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For years researchers have been finding links between vitamin D and all sorts of health benefits, including lower incidence of cancer with higher vitamin D levels. A recent study by Michigan State physicians found that taking vitamin D supplements for at least 3 years resulted in cancer patients living longer, that is, "having significant reduction of cancer-related mortality" . However, it did not prevent cancer.

One issue with much of the vitamin D research that has been done is whether vitamin D is really  causing these health benefits or is it just an association? Perhaps people who take vitamin D are also different in some way from those who  don't, or something else is going on, and this may be confusing the results.What was nice about this  study is that it was a review of studies already done, but the researchers only included vitamin D studies  that used randomly controlled trials (RCT).

In the RCTs  included in the study, people were randomly assigned to different groups and either they were 1) given vitamin D supplements for 3 years or more, or 2) they did not take vitamin D supplements (the placebo group). Thus they evaluated 10 RCT studies with 79,055 persons who were followed for 4 years or more. Vitamin D was associated with significant reduction of cancer-related deaths (when compared with the placebo group). But there was no reduction in cancer incidence. Meaning the vitamin D did not prevent cancer (have a protective effect) in the studies they looked at.

The researchers did not say what they thought was an optimal vitamin D supplement dose or optimal levels in the blood. By the way, keep in mind that vitamin D can easily be gotten from exposure to sunshine. After all, it is called the sunshine vitamin.

From Science Daily: Vitamin D could help cancer patients live longer   ...continue reading "Vitamin D and Cancer"

Eat real foods, not supplements. Study after study has found beneficial health effects from eating real foods, but not from taking supplements. Now another large study found similar effects - eating real foods was linked to a lower risk of death for any reason (all cause mortality) and death from heart disease (cardiovascular), which was not found with supplements. The only dietary supplement that was associated with a lower risk of death and cancer was lycopene.

In fact, the Tufts University researchers also found that excess intake of calcium from supplements (exceeding 1,000 mg/day) was associated with a 62% increased risk for dying from cancer, but this was not found with foods. And even in persons with a low intake of nutrients from foods, the use of dietary supplements had no effect on the risk of death.The study conclusions were that: "Use of dietary supplements is not associated with mortality benefits among U.S. adults."

From Medical Xpress: Nutrients from food, not supplements, linked to lower risks of death, cancer

...continue reading "Getting Nutrients From Food (But Not Supplements) Linked to Lower Risk of Death"

Did you know that over 90% of all Americans have pesticide residues in their bodies? How do we know this? From studies and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which does biomonitoring of large groups of Americans in order to measure pesticides (and other toxic environmental chemicals) in their bodies. Biomonitoring tells us the "body burden" of toxic chemicals, usually by measuring them in our blood and urine, but also in hair, breast milk and meconium (an infant's first feces gives a measure of prenatal exposure to pesticides). Biomonitoring studies have detected hundreds of different chemicals (including many pesticides) in people, and shown that every single person has a mixture of many contaminants in their body.

The bad news is that we don't really know what all these chronic low level mixtures of pesticides are doing to us. Studies are finding health problems (e.g. various cancers, endocrine disruption, neurological and reproductive problems, even semen quality) with pesticide exposures - especially during pregnancy (the developing fetus), and during childhood. We're talking about pesticide exposures of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

How do pesticides get into us? Pesticides get into us from inhalation, through the skin, and through ingestion (foods, water). Studies find that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are good ways to ingest pesticides, and with more of these foods eaten, the higher the pesticide residue levels in the body. Unfortunately, as more and more pesticides such as fungicides, glyphosate and 2,4-D are used on crops, our exposures and levels of these pesticides in our bodies are increasing.

When our homes, our gardens, and lawns are treated with pesticides, we also get exposed to pesticides. We track them from the outside, and children (and pets) play in them on treated lawns. We are exposed to pesticide "drift" from neighboring properties. Pesticides used inside the house stay in the house dust (they don't break down easily in homes). Pesticides are even found in rain and fog. Scary, isn't it?

Can we lower the levels of pesticides in our bodies? Absolutely yes. Eat as many organic foods as possible - the levels of pesticide residues in the body (as measured in the blood and urine) will go down rapidly. Study after study shows this. A study even found an association with eating organic foods and a lower cancer rateDon't use pesticides on lawns. Think of weeds as "native grasses" and clover as beneficial. When dealing with indoor pest problems, use least-toxic Integrated Pest Management.

