Does Bipolar Disorder Raise Risk of Parkinson’s?

By Maureen Salamon

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 23, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Struggling with bipolar disorder is hard enough, but now a new study from Taiwan suggests these patients are seven times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

But U.S. experts cautioned that the absolute risk of developing Parkinson’s — an incurable movement disease — is still very low for those with the mood disorder.

“I wasn’t surprised [by the study’s findings], because similar disorders like major depression and anxiety disorder convey a similar increased risk of Parkinson’s later in life,” said Dr. Gregory Pontone, director of the Parkinson’s disease research center at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

“This gives you two reasons to treat bipolar disorder aggressively,” he added.

Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder marked by swings from elated, energized behavior to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It affects about 2.6% of American adults, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition causing tremors, rigid muscles and slowed movement, among other symptoms. By 2030, the Parkinson’s Foundation projects 1.2 million Americans will be living with the disease.

For the study, researchers led by Dr. Mu-Hong Chen of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, reviewed health records for 56,000 people in Taiwan who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder between 2001 and 2009. They were compared to 225,000 people with no history of bipolar or Parkinson’s. Both groups were tracked until late 2011.

During the study period, 372 people with bipolar disorder — or 0.7% — developed Parkinson’s. This compared to 222 — or 0.1% — of those who didn’t have bipolar disorder.

Those with bipolar who developed Parkinson’s were nine years younger — average age 64 — than others who also developed Parkinson’s, the study found.

“When you say there’s seven times the risk, it gets scary. But it’s still very few [bipolar] patients who get Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Justin Martello, who reviewed the findings. He’s a neurologist specializing in movement disorders and Parkinson’s disease at Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Del.

Continued

Martello pointed out that while the study was large, it was limited by including only people in Taiwan.

“We don’t know how this would apply more globally or broadly,” Martello said. “I think it’s more interesting for physicians to know this and be more aware of the association.”

The study was published online May 22 in the journal Neurology.

Pontone, who cowrote an accompanying editorial, and Martello said scientists have many theories — still unproven — about how bipolar disorder might be connected to the development of Parkinson’s.

“A depressive or manic episode may do something to the brain that renders it more vulnerable” to Parkinson’s over time, Pontone said.

And Martello noted that many medications used to treat bipolar disorder can trigger Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Many experts think Parkinson’s is active years or decades before movement problems show up, and mood disorders such as bipolar may actually be an early symptom of Parkinson’s, Pontone and Martello said.

Much more research is still needed, they agreed.

“We definitely need to look more at a global population,” Martello said. “The researchers here did follow patients for 10 years, but it needs to be extended longer to see how many of these patients convert to Parkinson’s down the road.”

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Gregory M. Pontone, M.D., director, Parkinson’s Neuropsychiatry Clinical Programs and Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore; Justin Martello, M.D., neurologist, Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.;Neurology, May 22, 2019, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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New Gene Variations for Type 2 Diabetes Found

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 23, 2019 (HealthDay News) — It has long been known that lifestyle affects a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, researchers report that they have identified rare variants of four genes that may also play a part.

For the study, an international team of scientists analyzed protein-coding genes from nearly 21,000 people with type 2 diabetes and 25,000 people without diabetes across a range of ethnicities. That included people of European, African American, Hispanic/Latino, East Asian and South Asian ancestries.

The genes identified in the study and the proteins they encode are potential targets for new diabetes medicines, and may help improve understanding and treatment of the disease, according to the study authors.

In addition, the data suggests that hundreds more genes linked with diabetes will be identified in the future, the researchers said.

“These results demonstrate the importance of studying large samples of individuals from a wide range of ancestries,” said senior study author Michael Boehnke. He is director of the Center for Statistical Genetics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in Ann Arbor.

“Most large population studies focus on individuals of European ancestry, and that can make it hard to generalize the results globally. The more diverse the cohort makes for better, more informative science,” Boehnke explained in a university news release.

Study first author Jason Flannick added, “We now have an updated picture of the role of rare DNA variations in diabetes.” Flannick is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and the division of genetics and genomics at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“These rare variants potentially provide a much more valuable resource for drug development than previously thought. We can actually detect evidence of their disease association in many genes that could be targeted by new medications or studied to understand the fundamental processes underlying disease,” Flannick explained in the news release.

More than 400 million people worldwide have diabetes, and most of those cases are type 2, according to the World Health Organization. Diabetes is believed to be the seventh leading cause of death worldwide.

