Posts by mpayne

Mom’s Diet Right Before Pregnancy Can Alter Baby’s Genes

Posted on May 7, 2014

Mom’s Diet Right Before Pregnancy Can Alter Baby’s Genes

Pregnant women have heard it time and time again: What you eat during those nine months can have long-term effects on your child’s health. Heck, one study even that when pregnant women eat a diverse diet, the resulting babies are less picky in the foods they choose. So what about mom’s eating habits before she even knows she’s pregnant? Nutritional deficiencies right at the time of conception can alter a baby’s genes permanently, scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Tuesday. The study, published in Nature Communications, is the first to show that an environmental factor during the first few days of development can change DNA long term. The researchers didn’t look at how these genetic changes affect overall fetal development or the baby’s health later in life. And they analyzed only six genes. But there’s growing from other studies that similar types of genetic changes may help determine a child’s risk for some diseases, including diabetes, mental disorders and autism. “Can diet affect other genes? What’s the biological impact of those [DNA] modifications? At the moment we don’t know the answer to those questions,” says nutritionist , who contributed to the study. “But subsequent research we have — and haven’t [yet] published — says it does matter.” Now we’re not talking about altering the DNA code itself — you know, the building blocks of genes, the ? Rather, Prentice says the dietary effects he and his team have found seem to be changing whether genes are turned on or off in that earliest stage of embryonic development. This on-and-off switch is controlled by decorating the DNA with a special tag, called . How much the six genes got tagged in the developing embryo depended on the levels of a few micronutrients in the mom’s blood at the time of conception, Prentice and his team found. The team examined several B vitamins and nutrients associated with them. They couldn’t pinpoint exactly which ones were most important. But in general, when several of these nutrients, including vitamin B2, were at lower levels in mom’s blood, the six genes had less methylation. “The vitamin levels [in all the women] weren’t way out of the normal range either,” Prentice says. “If you took the blood to your doctor, he would say they were normal.” The team also found a link between the DNA methylation and mom’s body mass index at the time of conception. The heavier the mother, the less methylation. And again, none of the moms were obese. “There were no overweight women in this group,” Prentice says. “Even then, we found a strong link between the mother’s BMI and methylation patterns.” For years, scientists have observed a similar phenomenon in mice: Diet and weight, at the time of conception, alter a baby’s DNA methylation. To check for the effect in people, Prentice and his team turned to women in . Families there rely on their gardens for most of their food, he says, “so the weather patterns completely change the foods eaten throughout the year.” In the rainy season, residents get fewer calories but more nutrient-rich vegetables. In the dry season, they have more calories but dishes are less vitamin-packed. “I think the study is great,” says Duke University’s , who wasn’t involved in the work. “We’ve hypothesized that this time right around conception is a critical period. It’s pretty exciting to see it.” Although the team only looked at six genes, Murphy says she thinks the effect shown in these stretches of DNA could reflect what’s happening throughout the genome. “They could be the canary in...

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What Is Lyme Disease? New Findings Deepen the Mystery

Posted on Apr 9, 2014

What Is Lyme Disease? New Findings Deepen the Mystery

Reprinted from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Rampant disagreement over what constitutes Lyme disease—in particular, who may have contracted it and how, and how long it lasts—has spawned the larger question of how best to treat it. A new study pointing to the possibility of sexual transmission of the pathogen adds fuel to the fire. Amid the uncertainty, a patient-led lobby (the counterculture, as someone has called it) that includes doctors as well as Lyme sufferers advocates a broader definition of the disease, both for treatment and insurance purposes. But the medical establishment asserts that too liberal a definition—and what are seen as renegade practitioners—has led to irresponsible and potentially dangerous treatment of unrelated maladies misidentified as Lyme. It’s also unknown how many people have died because of Lyme. A 2011 study found that of the 114 deaths reported over a five-year period listing Lyme as a partial or direct cause, only one was consistent with clinical manifestations described by the International Classification of Diseases. In December 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Lyme carditis—a condition in which the Lyme bacterium infects the heart—caused three deaths over the past two years. Between 1985 and 2008, only four other fatal cases were confirmed. While the course of the illness varies greatly from person to person, initial manifestations can include a unique skin lesion known as erythema chronicum migrans, headaches, musculoskeletal pain, coughing, sore throat, conjunctivitis, and minor neurological impairment. If the diagnosis is confirmed early enough, Lyme is treated almost exclusively with short-term antibiotics, often penicillin, which are almost 100 percent effective. But if Lyme goes untreated, symptoms can progress. (Watch related video: “The Deer Tick”) In Lyme’s second stage, typically between one and several months after the initial infection, neurological abnormalities can arise, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and cranial neuritis, which can manifest as facial palsy. Some patients develop cardiac problems. In the third stage, which can take several months to years to show up, many patients develop chronic arthritis as well as an increase in neurological and cardiac symptoms, the severity of which can ebb and flow. Voices in the counterculture argue that Lyme’s symptoms are more intense and longer lasting than the medical establishment acknowledges. They say that symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are responsible for related deaths, including suicides from depression about the disease or from the trauma of persistent debilitating symptoms such as arthritis, heart problems, and cognitive impairment. New Developments   And now, further complicating the picture, a study published this January contends that Lyme disease may be sexually transmitted. It shows that the Lyme pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), has been found in both male and female sexual secretions, raising the question of whether people are at risk through intimate contact. Bb is one of only six known spirochete bacteria, named for their coiled spiral shape. (One of the six is the bacterium responsible for syphilis.) PHOTOGRAPH BY SCIENCE PICTURE CO., CORBIS Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterial agent of Lyme disease. The primary vector for Bb is the deer tick—Ixodes scapularis—although other kinds of ticks have been known to transmit it, and other insects, including some mosquitoes, carry the pathogen. A study of Bb last year revealed that it’s the first known organism that doesn’t need iron to survive. This allows it to evade an iron-inhibiting hormone called hepcidin, produced by the liver, which can starve intrusive bacteria. Instead, Bb thrives on manganese, which it uses to make essential enzymes for survival—something researchers who made the discovery last year believe could play a role in ultimately combating the pathogen. Origins: Did Ötzi...

