red wine, coffee and aspirin can prevent cancer?

Can aspirin prevent cancer? Add exercise, red wine and coffee.

Can aspirin prevent cancer?  And red wine and coffee?  First the aspirin.  The simple answer is yes.  Aspirin can prevent cancer. Aspirin reduces the risk that you, or someone you care about, will get cancer.  As of last October, aspirin is recommended for prevention of both cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.  A new study published this month found supports that view and found another benefit of aspirin. Aspirin reduces risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.  Aspirin also reduces overall risk of cancer.  Can aspirin prevent cancer of all types?  Unfortunately, aspirin did not reduce risk of lung cancer or breast or prostate cancer.

How much aspirin do I need to reduce risk of cancer?

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Lower cancer rates were seen in people who regularly took 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 regular sized aspirin tablets a week.  That’s not that much, but aspirin needed to have been taken for about six years before the effect was noticeable.   For people over 50, the researchers estimated that taking regular low-dose aspirin could prevent 10s of thousands of cancers a year.  The study used data from 135,965 regular aspirin users.  A lot of people and a lot of data allowed the researchers to make some pretty strong conclusions.

How does taking aspirin prevent cancer

It is thought that aspirin prevents cancer by reducing inflammation.  While inflammation can help speed recovery from infections it can also damage our cells.

Colorectal cancer sounds nasty.  What else can I do to reduce risk?

Risk for cancer goes up with age.  Not much you can do about that.  And some people may be at increased risk because of genetics.  African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews are more likely to get it.  But there are some things you can control.  Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • heavy drinking (just when we were starting to get into bourbon!)
  • a diet high in red meat, especially if you like to cook it at high temperature (sorry Paleo friends, but that is what most of the research says).
  • processed meats (hot dogs, spam, etc., but those are gross.  No loss there.)
  • infection with human papilloma virus (HPV)
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Some things that can reduce risk of colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers are:

  • aspirin
  • mediterranean diet
  • regular exercise
  • healthy weight
  • maybe coffee
  • possibly red wine

Does this mean I can take aspirin, drink wine and coffee and not get a colonoscopy?

No.  You should still get screened for colorectal cancer if you are over 50.  Talk to your physician.  Sometimes the right lighting and music can help with any discomfort you might feel.  A glass of red wine might just complete the experience.

Conclusions and Relevance

Long-term aspirin use was associated with a modest, reduced risk for overall cancer.  Half to one and a half aspirin tablets daily for six years showed an especially reduced risk of gastrointestinal tumors. Regular aspirin use may prevent colorectal cancers and complement the benefits of screening.  Avoiding red meat and high cooking temperatures may help.  Drinking coffee and red wine might also reduce risk of colorectal cancer.

Read more.

Kontou N, Psaltopoulou T, Soupos N, Polychronopoulos E, Xinopoulos D, Linos A, Panagiotakos D.  2012.  Alcohol consumption and colorectal cancer in a Mediterranean population: a case-control study.  Dis Colon Rectum.  55(6): 703-10.  

Nakamura T, Ishikawa H, Mutoh M, Wakabayashi K, Kawano A, Sakai T, Matsuura N.  2015.  Coffee prevents proximal colorectal adenomas in Japanese men: a prospective cohort study.  Eur J Cancer Prev. 2015 Aug 19. [Epub ahead of print]

Tarraga-Lopez PJ, Albero JS, Rodriguez-Montes JA.  2014.  Primary and secondary prevention of colorectal cancer.  Coin Med Insights Gastroenterol.  7:33-46.  

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Anti-Inflammatories and Anti-Oxidants in Licorice: Is Licorice good before a workout?

