Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat

Ulcer Agent Lowered in Vitamin C Study
People with higher levels of vitamin C are less apt to harbor ulcer-causing bacteria, according to an analysis of the Third U.S. Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by Joel Simon, M.D., of the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco. Chronic infection with the CagA strain of Helicobacter pylori is the leading cause of stomach ulcers and also a cause of stomach cancer.

Simon compared serum levels of vitamin C with serum evidence of CagA H. pylori infection in a representative sample of 6,746 Americans aged 20 to 90. The 1,175 people who tested positive for the bacteria had lower vitamin C levels than those not infected, after controlling for other factors that influence vitamin C levels. The study subjects were divided into four groups according to serum vitamin C levels. Those in the group with the highest levels (average 1.35 mg/dL) had a 62 percent lower risk of infection. The difference was statistically significant only for whites, although nonwhites showed the same association. Vitamin C probably makes the stomach less hospitable for the bacteria, but it is conceivable H. pylori itself is responsible for lowering vitamin C levels. Therefore, more research is needed to conclusively determine whether vitamin C protects against ulcers and stomach cancer.

Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2003Aug;22(4):283-9.

Phytoestrogens May Shield Against Endometrial Cancer
Dietary phytoestrogens may protect women against endometrial cancer, according to a case-control study conducted by Pamela Horn-Ross, Ph.D., of the Northern California Cancer Center in Union City, Calif. Horn-Ross matched 500 black, Latino and white women who had endometrial cancer with 470 comparable healthy women. (Asians, who typically consume more phytoestrogens than other ethnic groups, were not included.) The women's diets were analyzed for several types of phytoestrogens, which are weakly estrogenic plant-based compounds. Researchers discovered some phytoestrogens to be protective against endometrial cancer. High intakes of the soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein and of a lignan found in flaxseed, secoisolariciresinol, were found to reduce endometrial cancer risk by more than 50 percent in postmenopausal women. Premenopausal women showed a slightly lower risk reduction. Obese women are at higher risk for endometrial cancer. In this study, obese postmenopausal women increased their endometrial cancer risk sevenfold by not consuming phytoestrogens, although the number of cases was too small for statistical significance. Phytoestrogens are believed to protect against endometrial cancer by blocking estrogen receptors, which prevents stronger estrogens from exerting their growth-promoting effect on endometrial tissue.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2003Aug;95(15):1158-64.

Diet Equals Drug's Effect For Lowering Cholesterol
A healthy diet that includes soy, nuts and soluble fiber lowers cholesterol as well as the leading pharmaceutical medication—without the side effects. That's the conclusion of a study comparing diet to statin drugs conducted by David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. In the study, 46 men and women with average low-density lipoprotein levels of 158 were randomly assigned to one of three groups. All groups followed vegetarian diets for four weeks. Group 1 ate a diet rich in whole grains and low in saturated dairy fat and took a placebo. Group 2 ate the same diet and took 20 mg lovastatin daily. Group 3 took a placebo and followed a diet that included 14 g almonds, 21.4 g soy protein, 9.8 g soluble fiber and 1 g sterols (from enriched margarine) for each 1,000 calories they consumed. Groups 2 and 3 showed the same reduction in heart disease risk factors. In both groups, LDL cholesterol, the LDL-HDL ratio and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, all dropped about 30 percent. The top-selling statin drugs can cause nerve, muscle and liver problems in some people, but there are no side effects associated with the modified diet.

Journal of the American Medical Association 2003 Jul 23;290(4):502-10.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 11/p. 41

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