Thursday, April 26, 2012

Now pizza gets the nod

A finding in laboratory glassware only

It may not be the most obvious of health foods, but pizza could be good for you, research suggests.  Scientists have found that oregano, a seasoning commonly used in pizza and other Italian food, has the potential to become a powerful weapon against prostate cancer.

A medicine inspired by it could have  fewer side-effects than existing treatments, which can cause problems from incontinence to impotence.  Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men, affecting 37,000 a year and killing more than 10,000.

Researchers from Long Island University, New York, studied carvacrol, a chemical in oregano. Added to prostate cancer cells in the lab, it rapidly wiped them out. Left for four days, almost all the cells were killed, the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego heard.  Tests showed it triggered the cells to kill themselves.

The oregano chemical could now be used itself as a treatment against cancer, or as the blueprint for an even more powerful drug.  Experts warned, though, that when oregano is eaten, it could be that carvacrol is digested  before it can do any good.

Researcher Supriya Bavadekar, a pharmacologist, said: `Some researchers have previously shown that eating pizza may cut down cancer risk.  `This effect has been mostly attributed to lycopene, a substance found in tomato sauce, but we now feel that even the oregano seasoning may play role.'

Lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their read colour is credited with a host of health benefits, including warding off cancer and cutting the risk of heart disease.

Dr Bavadekar said: `If the study continues to yield positive results, this super-spice may present a very promising therapy for patients with prostate cancer.  `A significant advantage is that oregano is commonly used in food. We expect this to translate into a decreased risk of severe toxic effects.  `But this study is at a very preliminary stage and further experiments need to be conducted to get a better idea of uses in the clinic.'

Possibilities include using carvacrol itself or using it as the blueprint for an even more powerful treatment.

Others stressed that it is too early for men to start stocking up on pizza.  Margaret Rayman, a Surrey University professor of nutritional medicine who has compiled a cookbook of recipes designed to keep prostate cancer at bay said that much more work needs to be done.

For instance, any oregano-inspired treatment would have to be much less harmful to healthy cells than cancerous ones.


Another vote for chocolate

I must say that "chocolate is good for you" findings are common.  Note however that only dark chocolate -- which most people don't like much -- gets the nod

It has long been suggested  that dark chocolate is good for your heart.  Now a study has confirmed that eating it in moderate quantities does indeed lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The research team set out to test the direct effect of eating chocolate which is a source of several substances that scientists think might impart important health benefits.

Chocolate contains compounds called 'flavanols' that appear to play a variety of bodily roles including those related to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

Researchers at San Diego State University in the U.S. asked 31 people to eat a 50g bar of either regular dark chocolate, dark chocolate that had been overheated, or white chocolate, for 15 days.

When compared to the white chocolate group, those eating either form of dark chocolate were later found to have lower blood glucose and lower levels of `bad' blood lipids.

The researchers concluded that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving blood glucose levels and lipid profiles.

However, they warned that although habitual dark chocolate consumption may benefit health by reducing the risk of heart disease, it must be eaten in moderation because it can easily increase daily amounts of saturated fat and calories.

A spokesman for the research team said: `We had great compliance with our study subjects because everybody wanted to eat chocolate.  `We actually had to tell them not to eat more than 50g a day.'

Now the researchers are planning follow-up studies involving more people and a longer duration of chocolate consumption.  The results will be presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego.


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