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May 2007

Meat consumption and breast cancer
Fruits/veggies and head/neck cancers
Glycemic load and weight loss
Black cohosh reduces breast cancer
Muscle building and diabetes
Alpha lipoic acid and diabetes
CoQ10 and migraine headaches

Meat consumption and breast cancer

A new study shows that consumption of meat is associated with an increased breast cancer risk. In this study from Britain, the UK Women’s Cohort Study, 35,372 women, 35 to 69 years old, were followed for eight years. (Taylor EF, et al., Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study. Br J Cancer. 2007 Apr 9;96(7):1139-46.) Overall, high total meat consumption (including red meat, poultry, and processed meats) compared to none increased breast cancer risk by 20 percent. In post-menopausal women the risk was even greater, at 63 percent increased risk, and even low total meat consumption compared to none was associated with a significant increased risk (53 percent).

Processed meat was worse than red meat, with a 64 percent increase in risk with the highest consumption. Processed meats included bacon, ham, corned beef, sausages, salami, and similar foods. However, red meat at any level was associated with a 56-64 percent increased risk.

The highest meat consumption was not as high as you might think, as it was only anything over 2 oz. per day for red meat, 3 oz. for total meat, and only ¾ oz. for processed meat.
The researchers had to eliminate a number of variables to come up with reliable data.

Those subjects who consumed the most meat also were more likely to be smokers, have the highest total calorie intake, the highest body weight, the lowest level of education, and the fewest professional or managerial jobs. The meat eaters also had the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. These characteristics were removed from the statistical analysis in order to draw accurate conclusions based on meat consumption alone.

Fruits/veggies and head/neck cancers

Malignant tumors of the head and neck include sinus, nasal, throat, and oral cancers. These are often related to smoking, other tobacco use (chewing tobacco, for example), or alcohol. A study of 490,802 older Americans shows that any increase of fruit and vegetable consumption (even just two servings per day) can reduce the risk of developing these cancers.

A fourfold increase of fruit and vegetable consumption can reduce the risk by almost 30 percent. Typically, Americans do not consume adequate fruits and vegetables, but this simple lifestyle change can dramatically influence health. (American Association for Cancer Research)

Glycemic load and weight loss

Weight loss programs that focus on glycemic load may well be missing the key to weight control as well as good health. The effect that a food has on blood sugar levels is usually related to the amount of simple sugars or carbohydrates that it contains (especially refined carbs like white flour) multiplied by the portion size (but it is also influenced by the amount of fiber in the food, the amount of fat, and other nutrients).

A new study shows that for weight loss, it is more important to reduce calories than to worry about glycemic load. Two groups of subjects were put on relatively healthy reduced-calorie diets, with one group eating a higher glycemic load menu and the other a low glycemic load selection. Both groups ate recommended amounts of fiber and healthy fruits and vegetables.

Both groups were supposed to reduce their caloric intake by 30 percent. Although neither group did so strictly, there was no significant difference in how the two groups varied from the recommendations. After one year, both groups lost the same amount of weight – about 8 percent of their weight at the start of the study. (Das SK, et al., Long-term effects of 2 energy-restricted diets differing in glycemic load on dietary adherence, body composition, and metabolism in CALERIE: a 1-y randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1023-30.

Black cohosh reduces breast cancer

A preliminary study suggests that taking the herb black cohosh might reduce the risk of breast cancer. Many women use this herb to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and irritability. The herb contains triterpene glycosides and isoflavones that might be responsible for these benefits. It also has antioxidant properties.

Researchers compared 949 women with breast cancer to 1524 healthy women and found that among women who use the herb, breast cancer was 61 percent less likely. Similar results were seen when they looked at women who took one brand of standardized extract of black cohosh. (Rebbeck TR, A retrospective case-control study of the use of hormone-related supplements and association with breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 2007 Apr 1;120(7):1523-8.)

Muscle building and diabetes

Independent of weight loss, resistance exercise that builds muscle reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. After only 12 weeks of exercise, glucose tolerance was increased by up to 30 percent in a group of men and women in their early 60s. (Iglay HB, et al., Resistance training and dietary protein: effects on glucose tolerance and contents of skeletal muscle insulin signaling proteins in older persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Apr;85(4):1005-13.)

The exercises worked a variety of muscle groups for 75 minutes three times a week. In addition to the exercise, the groups were divided into high (HP) and low protein LP) intake. The low intake was 0.9 grams of protein daily per kilogram of body weight. The high protein group consumed 1.2 grams per Kg of body weight (although this is only about ½ gram of protein per pound, it is usually more than adequate). Both groups had lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. In addition, the percent body fat decreased equally in both the HP and LP groups.

Interestingly, the improvement in glucose tolerance was almost the same in the HP and LP groups (the low protein group was slightly but not significantly better), and the insulin level dropped in the LP group, but not in the HP group.

Alpha lipoic acid and diabetes

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) has been shown to improve glucose control in diabetic patients. A new study from Greece examined the effect of oral alpha lipoic acid supplements on 12 type 2 diabetic patients aged 43 to 62, and compared that to the effect on 12 normal subjects. (Kamenova P, Improvement of insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid. Hormones (Athens). 2006 Oct-Dec;5(4):251-8.

The researchers treated the subjects with 600 mg of ALA twice per day for four weeks. All of the diabetics were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) averaging 34 percent. Insulin sensitivity almost doubled in the treatment group. At the end of the study, the diabetics’ insulin sensitivity was virtually the same as that in the normal subjects.

ALA is a potent antioxidant with a number of benefits for the brain and neurological tissues, and is helpful in reversing and preventing or slowing the progression of peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the extremities) in diabetics. It has also been shown to reduce liver damage during liver surgery and protect against the development of dementia.

CoQ10 and migraine headaches

A preliminary study of pediatric and adolescent migraine patients suggests that coenzyme Q10 is low in many of the subjects at a migraine clinic, and that administration of coenzyme Q10 supplements can reduce headache incidence and severity.

In a study of 1550 subjects aged 3 to 22, about 33 percent were found to have coenzyme Q10 levels that were below the reference range (Hershey AD, et al., Coenzyme Q10 deficiency and response to supplementation in pediatric and adolescent migraine. Headache. 2007 Jan;47(1):73-80). Those with low levels were prescribed coQ10 supplements of 1 to 3 mg per kg of body weight per day.

The average follow-up was at 97 days. At the follow-up the coQ10 blood levels had improved to normal (double the original level), and the frequency of migraine headaches was reduced by about 35 percent.

In addition to headache frequency, the researchers used a pediatric migraine disability scale (PedMIDAS) to measure the practical effects of the headaches (days missed from school, reduced function at school or at home, lost play time, etc.). On this test, the disability attributed to the migraine headaches was cut in half by the administration of coQ10.

While this is not a controlled study, it provides some hope for migraine patients who might also benefit from the many other good effects of coQ10 supplements.

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From September to June, I see patients in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Call 386-409-7747, or send an email to to make arrangements.

In summer, I have a variable schedule, and I see patients in offices at the
Rothfeld Center for Integrative Medicine in Waltham, Massachusetts. For appointments, send an email to make arrangements, or call: 386-409-7747.

I primarily do phone consultations, as well as email and instant messaging consults.

Information herein is not medical advice or direction. All material in this newsletter is provided for information only. Its contents should not be used to provide medical advice on individual problems. Consult a health care professional for medical or health advice.