How ‘sunshine supplement’ vitamin D tablets could help people with chronic backache and arthritis

Herbs and Helpers

Tablets could help conditions such as menstrual cramps and fibromyalgia

Vit D, created by sunlight and found in oily fish, is said to tackle inflammation

Inflammation releases proteins which make people more sensitive to pain

Experts say vit D must be combined with good sleep to manage pain diseases

Vitamin D, created by sunlight and found in oily fish, is believed to tackle inflammation

Vitamin D tablets could help people cope with chronic backache and arthritis, it emerged yesterday.

The ‘sunshine supplements’ could help many pain-related conditions, from menstrual cramps to fibromyalgia, biologists have concluded.

That is because Vitamin D, created by sunlight and found in oily fish, is believed to tackle inflammation.

Inflammation, the body’s immune response to illness, releases proteins which make people more sensitive to pain and allow it to last for longer.

A review by scientists in Brazil states that vitamin D must be combined with good sleep to manage pain-related diseases.

The vitamin is already recommended for pregnant women and claimed to ward off dementia and multiple sclerosis, with some experts calling for it to be routinely added to food to prevent chronic colds and flu.

Lead author of the review, Dr Monica Levy Andersen, from the Federal University of Sao Paolo, said: ‘We can hypothesise that suitable vitamin D supplementation combined with sleep hygiene may optimise the therapeutic management of pain-related diseases, such as fibromyalgia.’

In the spring and summer, it is easier to make vitamin D through the skin when it is exposed to sunshine

The paper is published in the Journal of Endocrinology and its editor, Dr Sof Andrikopoulos, from the University of Melbourne, added: ‘This research is very exciting and novel.

‘We are unravelling the possible mechanisms of how vitamin D is involved in many complex processes, including what this review shows – that a good night’s sleep and normal levels of vitamin D could be an effective way to manage pain.’

Nearly a third of the British population are deficient in vitamin D, because of a lack of time outdoors, the grey UK weather and a diet low in fresh produce.

In the spring and summer, it is easier to make vitamin D through the skin when it is exposed to sunshine. But many people do not make up the shortfall in the autumn and winter by eating foods high in the vitamin, such as liver, eggs, red meat and oily fish.

The review cites several studies showing that taking supplements instead can help with musculoskeletal pain, such as chronic back pain. A meta-analysis from last year found people in hospital reduced their pain after three months of vitamin D pills.

Dr Brian Hammond, chairman of UK charity Backcare, said: ‘This exciting review of the research involving vitamin D, sleep and pain will hopefully help the millions of sufferers of low back and neck pain, as well as patients suffering from chronic pain from other conditions like fibromyalgia.

A study from two years previously found people with fibromyalgia ranked their ‘pain score’ lower over the weeks after starting taking supplements.

People with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis also saw their pain reduced. It is suggested by the authors that vitamin D works for these autoimmune diseases by disrupting the pathways within the immune system which make us sensitive to pain. In other words, it raises our pain threshold.

However the vitamin also can work to help with pain caused by injury, when combined with sleep, which is also linked to pain.

Dr Andersen said: ‘It is necessary to understand the possible mechanisms involved in this relationship, including immunological and neurobiological pathways related to inter-relationship among sleep, vitamin D and pain.’

Source: Daily Mail

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‘Half a glass of wine every day’ increases breast cancer risk

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Further evidence has emerged of the link between alcohol consumption in women and an increased risk of breast cancer.

According to a report from the World Cancer Research Fund, half a glass of wine or a small beer a day increases the risk of breast cancer.

It also backs up research showing that regular intensive exercise can reduce the risk of the disease.

But is it really that simple?

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women in the UK with one in eight women developing the disease during their lifetime.

But scientists say they can’t explain why the cancer occurs in some people and not in others.

There are numerous causes and lots of factors to take into account, including lifestyle, hormone levels and other medical conditions.

Basically, it’s a complex picture and there’s no point focusing on one factor only.

Family walking togetherGetty Images
Your risk of breast cancer is linked to the genes in your family
So what are the risk factors for breast cancer?

For a start, there are some factors you cannot control such as your sex, age, height, genes and when you started your periods.

Being a woman, over 50 and past the menopause, and having a history of breast cancer in your family, all increase your risk of getting the disease.

Being tall and starting periods before the age of 12 are thought to increase the risk too.

Cancer Research UK lists 18 different factors which could cause breast cancer to some degree. Alcohol is only one of them.

What does this report say?

It says there are ways women can lower their risk of breast cancer by focusing on factors they can control, like diet, weight and exercise.

