Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eat Peanuts to Help Your Heart, Says Peanut Institute

Popping some peanuts might have some protective benefits for your heart, a new study from Penn State suggests.
Researchers recruited 15 men who were overweight or obese, but otherwise healthy, and had them eat a high fat meal. One group of men ate a shake containing three ounces of peanuts along with it, while another group drank a shake of similar nutritional quality, but without the peanuts.

When they tested their blood afterwards, the participants who consumed the peanuts showed a 32 percent reduction in triglycerides, or fat in their blood, than the guys who drank the peanut-less shake.
That’s notable, because meals usually cause a spike in blood fats, and that surge can increase the risk of heart disease, researcher Penny Kris-Etherton noted in a press release.
Whenever you eat, your arteries tend to stiffen, which can limit the availability of nitric oxide. As a result, your arteries can dilate as much. When that happens often enough, it can lower blood flow throughout the body and make the heart work harder.
But peanuts may counteract this effect to some degree. Researchers believe it was because the nuts improved the dilation and constriction of the inner lining of the blood vessels, preventing the stiffening effect.
Now, the study does have some limitations, including a small number of participants and a limited time frame—the men were only evaluated on two occasions of having the peanut-and-fat mix. That means it’s not possible to know if regular peanut consumption lowers heart risks overall, or simply immediately after eating.
Also, for those counting calories, three ounces of peanuts at every meal could be tough. That amount clocks in at just under 500 calories, according to the USDA. And it’s not clear from this study whether ingesting lower amounts of peanuts could lead to some benefit, either.
Another caveat is that the Peanut Institute sponsored the study. That tends to draw skepticism about the results—much like a recent Italian study that found eating pasta can help with weight loss, which was funded by Barilla Pasta.
But keep in mind that since the study appears in the Journal of Nutrition, it was peer reviewed before publishing. Also, this isn’t the first time that an association between peanuts and heart health have been identified.
In fact, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 that looked at the diets of over 200,000 people worldwide found that those who regularly ate peanuts and nuts were less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely ate them.

Nutritional breakdown of sweet potatoes

One medium sweet potato (2" diameter, 5" long, approximately 114 grams) provides 162 calories, 0 grams of fat, 37 grams of carbohydrate (including 6 grams of fiber and 12 grams of sugar), and 3.6 grams of protein according to the USDA's national nutrient database.
One medium sweet potato will provide well over 100% of your daily needs for vitamin A, as well as 37% of vitamin C, 16% of vitamin B-6, 10% of pantothenic acid, 15% of potassium and 28% of manganese. You'll also find small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin and folate.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant known to give orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, offer protection against asthma and heart disease and delay aging and body degeneration.
Keep the skin on! The color of sweet potato skin can vary from white to yellow, purple or brown but no matter what color it is, make sure you do not peel it off. A sweet potatoes skin contributes significant amounts of fiber, potassium and quercetin.

How to incorporate more sweet potatoes into your diet

Avoid buying sweet potatoes with soft skin or wrinkles, cracks or soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 3-5 weeks.
Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor. There is no need to add in marshmallow topping or loads of butter, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet and creamy taste that can be enjoyed all on their own. To add a little spice without extra calories, try sprinkling on cinnamon, cumin or curry powder.
The fastest way to prepare a sweet potato is in the microwave. Prick the potato with a fork and then microwave on high until soft. Make sure to let it cool for several minutes, and then drizzle with olive oil or top with fat-free plain Greek yogurt.

Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor. To add a little spice without extra calories, try sprinkling on cinnamon, cumin or curry powder.
Try adding roasted sweet potatoes and pecans to a salad and top with balsamic vinegar. You also can try adding sweet potato to your favorite pancakes or hash browns.
Try these simple and healthy recipes to incorporate more sweet potatoes into your diet:
Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet Potato Chips
Heart Healthy Chipotle Chili
Sweet Potato Hummus

Potential health risks of consuming sweet potatoes

Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.

