Friday, March 23, 2012

A low dose coated aspirin a day may keep cancer spread at bay? Bring it on!

Most people are aware of the recommendation involving the use of a coated baby aspirin (75mg-81mg)  in the war against heart attacks and many people who have had a heart attack or stroke take one enteric coated baby aspirin/day to help decrease the risk of another infarct. 

But have you heard that aspirin may have a role in decreasing the spread of cancer?

Three new British studies suggest that after taking aspirin for 3 to 4 years, there starts to be a reduction in the number of people with the spread of cancers.  Lead researcher Dr. Peter M. Rothwell (University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford feels there is potential for aspirin to be used in the treatment of cancers.

In the past, investigators showed that daily use of aspirin taken over 10 years prevented the spread of some cancers.  It seemed that aspirin may work against cancer by inhibiting platelets that cause clotting and also help cancer cells spread.

In recent studies, Rothwell's team looked at the effect of aspirin on slowing the spread of cancer, or metastasis.

They obtained their data regarding cancer from five clinical trials that were already looking at low dose aspirin and heart attack/stroke prevention.  The researchers also focused attention on patients who developed cancer.

Over more than six years of follow-up, low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of distant spread or metastasis by 36 percent, compared with cancer patients receiving a placebo.

Moreover, aspirin reduced the risk of metastasis in solid tumors, such as colon, lung and prostate cancer, by 46 percent and by 18 percent for cancers of the bladder and kidney.

For those who continued to take aspirin after a cancer diagnosis, the risk of metastasis was cut by 69 percent, the researchers calculated.

Aspirin also reduced the risk of dying from cancer by about half. These risk reductions remained after taking into account age and sex, the researchers said.

Although most people would find these findings uplifting, “not so fast” says Nancy R. Cook, an associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial. She pointed out that these studies only dealt with trials where aspirin was given daily, whereas two large trials in which aspirin was given every other day found no connection with cancer prevention.

"Aspirin seems to work for people who have had a history of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps in the long-term it will turn out to be protective for cancer, but we need to verify that and get more information," Cook said.

And, aspirin is not benign, Cook said, pointing out risks for bleeding and other gastrointestinal problems.

“People should not start taking aspirin hoping to preventing cancer, Cook said. "Most of the studies show that the effect doesn't accrue until after 10 years," she noted.

On the flip side, Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said that "this study provides important new evidence that long-term daily aspirin, even at low doses, may lower risk of developing cancer."

However, any decision about treatment should be made on an individual basis in consultation with a doctor, he said.

Okay, I am chomping at the bit to comment here.  In a world where distant organ metastasis of cancer almost brings a death sentence….I am thrilled with the possibility that something as simple as taking an enteric coated low dose aspirin DAILY may actually decrease the chance of a future cancer spreading or may cut the risk of dying of cancer by 50%.

Ms. Cook points out that studies in which people took aspirin every other day did not provide the same results.  Then, with your MD’s okay, take the aspirin daily!!!   She points out that it may take years for aspirin to have this anti-metastatic benefit.  Doesn’t it make sense to start tomorrow, then? 

If the negative effects of low dose aspirin therapy are possible bleeding or GI upset, irritation….absolutely consult with your MD before starting an aspirin regimen.  With medical approval, take a low dose aspirin, make it coated or enteric, and get started.  It can make a life or death difference down the road.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Can of Cola.... Toxic to Your Health? ... Or the Target of a Well-Orchestrated Financial Take-Down?

High fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and now a mysterious chemical called it true that your can of  soda may be wreaking havoc on your health?  Sweetened soft drinks have been linked to obesity and diabetes, and now a consumer protection group is linking soda to CANCER.  Is it true that soda is the root of many health issues or  are soft drinks unfairly singled out in a plan to target the corn and sugar industries?

Regular Soda
Soda and sugary soft drinks have been on the “naughty” list for years.  Recently, the soda industry has been slammed for its use of high fructose corn syrup (sugar) as a sweetener and has been directly linked to the epidemic of obesity, especially as it pertains to childhood obesity.  Soda vending machines are banned from schools.   Is high- fructose corn syrup really the root of obesity?

The fact is, regardless of the sugar source chosen to sweeten soda,  it would have the same physiological effect as high-fructose corn syrup:  whether beet, cane, or corn sugar, agave nectar, fructose, or honey were the sweetener of choice  in soft drinks, the physiological impact on the human body would be the same.  So, to single out corn syrup as a villain is just plain...wrong.

