Saturday, August 30, 2008

Olive Leaf to Treat Hypertension?

Study Shows Olive Leaf Extract Is Effective in Lowering Blood Pressure
By Kelley Colihan
WebMD Health News

Aug. 28, 2008 -- People have been using olive leaf medicinally for millennia.

The ancient Egyptians revered the leaves. Ancient Greeks used them to clean wounds, and the original Olympic athletes were crowned with a wreath of olive leaves. The olive leaf is even mentioned in the Bible for its purported healing properties.

So it's no wonder that scientists today are looking at ways to use olive leaf, specifically for one of modern society's biggest and sneakiest health problems -- high blood pressure.

High blood pressure (hypertension) often develops quietly and without symptoms. Ways to curb it include lifestyle and diet changes -- cutting salt and fat and getting the body moving.

An earlier study showed that when rats were given olive leaf extract, their blood pressure dropped.

Now researchers in Germany and Switzerland have looked at how sets of identical human twins with borderline hypertension responded to taking olive leaf extract. Identical twins were used to help keep the data consistent, because genetic differences can make people respond differently to the same treatments.

The extract was obtained from dry olive leaves and put into capsule form.

Two experiments were carried out. One compared twins who took 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract a day at breakfast with a comparison group of their siblings who didn't. A second compared a group who took 500 milligrams a day to those who took 1,000 milligrams a day. A total of 40 people participated, aged 18 to 60; 28 women and 12 men.

Here are the results:

Those who took the highest daily dosage of olive leaf extract (1,000 milligrams) received the highest benefits -- "significantly" lowering their cholesterol and blood pressure when compared to the group that took 500 milligrams.

At the end of the eight-week study, the group that took 1,000 milligrams per day had dropped their systolic blood pressure (the "top" number) by an average of 11 points.

The participants who received 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract dropped their systolic blood pressure by five points, and those who took no supplements saw their blood pressure edge up by two points. Neither one of these changes was felt to be statistically significant.

Researchers, led by lead author Tania Perrinjaquet-Moccetti of Frutarom (a Swiss manufacturer of the olive leaf extract), note that they were not looking for what dosage might be most effective, but rather whether there was a blood pressure lowering effect at all.

The authors also note a "significant" reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol in those twins who took the olive leaf extract, but the specific data regarding these results was not presented in the paper.

The authors call for more investigation into the possible benefits of olive leaf extract on both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Results are published in the September issue of Phytotherapy Research. The research was funded by Frutarom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back Pain: Alexander Technique & Exercise rate highest

Randomised controlled trial of Alexander Technique lessons, exercise, and massage for chronic and recurrent back pain

In adults with recurrent or chronic low back pain, all three interventions led to better self reported function and less pain at three months, but only exercise prescribed by general practitioners and training in the Alexander Technique had sustained benefit at one year (MRCT ATEAM trial). Supervised exercise is effective but needs to be tailored to patients' preferences and expectations, says the accompanying editorial.

Spiritual practice of shadow

An Excerpt from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence by Deepak Chopra

Bestselling author Deepak Chopra discusses the miracles that can happen when we come alive to attention, intention, and coincidences. Here is a teaching story on the spiritual practice of shadow.

"A man entered a village and went to see the Sufi master, the wise old man of the village. The visitor said, 'I'm deciding whether I should move here or not. I'm wondering what kind of neighborhood this is. Can you tell me about the people here?' The Sufi master said, 'Tell me what kind of people lived where you came from?' The visitor said, 'Oh, they were highway robbers, cheats, and liars.' The old Sufi master said, 'You know, those are exactly the same kinds of people who live here.' The visitor left the village and never came back. Half an hour later, another man entered the village. He sought out the Sufi master and said, 'I'm thinking of moving here. Can you tell me about what kind of people live here?' Again the Sufi master said, 'Tell me what kind of people lived where you came from.' The visitor said, 'Oh, they were the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, loving people. I shall miss them terribly.' The Sufi master said, 'Those are exactly the kinds of people who live here, too.' "

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Speaking of shadows...

Here is the link to a great newsletter entry on Shadows by Terry Hershey, author of Sacred Necessities: Gifts for Living with Passion, Purpose and Grace. It is filled with wonderful photos and quotes as well as Terry's own writing on the topic. I highly recommend this website for its positive topics, inspirational writing, and stunning photography.

