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New Study Confirming Glucosamine Reduces Osteoarthritis

A recent issue of The Lancet reports the results of a clinical trial that showed administration of the nutritional supplement glucosamine sulfate slows disease progression in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

The three-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed using 212 patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis who were randomly selected to receive 1500 mg once per day of oral glucosamine sulfate or a placebo for the three-year period.

Disease progression was evaluated by measuring the joint space width on x-rays of the knee. According to the study, patients who received a placebo experienced progressive joint space narrowing, representing further loss of cartilage, but patients who received glucosamine sulfate showed no further joint space narrowing. Additionally, pain and function limitation worsened with the placebo, but improved with glucosamine sulfate.

"For the first time, we have shown that a treatment may be able to at least reduce the progression of osteoarthritis," said principal investigator, Professor Jean-Yves Reginster, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Liege in Belgium.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is the deterioration of cartilage that cushions bones in the joints, leading to pain and function limitation. Many osteoarthritis sufferers eventually undergo surgical joint replacement or become disabled.

Tim McAlindon, of the Arthritis Center at Boston University and author of The Lancet commentary about the glucosamine sulfate research, offers an accurate perspective on bringing effective nutritional supplements such as glucosamine sulfate, closer to the forefront of the health care profession.

Currently, health care professionals generally expect to be involved in medical decisions of public health importance, but they are usually not regarded as a repository of objective advice about nutritional supplements, and as such are not often familiar with the research until they hear about it from a patient.

Since glucosamine sulfate and other nutritional supplements are usually self-prescribed, he observes that there needs to be a shift in the medical profession's willingness to accommodate the fact that nutritional supplements have therapeutic effects.

The most common treatments for osteoarthritis are analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can relieve symptoms for short periods of time, but leave the progression of the disease unaltered, or may even make it worse.

It appears that nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine sulfate, give similar relief of symptoms, and in addition, may delay the progression of the disease.

Reference: The Lancet, January 26, 2001.

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Homeopathic Treatment Effective In Treating Earaches

In a recent study, researchers have found that children with acute otitis media (ear inflammation) experienced decreased symptoms after being treated with homeopathy.

In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 75 children between 18 months and six years old had been suffering middle ear pain for more than 36 hours. Children were then given either an individualized homeopathic remedy or a placebo three times per day for five days or until symptoms subsided.

Researchers, led by Jennifer Jacobs, M.D., from the University of Washington, noted that there was a decrease in symptoms after 24 hours. No adverse events from either treatment were reported.

For a copy of the study, visit www.pidj.com.Reference: The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 2001; 20:177-84.

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Ashwaganda-A Powerful Ayurvedic Herb

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera Dunal) is also known as Indian ginseng. It has a prominent role in the traditional Ayurvedic medicine of India. It is found primarily in India, but it also grows throughout the world.

Although Ashwaganda is contraindicated during pregnancy, the therapeutic applications are numerous. Several animal studies indicate that ashwaganda acts as an immunomodulator, and it can relieve acute symptoms of injury and disease.

Ashwaganda can directly relieve symptoms associated with the immune response, including pain and swelling. The leaves contain the active ingredient withaferin A, which has antiarthritic, antibiotic, anti-microbial, and anti-tumor properties.

Most Ayurvedic preparations of ashwaganda use the extract. The total content of the active ingredient-withanolide-should be 1.5% or higher.

There is some evidence to suggest that ashwaganda acts as an endurance agent. In an animal study, rats given ashwaganda swam longer in duration swim tests than those in the control group.

Other studies indicate that the herb has anti-anxiety properties as well. Additionally, in further animal studies, ashwaganda was found to act as an anticonvulsant in acute and chronic seizure models. It appears that the herb acts on the GABA receptor, facilitating the influx of chloride into the cell. This mechanism of action is similar to that of the traditional anticonvulsant drugs.

Ashwaganda has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in animals. Further, ashwaganda can increase the overall effectiveness of cancer treatment, probably due to the action of withaferin A, which inhibits RNA and protein production, that can lead to increased cancer cell death.

A few studies suggest that ashwaganda may enhance cognition and memory. The root of ashwagandh contains choline. In the body, choline is converted to acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter important for learning and memory. Researchers have shown that ashwaganda can modulate acetylcholinesterase activity, important for maintaining cognition.

