Vitamin D fights Covid while selenium boosts sperm count — fight back with our A-Z of health-boosting supplements

Vitamin D fights Covid while selenium boosts sperm count — fight back with our A-Z of health-boosting supplements

  • November 21, 2020

IT seems D is the magic letter. A new study says taking vitamin D supplements may reduce the risk of cancer by up to 38 per cent.

The “sunshine supplement” is also thought to help fight Covid-19, with the Government ­planning to hand out free supplies to vulnerable people.

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Follow our guide to beating disease and illness with the help of vitamins


Follow our guide to beating disease and illness with the help of vitaminsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Here in our A-Z guide, we show the best and most useful vitamins, minerals and natural supplements along with easy ways to boost your intake.

A What it does: Vital for the immune system, healthy skin, vision and to help our organs function properly. It can cause bone damage if you consume too much,though.

How to get it: Meat, dairy, eggs and oily fish. Vegans need foods high in beta-carotene.

B What it does: There are eight B vitamins, with functions including the breakdown, use and storage of energy from food, keeping the nervous system healthy and forming healthy red blood cells.

How to get it: They come from many sources – see

C What it does: This antioxidant protects our cells from damage. It also helps to form collagen, heal wounds, keep vessels, bones and cartilage healthy, and absorb iron from food.

How to get it: Citrus fruits such as oranges, and kiwis and tomatoes.

D What it does: Not only brilliant for bones, joints and muscles but it also boosts our immune system. Known as the “sunshine vitamin”, it is made through exposure to the sun.

How to get it: In winter it is worth taking a vitamin supplement.

Selenium from the likes of chicken can boost the immune system, aid healthy hair and nails and the development of sperm cells in men


Selenium from the likes of chicken can boost the immune system, aid healthy hair and nails and the development of sperm cells in menCredit: Getty Images – Getty

E What it does: It is a cancer-fighting antioxidant that also helps to maintain healthy skin and vision. It strengthens the immune system to help fight illnesses.

How to get it: Plant oils, such as olive and vegetable, nuts, wheatgerm, seeds and green veg.

F IBRE. What it does: It helps lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. A fibre-rich diet can also make you feel fuller and aid digestion.

How to get it: Healthy cereals like Weetabix, porridge, wholegrain bread, skin on potatoes and veg.

G LUCOSAMINE. What it does: Found naturally in the body, glucosamine helps form cartilage. Taking a supplement is thought to ease joint pain or osteoarthritis, though research is inconclusive.

How to get it: Supplements that are harvested from shells of shellfish.

H What it does: Also known as biotin, it is called the “beauty vitamin” as it prevents hair loss and breakage, and can improve skin.

How to get it: Meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts and some veg but often in small quantities. Our gut bacteria makes biotin.

I RON: What it does: It is essential for making haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that ­carries oxygen.

Vitamin C helps to form collagen, heal wounds and keep vessels, bones and cartilage healthy


Vitamin C helps to form collagen, heal wounds and keep vessels, bones and cartilage healthyCredit: Alamy

How to get it: Meat, beans and green leafy veg. The body absorbs iron more easily when taken with foods high in vitamin C, such as orange juice.

J What it does: Known as choline, this nutrient plays a part in liver function, brain development, muscle movement, a healthy nervous system and metabolising food.

How to get it: Your liver produces small amounts. Found in meats, fish, nuts, beans, spinach and eggs.

K What it does: This group of vitamins helps blood to clot, ­ensuring we can heal when we cut ourselves.

How to get it: Green leafy veg, such as broccoli and spinach, as well as vegetable oils, cereal grains – and there’s small amounts in meat and dairy.

LECITHIN. What it does: Found in the tissues of your body, lecithin is made up of fatty acids and can help treat high cholesterol, improve heart health and aid breastfeeding mums.

How to get it: Lecithin-high foods include egg yolks, milk and peanuts.

Fibre from the likes of wholemeal bread helps lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer


Fibre from the likes of wholemeal bread helps lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancerCredit: Alamy

MAGNESIUM. What it does: The mineral helps turn food into energy. It’s also important for muscle and nerve function and bone health. But taking too much can cause diarrhoea.

How to get it: Spinach, nuts, wholegrain bread and legumes.

N IACIN. What it does: Also known as vitamin B3, niacin acts as an antioxidant and is needed for metabolism function and the nervous system.

How to get it: Fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, mushrooms, brown rice, peanuts, green peas and avocados.

O MEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS. What it does: These essential fatty acids are especially good for heart health and boosting our immune systems. Omega 3 cannot be made by the body.

How to get it: From oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel.

POTASSIUM. What it does: This powerful mineral is needed for nerves and muscles to “communicate”, cells to move nutrients and waste, and for a healthy heart.

