Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Broccoli, soy and cancer

The article below is a rewrite of a press release from the AACR here. The AACR has not chosen to make the abstract available online but it should be noted that the research has not yet passed peer review so the "findings" should not be taken seriously at this stage

EATING foods like broccoli and soy has been linked to lower cancer rates, and California researchers said today that they may have discovered the biological mechanism behind the protective effect. Using cells in a lab dish, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that diindolymethane (DIM), a compound resulting from digestion of cruciferous vegetables, and genistein, an isoflavone in soy, reduce the production of two proteins needed for breast and ovarian cancers to spread. "We think these compounds might slow or prevent the metastasis of breast and ovarian cancer, which would greatly increase the effectiveness of current treatments," said Erin Hsu, a UCLA graduate student in molecular toxicology.

The UCLA team, which reported its finding at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, will next test the theory in mice. The findings highlight "an entirely unique mechanism ... Preventing the invasion and metastasis of cancer cells is crucial," said Dr Alan Kristal, associate head of the cancer prevention program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle.

Cancer cells express very high levels of a surface receptor known as CXCR4, while the organs to which the cancers spread secrete high levels of CXCL12, a ligand that binds to that particular receptor. This attraction stimulates the invasive properties of cancer cells and acts like a homing device, drawing the cancer cells to organs like the liver or brain.

The study found that when cancer cells were treated with either DIM or genistein, movement toward CXCL12 is reduced by at least 80 per cent compared to untreated cells. Hsu says that this same chemotactic attraction is thought to play a role in the development of more than 23 different types of cancer.

The amount of DIM and genistein used in the study is probably comparable to use of a high dose of supplements, and is likely not achievable through consumption of food alone, the researchers said.

Both DIM and genistein are already being developed for use as a preventive, and a chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, although more extensive toxicological studies are needed, they added.


Food fanaticism hurts single mothers

Comment from Australia by Sue Dunlevy

I DECIDED I'd had enough of the nanny state the day my kids came home in disgrace because they had hummus for lunch - it was the same day the ACT Government banned me from walking my dog to school. Business is always whingeing about government regulations, but what about the red tape strangling family life? Governments are now trying to micro-manage every aspect of a parent's job - from telling you what you can feed your kids and how you can discipline them to how much television they can watch. Now Kevin Rudd wants to test what sort of a parent you are by measuring your child's waistline, empathy, curiosity and whether they pick up a pencil dropped by a classmate.

My one luxury as a working mum used to be lunch order day - but the healthy canteen policy has robbed me of that. Instead of sleeping in one day a week I'm now up packing lunches - because cream cheese and lettuce sandwiches just don't have the same appeal to my kids as chicken nuggets. "Mum, I don't do sandwiches," my 11-year-old solemnly informed me during the canteen's healthy sandwich drive.

Even the task of concocting a healthy home-made lunch has become a feat of Olympic proportions, thanks to the school's new nut-free policy. After calling a family conference to workshop lunch ideas that removed nuts, muesli bars and peanut butter from my kids' lunchboxes, I thought I had the perfect solution: chicken and hummus rolls that are not only good but tasty.

Wrong. Hummus (which I never realised until now is a nut) is also banned because it has sesame seed paste in it.

That just happened to be the day the school newsletter informed me that getting the kids fit by walking the dog to school with them was now also illegal and I'd be fined if I took the dog on to school grounds.

If governments want to wrap families in red tape they should at least make sure the rules they set are consistent. Do they want us to feed our kids healthy food and get them fit or not?

What annoys me most about the burgeoning nanny state is that all families are being penalised by rules meant to stop the bad practices of a minority. If one in four children are overweight, that means the overwhelming majority aren't. The 75 per cent of families who buy their kids one junk food meal a week at the school canteen as a treat are penalised because a few parents feed their kids junk more often.

This is an election year and I reckon it's time for families to fight back against the government red tape that is taking the spontaneity out of parenting. Ban boring televised debates between two leaders and put them to a real life test. Before we let Kevin Rudd or John Howard impose any more we-know-better-than-you rules on families, they should have to try to battle with the problems their rules have already caused.

Let's run the election campaign like a reality TV show. Instead of touring the country making staged policy announcements, John Howard and Kevin Rudd should each be put in a suburban home with two kids for five weeks. Hidden cameras can show the voters how they manage the family budget with child care fees of $90 a day and subsidies of just $4.57 a day. Every morning they will have to come up with a packed lunch that's not only healthy but complies with the school's nut-free, seed-free, taste-free allergy policy and yet is still eaten by the children.

They'll have to work out how to fit in exercising the dog and the kids while getting the kids to school without straying on to school grounds. They'll have to juggle working overtime with the massive penalties for picking your kids up late from childcare and still get home in time to cook a healthy meal. They'll have to figure out how to entertain the starving and exhausted kids who aren't allowed to watch television or play on the computer and can't go to the local park because it has been stripped of its play equipment because of public liability risk.

And, before they can creep exhausted into bed, John and Kevin will have to find a non-existent product which will kill nits and spend an hour of quality time combing lice out of the childrens' hair. Only when they can do all this do they deserve the right to impose more new rules on us.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.