OCD May Be Linked to Inflammation in the Brain: Study

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have high levels of brain inflammation, a discovery researchers say could lead to new treatments.

In OCD, people typically have frequent, upsetting thoughts that they try to control by repeating certain rituals or behaviors, such as washing hands or checking door locks.

Canadian researchers compared 20 OCD patients and a control group of 20 people without the condition. In the OCD patients, inflammation was 32 percent higher in six brain regions that play a role in OCD, according to the study.

“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD. This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments,” senior author Dr. Jeffrey Meyer said.

Meyer is head of the Neurochemical Imaging Program in Mood and Anxiety Disorders at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Inflammation or swelling is the body’s response to infection or injury. While it helps the body heal, it can sometimes be harmful. Altering the balance between helpful and harmful effects might be a key to treating OCD, Meyer said in a center news release.

He said medications developed to target brain inflammation involved in other disorders might help treat OCD.

Finding a new approach to treatment is important, because current medicines fail to help nearly a third of OCD patients. About 1 percent to 2 percent of teens and adults have the anxiety disorder.

“Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly,” Meyer concluded.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: HealthDay

How Bad for You Are Fried Foods?

Stephanie Watson wrote . . . . . .

Few of us are under the illusion that french fries – or any fried foods — are good for us. But could eating them actually shorten our life?

Although the connection between eating fried foods and obesity and heart disease is well known, a study published earlier this month is the first to link eating fried potatoes to death risk.

The study found people who ate fried potatoes (including french fries, fried potatoes, and hash browns) more than twice a week were more likely to die early than those who ate fried potatoes less often.

The report included 4,440 people, ages 45 to 79, who were enrolled in a study that looked at ways to prevent and treat knee osteoarthritis. Researchers followed participants over an 8-year period and asked them about their diet — including the amount of fried and unfried potatoes they ate.

Study author Nicola Veronese, MD, said they focused on potatoes because the link between eating them and death risk hadn’t been studied before. Some studies had found that potatoes raise the odds of having heart disease and other medical conditions, says Veronese, a researcher at the Institute of Clinical Research and Education in Medicine in Padova, Italy.

After 8 years, the chance of early death was about twice as high in the group that ate fried potatoes more than 2 times a week. What about french fries might have contributed to the participants’ premature demise?

“We think that several mechanisms could lead to mortality,” Veronese says. First, he says, people who eat more potatoes have a higher incidence of medical conditions that can increase the risk of death. Also, “The potatoes are fried in unhealthy oils rich in trans fats. Finally, the high amounts of salt used further increase the risk of death.”

Are French Fries Really Deadly?

Before you swear off french fries forever, here are a few things to consider. First, the study didn’t determine exactly how the study participants died. “Those deaths might have had nothing to do with diet. They could have been run over by a car,” says Ken Lee, PhD, a professor in the department of food science & technology at the Ohio State University Food Innovation Center.

Second, it relied on the participants’ memory of what they ate. “That is one of the least reliable forms of diet studies,” Lee says.

The researchers also didn’t prove that french fries caused an early death. “We don’t know what other things in their diet and lifestyle may have contributed to their death,” says Lisa Sasson, a clinical assistant professor of nutrition in the NYU Department of Nutrition and Food Studies.

She adds that unless a food is poisonous or tainted with bacteria, it’s not likely to kill you on its own. “That’s a very simplistic way of looking at it.”

Fried Food Risks

That doesn’t mean you should go on a french fry binge — or binge on any fried foods. Fried foods are high in fat, calories, and often salt. A few studies, including one published in 2014, have linked fried foods to serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“Fried foods may influence risk of these diseases through several key risk factors: obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,” says lead author Leah Cahill, PhD, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Canada. “The process of frying is known to alter the quality and increase the caloric content of food.”

Fried foods served in fast-food restaurants are often cooked in hydrogenated oils, which are high in trans fats. Many restaurants use these oils because they give food a satisfying taste and crunch. But they’re not good for you. Trans fats raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels, and raise your chance of having heart disease.

Hydrogenated oil is especially unhealthy when it’s reused, which restaurants often do. Oils break down with each frying, which changes their composition and causes more oil to be absorbed into the food, Cahill says. These changes further boost your chances of having high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The FDA ban on trans fats, which takes full effect in 2018, won’t necessarily make fried foods healthier, Cahill says. Many restaurants have already switched to other oils in advance of the ban.

“The trans fat ban will make fried foods safer theoretically, but restaurants will still be able to use unhealthy oils, including oils that have been reused a lot. It will be important to monitor the long-term health effects of the new oils being used.”

Add Sasson: “Eating fried foods (deep fried) is not a healthy choice. Fried foods add a lot of calories to food and don’t offer healthy nutrients.”

