All Posts tagged cancer

Carrots: More Than Just Good for the Eyes

I remember growing up and being told to eat my carrots because they are good for my eyes.  Now as I sit here writing this post wearing my glasses that are never far from my face, I start to wonder if…  But I guess we shouldn’t look back but always look forward towards what we can do to improve our health.  And eating your carrots should definitely be on your list of things to do.

Carrots are actually one of the most nutritious vegetables that can easily fit into your diet.  They are an excellent source of beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A by the body) and vitamins C, D, E, K, B1 and B6.  They are also rich in biotin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, organic sodium and some trace minerals.  The known phytonutrients in carrots are lutein, lycopene, anti-oxidants alpha, beta and gamma carotenes, falcarinol, zeaxanthin and xanthophyll.  All of these are helpful in promoting healing in the body.

Carrots are by far one of the richest source of carotenoids (one cup provides 16,679 IUs of beta-carotene or roughly 686.3% the RDA for vitamin A).  High carotenoid intake has been linked with a 20% decrease in postmenopausal breast cancer and an up to 50% decrease in the incidence of cancers of the bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, larynx, and esophagus. Extensive human studies suggest that a diet including as little as one carrot per day could conceivably cut the rate of lung cancer in half.  A recent National Cancer Institute study found lung cancer occurrence was higher in men whose diets did not supply a healthy intake of alpha-carotene.

Heart Disease

When six epidemiological studies that looked at the association of diets high in carotenoids and heart disease were reviewed, the research demonstrated that high-carotenoid diets are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.  In one study that examined the diets of 1,300 elderly persons in Massachusetts, those who had at least one serving of carrots and/or squash each day had a 60% reduction in their risk of heart attacks compared to those who ate less than one serving of these carotenoid-rich foods per day.  In addition, potash succinate, a nutrient found in carrot, is said to have anti hypertensive drug properties, making it useful for those suffering from high blood pressure.

Vision

Beta-carotene helps to protect vision, especially night vision.  After beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the liver, it travels to the retina where it is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that is necessary for night-vision.  Plus beta-carotene’s powerful antioxidant actions help provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Blood Sugar

Intake of foods such as carrots that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation.  Research has suggested that physiological levels, as well as dietary intake, of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

Colon Cancer

Although best known for their high content of beta carotene, carrots also contain a phytonutrient called falcarinol that may be responsible for the association between frequently eating carrots and a reduced risk of cancers.  A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that falcarinol provided protection against colon cancer in laboratory animals.

In addition, these other health benefits are supposed to come from carrots:

  • Known to be good for the health of the spleen and stomach.
  • Believed to have antiseptic properties and prevent numerous infections.
  • Good for healthy skin, hair and bones.
  • Its soup is a popular home remedy for diarrhea.
  • Its juice helps relieve stress and fatigue and makes you feel energized.
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Ginger, Treating Cancer to Arthritis

Even though ginger has been used as a natural remedy for centuries, science is just now proving that it can treat everything from cancer to arthritis.  Historically, it has been very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress.  It is regarded as a good eliminator of intestinal gas and a substance that relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract.  Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.

Below are some of its research-proven health benefits:

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Ginger may be powerful weapon in the treatment of ovarian cancer.  A study conducted at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that its powder induces cell death in all ovarian cancer cells to which it was applied.  Lab experiments by Dr Rebecca Liu showed that gingerols, the active phytonutrients in ginger, kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and autophagocytosis (self-digestion).   Ginger extracts have been shown to have both antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects on cells.  Dr. Liu and her colleagues believe that it may be of special benefit for ovarian cancer patients because cancer cells exposed to ginger do not become resistant to its cancer-destroying effects like they do other chemotherapeutic agents.

Colon Cancer Prevention

Gingerols, the main active components in ginger, may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.  Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute found that gingerol prevented mice from developing colorectal carcinomas when compared to a control group.  According to the researcher for this study, “These results strongly suggest that ginger compounds may be effective chemo-preventive and/or chemotherapeutic agents for colorectal carcinomas.”

Morning Sickness

A review of several studies has concluded that ginger is just as effective as vitamin B6 in the treatment of morning sickness.  Its anti-vomiting action has been shown to be very useful in reducing the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, even the forms that require hospitalization.  A review of 6 double-blind controlled trials with a total of 675 participants confirmed that ginger is effective in relieving the severity of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.  And unlike anti-vomiting drugs, which can cause severe birth defects, ginger is extremely safe, without significant side effects, and only a small dose is required.

Motion Sickness Remedy

Recent double-blind studies have demonstrated that ginger is very effective in preventing the symptoms of motion sickness, especially seasickness.  In fact, one study showed that it was superior to Dramamine, a commonly used drug for motion sickness.  Ginger reduces all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.

Reduces Pain and Inflammation

One study showed that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful natural painkiller.  The gingerols are very potent anti-inflammatory compounds.  These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. In two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who didn’t, physicians found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain and/or swelling.