Sweet Potatoes: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information

Sweet potatoes pack a powerful nutritional punch. They have got over 400% of your daily needs for vitamin A in one medium spud, as well as loads of fiber and potassium. They have got more grams of natural sugars than regular potato but more overall nutrients with fewer calories.
Despite the terms sweet potato and yam often being used interchangeably, they are actually not even botanically related. Yams are almost exclusively grown in Africa and are more dry and starchy compared to a sweet potato. So how did these two vegetables become so intertwined?
There are two different varieties of sweet potatoes, firm and soft. When soft sweet potatoes were being cultivated in the Americas, African slaves began calling them yams because of their resemblance to their familiar native vegetable. The name caught on as a way to distinguish between the two types of sweet potatoes. Today, you are unlikely to find a true yam in the grocery store unless you are shopping in an international market.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of the sweet potatoes and an in-depth look at their possible health benefits, how to incorporate more sweet potatoes into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming them.

Possible health benefits of sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes pack a powerful nutritional punch. They have got over 400% of your daily needs for vitamin A in one medium spud, as well as loads of fiber and potassium.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like sweet potatoes decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.


Sweet potatoes are considered low on the glycemic index scale, and recent research suggests they may reduce episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with diabetes. The fiber in sweet potatoes makes a big difference too. Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One medium sweet potato provides about 6 grams of fiber (skin on).
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men, which most people do not reach.

Blood pressure

Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults are meeting the daily 4,700 mg recommendation for potassium.3 One medium sweet potato provides about 542 milligrams.
Also of note, high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.7


Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition.4 Beta-carotene has also been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population.3

Digestion and regularity

Because of its high fiber content, sweet potatoes help to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.


For women of childbearing age, consuming more iron from plant sources appears to promote fertility, according Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications. The vitamin A in sweet potatoes (consumed as beta-carotene then converted to vitamin A in the body) is also essential during pregnancy and lactation for hormone synthesis.


Plant foods like sweet potatoes that are high in both vitamin C and beta-carotene offer an immunity boost from their powerful combination of nutrients.


Choline is a very important and versatile nutrient in sweet potatoes that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.6
In a study published by the Journal of Medicinal Food, purple sweet potato extract was found to have positive anti-inflammatory and antilipogenic effects as well as free radical scavenging and reducing activity.


According to Duke ophthalmologist Jill Koury, MD, vitamin A deficiency causes the outer segments of the eye's photoreceptors to deteriorate, damaging normal vision. Correcting vitamin A deficiencies with foods high in beta-carotene will restore vision.5
Also of note, the antioxidant vitamins C and E in sweet potatoes have been shown to support eye health and prevent degenerative damage.
A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

HIV 'fingerprint' tool could greatly assist vaccine development

Scientists hope that their new method of "fingerprinting" the shields of sugar molecules that HIV surrounds itself with in order to evade the immune system will improve, and therefore speed up the development of effective vaccines.

Using their new method, the researchers were able to quickly analyze the pattern of sugar molecules, or glycans, on the glycoprotein envelope of HIV. Such a pattern is shown here from a vaccine candidate glycoprotein. 
Image credit: Paulson Lab/TSRI
The researchers - from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, CA - report how they developed and tested their HIV fingerprinting tool in the journal Nature Communications.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV remains a persistent major problem for global public health. To date, the virus has killed more than 35 million people.
Once it enters a person's body, HIV weakens the immune system. The virus impairs and destroys immune cells - especially infection-fighting CD4 cells, or T cells.
As a result, the person becomes increasingly susceptible to a wide range of infections and diseases, including some types of cancer.
There is currently no effective cure for HIV, but it can be controlled with antiretroviral therapy (ART). If properly administered and followed, ART can make a dramatic difference to the lives of infected people and their communities. It can keep them healthy and lower their chances of infecting others.

Challenge for HIV vaccine developers

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection - it can take 2 to 15 years to reach, depending on the individual. However, if HIV is diagnosed early and the disease is treated before it is too advanced, an infected person can expect to live a healthy, long, and productive life.
Fast facts about HIV and AIDS
  • HIV spreads through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.
  • Tuberculosis is the most common cause of death among people with HIV and AIDS.
  • Giving all people living with HIV access to ART and expanding prevention choices could avert 28 million new infections and 21 million AIDS-related deaths by 2030.
Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that 1.2 million people in the United States were living with HIV at the end of 2013, including around 1 in 8 who did not know that they were infected.
Great progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV, but there is still much to do, including the search for a vaccine.
Two of the major challenges facing HIV vaccine developers are that the virus is good at hiding from the immune system, and that it keeps changing.
The idea of a vaccine is to stimulate the immune system to produce new or more antibodies against a target on the infecting agent that disables it.
In the case of HIV, vaccine developers suggest that a good target is the glycoprotein envelope that surrounds the virus and contains the machinery that the virus uses to enter host cells.
However, one of the reasons that HIV is so resilient is that it covers its glycoprotein envelope with a shield made of sugar molecules called glycans.
The shield helps the virus to hide from the immune system and stops antibodies from attacking the glycoprotein envelope.