The Acrylamide Connection

Another worry with fried food centers on acrylamide, a chemical that forms in foods cooked at high temperatures, such as fried and baked foods. Acrylamide has been shown in animal studies to cause cancer.

When food is cooked at very high heat, an amino acid — asparagine — in the food reacts with sugars to produce acrylamide. This chemical can form in many fried foods, but it’s especially common in potatoes, which are high in sugars like fructose and glucose.

How much you fry the food also matters. “The darker the food, the more acrylamide there is,” says Lee, who was on the FDA’s Food Advisory Committee evaluating acrylamide safety. “A dark potato chip, dark french fry, or darker fried chicken would have more.”

If you’re healthy, eating moderate amounts of acrylamide-containing fried foods is probably not dangerous, he says. But if you have a family history of cancer, “You need to be conscious of how many fried foods you eat.”

Safer Frying and Frying Alternatives

If you’re going to eat fried foods, make them yourself at home, where you can control the type of oil you use. “Liquid oils are the healthiest options, because they contain high amounts of the ‘healthy fats’ — polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats,” Cahill says. Olive, soybean, and canola oils are all good choices. These oils are also high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Never reuse oil when you fry. Start with a fresh batch each time. And when you’re done frying, use paper towels to soak any excess oil off the food.

To cut down on acrylamide levels, don’t let your foods get too brown. Another trick is to store your potatoes at room temperature, not in the fridge. “When potatoes sit in the refrigerator, it creates more sugar, and the sugar makes more acrylamide,” Lee says.

A few easy food hacks will let you enjoy the taste and texture of fried food, without the frying. Spritz sliced white or sweet potatoes with an olive oil spray and roast them in the oven, Sasson suggests. Dip chicken cutlets in egg whites, roll them in breadcrumbs, and spray them with olive oil to mimic fried chicken. “It’s going to be crisp and crunchy, and you use very little oil,” she says.

You don’t have to give up fried food, but you also don’t want to overdo it. “Have fried potatoes once in a while as more of a treat than a daily part of your diet,” Sasson says. Order them with a salad rather than a burger, to boost the nutrition in your meal.

“Moderation and variety with any food is the key to healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle,” Lee adds. “It’s habitual consumption that could get you into trouble.”

Source: WebMD

Lifestyle Changes Might Prevent or Slow Dementia

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . .

Simple changes to your lifestyle might delay the start of dementia or slow its progression, a new report suggests.

Some scientific evidence indicates that keeping your mind active through “cognitive training,” controlling your blood pressure and exercising more may pay dividends in terms of brain health, researchers determined.

Although not yet proven to thwart the cognitive decline that accompanies aging or dementia, the public should have access to this information, said Alan Leshner. He led the committee at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that compiled the report.

“There are a few domains where the evidence that does exist suggests they might have an effect,” said Leshner.

“At least two of those, we know, are good for a whole lot of other things that people do or that they could suffer from. That’s controlling your blood pressure if you have hypertension and engaging in physical exercise,” said Leshner, CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Leshner’s group was asked by the U.S. National Institute on Aging to research measures that might delay mild mental decline or Alzheimer’s-like dementia.

Specialists welcomed the findings, which the researchers deemed encouraging even if not definitive.

“It’s high time that people are given information about things they can do today to reduce their risk of cognitive decline and possibly dementia,” said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Everyone is worried” about their mental functioning, he said. “But you shouldn’t feel helpless. You should take control of your brain health,” he added.

According to the report, which was released June 22, three promising areas for future research include:

  • Cognitive training. These structured programs, sometimes computer-based, are said to enhance reasoning, problem-solving and memory. However, they remain controversial and are not yet proven to prevent or slow dementia, Leshner said. Still, the report notes that one well-designed trial suggested that cognitive training practiced over time might improve long-term mental function in healthy adults.
  • Blood pressure: Evidence suggests lowering high blood pressure through medication, diet and exercise — especially in midlife — might prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. But again, that’s not absolutely proven, Leshner said.
  • Exercise: Getting more physical activity might also delay or slow age-related mental decline. Physical activity has many health benefits, such as preventing stroke, which is related to brain health, Leshner said.

He said the committee did not try to pinpoint which mental activities might be best; how low blood pressure should go; or how much exercise one needs to get the most benefit.

These are areas that need more research. Randomized trials are the “gold standard” of research and are the only ones that can prove or disprove a benefit from an intervention, he said.

One dementia specialist said some biological evidence supports the benefit of exercise, but in the final analysis, genetics might be the biggest determinant of whether you develop dementia.

