It’s official: Tea recognized as health product in Canada

May 29, 2007  
Filed under Dietary, TCM use & research

Tea Assn press release – Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) has deemed tea to be a natural health product and has officially recognized tea for its role in maintaining good health.

After a period of extensive review, the NHPD has approved three health claims for tea. All types of tea infusions (black, green and oolong) are recognized as a source of antioxidants for the maintenance of good health. tea is approved for increasing alertness. And tea is further accredited as helping to maintain and/or support cardiovascular health. Read more

Green tea protects against gallbladder cancer, bile stones

May 26, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

CM NEWSTea consumption might have been linked to reduced risks of gallbladder cancers and bile stones, although the mechanism is yet to be determined, a large study says.

In another post, green tea is reported to cut colon cancer risks by as much as 60%.

Biliary tract cancers, encompassing tumours of the gallbladder, extrahepatic bile ducts and ampulla of Vater, are rare but highly fatal malignancies. Apart from gallstones, etiologic factors for biliary tract cancer are not clearly defined. Read more

Acupressure brings better breathing to depressive patients

May 26, 2007  
Filed under Depression, mental health

acupressure, depression, breathCM NEWSAcupressure is effective in lessening shortness of breath in patients with depression, which could help remove the psychological pressure of dyspnea of these patients, a Taiwan study shows.

The onset of depression is often triggered by breathlessness in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is hypothesized that these are the psychologic consequences of chronic dyspnea (shortness of breath). Read more

Diuretic Chinese medicine found to limit tumour growth

May 24, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

chinese medicine, tumour, long kui

CM NEWS – A centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine used commonly as a diuretic and fever fighting drug has been newly discovered as being able to inhibit tumour growth in mice with cervical cancer.

Long kui (??, Solanum nigrum Linne) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries because of its diuretic and antipyretic effects. The present study was done at the College of Environmental and Chemical Engineering at the Yanshan University in Hebei, China.

The study examined the effect of the crude polysaccharides isolated from long kui on tumour growth.

What are polysaccharides? Polysaccharides (sometimes called glycans) are relatively complex carbohydrates.

They are polymers made up of many monosaccharides joined together by glycosidic linkages. They are therefore very large, often branched, molecules. They tend to be amorphous, insoluble in water, and have no sweet taste.

When all the constituent monosaccharides are of the same type they are termed homopolysaccharides; when more than one type of monosaccharide is present they are termed heteropolysaccharides.

Examples include storage polysaccharides such as starch and glycogen and structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and chitin.

The effect of long kui polysaccarides on a group of tumour-bearing mice with cervical cancer was observed after oral administration of long kui polysaccahrides for 12 days.

Analysis of the tumour inhibition mechanism indicated that the number of apoptotic tumour cells (cells died) increased significantly, i.e. more cancerous cells were killed.

Moreover, the expression of a gene Bcl-2 (B-cell lymphoma 2), which is believed to play a role in resisting conventional cancer treatment, dropped significantly. Mutated gene of p53, which originally is a tumour suppressor but its mutated form is found in most tumour types, also decreased.

On the other side of the token, the expression of cell-death promoting protein Bax increased.

What is Bcl-2 (B-cell lymphoma 2) gene? The Bcl-2 gene has been implicated in a number of cancers, including melanoma, breast, prostate, lung carcinomas, schizophrenia, and autoimmunity. It is also thought to be involved in resistance to conventional cancer treatment. This supports a role for decreased apoptosis in the pathogenesis of cancer.

What is Bax? Bax is a protein of the Bcl-2 gene family. It promotes apoptosis, or cell deaths.

Apoptosis plays a very important role in regulating a variety of diseases that have enormous social impacts. Bcl-2 is essential to the process of apoptosis because it suppresses the initiation of the cell-death process.

What is p53 gene? The p53 gene is a tumour suppressor gene, i.e., its activity stops the formation of tumours. If a person inherits only one functional copy of the p53 gene from their parents, they are predisposed to cancer and usually develop several independent tumours in a variety of tissues in early adulthood. This condition is rare, and is known as Li-Fraumeni syndrome. However, mutations in p53 are found in most tumour types, and so contribute to the complex network of molecular events leading to tumour formation. It is clear that p53 is just one component of a network of events that culminate in tumour formation.