Spotting 'holes' in the glycan shield

Tools that help vaccine developers to deal with the glycan shields are enormously helpful. The new study offers such a tool in the form of a method that analyzes patterns of glycans on the glycoprotein. It allows scientists to quickly "fingerprint" the virus and tell if their vaccine development is on the right track.
An important requirement is the ability to distinguish between high-mannose glycans and complex-type glycans on the glycoprotein envelope. Previous studies have reached this point. However, the new study goes further in that it also identifies glycoprotein sites that have no glycans. In fact, the team found that there are fewer such "holes" in the shield than previously thought.
Finding sites with no glycans is important because vaccine developers can then devise a way to teach the immune system to recognize where the holes in the glycan shield are and produce broadly neutralizing antibodies that attack the underlying envelope.
The new tool is also fast; the team developed algorithms that quickly analyze the results much faster than the manual methods that they were using before. Analysis speed is important in this field as developers are always in a race against time searching for vaccine candidates to fight a virus that evolves rapidly.

Next step: Work with natural forms of HIV

In their study, the researchers used an HIV-like vaccine candidate. They now plan to use the new tool to analyze glycan composition and glycan-free sites on natural forms of HIV.
If the fingerprints match up with what they have, then they will know that they are on the right track.
"The ability to identify the glycan fingerprint on HIV's glycoprotein will help us develop a vaccine that matches what is found on the virus."
Study leader Prof. James C. Paulson, Department of Molecular Medicine, TSRI
The researchers believe that their approach could also work for other viruses that have a similar glycoprotein envelope, such as the influenza virus.
The new study went some way toward showing this, in that the team also tested the method on an influenza virus protein.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Seeing your GP

When to see your GP

See your doctor if you notice a change that isn't normal for you or if you have any of the possible signs and symptoms of cancer.
Even if you're worrying about what the symptom might be, you shouldn't delay seeing them. Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don't make an appointment. It might not be cancer. But if it is, the earlier it is picked up the more likely it is that it can be treated successfully. You won't be wasting your doctor's time.
Try not to be embarrassed. What you tell your GP is confidential. Doctors are used to discussing intimate problems and will try to put you at ease.
Tell your GP if you are concerned about prostate cancer because friends or family members have the condition. They can talk to you about the pros and cons of having a PSA blood test.

Getting the most out of your GP appointment

It can be difficult to remember everything you want to say and ask when you see the doctor. These tips will help you get the most out of your appointment.


  • Write down your symptoms including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.
  • Write down if anything makes them worse or better.
  • Tell your GP if you are worried about cancer in particular.
  • Bring a friend or relative along for support - they could also ask questions and help you remember what the GP says.
  • Ask the GP to explain anything you don’t understand.
  • Ask the GP to write things down for you if you think this might help.
  • Find out before your appointment if family members have had prostate or breast cancer.

What happens during your GP appointment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms:
  • what they are
  • when you get them
  • whether anything makes them better or worse
They will also ask you about your general health and they might examine you.
Depending on your symptoms and test results your doctor might:
  • be able to reassure you
  • refer you to the hospital to see a specialist
Ask your GP to explain if they don't think you need a referral. They might ask you to come back in a week or two if your symptoms continue. Go back if they change or get worse.

Tests your GP might do

PSA blood test

Your doctor might suggest that you have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a protein produced by both normal and cancerous prostate cells. It is normal for all men to have some PSA in their blood. A high level of PSA can be a sign of cancer. But your PSA level can also be raised in prostate conditions that are not cancer (are benign) or infection.
A PSA test on its own doesn't normally diagnose prostate cancer. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of having the test.

Physical examination

When your doctor examines you it might include feeling your prostate gland. Your doctor puts a gloved finger into your back passage (rectum) to check for abnormal signs, such as a lumpy, hard prostate. Doctors call this test a digital rectal examination (DRE).
It is normal to feel a bit anxious about this test and it might be uncomfortable But it usually only takes a few minutes.
Your doctor might also check your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature.

