Vitamin D Prevents Cancer

December 30, 2005

A new and much discussed analysis, has shown that nearly every other cancer case can be prevented by D vitamin, if everyone is getting the suffient dosage, which almost no one is.

It has now been proven that the frequency of cancer can be reduced dramatically by increasing the population’s vitamin D intake.

This is the claim of the American researcher Cedric Garland, who is a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern California, San Diego. He is behind the largest analysis of vitamin D research and cancer to date. 63 studies from 1962-2004 were analysed.

As a whole they strongly indicate that if the population’s intake of vitamin D is set up to 1,000 units per day, the frequency of colon cancer would be halved while the number of breast cancers and ovarian cancers would be reduced by a third. The 1,000 units of vitamin D (25 micrograms) would be, with certainty, without side effects. This is the same as five times the normally recommended dose, which only few receive.

Garland, who has studied vitamin D for 25 years, is very certain of his results. In a statement given to the BBC and The Independent he declared that there is now such an overwhelming amount of indications from the best observational studies, that governmental action is warranted.

It is worth noticing that these internationally respected media concerns both came with detailed reports, which also were followed by a leading editorial in The Independent. The study itself was published in the February 2006 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The results were also published beforehand online in an extensive statement on the university’s (UCSD) official homepage.

Garlands interest for vitamin D was awakened when he noticed in the 1980’s that the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer in the northern United States was double that of the risk in the Southern states. He and others started a 12 year study, which lead to a hypothesis that the reason behind this phenomenon is sunlight’s ability to create vitamin D in the skin. This theory has subsequently been tested in many ways. It also fits with the increased cancer frequency in cities, when air pollution containing sulphur dioxide blocks the vitamin D producing short ultraviolet solar radiation.

This also fits with the diet and cancer studies on workers in Chicago and with the low frequency of breast cancer in Japan, where though there is little sunlight, the diet is largely fish based. Fatty fish are just about the only regular source of vitamin D outside of the summer months in Japan, Chicago, and Northern Europe. Additionally, the theory fits well with the fact that the many people, who for genetic reasons utilize vitamin D poorly, are strongly overrepresented among those who suffer cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, and more.

More and more indications
The faithful subscribers to this newsletter may remember our accounts of the studies of the last year which have shown that women with low vitamin D status have much more frequently lumps in their breasts than others. This is a relationship which fits with a higher risk of cancer.

They may also remember that an American (as well as a large Norwegian) study showed that the possibility of beating many cancer forms is best when the cancer is found during the summer, when vitamin D status is highest.

This indicates that the vitamin not only prevents cancer, but also inhibits cancer growth. Concordantly with Garland’s claim, African Americans have a lower chance of recovery form breast cancer than Anglo Saxon individuals. This may be due to a reduced vitamin D status brought on by the reduced ability to absorb vitamin D which comes with dark skin colour.

These results and others are strengthen by animal studies where it has been proven that vitamin D promotes cell death in abnormal cells in the process called apoptosis and has a general dampening effect on cell growth. This last principle is utilized by psoriasis salves, which contain a vitamin D – like substance which inhibits the overwhelming growth and lack of cell maturation which characterises this skin disease.

The optimal daily vitamin D dose, especially during the winter months between October and May, is according to Garland about 1,000 units (or 25 micrograms) per day. This recommendation is based on a study from October 2005. The 1,000 units lead to a concentration of the vitamin D precursor 25-OH-vitamin D of about 80 nmol/l (nanomol per litre), which Garland found to lead to the lowest risk of colon cancer.

Much also indicates that Garland is correct that vitamin D supplements could save thousands of lives. If this is the case, than any media claim that we get superfluous vitamins is contrary to public health.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Garland CF et al. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention. Am J Public Health. 2006;96(2):9-18. 2005 Dec 27; [Epub ahead of print].
2. Gorham ED et al. Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Oct;97(1-2):179-94. Epub 2005 Oct 19.
3. Garland CF et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and colon cancer: eight-year prospective study. Lancet. 1989 Nov 18;2(8673):1176-8.
4. Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor. Revealed: the pill that prevents cancer. The Independent 28.12.05.

