HealingPoints Newsletter

Provided by Richard Grossman, L.Ac., O.M.D., Ph.D.

Volume 3, Issue 22
Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In This Issue:


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Large Study Shows Many Find Acupuncture Effective

FRANKFURT (Reuters Health) - Nearly 9 out of 10 people who had acupuncture for physical ailments say the treatment relieved their pain, according to preliminary results of a large German study.

The study, involving some 40,000 patients, is the largest acupuncture study ever undertaken, according to the researchers. The aim is to study the therapy scientifically and reach a conclusion that can be accepted by the medical community.

Study coordinator Dr. Hans-Joachim Trampisch from the Ruhr-University of Bochum said that in his opinion, previous studies on acupuncture did not involve enough patients or were not conducted scientifically.

"I am a medical statistician,'' he said. "I am not an advocate of acupuncture.''

Of the patients in the study, almost 90% claimed that acupuncture treatments had resulted in relief from pain, according to a press release. Of those patients, around half suffered from back pain, some 26% from headaches, and 10% from knee or hip arthrosis, which is a degenerative disease of the joint.

Of the patients who experienced relief from the treatments, some 51% did so within 2 weeks, usually after four treatments. Some 2% of patients needed more than 10 treatments before feeling relief.

Severe side effects, such as local infection, occurred ''very seldom,'' at a rate of "much less than 1%.'' The average age of study participants was around 58 years.

Trampisch stressed that the results from the study, dubbed gerac--for German acupuncture--were preliminary, and would not reach a conclusion concerning acupuncture versus traditional medical treatments until the full study is completed. The study did not include a comparison group--such as those given "sham'' acupuncture--to rule out the "placebo'' effect in terms of pain relief. In sham acupuncture, needles are inserted in parts of the body not believed to have any effect on pain.

The next phase of the research will be a randomized study, which will begin in July this year and last into the middle of 2003. Some 400 doctors will participate, with patients suffering from chronic pain receiving either acupuncture treatments or standard medical treatments. That data will be processed with a final report expected in 2004. The full study is being funded with 7.7 million euros from some of Germany's largest public health insurance companies.

According to gerac, about 40,000 physicians in Germany use acupuncture for treatment. Of those, 15,000 have had basic training in acupuncture techniques, while 1,500 have undergone full training programs.

Acupuncture was first practiced in China more than 2,000 years ago. According to traditional theory, the human body has thousands of acupuncture points along pathways called meridians, and these pathways conduct energy throughout the body. Acupuncture is believed to keep this energy flow moving smoothly.

Alternatively, some Western scientists speculate that the needle therapy helps release certain pain-killing chemicals from the central nervous system.

COMMENT:  The pain killing theory of acupuncture, while correct, only gives a partial explanation in that endorphins only last a few hours in the blood stream.  There is, so far, no explanation other than the traditional theories as to why a person with a long term illness can receive permanent or long term relief from a series of treatments.  This study is a good start, though.

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Electromagnetic Energy Linked to Miscarriage Risk

By Merritt McKinney

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In findings certain to add to the controversy over the health risks of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by power lines and electrical appliances, two new studies suggest that women briefly exposed to very high-intensity EMFs have an increased risk of miscarriage.

The findings are preliminary, but one of the investigators told Reuters Health that women concerned about the risk may want to stand at arm's length from electrical appliances at home and work to minimize the potentially harmful effects of EMFs.

Despite the new research, however, the evidence that EMFs increase the risk of miscarriage is far from conclusive, according to a North Carolina researcher.

A variety of sources can produce EMFs, including power lines, computer monitors, microwave ovens and photocopying machines. Their relationship to health problems has been uncertain and controversial.

For example, some research has linked EMFs from power lines to a slightly increased risk of childhood leukemia, but other studies have failed to show this connection.

Only a handful of studies have examined the possible link between EMF exposure and miscarriage risk. Two reports in the 1980s found that using an electric blanket could increase the risk of miscarriage, but the results of more recent studies have been mixed.

