Pine Nut Shells Increase Physical Endurance

For several decades, the number of chronicle diseases has been growing. The main reason for this is the imbalanced diet. Biologists and chemists study natural foods concerning the fact that it can help strengthen health and prevent numerous diseases.

They have designed a new concept, which is “functional food products”.

Wild growing raw materials are the prospective sources of biologically active compounds. The Russian Federation has one of the biggest reserves of raw materials.

The Eastern Siberia has endless cedar forests that cover territories of the Tyva Republic, Krasnoyarsk Region, Altai Region and the Republic of Buryatia, which is 18 million hectares.

Annually, more than 1 million tons of pine nuts are harvested in Siberia.

Pine nut shells are the source of carbohydrates, minerals and various organic compounds.

Olga Babich, Svetlana Noskova and Stanislav Sukhikh, the researchers of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, together with their colleagues from Kemerovo State University have studied the processed product of pine nut shells.

The carbohydrate-mineral complex is rich in fibres and vitamins.

The researchers have also discovered that it is non-toxic and increases physical endurance, which is why it is recommended as a sports nutrition product.

Lately, the authoritative scientific journal Bioactive Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre has published the article under the title “Bioactive Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre”.

According to the article, dietary fibres are necessary for the health of the digestive system. They have a positive effect on blood vessels and lower blood sugar level.

Article by Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University. Image from Pixabay.

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Can You Fail a Drug Test After Taking CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive compound produced by the marijuana plant that seems to be everywhere these days. Maybe you’ve even been asked if you’d like it added to your morning cup of joe!

Interestingly, the chemical structure of CBD is very similar to THC, which is the marijuana-derived compound responsible for getting people high and the one screened for by drug tests.

CLICK HERE for organically-grown, lab-tested CBD products

This structural similarity begs the question: Could using CBD make you fail a drug test? In this episode of Reactions, we break down the chemistry behind the possibilities:

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Reactions is a video series produced by the American Chemical Society and PBS Digital Studios. Subscribe to Reactions at http://bit.ly/ACSReactions, and follow us on Twitter @ACSreactions.

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100 Reasons to Homeschool Your Kids

By Kerry McDonald

This is my 100th article at FEE.org, so here are 100 reasons to homeschool your kids!

