February, 2008 Visit Website
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In This Issue

  • Probiotic bacteria can keep us slim
  • Surviving colon cancer
  • Vintage Pepto-Bismol
  • Quick Stress Busters
  • Did you know?

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Probiotic bacteria can keep us slim

According to Jeremy Nicholson and his collegues of Imperial College London, "friendly" bacteria added to yogurts and other foods can allow you to absorb less fat from your diet.

They fed strains of "probiotic" Lactobacillus to mice whose gut microbes had been replaced by those that usually live in the human gut. These mice had different bile acids from the norm - favoring enzymes that reduce the amount of fat digested. "More fat is available for the microbes, and you then 'poo' the microbes out," says Nicholson. The changes may only reduce fat absorption by a little, but this could have an impact on obesity if sustained over several years (Molecular Systems Biology, DOI: 10.1038/msb4100190).

Surviving colon cancer

According to the study led by Dr. Charles S. Fuchs, Associate Professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston that appeared in the Aug.15 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Colon cancer survivors with diets high in meat and refined grains triple their risk of recurrence or death compared with those who eat fruits, vegetables and fish.

Researchers studied 1,009 patients who had surgery for stage 3 colon cancer - their tumors had metastasized to regional lymph nodes. All the patients completed detailed food questionnaires.

In a follow-up of slightly more than five years, 324 patients had a recurrence of cancer, 223 died with a recurrence, and 28 died without documented recurrences.

The more closely patients followed the high-fat Western diet, the more likely they were to have a recurrence. Compared with the one-fifth whose dietary patterns least resembled the high-fat diet, the one-fifth whose patterns most resembled it were 3.25 times as likely to have a recurrence of cancer or die. Western dietary patterns, the scientists write, are associated with higher blood levels of insulin, and insulin is associated with enhanced tumor growth.

Vintage Pepto-Bismol

Azlin Mustapha, a Professor of Food Science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and his colleagues wanted to know if red wine had any impact upon food-borne pathogens like E.coli, Listeria monocytogenes and H.pylori. The first two bacteria are frequent culprits in food poisonings and can be fatal. H.pylori, which can be transmitted by contaminated food and water, is the main culprit in stomach ulcers.

The researchers found that red wines - Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot in particular - appear to have anti-microbial properties, actively inhibiting the growth of pathogens while not affecting probiotics (beneficial bacteria in the gut that aids digestion).

"It's not just the ethanol in the red wine that is inhibitory toward food-borne pathogens," Mustapha said. He said other factors, such as the wine's acidity and phytochemicals like reseveratrol seem to play a role. Unfortunately for white wine lovers, Mustapha said non tested showed any significant effect against pathogens.

Quick Stress Busters

Dr. Melinda Ring of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago says that "stress affects the quality of your life now as well as your long-term physical health. It is related to a broad range of medical conditions, from heart disease to high blood pressure, and contributes to emotional problems." She suggests some easy ways to combat stress in five minutes:

  • Take a Deep Breath. "The benefits of meditation include a lower heart rate, less chronic pain and help with headaches, depression and anxiety," says Dr. Ring.
  • Turn Your World Upside Down. According to Beth Shaw, founder of YogaFit Training Systems in Torrance, Calif., people who practice yoga regularly experience less stress and better sleep.
  • Make an "I Did It" List. The most productive way to combat stress is to foster a sense of control. Remembering the times when you have successfully handled difficult tasks in the past will help you feel more confident about your current challenges. So, before going to sleep, list three things you did that day that you are proud of. It could be as simple as helping someone across the street. Making this a ritual will help build self-esteem, a key factor in combating stress.

Did You Know ???

  • B-12 shots can fight Alzheimer's disease, depression and panic disorders, reports Arthur Winter, MD. Vitamin B-12 inhibits a brain enzyme that breaks down chemicals involved in maintaining memory and mood.
  • Antibiotics may raise asthma risk in children. Infants given broad-spectrum antibiotics for respiratory tract and ear infections are more likely to develop asthma later in childhood. Anita Kozyrskyj, a leader of an analysis of data on more than 13,000 children published in Chest, found that a child who gets four or more courses of such antibiotics during the first year of life is 50% more likely to develop asthma by age seven than a child who receives no antibiotics.
  • Exercise and coffee may fight skin cancer? Skin cancer develops in cells whose DNA has been damaged by UV radiation - but damaged cells often die before becoming malignant. Allan Conney, coauthor of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the death rate of precancerous skin cells in mice that received exercise and oral caffeine was nearly 400% greater than in mice that had neither exercise nor caffeine.

In Good Health.
Pamela Nathan

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