Health Watch: Grapeseed Compounds Reduce Chemotherapy Symptoms

Also, a wine chemical could help babies with spinal muscular atrophy; more data on alcohol and pregnancy
Mar 12, 2014

Australian scientists have found that grapeseed extract can help fight a dangerous side effect of chemotherapy treatment. What's more, their results suggest the extract may provide an alternative to chemotherapy.

Mucositis, usually a consequence of cancer treatment, is a condition that causes inflammation and ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract. It can force doctors to administer lower-than-ideal chemotherapy doses to patients. But research from the University of Adelaide suggests that grapeseed extract can simultaneously reduce the severity of mucositis in cancer patients and fight the cancer itself.

For the study, published recently in PLOS One, scientists divided 64 female rats into eight groups, inducing mucositis in some and administering varying doses of extract. Grapeseed extract—here derived from white grape pomace—showed no significant side effects in the mucositis-free rodents. Rats with mucositis who received extract showed reductions in intestinal damage and inflammation.

Plus, the extract targeted cancer cells. “Unlike chemotherapy, grapeseed appears to selectively act on cancer cells and leave healthy cells almost unaffected," read a statement from study author Amy Cheah of the university’s School of Agriculture, Food & Wine. She added that the extract was “more potent than the chemotherapy we tested at one concentration.”

The strength of these results increased based on dosage; further research will examine whether there is an upper limit for advisable doses of extract. Study authors suggested that another future step will be to test the efficacy and safety of purified procyanidins—polyphenols that support gastrointestinal health—which are found abundantly in extract and have been known to contribute to its anti-inflammatory capacity.

Red-wine pigment could alleviate symptoms of lethal disease in infants

A study led by the University of Edinburgh has found that quercetin, a polyphenol that contributes color to red wine, may mitigate the harm inflicted on babies by a genetic disease. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), known colloquially as “floppy baby syndrome” and a leading genetic cause of infant mortality, manifests as an impairment of muscle and motor functions, frequently including disruptions to spinal cord activity.

SMA is caused by a defective SMN1 gene, which interacts with cell proteins, causing an excessive accumulation of the protein beta-catenin and ultimately affecting motor neuron operations throughout the body.

In their experiment, researchers observed that quercetin effectively inhibited the signaling of beta-catenin in zebrafish, drosophila flies and mice. This suggests the possibility that quercetin administered to infants suffering from SMA could help restore some motor functions. Although quercetin does not seem likely to cure SMA, “this is an important step that could one day improve quality of life for the babies affected by this condition and their families,” said study coauthor Thomas Gillingwater in a statement. Further investigation, including on human subjects, remains to be done.

Study of pregnant Japanese women finds no link found between drinking and birth weight

In the latest installment of the scientific debate on the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, researchers in Japan have found that light drinking may correlate with a higher rate of preterm births, but it is not associated with low birth weights or small-for-gestational-age babies. The study, published recently in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, focused on women living on the island Kyushu and the island chain Okinawa, both in southern Japan. More than 1,560 women were surveyed while pregnant and after giving birth, and they were asked to self-report alcohol consumption.

A typical glass of wine contains roughly 13.7 grams of alcohol. The authors found that women who consumed an average of 1 gram of alcohol or more per day (half a glass a week or more) were more likely to give birth prematurely: 9.7 percent of these women had preterm births, versus 5.8 percent of women who drank less than 1 gram per day (less than half a glass a week) and 3.5 percent of women who did not drink.

However, “no significant relationships were observed between maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the risk of [low birth weight] or [small-for-gestational-age],” the study authors wrote, adding that there was “no material association” between pregnancy drinking and birth weight.

A recent systematic review of studies worldwide on the relationship between birth weight and drinking during pregnancy did not include any research on women living in Asian countries. That review included studies with conflicting results, but concluded that there is no evidence that low to moderate levels of maternal drinking lead to a large number of pregnancy complications or birth defects.

Health Cancer Women's Health News

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