Questions you might want to ask your GP

  • Do I need to see a specialist? Is it urgent?
  • When will I see them?
  • Will I find out about my appointments by post or telephone?
  • Do I need tests? What will they involve?
  • How long should I expect to wait?
  • Where can I find out more about tests?
  • Do I have to do anything in preparation for this test?
  • When will I get the results and who will tell me?

If they don't think you need any tests or a referral

  • Can you explain to me why I don’t need to have tests or see a specialist?
  • Is there anything I can do to help myself?
  • Do I need to see you again?
  • Who do I contact if my symptoms continue or get worse, particularly if it’s during the night or at weekends?
  • I've been reading about prostate cancer and wish to have a PSA test – can you explain why I don’t need one?

What happens next

Make sure you know what happens next. Make another appointment if your symptoms don’t clear up, or they change or get worse.

How to find a GP

If you don’t have a GP, you can find a doctor’s surgery in your local area by going to:

Making a GP appointment

You can book an appointment online at most GP surgeries, telephone them or go in person. You don’t have to tell the receptionist what you want to see the doctor for.
Try different times of the day if it's difficult to get through by phone. Your surgery might have a clinic you can turn up to and wait to see a doctor. You might have to wait a long time but you’ll see a doctor that day.
If it’s difficult to get to the surgery, check whether your practice has telephone appointments with a doctor. They’ll tell you if you need to go into see them at the surgery.
Accept a booked appointment, even if you think it’s a long time to wait. You could ask about cancellations if you are able to get to the practice at short notice.

Prostate cancer


Read about possible symptoms of prostate cancer and when to see your doctor.
Early prostate cancer often has no symptoms at all.
If you do have symptoms they can be similar to those of other prostate conditions.
The symptoms include:

Passing urine more often

You might find you need to empty your bladder more than normal during the day.

Getting up in the night

You may be getting up a few times in the night to empty your bladder.

Difficulty passing urine

It might be harder to empty your bladder than normal. This is called urinary hesitancy.
It might be difficult to start emptying your bladder or the flow might be weaker.
You might be straining to pass urine. Or it might stop and start when you do go.


You might often have a sudden strong urge to empty your bladder. And you may need to rush to the toilet.

Leaking urine

You might find that you leak a little after passing urine.

Blood in urine or semen

You may have blood in your urine or semen. This is rare.

Erection problems

You might find it difficult to get an erection. This is uncommon.

What else can cause these symptoms

As men get older their prostate gland enlarges. It is not normally due to cancer. It is a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH doesn’t usually develop into cancer. But an enlarged prostate might sometimes contain areas of cancer cells.
BPH and prostate cancer have very similar symptoms, caused by the prostate gland pressing on the urethra. The urethra is the tube that empties out urine from the bladder.
Diagram showing prostate gland
When to see your doctor
See your doctor if you have any of the changes described here.
The changes might not mean that you have cancer but it is important to get them checked.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Causes And Risk Factors of Brain Cancer

Experts don’t know what causes a primary brain tumour to develop, but research is going on to find out more.
Certain things called risk factors may increase the chances of developing a brain tumour. Although most brain tumours are not linked with these factors, there are a few things that can increase the risk. Having one of these risk factors doesn’t mean you will get a tumour. Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, you may still develop a tumour.


Although brain tumours can develop at any age, risk increases as you get older. However, some types of brain tumour are more common in younger adults.


Brain tumours are slightly more common in men than in women

Genetic conditions

A small number of brain tumours happen in people who have certain genetic (hereditary) conditions, such as neurofibromatosis type 1 and type 2, or tuberous sclerosis.
People with some genetic syndromes, such as Li-Fraumeni, Von Hippel-Lindau, Turcot or Gorlin syndrome, also have a slightly higher risk of brain tumours.
Brain tumours are not hereditary. They are not caused by a faulty gene that can be passed on to family members.

Previous radiotherapy treatment

People who had radiotherapy to the head as children have a slightly higher risk of developing a brain tumour later in life.

Other unproven causes

Mobile phones, power lines and certain viruses, have all been suggested as possible causes of brain tumours. A lot of research has investigated these as possible causes, especially mobile phones. But no strong evidence has been found linking any of them to brain tumours.

