Sunday, February 7, 2016

Update on the Benefits of Coffee, Fiber and Oregano

In a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, people who regularly drank moderate amounts of coffee daily --less than 5 cups per day -- experienced a lower risk of deaths from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, Type 2 diabetes and suicide.  The benefit held true for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, suggesting it's not just the caffeine providing health perks but possibly the naturally occurring chemical compounds in the coffee beans. The findings are based on data from three large ongoing studies: 74,890 women in the Nurses' Health Study; 93,054 women in the Nurses' Health Study 2; and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.  The study’ first author, Dr. Ming Ding, wrote that bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation. In general, people who frequently drank coffee were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. To separate the effects of coffee from smoking, researchers repeated their analysis among never-smokers, and found that the protective benefits of coffee on deaths became even more evident.  The researchers warned that some people should be cautious about their caffeine intake, such as children and pregnant women

Women who eat more high-fiber foods during adolescence and young adulthood--especially lots of fruits and vegetables--may have significantly lower breast cancer risk than those who eat less dietary fiber when young, according to a new large-scale study led by Maryam Farvid at Harvard School of Public Health. Among all the women, there was a strong inverse association between fiber intake and breast cancer incidence. For each additional 10 grams of fiber intake daily--for example, about one apple and two slices of whole wheat bread, or about half a cup each of cooked kidney beans and cooked cauliflower or squash--during early adulthood, breast cancer risk dropped by 13%. The greatest apparent benefit came from fruit and vegetable fiber. The authors speculated that eating more fiber-rich foods may lessen breast cancer risk partly by helping to reduce high estrogen levels in the blood, which are strongly linked with breast cancer development.

Fiber intake is also associated with longevity – studies show a reduced risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases.  Fiber intake also lessens the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity; intestinal bacteria (the microbiome again!) ferment dietary fiber and reduce the amount of glucose absorbed into the blood.

Oregano: Dr. Supriya Bavadekar, at Long Island University, is currently testing carvacrol, a constituent of oregano, on prostate cancer cells. The results of her study demonstrate that the compound induces apoptosis (cancer cell death) in these cells. Dr. Bavadekar and her group are presently trying to determine the signaling pathways that the compound employs to bring about cancer cell suicide. "We know that oregano possesses anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties, but its effects on cancer cells really elevate the spice to the level of a super-spice like turmeric," said Dr. Bavadekar. "Some researchers have previously shown that eating pizza may cut down cancer risk. This effect has been mostly attributed to lycopene, a substance found in tomato sauce, but we now feel that even the oregano seasoning may play a role," stated Dr. Bavadekar. More work is needed on this promising finding.   Recent studies also indicate that oregano may inhibit liver cancer, breast cancer and foodborne bacteria.   

 Many herbs have an anti-inflammatory effect that make them helpful against a variety of health problems.  Tune in next week for an update on turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and coriander. 
Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH back issues on this blog

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