Vitamin and antioxidant use after breast cancer diagnosis may improve survival

woman with vitamin EVitamin supplement use after diagnosis of breast cancer is common, but less is known about potential long-term effects on recurrence and survival. A new article published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment reports that vitamin and antioxidant supplementation after treatment for breast cancer is safe and may even improve survival.

Researchers from Harvard University analyzed data from over 12,000 breast cancer survivors in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project, a collection of 4 cohort studies of breast cancer survivors from the United States and China.  The analysis examined the post diagnosis use of supplements (vitamins A, B, C, D, E and multivitamins) for 1-5 years.  Sixty percent of the women reported using supplements during the 5 years after diagnosis. Breast cancer accounted for 65% of the total of 1,298 deaths that occurred during the follow-up period.

After adjusting for interactions with smoking, treatment and hormonal status, the use of any antioxidant supplement, categorized in this study as vitamins C, E or a multivitamin, was associated with a 16% lower risk of dying from any cause over follow-up, and for those who used all three supplements, the risk was 21% lower. Vitamin C supplementation was associated with a 19% lower risk of death and a 10% reduction in the risk of breast cancer occurrence, and vitamin E use reduced all-cause mortality by 15% and the recurrence of breast cancer by 12%. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 36% reduction in recurrence among women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors (ER+), but not in women with estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) tumors.

In this large group of breast cancer survivors, use of vitamin or antioxidant supplements was not associated with an increased risk of recurrence or death, but instead was associated with improved survival. Consideration of ER status and the use of antioxidants may be clinically relevant when evaluating associations with cancer and mortality risk.

Poole EM et al. Postdiagnosis supplement use and breast cancer prognosis in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print]

curcumin, is demonstrating in the lab exactly why traditional healers have used it for thousands of years.

The modest ginger root, curcumin, is demonstrating in the lab exactly why traditional healers have used it for thousands of years.

Curcumin, an ancient spice in the ginger family, also known as turmeric root, is gaining plenty of attention for its positive impact on a number of ailments. It is shining as an antioxidant, for example, as well as for its beneficial effects in prohibiting tumors, for its anti-inflammatory properties, and even for its ability to retard some of the progress of the virus that causes AIDS.
This sounds like a lot of claims for a seemingly unpretentious kitchen spice. But, in fact, curcumin’s use dates back to the time of Egyptian pharaohs and Indian rajas more than 6,000 years ago. A tall, stemless, perennial plant cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in India, China and Indonesia, turmeric is what gives curry its unique flavor and color.
But in addition to its kitchen uses, curcumin has been used by traditional medicine for liver disease (particularly jaundice), indigestion, urinary tract diseases, blood purification, inflamed joints (rheumatoid arthritis), insect bites, dermatological disorders and as an atherosclerosis preventative. Although the chemical structure of curcumin was determined in 1910, it was only during the mid 1970s and 1980s that the potential uses of curcuminoids in medicine began to be extensively studied.
For example, curcumin has demonstrated, in vivo, the ability to decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in serum, and to increase the beneficial HDL cholesterol. It inhibits platelet aggregation induced by arachidonic acid, adrenaline and collagen. Where lipid peroxidation was induced by carbon tetrachloride, curcumin significantly decreased the level of lipid per oxidation.
In one study, bile acid output was increased by nearly 100 percent. In another study of mice and hamsters that were fed a special diet to induce cholesterol gallstones, the incidence of cholesterol gallstones was reduced by cur cumin.
(Since curcumin lowers cholesterol levels by increasing the flow of bile out of the liver, those with biliary tract obstruction should not use curcumin. Always take curcumin with food.)
Other studies have demonstrated curcumin’s positive impact against ulcers, hardening of the arteries, and in warding off harmful stomach bacteria. Let’s examine the science behind the claims.
Free Radicals do their damage with a sequence of changes resulting from an injury (burn, thermal shock, etc.), and ultimately oxidative stress from the depletion of antioxidant defense mechanisms. Curcuminoids, and other antioxidants, have the ability to merge with potential radical molecules, preventing free-radical formation.
An interesting benefit of turmeric and curcumin appears to be its significant antioxidant activity. To fully understand the antioxidant properties of curcuminoids, let’s begin with the role of oxygen in our body. The trade-offs for oxygen utilization (metabolism) in the body are oxygen by-products. They become waste that pollutes the body and causes damage to our DNA (genetic material which is the blueprint for the cells’ command center), proteins, lipids and other molecules in the cell.