Little Goldie sipping wild marjoram nectar
Janis Davies, c. 2008 all Rights Reserved

Anger Expression Affects Lower Back Pain

Here's a study that correlates anger inhibition with increased severity in chronic lower back pain.

Trait Anger Management Style Moderates Effects of Actual ("State") Anger Regulation on Symptom-Specific Reactivity and Recovery Among Chronic Low Back Pain Patients

Results implicate lower paraspinal muscle tension as a potential physiological mechanism that links the actual inhibition of anger following provocation to chronic pain severity among chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients. Results also highlight the importance of mismatch situations for patients who typically regulate anger by expressing it. These CLBP patients may be at particular risk for elevated pain severity if circumstances at work or home regularly dictate that they should inhibit anger expression.

Change a Habit With Online Courses

Spirituality & Practice On-Demand Course Offerings:
Recovery programs say it takes three weeks to change a habit or start a new practice. Each of these e-courses offers 21 days' worth of spiritual nuggets and practice suggestions for your personal transformation. (Available on-demand; choose your own start date.)

Beating the Blahs
Get back your resolve and get over feeling stuck.

Dealing with Disappointment
Examine the causes and teachings of this common feeling.

Fear Busters
Quotes and exercises to help you break the fear habit.

Letting Go
Experience the freedom that comes from releasing things.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brain Study Could Lead To New Understanding Of Depression

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Brain scientists have moved a step closer to understanding why some people may be more prone to depression than others.

Dr Roland Zahn, a clinical neuroscientist in The University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, and his colleagues have identified how the brain links knowledge about social behaviour with moral sentiments, such as pride and guilt.

The study, carried out at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US with Dr Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section, and Dr Jorge Moll, now at the LABS-D'Or Center for Neuroscience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 29 healthy individuals while they considered certain social behaviours.


“The most distinctive feature of depressive disorders is an exaggerated negative attitude to oneself, which is typically accompanied by feelings of guilt,” he said.

“Now that we understand how the brains of healthy individuals respond to feelings of guilt, we hope to be able to better understand why and where there are differences in brain activity in people suffering from, or prone to, depression.

“The brain region we have identified to be associated with proneness to guilt has been shown to be abnormally active in patients with severe depression in several previous studies, but until now its involvement in guilt had been unknown."

Brain Study Could Lead To New Understanding Of Depression

A Practice for Dealing with Emotions

"The practice is called the Nonmanifestation of Negative Emotions. I do this practice one full day a week, starting first thing in the morning and continuing until I go to sleep. The practice involves making a conscious effort not to manifest any negative emotions for the entire day, through either external behavior or internal ruminations. This does not mean, however, that anger and other negative emotions will not arise, because they surely will. What it does mean is that as soon as we become aware of them, we make the conscious effort to refrain from indulging the thoughts that fuel those particular emotions."
— Ezra Bayda in Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living with Mindfulness and Compassion

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Monet's waters, Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek, Greenville, CA August 22, 2008
Jan Davies, c. 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off.
Then build your wings on the way down.
Ray Bradbury

Skin creams seen to cause tumors on mice

Thu Aug 14, 2008
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Certain commonly available skin creams may cause skin tumors, at least in mice, and experts should be checking to see if they might cause growths in people as well, researchers reported on Thursday.

They found several creams caused skin cancer in the specially bred mice, which had been pre-treated with ultraviolet radiation.

The cancers are not melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, they stressed in their report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, but another type called squamous cell carcinoma. Such tumours are slow growing, highly treatable and only fatal if patients fail to have them removed.

Allan Conney and colleagues at Rutgers University in New Jersey said they discovered the risk while testing a theory that caffeine could prevent skin cancer.

"We sort of got into this by accident," Conney said in a telephone interview. "We wanted a safe cream that we could put the caffeine into."

They were testing specially bred albino mice, which are prone to develop skin cancer. The mice are pre-treated with ultraviolet radiation to simulate the effects of a human who has had heavy sun exposure in the past but then stopped -- something that may be happening in the population as people realize the risks of getting a tan.

Conney's team decided to test the creams first and found that all four they tested caused tumors to grow on the mice.

He said he does not know why, but suspects two ingredients -- mineral oil and sodium laurel sulphate.

