Monthly Archives: March 2008

Good manufacturing practices

I recently received a Google Alert (key word: “curcumin”) that pleased me very much. The link took me to the website of the NSF or National Sanitation Foundation, which, according to Wikipedia, is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that develops standards and provides product certification and education in the field of public health and safety. Interesting website, actually, I will have to check it out more thoroughly when I have more time (more…TIME??? Belly laugh: hahahaha! ).
 
At any rate, a few months ago Sabinsa contacted NSF to pursue ingredient certification for a number of their raw materials, as you can read here: http://tinyurl.com/2fgfon
 
Among the raw materials to be certified was the curcumin that I and many others take: Curcumin C3 Complex. The NSF ingredient certification process took approximately sixty days and included a formulation review, an audit of the Sabinsa manufacturing facility in Mysore, India and ingredient component testing to verify conformance to NSF American National Standard 173-Dietary Supplements. Sabinsa Corporation was pleased with the outcome as all six ingredients were certified. This excellent news is almost hot off the press, perhaps a couple of weeks old. 

Oh, and by the way, I came across a curious little fact on the NSF Wikipedia page, which I found confirmed elsewhere, too: the chairman of the NSF Board of Directors happens to be (!) the vice-president for GlaxoSmithKline’s (big pharma!) Worldwide Regulatory Affairs…hmmm, hardly someone who would be thrilled to have curcumin or any other natural product certified, no? So this makes this bit of news, in my view, rather remarkable. Good for Sabinsa!

(Disclaimer: by the way, I am in no way involved with Sabinsa Corporation, financially or otherwise. I am just someone who takes C3 Complex, either in powder or capsule form. In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to state that I have now and again received free supplement offers, which I have always courteously and firmly turned down…not because I am a millionnaire, hah!, but because I want to test substances "with no strings attached." If I cannot afford a supplement, I simply won’t take it. End of story.)

Best friends

This morning a blog reader sent me the link to an amazing video, a lovely tale of animal friendship, which should put a smile on your face: http://tinyurl.com/3d8q4t
 
Speaking of best friends. Being close in age, my two youngest cats, Priscilla (two years old) and Peekaboo (ten months old), spend a lot of time together, mostly playing and chasing each other all over the house (it’s a real circus here, sometimes! ), but they also do one of the cutest and most amusing things I have ever seen. Today I caught it on camera. I should really learn to take videos with my digital camera (ok, that’s my next project), since photos can tell only so much.
 
First, some background. About a year ago, Puzzola (my eldest) developed a urinary tract problem, so she has been on a special diet since last summer. Being a believer in prevention, I have put the other adult cats on the same diet, too. They really like the food, so it hasn’t been a problem.
 
That is, until Peekaboo joined the family. She’s a healthy bouncy kitten and is not supposed to be on a diet, of course.
 
We thought of separating the cats at mealtimes. But they all eat in the kitchen/dining room area, which is an open space. No doors to shut. That idea didn’t work. So, what to do?

Well, in the beginning I would give Peekaboo some kitten food and would stand guard to make sure the other cats wouldn’t bother her. But then I realized that she could defend herself…even from Piccolo. He can shove the other two females away from their dishes, but not this feisty little one. Very baffling for my big strong boy.

At any rate, now I give Peekaboo a mixture of the diet food and kitten food (or just kitten food), and let the cats figure things out for themselves.

But the story continues. It turns out that Priscilla loves kitten food. Who can blame her? But she soon realized that they couldn’t eat from the same dish because both their heads wouldn’t fit over it. As simple as that. So she devised a method for stealing bits of food from Peekaboo’s dish (I should note that my cats have their own dishes, but sometimes Priscilla ignores her food and walks over to check out what the kitten is eating, even if I give them the exact same thing. By now, she is firmly convinced that I give Peekaboo the tastiest morsels).

Priscilla’s simple but smart solution: she dips her paw into the dish while Peekaboo is eating and fishes out some food for herself. This cat has brains.

Eh, but the most amusing part is that Peekaboo has learned to do the same thing. She thinks it’s really cool to use her paws to eat. So they take turns at the dish, as you can see in these photos. Ahhh, I do love these cats! Can you tell?

