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Turmeric protects against central nervous system disorders

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The turmeric powder

•$50,000 grant to help explore the use of the product for reducing joint pain in breast cancer patients

Researchers from Kumamoto University, Japan have found that a component derived from turmeric essential oil, aromatic turmerone (ar-turmerone), and its derivatives act directly on dopaminergic nerves to create a neuroprotective effect on central nervous system (CNS) disorders including neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and acute management of neurotoxin consumption (that is methamphetamine overdoses). This appears to be due to enhanced cellular antioxidant potency from the activation of Nrf2. The researchers believe that the ar-turmerone derivatives identified in this study can be used as new therapeutic agents for CNS disorders.

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The study titled “Compound derived from turmeric essential oil has neuroprotective properties” was published in ScienceDaily.

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for its medicinal properties for various indications and through different routes of administration, including topically, orally, and by inhalation.

In Nigeria, it is called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East); gigir in Tiv; magina in Kaduna; turi in Niger State; onjonigho in Cross River (Meo tribe).

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Turmeric, also known as Curcuma, produces a root that is used to produce the vibrant yellow spice used as a culinary spice so often used in curry dishes. One of its components is curcumin, a type of phytochemical known as polyphenol. Research findings suggest that phytochemicals, which are the chemicals found in plants, appear to help prevent disease. As the bioactive component of turmeric, curcumin is readily absorbed for use by the body.

Aromatic (ar-) turmerone is a major bioactive compound of the herb Curcuma longa. It has been suggested that ar-turmerone inhibits microglia activation, a property that may be useful in treating neurodegenerative disease.

Neuroprotection refers to the relative preservation of neuronal structure and/or function. In the case of an ongoing insult (a neurodegenerative insult), the relative preservation of neuronal integrity implies a reduction in the rate of neuronal loss over time, which can be expressed as a differential equation. It is a widely explored treatment option for many central nervous system (CNS) disorders including neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and acute management of neurotoxin consumption (that is methamphetamine overdoses). Neuroprotection aims to prevent or slow disease progression and secondary injuries by halting or at least slowing the loss of neurons.

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease caused by the selective death of dopaminergic neurons that transmit information from the substantia nigra of the midbrain to the striatum, which results in decreased dopamine production. Symptoms include limb tremors, immobility, muscle rigidity, and other movement disorders. Treatments, such as dopamine supplements, are currently available but there is still no way to inhibit dopaminergic neurodegeneration.

Previous studies have reported that the inflammatory response caused by the activation of microglia (cells responsible for immune function in the brain) is observed in the substantia nigra of the midbrain of Parkinson’s disease patients. Further experiments designed to mimic the in vivo state of the midbrain (midbrain slice culture) revealed that microglial activation triggers the selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, and that nitric oxide (NO) derived from activated microglia was involved in the neurodegeneration. These findings suggest that compounds with anti-inflammatory effects on microglia may suppress dopaminergic degeneration.

Thus, researchers analysed aromatic turmerone (ar-turmerone), a major component of turmeric essential oil that has been reported to exhibit anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory effects on microglia. They used the BV2 microglial cell line and midbrain slice cultures to 1) determine if ar-turmerone suppresses dopaminergic neuro-degeneration through its anti-inflammatory effects, and 2) identify structurally similar compounds (derivatives) that might have stronger anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

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Also, the University of California (UC) Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, United States, has received a $50,000 grant from the Safeway Foundation to explore the use of Turmeric as a way of reducing joint pain in breast cancer patients being treated with anti-estrogen drugs.

About 70 per cent of breast cancers diagnosed are hormonally driven and treatment includes oral drugs to block estrogen. However, the drugs can cause joint pain, which is why many women do not stay on the medication- putting them at risk of breast cancer returning.

Some arthritis sufferers who say it reduces their joint pain use turmeric, a flowering plant in the ginger family. The Safeway Foundation grant will help UC Davis test, giving turmeric in a pill form in combination with oral anti-estrogen drugs.

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The goal is to see if the spice can successfully reduce joint pain in breast cancer patients and explore whether it improves the quality of their lives.

“It is an honour to support the work of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Every day we learn about organisations that go above and beyond to help people and the cancer centre is an excellent example,” said Wendy Gutshall, director of public affairs for Safeway.

The study will allow the researchers to provide breast cancer patients with important data on the safety and effectiveness of using turmeric with oral anti-estrogen therapy.

