Artificial sweetener may help treat aggressive cancers, study finds

For years, negative reports have surrounded artificial sweeteners, claiming evidence of everything from being a carcinogen to causing cardiovascular disease. But now new research suggests a popular sugar substitute could lead to new treatments for some of the most common types of cancers.

In findings presented at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), a team of researchers from the University of Florida College of Medicine examined how saccharin, the artificial sweetener that is the main ingredient in Sweet ‘N Low®, Sweet Twin® and Necta®, reacted with a protein found in aggressive cancer cells.

The protein, called carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX), regulates pH in and around cancer cells, allowing tumors to thrive and potentially metastasize to other parts of the body. It is found in a wide range of aggressive cancers, including breast, lung, liver, prostate, pancreatic and kidney cancer.

“If you disrupt this pH balance via blocking CA IX activity, you can stop these cancer cells from growing and proliferating,” study author Brian Mahon, a graduate research assistant at the University of Florida, told FoxNews.com.

Mahon said the research stemmed from a study from the University of Florence in Italy that suggested saccharin would selectively block the activity of CA IX. He said his team, led by University of Florida’s Dr. Robert McKenna, wanted to further investigate saccharin’s effect in treating cancer.

“It never ceases to amaze me how a simple molecule such as saccharin— something many people put in their coffee every day— may have untapped uses, including as a possible lead compound to target aggressive cancers,” McKenna said.

CA IX is not normally found in healthy human cells. McKenna said that’s why it’s a prime target for anti-cancer drugs, as they would cause little to no side effects to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.  Previous attempts to find an element that blocks CA IX without damaging other cells have been unsuccessful.

Researchers used X-ray crystallography to determine how saccharin binds to CA IX, and are using that information to develop ways to fine-tune and improve its anti-cancer treatment potential. The goal is to develop drugs that could slow the growth of these cancers and potentially make them less resistant to chemo or radiation therapies. Currently, saccharin’s effects are being tested on breast and liver cancer cells.

“This result opens up the potential to develop a novel anti-cancer drug that is derived from a common condiment that could have a lasting impact on treating several cancers,” McKenna said.

Researchers warn the findings don’t warrant adding large quantities of artificial sweeteners to your diet, but they say their findings may offer promise for the development of an anti-cancer drug derived from an ingredient that ironically was once considered a possible carcinogen.

Love Coffee? Your Heart May, Too

Drinking three to five cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of developing clogged arteries, which in turn might reduce the risk for heart attack, a new study suggests. “We found that drinking three to five cups a day was associated with less calcium build-up in the arteries,” said researcher Dr. Eliseo Guallar, a professor from the department of epidemiology and medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Calcium build-up is an early sign of hardening of the arteries and the risk for heart disease, he explained.

coffee-smil

Guallar said that this study cannot show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between coffee and reduced calcium in the arteries, but noted that the association between these factors is very strong. Although the reasons for this association are not known, Guallar said, researchers speculated that coffee may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, a risk factor for hardening of the arteries. Guallar doesn’t go so far as to recommend that people start drinking coffee just to prevent heart disease. But he did note, “People should not be concerned about coffee intake. This is a habit that is not harmful to the heart.” The report was published March 2 online in the journal Heart.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “Multiple studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, with lowest risk with three to five cups of coffee a day.” In fact, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently released a report saying that the health risks associated with drinking that much coffee are minimal, and having as many as five cups of coffee each day is linked to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Fonarow said.

download

For the study, Guallar’s team collected data on more than 25,000 men and women living in South Korea. Their average age was 41. None had signs of heart disease. During a yearly health exam, the participants were asked about what they ate and drank. They all had CT scans to determine how much calcium had built up in their heart arteries. Three to five cups daily appeared to lower risk of clogged arteries, study says The researchers then compared calcium buildup with how much coffee participants drank.

They found that as coffee consumption rose, the amount of calcium build-up declined, with those who drank three to five cups a day having the least amount of calcium build-up. Guallar said that although the study was done on people in South Korea, he expects the findings would be similar for American coffee drinkers. The association between higher coffee consumption and lower calcium build-up was the same when the study categorized people by age, sex, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the researchers said. They also took into account factors such as education, level of physical activity level, family history of heart disease and dietary consumption of fruits, vegetables, red meat and processed meats, according to the study.

The study did not differentiate between regular and decaf coffee, though the authors noted that decaf is not popular among Korean coffee drinkers. Samantha Heller is a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. She said, “That morning cup o’ joe may offer some unexpected health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. “But this is not all about the caffeine,” she said. Coffee contains more than 1,000 chemicals, including antioxidants that may be contributing to the health benefits.

However, coffee may increase LDL cholesterol, affect pregnancy outcomes and increase anxiety and blood pressure, Heller said. “If you do not drink coffee, there is no reason to start drinking it,” she said. “If you do, the sweet spot seems to be in the three-to five-cup range — these are 8-ounce cups, not the 32-ounce jugs of coffee we are used to seeing,” Heller said. And what you put in the coffee makes a difference, she said.

