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The Gary Null Show – 03.15.21

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Study reveals vitamin C is key to preventing stroke and promoting heart health

University of Rennes (France), March 12, 2021

Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient that plays a crucial role in regulating immune function and supporting overall immune health. But recent studies suggest that it may also hold the key to stroke prevention and better heart health in the long run.

In one such study, scientists from the Rennes University Hospital in France compared the vitamin C levels of 65 hemorrhagic stroke patients to those of healthy participants. They found that vitamin C levels were greatly lower in stroke patients. They also identified high blood pressure as a leading risk factor for stroke.

Lead researcher and neurologist Stephane Vannier said that the link between vitamin C depletion and a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke could be associated with the role of vitamin C in blood pressure regulation.

In the future, these findings could aid scientists when studying the effects of vitamin C supplementation on the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, added Vannier. The study appeared online in the journal Neurology.

Low vitamin C levels linked to increased stroke risk

Vannier and his colleagues studied the vitamin C levels of 65 participants who had experienced a spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) or hemorrhagic stroke. This life-threatening type of stroke occurs when there is bleeding within the brain tissue itself. High blood pressure and head trauma are common causes of ICH.

The study also included 65 healthy controls. When the researchers studied both groups’ vitamin C levels, they found that only 41 percent had a normal vitamin C status of more than 38 micromoles per liter (umol/L).

On the other hand, 45 percent of all participants had depleted vitamin C levels (11–38 umol/L), while another 14 percent were deficient in the nutrient (less than 11 umol/L).

The researchers identified high blood pressure, alcohol consumption and being overweight as some of the top risk factors for ICH. Interestingly, participants who had high blood pressure had depleted vitamin C levels.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that stroke patients with normal vitamin C status spent significantly less time (9.8 days) in the neurology care unit than stroke patients with depleted vitamin C levels (18.2 days).

Vannier suggested that the longer hospital stay could be the consequence of complication-related infections or delayed healing due to vitamin C deficiency. However, further studies are needed to confirm this theory.

Overall, the findings expose a link between vitamin C depletion and increased stroke risk. To maintain healthy vitamin C levels, Vannier recommends taking 120 milligrams (mg) of the vitamin daily. Vitamin C itself can be found in several plant-based foods, including citrus fruits, black currants and parsley. Simply eating vitamin C-rich foods as part of a balanced diet should keep one’s vitamin C levels within the normal range.

Red meat consumption linked to earlier onset of girls’ menstrual cycles

University of Michigan, March 10, 2021 

Girls who eat red meat often start their periods on average five months earlier than those who don’t.

Conversely, girls who consume fatty fish like tuna and sardines more than once a week have their first menstrual cycle, or menarche, significantly later than those who eat it once a month or less, according to research by the University of Michigan.

The investigators from the U-M School of Public Health measured the usual diet of 456 girls 5-to-12 years old in Bogota, Colombia, before they had started menstruating. The girls were then followed for just under six years. During this time, they were asked whether they had had their first period. The girls were part of the Bogota School Children Cohort, a longitudinal research project that has examined many issues of nutrition and health.

Red meat consumed by the girls ranged from less than four times a week to twice a day. The girls who ate the most red meat started their periods at a median age of 12 years 3 months, whereas those who ate it less frequently started at 12 years 8 months. Those who ate fatty fish most frequently began at 12 years 6 months.

Five months may not sound like a lot but it is a significant number when talking about a population study, the researchers said.

“It is an important difference because it is associated with the risk of disease later in life,” said first author Erica Jansen, a doctoral candidate in the U-M School of Public Health. “It is significant because few dietary factors are known to affect the timing of puberty. This finding may also contribute to explain why red meat intake early in life is related to increased risk of breast cancer later in life.”

In addition to breast cancer, early onset of puberty has been associated with heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes.

“We cannot conclude that there is necessarily a causal role of red meat on onset of puberty from this study. However, there is a mounting body of evidence suggesting that excessive intake of red meat at different stages of life is related to a number of adverse health outcomes, especially to getting some types of cancer,” said senior author Dr. Eduardo Villamor, professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health.

Villamor noted that earlier puberty also often results in other public health concerns such as earlier sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and alcohol and tobacco use.

Other studies have shown a link between consuming animal protein and advanced puberty, and examined the role of red meat on disease, but this is the first to specifically look at red meat intake in childhood and early menarche.

“Although animal protein intake during childhood is important for growth and development, some sources of animal protein may be healthier than others,” Villamor said.

“We don’t know what specific components of red meat could cause early menarche. It could be the protein or some micronutrients naturally present in red meat, byproducts that are created during manufacturing or packaging of cured meats or during cooking, or substances that are fed to cattle.”