Heartburn Relief

Ginger has long been used as a natural heartburn remedy. It is most often taken in the form of tea for this purpose.

Cold and Flu Prevention and Treatment

Ginger has long been used as a natural treatment for colds and the flu.  Many people also find it to be helpful in the case of stomach flus or food poisoning, which is not surprising given the positive effects it has upon the digestive tract.

Ginger can help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flu.  A good sweat may do a lot more than simply assist detoxification.  German researchers have recently found that sweat contains a potent germ-fighting agent that may help fight off infections which they named dermicidin.   Dermicidin is manufactured in the body’s sweat glands, secreted into the sweat, and transported to the skin’s surface where it provides protection against invading microorganisms, including bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, and fungi, including Candida albicans.

Prevention of Diabetic Nephropathy

A study done on diabetic rats found that those rats given ginger had a reduced incidence of diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage).

Ginger Usage

Ginger is so concentrated with active substances that you don’t have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects.  For nausea,  tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach.  For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice  cooked in food, although in the studies noted above, patients who consumed more ginger reported quicker and better relief.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it contains higher levels of gingerol.  Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of markets.  When purchasing it fresh, make sure it is firm, smooth and free of mold.  Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature.  The mature form has a tough skin that requires peeling while the young form, usually only available in Asian markets, does not need to be peeled.  Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled.  Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.

Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.  Alternatively, you can store it in the refrigerator where it will enjoy an extended shelf life of about one year.

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Trans-Fats: What To Look Out For

Trans-fats (trans-fatty acids – TFA)

Trans-fats are probably the worst fats for you.  A trans-fat is a normal fat molecule that has been distorted during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas.  If you eat trans-fat (which let’s face it, most of us do) and your diet doesn’t include enough of the good fats, your body will use the deformed trans-fats instead, which could possibly contribute to major health risks from heart disease to cancer.

So why are trans fatty acids (TFAs) so prevalent in commercial foods? Partially hydrogenated oils (from the hydrogenation process) are more stable (less likely to spoil), can be transported more easily, and can withstand repeated heating, which makes them perfect for frying up those French fries and burgers at your favorite fast food establishment.

Trans-fats may be found in foods like:

  • Baked Goods — cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
  • Fried foods — doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken including chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • Snack foods — potato, corn, and tortilla chips; candy; packaged or microwave popcorn.
  • Solid fats — Hard margarine (stick margarine) and semi solid vegetable shortening.
  • Pre-mixed products — cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix.

Trans-fats tend to raise total LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good cholesterol).  This can contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer. No amount of trans-fat is healthy, and should be kept below 1 percent of your total calories.

Things to Look For When Shopping/Eating Out

  • When shopping, read the labels and watch out for “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients. Even if the food claims to be trans-fat free, this ingredient tells you that the product is a trans-fat suspect.
  • When eating out, put fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods on your “skip” list. Avoid these products unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans-fat
  • Most states have no labeling regulations for fast food, and it can even be advertised as cholesterol-free and cooked in vegetable oil. Eating one doughnut at breakfast (3.2 g of TFA) and a large order of french fries at lunch (6.8 g of TFA) adds 10 grams of TFA to one’s diet, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Some cities (i.e. NYC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston), as well as the state of California, have banned trans-fats in restaurants. This has caused some big chains to start to move away from using trans-fats.
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How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet

Fiber’s an important part of your diet.  Fiber is basically the parts of plants that your body cannot digest.  There are two categories of dietary fiber:  soluble (fiber that can be absorbed in water) and insoluble (fiber that can’t be absorbed in water).  Insoluble fiber is what bulks up your stool and increases the ease and speed of digestive material traveling through your colon.  Everyone needs insoluble fiber in their diet, but it is especially helpful for those with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and irregular stools.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gelatinous substance that can lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Getting enough fiber in the diet can help to lower the risk of developing certain health conditions.  Evidence is now growing to support the notion that foods containing soluble fiber such as oats, rye, barley and beans can have a positive influence on cholesterol, triglycerides, and other particles in the blood that affect the development of heart disease.  Some people believe that fiber can help protect against colon cancer because it speeds up the passage of food through the body, thus preventing harmful substances from being absorbed.  Others believe that cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer that are linked with over-nutrition can also be prevented by a fiber-rich diet.  Adding fiber to the diet helps lower blood sugar levels, which is important in avoiding diabetes.  In addition, some people with diabetes can achieve a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels and may be able to reduce their medication.  In addition, rapid digestion leads to a rapid release of glucose into the bloodstream.  To cope with this, the body has to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, and this can make a person more likely to develop gall stones and kidney stones as well as diabetes and high cholesterol.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recommends that adult males under 50 consume 38 grams of fiber a day (men 50+ should eat around 30 grams daily), and adult women should include about 25 grams (for 50+: 21 grams) in their diet. That may sound like a lot by itself, but there are some simple ways to ensure you are getting your fair share of fiber.  Choose whole-grain breads and pasta over processed products.  Eat more of your fruits and vegetables raw, leaving the skin on whenever possible.  Replace juices with whole fruit to feel fuller and get more nutrition for the same number of calories.  Snack on nuts instead of chips; the healthy omega-3 fatty acids will help you feel full, with the added benefit of fiber.