How to get it: Fruit, especially bananas, as well as sweet potatoes, avocados and milk.

Biotin, found in eggs, is called the 'beauty vitamin' as it prevents hair loss and breakage, and can improve skin condition


Biotin, found in eggs, is called the ‘beauty vitamin’ as it prevents hair loss and breakage, and can improve skin conditionCredit: Alamy

Q UERCETIN. What it does: The antioxidant plant pigment is thought to help reduce inflammation, kill cancer cells, ­control blood sugar and prevent heart disease.

How to get it: Plants and foods, such as red wine, onions, apples, green tea and berries.

RESVERATROL. What it does: A plant compound that acts like an antioxidant, it helps to protect the body against damage that can lead to diseases, such as cancer.

How to get it: Red wine and red grape skins, ­purple grape juice and mulberries.

S ELENIUM. What it does: The essential mineral plays a vital role in thyroid function, the immune system, healthy hair and nails and the development of sperm cells in men.

How to get it: Milk, yoghurt, cereal, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs.

T HIAMINE. What it does: Also known as vitamin B1, Thiamine enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy and also aids nerve, muscle and heart function.

How to get it: From meat, legumes, cereal, seeds, nuts, wholegrains and liver.

Essential fatty acids are especially good for heart health and boosting our immune systems


Essential fatty acids are especially good for heart health and boosting our immune systemsCredit: Alamy

U What it does: Not an official vitamin, but a term for a substance in cabbage juice. There is no consensus on what it does, but cabbage juice may help stomach ulcers.

How to get it: Cabbage juice. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale may have a similar effect.

V  ALERIAN. What it does: Herbal medicine valerian is thought to relieve mild anxiety and can help people with sleep issues to have a good night’s kip.

How to get it: Valerian is a herb – you can take capsules of the dried extract.

W ORT, ST JOHN’S. What it does: A herbal remedy used for hundreds of years to aid mental health problems. It can be used to treat mild depression.

How to get it: Most often taken in liquid or capsules. The dried herb may also be used as a tea.

X YLITOL. What it does: Widely used as a sugar substitute and in “sugar-free” gums and sweets. Using these instead of sugary ones could reduce tooth decay.

How to get it: Found in many processed foods and toothpastes – beware as it is poisonous to dogs.

Vitamin D is thought to help fight Covid-19


Vitamin D is thought to help fight Covid-19Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Y ARROW. What it does: Some people take yarrow, a plant, to treat diarrhoea, gas, colds, and asthma, but there is no good scientific evidence to support this.

How to get it: Powders, ointments, extracts, and dried leaves and flowers can be made into tea.

Z INC. What it does: Helps the immune system fight bugs and is also needed to make proteins and DNA, which in turn build cells.

How to get it: Poultry, red meat, beans, nuts and dairy products. Oysters have the most zinc per serving of all foods.

Kelly Brook reveals vitamin drip keeps her feeling fresh as she and boyfriend go to clinic together

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Cancer vaccine cocktail boosts immune response after surgery, study says

Cancer vaccine cocktail boosts immune response after surgery, study says

  • November 20, 2020

Immunotherapies have transformed cancer care by enlisting the body’s own immune system to fight tumors that have evaded or hijacked normal defenses. But while checkpoint inhibitor drugs and bespoke CAR-T treatments have gained significant ground in recent years, another type of immunotherapy — cancer vaccines — have seen far less success.

New research published this week in Nature Cancer, however, suggests combining a cancer vaccine with adjuvant molecules might boost effectiveness in preventing melanoma recurrence, potentially opening the door to future combinations with other immunotherapies to vanquish cancers. 

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Drug boosts outcomes among sickest patients

Drug boosts outcomes among sickest patients

  • November 19, 2020
Ventilator monitor ,given oxygen by intubation tube to patient, setting in ICU/Emergency room
Intravenously administering a rheumatoid arthritis drug has shown promise among the sickest coronavirus patients. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

An arthritis drug has shown promise among critically-ill coronavirus patients, research suggests.

The NHS began administering the steroid dexamethasone after a study in June suggested the low-cost drug cut the risk of death among patients on ventilation by a third.

Believing it was “unlikely any single drug will work on its own”, scientists from Imperial College London set out to uncover the best treatment regimen for the sickest coronavirus patients.

Early results suggest intravenously administering the rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizumab improved intensive care patient outcomes by 87%. This is compared to those who received “no immune modulator” but were on standard of care medication, like steroids.

Tocilizumab is thought to dampen inflammation by suppressing the immune system, which can go into overdrive when it encounters an infection. Research has shown the sickest coronavirus patients have a substantial amount of inflammation in their lungs.

