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Archive for the ‘Supplements’ Category

Omega-3s improve energy in cancer survivors

Many people treated for cancer have lingering fatigue after therapy ends, which may be aggravated by chronic inflammation, doctors said. Omega-3s have reduced inflammation in healthy people, leading doctors to examine its effect in breast cancer survivors.

In this study, doctors measured the diets of 644 survivors with stage I to stage IIIA breast cancer, and followed up 39 months after diagnosis. Overall, 42 percent complained of being chronically fatigued three years after diagnosis. Women with the highest levels of C-reative protein (CRP), a sign of inflammation, were nearly twice as likely to be fatigued as women with low CRP levels.

When doctors looked at the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in the diet, women who got the most omega-3s compared to omega-6s were half as likely to be chronically fatigued as women who got the least omega-3s.

Vitamin B6 may help prevent postmenopausal breast cancer

Vitamin B6 helps maintain the health of red blood cells, the nervous system, and parts of the immune system. In this study, doctors measured circulating levels of vitamin B6 in 706 postmenopausal women before they were diagnosed with breast cancer and compared them to vitamin B6 levels in 706 healthy postmenopausal women. Compared to women with the lowest levels, women with the highest circulating levels of vitamin B6 were 30 percent less likely to develop invasive breast cancer. Doctors said these results suggest a role for vitamin B6 in preventing postmenopausal breast cancer.

Reference: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; August, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the March 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on April - 29 - 2013

Magnesium reduces stroke

Magnesium, the forth most abundant mineral in the body is linked to better blood pressure. In the study, researchers reviewed every magnesium and stroke study from 1966 through September, 2011 covering 241,378 participants and 6,477 cases of stroke.

Researchers found a direct link: for every 100 mg increase in magnesium per day, there was a 9 percent decrease in the chances of having an ischemic stroke, where blood supply to the brain is blocked.

Discussing their findings, doctors suggested people should eat more magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains, and that further study may move the U.S. to begin recommending magnesium supplements to reduce chances of stroke. The current recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adult men is 420 mg per day, and for adult women, 320 mg per day.

Magnesium reduces colorectal cancers

In this review, doctors analyzed eight magnesium and cancer studies involving 338,979 participants. Overall, compared to those who got the least, people who consumed the highest daily average amount of magnesium were 11 percent less likely to develop any form of colorectal cancer.

There was a direct link: for every 50 mg increase in magnesium per day, there was an average 6 percent decline in the chances for colorectal cancer, colon, or rectal cancers. Six of the studies adjusted for how much calcium was in the diet and in those studies, participants who got the most magnesium were 19 percent less likely to develop colon or rectal cancer compared to those who got the least magnesium.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2012, Vol. 95, No. 2, 362-6

From the March 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on April - 15 - 2013

Calcium for bone health

Doctors know that calcium helps protect bone but many have worried that supplementing with calcium might contribute to hardening of the arteries, also known as coronary artery calcification, a factor in heart disease. In this study from Harvard Medical School, researchers measured the diets of 1,278 men and women aged 36 to 83, and then took a CAT-scan x-ray four years later.

Those who got the most calcium from diet, from supplements, or from both, had the same coronary artery calcification scores as those who got the least calcium. Doctors said, “This study addresses a critical question about the association between calcium intake and a clinically measurable indicator of atherosclerosis in older adults. There was no increased risk of calcified arteries with higher amounts of calcium intake from food or supplements, and people who take calcium at the recommended levels for bone health can do so safely without worrying about calcifying their arteries.”

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2012, Vol. 96, No. 6, 1274-80

From the March 2013 Newsletter

Van's Health on April - 9 - 2013

CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is a type of fatty acid doctors have been studying for immunity for several years. In this trial, 13 people with moderately active Crohn’s disease–a chronic autoimmune inflammatory gastrointestinal disorder–took 6,000 mg of CLA per day. This was an “open label” study, with everyone aware of the treatment and no placebo group. After 12 weeks, levels of several immune inflammatory molecules were much lower, and the Crohn’s disease activity index improved from “moderate” to “mild”. Participants also needed less medication and reported better overall quality of life, with most symptoms nearly receding into remission.

Reference: Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2012, Vol. 31, No. 5, 721-7

From the March 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on April - 3 - 2013
categories: Supplements

Curcumin as effective as aerobic exercise

Curcumin, the anti-inflammatory antioxidant compound in the culinary spice turmeric, improved circulation in postmenopausal women as effectively as aerobic exercise. In this study, 32 postmenopausal women with similar health characteristics at the start of the study took a daily curcumin supplement or a placebo, while a third group took moderate exercise training only.

