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What's Worse for Health: Sun or Sunscreen?

Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Journal of Internal Medicine, 2014, 276; 77-86

 


 

D or No D

By the Aisle7 Medical Advisory

The New York Times reports that the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of health experts, has “decided not to recommend routine testing for vitamin D levels,” a frustrating ruling for some health advocates. The panel clarified that it neither endorsed nor advised against regular vitamin D screening in most adults, and suggested that testing be considered case by case. However, those in favor of screenings point to research suggesting widespread vitamin D deficiency, and also to a wide range of studies showing benefit from vitamin D supplementation. Most recently, for example:

Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Marcarelli, Rebekah; “Vitamin D Deficiencies Linked To High Blood Pressure,” HNGN, www.hngn.com/articles/34668/20140626/vitamin-d-deficiencies-linked-to-high-blood-pressure.htm, [accessed 26 June 2014]. 

Sonawane, Vishakha. Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Improve Metabolism in Women with Gestational Diabetes: Study, www.hngn.com/articles/34458/20140624/calcium-vitamin-d-intake-improves-metabolism-women-gestational-diabetes-study.htm [accessed 30 June 2014]. 

Starling, Shane. Vitamin D not helpful for adult asthmatics, www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Trends/Vitamin-D/Vitamin-D-not-helpful-for-adult-asthmatics [accessed 30 June 2014].

 


 

Saturated Fats and Heart Disease: Corrections Highlight Study Flaws

By Maureen Williams, ND

Remember the recent headlines proclaiming saturated fats didn’t contribute to heart disease? In the aftermath, health and nutrition experts have called the research validity into question, since days after the original publication the study authors issued a correction, which affects the conclusions drawn from the results.

Addressing potential study errors

The original scientific paper was a meta-analysis of 72 individual studies, including a mix of clinical trials and observational (epidemiological) research. The media widely portrayed the meta-analysis results as an invitation to step up saturated fats in the diet, but the study showed no such thing: it originally found that saturated and polyunsaturated omega-6 fats appeared neutral for heart health, while omega-3 fats provided some heart health benefits.

Some of the studies considered dietary fat intake alone, and others included blood measures of fatty acids. Given the range in type and quality of study included in the meta-analysis, the results depend upon how carefully and properly the data are combined.

Many health experts who took exception with the paper raised questions about the validity of some assumptions made when the pooled data were analyzed, hence the subsequent corrections issued on the paper:

  • The authors originally assumed one study included in the meta-analysis found a negative effect of omega-3 fats on heart disease risk. Most experts agree that study showed a heart-health benefit from omega-3s. This error alone calls into question the conclusion that polyunsaturated fats offer no protection against heart disease.
  • The authors didn’t address how total diet may change for people who eat less saturated fat. If saturated fat calories are replaced with an abundance of simple carbohydrates (sugar) and processed foods, this isn’t likely to minimize heart disease risk. Replacing saturated fat with the omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fats in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish is supported by decades of research in a variety of adult populations.

Clarifying the confusion

Dr. Emanuele Di Angelantonio of the University of Cambridge, one of the authors of the meta-analysis, believes the paper’s conclusions remain valid. He believes the main problem is how the results were “wrongly interpreted by the media.” While media misrepresentation of scientific papers is a valid concern for many researchers, Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Department believes the paper has done damage. Dr. Willett noted, “A retraction [of the original paper] with similar press promotion should be considered.”

Back to basics

This brings us back to the basics: a heart-healthy diet means eating real food, and limiting the amount of processed and packaged foods in the diet. Many health experts feel small amounts of high-fat animal products are okay, but only in the context of a totally healthy diet.

In terms of heart disease, and just about any other chronic disease one can name, the best nutritional insurance comes from eating unprocessed, whole foods, including nuts, legumes (beans and peas), vegetables and fruit, whole grains, vegetable and olive oils, and small portions of animal products, if desired.

Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:398-406

 


 

D-Mannose May Prevent Common Urinary Tract Infections

By Maureen Williams, ND

Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved.  

References: BJU Int 2014;113:9-10

 


 

Pregnant? Eat Nuts Now to Lower Your Child's Allergy Risk

By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

Children born to mothers who eat lots of nuts during their pregnancies may be less likely to develop nut allergies during childhood, reports a study in the JAMA Pediatrics.
 

Nut allergies on the rise

Story Source: Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: JAMA Pediatrics;doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4139

 


 

Don't Mix Green Tea and This Blood Pressure Medication

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD 

Drug-nutrient interactions occur when a nutrient or other natural substance—from a food, beverage, herb, or dietary supplement—alters the effects of a medication in the body. It’s important to better understand when and how these interactions arise, because they can be harmful. Researchers have uncovered a drug-nutrient interaction with the blood pressure medication nadolol (brand name Corgard) and a popular beverage: green tea.

The how & why

The study authors invited ten healthy adult volunteers to drink approximately 24 ounces of green tea or water daily, for two weeks. After the two-week period, the green tea group took 30 mg of nadolol with 12 ounces of green tea, while the water group took 30 mg of nadolol with 12 ounces of water. Participants drank another 12 ounces of green tea or water 30 minutes after taking nadolol.

This was followed by a two-week washout period of no green tea, after which the participants switched groups. In this way, all ten volunteers participated in both the water and the green tea phases of the study.

Compared with the two-week water phase of the study, participants in the green tea phase experienced significantly:

  • lower blood concentrations of nadolol
  • lower urinary excretion of nadolol
  • less blood pressure–lowering effect from nadolol

Savvy consumers make good patients

This study found that consuming about 3 cups of green tea daily for two weeks, followed by taking the blood pressure medication nadolol with green tea, significantly reduced both the amount of medication circulating in the body and the ability of the medication to lower blood pressure.

Use these tips to better understand how these study results apply to you.

  • Be consistent. If you take prescription or over-the-counter medications to manage a health condition, take your medication at the same time each day with the same beverage and meal.
  • Be alert. If you notice that a medication that normally works well for you isn’t working so well anymore, consider recent changes to your diet, exercise habits, or the dietary supplements you are using. For example, maybe your blood sugars are running higher despite taking your diabetes medications as usual, or your blood pressure is creeping up even though you’re taking the same blood pressure medication. This might be a clue that something new in your diet or routine is interfering with your medication. Or it may be an “off” batch of medication, which also needs to be addressed.
  • Consult an expert. If you do notice changes in how your medications are working, discuss this with your pharmacist or doctor. He or she can help you sort out what changes in your daily habits may be contributing to the change in your medication efficacy.
  • Be curious. For any new medication you’re prescribed, specifically ask your doctor and your pharmacist if there are any dietary or other precautions you need to follow. For example, grapefruit juice interacts with many different medications, yet you may not learn this if you don’t ask which foods, beverages, or other substances are of concern.
  • Read regularly. Periodically read the materials that come with your usual prescriptions. Information changes, and you’ll pick up new precautions that may not have been known or noted when you first began taking the medication.

 

Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by theNew York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics; online 13 January 2014; doi:10.1038/clpt.2013.241

 


 

"Stop Wasting Money" Editorial Ignores Full Body of Supplement Research

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD 

An editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine urges people to “stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements” and concludes, “the case is closed.” While the particular studies in question did show negative findings for a short list of health conditions in certain populations, this opinion provides a narrow view of the depth and breadth of supplement research. It also ignores the complex relationship between nutrition and health and potentially leaves many people unnecessarily confused about supplements.

Overview of the overview

The editorial discusses three papers published in the same issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine that evaluate the effects of multivitamin and mineral supplements on new and recurrent cases of heart disease, and on the risk of cancer and mental (cognitive) decline:

  • Study 1. Exploring whether vitamin supplements prevent heart disease and cancer in healthy older adults, this paper reviewed 3 multivitamin trials and 24 single or paired vitamins trials that included over 400,000 randomly assigned participants. Though the editorial authors concluded there was no evidence of reduced chance of death from any cause, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, the review actually did find that supplements significantly reduced cancer risk—by 6%—in men.
  • Study 2. Looking at how well a daily multivitamin might prevent cognitive decline among participants in the Physicians’ Health Study II (5,947 men aged 65 years or older), this paper found no differences in thinking (cognitive) function between the vitamin and nonvitamin groups. However, other published findings from this very same study population have demonstrated that multivitamins may reduce the risk of cancer and cataracts.
  • Study 3. Considering whether taking multivitamins and minerals after a heart attack (myocardial infarction) might reduce risk of further heart attacks, this study did not show a benefit. However, the study authors themselves concluded that “nonadherence to the study regimen” rendered the results inconclusive.

Taking the broader viewpoint

With high healthcare costs and the risks of side effects from many common drugs, consumers are well advised to consider all safe potential health resources available, including supplements. Here are some variables not factored into the editorial:

  • Other studies have found a positive association between supplements and reduced heart disease and cancer risks, including well-designed double-blind research.
  • Plenty of studies have shown therapeutic support for many other conditions not considered by the editorial, including osteoporosis, macular degeneration, anemia, high cholesterol, mood disorders, and many more.
  • Supplements have been found to help correct common deficiencies, proactively protecting against conditions that often accompany deficiencies.
  • Supplement effects are also influenced by intake amount and product quality, which were not taken into account.
  • Research has shown that certain therapeutic effects of nutrients require higher intake amounts than a person would ordinarily get with food or in a multivitamin.
  • Taking a multivitamin helps safeguard against dietary gaps.

Consider the full body of research

By ignoring the positive and inconclusive results in these studies and not considering other research showing well-established benefits, this editorial presents an incomplete view to the public and suggests a biased assessment of the research not shared even by doctors involved in the studies in question. Dr. Howard Sesso, MD, a lead researcher on the Physicians’ Health Study II, noted that, “because of the possible cancer-related benefits tied to multivitamins, they are still worth considering, in particular for people who may not get enough vitamins in their diet.” Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, a Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is a lead researcher on the Physicians' Health Study, and a co-author on one of the papers prompting the editorial. Dr. Gaziano told USA Today, “It drives me crazy that they say 'enough is enough,' when there's only been one large study of (standard) multivitamins and it's ours.”

No single analysis of the research can uncover the full complexity of the effects of nutrients—from dietary supplements or food—on total health. In the end, rather than close the book on dietary supplements solely on the basis of one questionable editorial opinion, it makes sense to consider the full body of evidence as well as your own personal health needs. Eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to create a health plan that works for you.

Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by theNew York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Ann Intern Med 2013;159:850-1

 


 

The Yacón Syrup Story

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD 

Yacón syrup is a sweetener derived from the root of the yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius) plant that, according to the latest buzz, can help shed excess pounds. Though it’s a bit premature to proclaim yacón syrup a weight loss miracle, it does boast nutrients known to provide health benefits.

Promise in prebiotics

The yacón plant grows in the Andes mountains of South America and has a long history of medicinal use—for diabetes and digestive disorders—among indigenous people living in these areas. Yacón syrup is rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber that fuels the formation of healthy bacteria of the human gastrointestinal tract. Yacón is a good source of polyphenols as well, which are nutrients found in a variety of plant foods and beverages, such as red wine, green tea, and berries. Polyphenol-rich diets are associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

The major type of prebiotics found in yacón are FOS (fructooligosaccharides) also found in many common plant foods, such as leeks, onions, and asparagus. FOS are not readily digested and so reach the colon largely intact. Once in the colon, FOS are fermented to short-chain fatty acids, which support healthful gut bacteria growth and inhibit the growth of harmful, disease-causing bacteria.

FOS provide just 2 calories per gram, instead of the usual 4 for most carbohydrates. This means that as a sweetener, yacón syrup provides about 20 calories per tablespoon, compared with 48 calories for a tablespoon of sugar, and 64 for honey. FOS are soluble fiber, and can increase stool bulk and potentially minimize constipation.

Will the syrup slim you?

Studies in mice and rats support the notion that FOS from yacón root may improve insulin sensitivity and levels of cholesterol and other blood fats in animals with diabetes, but much more research is needed to better understand if these results are applicable to humans.