Vitamin E May Be Diabetic’s Saviour

December 20, 2005

About one out of every two diabetics has a five times larger than average risk of dying from heart disease. This risk can be cut in half by vitamin E. This is a well justified theory which is now being tested in a large Israeli study.

It is well known that the heart’s of diabetics become easily atherosclerotic, often causing them to die due to blood clots in the heart. Therefore, health officials work hard to combat atherosclerosis in diabetics. For example, diabetics are encouraged to take cholesterol reducing medicine, even when their cholesterol levels are very low. Diabetics’ blood pressure should also be low.

If one believes the Israeli researcher, Andrew Levy, the lives of even more diabetics can be saved by taking 400 units of vitamin E daily. Levy’s theory is now being tested in Israel in a large randomised study with 5,000 middle aged diabetics. Half of them will receive vitamin E for the next four years while the other half will not. If it goes as is hoped, the result will have enormous significance for public health.

It is optimistic to implement such an expensive study with vitamin E. As every (Danish, ed.) TV watcher knows, vitamin E doesn’t work against anything. Why would Levy and his co-workers from the Israeli Technion Technical Institute, where many Nobel prise winners can be found, go against the flow?

The explanation involves an antioxidant which few non-experts know of. It is called haptoglobin and is a protein which is created in the body. Haptoglobin binds the blood’s colouring agent, the iron rich haemoglobin, if it becomes detached from the red blood cells. In this way it prevents iron poisoning and therefore against overloading of free radicals in a long list of conditions where red blood cells die.

Disregarded effects of vitamin E
Levy and his co-workers have shown time and time again that haptoglobin works as an antioxidant. There is more to the story; haptoglobin is found in two forms, which are not equally effective antioxidants. Type 1 haptoglobin works much better than type 2. If one has type 2 haptoglobin (like 40% of the Israeli diabetics) the risk of death due to heart disease is five times higher than normal! In other words, a very large part of diabetics’ high death rate due to heart disease is because one out of every two of them has an insufficiency defence against oxidation because of ineffective haptoglobin.

The logical consequence of this enormous difference is, according to Levy, that the poorly protected diabetics with type 2 haptoglobin should take supplementary antioxidants. This is where the vitamin E study comes in. Vitamin E should be able to help. On the other hand, if it does help, why have other studies with vitamin E not previously shown this effect?

Levy believes that this is presumably because they have not been analysed with this effect in mind. He studied serum from a large sample of the ca. 10,000 participants in the Canadian HOPE study, where atherosclerotic participants received 400 units of vitamin E daily. The people behind the HOPE study found no effect of the vitamin E. But what about the 1,000 diabetics in the study? About a year ago, Levy proved that vitamin E reduced the risk of heart disease by 50% in the diabetic participants who had type 2 haptoglobin.
This surprising result was hidden in the HOPE study and was apparently unknown. This is quite educational. If the most threatened diabetics’ very high risk of heart disease can be halved with a cheap, harmless, vitamin E pill, the signification is very large.

Until 2010 we only have these results. There are no other results to turn to. It is not even possible to find out which kind of haptoglobin you have. If you wish to prevent heart disease, you have to do it in the dark. It is however risk free.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Andrew P. Levy et al. The Effect of Vitamin E Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetic Individuals With Different Haptoglobin Phenotypes. Diabetes Care 27:2767, 2004.
2. Levy AP et al. Strong Heart Study. Haptoglobin phenotype is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in individuals with diabetes: The Strong Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002 Dec 4;40(11):1984-90.
3. Suleiman M, et al. Haptoglobin polymorphism predicts 30-day mortality and heart failure in patients with diabetes and acute myocardial infarction. Diabetes. 2005 Sep;54(9):2802-6.
4. A survey of the study can be found at Clinical Trials.gov: www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/gui/show/NCT00220831.

care.diabetesjournals.org
www.cardiosource.com/jacc/index.asp
www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/gui/show/NCT00220831
www.iom.dk

Vitamin E Lowers Cholesterol Levels in Diabetics

December 13, 2005

There are at least eight different kinds of Vitamin E, but typically we only get one of those in vitamin pills. One of the other kinds prevents arteriosclerosis, while a third kind has been shown to effectively lower the blood cholesterol levels of diabetics.

