Monday, February 25, 2013

The cure for arthritis? Fish oil AND aspirin, if you are a mouse

Fish oil and aspirin could be the key to beating a host of devastating chronic diseases, according to new research.

Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston found that the two work together to combat the inflammation responsible for a host of illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

Both aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids from fish are known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on their own, but the research shows that when taken together they can control the overactive immune responses associated with long-term illnesses.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and foreign bodies.

When something harmful or irritating affects a part of the body, there is a biological response to try to remove it, and the symptoms of inflammation show that the body is trying to heal itself.

But if the person suffering has a high-fat diet, too much body fat or is a smoker, for example, the may not be a break from the irritants, so the immune system can lose control, increasing risk of disease.

Long-term, inflammation can become chronic which can then damage heart valves and brain cells, causing strokes and promoting resistance to insulin, which leads to diabetes.

It is also associated with the development of cancer.

Aspirin is used by millions of people to keep heart attacks and strokes at bay. The drug is used to thin the blood, which reduces the risk of clots.

It works by helping to trigger the production of molecules called resolvins that are made naturally by the body from omega-3 fatty acids.

These resolvins 'resolve', the inflammation that underlies the health conditions which blight the lives of millions.

Omega-3 is found in oily fish, particularly salmon and sardines, as well as chicken, nuts, kale and spinach as well as vegetable oils.

One resolvin called D3 was found to have an especially long-lasting anti-inflammatory effect.

The researchers said: 'In this report, we found that one resolvin, termed D3 and from omega-3 fatty acid, persists longer at sites of inflammation than either resolvin D1 or resolvin D2 in the nat­ural resolution of inflammation in mice.

'This finding suggests that this late resolution phase resolvin D3 might display unique properties in fighting uncontrolled inflammation.'

The researchers also confirmed that aspirin triggered the production of a longer-acting form of resolvin D3 through a different pathway.

The team were able to produce a pure form of both resolvin D3 and aspirin-triggered resolvin D3.

When administered to human cells, both of these showed highly potent anti-inflammatory actions.

The research was published in the journal Chemistry & Biology.


How vitamin pills 'can raise risk of cataracts' as hidden danger of everyday supplements is revealed

Again.  But correlational data only

Taking vitamin pills in high doses can significantly increase the risk of cataracts, a study has shown.

Scientists found consuming large amounts of vitamin C made individuals 20 per cent more likely to develop the condition – which is a leading cause of blindness.

And regularly popping high-dose vitamin E tablets increased the chance of cataracts  forming by 60 per cent.

The dangers are even greater for the elderly, with those over 65 nearly doubling their chances of damaging their vision if they took the supplements every day.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm monitored 31,000 volunteers aged between 45 and 79. Nearly 3,000 of them went on to need treatment for their eyes.

The Swedish team discovered a strong link between those that developed cataracts and those who took high doses of vitamin C and E.

Eating a healthy vitamin-rich diet did not increase a patient’s chance of getting the condition.

It was originally thought the two vitamins would protect against cataracts because they are powerful antioxidants.  It was supposed that they would fight the process of oxidation, which destroys cells in much the same way as rust rots a car. However, it is now believed that, in large quantities, vitamin C may actually cause oxidation by upsetting  the natural balance of proteins in the eye.

The human body does not make or store vitamin C, and gets its supply from fruit and vegetables. It only needs 40mg a day to keep cells healthy and promote healing. Vitamin E helps maintain the structure of cells and is found in foods such as nuts, seeds and cereals.

A man needs just 4mg a day and a woman should have 3mg.  But tablets containing up to a hundred times this amount are also available in UK health food shops.

At high street chain Holland and Barrett a jar of 250 capsules can be bought for £8.99. Each pill contains 1,000mg of vitamin C.

Researchers stressed the dangers will only arise if the vitamins are taken in very large amounts. These were defined as 1,000mg a day of vitamin C and 100mg of vitamin E.

In a report on their findings, they said: ‘Our results further underscore the need to consider use of unregulated supplements with caution.’

However Professor Yit Yang, from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said: ‘It is not possible to establish from this study that vitamin C caused cataracts, as there may be other factors which were not accounted for.

‘In 2010, a randomised control trial designed to investigate  specifically for causative effect  of high-dose vitamin C did not find one.’

At the moment, nearly a quarter of adults in the UK regularly take antioxidant supplements or multivitamins.

They are relied on to help ward off a huge range of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.


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