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This article started in response to a question: “what is the best supplement to take before a workout.”  Licorice seems as good a choice as several other products.  So I looked into it.  First of all Licorice has a lot of interesting chemicals in it.  Many of these seem to be good for you.   As long as its used in moderation.  Every silver lining has a cloud.  Licorice contains several different pretty powerful anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are important because they protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage increases risk of cancer and shortens cell life.   A research team in China, isolated six different compounds from licorice extract.  The licorice compounds were then tested for anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.   Inflammation can also lead to oxidative damage and can increase risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and etc.  Anti-inflammatory agents may protect long-term health.   The compounds are listed below in case anyone wants to look into them a little more deeply.  Interested in making the switch from booze and cigarettes to licorice and tea? New research indicates licorice may be the better choice.

omega-6 fatty acids and health discussion with licorice

CrossFit Trainer talks about nutrition and omega-6 fatty acids and licorice.

 

All of the compounds had health protective qualities.  Many shared the same properties.  Here are a few of the things licorice extract can do:

  • Anti-Oxidant Power.  Three of the compounds in licorice extract were strong anti-oxidants.  The three were better at scavenging free radicals than Vitamin C.
  • Inhibit Lipid Peroxidation.  A number of the compounds were able to inhibit lipid peroxidation.  Lipid peroxidation damages cell membranes.  Stopping lipid peroxidation is generally considered a good thing.  Licorice compounds also inhibited production of reactive oxygen species.  Reactive oxygen species are compounds that cause oxidative damage including lipid peroxidation.
  • Inhibited prostaglandin E2.  Inhibition of prostaglandin E2 may or may not be a good thing.  Prostaglandin E2 is important in pregnancy and birth.  But it also stimulates tumor growth possibly by increasing inflammation.   It is possible that licorice extracts may be anti-carcinogens.  It is possible that pregnant women should stay away from licorice.
  • Inhibited production of interleukin-6.  Interleukin-6 inhibitors are under study as anti-arthritis drugs.  Interleukin-6 also activates inflammation.  Elevated interleukin-6 is associated with atherosclerosis, depression, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, among other things.  Interleukin-6 is important in good ways too.  Inhibiting the hell out of it may create other problems.  Such as maybe suppressing the immune system.

Should I eat tons of Licorice to protect my health?

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No.  Don’t eat tons of it.  Licorice has a down side.  Too much of most things is not good and there is not enough research to support going overboard.  There are also compounds in licorice that are harmful.  Licorice has been shown to raise blood pressure, for example.   And there is a case report of a woman who overindulged in licorice (about 1.5 pounds) and became extremely ill.    Her body underwent a series of changes unfavorable to a long life.  To quote from the paper:  Creatine kinase, hypokalemia, hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia with low aldosterone and plasma renin levels and high intact PTH.  So go light.  She also got rhabdomyelesis.

Should I eat Twizzlers before working out or doing a CrossFit WOD?

You should avoid black licorice if you have high blood pressure.   Otherwise a twizzler or two is probably fine once in a while.  One or two red twizzlers will help you get pumped without the risks posed by black licorice.  And exercise stimulates the body to produce its own anti-oxidants.  Adding anti-oxidants before a workout may blunt your body’s response.  In this case red Twizzlers may be better than black twizzlers as a pre-workout stimulant.  Only black twizzlers are made with real licorice extract.  If you check the package you will see that it contains “less than 3% licorice extract.”  With good quality control you could eat a pound of black twizzler licorice and consume less than 3.6 grams of extract.  The University of Maryland posts that licorice can be used at about 1.2 grams per day.  A pound of twizzlers may contain three times that limit.    Hard to say when the content might be anywhere between 3.6 grams and nothing.  There is a lot of information and a lot of research being done on licorice as a medicinal plant.  Much more than I expected.  More than I can chew right now.   There does not seem to be any research on the benefits or dangers of red twizzlers.