After eight weeks, while there were no changes for placebo, both the curcumin and exercise groups had better relaxation, widening, and functioning of blood vessels and arteries compared to the start of the study. Doctors said that both aerobic exercise and curcumin may improve age-related decline in the circulatory system and taking a curcumin supplement may help prevent cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. Curcumin may also be an alternative for people who cannot exercise.

Omega fatty acids reduce chances of heart disease

In this study, doctors followed 3,277 healthy men and women free from heart disease at the start of the study. After 23 years of follow-up, while there were no benefits for men, women who consumed moderate amounts of alpha-linolenic acid or linoleic acid–both omega fatty acids–were less likely to have heart disease caused by restricted blood flow compared to the women who got less of these two nutrients.

Doctors also measured total omega-3s and found, compared to women who consumed the least, women who consumed the most of these polyunsaturated fatty acids–plentiful in fish–were much more likely to remain heart-disease free.

Reference: Nutrition Research Journal; 2012, Vol. 32, No. 12, 795-99

From the February 2013 newsletter

Zinc reduced lower respiratory infections

Zinc is an essential mineral for healthy development and immunity. In this study, 192 children who were low in zinc and other nutrients took 10 mg of zinc gluconate per day or a placebo for 60 days. Doctors followed the children for four months, keeping track of respiratory infections.

Compared to children in the placebo group, kids who took zinc were less than half as likely to have acute or severe lower respiratory infections. The children who took zinc also had more healthy days without infection, and recovered from infection far faster than kids who had taken the placebo.

Vitamin D reduced respiratory infection

Recent evidence has shown that vitamin D is important not only for developing bones, but also for strengthening immune systems. Because the body produces vitamin D from the sun, it is particularly important to maintain good levels in winter months. This study took place in a northern climate, where vitamin D deficiency is common in winter.

At the start of the study, all the 250 children who participated were very low in vitamin D. The children drank locally produced milk with or without 300 IU of added vitamin D per day. Over the course of the winter, parents of children in the vitamin D group reported about half the number of respiratory infections as parent of the kids in the placebo group.

In discussing their findings, doctors said the large benefit they saw was due to the very low levels of vitamin D at the start of the study, and suggest further study to determine the best level of vitamin D.

Reference: Clinical Nutrition; August, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the February 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on March - 20 - 2013
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Vitamin B3 beats drug-resistant staph infection

Overuse of antibiotics has created drug-resistant “superbugs” such as multi-drug resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In the lab, doctors exposed staph bacteria in human and animal blood to megadoses of vitamin B3, which increased by 1,000 times the ability of the immune cells to kill the harmful bacteria.

Vitamin C may prevent bone loss

Doctors know that low levels of vitamin C can cause brittle bones. In the first study of its kind, postmenopausal mice that began the study with low bone density had improved density by the end of the study after taking large doses of vitamin C. Doctors hope further human studies will prove that vitamin C is a safe and inexpensive way to keep bones strong.

Krill powder improved lipid metabolism and inflammation

Low-grade, chronic inflammation impairs the ability of the liver to metabolize fats–or lipids–and is linked to obesity. When mice on a high-fat diet ate krill powder, liver fat metabolism improved, circulating fats and fats in the liver decreased, and signs of inflammation in the liver were also significantly reduced. Doctors hope to alleviate obesity-related disorders in humans through the lipid-lowering and anti-inflammatory effects of krill.

Reference: Journal of Clinical Investigation; September, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the February 2013 newsletter

In this new and largest echinacea study to date, 755 healthy people took echinacea or a placebo. The dose was 800 mg of echinacea liquid extract three times per day, or during colds, five times per day. After four months, compared to placebo, the echinacea group had 20 percent fewer colds with symptoms clearing up 20 percent quicker, and 35 percent fewer recurrences. Those taking echinacea also had fewer flu-type viral infections and needed less over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. To reduce and prevent colds and flu, doctors said this study adds evidence that echinacea can help.

Reference: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; 2012, ID 841315

From the February 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on March - 7 - 2013
categories: Supplements

According to earlier studies, depression may have a link to cells damaged by oxidative stress. In this analysis, doctors compared antioxidant levels to signs of depression in 1,798 adults aged 20 to 85 and found, compared to those with lowest levels, people with the highest circulating levels of antioxidant carotenoids were 59 percent less likely to have depressive symptoms. There was also a direct link: as carotenoid levels increased, signs of depression decreased.