The study was published May 22 in the journal Nature. The findings are publicly available online through the Type 2 Diabetes Knowledge Portal, which means scientists worldwide can access and use them in their own research.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, May 22, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Let’s Go: Total Mind and Body Wellness

Always wanted to try an exciting new activity, but just not sure where to start? We’re trying out the latest, greatest sports and activities for you and reporting back with our findings, so you know exactly what to expect when trying something for the first time. We tried everything from parkour to trail running and learned the basics straight from experts — and now we’re passing their secrets on to you. So go on, try that new sport for the first time… it probably won’t be your last.

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Avocado Brownie

Always wanted to try an exciting new activity, but just not sure where to start? We’re trying out the latest, greatest sports and activities for you and reporting back with our findings, so you know exactly what to expect when trying something for the first time. We tried everything from parkour to trail running and learned the basics straight from experts — and now we’re passing their secrets on to you. So go on, try that new sport for the first time… it probably won’t be your last.

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Homeschoolers Sleep Better and Eat Healthier Than Normies

Study finds better sleep, diet habits help homeschoolers counter shortfalls in formal exercise. Homeschoolers see no added health risks over time. 

Years of home-schooling don’t appear to influence the general health of children, according to a Rice University study.

A report by Rice kinesiology lecturer Laura Kabiri and colleagues in the Oxford University Press journal Health Promotion International puts forth evidence that the amount of time a student spends in home school is “weakly or not at all related to multiple aspects of youth physical health.”

“Although there may be differences in the health of elementary through high school home-schoolers, those differences don’t seem to change with additional time spent in home school,” Kabiri said. “In other words, staying in home school longer isn’t related to increased health benefits or deficits.”

Earlier this year Kabiri and her Rice team reported that home-schooled students who depended on maintaining physical fitness through outside activities were often falling short.

The flip side presented in the new report should come as good news to parents and students. The study was conducted by Kabiri and colleagues at Texas Woman’s University and the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) at San Antonio.

The results from studies of more than 140 children in grades kindergarten through 5, who were tested against statistically normal data for children of their age and gender, accounted for prior published research that showed home-schooled children have less upper-body and abdominal muscle strength and more abdominal fat when compared to public school students. Additional studies also showed that home-schooling benefited sleep patterns, overall body composition and diet.

However, to the researchers’ surprise, these differences in home-schooler health did not appear to be affected either way by increased time in home school.

“Body composition can relate to sleep as well as diet,” Kabiri said. “And as far as muscular health goes, these kids are still active. We’re not saying there’s not an upfront benefit or detriment to their health, but after an initial gain or loss, there aren’t additional gains or losses over time if you’re going to home-school your children for one year or their entire careers. The relationship between their health and the time they spend in home school seems to be irrelevant.”

Article by Rice University. Co-authors of the study are doctoral student Allison Butcher and Associate Professor Wayne Brewer of Texas Woman’s University and Alexis Ortiz, the Berneice Castella Endowed Allied Health Chair in Geriatric Science in the department of physical therapy at UTHealth San Antonio. Read the abstract at https://academic.oup.com/heapro/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/heapro/daz047/5492359.

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Pregnant Women Living Near Fracking Wells Have Higher Concentrations of Metals

Study reveals pregnant women who live near fracking sites had 16 times more aluminum, 10 times more manganese, 6 times more strontium, and 3 times more barium in their bodies.

The Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology last week revealed the findings of a 2016 pilot study that measured pregnant women’s exposure to environmental contaminants in northeastern British Columbia, an area of intensive natural-gas production through hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The study, directed by Marc-André Verner, a professor at the School of Public Health (ESPUM) of Université de Montréal (UdeM), showed that the women had higher concentrations of some metals, especially barium, aluminium, strontium and manganese, in their hair and urine compared to the general population.

“These results are of concern because a previous study showed that relatively high concentrations of barium, aluminium, strontium and manganese are found in rock samples from B.C.’s Montney Formation, where natural gas is extracted via fracking,” said Élyse Caron-Beaudoin, a post-doctoral researcher at EPSUM and the study’s lead author. “In addition, recent studies analyzing wastewater from fracking generally have shown higher concentrations of the same metals.”

“It’s impossible to say with certainty whether fracking caused the women’s exposure to these metals,” she added, “but our study does provide further evidence that this could be the case.”

Community-initiated studies

Initially requested by people living near the natural-gas production areas, the study was jointly launched by UdeM researchers and the region’s First Nations and public-health authorities. These communities wanted clear answers about how living near natural-gas developments was affecting their health.