Licorice compounds with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties:

  • 5′-(1,1-dimethylallyl)-3,4,4′-trihydroxy-2-methoxychalcone
  • licochalcone B
  • licochalcone A
  • echinatin
  • glycycoumarin
  • glyurallin B

Fu Y, Chen J, Li YJ, Zheng YF, & Li P (2013). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of six flavonoids separated from licorice. Food chemistry, 141 (2), 1063-71 PMID: 23790887

Sigurjónsdóttir HA, Franzson L, Manhem K, Ragnarsson J, Sigurdsson G, & Wallerstedt S (2001). Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship. Journal of human hypertension, 15 (8), 549-52 PMID: 11494093

Shah M, Williams C, Aggarwal A, & Choudhry WM (2012). Licorice-related rhabdomyolysis: a big price for a sweet tooth. Clinical nephrology, 77 (6), 491-5 PMID: 22595392

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Arsenic in Rice and Long-Term Health Risks

Arsenic in rice has been reported as being of no immediate health risk.  But the major concern with arsenic is that it is a long-term health risk.  Arsenic may be best known as a tool of poisoners.  But arsenic poses greater risk as a slow, quiet inducer of cancer.  In that way, arsenic is like most carcinogens.  The problem is not that someone would eat a bite of rice and then fall face first into his or her plate.  The problem is that arsenic causes skin and bladder cancer.  It also does other unpleasant things to people who are exposed to relatively low levels over long periods of time.

Arsenic in Rice and Arsenic in Drinking Water

The current limit for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts arsenic for every billion parts of water.  If you are an average adult drinking two liters of water you could get about 20 micrograms of arsenic.  As long as your drinking water meets federal standards.  If you drink more than two liters of water your will probably be just fine.  If you get more than 20 micrograms of arsenic every day you will probably be fine too.  Federal standards have built in safety factors.  These protect people who are not average 160 pound adults. Who drink two liters of water a day.  If people are exposed to additional arsenic in rice on a regular basis in addition to arsenic in water they may face increased risk of cancer.  The man in the photo on the right lives in an area where arsenic in drinking water greatly exceeds World Health Organization standards.

Should I worry about Arsenic in Rice?

Maybe.  Arsenic in rice may increase your risk of cancer.  Especially if you live in an area where arsenic levels in drinking water are high.   Or if you are feeding rice to infants or very young children.   Infants and young children tend to rely on only a few types of food.  If you are a heavy rice eater you should add some other grains to your diet.  The best way to protect yourself from contaminants in food is to eat a varied diet.  And not depend too heavily on any one food type.  To find out if you live in an area where arsenic in drinking water is a high take a look at the map below.  Keep in mind that if you live in a high-arsenic area your community drinking water may be less if it is treated.   If you live outside the US you can probably find a map for your country online.  Keep in mind too that arsenic levels in rice will vary.  The amount of arsenic in rice will depend on how much arsenic was in the ground and water at the growing site.

Arsenic in Rice Arsenic in Drinking water

USGS Map of Arsenic Concentrations in drinking water.

 

Bisphenol A.CrossFit and Women's Health. Exercise reduces risk of breast cancer

Hormones: Exercise changes estrogens and reduces risk of breast cancer

Hormones and Research for Women’s Health. Hormones are powerful molecules. They are chemical messengers. And they exert powerful effects in many different ways. Changes in hormones effect athletic ability. They also effect flexibility and endurance. But exercise seems to changes hormones as well. There is some interesting news on exercise and estrogen. Estrogens are female sex hormones. If you are a woman, someone who cares about or works with women, you should know why sex hormones like estrogen matter.

The basics of why hormones and exercise matter for breast cancer.

There is a lot of interesting stuff coming out about estrogen. Especially about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for masters women. We will follow up with additional articles.  There is a lot to cover.  For now, sex hormones (estrogen in this case) matter for maintaining muscle, skin, connective tissue, and brain function.  The way hormones are metabolized may matter for cancer.

Fit women are less likely to get breast cancer.  Among other things.  We have long known that exercise is good for people.  But we generally know little about why. Estrogen breaks down as part of normal metabolism.  An estrogen molecule that is metabolized is transformed into different molecules.  These estrogen metabolites have actions of their own.  Who knew?  One of the estrogen metabolites decreases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Exercise, Hormones and Breast Cancer.