When you buy vitamin E in pill form, you almost always get alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol (natural and sometimes, unfortunately, synthetic) has also been used exclusively in almost all of the studies on vitamin E’s effectiveness against cardiovascular disease.

There are other tocopherols than alpha-tocopherol. They all share the same basic chemical structure but differ in their side chains. Tocopherol can come in alpha, beta, gamma, or delta forms depending on the position of its side chains. Apha-tocopherol, the type used in vitamin pills, has the greatest effect as a vitamin.

Tocotrienols, another vitamin E form, are less well known. They differ from the other forms by having three double binds in their side chain. They are found in palm oil as well as grains such as oats, barley, rice, and corn. Tocotrienols can also be found in alpha, beta, gamma, and delta forms.

These tocotrienols are coming into the spotlight. For many years, on the basis of animal studies and small studies using humans, there has been the suspicion that they are effective against atherosclerosis. For example, ten year ago an American randomised study with 50 test subjects showed that tocotrienols from palm oil definitely counteracted atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries. Unfortunately no follow up study has been preformed.

Recently an Indian randomised study has surfaced. It shows that tocotrienols from rice sources sink the cholesterol concentration in the blood of type 2 diabetics (old age diabetes). In this study 19 diabetics received placebos for a period of 60 days. Before or after this 60 period they received, for a similar period, capsules containing rice with high concentrations of tocotrienols (each participant received 3 mg tocotrienol per kilo bodyweight per day). The study was designed so that no one knew which participants received which pill at what time until the study was completed.

Unsolved problems
The results showed that the tocotrienols reduced the total cholesterol levels of the participant’s blood by no less than 30%. Even more encouraging, the “bad” cholesterol, (LDL cholesterol) which can become oxidised and cause atherosclerosis, fell by an astonishing 42%. This effect is just as pronounced as seen with traditional cholesterol lowering medication, the so called statins.

It seems that anyone who can get a hold of tocotrienols is free from seeking traditional cholesterol lowering treatment. But before this is certain and becomes common practice, a few things should be further looked analysed.

First and foremost, can the results of the aforementioned study be reproduced? As stated earlier tocotrienols were effective against atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries, but in the study which showed this effect, the participants’ total cholesterol was unchanged! Tocotrienol does not always lower cholesterol. But does it always counteract atherosclerosis? At best the answer is maybe, we don’t know. After looking at the results of the two studies we can hypothesise that the differences in their results could be the result of the different tocotrienol blends used. The first study used a palm oil extract while the second used a rice source. The differences between alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienol is sufficient, their effects should differ.

Other things which we understand even less could also play a role. The likely cholesterol lowering effect of the rice tocotrienol should also be tested for possible side effects and the results of this should be compared with the side effects of traditional cholesterol medicine. A big job awaits researchers.

Meanwhile, the studies have shown with certainty that (apart from that oatmeal and brown rice are healthy) we are not finished with vitamin E or, more to the point, the E vitamins. There are many of them, and they have different effects. Their potential is very promising.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Tomeo AC, Geller M, Watkins TR, Gapor A, Bierenbaum ML. Antioxidant effects of tocotrienols in patients with hyperlipidemia and carotid stenosis. Lipids. 1995 Dec;30(12):1179-83.
2. Qureshi AA, Salser WA, Parmar R, Emeson EE. Novel tocotrienols of rice bran inhibit atherosclerotic lesions in C57BL/6 ApoE-deficient mice. J Nutr. 2001 Oct;131(10):2606-18.
3. Baliarsingh S, Beg ZH, Ahmad J. The therapeutic impacts of tocotrienols in type 2 diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia. Atherosclerosis. 2005 Oct;182(2):367-74. Epub 2005 Apr 20.

www.aocs.org/press
www.nutrition.org
www.athero.org
www.iom.dk

False Propaganda Against Vitamins

November 30, 2005

A frightening warning in an article in the Danish newspaper, Ekstra Bladet, claims that people will get sick from taking Vitamin B and injure their hearts by consuming Vitamin E. These claims are twisted and false.

Condescending evaluations of vitamin supplements are quite common. They rarely come from experts, but often from people who know something about something else and therefore think they know something about everything.

