The latest on Vitamin K2: a new therapeutic agent for rheumatoid arthritis and for prostate cancer?

Vitamin K2, which is best known for its role in supporting bone health and its potential for countering osteoporosis, has also been investigated recently for other health benefits. A 2013 study reported that Vitamin K2 significantly decreased disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. And other research, also published in 2013, found evidence that Vitamin K2 is active in suppressing various types of prostate cancer cells. The authors of this study conclude that Vitamin K2 “may be a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of prostate cancer.”

For further information about Vitamin K2, see the NYBC catalog entries for the Bone Up, Bone Up Ultra, and Vitamin K supplements (all from Jarrow):

Bone and Joint Supplements

References:

Ebina, K, et al. Vitamin K2 administration is associated with decreased disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Mod Rheumatol. 2013 Sep;23(5):1001-7. doi: 10.1007/s10165-012-0789-4.

Samykutty, A, et al. Vitamin k2, a naturally occurring menaquinone, exerts therapeutic effects on both hormone-dependent and hormone-independent prostate cancer cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:287358. doi: 10.1155/2013/287358.

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Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice has become a very popular new drink among the health-conscious in the last few years. Indeed there is an interesting body of research about this fruit, including indications that it may help lower “bad [LDL] cholesterol,” or that it may slow progression of prostate cancer. One caution, however: pomegranate juice may interact with certain drugs, in particular blood pressure-lowering drugs. For that reason, it’s advisable for anyone taking prescription drugs to consult with their health care provider before adding pomegranate juice to their daily routine.

NYBC stocks a pomegranate juice concentrate, which can be mixed with other beverages. Using a concentrate such as this can be significantly less costly than buying the well-known juice brands from your local grocery or health food store.

Here’s the basic NYBC entry:

Pomegranate Juice CONCENTRATE (Jarrow) Each bottle, 12 oz (355 ml) of 100% pomegranate juice concentrate. This is one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants, superior even to blueberries and strawberries. Derived from a California variety, this juice is concentrated to a level of 4 times that of ordinary pomegranate juice…it is thick! The antioxidants found in the juice include ellagic and gallic acid, anthocyanins and tannins, and punicalagin. Punicalagin is perhaps the most powerful. Various studies suggest that this may help to improve the level of glutathione in cells (see the entries on NAC and glutathione), particularly macrophages. It may have benefit for maintaining platelet levels, lowering LDL and sustaining vascular tone.

You can read more in the full entry:

Pomegranate Juice Concentrate (Jarrow)

Mastic Gum: a traditional remedy for gastric reflux disease becomes the subject of new lines of research suggesting its potential application to prostate cancer, Crohn’s Disease, and cardio- and hepato-protection

Mastic Gum is a resin that has been traditionally used (especially in the Eastern Mediterranean) as a remedy for gastric reflux disease and to protect the stomach and duodenum.

These traditional uses are now supported and enlarged by some clinical and other research data. Here are some of the most intriguing new findings concerning Mastic Gum:

1. A study published in 2007 underscored the potential of mastic gum to prevent or manage prostate cancer. According to this line of research, this protective effect may be achieved via an inhibition of nF-KB–interestingly, that’s a cellular protein that HIV also hijacks to help produce more of itself.

2. Another recent investigation looked at the use of 2.22 grams of mastic per day among patients with Crohn’s disease. Not only did this dosage help in this small pilot study, but two markers of inflammation were significantly reduced, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Again, it’s interesting to note that both of these markers are also often elevated in HIV disease.

3. Last, a 2007 Greek study showed some benefits for mastic gum in managing the lipid profile and being liver and heart protective. These findings tend to support the long-held traditional reputation of mastic.

References:

He, et al. Mechanisms of antiprostate cancer by gum mastic: NF-κB signal as target. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2007 Mar;28(3):446-452.

Kaliora AC, Stathopoulou MG, Triantafillidis JK, Dedoussis GV, Andrikopoulos NK. Chios mastic treatment of patients with active Crohn’s disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Feb 7;13(5):748-53.

Triantafyllou A, Chaviaras N, Sergentanis TN, Protopapa E, Tsaknis J. Chios mastic gum modulates serum biochemical parameters in a human population. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Apr 20;111(1):43-49.

For more commentary, see the NYBC entry:

Mastic Gum

Flaxseed as a dietary supplement: A review from the Wake Forest Center for Botanical Lipids

We recently took a look at The Wake Forest University Center for Botanical Lipids website. This Center is one of five such dietary supplement research centers funded through the federal government’s National Institutes of Health–so this website represents our tax dollars at work!