Snaring Free Radicals

Even the defense of the body against foreign invasion, like microbial infection, involves a trade-off. These defense mechanisms naturally produce oxidants which can kill the invading bacteria, but may also cause injury to the body cells.
Other oxidants produced by the body are cytochrome enzymes, which are abundant in the lungs and liver. These organs protect the body against toxins entering from air, water and food. Outside influences, such as an excess of metals like iron and copper (and their salts), and oxidized fats, may generate oxidants in the body.
As a defense reaction, normal body functions generate oxidants such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals and lipid peroxides. Such oxidants are referred to as free radicals-“radical” (as opposed to the stable molecules), and “free” (to start a chain reaction in the body that will destabilize surrounding cells).
This process leads to tissue and organ degeneration that will eventually result in chronic inflammation, heart disease, accelerated aging and disorganized cell growth that may result in cancer. Antioxidants can stop free radical damage by either minimizing or preventing the oxidants’ initial formation, or by neutralizing the existing free radicals in the body.
The aging process exemplifies the cumulative result of free-radical damage to cells, tissues and organs. The body has built-in mechanisms for counteracting free radicals but, unfortunately, the aging process and disease gradually overwhelm the antioxidant defense reaction. Fortunately, some vitamins, minerals, herbs and their compounds such as phonemics, flavanoids and carotenoids, have the ability to scavenge or neutralize free radicals. Curcuminoids, for example, merge with these potential radical molecules and thus prevent free-radical formation.
Inflammation is known to be associated with increased levels of lipid peroxides and free radicals, which are generated by the liver as well as by inflamed tissues in the body. Animals fed curcumin showed decreased levels of lipid peroxides and subsequent reduction in the processes of inflammation. One study showed curcumin to be eight times more powerful that vitamin E in preventing lipid peroxidation. Taken in group arrangements such as C-complex, curcuminoids are three times as potent in neutralizing free-radical molecules.
In summary, the antioxidant mechanisms of curcuminoids may include one or more of the following interactions: They may intervene in oxidative attacks to restrict or prevent them from happening; scavenge or neutralize free radicals; and break the oxidative chain reaction caused by free radicals.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Curcuminoids inhibit enzymes which participate in the synthesis of inflammatory substances in the body. The natural anti-inflammatory activity of curcuminoids is comparable in strength to steroidal drugs, and such nonsteroidal drugs as indomethacin and phenylbutazone, which have dangerous side effects.
Inflammation results from a complex series of actions and/or reactions triggered by the body’s immunological response to tissue damage. This damage may be caused by physical traumas including various diseases and surgery. Moderate inflammation is necessary for the healing process; however, continuous inflammation leads to chronic conditions like arthritis and its associated pain. In a double-blind, controlled study, three groups of patients received either curcumin (400 mg), the anti-inflammatory prescription drug phenylbutazone (100 mg), or a placebo (250 mg of lactose powder) three times daily for five consecutive days after surgery. They had been admitted for either a hernia condition or an accumulation of fluid in the scrotum. The results: curcumin was just as effective as phenylbutazone in reducing post-operative inflammation.
Curcuminoids prevent the synthesis of several inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes. When the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin were tested in a double-blind clinical trial in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin produced significant improvement in all patients, and again the therapeutic effects were comparable to those obtained with phenylbutazone.
Further, oral administration of curcumin to rats, at a dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight, and sodium curcumin at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg, inhibited formalin-induced arthritis in the animals. In fact, curcumin once again was comparatively as effective as phenylbutazone in this application. In a double-blind trial in 49 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, when curcumin was given at a dose of 1,200 mg per day for five to six weeks, there was an overall improvement in morning stiffness and physical endurance; this yielded comparable effects to those obtained with phenylbutazone.
Other inflammation-related illnesses? Patients with chronic respiratory disorders experience significant relief in symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. Eye drops of a turmeric mixture were administered in 25 cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, an inflammatory condition of the eye. Symptoms such as eye redness or a burning sensation began subsiding after the third day of treatment. During the six-day treatment period, it was determined that 23 of the 25 patients were relieved of all symptoms.
Curcumin has a similar action to aspirin. However, unlike aspirin curcumin inhibits synthesis of inflammatory prostaglandins, but does not affect the synthesis of prostacyclin, an important factor in preventing vascular thrombosis. Any drug that affects its synthesis (especially when used in large doses) may increase the risk of this dangerous condition. Curcumin may therefore be preferable for patients who are prone to vascular thrombosis and require anti-inflammatory and/or anti-arthritic therapy.
In a recent study, cats exposed to myocardial ischemia-reduced blood flow in the heart tissues, a condition resulting from the consequences of a heart attack, were evaluated using curcumin and quinidine, a standard antiarrhythmic drug. Both of the substances protected the animals against a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure following restricted blood flow to the heart.

