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Functional endocrinology looks at how food affects health

Pomegranate fruit has been shown to slow cartilage deterioration in osteoarthritis and other health issues. There are other sides to medicine and health research known as functional endocrinology and functional nutrition. This branch of health research explores stress resistance at the cellular, metabolic, and hormonal levels.

Functional endocrinology looks at how food affects health.
Anne Hart, photograpy. My backyard pomegranate tree.

As for pomegranates, in a recent study, "Pomegranate Polyphenols and Extract Inhibit Nuclear Factor of Activated T-Cell Activity and Microglial Activation in Vitro and in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer Disease1-3," published in the Journal of Nutrition; May 1, 2013, researchers looked at the effects of pomegranate on memory (in mice). The study's abstract noted that Alzheimer disease (AD) brain is characterized by extracellular plaques of amyloid b (Ab) peptide with reactive microglia (which are small nonneural cells forming part of the supporting structure of the central nervous system).

This study aimed to determine whether a dietary intervention could attenuate (reduce in force) microgliosis. Microgliosis is a type of neurodegeneration (a reaction to injury to the parenchyma of the central nervous system).

The fields of functional medicine/functional endocrinology researches how food affects health

Instead of resorting only to statins as the singular solution to so many health issues, the field of functional medicine researches other possibilities to see whether they work, such as diet and exercise that actually supports cellular health. So when it comes to insulin and leptin-signaling diseases, there's a lot of research going in examining how nutrition works in health and disease.

The result is to restore prevention to the field of healthcare. On one side are the researchers touting disease management. And in the other corner are the researchers studying enrichment through nutrition and lifestyle changes. One example of such research are the many studies done on the role of pomegranates in the diet and health.

Can pomegranates help those with osteoarthritis?

Pomegranate fruit extracts can block enzymes that contribute to osteoarthritis according to a Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study published in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Pomegranate fruit extract (PFE) was recently shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in different disease models. However, no studies have been undertaken to investigate whether PFE constituents protect articular cartilage. So this study looked at pomegranate's effects on osteoarthritis. See the abstract of the study, "Punica granatum L. Extract Inhibits IL-1[beta]-Induced Expression of Matrix Metalloproteinases by Inhibiting the Activation of MAP Kinases and NF-[kappa]B in Human Chondrocytes In Vitro1."

The study looked at the ability of an extract of pomegranate fruit against Interleukin-1b (IL-1b), a pro-inflammatory protein molecule that plays a key role in cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis. Current treatments for osteoarthritis – which affects 20 million people nationwide, according to the National Institutes of Health – offer limited effectiveness and do little to slow joint destruction and disease progression.

Can food slow the progress of certain diseases?

"This has generated considerable interest in the identification and development of new approaches and reagents to treat and inhibit, if not abolish, the progress of the disease," says Tariq M. Haqqi, Ph.D., professor of medicine at Case, according to the September 1, 2005 news release, "Pomegranate fruit shown to slow cartilage deterioration in osteoarthritis."

"Arthritis is one of the foremost diseases for which patients seek herbal or traditional medicine treatments. However, all the extracts and herbs have not yet been scientifically evaluated for their efficacy and safety. Indeed, some of them may even interfere with the current treatments," Haqqi explains in the news release. "Therefore, careful use of supplements and herbal medicines during early stages of disease or treatment may be made to limit the disease progression."

Plant-based flavonoids found in fruits, leaves and vegetables have attracted a lot of attention for their beneficial health effects in various diseases

Pomegranate, in particular, has been found to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have potential therapeutic benefits in a variety of diseases. The Case study demonstrated for the first time the ability of pomegranate fruit extracts to slow the deterioration of human cartilage.

"It has been revered through the ages for its medicinal properties," says Haqqi, according to the news release. "Studies in animal models of cancer suggest that pomegranate fruit extract consumption may be anticarcinogenic, whereas studies in mice and humans indicate that it may also have a potential therapeutic and chemopreventive adjuvant effect in cardiovascular disorders."