Here are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic on how to add more fiber into your diet:

  1. Eat a high-fiber cereal for breakfast (5 or more grams of fiber per serving). You can also add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
  2. Add crushed bran cereal of unprocessed what bran to baked products such as meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, cakes and cookies.  You can also use bran products as crunchy topping for casseroles, salads or cooked vegetables.
  3. Switch to whole-grain breads. These breads list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Look for a brand with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
  4. Substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking bread. Whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. When using baking powder, increase it by 1 teaspoon for every 3 cups of whole-grain flour.
  5. Eat more whole grains and whole-grain products. Experiment with brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur.
  6. Take advantage of ready-to-use vegetables. Mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce. Snack on baby carrots.
  7. Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad. Or make nachos with refried black beans, baked tortilla chips and salsa.
  8. Eat fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber.
  9. Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices.
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Green Tea, A Miracle Drink? Part 1

The health effects of green tea have long been touted by the Chinese people, but within the past few decades, green tea has received more attention in the United States.  Because green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), it is a powerful anti-oxidant.  Drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful in preventing cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, infection, and impaired immune function.

What makes green tea different from other Chinese teas?

Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camelia sinensis plant.  However, green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG from being oxidized.  Black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green Tea Fights Against Cancer

Most scientists believe that catechins in green tea have a tremendous effect on cancer.  It is believed that it lowers the toxicity of certain carcinogens, thereby reducing their cancer-reducing potential.  It also interferes with the binding of cancer-causing substances to the DNA of healthy cells.  Green tea also acts as an antioxidant, protecting your body from free radical damage.  Furthermore, scientists believe that green tea works together with antioxidants and enzymes in the small intestine, liver, and lungs to prevent tumors from starting.  Thus, it inhibits tumor activation.

Interest in green tea and its effect on cancer was initially aroused by a comparison of the lung cancer rates in Japan to those of the United States.  The Japanese seemed to smoke nearly twice as many cigarettes as Americans, but had only about half the amount of lung cancer.  So far, green tea has been studied as having a positive influence on stomach, pancreatic, colon, esophageal and prostate cancers.  With stomach cancer, a case-controlled study in Northern Kyushu, Japan, found that people who drank 10 or more cups of green tea per day had a decreased risk of gastric cancer.  With pancreatic cancer, a study found that those who drank 2 or more cups of green tea per day, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was almost 60% lower than those who did not drink tea.  With colon cancer, a 1990 study published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research found that consumption of green tea lowered the risk of colon cancer.  In 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent.  And finally, in a recent study by the University of Purdue, prostate cancer cells were mixed with testosterone, the hormone that makes them grow uncontrollably. But when green tea extract was added to the solution, the cells grew more slowly. The more green tea, the slower the growth of the cancer cells.

Green Tea Helps Stabilize Diabetes

Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is made in response to the level of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Insulin serves two purposes: it lowers blood sugar levels and increases the availability of sugar for normal cell functioning.  Normally, after a meal, complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream in the form of glucose and other simple sugars.  This resulting rise in blood sugar causes the pancreas to secrete insulin, which encourages the transportation of sugar from the blood into the cells. As blood sugar levels fall, blood insulin levels return to the pre-meal state.

With diabetes, either the pancreas secretes too little or no insulin in response to the rise in blood sugar after a meal or the pancreas secretes a normal amount of insulin but the cells do not respond to the hormone.  In either case, the result is that blood sugar levels remain high, and many complications can develop in the body from the abnormal blood sugar levels.

One study found that feeding green tea to rats reduced both blood glucose and insulin levels, and that catechins were very effective starch and sucrose blockers in the digestive tracts of rats.  Similar results were observed in humans.  When 300 mg (about 3 cups) of green tea were given to subjects ten minutes before taking in 50 grams of starch, their glucose and insulin levels did not rise nearly as much as was expected.  Besides, because of green tea’s starch-blocking effect, it may also help get rid of excess fat, the villain that can make diabetes much worse.

Green Tea Prevents Cardiovascular Disease

Drinking green tea is said to improve cholesterol levels, thereby reducing platelet aggregation, and helping keep blood pressure in check.  There is research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.  Green tea also inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots.  This is important when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.  Much of these affects can be contributed to green tea’s antioxidants that decrease the effects of free radicals from a fatty diet that contribute to blood clot formation and atherosclerosis.

If you remember in the 1990’s researchers studied the “French Paradox” where the French people consumed a higher fat diet than the Americans but had a lower incidence of heart disease.  The answer was the French drank more red wine which contains resveratrol.  In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG found in green tea is twice as powerful as resveratrol.

If you find this post interesting, please return here tomorrow for part two of this post which will include the treatment of acne, weight loss, tooth decay, and how much green tea you should drink to get its benefits.

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