"We'd like to understand the mechanism. What is most important is to see whether these moisturizing creams are tumorigenic in people," Conney said.

He said his lab is not equipped to do this but someone should. But he added, "I don't think that people should be scared because this is a mouse study and we don't know whether or not it applies to humans."

Other experts were skeptical about the study.

"This is a pretty artificial situation with the mouse skin primed by a lot of UV light to develop cancer," Karol Sikora, Medical Director of Cancer Partners U.K. in Britain, said in a statement.

Dr. Jonathan Rees, an expert in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said squamous cell carcinoma was not a big health worry.

"Non-melanoma skin cancer in man is very, very common and is almost 100 percent curable with an operation usually simpler than a tooth filling," Rees said in a statement.

Conney said the mouse was a commonly used model in skin cancer but said he agreed that it does not perfectly replicate human skin and human behavior.

He said his team approached Johnson & Johnson to create a cream without the suspect products and they developed one using other readily available ingredients. "They are things that are commonly used in many moisturizing creams," he said.

This cream did not cause the tumors in the mice, they said.

He said Rutgers and Johnson & Johnson had patented the new cream jointly but did not know whether it would be commercially developed. A spokesman at the company was not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Will Dunham and Vicki Allen)

© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cattle now fed chips and chocolate...

Cheap Beef fed on Potato chips and Hershey's, yum...

As corn prices are going up, large scale factory farm operations are looking for cheaper foods to feed cattle. Cost-cutting measures like mixing reject M&Ms and potato chips with corn feed are no longer uncommon.

In the meantime, cattle ranchers raising grass-fed beef are struggling to stay in business, as more people are buying the cheap stuff. The Wall Street Journal recently released a news video on the issue.

Why eat sweet potatoes?

The deep orange-yellow color of sweet potatoes tells you that they're high in the antioxidant beta carotene. Food sources of beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of some cancers. Sweet potatoes are also good sources of fiber, vitamins B-6, C and E, folate and potassium. They're fat-free and low in calorie density, meaning you can have a larger portion size without racking up the calories.

Healthy lifestyle tips from

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Broccoli and reversal of diabetes complications

Nutrition-wise blog

With Mayo Clinic nutritionists Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.

August 14, 2008 9:19 a.m.
Fascinating connection between broccoli and reversal of diabetes complications

I often glance at the online listings of journal articles that are available ahead of print. The following one from Diabetes, posted Aug. 4, 2008, went right by me:

"Activation of NF-E2-related factor-2 reverses biochemical dysfunction of endothelial cells induced by hyperglycemia linked to vascular disease."

Huh? It didn't catch my attention until the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) ran the story on Aug. 5 and translated it as: "Broccoli may undo diabetes damage."

This very interesting study looked at the phytochemical (plant compound) called sulforaphane. It seems to help produce enzymes in the body that protect blood vessels by reducing tissue damaging substances triggered by high blood sugar. Sulforaphane also seems to activate genes that regulate protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes.

Vascular disease is a major complication of diabetes. It leads to heart disease, stroke, damage to small vessels of the eye (blindness), kidney (failure that leads to dialysis), and circulation to extremities and possible amputation.

This isn't the first news about broccoli. In 2006, another broccoli compound was found to help boost genes that prevent damaged genetic information from being passed on to future generations of cells, thereby offering potential reduction in cancer risk.

In 2007, a nutrition study of men who had prostate cancer showed that a weekly serving of broccoli cut risk for the aggressive form of the disease by 45 percent.

In 2008, researchers found in an animal study that sulforaphane in broccoli protects the heart from damage when it is deprived of oxygen (such as what occurs when a coronary artery is blocked by a clot).

What makes the diabetes study so compelling is that it seems to actually identify mechanisms that the compound sulforaphane in broccoli trigger that may allow reversal of high blood sugar damage.

All of the studies point out the need for further research. They also point out that generous servings of vegetables and fruit (at least 5 a day) gets you going in the right direction.

