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Potassium to Sodium Ratio Affects the Heart

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Consuming twice as much potassium as sodium might halve your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Ate too many nachos? Consider a banana chaser — your heart might thank you for it.

A new study suggests that consuming twice as much potassium as sodium can halve your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The study is the first to show that the ratio of these nutrients in your diet matters more than exactly how much you get of either one.

The best strategy for good health, experts are quick to stress, is to eat less sodium and more potassium. But the new research suggests that simply upping your intake of potassium can at least soften the blow of a high-sodium diet.

“Potassium and sodium are like peas in a pod, except they’re in opposite pods,” says epidemiologist Paul Whelton, president and chief executive of the Loyola University Health System in Chicago and one of the authors of the study. “This is the first study to show that the two together give you a benefit over and above what you can get with either one.”

Between processed foods and restaurant meals, most Americans eat far too much sodium — significantly above the 2,300 milligrams the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend as a maximum daily intake for adults. Excess sodium, according to plenty of large, well-designed studies, causes the body to retain fluids, which raises blood pressure and ups the risk of dying from heart disease.

Just as strong — albeit less commonly known — is the link between heart health and potassium. In 1997, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. compiled the results of 33 clinical trials and found that people who took potassium supplements lowered their blood pressure by 3/2 mm Hg. (Blood pressure is measured as two numbers that indicate how hard it is for the heart to pump blood through the blood vessels. Ideally, it should be 120/80 or less.) High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

That study was pivotal in influencing current dietary guidelines, which recommend that Americans get at least 4,700 mg of potassium daily — about double the recommended maximum for sodium. Yet, according to nationwide nutritional surveys, the average American gets just 2,600 mg of potassium a day and 4,000 mg or more of sodium — far more sodium than potassium, even though guidelines suggest we do the opposite.

Scientists have long suspected that the ratio of the two nutrients in our diets is important, but there hasn’t been strong enough evidence to say for sure. In the new study, Nancy Cook, a statistician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues were able to test the idea with data from two large trials originally designed to see how blood pressure responds to a variety of factors, such as diet and weight loss.

The studies involved thousands of people and took place in the late 1980s and early ’90s. For either 18 months or three years, some participants were assigned to cut sodium intake by up to 35%. Others went along eating like they always did. A handful of times over the course of the study, participants provided all their urine over a 24-hour period. Then, by analyzing the urine, scientists could accurately determine what nutrients each person was eating. (Prior studies relied on people reporting everything they ate — a method that is notoriously inaccurate.)

One earlier report from this project, published in the British Medical Journal in 2007, found that participants who had been instructed to reduce sodium intake, even for just a few years, were 25% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease 10 to 15 years later than were those who kept eating larger amounts of sodium.

In the current study, the researchers looked at the other group — those who had continued to eat as they normally would. They found that people who ate more potassium tended to have a slightly lower long-term risk of death from heart disease.

But they also found that people who had consumed the highest levels of potassium and the lowest levels of sodium (about twice as much potassium as sodium) were 50% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who ate the most sodium and the least potassium (about four times as much sodium as potassium).

The ratio of the two nutrients mattered more than the amount of either one when it came to predicting cardiovascular disease, the study found.

Scientists aren’t sure how potassium dampens the heart-damaging effects of salt. One possibility, Cook says, is that potassium may prevent the body from absorbing as much sodium. But regardless of the mechanism, trying to boost your ratio is pretty much guaranteed to improve your health because you’ll eat more fruits and vegetables, says Edgar Miller III, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Medical University in Baltimore.

A banana has more than 400 mg of potassium, for example. There are more than 900 mg in a potato, nearly 950 mg in a cup of spinach, 600 mg in half a cup of raisins and 500 mg in an 8-ounce cup of orange juice.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables delivers other health-enhancing properties, Miller says, including fiber and antioxidants. And filling up on fresh, whole foods may reduce the reliance on sodium-packed processed meals.

In that way, the new study supports the results of the landmark DASH trials, which in the 1990s found that even when people ate plenty of sodium they were able to lower their blood pressure by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods, and not a lot of red meat, sweets or saturated fats. “This provides further proof,” says Eva Obarzanek, a registered dietitian and research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and one of the authors of the new study, “that sodium is bad and potassium is good.”