Carotenoids–the naturally occurring bright red, yellow, and orange pigments in fruits and vegetables like carrots–are powerful antioxidants. Doctors found three carotenoids in particular were most closely linked to better mood; beta-carotene in both men and women, and lutein and zeaxanthin in women only. Lutein and zeaxanthin also protect eyesight, as many earlier studies have confirmed. Discussing their findings, doctors said antioxidants may help reduce oxidative damage in the brain and hope new studies reveal more mood benefits of antioxidants.

Reference: British Journal of Nutrition; August, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the February 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on February - 28 - 2013

Omega-3s help preserve telomere length

Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of every strand of DNA in the body, acting like the tip of a shoelace that keeps it from unraveling. As new cells form using DNA instructions, telomeres shorten, eventually exposing the DNA strand to damage. Earlier studies have linked telomere length to biological age; the longer the telomere the younger the biological age.

In this study, 106 sedentary, overweight but healthy middle-aged and older adults took 2,500 mg or 1,250 mg of omega-3s per day, or a placebo of typical American dietary fats high in omega-6. After four months, researchers found that as the level of omega-3s rose compared to omega-6s, telomere length also increased. Both omega-3 groups also saw 15 percent lower levels of oxidative stress.

Explaining their findings, doctors said that omega-6s are abundant, coming from common vegetable oils using in many processed foods, but omega-3s are rarer, coming mostly from fish. The ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s should be no higher than four-to-one to provide the greatest health benefit, doctors said.

 

More vitamin D, longer life

More disease studies have focused on people of European descent, doctors said. In this study, researchers measured vitamin D levels in 2,638 Caucasians and African-Americans aged 71 to 80. African-Americans had lower vitamin D levels than Caucasians. After 8.5 years of follow-up, those with very low levels of vitaminD–less than 20 nano grams per milliliter of blood–were 50 percent more likely to have died from any cause, compared to those with higher levels.

Doctors said the good news is it’s easy to raise vitamin D levels through diet and supplements.

 

Reference: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity; September, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the January 2012 newsletter

 

Van's Health on February - 22 - 2013

CLA helps manage weight

CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, had several benefits including reducing body fat in earlier animal studies, but human studies have been inconclusive, doctors said. In this study, 63 people tending toward overweight or obesity took 1,700 mg of CLA per day, or a vegetable oil placebo, in about 7 ounces of sterilized milk. After 12 weeks, while there were no changes for placebo, the CLA group had lost body weight, improved body mass index score, had less total fat and fat under the skin, a lower percentage of body fat, and a smaller waist-to-hip size. The higher the body mass index at the start of the study, the larger the improvements in all measures.

 

Calcium burns fat, reduces fat absorption

When dieters take in fewer calories than they burn, calcium supplements may stimulate fat loss, but prior studies have been inconclusive, doctors said. In this review, researchers analyzed eight placebo-controlled calcium weight-loss studies, and found that dieters who got high levels of calcium increased fat metabolism by 11 percent compared to placebo. Those who consumed low levels of calcium before the study–less than 700 mg per day–saw the most fat-loss benefit. Researchers said the higher rate of fat-burning was equal to losing eight pounds per year.

In discussing their findings, doctors said that calcium supplements raised the metabolic rate as effectively as caffeine. The average amount of calcium linked with the largest weight-loss benefit was 958 mg of calcium per day. Doctors also said good calcium levels help control appetite.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; October, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the January 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on February - 16 - 2013
categories: Supplements, Weight Loss

The first study on long-term multivitamin use

Doctors said more than one in three Americans takes a multivitamin, mostly to prevent nutrient deficiencies, but that this study suggests multivitamins may also help prevent cancer in middle-aged and older men.

The study involved 14,641 male doctors, aged at least 50, who took a daily multivitamin or a placebo. After 11 years of follow-up, researchers discovered a possible link with long-term multivitamin use: chances of cancer declined by 8 percent in men with a history of cancer.

While small, the results were significant and promising. Doctors don’t know which vitamins or minerals may help reduce cancer chances, and explained that most of the men were non-smokers, a factor that may influence results. Researchers plan a follow-up study with women, and with others whose lifestyles and health behaviors are different than the group of doctors who participated in this study.