    1. Homeschoolers perform well academically.
    2. Your kids may be happier.
    3. Issues like ADHD might disappear or become less problematic.
    4. It doesn’t matter if they fidget.
    5. YOU may be happier! All that time spent on your kids’ homework can now be used more productively for family learning and living.
    6. You can still work and homeschool.
  1. And even grow a successful business while homeschooling your kids.
  2. Your kids can also build successful businesses, as many grown unschoolers become entrepreneurs.
  3. You can be a single parent and homeschool your kids.
  4. Your kids can be little for longer. Early school enrollment has been linked by Harvard researchers with troubling rates of ADHD diagnosis. A year can make a big difference in early childhood development.
  5. Some of us are just late bloomers. We don’t all need to be on “America’s early-blooming conveyor belt.”
  6. Then again, homeschooling can help those kids who might be early bloomers and graduate from college at 16.
  7. Whether early, late, or somewhere in the middle, homeschooling allows all children to move at their own pace.
  8. You can choose from a panoply of curriculum options based on your children’s needs and your family’s educational philosophy.
  9. Or you can focus on unschooling, a self-directed education approach tied to a child’s interests.
  10. Homeschooling gives your kids plenty of time to play! In a culture where childhood free play is disappearing, preserving play is crucial to a child’s health and well-being.
  11. They can have more recess and less homework.
  12. You can take advantage of weekly homeschool park days, field trips, classes, and other gatherings offered through a homeschooling group near you.
  13. Homeschooling co-ops are growing, so you can find support and resources.
  14. Homeschooling learning centers are sprouting worldwide, prioritizing self-directed education and allowing more flexibility to more families who want to homeschool.
  15. Parks, beaches, libraries, and museums are often less crowded during school hours, and many offer programming specifically for homeschoolers.
  16. You’re not alone. Nearly two million US children are homeschooled, and the homeschooling population is increasingly reflective of America’s diversity. In fact, the number of black homeschoolers doubled between 2007 and 2011.
  17. One-quarter of today’s homeschoolers are Hispanic-Americans who want to preserve bilingualism and family culture.
  18. Some families of color are choosing homeschooling to escape what they see as poor academic outcomes in schools, a curriculum that ignores their cultural heritage, institutional racism, and disciplinary approaches that disproportionately target children of color.
  19. More military families are choosing homeschooling to provide stability and consistency through frequent relocations and deployments.
  20. While the majority of homeschoolers are Christians, many Muslim families are choosing to homeschool, as are atheists.
  21. Homeschooling has wide bipartisan appeal.
  22. More urban parents are choosing to homeschool, prioritizing family and individualized learning.
  23. Religious freedom may be important to many homeschooling families, but it is not the primary reason they choose to homeschool. “Concern about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure” is the top motivator according to federal data.
  24. Fear of school shootings and widespread bullying are other concerns that are prompting more families to consider the homeschooling option.
  25. Some parents choose homeschooling because they are frustrated by Common Core curriculum frameworks and frequent testing in public schools.
  26. Adolescent anxiety, depression, and suicide decline during the summer, but Vanderbilt University researchers found that suicidal tendencies spike at back-to-school time. (This is a pattern opposite to that of adults, who experience more suicidal thoughts and acts in the summertime.) Homeschooling your kids may reduce these school-induced mental health issues.
  27. It will also prevent schools from surreptitiously collecting and tracking data on your child’s mental health.
  28. Your kids’ summertime can be fully self-directed, as can the rest of their year.
  29. That’s because kids thrive under self-directed education.
  30. Some kids are asking to be homeschooled.
  31. And they may even thank you for it.
  32. Today’s teens aren’t working in part-time or summer jobs like they used to. Homeschooling can offer time for valuable teen work experience.
  33. It can also provide the opportunity to cultivate teen entrepreneurial skills.
  34. Your kids don’t have to wait for adulthood to pursue their passions.
  35. By forming authentic connections with community members, homeschoolers can take advantage of teen apprenticeship programs.
  36. Some apprenticeship programs have a great track record on helping homeschoolers build important career skills and get great jobs.
  37. Self-directed learning centers for teen homeschoolers can provide a launchpad for community college classes and jobs while offering peer connection and adult mentoring.
  38. With homeschooling, you can inspire your kids to love reading.
  39. Maybe that’s because they will actually read books, something one-quarter of Americans reported not doing in 2014.
  40. Your kids might even choose to voluntarily read financial statements or do worksheets.
  41. You can preserve their natural childhood creativity.
  42. Schools kill creativity, as Sir Ken Robinson proclaims in his TED Talk, the most-watched one ever.
  43. Homeschooling might even help your kids use their creativity in remarkable ways, as other well-known homeschoolers have done.
  44. With homeschooling, learning happens all the time, all year round. There are no arbitrary starts and stops.
  45. You can take vacations at any time of the year without needing permission from the principal.
  46. Or you can go world-schooling, spending extended periods of time traveling the world together as a family or letting your teens travel the world without you.