“We used data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) to compare trace metal concentrations in the urine and hair of the 29 pregnant women we studied versus the general population,” said Caron-Beaudoin. “However, for some metals we had to use exposure data collected in France, because similar data has never been collected in sufficient quantity in Canada.”

The researchers found that concentrations of manganese in the women’s urine were 10 times higher than in the reference populations. As well, the women’s hair had greater concentrations of aluminium (16 times higher), barium (three times higher) and strontium (six times higher) than in the reference populations in France. Furthermore, barium and strontium concentrations were higher in hair samples from indigenous participants than in those from non-indigenous participants.

Is there a health risk?

At this stage of their investigations, researchers cannot comment on the presence or absence of a risk to human health. Many essential data for this type of toxicological evaluation are still lacking, including epidemiological studies assessing the association between exposure of pregnant women to these trace metals and the adverse effects on children’s health: “We are aware that people would like to have answers right away, but we are only at the beginning of a long process of scientific inquiry,” said Caron-Beaudoin. “Other studies are already underway or being planned to clarify this legitimate issue.”

Pending questions

Data on water quality in the study areas’s Peace River Valley remains scarce and the data that has been collected to date is highly variable. In addition, there’s no systematic water-monitoring program in the region.

A previous study on exposure to volatile organic compounds such as benzene in the same group of pregnant women was published in 2018 in Environment International. Its findings suggested benzene exposure is also potentially higher among study participants, especially indigenous women, than in the general Canadian population.

To learn more, Caron-Beaudoin has returned to the Peace River Valley to recruit a second group of pregnant women so the researchers can measure their exposure to different contaminants. She and her team will also measure concentrations of these contaminants in water and indoor air. In addition, years as part of an epidemiological study, they are assessing the overall health of babies born in the region over the last 10 years.

Article by University of Montreal. About this study:”Urinary and hair concentrations of trace metals in pregnant women from Northeastern British Columbia, Canada: a pilot study,” by Élyse Caron-Beaudoin et al., was published in the online version of the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology in May 2019.

Image from Pixabay.

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How Sulforaphane in Broccoli May Benefit Those With Schizophrenia, Autism and Alzheimer’s

Science has proven time after time that food is potent medicine. Broccoli, for example, has a solid scientific foundation showing it’s one of the most valuable health-promoting foods around. While it contains several health-promoting compounds, one of the most widely studied is sulforaphane.

The cancer-fighting properties of sulforaphane are perhaps the most well-known, but it has also been shown to benefit your heart and brain, boosting detoxification1 and helping prevent and/or treat high blood pressure,2 heart disease, Alzheimer’s3 and even autism.4,5,6 Now, researchers report sulforaphane may also be helpful in the treatment of schizophrenia.7,8,9

Sulforaphane May Improve Cognition in Patients With Schizophrenia

An initial study,10 published in Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience in 2015, involved just 10 outpatients with schizophrenia. Patients were given 30 milligrams (mg) of sulforaphane glucosinolate per day for eight weeks. As reported by the authors:

“Clinical symptoms using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and cognitive function using the Japanese version of CogState battery were evaluated at the beginning of the study and at week 8.

A total of 7 patients completed the trial. The mean score in the Accuracy component of the One Card Learning Task increased significantly after the trial … This result suggests that SFN [sulforaphane] has the potential to improve cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia.”

Schizophrenia Linked to Chemical Imbalances in the Brain

More recently, a series of three animal and human studies11 by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggest sulforaphane may also benefit patients with schizophrenia by helping to rebalance the glutamate levels in their brain. As reported by Neuroscience News:12

“Schizophrenia is marked by hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, feeling, behavior, perception and speaking. Drugs used to treat schizophrenia don’t work completely for everyone, and they can cause a variety of undesirable side effects, including metabolic problems increasing cardiovascular risk, involuntary movements, restlessness, stiffness and ‘the shakes.’”

According to Dr. Akira Sawa, director of the Johns Hopkins The Schizophrenia Center, “It’s possible that future studies could show sulforaphane to be a safe supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to prevent, delay or blunt the onset of symptoms.”13

One of the studies14 in this series, published January 9, 2019, in JAMA Psychiatry, assessed differences in brain metabolism between 81 schizophrenic patients and 91 healthy controls, finding schizophrenics had lower levels of key brain chemicals associated with the disease — glutamate, N-acetylaspartate,15 GABA and glutathione — in their anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in executive function, emotional affect and cognition.16

According to the paper17 “Cognitive and Emotional Influences in Anterior Cingulate Cortex,” this brain region appears to be “the brain’s error detection and correction device,” and “is part of a circuit involved in a form of attention that serves to regulate both cognitive and emotional processing.”

