (1 to 99 times) and medium use (100 to 199 times) of hair dyes did hardly lead to any cancer. There were some exceptions where light use of hair dye led to 34% more bladder cancer and to 67% more follicular lymphomas. These were oddities, because the lighter use of hair dyes led to higher amounts of these cancers than medium and heavy use. This is not what the researchers expected.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer

Hodgkin’s lymphoma was about 3- to 5-fold more common in all hair coloring categories compared to non-use of hair dye. The authors discussed subgroups of women as well. They noticed that black women using permanent hair dye had a higher risk to develop breast cancer than white women who only had a borderline increased risk. Estrogen negative, progesterone negative and hormone negative breast cancer was more likely to be caused by heavy use of hair dyes.

No association between the following cancers and hair dye use

The present study could not find an association between ever using hair dye and the following. The study found no association with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer. In addition there also was no association with  kidney cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer. But it found a slight increased risk (5%) of basal cell carcinoma.

The study contains no information regarding the specific ingredients in hair dye that are carcinogenic. In the US supervision of permanent hair dyes by the FDA is rather loose. This leaves the manufacturer mostly in charge regarding the composition of the hair dyes. This is different in Europe and in Japan. Here manufacturers removed several carcinogenic substances from hair dyes because of regulations by the local regulatory bodies. This could have a cancer-lowering effect in these countries.

Hair Style Products are Mostly Safe

Hair Style Products are Mostly Safe

Conclusion

This large study from the British Medical Journal, published Sept. 2, 2020 explains the relationship of cancer risk to permanent hair dyes. The study lasted 36 years and involved 117,200 female nurses. More than 96% of the women were Caucasians. This study showed that for most people who use permanent use hair dyes there is no association with most cancers. However, there was an association between a few cancers and the use of hair dyes. These were in 5% basal cell skin cancers. But breast cancer (31% estrogen receptor negative, 24% progesterone receptor negative), ovarian cancer (24%) and 17% colorectal cancer were among these too. There was also an increased risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Effect of screening by FDA regarding carcinogenic substances in hair dyes

All this data was based on the hair dyes used in the US. Supervision of permanent hair dyes by the FDA is rather loose, with the manufacturer being mostly in charge. This is different in Europe and in Japan. Here local regulatory bodies instructed manufacturers to remove several carcinogenic substances from hair dyes. This could have a cancer-lowering effect in these countries.

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Aug
29
2020

Health Benefits from Vitamin C Supplements

Notably, there are health benefits from vitamin C supplements as I will explain below. A recent publication in the Journal of Intensive Care stated that vitamin C may lower ventilator time for sick patients in the ICU. In this case, researchers performed  a meta-regression analysis. It is important to realize that higher doses of vitamin C changed the need for ventilation. Vitamin C given intravenously or by mouth significantly reduced the need for ventilation in sick patients. To explain, the researchers pooled eight clinical trials and compared them to a control group who did not receive vitamin C treatment. In detail, the researchers noted that there was a 14% reduction with regard to ventilator use in the treatment group. To clarify, they had received vitamin C infusions while patients who did not receive vitamin C infusions served as controls.

Five of the clinical trials involved patients who received 10 hours or more ventilation treatment. Certainly, these patients were sicker than the average ICU patients. They experienced a 25% reduction of ventilator time after receiving between 1 and 6 grams of vitamin C. The physicians gave this intravenous or orally.

History of Mega doses of vitamin C

Indeed, in the 1940’s mega doses of vitamin C were given intravenously in an attempt to treat polio. Eventually, in the late 1960’s Linus Pauling called high doses of vitamin C the “healing factors for diseases”. But subsequent clinical investigations showed that vitamin C had limitations. The Oregon State University website reports that some of the claims about vitamin C in the past went overboard. Here are some points about vitamin C that we need to remember.

  • Vitamin C is an important cofactor in many enzymatic reactions, such as the biosynthesis of collagen, carnitine and neuropeptides. In addition, the regulation of gene expression requires vitamin C and vitamin C is an important antioxidant.
  • A prospective cohort study showed that higher vitamin C blood levels lowered the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes.

