To Ditch Dessert, Feed the Brain

If the brain goes hungry, Twinkies look a lot better, a study led by researchers at Yale University and the University of Southern California has found.

Brain imaging scans show that when glucose levels drop, an area of the brain known to regulate emotions and impulses loses the ability to dampen desire for high-calorie food, according to the study published online September 19 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Our prefrontal cortex is a sucker for glucose,” said Rajita Sinha, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry, and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and the Yale Child Study Center, one of the senior authors of the research.

The Yale team manipulated glucose levels intravenously and monitored changes in blood sugar levels while subjects were shown pictures of high-calorie food, low-calorie food and non-food as they underwent fMRI scans.

When glucose levels drop, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus senses the change. Other regions Continue reading

Overcome ADHD the Natural Way

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently surveyed 73,000 children and found one in 10 has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is a 22% increase since 2003. Research has shown that toxic and deficient lifestyle patterns are the chief contributing factor for this disorder. Natural lifestyle solutions can prevent and reverse ADHD.

Many researchers consider chronic ADHD symptoms a sign of mild-moderate brain damage. When regions of the brain are chronically inflamed it signals the primitive regions of the brain to be on overdrive. This inhibits frontal lobe function which is the region responsible for concentration and emotional stability. The primitive regions on overdrive include the reticular activating system and limbic system. When this primitive brain is imbalanced  Continue reading

How Marijuana Inhibits Brain Cancer

How Marijuana Inhibits Brain Cancer

BEVERLY HILLS – The findings  were published by the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. With this study, we have shown that cannabis compounds can work together to inhibit glioblastoma (GBM), one of the nastiest and most aggressive of all brain cancers. GBM is the type of brain cancer that caused the recent death of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most prevalent compound found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Many studies have focused on THC and its therapeutic qualities, however other compounds in the plant should not be overlooked from a medical and scientific standpoint. In fact, the recently published study illustrates how THC and other compounds (known as Cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant work synergistically to kill cancer cells and reduce tumor size. The anti-cancer effect, which is mediated through the activation of cannabinoid receptors on cancer cells, has been shown through both in vitro and in vivo experimentation.

The other most abundant compound in the cannabis plant is Cannabidiol (CBD). One of the main findings of our research was how THC and CBD act synergistically to inhibit GBM brain cancer cell proliferation. The research team at CPMCRI, lead by Dr. Sean McAllister, discovered that a ratio of about 4:1 of THC to CBD resulted in a synergistic or enhanced killing effect. This THC and CBD combination was determined after assessing anti-cancer activity resulting from the interaction of THC with some of the more-than-70 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

Interestingly, the individual doses of THC and CBD had little effect on the cancer cells or other proteins in the cells. However, when these two compounds were combined, the amount of cell death, or apoptosis, dramatically increased. And, as if this wasn’t enough, our research team discovered another potential breakthrough from the combined use of THC and CBD — a decrease in the protein known as ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase). The levels of ERK, often associated with cancer found in the body, were only affected by the combination of THC and CBD, suggesting that these compounds either converge on a shared pathway or together they activate a specific response in cancer cells.

Since these cannabinoids are relatively non-toxic and selectively kill cancer cells, large doses can be provided for in vivo studies. Hence, a direct injection to the site of the tumor or cancer, versus the more widely used methods of smoke or vapor inhalation, may be the most efficient for killing cancer cells. With more targeted applications, a much higher concentration of the active ingredients can be used without toxic side effects. We also speculate that other, non-cannabinoid components of the plant may also improve anti-cancer activity.

An improvement in the life expectancy of people with GBM has not occurred in 50 years, and because GBM is so aggressive and effective treatments have not yet been found, this study may represent a major breakthrough in the field. The next obvious step is further testing of how this combination of cannabinoids affects brain cancer and finding ways to put this important discovery to use.

Marijuana Rivals Mainstream Drugs For Alleviating HIV/AIDS Symptoms

Marijuana Rivals Mainstream Drugs For Alleviating HIV/AIDS Symptoms

SAN FRANCISCO – Those in the United States living with HIV/AIDS are more likely to use marijuana than those in Kenya, South Africa or Puerto Rica to alleviate their symptoms, according to a new study published in Clinical Nursing Research, published by SAGE. Those who did use marijuana rate it as effective as prescribed or over the counter (OTC) medicines for the majority of common symptoms, once again raising the issue that therapeutic marijuana use merits further study and consideration among policy makers.

A significant percentage of those with HIV/AIDS use marijuana as a symptom management approach for anxiety, depression, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, and peripheral neuropathy. Members of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) International HIV/AIDS Nursing Research Network examined symptom management and quality of life experiences among those with HIV/AIDS in the US, Africa, and Puerto Rico, to gain a fuller picture of marijuana’s effectiveness and use in this population.