Something else that is just plain wrong.  Did you know that 12 ounces of Coca-Cola Classic contains 39 grams of carbohydrate from sugar and 12 ounces of orange juice also contains 39 grams of carbohydrate from sugar.  They BOTH contain the equivalent of 10 tsp of sugar.  Granted, the OJ also contains vitamins....but in terms of contribution to obesity?  THEY ARE EQUAL.  Even more interesting: 12 ounces of prune juice contains the equivalent of 17 tsp of sugar.   The carb may come from fructose and not high-fructose corn syrup...but let’s call it like it is....the soda, OJ, and prune juice are all 100% carb sweetened with different sugars that have the same calories/gram and behave  the same way in the body.

Sugar Free Soda

So, after learning that a 12 ounce can of soda contained about 10 tsp of sugar,  some people switched  to sugar free versions of their favorite beverage.  It didn’t take long for the media to perpetuate the story that like regular soda, diet soda ALSO caused weight gain.  They provided all sorts of “reasons” why diet soda would cause weight gain...including the idea that the sweetness of diet soda made a person crave more sweet things.   When the dust settled, it was decided that it was not diet soda, but what people were eating with the diet soda that was causing weight gain.  (Have you ever been at a fast food restaurant and heard a customer ordering a Big Mac, large fries,  apple pie and a diet soda? )

Brown Colored Soda?
Yesterday came the coup de grace in the maligning of soft drinks.  The “C” word...cancer....was attached to the caramel coloring used in colas, root beer, Dr. Pepper.  The “big guns” have been drawn in the war against soft drinks.  Big guns for Big 2009, 9.4 billion cases of soft drinks were sold in the US alone with the average American drinking 708 12 oz. cans of soda/year.

Are these dire warnings and dramatic “research studies” making a difference in the consumption of soft drinks?  Since 1998...when we first began to hear about high fructose corn syrup and its link to obesity and type 2 diabetes,  ....per-capita soda consumption is down 16%.  Many people are heeding the message.  But is the message valid?

If we are going to site very high sugar intake as a cause of obesity....then we have to site ALL high carb foods as all carb foods turn 100% into blood sugar and have the same effect in the body.  There should also be warnings targeting  bagels, soft pretzels, muffins, fries, baked potatoes, legumes like chick peas and lentils, rice, pasta, fruit, yogurt, milk, juice, bread...and the list goes on and on.  ALL carbs turn to blood sugar.  No one kind of carb has less calories or more calories/gram than another. 

In February, The CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), a consumer watchdog group, petitioned the FDA to ban ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring in brown sodas such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi.  The chemical in question is 4-MI (4-methylimidazole).  4-MI is  formed when sugar  mixes with ammonia and sulfates to create caramel coloring.  The CSPI claims that 4-MI is an animal carcinogen.

The agency went so far as to state that Coke and Pepsi (with the knowledge of the FDA) are needlessly exposing people to cancer risk.

The FDA doesn’t agree stating that soda still contains far too little 4-MI to pose much of a cancer risk adding that a consumer would have to drink over 1000 cans of soda every day to reach the doses administered to rats in the studies that linked 4-MI to cancer in rats.

The FDA limit for 4-MI in caramel coloring is 250 parts per million and Reuters calculated that the highest levels of 4-MI found by the CSPI were about 0.4 parts per million which means it would be highly unlikely that a person could consume enough 4-MI to increase the risk of cancer. . In fact, findings of regulatory agencies worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, consider caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages.

And even the CSPI admitted that soda drinkers should be “much more worried about the high fructose corn syrup and other sugars in sodas which contribute to obesity and diabetes”. 

For the record, the caramel coloring in soda is purely has nothing to do with the taste.  Back in the 1990’s, Crystal Pepsi was introduced.  It was Pepsi without the caramel coloring.  It flopped.  Consumers want their colas to be brown in color.  In my opinion, there has to be another way to naturally add brown color without the 4-MI in caramel coloring.  If an alternate ingredient choice were used, it would silence this “charge” immediately. 

But...the consumer groups have chosen to focus attention and millions of dollars maligning soft drinks.  I can’t say that I am a fan of soda...I’m not.  But it’s time to call a spade a spade.  Someone seems to have an axe to grind with the corn and sugar industries....

In the words of the CSPI:  "Soda drinkers should be much more concerned about the high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars used in soft drinks," the CSPI statement said. "Soda drinkers are much more likely than non-soda drinkers to develop weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other health problems." 

Guess we’ve come full circle….high fructose corn syrup….. again…………