Blog Archive 2008

Happy Holidays From the NPF
Posted Friday, December 19, 2008
 
Supplements Aid Stroke Rehab
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2008

According to a new study published in the December 2nd issue of Neurology, people who have suffered strokes can benefit greatly from intensive dietary supplementation to combat undernourishment.

The research, carried out at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in New York, found that patients who received more intensive supplementation (roughly double the caloric, protein, and vitamin C intake) improved significantly on critical measures such as motor function and functional independence. Individuals who received the higher levels of supplements were nearly 50% more likely to returned home after rehab rather than going to a nursing home -- an astonishing number which will undoubtedly need further trials to be confirmed -- but still, an incredibly positive note for such research to start out on.

To find out more, have a look at the results in Neurology, as well as a report from Reuters: High-dose supplements may improve stroke rehab.

 
I3C v. Smoking
Posted Friday, December 12, 2008

Romanesco Brassica, or "Broccoflower", a variant of cauliflower

University of Minnesota scientists have identified the compound indole-3-carbinol (I3C) as a beneficial supplement for smokers. I3C is found in high levels in vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, and it can be administered as a supplement as well.

Using animal research models, scientists found that I3C substantially lowered the number of lung tumors in subjects who were exposed to the carcinogens which are found in tobacco smoke. The compound appears to act by inhibiting cell proliferation and enhancing programmed cell death (know as apoptosis). High levels of I3C lead to an 88% reduction of lung tumors. Tobacco smoke contains over 60 known carcinogens, and so, as always, avoiding all forms of tobacco use is the first thing you can do to ensure your health. All the same, future studies of the I3C for current and former smoker populations hold great promise.

You can see the entire study through the following link to the online version of Cancer Prevention Research: Dose-Dependent Inhibition of Tobacco Smoke Carcinogen–Induced Lung Tumorigenesis in A/J Mice by Indole-3-Carbinol

DSIB: I3C

 

 
The Steady Rise of CAM
Posted Thursday, December 11, 2008

If it were ever in doubt, that can be now laid aside -- Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) are now thoroughly established as mainstream. A new survey by the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that nearly 40% of adults in the U.S. used some form of CAM therapy in 2007. Vitamins and supplements headed the list of CAM practices most people used, along with deep breathing, yoga, and meditation. The study found that a significantly higher percentage of women used CAM (42.8 percent v. 33.5 percent of men), as well as those with higher levels of education (55.4 percent of those with masters, doctorate or professional status were using CAM!). To listen to a rundown of the study, the NCHS has provided a podcast you can listen to right here, or if you'd prefer, a transcript right here.

The most commonly used dietary supplements included echinacea, fish oil, flaxseed oil and probiotics, and you can check out our healthnotes about each of them in the links below:

DSIB: Echinacea

DSIB: Fish Oil

DSIB: Flaxseed Oil

DSIB: Probiotics

 
Vitamin E and Chronic Inflammation
Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Up to half of everyone's body mass is made up of skeletal muscle, and chronic inflammation of these muscles is a seriously debilitating affliction for many people. According to new research from scientists from the University of Illinois, Vitamin E may be able to play an important part in reducing inflammation-related stress.

The target of this study was to determine if vitamin E could help prevent protein oxidation, a process that is related to reduced cardiac and skeletal muscle strength. It was found that the solution did in fact reduce the amount of lipopolysaccharide (LSP) induced oxidation in animal research, and it worked to bolster muscle strength as well. These new findings are to be published in the December issue of Experimental Physiology, and you can check out further detail about the study from Science Daily press release.

DSIB: Vitamin E

 
December Healthnotes Newsletter
Posted Wednesday, December 3, 2008

 

The new December DSIB Healthnotes Newletter is here, packed with great info to help make your holidays as comforting and healthy as they should be. Avoid unnecessary stress, look into lavender and zinc, and brew yourself some savoury banana berry nog! Check out all the newest about supplements, herbs, minerals, cooking and nutrition right here.

 
World AIDS Day
Posted Monday, December 1, 2008

Today, Decemeber 1st, 2008, is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Much has been accomplished in the past twenty years, but with an estimated 33 million people currently infected with the deadly disease, there is much still to be done. While education and prevention are the principle weapons in combating AIDS, equally important are the efforts to neutralize the cause of the disease, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Many breakthroughs have occured over the years (HAART for example), and hopes are pinned on further improvements in treatment to allow HIV+ individuals long, full lives. One of the simple parts of the equation is nutrition. Below are some of the principle nutritional suggestions for those afflicted with the disease, a link to our full HealthNotes article on the subject, as well as several other links to informational websites.

 

  • Daily multivitamin supplements to prevent common deficiencies associated with the disease
  • 400 mcg a day of selenium under a doctor’s supervision can result in fewer infections, a healthier appetite, and other benefits
  • 800 mg a day of the supplement N-acetyl cysteine to slow the decline in immune function
  • 990 mg of Boxwood a day to support CD4 cell counts
  • Forego foods made with wheat, rye, barley, or oats to reduce symptoms of diarrhea
  • Slow HIV progression by exercising three to four times each week

These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full HIV and AIDS article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.

 

One.org: World Aids Day
NutraUSA: The role of nutrition in living with HIV/AIDS
Avert.org: World Stats
The Global Fight: Global Fund
World Vision: Hope Child Sponsorship
CNN: Much accomplished, much to do
wowOwow: Countries Around the World Commemorate World AIDS Day

 
Gobble Gobble
Posted Monday, November 24, 2008

(pic via woulda coulda shoulda)

So, have your shopping list ready? Already been to the grocery and back and back again more times than you care to count? Fridge full with defrosting and half-completed dishes?

With the holiday looming and preparation time floating by, preoccupation is certainly in the air for this short work week, so we thought we'd start it out by posting links to a few of the more interesting and instructional Thanksgiving posts we've chanced on over the last few days. Enjoy!

Joy's Healthy Bite: Hidden Nutrition Gems in Your Thanksgiving Feast!
Food Fit: Thanksgiving Menus from FoodFit's Chefs
The Body: A Healthy Feast: Thanksgiving Nutrition
LA Times: Stuffed with nutritional goodies; Turkey's healthful pedigree
Reporter Herald: A rainbow of healthful foods can transform Thanksgiving

 
A Dancing Explanation
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2008

For a full explanation, have a look at Tierny Lab at the NYTimes.

 
Up Your Vitamin D
Posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008

University of California scientists have begun a crusade to get the government to drastically increase the recommended dosage for vitamin D amongst Americans. With more and more research appearing which highlights the preventative and proactive benefits of the vitamin, we've had a lot to say about vitamin D here over the past few months, and as new info and recommendations come in, we'll continue to pass them along.

Eighteen California researchers, led by Anthony Norman, professor emeritus of biochemistry and of biomedical sciences at UC Riverside, aim to see that you hear about vitamin D too. The group has asked government officials to take another look at their recommendations for vitamin D. Currently, the recommended daily doses are set at 200 international units (IU) for people up to 50 years old, 400 IU for people 51 to 70, and 600 IU for those over 70.

“The consensus among UC scientists who signed this statement is that 2000 IU per day of vitamin D3, a form of vitamin D, is the appropriate intake for most adult Americans,” said Dr. Norman. “This intake is the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine’s upper limit for daily intake, and is 400 IU less than the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine’s ‘no adverse health effect’ level. Scientific concerns about this level of intake are minimal, based on the findings of the National Academy of Sciences.” 

The amount of research available at this time is strong enough to warrant such an increase, though the research group noted that more research was highly desirable. The group of scientists, which included researchers from UC Riverside, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, also stated that raising vitamin D supplementation to such levels could work to reduce the incidence of type 1 diabetes, forms of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

To bring vitamin D levels up, the group recommended a diverse approach: a combination of food, sunshine, and supplements. Generally, most vitamin D is received through natural sunlight; however, skin and cancer concerns do not allow for individuals to follow this single path to vitamin D satiety. Also, vitamin D does not occur in very many foods naturally, though now items like milk and orange juice are often fortified with it. As a result, researchers see this three-headed approach (vitamin supplements, a little sun, and the vitamin in the food's where you can get it) as not only desirable, but fundamentally essential.

Norman has been researching vitamin D for more than 45 years. We have an earlier post about his work, concerning the vitamin D receptor that is essential in 36 different organs that respond to the vitamin. For more info, please have a look at the links below:

DSIB: Vitamin D

UC: Vitamin D Expert at UC Riverside Leads UC Scientists' Call Recommending Increase in Daily Vitamin D Intake

Grassroots Health: The Vitamin D Deficiency Epidemic

DSIB Blog:

36 Organs

Recommended Vitamin D for Kids Doubles

Monthly Vitamin D

A Round of Vitamin D

 
Vitamin C and E, JAMA Cancer Claims
Posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One of the big items about supplements that has been trumpeted in the press of late is the Journal of the American Medical Association's (JAMA) long term study about vitamin E and vitamin C supplementation. The study has been put forth as a claim that these two supplements are ineffectual for the risks present of major heart disease concerns for men. The Natural Products Association has released the following statement from the organization's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., concerning flaws in the study which have altered the results and reliability of the study in question:

“On the second page of the study, it references nine pooled studies that when using 700 milligrams per day of vitamin C showed a 25-percent reduction in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (CVD); yet this study only used 500 milligrams per day. Why wasn't the 700 milligrams per day amount used when that has been correlated with a reduction in occurrence in prior studies?

“Additionally, while the study did control for multivitamin intake to prevent overlap, intake of vitamin C and E from food was not controlled. With a population of health care professionals at an increased risk for CVD, these subjects most likely know the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and thus rich in vitamins C and E, and may adjust their intake accordingly. This would most certainly confound the study.

“It is essentially a drug study but one without a positive control, which is necessary to ensure the experimental design can produce a positive result even if the intervention was unable to.”

NPA: Association Responds to JAMA Report on Vitamin E, C Study and Cardiovascular Disease

DSIB: Vitamin C

DSIB: Vitamin E

 
Calcium, Magnesium, and Cancer
Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To get all of the preventative benefits possible from calcium, especially those linked with cancer, and colon cancer in particular, it appears that magnesium supplements are essential. The Calcium Polyp Prevention Study, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference, shows that the ratio of calcium to magnesium intake had significant implications for the effectiveness to prevent colorectal complications. According to the study, when the ratio of the two supplements were low (or nearly equal, i.e. 1:1, 1:1.2), the reemergance of cancer was reduced by thirty-two percent. Colorectal cancer presently represents nine percent of new cancer cases worldwide, with the highest incidence rates being in the developed world.

Americans already have relatively high calcium levels, but it was observed that calcium treatments alone did not necessarily lead to lower incidences of the disease. Americans also have one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer. "These results mean that designing a personalized diet/supplementation regimen that takes the ratio of both nutrients [calcium and magnesium] into account may be better than supplementing with only one or the other alone," said Dr. Qi Dai, a member of the research team which presented the results.

DSIB: Calcium

DSIB: Magnesium

 
Google Charts the Flu
Posted Friday, November 14, 2008

Partnering with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the dot org arm of Google has just introduced "Google Flu Trends", an incredibly accurate predictor of influenza levels. By noting the number of search queries about the flu, Google can predict how many people have flu symptoms, and by breaking the searches down by region, they can give you an idea how the flu spreads, the areas where it is most prevalent, and just how much of a risk you are at. Sounds simple, huh? It seems so, and not only that, but it appears that the predictive results are spot on with the CDC data.

The twist that makes this knowledge not only interesting, but potentially very valuable, is that the Google results are in real time, whereas previous results of traditional flu surveillance systems take about two weeks to accrue. Previous to Google Flu Trends, the best measure of influenza activity could tell us: "Two weeks ago, influenza levels were here..." Now, with this new predictive measure, anyone can find out the moment to moment status for the flu.

For the history, state by state flu levels, and further explanations, check it out here at Google Flu Trends. Or, you know, you could just google it.

Here are some of the additional recommendation we have to help everyone out there guard against the danger that influenza perennially threats us each flu season:

  • 100 mg of Vitamin C per day
  • Take 3 to 5 ml of liquid Echinacea, or 300 mg of powdered root supplements three times a day to help clear symptoms faster
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) of Black Elderberry to speed recovery

 

DSIB: Influenza

 
Social Sightings
Posted Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The DSIB and Natural Products Foundation have formed groups on two of the biggest social networks on the web, and we'd like to invite anyone who is interested to join us! For members of the natural products industry, we have groups on both Plaxo and LinkedIn where we discuss all the current news and updates of the industry, share videos, blogs and pictures, and generally just put our heads together to move the industry forward. If you are already a member of either of these sites please feel free to jump into our groups, or if you haven't banded into social networking yet, allow us to welcome you in!

Natural Products Foundation@Plaxo.com

 

 

 

 


 

p.s. We also have a Myspace account (a little less group oriented, but fun all the same)!

 
A Round of Vitamin D
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Of late there has been an avalanche of new research about vitamin D. Today we'll have a little roundup of the most recent studies about the break-out vitamin of the year.

The following new findings, all of which have surfaced in journals and news reports in the last week or thereabouts, give a fairly representative idea of how wide-ranging and positive the expanding knowledge of vitamin D has become. The items that are highlighted today are just a cross-section, and only the most recent, but it is very apparent from this small sample how important vitamin D supplementation is to our future well-being and health.

Vitamin D, Body Fat and Height
Canadian researchers have unexpectedly uncovered links between vitamin D insufficiency and populations that have increased body fat and decreased height. "Our study indicates that vitamin D insufficiency is extremely common in young women living in a sun-rich area of the United States," wrote the authors of the study, which was first reported in the most recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. "[The study] also supports the hypotheses that either vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for increased body fat or increased body fat is a risk factor for vitamin D insufficiency." The study's subjects were all young women, so researchers were not able to generalize their findings across more diverse population, but still: "The positive association between height and vitamin D status is unexplained and intriguing, and warrants further investigation."

Medscape: Vitamin D Insufficiency Linked to Increased Body Fat

Vitamin D and Fertility
Australian scientists have found that vitamin D plays a key part in male infertility. In a study which was released late last month, researchers found that nearly a third of infertile men were vitamin D deficient. "Vitamin D and folate deficiency are known to be associated with infertility in women, but the outcomes of the screening among men in our study group came as a complete surprise," said Dr. Anne Clark, medical director of the Fertility First clinic in Sydney. The study has a recent corollary for females -- a European study earlier this year found that healthy vitamin D levels strongly related to women's ability to conceive.

News.com.au: Lack of sunlight linked to male infertility

Vitamin D and Radiology
Radiology experts from the NYC Department of Health believe vitamin D is one of the body's main protections against low levels of radiation. Thus far, no drug has been found fight the long-term effects of radiation, where cancer is a huge concern. Such a drug would be invaluable in the event of a nuclear episode, such as the fallout which was seen in Chernobyl in northern Ukraine. It seems that certain dietary supplements, principally vitamin D, may have the answer. Studies are forthcoming, and you can check out more of the preliminaries here at Science Daily:

Could Vitamin D Save Us From Radiation?

Vitamin D and Thyroid Problems
A study from the University of Califonia, Los Angeles, shows that low vitamin D levels are link to increasing complications and problems for the thyroid. The lack of vitamin D causes the thyroid to be more susceptible to injuries that produce hyperthyroidism, a complication unforeseen by researchers.

Wellness Resources: Vitamin D and Hyperthyroid

Vitamin D and Colorectal Adenomas
It has been found that high vitamin D intake is related to a decrease in colorectal adenomas and recurrent adenomas according to a meta-analysis published in the recent issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Individuals with the highest levels of vitamin D levels were found to have a 30% decreased risk for colorectal adenomas, and several studies have gone on to suggest that vitamin D along with calicum supplements can decrease the actually incidence of colorectal cancer. More research is intended for this topic, including randomized trials that will help to confirm vitamin D's role with this form of cancer.

Cancer Consultants: Vitamin D Prevents Colorectal Adenomas

 

 
B3 and Alzheimer's
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008

Vitamin B3 has been found to prevent memory loss in test subjects with Alzheimer's disease, according to new research from UC Irvine. It appears that Nicotinamide (a form of B3) acts to significantly lower levels of the protein that leads to the development of tangles, one of the two brain lesions of Alzheimer's. The vitamin also strengthened microtubules, the connections of brain cells that information travels along, and helps to keep the neurons alive. "Microtubules are like highways inside cells. What we're doing with nicotinamide is making a wider, more stable highway," said Kim Green, UCI scientist and lead author of the study. "In Alzheimer's disease, this highway breaks down. We are preventing that from happening."

All of the test results thus far have been published in the the most recent Journal of Neuroscience, and studies are pushing forward, moving the experiments from animal populations to large-scale interventions for sufferers of the disease. Nicotinamide is an over-the-counter supplement, part of the B3 family. It is a HDAC (Histone deacetylase) inhibitor; HDACs have recently been shown to protect the central nervous system in other research involving Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.

It appears that the vitamin may have positive implications beyond these disorders as well: In addition to combating the effects of the above mentioned diseases, nicotinamide has been shown to slightly enhance cognitive abilities in unaffiliated test subjects. "This suggests that not only is it good for Alzheimer's disease, but if normal people take it, some aspects of their memory might improve," said Frank LaFerla, UCI neurobiology and behavior professor.

More Info:
DSIB: Nicotinamide
Journal of Neuroscience: Nicotinamide Restores Cognition in Alzheimer's Disease
Eureka Alert: Vitamin B3 reduces Alzheimer's symptoms, lesions

 
B Vitamins and Cancer
Posted Friday, November 7, 2008

B vitamins may reduce breast cancer and other cancer risks in women over the age of 65 according to new research presented in the most recent Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). The study, conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that daily supplements of B vitamins could be a significant preventive measure for older populations who have increased nutritional requirements. Folate, vitamin B6 and B12 are all thought to be important elements in decreasing cancer risks because they are essential for regulating gene expression and maintaining DNA integrity, crucial functions for healthy cells. While this finding is certainly good news in and of itself, some of the study's more neutral results may actually be the bigger story in the short term.