Read more: Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine produces immune response among elderly

The scientists defined outcome improvement by how dependent the patients were on organ support, like a breathing machine, as well as whether they survived hospital admission.

It is unclear whether tocilizumab boosts overall survival or reduces the time a patient requires organ support, with further data being expected in the coming weeks and months.

Unable to marshal the right cells and molecules to fight off the invader, the bodies of the infected instead launch an entire arsenal of weapons — a misguided barrage that can wreak havoc on healthy tissues, experts said. (Getty Images)
The coronavirus triggers an immune response, which can go into overdrive in some patients. Immune-suppressing drugs work to dampen this, reducing inflammation. (Stock, Getty Images)

The preliminary results are yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

They were released early “due to the clinical implications for patients”, with the scientists “working to analyse and publish the full results as soon as possible”.

Read more: Dog walkers 78% more likely to catch coronavirus

“These early findings show treatment with this immune-modulating drug is effective for critically ill COVID-19 [the disease caused by the coronavirus] patients in intensive care units,” said study author Professor Anthony Gordon.

“When we have the results available from all participants, we hope our findings will offer clear guidance to clinicians for improving the outcomes of the sickest COVID-19 patients.”

Watch: How is severe coronavirus treated?

The scientists began investigating coronavirus treatments in March, enrolling hospitalised patients with moderate or severe – defined as requiring intensive care – coronavirus.

The first 303 patients were randomised to receive an immune-modulating drug, like tocilizumab, on top of their standard of care or just standard of care.

Tocilizumab is thought to block certain immune-fighting proteins called cytokines. This is a more targeted approach than steroids, which suppress inflammatory genes activated in diseases like asthma.

Results suggest those who took tocilizumab were 87% more likely to have a better outcome than those who were just on standard of care. It is unclear how tocilizumab compared to other immune-modulating treatments.

Read more: Pandemic anxiety leading to rise in jaw-clenching

The ongoing study is continuing to test different potential therapies, with more than 2,000 patients at 260 hospitals worldwide having been enrolled.

Earlier this year, the team found the steroid hydrocortisone improved recovery among critically-ill coronavirus patients.

“This is an absolutely amazing result,” said co-author Dr Lennie Derde, from the University Medical Center in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

“To have a second effective therapy for critically-ill patients within months of the start of the pandemic is unprecedented.

“Specific targeting of the immune response is theoretically attractive and now we have shown it works.”

Previous coronavirus studies into tocilizumab have thrown up mixed results. None have yet shown the drug improves death rates up to 30 deaths after its administration.

“Some of the other trials studied patients on the ward, who may be less sick,” said Professor Gordon.

“We think severely-ill patients have the most severe inflammation.

“We studied patients within the first day of them becoming unwell in the intensive care unit, which is important to prevent further inflammation before the patients became too sick.”

Tocilizumab was used in China – where the coronavirus emerged – in January, as well as in Italy – Europe’s former outbreak epicentre – in March.

Professor Athimalaipet Ramanan from the University of Bristol said: “It is likely tocilizumab will benefit some patients.

“What is still not clear is how we identify the patient population with COVID-19 which is likely to benefit from tocilizumab.”

Although it is unclear if or when tocilizumab may be recommended for critically-ill coronavirus patients, the scientists are said to be in discussions with guideline groups and drug regulators.

While full data is pending, the drug is known to be safe for other diseases.

“It does suppress the immune system, so there’s always caution it could cause secondary infections,” said Professor Gordon.

“Our data safety monitoring board hasn’t raised any concerns.”

Watch: Can you catch coronavirus twice?

10 Ways Singing Boosts Your Health

10 Ways Singing Boosts Your Health

  • November 11, 2020

Decades of research has shown that singing individually and in groups is good for you on many levels.

Here, according to science, are 10 key benefits of raising your voice in song.

1. Relieves stress

Singing appears to be a stress-reliever. A 2017 study measured the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in participant’s saliva before and after they sang.

Researchers in that study found that the amount of cortisol was lower after singing, an indication that people felt more relaxed after they’d belted out a tune.

They also found singing reduces stress levels whether the participants were singing in a group or by themselves.

There’s a small catch, though: Cortisol only goes down if you’re singing in a place that doesn’t make you anxious. A similar 2015 study tested salivary cortisol levels after a singing performance, finding that cortisol levels went up in this scenario.

2. Stimulates the immune response

There’s some evidence that singing may boost your immune system and help you fight off illnesses.

A 2004 study compared the effects of singing with the effects of simply listening to music. In two separate sessions, research subjects either sang or listened to music.

Those who sang showed higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody your body secretes to help you fend off infections. Listening to music (without singing along) reduced stress hormones but didn’t stimulate the body’s immune system.