Creatinine clearance versus creatinine

I went to see my family doctor earlier today. There I was, all concerned about my high creatinine clearance result, but he explained to me that it was a GOOD thing. Eh? Oh yes, it turns out that I had mixed up serum creatinine and creatinine clearance, duuuh…Hmmm, well, as George Bernard Shaw said, A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing. Although I do hope that I won’t make MANY more mistakes! 

At any rate, by George (pun intended)!, my doctor is right! The following, taken from Labtestsonline (a very helpful website: http://www.labtestsonline.org/), clears  up matters a bit:

Any disease or condition that affects the glomeruli can decrease the kidneys’ ability to clear creatinine and other wastes out of the blood. When this occurs, the blood creatinine level will be increased and the creatinine clearance will be decreased because not as much creatinine is able to be excreted in the urine. A decreased creatinine clearance rate may also occur when there is decreased blood flow to the kidneys as may occur with congestive heart failure, obstruction within the kidney, or acute or chronic kidney failure. The less effective the kidney filtration, the greater the decrease in clearance. 

(Emphasis mine.)

In sum, high serum creatinine = bad; high creatinine clearance (from a 24-hour urine test) = good. I will not get that mixed up again!

My doctor looked over my tests and agreed with me that the way to go is: C3 Complex curcumin with bioperine. Next set of tests will tell more of the story. In the meantime, I going to enjoy my lovely spring flowers, as you can see.  Well, right now I have to do some work, actually. Off I go!

Broccoli for immunity

I have been very busy (in a good sense!) these last couple of days, and today is no exception, which means I don’t have time to do any research or answer any e-mails, sooooorry! 
 
I did, however, want to post the link to a recent Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/29ohml) on broccoli, which contains a fantastic chemical (about which I have already written, see my Page on broccoli) called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane “switches on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells, which then combat the injurious effects of molecules known as free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease.” This means that by eating broccoli we may be able to slow down what one of the UCLA researchers called “the age-related decline in immune function.”
 
Read this: “In particular, the scientists discovered that dendritic cells, which introduce infectious agents and foreign substances to the immune system, were particularly effective in restoring immune function in aged animals when treated with sulforaphane.” Indeed, when sulforaphane was administered to old mice, their immune systems became as efficient as those of young mice. Well, well.
 
Hmmm, it just so happens that I will be making (and freezing for future use) a bit of broccoli pesto today. And here is my easy-peasy recipe:
  1. Wash and cut some broccoli florets, as many as you want, into half or quarters, depending on size. Let them sit for 5 minutes or so before cooking so that the cancer-preventive compounds have time to form (see: http://tinyurl.com/9tjdw). Steam them for no more than 5 minutes. Overcooked broccoli has about the same nutritional content of cardboard, so watch out.
  2. Crush or mince some fresh garlic, again as much as you want, but don’t go overboard!, and, as you did for the broccoli, set it aside for 5-10 minutes (see why here: http://tinyurl.com/2yzh9g). If you don’t care for the strong taste of fresh garlic, prepare the fresh garlic as above and slightly steam it with the broccoli. A solution for any problem…!
  3. Blend the broccoli and garlic…in a blender together with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper (omit the latter if you are on eight grams of curcumin WITH bioperine, which is a black pepper extract, so we don’t want to consume too much extra pepper on a daily basis). If the mixture is too stiff, just add some water from the pot where you steamed the broccoli (aha!).
  4. If you want, you can add a bit of hot red pepper for the capsaicin (a myeloma-cell-killer in vitro!). I may also try adding a dash of turmeric today. Hmmm.
That’s it for now. I have to get back to work! Take care, everyone!

Cat quality control

I began juicing again yesterday. I haven’t juiced in, oh, months. Terrible!  But I have been feeling tired and sluggish lately, and need to give myself a boost, a mental boost, too. Juices always help. So my plan from now on is to juice at least once a day.

This is a photo of my fabulous Green Star twin gear juicer, bought in 2006, being carefully checked out by Peekaboo (this morning). She really enjoys watching me push carrots and apples and whatnot through the feeding chute. If I were juicing tuna, I’d be in trouble! 

Since some blog readers have asked me privately about my current protocol, here it is again: Sherlock and I are taking eight grams of curcumin C3 Complex (Doctor’s Best 500 mg capsules with bioperine, which we have both taken before), plus one gram of EGCG, or green tea extract, and one gram of flaxseed oil (I think Sherlock may be taking fish oil).