What is more promising is that the long kui polysaccarides treatment can decrease the level of TNF-alpha, or tumour necrosis factor, in blood serum. These results indicated that the tumour growth inhibition of long kui polysaccarides might correlate with the reduction of TNF-alpha level of blood serum, which resulted in a massive necrosis (accidental death of cells) in tumour tissues and the up-regulation of Bax and down-regulation of Bcl-2 and mutant p53 gene expression, which triggered apoptosis in tumour cells.

What is TNF? Tumour necrosis factor is a protein produced by several of the body’s cell types, such as white blood cells, red blood cells, and other cells that line the blood vessels. It promotes the destruction of some types of cancer cells.

TNF is a type of cytokine released by white blood cells. Cytokines are a group of molecules that are released by many different cells to communicate with other cells and regulate the duration of an immune response.

There are many different kinds of cytokines, each with a different effect on specific target cells. Once a cell releases the cytokines, they bind to corresponding receptors located on target cells, thus causing a change to take place within the target cell.

Tumour necrosis factor is released by special white blood cells called macrophages. Although researchers are still investigating the exact mechanism by which TNF kills cancer cells, it is clear that TNF binds to receptors located on the surface of cancer cells, causing a change and then death of the cell. This was found to be true in animal models. As a result, researchers thought TNF might enhance the reaction of the human immune system to cancer cells.

In addition to tumour cell-killing activity, TNF-? has been noted for its role in the inflammatory response and the body’s resistance to pathogens.

The researchers conclude that long kui polysaccarides can be considered as a potential antitumour agent.
[Phytother Res. 2007 May 8]

Alternative medicine popular in Canada: survey

May 23, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

traditional chinese medicine, chinese doctor, alternative medicineFraser Institute – More than half of Canadians surveyed in 2006 reported using at least one form of complementary or alternative medicine or treatment during the previous year, according to a new report published today by independent research organization, The Fraser Institute.

The report, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Canada: Trends in Use and Public Attitudes, 1997-2006, is based on a survey of 2,000 adult Canadians conducted in 2006. It follows up on a similar survey done in 1997.

The survey showed 54% of respondents used at least one form of alternative or complementary therapy in the year prior to the survey, an increase of four percentage points over the 1997 result of 50%.

“This increased use of alternative therapies is another indicator of Canadians’ desire to have more choice and control over their health care options,” said Nadeem Esmail, The Fraser Institute’s Director of Health System Performance and author of the report.

The most commonly used complementary and alternative medicines and therapies reported were massage (19%), prayer (16%), chiropractic care (15%), relaxation techniques (14%), and herbal therapies (10%).

Most users of alternative therapies said they did so to prevent future illness from occurring or to maintain health and vitality. Of those who used alternative medicine in the 12 months prior to the 2006 survey, 53% of respondents (down slightly from 56% in 1997) had not discussed their use of alternative medicine with their doctor.

On a provincial basis, Alberta saw the largest increase in the use of alternative therapies in the year previous to the 2006 survey (68% compared to 54% in 1997), followed by Ontario (55% compared to 50% in 1997), and British Columbia (64% from 60% in 1997). Quebec and Saskatchewan/ Manitoba both experienced a 1% increase, moving from 44 to 45 and from 58 to 59% respectively, while Atlantic Canada experienced a decrease in the use of alternative therapies, falling to 39% in 2006 from 45% in 1997.

Despite the increased use of alternative medicine, the majority of Canadians still consider medical doctors the main providers of health care with almost half of respondents in 2006 seeing a doctor before turning to a provider of alternative therapy. Additionally, a higher proportion of respondents saw a medical doctor for their condition regarding treatment for eight of the 10 most common medical conditions.

“These results show Canadians retain confidence in physicians. But since many of the most common problems Canadians suffer from are chronic – allergies, back or neck problems, arthritis and rheumatism – they require more than just symptomatic treatment. Consequently, Canadians are looking for alternatives,” Esmail said.

What is interesting, he added, is that most alternative and complementary treatments are not covered by government health insurance plans. Yet a large number of people choose those options.