Of the three human studies currently available, two examined safety and short-term effects on how quickly food moves through the gastrointestinal tract (colon transit time). One small, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 55 obese women does suggest that FOS from yacón syrup may improve the odds of losing pounds. According to this study, 140 mg of FOS from yacón syrup per kg of body weight per day (that’s 60 mg per pound) improved fasting insulin levels, body weight, and waist circumference. On average, the yacón syrup group lost 33 pounds in three months, while the control group gained about three and a half pounds in the same period.

For reference, 60 mg of FOS per pound translates to around 11 grams of FOS for a person weighing 180 pounds, or a little more than one-third of an ounce of FOS from yacón syrup per day.

Should you say yes to yacón?

The early word on yacón syrup is certainly interesting, though much more research is needed to better understand how this sweetener works and who might best benefit from using it. Keep the following in mind before deciding if yacón syrup is right for you:

  • Work with your doctor. If you take medications to manage diabetes or insulin resistance, talk to your doctor before using yacón products. If you add in FOS without accounting for their insulin-sensitizing effects, you may end up with low blood sugar levels.
  • Go slow. FOS may cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal effects, such as gas, in many people. Use sparingly and work up to higher amounts to minimize these issues.
  • Seek food. Yacón isn’t the only way to get FOS. Other FOS-rich foods include bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, barley, oats, asparagus, leeks, and dandelion greens. Aim for a varied diet with plenty of plant foods and you’ll naturally increase your FOS intake.
  • Seek balance. While yacón syrup may help some people lose a few pounds, even the best diet aid is useless unless combined with balanced nutrition and regular physical activity.

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Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by theNew York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Dig Liver Dis 2002;34:S111-20; Clin Nutr 2009;28:182-7; J Diabetes Metab Disord 2013;12:28

 


 

Early Probiotics Protects Kids from Allergies and Eczema

By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

Children whose diets include probiotics up to age two and whose mothers took probiotics when pregnant are less likely to have eczema or allergies at age six, reports a study in Clinical and Experimental Allergy.

An allergic threesome

People with allergies are more likely to also have eczema and hay fever (allergic rhinitis)—sometimes referred to as the allergic triad. Children are at higher risk for developing these conditions if one or both parents have allergies.

Gut health and allergies

About 80% of the immune system is located in the gut. Here, the body is exposed to different substances that “challenge” the immune system. It’s thought that beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics) help prime the immune system to respond appropriately to foreign invaders and not to react to things that it shouldn’t. Misdirected immune responses could show up as allergic conditions or as autoimmune disorders.

Earlier research by the authors of the new trial showed that pregnant women and babies up to two years old who supplemented with a probiotic decreased the child’s risk of eczema at two and four years.

The new study looked at these same children at age six to see if the effect on eczema prevention persisted. The researchers also tested the children’s sensitivity to common allergens and assessed the presence of asthma, wheeze, and runny nose.

Since different probiotics target different parts of the body, the study compared the effects two probiotic strains, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis (subspecies lactis), with placebo.

  • The prevalence of eczema was significantly lower among children taking theLactobacillus supplement compared with Bifidobacterium and placebo, and eczema severity improved significantly in the Lactobacillus group compared with placebo.
  • Allergic sensitization followed a similar pattern, with no change in the Bifidobacteriumgroup and significant improvements in the Lactobacillus group compared with placebo.
  • Lactobacillus seemed to confer protection against the development of inhalant allergies (such as dust mites, grass pollen, and animal dander) but had no effect on food allergies.
  • Neither probiotic had an effect on asthma, wheeze, or runny nose.

“A long-term effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus against atopic sensitization at six years suggests that this probiotic had immunomodulatory effects during the first two years of life which have persisted to the sixth year,” concluded the researchers.

Stop allergies before they start

Try these tips to cut your child’s risk of developing allergies:

Breast-feed your baby. Breast-feeding helps protect babies from many infections that the nursing mother has come into contact with, boosting baby’s natural immune defenses. Several studies have also linked breast-feeding with protection from asthma, eczema, and food allergies.

Feed them fish. Babies who are given fish before nine months of age are 24% less likely to develop eczema than babies introduced to it later.

Give probiotics a try. Check with a practitioner who’s knowledgeable about natural therapeutics for a specific recommendation.

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Story Source: Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Clin Exp Allergy 2013;43:1048-57

 


 

FDA Releases Long-Awaited Gluten-Free Guidelines

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

For the estimated 1% of people worldwide with celiac disease, completely avoiding the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley is the only way to effectively manage the condition and prevent the damaging autoimmune response that occurs with gluten exposure. And it’s become increasingly popular to give the body a break from gluten for other reasons, with some people claiming to experience decreased inflammation in or finding the gluten-free eating model an easier way to limit carbohydrates.

It might seem like avoiding gluten is as easy as reading a few labels, but until now the lack of a concrete “gluten-free” definition has made that task complicated. Shedding much-needed light on the issue, the United States Food and Drug Administration has released a new regulation defining the term "gluten-free" for voluntary food labeling.

Not quite zero

The FDA regulation stipulates that in order to be labeled “gluten-free,” a food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” also must have less than 20 parts per million to meet the “gluten-free” definition.

Some in the celiac disease community are crying foul, because they only consider something truly gluten-free if it never had gluten in the first place. However, per the new FDA definition, even foods and beverages that originally contained significant quantities of gluten can be labeled gluten-free, so long as they are processed to bring gluten levels in the final product down to less than 20 parts per million.

As an example of how this works, some breweries brew beer in the conventional way, using gluten-containing grains, then employ a process that removes the gluten from the finished beverage to bring the levels down to less than 20 parts per million. This beer is considered gluten-free per the new FDA definition.

Why not zero?

The 20 parts per million definition is based on the scientific consensus that even people with celiac disease will not react to gluten at a concentration of less than 20 parts per million. However, if you want to keep your gluten exposure as close to zero as possible, stick to tried and true ways of avoiding it:

  • Read labels. With the new rules, something labeled gluten-free may have begun with a gluten-containing ingredient. If you want to avoid foods that fall into this category, avoid items in the ingredient list with wheat, barley, and rye, and its many guises, such as bulgur, durum, faro, spelt, kamut, gram flour, semolina, seitan, triticale, einkorn, and farina.
  • Identify possible culprits. Gluten can hide in a variety of items, including beer, lager, ale, soups, broths, flavored coffees and teas, medications, salad dressings, processed and lunch meats, seasonings, and sauces. Again, even if labeled gluten-free, these items may have begun life as a gluten-containing product, which was processed to meet the new 20-parts-per-million rule.
  • Test it out. The new definition is based on science, so it’s very likely you can eat any of the foods now labeled gluten-free without issue. If you want to do a trial run of the new labeling criteria, slowly introduce a food or drink that originally was made with a gluten-containing grain, then brought down to less than 20 parts per million of gluten through final processing. Keep a detailed food and symptom record. If you notice a flare up of symptoms, you may need to stick with your original, gluten-free eating plan.

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Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by theNew York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved.

References: FDA News Release; FDA defines “gluten-free” for food labeling. Accessed August 8, 2013: www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/UCM363474.htm

 


 

Ginkgo: What's Its Safety Profile? 

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

Recent headlines have questioned Gingko biloba’s safety, only to be challenged by natural health practitioners who say the remedy is safe and potentially effective for improving a range of conditions, including age-related memory impairment and dementia, eye problems associated with diabetes (diabetic retinopathy), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), vertigo, and glaucoma. Who’s right? Putting the latest research into context can help you better understand the big picture on ginkgo.

Of mice and men (and rats)

Researchers conducted toxicology studies of standardized Ginkgo biloba extracts in 100 rats and 100 mice. For two years, the animals were fed corn oil solutions containing varying amounts of Ginkgo biloba, through a tube inserted into the stomach.

The rats received 0, 100, 300, or 1,000 mg of ginkgo extract per kilogram of body weight, administered five days per week. The mice received 0, 200, 600, or 2,000 mg of ginkgo per kilogram of body weight, administered five days per week. At the end of the two-year study, the animals were dissected, and tissues from 40 areas in each animal’s body were examined for abnormalities.

The findings, detailed extensively in a 191-page report, note, “We conclude thatGinkgo biloba extract caused cancers of the thyroid gland in male and female rats and male mice and cancers of the liver in male and female mice.” This is concerning, but does it mean ginkgo causes cancer in humans?

Getting down to details

While popular media reports suggest Ginkgo biloba is now a proven carcinogen (cancer causing substance) that should be removed from the market, the details paint a more nuanced picture. Before you toss your ginkgo supplements, consider the following:

  • Note the dose. Recommended human doses for Ginkgo supplements range from 30 to 240 mg per day, regardless of body weight. The study animals received up to 1,100 times this amount—the amount of ginkgo (by body weight) that would be appropriate for an “average,” 150-pound person.
  • Count the years. According to rodent experts, each rat or mouse year is roughly equivalent to 30 human years. In other words, the animals were given massive doses of Ginkgo biloba for nearly their entire lifespans—what would be equivalent to a person taking 500 to 1,000 times the amount of a typical Ginkgo biloba supplement, for 60 years.
  • Consider history. In the 1970s, rat studies linked saccharin with bladder cancer risk, prompting a warning label on saccharin-containing foods, “saccharin has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” Further study indicated these results were not applicable to humans, and the high doses originally tested weren’t representative of typical human use. In 2000, saccharin was removed from the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens list. While no one would argue that saccharin is “good for you,” this episode illustrates how animal toxicology research can lead to erroneous conclusions about human health.
  • Aim for the middle ground. For every vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient tested, optimal intake levels are neither too high, nor too low. Consider some examples: Not enough vitamin A can lead to blindness, infections, and even death. Too much vitamin A can lead to osteoporosis, birth defects, liver failure, and death. Getting plenty of folate before and during pregnancy is vital for preventing birth defects, yet too much folate, particularly as folic acid—found in supplements and fortified foods—has been linked with increased risk of some types of cancer. It should come as no surprise that long-term use of excessively high doses of any substance, including Ginkgo biloba, causes measurable adverse health effects.
  • Consult your health provider. In the end, a single, high-dose toxicology study does not prove Ginkgo biloba causes cancer, particularly for a natural product with a long history of safe use. If you have concerns about ginkgo, or any dietary product you currently use or want to try, talk to your doctor, nurse, or dietitian about this.

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Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by theNew York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved.

References: NTP Technical Report on the Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Ginkgo Biloba Extract in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1/N Mice. March 2013. NIH Publication No. 13-5920. Accessed June 18, 2013: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/LT_rpts/TR578_508.pdf

 


 

Pregnancy News: Folic Acid Linked to Lower Autism Risk

By Jane Hart, MD

The amount and timing of folic acid supplementation may both play a role in a pregnant woman’s risk of having a child with autism. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a child’s autism risk was about 40% lower when their mothers took higher amounts of folic acid in pregnancy, particularly around the time of conception.

The importance of timing and amount

In this study, researchers looked at the folic acid intake of 837 mothers of children 2 to 5 years old who were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study. Specifically, they looked at how much folic acid these women had consumed through supplements and cereals during the three months prior to and throughout pregnancy. The incidence of autism and delayed development were identified in the children of these women.

Results showed that women who took 600 mcg or more of folic acid each day during the first month of pregnancy had about a 40% lower risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder compared with women who took less than that amount. These findings were strongest for participants with a specific genetic variant that interferes with folate metabolism, which was about 60% of the women.

The study authors comment, “Our findings are consistent with research that indicates folic acid's importance in improving childhood behavioral outcomes.” They add that there is a critical time period during which it is important for women to get enough folic acid and conclude that getting enough around the time of conception was linked to the greatest protective effect.

Folic acid’s healthy effects

Further evidence supports supplementation. Research suggests that folic acid supplementation in women of childbearing age is essential for helping prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Though more research is still needed, preliminary research suggests that getting enough folic acid may be important for preventing behavioral conditions such as autism.