Recently there have been concerns that folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 might actually have harmful effects, and even potentially be behind a rise in cancer risk amongst certain populations. This prospect could have been especially troubling for US policy which promotes background fortification of foods with folic acid (folate). The most predominant example of this fortification is the addition of folic acid to bread, which began in 1998 to reduce risk of neural tube defects in infants.

The results of this most recent research upends those concerns thankfully: In younger populations, folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 were found to have no effect on cancer risk -- neither positive or negative. Similar findings have recently been reported by researchers in Norway which also showed no increased risk of any kind.

For more info:
DSIB: Folic Acid
DSIB: Folate
JAMA: Effect of combined folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 on cancer risk in women: a randomized trial
NutraUSA: B vitamins may protect over-65s from cancer

 
Vitamin E and Lung Cancer
Posted Monday, November 3, 2008

New research from the University of Texas has found that the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E may significantly reduce lung cancer risk, especially for those taking the highest levels of the supplement. The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center reports that the alpha-tocopheral supplementation decreased lung cancer risks by over 50% in their recent study.

Vitamin E has eight different forms, the alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherols, and the alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienols. The current research suggests that the alpha-tocopherol alone reduced cancer risk, while the other tocopherols that were tested showed no effect by themselves. These are very important distinctions to be clear about, especially in light of the studies earlier this year which reported the opposite findings about vitamin E and lung cancer risks (the VITAL study). Summaries of these earlier findings did not detail the individual forms of vitamin E, while the new research findings from the Anderson Cancer Center does just that.

Alpha-tocopherol is currently the primary source in European dietary regimines, while gamma-tocopherol is the most prevelant in the American diet. It only stands to reason then that the wide-ranging survey conducted earlier this year in Washington for the VITAL study would not show the benefits which are believed to be specific to the alpha form of vitamin E. Consistent and independent reductions in lung cancer risk have been shown in the current studies at the University of Texas, an ongoing project whose most recent results were published in the most recent International Journal of Cancer. These new results are from the first study to compare the different forms of tocopherols and the associated risks for lung cancer, and so are a substantial contribution to knowledge in the field.

Making sure you are getting the right kind of vitamin E in this case is essential then, especially if you are currently or have in the past used tobacco products. It is a simple matter to check that you get the proper form of vitamin E, as every supplement you will consider will be clearly identified, front and back, as well as on the "Supplement Facts" label. One merely needs to look for Alpha Tocopherol (or Tocopheryl).

For more info about vitamin E and lung cancer risk, here are a few links for your consideration:

DSIB: Vitamin E

Orthomolecular.org: Vitamin E Prevents Lung Cancer

Nutria Ingredients: Vitamin E may slash lung cancer risk

 

 
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.

 
A Dose of Vitamin E
Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vitamin E is has a well earned reputation as an aid for heart health. With its ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and blood clots, it is rightly elevated to the status of an essential in the diet of millions of Americans. But like many other incredibly useful supplements, the benefits of vitamin E are dependent on proper dosage.

As long as scientists have known of the benefits of vitamin E, they have known as well that an excess of vitamin E causes bleeding by interfering with vitamin K, an essential vitamin for blood clotting. Researchers have yet to map out exactly how the two vitamins interact, but they are coming closer day by day.

In this month's Nutrition Review, Oregon State University researcher Maret Traber takes a look at the possible explanations behind the interactions of the two vitamins. A principle text she used in her exploration of the question is the Harvard based Women's Health Study, in which 40,000 healthy women over 45 years old took part over the course of 10 years. The women were assigned to either a placebo group or to a group which received vitamin E supplements of 600 international units (IU) a day. Vitamin E's protective effect was strongest for women 65 and older, while across the entire population of the study, the vitamin E group had an astonishing 24% fewer deaths from heart disease. Amongst the older populations of the study, this number rose to a 49% reduction in deaths from heart disease!

“That’s a significant benefit,” Traber said. Indeed. Still, caution must be the byword in all medical situations: “In some people high doses of vitamin E increase the tendency to bleed. Women enrolled in the study had an increase in nose bleeds.”

With this in mind, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine set the limit off the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E at 1500 IU, still well above the modest amount that proved so beneficial in the Women's Health Study.

As to how or why the two individual vitamins interact, the jury is still out. Traber's reviews suggest that perhaps a shared metabolic pathway in the liver is the cause of the vitamin E and vitamin K interaction. As vitamin E increases in the liver, vitamin K declines. To fully understand this connection, more research is needed. In the meantime, it seems very prudent to take your vitamin E, and to take it within the recommended dosage guidelines.

DSIB: Vitamin E

DSIB: Vitamin K

Nutrition Reviews Abstract: Vitamin E and K interactions – a 50-year-old problem

 
Research Advances (Part 2)
Posted Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is the second 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 sum up a new items about research with garlic, green tea, and vitamin A.

 

Garlic and Heart Disease

It has long been known that garlic may reduced one's risks for heart disease by increasing reactive oxygen species, helping high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, platelet aggregation, and blood coagulation. How garlic does this however, has not been fully understood. When crushed, the allicin properties of garlic decompose into organic polysulfides. It has now been found that the polysulfides can then be metabolized, increasing the hydrogen sulfide in blood vessels. Hydrogen sulfide induces smooth muscle cell relaxation, as well as decreasing hypertension.

Only a handful of plants other than garlic contain these sulfur compounds, and garlic is the only one of these with a dietary use. With this new knowledge of what the active process is, researchers now believe that garlic supplements may be tailored based on their ability to produce hydrogen sulfide in relevant blood cells and tissues. This should bring about more efficient and reliable supplements, along with a firm, demonstrable case for including garlic in your long-term diet.

DSIB: Garlic

National Academy of Sciences: Hydrogen sulfide mediates the vasoactivity of garlic

 

Green Tea and Breast Cancer

Worldwide, green tea consumption is second only to water. Widely renown for its medicinal properties, green tea is a great source of polyphenols, especially the catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The polyphenols have antioxidant properties which are believed to be responsible for the majority of the health benefits found in green tea.

Green tea and lower incidences of breast cancer have been shown in many studies, as well as the relationship between the tea and the risk of recurring breast cancer.

It has now been identified for the first time that FOXO3a, a gene activated by EGCG, has a role in the inhibition of an invasive phenotype in breast cancer cells. This new research showed that EGCG works to repress of pathways available to the cancer activating cells, thus diminishing their ability to transform into cancerous tumors. These findings offer new molecular evidence for the understanding of the anticarcinogenic effect of green tea.

DSIB: Green Tea

Cancer Research: Activation of FOXO3a by the Green Tea Polyphenol Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Induces Estrogen Receptor {alpha} Expression Reversing Invasive Phenotype of Breast Cancer Cells

 

 

Vitamin A Guidelines

In 2002 the International Vitamin A Consultative Group (IVACG) recommened that dosage for new mothers in vitamin A deficent areas be increased from previous World Health Organization (WHO) outlines which were set forth in 1997. A study conducted with young mother and infants in rural Gambia was undertaken to test the effectiveness and necessity of these new recommendations.

There was some concern that the increase in dosage might be dangerous, that vitamin A in such quantities might have negative interactions on immunization vaccines and generate oxidative stress.

These concerns did not bare out in the study, there were no adverse events from either set of procedures, but it was found that there were not any observable outcome differences between the IVACG recommendations and the previous WHO scheduling doses. While the results did not show an increased risk with the higher doses, the study supported reverting to the previous WHO recommendations, as there were no noticiable benefits to the higher doses at present.

DSIB: Vitamin A

Lancet: Effectiveness of an early supplementation scheme of high-dose vitamin a versus standard who protocol in gambian mothers and infants : a randomised controlled trial

 

 

For more of this series, check out part 1 and part 3.

 
Research Advances (Part 1)
Posted Monday, October 27, 2008

The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health have just released their ninth annual report on the significant advances in dietary supplement research, a summation of 25 selected breakthroughs in the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) field. Over a series of posts here we'll sum up the principle findings for you, and link to some additional resources for each study. Hope you enjoy the first of our series!

 

Genistein and Bone Metabolism in Postmenopausal Women

It has long been accepted that due to fluctuating estrogen levels, menopausal and postmenopausal women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis. As various undesirable side effects from estrogen-replacement therapies have reared their heads over the years, alternative options have become increasingly popular. Genistein is an isoflavone and phytoestrogen found in soybeans which has been shown to aid in reducing bone loss levels in postmenopausal women. The benefits of genistein appear to be considerably age-based, as it has actually been correlated to negative results in younger populations, especially pregnant women. Despite this, when genistein was taken as a supplement in older women, it was found to help new bone formation and density, while decreasing bone loss. Additionally, genistein testing has shown favorable results for blood-sugar control and heart health.

DSIB: Genistein

Annals of Internal Medicine: Effects of the Phytoestrogen Genistein on Bone Metabolism in Osteopenic Postmenopausal Wome

Fenugreek Seed and Diabetes

Fenugreek seeds have been used since ancient times for both medical concerns and as a spice for cooking. It has been used for treating people suffering from diabetes, open wounds, abscesses, bronchitis, and digestive and kidney problems. Only recently though has the seed been scientifically evaluated for its anti-diabetic effects.

Alkaloids and proteins high in lysine are thought to be behind the seed's beneficial properties, and fiber content is thought to help lower blood sugar. Experimental testing on dogs and smaller mammals have shown that the fiber works to limit blood glucose levels and and enhance antioxidant levels. Fenugreek has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels without lowering "good" cholesterol (HDL).

Serum insulin and insulin secretion were unaffected by fiber supplementation, and research results indicated that the dietary fiber of fenugreek caused overall anti-diabetic effects and enhancement of peripheral insulin activity. Currently, nearly 8% of the US population is afflicted with some stage of diabetes.

DSIB: Fenugreek

British Journal of Nutrition: Soluble dietary fibre fraction of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seed improves glucose homeostasis in animal models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes by delaying carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and enhancing insulin action

Salacia Oblonga and Type 2 Diabetes

Several species of the Salacia genus have long been used in Indian medicine. Uses have ranged from treating obesity and gonorrhea to alleviating asthma and rheumatism patients. Salacia oblonga in particular has gained popularity of late due to its potential for treating diabetics.

Recent research which tested the effects of Salacia oblonga has found that the root extract of the plant works to control glucose and insulin responses after high carbohydrate meals for individuals with type 2 diabetes. The findings suggest that Salacia may be very beneficial for managing glucose after meals, especially when the patient has been without food for a significant amount of time before the meal.

The American Journal of Clinicial Nutrition: Extract of Salacia oblonga lowers acute glycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes

 

 

 

For more of the series, check out part 2 and part 3.

 
Onions Against the Flu
Posted Friday, October 24, 2008

 

As fall and wintry weather descends upon us, researchers from Clemson University and the University of South Carolina have a simple solution to deal with the oncoming flu season: Onions!

Onions are rich in quercetin, a compound that boosts the immune system and may protect against influenza. Quercetin belongs to a class of water-soluble plant pigments called flavonoids, and in tests on animals it appears that the substance negates susceptibility to flu, countering the effects of physical stress that greatly increase the odds of becoming ill.

This recent research is an extension of programs that found last year that the flavonoid in quercetin could reduce the occurrence of illnesses for those who exercise extensively. It now appears that this may be applicable to all forms of physical stress. It is also thought that the compound could reduce blood tension in individuals with hypertension.

"Quercetin was used because of its documented widespread health benefits, which include antiviral activity, abundance in the diet and reported lack of side effects when used as a dietary supplement or food additive," said lead researcher Mark Davis.

So, if you're running about a lot, in an organized fashion or not, quercetin may be your best friend this fall. Further research is going ahead to see how quercetin may be optimized for health care. For the time being, adding onions to your diet is a grand idea. (And if onions aren't your thing, quercetin can be found in smaller amounts in apples, green tea, black tea, leafy green vegetables and beans.)

For more on this study have a look at the links below:

American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology:
Quercetin reduces susceptibility to influenza infection following stressful exercise

NutraUSA: Apples and Onions

 
Tart Cherries for Your Waistline and Heart, Yogurt for Your Bladder
Posted Thursday, October 23, 2008

(Image: Time)

Recent research has found that tart cherries are beneficial to heart health and your waistline, and yogurt can greatly reduce the odds of bladder cancer.

To the cherries first: University of Michigan researchers studying tart cherries have found that high levels of antioxidants in the fruit help prevent heart disease. Additionally, in studies on obese rats, the fruit was found to reduce body fat by about 15%. The cherries have been observed to be particularly slimming around the waist area, the spot which contributes the greatly to heart disease risks. A newly minted superfruit, tart cherries also have the potential to reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol, other major heart health concerns.

And have some yogurt with your cherries, why not - Swedish scientists have found that two servings of yogurt can reduce the risk of developing bladder cancer by up to 40%. The study, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, had a very large sample size and course, over 80,000 patients and nine years. Amongst these numbers they found that the risk of cancer in yogurt eating males decreased by 36%, while it decreased 45% for females. The findings did not extend their results for other dairy products however. Intake of yogurt is generally thought to be correlated with individuals who have healthier overall lifestyles, and it was noted that nearly half bladder cancer cases in men and a third in women are caused by smoking. Women are three times as likely to be inflicted with bladder cancer.

For more on the respective foods help yourself to the info below:

Eurekalert: Research identifies new link between tart cherries and risk factors for heart disease
The American Journal of Cultural Nutrition: Cultured milk, yogurt, and dairy intake in relation to bladder cancer risk
Nutra USA: Yogurt Can Benefit Bladder

 

 
Monthly Vitamin D Supplementation
Posted Thursday, October 23, 2008

According to researchers from Israel and Canada, people can receive vitamin D supplementation in mega monthly doses just as effectively as daily supplementation. Receiving a dose of vitamin D once every four weeks can ensure that you have enough of the vitamin circulating in your system, and monthly dosing can make it easier of people to stick with vitamin D supplementation.

There was some concern that large doses of vitamin D might cause the system to drastically increase calcium levels in the blood, a potentially dangerous situation, but the research shows this worry to be unfounded. As the study progressed no significant differences in calcium levels were found between daily, weekly, and monthly test groups. The only instance of a test subject having inflated calcium levels was actually someone assigned to the daily supplementation group.

The final findings concluded that vitamin D supplementation can be achieved with equal effectiveness for those receiving it daily, weekly, or monthly. With this laid out, it is apparent that the choice for how often individuals receive their doses should be based on whichever dose is easiest for them to keep up with long-term supplementation. If you are keen on your daily vitamins, once a day works as well as it always has, but now there is an option for those of us who may be less regimented. You can check out further info from the study itself, printed in the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, below:

JCEM: Abstract
JCEM: Author Manuscript

 
Family Nutrition and Social Policy
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008

(From: sheffield.ac.uk)

One of the largest obstacles for many people who are trying to improve their diet is that eating is often a social event. For families, bettering nutrition and diet can be a complicated endeavor as there are likely to be different dietary needs for members of family units dependent on gender, weight, and age differences. The diverse nature of modern family life must be taken into account for dietary concerns, and yesterday researchers from the University of Sheffield sought to address this issue. Their points for the UK can easily be taken to heart by those of us here in the US.

Professor Jackson of the University of Sheffield said: "If government advice on healthy eating is to have a serious impact, it needs to be framed within a better understanding of the diversity of our everyday family lives. Policies and interventions have often looked to redress a perceived deficit in family relationships and practices (e.g. parenting skills). Although government policy makes some acknowledgement of the impact of poverty and other social factors, this often takes second place to the 'blame' culture."

Much of deficiency in diet is a result of heightened consumption of junk food, often laden with empty calories and egregious fat content--the thing is, these are items are by far the cheapest (and most heavily marketed) items available, and so it is no surprise if junk food is taking up larger portions in the diet of impovershed segments of the population. From the U of Sheffield's press release:

Most people are aware that they need to eat 'five-a-day' but many don't achieve these targets because they are forced to act within their circumstances. Poorer families may be acting rationally when serving 'junk' food to their children knowing that 'healthier' meals will simply go to waste. To truly improve the nation's diet a better understanding of social and cultural conventions is required in order to inform more effective health advice and social policy around families and food.

The preview release is a very interesting look into the socio-economical circumstances of diet, and when more is made available we will share it with you. Below are a link back to the EurekaAlert press release, the homepage for the Changing Families, Changing Food project, as well as a few more facts from the project's research.

University of Sheffield: Changing Families, Changing Food
Eureka Alert: Nutrition advice best served with family in mind

  • While the emphasis on women's body size and shape is often seen as a current preoccupation, the research shows that women's magazines have been full of dietary advice since the 1940s, even though the nature of that advice has changed dramatically over time
  • The introduction of 'Healthy Start' (food support benefit for pregnant women) has meant that a higher proportion of pregnant and postnatal women met the recommended intakes for key nutrients, like calcium, folate, iron and vitamin C but at a cost of a considerably increased calorie intake. The results also suggested that 'Healthy Start' women ate significantly more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • While many people have seen the decline of the 'family meal' as a sign of the breakdown of contemporary family life, the research suggests that even in the Edwardian period (in the early 1900s), family meals were a middle-class aspiration rarely achieved in practice
 
Gut Health Series
Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nutra USA has an interesting series of articles up online right now about Gut Health. The topic of digestive health, with a focus on probiotics and prebiotics, is very informative, discussing over the course of the series the market, regulation, supply sources, and science behind these digestive health supplements.

One of the principle reasons those in the know are so excited about pro- and prebiotics is that in course of treatment, they have an incredibly quick effect on overall health. With nearly 100,000,000 people in the US alone suffering from digestive problems, these consistently functional supplements are certainly something to spread the word about. If you or someone you know has any digestive issues, this series of articles is a must-read.