3. Increases pain threshold

When you sing in a group, whether it’s a large choir or a smaller group, the act of collective singing causes your body to release endorphins. This hormone can help promote positive feelings, and even change your perception of pain.

A 2012 study found that singing, drumming, and dancing in a group triggers the release of hormones that raise your pain tolerance in ways that just listening to music doesn’t.

Researchers note that the feelings of social connection, rather than the music itself, seems to be behind the boost in pain tolerance.

4. May improve snoring

Regular singing may change the way you breathe, even when you’re not singing. Researchers in a 2008 study interviewed the spouses of choir members, along with the spouses of people who don’t sing.

The researchers found that significantly fewer choir members snored. This led them to recommend regular singing as a potential treatment for snoring.

Studies have also shown that people who play wind instruments also snore less than the general population.

These findings have prompted some experts to suggest that singing and playing wind instruments might be helpful for people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

5. Improves lung function

Because singing involves deep breathing and the controlled use of muscles in the respiratory system, it may be beneficial for certain lung and breathing conditions.

Studies have shown that the breathing techniques used with singing may offer benefits for people with the following conditions:

While singing doesn’t treat or cure any of these conditions, you may benefit from gaining strength in your respiratory muscles.

Singing also increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, research shows. In addition to the pulmonary benefits, singers also experience improved mood and a greater sense of social connection.

6. Develops a sense of belonging and connection

When you sing together with others, you’re likely to feel the same kind of camaraderie and bonding that players on sports teams experience.

In one 2014 study involving 11,258 schoolchildren, researchers found that children in a singing and musical engagement program developed a strong sense of community and social inclusion.

In a 2016 study involving 375 adult participants, researchers found that people who sang together in a group reported a higher sense of wellbeing and meaningful connection than people who sang solo.

One of the neurochemicals released when people feel bonded together is oxytocin, also known as the love hormone.

Spontaneous, improvised singing causes your body to release this feel-good hormone, which may help give you a heightened sense of connectedness and inclusion.

7. Enhances memory in people with dementia

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia experience a gradual loss of memory. Studies have shown that people with these conditions were able to recall song lyrics more easily than other words.

In one singing study by the Alzheimer’s Foundation, participants said it was “nice to be able to remember something.”

However, the singers found they remembered more than just the lyrics. For some, singing familiar songs suddenly brought back life memories they’d forgotten, too.

Researchers found that singing songs learned at a younger age caused a spontaneous return of autobiographical details for many people.

8. Helps with grief

Singing in a group doesn’t just help you with physical pain; it may also help with the emotional pain you feel after you’ve lost someone you love.

In a 2019 study conducted among people dealing with grief, researchers found that for those who sang in a choir, depression symptoms didn’t get worse over time and their sense of wellbeing remained stable.

In fact, the choir singers felt a gradual improvement in their self-esteem during and after the 12-week study. Those in the control group who didn’t participate in the singing intervention didn’t report this benefit.

Researchers concluded that group singing may be a good option for people who need additional support during a time of grief.

9. Improves mental health and mood

A 2018 study done in the United Kingdom evaluated 20 people in a singing program known as The Sing Your Heart Out project. The participants included people with mental health conditions, as well as the general public.

Researchers found that the participants reported improvements in their mental health, mood, sense of well-being, and feeling of belonging as a result of these singing workshops.

10. Helps improve speaking abilities

Decades ago, scientists began researching the effects of singing among people who have a hard time with speech due to a neurological condition.

To date, researchers have found that singing improves the speaking ability for people with:

Singing stimulates multiple areas of the brain at the same time. This may enable people with an impairment in one part of the brain to communicate using other areas of their brain.

Singing can also prolong the sounds in each word, which may make it easier to pronounce them.

Singing also makes it easier to incorporate hand-tapping, a method that can help people maintain speaking rhythms that are otherwise challenging.

Can you sing safely in the era of COVID-19?

Because SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is known to spread through respiratory particles, public health officials have cautioned against events where people sing collectively.

Researchers are currently advising organizers to keep rehearsals short, small, and ideally, remote. Larger, longer events are likely to be problematic for now.

Using masks, outdoor venues, and physical distancing may help, but are not a guarantee that the virus causing COVID-19 won’t spread when people meet to sing in person.

Research on this relatively new phenomenon is being continually updated.


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Vitamin E Extract from Palm Oil Boosts Immunity, Here’s How You Can Add it to Your Diet

  • November 9, 2020

Have you heard of palm oil? Palm oil is extracted from the fruits of palm trees. Studies have claim that Vitamin E drawn out from the palm oil boosts the immune response of the body.

Palm oil is an edible oil loaded with rich nutrients that can control blood pressure and cholesterol, treat vitamin A deficiency and aging. It has a large source of vitamin E that can help to promote skin and hair health. Tocopherols and tocotrienols are also present in palm oil which has antioxidant effects that can protect cells from damage.

