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LE Magazine June 2008
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Zinc Reduces Diarrhea in Children

Supplemental zinc reduces the duration and severity of diarrhea in children, as reported in a recent meta-analysis.1 In children younger than five years, diarrheal disease is a significant cause of morbidity in the United States2 and mortality worldwide.3

Twenty-two randomized, controlled trials were identified in which diarrhea was treated with either oral zinc supplementation or placebo. The studies included 16 analyses of acute diarrhea (15,231 children) and six of persistent diarrhea (2,968 children).1 Children who received zinc had a significantly shorter duration of diarrhea compared with the placebo group, which amounted to a 15% decrease in duration for both acute diarrhea and persistent diarrhea. Stool frequency declined after zinc supplementation, by 18.8% for acute diarrhea and 12.5% for persistent diarrhea. Zinc reduced the likelihood of diarrhea by 18% compared with placebo for both types.

Vomiting was more frequent with zinc treatment. Nevertheless, these results confirm previous reports of the benefits of zinc for diarrhea treatment and prevention.

—Laura J. Ninger, ELS

Reference

1. Lukacik M, Thomas RL, Aranda JV. A meta-analysis of the effects of oral zinc in the treatment of acute and persistent diarrhea. Pediatrics. 2008 Feb;121(2):326-36.
2. Fischer TK, Viboud C, Parashar U, et al. Hospitalizations and deaths from diarrhea and rotavirus among children <5 years of age in the United States, 1993-2003. J Infect Dis. 2007 Apr 15;195(8):1117-25.
3. Kosek M, Bern C, Guerrant RL. The global burden of diarrhoeal disease, as estimated from studies published between 1992 and 2000. Bull World Health Organ. 2003;81(3):197-204.

DHEA Sulfate Associated with Cognitive Ability

Naturally high levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) are associated with better cognitive function in healthy women, according to a study from Australia.* Dehydroepiandrosterone is a steroid precursor that is converted into estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones.

Study participants were 295 healthy women aged 21-77 years (average age 55 years) who were recruited from the community. The women underwent blood sampling for DHEAS and a battery of tests of cognitive function that measured verbal ability, spatial and working memory, attention and concentration, and speed and accuracy.

Women with higher levels of DHEAS performed better than women with lower levels on a test of executive function (general cognitive ability). Among women with at least 12 years of education, those with higher DHEAS also scored better on tests of concentration and working memory.

The results confirm previous research that suggested beneficial effects of DHEA and DHEAS on the nervous system and on cognitive ability.

—Laura J. Ninger, ELS

Reference

* Davis SR, Shah SM, McKenzie DP, Kulkarni J, Davison SL, Bell RJ. DHEA sulfate levels are associated with more favorable cognitive function in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Mar;93(3):801-8.

Broccoli Sprouts Help Prevent Bladder Cancer

Broccoli Sprouts Help Prevent Bladder Cancer

In a recent issue of Cancer Research, scientists reported that an extract of broccoli sprouts given to rats dramatically reduced the development of bladder tumors.*

When rats were exposed to a carcinogenic agent in their drinking water, 96% developed bladder tumors. But when rats received low-dose broccoli sprout extract beginning two weeks prior to carcinogen exposure, just 74% developed tumors. Only 38% of animals who consumed high-dose broccoli sprout extract prior to carcinogen exposure developed bladder cancer.

The cancer-preventive effect of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage appears to be the result of their isothiocyanates—phytochemicals that have been associated with cancer protection in numerous other studies. Broccoli sprouts contain 30 times more isothiocyanates than mature broccoli, and the compound used in the study provides 600 times more.

“Although this is an animal study, it provides potent evidence that eating vegetables is beneficial in bladder cancer prevention,” one of the authors stated.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Munday R, Mhawech-Fauceglia P, Munday CM, et al. Inhibition of urinary bladder carcinogenesis by broccoli sprouts. Cancer Res. 2008 Mar 1;68(5):1593-600.

Exercise Reduces Fatigue Among Inactive Adults

Exercise Reduces Fatigue Among Inactive Adults

While some people complain they are too tired to exercise, a new study shows that exercise actually improves feelings of low energy and fatigue in healthy sedentary adults.* Earlier studies have reported that regular exercise increases energy and stamina in patients with heart disease, cancer, or chronic fatigue syndrome, but until now it has been unclear if exercise boosts energy in inactive but disease-free young adults.

Thirty-six subjects with self-reported “persistent fatigue” and lack of energy were randomly assigned to undergo moderate-intensity exercise, low-intensity exercise, or no exercise for six weeks. Subjects reported to an exercise laboratory three times weekly, and feelings of vigor and fatigue were assessed at the beginning of the third exercise session each week.

Fatigue was alleviated best by the low-intensity exercise regimen, but perceptions of energy level improved almost equally well in response to either the low-intensity or the moderate-intensity exercise regimens.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

* Puetz TW, Flowers SS, O’Connor PJ. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Psychother Psychosom. 2008 Feb 14;77(3):167-74.