DSIB: Probiotics
Market: How Global Consumers View Digestive Health
Regulation: Rules and Health Claims for Gut Health
Supply: Gut Health Supply Low Down
Science: The Wider Impacts of Gut Health

 
World Osteoporosis Day
Posted Monday, October 20, 2008

(U.S. Office of the Surgeon General)

October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day, and DSIB would like to highlight the effort of the many wonderful organizations who are helping to raise awareness about this all too prevalent disease. Osteoporosis is a condition in which skeletal bone mass undergoes a marked decrease. This leaves those suffering from osteoporosis with fragile, brittle bones, making them increasingly likely to suffer bone fractures and further complications in the future. The most insidious feature of the disease is that it occurs unnoticed, displaying no symptoms or effects until after it is too late.

The good news is that osteoporosis is a largely preventable condition. This is why World Osteoporosis Day and awareness about the condition are so important. With a simple combination of nutrition and exercise, many serious fractures could be avoided. By simply taking the recommended doses of calcium, strontium, and vitamin D, many of the hardships caused by osteoporosis could be avoided.

Marking the day, the International Osteoporosis Foundation has begun an initiative encouraging health policy officials across the world to improve healthcare and social policies to reduce the human and socio-economic burden of osteoporosis. You can learn more about the Stand Tall, Speak Out program below, as well as other info from a variety of wonderful organizations.

DSIB Health Notes: Osteoporosis
International Osteoporosis Foundation: Stand Tall, Speak Out
National Osteoporosis Foundation: World Osteoporosis Day
National Osteoporosis Society Young People are Putting Their Bones at Risk
Times Online: How to combat osteoporosis
American Profile: Osteoporosis: The Genetic Factor
Trading Markets: A male malady, too: Long associated with older women, osteoporosis 'underdiagnosed, undertreated' in men

 

(National Osteoporosis Society UK)

 
Antioxidants Greatly Reduce Trauma Damage
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008

High-dose antioxidants have been found to help prevent post-operative trauma according to a study presented at the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The study found that high-dose antioxidant protocols including vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium reduced pulmonary, abdominal, and infectious complications. The preventive capability of antioxidants may well greatly reduce the number reconstructive surgeries.

Research by Dr. Bryan Cotton, assistant professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has shown that such high-dose antioxidant treatments had an 28% reduction in mortality in acutely injured patients. Incredible. Additionally, other trauma patients' stays in intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital in general were significantly reduced.

When we have aninjury or infection, the body undergoes physical stress. As a result, injured oxygen molecules, free radicals, are released. Free radicals then being to damage other cells, butantioxidants can counter this effect by reducing the stressors which cause the release of free radicals.

“Antioxidant therapy is so simple and that’s what throws people off,” Dr. Cotton said. It does sound a little too simple on the surface, but that has certainly not stopped the growing body of evidence behind antioxidant treatments. “While we are all looking for that magic bullet to cure some of the horrible things that can happen after someone is injured or has an operation, we have something at our disposal,” Dr. Cotton said. “It might not be that magic bullet, but it is a very inexpensive and safe way to reduce complications and mortality in the sickest patients.”

MedPage Today: ACS: High-Dose Antioxidants Improve Trauma Outcomes
Newswise Medical News: Surgeons Discover that Vitamin C and Other Antioxidants Reduce Infections, Pulmonary Failure, and Abdominal Wall Complications in Trauma Patients

 
Acai Absorbency
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008

 


 

Acai berries are one of the most popular new health products on the market, and Texas research scientists have just released a study that has finally proven that it can be properly absorbed in the human body.

Due to the numerous rich antioxidants the juice and pulp of the fruit contains, there has been a lot of excitement surrounding Acai, a Brazilian palm berry. Because of its recent emergence in the health food market however, research is still in beginning stages of identifying all the benefits and potential uses for the fruit. This latest research is certainly encouraging news.

"Acai is naturally low in sugar, and the flavor is described as a mixture of red wine and chocolate,” said lead investigator Dr. Susanne Talcott, “so what more would you want from a fruit?”

Indeed.

Science Daily: Brazilian Acai Berry Antioxidants Absorbed By Human Body, Research Shows
Wiki: Açaí Palm

 
A Little More Info...
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Between the new AAP recommendations for children and a few new studies published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Achieves of Neurology, there has been much to-do of late over vitamin D. With that in mind, we thought we might share an interesting little post we've found on Natural News from way back on New Year's Day, 2005: Vitamin D myths, facts and statistics. Here is a little sample:

Shocking Vitamin D deficiency statistics:

  • 32% of doctors and med school students are vitamin D deficient.
  • 40% of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient.
  • 42% of African American women of childbearing age are deficient in vitamin D.
  • 48% of young girls (9-11 years old) are vitamin D deficient.
  • Up to 60% of all hospital patients are vitamin D deficient.
  • 76% of pregnant mothers are severely vitamin D deficient, causing widespread vitamin D deficiencies in their unborn children, which predisposes them to type 1 diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia later in life. 81% of the children born to these mothers were deficient.
  • Up to 80% of nursing home patients are vitamin D deficient.

You can click on the link above to see the whole article, and right here to check out the DSIB's Health Notes on vitamin D.

 
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Parkinson's
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Over half of all Parkinson's patients have insufficient levels vitamin D according to a recent study from Emory University. This finding further supports the hypothesis that inadequate vitamin D levels may contribute to neurodegenerative disorders in general, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Parkinson's patients were found to be the more likely than Alzheimer's patients to be vitamin D deficient, while both groups are more likely to be vitamin D deficient than healthy adults.

Due to the nature of these illnesses, the populations afflicted with these diseases have many of the principle risk factors associated with low levels of vitamin D: a lack of exposure to sunlight, being overweight, and advanced age. Despite these shared risks that both diseases present, those with Parkinson's are considerably more likely to have the lowest levels of vitamin D.

"We found that vitamin D insufficiency may have a unique association with Parkinson's, which is intriguing and warrants further investigation," said Marian Evatt, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Emory, first author of the study.

Here is a little excerpt from the Eureka Alert bulletin which is linked to in full below:

Previous studies have shown that the part of the brain affected most by Parkinson's, the substantia nigra, has high levels of the vitamin D receptor, which suggests vitamin D may be important for normal functions of these cells, Evatt says. Emory clinicians are conducting further research to investigate whether vitamin D insufficiency is a cause or possibly a result of having Parkinson's. In a pilot study, Parkinson's patients are receiving either standard or larger doses of vitamin D, with an eye towards possibly reducing the severity of their condition.

The full results of this study are published in the current issue of Archives of Neurology: Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Patients With Parkinson Disease and Alzheimer Disease

Eureka Alert: Lack of vitamin D linked to Parkinson's disease

 
Antioxidants and Sunglasses v. AMD
Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008

People with low levels of antioxidants who are exposed to frequent sunlight have a substantially increased risk of developing advanced macular degeneration (AMD) according to new research presented in Archives of Ophthalmology. This is the first study to report a negative association between sunlight exposure and AMD in people with low antioxidant levels.

AMD is a disease related to aging which eventually works to destroy one's central vision. Central vision is the straight ahead vision which permits one to do daily things like reading and driving. AMD can occur in two distinct ways, dry AMD and wet AMD. Wet is far more devastating to vision, and is always preceded by the dry form, though not everyone who has dry AMD will necessarily advance to the later stage.

The eyes are generally protected against the damaging effects of sunlight by the antioxidants of vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc. Individuals low in these essential antioxidants were found to be the most at risk for AMD, so it is highly recommended to maintain antioxidant levels for all of these nutrients. Find yourself a good pair of sunshades as well:

"Lowering retinal exposure to blue light and ensuring that intake of key antioxidant nutrients is sufficient are the main recommendations from our study. Any benefit from reducing sun exposure must be set against the benefits of sunlight, in particular its role in vitamin D synthesis. We advise reducing ocular exposure when outdoors by wearing broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses, estimated to reduce ocular light exposure by approximately 40% and 70%, respectively."

Archives of Ophthalmology: Sunlight Exposure, Antioxidants, and AMD
National Institutes of Health: Facts About Advanced Macular Degeneration

 
36 Organs Require Vitamin D
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008

Research by Anthony Norman of UC Riverside, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, points to vitamin D as an essential nutrient for 36 different organs. In the past vitamin D has gotten the most attention for its association with skeletal health, warding off diseases like osteoporosis and rickets, but this new research points out that vitamin D is integral for intestinal, kidney, skin, lung, and stomach health as well.

"It is becoming increasingly clear to researchers in the field that vitamin D is strongly linked to several diseases," said Norman, a distinguished professor emeritus of biochemistry and of biomedical sciences who has worked on vitamin D for more than 45 years. "Its biological sphere of influence is much broader than we originally thought. The nutritional guidelines for vitamin D intake must be carefully reevaluated to determine the adequate intake, balancing sunlight exposure with dietary intake, to achieve good health by involving all 36 target organs."
Norman recommends that people take at least 2000 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day, considerably more than the conventional recommended dose, which is between 200 IU to 600 IU, depending on age. Norman's continious research about vitamin D has been funded by yearly grants from the National Institues of Health for over forty years; the man has a passion, and has consistently provided new and revolutionary info throughout his career. It was from his lab that it was first discovered that vitamin D is converted into a steroid hormone by the body.

 

To read more about Norman's work with vitamin D you can check out his work at AJCN (From vitamin D to Hormone D) or read more at Science Daily (Vitamin D Key Player in Overall Health).

 

 
Recommended Vitamin D for Kids Doubles
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008

 

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced earlier today that it has doubled the recommended amount of vitamin D for infants, children, and adolescents. The decision to increase daily dosage is an update of the 2003 AAP initiative that sought to combat the childhood disease rickets. The minimal recommended dose for vitamin D supplementation has now increased from 200 international units (IU) to 400 (IU) per day, and should begin within the first few days of life. The new guidelines will be laid out in full in the November issue of Pediatrics.

Rickets, a weakening of the bones, has plagued child health care for centuries, and has yet to be eradicated. As bones are weakened, they do not form correctly, which can lead to twists and deformities of the skeletal system. The children most at risk are those who are breast-fed without vitamin D supplementation.

"Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for infants. However, because of vitamin D deficiencies in the maternal diet, which affect the vitamin D in a mother’s milk, it is important that breastfed infants receive supplements of vitamin D,” said Carol Wagner, MD, FAAP, member of the AAP Section on Breastfeeding Executive Committee and co-author of the report. “Until it is determined what the vitamin D requirements of the lactating mother-infant dyad are, we must ensure that the breastfeeding infant receives an adequate supply of vitamin D through a supplement of 400 IU per day.”

Proper amounts of vitamin D are essential throughout childhood, acting to reduce the rist of osteoporosis later in life. The idea that vitamin D is an essential feature for the well-being of childhood development is certainly not a new one. It extends back to spoonfuls of cod liver oil, which some of us remember with a pinch of the nose. The new recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are based on a clinical precedence for safety that has been established for administering 400 IU per day. (400 IU a day is actually the amount of vitamin D in a teaspoon of cod liver oil by the way!)

It is believed that 400 IU of vitamin D per day will not only prevent rickets, but it will help treat populations already afflicted with the disease. Dietary sources for vitamin D are not plentiful, so the AAP is recommending that all children be given vitamin D supplements.

Here are some of the guidelines for the new AAP recommendations:

  • Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU a day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life.
  • All non-breastfed infants, as well as older children, who are consuming less than one quart per day of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk, should receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU a day.
  • Adolescents who do not obtain 400 IU of vitamin D per day through foods should receive a supplement containing that amount.
  • Children with increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, such as those taking certain medications, may need higher doses of vitamin D.

 

For more info check out the AAP press room release, New Guidelines Double the Amount for the Recommended Vitamin D, and the AAP Clinical Report, Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency

 
St. John's Wort and Depression
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008

 


 

A new study from the Cochrane Systematic Review has found that St. John's Wort extracts are effective in reducing the symptoms of major depressive disorders. St. John's Wort had previously been shown to successfully treat individuals suffering from minor to mild depressive symptoms, but until now it was not clear if the herb would be useful in more severe cases.

The review, performed by scientists from the University Medical Center Freiburg and the Technical University of Munich, examined previous trials with over 5,000 patients who had symptoms of major depression. St. John's Wort extracts were found to be as effective as standard antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but with fewer side effects, which in turn allowed patients to stick with the treatment. The drop out rate for those taking the extract was 76% lower than for patients taking tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressant, and 47% lower than those taking SSRIs.

British manufactures have already been granted the right to claim that St. John's Wort can help "low mood" and "mild anxiety", and as more studies are underway, we may see a similar grant here in the States.

Here is some reading material for further info:
Cochrane Reviews
WebMD
Medical News Today

 
Health Care in the Next Administration
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008

 


 

As election season descends upon us, health care has become one of the hot issues on the presidential campaign trails. The New England Journal of Medicine recently asked the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates for a statement describing their plans for reforming the national health care, which you can see right here: Health Care Reform and the Presidential Candidates

Additionally, the New England Journal of Medicine co-hosted a symposium with the Harvard School of Public Health which featured senior health policy advisers David Cutler and Gail Wilensky so that further detail of each party's plans could be discussed. A video of the symposium can be seen here: Health Care in the Next Administration (video) , or you can read the full transcript of the roundtable discussion here: Health Care Discussion (PDF).

 
A Glass of Red Wine Against Lung Cancer
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008

The American Association for Cancer Research has just put out a news release indicating that moderate consumption of red wine may decrease the risk of lung cancer in men. This finding is based on study published in the latest AACR journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study found that antioxidant components in red wine could be a deterrent for lung cancer, especially among the portion of the population who smoke.

The study found lung cancer risk decreased by 2% with each glass of red wine consumed per month, up to a 60% reduced lung cancer risk overall (about two glasses per day). Of course those who smoke still face a greater risk than the other participants, no matter how reasonable their drinking. White wine, beer, and liquor use, which were also included in the study, showed no clear associations with lung cancer.

"Red wine is known to contain high levels of antioxidants. There is a compound called resveratrol that is very rich in red wine because it is derived from the grape skin. This compound has shown significant health benefits in preclinical studies," said Chun Chao, Ph.D., a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, California. The study also stressed that excessive use of even red wine was not found to be beneficial. You can read the rest of the news release here: Red Wine May Lower Lung Cancer Risk.

 
Senecavirus: A Virus That Kills Cancer
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008

 

(Senecavirus, Scripps Virus Particle Explorer)

 

The Scripps Research Institute has just released news that they have mapped the structure of the Senecavirus, a virus that is thought to actually be beneficial for people. The virus is harmless to normal human cells, but it infects tumors, such as small cell lung cancer. Early research shows that the virus is capable of cancer-killing specificity 10,000 times greater than traditional chemotherapeutics without any overt toxicity.

Researchers are still investigating how this virus works, and so uncovering the structure of the virus is a great step forward, as the shape of the virus determines how it infects cells. You can have a peek at what this looks like for yourself here: Structure of Seneca Valley Virus-001 (pics on the right, as well as above in this post).

Further study of the virus is continuing, as researchers are currently in the process of identifying areas of the structure they think may hook onto cancer cell receptors to infect them. There are hope that eventually the virus may be improved upon and altered so that it may become an agent which can be used as a treatment for a variety of different cancers.

Links for more info:
Scientific Blogging
The Journal of the National Cancer Institue
clinicaltrials.gov
National Cancer Institute

 
Vitamin C and Chemotherapy
Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Much has been made in the press over the last week about a recent study which found that vitamin C may decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Today, in the Montreal Gazette, Dr. L. John Hoffer, a professor of medicine at McGill University and an internist and clinical nutrition support specialist at the Jewish General Hospital, has written a response to this claim. Dr. Hoffer notes that many of the articles on the study in question have broad omissions, and that they may needlessly frighten individuals who are trying to cope with cancer treatments.

Hoffer principally finds fault with the study, which appeared in Cancer Research, because it did not involve ascorbic acid, but rather dehydroascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is the form of vitamin C that is found in supplements. The dehydroascorbic acid in the study was mixed with cells in a concentraction that does not exist in nature.

The fact is that many more studies have found just the opposite of this recent study,--namely, that vitamin C in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs actually aids in the destruction of cancer cells and protects noncancerous cells. Hoffer also points out that in another recent study, vitamin C increased the benefit of chemotherapy, while the addition of dehydroascorbic acid decreased it. Here is a little excerpt from the article:

In my view, people about to receive highly effective chemotherapy should trust the clinical judgment of their oncologist when it comes to antioxidants. They should understand that the clinical trials that validated these drugs did not include high doses of Vitamin C or other antioxidants.

The article goes on to discuss the various potential uses and benefits which may be had from intravenous vitamin C for cancer patients. You can read the entire article right here: Jury still out on the effect of Vitamin C on chemotherapy.

 
Vitamin and Supplement Use
Posted Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The TABS Group has just recently reported their quarterly results for tracking vitamin, mineral, and supplement use. One of the major surprises of the results was that sales for fish oil rose far higher than was expected. 21% of all adults age 18-75 have purchased fish oil in the past six months, a rather dramatic increase. Fish oil sales are now on level with the sales of letter vitamins. Rapid growth of this kind has brought this relatively new kind of supplement to the forefront, resulting in increased mainstream attention.

Of the several other interesting trends noted in the study, here are the principal findings:
* Two-thirds of the public have purchased something from the vitamin, mineral, or supplement categories over the last six months, a relatively stable figure over the last several studies.
* Coenzyme Q10 and Acidophilus have still performed as niche products despite their strong sales growth. Claimed purchase was 5% for CoQ10 and 4% for Acidophilus.
* Multivitamins continue to have the highest purchasing strength, with over half of all respondents reporting to have bought multivitamins in the last 6 months.
* Despite its reputation as a supplement to support women’s susceptibility to osteoporosis, one-third of the purchasers of calcium are men.

The TABS Group Study is a conducted quarterly, and examines consumer behavior over the six months previous to the study. Next quarter the TABS report will shift focus to the purchasing habits for all organic and natural products.