The study was conducted on the liver cells of mice, by a team of researchers from Malaysia and Libya, published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.

Co-author of the research, Azman Abdullah said that this study is the first vivo study on the effect of tocotrienols on Nrf2 on the genetic material in the nucleus. The protein Nrf2 helps to regulate Antioxidant Proteins to prevent oxidative damage in a body. The team observes the maximum effect of Nrf2 translation in the liver cell nucleus is observed after 60 minutes of injecting the palm oil.

Here are some of the ways to add palm oil to your diet:

• Use palm oil for daily cooking instead of the other regular oils or use palm oil for cooking on alternative days.

• Replace butter with palm oil in your meals.

• Use it as a dip and sauces or add a few drops of oil in the pickles or sauce.

• Add few drops of palm oil while kneading the dough. Put in the flour while baking your cookies and other food.

• Use it as an alternative to marinating.

• Sprinkle few drops while mixing the salad.

Palm oil is an economical source of vitamin E which has a huge benefit for the immune system that includes antioxidant, produces anti-cancer activity, and cytoprotective actions.

The various effects of the palm oil should be attained by adding it in your diet to take the benefits of the vitamin E extract.

The Scientist Magazine®

Baking Soda Boosts T Cells’ Ability to Fight Leukemia

  • November 2, 2020

Patients with acute myeloid leukemia who relapse after stem cell transplantation have just a small chance of survival: doctors can give them additional donor T cells to fight the cancer, but only about 20 percent of patients go back into remission. Scientists didn’t know why these T cells aren’t working against AML, but a paper published in Science Translational Medicine on October 28 uncovers the mechanism, as well as a simple, inexpensive treatment that can reactivate them: sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda.

“This is an elegant study,” says physician-scientist Nataliya Buxbaum, who researches T cell metabolism at the National Cancer Institute and who wasn’t involved in this study. “Relapsed AML is very difficult to treat, so if something rudimentary, like sodium bicarb, which is available at every hospital, can augment the immune response, it’s certainly interesting.”

AML is a disease that attacks the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, and physicians treat it with chemotherapy to kill the leukemia cells. But if a high dose of chemotherapy is required, it can destroy the bone marrow, and the patient will need a stem cell transplant to generate new blood-forming and immune cell–forming cells. The donor T cells from the transplant recognize the leukemia cells as foreign and attack them, a phenomenon known as graft-versus-leukemia effect, which, along with the chemotherapy, can send the patient into remission.

If the leukemia comes back even after these procedures, patients can receive a donor lymphocyte infusion of additional T cells, but it is rarely successful. Robert Zeiser, a transplant physician at the University of Freiburg in Germany, wanted to see whether leukemia cells alter T cell function, so he examined T cells from patients with AML after stem cell transplantation, when the AML was in remission, and after subsequent relapse. He found that relapsed patients’ T cells had reduced glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation, and less cytotoxicity. In other words, their metabolism and ability to kill other cells was diminished.

Zeiser moved his experiments into AML mouse models, where he found that genes involved in glycolysis were down-regulated in mouse T cells cultured with AML; the cells also had reduced metabolic fitness and proliferation. Transferring T cells previously exposed to AML into AML mice couldn’t get rid of the leukemia, whereas T cells not exposed to AML did attack the leukemia, showing that AML cells release some factor that reduces T cells’ ability to fight leukemia.

The team used magnetic resonance imaging and mass spectrometry to identity possible metabolites from the leukemia cells that could have caused the changes in T cell function. After five years testing various metabolites, one candidate rose to the top: lactic acid (LA). LA was elevated in AML cultures, and also in patients with AML relapse after stem cell transplantation, but not in the same patients during remission. To test lactic acid’s effect on T cells, they added it to T cell culture and saw it reduced the activity of glycolysis-related enzymes, damaged T cells’ ability to proliferate, and reduced their capacity to kill leukemia cells.

The authors’ proposed mechanism for how sodium bicarbonate can overcome the impaired ability of T cells to destroy leukemia cells in the context of excess lactic acid

reprinted with permission from F.M. Uhl et al., “Metabolic reprogramming of donor T cells enhances graft-versus-leukemia effects in mice and humans,” Sci Transl Med, 12:eabb8969, 2020.

“Lactic acid paralyzes the T cells, and that helps the leukemia cells to escape from the control by the immune system,” says Zeiser. He says it’s not clear which comes first, the relapse or the lower pH caused by excess LA.

