Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Fight Cachexia!

Many people living with chronic illnesses, such as some cancers, heart failure and HIV/AIDS, are at risk of the whole-body wasting syndrome known as cachexia, which is often the most deadly symptom. This involves the loss of both muscle and fat, and the degree of weight loss has been associated with shorter survival times, with over 80% of people with gastric and pancreatic cancer suffering from weight loss.

A generally inflamed state is also characteristic of cachexia. The inflammatory markers implicated in this dreadful condition are interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) and interferon-gamma (INF-gamma). Many studies have found that the first, interleukin-6 (IL-6), may be the most important factor affecting the maintenance of body mass (see above link). IL-6 has been found in higher levels in cancer patients with weight loss than in patients with the same disease, but without any weight loss, for example. In another, IL-6 was the only inflammatory marker that was elevated in all 28 patients, and it increased as they approached death. Research on mice has shown that IL-6 neutralising antibodies prevented cachexia, while a study on humans found that administering IL-6 decreased muscle protein synthesis. Additionally, IL-6 may promote tumour growth.

A turmeric flower.
So how can you reduce levels of IL-6? One substance that may lower IL-6 is turmeric. A study on 40 mice with late-stage pancreatitis showed that curcumin, the most studied phytochemical from turmeric, significantly reduced both IL-6 and TNF-a, which is also relevant in some patients. In humans with chronic kidney disease, a combination of curcumin and frankincense significantly reduce IL-6, with a time and compliance interaction effect. A meta-analysis of nine human trials also showed that curcumin and similar phytochemicals can significantly reduce IL-6, with a strong association between the initial severity of inflammation and the effect of curcumin. Another is vitamin C, as shown in a study where 31 diabetic and/or hypertensive adults were given two daily 500mg doses of vitamin C. Both levels of IL-6 and another inflammatory marker known as C-reactive protein were significantly reduced, but did not change in the control group. Related to the turmeric plant is ginger, which may also reduce IL-6 and other inflammatory markers that can contribute to weight loss. In one study, 64 diabetic patients were assigned to receive either 2 capsules of ginger, or 2 placebo capsules, daily for 2 months. The results? Ginger supplementation significantly reduced IL-6, TNF-a and C-reactive protein compared to baseline, but only TNF-a and C-reactive protein were significantly reduced compared to the control group. However, another study on male endurance runners taking 500mg ginger capsules three times daily found that IL-6 levels were significantly reduced with ginger supplementation after 12 weeks, but not 6 weeks. Levels of IL-1beta were also significantly lower at 12 weeks, and so were TNF-a levels. IL-6 also rises with muscle damage. Therefore, there may be a difference between conditions, or a difference between time that affects the results of ginger supplementation, among other interventions. Fortunately, you can combine natural remedies such as turmeric, ginger, vitamin C and vitamin C-rich foods in smoothies or juices, which may be best during situations where the affected patient has lost considerable strength and appetite.

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