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Also, new research from the University of Arizona Health Sciences has found evidence that favours the entourage effect theory and positions Cannabis terpenes, the part of the plant that provides flavour and aroma, as a promising new target for pain therapies that would require lower doses and produce fewer side effects.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants and are the basic component of essential oils. The terpene linalool, for example, gives lavender its distinctive floral scent. In addition to terpenes, Cannabis sativa contains naturally occurring compounds known as cannabinoids, the most well-known of which are cannabidiol, or CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Researchers found that Cannabis terpenes, when used, mimic the effects of cannabinoids, including a reduction in pain sensation. When combined with cannabinoids, the pain-relieving effects were amplified without an increase in negative side effects. The paper, “Cannabis sativa terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity,” was published in Scientific Reports.

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Also, new research presented at The Physiological Society’s Annual Conference Physiology 2021 shows that molecules released into the bloodstream during exercise (such as small proteins) can act directly on bowel cancer cells to slow down their growth.

Previous research has shown that regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer. This is mainly thought to happen because physical activity can help individuals to maintain healthy body weight.

This new research shows that being physically active may reduce the risk of getting bowel cancer, even if physical activity does not lead to weight loss.

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These are preliminary findings, but having a better understanding of the mechanisms linking physical activity and cancer risk will help develop the most effective exercise programmes for preventing cancer development.

It could also help develop drugs that can mimic some of the benefits of exercise.

Furthermore, this research could ultimately lead to exercise being part of standard care as part of bowel cancer screening programmes, which could reduce the number of people who develop cancer.

The study was done on 16 male participants who had lifestyle risk factors for bowel cancer (all participants were 50 years or older, had overweight or obesity, and did not regularly exercise).

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The researchers collected blood samples from participants before and after 45 minutes of ‘moderate-intensity indoor cycling, and before and after a non-exercise ‘control’ experiment.

They assessed whether exercise altered the concentration of specific proteins in the blood.

Finally, they then added the liquid portion of each blood sample that contains the proteins (known as serum) to bowel cancer cells in a laboratory and monitored cancer cell growth over 48 hours.

Also, Kibret Mequanint, a Western University bioengineer, and his international collaborators have found a novel use for snake venom: a body tissue ‘super glue’ that can stop life-threatening bleeding in seconds.

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Over the past 20 years, Mequanint has developed a number of biomaterials-based medical devices and therapeutic technologies – some of which are either licensed to medical companies or are in the advanced stage of preclinical testing.

His latest collaborative research discovery is based on a blood-clotting enzyme called reptilase or batroxobin found in the venom of lancehead snakes (Bothrops atrox), which are amongst the most poisonous snakes in South America.

Taking advantage of this clotting property, Mequanint and the international research team designed a body tissue adhesive that incorporates the special enzyme into modified gelatin that can be packaged into a small tube for easy, and potentially life-saving, application.

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Compared to clinical fibrin glue, considered the industry gold standard for clinical and field surgeons, the new tissue sealant has 10 times the adhesive strength to resist detachment or washout due to bleeding. The blood clotting time is also much shorter, cutting it in half from 90 seconds for fibrin glue to 45 seconds for the new snake venom ‘super glue.’

This new biotechnology translates to less blood loss and more life-saving. The super-sealant was tested in models for deep skin cuts, ruptured aortae, and severely injured livers – all considered as major bleeding situations.

Snake extract-laden hemostatic bio-adhesive gel cross-linked by visible light was published in the journal Science Advances. For the discovery, Mequanint collaborated with bioengineers, scientists, and medical practitioners at the University of Manitoba and Army Medical University in Chongqing, China.

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Also, University of South Australia researchers have a bone to pick when it comes to drinking too much coffee as new research finds that excess caffeine may be linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Investigating the effects of coffee on how the kidneys regulate calcium in the body, researchers found that high doses of caffeine (800 mg) consumed over a six-hour period almost doubled the amount of calcium lost in the urine.

This is the first study to report the impact of high-dose, short-term caffeine intake on renal clearance of calcium, sodium, and creatinine in healthy adults.

UniSA’s Dr. Hayley Schultz said with the emergence of an increasing ‘coffee culture’ it’s important for people to understand the impacts of what they are putting into their bodies.

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Osteoporosis is a chronic, painful, and debilitating disease, which makes your bones less dense and more susceptible to fracture. More common in women, it occurs when bones lose calcium and other minerals faster than the body can replace them.

The double-blind clinical study saw participants chew caffeine or a placebo gum for five minutes at two-hour intervals over a six-hour treatment period (total caffeine 800 mg). While the primary research objective was to examine the impact of caffeine consumption on wakefulness and other factors, this sub-study aimed to evaluate the impact of caffeine consumption on the renal clearance of calcium.