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Plants Won’t Grow Near Wi-Fi Routers

Posted on Dec 16, 2013

It’s not difficult to understand the appeal of Wi-Fi.  This revolutionary technology, which has been commercially available since 1999, eliminates cabling and wiring for computers, reduces cellular usage charges and allows us to connect to the Internet from anywhere with a signal.  Despite these benefits, however, studies continue to show that the radiation generated by wireless routers is negatively affecting our health.  In fact, the British activist website Stop Smart Meters recently published a list of 34 scientific studies demonstrating the adverse biological effects of Wi-Fi exposure, including studies linking it to headaches, reduced sperm count and oxidative stress. The latest research into the dangers of Wi-Fi, though, comes from a surprisingly humble source: Five ninth grade female students from Denmark, whose science experiment revealed that wireless radiation is equally as devastating to plants. Undeniable results The experiment began when the five students realized that they had difficulty concentrating in school if they slept near their mobile phones the previous night. Intrigued by this phenomenon, the students endeavored to study the effects of cellphone radiation on humans. Unfortunately, their school prevented them from pursuing this experiment due to a lack of resources, so the students decided to test the effects of Wi-Fi radiation (comparable in strength to cellphone radiation) on a plant instead. The girls placed six trays of Lepidium sativum seeds (a garden cress grown commercially throughout Europe) in a room without radiation, and an equal amount in a room next to two Wi-Fi routers. Over a 12-day period, they observed, measured, weighed and photographed the results. Even before the 12th day arrived, however, the end results were obvious: The cress seeds placed near the routers either hadn’t grown or were completely dead, while the seeds placed in the radiation-free room had blossomed into healthy plants. The experiment earned the five students top honors in a regional science competition. Moreover, according to a teacher at their school, Kim Horsevad, a professor of neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden was so impressed with the experiment that he is interested in repeating it in a controlled scientific environment. READ...

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Shocked scientists discover the skin communicates with the liver

Posted on Dec 12, 2013

Shocked scientists discover the skin communicates with the liver

Skin: It is your body’s largest organ, and groundbreaking new research out of Denmark has found that the proper function of your other vital organs is dependent upon its integrity. A collaborative research project out of the University of Southern Denmark (USD) recently discovered that human skin directly communicates and interacts with the rest of the body, meaning that, when it is not in good health, there is a good chance that the same is true about other vital organs. Professor Susanne Mandrup and her team stumbled upon this finding while researching something else, which she says came as quite a shock. While working with Nils Faergeman’s research group at USD’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mandrup and her team observed that human skin literally “talks” to other vital organs, including the liver, which is responsible for filtering out toxins and processing carbohydrates and fats. According to Science Daily, the team had been conducting research on so-called “knock-out” mice, or mice that lack a special fat-binding protein known as acyl-CoA-binding protein, when they made the discovery. Some of the mice had strange, greasy fur and were having difficulties being weaned from their mothers, prompting researchers to take a closer look. Since these same mice were having difficulties processing fat through their livers, instead accumulating it over time, the team initially assumed that this probably had something to do with their missing liver genes. But after taking a closer look and conducting a series of experiments, it became clear that there was some other factor involved in this metabolic abnormality. “At first we thought that the fat accumulation in the liver was linked with the fact that the gene was missing in the liver of the knock-out mice,” stated Ditte Neess, one of the researchers. “But this was ruled out by a series of studies, and we had to find another explanation.” Unhealthy skin can lead to unhealthy organs, reveals study When they decided to take a second look at the mice, a combination of greasy fur and what appeared to be “leaky” skin led the team to some new conclusions. Since the leaky skin mice appeared to be losing more water than the other mice, making them colder, researchers hypothesized that this, and not the missing gene, was somehow responsible for a corresponding fat accumulation in the mice’s livers. “When they lose water, they also lose heat,” added Neess. “We therefore asked ourselves whether this water and heat loss could be the reason why the mice accumulated fat in the liver and became weak when weaned from their mother.” As it turns out, this hypothesis was correct. The knock-out mice with the skin and fur problems were more prone to fat accumulation in their livers, and this was the result of their unhealthy skin. After applying a petroleum-based jelly to the coats of the mice in question, and later liquid latex, both of which stopped the heat loss in the mice, their fat accumulation issues also stopped. “We have showed that the skin affects the metabolism in the liver, and that is quite a surprise,” stated the team. “We believe that the leaking of water from the skin makes the mice feel cold, and that this leads to breaking down of fat in their adipose (fat) tissue. The broken down fat is then moved to the liver.  The mice move energy from the tissues to the liver.” READ...

