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February 2008

Sugar may lead to Alzheimer’s disease
Better health habits extend life
Vitamin C lowers stroke risk
Vitamin E prevents physical decline
Antioxidants prevent cataracts
Vitamin D, blood pressure, and heart
Exercise reduces colon cancer risk
Dr. Moss on radiation for breast cancer

Sugar may lead to Alzheimer’s disease

In mice, sugary drinks lead to mental deterioration and Alzheimer’s-like brain degeneration, as well as obesity, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol. (Cao D, et al., Intake of sucrose-sweetened water induces insulin resistance and exacerbates memory deficits and amyloidosis in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer disease. J Biol Chem. 2007 Dec 14;282(50):36275-82.) The animals were given water with 10 percent sucrose added to it, equal to about 5 soft drinks per day in humans.

Compared to mice on a normal diet, the sugar-fed mice had impairment of mental function and deposits of amyloid beta protein in their brains 2.5 times greater than in the controls. Amyloid beta protein is the substance that accumulates in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Five soft drinks, at about nine teaspoons of sugar each, contain a total of about 45 grams (less than two ounces) of sugar. The entire blood stream contains a total of only five grams of sugar, and this amount of rapidly-absorbed sugar is a great burden on metabolism.

The mice on the sugar drinks gained 17 percent more weight than controls, and had higher blood fats, and they developed early signs of diabetes. The sugar drinks were the only source of sugar in their diets (unlike humans, who also consume candy, pie, ice cream, cake, and more). Also, mice metabolize seven times faster than humans, so humans might not need so much sugar to develop problems. The authors noted that high-fat diets lead to Alzheimer’s-like brain changes.

Better health habits extend life

A new study shows that changing health habits can add 14 years to your life. Admittedly, much of the benefit come from stopping smoking (not much use for those of us who do not smoke), but the other beneficial changes were of value to anyone. They included moderation in drinking alcohol, regular exercise, and eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. (Khaw KT, et al., Combined impact of health behaviours and mortality in men and women: the EPIC-Norfolk prospective population study. PLoS Med. 2008 Jan 8;5(1):e12.)

The researchers evaluated 20,000 men and women, from 45 to 79 years old, between 1993 and 1997 with questionnaires about their health habits. They then tracked deaths among participants until 2006, and found that those who had none of the beneficial health habits were four times more likely to die than those who adopted all four good health practices.

Of course, these numbers are just examining a few of the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. The others include having more energy, being more alert, reducing the suffering associated with chronic diseases, and feeling better overall.

Vitamin C lowers stroke risk

A new study reveals that having a high level of vitamin C in the blood can reduce the risk of having a stroke. In research on 20,649 men and women 40 to 79 years old, those with the highest level of vitamin C had a 42 percent lower risk than those with the lowest levels. (Myint PK, et al., Plasma vitamin C concentrations predict risk of incident stroke over 10 y in 20,649 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer Norfolk prospective population study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jan;87(1):64-9.)

The researchers followed the subjects for an average of 9.5 years. It might be that a high level of vitamin C in the blood is a marker for a healthy lifestyle, with a high consumption of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Eating a wide variety of at least the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day provides many protective phytochemicals, including vitamin C.

Vitamin E prevents physical decline

Maintaining high levels of vitamin E in the blood appears to stave off physical decline in the elderly. A study of 698 subjects over 65 years old shows that those with the lowest levels of vitamin E in the blood had a 62 percent greater risk of reduced physical functioning compare to those with the highest levels of vitamin E. (Bartali B, et al., Serum micronutrient concentrations and decline in physical function among older persons. JAMA. 2008 Jan 23;299(3):308-15.)

Participants were evaluated with a collection of physical tests called the “short physical performance battery” that evaluate walking, balance, and activities of daily living. The only other parameter that was related to physical decline was being over 80 years old. The overall benefits to a person include avoiding going into a nursing home, which is also a benefit to the family and to society at large.