TABS Group

 
It's Monday, Time to Get Going...
Posted Monday, October 6, 2008

Slogging through your first day of the week? Men's Fitness online may have an answer of two for you... They have posted a great list for all fellas who might be dragging tail on their Monday, or any day. The magazine has fifty energy-boosting tactics for men, with a high emphasis on the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep you alert and active through your day. Vitamin D, L-carnitine, omega-3s, B vitamins (B6, B12), calcium, and antioxidants are touched on, as well as other ideas for what your diet needs to keep you going. Any list telling us that sleep--naps and sleeping in no less--are an obvious but principled activity to do, well, it can't be all bad. Check out all the other ways get yourself up to speed here.

 
Liver Awareness Month
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008

(Liver, Gray's Anatomy, 1918)

 

Our friend James Gormley has a new article up at the American Chronicle which shines all kinds of education on the liver, kicking Liver Awareness Month off properly on this first of the month.

The liver doesn't get nearly the attention that some other major organs recieve, but liver disease affects one in ten people, and roughly 30 million Americans.

James' article explains the course and onset of liver disease, as well as detailing the additional threat that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) poses to liver health, before ending with a series of hopeful notes, namely, emerging supplement treatments to combat liver damage.

To get the low down on milk thistle, selenium, zinc, and especially alpha lipoic acid, which shows great promise for keeping your liver tip-top, please click through on the links below for the whole story.

Be a Liver Lover: Alpha Lipoic Acid and Other Supplements Offer Hope
The American Liver Foundation

 
Adverse Event Update
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A little update on the recent FDA news release for 'adverse event' reports...
Andrew Saul has written a thorough and impassioned article for WeeksMD concerning the FDA's recent actions and an overview of the FDA's involvement with vitamins and supplements since the sixties. The article is well researched and well written, check it out here.

 
Vitamin C, Cancer, and Linus Pauling Revisted
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2008

 

Yesterday Cancer Monthly reported updated information about the potential for large doses of vitamin C to kill cancer cells. This idea has been out there in the medical world since the sixties and the efforts of Linus Pauling. Pauling is one of the few individuals to have ever been awarded the Nobel Prize more than once, and the present popularity of vitamin C is in large part due to his influence.

Pauling believed that huge doses of vitamin C could effectively combat and kill cancer cells. The medical establishment was skeptical, and after two clinical trials by the National Cancer Institute at the Mayo Clinic failed to replicate Pauling's claimed results, his ideas were basically dismissed and shunned by mainstream medicine.

But perhaps there is a revival of sorts in the wind. The August issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports that a number of recent studies have found that large infusions of vitamin C can kill cancer cells or block them from growing while leaving healthy cells unharmed. The PNAS authors believe, as Pauling himself did, that the original National Cancer Institute trials failed because of the way the vitamin was administered. At the Mayo Clinic trials vitamin C was taken orally, whereas Pauling's research, and the subsequent studies which have followed, have concentrated on high-doses of the vitamin taken intravenously.

From the Cancer Monthly write up:

This idea that large IV doses of vitamin C destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact is the basis of more recent studies by Mark Levine, MD, chief of the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. High concentrations of vitamin C can act as a pro-oxidant in the body, producing hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which damages cancer cells and ultimately leads to their demise. Meanwhile, normal cells survive because they aren’t as vulnerable to the effects of hydrogen peroxide. In a study published in the same issue of PNAS, Dr. Levine’s group found that injecting vitamin C directly into the bodies of mice inhibited tumor growth by about 50 percent.

You can check out further details of the article at Cancer Monthly online, as well as a history of vitamin C and cancer treatments in CancerWire (second story down).

 
Dark Chocolate Can Save Your Heart
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008

 

 

Yet another fine reason to love Italy...
Italian researchers have just announced that consuming moderate amounts of dark chocolate can significantly reduce levels of a C-reactive protein. Dark chocolate may prevent heart disease!

The findings are the first results of a epidemiological study that aims to recruit over 25,000 participants to investigate genetic and environmental factors responsible for cardiovascular disease and cancer. If this first finding is the sort of thing they will be dealing in on a large scale, one would think they won't have to much difficulty finding willing participants. The overall findings of the study will be reported in the October Journal of Nutrition. With enormous human interest story potential, expect to be hearing about this from many more sources than just science journals.

The only downside to this is that, similar to findings for red wine consumption, moderation, moderation, moderation is the key word here. The ideal amount of daily dark chocolate consumption was found to be roughly 1/6 of a candy bar. Still, even in small amounts, this is rather pleasant news.

You can check out the nitty-gritty numbers for the study here on the Journal of Nutrition's webpage, as well as at WebMD, Heartwire, and The National Business Review.

 
Horny Goat Weed
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008

It is all in the name here. According to new research from the University of Milan, Italy, it appears that the heart-shaped leaves of horny goat weed could be the most potent natural alternative to Viagra available.

The weed, also known as Bishop's Hat, Epimedium, Fairy Wings, and Yin Yan Huo, has long been known as a natural aphrodisiac, and it is a phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitor. PDE5 inhibition is what the active ingredient in Viagra so famously does to combat erectile dysfunction (ED). Researchers are now looking to natural products for the same end result without the side effects of Viagra (may cause headache, facial flushing, upset stomach, bluish vision or blurred vision, etcetera, etcetera).

Besides avoiding these manifold unpleasant sensations, the really grand thing about this particular aphrodisiac is that its properties work for both men and women. Not to mention that it has been used for two thousand years... You don't use something for that long if doesn't produce the desired results, especially when those results are as easily identifiable as the ones this weed brings on.

Researchers are just hoping to bring what has been long known up to speed. They have extracted icariin, the active ingredient in the weed, and are working to optimize its effects by concentrating the compound. Icariin does not effect the other phosphodiesterases which Viagra does (eyes, heart), so even in a concentrated form, it should not produce similar side effects. The concentrated form of the weed is now going through intensive clinical trials. Less concentrated, more traditional forms of the supplement are available now, as they have been for two millennia.

Bonus: How do you get a name like that? The story goes that the weed's special powers were discovered by a Chinese goat herder. When his goats ate the little heart-shaped leaves their sexual activity increased greatly, to the point where he noted what was different. Just some little leaves.

For further enlightenment on the subject, check out this lovely Discovery Health article in which the author, Chris Kilham, travels to China to research the weed, or this Journal of Natural Products abstract.

 

 

 
TABS Vitamin and Supplement Usage Results
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008

The TABS Group has released their most recent quarterly results tracking vitamin, mineral, and supplement usage. The most surprising finding this quarter was the elevated sales for fish oil. The study found that 21% of all adults age 18-75 have purchased fish oil in the past six months, a rather dramatic increase, putting the supplement’s sales on level with sales of letter vitamins (also at 21%). Such precipitous growth has brought this relatively new type of supplement to the forefront, resulting in increased mainstream attention and further gains in sales.

Of the several other interesting trends noted in the study, here are the principal findings:

• Two-thirds of the public have purchased something from the vitamin, mineral, or supplement categories over the last six months, a relatively stable figure over the last several studies.

• Coenzyme Q10 and Acidophilus have still performed as niche products despite their strong sales growth. Claimed purchase was 5% for CoQ10 and 4% for Acidophilus.

• Multivitamins continue to have the highest purchasing strength, with over half of all respondents reporting to have bought multivitamins in the last 6 months.

• Despite its reputation as a supplement to support women’s susceptibility to osteoporosis, one-third of the purchasers of calcium are men.

The TABS Group Study is a conducted quarterly, and examines consumer behavior over the six months previous to the study. Next quarter the TABS report will shift focus to the purchasing habits for all organic and natural products.

 
C for President
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008

A cool little blog post to share with you...
Sherry Baker, writing on a neuromuscular therapist website, has outlined five "secret" reasons why you might be in need a little more vitamin C. The list for things vitamin C can help you with--secret or not--could basically be endless, but this particular post is fun and interesting, so we're sharing. Below are her five reasons, but you'll have to follow the link below to get the explanation:

1. Burn more fat and keep pounds away.
2. Stop wheezing!
3. More reasons to smile.
4. Guard your looks.
5. Protect your heart.

Ah, why is sharing something secret so fun? Well, maybe not that secret...

For the full details, jump through this link.

 
FDA Approves Health Claims for Calcium with Vitamin D
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008

The FDA has released a final, official ruling that approves the claim that vitamin D can be add to calcium supplements to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which is above and beyond their previous labeling stance that calcium only could be labeled as such. The Department of Health and Human Service news release also stated that the FDA would eliminate the requirement list sex, race, and age as specific risk factors for the development of osteoporosis.

The benefits of a combination of vitamin D and calcium have long been present in a variety of scientific studies, but it is only through a vigorous and thorough process that the FDA allows such claims to be made on the products themselves. With the FDA's approval, all consumers may be sure that it truly is the case that calcium with vitamin D does help to prevent osteoporosis. You can view the FDA's full claim release here as a pdf.

 
Vitamin C and Bone Loss
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008

New research that is to be released in the the October Journal of Nutrition points to vitamin C as an integral part of preventing bone structure loss in aging men. As much of all we hear about bone strength is heavily banked on calcium intake, this is a development which sheds some light on just how complex preventative treatment can (and undoubtedly will) become.

Calcium is certainly still a huge part of the solution for bone density issues, especially for women. One of the interesting aspects of this new study is that, while vitamin C showed considerable benefits for men, it did not appear to have any similar results for women. The researchers weren't exactly sure why such a result would occur. Several other studies over the years have reported similar findings concerning the relationship between vitamin C and bone loss prevention.

We wanted to highlight one interesting bit of the article from Healthday which comes right at the end of the article:

To clearly establish that vitamin C protects men and women against bone loss as they age, [Dr. Mone] Zaidi, [director of the bone health program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center] said that a randomized, double-blind, large clinical trial is needed. The problem is that because vitamin C can't be patented, drug companies, which usually finance this type of clinical trial, aren't interested, he said.

Check out more details about this latest finding right here.

 
American Ginseng Treatment for UC
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008

There is some incredibly positive news on the horizon for suffers of ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory condition with a high risk of colon cancer. It appears that American ginseng may be the answer awaiting sufferers of the disorder.

In a study preformed by researchers at the University of South Carolina, American ginseng was tested on lab rats, and provided hope that it may not only ease suffering, but that it may in fact both treat the condition and prevent it from ever occurring. For more info about this new approach to treating UC, check out this extract and article at the Carcinogenesis website here. (Thanks for the tip, AHPA)

 
Wondrous Vitamin D
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a profile up about Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, medical director at Abbott's Center for Integrative Medicine, and a huge advocate of vitamin D. It is great to see someone who is so passionate about natural cures getting this kind of exposure, and then in turn using his opportunity to try and educate rather than coming on with a sale's pitch.

He has good cause to be excited. As increasing amounts of literature flood scientific journals concerning the subject, it seems all the more likely that a simple dose of vitamin D everyday could be of great benefit to many, many people. To date, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to seventeen types of cancer, diseases of the heart and the autoimmune system, and even psychological disorders such as ADHD and depression. The issue is especially grave for people in climates without much sunshine (as sunlight is the natural way for our bodies to produce the vitamin), as well as overweight and elderly populations.

At any rate, it is a very interesting article, following Dr. Plotnikoff about, and gaining insight through both individual cases and the broader trends he has uncovered thus far in his crusading for what he believes to be "the nutrient of the decade". The enthusiasm alone is well worth checking out for yourself: Wondrous Vitamin D

 
Decisions Among Vitamins and Supplements
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dr. Tori Hudson has a nice blog up this week with info about what to look for when buying your multivitamins and supplements. Dr. Hudson outlines the principle variants to be aware of when purchasing your vitamins and supplements: ingredients, potency, quality, and manufacturing process.

It can be surprising how much difference there is between similarly marketed products, but this article runs down some simple ways to weed out the pack. How many ingredients should my supplement have? What is the serving size to get the necessary amount of nutrition? Can bulkier, cheaper supplements actually work better for me? What can the manufacturing process tell us about potency? Synthetic supplements? Mixed carotenoids? She carries off all these with ease.

All in all, a very well done health blog with a bunch of interesting posts. Check the site out right here.
 
A Simple Overview
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An ABC news affiliate from Illinois has posted some very well considered and concise guidelines for supplement usage that we would like to share with you. Some key points that are mentioned are the need for full collaboration with one's health care professional when supplements are being taken in combination with prescribed medications, what USP verified labels mean on supplement labels,the caution necessary when buying supplements on the internet, and the necessity of taking the correct dosages of any supplements or vitamins. You can check out the details here, with lots of helpful links after the jump.

 
FDA Adverse Event Reports
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008

USA Today, the most widely circulated English language newspaper in the world, reported yesterday that there were 604 adverse event notices connected to dietary supplements in the first half of 2008, as reported by the FDA. This is the first time reporting adverse events has mandated by the FDA, which instituted a new law that required the reports last year. 368 of the notifications came from supplement manufacturers, and 236 from consumers or health care providers. From USA Today:

An adverse event can be anything from a concern that a supplement isn't working to a serious illness that follows consumption. FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said five deaths and 85 hospitalizations were reported through April 15, the most current numbers available. "Some of these deaths were likely due to underlying medical conditions."

What the article does not address at length however, is the fact that the FDA took in 450,000 adverse event reports about pharmaceutical drug cases in the last year, a fact discussed in a recent news release by NutraUSA. This is quite the discrepancy, to say the least.

USA Today does go on to mention that the number of events noted so far this year is far fewer than was initially expected. The numbers are well within the predicted range, and what is more, compared with pharma-drugs, they are looking really rather exceptional, as was noted by Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs of the Natural Products Association. He went on to say:

“NPA was a big supporter of the law and played a pivotal role in its passage. We most certainly believe the law is doing what it was intended to do: protect the consumer. And we believe it is bearing out what we’ve said along, that dietary supplements are an overwhelming safe consumer product. This is especially true when judged against the same reporting standards used for prescription medications, medical devices and over-the-counter drugs."

To have a look for yourself, here are the two different ways of reporting on such a story:
Nutra USA "AERS: supplements 604 - drugs 450,000
USA Today "Dietary supplements cause 600 'adverse events'"

 
Red Clover Protection Against MSG
Posted Monday, September 22, 2008

Research published in the June edition of Phytomedicine suggests that the phytoestrogenic isoflavones naturally found in red clover supplements could protect one from food with high levels of monosodium glutamate, commonly know as MSG. MSG is an additive found in nearly all commercially sold food, and acts to cheaply enhance the taste of prepared foods. It causes the brain to produce dopamine, creating the sensation of well being, but the reality of the situation is rather far removed from well being.

MSG, especially in high concentrations, can be toxic to the same brain centers that it excites. In order to combat this effect, which is almost omnipresent in the restaurant culture, red clover may be a viable preventive deterrent. Here is an excerpt from a Natural News article summarizing the situation:

 

Food processors love MSG because it makes cheap ingredients taste great. And because it comes from an amino acid, it can be added to foods labeled 'natural' or 'organic'. It's very hard to find any canned or packaged soup, dried soup mixes, prepared meals, fast food, junk food, or Chinese food that does not contain MSG. It's in prepared gravy, salad dressing, seasoning blends and mixes, canned beans, bullion cubes, broths, chili and stews. Stores that cater to the health conscious carry many of these MSG containing items.

 

Despite all we know about the downsides, completely avoiding MSG is near to impossible if you are eating prepared foods in this day and age. This is why the recent findings about red clover's combative effects are so heartening. Red clover is an herb that grows throughout the norther hemisphere; its flowers are dried for use and taste sweet. It is a good source of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C, in addition to the phytoestrogen which works to lessen the dangers of MSG.

To learn more, check out this article on Natural News' website: Red Clover Blocks Neurological Damage From MSG

 
Calcium Combats Fetal and Infant Exposure to Lead
Posted Friday, September 19, 2008

Even if there is not a significant amount of lead in the environment children grow up in, they can still be at risk of lead exposure ...from their mothers! But this need not be unduly disturbing, as there are steps that can be taken to decrease such a risk.

A study recently published online at Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that supplements high in calcium may help lower lead levels in the blood of pregnant and lactating women. The stress of a pregnancy and the postpartum period that follows speed up skeletal maintenance, causing the body to increase the amount of lead present in the system. Seemingly innocuous,--as this increase of lead in the blood is actually part of a protective process for the woman's bones--such is not the case. An excess of lead produced by a child's mother may have the same dire effects of an excess of lead anywhere in a child's environment, whether it be in utero or from more external worldly deposits of lead, the danger remains the same for children.

With this concern in mind, researchers set out to find possible solutions. Their findings lead them to believed that additional amounts of calcium in the diet may have a protective effect, especially concerning fetal and infant exposure to lead.

"The bottom line is that obstetricians and pediatricians should consider adding calcium supplementation to the prenatal vitamins normally recommended in pregnant women, particularly if their patients have a significant history of environmental or occupational lead exposure," said Howard Hu, chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

 

Here are a few links to investigate if you're interested:
Recent findings about lead exposure risks for children (University of Michigan)
Increases of lead in the blood during pregnancy (Environmental Health Perspectives)
Exposure to lead in infancy (Environmental Health Perspectives)
Calcium supplements cut blood lead levels during pregnancy (US News & World Report)

 
Alternative Options for CFS
Posted Friday, September 19, 2008

The American Association of Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) has an article up that touches on the subject that their organization is principally concerned with--alleviating the pain of individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The article is based around the findings of various Japaneseresearch groups who examined a variety of treatments, among them, vitamins and Chinese herbal medicine.

Here is what they have to say about Vitamin B:

Vitamin B complex It’s been reported that vitamin B1 plays an important role in glucose metabolism. Vitamin B1 and vitamin B12 are also reported to play an important role in neural function. When we studied the effect of vitamin B1 on our fatigue-model mice, we noticed improvement in fatigue and performance. When we administered a high dose of vitamin B12 to patients with CFS, some of them showed an objective improvement in their sleep quality. Since there are few adverse effects of vitamins B1 and B12, we routinely prescribe both for patients with CFS (30 to 100 mg/day of B1 and 3,000 mcg/day of B12).

 

Japanese Research on CFS Treatments

 
Mainstream Alternatives
Posted Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sindya Bhanoo has written a great article for the Washington Post about the recently opened Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center. The treatment center is particularly interesting in that it is part of a growing trend of mainstream conventional treatments that are collaborating with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments.