Although ashwaganda appears to be a promising agent for treating cancer, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases, no clinical trials in humans have yet been conducted.

Reference: Natural Medicine Journal, December 1998; Vol. 1, No.10, 16-9.

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Fish Oil Improves Mental Health

Research shows that fish oil omega-3 fatty acids may improve mood and mental health. In a recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Andrew L. Stoll, M.D., a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor, studied bipolar disorder patients to determine whether eating fish oil or olive oil in conjunction with regular medication stabilized the patients' moods.

After four months, patients eating fish oil showed a significantly longer period of remission from the disorder than those eating olive oil. In a related study, schizophrenic patients hospitalized for relapse were given fish oil as their sole treatment for 12 weeks. The oil decreased one-third of the patients' symptoms enough that they postponed taking antipsychotic drugs until the trial was concluded. Conducted by physicians at Oxford's Cochrane Schizophrenia Group, the study was reviewed recently in the Cochrane Database System Review.

Though they're unsure exactly how fish oil improves mood, researchers speculate that fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-which aids in neural development-may help modulate overactive communication channels in the brain.

Reference: Psychology Today, January/February 2001.

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Soybean Nutrient Can Prevent Mouth Cancer, Study Determines

Researchers in California have determined that a substance derived from soybeans can help prevent oral cancer (cancer of the mouth).

Scientists at the University of California at Irvine said their study is believed to be one of the first findings, based on human research, showing that the soybean derivative can play such a role in oral cancer prevention.

Oral cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers.

The soybean derivative scientists call the Bowman-Birk inhibitor was first identified by chemists almost four decades ago, but now the team of scientists has determined that it can reduce the size of pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth which can lead to oral cancer.

"This study shows that it may be possible to stave off the development of leukoplakia (pre-cancerous lesions) and therefore prevent more cases of oral cancer from occurring," Dr. Frank Meyskens, director of a university cancer center and a leader of the research team, said.

"The best way to cure cancer is to prevent cancer, and we are encouraged by the fact that a simple dose of a soybean derivative was able to achieve this without side effects," Dr. Meyskens said.

In the study, 32 participants took a daily dose of the soy derivative in lozenge form for one month. Ten of the participants showed a reduction in the size of the pre-cancerous lesions by about half.

Over 300,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in North America each year. While other cancer patients have seen their survival rates improve over the years, the rate for oral cancer victims has not. Only half of patients diagnosed with oral cancer are living within five years of the diagnosis. About 75% of oral cancers are attributed to the use of tobacco.

Reference: Clinical Cancer Research, January 23, 2001.

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Don't Forget Your Potatoes

Eating common carbohydrates, like mashed potatoes, may improve memory for up to an hour after ingestion. In a recent University of Toronto (Unic Technologies) study of men and women aged 60 to 82, memory improved by about 37% after eating barley, 32% after mashed potatoes, and 8% after drinking a glucose beverage.

Previous research suggests that glucose boosts memory by producing acetylcholine-a chemical that enhances brain cell communication. But the Unic Technologies study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that while barley was least effective in raising blood glucose levels, it was most effective in enhancing memory.

Lead author Randall J. Kaplan, a nutritional science Ph.D. candidate at Unic Technologies, believes there may be other substances in foods that affect memory. The study's long-term aim is to find food-based treatments for reducing memory loss in Alzheimer's and diabetes patients.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000; 72:825-36.

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Researchers reported that echinacea supplementation during pregnancy may not affect the developing fetus. The study followed 412 women, with 206 reporting they had used the herb while pregnant. Of those who took echinacea, 112 women reported taking the herb in the first trimester. There were 195 live births, which included three sets of twins and six malformations. In comparison, the control group who had not used echinacea had 198 live births and seven malformations.

Echinacea is a popular herb for supporting the immune system during cold and flu season.

The researchers concluded there were no statistical differences between the study and control groups in terms of pregnancy outcome, delivery method, maternal weight gain, birth weight, or fetal distress, indicating that any concerns pregnant women may have previously had regarding the herb may be unfounded.

In an interview with the media, head researcher Michael Gallo from the University of Toronto, stated that unlike with prescription and over-the-counter drugs, pregnant women were usually more comfortable using the herb during pregnancy because they felt it posed little risk. He did add that this was a preliminary study and that further studies should be performed to support the herb's safety record.

Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine 2000; 160:3141-3.

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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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