A bonus with the native Persian fruit is that its antioxidant constituents are rapidly absorbed by the body and are non-toxic

Using tissue samples of human cartilage affected by osteoarthritis, researchers added a water extract of pomegranate fruit to the culture using a well-established in vitro model. The findings showed a new activity for pomegranate fruit extract – namely cartilage protection – in addition to its previously discovered antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The IL-1b protein molecules create an overproduction of inflammatory molecules including matrix metalloproteases (MMP), which are tightly regulated enzymes necessary for tissue remodeling. When overproduced in a disease state, such as osteoarthritis, they degrade the cartilage resulting in joint damage and destruction.

The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study results indicate that pomegranate fruit extracts inhibit the overproduction of MMP enzymes in human cartilage cells

"This suggests that consumption of pomegranate fruit extract may help in protecting cartilage from the effects of IL-1b by suppressing cartilage degradation in OA," Haqqi says, according to the news release.

More studies are needed to determine the absorption rate of pomegranate fruit extracts in the joints. Future plans include animal model studies in osteoarthritis to determine whether the fruit extract promotes cartilage repair, and whether it can also be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Pomegranate research on lowering cardiovascular risks

On the health benefits of pomegranate, you may wish to check out the recent study, "Does Pomegranate intake attenuate cardiovascular risk factors in hemodialysis patients?" It's published online since March 4, 2014 in the Nutrition Journal.

The significant beneficial effect of pomegranate juice intake on hemodialysis and certain other patients and lipid profile among hemodialysis patients, in addition to its beneficial effect on oxidative stress and inflammation, suggests that constant pomegranate juice consumption can offer wide protection against cardiovascular events - the main cause of morbidity and mortality among HD patients, notes the study.

Furthermore, as controlled consumption of pomegranate juice has been shown to lower morbidities in hemodialysis patients it is expected to reduce costs associated with those patients' care

Additional multi centered clinical studies are needed to substantiate the researcher's findings that while directly improving patients' quality of life, pomegranate juice also can significantly reduce health expenditure. Such studies might well influence future policy makers to include pomegranate juice as part of state-funded standard care for hemodialysis patients, the study explains.

Pomegranate juice may help protect cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure and lipid levels. The study involved 101 hemodialysis (HD) patients, subjects were given either 100 cc of pomegranate juice or a matching placebo juice three times per week for one year. Subjects were assessed for traditional cardiovascular risk factors including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, pulse pressure and plasma levels of triglycerides, HDL, LDL and total cholesterol throughout the study year.

Compared with the placebo group, subjects receiving pomegranate juice had significant improvement in systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels

These effects were more pronounced among subjects with high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL at baseline, the study explains. Researchers concluded that “these favorable changes may reduce the accelerated atherosclerosis and high incidence of CVD among HD patients.” Authors of the study are Shema-Didi L, Kristal B, et al.

Can pomegranate extract alone or a combination of Super Glisodin® Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) and pomegranate extract (in one softgel) work to help reverse hardening of the arteries, particularly in the carotid arteries, because the thicker the carotid arteries, it has been said, the more irritable the personality?

What consumers of pomegranate juice want to know is just how does the reversing process work? To reverse hardening of the arteries you have to first halt the process and then reverse the calcium and other materials in the plaque that has narrowed arteries for decades.

Let's say you have an ultrasound test of the carotid arteries in your neck. It gives you a reading of the blockage by measuring the thickness of the carotid artery walls. You can ask for an IMT, also called an "intima-media thickness test."

When your LDL cholesterol is high, it means calcium is flowing into your bloodstream to clog your arteries instead of being deposited in your bones. Your balance of multiple minerals going in your body isn't quite right.

Before you start planning the next step, first read the study's abstract, "Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure, and LDL oxidation," published in the Journal of Nutrition, June 2004. Authors are Aviram M, Rosenblat M, and Gaitini D, et al. Also see the Erratum in Clin Nutr. 2008 Aug;27(4):671.

You also may want to check out the abstract of the study, "Effects of consumption of pomegranate juice on carotid intima-media thickness in men and women at moderate risk for coronary heart disease," published in the American Journal of Cardiology, 2009.