Bhanoo produces quite a quote right off the bat that is all too true:

"We conventional doctors need to acknowledge that some of our therapies don't always work," said [Linda] Lee, a gastroenterologist with 20 years of experience.
The fact that this is a John Hopkins establishment is a pretty huge coup for those interested in CAM practices, a step further toward breaking down the barriers between CAM methods and our general pracitioners. One more golden quote, and then you should check out the whole thing at the link below:
"Three-thousand-year-old treatments are being brought into the most modern setting you can imagine, where people are flown to the hospital by helicopter. Why not?"

 

From the Washington Post, Alternatives Enter the Mainstream
And here's another cool thing from Johns Hopkins, a survey assessing clinicians knowledge of CAM Practices

 
Supplements at the Olympics
Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Looking back on the 29th Olympiad there are so many inspirational stories, but one in particular elevates itself to prominence for those interested in dietary supplements: 90% of the 11,000 athletes participating in the Games used supplements, and, despite that great number, there was not a single case of supplement contamination.

This is certainly wonderful news for the industry as a whole. As the prominence of supplements has steadily risen in the athletic world over the years, so too have the stakes for the industry in the wake of high-level events such as the Olympics. With disturbing regularity, dietary supplements have been scapegoated in doping scandals, frequently becoming first line of defense for athletes caught using illegal substances.

Feigning ignorance over their test results and blaming contaminated supplements has become an all too predictable tactic for athletes to save face when confronted with charges of cheating. This defense holds little influence over regulatory bodies overseeing such test results, but it is still prevalent, doing damage to the image of dietary supplements and only delaying the inevitable suspensions that follow. All the more reason that a clean Olympic Games is a tremendous success at this stage in modern athletic competitions.

Dietary Supplements Win Olympic Gold

 
Integrative Vision Care and Nutrition
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008

By Dr. Marc Grossman, OD, L.Ac.

Each of us is unique and literally takes the world in through our senses, primarily through our vision. Many believe the way we take in the world is, to some degree, a reflection of who we are and which symptoms we might manifest. The integrative approach evaluates the person's lifestyle, habits, diet, exercise routine, and stress management, along with the family history in determining a therapeutic approach. It attempts to bring in the patient as an active partner in the program to improve or maintain eye health. Specific habits have been identified in studies to be very damaging to eye health, including smoking, excessive alcohol, coffee, excess sugar and refined foods, and hydrogenated oils (like margarines).

We have found that nutrition and nutritional supplementation can play a key role in helping to prevent vision loss and keeping our bodies strong. More and more peer review studies are identifying specific nutrients by eye disease that are lacking in patients with diseases such as the following:

GLAUCOMA is defined as a collection of diseases that causes optic nerve damage, sometimes as a result of increased pressure of the aqueous humor, the clear, watery fluid that circulates in the chamber of the eye between the cornea and the lens. Essential nutrients include the following:

- Vitamin C is considered part of routine treatment for glaucoma in parts of Europe and Asia. It lowers eye pressure through a combination of decreasing fluid production and improved outflow of aqueous humor. It also improves collagen metabolism that may be one of the underlying reasons for the development of glaucoma.
- Alpha lipoic acid ­ is produced naturally by the body. It helps cells metabolize energy and is a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that supplementation of alpha lipoic acid may improve visual fields. The richest source of alpha lipoic acid is in red and organ meats, or it can be taken as a supplement.
- Omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce the chronic inflammatory processes found in many patients with glaucoma. Fish and fish oils are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has been shown to increase the circulation of blood to the eyes, and has been shown to help lower intraocular pressure in the eyes.

MACULAR DEGENERATION is the slow deterioration of the cells of the macula, a tiny yellowish area near the center of the retina where vision is most acute. Essential nutrients include the following:

- Lutein/zeaxanthin are carotenoids, natural pigments found in fruits and vegetables, and have been shown to be low in people with macular degeneration. Increasing your intake of them either by foods (spinach, kale, collard greens) or by supplements has been found to help prevent and even improve macular degeneration.
- Bilberry is an herb that helps improve the integrity of blood vessel walls.
- Taurine ­is an amino acid important for the regeneration of worn out tissues of the retina. It also helps protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation. Good sources are fish and eggs.
- Zinc has been linked to the onset of macular degeneration when deficient. Good sources are meats or supplements.

CATARACTS can best be described as an opaque spot on the lens of the eye that you cannot see through, and often develops as we age. Essential nutrients include the following:

- Vitamin C ­has been shown to be consistently low in individuals with cataracts.
- Glutathione is a compound essential to making tissue enzymes and crucial in stopping free radical damage. It is made from a precursor cysteine (found in eggs, garlic, avocado, asparagus, onion and red meat), and can be very effective in preventing cataract formation.

Important studies on eye disease consistently support the value of healthy living. For example, one important study showed that eating collard greens and spinach at a frequency of two to four times a week was enough to lower the risk of macular degeneration by 46 percent, and was even greater at five to six times per week. Another study showed that cigarette smoking causes about 20 percent of all cataracts.

In summary, nutrient supplementation can be very important and if someone is concerned with their eye health, I recommend supplementing their diet with therapeutic dosages of the most important nutrients (such as those mentioned above) to help prevent many of the chronic eye conditions of today such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.


Marc Grossman is an Optometrist and Licensed Acupuncturist. He has a private practice in New Paltz, and has been helping people preserve their vision for over 28 years. He is the co-author of Natural Eye Care, an encyclopedia. He lectures internationally on natural eye care, nutrition and Chinese medicine.

 
B12 for Brain Maintenance
Posted Friday, September 12, 2008

There have been a couple items of interest posted about Vitamin B12 on the NutraUSA website over the last few days.

The first is that B12 may actually protect against "brain shrinkage". In a study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in the latest issue of Neurology, researchers have found evidence suggesting that increasing one's level of B12 may greatly reduce the likelihood of brain volume loss in older populations. This finding offers new hope that there are common preventative measures available to combat widespread cognitive impairments like the onset of dementia.

Commenting independently on the results, Dr Susanne Sorensen from the Alzheimer's Society said: "Shrinkage is usually associated with the development of dementia. As vitamin B may be given as a food supplement, it may be useful to include tests of vitamin B levels in the general assessment of health of older individuals."

B12 is found only in food of animal origin, so supplements may be especially useful in cases where one's diet does not contain or has very little meat and dairy. Additionally, another recent Oxford study reported that increased B12 in diets may work to reduce cognitive decline in older individuals by up to 30%.

The second article of interest about B12 concerns a study from Harvard which found that common genetic variations may interfere with absorption of B12. It is no surprise that genetic makeup has a great deal to do with how we process vitamins and nutrients, but the principle finding offers the possibility of identifying these genetic markers, which in turn may assist to predict vitamin levels over a lifetime, making our nutritional needs all the more clear. Not everyone needs the same quantities of nutrients to produce the desired results, and having an assessable measure of how the body will deal with such things is a rather remarkable development.

For further info on B12 research:
Vitamin B12 vs. brain shrinkage
Genetic influence on B12 absorption
Alzheimer's Society Comment On Vitamin B12

 
Aging, Exercise, and Supplements
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2008

According to a Manchester Metropolitan University study, a balance of carbohydrate and protein supplements and a well planned low-resistance exercise routine could go a long way to keep senior citizens healthy and fit into their retirement years. The study, reported on by Science Daily News, was the first to chart the effects of a combined supplement and exercise regimen for an exclusively older population.

The experiment charted health benefits over a three month period, comparing high- and low-resistance exercises. While all test groups receiving supplements increased muscle size and strength, it appears that low-resistance exercises were the most beneficial to participants.

"Maintaining muscle performance and arresting muscle wastage can offer older people real improvements in their quality of life," says Dr Gladys Pearson, who led the research. "Though we still need to assess precisely what level of exercise gives the best results, we believe we've shown that regular low-resistance exercise complemented by the right nutritional supplements could boost the well-being of the UK's ageing population."
Key To Keeping Older People Fit For Longer
 
Well Slept
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2008

It is a well-spent third of one's life--or that is the ideal anyway...

Sleep, that protective guardian and rejuvenation, the right and necessity of any healthy person, it is all too troubled for many of us. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only one-third of us are getting this one-third of our liveliness down right. Millions of adults are suffering from chronic sleep disorders; there are over 53 million prescriptions for sleep aids in the US alone.

From Jung and his predecessors to present day sleep research, modern science has begun to pay the restful bit of our day due attention. That said, there are many steps can be taken to improve the situation, and this month's installment of Delicious Living has a very nice article outlining simple things you can do to improve your slumber. Getting out of doors in the early afternoon, fueling yourself well and with a mind to the timeliness of your meals are big helps, among many other small adjustments one can make.

They discuss a few good-sleep supplements as well, which are outlined below:


How it works Dose
Valerian Shortens the time it takes to fall asleep and improves sleep quality. Research suggests it works by binding to the same receptors in the brain as the sedative Valium. 300-400 mg of extract or capsules, one hour before bedtime.
Kava Calms the mind to reduce anxiety-driven insomnia. Note: In 2002, the FDA issued a warning after several people suffered severe liver toxicity after taking kava. Brigitte Mars, author of the Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine (Basic Health, 2007), says those people took leaf and vine extracts instead of the safer root. Follow directions on bottle; potency may vary. Not recommended for pregnant women, children, or people with liver disorders.
Melatonin Helps regulate sleep cycles. Commonly prescribed for people whose sleep-wake cycle is out of sync due to light deprivation, such as those who suffer jet lag or work the night shift. Also recommended for those who fall asleep too early and wake up in the middle of the night. Note: Prolonged use may interfere with natural melatonin production. Amount and timing vary widely, depending on reason for use.
Consult your health care practitioner for advice before taking any sleep supplement.

Check out the whole of the article at the Delicious Living page, as well as a few other sleeping things:
Sleep Research Online
Stanford.edu - How to Sleep Well
Dreamways - Sleep Dreams

 
All Around Garlic
Posted Monday, September 8, 2008

 

Amanda Ursell of the Times Online has a grand article up today about one of our favorite alt treatments--Garlic. The article is wide-ranging, giving the lowdown on garlic's cure-all reputation and touching on all manner of related topics including Ancient Egyptians, the transformations caused by cooking, crushing and chewing, and why adding this allium to your diet may just stave off some discomfort in the oncoming cold season. Check out her column here on the Times website.

 
Omega-3 Supplementation and Air Pollution
Posted Monday, September 8, 2008

It appears that Omega-3, already used widely as a preventative countermeasure for many serious disorders, may help defend against the ill-effects of air pollution as well. Omega-3 supplements have already been recommended to combat poor circulation, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, depression and anxiety, as well as showing potential benefits for sufferers of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. After conducting a study in Mexico City, one of the most notoriously polluted major metropolises in the world, researchers have found that supplementation with Omega-3 appears to protect heart against the adverse effects of air-borne pollutants.

Though the study was rather limited in its number of participants , there appears to be a very promising foundation for further study with a greater number of participants. A full article of the study from Environmental Health Perspectives can be viewed here.

 
Designer Supplements v. Flawed DNA
Posted Thursday, September 4, 2008

As we mentioned in the blog earlier this month, breakthroughs in DNA sequencing are beginning to influence developments in the field of supplements, affording companies the possibility to develop personalized vitamins. One of the first companies to actually put this into practice is GeneWize Life Sciences, and there is a nice profile of their mission up now on the Rocky Mountain News website.

The process for such an endeavor is truly exciting, even if it is in its infancy stages. Potential clients swab their cheeks for DNA and mail it to a testing laboratory, where their genetic makeup is examined to determine what optimal supplement treatments should be.

Some of that DNA is examined, in particular 12 of the 25,000 genes that make up the long DNA molecule. Analysts search for breaks in the normal genetic pattern in certain genes that are connected to health and disease. The base pairs on the gene of the double-helix-shaped DNA send signals to amino acids to build proteins. If the base pairs are out of sequence just a little bit on certain genes, it could foul things up - not necessarily a great deal, but enough to make the person more vulnerable to certain diseases. An abnormal pattern in a person's gene, called a polymorphism, might be shared by 1 percent or 2 percent or 5 percent of the rest of the population. In those cases, the gene can signal the body to make too much, or too little, or the wrong kind of a protein that is key to promoting or protecting against a malady.
Once this data has been analyzed, the appropriate adjustments to daily supplement intake can be adjusted. As the cumulative science behind this process grows, we will be seeing more growth in this direction, as well as more personally tailored and effective supplements.

 

 
The Fear Mongers
Posted Monday, September 1, 2008

By James J. Gormley

On March 4th, 1933, in his first inaugural address Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the following inspiring words: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself […]”

Now while FDR was, at the time, addressing a nation in the depths of the Great Depression that had recently been rocked by bank runs and was experiencing crushing unemployment and epidemic business debt, if uttered now these same words could just as well apply to the irrational, yet no less viral, fear of dietary supplements on the part of certain scientists, legislators and public health officials today.

Today, we are experiencing a new Great Depression of unhealth and chronic disease, marked by conditions which modern medicine, with its drugs and invasive procedures, is often ill-equipped to safely and effectively handle.

Instead of bank runs, we are witness to countless “pharmacy runs” and visits to mainstream physicians.

In point of fact, Americans reportedly spent $287 billion dollars on prescription drugs in 20071 and $16.1 billion on over-the-counter drugs.2

In August 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that, in 2006, Americans paid 1.1 billion visits to doctors and clinics.3

With epidemic levels of obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, our most critical national debt is the good health to which our country’s citizens are entitled.

With this backdrop of America’s tragic overuse of drugs coupled with nutritional bankruptcy, a group of researchers recently published a paper entitled, “Dietary supplement use among elderly, long-term cancer survivors” (Journal of Cancer Survivorship, Paige Miller, et al.).4

Since chemotherapy is known to be either ineffective or marginally effective but laden with toxic side-effects, I had hoped that this study (based on two phone surveys with cancer survivors) would add another rock to the foundation of research supportive of dietary supplements in supporting immunity, fending off cancer and reducing the side effects of cancer drugs.

Instead, the researchers (from Penn State University, UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center, Duke University and a VA Medical Center) chose to highlight supplement use among elderly cancer survivors while, at the same, time raising the specter of largely theoretical supplement dangers while soft-soaping their well-supported benefits.

For example, the authors’ main support for the argument that supplements could be “risky” are several articles by supplement critic Golan Bjelakovic who, in 2007, co-authored an article with the cynical title, “Surviving Antioxidant Supplements.” 5

The rest of the study by Miller and colleagues does not seem to really offer a coherent message. The paper, for example, indicates that the survey participants who used the most supplements were better educated, ate more fruits and vegetables, ate more grains and, in general, had better nutrient profiles than did their less healthy co-participants. Problems of equal access to nutritional supplements notwithstanding, how is this a problem?

Other parts of the paper suggest that older Americans do not get enough of certain nutrients (e.g., magnesium, calcium and vitamin D) but elsewhere the researchers warn that people should be careful to not get too much. The study also cautions older Americans against getting too much zinc while later bemoaning the fact that many cancer survivors need more of this mineral.

In addition to the lack of a clear, practical value to this Journal of Cancer Survivorship paper (aside from adding to usage data re supplement use in older Americans who are cancer survivors) and the mixed, in some cases contradictory, messages that are communicated relating to supplementation, there is a rich body of established research—largely ignored here by Miller and colleagues—which strongly supports the use of dietary supplements to: reduce cancer risk6-11, treat cancer patients after diagnosis or surgery12-16, and improve health markers or reduce side effects in patients undergoing chemotherapy17-21.

Why then do fear-mongering papers continue to get published (time and again) and attract undue media attention while the majority of studies that are supportive of dietary supplements and cancer are rarely cited by researchers or noted by reporters?

I think there are, perhaps, several reasons. One is that skepticism and cynicism are often mistaken for intellectual probity—people seem smarter when knocking something.

Another potential reason is misplaced paternalistic protectiveness: researchers may feel that they are serving a public good by alerting doctors and the world to the putative, albeit ephemeral and largely baseless, “dangers” of dietary supplements.

The fact that universities and their medical centers regularly receive endowments from pharmaceutical corporations may also have an insidious effect that trickles down to researchers who are on the bench, working with patients or punching data into their biostatistical calculators.

Ultimately, however, what matters most is that, armed with science and evidence-based facts (the results behind what actually works, and what doesn’t), we continue to be open to the benefits of dietary supplements in virtually all areas of health and wellness and not immediately, or uncritically, buy into the anti-supplement brigade’s usual messages designed to sow unreasoning doubt and inspire baseless fear.


