Outside Magazine Cries “Snake Oil” on Omega 3s – Huh?

This just in via Facebook.

Outside Magazine sez

“Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on fish oil supplements every year, but studies have never been able to prove their effectiveness.”

I would not recommend seeking health advice from Outside. Sorry, guys.

What the author misses here is that intervention trials for preventive medicine are essentially impossible. We can’t get 1,000 humans to eat Purina Human Chow and live in a controlled environment for decades. Our long lifespan and “confounding variables” make this kind of trial unrealistic.

Further, there’s not enough money in supplements to have drug-like evidence. Try to find such evidence for any food, for example intervention trials that prove orange juice is good for you.

In nearly 100 years of regulation by the FDA, the only over-the-counter drugs approved for the prevention of any disease are fluoride toothpaste, sunscreen, aspirin for blood thinning, and anti-ulcer drugs for preventing indigestion.

Now take a look at the link below. Omega 3 proves more effective than aspirin as an anti-inflammatory. Heart disease, cancer, arthritis, liver disease and many other conditions are now known to be related to whole-body inflammation. The research cited below tested specifically for inflammatory compounds (cytokines) in the blood.

“Aspirin alone had no effect on any factor versus baseline, but EPA+DHA, with and without aspirin, significantly reduced concentrations of 8 of 9 factors. Although EPA+DHA plus aspirin reduced concentrations of a subset of the factors compared to baseline, neither aspirin alone nor the combination significantly reduced the level of any analyte more robustly than EPA+DHA alone.”

omega-3 inflammation – PubMed – NCBI
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22530200.1

Plants Against Liver Cancer

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science, Top Stories

liver tumor pictureResearchers at Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy look at liver cancer and the remedies, natural and synthetic, that can prevent and treat it. The abstract sets up the need for this research:

Despite significant advances in medicine, liver cancer, predominantly hepatocellular carcinoma remains a major cause of death in the United States as well as the rest of the world. As limited treatment options are currently available to patients with liver cancer, novel preventive control and effective therapeutic approaches are considered to be reasonable and decisive measures to combat this disease. Several naturally occurring dietary and non-dietary phytochemicals have shown enormous potential in the prevention and treatment of several cancers, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract.

The article then descrive the largest group of phytochemicals used for medicine in India and China: terpenoids, some of which are currently in clinical trials as anticancer agents. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, with a five year survival rate below 9%. The incidence of liver cancer in the US has risen 70% in the last 25 years. The authors comment on treatment and prognosis:

HCC (hepatocellular carcinoma) prognosis remains dismal despite many treatment options. Overall, the cure rate among patients who undergo resection is not very high and for those patients who are not eligible for surgery or percutaneous procedures, only chemoembolization appears to improve survival…

Sorafenib, the only drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of advanced HCC, increases the median survival time by less than 3 mo[21]. However, this drug does not defer the symptomatic progression of the disease, costs about $5400 per month for treatment[22], and exhibits severe adverse effects, including a significant risk of bleeding[23]. These drawbacks necessitate the search for novel preventive and therapeutic approaches for this disease.

After a review of what terpenoids are and how they are used, the article looks at plants and plant compounds with anticancer effects. “Terpenoids have been found to be useful in the prevention and therapy of several diseases, including cancer, and also to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-allergenic, antispasmodic, antihyperglycemic, antiinflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.”

In terms of anticancer properties the article points out that a large number of triterpenoids suppress the growth of many types of cancer cells “without exerting any toxicity in normal cells,” and that preclinical studies show triterpenoids have chemopreventive and therapeutic effects against colon, breast, prostate and skin cancer.

This is the first review we have found that focuses exclusively on liver cancer. Of the compounds under current study, these appear to be the most promising:

In vitro

The only monoterpene studied was geraniol, which inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells by inhibiting HMG-CoA.

The diterpene andrographolide from Andrographis paniculata inhibited growth by apoptosis (inducing “programmed cell death” in the tumor cells) and two other mechanisms. Two other diterpenes are discussed.

The largest number of compounds studied are the triterpenes, with many active compounds, including those from Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa), astragalus, Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), Trichosanthes kirilowii, Aesculus (horse chestnut), Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Ginseng, Gynostemma, Bosewellia serrata, Aralia, Gentian and others.

The tetraterpenes are known as carotenoids and include the most common form of vitamin A (beta carotene) and astaxanthin, the compound that makes shrimp and salmon pink. Fukoxanthin, from seaweed, and lycopene from tomatoes also showed significant activity.