More effects of vitamin C

  • Patients in need of a surgical procedure benefitted from vitamin C. Researchers showed that vitamin C was a valuable adjunct to conventional medicine in cardiovascular disease  Vitamin C reduced arrhythmia and myocardial injury following cardiac procedures.
  • There is insufficient evidence that regular vitamin C intake prevents cancer. Randomized controlled clinical trials reported no effect of vitamin C on cancer.
  • 10 grams per day of vitamin C has no association with toxic or adverse effects in most people. However, some adults are more sensitive to vitamin C and develop gastrointestinal disturbances and diarrhea with megadoses of vitamin C. For these people physicians recommend  taking up to 2 grams per day of vitamin C.

Vitamin C and disease prevention

Several clinical trials involving vitamin C supplements showed significant positive effects on patients. Below I am briefly reviewing these clinical trials.

Endothelial function

Endothelial function was improved with doses of above 500 mg of vitamin C. This likely is the reason that there is a reduction of cardiovascular disease in people who consume 1000 mg of vitamin C daily.

High blood pressure

Vitamin C at 500 mg daily lowers high blood pressure. A clinical trial found that 500 mg of vitamin C daily lowers the systolic blood pressure by 3.84 mm mercury and the diastolic blood pressure by 1.48 mm mercury. Over several years’ time this can prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

Vitamin C and the immune system

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It can neutralize reactive oxygen species, which are produced when the immune cells fight viruses and bacteria. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes are all supported by vitamin C. Vitamin C and E co-operate in their antioxidant functions. Vitamin C is essential for a strong antibody response with bacterial or viral infections. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C once daily.

Heart failure, strokes and heart attacks

Many studies showed some effects on reduction of heart attacks, strokes and congestive heart failure. With respect to strokes there was a 42% risk reduction over 9.5 years when the highest vitamin C plasma level was compared to the lowest level. But results regarding heart attack prevention and prevention of CHF were only marginal.

Cancer and vitamin C

Stomach cancer: there was a 45% reduction of stomach cancer when high vitamin C plasma level cases were compared to low plasma level cases.

Colon cancer: A pooled study based on 13 prospective cohort studies showed that vitamin C supplementation reduced colon cancer risk by 19%.

Large B cell lymphoma: After 11 years of follow-up the Women’s Health Initiative found that vitamin C supplementation reduced diffuse large B cell lymphoma by 31%.

Researchers could not show significant effects of vitamin C on other cancers.

Type 2 Diabetes (=adult onset diabetes)

A large European study going on for 12 years showed a strong inverse relationship between blood levels of vitamin C and the onset of diabetes. Patients with the highest vitamin C blood levels had a 62% lower risk of developing diabetes. Physicians compared this to low level vitamin C controls.

Mortality reduction with vitamin C supplementation

In the EPIC-Norfolk prospective study a clear inverse relationship was found with higher vitamin C blood levels and a reduction in risk of all-cause mortality.

Recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C

The official dietary recommendation for vitamin C in adults is 90 mg daily for males and 75 mg daily for females. However, in view of the above mentioned clinical trials I would recommend the following. Supplement with 500 mg to 1000 mg of vitamin C daily to have enough vitamin C reserves. The reason I say this is that the official dietary recommendation was based on preventing scurvy, the historic insufficiency disease of vitamin C. In addition, as mentioned before, vitamin C is safe to take up to 10 grams per day. Many physicians recommend taking a smaller amount of vitamin C found to prevent strokes, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, improve endothelial function and strengthen the immune system.

Health Benefits from Vitamin C Supplements

Health Benefits from Vitamin C Supplements

Conclusion

In my review I discussed health benefits from vitamin C supplements. Briefly, doctors noted that severely sick patients on respirators in the ICU setting were able to reduce the ventilator use.  This was significant after they received between 1 and 6 grams of intravenous or oral vitamin C. However, patients with the highest vitamin C supplementation had a 62% lower risk of developing diabetes than low level vitamin C controls. Vitamin C lowered high blood pressure moderately and prevented strokes by 42%. Vitamin C stimulates the immune system together with vitamin D, A, E and some trace minerals. There are many more health benefits from vitamin C supplements. The official dietary recommendation for vitamin C in adults is 90 mg daily for males and 75 mg daily for females. However, I take 1000 mg of vitamin C daily as the evidence shows that this is healthier.