Broccoli sprout extract eases pain of sunburn
BROCCOLI sprouts may not be everyone’s favourite, but they could protect skin from the damaging effects of the sun — and you wouldn’t even have to eat them. Scientists have found that applying broccoli sprout extract to the skin can reduce the redness of sunburn caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Their findings were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The active ingredient in the broccoli sprout extract is a chemical called sulforaphane. After confirming that sulforaphane can protect mice from skin cancer, the authors then tested the extract on six healthy human volunteers. Each person was exposed to UV radiation on small patches of skin (less than 3cm in diameter) that were either treated or untreated with different doses of broccoli sprout extract. At the highest doses, redness — a sign of inflammation and cell damage— was reduced by an average of 38 per cent. The authors suggest that reducing sunburn redness with broccoli sprout extract could lower the long-term risk of skin cancer.
ProcNatlAcadSciUSA 2007;doi:10.1073/pnas.0708710104 (Talalay P, et al)
CANNABIS is thought to be an effective painkiller, but new research in Anesthesiology has shown that its effects depend on dose. Smoking moderate amounts of cannabis (marijuana) can reduce pain, while low doses have no effect and high doses actually increase pain, say the authors. The study involved 15 volunteers who smoked low, medium, or high doses of cannabis — based on the content of THC (9-deltatetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical — or an inactive placebo. Pain was induced by injecting capsaicin, the ‘‘ hot’’ chemical found in chillies, into the skin. Five minutes after smoking, none of the three doses of cannabis had any effect on pain levels. But 45 minutes after smoking the moderate dose of cannabis, pain was significantly reduced — approximately six points lower on a 100-point scale — compared to the placebo. In contrast, 45 minutes after smoking the high dose of cannabis, pain scores were increased by eight points compared to placebo. The findings show that more research is needed on the effects of cannabis before it is used widely for pain relief.
Anesthesiology 2007;4 (Wallace MS, et al)
MEN who eat more whole-grain breakfast cereals have a much lower risk of developing heart failure, according to research in the ArchivesofInternalMedicine this week. A total of 21,376 middle-aged male doctors were surveyed about their breakfast cereal intake, and then tracked for nearly 20 years. During this time, 1018 of the men experienced heart failure. Compared to men who never ate whole-grain breakfast cereals, those who ate an average of seven or more servings per week were 29 per cent less likely to suffer from heart failure. Eating two to six servings of cereal per week reduced the risk by 21 per cent. Whole grains are thought to protect against heart failure by lowering blood pressure and preventing obesity and diabetes.
ArchInternMed 2007;167:2080-2085 (Djousse L, et al)
DRUGS commonly used to lower blood pressure may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease, claims a study in the current issue of the JournalofClinicalInvestigation . One of the causes of memory loss and dementia in Alzheimer’s patients is the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid in the brain. Researchers studied mice that are prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease, and found that a drug called valsartan can prevent the production of beta-amyloid and protect the mice from brain damage. The beneficial effects of the drug were seen even when it was given to mice at a much lower dose per kilogram of body weight than what is prescribed for lowering blood pressure in humans. A number of other drugs that are normally used to lower blood pressure also protected against brain damage at very low doses. If the findings hold true in people, say the authors, these drugs could be given to anyone at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
JClinInvest 2007;117 (Pasinetti MG, et al)
WEIGHT gain during adulthood may increase the risk of breast cancer in women, according to a new report in the Archivesof InternalMedicine . Obesity is known to be a risk factor for developing breast cancer after menopause, as oestrogen produced by fat tissue can promote cancer growth. The study involved 99,039 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 71. In 1996, they reported their current height and weight, plus their height and weight at ages 18, 35 and 50. Body mass index (BMI) was used to classify the women as underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. Over the next four years, 2111 of the women developed breast cancer. In women who did not take hormone replacement therapy after menopause, going from a normal weight at age 18 to overweight or obese at age 35 and 50 increased the risk of developing breast cancer by 40 per cent compared to those who remained at a normal weight. The findings encourage women to maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce breast cancer risk.
ArchInternMed 2007;167:2091-2100 (Ahn J, et al)
ASPIRIN is thought to improve a woman’s chances of conceiving a child by IVF (in vitro fertilisation), but a new review of the existing research concludes that it probably has no effect. The review appears in the current issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and combines information from nine separate studies involving 1449 couples undergoing IVF or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for the treatment of infertility. Aspirin is best known as a pain reliever, but low doses can also improve blood flow for the prevention of blood clots and heart attacks. Improving blood flow to the ovaries and uterus could increase the chances of pregnancy, but the review found that women taking aspirin (150mg or less daily) were no more likely to become pregnant than women taking a placebo or no treatment.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007 (Poustie VJ, et al)
Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.
Wholegrain cereal: Cuts heart risks