HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

November 2015

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More Vitamin D,

Lower Lung Cancer Risk?

Cancers of the lung are the most deadly malignancies in the US, killing an estimated 158,000 Americans a year. There is some good news, however: One investigation found a link between lower lung cancer risk and higher levels of vitamin D.

A Chinese-led research team analyzed findings from 10 studies covering 2,227 incidents of lung cancer. They discovered a 5% reduction in risk for every additional 10 nanomole/liter (nmol/L) of 25(OH)D, a form of vitamin D, in the blood.

Results were published in Cancer Causes & Control.

“This is a significant result, as lung cancer is one of the top five cancers diagnosed among men and women, as well as being among the most common causes of death in the world,” said study lead author Li-Qiang Qin, MD, PhD, a professor in Soochow University’s School of Public Health.

In the United States, the American Cancer Society estimates that 221,200 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year. The ACS says rates have been declining since the mid-1980s among men and since the mid-2000s among women, reflecting the later rise and fall of female smoking rates. In addition to smoking—the single biggest cause—other risk factors include exposure to radon gas, secondhand smoke, asbestos and air pollution. Lung cancer is classified as either small cell or non-small cell depending on how it appears under a microscope.

Studies have found that many people worldwide have suboptimal levels of vitamin D, which is created in skin exposed to sunlight. Such deficits are more common in colder regions and among people who avoid sun exposure to protect against skin damage. Insufficient vitamin D levels have been associated with osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and cancers of the colon and breast.

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MEDIA

Books for Cooks

Are there people on your holiday gift list who are always puttering around in the kitchen? Either of these titles may find a favored space on their bookshelves.

Julie Morris is a chef and advocate for superfoods, plant-based edibles that pack a powerful nutrient punch. The latest in Morris’s line of books on this subject, Superfood Snacks (Sterling), is designed to help you satisfy your cravings with food that’s actually good for you.

“Never deny the power of delicious,” writes Morris. The recipes in Superfood Snacks rely on healthy sources of sweet, salt and fat to provide that flavor; examples include Açai-Mint Stuffed Dates, Toasted Hemp Seed Nori Crisps and Rustic Chia Guacamole.

It’s easier to experiment with hip, exotic ingredients when you have a firm grounding in standard pantry items. Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference (DK) provides a valuable
basic resource.

Authored by veteran food writer and editor Jill Norman, Herbs & Spices provides information on more than 200 flavoring agents including culinary uses and storage tips. Recipes, such as those for cilantro-based adobo seasoning and Thai chile jam, give the reader practical ways to blend complementary flavors.

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Olive Leaf May Lower Cholesterol

An extract taken from the leaf of the olive tree, a remedy best known for fighting harmful microbes, has reduced cholesterol levels in a recent study.

Turkish researchers fed lab animals a high-fat diet, which, as expected, increased the animals’ levels of total cholesterol and the harmful LDL variety. The study team then divided the rats among three groups: One group was given olive leaf extract and another received atorvastatin, a standard cholesterol medication, while a third group wasn’t treated at all and served as a control.

After eight weeks, the olive leaf and atorvastatin were equally effective at blunting the increases in cholesterol.

The results were linked to an olive compound called oleuropein, responsible for the bitter flavor in the fruit. Writing in Phytotherapy Research, the study team said this substance has been linked to the health benefits associated with olive oil and other olive products used extensively in the Mediterranean diet, noting that “olive leaf also contains significant amounts of oleuropein.”

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Your Mouth as a Window to Your Health

Abright smile isn’t the only reason to clean your teeth: Good dental hygiene could help keep the rest of you healthy.

Nearly half of all American adults have some degree of gum inflammation, or periodontitis, and bacteria linked to periodontal disease can travel to other parts of the body. Kimberly Fasula, RDH, director of the Orthodontic Clinic at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, says, “Current studies are focused on the link between plaque and toxins like C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker released into the blood when people have poor oral health.”

Smoking increases periodontal disease risk because it constricts blood vessels and diminishes the body’s ability to heal. “Diabetes is a risk factor because it slows circulation, which can make gum and bone tissue more vulnerable to infection,” says Pamela McClain, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

The American Dental Association suggests brushing two to three minutes twice daily using soft, rounded bristles for less abrasion. (Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or after an illness.) Electric toothbrushes generally fight plaque and gum disease better than hand brushing.

Floss daily to remove anything missed during brushing; wrap the string around each side of the tooth and move it up and down. If brushing after meals isn’t feasible, wiping teeth with a napkin helps. You can also rinse your mouth with water after eating.

Foods high in omega-3s and vitamin C may reduce gum disease. Yogurt, cheese and milk are good sources of calcium, which helps rebuild tooth enamel and strengthen bones around teeth. Catechins in green tea may also help reduce gum inflammation. Avoid sugary or acidic foods, sticky candy and fizzy sodas.

McClain says, “A healthy diet, daily home care and visits to your dental professional are important to ensure good oral health.” —Beverly Burmeier

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