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Melatonin may suppress breast cancer tumor growth

Researchers found the hormone reduced the number and size of cancer cells in lab experiments.
breast cancer

Based on a theory that sleep-deprived modern society puts women at greater risk for breast cancer, researchers found in a lab experiments that melatonin -- made by the brain at night to help regulate sleep and wake cycles -- reduced the number and size of breast cancer cells
Based on a theory that the sleep-deprived culture of modern society puts women at higher risk for breast cancer, researchers found melatonin may be a way to control the growth and proliferation of cancer cells.

Melatonin decreased the number and size of cancer cells in lab experiments, suggesting deficiencies of the natural hormone contribute to the growth of breast cancer, according to a study published in the journal Genes and Cancer.

The hormone melatonin is made by the brain at night and helps control the body's sleep and wake cycles. And while sleep, or lack thereof, has been considered as playing a role in a range of diseases and adverse health conditions, few studies have confirmed this.

Reseachers at Michigan State University found that when they exposed lab-grown breast tumor cells to melatonin, their growth was limited -- even when they were simultaneously exposed to chemicals known to encourage cancer development.

Additionally, the researchers say the technique used in the experiments could prove to be valuable for future research into disease treatment.

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Melatonin: Range of Effects and Therapeutic Applications


Along with its effects on the endocrine system, melatonin is involved in regulating certain parameters of the cardiovascular system and central nervous system.
In the 60 years since Aaron Lerner and colleagues isolated melatonin, the hormone has been found to affect every system of the body. Although it is primarily synthesized by the pineal gland, melatonin is also produced in peripheral tissues and serves numerous critical physiological functions.1 In mammals, its synthesis in the pineal gland is timed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus via projections to the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus. Melatonin is most well-known for its role in regulating circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycles.1

Pineal melatonin production mainly occurs at night and is dependent on darkness, as light blocks its release. In addition to its immediate effects such as sleep induction, reductions in body temperature and blood pressure, induction of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, and blockade of cortisol secretion, melatonin also leads to prospective effects that manifest throughout the following day.1

"During its daily secretory episode, melatonin coordinates the night adaptive physiology through immediate effects and primes the day adaptive responses through prospective effects that will only appear at daytime, when melatonin is absent," explained a paper published in Endocrine Reviews.1 These include increased pancreatic sensitivity to glucose and incretins-induced insulin secretion, induction of insulin sensitivity, regulation of blood pressure, and energy balance.1,2

Melatonin "regulates energy metabolism, acting in every step of the energy balance, including energy intake (eating), energy flow to and from storages, and energy expenditure...[and] synchronizes energy metabolism requirements to the daily and annual rhythmic environmental photoperiod," the review authors wrote.1 As this suggests, the influence of melatonin extends beyond its immediate or short-term effects, given that the "annual history of the daily melatonin secretory episode duration primes the central nervous/endocrine system to the seasons to come."

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UK doctors shocked by 5-inch 'dragon horn' sprouting from man's back

Dragon horn man's back UK
© BMJ Case Reports

This is not what they meant by "grabbing life by the horns."

A UK man baffled doctors after a 5-inch cancerous "dragon horn" sprouted out of his back despite him having no history of skin cancer, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

The unnamed 50-year-old day laborer's protuberance — which also resembled a gnarled talon and pumpkin stem — was diagnosed with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, the second-most prevalent strain of non-melanoma skin cancer, study authors report.

His growth was perplexing, as the patient had "no previous or family history of skin malignancy and was not immunosuppressed," per the report. Not only that, but there weren't any of the lymphatic abnormalities generally associated with such an aberration.

While most cutaneous cases are surgically nipped in the bud, this patient had allowed his tumor to blossom for three years — in effect making a mountain out of a malignant molehill.


China probes for Sars links in pneumonia outbreak

Healthworker China SARS
© nbcnews.com
Health worker walks past a SARS billboard in Hefei, the capital of China's Anhui province.
China is investigating an outbreak of atypical pneumonia that is suspected of being linked to Sars, the flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people a decade ago, state media reported on Tuesday (Dec 31).

A team of experts from the National Health Commission were dispatched on Tuesday to Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, and are "currently conducting relevant inspection and verification work", state broadcaster CCTV reported.

An emergency notification issued on Monday by the Wuhan municipal health committee said hospitals in the city have treated a "successive series of patients with unexplained pneumonia", without offering details.

Chinese news site The Paper reported 27 cases of viral pneumonia in Wuhan in December, citing unnamed health officials from the city. "Of the 27 cases, seven were critical, the rest were under control, and two patients are expected to be discharged from hospital in near future," The Paper said.

It is unclear whether all these patients are suspected of having contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), a highly contagious respiratory disease.


Mexican TV star dies from parasitic tissue infection after reportedly eating tapeworm-contaminated pork

sebastian ferrat
© AFP / Genome Biology
Instagram / @sebastianferrat ; MRI scans showing a tapeworm in a brain
Actor Sebastian Ferrat, beloved in his native Mexico, has died after a long and horrifying struggle with an infection he reportedly contracted from contaminated pork. Is 2020 the year to give up bacon?

Fans are in deep sorrow as Sebastian Ferrat, 41, died on Sunday after a long battle with a grave illness that local media identified as cysticercosis, a parasitic infection that attacks the brain, muscles, or other tissues. According to reports, the actor, best-known for his roles in various television dramas, contracted the deadly infection after eating spoiled pork.

He reportedly languished in a coma for several months in hospital before finally succumbing to the infection.

