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March 2008

Meat and breast and ovarian cancers
Saccharin and weight gain
Diet and prostate enlargement
Coenzyme Q10 increases endurance and fights fatigue
Whole grains lower heart risks
Broccoli blocks bladder cancer

Meat and breast and ovarian cancers

A new article suggests that meat and milk in the diet might lower the risk of breast cancer, while a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. (Edefonti V, et al., Nutrient dietary patterns and the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Int J Cancer 2008 Feb 1;122(3):609-13.) The study of about 7000 women examined “dietary patterns” rather than any particular nutrient (such as fat, protein, or carbohydrate). Those women in the “animal product” pattern included meat and saturated fat in their diets. Those in the “fiber and vitamins” group consumed lots of vitamin C, carotenoids, and phytochemicals in their diets.

Those women with the highest intake of fiber and vitamins had a 23 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who consumed the lowest amounts of those foods. Women with the highest animal product intake had a 26 percent lower risk of breast cancer, and those who consumed unsaturated fats and fish (another dietary pattern that was also rich in vitamin E) had a 17 percent lower risk of breast cancer. The group with the highest intake of refined carbohydrates (such as sugar and white flour) had an increased risk of both cancers (34 percent higher for breast and 85 percent higher for ovarian).

It is difficult to make recommendations based solely on this study because so many other studies show that such animal-product-rich diets are dangerous for heart disease and cancer, and in many of those studies higher risks for breast cancer as well. A large Japanese study showed a lower-fat diet was associated with a significant reduction in breast cancer.

A Polish study of 1900 women found that premenopausal women who consumed higher amounts of red meat had an increased risk of breast cancer. Their risk was triple that of women who consumed no meat. Those premenopausal women with the highest animal fat consumption had a 65 percent increase in risk. In post-menopausal women that increase was 35 percent. (Kruk J, Association of Lifestyle and Other Risk Factors with Breast Cancer According to Menopausal Status: A Case-Control Study in the Region of Western Pomerania (Poland). Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2007 Oct-Dec;8(4):513-24.

Another study in Denmark showed a 9 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer for each ounce of total meat consumed per day, and even higher risks for red meat or processed meats. (Egeberg R, et al., Meat consumption…and risk of breast cancer in Danish post-menopausal women. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2008 Feb;17(1):39-47.) A small Brazilian study showed a tripled risk of breast cancer with high consumption of fatty red meat, and a 6-fold increase associated with high intake of pig lard. (Di Pietro PF, et al., Breast cancer in southern Brazil: association with past dietary intake. Nutr Hosp 2007 Sep-Oct;22(5):565-72.)

I have to admit that the results of this new study were surprising, but until other information confirms a study that is contrary to so much other data I would still recommend little or no meat consumption. All of the studies appear to show that high fruit and vegetable consumption reduces the risk of breast cancer by 40-60 percent, and the Polish study also showed that vitamin takers had a 47 percent reduction in risk.

Saccharin and weight gain

A new animal study suggests that the artificial sweetener, saccharin, may actually promote weight gain and fat deposition. Rats that were given either sugar or saccharin had different responses. Those fed saccharin ate more food and had a lowered metabolism than those fed the sweetener with caloric value (the sugar in this case was glucose). (Swithers SE, Davidson TL, A role for sweet taste: Calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behav Neurosci. 2008 Feb;122(1):161-73.)

Artificial sweeteners have never been shown to have any health value, and have never been shown to promote weight loss or to help diabetics. It is possible that the sweet taste, even without the calorie content, increases cravings for sweets. In this study, the non-caloric sweetener altered metabolism and appetite more than the sugar. The same is likely to be true for other non-caloric sweeteners. Most of these sweeteners have had a number of reported risks (such as cancer and neurological problems).

If this animal data is true for humans, then diabetics would be particularly at risk, as they often are counseled to use non-caloric sweeteners in spite of a lack of data supporting their value. Unfortunately, weight gain and lowered metabolism increase their difficulty in handling blood sugar.

