EXCESSIVE IRON INCREASES DAMAGE FROM STROKE
In this study, the researchers have followed the recovery of 100 patients who had a stroke. The patients were divided into 2 groups - those whose condition stabilized and improved after the stroke and those who became progressively worse because of increasing brain damage. The level of ferritin, which indicates the amount of iron in the body, was significantly higher in the group with the greater brain damage.
The authors speculate that higher iron levels promote the formation of free radicals, which damage the brain cells. Iron also promotes the formation of a substance called "glutamate" that is involved in the death of brain cells. The levels of glutamate were the highest in the group with the greatest brain damage.
Previous studies have linked high ferritin levels with increased risk of heart attacks, probably through the same mechanism. It is clear that excessive iron is not good for your health. Most of the iron we get from the diet or supplements stays in the body for a very long time. The only reliable way to reduce iron level is through blood loss. That's why menstruating women often have low levels. But if you are a man or a post menopausal woman, do not eat a lot of iron rich foods and stay away from supplements that contain iron.
SOURCE: Neurology 2000;54:1568-1574.
ANTIOXIDANTS REDUCE CANCER THERAPY SIDE EFFECTS
When it comes to vitamins, most oncologist (cancer specialists) are adamantly against using them while undergoing cancer treatment. They mistakenly believe that anti-oxidants will protect the cancer cells and will render chemotherapy or radiation ineffective. According to this study, there is no reason to avoid antioxidants. In fact, they actually improve the effectiveness of the treatment and reduce the side effects.
Mice with colon cancer were treated with radioimmunotherapy, a form of treatment that uses specialized antibodies to deliver radioactive agents directly to the tumor cells. The goal is to kill the tumor by exposing it to high amounts of radiation without harming normal tissues. In addition to radiation, some mice also received either vitamins (C, E and A) or bone marrow transplant or both.
All the mice in the group that received radiation alone died. But there were many survivors in the vitamin group, even though the dose of radiation was the same. The authors mention previous studies in which vitamin E was shown to be deadly for malignant cells. They also note that no study has ever demonstrated that vitamins promote the formation of cancer.
International Journal of Cancer 2000;86:276-280.
AN APPLE A DAY--NOT A MYTH
Fresh research by scientists at Cornell University in New York published Wednesday shows that plant substances such as flavonoids and polyphenols, known as phytochemicals, are the essential healthy ingredients in the fruit.
"What this study shows is that the combination of phytochemicals plays a very important role in anti-oxidant and anti-cancer activity, and the real health benefits may come from a phytochemical mixture," food science professor Rui Hai Liu said in a statement.
Researchers compared the anti-cancer activity in the skin and flesh of red apples. They found that just 100 grams of fresh apple with skins had the anti-cancer properties of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.
"Scientists are interested in isolating single compounds -- such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene -- to see if they exhibit anti-oxidant or anti-cancer benefits. It turns out that none of those works alone to reduce cancer. It's the combination of flavonoids," Liu said.
In laboratory tests on human colon cancer cells the scientists found that extracts from the apple skin inhibited the proliferation of the cancer cells by 43 percent. Extracts from the flesh of the fruit reduced it by 29 percent.
Tests on human liver cancer cells were even more effective, inhibiting the cells at a rate of 57 percent with the skin extract and 40 percent with flesh extract.
SOURCE: Cornell University in New York
FDA TO BLOCK CHINESE HERB
The government is preparing to stop the import of a Chinese herb that caused kidney failure in Britain and Belgium. It has also alerted doctors to be on the lookout for the herb.
The herb family is called Aristolochia, and the kidney-toxic ingredient is called aristolochic acid. The ingredient also is suspected of causing cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration warned doctors that a list of botanical products is suspected of containing or being contaminated with aristolochic acid.
No American is known to have been injured. Nor does the FDA know how many such products are sold here. Federal law severely restricts oversight of dietary supplements unless the government proves there's a health concern. The FDA decided to crack down on the possible threat after Britain last summer reported two cases of kidney failure in people taking aristolochic-containing Chinese herbs to treat a skin condition. One needed a kidney transplant; the other is on dialysis awaiting a transplant.