  47. Your kids can have healthier lunches than they would at school.
  48. And you can actually enjoy lunch with them rather than being banned from the school cafeteria.
  49. Your kids don’t have to walk through metal detectors, past armed police officers, and into locked classrooms in order to learn.
  50. You can avoid bathroom wars and let your kids go to the bathroom wherever and whenever they want—without raising their hand to ask for permission.
  51. Research shows that teen homeschoolers get more sleep than their schooled peers.
  52. Technological innovations make self-education through homeschooling not only possible but also preferable.
  53. Free, online learning programs like Khan Academy, Duolingo, Scratch, Prodigy Math, and MIT OpenCourseWare complement learning in an array of topics, while others, like Lynda.com and Mango, may be available for free through your local public library.
  54. Schooling was for the Industrial Age, but unschooling is for the future.
  55. With robots doing more of our work, we need to rely more on our distinctly human qualities, like curiosity and ingenuity, to thrive in the Innovation Era.
  56. Homeschooling could be the “smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century,” according to Business Insider.
  57. Teen homeschoolers can enroll in an online high school program to earn a high school diploma if they choose.
  58. But young people don’t need a high school diploma in order to go to college.
  59. Many teen homeschoolers take community college classes and transfer into four-year universities with significant credits and cost-savings. Research suggests that community college transfers also do better than their non-transfer peers.
  60. Homeschooling may be the new path to Harvard.
  61. Many colleges openly recruit and welcome homeschoolers because they tend to be “innovative thinkers.”
  62. But college doesn’t need to be the only pathway to a meaningful adult life and livelihood. Many lucrative jobs don’t require a college degree, and companies like Google and Apple have dropped their degree requirements.
  63. In fact, more homeschooling families from the tech community in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are choosing to homeschool their kids.
  64. Hybrid homeschooling models are popping up everywhere, allowing more families access to this educational option.
  65. Some of these hybrid homeschool programs are public charter schools that are free to attend and actually give families access to funds for homeschooling.
  66. Other education choice mechanisms, like Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and tax-credit scholarship programs, are expanding to include homeschoolers, offering financial assistance to those families who need and want it.
  67. Some states allow homeschoolers to fully participate in their local school sports teams and extracurricular activities.
  68. Homeschooling may be particularly helpful for children with disabilities, like dyslexia, as the personalized learning model allows for more flexibility and customization.
  69. Homeschooling is growing in popularity worldwide, especially in India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, and even in China, where it’s illegal.
  70. Homeschooling grants children remarkable freedom and autonomy, particularly self-directed approaches like unschooling, but it’s definitely not the Lord of the Flies.
  71. Homeschooling allows for much more authentic, purposeful learning tied to interests and everyday interactions in the community rather than contrived assignments at school.
  72. Throughout the American colonial and revolutionary eras, homeschooling was the norm, educating leaders like George Washington and Abigail Adams.
  73. In fact, many famous people were homeschooled.
  74. And many famous people homeschool their own kids.
  75. Your homeschooled kids will probably be able to name at least one right protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, something 37 percent of adults who participated in a recent University of Pennsylvania survey couldn’t do.
  76. Homeschooling can be preferable to school because it’s a totally different learning environment. As homeschooling pioneer John Holt wrote in Teach Your Own: “What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth in the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all.”
  77. Immersed in their larger community and engaged in genuine, multi-generational activities, homeschoolers tend to be better socialized than their schooled peers. Newer studies suggest the same.
  78. Homeschoolers interact daily with an assortment of people in their community in pursuit of common interests, not in an age-segregated classroom with a handful of teachers.
  79. Research suggests that homeschoolers are more politically tolerant than others.
  80. They can dig deeper into emerging passions, becoming highly proficient.
  81. They also have the freedom to quit.
  82. They can spend abundant time outside and in nature.
  83. Homeschooling can create strong sibling relationships and tight family bonds.
  84. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 US states and has been since 1993, but regulations vary widely by state.
  85. In spite of ongoing efforts to regulate homeschoolers, US homeschooling is becoming less regulated.
  86. That’s because homeschooling parents are powerful defenders of education freedom.
  87. Parents can focus family learning around their own values, not someone else’s.
  88. Homeschooling is one way to get around regressive compulsory schooling laws and put parents back in charge of their child’s education.
  89. It can free children from coercive, test-driven schooling.
  90. It is one education option among many to consider as more parents opt-out of mass schooling.
  91. Homeschooling is the ultimate school choice.
  92. It is inspiring education entrepreneurship to disrupt the schooling status quo.
  93. And it’s encouraging frustrated educators to leave the classroom and launch their own alternatives to school.
  94. Homeschooling is all about having the liberty to learn.

