Blog Archive 2013

NPF Science Update: Yacón Syrup
Posted Thursday, December 12, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

The Yacón Syrup Story

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

Promise in prebiotics

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

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

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

Will the syrup slim you?

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

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

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

Should you say yes to yacón?

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

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

About Natural Products FoundationNPF is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation. For more information visit the Foundation online: naturalproductsfoundation.org.

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

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

 

 
NPF Science Update: Probiotics
Posted Thursday, October 17, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Early Probiotics Protects Kids from Allergies and Eczema

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

An allergic threesome

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

Gut health and allergies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop allergies before they start

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

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

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

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

About Natural Products FoundationNPF is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation. For more information visit the Foundation online: naturalproductsfoundation.org.

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

 

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

 
NPF Science Update: Gluten
Posted Thursday, September 12, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

FDA Releases Long-Awaited Gluten-Free Guidelines

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

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

Not quite zero

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

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

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

Why not zero?

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

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

About Natural Products FoundationNPF is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation. For more information visit the Foundation online: naturalproductsfoundation.org.

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

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

 
NPF Science Update: Ginkgo
Posted Thursday, August 15, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Ginkgo: What's Its Safety Profile?

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

Of mice and men (and rats)

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

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

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

Getting down to details

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

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

About Natural Products FoundationNPF is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation. For more information visit the Foundation online: naturalproductsfoundation.org.

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

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

 
NPF Science Update: Folic Acid
Posted Thursday, June 13, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Pregnancy News: Folic Acid Linked to Lower Autism Risk

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

The importance of timing and amount

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

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

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

Folic acid’s healthy effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
NPF Science Update: CLA
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Beyond Weight Loss

By Rebecca Schauer, RD  

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

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

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

Celiac Disease

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

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

Crohn’s Disease

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

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

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

Asthma

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

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

In Summary

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

About Natural Products FoundationNPF is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation. For more information visit the Foundation online: naturalproductsfoundation.org.

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

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

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

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

 

 
NPF Science Update: Yeast Extract
Posted Thursday, April 11, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Stressed Out? Yeast Extract May Support Mood and Immune Function

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

Beta-glucan to battle stress

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

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

Better health linked to better moods and energy

These differences were seen:

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

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

Reducing stress for better health

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

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

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

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

 
NPF Science Update: Larch Arabinogalactan
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Herbal Defense Against the Common Cold

By Maureen Williams, ND 

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

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

Larch arabinogalactan users have fewer colds

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

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

Arabinogalactan and immunity

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

Build your defenses against colds

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

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

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

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

 

 
NPF Science Update: Multivitamins
Posted Thursday, February 14, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Are Multivitamins Safe?

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

Multivitamins, multiminerals, meta-analysis, and mortality

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

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

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

Considering multivitamins, finding balance

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

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

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

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

 
NPF Science Update: Fish Oil
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013

The NPF Science Update brings you news about scientific advances in the field of natural products. The Science Update features contributions from scientists, academics, doctors, healthcare professionals, industry veterans and other experts. To sign up to receive the monthly Science Update via email, please click here: NPF Science Update.

Fatty Acid from Fish Is Brain Food for Kids

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

Giving the brain a boost

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

Reading and behavior improve

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

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

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

Nourishing your child to help them learn

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

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

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

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

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

 
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