“Hello, would you like some ketchup, mustard and statins with your cheeseburger, fries and milkshake?”

Fast food chains handing out free statins in order to, er, reduce their customers’ risk of developing heart problems? Doesn’t that sound like something out of a Tarantino horror movie? Here is a vicious circle scenario: you eat some extremely unhealthy, fatty food, then take a pill to reduce your chances of having a heart attack as a result of having eaten that extremely unhealthy, fatty food…I mean, does that make any sense? Well, amazingly, it could soon become reality.

What I just wrote is based on a recent Science Daily report (see: http://tinyurl.com/3all28p) on a new Imperial College London study* asserting that taking a statin can lower one’s risk of developing heart disease after wolfing down a cheeseburger and a milkshake. (*Uhm…my suspicious nature leads me to think that this study must have been financed by a statin-producing pharmaceutical company…!) Go have a look…

Well, at least one of the study authors admits that a statin won’t cut out all of the unhealthy effects of burgers and fries. It’s better to avoid fatty food altogether. Hah. No kidding.

I was stunned, however, to read that you can buy a low-dose statin in a drugstore without a doctor’s prescription. I had no idea. I mean, statins are not completely harmless drugs. And, in fact, the statin mentioned in the SD article has a very long list of “common side effects,” including dizziness, chest pain, difficulty sleeping, hair loss and so on. See: http://tinyurl.com/38l79es And what happens if you forget that you just swallowed a statin and decide to have a grapefruit juice with your meal? (See under: “Getting the most from your treatment.”) Mamma mia. For more info on statins and their harmful side effects, have a look at this May 2010 BBC report: http://tinyurl.com/3926squ

Before publishing their outrageous suggestions, perhaps the study authors should have interviewed my father, who has had high cholesterol for ages. About five years ago, his doctor decided to put him on statins (no brand names, but it was a very popular one) for three weeks. Well, Dad’s total cholesterol did in fact go down a bit, but so did his HDL, = his “good,” cholesterol (quite a lot, he told me), which meant that his risk factor for heart disease actually went UP instead of down. In complete agreement with his GP, he stopped taking it.

Incidentally, my father has been taking curcumin, 3-4 grams a day, for at least a couple of years now. His total cholesterol has gone down 60 points (!). Oh, and, unlike that statin drug, curcumin has increased his good cholesterol levels AND reduced his pesky triglycerides. I say “curcumin,” because there is no other plausible explanation for this improvement in Dad’s cholesterol levels.

Besides, what happened to my father has happened to me, too: my high (=inherited, probably) cholesterol has dropped more than 30% since I began taking curcumin, my HDL levels have gone up quite a bit AND my triglycerides have decreased (from 99 to 70…!).

Coincidence? Perhaps…then again, perhaps not…

The implications of a missing Puma…

Today (= a stormy day in Florence) Stefano and I continued to do quite a bit of house cleaning/organizing (oh, and I also made an enorrrmous apple pie…yum yum!). But I digress… 🙂

This morning, during a much-needed break, I began looking through a bunch of recent Science Daily articles and was struck by this one, which is about a gene…not about a lost mountain kitty (see photo…awwww!): http://tinyurl.com/35upwo3

Well, I still cannot wrap my brain around this new finding, but I did want to publish this link for those of you who might be interested in reading about a low-dose radiation experiment that has implications for the understanding of how cancers develop.

I will read it again more thoroughly (and perhaps make a few comments…or not…) tomorrow morning, when my brain will presumably have recovered from the delicious aroma of apple pie that is filling our house right at the moment… 😉

House cleaning and hot chili peppers…

For the past several days (=theoretically, we are in the middle of our summer holiday right now, but it feels more like an endless cleaning marathon…), Stefano and I have been going through and throwing away a lot of the stuff that we have accumulated over the years. Useless junk. Why did we keep it in the first place? Sigh… 

We have also begun a series of projects. Yesterday, for example, we went to IKEA (ah, I just love IKEA stuff…Uhm, wait, but only if Stefano puts it together…I mean, with a quick, cursory glance at the daunting pile of differently-sized nuts and bolts and screws and thingamajigs, he figures out what to do, immediately and without checking the instructions; whereas I am not even able to build a simple IKEA bookcase properly, sigh and double-sigh…well okay, perhaps I exaggerate…), where we bought two very tall narrow CD towers that, joined together and hidden behind a door (also bought at IKEA), have been transformed into THE perfect spice cabinet. All my spices now have their own little niche–the biggest one is for turmeric, as you can imagine!–and I can actually find things when I need them and not three years later, way past the expiration date. Before yesterday, you see, my spices were shoved into the bottom of a corner kitchen cabinet, and I could never find a bloody thing, especially when I needed it.