Reference: Journal of The American Medical Association; October 2012, Electronic Prebublication

From the January 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on February - 10 - 2013
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

New evidence suggests those with autism don’t have a normal ability to produce cellular energy, which can damage cells and impair cognitive function. L-carnitine works at the cellular level to convert glucose to energy. In this study, 30 children ages 2 to 8 with autism took 45 mg of l-carnitine per pound of body weight, or a placebo. After six months, while the placebo group had not improved, the l-carnitine group had better scores in tests of verbal and non-verbal communication, using objects, fear and nervousness. and interpersonal relations. Doctors said l-carnitine was safe and significantly improved autism symptoms.

Reference: Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders; 2013, Vol. 7, No. 1, 159-66

From the January 2013 newsletter

Van's Health on February - 4 - 2013
categories: Supplements

Antioxidants and pancreatic cancer

In this large study, doctors measured the diets, food-cooking methods, and vitamin C levels of 23,658 men and women, aged 40 to 74. Over the course of 10 years of follow-up, 49 participants developed pancreatic cancer, 55 percent men. Researchers then calculated the nutrients in their diets and compared to 3,970 participants who had not developed pancreatic cancer.

Compared to those who consumed the least selenium, those who consumed the most selenium were half as likely to have developed pancreatic cancer. Those who consumed the most selenium and vitamins C and E were 67 percent less likely to develop the cancer compared to those who got the least of these antioxidants.

Discussing their findings, doctors said, “It seems the antioxidants are knocking out the pro-oxidants that are perhaps causing the damage that leads to cancer, and therefore playing a protective role.”

Magnesium and colorectal cancer

There are few studies on magnesium and colorectal cancer, doctors said, but these two new analyses suggest magnesium may help prevent this disease. In the first study, researchers compared 768 people with colorectal cancer to 709 similar people without. In a group of those who were at least age 55, with a body mass index score of 25 or higher, each 100 mg increase in magnesium per day decreased chances for colorectal cancer by 12 percent.

In the second study, doctors reviewed findings from other magnesium-colorectal cancer trials and found that for every 100 mg increase in daily magnesium, there was a 13 percent decrease in chances of pre-cancerous colorectal adenomas and 12 percent less chance of colorectal cancer.

Reference: Gut – International Journal of  Gastroenterology and Hepatology; July, 2012. Electronic Prepublication

From the December 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on January - 29 - 2013
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Nutrients lower lipid levels in obesity

Green tea extract

Earlier studies found green tea can reduce weight by helping the body manage lipids, doctors said. In this study, 46 otherwise-healthy obese men and women, aged 30 to 60, took a daily dose of 379 mg of green tea extract plus 208 mg of ECGC–the most common antioxidant found in green tea– or a placebo. Participants did not change their diets or physical activities during the study, which were similar for both groups.

After three months, compared to placebo, the green tea group saw significant decreases in total and LDL cholesterol, an increase in HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, body mass index, and smaller waist size. Total antioxidant activity also increased, and magnesium and zinc levels improved, with increasing magnesium levels helping lower or stabilize blood sugar. Iron levels declined. Explaining their findings, doctors said green tea may help keep cholesterol and glucose from being absorbed through the walls of the small intestine.

Berberine

Obesity drugs often have serious side effects, and doctors are searching for natural products, such as the herb berberine, for safer answers. In this pilot safety study, obese people took 500 mg of berberine three times per day. After 12 weeks, berberine proved safe in preserving overall blood characteristics, and in maintaining heart, kidney, and liver function.

Beyond safety, berberine appeared to have additional benefits. Participants had lost an average of five pounds, a result doctors had expected. More surprising were a 12 percent decline in total cholesterol and a 23 percent decline in triglycerides. To reconfirm the lipids lowering effects of berberine, doctors conducted a lab animal study, which yielded similar results.

Reference: Biological Trace Element Research; May, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the December 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on January - 23 - 2013

In type 2 diabetes compounds from two culinary spices improved glucose measures and control

Cinnamon extract

In this study, 66 type 2 diabetics who were taking an oral insulin-stimulating drug also took an extract of cinnamon or a placebo. There were two doses of cinnamon: 120mg or 360 mg per day. After three months, while there were no changes for placebo, measures of long-term-average blood sugar levels declined 7 percent in the low-dose cinnamon group, and 10 percent in the high-dose cinnamon group, while fasting blood sugar levels declined 11 and 14 percent respectively.

Although participants’ fasting and long-term blood sugar levels remained higher than normal, doctors said it was the polyphenols in the cinnamon extract that significantly increased insulin-dependent glucose metabolism. Cinnamon also appeared to raise beneficial antioxidant activity in type 2 diabetics.