The main goal of this new research center is to “determine the role of fatty acid based dietary supplements in the prevention and treatment of chronic human diseases associated with inflammation.” The center’s website also makes the point that “nearly 20% of Americans use dietary supplements, many of them botanicals, but scientific evidence for their safe and effective use in the prevention or treatment of human diseases has lagged behind the use of the products.”

Actually, we think the 20% estimate may be on the low side, especially if you include use of basic multivitamins; and certainly among groups with chronic conditions (such as osteoarthritis) the rate of supplement use is often higher than 20%. But we certainly agree that we need more scientific evidence about the effectiveness and safety of supplements, and we’re glad to know that the NIH has continued to fund such research, especially through its National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and its Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

OK, enough of the federal governmental acronyms, and back to the Wake Forest website. We’re pleased to see that it includes a user-friendly section with some publications easily understood by the general public (“Articles for Everyday People”). Here’s a sample from the piece entitled “The Use of Dietary Flaxseed for the Prevention of Human Disease”:


Flaxseed (also called linseed) has been a part of the human and animal diet for thousands of years. It is the richest known plant source of omega-3 fatty acids – 58% of the total fat in flax is composed of alpha-linolenic acid (LNA); however, this fatty acid is a short chain omega-3 as opposed to the long chain omega 3s found in fish oil. A number of studies have shown that flaxseed does not replace fish oil in the diet because the conversion of LNA to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil is very inefficient.

Flaxseed is also a minor source of the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid (LA), which makes up about 14% of the total fat content. LNA and LA are essential fatty acids, meaning they cannot be made in the body and instead must be present in the diet. LNA is thought to be necessary for the proper function of cell membranes and nerve cells. In addition to LNA, flaxseed also contains soluble and insoluble fiber and lignans, which are antioxidants and estrogen precursors called phytoestrogens.

Flaxseed provides a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which is thought to have beneficial effects on many diseases, especially those with a strong inflammatory component, such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, asthma, gout, and lupus. Flaxseed oil has been used to treat burns, acne, eczema, rosacea, and other skin disorders, and it promotes healthy hair and nails. Flaxseed has been suggested to minimize nerve damage in degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and may guard against the effects of aging.

The lignans in flaxseed may also play a role in cancer treatment and prevention, especially in women with breast cancer. The phytoestrogens found in flaxseed are thought to act as “designer estrogens” and are a good supplement to regular therapy (1). In a study of women with breast cancer, those who consumed 25 grams of flaxseed oil per day saw a reduction in tumor growth compared to placebo controls (2). The LNA in flaxseed may decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death by stabilizing the electrical system of the heart and preventing potentially fatal irregularities in heart rhythm. In a study of more than 75,000 women, those who consumed more than 1.5 grams of flaxseed per day had a 46% lower risk of cardiac death than women who consumed less than 0.5 grams per day (3).

While most studies show a benefit of flaxseed oil, there have been studies which have not been positive. In 5 out of 6 epidemiological studies on prostate cancer, flaxseed was shown to increase cancer risk, and LNA is a strong growth stimulus in isolated prostate cancer cells (4). Neither of these effects has been seen with fish oil. In addition, recent studies suggest that flaxseed may increase the risk of macular degeneration or speed up the progression of the disease.

In a nutshell: flaxseed looks to be very interesting for breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, but not recommended when prostate cancer or prostate cancer risk is present.

Can supplements reduce cancer risk?

Here’s an excerpt from the upcoming issue of the New York Buyers’ Club newsletter, THE SUPPLEMENT.

While it covers some of the same territory on supplements and cancer that we’ve posted earlier on this Blog, it’s valuable as an overview of the question, and balances the news of some notable advances in 2007 with notes and cautions at the end.

—–

Can Supplements Reduce Cancer Risk?

The short answer is: Yes—but please read on for important details!

Last year Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (not the least informed organization when it comes to cancer) posted on its website the striking news from a study published in 2007: Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk. This federally-funded investigation had followed more than a thousand post-menopausal women, some of whom were given calcium + vitamin D3 supplements, some just calcium, and some placebo. When researchers looked at the data, they reached this conclusion: “Improving calcium and vitamin D nutritional status substantially reduces all-cancer risk in postmenopausal women.”