Mindfulness program in campus dorms, groups improved students’ mental health

University of Washington, March 11, 2021

As experts nationwide point to a mental health crisis among teens and young adults, a pilot program teaching mindfulness and coping techniques to students at the University of Washington has helped lower stress and improve emotional well-being.

New studies by the psychology researchers who created the program find that the strategies, offered first in residence halls and later through classes and other organized campus groups, have provided participants with successful methods for coping with stress, managing their emotions and learning self-compassion.

Researchers say the results show the potential for preventive mental health services offered in an accessible, peer-group environment.

“This program is not a substitute for campus mental health services for students. But with a preventive program, our goal is to reduce general distress in college students and hopefully prevent need for increased or more intensive services,” said Liliana Lengua, psychology professor and director of the Center for Child and Family Well-Being at the UW.

Recent studies of the program’s rollout point to its success. Results from the program’s first year, when it was offered in 2017-2018 in residence halls on the UW’s Seattle campus, were published March 10 in Anxiety, Stress & Coping. Results of its second year, provided during the 2019-2020 academic year by trained university staff in campus settings such as classes and student organizations, were published Feb. 12 in Frontiers in Psychiatry. Student participants reported significant improvements in their psychological well-being that lasted three months after the sessions ended.

During the pandemic — with millions of young people studying remotely — the importance of teen and college student mental health has grown. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 young adultsbetween the ages of 18 and 24 has considered suicide in the past year, while separate studies of college students in recent months have found more than 70% report serious distress.

But even before the pandemic, campuses nationwide were reporting high levels of student stress and anxiety, with college mental health directors noting need for services that far outpaced availability. Academic demands, financial pressures, social tumult and, especially among first-year students, the transition to campus life all affect student mental health.

Against this backdrop, the authors decided to come up with a short intervention at the UW that would provide real-world coping strategies in an environment that students could access easily — without an appointment or any fee, in the casual atmosphere of a group, and where they already live, study or socialize. The program, called Be REAL, or Resilient Attitudes and Living, combined traditional cognitive behavioral coping strategies — such as planning, positive reframing and acceptance — with mindfulness practices focused on regulating breathing, meditation and accessing feelings of compassion, tolerance and gratitude toward oneself and others. By having staff who are already working with student in various settings offer the program, it can potentially reach more students.

“The idea behind Be REAL was to have a new model to promote student well-being and mental health. Traditional counseling systems are unlikely to keep pace with demand, so we wanted to think of a program that could be delivered more broadly by nonclinical staff members,” said Robyn Long, director of community programs and training for the Center for Child and Family Well-Being.

The first year, 208 students signed up for the program across three academic quarters. Facilitators trained in mindfulness techniques led six evening sessions at four residence halls. Among the more than 80% of students who attended the majority of the sessions, results from pre- and post-surveys showed significant improvements in mindfulness and self-compassion, greater resilience and lower stress. These findings held steady in a three-month follow-up survey of participants.

Those results led to the expansion of the program to other campus settings, with associated university staff — from the recreation department, for example, as well as those connected to student organizations — voluntarily trained in the Be REAL program. This approach aimed to reach additional students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, in spaces they already frequent. Of the 271 students who enrolled in Be REAL programming, 116 agreed to participate in the study; more than half were students of color.

Researchers found results that were similar to the residence hall study, especially regarding stress and emotional regulation. In their comments on post-study surveys, students reported using meditation and breathing techniques to help focus or calm down, and developing habits to handle stress.

The results raised other issues that researchers are exploring further, such as whether providing the lessons in a class that students take for credit creates more of a perceived burden — and thus, leaves less of an impact — than sessions in which students simply choose to participate.

A new, ongoing study is examining how about 100 university staff from all three UW campuses, trained in offering the program remotely, along with still more students, respond to the techniques for improving mental health. Those results may suggest opportunities for students and staff alike to benefit from the strategies in a range of environments, on any college campus, and to possibly change a campus culture around supporting student well-being. The Center for Child and Family Well-Being is collaborating with the UW Resilience Lab to expand the program and facilitator training to staff.

“Expanding Be REAL to promote staff well-being and training is important because their work, especially with the pandemic, can be stressful,” Long said. “They’ve even shared how the practices are shifting their interactions with children and loved ones at home. Our expansion of the program goes beyond individual well-being — it’s also about strengthening our community on campus.”

Vitamin B12 reduces amyloid beta proteotoxicity

University of Delaware, March 11, 2021

According to news reporting based on a preprint abstract, our journalists obtained the following quote sourced from biorxiv.org:

“Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder with no effective treatment. Diet, as a modifiable risk factor for AD, could potentially be targeted to slow disease onset and progression.

“However, complexity of the human diet and indirect effects of the microbiome make it challenging to identify protective nutrients. Multiple factors contribute to AD pathogenesis including amyloid beta (A{beta}) deposition, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress.

“Here we used Caenorhabditis elegans to define the impact of diet on A{beta} proteotoxicity.