Comment: While the incidents noted above by themselves aren't particularly significant, and the risk of contracting an infection of one kind or another are heightened due to unsanitary conditions or when in an unfamiliar country, if we take into account the sheer number of reports of outbreaks and unusual infectious diseases, there does appear to be a trend - here are some stories from just this year:


Wearing shoes from a young age makes your ankles less flexible

© Sebastian Kopp/Getty Images
Wearing shoes from a young age may not help you put your best foot forward
Your shoes are changing your feet. The ankles of people who habitually wear shoes are different to those of people who walk barefoot.

These changes to ankle bones take place over the course of a person's life, and there is no evidence that they can be passed on genetically.

In modern industrial societies, most people wear shoes from a young age. However, in traditional hunter-gatherer societies people often go barefoot, or wear only very thin footwear.

"We know that there are some variations in the feet of modern humans, due to the use of shoes," says Rita Sorrentino of the University of Bologna in Italy. But most previous findings relate to the front and middle of the foot. Sorrentino and her team have focused on the ankle, which is crucial because it links the foot to the leg.

They studied 142 ankle bones from 11 populations from North America, Africa and Europe. These included modern sandal-wearing Nguni farmers in southern Africa, people living in modern New York, and preserved bones from Stone Age hunter-gatherers.

Comment: See also: For more:


Tired of being tired: 6 ways to fight fatigue

fatigue office coffee
Taking ownership of your health will be key to help you live your best life. If you suffer from chronic fatigue, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel and look your best.

Understanding the root causes of fatigue and discussing with your clinicians may be exactly what is needed to get you back on your path to success.

Better quality sleep: Most people know you need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but getting quality sleep is just as important. First, you want to make sure you don't have sleep apnea, which can hurt your ability to get a good night's rest. You also need to prepare well for sleep. You can discuss getting a sleep study with your clinician, especially if you snore, to evaluate whether you have sleep apnea. To help you get enough sleep, have a consistent sleep time, avoid screen time at night, sleep in cooler temperatures and make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible at night.

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'Ultraprocessed' foods may make you eat more, clinical trial suggests

ultraprocessed vs real food
Researchers tracked how much people ate on “ultraprocessed” (left) and “minimally processed” (right) diets that were matched for calories and nutrients.
Something about the industrial processing of food makes us more likely to overeat, according to a new study. Volunteers ate more and gained more weight on a heavily processed diet than an unprocessed one, even when the two diets had the same available calories and nutrients.

The study is "a landmark first," and a "shot over the bow" in a debate over the health of processed food, says Steven Heymsfield, an obesity researcher at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge who was not involved with the work. But some experts question whether the study controlled for important differences between the diets.

The definition of "processed food" is controversial. Nearly all the food at grocery stores is subject to some processing: It's pasteurized, vacuum sealed, cooked, frozen, fortified, and mixed with preservatives and flavor enhancers. Some of these processes can change its nutritional qualities. And some studies have found associations between processed diets and increased risk of obesity, cancer, and even earlier death, but none has shown a causal link.

Comment: It could be that the processed foods, carefully formulated to maximize palatability, are addictive, and there is little doubt this has some affect on how much of it people eat. But it could also be that the food is so lacking in essential nutrients that the body actually signals one to eat more of it in order to get the minimum required nutrition. While the above study meticulously measured the nutrient content of the foods served in both trials, matching them as best they could, how many unknown nutrients are found in fresh whole foods that are lost during processing?

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Can lowering inflammation help treat major depression?

It is estimated that 7.1% of the adult population in the U.S. experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. The highest rates are among those ages 18 to 25 years. Many people believe depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is a theory that has been widely promoted by drug companies and psychiatrists, to the point it is now accepted as fact.

However, this is just a theory and, worse, it's a theory that has been largely discredited. The idea spread quickly after it was proposed in the 1960s when it appeared antidepressant drugs altered brain chemicals. In the 1980s, Prozac (fluoxetine) was released by Eli Lilly and heavily promoted to balance brain chemicals and affect depression.

Prozac had fewer side effects than some of the earlier antidepressants and soon became the poster child for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of antidepressants. However, while heavily prescribed, data repeatedly showed SSRIs worked no better than placebos for those experiencing mild to moderate depression.

Comment: The link between depression and inflammation is becoming more and more evident. See also:

Bacon n Eggs

Relationship between Ketogenic Diet and Sleep: It's complicated

It's not uncommon to hear people report sleep problems when they start a ketogenic diet. A big reduction in carbohydrate intake combined with significant increase to fat intake — which happens on a keto diet — can cause changes to sleep patterns. These macronutrients have different effects in the body and can affect sleep in distinct ways.

Studies of high-fat diets show mixed results. Some research suggests eating abundant fats can improve sleep quality, while other studies show high-fat diets linked to more disruptive sleep and trouble falling asleep. (I'll talk about the effects of protein and carbohydrates on fats in a minute.)

There are a small number of studies that look at keto diets and sleep. They show this very low-carb, high-fat diet may offer benefits for sleep, both through weight loss and other pathways. A just-released study on the effects of keto found that adhering to this eating plan helped reduce daytime sleepiness in a group of obese patients. Previous studies have found similar results, along with increases to REM sleep. Other research has shown ketogenic diets increase REM sleep and sleep quality in a group of children with epilepsy. (A ketogenic diet has shown the capacity to reduce seizures, making it an effective dietary therapy for people with epilepsy.)

Comment: See also,