 

Curcumin from turmeric spice

Lab studies have shown curcuminoids, the active ingredient in turmeric, lowered blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity by helping to metabolize fatty acids. Elevated fatty acid levels are common in type 2 diabetes and play a role in developing insulin resistance, so lowering free fatty acid levels might reduce chances of and help manage diabetes, doctors said.

In this study, 100 people with type 2 diabetes took 300 mg of curcuminoids per day, or a placebo. After three months, while there were no changes for placebo, the curcuminoids group saw much lower long-term-average blood sugar levels, lower fasting blood sugar levels, and greater sensitivity to insulin, meaning the body was better able to metabolize glucose.

In discussing their findings, doctors said part of the reason curcuminoids lower glucose levels is by helping the body use up excess free fatty acids, removing them from the bloodstream, and lowering total fatty acid levels to safer levels.

Reference: Nutrition Research Journal; 2012, Vol. 32, No. 6, 408-12

From the December 2012 newsletter

 

Van's Health on January - 17 - 2013
categories: Herbs, Supplements

The body needs a certain level of omega-3’s to function well, doctors said. In this study, researchers measured omega-3 levels in 78 active-duty U.S. servicemen, aged 20 to 54, from all major ethnicities, and with a variety of educational levels. The men had lower omega-3 levels than non-military Americans of the same ages. As levels of omega-3’s increased, the men had better mental flexibility and decision-making capacity, especially in those with lack of sleep, who were more resistant to fatigue than those with lower omega-3 levels. Doctors suggest raising EPA and DHA levels in service food rations.

Reference: Nutritional Neuroscience; June, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the December 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on January - 11 - 2013
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Nutrients helped reduce recurring URTI’s

Doctors said that getting vitamins and minerals in the right amounts can boost immunity and protect against upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). In this study, 192 people with recurrent URTI’s took a daily supplement containing vitamin C, vitamin D3, folic acid, and selenium, or a placebo. Researchers followed the two groups to measure the number, intensity, and course of URTI’s.

After 16 weeks, nearly half of those in the placebo group had missed work compared to 14 percent for the supplement group. Doctors also measured circulating levels of the four nutrients and found that vitamin C, folic acid and selenium increased in the supplement group, while vitamin D declined for both groups, but declined less in the supplement group. Those in the supplement group who began the study with insufficient vitamins C or D also had improved respiratory health.

 

Vitamin D lowers chances of viral infection

Because vitamin D levels decline in the fall and winter when there is less and weaker sunlight, people may catch cold more easily, doctors said. In the first phase of this two-part study, researchers measured vitamin D levels in three healthy groups: young people aged 20 to 30, middle-aged people 31-59, and older adults aged 60 to 86, and found circulating vitamin D levels decreased with age.

In the second phase of the study, using the same group of volunteers, doctors found that the special immune receptors designed to intercept and kill viruses were more likely to function normally as levels of vitamin D increased.

Reference: Journal of Leukocyte Biology; 2012, Vol. 91, No. 5, 829-38

From the October 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on January - 5 - 2013
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Vitamin D reduced fractures in older adults

Doctors in this analysis reviewed 11 separate bone-fracture studies covering more than 31,000 adults aged at least 65, who took varying doses of vitamin D or a placebo. The range for vitamin D was up to 2,000 IU per day. Compared to placebo, across all 11 studies, men and women who got the most vitamin D were 30 percent less likely to have a bone fracture of any kind, including hip, wrist and forearm.

Doctors said that the benefit began at 800 IU of vitamin D per day, and continued through the upper level of 2,000 IU per day. The U.S. recently increased its recommended dietary allowance to 600 IU of vitamin D per day for most people, and to 800 IU per day for those 70 and older.

 

Antioxidants reduce inflammation after fracture

After a hip fracture, chronic inflammation can slow recovery, doctors said. Vitamin E and carotenoids are two antioxidants with profound anti-inflammatory effects according to the doctors, who wanted to test for a link between antioxidant levels and chronic inflammation after a fracture.

Researchers measured blood levels of vitamin E, carotenoids, and signs of chronic inflammation in 148 people, immediately after a hip fracture, and at two, six, and 12 months later.

Those with the highest concentrations of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E and total circulating carotenoids had the lowest levels of inflammation.  Doctors said that good levels of antioxidants may speed the average recovery time after a fracture, improve quality of life and help people regain mobility and maintain their independence.