Problems with the way previous studies have been conducted may help explain the conflicting results, Dr. De-Kun Li of the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in Oakland, California, told Reuters Health in an interview. Li is the author of one of two studies on the association between EMFs and miscarriage that are published in the January issue of the journal Epidemiology.

In that study, Li and his colleagues tried to address some of the flaws of previous research. Instead of looking back at a woman's exposure to EMFs after she had had a miscarriage, the researchers followed nearly 1,000 women beginning in early pregnancy.

Li said he and his colleagues used a better method of measuring EMFs--a tracking device worn on the body for 24 hours--than previous studies.

"Our measurement more accurately reflected the true exposure women get in real life,'' he said.

In Li's study, a woman's average level of EMF exposure did not seem to have an effect on her risk of miscarriage.

But the researchers did detect a connection when they looked at the highest level of EMFs that women were exposed to during the day. Women with a peak EMF exposure of 16 milligauss--much more intense than what most electrical appliances emit--were 80% more likely to have a miscarriage than women with lower peak exposures. This risk "barely changed'' after the researchers accounted for about 30 known miscarriage risk factors.

This risk was highest during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and it was more pronounced in women with a history of miscarriage or problems becoming pregnant.

The investigators also found that the link between peak EMF exposure and the risk of miscarriage was stronger in women who engaged in their typical daily activities on the day they wore the EMF monitor, meaning the measurements were more likely to reflect their actual exposure.

Once Li and his colleagues arrived at their findings, another set of researchers led by Dr. Raymond R. Neutra of the California Department of Health Services in Oakland re-analyzed data they had collected previously. Their analysis also determined that women with high peak EMF exposures had an increased risk of miscarriage.

Li cautioned that the results of the studies are preliminary, and need to be confirmed. In the meantime, he said, "It would be prudent for pregnant women or women who are planning to get pregnant to take some simple steps to avoid unnecessary exposure to magnetic fields.''

Common household sources of EMFs include microwave ovens, electric can openers, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, electric fans, washing machines and dishwashers. Fluorescent desk lamps, electric office equipment and electrically powered public transit systems also may emit EMFs.

Completely avoiding all EMF sources is impossible, but Li said, "The intensity of magnetic fields drops dramatically with increasing distance from the source.'' For instance, people can drastically reduce EMF exposure by standing 4 or 5 feet away from a microwave while it is on, Li said.

But in an editorial that accompanies the studies, Dr. David A. Savitz of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill writes that the studies add "only slightly'' to the evidence supporting a link between EMF exposure and an increased risk of miscarriage.

The findings may stem in part from "behavioral differences between women with healthy pregnancies and women who either experienced a miscarriage or were destined to have one,'' according to Savitz.

He notes that in Neutra's study, women's exposure was measured at 30 weeks' gestation--or several months after miscarriage for the women who had lost their pregnancies. Women this far along in pregnancy tend to be less mobile than non-pregnant women. So the women who had already miscarried would probably be more mobile, and thus more likely to be exposed to EMFs at home, work and other places, Savitz suggests.

In Li's study, the North Carolina researcher points out that women's mobility may also play a role. He notes that women who miscarry are less likely to experience frequent nausea during early pregnancy.

"All other things being equal, a woman experiencing nausea will be less likely to move around her home or workplace or community, and therefore less likely to experience the diverse magnetic field sources in those places,'' Savitz writes.

So women who have less nausea, who are predisposed to have a miscarriage, might be exposed to higher peaks in EMFs in their daily life, he suggests.

But according to Li, his colleagues accounted for nausea, and it did not have an effect on the relationship between EMF exposure and the risk of miscarriage.

And Neutra told Reuters Health that women in his study were just as likely to experience bursts of high magnetic fields at 12 weeks of pregnancy as at 30 weeks.