Sesquiterpenes
with anticancer activity in liver cells include bisabolol from chamomile and zerumbone from wild ginger.

In vivo

Animal studies for activity against liver cancer are much less common, despite promising results from in vitro studies. Of these, geraniol again showed the ability to suppress liver carcinogenesis and limonene showed efficacy against HCC. Andrographis had “potent antitumor activity” by oral administration. Bacoside A, from Bacopa monniera delayed development and growth of tumors, and cucurbitacin B reduced tumor volume and tumor growth. Escin (from horse chestnut) and ginseng reduced tumor growth, as did glycyrrhizin from licorice.

Several studies showed a lack of efficacy for triterpenes, so look at the original article for a balanced view. It’s available free, online, HERE.

World J Hepatol. 2011 September 27; 3(9): 228–249.

Hepatoprotective properties of kombucha tea against TBHP-induced oxidative stress via suppression of mitochondria dependent apoptosis.

This popular drink is now being sold in most stores when just a few years ago it could only be found in health food stores.  This article indicates kombucha is beneficial against liver disease.

Abstract

Kombucha, a fermented tea (KT) is claimed to possess many beneficial properties. Recent studies have suggested that KT prevents paracetamol and carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity. We investigated the beneficial role of KT was against tertiary butyl hydroperoxide (TBHP) induced cytotoxicity and cell death in murine hepatocytes. TBHP is a well known reactive oxygen species (ROS) inducer, and it induces oxidative stress in organ pathophysiology. In our experiments, TBHP caused a reduction in cell viability, enhanced the membrane leakage and disturbed the intra-cellular antioxidant machineries while simultaneous treatment of the cells with KT and this ROS inducer maintained membrane integrity and prevented the alterations in the cellular antioxidant status. These findings led us to explore the detailed molecular mechanisms involved in the protective effect of KT. TBHP introduced apoptosis as the primary phenomena of cell death as evidenced by flow cytometric analyses. In addition, ROS generation, changes in the mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, activation of caspases (3 and 9) and Apaf-1 were detected confirming involvement of mitochondrial pathway in this pathophysiology. Simultaneous treatment of KT with TBHP, on the other hand, protected the cells against oxidative injury and maintained their normal physiology. In conclusion, KT was found to modulate the oxidative stress induced apoptosis in murine hepatocytes probably due to its antioxidant activity and functioning via mitochondria dependent pathways and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role.

Pathophysiology. 2011 Jun;18(3):221-34. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

Flaxseed: a potential source of food, feed and fiber.

Flax seed has many potential health benefits.  The article below gives us some examples.

Flaxseed is one of the most important oilseed crops for industrial as well as food, feed, and fiber purposes. Almost every part of the flaxseed plant is utilized commercially, either directly or after processing. The stem yields good quality fiber having high strength and durability. The seed provides oil rich in omega-3, digestible proteins, and lignans. In addition to being one of the richest sources of α-linolenic acid oil and lignans, flaxseed is an essential source of high quality protein and soluble fiber and has considerable potential as a source of phenolic compounds. Flaxseed is emerging as an important functional food ingredient because of its rich contents of α-linolenic acid (ALA), lignans, and fiber. Lignans appear to be anti-carcinogenic compounds. The omega-3s and lignan phytoestrogens of flaxseed are in focus for their benefits for a wide range of health conditions and may possess chemo-protective properties in animals and humans. This paper presents a review of literature on the nutritional composition of flaxseed, its health benefits, and disease-prevention qualities, utilization of flaxseed for food, feed, and fiber, and processing of flaxseed.

Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial.

This study shows the benefits of omega-3 supplementation.