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Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). Kerry has a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. Follow her on Twitter @kerry_edu.

This article was sourced from FEE.org

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Vitamin D Helps Cancer Patients Live Longer

Michigan State University physicians have found that vitamin D, if taken for at least three years, could help cancer patients live longer.

The findings suggest that the vitamin carries significant benefits other than just contributing to healthy bones and were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting on June 3, 2019.

In the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vitamin D had a significant effect on lowering the risk of death among those with cancer, but unfortunately it didn’t show any proof that it could protect against getting cancer,” said Tarek Haykal, a lead author on the study and an internal medicine resident physician at Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan.

The researchers looked at data related to disease prevention from more than 79,000 patients in multiple studies that randomly compared the use of vitamin D to a placebo over at least a three-year period. Haykal and his team zeroed in on any information that involved cancer incidence and mortality.

The difference in the mortality rate between the vitamin D and placebo groups was statistically significant enough that it showed just how important it might be among the cancer population,” Haykal said.

While these findings show promise, Haykal cautioned that the exact amount of the vitamin to take and what levels are needed in the blood are still unknown. He also said that it’s unclear how much longer vitamin D extends lifespan and why it has this result.

“There are still many questions and more research is needed,” Haykal said. “All we can say is that at least three years of taking the supplement is required to see any effect.”

Results show enough promise, however, that Haykal would like to see more doctors, especially oncologists, prescribe vitamin D to patients in general.

“We know it carries benefits with minimal side effects, he said. “There’s plenty of potential here.”

Article by Michigan State University. Other authors on the study included MSU and Hurley resident physicians Varun Samji, Yazan Zayed, Inderdeep Gakhal, Vijaysai Veerapaneni, Michele Obeid, Babikir Kheiri and Sunil Badami. Ghassan Bachuwa, internal medicine residency program director at Hurley, and Rizwan Danish, oncologist at Genesee Cancer and Blood Disease Treatment Center, also contributed to this research. Link to the original paper: https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2019.37.15_suppl.1534

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Cost of Prescription Drugs Increases 9.5% Annually, Coordinated by Industry


Scripps Research analyzed pharmacy insurance claims from over 35 million Americans, finding ‘continual, marked, annual increases’ of popular brand-name drugs, with price jumps often timed with competitors.

After reviewing tens of millions of insurance claims for the country’s 49 most popular brand-name prescription drugs, a team from Scripps Research Translational Institute found that net prices rose by a median of 76 percent from January 2012 through December 2017—with most products going up once or twice per year.

The substantial price increases were not limited to drugs that recently entered the marketplace, as one might expect, or to those lacking generic equivalents. In addition, the increases often were “highly correlated” with price bumps by competitors.

The researchers concluded that the current rebate system, which incentivizes high list prices for drugs and relies heavily on privately-negotiated rebates to pharmacies, plays a central role driving up costs for consumers. The byzantine and secretive rebate system, they noted, prevents consumers from making informed decisions about purchasing medications.

The study appears in the latest issue of JAMA Network Open.

It’s no secret that health care prices are growing exponentially in the United States, but what has been less clear is the extent to which certain prescription drugs are contributing to that trend—especially when prices are clouded by a complicated rebate system,” says lead author Nathan Wineinger, PhD, director of biostatistics at Scripps Research Translational Institute and assistant professor in Scripps Research’s Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology. “By looking at price data for the most popular brand-name drugs, we found striking and consistent price increases occurring at regular intervals, regardless of competition in the marketplace.”

The Scripps Research team obtained the prescription data from a proprietary Blue Cross and Blue Shield data set known as BCBS Axis, which includes commercial insurance claims from more than 35 million Americans covered by independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in the United States.

With a focus on the 49 most popular brand-name drugs with pharmacy claim data available for the entirety of their five-year research window, Wineinger and his team, led by Eric Topol, MD, conducted a high-dimensional data analysis to examine each claim’s total price. This was represented by the total out-of-pocket costs paid by the insured consumer and the amount paid by the insurer.

Researchers determined that prices of top-selling branded prescription drugs increased by a median of 9.5 percent annually, which equates to a doubling in price every seven to eight years. And they found that pairs of brand-name drug competitors that treat similar conditions—such as Humira and Enbrel, both for rheumatoid arthritis—demonstrated highly correlated price increases.

“It’s bad enough to see the relentless increase in drug prices, but this work underscores it is occurring without transparency or accountability,” says Topol, founder and director of Scripps Research Translational Institute and executive vice president of Scripps Research. “It is especially concerning to see drugs in the same class having increases that appear to be coordinated.”

Wineinger explains that a prescription drug’s list price is typically set by the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, reflecting the payment shared by the insurer and the patient who buys the product at a pharmacy. However, drug companies increasingly offer rebates to organizations called pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, which negotiate with pharmacies and insurance companies to determine which drugs are offered as preferred “formulary” options to insurance plan members.

