Welcome to Issue 29 of
Healing Points. I offer Healing Points to you as a gift and as a
service. I spend many hours each week reading current stories that
relate to natural health care, and I provide them here for you as an
educational public service.
Issue 29 starts off with
an important article on the use of
acupuncture to help in quitting
article shows that nicotine, whether from smoking, chewing, snuff,
nicotine gum, or patches, causes the increase of substances in the body that
speed aging, and can contribute to illness like cancer and diabetes.
Yet another reason to quit.
Interestingly enough, the
article shows that the same chemical talked about above, is also created
in the body when foods are cooked at high temperatures. This is
particularly important for people with diabetes.
One food I consider to be an extremely important addition
to the diet is whole flax seeds. There has been some consideration
that the consumption of flax seed oil might contribute to prostate cancer,
but it appears that
whole flax seeds will help avoid this condition.
Last, but perhaps most important, is an
linking the frequent consumption of pain relievers with hypertension.
Of course acupuncture combined with proper nutrition will dramatically help
alleviate pain without the need for these harmful drugs.
By Dianne Partie Lange
Special to The Times
At least 18 studies have attempted to establish whether acupuncture helps
smokers quit, but most of them were of poor quality. Now a study designed to
address the shortcomings of earlier research has found that acupuncture does
indeed help smokers quit, but it works best when combined with an education
More than 100 smokers who had previously tried and failed to quit received
one of three treatments: acupuncture five times a week for four weeks,
acupuncture together with five weeks of a quit-smoking education program or
the education program and fake acupuncture. (The fake acupuncture group had
the needle treatment at ear and wrist points close to the true points. The
group that had the real thing had acupuncture to five ear points commonly
used to treat chemical dependency.)
Forty percent of those who got the combined treatment were able to stop
smoking, which was double the rate of the other groups. In contrast to what
most people expect, those who had the heaviest habit -- smoking a pack a day
for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 -- had the most benefit, said the
study's lead author, Ian D. Bier, president of IB Scientific, a clinical
research company specializing in natural medicine.
"This finding is extremely important, as it indicates that the combined
treatment protocol is effective in the population that is most addicted and
at the greatest risk of developing smoking-related diseases," the authors
The long-term effects aren't known, said Bier, since most of the
participants were not available for interviews 18 months later. But for
those who were, the trend persisted. "If someone is smoke-free at 18
months," he said, "it's likely to be permanent."
American Journal of Public Health, Volume 92, No. 10: Pages 1,642-1,647
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By Merritt McKinney
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - As if smokers need another reason to kick the
habit, California scientists have discovered that a byproduct of nicotine,
the substance that makes cigarettes so addictive, causes a type of chemical
reaction in the body similar to that which occurs when sugar is scorched or
food goes bad. This reaction is thought to play a role in diabetes, cancer
and other diseases.
Although the health effects of the nicotine byproduct, known as
nornicotine, are uncertain, researchers also found that the substance
interferes with the actions of a commonly used steroid medication.
The interaction between sugars and proteins can produce substances called
advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs. The accumulation of AGEs appears to
contribute to the aging process and certain diseases.
Now Drs. Kim D. Janda and Tobin J. Dickerson at The Scripps Research
Institute in La Jolla have found that nornicotine, which is found in tobacco
and is produced as nicotine is metabolized, leads to small, but significant,
accumulation of one type of AGE. They also found that blood collected from
smokers had higher levels of the nornicotine-related AGE than blood from
"Our results provide a direct chemical link between tobacco use and the
development of AGEs, a class of compounds previously implicated in various
disease states," Janda and Dickerson conclude in a report in the online
early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
The findings suggest an "unrecognized pathway" through which tobacco use
can be harmful to health, according to the report.
In comments to Reuters Health, study author Janda said that the "very
startling point is that this chemical reaction that nornicotine can cause
also can take place with certain drugs." The researchers found that
nornicotine interacted with the steroid prednisone to form byproducts that
may interfere with the activity of the steroid as well as cause harmful
The interaction with prednisone raises the question of whether
nornicotine also interacts with other drugs, according to the California
Janda said that "the public needs to be made more aware" that tobacco and
other nicotine-containing products create a substance "that was previously
unrecognized as a potential danger to proteins in the body and administered
Janda pointed out that even nicotine patches and gums that people use to
quit smoking can trigger the reaction. Of course, if these products are
successful, then a person will no longer have to consume any sort of
nicotine--in cigarettes or in gums or patches.
SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with diabetes may be able to lower
their risk of heart disease by consuming cool foods, or dishes cooked at
relatively low temperatures, such as salads and tuna fish, preliminary
According to the study, foods cooked at high temperatures spurred the
production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), compounds in the blood
that stimulate cells to produce inflammation-causing proteins, in a group of
adults with diabetes.
While AGEs are normally produced in the body at a slow rate, they can be
toxic and form more quickly when food is heated to high temperatures, the
researchers explain in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
Inflammation is associated with heart disease among all people, but
people with diabetes are thought to be particularly vulnerable. The study
points to a simple way for people with diabetes and possibly healthy
individuals to reduce levels of inflammation in the body.
While most of the previous research has focused on foods people with
diabetes should avoid, the current study points to the importance of food
preparation methods, Dr. Helen Vlassara, the study's lead author, told
"Unlike the emphasis that has been put so far on the nutrients
themselves, our work really points to the mode with which we have been
accustomed to preparing our food. It seems that the byproducts that we form
inadvertently simply by processing our food puts us at risk," said Vlassara,
from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
She noted that a number of animal studies support these findings in
"In genetically predisposed animals where we know they will develop
diabetes, this (reduced AGE) diet has proven highly protective," said
Vlassara. "The findings are pretty astounding."
