Healing Points Issue 29 HealingPoints Newsletter

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

Volume 3, Issue 29
Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In This Issue:

A way to pierce smokers cravings

Nicotine Cooks Proteins in the Body

Foods cooked at high heat linked to inflammation

Flaxseed Helps Mice With Prostate Cancer

Frequent Pain Medication Use (Aleve and Motrin) Linked to Hypertension


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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 smoking.

The next 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 following 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 article 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.

A way to pierce smokers' cravings

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 program.

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 reported.

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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Nicotine 'Cooks' Proteins in the Body

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 nonsmokers.

"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 (news - web sites).

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 effects.

The interaction with prednisone raises the question of whether nornicotine also interacts with other drugs, according to the California researcher.

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 prescription drugs."

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 2002;10.1073/pnas.222561699.

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Foods cooked at high heat linked to inflammation

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 research suggests.

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 Reuters Health.

"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 humans.

"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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Flaxseed Helps Mice With Prostate Cancer

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 found.

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 into flaxseed.

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 http://www.berkeleywellness.com/html/ds/dsFlaxseed.php

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Frequent Pain Medication Use Linked to Hypertension

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 findings suggest.

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 pressure.

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 develop hypertension.

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 rheumatoid arthritis.

Curhan and his team report their findings in the October 28th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine (news - web sites).

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 admitted.

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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