Those rebates are returned to the pharmacy at a later date, paid out by drug companies based on the total sales volume of their products, and cannot be linked directly to any individual purchase. This makes prices especially difficult to track.

Some drug companies have defended list price increases by reasoning that rebates have increased at a similar clip. However, the researchers found that is not the case, and concluded that increases in list prices and a greater reliance on rebates are making drugs more expensive overall.

“Accountability and transparency are essential to developing a better understanding of rising pharmacy costs,” said Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). “The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association developed the Alliance for Health Research to engage researchers in collaborative efforts to explore critical health care issues and enable valuable insights that can benefit consumers and the medical community.”

Article by Scripps Research. Authors of the study, “Trends in Prices of Popular Brand Name Drugs in the United States, 2012-2017,” are Nathan Wineinger, PhD; Eric Topol, MD; and Yunyue Zhang, all of Scripps Research.

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Cannabis Use Among Older Adults Rising Rapidly

Study is first state-wide investigation of cannabis use among older Americans and the outcomes they experience

Cannabis use among older adults is growing faster than any other age group but many report barriers to getting medical marijuana, a lack of communication with their doctors and a lingering stigma attached to the drug, according to researchers.

The study, the first to look at how older Americans use cannabis and the outcomes they experience, was published this month in the journal Drugs & Aging.

“Older Americans are using cannabis for a lot of different reasons,” said study co-author Hillary Lum, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Some use it to manage pain while others use it for depression or anxiety.”

The 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health showed a ten-fold increase in cannabis use among adults over age 65.

The researchers set out to understand how older people perceived cannabis, how they used it and the positive and negative outcomes associated with it.

They conducted 17 focus groups in in senior centers, health clinics and cannabis dispensaries in 13 Colorado counties that included more than 136 people over the age of 60. Some were cannabis users, others were not.

“We identified five major themes,” Lum said.

These included: A lack of research and education about cannabis; A lack of provider communication about cannabis; A lack of access to medical cannabis; A lack of outcome information about cannabis use; A reluctance to discuss cannabis use.

Researchers found a general reluctance among some to ask their doctors for a red card to obtain medical marijuana. Instead, they chose to pay more for recreational cannabis.

Lum said this could be driven by feeling self-conscious about asking a doctor for cannabis. That, she said, points to a failure of communication between health care providers and their patients.

“I think [doctors can] be a lot more open to learning about it and discussing it with their patients,” said one focus group respondent. “Because at this point I have told my primary care I was using it on my shoulder. And that was the end of the conversation. He didn’t want to know why, he didn’t want to know about effects, didn’t want to know about side effects, didn’t want to know anything.”

Some said their doctors were unable or unwilling to provide a certificate, the document needed to obtain medical marijuana. They also said physicians need to educate themselves on the latest cannabis research.

Some older users reported positive outcomes when using cannabis for pain as opposed to taking highly addictive prescription opioids. They often differentiated between using cannabis for medical reasons and using it recreationally.

“Although study participants discussed recreational cannabis more negatively than medical cannabis, they felt it was more comparable to drinking alcohol, often asserting a preference for recreational cannabis over the negative effects of alcohol,” the study said.

The researchers also found that despite the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and other states, some older people still felt a stigma attached to it.

“Some participants, for example, referred to the movie `Reefer Madness’ (1936) and other anti-marijuana propaganda adverts that negatively framed cannabis as immoral and illegal,” the researchers said.

The study adds to the growing literature on the diversity of marijuana use patterns in older adults, said co-author Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, ABPP, professor of psychology and director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

“Older adults who use marijuana are ingesting it in a variety of ways for multiple purposes,” she said. “This and other papers from the same project show growing acceptance of marijuana use for medical purposes by older adults, and a clear desire to have their primary health providers involved in educating them about options and risks.

Lum agreed.

She said Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, provides a unique laboratory to gauge public attitudes toward cannabis.

“From a physician’s standpoint this study shows the need to talk to patients in a non-judgmental way about cannabis,” she said. “Doctors should also educate themselves about the risks and benefits of cannabis and be able to communicate that effectively to patients.”

