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Spirulina Shown To Have Anti-Cancer Effects

At the Osaka Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, scientists have confirmed that taking an extract of spirulina can have positive effects on the production of cancer-fighting immune cells in the body.

Spirulina are blue-green algae rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Spirulina has 62% amino acid content, is the world's richest natural source of vitamin B-12, and contains a whole spectrum of natural mixed carotene. Spirulina has a soft cell wall made up of complex sugars and protein, and differs from most other algae in that it is easily digested.

Spirulina has been used as a food supplement for more than 20 years, and grows naturally in lakes with extremely high pH levels. The friendly algae are also cultivated in large-scale commercial ponds, where purity is monitored before the dried product is distributed in tableted and powdered form.

For decades, studies have demonstrated the immune system activation effects of spirulina. This latest study found that the oral administration of a hot water extract of spirulina (outdoor grown and spray dried) helped the immune system produce cancer-fighting immune cells called Natural Killer (NK) cells. The blood cells of a group of volunteers showed a significant increase in NK cell production and an increase of the cancer-killing ability of these NK cells.

This study shows that spirulina has the potential to mitigate cancer, and further research may expand on these results. It also suggests that taking spirulina helps arm the body with defensive NK cells that can act on cancer cells as soon as they develop, thereby preventing the onset of cancer.

The increased NK cell activity began four weeks after the administration of spirulina. Interestingly, the heightened activity continued to be observed up to five weeks after stopping administration of spirulina.

"People have used foods like yogurt and spirulina throughout history," says Dr. Judy van de Water, associate professor of rheumatology, allergy, and clinical immunology at UC Davis. "Through research, we are learning exactly how these foods improve immune system function and how they are a beneficial addition to our diet."

Reference: Intl Immuno-pharmacology volume 2, number 4, 2002.

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New Study Says: Lycopene

contributes to women's heart health

A heart-healthy diet has long consisted of a lot of fruits and vegetables, in part because of their high antioxidant content. Now, women may want to start adding more lycopene-rich foods to their diets. This finding is based on a study by Harvard Medical School researchers, using data from the Women's Health Study, which suggests that lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes and certain fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease in middle-aged and older women by as much as 33%.

Blood samples were analyzed for nearly 500 women from the Women's Health Study who developed cardiovascular disease, and an equal number of women from the study who did not develop the disease. After the researchers took into account coronary risk factors such as a history of high cholesterol and physical inactivity, they found that those women with the highest levels of plasma lycopene had a 33% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest levels. Plasma lycopene refers to the level of lycopene found in the blood. Researchers believe that the level of lycopene in the blood is related to the amount of lycopene consumed in the diet.

"This is the first large-scale study to examine the role that lycopene may play in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease exclusively in women," said lead researcher Howard D. Sesso, ScD, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Sesso states, "The 33% risk reduction in our study has compelled us to further investigate lycopene's power in combating heart disease."

Dr. Michael Gaziano, MD, director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and one of the study's authors commented, "There are no dietary recommendations for lycopene. Yet the research suggests that women should aim to consume more lycopene-rich foods as a prudent measure in the prevention of chronic diseases."

Dietary sources of lycopene include tomato-based products such as tomato soup and pizza sauce, and fruits such as watermelon, guava, papaya, and pink grapefruit.

Reference: Harvard Women's Health Study 2002.

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Vitamin E May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk By 90%

Recent eye-opening research shows that women may experience up to a 90% reduction in the risk of breast cancer by increasing their intake of two forms of vitamin E. The findings revealed that high dietary intake of tocotrienols and gamma tocopherols are effective as protection against this disease.

The studies show that tocotrienols significantly inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation and induce apoptosis-or programmed cell death. Tocotrienols have demonstrated the most significant potential to reduce the incidence of breast cancer, and also to inhibit existing breast cancer cell propagation.

Tocotrienols are found in rice bran, palm fruit, barley, wheat germ, and nuts and seeds. It is especially important to take gamma tocopherols and tocotrienols with some form of oil or fat-containing food, or with natural unsaturated fatty acids supplements such as EPA, DHA, GLA, or ALA.

One study showed that when tocotrienols are taken on an empty stomach, absorption was reduced by an average of 64%-so consumers should be sure to take the supplements with food. Tocotrienols and gamma tocopherols are available in soft gels and in capsules.

Reference: Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 13; 2-20, 2002.

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Omega-3 Reduces Risk Of Heart Attack Death

A recent article published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that men with high blood levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were strongly protected against sudden death from heart attacks.