Abstract

Observational studies have linked lower omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and higher omega-6 (n-6) PUFAs with inflammation and depression, but randomized controlled trial (RCT) data have been mixed. To determine whether n-3 decreases proinflammatory cytokine production and depressive and anxiety symptoms in healthy young adults, this parallel group, placebo-controlled, double-blind 12-week RCT compared n-3 supplementation with placebo. The participants, 68 medical students, provided serial blood samples during lower-stress periods as well as on days before an exam. The students received either n-3 (2.5g/d, 2085mg eicosapentaenoic acid and 348mg docosahexanoic acid) or placebo capsules that mirrored the proportions of fatty acids in the typical American diet. Compared to controls, those students who received n-3 showed a 14% decrease in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulated interleukin 6 (IL-6) production and a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms, without significant change in depressive symptoms. Individuals differ in absorption and metabolism of n-3 PUFA supplements, as well as in adherence; accordingly, planned secondary analyses that used the plasma n-6:n-3 ratio in place of treatment group showed that decreasing n-6:n-3 ratios led to lower anxiety and reductions in stimulated IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) production, as well as marginal differences in serum TNF-α. These data suggest that n-3 supplementation can reduce inflammation and anxiety even among healthy young adults. The reduction in anxiety symptoms associated with n-3 supplementation provides the first evidence that n-3 may have potential anxiolytic benefits for individuals without an anxiety disorder diagnosis. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00519779.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Jul 19.

What’s in a Name? Can Mullein Weed Beat TB Where Modern Drugs Are Failing?

August 15, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science

This article outlines the history  of  Verbascum thapsus, mullien, and its potential benefits for use with tuberculosis.  For a link to read the complete article click on Verbascum thapsus.

Abstract

Common mullein weed (Verbascum thapsus ) has a large number of synonyms and old local “nick names” which connect the plant with mycobacteria. A strong history of medicinal use has been uncovered for the treatment of tuberculosis, tubercular skin disease, leprosy, and mycobacterial disease in animals. Here, we examine problems encountered in treating such diseases today, the historical and scientific links between mullein and pathogenic bacteria, and the possibility that this common weed could harbour the answer to beating one of the world’s biggest infectious killers.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011. pii: 239237. Epub 2010 Sep 19.

Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression.

August 9, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Natural Healthcare, Nutrients, Science

The following article gives us yet another reason to eat our vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables, tomato sauce, and legumes have been associated with reduced risk of incident advanced prostate cancer. In vitro and animal studies suggest these foods may inhibit progression of prostate cancer, but there are limited data in men. Therefore, we prospectively examined whether intake of total vegetables, and specifically cruciferous vegetables, tomato sauce, and legumes, after diagnosis reduce risk of prostate cancer progression among 1,560 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer and participating in the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor, a United States prostate cancer registry. As a secondary analysis, we also examined other vegetable sub-groups, total fruit, and sub-groups of fruits. The participants were diagnosed primarily at community-based clinics and followed from 2004-2009. We assessed vegetable and fruit intake via a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire, and ascertained prostate cancer outcomes via urologist report and medical records. We observed 134 events of progression (53 biochemical recurrences, 71 secondary treatments likely due to recurrence, six bone metastases, four prostate cancer deaths) during 3,171 person-yrs. Men in the fourth quartile of post-diagnostic cruciferous vegetable intake had a statistically significant 59% decreased risk of prostate cancer progression compared to men in the lowest quartile (hazard ratio (HR): 0.41; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.22, 0.76; p-trend: 0.003). No other vegetable or fruit group was statistically significantly associated with risk of prostate cancer progression. In conclusion, cruciferous vegetable intake after diagnosis may reduce risk of prostate cancer progression.

Medication safety series: take charge!

July 30, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Herbs, Natural Healthcare, Science

The following article states clearly the importance of making sure medications are taken with safety in mind.

Nurses have read the statistics on the numbers of prescription medications seniors take each day and the pitfalls and diverse problems that occur as a result. Various scenarios contribute to this problem: multiple healthcare providers prescribe medications; the use of over-the-counter products and herbs or alcohol cause medication interactions; and patients increase, decrease, skip, or repeat doses. When medications are not taken correctly, an increase in the number of physician or emergency department visits and hospitalizations results. Patients who come to a rehabilitation unit after joint replacement or hip-pinning surgery, stroke, or for treatment of other conditions may be prescribed medications that differ from the drugs they were taking at home. These patients and their families need to learn how to safely take their new medications. This presentation describes how five nurses developed a medication safety program consisting of four segments: Making Your Medication List; Talking to Your Healthcare Team About Your Medications; Safely Storing, Taking, and Destroying Your Medications; and Knowing the Difference Between Allergies, Side Effects, and Interactions. This article also describes the development of the script and PowerPoint program, lessons learned from the first presentation, and implications for rehabilitation nurses. The information presented in this series can help patients and families take charge of their medications. The team of community educators who wrote this article encourages the integration of this program into readers’ local patient communities because standards of care and resources vary in the communities that nurses serve.

Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all.