However, Savitz believes the evidence is too slim to warrant any change in women's behavior or public policy. "In my view, the evidence linking magnetic fields to miscarriage is very weak, below the level at which any sort of policy or behavior change would be well justified,'' he told Reuters Health.

"Given the unusual measures of magnetic fields of concern here, brief exposure to high fields or variability in fields over time, it's very unclear what someone could do to reduce exposure even if they were motivated,'' Savitz added.

SOURCE: Epidemiology 2002;13:1-3, 9-20, 21-31.

COMMENT:  Given the potential negative effects of Electro Magnetic Radiaition, I recommend to create, at the very least, a safe area in which to sleep.  This means as few electronic devices as possible in sleeping areas, including televisions, cell phones, computers, and especially electric blankets kept on all night.  We spend a third of our lives in bed!

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Super Healthy Milk

By Jo Robinson

In my on-going research into the health benefits of grassfed products, I have been particularly impressed by the differences between the milk of grassfed and grainfed cows. Approximately 85 to 95 percent of the cows in American dairies are raised in confinement and fed a grain-based diet. New research shows that a cow raised on her natural diet of pasture has five times more of a cancer-fighting fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA than milk from confinement dairies. CLA research is still in its infancy, but a host of new studies suggest that CLA may be the most potent cancer fighter in our diet. The human population studies are especially intriguing. Recently, French researchers compared CLA levels in the breast tissues of 360 women. The women with the most CLA in their tissues (and thus the most CLA in their diets) had a 74 percent lower risk of breast cancer than the women with the least CLA. If an American woman were to switch from grainfed to grassfed dairy products, she would have levels of CLA similar to this lowest risk group. Unlike other cancer prevention strategies, switching to grassfed dairy products requires no self-denial and no change in eating or cooking habits.  In my opinion, the fact that our American milk supply is so deficient in CLA is a national tragedy.

With all the excitement being generated by CLA, however, other benefits of grassfed dairy products can be overlooked. Milk from grassfed cows also has an ideal ratio of essential fatty acids or EFAs. Bear with me for a moment, because although this science is rather complicated, it is very important for human health. There are two types of fat that are essential for your health and cannot be made in your body---omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. A growing body of research suggests that a diet with roughly equal amounts of these two fats is ideal. Such a diet is linked with a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, diabetes, obesity, dementia, and various other mental disorders.[1]   Whether a cow is on an all-grass diet or a typical grain-based dairy diet greatly influences the fatty acid balance of her milk. The reason is simple: grass has far more omega-3s and fewer omega-6s than grain. If you take away some of the grass and replace it with grain, you greatly alter the EFA ratio of the milk.  Take a few moments to study the chart below showing the omega-3 and omega-6 content of milk from cows fed varying amounts of pasture.[2] The green bars represent omega-3 fatty acids and the yellow bars represent omega-6 fatty acids. As you can see, when a cow gets all her nutrients from pasture (represented by the two bars on the far left) her milk has an equal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, the ratio that is believed to be ideal for human health. Take away one third of the pasture and replace it with grain or other supplements (represented by the two bars in the middle) and the omega-3 fatty acid content of the milk goes down while the omega-6 fatty acid content goes up. Continue with this process and replace two-thirds of the pasture with a grain-based diet (illustrated by the two bars on the far right) and the milk will have a top-heavy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The milk that you buy in the supermarket has this unbalanced ratio of EFAs because it comes from cows given liberal amounts of grain.

Unfortunately, buying organic milk will not alter this picture because most of the large organic dairies also use a grain-based dairy ration. Milk from a cow fed large amounts of organically certified grain will have the same fatty acid imbalance as milk from a cow fed a similar amount of ordinary grain. For an ideal ratio of EFAs, cows need to be raised on fresh pasture.