Curcumin and AIDS

Therapy for an immune system disease such as HIV infection, which causes AIDS, is currently being approached in two different ways:
  1. The attempt to restore the immune system’s ability to defend the body using a biological response modifier; and
  2. Through ongoing efforts to develop a vaccine against the HIV infection, which so far has been unsuccessful.

Curcumin inhibits the HIV-1 integrase protein. Therefore, this integrase inhibition may contribute to the anti-HIV activity of curcumin, which currently is in clinical trials for AIDS patients. Here is some AIDS background as to why curcumin may have this benefit:

CD-4 and CD-8 cells are acronyms for the immune cells called T-lymphocytes, which are responsible for some of the most sophisticated activity of the immune system. The T-lymphocytes function to regulate the entire immune response. With regard to this regulatory function, the T-lymphocytes can be divided into T-helpers and T-suppressors. The T-helpers stimulate the immune response to provide protection against invading microorganisms.

The function of T-suppressors is to stop this action when appropriate-for example, at the point at which infection has been overcome-in order to avoid excessive immune system activity being turned against the body itself. Balanced interaction between T-helper and T-suppressor cells represents self-regulation of the immune response. Self-regulation is regarded as the most crucial aspect of this response.
In HIV infection and AIDS, T-helpers cells become a primary target of the infection, becoming increasingly incapacitated and destroyed by the virus. The current definition of AIDS includes HIV infection with T-helper (CD-4) cell counts lower than 200 per ml of blood. This immune system is usually unable to defend the body against various viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. The microorganisms take advantage of the weakened defense system and invade the body; hence those infections are referred to as opportunistic infections.
HIV cannot live without being fully integrated in the live body cell. The enzyme integrase facilitates integration of the virus genetic material with the genetic material in the cell. The genetic material of the cell begins to serve the virus, not the cell.
Now, here is the potential payoff: curcumin was found to inhibit the activity of integrase, potentially preventing HIV from finding a home in CD-4 and CD-8 cells.
In a study, the administration of 2,000 mg of curcumin given to 18 HIV-infected patients for approximately 20 weeks resulted in a significant increase in the CD-4 and CD-8 cell counts, as compared with the placebo-receiving patients. The CD-4 cell count before the treatment ranged from 5 to 615 cells per ml of blood, and the respective range after treatment was 283 to 1,467 cells/ml of blood.

Other Protective Properties

Diets supplemented with curcuminoids protect the integrity of biomolecules in the body. Preventing the deterioration of food, and keeping nutrients in tissues from degenerating, appear to be closely related. For example, the properties in turmeric which prevent meat from becoming rancid help to provide edible animal protein that contains less oxidized fat or free radicals. When this type of food is ingested, it supplies clean nutrients rather than free radical-damaged nutrients.
The same attributes of turmeric that preserve the freshness of food may also protect living tissue from degenerative disease. Feeding curcuminoids to laboratory animals resulted in elevated levels of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, an important index of the efficiency of detoxification.
For centuries, turmeric has been used as a food additive, a medicinal agent and a dye for cosmetics and fabrics without manifesting side effects. This record of safety has been one of the deciding factors that allowed the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization expert committee on food additives to approve curcuminoids as natural food coloring agents.
By Leonard Goidwyn

My daily multivitamin and a product I take for my joints both contain turmeric.

Olive oil compound shows heart health potential: Human study

An olive extract rich in hydroxytyrosol may be effective for reducing levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, suggests a new study from Spain that extends the heart health potential of hydroxytyrosol.

Supplementing the diet with hydroxytyrosol-enriched sunflower oil was associated with higher activity levels of the enzyme arylesterase, said to be an antioxidant biomarker, as well as lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, believed to be a major player in terms of promoting atherosclerosis, the build up of fatty plaques in the arteries, and in cardiovascular disease in general.

Researchers from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid report their results in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Hydroxytyrosol is thought to be the main antioxidant compound in olives, and believed to play a significant role in the many health benefits attributed to olive oil. Previous research has linked the compound to cardiovascular benefits, with reductions in LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Data has also suggested the compound may boost eye health and reduce the risk of against macular degeneration.

Study details

The Madrid based researchers recruited 22 healthy volunteers aged between 20 and 45 years and with a BMI between 18 and 33 kg/m2. Volunteers were randomly assigned to received the 10 to 15 grams per day of hydroxytyrosol-enriched sunflower oil or non-enriched sunflower oil for three weeks. The former provided a daily hydroxytyrosol dose of between 45 and 50 mg. After the initial three weeks, the volunteers had two weeks of no intervention before crossing over to receive the other intervention.