When a study illustrates all healing aspects of an herb and calls it a “cure-all”, I feel it is worth a read.  Western herbalists have known the worth of Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica.  At the end of the abstract, I have attached a link to the complete study.

Abstract

In recent times, focus on plant research has increased all over the world. Centella asiatica is an important medicinal herb that is widely used in the orient and is becoming popular in the West. Triterpenoid, saponins, the primary constituents of Centellaasiatica are manly believed to be responsible for its wide therapeutic actions. Apart from wound healing, the herb is recommended for the treatment of various skin conditions such as leprosy, lupus, varicose ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, diarrhoea, fever, amenorrhea, diseases of the female genitourinary tract and also for relieving anxiety and improving cognition. The present review attempts to provide comprehensive information on pharmacology, mechanisms of action, various preclinical and clinical studies, safety precautions and current research prospects of the herb. At the same time, studies to evaluate the likelihood of interactions with drugs and herbs on simultaneous use, which is imperative for optimal and safe utilization of the herb, are discussed.

Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Sep;72(5):546-56.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/?tool=pubmed

Repellent activity of catmint, Nepeta cataria, and iridoid nepetalactone isomers against Afro-tropical mosquitoes, ixodid ticks and red poultry mites.

There are many herbal alternatives to DEET.  This study shows how catnip, Napeta cataria, can be a beneficial ingredient to your natural insect repellent.

Abstract

The repellent activity of the essential oilof the catmint plant, Nepetacataria (Lamiaceae), and the main iridoid compounds (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS)-nepetalactone, was assessed against (i) major Afro-tropical pathogen vector mosquitoes, i.e. the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae s.s. and the Southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, using a World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved topical application bioassay (ii) the brown ear tick, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, using a climbing repellency assay, and (iii) the red poultry mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, using field trapping experiments. Gas chromatography (GC) and coupled GC-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis of two N. cataria chemotypes (A and B) used in the repellency assays showed that (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS)-nepetalactone were present in different proportions, with one of the oils (from chemotype A) being dominated by the (4aS,7S,7aR) isomer (91.95% by GC), and the other oil(from chemotype B) containing the two (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS) isomers in 16.98% and 69.83% (by GC), respectively. The sesquiterpene hydrocarbon (E)-(1R,9S)-caryophyllene was identified as the only other major component in the oils (8.05% and 13.19% by GC, respectively). Using the topical application bioassay, the oils showed high repellent activity (chemotype A RD(50)=0.081 mg cm(-2) and chemotype B RD(50)=0.091 mg cm(-2)) for An. gambiae comparable with the synthetic repellent DEET (RD(50)=0.12 mg cm(-2)), whilst for Cx. quinquefasciatus, lower repellent activity was recorded (chemotype A RD(50)=0.34 mg cm(-2) and chemotype B RD(50)=0.074 mg cm(-2)). Further repellency testing against An. gambiae using the purified (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS)-nepetalactone isomers revealed overall lower repellent activity, compared to the chemotype A and B oils. Testing of binary mixtures of the (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS) isomers across a range of ratios, but all at the same overall dose (0.1 mg), revealed not only a synergistic effect between the two, but also a surprising ratio-dependent effect, with lower activity for the pure isomers and equivalent or near-equivalent mixtures, but higher activity for non-equivalent ratios. Furthermore, a binary mixture of (4aS,7S,7aR) and (4aS,7S,7aS) isomers, in a ratio equivalent to that found in chemotype B oil, was less repellent than the oilitself, when tested at two doses equivalent to 0.1 and 0.01 mg chemotype B oil. The three-component blend including (E)-(1R,9S)-caryophyllene at the level found in chemotype B oilhad the same activity as chemotype B oil. In a tick climbing repellency assay using R. appendiculatus, the oils showed high repellent activity comparable with data for other repellent essential oils (chemotype A RD(50)=0.005 mg and chemotype B RD(50)=0.0012 mg). In field trapping assays with D. gallinae, addition of the chemotype A and B oils, and a combination of the two, to traps pre-conditioned with D. gallinae, all resulted in a significant reduction of D. gallinae trap capture. In summary, these data suggest that although the nepetalactone isomers have the potential to be used in human and livestock protection against major pathogen vectors, intact, i.e. unfractionated, Nepetaspp. oils offer potentially greater protection, due to the presence of both nepetalactone isomers and other components such as (E)-(1R,9S)-caryophyllene.

Phytochemistry. 2011 Jan;72(1):109-14. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

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