By: Niels Hertz  MD

References:
1. A. Astrup. Du bliver syg af kosttilskud. Sund og Slank. Ekstra Bladet. 26.11.05.
2. The HOPE and HOPE-TOO Trial Investigators. Effects of long-term vitamin E supplementation on cardiovascular events and cancer. JAMA 2005;293:1338-47.
3. Bonaa KH. NORVIT: Randomized trial of homocysteine-lowering with B-vitamins for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease after acute myocardial infarction. Program and Abstracts from the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2005; September 3-7, 2005; Stockholm, Sweden. Hot Line II. Iflg. Linda Brooks. NORVIT: The norwegian vitamin trial. Medscape Sept. 2005. (Ikke publiceret i trykt medie).

Selenium May Prevent Degenerative Joint Disease

November 24, 2005

For the first time ever, researchers have studied the correlation between selenium deficiency and osteoarthritis, which correlation is surprisingly strong and indicates that selenium supplementation may prevent the Western World’s most common cause of mobility-impairment.

There is a general agreement that selenium is a mineral which western Europeans get less and less of through their diets. Modern agricultural methods and the acidification of the soil has have caused a lowered amount of this vital antioxidant I crops, and thereby a lowered amount of selenium in our bodies. The deficiency is severe enough that, as early as the 1980’s, it widespread problems in Danish pigs so severe that, after some political tug-of-war, supplements were added to their feed. But does this deficiency mean anything for people?

So far the only answer is “probably.” Large population studies in Finland etc. have shown that members of the group which gets the least selenium via diet have the greatest risk of getting cancer.

Just as importantly, in an American randomised study with 1,300 participants undertake nine years ago, it was found that supplements of selenium halved the frequency of new cancer cases. The less selenium presents in the blood beforehand, the greater the positive effect with the supplement. The result was so certain that the study was stopped early for ethical reasons and is being repeated on a larger scale. If selenium prevents cancer so effectively, we should be absolutely certain of its effects.

Meanwhile, researchers from North Carolina’s university in cooperation with the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) discovered another relationship: Selenium deficiency causes an increased risk of arthritis of the knees. The risk of arthritis of the knees increases by 15-20% every time that the body’s selenium content is reduced by 10 micrograms (per kilo body weight). For comparison, the blood of the average Dane contains about 80 microgram/litre while the blood of the average American contains 110.

Among the nearly 900 people who were followed for 15 years, the risk was 40% lower in the third who received the most selenium. If they developed arthritis anyway, there was a tendency that it was to a lesser degree.

This is just a statistical relationship. It has not yet been published in the press, but has been presented in a congress (15.11.05) in San Diego for American arthritis doctors and can be read in an official press release from North Carolina’s university.

Nevertheless, the study’s leader, professor Joanne Jordan, has declared that the group is very excited about their findings. It could indicate that there is a possibility of preventing arthritis in the knee and possibly in other joints. In other words, it might be possible to prevent the most common reason for activity reduction in the western world. In China it is known that extreme selenium deficiency can cause severe cartilage injury in joints as early as during childhood. Does this point in the same direction?

Maybe, but it is not known for certain. According to Joanne Jordan, the next step in to study selenium’s effect on cartilage in the laboratory. The obvious hypothesis is that this effect is due to selenium’s function as an antioxidant. Clinical studies, in other words randomised studies, should be undertaken to find out whether selenium supplements effect pain and the level of function in people with arthritis.

The new finds are not final, but it is the first time that anyone has studied the correlation between arthritis and selenium. It is very surprising that the relationship is so apparent.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Rayman M. The importance of selenium to human health. The Lancet 2000:;356:233-41.
2. News Release. Study links low selenium levels with higher risk of osteoarthritis. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/nov05/jordan111005.htm
3. Clark LC. et al. Effect of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 1996;276:1957-63.

www.thelancet.com
www.unc.edu/news/archives/nov05/jordan111005.htm
jama.ama-assn.org
www.iom.dk

Dietary Supplement Strengthens Immuno-Therapy Against Breast Cancer

November 7, 2005

An American study has shown that the pioneering cancer medicine against breast cancer, Herceptin, can be made 30-40 times more effective when used in conjunction with a harmless dietary supplement: gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The study’s results are preliminary but calls for further investigation.

