Researchers at Johns Hopkins are reporting what is believed to be the first conclusive evidence in men that the long-term ill effects of vitamin D deficiency are amplified by lower levels of the key sex hormone estrogen, but not testosterone.

In a national study in 1010 men, to be presented Nov. 15 at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, researchers say the new findings build on previous studies showing that deficiencies in vitamin D and low levels of estrogen, found naturally in differing amounts in men and women, were independent risk factors for hardened and narrowed arteries and weakened bones. ...continue reading "Heart and Bone Damage from Low Vitamin D Tied to Declines in Sex Hormones"

Karen Kaplan reports in the L.A. Times on the crushingly disappointing results from a series of clinical trials that have shown that daily doses of vitamins and minerals have no effect on preventing strokes, heart disease or other ailments and in some cases, even cause harm.

Laboratory tests and initial studies in people suggested that lowly vitamins could play a crucial role in preventing some of the most intractable illnesses, especially in an aging population. The National Institutes of Health gave them the same treatment as top-notch pharmaceutical drugs, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in elaborate clinical trials designed to quantify their disease-fighting abilities.

Now the results from those trials are rolling in, and nearly all of them fail to show any benefit from taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

This month, two long-term trials with more than 50,000 participants offered fresh evidence that vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium supplements don't reduce the risk of prostate, colorectal, lung, bladder or pancreatic cancer. Other recent studies have found that over-the-counter vitamins and minerals offer no help in fighting other cancers, stroke or cardiovascular disease.

Kaplan interviews Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston. His research, she notes, has been funded in part by supplement makers.

Blumberg says, "You really do need vitamin E. You really do need vitamin C. You really do need seleniun," adding, "Without them, you die."

This begs the question of whether taking them in supplement form fends off illnesses.

"Blumberg and others now believe." Kaplan writes, "that a combination of factors -- including the versions of vitamins that were tested and the populations they were tested in -- probably doomed the studies from the start."

Kaplan also interviews Dr. Mary L. Hardy, medical director of the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, "who focuses on the importance of diet and supplements for cancer patients."

"'You don't eat a food that just has beta carotene in it,'" Hardy tells Kaplan. "What's more, she said, vitamins manufactured into pills are not identical to vitamins that occur naturally in foods, so the clinical trials don't test the exact compounds that may have been key in earlier studies.

Full story from L. A. Times December 21, 2008

Prenatal exposure to famine can lead to changes in the embryo's genes that may affect the adult person's health into midlife, according to researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Their findings show a trickle-down effect from pregnant women to the DNA of their unborn children and the timeframe over which such early damage can operate.

Previous studies have suggested that adult disease risk may be associated with unsuitable or adverse environmental conditions early in development. The data for this study are first to show that early-life environmental conditions can cause what are called epigenetic (epi= "on" + genetic) changes in humans that persist throughout life.

In Holland in 1944-45 during World War II a food embargo led to famine. Research indicates that children conceived during the Dutch Hunger Winter experienced detrimental health effects six decades later. Pre-natal exposure to the famine has been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life.

Separate, related studies suggest possible associations of specific pre-natal nutritional imbalances and even of maternal over-nutrition with other health conditions including cancer.
...continue reading "Prenatal Exposure To Famine, Epigenetic Changes and Adult Health"

The reported failure of vitamin E to prevent heart attacks may be due to underdosing, according to a new study by investigators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Using new testing methods, the Vanderbilt researchers have shown that previously tested doses do not actually reduce oxidant stress. Much higher doses, their tests show, do reduce oxidant stress if taken for long enough. But these higher doses may not be safe for for most patients to tolerate.
...continue reading "Vitamin E ‘s "Lack of Heart Benefit" Linked to “Underdosing”"

Dr. Gary Stoner, a researcher in chemoprevention, is currently conducting several trials evaluating black raspberry supplements as a way to prevent or slow the growth of colon and other cancers. He and other scientists at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have been researching the anticancer properties of berries for nearly 20 years.
...continue reading "Berries May Slow Growth of Colon, Other Cancers"