A nice discussion of this is in a recent article by journalist Liza Gross. Excerpts from The Nation: More Than 90 Percent of Americans Have Pesticides or Their Byproducts in Their Bodies

...continue reading "Almost All Americans Have Pesticide Residues In Their Bodies"

For a few years I've been noticing that studies of vitamin D have had mixed results for a number of medical conditions. A number of times initial studies found an association with low levels of vitamin D and a number of medical conditions, but follow up well-designed studies are just not finding the same results with vitamin D supplementation - or results have been mixed. Also, in some studies, what initially looked like vitamin D being protective for some cancers and multiple sclerosis, now looks like it's sunlight that is giving the protective results. In some cases, vitamin D levels are a proxy for sunlight exposure (the more sunlight exposure, the higher the vitamin D levels in the person). The following 6 studies recently published highlight this same trend of mixed results.

While vitamin D levels increased from high dose vitamin D, there was no change in bone bone mineral density (BMD) in older adults during the 12 months of the study. No adverse effects form the vitamin D supplementation was reported [the older adults received 12,000 international units (IU), 24,000 IU, or 48,000 IU once a month]. From Science Daily: Vitamin D supplements are of no benefit to the over 70s

There is little benefit for those over 70 taking higher dose vitamin D supplements to improve their bone strength and reduce the risk of falls, new research has revealed.

High doses of vitamin D (4000 international units) appeared more beneficial than low dose vitamin D (400 international units) supplements in advanced colorectal cancer patients. From Medical Xpess: High-dose vitamin D shows benefit in patients with advanced colorectal cancer

...continue reading "Recent Vitamin D Studies Have Mixed Results"

Are all foods contaminated by the herbicide glyphosate? The weed-killer glyphosate, which is in Roundup, keeps turning up in foods - basically in every food studied. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its use keeps increasing - which means we are increasingly exposed to more glyphosate residues in foods. What does this mean for our health? Along with other health effects (e.g. endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, alters the gut microbiome), there is increasing evidence that glyphosate herbicides are carcinogenic (cancer causing) - especially linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Studies detect glyphosate in most adults in the US, including pregnant women. Since glyphosate herbicides are so widely and heavily used by farmers (greater than 88.6 pounds per square mile in the US midwest!!, according to the USGS), then it is difficult to avoid glyphosate residue in foods. The US government is not helping the situation - they have been refusing to test for glyphosate in foods for years, and they have twice raised the allowable glyphosate residue levels in foods when asked to do so by Monsanto (the manufacturer of Roundup). The only way to avoid glyphosate is to eat organic foods - it is not allowed in organic food production. 

A recent Canadian government study looked at whether glyphosate was found in 200 honey samples from western Canada. Glyphosate was detected in 197 of the 200 samples! Even though beekeepers do not use glyphosate in beekeeping, the bees were picking it up in their search for nectar and bringing it back to the hives. Which means whenever one eats the honey, that person is also getting some glyphosate residues. A little here, a little there... we're getting  some everywhere...

Excerpts from an article by journalist Carey Gillam for Environmental Health News:

Weed killer residues found in 98 percent of Canadian honey samples

Study is the latest evidence that glyphosate herbicides are so pervasive that residues can be found in foods not produced by farmers using glyphosate. As U.S. regulators continue to dance around the issue of testing foods for residues of glyphosate weed killers, government scientists in Canada have found the pesticide in 197 of 200 samples of honey they examined.

The authors of the study, all of whom work for Agri-Food Laboratories at the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said the prevalence of glyphosate residues in honey samples - 98.5 percent - was higher than what was reported in several similar studies done over the last five years in other countries.  ...continue reading "Pesticide Residues In Honey"

A very interesting, but very preliminary study just came out about breast cancer and walnuts. Could follow up research really show this to be true - that eating walnuts has an anti-breast cancer effect?? Animal studies find that multiple ingredients in walnuts (e.g.alpha linolenic acid, beta-sitosterol, a number of antioxidants such as ellagic acid) reduce the risk of cancer or slow its growth, or even increase tumor cell death. Researchers think this is true for human breast cancer also, and so a study was done looking at "gene expression" of breast cancer tumors. The question asked by the Marshall University (West Virginia) researchers was: Would eating 2 oz (14 halves) of walnuts daily for 2 to 3 weeks have an effect on the breast cancer tumors?