Milk from grass-based dairies offers you yet more nutritional benefits. (I'm beginning to sound like a TV infomercial: “But wait! Don’t buy yet! There’s more!”)  In addition to giving you five times more CLA and an ideal balance of EFAs, grassfed milk is also higher in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E. This vitamin bonus comes, in part, from the fact that fresh pasture has more of these nutrients than grain or hay. (When grass is dried and turned into hay, it loses a significant amount of its vitamin content.) But there’s another factor involved as well. A cow produces considerably less milk on a grass diet than she will on a grain-based diet.  (Which, of course, is why the vast majority of our dairy cows are supplemented with grain.) A cow that yields only modest amounts of milk may be a problem for the producer, but she’s a blessing for the consumer. Why? Because, as a general rule, the less milk a cow produces, the more concentrated the vitamin content of that milk.[3] A cow has a set amount of vitamins to transfer to her milk, and if she’s bred, fed, and injected to be a Super Producer, her milk contains relatively fewer vitamins per glass. In other words, her milk is a watered down version of the real thing. A purely grassfed cow will yield a lower volume of milk, but every glassful of that milk will be enriched with extra vitamins.

When you add up all the nutritional benefits of the milk from grassfed cows you can understand why I am such an advocate of grass-based dairying. In addition to lecturing and writing about grassfed products, I have also taken steps to ensure that my family and friends have access to the real thing. Most of the cheese my family eats is either imported from Ireland or New Zealand (countries where most dairy cows are still raised on pasture) or produced by American grass-based dairies. (Many of these US producers are listed on http://eatwild.com)    Regrettably, I have been unable to locate an American supplier of butter from pastured cows, so have had to rely on Kerrygold butter imported from Ireland. (The Irish butter costs twice as much as ordinary butter, but slightly less than Horizon or Organic Valley organic butter.) Recently, I was interviewed on National Public Radio about grass-based farming and happened to mention the Kerrygold butter. As soon as the interview was over, the radio station received numerous calls from listeners wanting to know where they could get some of this Irish butter. (Go to www.kerrygold.ie) I regret that I wasn’t able to refer them to an American supplier. As soon as there is a “www.grassfedbutterUSA.com,” I’ll let the world know.

Oh, I forgot to mention the most important thing. Grassfed dairy products taste delicious and the butter and cheese have a deeper yellow color than ordinary products. (The yellow comes from the added amount of beta carotene.) Slice some homestead cheese from a grass-based dairy or place a cube of Kerrygold butter on the table and everyone will notice the difference. Also, all your cookies and cakes will have that rich buttery color that hasn't been seen since Grandma's day. (You do bake, don't you?)    Jo Robinson is a New York Times bestselling author. To learn more about the health benefits of grassfed products and to purchase her books, Why Grassfed Is Best! or The Omega Diet, go to eatwild.com or call 206-463-4156 during West Coast business hours.

COMMENT:  This is important information for milk drinkers.  Another factor that is very important is the administration of Bovine Growth Factor to dairy cows.  You can be assured that if you buy any dairy product in or from the United States that is not organic, R-BGF has been given to the cows.  

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How Blood Gets Thicker Than Water

Lipoprotein (a) May Explain Cardiac Events In Apparently Healthy Individuals

A hidden cardiac risk factor that's passed down through family lines may do its primary damage by "gunking up the works" inside our blood vessels.

Lipoprotein (a) is risk factor for heart disease and heart attack, one that is strongly determined by one's genetic background. A lipid complex formed when apo(a) binds to LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol, Lp(a) has also been independently associated with advanced stages of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

How might elevated levels of this lipoprotein trigger a "cardiac crisis" inside the human body? Scientists have discovered new experimental evidence linking Lp(a) with the disruption of important blood clotting (thrombotic) mechanisms.

Investigators from the Mayo Clinic, Washington University in St. Louis, and University of Graz in Austria recently examined Lp(a)'s role in thrombosis, using cells from human umbilical veins, as well as other, noncellular in vitro environments. They found that Lp(a) binds strongly to an important regulator of blood coagulation called Tissue Factor Pathway Inhibitor (TFPI).