So, you think you want the benefits of broccoli but don't care for it? Broccoli is a member of the Brassica group of vegetables in the mustard family. Here are "close relatives" of broccoli that you might want to include in your 5-(or more)-a-day:

  • Root vegetables — rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi
  • Leafy vegetables — cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, rapini, collard greens, bok choy, napa (Chinese cabbage), mustard greens
  • Flowers — cauliflower, broccoli, broccoflower
  • Seeds — mustard seed and rapeseed (from which canola oil is derived)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Stand Up for Cancer" - Sept. 5 TV event

Hollywood A-listers "Stand Up" for Cancer Research

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood A-listers including Meryl Streep and Charlize Theron, sports star Lance Armstrong and "American Idol" winner David Cook will "stand up" to battle cancer in a rare television fundraiser next month, organizers said on Tuesday.

The event, "Stand Up to Cancer," will air simultaneously and commercial-free on three rival U.S. TV networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- during prime-time hours, and organizers hope to raise millions of dollars to fight the disease.

"The support we've received from the creative community is remarkable," said the show's producer Laura Ziskin, a breast cancer survivor who was responsible for making the "Spider-Man" movies, "Pretty Woman" and many other films.

"My phone is constantly ringing with people asking, 'What can I do and how can I help?' We hope viewers all over the country will do the same."

Rarely is a program broadcast on all three major U.S. networks simultaneously during prime-time evening hours, which are the most lucrative times for advertisers.

Back in 2001, some 31 U.S. broadcast and cable TV networks aired a program to raise money for victims of the September 11 attacks. Film, TV and music stars worked at a phone bank as people called to pledge money. Some sang while others gave speeches and testimonials.

"Stand Up to Cancer" will be similar in its format, the producers said.

Other celebrities putting in appearances will include actresses Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek and Sally Field.

Even cartoon characters Homer and Marge Simpson of long-running comedy "The Simpsons" and race car driver Danica Patrick will be on hand. From broadcast news, there will be CBS anchor Katie Couric, whose husband died of cancer, as well as NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charles Gibson all reporting on cancer research.

September 05, 2008
Length: 1 hour on ABC, CBS, NBC simultaneously

Fruit Juices Block Common Drugs

Grapefruit, Orange, Apple Juices Decrease Absorption of Many Often-Used Drugs
By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 19, 2008 -- Grapefruit, orange, and apple juices block drugs commonly used to treat infections, allergy, transplant rejection, cancer, and high blood pressure.

In 1991, David G. Bailey, PhD, and colleagues found that grapefruit juice increased blood concentrations of the blood pressure drug Plendil to possibly dangerous levels. Grapefruit juice, they later learned, slows down a key liver enzyme that clears Plendil -- and about 40 other drugs -- from the body.

Now Bailey reports that grapefruit, orange, and apple juices decrease the absorption of several important medications:

  • The allergy drug Allegra, available generically as fexofenadine
  • The antibiotics ciprofloxacin (Cipro, Proquin), levofloxacin (Levaquin), and itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • The beta-blocker blood pressure drugs atenolol (Tenormin), celiprolol, and talinolol
  • The transplant-rejection drug cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral)
  • The cancer chemotherapy etoposide (Toposar, Vepesid)

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure we'll find more and more drugs that are affected this way," Bailey says in a news release.

Bailey revealed the new findings in a report to the 236th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

A substance in grapefruit juice called naringin seems to be the culprit. The compound apparently blocks OATP1A2, a transporter molecule in the gut, which carries some drugs from the small intestine into the blood. Orange juice contains hesperidin, a naringin-like substance. The culprit in apple juice remains unidentified.

"The concern is loss of benefit of medications essential for the treatment of serious medical conditions," Bailey says.

In their studies, Bailey and colleagues had healthy volunteers take fexofenadine with either a glass of grapefruit juice, a glass of water mixed with naringin, or pure water. Taking the drug with grapefruit juice or the naringin mixture halved the amount of drug that reached the bloodstream.

People should take their pills only with water, advises Bailey, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. He suggests that people taking medications should check with their doctor or pharmacist before taking medications with fruit juices or whole fruits.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cholesterol-lowering supplements

Lower your numbers without prescription medication

If you're worried about your cholesterol and have already started exercising and eating healthier foods, you might wonder if adding a cholesterol-lowering supplement to your diet can help reduce your numbers. Although few natural products have been proved to reduce cholesterol, some might be helpful. With your doctor's OK, consider these cholesterol-lowering supplements and products.