In the brain, glutamate — an excitatory neurotransmitter18 — plays an important role in brain cell communication, and lower levels have been linked to both schizophrenia and depression.

Schizophrenics also had lower levels of N-acetylaspartate in the orbitofrontal region, an area involved in cognitive processing and decision-making, as well as the thalamus, an area involved in the relaying of sensory signals and the regulation of consciousness.

They also had lower levels of glutathione in the thalamus. Glutathione, a master antioxidant produced by your body, is made up of glutamate, cysteine and glycine, and is a physiologic reservoir of neuronal glutamate.19

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Modulating Glutamate Levels May Improve Schizophrenia

For the second study in the series, the researchers focused on the management of glutamate in the brain. As reported by Neuroscience News,20 they wondered whether faulty glutamate management might be a key problem in the disease, and whether drugs could be used to “shift this balance to either release glutamate from storage when there isn’t enough, or send it into storage if there is too much.”

So, in this study,21 published February 12, 2019, in PNAS, they blocked an enzyme that turns glutamate into glutathione in the brain cells of rats, using a drug called L-Buthionine sulfoximine, thereby allowing glutamine to be used up.

“The researchers found that these nerves were more excited and fired faster, which means they were sending more messages to other brain cells. The researchers say shifting the balance this way is akin to shifting the brain cells to a pattern similar to one found in the brains of people with schizophrenia,” Neuroscience News 22 explains.

Next, to increase the level of glutamine stored as glutathione, they used sulforaphane, as it activates a gene that makes an enzyme required for the synthesis of glutathione from glutamate. As expected, this slowed the speed with which neurons fired.

In other words, it helped normalize the brain cells, allowing them to behave in a manner more like healthy controls. Dr. Thomas Sedlak, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences told Neuroscience News:23

“We are thinking of glutathione as glutamate stored in a gas tank. If you have a bigger gas tank, you have more leeway on how far you can drive, but as soon as you take the gas out of the tank it’s burned up quickly. We can think of those with schizophrenia as having a smaller gas tank.”

Sulforaphane Boosts Glutathione Levels in the Brain

In an earlier pilot study24 (counted as the third in this series) by the same team, published in the May 2018 issue of Molecular Neuropsychiatry, they used mice and healthy human subjects to assess the effect of sulforaphane on glutathione levels in the brain. Here, patients with a history of psychiatric illness were specifically excluded. As explained by the authors:

The participants completed two visits, scheduled 7 days (1 week) apart. The participants were given 100 µmol sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules, and instructed to ingest the extract each morning for 1 week …

Urine and blood specimens were collected prior to the first dose of broccoli sprout extract and within 4 h of the final dose. MRS [magnetic resonance spectroscopy] scans were performed prior to the first dose and within 4 h of ingesting the final dose …

Following 1-week administration of sulforaphane, the study participants demonstrated a significant augmentation of GSH in non-monocytes that include a mixture of T cells, B cells, and NK cells. The GSH level was 9.22 nmol/mL before sulforaphane administration and 12.2 nmol/mL following sulforaph­ane administration, a 32% increase …

We report that a short-term administration of sulfo­raphane was sufficient to significantly increase peripheral GSH levels in human subjects. We found an increase in GSH in the HP [hippocampus], but not elsewhere in the brain regions assessed. The peripheral GSH ratio had a strong and significantly positive correlation with brain GSH levels in the THAL [thalamus] upon sulforaphane treatment …

[I]n a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions. We thus posit the significance of exploring the possible correlations between peripheral GSH and clinical/neuropsychological measures and the influence of sulforaphane on such functional measures that are altered in neuropsychiatric disorders. The present study is a key first step toward such future studies.”

In summary, these findings suggest sulforaphane might be a safe alternative to help reduce psychosis and hallucinations in schizophrenic patients, although the researchers warn more studies are required to identify optimal dosing and assess long-term effects.

Study Series Suggests Sulforaphane May Improve Symptoms of Autism

Another series of studies suggests cruciferous vegetables high in sulforaphane might benefit those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), primarily by upregulating genes that protect against oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA damage, “all of which are prominent and possibly mechanistic characteristics of ASD,” the authors say.25

Sulforaphane also boosts antioxidant capacity, glutathione synthesis, mitochondrial function, oxidative phosphorylation and lipid peroxidation, while lowering neuroinflammmation. According to the researchers, these characteristics also make it suitable for the treatment of ASD.26

The first study,27 published in 2014, found daily treatment with dietary sulforaphane significantly reduced the severity of “socially impaired behavior” in children with ASD after 18 weeks. Improvements became obvious (compared to those in the placebo group) at four weeks of treatment.