References 1. Colihan K. Shop around if you pay for pills. WebMD Health News. Website: www.medicinenet.com. Accessed August 31, 2008.
2. Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA). OTC Retail Sales—1964-2007 [chart]. Website: www.chpa-info.org. Accessed August 31, 2008.
3. CDC. Americans made over 1 billion hospital and doctor visits in 2006. August 6, 2008. [press release] Website: www.cdc.gov. Accessed September 1, 2008.
4. Miller P et al. Dietary supplement use among elderly, long-term cancer survivors. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. Published online July 11, 2008.
5. Gormley J. Antioxidant supplements won’t hurt us, but misinformation might. Blog: The Gormley Files www.thegormleyfiles.blogspot.com. Posted online May 4, 2008.
6. Reid ME et al. The nutritional prevention of cancer: 400 mcg per day selenium treatment. Nutrition and Cancer. 60(2):155-163, 2008.
7. Weingarten MA et al. Dietary calcium supplementation for preventing colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 23(1):CD003548, 2008.
8. Lappe JM et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 85(6):1586-1591, 2007.
9. Kirsh VA et al. Supplemental and dietary vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C intakes and prostate cancer risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 98(4):245-254, 2006.
10. Galan P et al. Antioxidant status and risk of cancer in the SU.VI.MAX study: is the effect of supplementation dependent on baseline values? British Journal of Nutrition. 94(1):125-132, 2005.
11. Duffield-Lillico AJ et al. Selenium supplementation, baseline plasma selenium status and incidence of prostate cancer: an analysis of the complete treatment period of the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial. BJU International. 91(7):608-612, 2003.
12. Li Z et al. Feasibility of a low-fat/high-fiber diet intervention with soy supplementation in prostate cancer patients after prostatectomy. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 62(4):526-536, 2008.
13. Gold EB et al. Dietary factors and vasomotor symptoms in breast cancer survivors: the WHEL Study. Menopause. 13(3):423-433.
14. Ishikawa H et al. Aged garlic extract prevents a decline of NK cell number and activity in patients with advanced cancer. The Journal of Nutrition. 136(3 Suppl):816S-820S, 2006.
15. Stratton MS et al. Selenium and inhibition of disease progression in men diagnosed with prostate carcinoma: study design and baseline characteristics of the ‘Watchful Waiting’ Study. Anticancer Drugs. 14(8):595-600, 2003.
16. Jatoi A et al. A cross-sectional study of vitamin intake in postoperative non-small lung cancer patients. Journal of Surgical Oncology. 68(4):231-236, 1998.
17. Block KI et al. Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic toxicity: a systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. International Journal of Cancer. 123(6):1227-1239, 2008.
18. Read JA et al. Nutrition intervention using an eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-containing supplement in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Effects on nutritional and inflammatory status: a phase II trial. Supportive Care in Cancer. 15(3):301-307, 2007.
19. Mantovani G et al. A phase II study with antioxidants, both in the diet and supplemented, pharmaconutritional support, progestagen, anti-cyclooxygenase-2 showing efficacy and safety in patients with cancer-related anorexiz/cachexia and oxidative stress. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 15(5):1030-1034, 2006.
20. Gramignano G et al. Efficacy of L-carnitine administration on fatigue, nutritional status, oxidative stress, and related quality of life in 12 advanced cancer patients undergoing anticancer therapy. Nutrition. 22(2):136-145, 2006.
21. Altundag K et al. Selenium supplementation may increase the efficacy of cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer patients. Medical Hypotheses. 64(6):1162-1165, 2005.

 
Olive Leaf Extract for Healthy Hearts
Posted Thursday, August 28, 2008
According to study published in Phytotherapy Research, olive leaf extracts may be the next CAM breakthrough for blood pressure and cholesterol reduction.
The researchers indicated that a compound called oleuropein may be responsible for some of the benefits observed, noting that it, and other polyphenolic compounds in olive plants, can act as antioxidants and scavenge free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS). “These antioxidative properties may not only contribute to the antihypertensive action, but were also suggested to be responsible for the hypercholesterolemic effect, referring to decreases of LDL and VLDL cholesterol,” they stated.
With roughly a third of Americans afflicted by some form of cardiovascular disease, it is high time that attention be turned to such alternative remedies.

Here is an abstract from Nutra Ingredients with further details.

 
Pomegranate as Topical Solution
Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A study just released by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicates that pomegranate extract may potentially protect against UVA and UVB skin damage. A major source of vitamins and antioxidants, pomegranates are currently being tested for their efficiency in combating various types of cancer, and this newest information is certainly encouraging in that regard. For an overview of the study, click here.
 
The Necessity of Omega-3
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008
U.S. News & World Report has an article out today stressing the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, highlighting a serious deficiency in many people's diets. The difficulty with remedying this situation is that eating oily fish regularly is not a practical solution for many people. Many times the quality of fish itself can be part of the problem:
Though the medical and nutrition communities generally believe eating fatty fish is the way to go, refined fish oil supplements with specified doses of EPA and DHA can make for a more certain prescription, and one that alleviates concerns about fish being contaminated with mercury or PCBs.
For something so fundamentally useful, linked to beneficial effects in aliments as diverse as depression, arthritis, cancer, and premature births, everyone certainly needs to find some way to include omega-3s in their diet.

 

Supplement Watch: A dose of omega-3 will do you

 

 
Monitoring Vitamin D
Posted Monday, August 25, 2008

Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins researchers released a study through the Archives of Internal Medicine with the most conclusive evidence yet that low levels of vitamin D may have dire effects on one's health, greatly increasing the risk of premature death.

"Our results make it much more clear that all men and women concerned about their overall health should more closely monitor their blood levels of vitamin D, and make sure they have enough," says study co-lead investigator Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S. "We think we have additional evidence to consider adding vitamin D deficiency as a distinct and separate risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease, putting it alongside much better known and understood risk factors, such as age, gender, family history, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity and diabetes," says Michos.
Besides the already proven advantages of vitamin D supplementation for Osteoporosis and Cystic Fibrosis, it now appears that vitamin D may have even further reaching preventative benefits. Below are links back to the Archives of Internal Medicine abstract and a Science Daily write-up of the study:

25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Risk of Mortality in the General Population

Low Vitamin D Levels Pose Large Threat To Health; Overall 26 Percent Increased Risk Of Death
 
Daniel Fabricant on B Vitamins
Posted Friday, August 22, 2008

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, and vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association is featured in a Nutra Ingredients post responding to a recent study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study in question concluded that taking vitamin B did nothing to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events or death caused by coronary heart disease. “...the study’s exclusion criteria leave much to be desired,” Dr. Fabricant said. From the article:

“For example, over 78 percent of the subjects were concomitantly taking beta blockers, and over 88 percent were taking statins amongst other medical interventions and treatments,” he [Fabricant] said. “We have no way of knowing from reading the study whether these interventions were continued through the lifecycle of the study, which could significantly influence the outcomes. The researchers mention adherence to the 'study medication' (the B-vitamins) but not to other treatments; additionally the authors did not control food intake for folic acid, B-6 or B-12.”

He said the fact functional foods were “not required” in Norway did not mean they were not widely consumed and that this factor, along with potentially inaccurate self-reporting of supplements use, further wavered the results.

Here is the article in full from Nutra Ingredients.

 
Mood, Mind, and Body
Posted Friday, August 22, 2008

Of late we've spent a lot of time leafing through posts by our friends at Delicious Living, so we thought we would share a few of our favorites, including articles on mood-boosting supplements, Chinese Medicinal Tonics, and their take on "brain fog".

Their writing is always so clear, commonsensical, and well informed, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Body-Boost

Brain Fog

Mood-Boosting Supplements

Hooked on Tonics

Vitamin D for Circulatory Health

 

 
Importance of Quality in Dietary Supplements (Part 3)
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008

By guest-blogger Paul Van Ness.  Read previous parts by clicking here:  part 1   part 2

Questions You Should Ask Your Supplement Company
According to Rick Liva, ND, RPh, consumers shouldn’t trust labels that announce compliance with GMPs, and should always “ask for proof and evidence of compliance with GMPs and evidence of quality assurance testing and practices. If you don’t get it, ask yourself if that manufacturer deserves your business.”xi It is up to consumers to select a dietary supplement manufacturer that considers producing quality products its highest priority.

Asking the right questions is important, because while every company will claim to produce quality products, asking specific questions makes them prove it. Here are some important questions you should ask your supplement company:

  • Is every lot of incoming herbs tested for aflatoxins, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides?

  • Which chemical solvent tests are performed on every lot of herb and vitamin ingredients?

  • Have any of your products been recalled?

  • Are all raw materials individually tested for arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury?

  • Are all raw materials individually tested for identity and potency?

Raw materials are the foundation of supplement quality, and you should only trust companies that demand the highest-quality and most rigorously-tested ingredients.

The CNCA Difference
At CNCA, our manufacturing process includes extensive testing for maximum purity and optimal potency. Our quality standards are unparalleled in the nutritional supplement industry, going well beyond the requirements of other certification programs. We achieve the highest levels of quality by using independent analytical laboratories to extensively test raw materials and finished goods for purity, identity and potency.

Testing performed on CNCA raw materials and finished products far exceeds the requirements of FDA GMPs as well as those required by USP, NSF, and NPA certification programs.

For example, CNCA raw materials are independently tested for toxins and contaminants that are not required under USP and NSF certification programs. Our potency and metals testing are up to one thousand times tighter, and our exhaustive chemicals and solvents testing greatly exceeds USP and NSF standards. Finally, unlike other national standards, we screen all our botanicals for a full range of aflatoxins, agrochemicals, and solvents (more than 135 individual tests).

Because of our vigilance to quality, CNCA products are recommended by some of the country’s leading medical practitioners every day. CNCA products are used in hospitals, pharmacies, and by thousands of people across the U.S. who demand nothing less than the highest quality nutritional supplements.

CNCA is trusted by cancer patients with compromised immune systems and their doctors. Doesn’t everyone deserve the same quality in their supplements?

We go to these extraordinary lengths to ensure that our superior quality products are consistently ultra-pure– because, in our opinion, this testing must be done in order to protect the public health. Our commitment to superior quality may make CNCA products cost a little more than the “bargain basement” brands, but if you’re as serious about your health as we are, it’s simply the right thing to do.


xii Liva, Rick. “'GMP Certified' May Not Equal Quality: Facts Clinicians Should Know.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal.

 
The Upside of the Economy
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Despite the general downturn in most sectors of the economy, vitamins and supplements are expected to expand their market shares nearly 40% by 2012 according to a MarketWatch article published earlier today.

From the article:

"During the past decade, with the massive growth of highly fortified foods, nutraceuticals and functional foods, supplements have been competing directly with foods and beverages," notes Tatjana Meerman, Publisher of Packaged Facts. "But increased media attention on obesity and other diet-related health problems has prompted consumers to take more aggressive steps to avert health problems before they occur, and this includes renewed attention to taking their vitamins."

The future looks bright for the industry, with treatments refining and adapting to the nuisances of age-, gender-, and condition-specific needs.

Here are the links to the original Packaged Facts study and the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch news release.

 
Multivitamins and Harvard
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Stop Aging Now webspace has a posted a very necessary response article to a recent Harvard newsletter that called for men to stop using multi-vitamins due to a possible increased risk for prostate or colorectal cancer.

The assessment of the studies cited in the Harvard Men's Health Watch newsletter are preliminary, and therefore premature. To quote:

"...there is no proof that a daily multi-vitamin is harmful."

And this from the selfsame newsletter that calls for men to cease using multivitamins? There is even fairly contentious disagreement among the Harvard's own professors, as well as a great number of other researchers. The correlation was found in but one study, and that with a population already highly predisposed for prostate cancer. And so what to do with this...

The principle concern seems to be that, due to the addition of folic acid to grain products since the 1990s, many men may be receiving over 1,000 mcg of the supplement, which is not recommended. The Men's Health Watch suggests that instead of taking multivitamins, men considering switching over to Vitamin D supplements.

The Stop Aging post goes on to make several suggestions, all of which point back to the necessity for open doctor-patient discussion concerning use of vitamins and supplements, as was highlighted by the NCCAM's recent Time to Talk initiative. This approach will work to make sure that patients are receiving the necessary additions that vitamins and supplements provide for one's diet, while balancing them with other courses of treatment and prevention.

Overall, the news release this is a very strange development, and the newsletter's recommendation seems ill-advised without further study, as many diets need multivitamin supplements in them in order to receive recommended daily allowances of essential nutrients. "In fact, half the physicians on the Harvard Men’s Health Watch advisory board report taking a multivitamin themselves." Here is some further reading for you, and please let us know what you think below:

Multi-Nonsense on Multi-Vitamins

Harvard Press Release

NCCAM's Time to Talk Materials

 
Importance of Quality in Dietary Supplements (Part 2)
Posted Friday, August 15, 2008

By guest-blogger Paul Van Ness.  Read part 1 here.

Certification Programs
To help ensure the of quality dietary supplements, certification programs have been created by the National Nutritional Foods Association (now the Natural Products Association), United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International (NSF). These programs are designed to help empower consumers to select supplement products with confidence, knowing that certified manufacturers and products have undergone some degree of testing and analysis for safety and quality.

The National Nutritional Foods Association (now known as the Natural Products Association) created a GMP Certification Program designed to verify that supplement suppliers comply to a standard of good manufacturing practiceiv. These standards govern the practices of dietary supplement ingredient suppliers in the areas of “Personnel, Plant and Grounds, Sanitation, Equipment, Quality Operations, Production and Process Controls, and Warehouse, Distribution, and Post-Distribution Practices.”v Suppliers who meet the minimum requirements may apply for certification and use the Natural Products Association GMP certification mark in their advertising.

United States Pharmacopeia has developed a series of dietary supplement verification requirements for supplement manufacturers, including an audit to ensure good manufacturing practice, testing of products and ingredients, and a review of manufacturing documentationvi. The verification process also includes tests of marketplace samples of verified products and reviews of supplement labels to ensure authenticity, potency, and that required warnings are properly displayed.vii

Similarly, NSF International, a not-for-profit organization, has created a certification plan that includes testing, good manufacturing process inspections and ongoing quality monitoring.viii Manufacturers who meet NSF’s guidelines for finished products may display the NSF Certification Mark on the product label.

FDA’s cGMP Guidelines
In 1994, the “Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act” was signed into law by Bill Clinton. This law changed the way dietary supplements are classified and regulated.ix DSHEA eliminated confusion about the classification of dietary supplements by defining them as foods rather than drugs.x DSHEA also gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate supplements, but their regulatory power is limited to removing unsafe, illegal or improperly labeled supplements from the market; it is supplement manufacturers themselves who are responsible for the quality of their products.

In response to calls from the dietary supplement industry, in 2007 the FDA issued a set of current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs), requiring that manufacturing firms consistently produce high-quality dietary supplements. The cGMPs apply to companies that “manufacture, package, label, or hold dietary supplements,”xi but dietary ingredient suppliers are exempt from these standards. Also absent is any requirement of testing for any chemical or biological contaminants in ingredients or in finished products. Therefore, to be certain that the supplements you purchase are of the highest-possible quality, it is necessary to select a manufacturer you can trust.


iv Natural Products Association. “Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Program. http://www.naturalproductsassoc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ic_gmp
v Ibid.
vi United States Pharmacopeia. “USP Verified.” http://www.usp.org/USPVerified/
vii United States Pharmacopeia. “How USP Verifies Dietary Supplements.” http://www.usp.org/USPVerified/dietarySupplements/process.html
viii NSF International. “Dietary Supplements / Functional Food and Beverages.” http://www.nsf.org/business/dietary_supplements/index.asp?program=DietarySups
ix U.S. Food and Drug Administration / Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Overview of Dietary Supplements.” http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-oview.html
x Dietary Supplement Information Bureau. “Dietary Supplements.” http://supplementinfo.org/index.php?submenu=About&src=gendocs&ref=DietarySupplements&category=About
xi U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling, or Holding Operations for Dietary Supplements.” http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/cf0441.pdf

This is the second of three articles about supplement quality. Part 3 will cover questions to ask your supplement company and the CNCA difference.

 
Lutein – What You Should Know
Posted Thursday, August 14, 2008

By guest-blogger Alison Gers

Working in the vitamin industry, I consider lutein to be the present blockbuster supplement. Research has been incredible regarding lutein's potential benefits including for AMD1 and general eye protection, promoting long-term skin health (moisturizing, anti-aging and sun protection)2, and heart health.

Over the last year I've spoken with many people regarding daily supplements and suggest that they add lutein to their daily routine. For those that are aware of the benefits of lutein, I have gotten many responses that their current multivitamin now includes lutein in its formula. As I investigated further I was appalled at what I found.

Research suggests a minimum of 6-10 mg per day of lutein from either foods or other sources. In order to even get 6 mg of lutein from food you'd have to eat a large bowl of fresh spinach. Certain multivitamins have added only 250 mcg (4% of the minimum research suggests)! Lutein is then screamed out on the outside of the packaging as a great addition to the product.

It is important for people to be aware of the amount of lutein they are taking. I suggest that people take a separate lutein supplement or make sure their current vitamins have at least 6-10 mg of lutein daily.*

*Check with your physician before changing your daily regimens.


Alison Gers is the Director of Marketing for Vitamin Health (www.vitaminhealthbrands.com), which provides long-term eye and joint health supplements recommended by physicians worldwide. Their number one goal is provide patients with the highest quality products at an affordable price. As a side interest, Alison also writes her own vitamin blog to help keep consumers educated about vitamin research at www.vitaminlearning.com.


1. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. Archives of Ophthalmology. "The Relationship of Dietary Carotenoid and Vitamin A, E and C Intake With Age-Related Macular Degeneration in a Case-Control Study: AREDS Report No. 22." Volume 125:1225-1232. September 2007.
2. P. Palombo, G. Fabrizi, V. Ruocco, E. Ruocco, J. Fluhr, R. Roberts, P. Morganti. "Beneficial Long-Term Effects of Combined Oral/Topical Antioxidant Treatment with the Carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin on Human Skin: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study." Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. Vol. 20, No. 4, 2007.

 
Curcumin as a Cancer Treatment
Posted Monday, August 11, 2008

The Daily Herald has an interesting article up by Dr. Patrick Massey about curcumin, which may turn out to be the first natural anticancer therapy. Clinical trails at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have shown that curcumin may inhibit growth in the pancreatic cancer cells of some patients.

"Curcumin comes from the spice turmeric. It contains a number of compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-cancer potential. In the test tube, as well as in laboratory mice, curcumin has been shown to slow or even kill tumor cells."

Considering that pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., the potential for curcumin could be extraordinary. Check out the rest of the article here at the Herald.

(Thanks for the tip Marc!)

 
Vitamin C Prevention for Diabetes
Posted Monday, August 11, 2008

According to new research from the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, England, diets with higher levels of vitamin C may lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Likelihood of developing disease was 62% lower among individuals with the highest vitamin C levels. The farmer's markets of the summer are open -- help yourself to some fruits and veggies!

The Reuters article here on MSNBC.