After analysing more than 100 studies that examined the medical history of 12 million women, the report backs up current advice to be aware of alcohol consumption.

The report found evidence that drinking an extra small glass of wine every day (10g of alcohol) increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer after the menopause by 9%.

What does that really mean?

It means that in a group of 100 women, around 13 would be likely to develop breast cancer anyway.

And if they all drank an additional small glass of wine every day, one extra case might develop among the original group.

Doing intensive exercise regularly can help to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer

What about exercise and diet?

When it comes to exercise, the report found that doing more vigorous exercise, like cycling or running, cut the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer by 10% compared to the least active women.

Breastfeeding was also found to lower the risk of the disease before and after the menopause.

And there was limited evidence that eating more leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, spinach and kale, decreased the risk of a less common kind of breast cancer.

We already know that regular physical exercise, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are important for reducing the risk of lots of diseases, including cancers.

But scientists say all these factors interact with each other and that makes it difficult to tease out which ones are driving the cancer and to what extent.

What is the recommended advice on alcohol intake?

New guidelines were introduced in 2016 which said that men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine – and some days should be free of alcohol altogether.

The UK’s chief medical officers’ advice was based on research which showed that any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer.

Pregnant women are advised not to drink at all.

What’s been the reaction to this report?

Cancer experts say the findings don’t tell us anything new about the link between alcohol and breast cancer, which is already well known.

But if you can, to stack the odds in your favour, they say it is a good idea to have some alcohol-free days during every week and not to increase your drinking.

However, Cancer Research UK says there is no need be alarmed and “go teetotal”.

It is also important to look at the bigger picture.

Drinking alcohol has a greater effect on the risks of several other cancers – including mouth, liver and bowel – than it does on breast cancer, so there is no reason to become fixated on alcohol.

Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, says the risks have “to be set against whatever pleasure women might obtain from their drinking”.

The report does not provide absolute risks and as such, Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said it did not seem a good basis for recommending that women give up alcohol completely.

However, Dr Anne McTiernan, lead report author and cancer expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said the evidence regarding breast cancer was clear.

“Having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and limiting alcohol are all steps women can take to lower their risk.”

Source: BBC

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Microwave mushrooms ‘to keep their goodness’, scientists say

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The healthiest way to cook mushrooms is to microwave or grill them to preserve their goodness, researchers say.

These cooking methods significantly increase levels of antioxidants which protect cells against diseases, but boiling or frying reduces them.

A study, from Spain, looked at the properties of four different types of mushrooms before and after cooking.

Adding a little oil when grilling can even improve the nutritional value of the mushrooms.

What’s in a mushroom?

Plenty, it turns out. They contain protein, including essential amino acids, fibre and lots of vitamins – such as B, C , D and E.

They are also low in calories and fat.

In this study, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, researchers analysed how cooking methods altered white button, shiitake, oyster and king oyster mushrooms.

What’s the problem with frying mushrooms?

Frying resulted in protein and carbohydrates being lost from the mushrooms, as well as antioxidant compounds.

Antioxidants are vitamins and chemicals that play a key role in protecting the body against free radicals, which are linked to heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

What happens is that they disappear into the oil in the frying pan, reducing the goodness of the mushrooms.

So losing them isn’t great news.

But, on the other hand, fried mushrooms do taste great with onions and garlic.

Health-giving antioxidants increase when mushrooms are grilled in a little oil

And boiling?

Boiling mushrooms also led to high levels of proteins and antioxidants being lost from the fungi.

The researchers put this down to the good stuff leaking out of the mushrooms into the water in the pan.

As a result, their nutritional value was reduced.

However, boiling did improve the glucans content of the mushrooms. They are found in fungi and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

What’s so good about microwaving?

The best way to retain vitamins and nutrients when cooking vegetables is to use short cooking times.

It’s also best to use as little liquid as possible.

This means using a microwave is a good method of cooking because fewer of the good things are lost – unlike boiling where they end up in the cooking water.

In this study, the researcher Irene Roncero-Ramos, from the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja, said: “When mushrooms were cooked by microwave or grill, the content of polyphenol and antioxidant activity increased significantly and there are no significant issues in nutritional value of the cooked mushrooms.”

Why is grilling with oil a good move?

Even though cooking in oil can cause nutrients to be lost, mushrooms grilled in a small amount of oil increased their antioxidant properties.

And when olive oil was used, fatty acids increased without any rise in calorie content, the researchers said.

So should we all be eating more antioxidants?

Research from the past 10 years or so shows that eating antioxidant-rich foods can benefit our general health.

They are vitamins, minerals and other chemicals that help protect our cells – and are found in lots of different types of food, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and fish.