It’s important to get enough folic acid. The study authors point out that more than 95% of women of childbearing age in the United States eat less than 400 mcg of folic acid from foods each day, and they add that “the bioavailability of dietary folate is less than 60% that of folic acid” from supplements. As a result, they suggest that women eating only folate from food would probably be in the lowest category of folic acid intake, making it important that women in their childbearing years follow their doctors’/obstetricians’ advice regarding folic acid supplementation to make sure they are getting enough. Research suggests that it is essential to start supplementation well before becoming pregnant.

A mix of nutrients is important. It’s important to realize that it is not only folic acid that is important for a baby’s health but rather a variety of nutrients that add to their health and development. Taking all prescribed prenatal vitamins and minerals and eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods will help provide the mix of nutrients that are needed.

Talk with a healthcare professional. If you are a woman of childbearing age, talk with a doctor or nutritionist about the importance of folic acid and other prenatal vitamins to help optimize the health of your baby.

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Story Source: Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:80-9

 


 

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Beyond Weight Loss

By Rebecca Schauer, RD

Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) are naturally occurring free fatty acids derived from the tissues and milk of ruminant animals such as cows.

Supplemental CLA has made a name for itself as a body fat reducer and weight loss aid under the brand Tonalin® CLA. In this capacity, CLA blocks the enzyme lipoprotein lipase that assists in fat storage of dietary fats and helps divert unused fat to muscle cells. CLA then activates another enzyme that helps muscles to burn this fat, especially during exercise.

Research, however, has shown that CLA supplements have good potential beyond the weight loss market.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in foods containing wheat, barley, or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.

According to research in mice, supplementation with CLA may be beneficial in fighting oxidative stress associated with celiac disease. In a 2011 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, scientists identified a novel mechanism by which gluten disturbs several pivotal intestinal defenses, and discovered the potential therapeutic efficacy of CLA against gluten-mediated toxicity. This beneficial effect of CLA against the depletion of crucial intestinal cell-protective defenses indicates a novel nutritional approach for the treatment of intestinal disease. 

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a digestive condition marked by inflammation and irritation in the intestines. Symptoms include pain, bloating, and diarrhea, and the condition may lead to narrowing of the digestive tract as result of scar tissue build up. Diseased areas of the gut tend not to absorb nutrients efficiently, leading to malnutrition. The exact cause of Crohn’s is unknown, although hereditary and immune factors appear to play a role.

In conventional medicine, Crohn’s is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs that suppress the immune system such as steroids; thus effective natural remedies for Crohn’s are greatly needed.

A study published in Clinical Nutrition and conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech found that Crohn’s patients who took supplementary CLA at 6 grams daily for 12 weeks had significant improvements in both quality of life and in disease activity. It has been shown that CLA has anti-inflammatory effects, which explains its benefits in Crohn’s patients. CLA does this by converting to DHA and EPA inside the body, both of which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. 

Asthma

Asthma symptoms are caused by irritation and inflammation of the airways. Asthmatics get asthma because they produce much higher levels of leukotriene compounds - highly inflammatory compounds naturally produced by the immune system.

In a study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, a dose of 4.5 grams of CLA per day improved airway hyper-reactivity in asthmatics.  It also had favorable effects on body weight, which may have a secondary effect on improving asthma symptoms.

In Summary

Average intake of CLA has fallen over the years due to changes in the Western diet, making supplementation of interest to many. CLA has multiple biological properties apart from roles in metabolism and weight loss, including regulation of immune processes as well as tissue inflammation.

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Story Source: Rebecca Schauer, RD, is the Supplement Technical Director for Vitamer and VitaCeutical Labs, divisions of Nexgen Pharma, Inc., and providers of high quality private label dietary supplements to retail outlets including grocery and natural food stores.

References: MacRedmond, R., et al (2010), Conjugated linoleic acid improves airway hyper-reactivity in overweight mild asthmatics. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 40: 1071–1078. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2010.03531.x.

Bergamo, P., et al (2011), Conjugated linoleic acid protects against gliadin-induced depletion of intestinal defenses. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 55: S248–S256. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100295.

Bassaganya-Riera, J., et al (2012), Conjugated linoleic acid modulates immune responses in patients with mild to moderately active Crohn’s disease. Clinical Nutrition, 31: 721-727. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2012.03.002.

 


 

Stressed Out? Yeast Extract May Support Mood and Immune Function

By Maureen Williams, ND

Persistent stress takes a toll, making the body and mind vulnerable to infection and mood disorders such as as anxiety and depression. Effective stress management might include taking a yeast extract, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The study found that women under moderately intense psychological stress had better moods, higher energy levels, and fewer infections when they took a supplement containing beta-glucan from baker’s yeast.

Beta-glucan to battle stress

Beta-glucans are polysaccharides, or fibers, found in foods such as mushrooms, oat bran and other brans, and baker’s yeast. Some beta-glucans have been found to prevent heart disease and others boost immune cell activity.

In this study, 77 healthy women with self-described “moderate” stress levels were enrolled in this study. They were given either placebo (no treatment) or 250 mg of beta-glucan from baker’s yeast daily for 12 weeks. The women recorded information about their moods, perceived stress level, and health during the study.

Better health linked to better moods and energy

These differences were seen:

  • Women in the beta-glucan group reported fewer cold symptoms, such as sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, and cough, during the study than the women in the placebo group.
  • Mood scores improved by 29% in the women taking beta-glucan, compared with the placebo group that improved by just 16%.
  • Scores for vigor (measured with survey questions on physical energy, mental sharpness, and emotional well-being) also improved more in the beta-glucan group: by 41% in the beta-glucan group, compared with 7% in the placebo group.

“These data show that daily dietary supplementation with [a specific baker’s yeast beta-glucan supplement] reduces upper respiratory symptoms and improves mood state in stressed subjects, and thus it may be a useful approach for maintaining immune protection against daily stressors,” the study’s authors said.

Reducing stress for better health

This study shows that taking beta-glucan from baker’s yeast might help support physical and mental health for those experiencing stress. Here are some other strategies to prevent stress from taking its toll:

  • Take a hike. Physical activity can reduce stress and relieve anxiety and depression. Researchers have found that exercising outdoors is especially beneficial.
  • Get to bed. Sleep is critical to recovering from the effects of each day’s stressors, so don’t let activities and busyness get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
  • Practice relaxation. Mindfulness relaxation techniques for stress reduction can be an effective tool for helping control stress response.
  • Add C. Vitamin C supplementation has been found to reduce both physical and emotional signs of stress (500 to 1,000 mg, twice daily, would be a reasonable amount for this purpose). 

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Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References:  J Am Coll Nutr  2012;31:295-300

 


 

Herbal Defense Against the Common Cold

By Maureen Williams, ND

A special fiber from the bark of the larch tree, called arabinogalactan, may be another weapon in the arsenal against the common cold, according to a study that found that people who supplemented with arabinogalactan got fewer colds.

The study, published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, included 199 people who reported getting colds frequently—at least three times in six months. They were assigned to receive either 4.5 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of larch arabinogalactan powder per day or placebo and were monitored for 12 weeks.

Larch arabinogalactan users have fewer colds

Arabinogalactan appeared to make a small difference: 60% of the people in the supplement group got a cold during the study compared to 74% in the placebo group and the arabinogalactan users had more cold-symptom-free days (77 days) compared to placebo (74 days). The duration and severity of symptoms was the same in both groups.

The study’s authors comment that “larch arabinogalactan increased the body’s potential to defend against common cold infection,” noting that both groups had fewer colds than expected during the study, suggesting that the protective effect of arabinogalactan may have been more pronounced if the rate of colds had been higher.

Arabinogalactan and immunity

While scientists still don’t know exactly how larch arabinogalactan works, studies done in test tubes have found that it can increase the activity of specific immune cells and increase antibody production. It is also known to act as a prebiotic, increasing populations of friendly bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria help keep the immune system working properly, and studies have shown that increasing the number of friendly bacteria in the gut can reduce susceptibility to some infections, including colds.

Build your defenses against colds

Larch arabinogalactan may help your immune system better fight off cold viruses, but viruses are very clever and you might improve your odds staying healthy if you use multiple weapons to keep them at bay:

  • Gargle & rinse. A daily practice of gargling with plain water can keep your risk of colds down, and a traditional “neti pot” (sterilize before using) or any nasal saline rinse can help flush out bacteria or virus from your sinuses.
  • Rest. Lack of sleep and too much stress can wear down your defenses and increase your susceptibility.
  • Limit sugar. The higher your blood sugar level, the slower your immune cells work. Avoid spikes in blood sugar levels by eating high-fiber complex carbohydrates instead of sugars and refined grains.
  • Take vitamin C. Although we don’t know for sure whether it is preventive, studies have found that taking vitamin C during a cold may reduce its duration and severity. You need at least 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day to have an effect.
  • Take a cold rinse. Popular wisdom has it that cold water makes you stronger, and researchers have found it might be true: immune cells are more active after dunking briefly in cold water. Try taking a 30 to 60 second cold shower after your regular hot shower.

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Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References:  Curr Med Res Opin  2013;29:1-8

 


 

Are Multivitamins Safe?

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

Public opinion about multivitamins has swung from one extreme to another, leaving many to wonder whether they are a must-have health item, or something best left on the shelf. A large study has attempted to answer this question once and for all, and the results are reassuring that multivitamins are safe, and may offer health benefits as well.

Multivitamins, multiminerals, meta-analysis, and mortality

The study authors used a research method called meta-analysis to combine 21 controlled clinical trials on multivitamins and mortality—risk of death due to any cause. Only trials in which participants took a multivitamin-multimineral supplement every day, and which had a minimum duration of one year, were part of the analysis.

The 21 trials created a total sample of 91,074 adults who took multivitamin-multimineral supplements for an average of 43 months (3.6 years). Participants’ average age was 62 years, and 8,794 deaths occurred during the studies. From this large pool of data, the researchers concluded that compared with adults assigned to take multivitamin-multimineral supplements, those who did not take the supplements experienced:

  • no increased or decreased risk of all-cause mortality,
  • no increased or decreased risk of death due to vascular causes (heart disease and stroke), and
  • no increased or decreased risk of death due to cancer.

Considering multivitamins, finding balance

This large, comprehensive study found that death rates were no different for older adults taking multivitamin-multiminerals compared with adults not taking these supplements. Does this mean you should ditch your multivitamins? Not necessarily. The researchers also noted a trend toward decreased mortality in the supplement group. This finding isn’t statistically significant, but still, it suggests that contrary to previous observational studies, multivitamins may offer benefit. And it’s reassuring to note that unlike the previous studies, this large meta-analysis did not note any increase in mortality among supplement users. Our tips can help decode the multivitamin puzzle as it applies to you and your family:

  • Account for age. The study focused on older adults starting supplements later in life. The results may not apply to younger adults or children.
  • Consider duration. Vascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases develop over decades; the short study timeframes—an average 3.6 years—may not be long enough to accurately capture the relationship between multivitamin-multimineral supplements and mortality.
  • Underlying health. This study focused on generally healthy adults. Multivitamin-multimineral supplements may benefit people who have a poor diet or compromised nutritional status for other reasons, such as an existing illness or inability to consume a healthy, varied diet.
  • Supplement smartly. According to lead study author Dr. Helen MacPherson, PhD, “As most commercially available multivitamins approximate the recommended daily value, excessive intake may be more likely in those who use multiple dietary supplements than in those who take [only] a daily multivitamin.” To minimize the risk of overdoing it, read labels carefully, and avoid loading up on multiple supplements with the same nutrients.
  • Keep skepticism intact. The study authors note that previous, highly publicized reports from large observational studies, “have led to considerable concern regarding potential harm associated with multivitamin-multimineral use.” This meta-analysis included only controlled clinical trials—the gold standard of evidence— and it suggests that this level of alarm may be unwarranted. Multivitamins do not appear to increase risk of death in older adults.
  • Aim for balance. Many people like to take a multivitamin as nutritional insurance, to fill in the gaps when they are eating a less-than-perfect diet. If you do decide to take a multivitamin, this study offers support that this choice is safe. For optimal benefit, avoid mega-doses of any one nutrient, and select a product that offers about 100% of the daily value for most nutrients.
  • Assess personal needs. The study results don’t address specific health needs. For example, if osteoporosis is your concern, you may want to focus on particular nutrients, such as vitamins D and K, calcium, and magnesium. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine what you need to stay in tip-top health.