“There is good evidence that physical exercise delays onset or slows progression [of dementia], perhaps because exercise stimulates release of nerve cell survival substances,” said Dr. Sam Gandy. He directs the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

There is also good evidence that in people who carry the APOE4 gene mutation, which predisposes them to Alzheimer’s, exercise can erase amyloid from their brains. Amyloid plaque is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, he said.

However, it’s also possible that “genetic loading” for dementiais so strong in some people that diet and lifestyle will never be enough to prevent mental decline, he said.

Even without scientific backup for these lifestyle improvements, Leshner said they’re worthwhile in their own right to improve other aspects of your health, such as preventing heart disease and strokes and improving the quality of your life.

“They’re good for a whole bunch of other things,” Leshner said.

Source: HealthDay


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Prunes May Help Lower Cholesterol

A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology shows that prunes may help regulate intestinal microflora and thereby effectively lower total cholesterol levels. Prunus domestica Linn (Rosaceae) has been considered a functional food, owing to its various pharmacological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anticancer. In this placebo-controlled, randomized study, the researchers wanted to check the beneficial activity of prune essence concentrates (PEC) in corroboration with intestinal function and lipid profile in subjects with mildly high cholesterol.

Sixty healthy subjects with mildly high cholesterol were randomly chosen and segregated into three groups as placebo (consume 50 mL of simulated prune drink), PEC I (consume 50 mL of PEC/day), and PEC II (consume 100 mL of PEC/day) for four weeks with two weeks of follow-up without PEC consumption.

The researchers found that subjects who consumed PEC (I and II) experienced a remarkable improvement in the population of beneficial bacteria’s community, especially Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus spp., and total anaerobic bacterial count on comparison with the baseline. During the follow-up (6th week), C. perfringens and E. coli levels were slightly increased, whereas Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus spp., and the total anaerobic bacterial count was markedly reduced due to stoppage of PEC consumption.

In addition, intake of PEC (I and II) remarkably lowered the levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and mildly increased the levels of HDL cholesterol as compared with baseline. However, on the 4th week of intervention, PEC (I and II) group presented lesser levels of both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in comparison with the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that PEC intake could positively alter the human intestinal flora and thereby enhance various physiological functions and favor various health benefits. In future studies, the researchers plan to isolate the active components of PEC and test them for their ability to lower choelsterol.

Source: Institute of Food Technologists

Study: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Preserves Memory and Protects Brain Against Alzheimer’s Disease

The Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, is associated with a variety of health benefits, including a lower incidence of dementia. Now, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) have identified a specific ingredient that protects against cognitive decline: extra-virgin olive oil, a major component of the Mediterranean diet. In a study published online June 21 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers show that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain – classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Temple team also identified the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of extra-virgin olive oil. “We found that olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy,” explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM. Autophagy is the process by which cells break down and clear out intracellular debris and toxins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.

“Brain cells from mice fed diets enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had higher levels of autophagy and reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau,” Dr. Praticò said. The latter substance, phosphorylated tau, is responsible for neurofibrillary tangles, which are suspected of contributing to the nerve cell dysfunction in the brain that is responsible for Alzheimer’s memory symptoms.

Previous studies have suggested that the widespread use of extra-virgin olive oil in the diets of people living in the Mediterranean areas is largely responsible for the many health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet. “The thinking is that extra-virgin olive oil is better than fruits and vegetables alone, and as a monounsaturated vegetable fat it is healthier than saturated animal fats,” according to Dr. Praticò.

In order to investigate the relationship between extra-virgin olive oil and dementia, Dr. Praticò and colleagues used a well-established Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Known as a triple transgenic model, the animals develop three key characteristics of the disease: memory impairment, amyloid plagues, and neurofibrillary tangles.

The researchers divided the animals into two groups, one that received a chow diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and one that received the regular chow diet without it. The olive oil was introduced into the diet when the mice were six months old, before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to emerge in the animal model.

In overall appearance, there was no difference between the two groups of animals. However, at age 9 months and 12 months, mice on the extra virgin olive oil-enriched diet performed significantly better on tests designed to evaluate working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities.

Studies of brain tissue from both groups of mice revealed dramatic differences in nerve cell appearance and function. “One thing that stood out immediately was synaptic integrity,” Dr. Praticò said. The integrity of the connections between neurons, known as synapses, were preserved in animals on the extra-virgin olive oil diet. In addition, compared to mice on a regular diet, brain cells from animals in the olive oil group showed a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation, which was ultimately responsible for the reduction in levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.

“This is an exciting finding for us,” explained Dr. Praticò. “Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced. This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr. Praticò and colleagues plan next to investigate the effects of introducing extra-virgin olive oil into the diet of the same mice at 12 months of age, when they have already developed plaques and tangles. “Usually when a patient sees a doctor for suspected symptoms of dementia, the disease is already present,” Dr. Praticò added. “We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease.”

Source: Temple Health


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