Research Advances (Part 3)
Posted Friday, October 31, 2008

This is the third installment of our series highlighting the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health ninth annual report on the significant advances in dietary supplement research. Today we will look at new items about research with selenium and folic acid.

Selenium and HIV
Selenium deficiency is associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but the effects of selenium supplementation on this disease are as of yet not known. Last year Miami researchers began a controlled trial to shed some light on this promising lead.

After nine months of treatment with selenium supplementation, significant results were discovered. It appears that an increase in selenium levels are associated with decreasing HIV-1 viral loads, as well as increased CD4 counts, a measure of immunity. The supplementation cause no untoward or adverse events in test group. The overall results suggest that carefully controlled selenium supplementation suppresses the advance of HIV in those populations afflicted with HIV-1. Though more research into the subject is certainly needed, it appears that selenium supplementation may be a safe and inexpensive adjunct therapy for HIV.

DSIB: Selenium

Archives of Internal Medicine: Suppression of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Viral Load With Selenium Supplementation

Folic Acid and Hearing
Folic acid, a B vitamin needed for cell replication and growth, is best known for its preventative properties against birth defects. It is now believed that it may play an essential role in preventing hearing loss in aging populations as well.

High blood homocysteine, which are generally associated with heart disease, has been linked to age-related hearing loss as well. Folic acid supplements have been found to reduce blood homocysteine levels, but their exact effects regarding hearing loss have been unclear until recently. Last year however, researchers in the Netherlands set out to determine if folic acid supplementation could slow atherosclerotic progression (age-related hearing loss). It appears that it may manage to slow the decline of hearing for low frequencies of sound, but the supplementation was not found to have a benefit for high frequencies. It is a promising beginning, and hopefully this positive finding is just the first in series of studies that are exploring the relationship between hearing loss and folic acid.

DSIB: Folic Acid

Annals of Internal Medicine: Effects of Folic Acid Supplementation on Hearing in Older Adults

Folic Acid and Blood Arsenic
More that 100,000,000 people are exposed to water sources contaminated with arsenic, increasing risks for illnesses and disease, including cancer. Fortunately, in the face of this rather disturbing figure, there is good news along with the unpleasant: Folic acid supplementation reduces blood arsenic levels.

Research in troubled areas of Bangladesh, where arsenic issues have been documented in the past, has found marked support for folic acid supplementation. Folic acid managed to detoxify and lower total blood arsenic levels significantly, and it is believed that this finding will make an important contribution in the future, helping to combat arsenic-induced illness and suffering.

DSIB: Folic Acid

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Folic acid supplementation lowers blood arsenic


For more of this series, check out part 1 and part 2.


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