At 18 weeks, the sulforaphane treatment group had a 34% reduction in Abberant Behavior Checklist (ABC) scores and a 17% reduction in Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) scores. According to the authors:28

“[A] significantly greater number of participants receiving sulforaphane had improvement in social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication. Upon discontinuation of sulforaphane, total scores on all scales rose toward pretreatment levels.”

Case Series Highlights Success Stories With Sulforaphane Treatment

The second study,29 published in 2017, presented a case series follow-up of patients who continued the sulforaphane treatment after the first study ended. Here’s a limited outtake from the narrative provided by one of the families whose son is referred to as “R”:

“R’s parents wanted to help him: ‘He would make constant noises and did all these abnormal motor tics; [we] felt like he really had no control [over his behavior and body] and it was just noise, not functional words. He didn’t have any expressive language.’

R’s parents saw several medical specialists who prescribed a total of 18 different medications, all of which had either minimal or negative effects on R. ‘Nothing changed the constant noises or the terrible rage attacks,’ until R took SF [sulforaphane] …

R’s family took him to the Lurie Center at Massachusetts General Hospital where we were conducting the study on the effects of SF on males with ASD. The study was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. However, within days, R’s mother believed that he was taking SF:

‘I knew that he was on the study drug because I saw such a change so quickly. I want to scream from the rooftops and tell people to give the kids broccoli sprouts [extract] because literally, it changed my life,’ reported R’s mother.

‘Now we can go to the movies, restaurants, plays, we went on vacation with another family, we go to church, we just went to a concert, things we could never do before are now possible. [I am] able to have confidence and he [R] is more confident as well.’

N.B. Such a rapid response was unusual in the context of what was observed by the study physicians with other subjects. When responses to supplementation were observed, they generally took 3 or 4 weeks to become manifest. In this case, the study team actually wondered whether the mother might be exhibiting a placebo response; however, the ABC subscales and both ABC and SRS overall scores for R did also change.”

New Mechanism of Action Revealed

The third paper30 in this series, a trial progress report published in 2018, assessed the safety, clinical effects and mechanisms of action of sulforaphane in ASD. Interestingly, this paper describes how sulforaphane mimics “the fever effect” in ASD. This is where high fever temporarily improves behavior in autistic children. The researchers explain:

“Fever stimulates heat shock proteins (HSP) and cellular stress responses, leading to improved synaptic function and long-range connectivity. Expression of gene transcription by NFE2L2 (Nrf2), which is reduced in ASD, also increases during fever.

Sulforaphane (SF), an isothiocyanate obtained from broccoli sprouts, induces HSP and Nrf2 as well as ‘cell-protective’ responses that may benefit ASD through common cellular mechanisms underlying heterogeneous phenotypes.”

While this trial was still incomplete at publication, as only 46 participants out of a planned 50 had been enrolled, preliminary analysis showed “26% participants were much/very much improved at seven weeks, 38% at 15 weeks, 64% at 22 weeks, and 64% at 30 weeks,” the researchers said, adding that “preliminary results show that sulforaphane appears to be safe and effective in children with ASD.”

Sulforaphane Stands Out as Potential Alzheimer’s Treatment

Sulforaphane may also be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. In a 2018 study,31 mice with Alzheimer’s were treated with sulforaphane for four months, which significantly inhibited both the generation and accumulation of amyloid-beta, and alleviated several pathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s, including oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.

The mice also demonstrated cognitive benefits, remaining normal, cognitively speaking, compared to wild-type mice at 10 months of age, which is when dementia typically begins in Alzheimer’s mice. In tests of neurons themselves, pretreating cortical neurons with sulforaphane protected them against injury caused by amyloid beta.

An earlier study32 published in 2009 revealed that antioxidants — including sulforaphane — protect cells from oxidative damage, facilitate removal of the amyloid-beta peptide and reduce abnormal protein-related causes of disease.

In studying how sulforaphane interacts with amyloid-beta to prevent various neurodegenerative processes, researchers of a 2014 study33 used liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry to reveal that amyloid-beta is less likely to aggregate in the presence of sulforaphane.