In addition, I occasionally take a (mainly) vitamin B complex, the same that I began taking a few months ago. And I practice qigong. Ah, I also want to learn how to fly through the air like Peekaboo in this recent photo (what a scary jump that was…for me! ).

Notice: I discovered this morning that some of my newspaper article links on the right don’t work anymore. I will be going through and replacing them with new links (or not!) in the next few days. Well, things like this are to be expected. Too bad.

Tumour suppressor…helps tumours thrive?

In the past months, I have received more than one message from folks understandably concerned about curcumin’s reported inhibiting effect on what is known as the tumour-suppressor gene, p53. The "Scientific American" article that brought this matter to my attention is listed here on my blog (see “Spice Healer,” here on the right). At first glance, that doesn’t sound good, does it? I mean, that curcumin inhibits a tumour suppressor? Yikes. I was concerned, too. (The image on the left, by the way, shows healthy p53 in its unbound state; the one on the right shows it repairing damaged DNA). I have read conflicting studies on the curcumin-p53 issue, incidentally, which doesn’t help me reach a conclusion.
 
But a 2005 Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/2qg85m) that I read by pure chance recently told me something I did not know about p53. Under normal conditions, very true, p53 exterminates cancer cells. But under conditions of hypoxia (low oxygen), this gene apparently mutates: The less oxygen, the more mutations in the p53 gene, so cancer cells are not killed; instead, they proliferate. Cancer cells proliferate??? Ma scherziamo?
 
Prof. Kimball’s biology text (see link on my homepage, on the right) informs us that the p53 protein prevents a cell from completing the cell cycle if its DNA is damaged or the cell has suffered other types of damage. When a cell is injured or malfunctioning, in other words, p53 is summoned to assess the situation: if the damage is minor, this gene temporarily halts the cell cycle (cell division); if the damage is major, though, p53 initiates the process of apoptosis. But what happens in the case of a cancer cell?
 
More than half of human cancers contain p53 mutations and have no functioning p53 protein. And read this: Mice have been cured of cancer by treating them with a peptide that turns on production of the p53 protein in the tumor cells. However, there may be a tradeoff involved: excess production of the p53 protein leads to accelerated aging in mice. The converse appears also to be true: mice expressing high levels of the anti-aging protein Sirt1 have their production of p53 depressed and are more susceptible to cancer.
 
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?
 
The following may help us better understand what is going on. This helpful website (http://tinyurl.com/292n29) provides an overview of p53—its history and structure, how it works and so on. Healthy cells, we are told, have low levels of p53, which can be increased as a result of cell stress or DNA damage. Okay. But while the p53 gene plays an important role in cell cycle control and apoptosis in healthy cells, mutant p53 could allow abnormal cells to proliferate, resulting in cancer. As many as 50% of all human tumors contain p53 mutants (this confirms what Prof. Kimball wrote).
 
How does the p53 gene gets damaged? Well, by smoking, I read, and also: by mutagens (chemicals, radiation or viruses), increasing the likelihood that the cell will begin uncontrolled division. […] Restoring its function would be a major step in curing many cancers. Okay, I have to read this page more carefully and do some more in depth research.

A May 2007 BBC article (http://tinyurl.com/2sthnc) merely confirms the conflicting nature of p53: a trial at the Georgia Institute of Technology has found chemotherapy patients with normally functioning p53 fare worse than those with mutated p53. This suggests p53 may help some cancers come back. […] If this is the case, a new strategy for fighting cancer might be to develop drugs to disable the functioning of p53 in the tumours of patients undergoing chemotherapy. The lead researcher suggested that p53 may help repair some of the cancer cells damaged by chemotherapy leading to tumour recurrence and explaining the higher mortality rate of patients whose tumours had a functioning p53.

In this scenario, patients are better off with a mutated p53! Extraordinary, when you think about it.

Until recently, I thought p53 was one of the “good guys.” But hey, have a look at this: this research team studied tumour samples from patients with ovarian cancer. Some of the cancer patients had been treated with chemotherapy prior to surgery, and some had not. Only 30% of the chemotherapy patients who had normally functioning p53 were alive five years later, compared to 70% of those with mutated, non-functioning p53. Heckaroni! The full Georgia Institute of Technology study is available online: http://tinyurl.com/2nvajq (I confess, I read only the Discussion part since I need no further convincing). In the image on the right, by the way, the dark stains show the mutated p53 in ovarian cancer cells.
 
