Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vitamin D activates immune response to TB

Posted: 13 October 2011

Oily fish such as salmon are rich in Vitamin D
WASHINGTON: Vitamin D is needed to activate the immune system's response to tuberculosis, said a US study on Wednesday that could lead to new treatments for the lung disease that kills 1.8 million people per year.

Researchers have long known that vitamin D plays a role in the body's response to TB, but the study in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows it must be present in adequate levels to trigger the immune response.

This finding could be crucial to efforts to treat the disease in parts of the world like Africa, because people with dark skin tend to be more susceptible to TB and also are more likely to have vitamin D deficiencies.

Even though people can get vitamin D through sun exposure, dark skin contains more melanin which shields the body from ultraviolet rays and also reduces vitamin D production.

"Over the centuries, vitamin D has intrinsically been used to treat tuberculosis," said first study author Mario Fabri, who did the research for the study while at the University of California Los Angeles and is currently at the Department of Dermatology at the University of Cologne, Germany.

"Sanatoriums dedicated to tuberculosis patients were traditionally placed in sunny locations that seemed to help patients -- but no one knew why this worked," he said.

"Our findings suggest that increasing vitamin D levels through supplementation may improve the immune response to infections such as tuberculosis."

Previous studies by the same research team found that vitamin D played a key role producing a molecule called cathelicidin, which helps the innate immune system kill the tuberculosis bacteria.

The current findings show that vitamin D is necessary for the T-cells, which respond to threats as part of the body's adaptive immune system, to produce a protein called interferon which directs cells to attack the bacteria.

"At a time when drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are emerging, understanding how to enhance natural innate and acquired immunity through vitamin D may be very helpful," said co-author Barry Bloom, former dean of the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The World Health Organization reported this week that 8.8 million people had TB last year, with about one quarter of those cases occurring in Africa and 40 percent in India and China.


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Vitamin D activates immune response to TB

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Toxic chemicals in children's soup cans

Posted: 22 September 2011

A man walks through a grocery store. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)WASHINGTON: Worrying levels of BPA, an industrial chemical with suspected links to cancer, lurk inside canned soups and pasta targeted at American children, the Breast Cancer Fund said on Wednesday.

In a product testing report, the non-profit advocacy group - which focuses on environmental causes of cancer - said an average of 49 parts per billion of BPA, or bisphenol A, was detected in a dozen cans of food items tested.

"Every food sample tested positive for BPA," with Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups testing the highest," said the group, which is pressing canned food producers to embrace alternatives to BPA.

Best known as a hardening agent in plastic bottles, BPA is also widely used 
to line the inside of metal cans, but a raft of scientific studies have pointed to a possible link with cancer and other illnesses.

Earlier this year, the European Union banned the use of BPA in the manufacture of baby bottles. Its use in infant food containers is also restricted in Canada as well as 10 US states.

"We're concerned about BPA because it disrupts the body's delicate hormonal system," Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund, told AFP by telephone from San Francisco.

"There's a toxic chemical in our canned foods marketed to children, and it doesn't belong there."

In its tests, the group found levels of BPA ranging from 148 ppb in a can of Campbell's Disney Princess Cool Shapes shaped pasta with chicken and chicken broth to 10 ppb in a can of Campbell's SpaghettiOs with meatballs.

Earth's Best, Annie's Homegrown and Chef Boyardee products were also tested, with eight of the 12 cans found to have BPA levels in excess of the 49 ppb average.

It was unclear why there was such a wide variation between the cans tested, or why cans bought in California were liable to have higher BPA levels than those from Wisconsin.

But Salter said that previous laboratory experiments have suggested that some foodstuffs are liable to provoke greater toxic leeching from BPA packaging than others.

Pending sweeping legislation to ban BPA across the board, the Breast Cancer Fund urged parents to avoid canned foods and instead feed their youngsters dry or frozen pasta, fruit, or soup packaged in paper-based containers.


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