The Reversal of Cervical Dysplasia With Folic Acid

An emerging body of evidence suggests that nutrition may play a role in the prevention and reversal of cervical dysplasia, which is a pre-cancerous condition of the cervix.

The B-vitamin folic acid is critical to synthesis of normal DNA as cells divide from one generation to the next. Cells that line the cervix replace themselves every 7-14 days and therefore, the cells must continuously form DNA as part of their genetic structure. Previous studies have demonstrated that poor folic acid status can lead to DNA abnormalities with subsequent development of cervical dysplasia or megaloblastic features of cervical cells (large abnormal cell appearance).

Oral contraceptives are known to increase the rate of cell division of cervical cells, hence, escalating the need for adequate folic acid intake.  Studies by Whitehead et al and Butterworth et al demonstrated that folic acid supplementation could reverse cervical megaloblastic charges and cervical dysplasia, respectively, in patients using oral contraceptives. In fact, oral contraceptive use is a known risk factor for cervical dysplasia, primarily due to its effect on speeding up cell division rates.

In the study by Butterworth et al, patients with mild and moderate degrees of cervical dysplasia showed reversal of their condition over a three-month trial period with folic acid supplementation.

In both studies the authors noted a statistically lower mean red blood cell folic acid concentration in oral contraceptive users compared with nonusers, which was particularly marked in patients with cervical dysplasia. Red blood cell folic acid levels are considered to be a good indicators of folic acid status.

Other population studies (epidemiologic) consistently support the hypothesis that folic acid plays a protective role in the prevention of cervical dysplasia.

Unfortunately, up to 88 percent of the population consumes less then 400mcg per day of folic acid. This is the level that women should ingest to reduce the risk of spinal birth defect in their offspring.  The same level of intake appears to be sufficient to reduce the risk of cervical folic acid deficiency and subsequent risk of cervical dysplasia.  Ingesting a multiple vitamin containing 400mcg is likely the most practical and effective means of ensuring adequate folic acid intake.

In other studies, vitamin A and beta-carotene have been examined as nutrients that may prevent or reverse cervical dysplasia. Epidemiologic (observation studies of a population) studies support the idea that vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C are important for the prevention of this condition.  Smoking is a known risk factor for the development of cervical dysplasia and beta-carotene has been shown to be effective against smoking-related cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. This was documented in studies by de Vet HC et al and Winkelstein W. Jr.

The amassing evidence suggests that low vitamin nutriture of these agents, cigarette smoking and human papillomavirus infection combine to contribute to the risk, progression and evolution of cervical dysplasia.

In recent years studies using topically applied vitamin A to the cervix resulted in up to a 50 percent complete reversal of cervical dysplasia in Phase ll and Phase lll clinical trails. Vaginal and vulvar side effects of this treatment were mild and reversible at the end of treatment. These results suggest that this type of treatment represents a viable option in the treatment of cervical dysplasia. Vitamin A and its natural and synthetic derivatives (retinoids) modulate the growth of cervical cells, slowing growth and enhancing maturation of cells. All of these effects are related to the prevention of cancer and the reversal of pre-cancerous states.

In another study of patients with mild or moderate cervical dysplasia, 30 patients were treated with 30mg of beta-carotene orally for up to six months. More than 70 percent of patients showed reversal of their condition by six months, but only three months were required to realize optimal reversal of this condition as suggested by serum beta-carotene levels and measurement of shed cervicovaginal cells, which were highly correlated.
Presently Phase lll trials are underway which are testing beta-carotene and topical vitamin A as treatment agents against cervical dysplasia with larger populations and more sophisticated research methods.

In the meantime there is sufficient evidence to suggest that nutrition is a vital component of preventing and potentially reversing cervical dysplasia.  Recently, lycopene has been added to the list of prevention agents that may reduce risk of cervical dysplasia and cervical cancers.

(See AOL://4344:1679.Mesh_033.13663031.588921153 “Folic Acid, Vitamin E, Beta-Carotene and Lycopene May Reduce Cervical Cancer).
Consuming at least five fruit and vegetable servings per day in conjunction with a well-designed multiple vitamin is an important step in the prevention of this and other pre-cancerous and cancerous problems. In my view your multiple vitamin should be enriched with higher levels of antioxidants and contain 400mcg of folic acid.