The 2009 study concluded that No significant difference in overall CIMT progression rate was observed between pomegranate juice and control treatments. In exploratory analyses, in subjects in the most adverse tertiles for baseline serum lipid peroxides, triglycerides (TGs), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, TGs/HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein-B100, those in the pomegranate juice group had significantly less anterior wall and/or composite CIMT progression versus control subjects.

In conclusion, these results suggest that in subjects at moderate coronary heart disease risk, pomegranate juice consumption had no significant effect on overall CIMT progression rate but may have slowed CIMT progression in subjects with increased oxidative stress and disturbances in the TG-rich lipoprotein/HDL axis, the 2009 study's abstract noted.

There's also the study, "Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation," published in Clinical Nutrition , 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33. In the 2004 controlled study involving people with severe carotid artery narrowing (stenosis), one group drank pomegranate juice with conventional drugs such as statins and high blood pressure medications.

The other group didn't consume any pomegranate but were on the same type and doses of drugs. The findings observed in the pomegranate group showed that the severe carotid artery narrowing had been reversed.

The study lasted three years, but what about people who don't want to take drugs and just drink the pomegranate juice?

Will the juice reverse the calcium and fat deposits in their narrow carotid arteries without any drugs? It's difficult to get funding for people not taking drugs and just drinking pomegranate juice or taking some other nutrients with the pomegranate. If you take away the drugs and give both groups just juice to drink and similar meals with the juice, will the arteries clean themselves?

That's the question, since studies usually involve people on conventional drugs rather than on juicing diets. How many studies look at patients that stepped away from conventional medicine and are willing to drink certain amounts of various juices to see what the pomegranate or other juices are doing to their arteries? And how does pomegranate work on people over age 65 with similar issues who are not on drugs?

Can a combination of Super GLISODIN® - Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) and pomegranate extract (containing the fruit, flowers, skin and seeds) help to reverse hardening of the arteries and slow aging and thickening of the carotid artery in humans? Check out the clinical research on the website, A research community dedicated to the SOD/gliadin complex.

What are the non-drug approaches that reverse atherosclerosis caused by aging? According to medical journal articles touting studies showing the ability of consumed pomegranate juice and a natural superoxide dismutase (SOD) -enhancing agent called GliSODin® to reverse "carotoid artery ultrasound markers" of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) better than any prescribed commercial drug.

Some Sacramento nutritionists and researchers have known for decades the largely unappreciated role of psychological factors in cardiovascular disease risk. It's food and psychological issues that matter in many cases. A study reported last summer by John Gever, MedPage Today Senior Editor, on the August 17, 2010 ABC Health news site, "Heart Attack, Stroke-Prone Arteries More Common in Nasty People: An Antagonistic Personality Might Increase Your Risk For Cardiovascular Disease," also features an ABC News video.

Does actually being short-tempered thicken the inside of your carotid arteries? And can pomegranate help reverse it?

There's a study that shows that having a bad temper, being short-tempered, selfish, or a nasty attitude thickens the inside of your carotid arteries and dramatically raises your risk of strokes and heart attacks.

The study published August 2010 shows that individuals with antagonistic or disagreeable personalities have or soon develop thicker arterial walls that may make them more prone to heart attacks and strokes, researchers said. But there's something you can do about it.

Be nice to people, polite, smile, and meditate or do slow breathing exercises to calm yourself down. It's not worth it to get angry, especially at things like road rage or someone riding a bike on a narrow sidewalk when you're trying to walk. A new study finds that angry people are more like to develop thick lining in their carotid arteries.

The study found that the carotid artery (in your neck) lining was significantly thicker in people who rated low on a scale of agreeableness, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues

The study wasn't done in the USA but in Sardinia. In a study of 5,614 residents of the Italian island of Sardinia, those ranking in the lowest 10 percent of agreeableness were 1.4 times as likely to have thickening in their lining of their carotid artery, the researchers found. This held true even after the researchers adjusted for cholesterol levels, smoking status and other risk factors.

Are Unpleasant People More Prone to Stroke? And Is there a Food That Can Help Reverse the Thickening Process?
The researchers also found that an antagonistic personality predicted increased thickening over approximately three years of follow-up. See the article based on the study, "Unpleasant People May Be More Prone to Stroke," published in the August 16, 2010 issue of MedPageToday.