Also, Belgian doctors have reported at least 70 people who needed dialysis or a transplant after taking a aristolochic-containing Chinese herb to lose weight. ``This one is extremely dangerous. It destroys your kidneys,"" said FDA dietary supplement chief Christine Lewis. ``We're trying to head it off at the pass.""
Within weeks, the FDA will stop at the docks all imports of herbs suspected to contain aristolochic acid, Lewis said.
The FDA wrote dietary supplement manufacturers this week urging that they test certain botanical products for the ingredient, and wrote thousands of physicians to alert them about the concern. The hope is that doctors check patients with unexplained kidney failure, and that they educate patients to avoid the suspected products.
For a list of plants under concern, check the FDA's Internet site at
http://www.fda.gov/opacom/hpwhats.html, and click on ``dietary supplements.""
SOURCE: The Associated Press
The pain of a migraine can be so intense that it's disabling. Some 28 million Americans suffer this pain, yet half don't realize that migraines are to blame, and millions go without treatment. That's particularly disturbing to experts because, in a revolutionary shift, scientists are discovering that migraines are caused not be the abnormal blood vessels once blamed, but by a unique electrical disorder of brain cells.
The headache starts when something triggers nerve cells in the back of the brain to fire off tiny electrical charges that ripple very slowly across the top, spreading pain down to the brain's very base or stem that is vital to so many of the body's functions.
Scientists once thought migraines were caused by abnormally dilated blood vessels so, many of the pain relievers work by constricting the vessels. With new imaging devices, scientists are discovering that sufferers have abnormally excitable neurons, or brain nerve cells.
Migraines seem to be triggered by light, lack of sleep, possibly certain foods, or hormone changes - especially estrogen.
GINKGO BILOBA HELPS WITH ARTERY BLOCKAGE
A recent study suggests high amounts of Ginkgo biloba may help intermittent claudication.
Intermittent claudication is a painful condition caused by blockage to the arteries in the leg. Similar blockages in the heart cause angina and heart attacks, and in the brain, strokes.
A double-blind study enrolled 74 people with fairly severe intermittent claudication. Half were given 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba daily; the other received 120 mg daily. The study showed that higher than usual amounts of Ginkgo biloba increased walking distance of subjects with intermittent claudication versus taking the normal dose.
At the beginning of the study, participants were able to walk an average of 100 meters without pain. After six months, participants taking 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba daily could walk more than twice as far without pain. In contrast, the lower Ginkgo biloba dose provided participants with about a 60 percent improvement.
Ginkgo biloba is believed to be effective by improving circulation.
SOURCE: December 1999 issue of the German journal Arzneimittel Forschung (Drug Research).
Cabbage has been found to contain a number of anti-cancer compounds, but by boiling it, you're likely to lose some of the benefits of these plant chemicals.
Though some vegetables deliver more health benefits when they're boiled, cabbage is an exception. Research has shown that cooking cabbage removes about one-half the nutrient it contains. Two compounds in particular--indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane--make cabbage an especially potent cancer-fighting food.
When you can, enjoy cabbage in its raw form--in a salad, as coleslaw, or topping tacos. Or, use it in your stir-fry dishes. This cruciferous veggie keeps for 10 days in a refrigerator crisper, so it's easy to have on hand.
What Are Hiccups and How Serious Are They?
Though most people are unaware of this, a hiccup results from a spasm of the diaphragm. Associated with this spasm is a sudden intake of breath, and a closing of the tissue (the epiglottis) at the back of the throat that closes the airway.
While ordinary hiccups, caused by such things as stress and overeating, have few if any consequences, troublesome, prolonged, and uncontrollable hiccups can lead to more serious problems. These problems can include: depression, acid reflux, heart rhythm disturbances, fatigue, and so on.
Troublesome hiccups can be the result of a variety of things, including alcoholism, AIDS complications, encephalitis, meningitis, various gastrointestinal problems, and reactions to medications. So if you do have prolonged, recurring bouts of hiccups, be sure to get a check up from your doctor.