Green Tea Extract Increases Fat Burning, Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Ingestion of a green tea extract significantly increases fat burning and improves insulin sensitivity among healthy men, according to a recent report by British researchers.1

One-dozen healthy men performed 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise both before and after receiving either a green tea extract, or placebo. Fat oxidation was 17% greater among men who received the extract, compared with placebo. Additionally, fat burning was a greater contributor to total energy expenditure among subjects who consumed green tea extract. In a second arm of the study, investigators measured subjects’ oral glucose tolerance, both before and after ingesting the green tea extract, or placebo. Extract and placebo subjects experienced improvements in insulin sensitivity.1

In related news, Japanese researchers noted that adults with visceral-type obesity consuming a high-catechin green tea extract experienced reductions in body fat, blood pressure, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), compared with those who consumed placebo.2

Together, these findings suggest an important role for green tea extracts in supporting fat-burning and healthy weight management.

—Dale Kiefer

Reference

1. Venables MC, Hulston CJ, Cox HR, Jeukendrup AE. Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008; 87(3) 778-84.
2. Nagao T, Hase T, Tokimitsu I. A green tea extract high in catechins reduces body fat and cardiovascular disease risks in humans. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jun:15(6):1473-82.

Cancer Patients Seek Benefits of Supplements

Cancer patients and survivors report a high level of supplement use and a tendency to begin use after a cancer diagnosis, according to a literature review.1

The review summarized 32 US studies published between 1999 and 2006 of vitamin and mineral supplement use by adult cancer patients. In studies of various cancers, about 64-81% of patients used some type of vitamin or mineral supplement, and 26-77% used some type of multivitamin. By comparison, about 50% of individuals in the general population use supplements. Up to 32% of cancer patients began supplement use after their diagnosis. Predictors of use were female gender and a high level of education. Meanwhile, their treating physicians had no knowledge of supplement use 68% of the time.1

Supplements may have several benefits for cancer patients. Coenzyme Q10 may reduce the cardiotoxicity of chemotherapy drugs,2 omega-3 fatty acids may ameliorate cancer-related cachexia (weight loss),3 and replenishment of vitamin C deficiency could improve survival.4

—Laura J. Ninger, ELS

Reference

1. Velicer CM, Ulrich CM. Vitamin and mineral supplement use among US adults after cancer diagnosis: a systematic review. J Clin Oncol. 2008 Feb 1;26(4):665-73.
2. Conklin KA. Coenzyme q10 for prevention of anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity. Integr Cancer Ther. 2005 Jun;4(2):110-30.
3. Hardman WE. Omega-3 fatty acids to augment cancer therapy. J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11 Suppl):3508S-3512S.
4. Mayland CR, Bennett MI, Allan K. Vitamin C deficiency in cancer patients. Palliat Med. 2005 Jan;19(1):17-20.

Magnesium Lessens Stroke Risk in Male Smokers

Magnesium Lessens Stroke Risk in Male Smokers

Men who smoke may acquire some protection against stroke by consuming greater amounts of the mineral magnesium, according to a new report from the Archives of Internal Medicine.*

More than 26,000 Finnish men aged 50-69 years old were evaluated for their dietary magnesium intake at the study’s onset. After nearly 14 years of follow-up, more than 2,700 cerebral infarctions (the most common type of stroke involving blockage of blood flow to the brain) occurred.

Men whose magnesium intake was highest (at an average of 589 mg/day) had a 15% lower risk of cerebral infarction than men whose magnesium intake was lowest (at an average of 379 mg/day). Men who were under 60 years old appeared to derive the greatest benefit from the mineral.

The scientists noted that magnesium could act through numerous mechanisms to reduce stroke risk, including favorable effects on blood pressure, lipid levels, blood sugar metabolism, inflammatory markers, and endothelial function.

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Larsson SC, Virtanen MJ, Mars M, et al. Magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium intakes and risk of stroke in male smokers. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Mar 10;168(5):459-65.

Mother’s Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficit Impairs Infant’s Neurological Development

The typical North American diet fails to provide adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, leaving infants at risk of impaired neurological development, according to a new report.*

Investigators assigned 135 pregnant women to a placebo or a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement equivalent to two fatty fish meals per week, beginning on the 16th week of gestation until delivery.

Women who consumed large quantities of meat and low amounts of fish had omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies (as measured by blood samples) at weeks 16 and 36, and their children failed to perform as well on eye tests (an indication of neurological maturity) as infants born to mothers who were not deficient.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the baby’s developing eyes and brain,” explained one of the study authors. “During pregnancy and breastfeeding, fat consumed by the [mother] is transferred to the developing baby and breastfed infant, and this fat is important for the baby’s developing organs.”

—Dayna Dye

Reference

* Available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080307133659.htm. Accessed March 11, 2008.

Vitamin D Deficiency is Common, Even in Sunny Climate

Vitamin D Deficiency is Common, Even in Sunny Climate

Even individuals who live in sunny climates are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and certain ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable, according to recent findings.1

Researchers analyzed serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in 637 residents of southern Arizona. Vitamin D deficiency, which was defined as 25-hydroxyvitamin D below 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L), was found in 25% of the residents. Deficiency was more common in blacks (56%) and Hispanics (38%) than in whites (23%). Only 22% of participants had optimal vitamin D status, defined as greater or equal to 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) in this study.1

Many scientists now believe that optimal serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are within the range of 30-50 ng/mL (75-125 nmol/L).2

Deficiency of vitamin D in residents of a sunny region is a significant public health concern because, “Recent work has associated suboptimal concentrations of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D with a number of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.”1

—Laura J. Ninger, ELS

Reference

1. Jacobs ET, Alberts DS, Foote JA, et al. Vitamin D insufficiency in southern Arizona. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):608-13.
2. Grant WB, Holick MF. Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review. Altern Med Rev. 2005 Jun;10(2):94-111.