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Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References:  Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:437-44

 

 

Fatty Acid from Fish is Brain Food for Kids

By Maureen Williams, ND

More and more, science supports fish oil’s reputation as brain food. The latest evidence comes from a study that found both reading and behavior improved in primary school-aged children who were reading below their grade level after supplementing with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Giving the brain a boost

The study, published in PLoS One, included 362 reading-challenged children from 6 to 10 years old attending primary school in Oxfordshire, UK. All of the children ate fish no more than twice per week and had reading scores in the lowest 33% for their age, which means that their reading ability was approximately 18 months below the expectation for their actual age. They were given either 600 mg of DHA or a similar amount of a corn and soybean oil blend every day for 16 weeks.

Reading and behavior improve

To assess the effect of DHA, reading and memory tests were performed, and parents and teachers filled out questionnaires about the children’s behavior, at the beginning and end of the study. The assessments showed the following:

  • Overall, the children in the DHA group improved the same amount in reading as the children who received the corn/soy oil; however, when considered separately, the DHA-taking children in the lowest 20% for reading (reading at a level 2 years younger than their age) improved significantly more than their corn/soy oil counterparts. Reading improvement was most pronounced in children with reading scores in the lowest 10% for their age.
  • Children in the lowest 20% for reading who received DHA improved slightly more on memory tests than those on the corn/soy oil blend, but this difference was not statistically significant.
  • Parents’ behavior ratings for the children taking DHA improved more than those for the children receiving the corn/soy oil blend. Teachers’ behavior ratings, however, showed no difference in behavioral improvements in the DHA and corn/soy oil groups.

“This study provides the first evidence that dietary supplementation with the omega-3 [fatty acid] DHA might improve both the behavior and the learning of healthy children from the general school population,” the study’s authors said. They further pointed out that, based on their findings, “DHA supplementation should be regarded as a targeted intervention for the poorest readers, rather than as a universal [approach].”

Nourishing your child to help them learn

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oil, which, along with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), is known to be important for normal brain and nervous system development, and there is growing evidence that low intakes of EPA and DHA are associated with learning and behavior problems in children.

Here are some things to consider if your child needs support for reading and behavior difficulties:

  • Let them eat fish. The amount of DHA used in this study can only be reached by eating a couple of ounces of fish every day. Unfortunately, water contaminants like mercury and PCBs accumulate in fish, making it potentially unsafe for children to eat fish every day. Having fish two to three times per week is generally considered safe, and supplements like the one used in this study can be used to keep DHA intake high between fish meals.
  • Sell them on seaweed. Seaweed contains small amounts of DHA. Snacking on seaweeds like nori and dulse and including them in rice dishes and soups is a nice way to give your child’s intake of DHA a little boost.
  • Choose fortified foods. EPA and DHA fortified eggs and dairy products are increasingly available. Including these foods will further enhance your child’s omega-3 fatty acid intake.

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Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References:  PLoS One 2012; 7:e43909. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043909

 

 

Garlic Plus CoQ10: Cardiovascular Protection for Stressed Men

By Maureen Williams, ND

A study has found that men at high risk for heart attack had better blood vessel function after one year of taking a combination of aged garlic extract and coenzyme Q10, two supplements that have been found separately to have cardiovascular benefits.

Blood vessels are specially designed to respond to the ever-changing blood flow needs in different parts of the body. Healthy blood vessels are elastic, flexible, and strong, but many people unknowingly have low-level chronic inflammation in their blood vessel walls, causing the walls to become thicker and less flexible, and increasing heart attack risk. Supplements with anti-inflammatory properties, like aged garlic and CoQ10, are thought to help.

Signs of vessel disease in men with stressful work

Stress is well known to play a role in heart disease. The study, published in Nutrition, included 65 male urban firefighters. Firefighting is stressful work and firefighters have a much higher risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death than the overall population. Participants were assigned to receive either 1,200 mg of aged garlic extract plus 120 mg of CoQ10 per day or placebo for one year. Tests that reflect the degree of thickening and loss of elasticity in blood vessels, which may be signs of atherosclerosis, were done at the beginning of the study and every three months.

Supplements support blood vessels

Based on these test results, the blood vessels of the firefighters who took garlic and CoQ10 had more elasticity and better responsiveness at the end of the study than at the beginning. These improvements were significant when compared to the slight worsening of blood vessel function seen in the firefighters in the placebo group.

In addition, blood levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) dropped in the garlic plus CoQ10 group but increased in the placebo group. CRP is a marker of inflammation in the cardiovascular system and high levels are associated with increased cardiac risk.

The link between blood vessel function and heart health

Although these results don’t tell us for sure whether aged garlic extract plus CoQ10 can prevent heart attacks, improvement in blood vessel function is a good sign that vessel damage from atherosclerosis—a known risk factor for heart attack—is being repaired.

“This is the first study to demonstrate a benefit with a combination of aged garlic extract and CoQ10 on atherosclerotic progression in intermediate-risk firefighters with high occupational stress,” the study’s authors said. “The present study demonstrates that, after one year of aged garlic extract plus CoQ10, the vascular elasticity and endothelial function in firefighters improved significantly.”

Other ways to improve vascular health

Taking an aged garlic extract plus CoQ10 supplement might be a good idea if you have or are at high risk for developing atherosclerosis. Here are some other things you can do to protect your blood vessels:

  • Learn to relax. Blood vessels are especially sensitive to stress, and studies show that having a daily relaxation practice can reduce your cardiac risk.
  • Exercise. Your blood vessels need a healthy workout every day. Make aerobic physical activity part of your regular routine.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are essential for preventing inflammation that leads to damage and dysfunction in blood vessel walls.

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Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References:  Nutrition 2012; doi:10.1016/j.nut.2012.03.016

 


 

Nutrition for Stroke Prevention

By Maureen Williams, ND

Healthy eating habits are important in preventing a wide range of health problems, including stroke. A new review of the science looking at nutrition and stroke found that eating certain healthy foods and an overall healthy diet effectively reduces stroke risk.

Certain foods can help prevent stroke

The review, published in Nutrition Reviews, included 34 studies that examined the relationship between diet and stroke risk. Drawing on the findings from these studies, the reviewers made the following conclusions about specific foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables: People who eat three to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day have a lower stroke risk than people who eat less than three.
  • Soy: Studies done in Japan suggest that eating soy foods can protect against stroke, but not enough research has been done to say whether soy foods have the same protective effect in other populations.
  • Fish: Eating a moderate amount of non-fried fish appears to be protective, but high levels may increase the risk of a type of stroke known as hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke involves bleeding in an area of the brain, while the more common type of stroke, called ischemic stroke, involves loss of blood flow to an area in the brain.
  • Whole grains: The evidence so far points toward a protective effect for whole grains, but more research is needed to draw a firm conclusion.
  • Animal foods: Eating eggs does not change stroke risk, but the relationships between meat and dairy consumption and stroke risk are still unclear.

Eating a healthy diet is also protective

The reviewers made the following conclusions about overall dietary patterns:

  • Prudent vs. Western diet: A prudent diet, characterized by high amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, is associated with a lower stroke risk, while a Western diet, which includes high meat, refined grain, and sweets consumption is linked to a higher stroke risk.
  • DASH: Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) guidelines has been found to lower blood pressure and stroke risk. DASH emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy foods, nuts, chicken, and fish, and limits red meat, sweets, and refined grains.
  • Mediterranean diet: This diet is characterized by high amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and olive oil, moderate amounts of fish and wine, and low meat consumption. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with a reduced stroke risk.
  • Low-fat diet: Although it appears that shifting from saturated fats to poly- and monounsaturated fats may help prevent stroke, cutting down on all dietary fats has no effect on stroke risk.

Lower your stroke risk

Based on all of these findings, eating a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables is the best-supported nutritional method for preventing stroke. Here are some other things to do to reduce your stroke risk:

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking damages small arteries in the brain and increases the likelihood of forming a blood clot, dramatically increasing stroke risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight is associated with dangerous changes in the blood vessels that supply the brain, and puts an extra burden on the heart, leading to higher stroke risk.
  • Stay active. Physical activity, even into the senior years, has a clear benefit for stroke risk. 

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Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References:  Nutr Rev 2012;70:423–35 


 

Aloe Vera and the Benefits of Polysaccharides

By Bill Pine

Aloe vera continues to be in the top two herbal ingredients the consumer recognizes and requests in the products they purchase. This succulent and a member of the lily family is known to the consumer market as an ingredient that relieves sun burn pain, aids in healing a wound and relieving dry irritated skin. These benefits have long been observed by users of topical product containing aloe vera.

Today more and more consumers are consuming aloe vera to see the same benefits internally. This the same concept of “beauty from within”. Why is it that this herb delivers these benefits? What is thought to deliver the beneficial activities we see in quality products that contain aloe?

It is the consensus of research that the polysaccharides in aloe vera are responsible for the benefits found in this herb. The polysaccharides are sometimes referred to as acemannan, the biologically active polysaccharide isolated from aloe vera in 1984 by Dr. Bill H. McAnalley at Carrington Laboratories. These polysaccharides have been shown to be predominately mannose with small amounts of glucose and galactose. They are stable and non-toxic. Carrington research has shown these polysaccharides stimulate the macrophage in the body’s innate immune system. Macrophages are phagocytic immune cells that ingest and destroy viruses, bacteria and tumor cells. These cells also secrete a number of important chemicals such as growth factors, enzymes and cytokines. The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) can destroy tumor cells and stimulate fibroblast cells for wound healing. Macrophages can release interleukins that can enhance inflammation against infection.

Macrophages, essential immune cells, act as directors of various immune responses and activities through the coordinated release of compounds like cytokines and chemokines. Several studies have demonstrated that the saccharide portions of several microorganisms and plant polysaccharides, like those in aloe vera, are powerful macrophage activators. Activated macrophages are deeply involved in self-regulated immunomodulation. This accounts for the broad range of benefits historically attributed to aloe like wound healing, infection control, immunomodulation, etc.

Acemannan (aloe polysaccharides), the active component in aloe vera, has been credited with a variety of benefits, which have usually caused disbelief or debate in people. However it is evident acemannan is able to provide these benefits by activating and modulating the activity of the macrophages. Once these cells are activated, they can produce the variety of immune compounds needed to manifest benefits such as, wound healing, infection control, etc. Again, nature has designed a mechanism to activate the immune system with self-regulating immunomodulation.  

For those interested in more information on aloe vera, one can contact the International Aloe Science Council (IASC) at iasc.org.

Story Source:  Bill Pine is the vice president of sales and marketing for Improve USA, headquartered in DeSoto, Texas. Mr. Pine is a board officer on the executive committee of the International Aloe Science Council (IASC).

References:  The Science Behind Aloe: The Healing Plant, edited by Bill. H. McAnalley, PhD


 

Nutrient Recommendations from Both Sides of the Atlantic

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

The European Food Safety Authority has weighed in on the debate about how much vitamin Dcalcium, and essential fatty acids can be taken safely over the long term. These recommendations, which are issued by the Institute of Medicine in the United States as well, are known as tolerable upper intake levels (ULs). The science on nutrient safety isn’t always 100% clear, so it can be helpful to consider where different panels of health experts around the globe set these limits.

Compare and contrast

The upper end of safe intakes for most nutrients are not ordinarily reached or surpassed by people eating a typical diet in Europe or the US. For the majority, food alone will not put a person in danger of nutrient toxicity. But when adding dietary supplements and fortified foods, upper intake levels are needed to protect people against toxicity. We can use these numbers to guide our choices for safe use of dietary supplements and fortified foods.