Easier Breathing with House Plants
In a story by Tim Lake that appeared on March 8 at
Kathleen Cue, Agriculture Extension Agent, tells us that indoor plants can help eliminate harmful fumes that can cause allergic reactions. She explains that as plants takes in carbon dioxide, they can also take indoor pollutants from a variety of sources, including formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene. Suggested plants: The Airplane Plant (for formaldehyde), Mother-In-Law's Tongue (for formaldehyde), Peace Lily (for benzene and trichloroethylene), and Dracaena (for benzene and formaldehyde). In general, one or two plants per room is apparently enough to make a difference.
More Oxygen During Surgery Reduces Infections
According to researchers from UC San Francisco, giving patients more oxygen during surgery reduces the incidence of infection by half. In this study, half the patients were given the normal mixture of 30 percent oxygen, and the other half were given 80 percent oxygen.
SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine in January 1999.
Complementary Treatments for Yeast Infections
By Integrative Medicine Communications
The good news is that there are complementary therapies that promote healing for Candida, and are safe to try alongside conventional antifungal medications.
Nutrition is at the top of the list. The "candida diet" consists of a dramatic reduction or complete elimination of alcohol, simple sugars and refined foods. Other nutritional therapies include the following:
Take vitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg per day), vitamin E (200 to 400 IU per day), and selenium (200 mcg per day) to reduce inflammation.
Incorporate essential fatty acids into your diet to reduce inflammation. Try a mix of omega-3 (found in evening primrose) and omega-6 (found in flaxseed) fatty acids -- 2 tablespoons of oil a day or 1,000 to 1,500 mg in capsule form twice a day. You can also increase your intake of essential fatty acids by reducing your consumption of animal fats and increasing your intake of fish and nuts.
Avoid simple carbohydrates, including fruit juice, yeast and fermented foods; limit your fruit intake to one serving per day.
Increase your consumption of antifungal spices such as garlic, oregano, cinnamon, sage, and cloves.
Take calcium (1,000 to 1,500 mg a day). Studies have shown that people with yeast infections often also have a calcium deficiency. You may want to add magnesium (750 to 1,000 mg per day) as well to balance your calcium intake.
Herbal remedies may also be effective against candidiasis. Herbs can be taken as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), tinctures (alcohol extracts) or applied topically. Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered five to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink two to four cups per day. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.
Pau d'arco bark is an antifungal. Take as a tea (use 2 tablespoons herb boiled in one quart of water; drink three to six cups per day).
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon grape root (Mahonia nervosa), and barberry (Berberis vulgaris) aid digestion and improve immune system functioning. Chamomile (Matricaria recicuta) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are anti-inflammatory. Combine all into a tea or tincture (one cup of tea three times a day or 30 to 60 drops of tincture three times daily) and take for six weeks. Note: Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure.
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) or lavender essential oil (Lavendula species) can be applied topically two to three times a day.
Fireweek (Epilobium parviflorum) can be taken as a tea to treat oral, vaginal and intestinal candidiasis.
Marigold (Calendula officinalis) can be mixed into a salve (such as petroleum jelly) and applied three to five times a day for skin rashes.
Most occurrences of candidiasis will respond to treatment within a few days. Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.
© 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications
NSAIDs Cause 1 in 5 Heart Failures
This recent study found that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) caused a greater than 10-fold increase in the risk of congestive heart failure (CHF) in patients with a history of heart disease. In those without a history of heart disease, the use of NSAIDs still increased the risk by 60%.
Although previous studies have shown that the use of NSAIDs could lead to the development of congestive heart failure (CHF) in some patients, the magnitude of the association was not fully understood.
The authors speculate that if their results are correct, it means that NSAIDs are responsible for 19% of all hospital admissions for CHF.
CHF, commonly referred to as simply "heart failure", is a disorder in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood efficiently, thereby failing to meet the demands of the body. As pumping action is lost, blood may back up into other areas of the body, including the liver, gastrointestinal tract, and extremities (right-sided heart failure), or the lungs (left-sided heart failure). Some other potential causes of CHF include:
High Blood Pressure
Heart Valve Disease
Congenital Heart Diseases
Irregular Heartbeats (arrhythmias)
In addition to NSAIDS, other drugs such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers have also been shown to increase the risk of CHF.
SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine June 2000; 160: 777-784.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Any practices or advice given in this publication are not intended to replace the services of your physician, or to provide an alternative to professional medical treatment.