Reference: New England Journal of Medicine; 2012, Vol. 367, No. 1, 40-9

From the October 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on December - 27 - 2012
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Green tea lowered blood pressure

In this study, 56 people with obesity-related high blood pressure took 379 mg of green tea extract per day, or a placebo. Before the study and after three months of taking green tea extract, doctors measured blood pressure, sugar, and fats (lipids), protein in the urine, signs of inflammation, and antioxidant levels.

While the placebo group improved slightly, those in the green tea group saw systolic and diastolic blood pressure decline 4.9 and 4.6 mmHg, respectively. And while there were no improvements for placebo, the green tea group had healthier insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as lower LDL cholesterol and higher HDL–the “bad” and “good” cholesterols, respectively. Doctors said the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action of green tea compounds may explain its health benefits.

Coleus forskohlii improved blood pressure

Doctors said that coleus forskohlii, a tropical perennial plant, may have blood pressure lowering effects. In this study, 41 people with high blood pressure but no major illnesses, aged 50 to 80, took coleus forskohlii three times per day with meals, either in root form, 1,000 mg per meal; or in root tuber form, 1,400 mg per meal.

Doctors also asked participants to reduce salt in the diet and to exercise mildly, both of which can lower blood pressure. After two months, 75 percent of those in each group showed mild improvements in blood pressure.

Coleus forskohlii has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, which is native to India, to treat heart disease, convulsions, and spasmodic pain, with the earliest references in Indian medical literature dating from about 50 B.C.

Reference: Nutrition Research Journal; 2012, Vol. 32, No. 6, 421-7

From the October 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on December - 19 - 2012
categories: Herbs, Supplements

Selenium is a trace mineral essential to health that binds with proteins to form powerful antioxidant enzymes called selenoproteins. Earlier studies have linked good selenium levels to lower chances for several cancers, but few studies have tested for a link to diabetes, doctors said.

In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 3,630 women and 3,535 men without diabetes or heart disease at the start of the study. After two years of follow-up, more than one in 10 had developed diabetes, but those with the highest level of selenium–measured in the toenail–were 24 percent less likely to have developed the condition.

Doctors said that adequate levels of selenium could come from a good diet, rich in plant-based foods such as fresh garlic, mushrooms, whole grains, wheat germ, and brewer’s yeast, as well as organ meats, tuna fish, and other seafood. Selenium levels in plant-based foods depend on the amount in soil, which varies across the U.S.

Reference: Diabetes Care; 2012, Vol. 35, No. 7. 1544-51

From the October 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on December - 9 - 2012
categories: Supplements

Cinnamon helps control blood sugar

Doctors said that there are few human studies on the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar, but that earlier animal studies suggest cinnamon may lower blood sugar by slowing absorption through the intestine, or stimulating cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. Researchers reviewed six cinnamon studies involving 435 men and women who took from 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon per day for 40 to 120 days. On average over the various study periods, long-term blood sugar levels dropped 0.1 percent, and fasting blood sugar levels dropped 0.84 micromoles per liter of blood. Doctors think that cinnamon may help diabetics control blood sugar and urge more study.

Vitamin C reduces oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes

Even if diabetics successfully control blood sugar, complications will still occur due to oxidative damage to cells from free radicals, doctors said. In this study, 30 men and women, aged 30 to 65, who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes for at least one year, took 1,000 mg of the antioxidant vitamin C per day, or a placebo. All were controlling blood sugar with oral medication, were non-smokers, had no vascular or inflammatory disease, and were not being treated for high cholesterol, or taking hormone replacement therapy, beta blockers, diuretics, or aspirin. After six weeks, while the placebo group had not improved, those who had taken vitamin C had significantly lower levels of oxidative stress both after fasting and after a meal. Discussing their findings, doctors said vitamin C may be a safe, inexpensive way to reduce complications from type 2 diabetes.

Reference: Clinical Nutrition; May 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the September 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on November - 16 - 2012
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

In this study, 175 adults flew in coach class over a one to five week period, from Australia to America, Europe, or Africa, on flights lasting from 15 to 25 hours, with stopovers of less than 12 hours. Starting two weeks before flying, and continuing two weeks afterward, the travelers took a placebo or 600mg of echinacea angustifolia root, 675 mg of echinacea purpurea root, plus 4.4 mg of echinacea alkylamides, twice per day. Participants doubled the dose while flying, and could triple or quadruple the dose for a short time when cold or flu symptoms occurred.

