Another benefit of omega-3s, Health Capsules
Another benefit of omega-3s
Studies have associated omega-3 fatty acids with improved cardiovascular health, lower levels of depression, lower triglyceride levels, improved prenatal health and reduced inflammation associated with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3s have been linked also with protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and with reducing symptoms of ADHD in some children.
According to new research, a lifelong diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil and certain plant and nut oils, can inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors.
In a genetically engineered study, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario conducted a study comparing mice that produced omega-3 fatty acids and developed aggressive mammary tumors with mice that were genetically engineered to develop the same tumors, but not to produce omega-3s. Compared to the mice not producing omega-3s, the omega-3-producing animals developed two-thirds as many tumors, and those tumors were 30-percent smaller.
Professor David Ma, one of the study’s authors, attributed the difference solely to the presence of omega-3s and called the findings “significant.”
“We show that lifelong exposure to omega-3s has a beneficial role in disease prevention – in this case, breast cancer prevention,” Ma said. “What’s important is that we’ve proven that omega-3s are the driving force and not something else.”
Ma is considered an expert on how fats influence health and disease. The study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
Cooking up a stroke
Research presented last month at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference suggests that a steady diet of Southern cooking is linked to a higher risk of stroke.
Suzanne Judd, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Alabama Birmingham, shared results of a study comparing dietary habits of more than 20,000 adults aged 45 and older. Study participants resided in 48 states and answered telephone questionnaires about what kinds of foods they ate.
According to the American Heart Association, researchers found:
• Stroke frequency was directly proportional to how much Southern food participants ate.
• People who ate Southern foods about six times a week had a 41 percent higher stroke risk than those who ate it about once a month.
• Eating a Southern diet accounted for 63 percent of the higher risk of stroke among African-Americans above that of their white counterparts.
• People whose diets were highest in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains (eaten about five times a week) had a 29 percent lower stroke risk than those who ate those foods about three times a week.
“We’ve got three major factors working together in the Southern-style diet to raise the risks of cardiovascular disease: Fatty foods are high in cholesterol, sugary drinks are linked to diabetes, and salty foods lead to high blood pressure,” Judd said.
Prior research has demonstrated that Southerners are about 20 percent more likely to have a stroke than Americans living in other parts of the country. In Judd’s study, about two-thirds of those who ate the most Southern cooking lived in the Southeast, but regardless of where people live, Judd said, people eating lots of Southern food should be more aware of their stroke risk.
Rethinking medical tests
Medical specialty societies representing more than 350,000 physicians have released lists identifying commonly ordered tests, procedures or medication therapies they say are not always necessary and could cause undue harm.
The lists were released last month as part of “Choosing Wisely,” a project led by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation that aims to promote patient-doctor conversations about the value vs. risk of various medical tests and procedures. The first list was released last April and included recommendations from nine medical societies; 17 societies are represented on the new listing.
Each society participating in the initiative identified five tests or procedures commonly performed within their area of specialty that should be questioned.
For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised against routine annual Pap tests in women aged 30-65, because in average-risk women, the annual tests offer no advantage over screenings at three-year intervals. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended against automatic use of CT scans to evaluate children’s minor head injuries, as the scans involve radiation exposure that could escalate future cancer risk. The AAP recommendation calls instead for clinical observation prior to deciding whether to use the scan.
“Twenty-five of the nation’s leading medical specialty societies have now spoken up and shown leadership by identifying what tests and treatments are common to their profession, but not always beneficial,” Christine K. Cassel, M.D., president and CEO of the ABIM Foundation, said in a news release. “Millions of Americans are increasingly realizing that when it comes to health care, more is not necessarily better. Through these lists of tests and procedures, we hope to encourage conversations between physicians and patients about what care they truly need.”
The lists can be found online at choosingwisely.org.
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The March issue of Consumer Reports contains a report evaluating 11 cancer screenings and suggesting that eight should be avoided by people who are not at high risk and do not have signs or symptoms of the cancers.
The report rates cervical, colon and breast cancer screenings as the most effective available tests. But according to a Jan. 30 Consumer Reports news release describing the report, “most people shouldn’t waste their time on screenings for bladder, lung, oral, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, skin, and testicular cancers.”