 
May the Games Begin (and Never End)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2008

With the beginning of the Olympic Games upon us, the Times Online has a inspirational story up about Dara Torres, five time Olympian ('84, '88, '92, '00, and '08), and the oldest winner of a solo Olympic medal in swimming. She won five medals at 33. Now, at 41 years old, she is out-racing women half her age. And how is this happening? No doubt Torres has long been a world class athlete, but, in addition, she believes in supplements:

"...she turned to Michael Lohberg, a Florida-based German coach who recommended further help from the German doctor who in 2005 used an isotonic, amino-acid-rehydration drink of his own invention to become the oldest world swimming champion. At 35, Mark Warnecke won the 50m breaststroke crown in Montreal. He then revealed that he had shed 20kg in the months leading up to the championships by taking a potion designed specifically with the older athlete in mind. Having set aside his medical career to pursue a lucrative business in supplements for athletes, Warnecke was conscious that older athletes who improved while taking his products, prescribe for “faster regeneration and recharging of the muscles”, might be regarded with suspicion. He sent his “AMSport Competition” preparation to the Cologne anti-doping control laboratory for testing. The result: no trace of “anabolic substances or stimulants”."

An amazing story, and this woman is great. At 41 people just assumed she was doping, so she took every test they could come up with and even offered to freeze her blood and urine for some future-science pilot project. No surprise then--she's clean.

“It’s too bad that some athletes have no conscience," Torres said. "I have a conscience.”

The full story is here, and well worth looking through. Her offical website and a NYTimes Profile with incredible pics for good measure. Enjoy the Games.

 
NCCAM Time to Talk
Posted Friday, August 8, 2008

Nearly two-thirds of people over 50 are currently using Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), but less than a third of this population discuss it with their health care providers. This gap in dialogue estranges CAM practices from individuals' overall treatment, and leaves much to be desired in doctor-patient relationship. To ensure optimal health care management physicians need to be aware of all courses of treatment that their patients pursuing, and clearly, at present, this is occurring on a far too irregular basis.

Seeing such a disparity between the treatments patients are engaged in and their doctor's knowledge of these treatments, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has initiated the Time to Talk campaign to encourage patients and health care providers to openly discuss the use of alternative practices. An open dialogue of this sort should further safe, complimentary, and coordinated care between conventional treatments and CAM therapies. The initiation of this discussion is the responsibility of both the health care provider and the patient, and the NCCAM is offering educational resources for all parties concerned:

"NCCAM's Time to Talk campaign encourages patients to tell their providers about CAM use and providers to ask about it by offering tools and resources — such as wallet cards, posters, and tip sheets — all of which are available for free on the NCCAM Web site (nccam.nih.gov) or can be ordered from NCCAM's information Clearinghouse (1-888-644-6226). NCCAM is reaching out to professional associations and consumer organizations to help educate their members about the importance of this dialogue and the availability of NCCAM's campaign materials. As the Federal government's lead agency for scientific research on CAM, NCCAM is committed to educating both consumers and health care providers about the importance of discussing CAM and providing evidence-based information to help with health care decision making.

Patient Tips for Discussing CAM with Providers

  • When completing patient history forms, be sure to include all therapies and treatments you use. Make a list in advance.
  • Tell your health care providers about all therapies or treatments — including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as herbal and dietary supplements.
  • Take control. Don't wait for your providers to ask about your CAM use.
  • If you are considering a new CAM therapy, ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter).

Provider Tips for Discussing CAM with Patients

  • Include a question about CAM use on medical history forms.
  • Ask your patients to bring a list of all therapies they use, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal therapies, and other CAM practices.
  • Have your medical staff initiate the conversation."

 

There are some more Time to Talk materials here at the National Institutes for Health Page, and the original news release, with further details, is here.

 
Importance of Quality in Dietary Supplements (Part 1)
Posted Thursday, August 7, 2008

By guest blogger Paul Van Ness

With approximately 150 million Americans taking dietary supplements on a regular basis,i there have been increasing concerns over the quality, safety and efficacy of these products. CNCA believes it’s important for consumers to understand these key issues and be able to make informed decisions about the supplements they purchase.

Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs and specialty supplements. With the multitude of products and brands available, consumers are faced with difficult decisions in selecting the safest and highest-quality supplements. In response to these issues, a number of quality certification programs and good manufacturing practice guidelines have appeared,ii,iii but despite these advances, much of the burden of producing quality supplements falls on manufacturers themselves.

Fortunately, there are ways that knowledgeable consumers can empower themselves to make informed decisions when selecting supplement products. Knowing what to look for on supplement labels and what questions to ask a supplement company before purchasing their product can help assure consumers that their dietary supplements are of the highest quality and safety.

The Quality Trinity
Quality in dietary supplements can best be defined by three criteria: purity, potency and authenticity. It is by carefully evaluating its products for each of these factors that a supplement manufacturer can be certain of the quality of its products.

Purity is the measure of a product’s freedom from biological and chemical contaminants. Pure supplement products are free of dangerous chemical and biological toxins.

Potency is reached by ensuring that ingredients and finished products are verified effective using validated methods. Testing for potency measures a product’s active components and strengths. Potent supplements contain the labeled amounts and potencies of active ingredients.

Authenticity involves verifying the identity of ingredients using validated methods. Testing for authenticity assures that labeled ingredients are indeed in the bottle.

Dietary supplement companies must be in active pursuit of this trinity of product quality. To help guide manufacturers in this pursuit and to inform consumers of products and manufacturers they can trust, quality certification programs and current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) guidelines have been developed to evaluate supplement products for each of the three issues above.


This is the first of three articles about supplement quality. Part 2 will cover certification programs and FDA guidelines.

Paul is Managing Director at CNCA (www.CNCAhealth.com), which provides a superior quality, doctor-developed brand of dietary supplements used in hospitals and clinics and sold to quality-concerned consumers across the US. Paul also serves on the CNCA Quality Unit. He can be reached at http://www.cncahealth.com/contact-us.htm.


i Consumer Health Information Corporation. “Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know.” http://www.consumer-health.com/services/cons_take60.htm.
ii National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM]. “Pros and Cons of Current Certification Programs Industry.” http://nccam.nih.gov/news/pastmeetings/051401/betz/index.htm.
iiiU.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Fact Sheet: Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) and Interim Final Rule (IFR) Facts. http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/dscgmps6.html

 
Mayo Clinic Suggests Supplements for Lowering Cholesterol
Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The prestigious Mayo Clinic has just recently posted an article about how one may lower cholesterol without prescription medication. In addition to exercising, taking a daily supplement is one of the most provident options available for lowering your bad cholesterol levels. The best bit of the article is a fantastic chart which gives an overview of effects, side effects, and recommended dosage for all the primary supplements they think might be helpful. Examples:

 

 

Cholesterol-lowering supplement What it does Side effects and drug interactions Usual suggested doses
Artichoke extract May reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or "bad," cholesterol May cause gas or an allergic reaction 1,800 to 1,920 milligrams a day, divided into 2 to 3 doses
Barley May reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol None 3 grams barley oil extract or 30 grams barley bran flour a day

 

The story goes on to discuss Beta-sitosterol, Blond psyllium, Fish oil, Flaxseed, Garlic extract, Oat Bran, Red Yeast Rice, and Sitostanol as well. An absolute must read (and bookmark) for anyone with cholesterol concerns.

Check out the full article here and let us if you have any personal experiences concerning these supplements and cholesterol reduction by commenting below.

 
The Dwindling Distance Between Doctors and Dietary Supplements
Posted Tuesday, August 5, 2008

By guest-blogger Jay Udani, M.D., C.P.I.
CEO, Medicus Research LLC
Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine
Medical Director, Northridge Hospital Integrative Medicine Program

 

The relationship between doctors (allopathic physicians) and dietary supplements has become more intimate over time. During their initial introduction, doctors simply chose to ignore dietary supplements—denial is a common defense mechanism used by physicians, and it has worked so well for managed care, HMOs, Independent Practice Associations (IPAs), Medicare cuts, and now medical tourism, that it was a logical choice for dietary supplements as well.

Like the rest of these realities, dietary supplements didn’t just go away, so doctors began to dismiss them as nonsense. This was easy to do, as the marketing companies who sold dietary supplements didn’t know how to speak the language of physicians. The only communication that the doctors had with these products was in the general marketplace where the dietary supplements were promoted with testimonials, infomercials, advertorials, and hype. “Clinically tested” or “Clinically proven” meant a rat study in Siberia. Naturally the doctors felt that they had the moral high ground when they told their patients that these products are “snake oil”. They had not been given data to evaluate that was in a format familiar to them, i.e. the Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal which was indexed on Medline. One thousand years of traditional use means nothing to a physician if he cannot find that information on Medline.

Over the last decade, several things have changed which have contributed to warming of the relationship between doctors and dietary supplements. While they may not be married, they are at least dating and exploring the relationship. What is the current and future nature of the relationship and what are the factors that have led to this change?

Recently, physicians have become much more likely to recommend dietary supplements to their patients. In the opinion of the author, there are several reasons for this shift. The first is the changing demographics of practicing physicians. A physician today is more likely to be younger, female, and of an Asian or Hispanic background. The relevance of their ethnic background is that these cultures have a history of traditional use of herbal medicine and therefore the physician is likely to have been exposed to these products while growing up. Also, female physicians are more likely to recommend, inquire about, and personally take dietary supplements than their male counterparts (HCPIS, 2007). Personal experience with dietary supplements is critical as physicians are also consumers and are influenced outside of their professional environment by the same marketing messages as everyone else.

There is also a new strain in the relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. The recent safety concerns stemming from the withdrawal of several medications from the market has put physicians on edge. There are more and more restrictions regarding the role of the pharmaceutical sales representative, and the explosion in direct-to-consumer advertising has put an unwelcome new participant in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship. All of this serves to make the physician more wary and more open to alternatives.

The role of insurance companies and managed care has turned the doctor-patient relationship into a consumer-vendor relationship, with neither side able to count on a long term bond. The disintegration of this relationship coupled with a significant financial struggle to fill prescriptions has resulted in a new form of non-compliance. Up to 40% of all patients have failed to fill a prescription or have cut their prescription pills in half for financial reasons (SOURCE: USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health: The Public On Prescription Drugs and Pharmaceutical Companies (conducted Jan. 3-23, 2008)). Many of these patients end up purchasing over-the-counter alternatives to these prescriptions, including dietary supplements.

Add to this non-compliance the arrival of the internet printout-armed patient, and significant reductions in physician reimbursement (as of the writing of this article, the senate has failed to block a 10% cut in Medicare reimbursement), physicians have begun to not only tolerate, but recommend and even sell supplements in their offices as they look for alternative sources of income.

So who are these physicians and what are they recommending? They vary from specialty to specialty and across practice setting (solo, small group, large HMO, etc), so we will provide some generalizations based on observation and informal surveys. These data are not based on formal survey results.

  1. Obstetrics and Gynecology – were found in the HCP study to be the most likely to recommend supplements, but this appears to be an artifact of the near universal recommendation of pre-natal vitamins to all women who are of child-bearing age.

  2. Integrative Medicine / Alternative Medicine Physicians – These physicians are self-defined, as there is not a formal board certified specialty requirement. However they are usually primary care physicians (internal medicine, family practice) who use dietary supplements for almost every therapeutic area in their practice.

  3. Family Practice / Internal Medicine – These are the general adult physicians and use dietary supplements for general wellness (multivitamin), heart health (omega 3 fatty acids, fiber), and chronic conditions which require continual medication usage and adjustment (hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, etc.).

  4. Orthopedic Surgery – Despite the results of the GAIT trial, orthopedic surgeons recommend (or at least tolerate) glucosamine and chondroitin combinations.

  5. Dermatologists / Medi-Spa Physicians – These physicians recommend and often sell a host of cosmeceuticals which often contain anti-oxidants and other supplements and herbs to promote skin health.

  6. Cosmetic Surgeons – In Beverly Hills, these physicians routinely use arnica to reduce post-operative swelling and bruising in order to improve post-operative recovery from cosmetic surgery procedures.

  7. Urologists – Urologists will tolerate the use of saw palmetto and other prostate health herbs, but recent studies questioning the safety of selenium in this population have led to increased caution.

  8. Anti-Aging Physicians – use anti-oxidants, hormones, and phytohormones including DHEA and phyto-estrogens.

  9. Weight Management Physicians – will use dietary supplement stimulants, fat and carbohydrate blockers, and meal replacements with vitamins and minerals.

  10. Ophthalmologists – will use bilberry and high-dose antioxidants for eye health.

  11. Oncologists – will tolerate the use of dietary supplements for the reduction of side effects from chemotherapy (such as ginger for nausea) and radiation so long as these products do not interfere with the mechanism of action of these treatments.

Detailed information on these specialists, including the percentage of those who recommend vs. sell dietary supplements in their practice will require further study.

Physicians seem to be comfortable with products sold by pharmaceutical companies (Abbott, Allergan, etc) and even with pharmaceutical products which were derived from dietary supplements (Lovaza, which is omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil). After these companies, physicians seem most comfortable with products which are sold as “physician only,” since this seems to lend the products an aura of increased authenticity. Lastly, physicians are wary of the bewildering array of mass market brands and products which seem impossible to distinguish from one another.

What are physicians looking for? Safety, first and foremost. Above all else, “do no harm”. They want evidence that the ingredient and product is safe. Different specialties have different levels of need here. In oncology, the primary concern is that the product does not interfere with the prescribed treatment (chemo, radiation, surgery). Whatever else it may do is a bonus. Orthopedic surgeons are concerned only when there is an upcoming surgery to make sure the supplements don’t cause surgical complications. Internists are watching for drug-herb and herb-drug interactions, especially supplements and herbs that impact the cytochrome p450 system. Recent meta-analyses touting the dangers of vitamin supplementation have indicated that consumption of these vitamins may have significant untoward effects including death. These analyses are not without their methodological flaws, a discussion which is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that physicians reading mainstream journals will be more likely to believe this information than the small efficacy studies which are published in defense of these vitamins.

Once assured of safety, physicians look for efficacy. There will never be a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 10,000 patients followed for 5 years each, but physicians are beginning to understand that. The baseline for discussion is a randomized, placebo controlled study. The sample size is secondary, although they are unlikely to be all that impressed with a 10 person pilot study. They understand (and so should those who fund these studies) that a pilot study is just that, a pilot to test a hypothesis. If the product works as expected, the physician will be looking for the larger follow-up study to confirm the pilot. The physician looks for statistical significance (with a p value less than 0.05), but is also looking for clinically significant results. In other words, a product that achieves a statistically significant reduction in cholesterol but a total reduction of only 5 points will be meaningless, because a 5 point reduction in cholesterol will not impact the likelihood of any of the bad outcomes such as heart attack or stroke. Finally the physician is going to look at who performed the study. When the study is performed outside of the United States, rightfully or not, extra scrutiny will be paid to the results and the patient population. This is the concept of generalizability: Can a study in a rural Chinese population be applied to an inner city urban population in the United States? The answer is unknown, but the physician is trained to be skeptical of such results. The physician is also likely to apply extra scrutiny when the authors of the study are employees of the sponsoring company. Finally, when touting efficacy, if you have a good study, please stick to the results of the study. Nothing is a bigger turnoff to a physician when the salesperson starts talking about “testimonials” such as “I know my aunt Mildred reduced her cholesterol by 100 points on this product.” All that does is cheapen the value of the study efficacy results and turn off the physician who now has to doubt the study veracity because the testimonials have been given equal weight.

The future of the relationship between dietary supplements and physicians is bright. All of the demographic and economic reasons that have driven these two together are only going to continue. The opportunity is for the dietary supplement industry to support quality clinical trials with reputable researchers, report that data in Medline-indexed medical journals, and sponsor continuing medical education for physicians to educate them on the results. Physicians still have a significant role to play in the healthcare decisions of Americans, and by providing them the information they need in the format that they require, physicians will increasingly educate their patients on the benefits of well designed, well manufactured, and well tested dietary supplements.

 
Fixing Flawed DNA with Vitamins and Minerals
Posted Monday, August 4, 2008

There is a really interesting article up at Science Daily about searching out the genetic differences that cause people's enzymes to perform less efficiently than normal. The huge potential upside to this particular line of study is that researchers believe these slight flaws in the human genome can be fixed with simple vitamin or mineral supplements. Vitamins are already being implemented to correct more severe metabolic deficiencies, but the new research suggests that eventually more subtle improvements may be made for a greater portion of the population.

Jasper Rine, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology:"Our studies have convinced us that there is a lot of variation in the population in these enzymes, and a lot of it affects function, and a lot of it is responsive to vitamins. I wouldn't be surprised if everybody is going to require a different optimal dose of vitamins based on their genetic makeup, based upon the kind of variance they are harboring in vitamin-dependent enzymes."

Ah, the future. Check out the full article here.

 
Garlic Supplements Effective as Drugs for Lowering Blood Pressure?
Posted Friday, August 1, 2008

This article, posted by Reuters, reports the findings of a study done at The University of Adelaide in South Australia. The study found that garlic reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 4.6 mm Hg, similar to the results of taking commonly-used drugs for hypertension.

Read more about garlic by clicking here.

 
Happy to be under the FDA
Posted Thursday, July 31, 2008

So, on the heels of the nonsense involving the OC Register and Olympic athletic instructors falsely claiming that there is not enough oversight for supplements in the US, here is some perspective-- Headline: Pounded brains banned from Russian supplements.

And not just brains, but skulls, eyes, other animal bits, and scorpions in particular have been banned. Glad they are banned now. A little bit more at the source at Russia Today.

 
Supplements Scapegoated in Olympic Doping Case
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leading up to the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing controversy has erupted involving swimmer Jessica Hardy. Hardy tested positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol at the U.S. Olympic trials. The source of this test result is unclear at present, but Hardy is appealing the result. If the tests are not overturned, she will be banned from participating in the Olympics.

In the meantime, Hardy's coach Dave Salo has placed the blame on "inadvertent consumption of a banned substance," and has suggested that all vitamins and supplements she used be tested for purity. Salo and other supporters of Hardy have gone on to suggest that her failed test results have occurred due to a lack of oversight within the supplement industry. Salo, as quoted by the Orange County Register: "The worse [sic] fears may be realized in this circumstance as it pertains to Jessica – i.e. the supplement industry runs unabated without any controls."

Unfortunately, blaming dietary supplements for an athlete’s failed drug test is not new. But, to contend that the supplement industry is allowed to operate without any oversight or control is simply not true.

