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Vitamin B3 emerges as best way to manage cholesterol

Scientists are likely to revive niacin as one of the best and cheapest ways to manage cholesterol, minus its side-effects, thanks to deft detective work by researchers.

Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3, has long been regarded as one of the most effective weapons in managing cholesterol, lowering levels of triglycerides, fatty acids and to a lesser extent, the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) while boosting ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL).

But there’s a big side-effect. Patients avoid niacin because it often causes embarrassing, uncontrollable intense flushing, a rush of blood to the face and other skin surfaces accompanied by a prickling sensation.

Now, however, scientists have identified the discrete molecular pathways that are triggered when niacin enters the body. Their discovery may lead to a revival of niacin-based treatments as therapies of choice.

“This opens up whole new realms for drug discovery,” said Robert Walters, dermatologist at Duke University Medical Centre (DUMC) and lead study author.

“Not only could it lead to new niacin-based therapies for cholesterol that patients could actually stick with, but it could also mean new treatments for flushing that comes with some types of allergic reactions, hives and other disorders,” said Walters, according to a DUMC release.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Now chicken soup for blood pressure, too: Chicken soup with matzoh balls, a staple of the traditional Jewish dinner, may be good in reversing high blood pressure (BP) too, according to the latest findings.

Japanese scientist Ai Saiga and colleagues cited previous studies indicating that chicken breast contains collagen proteins with effects similar to ACE inhibitors, mainstay medications for treating high BP.

But chicken breast contains such small amounts of the proteins that it could not be used to develop food and medical products for the condition.

Chicken legs and feet, often discarded as waste products in the US but key soup ingredients elsewhere, appear to be a better source.

Saiga and colleagues extracted collagen from chicken legs and tested its ability to act as an ACE inhibitor in lab studies.

They identified four different proteins in the collagen mixture with high ACE-inhibitory activity, said a release of the American Chemical Society.

Given to rats used to model human high BP, the proteins produced a significant and prolonged decrease in blood pressure, the researchers say. These findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Blame restless legs on a bulging waistline: Now you can blame your bulging waistline for an irresistible urge to move legs during sleep.

Obese people were 42 percent more likely to have restless legs syndrome (RLS) than their normal counterparts. It affects five to 10 percent of US adults, including their daily activities and sleep.

Researchers from Harvard University examined 65,554 women and 23,119 men who volunteered for the two Nurses Health Study II and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

A total of 6.4 percent women and 4.4 percent men met the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. For instance, their symptoms worsened during rest but eased when they moved their lower limbs. The symptoms were the worst by bedtime, said a Harvard release.

“These results may be important since obesity is a modifiable risk factor that is becoming increasingly common in the US,” said Xiang Gao, of Harvard School of Public Health, that conducted the research. The study was published in the April issue of Neurology.

Ridding yourself of constipation might be easier now: Ridding yourself of constipation might be easier now when other methods fail. Researchers have identified nerve endings, which when stimulated cause bowel clearance and the chemicals that act on them.

The researchers have found a group of nerve ending receptors, which, when stimulated, causes the bowels to pass waste, and the specific receptor needed to activate bowel clearance. Furthermore, they tested chemicals that work with those receptors, providing a blueprint for the development of new laxatives.

“We hope that the receptor identified by our study would be exploited more in the design of drugs to treat constipation,” said a study author from Emory University.

The research involved two groups of mice, focusing on a type of adenosine receptor also present on human nerves in the gut.

The first group of mice had normal adenosine receptors on these nerves and normal bowel movements, while the second group of mice completely lacked these adenosine receptors and showed familiar signs of constipation.

The researchers started with simple experiments such as comparing the wet weight, dry weight, and water content in the stools of both groups.

The mice were also made to drink a dye not absorbed by the body to see how it passed or did not pass. In addition, the researchers used microscopic lasers to separate the nerve cells from the bowel to determine exactly where the receptors are located. Then they tested various chemicals that can activate or inhibit the nerve receptors, said a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) release. (The News)

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