Bottom line: p53 appears to be a cousin of the transcription factor NF-kappaB: as long as cells are normal, both of these transcription factors keep us in good shape. But when cancer begins developing, weird things start happening, and both NF-kappaB and p53 go a bit bonkers. Hmmm, all of this makes me think that perhaps curcumin’s alleged inhibiting effect on p53, if proven to be true!, would not be such a bad thing after all…

I knew I shouldn’t have done that!

Have you ever said to yourself: “oh, I really wish I hadn’t done/said that, I just KNEW I shouldn’t have!” Or, have you ever met someone you immediately (for no apparent reason) either loved or hated? Exactly. Well, today I will be looking at a new study on gut feelings, discussed in a recent Science Daily article: http://tinyurl.com/3x4ljx.

Oh, first, the sentence on house-hunting hit home (no pun intended) with me: when I was house-hunting many years ago, I fell in love with the house that Stefano and I ended up buying, oh but that’s a very long story. Well, okay, in short, if I hadn’t ignored the realtor’s warnings, we would not be living here today. As it was, I followed my instinct and gushed on and on to the then-owners, two elderly ladies, about how lovely their house was. At the signing of the contract, the ladies confided to me that they were so fed up with potential buyers walking through their home and making negative remarks that, the very day we saw the house, they had decided to take it off the market. Then we showed up. As a result of my gushing, the ladies were confident that I would love their house (I do!), so they decided to sell it to us. Point is, I followed my instinct, and we were able to buy our dream house (although a castle in Scotland or Northumberland UK is a close second! ). Okay, enough rambling!

 

First, what exactly is a gut feeling? I suppose it could be described as a sort of intuitive feeling that we cannot rationally understand but that frequently leads us to make decisions, decisions guided more by emotions than by rational thought.

I am all in favour of following my gut’s “suggestions,” in case that weren’t clear.   I recently wrote, e.g., about my gut feelings against starting chemotherapy back in 2005. Those feelings were later confirmed by more than one myeloma specialist. Well, I have tons of examples from my past, but I have digressed enough for now.

Getting back to the article, a team of researchers at Leeds University urges us to take our intuitions seriously. According to a team led by Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University Business School, intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential. There are many recorded incidences where intuition prevented catastrophes and cases of remarkable recoveries when doctors followed their gut feelings.
 
But, quelle surprise!, science has historically ridiculed the concept of intuition, putting it in the same box as parapsychology, phrenology and other ‘pseudoscientific’ practices.
 
Intuition turns out to be the result of the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision – but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we’re aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong.
 
Isn’t this fascinating? Well, there are scientific studies on the brain-gut connection, I read a few this morning, but for now at least I merely wanted to introduce the subject, which is of particular interest to me since most of my best past and current decisions were/are based on gut feelings. How about yours?

What, me worried??? Hah!!!

I hope this post won’t scare you into eating grass, and nothing but grass!…but…who would’ve ever thought?!!! 

Science Daily recently (http://tinyurl.com/32hx4t) reported on acrylamide. This is apparently a carcinogenic chemical that forms when we fry, bake or grill starch-rich foods at temperatures above 120 degrees Centigrade. Think about THAT the next time you bake some bread or some chocolate chip cookies! Or grill your spaghetti. Gee whiz. Another thing to worry about. Or…?

Okay, we all know that French fries are really really REALLY bad for us, and that is true for fried food as a category, but…bread and rice? And get this: apparently, the longer our food cooks, the more acrylamide is released. I think I might have been happier not knowing this.
 
But there is good news. We have ways of reducing the levels of this chemical. Perhaps you thought I was about to say by adding curcumin, huh? Nope, not this time.  Although I do confess that curcumin was my first thought, and I did check up on it (but found nada).

This time it’s rosemary. Just add a bit of rosemary to your bread or chocolate chip cookies (…ehhhh?! I know, I know…but we might learn to like the taste…hehe). Seriously, now: The addition of rosemary to dough prior to baking a portion of wheat buns at 225°C reduced the acrylamide content by up to 60 per cent. Even rosemary in small quantities – in one per cent of the dough – was enough to reduce the acrylamide content significantly.

Rosemary has plenty of healthful properties, and I love the taste to boot. So whenever I make bread now, I simply add (to the dough) some chopped up rosemary from my very own rosemary bushes in the back yard. Easy peasy! And the result is always delicious.