A lot of researchers have been studying Vitamin D3 (the form recommended as most active in the human body) in the last few years, and it’s good to see the scientific findings percolating down to the general public. We were impressed by the lead article on Vitamin D in the February 2008 issue of the University of California, Berkeley’s Wellness Letter (a “newsletter of nutrition, fitness, and self-care”). The Wellness Letter is usually quite conservative on the subject of nutritional supplements, but in this case it found the recent research on Vitamin D persuasive enough to recommend that people “consider taking 800 to 1000 IU of supplemental D a day.” (That’s a higher dose than generally suggested in the past.) As the newsletter reports, there’s a new focus on Vitamin D’s multiple benefits, including its potential to “reduce risk of some common cancers.”

And speaking of getting word out to the general public. Tuning into the Martha Stewart Show not long ago, we saw nutrition and integrative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weill answering a question from a female audience member by making a strong pitch for regular calcium and Vitamin D3 supplementation, even for younger women. Dr. Weill stressed not only the well-known value against osteoporosis, but also the many new findings on Vitamin D3, such as its role in reducing cancer rates.

But Vitamin D is not the only supplement receiving attention for its anti-cancer properties. A 2007 review of several large prostate cancer prevention studies concluded that several interventions, including dietary supplements such as lycopene, alpha-tocopherol and selenium, have now shown convincing evidence of being able to reduce the risk of this cancer in some circumstances. And the author of this article in the Journal of Urology urged doctors caring for men entering the range of age of prostate cancer risk to inform themselves and their patients about these “preventive opportunities.”

Also in 2007, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, published a study showing that a biologically active component of milk thistle (silymarin) has significant effect against liver cancer cells. Of course milk thistle/silymarin has a long tradition of use as a remedy for liver diseases, and is known to protect the liver from drug or alcohol-related injury. The lead author of this article, who has published extensively on viral hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis, and liver cancer, suggests that the particular component of milk thistle studied (silibinin) could potentially be used to prevent development of liver cancer, one of the most common cancers worldwide.

Notes & cautions: Although research on using supplements to decrease risk of cancer moves forward and has already produced some valuable results, note that there are also many concerns about use of vitamins and other supplements during and following cancer treatment. One problem: supplements may interfere with conventional medications and thus disrupt treatment. Furthermore, it’s important to look at dosage, since some studies have found that “megadoses” of vitamins may be harmful to people with certain cancers. In short, while we are encouraged by studies showing the anti-cancer activity of specific supplements—we’ve highlighted D3, silibinin, selenium, lycopene, and alpha tocopherol—no one should take these findings as a blanket endorsement of any level of supplement use under any circumstance whatsoever!

If you have a question about the usefulness of a supplement as an anti-cancer agent, we recommend the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Integrative Medicine website. This web resource came into being because health professionals recognized the widespread use of supplements by people concerned about their cancer risk or already diagnosed with cancer, and wanted to provide them with evidence-based information to guide their choices. This is also the approach of New York Buyers’ Club: we want to bring up-to-date, scientifically-based information to our members so that they can make good choices about supplement use.

Prostate cancer prevention studies: lycopene, alpha-tocopherol, selenium play a prominent role

This review, published in late 2007, concludes that studies of prostate cancer prevention are now maturing to the point where recommendations may soon be in order for reducing cancer risk by supplementing with such promising dietary supplement agents as lycopene, alpha-tocopherol, or selenium. Decreased dietary fat, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and selective estrogen receptor modulators are also interventions under review.


Chemoprevention of prostate cancer: agents and study designs


PURPOSE: With the completion of the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial and the ongoing performance of several additional large-scale prostate cancer prevention trials interest in this intervention has increased. We review promising agents for prostate cancer prevention, clinical trial designs and how these agents may be used clinically. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We reviewed current and completed randomized chemoprevention trials for prostate cancer as well as the most promising agents for which evidence suggests that a decreased prostate cancer risk may result from their use. RESULTS: Evidence suggests that lycopene, decreased dietary fat, antioxidants such as alpha-tocopherol and selenium, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and selective estrogen receptor modulators such as toremifene and 5alpha-reductase inhibitors may prove useful for decreasing the risk of prostate cancer in a man. Ongoing studies are examining these agents in the 3 general scenarios of 1) general population studies (finasteride, alpha-tocopherol and selenium), 2) increased prostate specific antigen with negative biopsy (dutasteride) and 3) prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (toremifene and selenium). CONCLUSIONS: There are many agents that may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. It requires careful study of the agents in specific populations to determine whether risk is reduced, the magnitude of the risk reduction and the spectrum of side effects associated with the agent. Physicians caring for men entering the range of age of prostate cancer risk must be aware of these preventive opportunities.


Citation: Chemoprevention of prostate cancer: agents and study designs.
Thompson IM. J Urol. 2007 Sep;178(3 Pt 2):S9-S13. Epub 2007 Jul 20.