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In This Issue

  • Probiotics Reduces Respiratory Illness in Runners
  • Gut Bacteria Fights Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Essential Fatty Acids Preventing Heart Disease
  • Did You Know???

Probiotics Reduces Respiratory Illness in Runners

In an Australian study, led by David Pyne of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, a type of probiotic boosted the immune system of long-distance runners.

20 elite male athletes, competing in events ranging from 800m to the marathon, were enrolled in an experiment that coincided with intensive winter training.

The volunteers were given the probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum, in the form of freeze-dried powder in gelatin capsules, or a dummy lookalike capsule called a placebo that contained harmless starch. Neither they nor the researchers knew what the individual capsules contained.

Each runner took the probiotics daily for a 4-week stretch, followed by a 4-week "washout period" in which they took nothing. They then followed this with the placebo for 4 weeks, followed by another "washout."

According to the researchers the probiotics did not change athletic performance but did reduce respiratory illness.Seven of the runners reported having respiratory problems, such as a sore throat, a cough, runny nose, chest congestion and sneezing on days when they took the placebo. These problems were recorded on a total of 72 days and rated on average 1.7 on a scale of severity, where three was the highest mark.

But when they took the probiotics, only three of the runners reported respiratory problems. The symptoms occurred on only 30 days and rated 1.0 for severity.

In addition, blood samples showed that levels of interferon gamma -- an immune-system molecule that is a key player in fighting viral infection -- doubled during the "probiotic" period.

Lactobacillus fermentum is a lactic acid bacterium that is well established as a treatment for diarrhea and other gut infections. The argument made for probiotics is that they strengthen gut flora and boost the immune system against disease.

Gut Bacteria Fights Inflammatory Bowel Disease

U.S. researchers say that a molecule produced by intestinal bacteria can eliminate symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in mice. IBD includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

It has long been known that the guts of humans and other mammals contain about 1,000 different species of bacteria that protect against infection and aid digestion. It has also been suspected that recent increases in asthma and certain food allergies may be due to disruptions in the delicate balance of the intestinal ecosystem, according to background information in the study.

Previous research has found that the sugar molecule polysaccharide A (PSA), which is produced by a species of intestinal bacteria called Bacteroides fragilis, boosted levels of immune system cells known to protect against colitis and Crohn's.

In this new study, as reported on Health Day News, researchers at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the California Institute of Technology, infected immune-suppressed mice with a harmful bacteria called Helicobacter hepaticus. The mice quickly developed IBD.

But when B. fragilis was combined with H. hepaticus, the mice remained healthy. Further tests revealed that PSA produced by B. fragilis was a key factor in preventing IBD. The molecule does this by prompting immune cells to secrete an anti-inflammatory interleukin called IL-10, which suppresses the inflammation caused by IBD.

This is the first time a beneficial molecule produced by intestinal bacteria has been shown to be therapeutic in an animal model. The study is published in the May 29 issue of Nature.

The researchers said their finding demonstrates the potential for "good" bacteria to benefit human health. "Given the sheer number of bacteria in the gut, the potential for discovering new molecules that can treat a whole range of these diseases is promising," says study co-author Dennis Kasper, professor of medicine & microbiology & molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital.


Essential Fatty Acids Preventing Heart Disease

Doctors say increasing omega 3 fatty acid intake through food is preferable, although heart patients may not be able to get enough omega 3 by diet alone.

Research shows that by including omega 3 fatty acids as a dietary supplement early on, heart patients can control their bad lipid levels, thereby preventing life-threatening complications. Supplements may also help people with high triglycerides, who need even larger doses.

Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and director, Wholefood, New Delhi explains: "Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats for the body and have immense beneficial properties.

They are particularly seen beneficial in reduction of blood pressure, inflammation, arthritis, pains and aches, controlling depression and enhancing brain function, besides anti-cancer properties. The ideal source of omega 3 fatty acids is fish, and flax seeds for vegetarians. However, for therapeutic and other cases, dietary supplements may be used."

Interestingly, the unique cardio protective effect of omega 3 fatty acids is mainly due to its five properties: stabilizing the internal lining of coronary arteries, preventing inflammation to spread and damage the walls of coronary arteries, preventing cells from becoming sticky and clot with each other, normalizing irregular heart beats and reducing blood fat levels.

Clearly, the long term effect may be even better, especially in a country like India where the people face the prospect of a substantial rise in the disease pattern. A mere look at World Health Organization's (WHO) figures confirms this. WHO predicts that by 2020, up to three quarters of deaths in India would result from non-communicable diseases with coronary heart disease (CHD) topping the list of killers. Already, diabetes is projected to hit 79.4 million Indians by 2010.

Dr. Ambrish Mithal, senior consultant, endocrinology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi says: "Lifestyle diseases are rising in India because we're seeing rapid changes in many facets of our lives. Besides genetic disposition to diseases like diabetes and heart problems, environmental changes are also taking their toll, not to speak of sedentary lifestyles and irregular and wrong eating habits. Worse, such diseases are striking the young as well as children. It is, therefore, important that people are made aware about risk factors and the impact that increased blood lipid levels have on the heart."


Did You Know?

Among the 43 different fruit and vegetable categories in the Environmental Working Group's Shoppers' Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the following 12 foods are lowest in pesticides when conventionally grown. Consequently, they are the safest conventionally grown crops to consume:

  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Cabbage
  • Banana
  • Kiwi
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Avocado
  • Onion

Among the 43 different fruit and vegetable categories tested, the following 12 fruits and vegetables are the highest in pesticides, making them the most important to buy or grow organic:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Pears
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes

Conventionally-grown strawberries, in particular, were found to be highly toxic due to a poisonous blend of pesticides in a previous 2007 study conducted by Milieudefensie, a Netherlands environmental organization.

But be VERY careful as the list above is for fruits and vegetables. Non-organic meats have far higher concentrations of pesticides than all of the fruits and vegetables. The highest concentration of pesticides is actually in non-organic butter. So if you can only buy one organic food item it should be butter.

In Good Health.
Pamela Nathan


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