But they aren’t the answer to everything.

A healthy, balanced diet containing a wide variety of foods in the right proportions is recommended.

According to NHS Choices, fruit and vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and minerals and should make up just over a third of the food we eat each day.

That’s because fruit and vegetables can help lower the risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers.

Source: BBC

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Medicinally Used Asarum Species: High-Resolution LC-MS Analysis of Aristolochic Acid Analogs and In vitro Toxicity Screening in HK-2 Cells

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Read full article here

Johanna Michl1, Olusheyi Bello1, Geoffrey C. Kite2, Monique S. J. Simmonds2 and Michael Heinrich1*
1Research Cluster Biodiversity and Medicines, UCL School of Pharmacy, London, UK
2Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, UK

Species of Asarum are used in traditional Chinese medicine and, similar to members of the genus Aristolochia, they contain aristolochic acid analogs (AAAs). These compounds are known for their nephrotoxic and carcinogenic effects. So far, the phytochemistry and nephrotoxicity of species of Asarum is not well studied. A high-resolution LC-MS-based metabolomic approach was used to study the phytochemical variation in medicinally used Asarum species. The cytotoxicity of the samples was assessed using human kidney (HK-2) cells. The majority of samples contained potentially nephrotoxic AAAs, including 9-methoxy aristolactam (AL) IV, AL I, and AL IV. These compounds were present in methanol as well as water extracts. AAAs were detected in all parts of the plant. The majority of the extracts were not cytotoxic to HK-2 cells at the doses tested. However, other mechanisms relating to aristolochic acid nephropathy and cancer development, such as DNA adduct formation may occur. The results of this study provide a model for assessing lesser-known plant species for toxicity.

Introduction

Species of the genus Asarum are used as herbal medicines in many parts of the world, including Europe and Asia. The Chinese Pharmacopeia lists the roots and rhizomes of Asarum heteropoides f. mandshuricum (Maxim.) Kitag, and Asarum sieboldii Miq. under the Pin Yin name Xixin (Achenbach and Fischer, 1997). In Europe Asarum europaeum L. is used in homeopathic tinctures (Nitzsche et al., 2013) and in Canada and the USA Asarum canadense L. was used by Native Americans (Moermon, 2017).

Like the related genus Aristolochia (which is also listed in the Chinese Pharmacopeia), Asarum contain aristolochic acids and aristolactams (Mix et al., 1982; Kumar et al., 2003). These nitrophenanthrene derivates have nephrotoxic and carcinogenic effects (Michl et al., 2014). Species of Aristolochia have become a key concern in healthcare as they are associated with aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN), a renal fibrosis often associated with upper urothelial cancer (UUC; Chen et al., 2012). It is estimated that in China alone 100 million people may be at risk of developing AAN (Hu et al., 2004; Grollman, 2013).

Species of Asarum are generally considered to be less toxic than species of Aristolochia. However, a few cases of Asarum-related AAN have been reported. In one case report a male patient displayed subacute renal failure after ingesting a herbal powder containing Xixin (Yang et al., 2006). A case of acute poisoning due to the intake of A. europaeum has been reported in Switzerland (Jaspersen-Schib et al., 1996). Surprisingly, only eight cases of Asarum-related AAN have been reported in the last 45 years (Kim et al., 2013). Like Aristolochia-related AAN, it is likely that health practitioners failed to identify the link between nephropathy or tumor development and the exposure to these plants.

Aristolochic acid I (AA I) and aristolochic acid II (AA II) are considered to be the cause of these nephrotoxic and carcinogenic effects (Nortier et al., 2000; Balachandran et al., 2005; Jelakovic et al., 2012). After reductive metabolic activation into aristolactams (ALs), AA I and AA II form DNA adducts, which were found in renal tissues of patients. A large number of in vitro and in vivo studies showed that AA I and AA II are toxic (Mengs, 1988; Arlt et al., 2011; Yang et al., 2011; Michl et al., 2014). However, they are not necessarily the only (or most potent) toxins present in Aristolochia and related genera (Michl et al., 2016). At least 178 aristolochic acid analogs (AAAs) exist, many of which are aristolactams. It is unclear whether these compounds are also able to form DNA adducts. Their possible implications in AAN may have been overlooked (Michl et al., 2014). Apart from AA I and AA II, other compounds may contribute to processes that lead to renal damage (Li et al., 2004; Wen et al., 2006) and carcinogenesis.