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Is Alzheimer’s Caused by an Infection?

Posted on Dec 7, 2013

Is Alzheimer’s Caused by an Infection?

Research has shown that some common bacteria are consistently detected in the central nervous system of Alzheimer’s patients.1 Doctors from the International Alzheimer Research Center in Switzerland published a study indicating a high probability of a causal relationship, not just an association, between spirochete infections and Alzheimer’s disease. What they discovered was pretty amazing. They found spirochetes in about 90% of Alzheimer’s patients, while the bacteria were virtually absent in healthy age-matched controls.1 Could Alzheimer’s disease be caused by this infection? Let’s explore. Spirochetes Form Brain Plaques Much insight about what could happen in the brain during this process comes from studies on a spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the cause of Lyme disease. Spirochete infection begins with the bacteria entering the brain. Once within the brain tissue, they cause disease by forming plaques or masses along the cerebral cortex — the surface of the brain. Agglutination in the center of the plaque results in a homogeneous central core, which attracts brain macrophages, called microglial cells. The macrophages are responsible for recognizing foreign invaders, engulfing them and presenting them to bacteria fighting immune cells. The macrophages become trapped within the core of the spirochete plaque. Once trapped, they are vulnerable to attack by the spirochetes. This results in their dysfunction and diminished capacity for fighting the infection. The infection spreads and begins to damage and kill brain cells.2 Damaged brain cells produce the characteristic amyloid-beta protein seen in Alzheimer’s patients. Now here’s where it gets really interesting… Amyloid-beta Protein has Antibacterial Properties Scientists have discovered that amyloid-beta protein has anti-bacterial properties, indicating that its production may be an adaptive response to infectious organisms, like invading spirochetes.3,4 The whole process may work something like this: Spirochetes invade and infect the brain. The brain’s normal defenses become dysfunctional as the macrophages (microglia) become trapped and then attacked within the core of the spirochete plaque. With immune dysfunction setting in, the spirochete infection intensifies involving more and more brain cells. Damaged brain cells produce amyloid-beta protein as an adaptive response to the infection. Amyloid-beta deposits grow and begin to affect brain cell connections and communication highways. With damaged connections and communication highways, dementia symptoms begin and gradually worsen. Early Intervention with Antibacterials These findings have led some researchers to hypothesize that “…early intervention against infection may delay or even prevent the future development of Alzheimer’s disease.”3 Early intervention might include preventative antibacterial remedies in people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s — a person with a strong family history or the presence of the Apo-E4 allele (a lipoprotein used for fat and cholesterol transport).5 Antibacterial herbs and other remedies could also be used as part of the early treatment regimen in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Reversing Macrophage Dysfunction with Curcumin Here’s something amazing: Curcumin helps enhance the engulfing properties of brain macrophages — the same macrophages that are damaged and dysfunctional by the spirochetes. As it turns out, curcumin can bind to amyloid-beta plaques, allowing the brain macrophages to “latch on” and engulf the plaques. The clearing of the plaques can help resolve the infection and reestablish normal brain cell connections and communication highways.6 Could antibacterial remedies and curcumin make up an early Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment regimen in the future? It sure is looking possible. References: J Neuroinflammation. 2011 Aug 4;8:90. Neurobiol Aging.2006;27:228–236. Alzheimers Dement. 2009 Jul;5(4):348-60. PLoS One. 2010 Mar 3;5(3):e9505. N Engl J Med. 1995 Nov 9;333(19):1242-7. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5892-901. Based on an article by Michael A. Smith MD for the Life Extension Blog. READ...

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