Co-researcher, UniSA’s Dr. Stephanie Reuter Lange said understanding the long-term impacts of high caffeine consumption is especially important for higher-risk groups.

“The average daily intake of caffeine is about 200 mg – roughly two cups of coffee. While drinking eight cups of coffee may seem a lot (800 mg of caffeine), there are groups who would fall into this category,” Lange said.

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“People at risk could include teenagers who binge-consume energy drinks are at risk because their bones are still developing; professional athletes who use caffeine for performance enhancement; as well as post-menopausal women who often have low blood calcium levels due to hormonal changes and lack sufficient daily dietary calcium intake.

“Increasingly, we are also seeing high levels of caffeine among shift workers who need to stay alert over the nighttime hours, as well as those in the military who use caffeine to combat sleep deprivation in operational settings.

“Caffeine in moderation certainly has its pros. But understanding how excess consumption could increase the risks of highly preventable disease such as osteoporosis, is important.”

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The study titled “The effect of high-dose, short-term caffeine intake on the renal clearance of calcium, sodium, and creatinine in healthy adults” was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Also, women who switch to a vegan diet rich in soy during menopause could reduce the number of hot flushes they experience by up to 84 per cent without using drugs.

This is the conclusion of a study by researchers led from the George Washington University following tests of the diet involving 38 women over 12 week period.

Not only did the average number of moderate-to-severe hot flushes fall from five to one per day on the diet, but also they were totally eliminated in 59 per cent of subjects.

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The tested diet featured no hormone medications or extracts, the team explained — but instead combined a low-fat plant-based diet with cooked soybeans.

It is estimated that around four-fifths of postmenopausal women suffer from hot flushes, which manifest first as heat welling up in the chest.

They typically lead to sweating, redness of the face, and a rapid heartbeat — with attacks usually lasting from two to thirty minutes and repeating throughout the day.

While estrogen-based medications were long given to treat these symptoms, they have recently been found to increase the risk of conditions including breast cancer.

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Alongside a dramatic reduction in hot flushes, many of the participants given the soy-rich diet also reported improvements in their mood, overall energy, and sexual symptoms.

The team suspects that the beneficial effects of soy might stem from the so-called isoflavones they contain — compounds, which out gut bacteria, metabolise into equol, a non-steroidal estrogen compound known.

Previous studies have both linked equol to a reduction in both the incidence and severity of hot flushes — as well as indicated that those on vegan or vegetarian diets produce higher levels of the compound.

The full findings of the study were published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.

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Researchers have now found that consumption of proteins at breakfast increases muscle size and function in mice and humans, shedding light on the concept of ‘Chrononutrition’ that deals with the timing of diets to ensure organ health.

Humans have been aware of the benefits of proteins for a long. However, recent studies have shown that having the right amount of protein at the right time of the day is essential for proper growth. This is called ‘Chrononutrition,’ in which when you eat is as important as what and how you eat.

The reason behind this is the body’s internal biological clock, called the ‘circadian rhythm.’ This rhythm is followed by all cells and controls life functions like metabolism and growth. Interestingly, protein digestion and absorption have been found to fluctuate across day and night according to this clock. Moreover, earlier studies have reported that intake of protein at breakfast and lunch promotes skeletal muscle growth in adults. However, details on the effect of the time of protein intake on muscle growth and function have remained elusive to date.

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Fortunately, researchers from Waseda University, led by Professor Shigenobu Shibata, recently endeavored to understand the effect of the distribution of protein intake through the day on muscles. They fed laboratory mice two meals per day containing either high (11.5 per cent by proportion) or low (8.5 per cent by proportion) protein concentrations.

The researchers noted that protein intake at breakfast induced an increase in muscle growth, determined by assessing induced hypertrophy of the plantaris muscle in the leg when compared with the effects of protein intake at dinner. Specifically, the ratio of muscle hypertrophy determined against the growth of the control muscle was 17 per cent higher in mice fed 8.5 per cent protein at breakfast, than that in mice fed 11.5 per cent protein at dinner, despite the former group consuming a low proportion of protein overall. They also found that intake of a type of protein called the BCCA, short for branched-chain amino acids; early in the day increased the size of skeletal muscles specifically.

Excited about the findings of their study published in a recent issue of the Cell Reports, Prof. Shibata emphasised, “Protein-rich diet at an early phase of the daily active period, that is at breakfast, is important to maintain skeletal muscle health and enhance muscle volume and grip strength.”

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