Diet and prostate enlargement

Researchers evaluated the health habits of 4770 men without benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) at the start of the study and followed them for seven years. (Kristal AR, et al., Dietary Patterns, Supplement Use, and the Risk of Symptomatic Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: Results from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Feb 7 [Epub ahead of print])

Men with high fat consumption (particularly but not only saturated fat) had a 31 percent higher risk of developing BPH during the trial compared to men with the lowest fat consumption. High vegetable intake was associated with a reduction in risk of 31 percent, and drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day reduced the risk by 33 percent compared to subjects who consumed no alcohol at all. (Two or more drinks per day is a lot of alcohol with other associated risks, so it is better to find other ways to reduce BPH through diet and maintaining normal weight.)

Men who consumed meat every day had a 38 percent higher risk, but higher protein intake appeared to lower the risk by 15 percent. Other sources of protein include beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables.

Coenzyme Q10 increases endurance and fights fatigue

Two new studies show that coenzyme Q10 can help increase stamina during exercise. In one study, 41 subjects, both athletes and untrained individuals, were supplemented with either 200 mg of coQ10 or a placebo. One hour later, they performed aerobic, anaerobic, and maximal cardiac endurance tests. They then took the supplements or placebo daily for two weeks.

At the initial test, the coQ10 increased endurance on the treadmill test. After two weeks, the supplements raised both plasma and muscle levels of coenzyme Q10 and reduced a marker of oxidative stress (serum SOD, or superoxide dismutase). The endurance remained higher with supplements. (Cooke M, et al., Effects of acute and 14-day coQ10 supplementation on exercise performance in both trained and untrained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Mar 4;5(1):8 [Epub ahead of print]).

In the other study, 17 healthy subjects were given either 100 mg or 300 mg of coenzyme Q10 or a placebo. After the treatment, they exercised on a stationary bicycle with resistance for two intervals of two hours and then rested for four hours. They also did short high-speed tests.

Subjects supplemented with 300 mg of coenzyme Q10 showed enhanced endurance and they reported lower levels of fatigue. (Mizuno K, et al., Antifatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition. 2008 Apr;24(4):293-299. Epub 2008 Feb 13.) A number of studies show that coQ10 improves heart function and blood pressure in cardiac patients, but this evidence shows that even healthy people can benefit.

Whole grains lower heart risks

Whole grains have many health benefits related to their fiber content, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and other phytochemicals (none of which are found in refined grains, such as white flour). A new study shows that these foods (whole wheat, millet, brown rice, corn, oats, barley, rye, etc.) help with weight loss and reduce cardiac risk factors.

Researchers studied 50 obese adults with metabolic syndrome (a complex of obesity, abdominal fat, high blood lipids, hypertension, insulin resistance, and a tendency to inflammation) and put them on a reduced calorie diet. Half were put on whole grains as part of the diet and half were put on refined grains. (Katcher HI, et al., The effects of a whole grain-enriched hypocaloric diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women with metabolic syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jan;87(1):79-90.)

Both groups lost weight on the diet (due to calorie restriction), but those on the whole grains lost more abdominal fat than the group on the refined grains. The inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (or CRP) was reduced by 38 percent in the group on whole grains, but not changed in the refined-grain group. Other studies have shown that whole grains reduce the tendency of the blood to clot by inhibiting excessive platelet aggregation.

Broccoli blocks bladder cancer

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts are rich in cancer-fighting substances called isothiocyanates (ITC) as well as other protective phytochemicals. An animal study shows that feeding broccoli sprout extract to rats reduces the incidence of bladder cancer by two thirds compared to control animals. (Munday R, Inhibition of urinary bladder carcinogenesis by broccoli sprouts. Cancer Res 2008 Mar 1;68(5):1593-600.)

ITC stimulated the production of two antioxidant enzymes (including glutathione S-transferase) and these help eliminate carcinogens in addition to their antioxidant protection. The amount of ITC in the bladder epithelium is higher than in plasma or liver, indicating that the substance is concentrated in the urinary tract.

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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.

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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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