Article by University of Colorado. The study co-authors include: Julie Bobitt; Melissa Schuchman; Robert Wickersham; Kanika Arora; Gary Milavetz and Brian Kaskie.

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73% of Oncology Providers See Benefit of Medical Marijuana

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting 2019 shows that while 73 percent of surveyed oncology providers believe that medical marijuana provides benefits for cancer patients, only 46 percent are comfortable recommending it. Major concerns included uncertain dosing, limited knowledge of available products and where to get them, and possible interactions with other medications.

“I think in some cases we’re missing out on providing a useful tool. Providers think it has benefit, but aren’t comfortable recommending it,” says Ashley E. Glode, PharmD, assistant professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the study’s first author.

Survey respondents included 48 specialized oncologists, 47 physicians, 53 registered nurses, 17 pharmacists, and 7 “other” oncology providers. Seventy-nine percent reported that educational programs both during training and as continuing medical education courses could increase their comfort level with medical marijuana prescribing. Interestingly, 68 percent of providers reported receiving information about medical marijuana from their patients – the next most common sources of information were news media (accessed by 55 percent of providers), and other providers (53 percent).

“We asked and most providers didn’t train in a state where medical marijuana was legal. We need to adapt our healthcare education to include this, and also offer trainings on medical marijuana to current providers,” Glode says.

Providers also reported legal and regulatory concerns, especially providers working in academic medical centers who expressed uncertainty whether recommending medical marijuana could jeopardize federal funding (marijuana remains a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Schedule 1 drug). Providers felt as if additional clinical data describing the effectiveness of medical marijuana and endorsed guidelines describing the conditions and situations in which it should be used would increase their comfort in prescribing.

“Still, the biggest issue that providers saw is the lack of certainty in dosing,” Glode says. “The issue is it’s not regulated – a dispensary might say a product has this much THC and this much CBD, but no one is testing that for sure. Limited data suggest that patients should start low and slow, no more than 10mg of THC in a dose, but we don’t know that’s what patients are really getting. Then from a consumption perspective, inhalation and smoking is the least preferred due to possible damage to the lung. So many doctors recommend edibles, oils, and tinctures, but we still don’t have good data comparing dosage across these forms.”

Glode and study colleagues including Stephen Leong, MD, hope to expand the survey to gather a more nationally representative sample.

“Knowledge is an issue,” Glode says. “If we could do a better job educating our healthcare providers, it might be used more often and potentially more safely.”

Article by University of Colorado.

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Eating Blueberries Every Day Improves Heart Health

Eating a cup of blueberries a day reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease – according to new research led by the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with colleagues from Harvard and across the UK.

New findings published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that eating 150g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent.

The research team from UEA’s Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly among at risk groups.

The team set out to see whether eating blueberries had any effect on Metabolic Syndrome – a condition, affecting 1/3 of westernised adults, which comprises at least three of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, low levels of ‘good cholesterol’ and high levels of triglycerides.

Lead researcher Prof Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Having Metabolic syndrome significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and often statins and other medications are prescribed to help control this risk.

“It’s widely recognised that lifestyle changes, including making simple changes to food choices, can also help.

“Previous studies have indicated that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This may be because blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue colour in fruits.

“We wanted to find out whether eating blueberries could help people who have already been identified as being at risk of developing these sort of conditions.”

The team investigated the effects of eating blueberries daily in 138 overweight and obese people, aged between 50 and 75, with Metabolic Syndrome. The six-month study was the longest trial of its kind.

They looked at the benefits of eating 150 gram portions (one cup) compared to 75 gram portions (half a cup). The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-coloured alternative made of artificial colours and flavourings.

Co-lead, Dr Peter Curtis, said: “We found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness – making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 per cent.

“The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health.

“Unexpectedly, we found no benefit of a smaller 75 gram (half cup) daily intake of blueberries in this at-risk group. It is possible that higher daily intakes may be needed for heart health benefits in obese, at-risk populations, compared with the general population.”