Another 2014 study34 showed that, in mice with Alzheimer’s-like lesions (induced in part by administration of aluminum), sulforaphane reduced neurobehavioral deficits by promoting the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) as well as reducing the aluminum load.

Broccoli Provides Many Health Benefits

While this article focuses on the neurological benefits of broccoli, research has revealed a long list of health benefits associated with this cruciferous vegetable, including a reduced risk for:35

Osteoarthritis36

Cancer — Studies have shown sulforaphane supports normal cell function and division while causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in colon,37 prostate,38 breast39 and tobacco-induced lung cancer40 cells, and reducing the number of cancerous liver tumors in mice41

High blood pressure42

Heart disease43

Kidney disease44

Insulin resistance45 and Type 2 diabetes46

Obesity47

Allergies48,49

Broccoli and other water- and nutrient-rich veggies also support healthy liver function, which in turn promotes optimal functioning of your natural detoxification systems. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, have been shown to help detox environmental pollutants such as benzene.50,51

This is important for virtually everyone these days, but especially women of childbearing age. Autistic children are known to have higher levels of environmental toxins in their system, and this underlying toxic burden plays a significant role.

Healthy liver function also helps promote healthy, beautiful skin, making broccoli a good antiaging food. What’s more, the sulforaphane in broccoli also helps repair skin damage.

How to Boost Sulforaphane Benefits of Broccoli

To boost the benefits of sulforaphane in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, pair them with a myrosinase-containing food.52 Myrosinase is an enzyme that converts the precursor gluocosinalate, glucoraphanin, to sulforaphane. Examples include mustard seed,53 daikon radishes, wasabi, arugula or coleslaw, with mustard seed being the most potent.

Adding a myrosinase-rich food is particularly important if you eat the broccoli raw, or use frozen broccoli. Ideally, broccoli should be steamed for three to four minutes to increase the available sulforaphane content. This light steaming eliminates epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while retaining the myrosinase in the broccoli.54

Steaming is important, because without myrosinase, your body cannot absorb sulforaphane. If you opt for boiling, blanch the broccoli in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process.

If you prefer raw food, you’d be better off eating raw broccoli sprouts instead of mature broccoli. According to Dr. Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology and co-author of the 1997 study55 “Broccoli Sprouts: An Exceptionally Rich Source of Inducers of Enzymes That Protect Against Chemical Carcinogens,” “Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads.”56 As a result, you can eat far less of them while still maximizing your benefits.

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St. John’s Wort: A Potential Answer to Life’s Worries

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is named after St. John the Baptist, since it’s usually in full bloom by June 24, the saint’s feast day.1 The plant bears yellow flowers2 with oblong petals3 that have black dots on their edges. It can stand 1 to 3 feet tall, and has multiple reddish stems4 and yellow-green leaves.5 Although primarily found in Europe, St. John’s wort can now be found growing in the U.S.,6 China, northern Africa, western7 and eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand.8

The plant typically blooms during summertime, and can be seen growing in woods, hedges, roadsides, pastures and meadows.9 St. John’s wort also bears sticky fruits with three-chambered capsules10 that hold multiple small, black and pepper-like seeds11 with a resinous smell.12

Important Benefits of St. John’s Wort

Under certain conditions, St. John’s wort may be helpful for your mental health if you’re feeling depressed — provided you aren’t currently taking prescription antidepressants, as the combination of the two could cause serious increases in your serotonin levels.13

Used alone and under the supervision of your health care provider, the herb contains compounds such as hypericin, hyperforin, flavonoids and flavonoid derivatives, xanthone derivatives, amentoflavone, biapigenin and volatile oils that may help combat depression.14,15

An analysis of 35 studies published in Systematic Reviews in 2016 revealed that St. John’s wort assisted in alleviating depression symptoms better than a placebo, and similarly to typical conventional drugs.16

Authors of a 1997 Pharmacopsychiatry animal study discovered that St. John’s wort extract may work like antidepressants by helping prevent reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, and promoting positive effects in mice who were given the substance.17

This herb may also help address mental health problems such as anxiety or seasonal affective disorder (SAD),18 which normally occurs during the winter months because of a lack of sunlight.19 Aside from impacts toward your mental health, St. John’s wort may also help:

  • Deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities — This herb’s flavonoid and phenolic acid content may promote antioxidant abilities.20 It also has anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in combating depressive disorders21 or joint-related problems.22
  • Ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS) — Women experiencing typical PMS symptoms like cramps, irritability, food cravings, breast tenderness and other physical and emotional indicators may benefit from using this herb.23
  • Alleviate multiple problems prevalent during menopause24 In this 1999 Advances in Therapy article, menopausal women who took a St. John’s wort tablet three times a day for 12 weeks had substantial improvements in psychological and psychosomatic indicators.25 Another study, which was published in the journal Menopause in 2010, revealed that St. John’s wort helped reduce frequency of hot flashes among perimenopausal or postmenopausal women.26
  • Provide relief against hemorrhoids — According to the book “Herbal Healing for Women,” enlarged and painful hemorrhoids can be targeted by applying a comfrey and St. John’s wort poultice, a paste made from fresh or dried herbs wrapped in a cheesecloth, on the area.27
  • Lower risk of breast cancer — Study authors of this 2018 International Journal of Molecular Sciences article claimed that St. John’s wort extract helped prevent cancer cell growth and promoted cell death or apoptosis.28
  • Inhibit alcoholism — In an animal study, rats that were bred specifically to prefer alcohol were given St. John’s wort extract orally. The researchers found that the rats given the extract ingested 50% less alcohol than the rats that were not given St. John’s wort.29,30
  • Address chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) — Results of a 2002 Indian Journal of Experimental Biology animal study noted that St. John’s wort herbal products may be beneficial in combating this health problem by restoring the lipid peroxidation and glutathione levels of the test subjects.31

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What Are St. John’s Wort’s Uses?

St. John’s wort was used to treat wounded soldiers during the Crusades,32 and drive out the “inner devil” in people during Medieval times. However, St. John’s wort’s history of medicinal use dates back to ancient Greece, where it was believed to possess “magical powers.”33 It was also recommended to be used against hallucinations34 by Paracelsus, a Swiss man considered “the father of chemistry and the reformer of material medica” (among many other nicknames).35

The use of St. John’s wort is prevalent in some European countries, such as Germany, against mental health issues like depression.36 St. John’s wort can be found in other forms such as tinctures, oils or balms that may help promote healing of burns, wounds, insect bites and bruises.37,38 You may also encounter St. John’s wort products such as supplements,39 liquids, powders40 and teas.41,42

Give St. John’s Wort Tea a Try

St. John’s wort leaves and flowers can be used to make tea43 that may assist in:44

  • Boosting your mood, relieve tension45 and alleviating depression and anxiety
  • Providing relief against neuralgia
  • Alleviating insomnia
  • Lessening physical pain caused by localized nerve pains
  • Combating inflammation linked to strains and sprains, such as tennis elbow
  • Tackling urinary problems like incontinence and bedwetting in children46
  • Alleviating gallbladder issues47
  • Addressing menstrual cramps48
  • Removing mucus from the lungs, stomach, kidneys and bladder49

Remember that if you have high blood pressure levels, are taking antihypertensive50 or antidepressant medications, or would need to undergo surgery, drinking St. John’s wort tea may lead to adverse effects.51 Also, do not take St. John’s wort without consulting a health care practitioner if you are on prescription medications of any sort including birth control pills.52

How St. John’s Wort Oil Can Boost Your Health

Are you interested in trying St. John’s wort oil? Initial research has revealed that it possesses anti-inflammatory capabilities,53 and may help:

  • Alleviate wounds and burns — Authors of a 2014 Planta Medica article noted that when used topically, St. John’s wort oil or tinctures may help relieve minor wounds and burns, sunburn, abrasions, bruises, contusions, ulcers and myalgia.54 It’s also possible to use this oil to help relieve cold sores and viral skin lesions.
  • Combat inflammatory skin conditions — If you’re diagnosed with either eczema, psoriasis or lupus, carefully and neatly applying St. John’s wort oil on the affected area may promote a soothing sensation.55
  • Control oily skin — Using infused St. John’s wort oil may help you combat naturally oily skin.56
  • Relieve muscle and joint pain and inflammation — Rubbing a few drops of St. John’s wort oil onto sore muscles may help alleviate discomfort caused by conditions like sciatica, low back pain, neuralgia, arthritis, rheumatic pains,57 tendonitis or nerve pain.58

If you plan on using this oil, consult a physician and take an allergen patch test to check for potential side effects. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond, olive, jojoba or coconut, or add it to other oil blends, since it can deliver a warm, balsamic, herbaceous and sweet scent. St. John’s wort oil blends well with clary sage, cedar,59 lavender and lemon balm oils.60