Here’s how tolerable upper intake levels compare on both sides of the Atlantic:

Vitamin D

  • The UL for children 11 years old and up and adults is 4,000 IU per day in the US and in Europe.
  • The UL for 8- to 11-year-olds is 4,000 IU per day in the US, though in Europe, the UL for this age group is lower, at 2,000 IU daily.
  • The UL for 1- to 10-year-old children is 2,000 IU per day in Europe, though in the US this age group is broken down further. In the US the UL is 2,520 IU per day for 1- to 3-year-olds, 3,000 IU per day for 4- to 8-year-olds, and 4,000 IU per day for 9- to 13-year-olds.
  • The UL for infants—children under 1 year old—is 1,000 IU per day in Europe, though in the US, again, this age group is broken down further; the UL is 1,000 IU per day for newborns up to 6 months, and increases to 1,520 IU daily for infants 6 months to 1 year old.

Calcium

  • In Europe, the UL for calcium is simple: 2,500 mg per day for all adults.
  • For children, the European Food Safety Authority has indicated that, “Although available data do not allow the setting of a UL for infants, children, or adolescents, no risk has been identified with highest current levels of calcium intake in these age groups.”
  • In the US, the calcium ULs are broken down by age, with daily levels set at:
    • Newborns to 6 months: 1,000 mg
    • 6 months to 1 year: 1,500 mg
    • 1 year to 8 years: 2,500 mg
    • 9 to 18 years: 3,000 mg
    • Adults up to 50 years: 2,500 mg
    • Adults 51 years and older: 2,000 mg
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, 18 years and older: 2,500 mg
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, younger than 18 years: 3,000 mg

Essential fatty acids

  • The European Food Safety Authority states that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to set safe upper limit values for essential fatty acids, which include the long-chain omega-3 fats found in fish and seafood. However, they indicate that supplementing up to 5 grams per day appears to be safe, and recommend all adults get a minimum of 250 to 500 mg of these omega-3 fats daily for good health.
  • In the US, there are no official safe upper limits for essential fats, though the FDA indicates that intakes up to 3 grams per day are safe. The American Heart Association indicates that aiming for 900 mg per day of omega-3 fats—the amount that research suggests can lessen cardiovascular disease risk—is a good goal for all Americans.

Supplement with savvy, factor in fortification

There is much overlap between the safe upper limits for vitamin D, calcium, and essential fatty acids set by health agencies in Europe and in the US. Where these numbers diverge, you should consult your doctor or dietitian with any questions you have about how much of these nutrients are safe for you.

Also keep in mind the following points as you plan out your nutrition choices:

  • Use safe upper limits. These are set to provide guidance on appropriate nutrient intakes for the general population. There are always exceptions: for example, higher levels might be needed to address deficiency. Also, higher amounts may be needed to treat a particular medical condition. Consult your doctor or dietitian if you feel you need higher levels of any nutrient.
  • Keep track of all sources of nutrient intake. Many foods are now fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and/or essential fatty acids. If you use fortified foods, you may not need any dietary supplements of these nutrients at all.
  • Go to food first. Most nutrients are best absorbed, and occur in safe amounts, in their naturally occurring form in food. For example, our bodies do best with calcium from dairy, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, rather than larger quantities of calcium taken all at once as a dietary supplement.
  • Remember balance. Sometimes, taking large quantities of one nutrient can make it harder for our bodies to absorb or use other important nutrients. Before you supplement single nutrients, talk with a knowledgeable healthcare provider about getting a good balance of all vital nutrients. 

Story Source: Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor. She is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: European Food Safety Authority - “Upper intake levels reviewed for vitamin D and calcium
European Food Safety Authority - “EFSA assesses safety of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids


 

Protect the Prostate with the Right Amount of Selenium

By Maureen Williams, MD

What can men do to prevent prostate cancer, the most common type of cancer in men in the US, UK, and Europe? Be sure to get enough selenium, a new review says, after finding that men with high (but not excessively high) selenium levels have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Pulling together the research

The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used data from 12 studies with a combined total of more than 13,000 participants. The studies looked at the relationships between prostate cancer risk and blood selenium levels, selenium content of toenail clippings, and selenium intake.

The reviewers combined the data and analyzed it to identify whether a relationship existed. They looked at:

  • Blood levels: Men with higher levels of selenium in their blood had a lower risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and a lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.
  • Toenail clipping content: The selenium content of toenail clippings had what is known as a U-shaped relationship (because it is represented by a graph that is U-shaped) to prostate cancer risk: more selenium appeared protect against risk up to a point, but after that point, the risk began to rise again as selenium increased.
  • Dietary intake: In general, higher selenium intake through diet and supplements was linked to lower prostate cancer risk, but one study again found that at very high intakes, selenium was no longer protective. Differences in the ways the studies were done made it impossible for the researchers to recommend an ideal daily intake.

Selenium’s complicated considerations

Although some of the studies did not show this tapering off of protection from selenium, the reviewers speculated that selenium levels and intakes in these studies may not have been high enough to show the possible detrimental effects of having too much.

The results led the reviewers to comment on the complex nature of the relationship between selenium and prostate cancer, saying, “We showed in our dose-response meta-analysis that a decreased risk of prostate cancer appears to be associated with a relatively narrow range of selenium status.” They emphasized the importance of clearly identifying the ideal range in order to make safe recommendations about supplementing with selenium.

Get your selenium—but not too much

Selenium is a mineral micronutrient and a powerful antioxidant. Scientists believe it plays a role in cancer prevention and some studies have found that it protects against colon and lung cancers, as well as prostate cancer. It also keeps the immune system strong and appears to protect the heart and blood vessels.

Here are some ways to ensure that you get enough selenium every day:

  • Have a Brazil nut. Brazil nuts are the most highly concentrated source of selenium. Just one Brazil nut per day can provide enough selenium to maintain a healthy level in your body.
  • Add mushrooms. Crimini (button) and shitake mushrooms can be good sources of selenium if they come from selenium-rich soil.
  • Include seafood. Cod, tuna, halibut, shrimp, scallops, sardines, and salmon are excellent sources of selenium.
  • Consider the guidelines. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 55 mcg per day for adults, and many healthcare providers recommend supplements with 100 to 200 mcg per day.

Story Source:  Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved. 

References: (Am J Clin Nutr 2012; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.033373)


 

Choline: Little Know Nutrient Essential for Life

By Robert M. Levy, MD

Almost all mammal cells contain choline. Choline is required for production of phospholipids (major components of cell membranes), production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and is required for brain development and neural tube closure. Dietary choline occurs free or bound to phospholipids, but can be synthesized by the human body assuming the required precursor molecules (building blocks) are available. Human cells have an absolute requirement for choline without which they die.

Adequate intake level (AI) for women is 450 mg each day, and up to 550 mg during pregnancy and lactation. The level in neonates is 3-6 times higher than maternal blood. Current data suggest that most pregnant and lactating women do not achieve the AI and most prenatal vitamins do not contain choline. Human milk contains about 160-210 mg choline/l, a level that falls toward the end of pregnancy, presumably because of increased need of the developing fetus. The AI for infants in the first 6 months of life is about 25 mg/day rising to 150 mg/day for months 6-12. Animals fed choline deficient diets during pregnancy may have offspring with growth retardation and developmental abnormalities of bone, kidneys and other organs. 

Choline metabolism is intimately connected to levels of folate and vitamin B12. Choline deficiency is associated with neural tube defects in humans. Women in the lowest 25% of choline intake have approximately a 4-fold greater risk of having a child with a neural tube defect than choline replete women. Animal experiments have shown that choline can reverse some of the effects of developmental folate deficiency. Several genetic defects affecting choline synthesis have been identified and it is thought that more than half the population carry at least one of the genetic variations. These people are at greater risk for choline deficiency in the absence of adequate dietary intake. This may be of particular importance in pregnancy where inadequate maternal and fetal levels of choline may affect neurological development. 

Choline and brain development

Many studies have shown that improved cognitive and special function induced by choline supplementation in the fetal and neonatal stages persists into adulthood. Conversely, prenatal choline deficiency is associated with effects in learning and memory that persist throughout life. Studies in rats suggest that adequate choline intake early in life may decrease or delay the onset of memory deficits in older animals. For example, using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, choline levels were found to be decreased in selected brain areas in infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Similar results were found in teenagers and young adults with FASD. This is compatible with prior animal work in which choline was able to prevent many of the effects of prenatally administered alcohol even after alcohol induced brain damage and, possibly—although to a lesser extent—even when administered in the postnatal period.

The timing of supplement administration appears to be important and coincides with the time of peak development of learning and memory centers in the brain. At present it is not known if the effects of pre/perinatal choline are due to an augmentation of the number of neural cells, their number of connections, alteration in their organization, changes in membrane content or configurations, metabolic enhancement, or a phenomenon called metabolic imprinting. It seems most likely, however, that the underlying mechanism for the lifelong behavioral and cognitive effects of choline begin with modification of existing DNA, altered gene expression and changes in neural progenitor cells and neural organization that occur in prenatal learning, memory and visual centers in the brain beginning in the prenatal period and continuing until about age 3-4 years. 

In summary, choline is an essential, but little known nutrient, especially important for maintenance of neurologic and metabolic health. Maternal requirements increase significantly during pregnancy and lactation. Care should be taken to choose prenatal and postnatal vitamin preparation containing choline supplementation.

Story Source: Robert M. Levy, MD, is the Director of Clinical Development at Primus Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Levy is Board Certified in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine and was in private practice in the State of Washington for 30 years. He was the founder and president of the Olympia Arthritis Clinic and Olympia Osteoporosis Center, and the Medical Director of South Sound Clinical Research Center. Dr. Levy received his MD from the University of Chicago School of Medicine and completed his rheumatology fellowship at the Scripps Clinic & Research Foundation.

References: Astley SJ, Richards T, Aylward EH, et al. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy outcomes from a comprehensive magnetic resonance study of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Magn Reson Imaging. 2009.27:760-8.

Bremer J, Greenberg D. Methyl transferring enzyme system of microsomes in the biosynthesis of lecithin (phosphatidycholine). Biochim Biophys Acta. 1961. 16:205-16.

Caudill MA, Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010.110:1198-206.

Craciunesco CN, Johnson AR, Zeisel SH. Dietary choline reveres some, but not all, effects of folate deficiency on neurogenesis and apoptosis in fetal mouse brain. J Nutr. 2010.140:1162-6.

da Costa KA, Kozyreva OG, Song J, et al. Common genetic polymorphisms have major effects on the human requirement for the nutrient choline. FASEB J. 2004.20:1336-44.

Fagerlund A. Heikkinen S, Autti-Ramo I. et al. Brain metabolic alterations in adolescents and young adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006.30:2097-104. 

Food and Nutrition Board: Institute of medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Dietary reference intake for Thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin and choline. Wash. DC. National Academy Press. 1988.

Meck WH, Smith RA, Williams CL. Pre- and postnatal choline supplementation produces long term facilitation of special memory. Dev Psychobiol. 1988.21:339-53.

Meck WH, Smith RA, Williams CL. Organizational changes in cholinergic activity and enhanced visuospacial memory as a function of choline administered prenatally or postnatally or both. Behav Neurosci. 1989.103:1234-41.

Meck WH, Williams CL. Characterization of the facilitative effects of perinatal choline supplementation on timing and temporal memory. Neuroreport. 1997.8: 2831-5.

Meck WH, Williams CL. Metabolic imprinting of choline by its availability during gestation: implications for memory and attentional processing across the lifespan. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2003.27:385-99.

Ryan SH, Williams JK, Thomas JD. Choline supplementation attenuates learning deficits associated with neonatal alcohol exposure in the rat: Effects of varying the timing of choline administration. Brain Res. 2008.1237:91-100.

Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, et al. Periconceptual dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am j Epidem. 2004.160:102-9.

Schenk F, Brandner C. Indirect effects of peri- and postnatal choline treatment on place learning abilities in the rat. Psychobiol. 1995.23:302-13.