Copyright 1998 Dr. James Meschino

Low Serum Levels of Vitamin D Predicted in Autism.

Autism also known as autistic spectrum disorder is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects many parts of the brain; how this occurs is not understood. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life. Although early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills, there is no known cure. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful.  About a third to a half of individuals with autism do not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication needs. The main goals of treatment are to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence. No single treatment is best and treatment is typically tailored to the child’s needs.

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin because it is formed in the body by the action of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin. The fat-soluble vitamin is converted in the kidneys to the hormone calcitrol, which is actually the most active form of vitamin D. The effects of this hormone are targeted at the intestines and bones. Vitamin D is important for growth and development of bones and teeth. Vitamin D has been used in the treatment of rickets, osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease, and has been found to reduce the incidence of breast cancer. Vitamin D deficiency can result from inadequate dietary intake, insufficient exposure to sunlight, which reduces the body’s synthesis of vitamin D, and kidney or liver malfunctions, which inhibit the conversion of vitamin D to its metabolically active forms.

A recent study reviewed blood work of 117 out-patient psychiatric subjects. The researchers measured the patients’ serum vitamin D and parathyroid levels. They discovered that the average serum level of vitamin D was 45nmol/l, which is much lower than the level found in healthy populations. Patients diagnosed with ADHD had much lower than normal levels of parathyroid hormone. The researchers also found that having a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia predicted low levels of serum vitamin D. It is suspected that in both autism and schizophrenia, vitamin D deficiency may not only be a predisposing developmental factor but also relate to the adult patients’ psychiatric state. This was further supported when some patients with vitamin D deficiency underwent vitamin D treatment experienced an improved psychiatric state.1

1 Humble MB, Gustafsson S, Bejerot S. Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) among psychiatric out-patients in Sweden: Relations with season, age, ethnic origin and psychiatric diagnosis. J Steriod Biochem Mol Biol. Mar2010.

Source: Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Date: 4/6/2010

Frankincense: Could it be a cure for cancer?

The gift given by the wise men to the baby Jesus probably came across the deserts from Oman. The BBC’s Jeremy Howell visits the country to ask whether a commodity that was once worth its weight in gold could be reborn as a treatment for cancer.

Oman’s Land of Frankincense is an 11-hour drive southwards from the capital, Muscat.

Most of the journey is through Arabia’s Empty Quarter – hundreds of kilometres of flat, dun-coloured desert. Just when you are starting to think this is the only scenery you will ever see again, the Dhofar mountains appear in the distance.

Map of Oman

On the other side are green valleys, with cows grazing in them. The Dhofar region catches the tail-end of India’s summer monsoons, and they make this the most verdant place on the Arabian peninsula.

Warm winters and showery summers are the perfect conditions for the Boswellia sacra tree to produce the sap called frankincense. These trees grow wild in Dhofar. A tour guide, Mohammed Al-Shahri took me to Wadi Dawkah, a valley 20 km inland from the main city of Salalah, to see a forest of them.

“The records show that frankincense was produced here as far back as 7,000 BC,” he says. He produces an army knife. He used to be a member of the Sultan’s Special Forces. With a practised flick, he cuts a strip of bark from the trunk of one of the Boswellia sacra trees. Pinpricks of milky-white sap appear on the wood and, very slowly, start to ooze out.

Boswellia sacra

Boswellia sacra produces the highest-quality frankincense

“This is the first cut. But you don’t gather this sap,” he says. “It releases whatever impurities are in the wood. The farmers return after two or three weeks and make a second, and a third, cut. Then the sap comes out yellow, or bright green, or brown or even black. They take this.”

Shortly afterwards, a frankincense farmer arrives in a pick-up truck. He is white-bearded, wearing a brown thobe and the traditional Omani, paisley-patterned turban.

He is 67-year-old Salem Mohammed from the Gidad family. Most of the Boswellia sacra trees grow on public land, but custom dictates that each forest is given to one of the local families to farm, and Wadi Dawkah is his turf.