Side Effects of St. John’s Wort

No matter what form of St. John’s wort you use, remember that it may lead to photosensitivity61 or sun sensitivity.62 If you’re using St. John’s wort, try to avoid the sun as much as possible, or use sunscreen or wear protective clothing.63 Some of the other side effects linked to St. John’s wort include:64,65

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin reactions
  • Stomach upset
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)

As mentioned, St. John’s wort has the tendency to interact with multiple drugs, as highlighted by PennState’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center:

  • HIV/AIDS drugs such as protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
  • Antifungal drugs
  • Statins or cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor)
  • Certain calcium channel blockers
  • Any medicine broken down by the liver

If you’re taking these drugs, refrain from using St. John’s wort with them since it may lead to other health issues. This herb can also reduce the drugs’ effectiveness.66

Before using St. John’s wort, talk to a physician67 or mental health professional (if you’re struggling with a mental health problem) to determine if this will be beneficial for your condition and find out the ideal dosage you may need to take. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid using any form of St. John’s wort,68 since it may cause your baby to develop drowsiness, fussiness or colic.69

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Women With Sleep Apnea May Have Higher Cancer Odds

WEDNESDAY, May 22, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Some people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of cancer, and the odds may be higher for women than men, researchers say.

“Recent studies have shown that low blood oxygen levels during the night and disrupted sleep, which are both common in [obstructive sleep apnea], may play an important role in the biology of different types of cancers,” said study leader Athanasia Pataka.

“But this area of research is very new, and the effects of gender … have not been studied in detail before,” said Pataka, an assistant professor of respiratory medicine at Aristotle University in Greece.

The researchers examined data from more than 19,000 sleep apnea patients in Europe in order to assess the link between obstructive sleep apnea severity, low blood oxygen blood levels and cancer risk.

In people with the sleep disorder, the airway closes completely or partially many times during sleep, reducing levels of oxygen in the blood. Common symptoms are snoring, disrupted sleep and excessive tiredness.

The study found that people who have more airway closures during sleep and whose blood oxygen saturation levels fall below 90% are diagnosed with cancer more often than people without sleep apnea.

The researchers also found that cancer was more common among women than men, even after factors such as age, body mass index (BMI), smoking, and alcohol consumption were taken into account.

Among the patients in the study, 2% had been diagnosed with a serious cancer, including 2.8% of women and 1.7% of men. Those diagnosed with cancer were more likely to be older than 50 and less overweight. The most common type of cancer among women was breast cancer, while prostate cancer was the most prevalent among men.

The study can’t prove that the sleep disorder causes cancer, only that there’s an association between the two.

Still, the findings suggest that sleep apnea could be an indicator for cancer in women, but more research is needed to confirm that, according to the study authors. The findings appear in the May 20 issue of European Respiratory Journal.

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Emma Thompson Reflects on Life, Loss, and Resilience

Death, Meaning, and Your Morning Coffee

Spending time contemplating death, as Thompson plans to do in her 60th year, may not sound appealing. But in her research, social psychologist Laura King, PhD, has found the opposite: After reminders of death, people value life more highly and find more meaning in it. “When we remind people of the idea of death, it makes life seem more wonderful, more precious,” says King, curators’ professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

To find meaning in life in the face of the fact that it’s inevitably going to stop one day, you might imagine the need to achieve something great — a lasting contribution to the world. “But 1,000 years from now, all our lives will be as if they never happened,” says King. “So our meaning has to be located in our present circumstances.”

Indeed, Thompson’s description of a recent “perfect day” has nothing to do with receiving her damehood from the Queen of England or getting an Academy Award. “I got up and pootled in my kitchen, and then I went for a long walk and had a coffee in a glass in one of my favorite food shops. I bought my mother some biscuits and then walked home and had a cup of tea with my mum and my sister.”

King suggests seeking your own meaning in a similar way:

Don’t aim for the gigantic achievement. Seek meaning in everyday, trivial moments — like Thompson’s cup of tea. “We’ve found that just being in a good mood, playing with the dog, having an enjoyable meal with friends, can promote the sense that life is meaningful,” she says.

Love your routine. That regular morning coffee, the after-work walk with your dog, the glass of wine after dinner? They’re more than just mundane. “Everyday habits bring a structure and rhythm to your life that has meaning. They’re about the stamp that you put on your day,” says King.

Take time to notice. When you’re doing your spring cleaning or watching snow fall from your front porch or talking to a friend in the carpool line after school, take a minute now and then to be present. “You don’t have to hire a life coach or find that perfect self-help book,” King says. “Your life is already meaningful — you just have to see it.”

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