Thomas JD, Garrison M, O’Neill TM. Perinatal choline supplementation attenuates behavioral alterations associated with neonatal alcohol exposure in rats. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2004.26:35-45.

Tees RC. The influences of sex, rearing environment and neonatal choline dietary supplementation on spacial and non-spacial learning and memory in adult rats. Dev Psychobiol. 1999. 35:328-42.

Yen CL, Mar MH, Meefer RB, et al. Choline deficiency induces apoptosis in primary cultures of fetal neurons. FASEB J. 2001.15:1704-10.

Zeisel SH, Blusztajn JK. Choline and human nutrition. Ann Rev Nutr. 1994.14:269-96.

Zeisel SH. The fetal origins of memory: the role of dietary choline in optimal brain development. J Pediatr. 2006a.149 (5 suppl) S131-6.

Zeisel SH, Niculescu MD. Perinatal choline influences brain structure and function. Nutr Rev. 2006b.64:197-203.

Zeisel SH. Choline:critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults. Ann Rev Nutr. 2006c.26:229-50.


 

Heart News: Nrf2

By David Brown

A few decades ago, scientists and doctors were working to educate the public about “new” information relative to health and longevity: cholesterol. These days, it’s difficult to find someone unaware of cholesterol and its impact on health. Cholesterol and its impact on health has almost become yesterday’s news.

Enter Nrf2. Nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2, also known as NFE2L2 or Nrf2, and its effect on health, is science’s latest breakthrough. If you haven’t heard about it yet, trust me, you will.

Nrf2 has so much potential it’s already being studied at virtually every major university and research institution in the world, as well as by several major pharmaceutical companies.

Nrf2 is of interest because it’s a protein messenger contained in every cell of the body. It sends information to the DNA, which is important because your genes make you who you are and what you are, giving you your unique personality and your physical traits.

In recent years, scientists have discovered Nrf2’s ability to up-regulate protective genes such as the antioxidant enzymes, as well as its ability to down-regulate genes that may have a negative effect on health, such as pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic genes that can lead to inflammation as well as scarring. Together, these abilities at the genetic level provide a remarkable potential for protection from many kinds of age-related health conditions.

Because Nrf2 acts as a molecular switch for the body’s own defense system, when activated it enters the nucleus of every cell in the body and turns up “survival genes.” Survival genes are stress response genes that enable cells to survive tough times and  to survive in the face of several different kinds of stress, particularly oxidative stress resulting from the over production of free radicals and other oxidants, but also traumatic stress, such as when cells, organs and blood vessels are injured.

So stay tuned. Keep an eye on the latest information scientists are gleaning and working to share, and it’s a given you’ll be hearing more about Nrf2 and the important role it plays in good health.

Story Source: David Brown is the President of LifeVantage Network. Mr. Brown earned his Juris Doctor degree from Cornell University, and is a current member of the Natural Products Foundation Board of Directors. 

Additional Info: Supplements for Heart Health


 

Focus on the Bilberry

By Rebecca Schauer, RD

Bilberries are closely related to the North American blueberry and huckleberry and are in the same genus Vaccinium. These purple-blue berries get their pigmentation from compounds called anthocyanins, which have demonstrated potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  

Considerable attention and research has focused on the health benefits of bilberry fruits, and the following is an overview of recent findings. Many of these studies employed mouse models because they are the most commonly used vertebrate species for health research, and are widely considered to be the prime model of inherited human disease and share 99% of their genes with humans. Human clinical studies typically follow once such animal studies produce strong evidence.    

Diabetes

In one study, researchers tested the effect of dietary bilberry extracts on hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic mice. They found that dietary bilberry extract supplementation significantly reduced blood glucose concentrations and enhanced insulin sensitivity in these mice. The authors suggest the findings provide a biochemical basis for the use of bilberry fruits, and have important implications for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Eye Health

Bilberry has been considered effective in helping boost circulation to the eyes, providing needed nutrients that protect eyes from eyestrain and fatigue.

In another mouse study, oral administration of bilberry extract showed protective effects against uveitis [inflammation of the uvea, the vascular layer of the eye sandwiched between the retina and the white of the eye (sclera)] by decreasing endogenous free radical compounds and increasing endogenous antioxidant compounds, and the effects of the bilberry extract were dose-dependent. The author’s results provide new evidence to help elucidate the beneficial effects of bilberry extract on eye health.

Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease

The various and abundant polyphenols found in bilberries as well as several other plant foods have been associated with the ability to prevent and treat chronic inflammatory diseases.

In a human study, investigators looked at the effect of bilberry juice on serum and plasma biomarkers of inflammation and antioxidant status in subjects with elevated levels of at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This was a randomized controlled trial where participants consumed either bilberry juice or water.  Supplementation with the bilberry juice resulted in significant decreases in plasma concentrations of pro-inflammatory proteins that are crucial in orchestrating inflammatory responses. Plasma levels of polyphenols from bilberry, specifically quercetin and p-coumaric acid, were increased in the bilberry group. The authors suggest that supplementation with bilberry polyphenols may modulate inflammation processes, and recommend further testing of bilberry supplementation as a potential strategy in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Pruritus (Itchy Skin)

Researchers examined whether bilberry extract would alleviate pruritus in a mouse model of chronic allergic contact dermatitis. Oral treatment with bilberry extract significantly attenuated scratching behavior, and the authors propose that anthocyanins from bilberry might be beneficial for the treatment of chronic pruritus, which can occur in patients with inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis.

Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Another study examined the effects of anthocyanidin-enriched bilberry extracts on adipocyte (fat cell) differentiation. Treating the cells with bilberry extract strongly inhibited adipocyte differentiation via an insulin pathway. The authors propose bilberry extracts might be used as a potential complementary treatment for obese patients with metabolic syndrome - a cluster of conditions such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, or abnormal cholesterol levels that occur together, and increase risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Summary

Bilberries are one of the richest sources of dietary anthocyanins. Given the already documented effects of these compounds and ongoing interest by scientists to discover and define roles for an array of health conditions, the potential expansion for use of bilberry extracts, and similar polyphenol-type plant extracts, is very strong. 

Story Source: Rebecca Schauer, RD, is the Supplement Technical Director for Vitamer Labs, a division of Nexgen Pharma, Inc.

Additional Info: Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)


 

Resveratrol for Better Blood Sugar Control

By Maureen Williams, ND

Resveratrol—a colorful antioxidant found in red wine, grapes, peanuts, chocolate, and several other foods—has received plenty of recent attention, as previous research has found that it supports heart health. A preliminary study has also found that taking resveratrol led to improved blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, and blood vessel function in older people with high blood sugar levels.

The study, published in the Journal of Gerontology, included ten people over 65 whose fasting and after-meal blood sugar levels were higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. They took 1 gram, 1.5 grams, or 2 grams of resveratrol per day for four weeks, while maintaining their usual diet and activity level. The study is considered preliminary because there was no placebo group.

Better blood sugar control after resveratrol

At the end of the study, fasting blood sugar levels remained unchanged, but several other signs of improvement were noted:

  • Post-meal blood sugar levels were markedly reduced. This suggests that the participants had better blood sugar control.
  • Post-meal insulin levels were also reduced. When considered along with the fact that blood sugar levels were also down, this indicates an increase in insulin sensitivity.
  • There was a small but significant improvement in after-meal blood vessel function at the end of the study. This means blood vessels were better able to constrict and dilate in response to blood flow changes.

Early but promising findings

“Together, these results suggest that resveratrol shows promise as a new therapeutic strategy for an important and highly-prevalent metabolic disorder,” the study’s authors said. “This study provides the first evidence in humans that resveratrol may possess clinically relevant effects on glucose metabolism and vascular function.”

The researchers pointed out that their findings must be considered preliminary and need to be confirmed in placebo-controlled studies. They also noted that the study was too small to say whether there were different effects due to the different amounts of resveratrol used.

Eat your resveratrol

Resveratrol is found in a number of healthy foods, which may also be high in fiber, essential fatty acids, and other antioxidants that contribute to better insulin sensitivity, blood sugar maintenance, and vascular health. Here are some things to consider if you want to increase your resveratrol intake:

  • Consider a supplement. The amounts of resveratrol used in this and other studies are as much as 1,000 to 2,000 times higher than you can get from eating reasonable amounts of these foods. So, if you want to use resveratrol as a treatment, talk to your doctor about whether a supplement is a better idea for you.
  • Raise a glass of red wine. Red wine is the most concentrated source of resveratrol, and the longer the grape skins are left in during the fermentation process, the higher the resveratrol content. White wine has some, too, but much less.
  • Choose grape juice. Red grape juice has about half as much resveratrol as red wine, but without the alcohol. If your blood sugar levels have been high, however, you’re better off avoiding all juices.
  • Chew on some peanuts. Two ounces of peanuts is similar in resveratrol content to a fluid ounce of red wine. Sprouted peanuts have even more.
  • Pour on the berries. Blueberries, bilberries, cranberries, and mulberries all have some resveratrol. Eat them raw—heating depletes their resveratrol.
  • Enjoy some dark chocolate. Cocoa powder, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate provide small amounts of resveratrol. A small piece if dark chocolate is a nice treat, but pass on the more sugary chocolates if your blood sugar levels have been high.

Story Source: Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved.

References: (J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2012;doi:10.1093/gerona/glr235) 


 

Paint Your Heart Healthy with Flavonoids

By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

Eating more colorful, flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables may reduce the chance of dying from heart disease by up to 40%, says a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Fix it before it breaks

Preventing heart disease is easier than curing it. We already know a lot about how to keep the heart happy, like

  • not smoking,
  • maintaining a healthy weight,
  • keeping blood pressure in check, and
  • getting regular physical exercise.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is also key to preventing heart disease. These foods are rich in magnesium, potassium, and fiber that can help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Brightly colored fruits and veggies are also high in flavonoids, plant compounds that give foods such as oranges, broccoli, and so on their characteristic hues. Flavonoids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions in the body. They also inhibit the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and encourage blood vessel walls to relax, helping to lower blood pressure.

As part of the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, researchers from the American Cancer Society and Tufts University investigated how different types of flavonoid compounds in the diet might protect against death from heart disease. In the study, 38,180 men and 60,289 women (average age 69 and 70, respectively) gave detailed information about their diets. The amount and types of dietary flavonoids were estimated for each participant. For the next seven years, the participants were followed and deaths due to heart disease were recorded.

  • Of the seven classes of flavonoids studies, five of them were associated with a lower risk of heart disease death.
  • Risk of fatal heart disease was 18% lower in men and women who had the highest amounts of total flavonoids in their diets those with the lowest. The risk of fatal stroke dropped by 37% in men with the highest total flavonoid intake.
  • The subclass of flavonoids called flavones was especially beneficial for women. Women with the highest flavone intake had a 26% reduction in risk of overall heart disease death and a 40% reduction in risk of death from heart attack.

“Even relatively small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods may be beneficial for reducing risk of fatal cardiovascular disease,” commented the researchers.

Brighten your plate for a happier heart

Getting more flavonoids into your diet is as easy as blueberry pie. Just aim for a rainbow of colors throughout the day. You don’t have to get them all in at every meal, but when you’re planning your five-a-day of fruits and vegetables, make sure they’re not all in the white family.

Raspberries, strawberries, apples, blueberries, green tea, black tea, dark chocolate, red grapes, purple cabbage, red wine, oranges, grapefruit, kale, broccoli, onions, and leeks are all loaded with heart-healthy flavonoids.

Parsley, thyme, oregano, celery, and green chili peppers are rich sources of the subclass of flavonoids called flavones. These are the ones that may be especially helpful for women.

Story Source: Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes NewswireThe above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved.

References: (Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:454-64) 


 

Garlic and Immunity

By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO

Human immunity, far from being a static and fixed entity, is a dynamic and adaptive system. Our immune system is made up of diverse cells with elaborate communication networks. Numerous vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other nutrients impact this elaborate system. One of the unsung heroes of immune support is garlic.