“We know from our surveys that consumers approach screenings with an ‘I have nothing to lose’ attitude, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, some health organizations have promulgated this belief, inflating the benefits of cancer screenings while minimizing the harm they can do,” John Santa, M.D., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in the release. “To help clarify when most consumers should use cancer screenings and when they should skip them, we rate each screening and whether it is useful for a specific age group.
We also try to identify some high risk factors that may make screening a reasonable choice.”
The presidents of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and the American College of Mohs Surgery responded to the article with a letter to the editor of Consumer Reports stating that they wanted “to point out that there is increasing evidence that self- and physician skin examinations may result in reduced melanoma thickness at the time of diagnosis and lead to improved survival.”
The authors of the letter said that unlike other cancers, skin cancers can be seen on the surface of the skin and when caught early are highly treatable.
Exercise to prevent prostate cancer
A study recently published in the online edition of the journal Cancer showed that Caucasian men who exercise regularly could be reducing their prostate cancer risk by more than 50 percent.
Researchers looked at the exercise habits of 307 men who underwent prostate biopsies and found that among the 164 Caucasian men in the study, there was an association between increased activity level and fewer prostate cancer diagnoses. The same benefits were not observed among the 143 African-American study participants, and researchers do not know why.
“Exercise and diet play a role in warding off disease, but in light of genetic differences between races, more targeted prostate cancer prevention research is certainly warranted,” said Dr. David Samadi, vice chairman of Urology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “We tailor prostate cancer treatment to the individual, and we should be doing the same in prevention education.”
For the study, researchers did not factor in diet and other factors that could affect the benefits of exercise. They equated a moderate to high activity level with exercise of more than nine hours per week.
FDA warns about codeine for kids
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about giving codeine to children after they have had their tonsils or adenoids removed.
According to the FDA, a survey identified 10 deaths and three overdoses associated with codeine use in children from 1969-May 2012, and many of the children were recovering from tonsil or adenoid surgery. As a result, the FDA will add to the drug label of codeine-containing products a new, boxed warning – its strongest warning – about the risk of codeine to manage pain in children after a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy.
In a release issued last month, the FDA said it strongly recommends against the use of codeine to manage pain in children after a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. The agency asked health care professionals to use an alternate pain reliever and said parents and caregivers should ask for a different pain medicine if their child is prescribed codeine following removal of their tonsils or adenoids.
Codeine is a narcotic that is converted to morphine in the liver by an enzyme, and some people have genetic variations that make that enzyme overactive, causing codeine to be converted to morphine faster and more completely than in other people. Such individuals are more likely to have higher than normal amounts of morphine in their blood after taking codeine, and high levels of morphine can result in breathing difficulty, which may be fatal, according to the FDA.
A West County dentist is among the dental professionals who co-authored a recently published book, “Healthy Input: America’s Leading Dentists Reveal the Secret Truths to a Healthy Body, Starting with What You Put in Your Mouth” (CelebrityPress, November 2012).
Michael Frith, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, contributed to “Healthy Input” with a chapter entitled, “Healthy Gums, Healthy Body: The Power of Laser Treatments.” The chapter covers the ways in which gum disease can have a triggering effect on other health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The book includes information and advice from dental practitioners from across North America on various topics, including trusting your dental professional, the mercury controversy in dental filling treatment, and numerous health issues affected by oral health.
Frith’s practice, Masterpiece Smiles, is located in Ellisville.
On the calendar
Missouri Baptist Medical Center will present “Fit for Function: Prevent Age-Related Muscle Loss” from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20 at Longview Farm House, 13525 Clayton Road in Town & Country. The free program covers new research proving basic strength training can reverse age-related muscle loss. Through a screening and presentation, attendees age 60 and older learn what it means to be functionally fit and whether or not they pass the test based on national norms. Registration is required. Call (314) 996-5433, or visit missouribaptist.org.
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“Advances in Ankle Replacement Surgery” will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17 at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Drive in Creve Coeur. Dr. Gary Schmidt, an orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, will explain advances in ankle replacement surgery. To register, call (314) 542-9378, or visit barnesjewishwestcounty.org/classes.