With data from a longitudinal, multi-country, multi-site, randomized control clinical trial, the researchers used four different evaluation tools to survey demographics, self-care management strategies for six common symptoms experienced by those living with HIV/AIDS, quality of life instrument and reasons for non-adherence to medications.

Either marijuana use for symptom management is vastly higher in the US, or participants elsewhere chose not to disclose that they use it: nine tenths of study participants who said they used marijuana live in the US. No African participants said they used it, and the remaining ten percent were from Puerto Rico.

The researchers found no differences between marijuana users and nonusers in age, race, and education level, income adequacy, having an AIDS diagnosis, taking ARV medications, or years on ARV medications. But the two groups did differ in that marijuana users had been HIV positive longer, and were more likely to have other medical conditions. Transgender participants were also more likely to use marijuana.

Participants using marijuana as a management strategy were spread fairly consistent across all six symptoms, ranging from a low of 20% for fatigue to a high of 27% for nausea. Prescribed medications were used by 45% of those with fatigue, ranging down to almost 18% of those with neuropathy.

The findings contained nuances when comparing marijuana to other medications. Those who used marijuana rated their anxiety significantly lower than those who did not, and women who used marijuana had more intense nausea symptoms. For those who use both marijuana and medications for symptom management, antidepressants were considered more effective than marijuana for anxiety and depression, but marijuana was rated more highly than anti-anxiety medications. Immodium was better for diarrhoea than marijuana, as were prescribed medications for fatigue. However, marijuana was perceived to be more effective than either prescribed or OTC medications for nausea and neuropathy. However, the differenced in perceived efficacy in all these results were slight.

As found in previous studies, those who used marijuana were less likely to comply with their regime of ARV medications. But perhaps counter-intuitively of the many reasons given for skipping pills, ‘forgetfulness’ was no different in this group than among those who did not use marijuana. Marijuana use is known to contribute to patients’ lack of compliance with ARV drugs, however those who use marijuana to target a particular symptom are actually more likely to stick closely to their ARV regimen too. The researchers point out that of those who used marijuana for their symptoms, it is not known whether they also used the drug for recreation. Patterns of how marijuana use interferes with patients’ adherence to medication regimens, along with other drugs, warrant further study.

The 775 participants were recruited from Kenya, South Africa, two sites in Puerto Rico, and ten sites in the United States. They had on average been diagnosed for a decade – the majority (70%) were taking anti-retroviral (ARV) medications and more than half had other medical conditions alongside HIV/AIDS. It is hard to pinpoint the marijuana use targeted to alleviate symptoms of those other illnesses as distinct from those relating solely to HIV/AIDS.

Data suggest that marijuana is a trigger among those susceptible to psychosis, and is also associated with the risk of suicidal thoughts. However it is not linked to an increased risk of lung cancer (over and above risks associated with smoking it along with tobacco).

The question of the use of marijuana for symptom management when legal drugs are available remains a practice and policy issue.

“Given that marijuana may have other pleasant side effects and may be less costly than prescribed or OTC drugs, is there a reason to make it available?” asks study leader Inge Corless.  “These are the political ramifications of our findings. Our data indicate that the use of marijuana merits further inquiry.”

THC Normalized Impaired Psychomotor Performance and Mood

THC Normalized Impaired Psychomotor Performance and Mood

HEIDELBERG – Scientists at the Department for Forensic and Traffic Medicine of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, investigated the effects of cannabis on driving related functions in a 28 year old man with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He had violated traffic regulations several times in recent years and his driving license was revoked due to driving under the influence of cannabis. He showed abnormal behavior, seemed to be significantly maladjusted and his concentration was heavily impaired while sober during the first meeting with a psychologist. He was allowed to perform driving related tests under the influence of the cannabis compound dronabinol (THC), which his doctor had prescribed him to treat his symptoms. The examiner expected that he was not able to drive a car under the acute influence of THC.

But at the second visit his behavior was markedly improved and he performed average and partly above-average in all tests on reaction speed, sustained attention, visual orientation, perception speed and divided attention. A blood sample taken after the tests revealed a high THC concentration of 71 ng/ml in blood serum. He admitted later to have smoked cannabis and not taken dronabinol, because it was too expensive. Researchers noted that “people with ADHD are found to violate traffic regulations, to commit criminal offences and to be involved in traffic accidents more often than the statistical norm” and conclude from their investigation that “it has to be taken into account that in persons with ADHD THC may have atypical and even performance-enhancing effects.”