Article by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, and the University of Cambridge. It was funded by the US Highbush Blueberry Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).’Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardio metabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome – results from a 6-month, double blind, randomized controlled trial’ is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Manuka Honey Better at Killing Respiratory Infections Than Antibiotics

Manuka honey alone outperforms antibiotics in treating respiratory infections. Combined with antibiotics, Manuka honey killed 90% of the bacteria tested

Manuka honey could provide the key to a breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis patients following preliminary work by experts at Swansea University.

Dr Rowena Jenkins and Dr Aled Roberts have found that using Manuka honey could offer an antibiotic alternative to treat antimicrobial resistant respiratory infections, particularly deadly bacteria found in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) infections.

Using lung tissue from pigs, experts treated grown bacterial infections mimicking those seen in CF patients with Manuka honey. The results showed that it was effective in killing antimicrobial resistant bacteria by 39% compared to 29% for antibiotics, whilst improving the activity of some antibiotics that were unable to function effectively by themselves, honey and antibiotics combined killed 90% of the bacteria tested.

CF is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases, with around 10,400 people in the UK suffering according to the CF Trust. A government review led by Lord Jim O’Neill also highlighted the threat of antimicrobial resistance, estimating that a continued rise in resistance by 2050 would lead to 10 million people dying every year from antimicrobial resistant infections.

A problem that CF patients suffer from are chronic and long-lasting respiratory infections which often prove fatal due to the presence of certain bacteria that are resistant to many (if not all) the antibiotics that doctors currently have at their disposal.

Bacteria that cannot be removed from the lungs through antibiotic treatment can, as a last resort, be removed by providing patients with newly transplanted lungs. This has some associated risks, however, as the bacteria that caused the original infection can still be found in the upper airway, and migrate into the new lungs, thus making the transplant ineffective.

Some patients have a worse prognosis as they are infected with deadly types of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas and Burkholderia cepacia complex, which are difficult to kill (due to multiple antibiotic resistance) and cause extensive damage to the lungs. In some instances, merely their presence within a patient can prevent them from receiving life-saving lung transplants.

The effectiveness of antibiotics against these deadly infections is a huge concern, making the need to find suitable, non-toxic alternatives, which are effective at killing the bacteria a top priority.

Honey has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal product. More recently, research has shown that Manuka honey is capable of killing antibiotic resistant bacteria present in surface wounds. Funding from The Waterloo Foundation and The Hodge Foundation has allowed research to look at it as an antibiotic alternative in CF infections.

Dr Rowena Jenkins, Lecturer in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Swansea University, said:

“The preliminary results are very promising and should these be replicated in the clinical setting then this could open up additional treatment options for those with cystic fibrosis infections.

“The synergy with antibiotics and absence of resistance seen in the laboratory has allowed us to move into the current clinical trial, investigating the potential for Manuka honey as part of a sinus rinse for alleviating infection in the upper airway.

Article and study by Swansea University.

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Researchers Hunt For Secret to Kratom’s Natural Pain-Relief Benefits

Kratom is a Southeast Asian tree with a long history of use in traditional medicine. In the region, the plant’s leaves are widely consumed for pain relief, treatment of opioid addiction and other uses.

Though its efficacy and safety are unproven, kratom use has spread to the U.S. and Europe. Now, researchers report in ACS Central Science that a metabolite of a kratom alkaloid could be responsible for the treatment’s therapeutic effects.

Currently, kratom is legal and available in the U.S. as a gray-market product, but it has an uncertain regulatory future. In the meantime, scientists are investigating the substance’s physiological effects.

Some prior research attributed these effects to mitragynine, the major active alkaloid in kratom, and its binding to an opioid receptor. However, 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-OH), another alkaloid present in the leaf at far lower concentrations, also interacts with that receptor.

To clear up the matter, Jonathan A. Javitch, Susruta Majumdar, Dalibor Sames and colleagues set out to probe the pharmacological and metabolic mechanisms behind kratom’s analgesic effects.

Through studies in cells and mice, the researchers showed that most of the analgesic effect is from 7-OH rather than mitragynine.

They also found that metabolism of mitragynine in mouse and human liver preparations actually produces much more 7-OH than is present naturally in kratom.

The team says that the results shed light on some of the seemingly contradictory reports on kratom, but more studies are still needed to see whether their findings in mice extend to humans.

Article by ACS.

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