Results showed no changes in total, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol between the groups. However, consumption of the hydroxytyrosol-enriched sunflower oil produced significant reductions in oxidised LDL from 79.8 units per liter at the start of the study to 64.1 U/l after three weeks, compared to an increase from 72.7 to 86.4 U/l during the control phase.

Furthermore, the activity of arylesterase increased from 235.2 to 448.9 U/l during the hydroxytyrosol phase, compared with an increase from 204.1 to 310.3 U/l during the control phase.

“Although hydroxytyrosol-enriched sunflower oil was unable to reduce LDL-cholesterol or increase HDL-cholesterol, it acts as a functional food by increasing arylesterase activity and reducing oxidised LDL,” report the researchers. “This oil can therefore be used as a dietary complement to reduce CVD risk.

“Further studies are needed to understand the mechanisms by which hydroxytyrosol affects arylesterase activity and influences the arylesterase activity:HDL-cholesterol ratio,” they concluded.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

We heard for years how good olive oil is, but the big drawback to consuming optimal levels of olive oils is the calories. Usana Health Sciences has a patented process to extract the active, highly bioavailable phenolic antioxidants to be so protective in the study above and many others.

Study: Coffee, tea cut heart disease risk

A large study in the Netherlands found moderate consumption of coffee or tea cuts the risk of heart diseasesignificantly, researchers say.
Dr. Yvonne van der Schouw of the University Medical Center Utrecht said the multiyear study suggests coffee and tea drinking do not increase the risk of death from any cause, The Daily Telegraph reported. She and her colleagues tracked 37,514 people for 13 years in one of the biggest studies on the subject.
Tea had a bigger impact than coffee, van der Schouw said. Those who drank between three and six cups of tea daily were 45 percent less likely to suffer coronary disease than those who drank less than one cup, while with heavy drinkers — more than six cups — the risk was reduced by 36 percent.
The risk of heart disease was cut by 20 percent among those who drank two to four cups of coffee. The researchers noted coffee drinkers are more likely to smoke.
Van der Schouw believes antioxidants in coffee and tea are responsible for the health benefits.
The study was published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The Top 6 Things You Can Do for Cold Prevention

Okay! Here is the culmination of scientific research and many years of pharmacy experience to sift out what really works for cold prevention and what doesn’t.
Remember, you want to do these things all the time, because you need to prevent the cold in the first place. Treating a cold is impossible. All those things in the drugstore can only help you feel a little better when you have one. There is nothing that can actually make it go away any faster.

I would venture to say that most of the recommendations in this list are not going to shock any of you. Most of them are common sense. Of course, knowing you’re supposed to do these things and actually doing them are two totally different things, right?
But seriously, if you regularly follow all of these recommendations, you’ll be amazed at the difference. They’re all important, but I would say that #1 and #6 are probably the most important.
These recommendations are based on the fact that the best way to both prevent AND treat a cold is to have your immune system functioning at peak efficiency.
So here’s how to do that:

  1. Wash Your Hands A Lot!!!!!
    This is absolutely the #1 most important thing you can do for cold prevention. 95% of the time, a cold virus gets into your body through touch. You touch something that has a cold virus on it, then you touch a mucus membrane (eyes, nose, mouth) and Voila! The cold virus has now entered your body.
    So for sure wash your hands before you eat. But also try to do it after you’ve been in “high-risk” situations: around someone you know who already has a cold, in a doctor’s office or hospital, after wheeling the shopping cart around the grocery store… I think you get the idea.
    For the same reason, keep your hands away from your face. If you don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth, the cold virus can’t get in.
    If you already have a cold, please please wash your hands even more. The best cold prevention is to have the “Typhoid Marys” not spread it around in the first place. Every single time you blow your nose, wash your hands. If you need to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth. But NOT into your fist- you get all the germs on the inside of your hand and then you just spread them around to everything you touch. Cough or sneeze onto the back of your hand or your forearm.
  2. Get Enough Sleep
    When you’re sleep-deprived, your immune system suffers (along with many other things).
    Everyone is different, some people only need 6 hours a night- others need 10. I’m sure you’ve figured out how much you need by now. Even an hour or two less increases the stress on your body and it adds up.
  3. Drink lots of fluids.
    I know you’ve all heard this a million times before. Yet still MOST people are going through life chronically dehydrated- an estimated 75%.
    Your body functions best when it’s fully hydrated. Even mild dehydration will slow down your metabolism, speed up aging, reduce muscle recovery after exercise and reduce resistance to disease (hence its importance in cold prevention). Dehydration is also a major cause of headaches, daytime fatigue, muscle cramping, mid-day munchies (thirst is often mistaken for hunger), and problems with concentration and memory. Do I need to go on? Your body is mostly water- this should not be a surprise for anyone.
    If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
    The 8 glasses a day rule is actually a little low, but you usually get a glass or two of fluid from foods or juices also. To figure out what you need, take your weight in pounds and divide it in half. That’s how many ounces you need every day. Most glasses are 8 ounces, so if you divide that number by 8, that’s how many glasses you need. For example: 150lbs. divide by 2= 75 ounces per day divide by 8= just over 9 glasses per day.
    Don’t do it all at once or you’ll be running to the bathroom constantly and you’ll quit. Increase by a glass or two every week.
    Water is of course the best choice. It’s exactly what your body needs, it has zero calories and it doesn’t have other things in it that can actually make matters worse. Like caffeine & salt. I know coffee & tea have some good antioxidants in them, BUT moderation is key. Caffeine is a diuretic, so it is actually dehydrating. For every caffeinated drink you have, have an extra glass of water.
    And don’t even get me started on carbonated drinks… Most people drink way too many of these. If you’re having more than 1 per week (and that’s being generous), it’s too much in my opinion. Definitely daily is insane. There is NOTHING good about these things (and lots of bad things). Added to the huge list of problems that they cause, they are also dehydrating (even if it’s not caffeinated). Nuff said.
  4. Get regular exercise.I know you’ve all heard this a million times before too. Yet still MOST people are going through life as virtual couch potatoes.
    How do you expect your body to function optimally if most of it never gets used regularly? Would you expect your car to run properly if it hadn’t been used in several years?
    If you’re “lazy”, your immune system is lazy too. When you exercise regularly, your body keeps everything in your body in top shape (including your immune system), not just your heart and muscles. That’s why you need it for cold prevention.
  5. Relax and de-stressOkay, first I tell you to exercise, then I tell you to relax. No, these do not contradict themselves.
    First of all, regular exercise decreases your body’s release of “stress” hormones (cortisol) and increases release of “happy” hormones (endorphins).
    And it’s mental relaxation and stress I’m talking about.
    Basically, just take time to do things that you enjoy and relieve stress.
    People that run themselves into the ground (you know the kind I’m talking about) get sick much more often because their immune systems aren’t functioning properly due to the constant presence of “stress” hormones in their body.
    So kick back, relax and take some “me” time. And if anyone asks, just say you’re doing some cold prevention.
  6. Take a high quality supplement that has LOTS of antioxidants.This would actually be my #2 most important thing to do for cold prevention. But I’m putting it last on my list so you’ll remember it.

    Taking the right antioxidant supplement will give your body everything it needs to function optimally.
    Again, if your body is functioning optimally, so will your immune system. And an optimally functioning immune system will destroy cold and flu viruses before they have a chance to take hold.

    And this isn’t just theory- I can personally vouch for this. As a pharmacist, I used to get 4 or 5 colds per year, being around all those sick people everyday. Once those colds took hold, I was miserable for at least 1 week and the cough would hang around for 2 or 3 weeks. And I was a pretty healthy person to begin with- I was doing the other 5 things on this list…
    My family and I started taking high quality antioxidant supplements because I knew it was important to protect our good health. We never expected to feel any better- we already felt great!
    After 8 or 9 months, I realized that nobody in the family had been sick since we started taking them! Amazing! Especially when you consider that my daughter had been sick for 4 straight months the year before. (No, I’m not exaggerating. She caught every cold that went through her class, I’m sure.)
    Now, my husband and I get only 1 cold per year and our children get only 2 or 3 (they’re still young and in school and haven’t figured out the importance of rule #1 yet- handwashing!). AND when we get a cold now, it’s barely noticeable- your nose is just runny for a few days. No more being stuffed up and I don’t even get a cough anymore- we don’t feel miserable and it doesn’t even slow us down. Done and over with in 4 days. That’s the bonus of having an optimally functioning immune system- it gets going faster and doesn’t let the virus get too far along.
    This phenomenon is not exclusive to our family either. As you may have noticed by now, I am quite passionate about the importance of antioxidant supplements, so I have recommended them to my friends and family. They all report the same results of not getting sick when everyone else around them is.
    So for cold prevention alone, it’s totally worth it to take high quality antioxidant supplements. The added health benefits and disease prevention you’ll get are an added bonus (albeit an important bonus).

    If you follow these 6 rules, you’ll be the healthiest person you know. Not only do they work for cold prevention, but many other diseases as well…

Thanks to Kathy Russ for this information. She is a pharmacist with 15 years experience.

Swine Flu Prevention : Separating fact from fiction to prevent H1N1 influenza

This article below is from Kristy Russ who is a pharmacist with 15 years experience.