Species of Asarum generally contain lower amounts of AA I and AA II than Aristolochia species (Hashimoto et al., 1999; Chan et al., 2003, 2006; Yuan et al., 2007). Yet, high amounts of AA I (3376.9 ng/mg) were reported in Asarum crispulatum C.Y. Cheng and C.S. Yang (Jong et al., 2003). According to Zhao et al. (2008) aerial parts of Xixin herbs contained higher levels of AA I than the roots. Methanol extracts typically contained more AA I than water extracts. A second study by Hsu et al. (2009) found that the amounts of AA I in leaves were the highest followed by petioles, rhizomes and roots.

While a number of studies assessed the amounts of AA I and AA II in Asarum spp., little is known about the effects of the entire (small molecule) metabolome and specifically other AAAs. For example, although other compounds, such as AL I are often found in higher amounts in Asarum than in Aristolochia (Yuan et al., 2008), the Chinese Pharmacopoeia still lists roots and rhizomes of Asarum for medicinal use. Furthermore, only the decoction of the root portion is recommended for usage. However, it is questionable as to whether current recommendations for the medicinal uses of Asarum species are justified.

The aim of this work is to assess the metabolomic profile and in vitro toxicity of medicinally used species of Asarum and to evaluate whether current recommendations for their use are appropriate. Therefore, we utilized a systems biology approach to establish the full range of AAAs in a series of Asarum species. We carried out a LC-MS-based metabolomic study to compare the secondary metabolites of Asarum samples originating from different species, different plant parts, as well as obtained through different extraction techniques. We assessed the cytotoxicity of these extracts in HK-2 kidney cells and studied the relationship between the plants’ metabolic profiles and their in vitro toxicity using statistical approaches. In a wider context, the current work can be used as a model for assessing toxicity of medicinal plant species, and for elucidating bioactive principles of medicinal plants.

Discussion

Asarum species have been used as medicinal plants in China and in other parts of the world. However, so far little is known about their content in aristolochic acids and aristolactams or their potential kidney toxicity. A comprehensive metabolomic approach has shown that the majority of Asarum samples contain AAAs considered to be nephrotoxic.

In TCM, plants known to contain toxic compounds are often regarded as safer after preparation of the plant material in a specific way, or only those plant parts known not to contain the toxins are used. Furthermore, monographs on species in national pharmacopeias require time to change and often do not take into account recent advances in the knowledge about the chemistry of the species. This could result in misleading recommendations about the use of some species with potential hazards for public health. The plant genus Asarum is one example of this, especially since its true level of usage is poorly known (e.g., in China and Southern Europe). In addition to changing guidelines in national pharmacopeias, more awareness needs to be raised about potential health risks associated with the use of herbal medicine. This will in time lead to changes in the traditional practices.

Previous reports have shown that levels of aristolochic acids were low in decoction of roots and rhizomes of Herba Asari (Zhao et al., 2008) thus it was retained in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia. However, in this study, no significant difference in the levels of AA I was detected in aerial parts of Asarum spp. compared to root samples. Relative levels of AL I were found to be even higher in root samples compared to aerial parts, and AL I was also detected in root decoctions. Little is known about the toxicity and carcinogenicity of AL I.

Although most Xixin samples included in this study contained potentially nephrotoxic AAAs, some samples did not contain detectable amounts of these compounds. This could indicate that Xixin samples purchased from markets may not originate from Asarum sp., and were either misidentified or replaced with other medicinal plants. The lack of detectable AAAs could also be due to natural variation (genetic, seasonal or ecological) and requires further investigation. Most samples were non-cytotoxic to kidney cells in vitro. Interestingly, no correlation was found between the amounts of AA I and their toxicity. However, other mechanisms relating to aristolochic acid nephropathy, such as DNA adduct formation may occur and deserve further research.

The present study has important implications on whether and how the genus Asarum should be used medicinally in the future. In contrast to previous studies, where only AA I and AA II were taken into account, we detected other AAAs in root and rhizome samples of Asarum. Since little is known about the toxicity of these compounds, we cannot conclude that root and rhizome samples are safe to use. The study also demonstrates that systematic assessment of a group of species’ metabolomic profile can provide a basis for a broader assessment of associated risks. Not only are there other compounds than aristolochic acids that need to be taken into consideration, but the entire composition of some of the most active extracts needs to be understood. The study thus serves as a model for assessing closely related species used as traditional medicines. More broadly, the strategy presented here can also be used in identifying new drug leads from medicinal plants (and fungi).

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Why running WON’T damage your knees

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Studies show the exercise might even strengthen cartilage not damage it
‘Couch potatoes’ have 45% more risk of osteoarthritis than those who run

Runners place eight times their body weight on to each leg with every step
But we take wider strides when running, so there’s reduced contact with ground

Experts say running is not actually bad for the knees – a view held by many who love to pound the pavements

Your excuse for not going jogging may have just been debunked.