Camel train

He has an old, black, iron chisel with which he gouges out clumps of dried frankincense.

“We learnt about frankincense from our forefathers and they learnt it from theirs” he says. “The practice has been passed down through the generations. We exported the frankincense, and that’s how the families in Dhofar made their livings.”

Salem Mohammed

Salem Mohammed: Young people prefer careers in oil or government

And what an export trade it was. Frankincense was sent by camel train to Egypt, and from there to Europe. It was shipped from the ancient port of Sumharan to Persia, India and China. Religions adopted frankincense as a burnt offering.

That is why, according to Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible, the Wise Men brought it as a gift to the infant Jesus. Gold: for a king. Frankincense: for God. Myrrh: to embalm Jesus’ body after death.

The Roman Empire coveted the frankincense trade. In the first century BCE, Augustus Caesar sent 10,000 troops to invade what the Romans called Arabia Felix to find the source of frankincense and to control its production. The legions, marching from Yemen, were driven back by the heat and the aridity of the desert. They never found their Eldorado.

Oman’s frankincense trade went into decline three centuries ago, when Portugal fought Oman for dominance of the sea routes in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.

The Haffa souk in Salalah

Salalah’s Haffa souk: The place to buy Omani brands such as Royal Hougari

Nowadays, hardly any Omani frankincense is exported. Partly, this is because bulk buyers, such as the Roman Catholic Church, buy cheaper Somalian varieties. Partly, it is because Omanis now produce so little.

“Years ago, 20 families farmed frankincense in this area,” says Salem Mohammed Gidad. “But the younger generation can get well-paid jobs in the government and the oil companies, with pensions. Now, only three people still produce frankincense around here. The trade is really, really tiny!”

Cancer hope

But immunologist Mahmoud Suhail is hoping to open a new chapter in the history of frankincense.

Scientists have observed that there is some agent within frankincense which stops cancer spreading, and which induces cancerous cells to close themselves down. He is trying to find out what this is.

Giant censer in cathedral of Santiago di Compostela

The Catholic church mostly buys Somalian frankincense

“Cancer starts when the DNA code within the cell’s nucleus becomes corrupted,” he says. “It seems frankincense has a re-set function. It can tell the cell what the right DNA code should be.

“Frankincense separates the ‘brain’ of the cancerous cell – the nucleus – from the ‘body’ – the cytoplasm, and closes down the nucleus to stop it reproducing corrupted DNA codes.”

Working with frankincense could revolutionise the treatment of cancer. Currently, with chemotherapy, doctors blast the area around a tumour to kill the cancer, but that also kills healthy cells, and weakens the patient. Treatment with frankincense could eradicate the cancerous cells alone and let the others live.

The task now is to isolate the agent within frankincense which, apparently, works this wonder. Some ingredients of frankincense are allergenic, so you cannot give a patient the whole thing.

Boswellia sacra grows in Oman, Yemen and Somalia
Other Boswellia species grow in Africa and India
The tree may have been named after John Boswell, the uncle of Samuel Johnson’s biographer
In ancient Egypt frankincense was thought to be sweat of the gods
Source: The Pharmaceutical Journal

Dr Suhail (who is originally from Iraq) has teamed up with medical scientists from the University of Oklahoma for the task.

In his laboratory in Salalah, he extracts the essential oil from locally produced frankincense. Then, he separates the oil into its constituent agents, such as Boswellic acid.

“There are 17 active agents in frankincense essential oil,” says Dr Suhail. “We are using a process of elimination. We have cancer sufferers – for example, a horse in South Africa – and we are giving them tiny doses of each agent until we find the one which works.”

“Some scientists think Boswellic acid is the key ingredient. But I think this is wrong. Many other essential oils – like oil from sandalwood – contain Boswellic acid, but they don’t have this effect on cancer cells. So we are starting afresh.”

The trials will take months to conduct and whatever results come out of them will take longer still to be verified. But this is a blink of the eye in the history of frankincense.

Nine thousand years ago, Omanis gathered it and burnt it for its curative and cleansing properties. It could be a key to the medical science of tomorrow.

Jeremy Howell reports for Middle East Business Report on BBC World News.