Zeiser tried a few different buffers to see whether they reduced acidosis, including sodium bicarbonate (NaBi), which is used to counteract metabolic acidosis caused by a variety of reasons, such as diet, diarrhea, or poor kidney function. Zeiser and his colleagues found that adding NaBi to T cells treated with lactic acid reversed the effects of the lactic acid: the T cells’ metabolism and proliferation were restored, and the low pH inside the cells was returned to normal. When they added NaBi to the drinking water of mice with AML and transplanted additional T cells after a stem cell transplant, the animals lived longer. When they added NaBi to healthy human T cells challenged with lactic acid, glycolysis was restored.

Zeiser and his team prescribed an oral NaBi treatment for one week to 10 AML patients receiving a donor lymphocyte infusion after they experienced a relapse following a stem cell transplantation. They found that the recipients’ blood was less acidic than before the baking soda treatment, and that T cell metabolism improved. In addition, the T cells “produced more cytokines and they were more aggressive against leukemia cells after the treatment,” says Zeiser.

The team is preparing for a larger clinical trial of the treatment to look at patient outcomes, which they didn’t report in their study. Richard Stone, a physician who studies leukemia at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, asks, “What level of sodium bicarbonate needs to be provided to the patient to decrease the relapse rate? How long does it have to be given, what would be the side effects? The devil is in the details. Is it specific to certain genetic subtypes? AML is very heterogeneous, and one person’s AML is not another person’s AML.” Still, he says, “I think it’s very intriguing.”

F.M. Uhl et al., “Metabolic reprogramming of donor T cells enhances graft-versus-leukemia effects in mice and humans,” Sci Transl Med, 12:eabb8969, 2020.

Drug That Boosts Immunotherapy Studied as Tool to Battle COVID-19 in Patients With Cancer

Drug That Boosts Immunotherapy Studied as Tool to Battle COVID-19 in Patients With Cancer

  • October 30, 2020

Investigators in Canada are studying whether a drug developed to enhance the effects of immunotherapy can be used to protect vulnerable patients with cancer from the worst effects of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), especially severe respiratory infections.1

People with cancer are at higher risk of infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-2-CoV), the virus that causes COVID-19, and if they develop the disease, it’s deadlier. Add in deferred care and the fact that those who receive a new diagnosis of cancer are typically older with comorbidities, and it’s no wonder that the National Cancer Institute projects that the US streak of improved cancer mortality is likely to end after more than 25 years.2

An investigational drug, IMM-101, may help. Under development by Immodulon, IMM-101 is a heat-treated Mycobacterium preparation that is being studied for its ability to both increase the effects of immuno-oncology agents and allow them to be used in combination with fewer toxic effects.3,4 This new study, to see if the drug can prevent or lessen the effects of COVID-19 among those with cancer, got under way in late August, and the first results could be known by the end of the year.5

Chris O’Callaghan, PhD, senior investigator at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group, explained that Rebecca Auer, MD, MSc, FRCSC, a colorectal surgeon at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, conceived of the idea that IMM-101, could be used in other ways to boost patient immunity. First, Auer studied the use of IMM-101 post-surgery, and then she suggested it could protect cancer patients from COVID-19’s respiratory wrath, O’Callaghan said. In an interview with Evidence-Based Oncology™, O’Callaghan said the mechanism of IMM-101 makes it a particularly good candidate to give patients a measure of protection against respiratory ailments, even though it’s not being developed as a vaccine against SARS-2-CoV.

“IMM-101 is a mycobacterial cell preparation, and it’s very analogous to something called the BCG vaccine,” O’Callaghan said, referring to Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, a tuberculosis vaccine developed in the 1920s that is still used worldwide, although not in the United States. “That vaccine has been noted to have a side effect in not only preventing or reducing the risk of tuberculosis, but it also reduces the risk of multiple other respiratory infections. “So it’s not specifically targeting what most vaccines that we’re familiar with are deriving, what we would call ‘specific immunity’ in the context of the BCG vaccine,” O’Callaghan continued. The BCG vaccine, he explained, is known to have a “side effect of immunity,” in “innate immune response,” or the part of the immune system that reacts any time it encounters a bacterial or viral infection.

“We’re capitalizing on the fact that we know that the BCG vaccine has this side effect, if you will,” he said. And, he said, it should not be a surprise that the century-old BCG vaccine is also in clinical trials asking the same question about COVID-19 protection.

But the BCG vaccine has been administered to healthy people. Those with cancer are already immunocompromised. Isn’t that a risk?

O’Callaghan said the key difference is that IMM-101 is a killed vaccine, one that has already been tested in more than 300 cancer patients. “It’s very, very safe, and it has been used with very
minimal side effects,” he said.

