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CURRENT RESEARCH: Highly Processed Foods Linked to Addictive Eating

25 Feb

processed food

University of Michigan psychology doctoral student, and study’s lead author Erica Schulte confirms that highly processed foods like chocolate, pizza and French fries are among the most addictive.  Published in PLOS ONE, this is one of the first studies to examine specifically which foods may be implicated in “food addiction,” which has become of growing interest to scientists and consumers in light of the obesity epidemic.  The significance of the findings may lead to adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking, and drug use.

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CURRENT RESEARCH: New Study Reveals Possible Link Between Vitamin E Deficiency & Miscarriage

9 Dec

vitamin e

Low levels of vitamin E in pregnant women may increase the risk of a miscarriage, according to a new study of 1600+ women in rural Bangladesh, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Among pregnant Bengali women with low vitamin E levels in their blood, about 10 percent lost their babies. In contrast, only 5 percent of the females possessing higher levels of vitamin E miscarried, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Vitamin E supplements may not help, says co-author Kerry Schulze, since supplements are often given well into the pregnancy—after the window of opportunity for preventing miscarriages has closed.

CURRENT RESEARCH: New Study Finds That The Potential To Tan May Influence Prostate Cancer Risk

9 Dec

prostate cancerResearch published in the journal In Vivo showed that tanning potential, but not sunlight and vitamin D, is a significant risk factor for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States. African American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer out of all the ethnic groups and are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease at an advanced stage.

Researchers have hypothesized that the high incidence of prostate cancer in African Americans may be due to a deficiency of vitamin D caused by a reduction in the synthesis of vitamin D from the skin.

It is important to note that prostate cancer research has only looked at sunlight or vitamin D, and not both at the same time. Therefore, researchers conducted a study to determine the relationship between vitamin D, UV exposure and prostate cancer in African American men by looking at tanning potential and vitamin D status.

They recruited 91 African American men with prostate cancer and 92 African American men without prostate cancer.

They then looked at the difference between the two groups in terms of UV exposure, tanning potential, and vitamin D status.

UV exposure was assessed using a UV questionnaire designed to calculate the total amount of UV light exposure from birth until the age of diagnosis of prostate cancer, or age of data collection for controls.

Tanning potential was assessed by measuring the difference in the melanin concentration and color of unexposed areas of the skin and the melanin concentration and color that develops in skin that is exposed to sunlight. Tanning potential is a quantitative index of sun exposure that is related to cumulative lifetime sun exposure. An increased tanning potential indicates increased cumulative sun exposure.

A single vitamin D measurement was taken during the study to assess vitamin D status.

The researchers were interested in learning if vitamin D, UV exposure, and tanning potential all similarly affected risk of prostate cancer. This would indicate that sun exposure plays a role in prostate cancer, and this role is likely mediated in part by vitamin D production.

Here’s what they found:

  • The average vitamin D level for the control group was 29.06 ng/ml and the average vitamin D level for the prostate cancer group was 26.75 ng/ml.
  • Age and tanning potential were significantly negatively associated with prostate cancer risk (p=0.05, for both)
  • UV exposure and vitamin D status were negatively associated with prostate cancer risk, however this association was not significant (p>0.05)
  • After adjusting for both age and vitamin D status, tanning potential remained a significant predictor of prostate cancer risk (p=0.04).

The researchers stated,

“In the present study, we examined the association of serum vitamin D, skin tanning potential, and UV exposure with prostate cancer risk in African Americans. We found a significant association between skin tanning potential and prostate cancer. However, our results showed no significant association between prostate cancer and UV exposure or serum vitamin D.”

One large limitation of the study is selection bias. All of the participants were residents of the Washington, DC metropolitan area who all received similar levels of sunlight. Another limitation was the use of a single vitamin D measurement, which may not reflect long-term circulating vitamin D levels.

These results are puzzling, but the researchers offered a possible explanation: all of the participants were dark-skinned, meaning they likely had similar absorption due to melanin.

The researchers posited that the inverse association between tanning potential and prostate cancer is most likely due to a loss of melanin with age. The less melanin there is, the higher the potential for tanning. This explanation is supported by the fact that age also was strongly and significantly associated with prostate cancer risk.

The low vitamin D levels in both groups may have been the reason as to why a significant relationship was not found between vitamin D status and prostate cancer. There may be threshold beyond which vitamin D status becomes increasingly protective against prostate cancer.

Future research needs to utilize multiple vitamin D measurements in large populations over long periods of time and prospectively assess the risk of developing prostate cancer.


Beyene, D. Use of Tanning Potential as a Predictor for Prostate Cancer Risk in African-American Men. In Vivo, 2014.

CURRENT RESEARCH: Low vitamin D may be related to antibody levels and disease activity in children with lupus

11 Nov

New research published in Clinical Rheumatology found that children with systemic lupus erythematosus who have low vitamin D levels have increased disease activity and antibody levels.

Researchers out of Saudi Arabia recently recruited 28 children with lupus to study how vitamin D related to antibody levels and disease activity.

The researchers conducted an analysis of the baseline measurements. They found that vitamin D was inversely associated with disease activity and number of antibodies, meaning that higher vitamin D status was related to decreased disease activity and antibody count.

Vitamin D3 and calcium supplementation suggested a causal role for vitamin D in improving the health of lupus patients. After 3 months of supplementation, 17 patients had improved disease activity and antibody count.

“Disease activity of childhood lupus is probably linked with low serum vitamin D levels,” concluded the researchers.

CURRENT RESEARCH: Low vitamin D related to mental stress-induced, but not physical-stress induced myocardial ischemia

7 Oct

vitamin D

A recent study found that vitamin D insufficiency was independently associated with mental-stress induced myocardial ischemia, but not physical stress induced myocardial ischemia.

Vitamin D has been shown to be related to CAD, but researchers have yet to explore vitamin D in myocardial ischemia in depth and the different factors contributing to myocardial ischemia.

Results showed that vitamin D was independently related to mental-stress induced myocardial ischemia after adjusting for variables that may impact the analysis. There was no relationship between vitamin D levels and physical-stress induced myocardial ischemia.

The researchers concluded, “We found that patients with stable CAD and vitamin D insufficiency had a higher prevalence and severity of myocardial ischemia during mental stress, but not during physical stress.

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CURRENT RESEARCH: Preterm birth complications, pneumonia are leading causes of death in children under five years

5 Oct

pregnant black

Complications from preterm (premature) births and pneumonia are now the leading causes of death in children under five years, together responsible for nearly 2 million deaths in 2013, according to the latest estimates.

Researchers led by Professor Robert Black, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA, used the latest available data and modelling methods to examine what caused an estimated 6·3 million deaths of newborn babies (neonates) and children under five years in 2013.

They found that complications from preterm birth were the largest single cause, responsible for 965000 deaths in under-fives, with pneumonia responsible for a further 935000 deaths, and complications from childbirth (intrapartum complications) the next leading cause, responsible for 662,000 deaths.

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CURRENT RESEARCH: Low Vitamin D Linked To Dementia

10 Aug

vit-dA new study published in the Journal of Neurology concludes that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and also that many older adults have severely low levels of the vitamin, putting them at a much greater risk for dementia.

The researchers tested 1,658 dementia-free people aged over 65 who had participated in the US population -based Cardiovascular Health Study. The vitamin D levels in their  blood were tested, and they were followed up for an average of 5.6 years. During this follow-up period, 171 of the participants developed dementia and 102 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.


The researchers found the participants with low levels of vitamin D were 53 percent more likely to develop dementia, and those who were severely deficient were 125 percent more likely, when compared with participants with regular levels of vitamin D.

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