Mushrooms containing vitamin D2 - from exposure to ultraviolet light - can provide as much vitamin D as supplements say researchers from Boston University School of Medicine. The study included 30 healthy adults who took either 2000 IU of vitamin D2, vitamin D3 or mushroom powder daily for 12 weeks during the winter. Baseline serum Vitamin D levels were similar for all participants. Blood tests taken during and after the study showed an increase and maintenance of vitamin D levels which were also similar for all participants. Adequate amounts of vitamin D are essential for bone health, muscle strength and for modulating the immune system to help fight infections and reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Mineral Good for Immune Function
A new study has found a biological pathway by which being deficient in zinc can lead to a decline of the immune system and increase inflammation which can further lead to diseases that include cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease and diabetes. Researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University suggest that about 40 percent of elderly Americans and as many as two billion people around the world have diets that are deficient in zinc, which protects against oxidative stress and helps repair DNA damage. The mineral is especially rich in meats and seafood. Although it is present in grains and vegetables, it is harder for the body to absorb from these sources. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for zinc is 11 milligrams a day for men and 8 milligrams a day for women.
Can Fido Prevent Ear Infections?
Kids who start out life living in a home with dogs or cats are better able to ward off some illnesses, suggest researchers in Finland. The study, to be published in Pediatrics, involved nearly 400 children who were followed from before birth to age 1. Researchers found that babies who had more interaction with furry pets had fewer minor respiratory issues and ear infections, and needed less medication when they did become ill. While cats provided some protection, babies living around dogs had better protection against certain childhood infections, particularly if they lived in a household where the dog went outside frequently. Researchers aren't sure why dogs provide protection, but they think that perhaps the secret lies in greater exposure to microbes in dirt brought indoors by dogs.
Some Response in Placebo Group
A phase 2 study involving 217 women who went into remission after treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer found that a vaccine that trains the immune system to attack any budding tumor cells generates the immune response researchers were hoping for. The HER2-based peptide vaccine AE37 uses a small protein (peptide) present on cancer cells to get the immune system to see the cancer as a foreign invader and attack it. Women either received the vaccine with a stimulant or only the stimulant for six months. Eighty-six percent of women in the vaccine group elicited an immune response while only 27 percent in the control group. Researchers were pleasantly surprised by the response rate of the placebo group. Future studies will be needed to be conducted before it ends up on the market.
Superinfection = Super Antibody
Results from a study involving 12 women infected with two strains of HIV, known as a “superinfection,” and three healthy controls found that having both strains present increased the presence of “elite neutralizing” antibodies that could target multiple strains of the virus that causes AIDS over a long period of time. Not only were more of these antibodies in superinfected women, but they were more potent in their ability to neutralize the virus. Researchers hope this study sheds light on how to design an effective vaccine. Previous attempts at developing one have only yielded moderate success. Anti-HIV antibodies do inhibit infection and this study shows that a mixture of different viral strains could be the best approach to eliciting a strong antibody response from the immune system.
Keep the Doctor Away
You likely have never heard of her, but Willie Stikeleather of Stoney Point, North Carolina will be turning 100 this month. To what does she credit her long life? Eating apples, especially the ones her family grew in her early life. As you know, eating “an apple a day will keep the doctor away” because the healthful fruit is a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help prevent cholesterol buildup in the blood vessel walls, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Insoluble fiber provides digestive bulk which helps food move through more easily. Apples are also a good source of vitamin C, which can help promote health in the immune system. Other apple benefits – they are low calorie (81 per medium apple) and a natural mouth freshener.
Possible Cold and Flu Fighter
A new study has found that naturally-occurring chemicals found in the skin of almonds may help boost the immune system’s response to infection. Researchers with the Institute of Food Research have found that the nut skins improved the ability of white blood cells to detect viruses, including those that cause flu and the common cold, while also increasing the body’s ability to prevent the viruses from replicating and spreading. In the lab, the scientists found that even after digestion, almond skin extracts were still effective in boosting the immune system although boiling the nuts seemed to decrease activity. Although nutritional guidelines suggest three ounces a day for other health benefits, research still needs to be done to find out how much to eat for the antiviral effect.
American Favorite Good for You
In the United States, white button mushrooms represent 90 percent of the total mushrooms consumed. Researchers have found that the commonly enjoyed vegetable plays an important role in keeping the immune system healthy. An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funded study, conducted at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, found that white button mushrooms promote immune function by increasing production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while seeking to protect and repair tissue. Nutrients within the mushrooms enhance the maturity of dendritic cells from bone marrow which make T-cells. T-cells are white blood cells which recognize and deactivate antigens or invading microbes.
Positive Effect on Mind and Body
The ancient Chinese wellness practices of tai chi and qigong provide many physical and mental health benefits, according to an analysis by Arizona State University researchers which included 77 published studies and over 6,000 participants. The studies, published between 1993 and 2007, found that the physical movements and slow, meditative breath and mind regulation had a positive effect on bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, balance, and psychological health, such as stress reduction. Lead researcher Linda Larkey says that the “combination of self-awareness with self-correction of the posture and movement of the body…are thought to comprise a state that activates the natural (self-healing) capacity.” The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Stress Improves Health
Dog eat your report that’s due tomorrow? In-laws coming to visit … for a week? Good for you. Research suggests that moderate levels of stress can actually improve your health because it makes your adrenal glands release hormones, including adrenaline (boosts heart rate and energy) and cortisol (increases blood sugar). Long periods of these high levels can have negative effects but short bursts can be good for you. Cortisol can improve memory so focus on studying a new project when stress is keeping you awake, instead of tossing and turning in bed. Oxytocin, which facilitates bonding, is also released into your system, making stressful times a good time to reconnect with friends and family. Short-term stress can also have long-term benefits because it gives your immune system a boost.
Linked to Immune System Failure
Katie Pulling spent most of her late teenage years in and out of a hospital with an unidentified condition that baffled doctors. After contracting a common teenage virus, which should have only caused mild symptoms, she developed a rare, life-threatening disorder called fulminant infectious mononucleosis or FIM. The complication, though, led to a discovery that her original condition was linked to her immune system, and she agreed to an experimental stem cell transplant which ultimately saved her life. “The transplant was dangerous, but the results were amazing,” said Dr. Maher Gandhi. Today, Katie is 23, completely well, and is studying for her Bachelor of Business. Her case study is presented in the March issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.