Cholesterol-lowering supplement What it does Side effects and drug interactions Usual suggested doses
Artichoke extract May reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or "bad," cholesterol May cause gas or an allergic reaction 1,800 to 1,920 milligrams a day, divided into 2 to 3 doses
Barley May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol None 3 grams barley oil extract or 30 grams barley bran flour a day
Beta-sitosterol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Promise Activ) May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

May cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or constipation

May be ineffective if you take ezetimibe (Zetia), a prescription cholesterol medication

800 milligrams to 6 grams a day, divided and taken before meals, or 2 tablespoons of margarine containing beta-sitosterol a day
Blond psyllium (found in seed husk and products such as Metamucil) May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol May cause gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation or nausea 5 grams seed husk twice a day, or 1 serving a day of products such as Metamucil
Fish oil (found as a liquid oil and in oil-filled capsules) May reduce triglycerides

May cause a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

May interact with some blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

2 to 4 grams a day
Flaxseed, ground May reduce total triglycerides

May cause, gas, bloating or diarrhea

May interact with some blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin)

40 to 50 grams a day, stirred into cereal or yogurt, or mixed into the batter for baked goods
Garlic extract May reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides

May cause bad breath or body odor, heartburn, gas, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

May interact with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

600 to 1,200 milligrams a day, divided into 3 doses
Oat bran (found in oatmeal and whole oats) May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol May cause gas or bloating Up to 150 grams of whole-oat products a day
Sitostanol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Benecol) May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol May cause diarrhea 800 milligrams to 4 grams a day, or 4 1/2 teaspoons of margarine containing sitostanol a day

Another popular cholesterol-lowering supplement is red yeast rice. There is some evidence that red yeast rice can help lower your LDL cholesterol. However, the Food and Drug Administration has warned that the following red yeast rice products could contain a naturally occurring form of the prescription medication known as lovastatin:

  • Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosanol Complex sold by Swanson Health Products Inc. and manufactured by Nature's Value Inc. and Kabco Inc.
  • Cholestrix sold by Sunburst Biorganics

The presence of lovastatin in the red yeast rice products in question is potentially dangerous because there's no way for you to know what level or quality of lovastatin might be in red yeast rice.

Sometimes healthy lifestyle choices, including supplements and other cholesterol-lowering products, aren't enough. If your doctor prescribes medication to reduce your cholesterol, take it as directed while you continue to focus on a healthy lifestyle. As always, if you decide to take an herbal supplement, be sure to tell your doctor. The herbal supplement you take may interact with other medications you take.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vitamin C Injections Slow Tumor Growth in Mice

High-dose injections of vitamin C, also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid, reduced tumor weight and growth rate by about 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report in the August 5, 2008, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers traced ascorbate’s anti-cancer effect to the formation of hydrogen peroxide in the extracellular fluid surrounding the tumors. Normal cells were unaffected.

Natural physiologic controls precisely regulate the amount of ascorbate absorbed by the body when it is taken orally. "When you eat foods containing more than 200 milligrams of vitamin C a day — for example, 2 oranges and a serving of broccoli — your body prevents blood levels of ascorbate from exceeding a narrow range," says Mark Levine, M.D., the study’s lead author and chief of the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH. To bypass these normal controls, NIH scientists injected ascorbate into the veins or abdominal cavities of rodents with aggressive brain, ovarian, and pancreatic tumors. By doing so, they were able to deliver high doses of ascorbate, up to 4 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. "At these high injected doses, we hoped to see drug-like activity that might be useful in cancer treatment," said Levine.

...In their laboratory experiments on 43 cancer and 5 normal cell lines, the researchers discovered that high concentrations of ascorbate had anticancer effects in 75 percent of cancer cell lines tested, while sparing normal cells. In their paper, the researchers also showed that these high ascorbate concentrations could be achieved in people.

...The team then tested ascorbate injections in immune-deficient mice with rapidly spreading ovarian, pancreatic, and glioblastoma (brain) tumors. The ascorbate injections reduced tumor growth and weight by 41 to 53 percent. In 30 percent of glioblastoma controls, the cancer had spread to other organs, but the ascorbate-treated animals had no signs of disseminated cancer.

...It was not realized [at the time] that only injected ascorbate might deliver the concentrations needed to see an anti-tumor effect," said Levine, who noted that new clinical trials of ascorbate as a cancer treatment are in the planning stages.

Complete article at
National Institutes of Health, Monday, August 4, 2008