Higher Vitamin D levels linked to lower colorectal cancer risk

A January 2010 article in the British Medical Journal looked at large population samples from Western Europe and found that higher Vitamin D levels were associated with a substantial reduction in risk of colorectal cancer.

Many public health advocates are now suggesting that supplementation in the range of 1,800 to 4,000 IU vitamin D per day may provide multiple benefits, including reduction in risk of some cancers.

Reference: Jenab, M, et al. Association between pre-diagnostic circulating vitamin D concentration and risk of colorectal cancer in European populations: a nested case-control study.
British Medical Journal, 21 January 2010.

See the NYBC entries Vitamin D 3 – 2500IU and Vitamin D3 – 1000IU for more details.

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Grape Seed Extract for Colon Cancer Prevention

NCCAM (NATIONAL CENTER FOR COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE) is sponsoring a 5-year study of grape seed extract for prevention of colon cancer. The study, being conducted at the University of Colorado – Denver, is based on a number of promising lab studies of this botanical substance.

Here’s an excerpt from the abstract of this study:

Colon Cancer Prevention by Grape Seed Extract

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in humans, and about 5% of the US population will develop CRC in their life times. Overall, CRC growth, progression and metastasis involve a gradual accumulation of genetic and epigenetic changes over a period of years. One approach to control CRC growth and metastasis could be its prevention by phytochemicals present in diet and those consumed as dietary supplement, which inhibit one or more events of neoplastic stages and reduce overall cancer risk. Grape seed extract (GSE) is a widely consumed dietary supplement in the United States for its several health benefits, and is a rich source of standardized phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins. […] We anticipate that proposed studies will identify GSE as a mechanism-based dietary supplement agent for the prevention of CRC, and will establish its in vivo efficacy in pre-clinical CRC models. As a practical and translational approach, the long- range goal of these studies would be to define and establish the usefulness of GSE for the prevention and intervention of human CRC.

See the NYBC product:

Grape Seed Extract

Related References:
Kundu JK, Surh YJ (Oct 2008). “Cancer chemopreventive and therapeutic potential of resveratrol: mechanistic perspectives”. Cancer Lett. 269 (2): 243–61.
Katiyar SK (Jun 2008). “Grape seed proanthocyanidines and skin cancer prevention: inhibition of oxidative stress and protection of immune system”. Mol Nutr Food Res. 52 Suppl 1: S71–6.

ARE YOU READY TO JOIN THE FOOD REVOLUTION?

 Maybe it was the glory of our neighborhood community garden in June that inspired us to write this piece for the next issue of the New York Buyers’ Club newsletter, THE SUPPLEMENT:

 

Is it just our imagination, or have we detected a growing public interest in the impact of food on our health? Maybe you’ve heard about our new first family, the Obamas, and the vegetable garden they’ve planted at the White House to supply their kitchen with locally grown, healthy vegetables and berries. Or—not such cheerful news–maybe you’ve read about the obesity epidemic sweeping the US, caused largely by mass consumption of fast food and highly processed food products, and linked to devastating increases in diabetes and cardiovascular disease across the population. Or maybe you’ve dipped (or dug) into the writings of food revolutionary Michael Pollan, who’s become celebrated for urging us to eat real food (like our great-great-grandparents ate), shun the supermarket and shop the greenmarket whenever possible, and even plant a garden.

Though the New York Buyers’ Club is a nutritional supplements co-op, we understand very well that food is first. The food we eat every day, what kind and how much, has an enormous impact on our health, and research on diet has brought to light ever more clearly the effects of nutrition on both our physical health and our mental well-being. A few things have been obvious for a while: traditional diets, such as the “Mediterranean diet” or the “Chinese diet,” are much better for you than the standard modern American diet with its refined carbohydrates, bad fats (saturated or trans), excessive salt, super-sized portions of red meat, and mighty rivers of high fructose corn syrup. It’s simple epidemiology: populations that eat lots of whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, moderate amounts of fish and poultry (and little red meat), and rely on traditional seasonings (from rosemary to turmeric) and good fats (like olive and fish oils) end up having significantly lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and even mental health conditions like depression.

Can the clear health benefits of traditional diets be translated in any useful way to the field of supplements? (Supplements are, to repeat, a supplement to food, not a replacement.) One obvious “yes” comes in the increased study and use of fish oil/omega-3 fatty acid supplements over the last few decades, first of all for cardiovascular health, but also—as has been highlighted more recently—to reduce susceptibility to depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Here’s a case in which an individual nutrient within a healthful diet has been isolated and can be delivered as a supplement that bestows health benefits. (Fish oil supplements have a particular advantage over food sources, too: they can be refined to eliminate mercury or other contamination, a growing concern these days, whether you’re eating fresh or canned fish.)