Vlassara and colleagues fed 24 patients with diabetes one of two healthy
diets that were equal in every way except the level of AGEs due to the
temperature at which the foods were cooked. After 2 to 6 weeks, study
volunteers switched diets.
People who consumed foods cooked at lower temperatures had lower levels
of both AGEs and inflammatory proteins than people who consumed the same
foods cooked at higher temperatures. After just 2 weeks, blood levels of
AGEs rose by nearly 65% among individuals consuming the high-AGE diet and
decreased by 30% in individuals consuming the low-AGE diet.
After 6 weeks, levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and
concentrations of the inflammatory protein C-reactive protein (CRP) had also
risen among those consuming the diet high in AGEs and declined among those
in the reduced AGE group, the researchers report. TNF-alpha and CRP are both
markers showing increased inflammation.
"Further clinical studies are needed to establish this modality as a
nonpharmacological intervention for diabetic macrovascular disease,"
Vlassara and colleagues conclude.
SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition
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Duke University research. The flaxseed diet reduced the
size, aggressiveness and severity of tumors in mice genetically engineered
to develop prostate cancer, and prevented prostate cancer in three percent
of the animals, the study in the November issue of the journal Urology
Flaxseed is the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty
acids and is high in dietary fiber. Previous studies have indicated that
omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber may protect against cancer.
In this study, 135 mice genetically engineered to develop
prostate cancer were divided into two groups. Both groups were fed a
regular mouse diet, except that flaxseed accounted for 5 percent of the
experimental group's diet.
Mice in both groups were autopsied at 20 weeks and 30 weeks to check for
tumor growth and the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
Researchers found that the tumors in the control group were twice the size
of tumors in the flaxseed group.
The tumors in the flaxseed group were also less aggressive and those mice
also had higher tumor cell death rates. Though not statistically
significant, the flaxseed group mice had lower rates of cancer that spread
to other organs, the study found. Senior study author Wendy Demark-Wahnefried,
an associate professor in the urology division, says in a statement that she
and her colleagues are cautiously optimistic about their findings. She notes
that it would be very difficult for a person to devote 5 percent of their
total food intake to flaxseed.
But she says this study's findings indicate the need to continue research
A current Duke clinical trial is doing that. It includes 160 men with
prostate cancer. The trial will examine the effectiveness of a low-fat diet,
flaxseed supplementation, and a combination of both, on stopping prostate
cancer cells from dividing.
More information The University of California, Berkeley has more about
the health benefits attributed to flaxseed
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By Alison McCook
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who frequently take certain
over-the-counter pain-relief medications appear to have a
higher-than-average risk of developing high blood pressure, new study
Dr. Gary C. Curhan of Harvard Medical School (news
web sites) in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues found that women
between the ages of 31 and 50 who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs)--such as ibuprofin (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve)--at least 22 days
per month appear to be 86% more likely than others to develop high blood
The investigators also discovered that similarly frequent users of
acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be twice as likely as others to develop
hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Although the risk of high blood pressure may increase with these
medications, also known as analgesics, that does not mean women should not
take them, Curhan cautioned. Analgesics can significantly improve quality of
life for some patients, and not all frequent users will develop high blood
pressure, he noted.
"If people have chronic pain, and they need analgesics, I would tell them
to take them," Curhan stated.
"Not everybody that takes these gets hypertension," he added.
Curhan and his colleagues discovered the link by following 80,020 women
who were all initially hypertension-free. At the outset of the study, the
participants indicated how often they took analgesics, and which types. The
authors then re-contacted the women 2 years later and noted how many had
since developed high blood pressure.
The researchers discovered that more than half of the women in the study
took aspirin, and around three-quarters said they used NSAIDs or
acetaminophen. When the investigators compared their analgesic use to the
risk of developing hypertension, they found that frequent NSAID or
acetaminophen users--but not aspirin users--were more likely than others to
The relationship between analgesic use and hypertension persisted even
when Curhan's team removed the influence of factors that might lead to both
long-term pain problems and high blood pressure, such as obesity and
Curhan and his team report their findings in the October 28th issue of
Archives of Internal Medicine (news
In an interview with Reuters Health, Curhan said that this is the first
study to show that analgesic use may be linked to high blood pressure, so
further studies are needed to confirm these findings. That said, however, he
pointed out that it makes good biological sense that NSAIDs and
acetaminophen could increase a frequent user's blood pressure over time.
Previous research has shown that these pain medications can block the
production of substances called prostaglandins, which are known to dilate
blood vessels. With less prostaglandins, the vessels may narrow, Curhan
said, eventually leading to hypertension.
But the present study only found a link between analgesics and
hypertension, the researcher noted, and did not show that one causes the
other. And although the authors tried to account for the influence of other
factors that could lead to both analgesic use and hypertension, another, as
yet unidentified third factor could be responsible for the findings, Curhan
In the meantime, Curhan suggested that frequent analgesic users have
their blood pressure checked every year, so that doctors can treat their
hypertension--if it appears--sooner rather than later.
"If we can do something early, that may have potential long-term
benefits," he noted.
SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine 2002;162:2204-2208.
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