By binding with TFPI, Lp(a) appears to interfere with the normal ability of TFPI to prevent blood clots from forming. In fact, the researchers discovered that Lp(a) deactivated TFPI in a dose-dependent fashion: The higher the amount of Lp(a) they used in the sample, the more that TFPI's anticoagulant activity was stymied. Evidence of this binding was also found inside fatty plaque deposits, the hallmarks of atherosclerosis.

"Taken together, these data suggest a biologic interaction between Lp(a) and TFPI, which may have implications for TFPI activity and hence thrombotic events," the researchers concluded.

The study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, adds to the body of evidence linking Lp(a) with the "clumping" of fatty substances inside blood vessels. These mechanisms include increased build-up of fibrous substances (like fibrin) and an impaired breakdown of blood clots (clot lysis).

NOTE: You can find out what your Lp(a) marker is by taking the comprehensive cardiac profile from Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, available through my office. Lp(a) has been cited frequently in the literature as an important inheritable cardiac risk factor for individuals with normal cholesterol levels and normal body weight who may not show any apparent signs of heart disease risk. Although Lp(a) levels are influenced by heredity, this marker can often be modified by targeted nutritional intervention.

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Eating more often can reduce cholesterol levels

Research findings suggests that we need to consider not just what we eat, but how often we eat.  A high level of cholesterol in the blood is one of the major causes of heart disease. The fatty substance can clog up the arteries, placing more strain on the heart.

The researchers quizzed over 14,000 men and women aged 45-75 years about their eating habits. They separated each person into one of five groups depending on how often they ate. A blood sample from each person was then tested for fat levels.

Cholesterol concentrations

Cholesterol concentrations were approximately 5% lower in men and women who ate six or more times a day compared with those who ate once or twice a day. This was despite higher intakes of energy - including fat - in people who reported eating more frequently. The effect held good when other possible factors, such as alcohol consumption and physical activity, were taken into consideration.

Although not large, this difference in cholesterol concentration is comparable to that achieved in studies involving alteration of intake of dietary fat or cholesterol. It is also associated with reductions in coronary heart disease ranging from 10% to 21%. The researchers say that such reductions could have a substantial impact, particularly in older people, who have higher rates of heart disease.

The reason why regular eating reduces cholesterol levels is not known. One theory is that the body responds to relatively long gaps between meals by becoming highly efficient at storing up energy whereas a routine of regular meals encourages a more steady metabolism.

Animal studies

Lead researcher Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, of the Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University, told BBC News Online that there were animal studies showing those that ate infrequently were able to absorb sugars more readily into their blood. They also showed a greater activity of the enzymes used to manufacture cholesterol.

She said: "The number one thing to say is that all the advice about healthy eating holds good. "People should eat more fruit and vegetables, and moderate their intake of saturated fat. "But it seems that it might be more healthy to split up meals into smaller amounts and eat them more frequently."

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

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Acupuncture May Help Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms

By Melissa Schorr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) - Acupuncture helped relieve symptoms such as pain and depression in women with the chronic pain disorder fibromyalgia, according to research presented here Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

"Patients not getting enough results from drug therapy should try honest acupuncture,'' said lead author Dr. Daniel Feldman, head of rheumatology at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. "It really works.''

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes muscle pain, stiffness and fatigue for unknown reasons. It affects about 2% of Americans, mainly women.

In the study, the researchers randomly assigned 60 women who suffered from fibromyalgia into three groups. All patients received amitriptyline, a standard pain modifier used for fibromyalgia, at bedtime for 16 weeks.

In addition, 20 of the women received a once-a-week, 30-minute acupuncture session while a second group of 20 underwent a once-a-week, 30-minute sham-acupuncture session where they were punctured in areas not believed to have any effect on pain.

The patients were evaluated every month for pain, depression and quality of life measures by healthcare workers who were unaware which treatment they were receiving.