What is a page about swine flu prevention doing on an antioxidant website? Well, as you’ll soon find out, antioxidants can play an important role in H1N1 prevention. But really, as a pharmacist, I’ve been inundated with questions lately about what people can do to prevent the swine flu that is raging through communities right now. So I’m really creating this page as more of a “public service announcement”.
The reason for all the confusion is that there is so much conflicting information being passed around, how do you know what to believe? I have spent the last several days researching so I could have an informed opinion. Let me tell you, it has been difficult to find reliable sources of information on swine flu preventionmost of the information out there is either opinion and/or media hype. The purpose of this page is to give you the facts so you can make your own informed decision on how best to prevent swine flu.
H1N1 prevention starts with knowing what swine flu actually is:

  • H1N1 is an influenza A virus that is a mutation of a virus that commonly affects pigs. Hence, the name swine flu.
  • There have been 3 pandemics involving a strain of the influenza A virus in the last 100 years: the Spanish flu (1918), the Asian flu (1956-58), and the Hong Kong flu (1968-69). This is the suspected reason why those over age 50 seem to be less likely to catch this swine flu- the virus they were exposed to is similar enough to H1N1 that the antibodies are attacking the new virus also. Unfortunately, being over 50 doesn’t guarantee you have the immunity for swine flu prevention– you may not have been exposed at that time.
  • At the time of writing this (October 2009), there have been over 564,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 worldwide and 6400 deaths. Remember that the actual number of cases is much much higher, because most people are not being tested. The estimate is that 25% of the population will likely get swine flu at some point.
  • For comparison, the “regular” seasonal influenza infects up to 1 billion people worldwide and causes about 500,000 deaths annually.

    My opinion: I am puzzled by the panic that the swine flu has caused over the last several months. Compared to the deaths that the “normal” influenza causes every year, H1N1 has been a drop in the bucket. I agree that we are well overdue for a pandemic and taking precautions to prevent it are smart. I think the big scare for everyone has been the media emphasis on seemingly young, healthy individuals that have died from the swine flu. While this is unusual and alarming, what they don’t report is that the majority of deaths have occurred in those with underlying health problems, just like “normal” flu. There is definitely reason for concern and precautions to be taken, but the paranoia that seems to be rampant is based on media hype.

  • The overwhelming majority of those who get swine flu will recover normally after a few days of illness. Symptoms of H1N1 are just like any other flu symptoms: sudden fever and cough, headache, muscle aches, fatigue (tired), sore throat, decreased appetite, and runny nose. Sometimes there is nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea also. If these are your only symptoms, stay home and rest and drink plenty of fluids. Don’t go to the doctor and spread your germs to others unless you meet the next 2 criteria…
  • You need prompt medical attention if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, sudden dizziness or confusion, a high fever lasting more than 3 days or if you appear to be getting better and then have a relapse.
  • While everyone is equally likely to catch the swine flu, complications and/or death have mostly been in those with underlying health conditions. Those at higher risk include people with asthma or other lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, obesity, neurological disorders, and immunosuppressed people (either due to medication or HIV). Pregnant women and children under 5 years old also seem to be at higher risk of complications.
  • Complications are usually the result of damage to the lungs by the H1N1 virus. The damage can also cause a secondary bacterial infection, which leads to pneumonia. That was the main cause of death in the Spanish flu epidemic because of the lack of antibiotics at that time to treat it.

So that’s the facts on what H1N1 is, now to move onto swine flu prevention…

The H1N1 vaccine

The biggest controversy over swine flu prevention is whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine that is now available. There are several different brands of vaccine available. It depends which country you live in which one is available to you. Here are the facts about the vaccines:

  • They contain inactivated virus. There is absolutely no danger of actually getting swine flu from the vaccine.
  • The viruses are incubated in eggs, so if you have a serious egg allergy, you should not get the vaccine.
  • All the swine flu vaccine brands I have researched have the preservative Thimerosal in them. The controversy regarding thimerosal: There were suspicions that the mercury in thimerosal was causing autism in children. As a precaution, thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines 10 years ago until safety could be confirmed. Science has pretty much ruled out any relation between thimerosal and autism, but the old fears are still rampant. Whether or not it causes autism or not, the fact remains that thimerosal is 50% mercury and mercury is a toxic substance.

    My opinion: Exposure to mercury in a vaccine isn’t that big of a deal, especially for an adult. There is so much mercury in the environment already that we’re exposed to a significant amount in everyday life. My question is why did they use thimerosal? Why didn’t they use another preservative instead? There really is no “safe” level of mercury- it causes toxic effects at any level, so why increase our exposure to it? The younger the child, the more concerned I would be about injecting them with mercury.