Because of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the federal government has considerable regulatory power concerning the safety of supplements and the accuracy of their health claims. Of the many changes DSHEA instituted, the law enacted comprehensive labeling requirements for all supplements and determined that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate dietary supplements with the same safety requirements that the agency applies to commonly used foods. The FDA has the authority to require that dietary supplements meet strict manufacturing standards concerning their potency, cleanliness and stability, as well as the authority to stop any sales of dietary supplements that are "adulterated.”

It was claimed that Hardy tested positive as a result of taking products by supplement company AdvoCare that contained substances banned by the NCAA.  This information was posted in the original article by The OC Register as fact.  However, within the past day, the article was pulled and a correction was posted, admitting that AdvoCare does not manufacture supplements containing the banned substance clenbuterol.

Read the full story at MSNBC.com, and let us know what you think about this controversy by commenting below.

 
From Confectionery Treat to Treating Canker Sores
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Licorice root, one of the main ingredients of candy licorice, has recently been found to be an effective treatment for canker sores. Licorice is a legume, and its roots were originally snacked on by themselves, straight out of the ground. While licorice is generally known for its sweetness, the unaltered roots themselves and have a rather powerful taste, ranging from sweet to salty. The root extract has long been used medicinally, from tooth powders to cough syrup. The March/April issue of General Dentistry has a study testing licorice root's effectiveness for treating recurrent aphthous ulcers, or as they are more commonly known, canker sores. Here is an extract from the study:

"Recurrent aphthous ulcers (RAU) are a common and painful condition. This article describes a randomized, double-blind clinical trial of an over-the-counter medicated intraoral adhesive patch for treatment of RAU. Subjects were randomly assigned to either an active drug (patch with extract of glycyrrhiza root) or placebo patch treatment group (both n = 23) at onset of a lesion. Lesion size and pain report (unstimulated and stimulated) were assessed at intervals. A no-treatment group (n = 23) also was recruited and assessed similarly. By the eighth day, the ulcer size for the active treatment group was significantly lower (p < 0.05), while the lesions in the no-treatment group increased 13% from baseline. By the fourth day, the active treatment group reported significantly less pre-stimulus pain (p < 0.01); at this point, 81% of this group reported no pre-stimulus pain, compared with 63% of the placebo patch group and 40% of the no-treatment group."

Here is a Science Daily brief on the study, and the whole article from General Dentistry can be seen here. Additionally, some praise for Licorice Root Tea from the pebblesfromheaven and cookalmostanything blogs.

 
Little Steps to Avoid Cancer
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2008

There is a nice article in the online Reader's Digest page about simple ways to prevent cancer. With so many like-minded guides and lists floating around on the internet, the fresh approach of this particular one was pleasantly suprising. Taking your multivitamins and calicum with vitamin D are in there as you would expect, but there are plenty of suprising twists on traditional ideas as well, making this list well worth a look. Here are a couple examples:

"17. Carry a shot glass in your beach bag. Then fill it with sunscreen and rub it all over your body. A shot glass holds about 1.5 ounces, which is how much sunscreen dermatologists estimate you need to protect yourself from the cancer-causing UV rays of the sun. Repeat every two hours.

21. Have your partner feed you grapes. They're great sources of resveratrol, the cancer-protecting compound found in wine, but don't have the alcohol of wine, which can increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Plus, the closeness such an activity engenders (we hope) strengthens your immune system."

Lots of other fun thoughts too, like sauerkraut picnics, taking up a tea habit, bowling and beer. Yep, bowling and beer. Check out those explainations, and all the rest: 31 Ways To Prevent Cancer.

 
Further on with Calcium
Posted Monday, July 28, 2008

A new clinical trail published in June's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that taking calcium supplements on a daily basis may reduce the risk of bone fractures by 72%. This adds to the growing evidence of the benefits of calcium with vitamin D, as is reflected in the Lewin Group's Health Impact Studies.

Stephen Daniells has a nice write up of the 14.8-year longitudinal study which is where it was originally brought to our attention. Below is a quick excerpt and and link back to the article.

"Emphasizing the importance of the supplements, researchers from University Hospital Zurich and Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire report that the benefits were no longer observed when supplementation was stopped."

Calcium pills beat fractures in new clinical trial

 
Dedicated to the Drugging of our Children?
Posted Tuesday, July 15, 2008

By James J. Gormley

On July 7, 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition issued new cholesterol screening and prescription treatment guidelines for children.

The AAP’s policy statement recommends cholesterol screening of children with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease in children as young as toddlers just over two years of age and the prescribing of cholesterol (statin) drugs for children just over age eight. The group also wants our growing kids to drink lowfat milk.

What a sad day this is for America’s children.

But before I address the AAP, whose motto is “Dedicated to the health of all children,” let’s take a brief look at these drugs.

Statin drugs—examples of which include Zocor, Mevacor and Lipitor—are avidly prescribed and dispensed to tens of millions of people worldwide. Nevertheless, according to an August 28th, 2007, article in the Washington Post, experts say that muscle pain and other side effects occur in up to 30 percent of statin patients.

Possible side effects, which for some people can even be disabling, can include: Lou Gehrig’s disease (also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), liver and kidney problems, muscle aching or weakness, numbness in hands and feet, memory loss, dark or cola-colored urine, among other serious problems.

According to Sara Parker Pope in the New York Times, “there is no evidence to show whether giving statins to a child will lower the risk for heart attack in middle age.” Furthermore, the guidelines offer no guidance on how long a child should stay on these drugs. In fact, children taking these drugs could wind up being on these pharmaceuticals for the rest of their lives.

As to the AAP, in response to a reporter’s question regarding the fact that there are no long-term data on statin use in children, a member of the academy’s nutrition committee was quoted in the July 8th New York Times as saying: “We extrapolate from the information we have in adults.”

That statement brazenly flies in the very face of the academy’s founding principles.

According to the AAP, the organization was founded in 1930 by 35 pediatricians who were committed to transforming medicine in order to recognize that children have special developmental and health needs; that children should never again be treated as miniature adults.

In terms of the guidelines, the July 2004 National Cholesterol Education Program’s (NCEP) recommendations on statins and cholesterol lowering, upon which the academy’s guidelines are partly based, was headed up a panel of nine authors, eight of whom had financial ties to statin makers.

Today, most specialty medical societies receive a large part of their funding from drug companies; in fact, “approximately 70% of physicians’ continuing medical education is now paid for by the drug” companies, according to Drs. Abramson and Starfield in a 2005 paper in the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice.

Could pharmaceutical influence, either indirectly through the NCEP recommendations or directly on the AAP, be a factor here?

We already know that the influence of agribusiness and food and beverage giants on our society, and our children, is without question.

For example, when the AAP developed these guidelines, did it consider the following facts uncovered by researchers from the University of North Carolina: between 1997 and 2001 alone, overall calories from sweetened drinks went up 135%; Americans drank approximately 40% fewer calories from milk and milk consumption in kids dropped from 13.2% of total calories to 8.3%; and soda consumption doubled in children.

Doesn’t the academy know that, according to the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, “school food programs compete against the widely available and aggressively advertised fast food, soft drink and snack foods that fill vending machines, school stores and a la carte cafeteria lines.”

Most assuredly the AAP is aware that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) corn subsidies encourage the big soda makers to use high-fructose corn syrup in its drinks.

So where is the academy on all this?

Is the AAP issuing stern guidelines calling on a complete scrapping of the national school lunch program? Is it calling on schools around the country to ban soda and junk food from the schools? Is it taking on the soda and junk food companies who advertise to, and prey on, our children?

I think not.

While, in fairness, the AAP did urge that good diets and exercise be tried first, the magic bullet approach to the overweight and unhealthy of America’s children may, tragically, be an attractive one to the academy’s 60,000 members and to many parents.

On July 10th, the New York Times editorial board wrote: “We do fear that [this recommendation] will open the way for drug companies to bombard anxious parents with ads promoting these and other products and increase the number of parents insisting on prescriptions for their children.”

The editorial writers added: “The ease of popping pills should not distract parents, health professionals or policy makers from the more arduous tasks of cutting back on junk foods, promoting healthy diets and putting physical education back into the schools.” Well said.

If there is any possible good that has arisen from all this it may be this: now parents have a new “litmus test” with which to choose pediatricians.

Parents should now ask pediatricians if they are in favor of the new AAP cholesterol screening and drug treatment guidelines. If a pediatrician says that he or she is in favor of the drugging guidelines, parents will know, with certainty, that they do not want this pediatrician caring for their children.

If parents around the country were to use pediatrician adoption of these guidelines to choose, or keep, pediatricians, perhaps the message will get through to the academy.

Furthermore, if many of the 60,000 members of the academy were to call for this guideline to be immediately corrected and to refuse to implement the drug treatment recommendations, perhaps that message might get through too.

Until this happens, however, we must ask the academy to change its motto to: “Dedicated to the drugging of our children,” as the AAP’s existing motto can no longer, in good conscience, be used.


An award-winning journalist, published author, and member of the prestigious American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), Gormley has 20 years of experience in health-related media communications. He is a senior policy advisor for Citizens for Health (www.citizens.org), an advisory board member of the National Health Research Institute (NHRI) and a member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). From 2006 to 2008, Gormley directed three leading health-food trade magazines for VRM Inc. He is perhaps best known for having served as the longtime editor-in-chief of Better Nutrition magazine (1995 to 2002) and for having founded Remedies magazine in 2006. A consumer health advocate and industry champion, Gormley has also been a frequent guest on television and national radio where he has spoken out on a variety of health and regulatory issues.

 
Study Finds Fish Oil As Effective as Lipid-Lowering Medications
Posted Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A study recently published by the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that a combination of fish oil supplements, therapeutic lifestyle changes and red yeast rice was as effective as the statin drug simvastatin in lowering LDL-C cholesterol.  The supplements group, who were also encouraged to lower their intake of saturated fats and to increase their daily exercise, also displayed larger reductions in triglycerides and weight loss than the simvastatin group.

Read the full study here: http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/inside.asp?AID=4722&UID

This is another terrific example of a study proving that dietary supplements, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can be as effective or more effective than prescription drugs.  Click here to read more information about fish oil, and, as always, please feel free to leave your comments.

 
Top Economists List Vitamins for Children as World's Top Priority
Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Copenhagen Consensus Conference, a gathering of some of the world’s top economists, ranked supplying millions of malnourished children with vitamin A and zinc the number one world priority, beating out issues related to global warming, terrorism, AIDS and others.

It was estimated that supplying the world’s 140 million undernourished children with vitamin A and zinc would cost just $60 million, but would create benefits of $1 billion through better health, fewer deaths and increased future earnings.

The Copenhagen Consensus Conference, which meets every fourth year, is a gathering of 55 of the world’s top economists and specialists in the ten key challenges. A roundtable analysis of the issues is followed by a ranking of these issues by priority.  The list is designed “to be an eye-opener for policy-makers all over the world, and to act as a vehicle for improving decision-making on spending on global issues.”

Read more about this conference here.

For more information on these important vitamins, see our information on vitamin A and zinc.

 
Do We Really Need Placebos for Children?
Posted Monday, June 9, 2008

A new product, a placebo ‘pill’ for children, has just hit the market, with controversy following right behind.

The ‘pill’, a cherry-flavored dextrose tablet, is meant to be given to children who think they need medicine, but don’t. It’s called ‘Obecalp’, which is placebo spelled backward. The inventor says the tablets are made to have the taste and feel of real medicine so parents can give children a placebo when they complain of minor ills and reduce the use of unnecessary drugs.

Experts are speaking up on both sides of the issue. Some say that it’s a harmless way to get children to ‘think’ themselves well. Others say that anything that encourages the use of unnecessary ‘medicine’, even imitation ‘medicine’, is inappropriate for children. Some say that this builds a mental dependence on drugs that could lead to drug dependence throughout life. They say that children should learn that many ills don’t require treatment – that minor discomfort can be handled successfully without drugs. Others say that what children with minor ills really need is comfort from parents, not a quick dose of a fake ‘medicine’.

Read more about this issue here and add your comment below to let us know what you think.

 
Pharmaceutical Advertising Skews Supplement Coverage?
Posted Monday, June 2, 2008

A recent study from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine has found that increased pharmaceutical advertising in medical journals is associated with publishing fewer articles about dietary supplements and publishing more articles with conclusions that dietary supplements are unsafe.

This study analyzed 11 major medical journals published from June 30, 2006 and June 30, 2007. Findings included:

  • The percentage of articles concluding that dietary supplements were ineffective was 50% higher among journals with more pharmaceutical ads than among those with fewer pharmaceutical ads
  • The percentage of major articles concluding that dietary supplements were unsafe was 4% in journals with fewest and 67% among those with the most pharmaceutical ads.

These findings, along with other study findings, including that journals with the most pharmaceutical ads published significantly fewer major articles about dietary supplements, seem to indicate a significant bias against dietary supplements in journals supported by pharmaceutical advertising.

Read the complete study here: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=18400092.

Please share your thoughts on this important issue by commenting below.

 
FDA: Dump the GSK Supplement-Killer Petition!
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008

by James J. Gormley 

On April 17th, 2008, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) submitted a Citizen Petition (FDA-2008-P-0248-0001) calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reclassify all weight loss support claims for dietary supplements as disease claims.

GSK was joined in this petition by three organizations that it supports: the American Dietetic Association, The Obesity Society and Shaping America’s Health. The organizations’ signatories included a lobbyist, a person who helped get obesity classified as a disease and a fundraising guru.

If the FDA were to—in a hypothetical act of audacious ignorance—agree with this petition, American consumers would be unarguably cheated out of hundreds of legally and responsibly marketed dietary supplement products.

The stage would be set for challenges to other types of claims and to what would constitute irreparable damage to the dietary supplement industry and irrevocable losses to consumer choice.

What a shameful state of affairs this is for the FDA.

Citizen petitions, when originally instituted, were supposed to be just that: a formal means for a citizen, or more broadly the public, to contact the FDA and “seek its action or response on a particular matter.”

The original intent of citizen petitions has been perverted to now facilitate “citizen” petitions from corporate behemoths that are so removed from anything remotely resembling a citizen, or the public at large, that to continue calling them “citizen petitions” is an insult to Americans.

Perhaps they should be called “Big Pharma Petitions” since the ones submitted by actual citizens, citizens groups and the public are the ones which tend to fall into the eternal and stygian FDA backlog—unless, of course, the petition challenges the sacred cow of FDA decision making.

Such a sacred cow was challenged by the non-profit group, Public Citizen (a true consumer group), on April 10th, 2006, when it called on the Agency to not allow a GSK drug (orlistat)—which is said by the group to have a history of side effects and gastrointestinal problems—to be re-classified as an over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss drug, now called alli™.

Public Citizen’s objections cited such embarrassing product usage problems as anal leakage and such serious problems as pre-cancerous lesions.

On February 7th, 2007, the FDA dismissed the group’s well argued petition, saying that the product label already warns people about the messy bowel problems.

As to those pesky pre-cancerous cellular changes allegedly caused by the drug (called “aberrant crypt foci”), the FDA said they aren’t of clinical significance.

Interesting, because according to the NIH National Cancer Institute, aberrant crypt foci represent “one of the earliest changes that can be seen in the colon that may lead to cancer.”

But, then again, FDA’s approvals were being called into question—institutional arrogance can’t allow that—and a powerful drug maker’s products were also being questioned.

Now, let’s turn back to the GSK Citizen Petition.

In the petition’s summary, GSK and its co-petitioners state: “Moreover, the actions requested in this petition would help address concerns about the safety of weight loss supplements” and “By requiring weight-loss supplements to undergo pre-market review, FDA would shift the burden to manufacturers to show that their products are safe.”

What about the potential safety problems related to GSK’s alli™? This product went through both a prescription drug and an albeit cursory OTC safety review process and it still has a number of reported concerns associated with it.

Or what about GSK’s prescription diabetes drug, Avandia? The FDA issued a safety alert related to this drug, indicating that “there is a potentially significant increase in the risk of heart attack and heart-related deaths in patients taking Avandia.”

Shortly thereafter the FDA required a “black box warning” with this drug, one which says: “Warning: Congestive Heart Failure and Myocardial Ischemia.” It appears the much-touted FDA drug prescription safety review process didn’t work here either.

Given the solid safety record of dietary supplements sold in health-food stores—and the incredibly poor safety record of drugs foisted on the American public—how could any pharmaceutical company have the unmitigated gall to ask this country (and its servant, the FDA) to ignore the 100,000 deaths and over 1 million adverse events every year from properly prescribed FDA pre-approved drugs?

Could it be because effectively removing dietary supplements that assist people in achieving body composition and weight loss goals would provide Big Pharma an El Dorado, like the legendary lost city of gold?

So I guess the questions are these: 

  1. Are we willing to see irreparable harm come to health food supplements?
  2. Do we want Big Pharma to manipulate the tools of public redress to do this?
  3. Do we want to offer the drug makers with an incalculable revenue boon while delivering a mortal wound to the natural products industry?
  4. Do we want Big Pharma and the FDA to decide what sorts of products we can have access to?
  5. Or do we want to keep our dearly won health freedoms? 

If your answer is “No!” to the first four questions and “Yes!” to the very last question, then please comment below with exactly what you think about this so-called Citizen Petition.

If you want them, as I do, to summarily deny this outrageous petition, then please indicate that in your comment below.


An award-winning journalist, published author, and member of the prestigious American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), Gormley has 20 years of experience in health-related media communications. He is a senior policy advisor for Citizens for Health (www.citizens.org), an advisory board member of the National Health Research Institute (NHRI)and a member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). From 2006 to 2008, Gormley directed three leading health-food trade magazines for VRM Inc. He is perhaps best known for having served as the longtime editor-in-chief of Better Nutrition magazine (1995 to 2002) and for having founded Remedies magazine in 2006. A consumer health advocate and industry champion, Gormley has also been a frequent guest on television and national radio where he has spoken out on a variety of health and regulatory issues.

 
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