Sources: Los Angeles Times

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New Cure for Prostate Cancer

Scientists have developed a potential new treatment for prostate cancer, offering hope to thousands of patients.

It is a monoclonal antibody to a unique tumor marker for prostate cancer, said Pei Xiang Xing, associate professor who heads Burnet Institute‘s Cancer Immunotherapy Lab, Melbourne and led the research team.


The monoclonal antibody is directed at cancer-producing cells carrying the specific molecule known as PIM-1, which is responsible for cell survival, proliferation and differentiation.

Over-expression of PIM-1 plays a critical role in the development, progression and metastasis of prostate cancer and other cancers such as leukemia. The monoclonal antibody significantly inhibited cancer cell growth when used in laboratory models of prostate cancer.

Xing’s group demonstrated that the monoclonal antibody binds to PIM-1 present in cancer cells and creates a chain of events leading to the death of the cells. In particular, the therapeutic effect was improved by combination of the antibody with other drugs currently used to treat prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed invasive cancers and the third leading cause of death in men worldwide, which claims more than 3,000 lives every year, equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer.

A new strategy to treat prostate cancer is urgently needed as there is no efficient method to treat advanced prostate cancer, said a Burnet release.

Burnet Institute’s director Brendan Crabb described it as “an exciting step in the development of new treatments for patients with prostate cancer with very promising laboratory-test results”.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Prostate Cancer Cure Has Side-Effects

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One of the first large quality-of- life studies on today’s prostate cancer treatments suggests that for some men, it is a matter of picking your poison and facing potential sexual, urinary or other problems.

Of the choices studied – surgery, standard radiation, hormone therapy or radioactive seeds – the seeds seemed to carry a lower risk of several of these side-effects.

Hormone therapy – when combined with radiation – had a big effect on men’s vitality and sexuality. The radioactive pellets sometimes led to sexual problems too, but more often involved discomfort in urinating.

The research, published in New England Journal of Medicine , does not address the cure rates of different treatments. Moreover, not every treatment is an option for every man. For example, radioactive pellets are generally used only in men with early-stage cancer that is slow-growing.

Nor does the study speak to decisions about whether to treat at all a slow-growing form of cancer that can take 10 or 20 years to become life-threatening.

An 80-year-old man may choose to avoid all treatment and the assorted complications. But for a man of, say, 50, the study provides some insight into the side effects of different options, said Dr William Oh, a Harvard University prostate cancer specialist.

“We’ve just never had the data that put patients’ side-by-side like this before,” said Dr William Oh.

The researchers surveyed about 1,200 patients, as well as 625 wives who were enrolled at nine US hospitals from March 2003 to March 2006.

Telephone surveys were done before treatment began and at two, six, 12 and 24 months afterward.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Older women don’t benefit from HRT

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The findings of a study has confirmed the theory that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does not benefit older women, and should not be prescribed to them in an attempt to prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease.

In 1999, boffins undertook the Women’s International Study of long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause (WISDOM) trial to assess the long-term risks and benefits of HRT after the menopause.

It was stopped after a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial found that women many years past menopause that were taking HRT had more heart attacks and strokes than those not taking the HRT.

The finding resulted in millions of women the world over discontinuing with the therapy, reports the BMJ.

Now however, boffins believe that the risk of heart attack and stroke only applies to older women, and not younger women in early menopause, for whom it remains a safe short term treatment to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. These findings are based on the WISDOM trial that have recently been published.

As a part of their study, the researchers conducting the WISDOM trial identified 5,692 healthy women in the UK, Australia and New Zealand with an average age of 63 years and 15 years after the menopause.

Women who had not had a hysterectomy were split at random into two groups.

One group of women was given a daily dose of combined hormone therapy (oestrogen and progestogen) while the other was the control group.

Women who had had a hysterectomy were further split between combined hormone treatment, oestrogen only and a placebo.

The volunteers were then monitored for an average of one year, with main outcomes such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporotic fractures, breast cancer and deaths being recorded.

The researchers found that there was a significant increase in the number of major cardiovascular events women in the combined hormone therapy group when they were compared to the placebo group.

However, they also noted that the there was not much significant difference in the two groups in rates for cerebrovascular disease, breast or other cancers, fractures and overall deaths.

The study thus reinforced experts’ belief that

Source:The Times Of India