“Whipped cream, syrups, coffee creamers with partially hydrogenated oils, cream, artificial sweeteners or too much sugar can knock the health benefits of the coffee bean out the window. So enjoy your java, but limit the add-ins,” Heller advised.

Source: WebMD; HealthDay

Provided by Sheri Gilbert of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) in the February 2015 Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter.

WellstylesNewsletteruntitled-2

Nutmeg Toxicity

Nutmeg Toxicity

on October 31st, 2013

Nutmeg Toxicity
The spice nutmeg appears to have a relatively narrow margin of safety.

In my research on cinnamon I ran across a peculiar paper entitled “Christmas Gingerbread and Christmas Cheer: Review of the Potential Role of Mood Elevating Amphetamine-like Compounds.” The author suggested that certain natural constituents of spices such as nutmeg may form amphetamine compounds within the body “sufficient to elevate the mood and help provide some added Christmas cheer” during the holiday season.

This hypothetical risk was raised as far back as the Sixties in the New England Journal of Medicine in an article called “Nutmeg Intoxication.” The paper pondered whether the age-old custom of adding nutmeg to eggnog arose from the psychopharmacological effects described in cases of nutmeg intoxication. Such cases evidently go back to the 1500s, when it was used as an abortifacient to induce a miscarriage and in the 1960s as a psychotropic drug.

Mental health professionals from the ’60s concluded that while nutmeg “is much cheaper for use and probably less dangerous than the habit-forming heroin, it must be stated that it is not free from danger and may cause death.”

The toxic dose of nutmeg is two to three teaspoons.

I assumed no one would ever come close to that amount unintentionally until I saw report in which a couple ate some pasta, collapsed, and were subsequently hospitalized. It was a big mystery until “On close questioning, the husband revealed that he had accidentally added one third of a 30g spice jar of nutmeg to the meal whilst cooking it.” That’s about 4 teaspoons–I don’t know how they could have eaten it! I imagine the poor wife just trying to be polite.

There are also potentially toxic compounds in certain types of cinnamon. See my video Update on Cinnamon for Blood Sugar Control.

We can also overdo other healthful plant foods if we consume too much of the yellow curry spice turmeric, drink too much tea, or eat too much soytoo much seaweedtoo many broccoli sprouts, and even too many raw cruciferous vegetables.

The final video in this three part series on the latest on spice safety is The Safety of Tarragon.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image credit: Simo ubuntu / Wikimedia Commons

Not Exercising? That’s as Bad as Smoking…

When you see someone smoking, you might question “Why would you do that to yourself when you know it could kill you?” Do you react the same way when you know someone doesn’t exercise? You should.

When I was at a recent medical conference, one of the presenters reminded the audience that research has shown physical inactivity to be as deadly as smoking. I was shocked at this when I first heard it a couple of years ago, but I think I was just as shocked hearing it the second time. My guess is you are too. It’s hard to imagine being inactive could be comparable to smoking, but it is.

You wouldn’t dream of smoking (and if you do smoke, you’re likely trying to quit), so why poison yourself with inactivity? But many of us do. Nearly 80% of us don’t get the recommended amount of exercise. Many experts agree the inactivity epidemic is more concerning than the obesity epidemic.

The benefits of exercise are numerous and irrefutable. It helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, dementia, depression, and more. If you exercise, chances are you’ll live a longer, healthier life. Period.

What’s so powerful about exercise? Take heart disease, for example. Heart disease is associated with inflammation in the body. Exercise is a natural inflammation fighter. When you move, your muscles send out anti-inflammatory chemicals.

Also, every time you get up and move, your blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides improve. When you sit down, they get worse. It’s just about moving more.

If you’re not active now, I’m sure it sounds overwhelming to start an exercise program. The good news is you can see health benefits with even a small amount of activity. Even taking a daily 5 minute walk around the office will improve your health. Slowly build up from there.

Ultimately, you want your goal to be 30 minutes at least 5 days a week of moderate exercise. We’re talking about a brisk walk– hard enough that you can talk comfortably but not able to sing. But take your time getting there. Throw in resistance exercises a couple of days a week, and you’re on track. If you’ve tried exercise before and didn’t lose weight, don’t be discouraged. You are still getting health benefits even if you’re not shedding weight. If you’re overweight but active and fit, you can expect to live as long and healthy as someone who is normal weight and fit. Even if you’re obese, being active helps you live a longer, healthier life than a normal weight person who isn’t active.

Think you’re too old for it to matter? Hardly. Regardless of your age, getting active has enormous benefits even in your 80s and beyond. We’re not just talking about living longer, but living better with a higher quality of life. As British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu once said, “The idea is to die young as late as possible.”

Source: WebMD 2014 by Michael Smith, MD, CPT

Provided by Sheri Gilbert of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) in the February 2015 Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter.

WellstylesNewsletteruntitled-2