The National Institute on Aging funded the study. The effect of personality appeared greater in women than in men, the researchers also found. Women scoring high in overall agreeableness showed decreases in intima-media thickness (mean -0.06 mm), whereas men with high scores had small increases (mean 0.04 mm).

Women with agreeableness scores more than one standard deviation below the mean -- indicating a generally antisocial personality -- showed increases that were essentially the same as men with similarly low scores, with increases in arterial thickness in the 0.06 to 0.08 mm range

On the other hand, when the researchers looked at the risk of being in the top quartile of intima-media thickness, high agreeableness scores did not appear to have a protective effect compared with participants with scores near the mean, irrespective of gender.

Redford Williams, MD, of Duke University, who was not involved with the study, commented that the findings highlight the largely unappreciated role of psychological factors in cardiovascular disease risk.

A nutritionist might look at what foods the person eats as well as social factors and psychological responses to people around the individual

Reactions to stress and other people, such as your attitude plays a role in putting you at higher risk of heart disease, strokes, or other health problems, even arthritic-like pain.

The degree of cardiovascular event risk suggested by the study findings as associated with antagonistic personality traits was comparable to that of high LDL cholesterol, hypertension, or smoking, according to researchers. In the USA, where are the clinical trials? Who's looking at psychological and social risks and factors that may override physical risk issues?

If you have thick carotid arteries, should you go to anger management training classes as well as eat a better diet, tailored to your individual metabolic responses?

Your attitude helps your risk go up or down. Studies are needed to find out whether cardiovascular risks can be changed by anger management classes or other social and psychological practices such as meditation or learning to let things ride instead of stressing out to control other people's behavior. But who's doing the clinical trials locally?

The study wasn't done in Sacramento, but in Sardinia. That limits the study to an island in the Mediterranean. Are people the same all over the world in their response to others being nice or nasty, agreeable or fault-finding and constantly critical? And are complainers who don't take action to change or those holding resentment or grudges, as well as victims of childhood stresses also going to have thicker carotid arteries? Only a new study might give some clues.

UC Davis in the Sacramento-Davis Regional Area Studies Agreeableness and Environment

UC Davis studies personality and agreeableness as related to the situation of whether you're a good fit for your environment. See, Person-Environment Fit and Its Implications for Personality, and Slide 1 - UC Davis, Psychology, where UC Davis studied self-concept in preschool children. At UC Davis in the Sacramento-Davis regional area, continuity and change in Person-Environment Fit (PE Fit) and its relation to personality development was studied in a 4-year longitudinal study of college students (N=305).

PE Fit demonstrated moderate rank-order stability and small increases in mean-levels over time. Antecedents to PE Fit included gender (being male), high academic ability, low agreeableness, and low neuroticism. Outcomes associated with PE Fit included greater personality consistency and changes in personality in the direction of higher self-esteem and lower agreeableness and neuroticism. The implications of the findings for personality development are discussed.

Reversing Atherosclerosis with Pomegranate? Can Fruit Extract Slow Down Aging of Your Arteries?

See Life Extension Magazine , July 2007, " Reversing Atherosclerosis Naturally ," by Dale Kiefer. The article notes, "In the past seven years alone, the amount of published research on pomegranate has increased seven-fold over all preceding years in the medical and scientific literature."

The primary source for Life Extension Magazine's article's conclusion is the medical journal study by Lansky EP, Newman RA. Punica granatum (pomegranate) and its potential for prevention and treatment of inflammation and cancer. Journal of Ethnopharmacology , 2007 Jan 19;109(2):177-206.

Also see the article on SOD and oxidative stress titled, " Oxidative stress and antioxidants: how to assess a risk or a prevention?" Science is looking at fruit juices, nutrients, and even hormones that slow the progression of hardening of the arteries and inflammation of the arteries. But can fruit juice actually reverse existing artery calcification, possibly due to a high LDL level of calcium in the blood instead of the bones? Without drugs, can a whole food reverse atherosclerosis? If atherosclerosis is caused by aging, it's not the years that cause it because there are older people who don't have either arteries hardened by calcium deposits or plaque made of fats.