Garlic is one of the most extensively eaten foods in the world. Although eaten for its culinary attributes, garlic has potent immune actions.  Garlic also has anti-microbial activities against bacteria, viruses, fungal organisms and parasites. Aged garlic extract increases the activity of several major immune cells including B-cells’ production of antibodies, macrophage activity, and the cell-killing actions of T-cells and natural killer cells. Studies have demonstrated that aged garlic extract protects lymphocytes (immune-supportive cells found in the blood and lymphatic system) from radiation destruction. Clinical studies have demonstrated that garlic shields beneficial bacteria in our intestines while destroying disease-causing fungal, viral, parasitic and bacterial organisms.

Regular consumption of garlic provides some measure of protection against infection. Garlic can also be used to support the body’s immune response to active infections, particularly sinusitis, bladder infections, digestive tract infections and the common cold. There are some additional benefits to garlic consumption and garlic supplementation. In addition to its immune-supportive actions, numerous studies have shown that aged garlic extract lowers multiple risk factors for heart disease. It helps to support healthy cholesterol levels, although it does not appear to have a significant cholesterol lowering effect in people with elevated cholesterol, reduces the risk of plaque formation (atherosclerosis), and exerts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, lowering certain markers of inflammation such as homocysteine. Garlic also improves blood flow dynamics and can help to maintain blood pressure within normal ranges. Additionally, aged garlic extract supports normal liver detoxification of heavy metals.

Raw garlic contains beneficial sulfur compounds. However, consuming raw garlic, while delicious, can be challenging due to the odorous nature of garlic. One way to obtain the health benefits of garlic without having to endure the odor is to take an odorless or aged garlic extract. Garlic can be aged without the use of heat for two years. The slow aging process transforms the volatile and odoriferous constituents in garlic into stabilized, sulfur-containing amino acids with antimicrobial benefits and with benefits to cardiovascular health. Aged garlic extract is by far the most widely studied garlic product available, although there are a variety of other potent garlic extracts including those standardized to allicin and alliin, considered two of the major antimicrobial constitutents of garlic.

Generally, standardized extract garlic and aged garlic capsules are taken in dosages ranging from 600mg to 1500mg daily. The safety of aged garlic extracts is well established, with more than 500 clinical studies on more than 1,000 subjects reporting no side effects with long term consumption. Although garlic extract is safe to take with most medications, in order to avoid drug-herb interactions, people taking daily medications should first consult with a licensed naturopathic or integrative healthcare provider.

 

Story Source: Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, is the Vice President of Quality and Education at Emerson Ecologics. Dr. Alschuler is board certified in naturopathic oncology and has been practicing naturopathic medicine since 1994. Dr. Alschuler is past-President of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is a current member of the NPF Board of Directors.

Selected References: Gardner CD, Lawson LD, Block E, Chatterjee LM, Kiazand A, Balise RR, Kraemer HC. Effect of raw garlic vs commercial garlic supplements on plasma lipid concentrations in adults with moderate hypercholesterolemia: a randomized clinical trial. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Feb 26;167(4):346-53.

Ishikawa H, Saeki T, Otani T, Suzuki T, Shimozuma K, Nishino H, Fukuda S, Morimoto K. Aged garlic extract prevents a decline of NK cell number and activity in patients with advanced cancer. Source J Nutr. 2006 Mar;136(3 Suppl):816S-820S.

Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Adv Ther. 2001 Jul-Aug;18(4):189-93.

Lamm DL, Riggs DR. The potential application of Allium sativum (garlic) for the treatment of bladder cancer. Urol Clin North Am. 2000 Feb;27(1):157-62, xi.

Ried K, Frank OR, Stocks NP. Aged garlic extract lowers blood pressure in patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension: a randomised controlled trial. Maturitas. 2010 Oct;67(2):144-50. Epub 2010 Jul 1. 


 

Lipoic Acid and Cardiovascular Health

By Giana Angelo, Ph.D.

What is Lipoic Acid?
Lipoic acid (LA), a compound synthesized in the body and obtained from food, is derived from a short-chain fatty acid. LA primarily serves as a critical cofactor, or assistant, in mitochondrial energy metabolism. At high concentrations, LA functions as an antioxidant, a metal-chelator, and in glucose metabolism.

Cardiovascular Disease
The antioxidant and metal-binding activities of LA may be particularly beneficial for diseases affected by oxidative stress and free-radical damage. Chief among such diseases is cardiovascular disease (CVD), referring to any abnormal condition affecting the heart and blood vessels that can progress to heart attack and stroke. CVD is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

Damage to blood vessels that supply the heart and brain with vital nutrients and oxygen is a common early event in CVD. Depending on the balance between injury and repair, these lesions can accumulate further damage, become constricted, and eventually result in a stroke or heart attack.  

Research Findings
In cell culture and animal studies, LA exerts several positive effects on cardiovascular health. One benefit is LA’s metal-chelating capacity. By binding reactive iron and copper, LA interferes with the recruitment of immune cells to sites of injury in blood vessel walls, a crucial initiating event in atherosclerosis. LA can also influence blood lipid profiles in animal models. For example, feeding LA to rats prevented diet-induced abnormalities in triglycerides and HDL, thereby significantly modifying known risk factors for CVD. Very limited research in humans suggests that LA supplementation improves blood vessel function in high-risk CVD patients.

Recommendations
The levels of LA needed to exert metabolic effects are not commonly achieved dietarily because LA from food is not readily absorbed. Supplemental LA is absorbed with higher efficiency; on an empty stomach, 30-40% of doses over 50 mg are absorbed.

Because it is not considered an essential nutrient, there are no formal dietary requirements for LA. Scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (LPI) are investigating the mechanisms underlying the observed benefits of LA and conducting clinical studies to evaluate the effects of LA in humans. In the meantime, the LPI Rx for Health suggests that healthy adults over age 50 may consider taking a daily LA supplement of 200-400 mg, doses that appear to be safe and without serious side effects. For more detailed information on lipoic acid, please visit the LPI Micronutrient Information Center at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/la.

Story Source: Giana Angelo, Ph.D. received her bachelor's degree in Biology from Cornell University, and her master's degree in Human Nutrition and doctoral degree in Cell and Molecular Nutrition from Tufts University. She performed her postdoctoral research in the Division of Basic Sciences at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. Currently, Dr. Angelo is a Research Associate at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. 


 

Vitamin D: A Defense Against Cancer?

By Jane Hart, MD

Studies suggest that globally people do not get enough vitamin D, and a lack of vitamin D may lead to serious health problems. Adding to evidence shown that getting plenty of vitamin D may help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology affirms these findings, suggesting that higher blood levels of vitamin D may lower their risk of colorectal cancer by more than 30%.

Linking vitamin D to lower risk

In this analysis, researchers reviewed data from 17 studies that included more than 13,000 participants, and looked at how much vitamin D people consumed through diet and supplements and examined whether there is a link between vitamin D blood levels and the risk of colorectal cancer. Blood levels of vitamin D were determined by measuring 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Results showed:

  • People with the highest vitamin D intake had a 12% lower risk of colorectal cancer and people with the highest blood levels had a 33% lower risk, compared with people with the least intake and the lowest blood levels.
  • Higher vitamin D was linked to an equal lowered risk for both colon cancer and rectal cancer.

“Vitamin D deficiency is considered an important risk factor for many types of solid cancers, especially colorectal cancer,” commented the study authors. “Among patients with colorectal cancer, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is much higher, approaching 90%, than among other patients. Several studies have demonstrated that vitamin D may decrease the risk of cancer through various mechanisms.”

Keep in mind that since the studies reviewed in this report were observational, they do not prove cause and effect. But they suggest an interesting association, which should be explored further through randomized, controlled trials.

Take Action

Here are some action steps to take to both optimize vitamin D levels and help prevent colorectal cancer:
  • Know your vitamin D levels. Talk with a doctor about the benefits of having your vitamin D level checked to find out whether you are getting enough vitamin D. If your doctor determines that your levels are low, talk about how to optimize vitamin D intake and whether or not a vitamin D supplement is appropriate for you.
  • Get your vitamin D. Vitamin D may come from exposure to sunshine, through the diet or through supplements. Food sources include vitamin D–fortified beverages and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel.
  • Take preventive steps. Many people could help prevent colorectal cancer through healthy lifestyle behaviors and routine preventive screenings,such as having your stool checked for blood and regular colonoscopies. To help optimize your health and prevent disease, talk with a doctor about preventive steps recommended for your age and medical history.

Story Source: Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker. The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Aisle7. All rights reserved.

References: J Clin Oncol 2011.10.1200/JCO.2011.35.7566


 

Keeping Foods and Beverages Safe

By Michael Kralik, PhD

Within the food and beverage industries, the primary control measure used to preserve the freshness and prevent spoilage is the pasteurization process. Spoilage bacteria are always present in the processing of food materials, and usually will not induce illness if ingested. However, pathogenic bacteria will cause illness, and foods left exposed at unsafe temperatures in the “Danger Zone” between 40º F and 140ºF for extended periods could be dangerous to eat. In general, it only takes twenty minutes for bacteria to double in number; so, that pitcher of juice, potato salad, or bottle of dressing could become a toxic microbial side dish in very little time at room temperature.

Proper handling, preparation, and preservation of foods readily control common pathogens like Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus spp., and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is an opportunistic pathogen. As such, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has outlined preparative control procedures to ensure the safety of food products. They require manufacturing plants to ensure that the processing conditions of foods results in at least a 5-Log reduction of microbial species present in the foods. This does not mean that the microorganisms present are completely eliminated, just that they are controlled so that continued careful handling will prevent food borne illness.

To extend the shelf-life of ingestible products, manufacturers frequently rely upon the addition of preservatives to processed foods. They are added to compensate for the consumer who may open and close a bottle or jar multiple times, and with each opening inoculate the food with environmental microbiological contaminants. Without the preservatives, the food would spoil very quickly and would have to be disposed of. Just think of how many times a bottle of salad dressing may be opened and closed again before being fully consumed!

Preservatives, however, should never be added to compensate for a faulty processing system. Manufacturers must ensure that their water systems and all the control steps, such as sanitation and pasteurization (typical batch pasteurization is at a temperature of >145º F for 30 minutes or HTST at 185º F for 15 seconds), are implemented with processing and packaging systems to bring the finished product into a compliant and safe microbial status, prior to preservatives being added.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Michael Kralik, PhD (with editorial adaptations by Natural Products Foundation staff). Dr. Kralik is the current Director of Corporate Quality at Alix Technologies, Inc.   


 

Fish Oils and Children's Health

By Jolie Root, LPN, LNC

Parents looking for surefire ways to boost their kids’ brain power, improve behavior and set the foundation for lifelong heart health need to go fish – for fish oil supplements, that is.

Fish oils provide the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is the most abundant long chain fatty acid in brain and retinal cells, and getting off to a good start in life with a high level of DHA has been linked to better eyesight, better learning ability and improved behavioral development.

In one study, infants given DHA supplemented formula for the first 6 months of life had significantly higher IQ scores at age 4 when compared to unsupplemented infants. In another recent University of Texas study, healthy formula-fed infants received either DHA formula or unsupplemented formula until age 12 months. At age 18 months the DHA group had superior mental development and language scores compared to the unsupplemented babies.

Studies show that children with ADHD typically have significantly lower concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. At Oxford University in the UK, Dr. Alexandra Richardson found children with dyslexia and ADHD tendencies experienced improved concentration, decreased anxiety and a reduction in disruptive behavior after three months of fish oils.

In one of Dr. Richardson’s trials, children with oppositional defiant behavior and attention deficit, who often have difficulty reading, had significant improvement in their behaviors and their reading and spelling scores after 15 weeks of EPA supplementation. Her approach used 170 mg of DHA plus 558 mg of EPA.

Japanese researchers found that when using a higher omega-3 dose with 514 mg of DHA plus 100 mg of EPA daily for 60 days in children aged 6-12 years, the children who got the treatment demonstrated a significant reduction in aggressive behavior compared to the control group.