So house cleaning can be a very VERY good thing…I guess…!

But it has kept me away from my research and the blog, which I do check carefully about once a day, mainly to delete tons of spam messages, some of which I find rather amusing…but mainly just a silly waste of my time (delete delete delete…I mean, what’s the point???).

I have also answered a few blog reader queries, but my time is limited, and I am finding it difficult to answer each and every one, so please please please bear with me and, if need be, write me a reminder…that is, write to me if you cannot find the answer to your question on my blog (scroll down my Pages on the right until you reach the Search box; that makes things easier…).

Okay, now let’s go on to the hot chili pepper part of today’s post: a few days ago, I read a very interesting Science Daily article about capsaicin–the HOT ingredient in chili peppers–and high blood pressure: http://tinyurl.com/34swjx4 It reminded me of a post that I wrote in 2007 about a myeloma and capsaicin study: http://tinyurl.com/3xocear. At the time, I had access only to the abstract. Well, I did a brief search yesterday, and it turns out that the full study is available for free online now. I haven’t had the time to read it yet, but here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/34vkljo

So, please pass the hot chili pepper…in fact, the hotter, the better! 🙂

Bee venom and myeloma: a case study

This morning, while taking a break to read a recent Science Daily article on bee venom tested as a “smart bomb” to target cancer cells (http://tinyurl.com/38352lx), I was reminded of a post I wrote, three years ago!!!, about an Iranian multiple myeloma patient who was treated, successfully it seemed (seems?), with bee stings. Here is the link to that post: http://tinyurl.com/2urbc5j

Well, at the time I didn’t have access to the full study. After checking online this morning, though, I found it…yes, the whole kit and caboodle: http://tinyurl.com/368nxoa. It is a short, easy and intriguing text, so I highly recommend that you go have a look at it.

Now, I am not suggesting that we should all go out and get stung by bees (ouchhh!), but we cannot deny that this is a thought-provoking case of a myeloma patient whose symptoms got considerably worse with chemotherapy, to the point where he was bedridden, but improved under the controlled administration of bee venom…

Bad wind…

Yesterday was my parents’ 56th wedding anniversary 🙂 …So, in order to keep celebrating all the years they have spent together (and yes, they are the sort who still walk around hand in hand and say goofy things to each other… 🙂 ), I thought I would post something amusing today. This list was sent to me by a UK blogging friend (thanks!):

Extracts from complaints written by council tenants to their Housing Departments.

  • My bush is really overgrown round the front, and my back passage has fungus growing in it.
  • He’s got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house, and I just can’t take it anymore.
  • It is the dog’s mess that I find hard to swallow.
  • I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.
  • I wish to complain that my father hurt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.
  • And their 18-year-old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.
  • I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other night that blew them off.
  • My lavatory seat is cracked; where do I stand?
  • I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.
  • Will you please send someone to mend the garden path? My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.
  • I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.
  • 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are plain filthy.
  • I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.
  • The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.
  • Will you please send a man to look at my water? It is a funny colour & not fit to drink.
  • I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6 am his cock wakes me up, and its now getting too much for me.
  • The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.
  • Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third, so please send someone round to do something about it.
  • I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.
  • Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.

Global myeloma…

I am researching a bunch of different topics, which I hope will turn into hot trails and not, as often happens, fizzle out and become a bunch of unfinished, unpublished drafts…

Since I am still a bit stumped in my research, though, today I would like to direct you to a blogging friend’s post, which shows multiple myeloma incidence rates all over the world…scary but interesting, too: http://tinyurl.com/25ej8dd Just click on her three “red” links to see the global maps…

Here I discovered that Italy (where I have lived most of my life) has one of the highest incidence rates of myeloma in the world…Well, geeweezee, che sorpresa!, how is that possible? Yes, I am indeed quite surprised. And I think most of you will be equally surprised to see the placement of certain countries on this global map…

That’s it. I am moving to Belize…but before I begin packing, I must return to my research… 😉

EGCG blocks three Polycomb repressor genes

Thanks to a fabulous blog reader, I was able to read the entire text of a recently-published “Carcinogenesis” study on how EGCG, the main polyphenol in green tea, affects not one, not even two, but THREE (!) of the pesky Polycomb repressor genes that play central roles in myeloma. The study examines skin cancer cells, not myeloma ones, but the findings are certainly relevant for us, too. Here is the link to the abstract: http://tinyurl.com/32edo5d

We have already spent a lot of time on EZH2 (see previous posts), which is closely linked to the proliferation (etc.) of myeloma cells, so I won’t bother going over that one again.