10 post-menopausal women had diagnostic breast cancer tumor biopsies done and then were randomly divided into 2 groups: 1) 5 of the women ate 2 oz of walnuts daily for the 2 to 3 weeks until breast cancer surgery, and 2) the other 5 avoided eating walnuts in the 2 to 3 weeks prior to breast cancer surgery. Otherwise the women ate their normal diets - a Western style diet.

The researchers noted that in the walnut eating group: "gene expression in the tumor was modified in ways expected to slow proliferation, reduce inflammation, reduce metastasis and to increase cancer cell death". The researchers also felt that consuming walnuts would decrease risk for cancer recurrence, and that there may be benefit from walnuts against many cancer types.

The researchers point out that another study published in 2016 (which was a review and analysis of 20 studies) concluded that "nut consumption, including peanuts, was associated with reduced risk of cancer and reduced all-cause mortality" (meaning death from any cause) - which agrees with the results of this study. In the 2016 study the beneficial health effect was for at least 28 grams (1 serving) of nuts per day. Bottom line: Enjoy consuming some nuts daily!

From Medical Xpress: Scientists tie walnuts to gene expressions related to breast cancer

New research from Marshall University links walnut consumption as a contributing factor that could suppress growth and survival of breast cancers.  ...continue reading "Walnuts Have An Effect On Breast Cancer Tumors"

An interesting study found that high fructose corn syrup promotes the growth of intestinal tumors - in mice. The amount was fairly small - the equivalent of 12 oz of soda (with about 20 g of high fructose corn syrup) per day. The big question now: Is this also true for humans?

A number of studies find an association of soda consumption (which typically has high-fructose corn syrup in it), obesity,  and cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer) in humans, but the question remained whether this was due to obesity (obesity is linked to many types of cancer) or whether the high fructose corn syrup is directly contributing to tumor development or tumor growth. Based on the results of this study, the researchers felt that the high fructose corn syrup "enhances" or "promotes" intestinal tumor growth. Yikes.

From Science Daily: High-fructose corn syrup boosts intestinal tumor growth in mice

Does sugar directly feed cancers, boosting their growth? The answer seems to be 'Yes' at least in mice according to a study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine.  ...continue reading "Time To Stop Drinking Soda?"

Is eating vegetables in the Allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, spring onions, garlic stalks) protective in regards to colon cancer? A recent study from China suggests that eating higher amounts of these vegetables is associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer in both men and women. Interestingly, the researchers only looked at these 5 vegetables, which are commonly eaten in China, but not other Allium vegetables that are commonly eaten elsewhere in the world - such as chives, scallions, and shallots. All Allium vegetables are rich in flavonols and organosulfur compounds, which have properties that inhibit tumors (anti-tumor) in laboratory studies. High intake of Allium vegetables is thought to be protective for a variety of cancers, e.g. prostate cancer.

The researchers mention that other studies examining this issue had mixed results - with some finding a protective effect of Allium vegetables, but not others. The researchers suggested that the high intake of these vegetables in the groups they studied and also cooking methods (which vary among different regions of China, as well as different countries) could explain the differences. For example, slicing and crushing fresh garlic releases beneficial compounds, but boiling onions leads to an approximately 30% loss of beneficial substances. After reviewing a number of studies that looked at Allium vegetable intake and cancer, it appears that while eating them cooked in any way is good, the most beneficial effects seem to be from raw Allium vegetables.

How much of the Allium vegetables did they eat? The healthy (non-colorectal cancer) group ate about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup of Allium vegetables per day (or 47 pounds annually), versus the colorectal cancer group ate about 1.5 ounces per day (or 15.92 kg or 35 lbs annually). Other differences between the groups were that the colorectal cancer group had higher intakes of alcohol and red meat, but less milk, other vegetables, and fruit (as compared to the healthy group). But both groups had the same intake of fiber. Bottom line: eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks, spring onions, chives, scallions, shallots).