What is cholesterol ratio and why is it important?

Working out a person's cholesterol ratio is important because it can help a doctor determine a person's risk of heart disease.

Doctors calculate an individual's cholesterol ratio by dividing their total cholesterol by their high-density lipoprotein level.
The optimal ratio is between 3.5 and 1. A higher ratio increases the risk of heart disease.
Contents of this article:
  1. Good cholesterol ratio vs. bad cholesterol ratio
  2. How does cholesterol affect the body?
  3. Tips for managing cholesterol levels

Good cholesterol ratio vs. bad cholesterol ratio

A doctor can determine the levels of "good" and "bad" cholesterol in the body using a blood test.
Total cholesterol levels are made up of three different types of cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is considered "good" cholesterol. It makes up 20-30 percent of a person's total cholesterol level.
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is considered "bad" cholesterol and makes up 60-70 percent of the total in the body.
Finally, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is a precursor to LDL and makes up about 10-15 percent of a person's total cholesterol.
These percentages matter because when increases or decreases occur, they can affect the chances of a person developing heart disease.
When a person has a test that shows a high total cholesterol level, it may be because LDL cholesterol levels have climbed. A doctor can determine the different levels of cholesterol by focusing on HDL, LDL, and VLDL separately, in a blood test.
A good cholesterol ratio shows that the body is working properly and is healthy. It signals that someone is in good health and is probably taking care of themselves.
The Framingham Heart Study states that the following cholesterol ratios roughly signal different degrees of heart disease risk:
  • 5.0 = average risk
  • 3.4 = half the average risk
  • 9.6 = twice the average risk
  • 4.4 = average risk
  • 3.3 = half the average risk
  • 7.0 = twice the average risk
While men and women have the same blood test, their average HDL, LDL, and VLDL levels are typically different. For example, in the case of menopausal women, it is usual for them to have an increased LDL.
This does not mean that women are unaffected by bad cholesterol ratios. It simply means women have shown to be less susceptible to bad cholesterol ratios.
Women should have a recommended HDL level of 50, while a man's recommended HDL level is 40.

How does cholesterol affect the body?

Meat, dairy, and poultry products contain cholesterol - people who eat animal products may therefore have higher cholesterol levels than those who don't.
Having the correct cholesterol levels helps to maintain the right levels of vitamin D and hormones in the body, and aids digestion.
Cholesterol is found in foods such as meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. People who eat animal products may have more cholesterol in their bodies at any given time than those who don't.
The liver will also increase cholesterol levels when a diet is high in fat and trans fats. Having an increased amount of LDL cholesterol, caused by trans and saturated fats, increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
LDL cholesterol coats arteries and causes a buildup of a substance called plaque on their walls. This leads to a condition known as atherosclerosis, which is a form of heart disease.
Both the body and heart are affected when this happens. The condition slows down the blood flow to the heart muscle and can block blood from even getting to the heart. This increases a person's risk of a heart attack.

Tips for managing cholesterol levels

Cholesterol ratios, good or bad, can be maintained or altered. If a person has a cholesterol ratio that suggests a high level of LDL, there are ways to lower this level of bad cholesterol.
Some of those ways include:

  • Diet: Foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and carbohydrates raise cholesterol levels, so eating less of these types of foods will help manage and reduce it.
  • Weight: Many risks are associated with being overweight or obese, including increased cholesterol levels. Keeping a healthy weight helps all factors of health as well as reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Exercise: Being active for at least 30 minutes per day raises the heart rate, helps with keeping a healthy weight, and reduces LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels
Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can lower LDL cholesterol levels.
In addition to these lifestyle methods, a doctor can prescribe medications to help lower a person's cholesterol levels. The two most popular medications are statins and niacin. Both are used to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Statins come in high, moderate and low doses, depending on an individual's needs. Studies show that statins may decrease LDL by 60 percent and can also increase HDL production.
If statins are not a useful medication because of other drugs a person may be taking, cholesterol absorption inhibitors may be a good alternative. Ezetimibe is an example of one such medication and shows a decrease in LDL cholesterol of 15-20 percent, with an accompanying increase in HDL.
The best way to maintain a normal cholesterol ratio, however, is by taking care of the body with a healthful diet and moderate exercise every day.