We also know that it’s possible to extract a component from food and use its particular properties to confer a health benefit, while leaving behind other parts that you don’t want or need. This is the case with whey protein powders, which leave behind milk fat, but keep the whey protein with its high nutritional value.  It’s not news that whey protein can help to build and sustain the body’s lean muscle mass (crucial for maintaining long-term health, and especially important for people with chronic conditions like HIV that may impair absorption of nutrients), but research has uncovered as well several important indications of its value in supporting immune function, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and even serving as an anti-cancer agent.

Foods found in traditional diets continue to be the focus of scientific research on what’s healthy in what we eat, and why. Recently, we looked into a study showing that Chinese women who regularly ate mushrooms and drank green tea had lower rates of breast cancer, or less severe manifestations of breast cancer, than those who didn’t. This kind of nutrition research is about putting two and two together. It was known that the rate of breast cancer in China is four to five times lower than that in most Western industrialized countries; and there had been previous lab studies suggesting the anti-cancer properties of green tea and mushrooms—so why not investigate more rigorously the relationship between breast cancer rates and consumption of these traditional foods?

And here’s another bit of evidence-based food advice. A few months ago our hometown newspaper, The New York Times, featured a piece entitled “The Power of Berries” (Jan. 22, 2009), which detailed the accumulating research on how these fruits help ward off cancers of the colon, esophagus, and mouth. This research built on the well-documented association between diets rich in berries (including black and red raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and elderberries) and lower rates of cancer. One new suggestion emerging from the recent studies is that berries may exert a “genome-wide” anti-cancer effect, meaning that, unlike many current cancer treatments that target only one cancer-promoting gene at a time, berries may target a whole spectrum of cancer-promoting genes, causing them to shut down development of pre-cancerous and cancerous growths. Exciting stuff from the berry researchers! And, there’s a further, practical note: investigations have demonstrated that freeze dried berries and berry powders are as effective as fresh fruit in terms of anti-cancer effect. So even if you can’t eat fresh berries several times a week (an obvious problem for those of us who don’t live where the growing season is year-round), mixing a powdered berry supplement into a smoothie could be just as useful to your health. 

We gave this piece a somewhat tongue-in-cheek title, asking if you, dear reader, were ready to join the “food revolution.” Actually, it strikes us that the current revolution in thinking about our eating habits in many ways involves returning to the old days—to the traditional diets of previous generations, to the old-fashioned idea of raising your own food, or to shopping for locally-grown produce at a greenmarket. Of course we return to these older ways armed with a store of advanced knowledge about why some dietary traditions are healthful, and how they can be adapted to our modern lives. If that’s the definition of the “food revolution,” we at NYBC heartily encourage you to sign up—for your health!

Folic acid/folate (Vitamin B9) to protect against development of cancer

The University of Maryland Medical Center’s website on Complementary Medicine (a clearly written, up-to-date resource, by the way) provides this review of folic acid (also known as folate or Vitamin B9) as a supplement protecting against the development of cancers. The strongest evidence appears to be for folic acid’s ability to protect against colorectal and breast cancers. In our excerpt below, we have highlighted two significant passages.

For recommendations on how to take this supplement (you may be getting it in a multivitamin or a B-complex supplement), see the NYBC entry on Folic Acid.



Cancer
Folic acid appears to protect against the development of some forms of cancer, particularly cancer of the colon, as well as breast, esophagus, and stomach, although the information regarding stomach cancer is more mixed. It is not clear exactly how folate might help prevent cancer. Some researchers speculate that folic acid keeps DNA (the genetic material in cells) healthy and prevents mutations that can lead to cancer.

Population-based studies have found that colorectal cancer is less common among individuals with very high dietary intakes of folic acid. The reverse appears to be true as well: low folic acid intake increases risk of colorectal tumors. To have a significant effect on reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, it appears that at least 400 mcg of folic acid per day over the course of at least 15 years is required. Similarly, many clinicians recommend folic acid supplementation to people who are at high risk for colon cancer (for example, people with a strong family history of colon cancer).

Similarly, one population-based study also found that cancers of the stomach and esophagus are less common among individuals with high intakes of folic acid. Researchers interviewed 1095 patients with cancer of the esophagus or stomach as well as 687 individuals who were free of cancer in three health centers across the United States. They found that patients who consumed high amounts of fiber, beta-carotene, folic acid, and vitamin C (all found primarily in plant-based foods) were significantly less likely to develop cancer of the esophagus or stomach than those who consumed low amounts of these nutrients. Another important, good-sized study, however, did not find any connection between folic acid intake and stomach cancer. The possibility of some protection from folate against stomach cancer in particular needs clarification and, therefore, more research is warranted.

Low dietary intake of folate may increase the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly for women who drink alcohol. Regular use of alcohol (more than 1 ½ to 2 glasses per day) is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. One extremely large study, involving over 50,000 women who were followed over time, suggests that adequate intake of folate may lessen the risk of breast cancer associated with alcohol.