A new paper (Kurzer et al. 2013) compared the breakdown of estrogen in women who exercise with those who were sedentary.    Women who exercise moderately to vigorously for about 30 minutes a day, produced more of the metabolite that decreases risk of breast cancer.  While this study does not prove these changes reduce the risk of breast cancer it is very interesting. The study opens doors for new studies.  This study was done with young women.  And they were walking, using an elipitical machine, or a stairmaster.   Would the change in estrogen handling be seen in CrossFit Women?  In High Intensity Interval Training (HIT)? With weights?  Would the same results be seen with older women?  With women on estrogen replacement therapy?  Hopefully we will soon be seeing more work done on hormones, exercise and cancer risk.   In the meanwhile, keep working out.  And keep encouraging the people you care about.  Details of the study are available in the link below.

Smith AJ, Phipps WR, Thomas W, Schmitz KH, & Kurzer MS (2013). The effects of aerobic exercise on estrogen metabolism in healthy premenopausal women. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 22 (5), 756-64 PMID: 23652373

 

CrossFit Workout by Mona Lisa Kettlebells

Masters CrossFit: Does type of workout matter? Is CrossFit, endurance or weight training best?

There are many benefits from fitness.  And many reasons why people enjoy (or subject themselves to) CrossFit Workouts.   Staying in shape.  Looking good.  Masochistic tendencies.  However, on a deeper level regular exercise reduces risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Current research indicates Fitness may protect us from free radicals.   Free-radicals are major factors in development of disease.  Diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are all conditions where free-radicals are thought to be involved.  Free radicals are oxidizers.  They are molecules that have lost an electron.  These pose problems because they are very reactive.  They grab electrons from other molecules.  Thus “oxidizing” them. They stress cells.  Throw wrenches in the works.  This includes wrench throwing into your DNA.  Imagine a CrossFit workout where someone loses a plate in the middle of a crowded box.   Full of people doing Fran without collars.

Damaged DNA can result in cancer.  Or birth defects.  Free radicals also  damage tissues and organs by damaging cells and increasing inflammation. For example, they can damage pancreatic beta cells and increase risk of diabetes.

What are anti-oxidants?  How do fitness and risk come into play?

Anti-oxidants are agents that protect us from free-radicals.  They neutralize them.  Having enough anti-oxidants reduces risk of chronic disease  Normally we think of anti-oxidants as something we get from vegetables.  Or fruit.  Or supplements.  However, exercise seems to be involved too.

Exercise, anti-Oxidants, Fitness and Risk

Exercise causes a number of changes.    These changes play into the free-radical game.   They are adaptions to the stress of exercise.  When people are getting in shape free radical production increases.   Your body suffers inflammation.  And aches and pains.   This is often seen after a CrossFit Workout.  And in the days following a CrossFit workout.   Especially when people are first getting started.  This is very much like what happens when you get sick with a fever.  This may be why getting in shape sucks so much.   When you are getting in shape (or pushing yourself to a higher level) your body produces more free-radicals.  But is not ready to handle them.  Adaptation to exercise includes increasing production of anti-oxidants.  Once you have adapted you will be producing enough anti-oxidants to protect from free radicals from increased exercise.  You will also have increased protection from other sources of free-radicals.

Does type of workout matter? Is CrossFit, endurance or weight training best?

Animal testing indicates that endurance exercise works best for protection from inflammation and free radicals.  The animals tested were rats.  They were subjected to endurance training, resistance training and combination training.  Hard to visualize. Hopefully more research will be done in this area.   And we will get a better picture of what is optimal for humans.  Weight training (resistance exercise) remains important.  And CrossFit exercises (and high intensity interval training) show very promising results on other aspects of health and fitness.  It seems likely that adaptation to these forms of exercise will produce results similar to endurance training.

References for further reading.

de Lemos ET, Oliveira J, Pinheiro JP, & Reis F (2012). Regular physical exercise as a strategy to improve antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status: benefits in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012 PMID: 22928086

de Oliveira VN, Bessa A, Jorge ML, Oliveira RJ, de Mello MT, De Agostini GG, Jorge PT, & Espindola FS (2012). The effect of different training programs on antioxidant status, oxidative stress, and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (2), 334-44 PMID: 22458821