Researchers measured cold and flu symptoms before and immediately after travel, and again four weeks later. Upper respiratory symptoms increased for everyone during long-haul flights, but symptoms in the echinacea group were half as severs as symptoms were for placebo.

Reference: Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the September 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on November - 7 - 2012
categories: Supplements

Vitamins C and E reduce pre-eclampsia

When pregnant, women can have elevated blood pressure, a condition called pre-eclampsia, which may require inducing labor or surgical delivery. Doctors said antioxidants may lower chances of pre-eclampsia, and in this study, 110 pregnant woman with low levels of antioxidants took 1,000 mg of vitamin C plus 400 IU of vitamin E per day, or a placebo, from eight to 12 weeks pregnant through two weeks after giving birth. Nine of the woman developed pre-eclampsia, with eight of the cases in the placebo group, and one in the antioxidant group. Doctors concluded that women who are low in antioxidants may reduce the chances of pre-eclampsia by taking antioxidants during pregnancy.

Mom’s folate levels may reduce emotional problems in children

Doctors know that low folate levels in early pregnancy increase chances of neural tube defects, and wanted to test for a link to behavioral and emotional problems in children. In 3,209 Dutch women, researchers measured folic acid in the diet and folate levels in early pregnancy, and then followed up on children’s emotional and behavioral problems at age three.

Compared to kids whose moms had good folate levels, those whose moms were deficient in folate before pregnancy were 57 percent more likely to develop emotional problems by age three. Compared to children whose moms started taking folic acid supplements when pregnant, those whose mothers started taking folic acid later during pregnancy, or who did not take folic acid at all were 45 percent more likely to have emotional problems. The Netherlands does not require manufacturers to fortify foods with folic acid.

Reference: Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research; May, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the September 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on October - 12 - 2012
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Probiotics replenish good intestinal bacteria that antibiotics take away. Doctors say nearly one in three who take antibiotics to treat infection get diarrhea, which may cause them to stop taking the treatment early. In this large review, researchers analyzed 63 antibiotic-infection treatment studies including 11,811 people, who also took probiotics–most commonly Lactobacillus–with their antibiotic treatment. Compared to placebo, those who took probiotics along with antibiotics were 42 percent less likely to have diarrhea as a side effect. People got the benefit regardless of the type or dose of probiotics.

Reference: Journal of the American Medical Association; 2012, Vol. 307, No. 18, 1959-69

From the August 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on October - 4 - 2012
categories: Supplements

Lycopene lowered inflammation and improved blood flow

Blood vessels have an inner lining called the endothelium which may become inflamed, stiffened, and more likely to form clots. In this study, 126 healthy men, average age 34 with healthy weight, took 6 mg of lycopene or 15 mg of lycopene per day, or a placebo. After eight weeks, compared to the start of the study, while there were no significant changes in the low-dose or placebo groups, men who took 15 mg of lycopene had much higher antioxidant levels, less DNA damage, better blood pressure flow and lower systolic blood pressure, lower levels of C-reactive protein–an inflammatory factor–and an increase in the size of LDL-cholesterol particles, making them less likely to stick to artery walls and form plaque.

In discussing their findings, doctors said supplementing to raise lycopene levels in the blood can reduce oxidative stress and improve the health and function of the endothelium blood vessel linings.

Vitamin D improves reproductive health

Doctors said when animals are deficient in vitamin D, sperm counts and sperm motility are low. In this study, researchers measured vitamin D levels in 40 men and found that those with 75 nanomoles of vitamin D per liter of blood (nmol/L) had much higher sperm motility compare to men with 25 nmol/L or less. Motility is the ability of sperm to move properly toward the egg. As levels of vitamin D increased, more of the sperm were motile, and had normal structure, shape, and size.

Reference: Human Reproduction; 2011, Vol. 26, No. 6, 1307-17

From the July 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on September - 26 - 2012
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Magnesium reduces blood pressure

Up until now, evidence linking magnesium to better blood pressure has been inconclusive. Researchers in this review looked at all the magnesium studies to date and found 22 trials involving 1,173 people, who took 120 mg to 973 mg of magnesium per day for three to 24 weeks. Combining the data, doctors found that overall, magnesium reduced systolic blood pressure by 3 to 4 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure by 2 to 3 mmHg, with the best results for doses over 370 mg of magnesium per day.

The blood pressure measurements, systolic and diastolic, relate respectively to when the heart contracts to pump blood out, and when it relaxes to refill. In discussing their findings, doctors said supplementing with magnesium appears to achieve a “small but clinically significant reduction in blood pressure”, and suggests larger controlled trials to confirm these results.