  • Most of the H1N1 vaccines available (for sure those in Europe and North America) have an adjuvant that allows them to use smaller doses of the inactivated virus to create a better immune response for swine flu prevention. It also seems to make you immune to different mutations of the swine flu (and rest assured, it will mutate). The controversy is that the adjuvant contains squalene. Here are the facts:
    • Everyone has squalene in their body. It is an important part of the making of cholesterol, hormones and vitamin D.
    • There is decent evidence that the squalene in the anthrax vaccine given to troops may be responsible for Gulf War Syndrome. Here’s why:
      • Gulf War Syndrome has affected some who weren’t even deployed to the Gulf but DID get the vaccine.
      • 95% of those with Gulf War Syndrome have anti-squalene antibodies, while 0% of those without the antibodies have the syndrome
      • Lab rats injected with squalene adjuvants developed autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (part of Gulf War Syndrome is an unusually high rate of autoimmune disorders)
      • There is no conclusive evidence one way or the other whether squalene adjuvants were the cause of Gulf War Syndrome or if they may lead to autoimmune disorders.
    • A seasonal flu vaccine containing a squalene adjuvant has been used since 1997 in several European countries. There have been no serious side effects reported after 29,000 doses.

    My opinion: Squalene has not been an approved adjuvant in most countries because of the inconclusive evidence of long-term side effects (like Gulf War Syndrome and autoimmune disorders). As far as I can tell, the “no serious side effects reported after 29,000 doses” doesn’t take into consideration any long-term side effects- it only looks at effects that happen within a few months. Autoimmune diseases take many years to develop and studies do not follow people for that long. I would be curious to know if there has been an increase in autoimmune disorders in the last few years in those European countries using the squalene adjuvant- information I couldn’t find. Knowing how autoimmune diseases develop, I think it’s a very real possibility that being injected with squalene could trigger an autoimmune response in a susceptible person.
    Obviously they needed to fast track the approval for this vaccine, since it is needed right now, not 5-10 years from now which is usually the time needed for proper testing. That being the case, they should have developed it using current technology that has years of safety to back it up.
    My personal opinion is that I would err on the side of caution when it comes to getting the vaccine for swine flu prevention. You need to decide whether the risk of getting H1N1 and having serious consequences is greater than the risk of possibly getting an autoimmune disease in a few years. Myself and my children are not in the high risk group of complications from swine flu, so we will not be getting the H1N1 prevention vaccine at this time. If you are in the high risk group it is a much harder decision. Your overall health should be a factor in your decision to get the vaccine for swine flu prevention.
    That being said, if you are in a country that uses an unadjuvanted vaccine, I would absolutely get it. The risks of an unadjuvanted vaccine are minimal compared to the possible effects of H1N1 infection.
    To be clear, I am NOT an anti-vaccine person. On the contrary, I believe all children should receive their vaccinations. As you can tell from the rest of my website, I am very big on preventing disease rather than trying to treat it after.

    There’s much more to swine flu prevention than vaccine…

    What I find irritating is that, at least where I live in Canada, the insinuation is that vaccine is the only way to prevent H1N1 infection. That is complete baloney.
    It is almost impossible that you will not be exposed to the H1N1 virus this season. There are, however, many other things you can do to prevent swine flu from actually taking over your body.
    And this is where antioxidants come into play in swine flu prevention. It’s possible to increase your overall immunity naturally, rather than relying on vaccines. If you have an optimally functioning immune system, your body is able to fight off the virus before it takes hold and becomes an actual infection. If you have not already read the page on boosting your immune system, go there and see how antioxidants can help your immune system in swine flu prevention.
    Even more important though is to get my special report I created a while ago called the “Top 6 Things You Can Do For Cold Prevention”. Since the swine flu virus is transmitted the same way as the cold virus, the report is equally relevant to prevent swine flu. It’s a compilation based on science and years of pharmacy experience in what actually works (and what doesn’t).
    Get the “Top 6 Things You Can Do For Cold Prevention” now Then follow each step. Together, they give you the best chance at swine flu prevention. Of course, the added bonus is that they will help you avoid ALL infections.
    One other tip I will add here that is not in the report, but seems to be helpful in swine flu prevention is to gargle at least twice a day with warm salt water (or some other antibacterial mouthwash). The virus sits in your mucous membranes for a while before it starts moving into the rest of your body, so gargling could kill it before it spreads.
    With the possible serious consequences of H1N1, you can’t afford to be without the important information in the report for swine flu prevention. That is why I dedicated an entire page to this disease. With all the questions I’m getting, it’s clear this information needs to get out there.

Green tea slashes heart disease death risk: Study

Seven cups of green tea a day over the long-term may massively reduce the risk of death from colorectal cancer and heart disease, suggests a new study from Japan.