Another thing that will reduce the levels of this chemical is…drum roll…the green tea extract: EGCG. Hah!
 
I read another suggestion: if you simply MUST have French fries, don’t fry them until they are practically burned (the darker they are, the higher their acrylamide content will be). And, even more importantly, soak the potatoes in water for at least a half hour before frying (if you soak them for a couple of hours, you reduce the acrylamide content by almost 50%). Basically, the longer they soak, the less acrylamide will end up in your body. Funny thing is, I have been doing that anyway ever since my mother-in-law told me to soak potatoes in water with a bit of vinegar. She said that would make the potatoes crispier. But perhaps there was more to it than that. Hmmm.
 
Smoking also increases your levels of this chemical, so, smokers, BEWARE (I am referring to two beloved members of my family, in particular). I’d say this would be another good reason to quit.
 
Well, acrylamide has been found to cause cancer and neurological problems in lab rats and mice, but very few studies have been done to date on human exposure to this chemical. So I am not going to worry too much about it, but to be on the safe side I will be adding rosemary to my carb-ridden food.
 
Links to more info on this subject:
 
http://tinyurl.com/3yrrz3 Heat isn’t necessarily the only thing that should concern us. Acrylamide can be found in dried fruit, too. Ok, that is IT, I’m throwing my leftover raisins into the garden! (Just kidding!) Anyway, here you will find out why you should choose baking soda over baking powder. And other titbits.
 
http://tinyurl.com/2goqoj This takes you to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency info on acrylamide. So if you want to know about the harmful effects of this stuff, check out this link. No worries, you won’t grow an extra head…but, truth be told, I only glanced at this page, so if that is one of your concerns, better check it out. Oh drat, I just read that it’s in coffee, too! Why did I read this blasted Science Daily article in the first place? 
 
The National Cancer Institute has another acrylamide FAQ page: http://tinyurl.com/2rzwe8
 
Tips on how to cut the level of this chemical can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2jzra3 Okay, no more roasted almonds for me!
 
http://tinyurl.com/3y2axv This link will take you to the Fanatic Cook’s blog. I read her blog from time to time. She is a cooking blogger/researcher with a good sense of humour, which I always appreciate. Anyway, here she looked up statistics (acrylamide content of a few popular foods), the FDA acceptable intake of acrylamide…you get the picture. A good read. I will add a link to her blog here.
 
http://tinyurl.com/2rqz42 go here for FDA data on the acrylamide content of a huge list of foods. Check out the acrylamide content of Pringles! Yikes!
 
The Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer examined more than 60,000 postmenopausal women, finding “increased risks of postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer with increasing dietary acrylamide intake, particularly among never-smokers,” but no increased breast cancer risks (published in November 2007): http://tinyurl.com/ypgqhq

Curcumin and radiation: uterine cancer testimonial

Yesterday the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Gazette (see: http://tinyurl.com/3c2n25) published a report by a woman who underwent radiation treatments for uterine cancer in January of 2006. She wrote that after three days, “the skin on my lower abdomen began to turn red.” Fearing that she would have to stop the treatment because of the radiation burns left on her sensitive skin, she began searching Internet for ways to prevent them. She found her answer: turmeric!

After reading a series of studies, including a 2005 University of Rochester study, which reported the successful use of curcumin during radiation treatments for breast cancer patients, she began taking curcumin (she uses the word "turmeric," but it must be curcumin): 

Using the rationale that radiation is radiation, I immediately began taking 1,500 milligrams of turmeric per day: a therapeutic dosage supported by numerous studies. Initially, my doctor was as skeptical as he was intrigued. But by day six of my radiation treatment, there was no denying that my previously scorched skin was completely healed. And by day 25, the radiated skin looked just like it did on day one: not a single blister or burn. It was East meeting West in a perfect blend of modern science and ancient herbal remedy.

An important fact mentioned in the article is that curcumin protects normal cells from the noxious effects of radiation while enhancing the anticancer effect of radiation. When you think about it, it’s really mind-boggling!
 
Well, I confess: this was not news to me. I have already posted about curcumin’s protective effect against the toxicity of radiation treatments (April 2 2007 post, also see my permanent page on Curcumin and radiation), so this article simply confirms my findings. It’s great, though, to read a personal story, a testimonial, no? At any rate, check out this article, it’s worth reading.