The researchers reported that patients who received the real acupuncture were the only ones who showed statistically significant improvement on measures of pain, depression and mental health after the first month.

"The intriguing thing is this is not a placebo effect,'' Feldman said.

The results lasted for up to 16 weeks, at which time the patients began regressing slightly and would need reinforcement acupuncture sessions, Feldman said. "It's not a one-time treatment,'' he added.

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New Evidence of Cancer Risk in Hormone Therapy Study

By DENISE GRADY (New York Times)

A new study adds to the increasing evidence that women who take hormone therapy for five years or more after menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially a type known as lobular tumors, which account for 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancers.

Other studies have had similar findings, showing modest increases in risk that drop back to average within about five years after a woman stops taking the hormones.

The latest report, in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that women who took hormones for five years or more during the last six years had an increase in risk of 60 percent to 85 percent, or 1.6 to 1.85 times the risk of a woman who never took hormones. The increase in risk for lobular tumors was greater, about three times that of a woman who did not take hormones. The findings applied equally to women taking estrogen alone, or in combination with another hormone, progestin.

Translated into cases, the risk figures mean that over all, in women who do not take hormones, 253 in 100,000 will get breast cancer in a given year, including 23 lobular tumors. In those taking hormones for five years or more, 419 will develop breast cancer, including 70 lobular cases. The excess cancers, presumably due to hormone therapy, number 166, including 70 lobular tumors.

Dr. Emily White, the senior author of the study and an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said the accumulated evidence was "quite strong" that hormone replacement increased the risk of breast cancer. Dr. White also said the idea that hormone replacement prevented heart disease, once taken for granted and used as a prime reason for recommending the therapy, had been challenged by recent studies.

"So I think the research community needs to re-evaluate the risks and benefits and come up with some suggestions and consensus," she said.

Dr. Clifford Hudis, chief of the breast medicine service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who was not involved with the Seattle research, called the study well done and provocative. Dr. Hudis described hormone replacement as a "disappointment over all."

"It's just becoming clearer that the benefits are much more subtle than we might have hoped, and the risks are appreciable," he said.

Nonetheless, he added, "before anybody should panic, one might look broadly at the societal impact."

"Even if this raises the risk of one rare breast cancer, over all the picture is improving," he said. "Death rates from breast cancer in the United States are falling."

Lobular tumors form in clusters of milk-producing cells, unlike most breast cancers, which grow in the ducts that carry milk. The two types are treated in the same way, but lobular tumors are harder to detect. Some studies have suggested that the incidence of lobular breast cancer is increasing in the United States, and some researchers say the increase is most likely due to hormone replacement.

Dr. White's study included nearly 1,400 women, ages 50 to 74. Half the women had breast cancer. The researchers identified the two groups of women and then looked back at whether they had taken hormone replacement. All the women were enrolled in a health plan that kept records of their prescriptions, which the researchers used to determine what drugs they took. In the women who developed breast cancer, the researchers studied prescription records during the five years that ended a year before the cancer was diagnosed.

"A unique aspect here is that we didn't rely on the women to remember," Dr. White said. "We used a computerized pharmacy database, so we have accurate information."

Nonetheless, a weakness of this study and previous ones is that the women themselves decided whether to take hormones, rather than being assigned at random to take either drugs or placebos. Studies in which the patients pick their own treatment are not considered definitive, because they are not as reliable scientifically as experiments in which the treatment group and the controls are picked at random.

A rigorous, nationwide study of hormone replacement, the Women's Health Initiative, in which women have been assigned at random to take the hormones or not, is under way, but results will not be available until 2004 or 2005.

In the meantime, women and their doctors have to make educated guesses, based on incomplete information. Hormone replacement can prevent bone thinning, and it clearly relieves hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms that many women experience at menopause.

"We can't be dogmatic about this right now," Dr. Hudis said. "For some women, the quality of life enhancements on hormone replacement clearly make it worthwhile. But the quantifiable health benefits are much more in question than they used to be, and the risks are better defined."

