VOLUME 33, NUMBER 29 THURSDAY, June 27, 2002

Research Digest

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Vitamin low in Kashmiri women
The first study of vitamin D status in a group of Kashmiri women and their babies has revealed across-the-board deficiency of the nutrient, which increases the risk of rickets, osteoporosis, other bone disorders and muscle weakness in this population.

Results of the investigation, conducted by endocrine researchers at UB and two institutions in Srinagar, India, were presented at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society, held earlier this month in San Francisco.

"This finding brings to light a serious public health problem," said Paresh Dandona, UB professor of medicine, director of the Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of Western New York, and senior author on the study.

"Kashmir has very long winters and many women remain completely covered even in summer, so we expected to see vitamin D deficiency, but we found much more than we expected."

Vitamin D is produced by the skin in the presence of sufficient sunlight. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is considered adequate to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D.

Colleagues at the LD Hospital in Srinagar, India, collected blood samples from 43 pregnant women during labor, cord blood from their 43 newborns and samples from 15 female medical students who were to serve as controls. Researchers expected the medical students to have normal vitamin D levels because they are better educated than the general female population. However, analysis of the blood samples showed moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency in all three groups, with the medical students having the lowest concentrations.

Vitamin D deficiency can be remedied by drinking fortified milk or other fortified foods, exposure to sunlight or by taking vitamins.

Vitamins E, C nullify response
In a series of studies designed to define the role of dietary macronutrients in the initiation of arterial inflammation that predisposes a person to atherosclerosis, UB researchers have found that a high intake of glucose, or eating a high-fat, high-calorie fast-food meal causes an increase in the blood's inflammatory components.

However, they also have shown that the antioxidant vitamins E and C can nullify this inflammatory response.

Results of the research were presented at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, held earlier this month in San Francisco.

"A meal high in calories and fat caused an increase in inflammatory markers that lasted three to four hours," said Paresh Dandona, professor of medicine, head of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences' Division of Endocrinology, and senior author on the studies.

"We think the influx of macronutrients may alter cell behavior and that genes are activated to produce more powerful enzymes and mediators that are potentially more damaging to the lining of blood vessels. Obese persons may have an ongoing abnormality of the white blood cells and the lining of blood vessels." (Calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates and water, the major components of any food, are considered macronutrients.)

"On the other hand, we found that one way to render an 'unsafe' meal 'safe' is to include antioxidant vitamins," Dandona said. "The proinflammatory effect of glucose is stopped if right at the outset you give vitamins E and C."

Drug may prevent heart disease
A drug used widely as an insulin sensitizer appears also to have a significant anti-inflammatory effect in diabetics, a property that could make it useful in helping to prevent heart disease in these patients, a study by UB endocrinologists has found.

Results of the research, involving the drug rosiglitazone, were presented at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association. Rosiglitazone is sold under the brand name Avandia®.

UB endocrinologists, led by Paresh Dandona, professor of medicine and head of the Division of Endocrinology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, have been studying the anti-inflammatory properties of insulin and insulin sensitizers and their potential use in treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis, one of the leading causes of heart attacks.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, begins as an inflammation of the blood-vessel wall. Persons with diabetes are at increased risk of developing atherosclerosis and heart disease.

The current study involved 11 obese patients with Type 2 diabetes. In this disease, also referred to as adult-onset diabetes, the body produces adequate amounts of insulin, but cells don't respond to its action. Rosiglitazone is prescribed to break down this resistance to insulin.

Researchers collected blood samples from the diabetic volunteers and started them on a six-week course of daily rosiglitazone. They repeated the blood sampling four times during the six weeks of treatment and again at 12 weeks, and analyzed the samples for concentration of three inflammatory markers and for the presence of oxygen free radicals.

Results showed that the drug exerted a "profound" suppressive effect on free radicals and on other mediators of inflammation in the blood.

"The ability to reduce inflammation is crucial for preventing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, " said Dandona. "Previous data demonstrated rosiglitazone's effectiveness in reducing key markers of cardiovascular disease in patients at risk for diabetes. This study in people with diabetes further underscores rosiglitazone's potential to have a cardio-protective effect."


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