Vitamin C reduces high blood pressure

The evidence for the blood pressure benefit of vitamin C is also inconsistent. In this new analysis, doctors reviewed 29 placebo-controlled vitamin C supplement trials with 10 to 120 participants, average daily doses of 500 mg of vitamin C, and an average study period of eight weeks. Combining the data, researchers found that overall systolic blood pressure declined by 3.84 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure declined by 1.48mmHg. The effects were greater in those with high blood pressure, with systolic and diastolic blood pressure declining respectively by an average of 4.85 mmHg and 1.67 mmHg.

In talking about their findings, researchers said doctors might eventually be able to recommend vitamin C to prevent or help treat high blood pressure, and suggested larger studies to confirm the blood pressure benefits of vitamin C.

Reference: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2012, Vol. 66, No. 4, 411-8

From the July 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on September - 18 - 2012
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Vitamins and omega-3s linked to better brains

Nutrients combine to make unique “signature patterns” or profiles in the blood, and researchers in this study tested which profiles were linked to better cognitive health. Doctors measured nutrients in 104 adults without dementia, aged 77 to 97, and found that, compared to those with lower levels, those with the highest blood levels of folate, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, and E, and omega-3 fatty acids, scored highest on mental tests and had healthier MRI brain scans.

The brain can shrink with age, rising chances for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Those in the study with the highest levels of trans-fats–partially hydrogenated oils common in highly processed and deep fried foods–scored lowest on mental tests and had signs of brain shrinkage. Doctors said we already knew trans-fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol levels and are bad for the heart, but this is the first study to link trans-fats and brain health. “It is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” researchers concluded.

Leucine helps maintain muscle mass

The body needs proteins to maintain muscle mass, and its ability to make and use proteins declines with age. In this study, eight people, everage age 68, took 4 grams of the branched-chain amino acid leucine with each of three meals per day. Researchers compared muscle biopsies and blood samples before the study and after 14 days and found significantly higher rates of protein formation and increased signs of cellular muscle-building activity. Doctors said the low dose of leucine may make it easier to maintain muscle mass with age.

Reference: Neurology; 2012, Vol. 78, No. 4, 241-9

From the July 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on September - 7 - 2012
categories: Supplements, Vitamins

Pycnogenol eased menopausal symptoms

In this study, researchers compared 38 menopausal women, aged 40 to 50, who took 100 mg of Pycnogenol per day, to 32 similar women who did not take any treatment. After eight weeks, while there were no changes for the women who did not take treatment, those who took Pycnogenol had an average decrease of more than 50 percent for the six most common menopausal symptoms; hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness. The Pycnogenol group also had much lower levels of free radicals circulating in the blood, meaning less oxidative stress.

Several other symptoms, including fatigue, sleep disorders, concentration and memory problems, dizziness, and irritability also tended to improve for Pycnogenol but did not reach statistical significance, according to researchers, who suggested that Pycnogenol may be an effective daily dietary supplement for reducing symptoms in menopausal women.

Soy isoflavones reduce hot flashes

Researchers in this review analyzed 17 placebo-controlled studies in which the average dose of soy isoflavones was 54 mg per day, delivering 19 mg of the soy isoflavone genistein. Women who took part in the studies were perimenopausal to postmenopausal, and the studies ranged from six weeks to 12 months. Combining all the data, compared to placebo, women who took soy isoflavones saw hot flash frequency and severity decline respectively by 21 percent and 26 percent. Women who took more than the average 19 mg of genistein had twice the relief from hot flashes as women who took lower doses.

Reference:Menopause; March, 2012, Electronic Prepublication

From the July 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on August - 29 - 2012
categories: Supplements

In earlier studies, recipes using flax had lower glycemic index scores than recipes without flax, leading doctors to test flax in type 2 diabetes. In the study, 29 people with type 2 diabetes took 10 grams of flax seed powder per day, or a placebo. After one month, compared to the start of the study, while the placebo group had not changed, those who took flax seed powder had 20 percent lower fasting blood sugar, and 16 percent lower long-term blood sugar levels; 14 percent lower total fat levels, 18 percent lower LDL–the “bad” cholesterol–and a 12 percent increase in HDL–the “good” cholesterol.

 

Reference: Journal of Dietary Supplements; 2011, Vol. 8, No. 3, 257-65

From the July 2012 newsletter

Van's Health on August - 11 - 2012
categories: Supplements
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