Plaing In Nature Boosts Children's Immune Systems Says New Study

Plaing In Nature Boosts Children’s Immune Systems Says New Study

  • October 23, 2020
Kids Microbiome Study

Photo: Stock Photos from PURINO/Shutterstock

Playing outside is an important and healthy part of childhood. Away from screens, children need time to breathe fresh air and get dirty as they explore the world around them. Many parents and teachers believe that getting a bit messy in nature is beneficial to children’s immune systems. A recent study by the University of Helsinki has proved this parental folk wisdom to be true. Focused on pre-school aged children, the study found that playing on a forest floor drastically boosted children’s immune systems and microbiomes—both critical for overall health.

Published in the journal Science Advances, the study focused on daycare centers serving children ages three to five in the Finnish cities of Lahti and Tampere. Three of the daycare centers had playgrounds with natural, forest earth. Three had gravel yards, which they maintained as a control throughout the study. The experimental cohorts of children attended another four centers which had previously had gravel playgrounds but were converted to forest earth for research. Scientists collected biological samples from each child before the study, then again after 28 days of sustained play in their respective environments.

The researchers were shocked by the results seen in their post-study biological samples. The children with the newly forested playgrounds showed results close to those of children who had played on forest floor before the study. Their gut and skin microbiomes were improved, and their blood showed more anti-inflammatory proteins—suggesting a stronger immune system. These results offer a hopeful path for children and adults in city environments—which suffer from pollutants and a lack of (helpful) bacterial diversity in the environment—to improve their microbiomes. Urban children with less outdoor access may especially benefit from changes in schoolyards such as those used in the study.

You can visit Science Advances to learn more about the study and its findings. And if you’re interested in why microbiomes are so important to your and your children’s health, The Guardian has a thoroughly fascinating article all about the human microbiome.

A recent study of young children in Finland found that changing a playground from gravel to forest earth distinctly improved the immune systems and microbiomes of the preschool subjects.

Immun System Benefits of Nature

Photo: Stock Photos from RAWPIXEL.COM/Shutterstock

Researchers found that after 28 days, children who had just began playing in their newly forested yards had greatly improved biological samples, closer to those of children who had long had natural space.

Children Play Outside In Forest

Photo: Stock Photos from VAGENGEIM/Shutterstock

These findings spur hope that more forested recreational space can help boost the (often weaker) microbiomes, immune systems, and general health of urban children, perhaps even to the level of their more rural peers.

Kids Playing Outside in the Dirt

Photo: Stock Photos from ESB PROFESSIONAL/Shutterstock

h/t: [IFL Science]

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Playing In A Natural Environment Boosts A Kid's Immune System Within A Month

Playing In A Natural Environment Boosts A Kid’s Immune System Within A Month

  • October 16, 2020

Switching a child’s playground from gravel to natural forest floor could give them a better immune system within just one month by exposing them to a greater variety of skin and gut bacteria. Just as old wisdom says, the new research suggests that city kids could become healthier if they spend more time playing outside in the dirt.

These findings were recently gathered from a trial carried out in Finland by the University of Helsinki. As reported in the journal Science Advances, researchers studied 75 children between 3 and 5 years old at 10 daycare centers in two Finnish cities, Lahti and Tampere, and looked to see how a change in their playing environment altered their skin and gut microbiota as well as the immune markers in their blood.

Four of the daycare centers were given a revamp that turned their gravel playgrounds into a field of forest floor, soil, and grasses. As controls, three daycare centers already had this setting and three others kept their old gravel playground. One month after the change, scientists collected samples of skin, blood, and poop from all of the kids. 

Despite just a few weeks passing, the researchers noted a dramatic difference. The microbiota of the children at the renovated daycare centers had quickly shifted to become more like the microbiomes of children who attended the nature-oriented daycare centers. This change was also reflected in their immune system, with the children at the renovated daycare centers developing a higher ratio of the anti-inflammatory proteins to pro-inflammatory proteins in their blood, indicating their immune system was in beaming shape. 

“We were surprised that the findings were so clear even though we did not get as many participants as we had hoped,” Aki Sinkkonen, study author and a research scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland in Turku, said in a statement

There are many links between the trillions of microorganisms that live alongside your body and your wider health. It may influence everything from your risk of certain disease and food cravings to your mental health and perhaps even your personality. Researchers are only just learning how bacteria holds this influence over our bodies, with many recent studies looking to understand the interface between human cells and the microbiome.

Whatever the finer mechanism, it’s clear that our surroundings and lifestyles can dramatically affect the richness and diversity of bacteria in our microbiome. Previously, scientists have found that the gut microbiome of traditional hunter-gatherers in the Amazon is richer than that of urban-industrialized people in the US. In turn, this could explain why many people in fully industrialized parts of the world are born with certain autoimmune disorders like asthma and allergies.

As this new playground study shows, however, a little work can go a long way in a very short space of time.