Antioxidants prevent cataracts

In new research among 35,551 female health professionals, high levels of antioxidant nutrients reduced the risk of developing cataracts. (Christen WG, et al., Dietary carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and risk of cataract in women: a prospective study. Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Jan;126(1):102-9.)

The nutrients that were protective in this study were the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin as well as vitamin E. Those with the highest levels of these nutrients had a 15-20 percent lower risk of cataract than those with the lowest. The intake of the nutrients was from both food and supplements.

The lens of the eye contains lutein and zeaxanthin, but not other carotenoids. The supposition is that these nutrients and vitamin E act as antioxidants in the lens, and that this protects it from cataract formation.

Vitamin D, blood pressure, and heart

I have often reported on the value of vitamin D from foods, supplements, and sunshine. Now a study shows that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased blood pressure. (Judd SE, et al., Optimal vitamin D status attenuates the age-associated increase in systolic blood pressure in white Americans: results from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jan;87(1):136-41.

In this study, among white subjects, low vitamin D levels were associated with high normal blood pressure (110-119 systolic readings). The age-associated rise in blood pressure was 20 percent less in subjects with adequate vitamin D (serum levels of 25(OH)D above 80 nmol/L) than in those with low vitamin D (25(OHD) less than 20 nmol/L).

The researchers evaluated 7699 subjects who did not have high blood pressure. Vitamin D deficiency is very common, with about 2/3 of this study population having low levels. I usually suggest daily supplements of 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D, although this research did not evaluate whether supplements lower blood pressure.

A study I reported on in December showed that higher levels of vitamin D could lower the risk of diabetes. Another recent study showed that high levels of vitamin D could reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke.

In this research on 1739 people, those with the lowest vitamin D levels had a 62 percent greater risk than those with the next higher level. In this study, those subjects with high blood pressure had twice the risk of a cardiovascular event if they also had low vitamin D levels. (Wang TJ, et al., Vitamin D deficiency and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2008 Jan 29;117(4):503-11.)

Exercise reduces colon cancer risk

A report from the Nurses’ Health Study on 79,295 participants shows that regular exercise lowers the risk of developing colon cancer. Women who walked from one to two hours per week had a 31 percent lower risk compared to their sedentary peers. (Wolin KY, et al., Leisure-time physical activity patterns and risk of colon cancer in women. Int J Cancer. 2007 Dec 15;121(12):2776-81.)

In this study, those women who walked more than four hours per week had an even greater benefit. They reduced their colon cancer risk by 44 percent compared to those who walked less than one hour per week.

Dr. Moss on radiation for breast cancer

Dr. Ralph Moss has written extensively about cancer and its conventional and unconventional treatments. He has recently completed a monograph on the use of radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery.

Dr. Moss notes that localized radiation in patients with a high risk of tumor recurrence can clearly reduce that risk. For patients at low risk, radiation after surgery appears to offer little benefit (although it is sometimes difficult to categorize patients as to their risk).

However, radiation is not without risk. It can damage the heart, the lungs, and the immune system, and this is especially true for patients who are also receiving chemotherapy. While it might reduce cancer recurrence, it does not appear to improve survival rates because of the increase in deaths from other causes.

Because cancer engenders so much fear, the risk of death from other causes might not be enough to decide to forgo radiation after surgery. [In my own view the risks of harm from radiation can be reduced with healthy lifestyle choices and dietary supplements, and the risks of death from other causes can also be lowered by these same methods.]

Dr. Moss notes that the decision to have radiation or not is a difficult one, but that it should be clear to the patient that reducing the risk of recurrence does not necessarily mean a prolongation of survival. He notes that one review shows a reduction in annual breast cancer mortality of 13 percent, more than made up for by an increase in annual mortality from other causes of 21 percent.

Dr. Moss is an excellent writer and he is thorough and unbiased in his evaluation of the science. His monograph is well-worth reading, and it will be helpful to breast-cancer patients and their families in their difficult decision-making process. The monograph is available by clicking on the "Radiation Reports" button at www.cancerdecisions.com.

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CONSULTATIONS:

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.

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