“We discovered that dietary vitamin B12 alleviated mitochondrial fragmentation, bioenergetic defects, and oxidative stress, delaying A{beta}-induced paralysis without affecting A{beta} accumulation. Vitamin B12 had this protective effect by acting as a cofactor for methionine synthase rather than as an antioxidant. Vitamin supplementation of B12 deficient adult A{beta} animals was beneficial, demonstrating potential for vitamin B12 as a therapy to target pathogenic features of AD triggered by both aging and proteotoxic stress.”

This preprint has not been peer-reviewed.

Study shows that inhaling a common manufacturing material – carbon nanotubules — could inadvertently injure the brain

 

Virginia Commonwealth University, March 8, 2021 

 

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers in a multi-institutional collaboration are uncovering the degree to which inhalation of carbon nanotubes—a novel manufacturing material used to make anything from tennis rackets to spacecraft parts—could unintentionally cause neurological disease.

Carbon nanotubes are smaller than a human hair, but they are stronger than steel and are shown to effectively conduct electricity and heat. While these fibers have many practical applications, they should be handled with care by workers in the manufacturing sector, according to recent findings by Andrew Ottens, Ph.D., an associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology in the VCU School of Medicine; the Ottens Group research lab; investigators from the University of New Mexico; and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

With assistance from a $1.9 million four-year grant from NIOSH divided between VCU and UNM, researchers from both institutions have found that inhalation of carbon nanotubes causes inflammation in the brain. Previous research has shown that chronic neuroinflammation is linked to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and hemorrhagic strokes.

“Inhalation-induced neuroinflammation is presently a hot area of study as a causal factor in the development of neurodegenerative disease, leaving open the possibility that working with these compounds and inhaling them may contribute to later neurological ailment,” Ottens said.

The study’s most recent findings were published in a paper this winter by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The neuroinflammatory effects of inhaled carbon nanotubes show close links between the respiratory and vascular systems, and the brain. Ottens and his partners concluded carbon nanotubes indirectly cause neuroinflammation by negatively impacting the lungs and blood. When carbon nanotubes enter the lung, the smallest fibers bury deep into the tissue. Researchers saw that similar to other irritants, the embedded fibers cause lung inflammation. What is novel about the study is that it expands knowledge of how lung inflammation caused by small particulates leads to neuroinflammation.

“There are many studies out there that conclude that you can get lung inflammation from breathing in particulate. It could be from the smoke of burning wood or consuming cigarette smoke,” Ottens said. “The mystery was how this affects other organ systems such as the brain. That’s what wasn’t clear.”

Ottens said other researchers proposed the particulate escapes from the inflamed lungs into the blood. It was thought this would damage blood vessels, leading to a break in the blood-brain barrier (a blood vessel lining that protects the brain from outside substances), allowing particulates into the brain. But this isn’t completely the case.

Ottens and his partners demonstrated the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier in animal test cases, but it wasn’t caused by the particulate directly invading the brain. The researchers found the lung inflammation triggered a biochemical change in the blood, which caused the blood-brain barrier to open.

“The lung serves as a barrier, with our NIOSH colleagues showing that only 0.001 percent of inhaled nanotubes make it to the brain.” Ottens said. “This raised the hypothesis that inflammation in the lung alternatively causes the release of bioactive factors into the blood, which then impact the blood-brain barrier.”

Normally, very few substances apart from sugar and oxygen permeate the blood-brain barrier. When the barrier broke during the test cases, substances inherent in blood leaked into the brain, such as albumin—the most common protein found in blood. With the barrier disrupted, the brain’s immune responses kicked into overdrive. Glial cells, which make up the brain’s primary defense against biological threats, gathered around the leaky blood vessels to neutralize the threat.

While clean-up by immune cells is necessary, the associated neuroinflammation may become detrimental, Ottens said. Investigators have shown that such inflammation can prime the brain’s immune cells to be more easily activated in the future, possibly leading to chronic neurodegeneration. It is this substantial inflammation that has researchers questioning the degree to which exposure to carbon nanotubes may lead to neurological disease.

 

To get a better idea about how carbon nanotubes impact workers, investigators are working to determine airborne levels of the particulate in manufacturing facilities. The team is also developing blood-based biomarkers that would gauge the biological response that an individual may have after inhaling the particulate matter.

“We hope that this study can contribute to thresholds and guidelines for the safe use of carbon nanotubes in the industry, and provide diagnostics to assess worker’s health, for example, in case of an accident,” Ottens said. “As a neuroscientist whose particular interest is toxicity pathways, it is very exciting to see the potential impact in terms of the safe commercialization of these materials and understanding the risk factors associated with different levels of exposure.”