Experts say running is not actually bad for the knees – a view held by many who love to pound the pavements.

Studies show there is no link between running and osteoarthritis, and the exercise may even strengthen cartilage.

A book called Running Science says ‘couch potatoes’ have around a 45 per cent greater risk of osteoarthritis compared to those who run.

It states that runners place eight times their body weight on to each leg with every step.

Although that is three times as much as when walking, we take wider strides when running, so there is reduced contact time with the ground.

This means the pressure on the knees is broadly similar.

The book’s consultant editor, Professor John Brewer, of St Mary’s University in London, said runners should increase intensity of the exercise gradually, wear the right shoes and run on different terrains.

He said: ‘The human body is designed to run… although the knees will be under stress when running, the body will adapt to this stress and develop cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments that are stronger as a result of running – protecting the knee rather than damaging it.’

Running Science, published earlier this week, says that damage to joints is a ‘common excuse’ for not running.

However, a chapter by independent physiotherapist Anna Barnsley states: ‘The good news is that the converse appears to be true.’

She cites studies showing that although runners develop bony growths in their knees, there is no evidence of narrowing of the joint space, which would indicate degeneration.

Studies show there is no link between running and osteoarthritis, and the exercise may even strengthen cartilage

The agony of osteoarthritis is caused when cartilage is no longer there to cushion the joints – but the book states that running probably increases cartilage.

That could be because exercise helps people lose fat, which can damage cartilage.

Running also prompts blood flow and cell regeneration in the knees.

The advice follows a study by Baylor College of Medicine in the US, which analysed knee X-rays of 2,683 participants.

The study found that 22.8 per cent of those who had been runners had signs of knee osteoarthritis, compared to 29.8 per cent of non-runners.

Running Science also noted that some runners may have a genetic predisposition to osteoarthritis – meaning exercise is not necessarily to blame.

Source: Daily Mail

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Relax, you can beat diabetes… by doing yoga

Herbs and Helpers

Some patients may even be able to cut down on the medication after yoga

Study found one session of yoga led to a reduction in blood glucose levels

Visible changes could be seen within ten days of continuous practice

People with diabetes should be encouraged to take up yoga to keep the condition under control, say experts.

Doing 45 minutes of the ancient relaxation practice for just ten days can have a dramatic impact on lowering blood sugar levels.

Some patients may even be able to cut down on the medication they take to treat their condition after regular sessions.

Dr Venugopal Vijayakumar of the S-VYASA yoga university, who carried out the study, said: ‘Even one session of yoga has led to a reduction in blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes should be encouraged to take up yoga to keep the condition under control, say experts

‘In the current study, visible changes could be seen within ten days of continuous practice.

‘However, we recommend regular practice of yoga at least for three months to show an improvement in the glycaemic control of people with diabetes.’

The new study, published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, looked at 1,292 people diagnosed with either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is when someone has abnormally high blood sugars, but is not yet in the diabetic range.

The findings suggest that yoga could be used to help treat the condition and even prevent it from developing in those at risk.

Blood sugar levels of participants were measured both before they started yoga and after the sessions.

The results showed that fasting plasma glucose (FPG) – blood sugar levels – decreased by ten per cent in people who completed ten days of practical yoga sessions and lectures on diabetes and yogic concepts.

Dr Venugopal said: ‘Our research showed that yoga helps with better glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Yoga could be used to help treat the condition and even prevent it from developing in those at risk

‘This was a large-scale community-based study performed with more than 1,000 diabetes patients from different socio-economic statuses, education, cultural backgrounds and age groups.’

It is thought the blood sugar reduction induced by yoga is not just down to the physical movement. Dr Venugopal said: ‘Yoga has been shown to bring about a reduction in stress hormones, inflammation and oxidative stress, so reducing insulin resistance.’

According to Diabetes UK, there are more than 4.5 million people in Britain with the debilitating disease. Of these, more than a million have type 2 without realising because they have yet to be diagnosed.

A further 11.9 million are at increased risk of developing the condition.

It is thought that a ten per cent reduction in FPG levels would help reduce the risk of complications for diabetes patients.

Dr Venugopal advises that yoga should be practised every day as a way of life rather than just for exercise. But even doing a 45-minute session five times a week could have a huge impact.

Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said: ‘We know that exercise can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition better.

‘While some research suggests that yoga may help people lower their blood glucose levels, this study doesn’t tell us whether yoga is more beneficial than other types of physical activity.

‘We suggest people choose exercise they most enjoy, be it walking, cycling to work, yoga classes or any other type.’

Source: Daily Mail

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