Is hardening of the arteries actually caused by endothelial dysfunction?

And endothelial dysfunction can be slowed by certain natural forms of vitamins A, C, and E, provided the E vitamin contains all eight tocotrienols, vitamin C is in its whole food state, and A is in a natural form of betacarotene obtained from natural foods with carotenoids.

Read for yourself a few of the numerous medical articles that have tested pomegranate for its ability to reverse hardening of the carotid arteries include the following studies. Also find out what studies are coming up in the near future.

Here is a list of some of the studies that look place in the last decade. Cloarec M, Caillard P, Provost JC, et al. GliSODin, a vegetal sod with gliadin, as preventative agent vs. atherosclerosis, as confirmed with carotid ultrasound-B imaging. European Annals of Allergy Clinical Immunology . 2007 Feb;39(2):45-50. de NF, Williams-Ignarro S, Sica V, et al. Effects of a pomegranate fruit extract rich in punicalagin on oxidation-sensitive genes and eNOS activity at sites of perturbed shear stress and atherogenesis. Cardiovascular Research . 2007 January 15;73(2):414-23.

Kaplan M, Hayek T, Raz A, et al. Pomegranate juice supplementation to atherosclerotic mice reduces macrophage lipid peroxidation, cellular cholesterol accumulation and development of atherosclerosis. Journal of Nutrition . 2001 Aug; 131(8):2082-9. Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clinical Nutrition . 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33.

You may also want to check out a review, "Carotid intima-media thickness measured by ultrasonography: effect of different pharmacotherapies on atherosclerosis progression]," Orv Hetil. 2005, Curr Cardiol Rep. 2009 Jan;11(1):21-7. The review explained that atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of most myocardial infarction (MI) and ischemic strokes.

B-mode ultrasound of carotid arteries provides measures of intima-media thickness (IMT) and plaques, both widely used as surrogate measures of cardiovascular disease. Although IMT and plaques are highly intercorrelated, IMT's role as a marker of atherosclerosis has been questioned, especially when measurements include the common carotid artery (CCA) only.

Plaque and intima-media thickening may reflect different biological aspects of atherogenesis with distinctive relations to clinical vascular disease

Plaque measured in the carotid bulb or internal carotid artery is stronger related to hyperlipidemia and smoking and is a stronger predictor for MI, whereas CCA-IMT is stronger related to hypertension and ischemic stroke. Echolucent plaque morphology (for example, lipid-rich plaques) seems to increase the risk for MI and stroke. New evidence suggests that total plaque area is the most strongly predictive of cardiovascular risk of the ultrasound phenotypes, the abstract notes.

Other studies focus on cooking and salad oils and their effects on health

Functional medicine looks at how food affects health. For example, you can check out the abstract of a study, "Arachidonic Acid and Ischemic Heart Disease." Or see, "Effect of dietary linoleic acid on markers of inflammation in healthy persons." There are studies such as ,"Habitual dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in relation to inflammatory markers among US men and women" and "Habitual dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in relation to inflammatory markers among US men and women."

The studies on omega 6 and omega 3 oils looked at whether polyunsaturated fatty acid intake favorably affects chronic inflammatory-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease; however, high intake of n-6 fatty acids may attenuate the known beneficial effects of n-3 fatty acids, study noted.

The study concluded that the results suggest that n-6 fatty acids do not inhibit the antiinflammatory effects of n-3 fatty acids and that the combination of both types of fatty acids is associated with the lowest levels of inflammation. The inhibition of inflammatory cytokines may be one possible mechanism for the observed beneficial effects of these fatty acids on chronic inflammatory-related diseases.

You might take a look at some of the studies on nuts. For example, you can check out the abstract of a study, "A Systematic Review of the Effects of Nuts on Blood Lipid Profiles in Humans."

And so, research in functional medicine, functional endocrinology, and nutrition continue to see how various foods help or hinder health. When you read a study or it's abstract, you can see whether any give study or clinical trial was done with lab animals or with human participants.

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