New Formula that Boosts Immunity Endorsed by the Ministry of AYUSH and the Prime Minister

New Formula that Boosts Immunity Endorsed by the Ministry of AYUSH and the Prime Minister

  • October 16, 2020

The Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) wants all Indian states to promote the commercial manufacture of a formula to boost immunity. The move comes amid the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. The formula, which is based on a recipe of a herbal doctor, has already been passed onto the states and union territories as the first line of defense against viruses. The Ministry has also said that the special recipe has been endorsed by the Prime Minister.  

“Considering the importance of immunity-boosting measures in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, Ministry of AYUSH intends to promote the use of following ready-made Ayush formulation in the interest of health promotion of the masses, which has been endorsed by the Prime Minister during his address to the nation on the Constitution Day.”

“States/UT governments are hereby requested to direct the AYUSH licensing authorities to consider granting license/approval for manufacturing of above-mentioned formulation to the interested licensed Ayurveda/Siddha/Unani drug manufacturers in accordance with the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945,” the AYUSH letter to the states, union territories and ASU drug manufacturers continued. 

The concoction, which will have the generic name of Ayush Kwath, Ayush Kudineer or Ayush Joshanda, is composed of four main ingredients. These include dalchini (cinnamon bark), herbs tulsi (basil leaves), Krishna Marich (black pepper), and sushi (dry ginger powder).

“Various reports have shown that coronavirus has been found to be fatal for people with weak immune systems. There are many herbs in the Indian traditional system that can boost immunity and keep many diseases away,” KK Sharma, Managing Director of the firm, AIMIL Pharma, said.

At least one version of Ayush Kwath is already on the market. Manufactured by AIMIL Pharma, a company that manufactures herbal products, the immunity booster comes in a variety of forms including tablets and powder that can be dissolved in water. According to its label, Ayush Kwath is said to “protect from all types of virus, viral and flu.” 

“Health experts across the globe agree that COVID-19 negatively affects the immune response of patients. The virus also targets people with weaker immune systems, including individuals with pre-existing conditions and the elderly,” said Curtis Rosen from, reiterating that a good diet and supplements can also be great immunity boosters.

Those unable to purchase the formula will be pleased to know that it can be easily prepared at home with four parts tulsi leaves, two parts dalchini stem bark, two parts sunthi, and one part Krishna marich. Simply blend the ingredients into a powder and add to 150 milliliters of boiling water. You can also add some lemon juice to the concoction for taste and as a vitamin C boost. For best results, AYUSH recommends that the formula be drunk once or twice per day.

Dating back over 5,000 years, Ayurveda has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. For years, ancient medicine has been used to naturally boost the immune system. In particular, it is the immunomodulators contained in herbs, superfoods and other natural Ayurvedic ingredients that contribute to strengthening immunity and increasing natural resistance to diseases. Aside from Ayush Kwath, here are just a few plant-based superfoods that can give your immune system a helping hand. 

Gooseberries, or amla, feature prominently in Ayurvedic medicines to boost immunity. This is mainly because the grape-sized fruit contains huge amounts of vitamin C—20 times more than in lemon juice. Gooseberries are one of the main ingredients in chyawanprash, which is a staple in many Indian homes and is eaten not just to boost immunity, but also to strengthen the respiratory system and improve digestion. The fruit is also jam-packed with magnesium and iron—all nutrients that help to prevent viral and bacterial infections. 

Many Ayurvedic recipes contain the bark, leaves, and flowers of neem, with the plant being well-known for its beneficial effects on the body. Incorporating it into your diet is said to boost immunity, cool down the body, and purify the blood. Neem also has antifungal and antibacterial properties that can keep your skin healthy and radiant. Some other benefits of the plant include alleviating nosebleeds, Flem, gum disease, and even diabetes, as the plant can help to control blood sugar levels. 

Broccoli sprouts are very different from Brussels sprouts and broccoli heads. Big with nutritionists and health bloggers, they look very much like alfalfa sprouts and are in fact three to four-day-old broccoli plants. According to research, broccoli sprouts have even more nutrients than mature broccoli. They not only boost the immune system, but increase longevity, lower LDL cholesterol, and are even said to reduce the risk of cancer. 

Indigenous to parts of India, giloy is used in Ayurvedic medicine to help manage digestion problems and cure recurrent fevers. Also called Tinospora cordifolia, it is said to be an effective treatment for skin conditions and asthma. In addition, it is full of antioxidants, which can strengthen the immune system, purify the blood, and remove toxins. Giloy has also been credited with fighting disease-causing bacteria and alleviating urinary tract infections and liver disease. With so many benefits, it is little wonder that the herb is called amrita, or “the root of immortality,” in Sanskrit.



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