Diet high in healthful plant-based food may reduce risk of stroke by 10%

Harvard School of Public Health, March 11, 2021

Eating a healthy, plant-based diet that includes foods like vegetables, whole grains and beans, and decreasing intakes of less healthy foods like refined grains or added sugars may reduce your risk of having a stroke by up to 10%, according to a study published in the March 10, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study found a diet high in quality plant-based foods may reduce your risk of having an ischemic stroke.

An ischemic stroke is associated with a blockage of blood flow to the brain and is the most common type of stroke. The study found no link between the diet and hemorrhagic stroke, which happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures.

“Many studies already show that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of all kinds of diseases, from heart disease to diabetes,” said study author Megu Baden, M.D., Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston, Mass. “We wanted to find out if there is an association between this kind of healthy diet and stroke risk.”

The study involved 209,508 people who did not have cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study. Researchers followed the participants for more than 25 years. Every two to four years, participants completed a questionnaire that asked how often, on average, they ate more than 110 foods over the previous year.

Researchers divided the participants into five groups based on the quality of their diet, specifically, higher amounts of plant-based foods, without excluding all animal foods.

For example, people with the highest healthy plant-based diets had, on average, 12 servings of healthy plant-based foods like leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, beans and vegetable oils per day, compared to those with the lowest quality diets, who averaged seven and a half servings per day. When it came to less healthy plant-based foods, such as refined grains and vegetables with high glycemic indexes like corn and potatoes, the people with the healthiest diet had, on average, three servings per day compared to six and a half servings for those with the lowest quality diets. As for meat and dairy, the group with the healthiest diet averaged three and a half servings per day, compared to six servings per day for those with the lowest quality diets.

During the study, 6,241 people had strokes, including 3,015 who had ischemic strokes and 853 who had hemorrhagic strokes. The type of stroke was not known for the rest of the people.

Compared to people who ate the fewest healthful plant-based foods, people who ate the most had a 10% lower risk of having a stroke.

When looking at type of stroke, compared to people who ate the fewest healthful plant-based foods, people in the group who ate the most showed about an 8% lower risk for ischemic stroke.

Researchers found no difference in risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

Also of note, researchers found no association between a vegetarian diet and risk of stroke, although the number of cases was small.

“We believe those differences may be because of the differences in the quality of plant-based foods that people consumed,” Baden said. “A vegetarian diet high in less healthy plant-based foods, such as refined grains, added sugars and fats, is one example of how the quality of some so-called ‘healthy’ diets differ. Our findings have important public health implications as future nutrition policies to lower stroke risk should take the quality of food into consideration.”

A limitation of the study is that all the participants were health professionals and were predominantly white people, which means the results may not apply to the general population.

“Although the stroke type was not known in more than a third of the people with stroke, the consistency of the findings for lower risk of ischemic stroke and the lower risk of total stroke in those eating a plant-based diet–and since previous research shows that ischemic stroke accounts for about 85% of all strokes–these results are reassuring,” Baden said.

Invasive weed may help treat some human diseases, researchers find

Hiroshima University (Japan), March 8, 2021

Native to the southeastern United States, a weedy grass has spread northward to Canada and also made its way to Australia and Japan. Andropogon virginicus grows densely packed and up to seven feet tall, disrupting growth patterns of other plants and competing for resources. When burned, it grows back stronger. There is no way to effectively remove the weed once it has invaded. But there might be a way to use it to human advantage.

An international team of researchers has found that A. virginicus extracts appear to be effective against several human diseases, including diabetes and cancer. The results were published on Dec. 31, 2020, in a special issue of Plants, titled “Biological Activities of Plant Extracts.”

A. virginicus is an invasive weed that seriously threatens agricultural production and economics worldwide,” said paper author Tran Dang Xuan, associate professor in the Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering Program in the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering at Hiroshima University. “However, no solution efficiently utilizing and tackling this plant has been found yet. In this paper, we highlight the potential application of A. virginicus extracts in future medicinal production and therapeutics of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and blood cancer, which can deal with both crop protection and human health concerns.”

Researchers found high levels of flavonoids in the samples they extracted from the weed. These plant chemicals have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Xuan. When tested against a variety of cell lines, the extracted plant chemicals bonded to free radicals, preventing damage to the cells. At skin level, this helps prevent age spots by inhibiting a protein called tyrosinase. Among other, deeper healthful actions, this bonding also helps prevent knock-on cellular actions that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

The team also specifically applied the extracted chemicals to a line of chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare blood cancer. The extract appeared to kill off the cancer cells.

Xuan said the researchers plan to establish a comprehensive process to isolate and purify the compounds responsible for known biological properties, as well as work to identify new uses. They will further test the therapeutical effects of the compounds, with the eventual goal of preparing functional pharmaceuticals for human use.

“Although A. virginicus has been considered a harmful invasive species without economic value, its extracts are promising sources of antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-tyrosinase, and antitumor agents,” Xuan said.