But this is the first time we have dealt with Bmi-1 in connection with myeloma. All we need to do is take a look at the title of another study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/32lsuf7): “The Polycomb Group Protein Bmi-1 Is Essential for the Growth of Multiple Myeloma Cells.” This part says it all: “…essential for the growth of myeloma cells…” 👿

As for SUZ12, this Polyhooligan* (*this word does not exist, by the way…it just popped into my head as I was writing one of my Polycomb posts) is also super-active in multiple myeloma and, e.g., chronic myeloid leukemia. I became aware of its existence while going through the study that began my Polycomb quest: http://tinyurl.com/3y8errz This study mentions that SUZ12 is significantly correlated with the establishment and progression of MM. Eeek! 

So let’s have a look at the “Carcinogenesis” study. Today I don’t feel like quoting and commenting on huge portions of a study, so I will be amazingly brief…for a change. 🙂

In the abstract, you can read about EGCG’s anticancer activities…I wanted to highlight only that it inhibits some of myeloma’s best buddies—cyclin D1 and so on. Yes, you are right: the abstract is not easy to read (…you should see the full study!…Mamma mia!). In a nutshell, though, it tells us that EGCG reduces the survival of skin cancer cells by decreasing the mad activity of two Polyhooligans, Bmi-1 and EZH2. The third Polyhooligan, SUZ12, is discussed only in the full study (a bit of technical information: SUZ12 belongs to the PCR2 group).

Full study, now. It points out that EGCG has not (yet!) been studied in connection with the hyperactive Polycomb repressor genes. Other studies have shown that EGCG blocks the growth and indeed increases apoptosis in skin cancer cells (apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death). This study shows that expression of prosurvival PcG proteins is increased in skin cancer cells as compared with normal and that EGCG treatment of the cancer cells suppresses PcG protein expression and histone methylation leading to reduced cell survival. Basically, this means that skin cancer cells contain a whole bunch of these hyperactive Polyhooligans, which help them survive…but most of them begin dying as soon as EGCG enters the picture. Not bad, eh! 

Skipping a lot of details (a promise is a promise…!) and getting to the Conclusion: by reducing the hyperactivity of the three above-mentioned Polyhooligans, EGCG is able to have a huge impact on the survival of skin cancer cells. Gollywobbly!

Well, one thing is for sure: I am definitely a coffee-in-the-morning drinker, not a tea-drinker (except when we are in the UK)…but, after reading this study, I am seriously thinking of having a mid-afternoon cup of green tea every day…in fact, it is mid-afternoon right now, sooo…off I go, ciao! 😉

A lawyer and a senior citizen…

A blog reader (thanks!) sent me this joke…not sure why the lawyer has to be a…lawyer (my apologies to all the hard-working lawyers out there!), but anyway…here it is:

A lawyer and a senior citizen are sitting next to each other on a long flight. The lawyer is thinking that seniors are so dumb that he could get one over on them easy. So he asks if the senior would like to play a fun game. The senior is tired and just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and tries to catch a few winks.

The lawyer persists, saying that the game is a lot of fun. “I ask you a question, and if you don’t know the answer, you pay me only $5. Then you ask me one, and if I don’t know the answer, I will pay you $500,” he says. This catches the senior’s attention and to keep the lawyer quiet, he agrees to play the game.

The lawyer asks the first question. “What’s the distance from the Earth to the Moon?” The senior doesn’t say a word, but reaches into his pocket, pulls out a five-dollar bill, and hands it to the lawyer.

Now it’s the senior’s turn. He asks the lawyer, “What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?” The lawyer uses his laptop and searches all references he could find on the Net. He sends e-mails to all the smart friends he knows; all to no avail. After an hour of searching, he finally gives up. He wakes the senior and hands him $500. The senior pockets the $500 and goes right back to sleep.

The lawyer is going nuts not knowing the answer. He wakes the senior up and asks, “Well, so what goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?”

The senior reaches into his pocket, hands the lawyer $5 and goes back to sleep.