Every year, almost 3,500 Danish women get breast cancer. Approx. every fifth of them have a particularly aggressive form of cancer, which you may fear in particular, if you find cancer in the lymph nodes of the armpit during surgery. The aggressive cancer is due to a gene in the affected women which is particularly active and forms large amounts of HER2, a protein. When HER2 adheres to the surface of a breast cell, it reacts with growth agents in the blood that can transform the cell into a cancerous cell and stimulate it to growth.

However, since 1998, there have been medicine available that, in the same way as an antibody, have been able to block HER2 and thus weaken the growth stimulation. The name of the drug is Herceptin® (Trastuzumab) and so far only women have been offered this, who in addition to being “HER2 positive”, have had recurrence of breast cancer that has spread.

……………………………………..

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Piccart-Gebhart et al. Trastuzumab after adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2005;353:1659-72.
2. Romond EH et al. Trastuzumab plus adjuvant chemotherapy for operable HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2005;353: 1673-84.
3. Menendez JA et al. Effect of gamma-linolenic acid on the transcriptional activity of the Her2/neu (erbB-2) oncogene. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1611-15.

Vitamin B12 And Folic Acid Reduce The Risk Of Blood Clots In The Brain

October 31, 2005

After Americans enriched their diet with folic acid in 1996, the frequency of blood clots in the brain was reduced by 15%. Now research shows that added supplementation of Vitamin B12 will markedly lower this risk even further.

Immediately, it sounds simple: People with high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood have an increased risk of blood clots in the brain and in the heart. You also know that you can lower homocysteine with folic acid and, to a lesser extent, with B6 and B12 vitamins. When the Americans began to enrich cereal products with folic acid from 1996, both the average American’s homocysteine and the rate of blood clot in the brain decreased by about 15% in three years.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Toole JF, et al. Lowering homocysteine in patients with ischemic stroke to prevent recurrent stroke, myocardial infarction, and death: the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004 Feb 4;291(5):565-75.
2. Bonaa KH. NORVIT: Randomized trial of homocysteine-lowering with B-vitamins for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease after acute myocardial infarction. Program and Abstracts from the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2005; September 3-7, 2005; Stockholm, Sweden. Hot Line II. Iflg. Linda Brooks. NORVIT: The norwegian vitamin trial. Medscape sept. 2005. (Ikke publiceret i trykt medie)
3. Spence DJ et al. Vitamin intervention for stroke prevention trial. An efficacy analysis. Stroke 2005;36:2404-2409.

jama.ama-assn.org
www.medscape.com
stroke.ahajournals.org
www.iom.dk

Children Get Smarter From Taking Fish Oil

October 24, 2005

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA in fish oil is an important building block for the brain. DHA deficiency in the first years of life may impact the normal development of the child’s brain.

Are children getting smarter from eating fish? Recent studies suggest that fatty acids in fish oil can help certain children with ADHD or dyslexia. But what about infants?

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Mc Cann J C, Ames, Bruce N. Is docosahexaenoic acid, an n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, required for development of normal brain function? An overview of evidence from cognitive and behavioural tests in humans and animals. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:281-95

www.ajcn.org
www.iom.dk

You Must Plug The Hole Before The Boat Sinks

October 11, 2005

A Norwegian study has shown that if you have already experienced an acute myocardial infarction, the risk of another such infarction will not be reduced by taking folic acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12, even if homocysteine levels are lowered thereby.
If you get a great deal of folic acid, the blood content of the amino acid homocysteine will be relatively low. So much is certain. When the content is low, the risk of blood clots in the heart or brain hemorrrhage – other things being equal – is also low. It is also safe, but both are statistics only.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Bonaa KH. NORVIT: Randomized trial of homocysteine-lowering with B-vitamins for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease after acute myocardial infarction. Program and Abstracts from the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2005; September 3-7, 2005; Stockholm, Sweden. Hot Line II. Iflg. Linda Brooks. NORVIT: The Norwegian vitamin trial. Medscape Sept. 2005. (Not published in a printed media).

www.medscape.com/viewprogram/4494_pnt
www.iom.dk