Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 6:11pm

Vitamin B3 helps beat superbug

A vitamin found in foods such as beets, beef liver and fish has shown the potential to combat some of the antibiotic-resistant superbug infections that are increasingly common worldwide. High doses of nicotinamide - commonly known as vitamin B3 (crystals pictured) - increased the ability of immune cells to kill staph bacteria by 1,000 times in both lab animals and human blood. The study, which involved multiple US institutions, was published yesterday in
Journal of Clinical Investigation. One of the most common and serious superbug infections, known as methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), was part of the study. When used in human blood, high doses of B3 appeared to wipe out the staph infection in a matter of hours. But the researchers say people should not start taking high doses of the vitamin because further human studies are needed.

Weigh up the risk of breast cancer

Women who carry extra pounds - even just a few - at the time of breast cancer diagnosis are more likely to die prematurely despite optimal treatment, according to a study published yesterday in
Cancer. This applies to hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, which accounts for about two-thirds of all breast cancer cases worldwide. Dr Joseph Sparano of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Montefiore Medical Centre, in New York, who was the lead study author, says there's about a 30 per cent higher risk of recurrence of the condition and nearly 50 per cent higher risk of death. The study, which involved women with stage one to three breast cancer and with no other significant health issues, suggests that extra body fat causes hormonal changes and inflammation that may drive some cases of breast cancer to spread and recur despite treatment.

Same effect in half the time

Can you cut your workout by half and still lose nearly as much weight as if you went the full stretch? Yes, say University of Copenhagen researchers. In a new study, published in the
American Journal of Physiology, they put 60 heavy but healthy men through a 13-week training programme. Half the men exercised for an hour a day, wearing a heart-rate monitor and calorie counter, while the other half had to sweat for only 30 minutes. On average, the men who exercised less lost 3.6kg in three months while the other group lost 2.7kg. Researcher Mads Rosenkilde suggests the surprising result could be because 30 minutes of exercise is so achievable that participants had the desire and energy for even more physical activity after their daily exercise session. In addition, those who spent 60 minutes on the treadmill probably ate more, and so lost slightly less weight than anticipated.

Drink it and shrink it

Here's yet another feather in the cap for green tea: one of its compounds has shown the ability to shrink skin cancer tumours in lab tests by researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. The extract, epigallocatechin gallate, is known to have preventative anti-cancer properties but fails to reach tumours when delivered by conventional intravenous administration. The researchers encapsulated the green tea extract in vesicles that also carried transferrin, a plasma protein that transports iron through the blood. Receptors for transferrin are found in large amounts in many cancers. Nearly two-thirds of the tumours either shrank or disappeared within a month and treatment had no side effects on normal tissues. The study was published in