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Coffee May Boost Estrogen Levels in Women

By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drinking more than two cups of coffee daily may boost estrogen levels in women and could exacerbate conditions such as endometriosis and breast pain, study findings suggest.

According to the researchers, women who drank the most coffee had higher levels of estradiol, a naturally occurring form of estrogen, during the early follicular phase, or days 1 to 5 of the menstrual cycle.

"Higher estrogen levels would not be beneficial for women who for example have endometriosis, breast pain and family histories of breast or ovarian cancer, especially arising premenopausally,'' the study's lead author, Dr. Daniel W. Cramer from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, told Reuters Health.

"It is my personal advice that such women should be discouraged from consuming more than two cups of coffee per day,'' Cramer said.

The study included nearly 500 women aged 36 to 45 who were not pregnant, breast-feeding or taking hormones. All women answered questions about their diets, smoking habits, height and weight. Researchers measured the women's hormone levels during days 1 to 5 of their menstrual cycle.

Women who consumed the most cholesterol and alcohol, and those who consumed more than one cup of coffee a day had significantly higher levels of estrogen during the early follicular phase of their menstrual cycle, according to the report in the October issue of Fertility and Sterility.

In fact, caffeine intake from all sources was linked with higher estrogen levels regardless of age, body mass index (BMI), caloric intake, smoking, and alcohol and cholesterol intake. Women who consumed at least 500 milligrams of caffeine daily, the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee, had nearly 70% more estrogen during the early follicular phase than women consuming no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, or less than one cup of coffee.

Women aged 40 and older and those who smoked had higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which reflects the number of eggs remaining in a woman's ovaries. FSH tends to increase with age, and high levels of the hormone correspond with fewer eggs. Therefore, the observation that smokers have higher FSH levels suggests that their ovaries are "older'' than their chronological age, Cramer explained.

"Our study provides a basis for believing that coffee consumption increases estradiol levels,'' Cramer said. "While these effects are modest with one or two cups, they are more evident at higher levels of consumption.''

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility 2001;76:723-729.

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Simple sugars may cut 'good' cholesterol levels

NEW YORK, Jan 09 (Reuters Health) - While following a low-fat diet can have significant health benefits over the long term, it may also result in lower levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol. Now, a new study has found a possible culprit: simple sugars.

According to the report, individuals who adopt a low-fat diet tend to replace fats with simple sugars in non-fat baked goods and processed foods. Simple sugars can reduce HDL levels, and low HDL levels are known to be a major heart disease risk factor for women.

"The current American food supply offers an abundance of low-fat and fat-free foods that depend on simple carbohydrates or added sugars to improve their flavor," Linda B. Bunyard and colleagues from the University of Maryland at Baltimore write. "Whether the recent trend toward fat-modified foods provides an overall benefit to this population is questionable."

In the study, 55 overweight and obese postmenopausal white women followed the American Heart Association's Step 1 diet, in which no more than 30% of total calories come from fat. The women were mostly inactive and their average body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, was 33. People with a BMI of at least 25 are considered overweight, while those with a BMI of 30 or above are obese.

After 10 weeks, the women lost an average of 2% of their body weight, reduced total cholesterol by 8% and cut LDL ("bad") cholesterol by

6%. HDL cholesterol, however, declined 16%, the researchers report in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

During the same period, the women's average intakes of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol fell, while the percent of calories from carbohydrates--both complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and simple sugars--rose. According to the analysis, a higher average intake of simple sugars was the only dietary change associated with lower HDL.

"Women who achieve a low-fat diet by substitution of simple sugar for dietary fat may be at risk of lowering their HDL cholesterol on such a diet," Bunyard and colleagues conclude.

The researchers stress that the findings do not suggest that individuals avoid fruits and vegetables and note that more research is needed to determine which simple sugars contribute to reductions in "good" cholesterol.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2002;102:52-57.


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