There are more reasons for boosting a child’s intake of DHA and EPA. Toddlers with higher levels of DHA have fewer respiratory infections, less tendency toward allergies and less eczema.

Finally, consider the heart health benefits of EPA and DHA. Having an omega index of 8% or better, determined by an “Omega Index” blood test, is linked to a 90% reduction in heart disease incidence. In a child that level would require an intake of about 500 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by Natural Products Foundation staff) from materials provided by Jolie Root, LPN, LNC. 

References: Drover JR, Hoffman DR, Castañeda YS, Morale SE, Garfield S, Wheaton DH, Birch EE. Cognitive function in 18-month-old term infants of the DIAMOND study: a randomized, controlled clinical trial with multiple dietary levels of docosahexaenoic acid. Early Hum Dev 201;87:223-230.

Richardson, A. J., and Montgomery, P. The Oxford-Durham Study: A randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Pediatrics. 115(5): 1360-1366, 2005.

Hirayama, S., et al . Effect of docosahexaenoic acid-containing food administration on symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder - a placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 58: 467-473, 2004. 


 

Living Well with Flavonoids

Nature, Inflammation and Osteoarthritis

Botanical products have been used for medicinal purposes by human civilizations over the course of thousands of years. Not surprisingly, many of the pharmaceuticals used today are derived in part from natural substances. Flavonoids are an excellent example of a safe and effective botanical compound that has natural biological activity in physiologic processes. 

In general, flavonoids are found in colored fruits, vegetables and spices as well as cocoa, teas and even red wine. When your parents said, “Eat your vegetables,” they really meant, “Eat your flavonoids, because they have health benefits!Lycopene, resveratrol, baicalin, catechin, curcumin, and quercetin are examples of flavonoid ingredients with therapeutic effects which can be found OTC in dietary supplement products and by prescription in medical food products. Flavonoids have been known for decades to promote anti-inflammatory activity, and flavonoid molecules have recently entered osteoarthritis clinical trials with successful results.

Why look at flavonoids in osteoarthritis studies? There are multiple underlying causes and contributing factors to osteoarthritis including trauma, repetitive motion, inflammation, obesity, genetic predisposition and diet. Recently, with a substantial increase in our understanding of the problem, the roles of nutrition and lifestyle have become important focal points for osteoarthritis concerns.  

Many scientific studies have shown that anti-inflammatory micronutrients like flavonoids help the body naturally manage inflammation and oxidation, two important factors in osteoarthritis. There are literally thousands of papers in scientific literature related to flavonoids. The goal of a nutritional, metabolic therapy for osteoarthritis is to manage inflammation and oxidation. Botanical flavonoid molecules have been shown to manage osteoarthritis as suggested by modulating the production of inflammatory oxidized lipids, while reducing and controlling induced inflammatory molecules. 

Unfortunately, by eating large amounts of processed food, too much red meat and few colored fruits and vegetables, we usually don’t get a high enough intake of the nutrients we need to nutritionally manage the chronic progression of osteoarthritis over time. So, make sure to eat plenty of colored fruits and vegetables, and consider dietary products that contain concentrated and purified flavonoids to either maintain joint health or to help to nutritionally manage the metabolic processes of osteoarthritis. Natural resources taken under the care of your physician may be very effective in helping osteoarthritis.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by Natural Products Foundation staff) from materials provided by J.D. Weir, President and CEO of Primus Pharmaceuticals and Secretary of the NPF Board of Directors. For more information, please click here: The Role of Flavonoids in Osteoarthritis.  


 

Acidosis — What?

The Next Big Health Trend

By David Matteson

Never heard of acidosis? You’re probably not alone. It could become as common a health term as cholesterol in the near future. 

Natural health experts have long understood the relationship between good health and good pH balance in the body – the balance of acidity and alkalinity. Now, the mainstream medical community is catching on, too.

The modern western diet, with its emphasis on proteins, sugars, and processed foods, generates considerable amounts of acid in the body. The aging process and high levels of stress are known to do the same. With so many people experiencing these three factors, and others, there are more and more people experiencing the negative health consequences associated with too much acid in the body  metabolic acidosis. This is a condition that occurs when the body’s ability to naturally buffer acid in the body can’t keep up with the acidic load.

“Acidosis is a real phenomenon . . . that should be recognized and treated,” is the finding of a recent monograph published in the prestigious British Journal of Nutrition. After examining more than 400 peer-reviewed, published studies, the authors affirmed that even low levels of acidosis can impair the body’s natural ability to manage a wide range of chronic conditions.

Acidosis is a natural by-product of metabolism (how the cells produce energy) generating waste and this waste is acidic. The body has a variety of ways it buffers this acid, including the respiratory and blood filtering systems. When those systems can’t keep up the body has emergency backup systems to handle the load. It will pull calcium out of the bones and break down muscle to increase its buffering ability. The problem today is that acute acidosis is no longer an occasional occurrence that the body can accommodate without negative effects; it has become chronic. The result is the body is under continual acidic stress, which in turn diminishes its ability to ward off disease.

The good news is that as acidosis becomes better understood, there are expanding solutions to help people manage their pH balance. More people are conscious about and making better choices in their diets, lowering the consumption of acid-producing animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, white flour and sugar, and increasing consumption of alkaline-producing foods like fresh vegetables and fruit. Better supplement choices are also available to support the body’s acid buffering systems or to directly buffer acidic load. If you take dietary supplements, ask your local health food store for more information.

Story Source: David Matteson is the co-founder of pH Sciences, and he focuses his creative energy on his consulting practice, Early Edge Solutions. Mr. Matteson holds degrees in education, public health, biology/engineering, and public policy and planning, and he is a current member of the Natural Products Foundation Board of Directors.

References: J. Pizzorno, et. al., British Journal of Nutrition, January, 2010   
 

 

Protein as a Dietary Supplement

One of the most prevalent trends in the natural products industry has been the rapid ascent of protein as a dietary supplement. A major breakthrough in understanding protein occurred with the discovery that amino acids functioned as unique nutrient signals to trigger healthy metabolism. Amino acids are more than simply building blocks for new proteins. Their role in maintaining healthy metabolism helps to set a solid baseline for overall health as we age.

Our bodies are constantly repairing and rebuilding lean tissues, including muscles and bones. We need adequate protein to do so properly. Protein significantly helps to protect our bodies from age-related diseases including obesity, diabetes, muscle wasting, bone loss, and heart disease.

Protein is important in determining body composition by protecting lean tissues such as muscle and bones and eliminating body fat. Protein stimulates the body to burn extra calories, reduces hunger, and helps stabilize blood sugar. These metabolic roles are important to adult health and for treatment or prevention of obesity and diabetes. By simply maintaining an even, healthy metabolism as we age, our society may be able to turn the tide on conditions which have plagued us with increasing frequency for decades.

The benefits of protein are only realized if protein is provided in the right amounts, in the right quality, and at the right time. In order to trigger muscle repair and rebuilding, adults require about 30 grams of protein. If the protein comes from animal proteins such as whey or egg proteins, then 25 grams is adequate; if it comes from plant proteins such as wheat or soy, 35 grams are required. Protein consumed early in the day has the greatest impact on body composition, hunger, and blood glucose.

Early and consistent day-to-day intake is ideal. By helping to maintaining a simple, steady metabolic baseline and healthy bones and muscles, protein can be a vital cornerstone for ongoing well-being. Proper education and application will be key to protein’s future as dietary supplement.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by NPF staff) from materials provided by Donald K. Layman, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois. 


 

Is vitamin K the new D?

By Erin Kelley, MS, RD

In the fashion world, trends come and go, and the dietary supplement industry shares the same “what’s hot” and “what’s not” faddism. For the last three years, vitamin D has soaked up the spotlight. The nutrient gained attention from an increasing number of research studies showing benefit to a myriad of diseases—cancer, autoimmune disorders, immune health, depression, and last but not least, death. But like bell bottom pants, vitamin D’s staying power may be short-lived. Word on the street is that vitamin K is the new D.

It started with a cluster of research done on vitamin K in the early 2000s. A 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found low dietary intake of vitamin K was associated with low bone mineral density in women, which validated similar outcomes in other studies and associations between low vitamin K intake and a higher risk of hip fracture. A year later, the same journal published a study showing girls with a better vitamin K status had better bone turnover. But bone health wasn’t the only association researchers noticed. Over the next few years, studies on vitamin K would show associations between high vitamin K status and reduced risk of prostate, lung, and liver cancers, and protection against coronary heart disease.

Two forms of vitamin K exist: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in leafy green vegetables. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is synthesized by bacteria and is found in fermented soybeans and certain cheeses. Much of the research done has looked at vitamin K2. Both forms are essential for the proteins involved in blood clotting and are necessary for proteins that are needed to form bone. Although vitamin K is fat-soluble, the body does not store much and it can be depleted without regular dietary intake. However, it may be difficult to get in the daily diet.

If you are starting to think vitamin K sounds a lot like vitamin D’s recent milieu, you’re right. While more research is needed (isn’t that always the case?), expect to hear more about vitamin K in both research and product developments.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by Natural Products Foundation staff) from materials provided by Erin Kelley, MS, RD, Technical Marketing Manager for Vitamer Labs.

References: Booth SL, et al. Vitamin K intake and bone mineral density in women and men. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:512-6.

Yukihiro I, et al. Intake of Fermented Soybeans, Natto, Is Associated with Reduced Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women: Japanese Population-Based Osteoporosis (JPOS) Study, J. Nutr. 136: 1323–1328, 2006

Kalkwarf HJ, et al.Vitamin K, bone turnover, and bone mass in girls. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1075– 80.

Geleijnse JM, et al. Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study. J. Nutr. 134: 3100–3105, 2004.

Nimptsch, K.Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg). Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:985–92.

Habu, D. Role of Vitamin K2 in the Development of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Women With Viral Cirrhosis of the Liver. JAMA. 2004;292(3):358-361. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.3.358 


 

Fighting Oxidative Stress

The Battle Against Free Radicals

By David Brown

There’s nothing like the smell of a new car. You never forget the day you drive your first one off the lot—everything running well, the engine smoothly purring because the catalytic converter is cleaning up the toxic byproducts, or exhaust, produced by the engine. But eventually your new car becomes your old car, the catalytic converter becomes less effective, the exhaust isn’t very clean anymore and the engine suffers wear and tear.

Our cells are like car engines.  They have the same combustion process, produce some of the same byproducts and clean up with similar catalytic converters. When we’re young our enzymes, our cells’ catalytic converters, function well and do a good job cleaning the toxic byproducts our bodies generate living life. But unfortunately, like cars, our bodies don’t always function like new. As we age our bodies produce more free radicals and less of the special enzymes that fight them. This leads to oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals, molecules that outside the human body cause metal to rust or sliced apples to brown. Free radicals are molecules missing a simple electron in search of another molecule they can combine with to become “whole.” They, with many components of cells and the structures around them, cause “rusting” as the free radicals wildly search for mates. The more free radicals in the body, the more damage they do.

The effect of aging on our skin is obvious, but aging isn’t just apparent outside our body, it’s also the cause of most of the diseases we’re concerned with today—over 70 well-known, widely spread diseases, including: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, lung disease, fibromyalgia, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), autoimmune diseases and diseases of the eye (like Macular Degeneration.)

The most effective way to fight free radicals is to trigger the body to produce its own free radical-fighting enzymes. While one antioxidant molecule can fight only one or two free radicals before it is depleted, the body’s free radical-fighting enzymes can each eliminate up to one million molecules per second, every second, without being used up in the process. Enzymes produce pure antioxidant protection, moving through your system, pairing up electrons to eliminate free radicals throughout your body and allowing your body to safely eliminate them—keeping your primary vehicle, your body, running well, a true “classic”—able to withstand the “rusting” of aging and taking you where you want to go for many years to come.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by Natural Products Foundation staff) from materials provided by David Brown, the current President and CEO of LifeVantage Corporation. Mr. Brown earned his Juris Doctor degree from Cornell University, and is a current member of the Natural Products Foundation Board of Directors. 


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