“When it comes to health and well-being, a significant number of Canadians are willing to spend their own money.”

Esmail estimates that Canadians spent approximately $7.8 billion out of pocket on alternative medicine in the year before the 2006 survey — a significant increase from the nearly $5.4 billion (inflation-adjusted) spent in 1997. In 2006, more than $5.6 billion was spent on providers of alternative therapy, while another $2.2 billion was spent on herbs, vitamins, special diet programs, books, classes and equipment.

But the survey also shows the majority of Canadians (59%) believe that alternative therapies should be paid for privately, not by provincial health plans. The highest level of support for private payment came from the group that used alternative therapy the most: 58% of 18- to 34-year-olds used alternative therapies in the 12 months prior to the 2006 survey, and 62% of them preferred that individuals pay for it privately.

Regionally, support for private payment in 2006 was strongest in Quebec and Saskatchewan/Manitoba (66%) and weakest in Atlantic Canada (50%). This is a notable change from 1997 when support was strongest in Atlantic Canada (71%) and weakest in British Columbia (48%).

“In 2006, 74% of Canadians say they have used alternative therapies at some point in their lifetimes, and more than half of Canadians have used alternative therapies in the year prior to the survey,” Esmail said.

“However, there are some notable differences between the regions in Canada with respect to both use and attitudes towards alternative medicine. Albertans and British Columbians are more likely to see value in alternative therapies while skepticism reigns in Atlantic Canada. A national consensus on this issue is highly improbable.”

Complete report here.

New treatment for young women with breast cancer

May 22, 2007  
Filed under Cancer

‘Healthy immigrant effect’ holds for pregnancy: study

May 22, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorised

CBC – Newcomers to Canada should be discouraged from adopting the unhealthy diet and couch-potato lifestyle of long-term residents, say researchers who found recent immigrants had a lower risk of complications during pregnancy.

Previous studies have found that new immigrants have lower rates of chronic disease such as hypertension, heart disease and cancer — the so-called “healthy immigrant effect.” The healthy effect fades after a decade, and immigrants tend to pack on pounds within a generation.

In the Results of the Recent Immigrant Pregnancy and Perinatal Long-term Evaluation Study, or RIPPLES, study appearing in Tuesday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Joel Ray of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and his colleagues at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found the healthy immigrant effect also extends to a pregnancy complication called maternal placental syndrome.

The syndrome is defined as a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia (a sudden increase in a woman’s blood pressure in late pregnancy), eclampsia (a serious form of poisoning in pregnancy), premature separation of the placenta from the uterus, or a sudden blockage of the blood supply to the placenta.

The risk of the syndrome was lowest among women who immigrated within three months of delivering, and highest for those who had lived in Ontario for five years or more before giving birth, the team found.

“A reasonable public health recommendation based on the findings from RIPPLES and other studies is that we should aim to preserve the apparent healthier state of new immigrant women through policies designed to discourage the adoption of adverse lifestyle choices,” the study’s authors concluded.

“For long-term immigrants and native-born residents, the goal should be to improve their health status.”

For all Canadians, the approach includes promoting nutritious eating before pregnancy to prevent obesity, as well as higher physical activity from childhood through early adulthood and limits on calorie intake, they said.

Factors that can harm the health of the placenta and fetus, such as high blood pressure, obesity and smoking, also increased the longer immigrants lived in the province, the researchers found.

Currently, immigrants are carefully screened to ensure they are in good health, and may be deemed inadmissible to Canada if they have end-stage organ disease, certain cancers, infectious diseases or need long-term nursing care, the study’s authors said.

The study’s findings support expanding the scope and focus of immigrant screening away from exclusion for disease and toward sustaining and improving the health of immigrants, such as addressing their reproductive health needs, Dr. Brian Gushulak of Migration Health Consultants said in a journal commentary accompanying the study.

Describing and quantifying the healthy immigrant effect also helps to reduce the wrong impression that immigrants frequently need or use excessive amounts of medical services, he added.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these studies provide information that will generate better tools and interventions to maintain the health of those representing the largest component of Canada’s population growth,” Gushulak wrote.

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