This study underscores the importance of dietary supplements with omega-3 fatty acids for heart health, and looks specifically at omega-3 fatty acid blood levels, as opposed to diet. The researchers found a noticeable relationship between the blood level of omega-3 fatty acids present when these men entered the study, and the likelihood of dying from coronary heart disease.

Each year, about 220,000 North Americans experience sudden death, collapsing and dying within an hour. In about 50% of the cases, the victim is unaware of that heart disease. Instead, sudden death is the first symptom of the problem. "Prevention is really the only way to impact the rate and mortality from sudden death," said Dr. Christine M. Albert, MD, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital who headed the study. "One way you could do it in a population that's healthy is through diet and lifestyle."

About 22,000 male doctors enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study in 1982. They were all free of heart disease at the time, and about 15,000 volunteered a blood sample. Over the next 17 years, 94 of the men who had given blood samples, and who had not subsequently been diagnosed with heart disease, died suddenly. The researchers chose 180 surviving members of the study and compared them with those victims. In particular, they compared the bloodstream concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, a substance found primarily in fish oils. Those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 were over 80% less likely to die suddenly from heart disease.

The dose of omega-3 fatty acids needed is small: 800 mg to 1,000 mg per day of omega-3 fatty acids should be sufficient. "It's a low-risk, very inexpensive way to lower the risk of heart disease," said Dr. JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women's Hospital, co-author of the men's study.

Reference: The New England Journal of Medicine volume 346:1113-8; number 15; April 11, 2002.

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Dietary Calcium Significantly Reduces risk of colon cancer.

In a recent study appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the diet and colon cancer history of 135,000 men and women in two large health surveys. They found that those who consumed 700 mg to 800 mg per day of calcium reduced their risk of left-side colon cancer by 40% to 50%.

In the study, the authors identified 626 colon cancer cases among the 88,000 women enrolled in the Nurse's Health Study, and 399 men with colon cancer among the 47,000 in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Both of these large studies monitored the health habits and diets of the men and women over many years, beginning in the 1980s.

By evaluating the diets of those who developed colon cancer and of those who did not, the researchers found that adequate levels of calcium in the diet significantly reduced the risk of cancer on the left side of the colon, but had no statistically significant protection for other types of colon cancer. It is not known why the cancer-calcium data were different for the sections of the colon, but there is some evidence that there are two different tumor types in the colon.

What calcium appears to do is help to bind both fatty acid and bile acid within the colon to prevent them from interacting with the colon lining, thereby reducing the irritant effect of these substances on the colon.

This study is important because it suggests that adequate calcium in the diet has a benefit beyond building strong bones.

Reference: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 94:437-46, 2002.

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Protein With Calcium And Vitamin D Aids Bones

According to research from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, a high protein diet may be beneficial to bone health in the elderly, when adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes are present.

Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, MD, along with a team of researchers, explored the associations between dietary protein intake and changes in Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in elderly subjects. This study examined the associations between protein intake and changes in BMD in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of calcium citrate and vitamin D supplementation. Study participants either consumed a 500 mg per day supplement of calcium citrate and approximately 700 mg per day of dietary calcium, as well as approximately 200 IU per day of vitamin D, or a placebo for three years.

For the total body BMD, a 20% higher mean protein intake was associated with significantly less loss of total body BMD in the calcium-supplemented subjects, whereas there was no association between protein intake and BMD in the placebo group. The supplemented group also had higher rates of calcium absorption from food than the placebo group, indicating that calcium supplementation may also aid the absorption of calcium from food.

This analysis concluded that protein intake is important in bone health when sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D are present. "We found that protein has a favorable effect on changes in bone density if you have an adequate calcium and vitamin D intake," Dr. Dawson-Hughes states. "But, it has a neutral effect if you have an inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake. So, in the placebo group, more and more protein wasn't helpful."This study may clarify some of the differing information on bone density.

Reference: Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 75:773-9.

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Ginkgo biloba, an herbal remedy used by many to boost mental awareness, has been shown in a medically supervised study to slow cognitive decline in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The study was conducted by Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom, MD, PhD. Corey-Bloom concluded that ginkgo, in doses of 240 mg per day, is well tolerated and may show a beneficial effect on attention, memory, and functioning in patients with mild MS.

Dr. Corey-Bloom added that she is encouraged enough by these results that she will recommend ginkgo to her MS patients with cognitive complaints.

Reference: UCSD School of Medicine 2002.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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