Compared to people who drank less than one cup a day, seven or more cups of green tea a day may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by a whopping 75 per cent, report scientists from Okayama University in the Annals of Epidemiology.

Additionally, a reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer mortality of 31 per cent was observed for people who drank more than seven cups of green a day, compared to people who frank less than three cups a day.

“To our knowledge, this is the first cohort study that shows the inverse association between green tea and colorectal cancer mortality,” wrote the researchers, led by Etsuji Suzuki.

The strong effects observed in the study may be due to long-term, high consumption of green tea, said the researchers. Only people aged between 65 and 84 participated in the study.

“Assuming that green tea consumption at the time of assessment is sufficiently representative of long-term, previous exposure to make a plausible link with the risk of mortality, the longer cumulative exposure to green tea may be responsible for the stronger effects of the present study, [compared to past studies],” they added.

The health profile of green tea are increasingly known to consumers, with studies reporting a wide range of effects, including a lower risk of certain cancers, improved heart health, weight loss, and protection against Alzheimer’s.

Green tea contains between 30 and 40 per cent of water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3 and 10 per cent.

The four primary polyphenols found in fresh tealeaves are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC) epicatechin gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC).

Study details

The Japanese team recruited 14,001 elderly residents in Japan, of which 12,251 individuals were analysed to estimate the various associations between green tea consumption and all-cause mortality, cancer and CVD.
During an average of 5.2 years of follow-up, 1,224 participants died, 400 were due to cancer, and 405 from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Compared to people who drank less than one cup per day, drinking seven or more cups of green tea a day was associated with a 55 and 75 percent lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, respectively, said the researchers. Furthermore, “green tea consumption was associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer mortality”, they said. .

“The protective effects could have significant implications for public health,” they concluded.

Tea – the secret to eternal youth?

Recently, scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong reported that the cells of regular tea drinkers may have a younger biological age than cells from non-drinkers.

By looking at the length of telomeres, DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes that shorten as cells replicate and age, the Chinese researchers reported that the telomeres of people who drank an average of three cups of tea per day were about 4.6 kilobases longer than people who drank an average of a quarter of a cup a day.

This average difference in the telomere length corresponds to “approximately a difference of 5 years of life”, wrote the Hong Kong-based researchers.

Source: Annals of Epidemiology
Volume 19, Issue 10, Pages 732-739

“Green Tea Consumption and Mortality among Japanese Elderly People: The Prospective Shizuoka Elderly Cohort”

Antioxidant supplement shows potential against AMD

A combination of antioxidant pigments and vitamins may slow down sight loss in elderly people, according to researchers from Queen’s University, Belfast.

The study used a commercial supplement containing lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E, and zinc. The supplement is available from Bausch and Lomb, the company that holds the patent for the AREDS supplement.
According to findings presented at ARVO 2009, in Florida, the combination supplement slowed down the progression of early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to late AMD.
AMD is a degenerative retinal disease that causes central vision loss and leaves only peripheral vision, and the leading cause of legal blindness for people over 55 years of age in the Western world, according to AMD Alliance International.
Results of the Carotenoids in Age-Related Maculopathy (CARMA) study indicated that intake of high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin preserved the macular pigments. On the other hand, the macular pigments of participants in a placebo group declined steadily.
“These findings are important because this is the first randomised controlled clinical trial to document a beneficial effect through improved function and maintained macular pigments,” said the study’s coordinator, Professor Usha Chakravarthy, from Queen’s Centre of Vision and Vascular Science (CVVS).
“Further research is needed to confirm these findings and to identify the numbers needed to treat to prevent 1 case from progressing from early to late AMD,” she added.
According to the study protocol, published last year in Ophthalmic Epidemiology (Vol. 15, pp. 389-401), the Carotenoids in Age-Related Maculopathy (CARMA) study is a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial involving 433 participants with early AMD features in at least one eye or any level of AMD in one eye with late AMD in the other eye.
“The aim of the CARMA Study is to investigate whether lutein and zeaxanthin, in combination with co-antioxidants (vitamin C, E, and zinc), has a beneficial effect on visual function and/or prevention of progression from early to late stages of disease,” state the researchers in Ophthalmic Epidemiology.
Study is ongoing, but it appears the combination of nutrients does indeed show potential against AMD.
“Late AMD causes severe sight loss and has a huge economic impact both in terms of the effects of sight loss itself and in terms of the expensive treatments that are needed to deal with the condition,” added Prof Chakravarthy.
“We wanted to carry out the study as prevention of progression to late AMD can result in a reduced financial and societal burden.”
The study was funded by Dr Mann Pharma and Bausch and Lomb and sponsored by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.