From Science Daily: Consuming garlic and onions may lower colorectal cancer risk   ...continue reading "Eating Garlic, Onions, and Leeks Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer"

Glyphosate (found in Roundup and Ranger Pro) is the most heavily used herbicide (weed-killer) in the world, and its use has been steadily increasing in the past decade. The debate over whether the pesticide is carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or not has been going on for a while. This week University of Washington researchers published a study that analyzed earlier studies about glyphosate herbicides (such as Roundup). They found that persons with higher exposure to glyphosate have a 41% increased chance of getting cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This is huge. Of course, the manufacturer of Roundup (Monsanto and its owner Bayer) is going nuts trying to discredit the study, but the scientific evidence is clear.

Unfortunately many foods contain residues of glyphosate, the amounts found in foods are increasing, and as a consequence most of us (even pregnant women) have detectable levels of glyphosate in our bodies.  How to lower your exposure to Roundup or other glyphosate based herbicides? Don't use Roundup or other glyphosate-based herbicides in your yard or property. Try to eat as much organic food as possible. Glyphosate is NOT allowed to be used in organic farming. Glyphosate residues are increasingly found in conventionally grown foods and in increasing amounts because so many crops grown are now "Roundup Ready" (can withstand the herbicide), and also due to preharvest (right before harvest) application of the herbicide on regular crops. By the way, the US government is resisting testing for glyphosate residues in foods because of their insistence that it is "safe", so why test? (due to industry influence...)

The researchers of this study also mention research showing that glyphosate alters the gut microbiome, and that it may act as an endocrine disrupting chemical. In other words, there are a number of health concerns with glyphosate herbicides.

Excerpts from investigative journalist Carey Gillam's article in The Guardian: Weedkiller 'raises risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41%' 

...continue reading "Study Finds That Popular Weedkiller Raises Risk of Cancer"

Some good news for women and breast cancer. We are all exposed to endocrine disruptors  around us - such as in personal care items, some household items, some medical devices and medications, plastic raincoats, and vinyl flooring. Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors, are used as plasticizers in many of these products. We can lower our exposure to phthalates, but can't totally eliminate it. So a big question is: Is exposure to phthalates linked to breast cancer?

Animal and laboratory studies suggest that a number of phthalates have carcinogenic effects (cancer causing), but several retrospective studies of women had mixed results regarding whether higher phthalate levels are associated with breast cancer or not. But now a large study (the Women's Health Initiative) that followed postmenopausal women for 2 decades has found that phthalate levels are not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The 1257 women (average age 62 1/2 years at the start) in the study gave either 2 or 3 urine samples (once a year) during the first 2 or 3 years of the study, and the urine was analyzed for a number of phthalates. Then the women were followed for 19 years. The researchers found some "suggestive associations", but nothing significant. Whew... We can breathe sigh of relief.

However, there are some real problems with the study. While it does not look likely that phthalates have a large effect, smaller associations are possible, which the researchers discuss.

1) One big problem is that phthalates are rapidly metabolized and excreted from the body, so that the levels can vary tremendously from one point in time to another. (Half of phthalate metabolites are excreted in urine within 12 to 24 hours of exposure.) And the researchers did find that "phthalate biomarker concentrations exhibited high within-person variability over a 3 year period".  More urine samples should have been taken from the women - not just one a year for 2 or 3 years. This study did not look at who routinely got exposed to high levels of phthalates and who wasn't. Half of phthalate metabolites are excreted in urine within 12 to 24 hours of exposure. Just having a week with lots of fast food could raise phthalate levels (the chemicals leach in from the packaging). See why only one measurement a year is inadequate?

2) Another big problem is that most of the postmenopausal women - whether with breast cancer or not, were using hormone therapy - in the past or during the study. As the researchers point out: "Because phthalates are far less estrogenic than hormone therapy formulations, it is possible that hormone therapy use may mask any true effect of phthalate exposure on breast cancer risk." 3) And the last big issue to think about is that this study did not look at early life exposures to phthalates, such as during puberty when the breasts are developing. Other studies suggest that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals are important during critical periods of life, especially earlier in life (e.g. adolescence). Looking just at phthalate exposure of postmenopausal women may be too late.

According to studies and the CDCalmost everyone in the United States is exposed to phthalates in varying degrees, especially by eating and drinking food and liquid that has come in contact with containers and products containing the chemicals, and by inhaling indoor air that has phthalates in the dust. Adult women tend to have higher exposure to certain phthalates (it's measured in the urine) that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products.  ...continue reading "Breast Cancer and Endocrine Disruptors"