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NUTRITION NEWS

Protecting Eyesight Naturally

Vitamins C and E, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may be linked to reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, and cataract extractions are one of the most common surgeries of the eye. Age, light eye color, heredity, and heart disease are risk factors for AMD. Macular degeneration impairs the ability to look straight ahead. There is a constant blind spot that appears six inches from the eye that cannot be moved from the center of vision, permitting sight around, but not through it. The blind spot makes tasks such as driving a car, reading, or watching television difficult. New laser treatments may retard or halt the process, but can rarely reverse lost or damaged vision.

The U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI) conducted the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a seven-year trial that evaluated over 3,600 men and women aged 55 to 80. The study found that people at high risk for developing AMD reduced risk by up to 25% when treated with a daily combination of 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta-carotene, 80 mg of zinc oxide, and 2 mg of copper. NEI researchers concluded that persons older than 55 with vision loss due to AMD should consider taking a supplement combination such as the one used in the trial.

The antioxidant action of vitamin C may protect the lens of the eye. Vitamin C is a small, water-soluble molecule that can penetrate the layers of the lens, providing benefit to this isolated area. The Nurses Health Study found that the need for cataract surgery was lower among women who had used vitamin C supplements for ten years or longer.

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient for the nervous system that protects all cell membranes through its antioxidant action. In the Longitudinal Study of Cataract conducted by Dr. Cristina Leske, MD, University Medical Center at Stony Brook, New York, vitamin E supplementation for at least a year was associated with reduced cataract risk.Adequate levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale may help prevent AMD. The greatest amounts of zeaxanthin occur in the macular region. Lutein is distributed throughout the entire retina. These compounds are closely related and often occur together in nature. The macular pigment levels of AMD patients who did not consume at least 4 mg per day of lutein were 32% lower than in normal elderly eyes.

Dr. Paul Bernstein, MD, PhD, at the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City led the study. The findings showed that AMD patients who began taking 4 mg of lutein or more per day along with other antioxidant nutrients were able to return macular pigment levels to normal. The general recommended dosage for zeaxanthin is 4 mg to 6 mg per day in divided doses.

Reference: Ophthalmology; October 2002, Vol. 109, 1780-7.

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American Heart Association Update On Omega-3

Healthy people should eat omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources to protect their hearts, according to updated American Heart Association recommendations published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Omega-3 fatty acids are not just good fats; they affect heart health in positive ways," stated Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, lead author of the report. Omega-3s make the blood less likely to form the clots that cause heart attacks, and protect against irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden death.

Since 2000, the American Heart Association has recommended that healthy adults eat at least two servings of fish per week, such as albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel, salmon, and sardines. These fish contain two omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic (EPA and DHA).

This report examines the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction, and the recent Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration guidance on the presence of contaminants in certain species of fish.Depending on their life stage, consumers need to be aware of the benefits and risks of eating fish. Children, and pregnant and nursing women may be at increased risk of exposure to excessive mercury from fish but also are generally at low risk for CVD. Avoiding potentially contaminated fish is a higher priority for these groups, said Dr. Kris-Etherton. For middle aged and older men, and postmenopausal women, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks.

People with elevated triglycerides-an indicator for heart disease-may benefit from taking two to four grams of EPA and DHA per day as a supplement, according to the report. A one-gram per day dose of EPA and DHA, which may be more than can be obtained from diet alone, is currently recommended for patients with existing CVD.

Reference: Circulation; 2002, Vol. 106, No. 21, 2747-57.

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Cat's Claw For Immune System Health

Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa), also known as Una de Gato, is a woody vine from the Peruvian rain forest. Named for the two curved thorns at the base of each leaf, cat's claw grows wild in the Peruvian highlands and has been used for generations by the Ashaninka Indians to stimulate the immune system and prevent disease. Studies have shown that the inner bark of the cat's claw vine contains the same beneficial properties as the root. The bark will grow back and replenish itself as long as the root remains intact. The Peruvian government no longer allows harvesting the root.

Unique alkaloids-substances containing nitrogen-found in cat's claw enhance the immune system in a general way. According to Austrian researcher Dr. Klaus Keplinger, PhD, four alkaloids in cat's claw have proven suitable for stimulation of the immune system. Laboratory testing has shown that these alkaloids enhance the ability of white blood cells to attack and digest harmful micro-organisms, foreign matter, and debris. The most immunologically active alkaloid in cat's claw increases the production of white blood cells and T-cells, helping to protect the body from viruses and cancers caused by viruses. Cat's claw has also been helpful in reducing the pain associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Dr. Donna Schwontkowski, DC, author of Herbs of the Amazon, Traditional and Common Uses, calls cat's claw the most powerful immune enhancer of all the herbs native to the Peruvian Amazon. Una de Gato also has anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, and is useful in the treatment of allergies, arthritis, bursitis, and bowel and intestinal disorders.

Reference: Phytomedicine; July 2001, Vol. 8, No. 4, 267-74.

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Garlic Helps Prevent Colds

The cold is the most common disease of mankind. Each year, adults catch between two and four colds while infants and young children suffer between six and 10 colds. A 75-year-old person has suffered about 200 cold infections during his or her lifetime. Taking a garlic supplement reduces the likelihood of catching cold, and speeds recovery, according to researchers in England.

Traditionally, garlic has been used to fight off and treat the symptoms of the common cold, but this is the first clinical evidence of its medicinal properties. The study found that a daily garlic supplement containing allicin-a purified component of garlic considered to be the major biologically active agent produced by the plant-reduced the risk of catching cold by over 50%. Allicin is the compound that gives garlic its distinctive odor, and is created from the combination of an odorless substance called alliin and oxygen when garlic is cut or crushed.

A total of 146 volunteers took part in the study at the Garlic Centre in East Sussex, UK. Half the volunteers took a single daily garlic capsule supplement containing 180,000 mcg of allicin, while the remaining volunteers were given a placebo. Over a 90-day period during the winter, the garlic group reported 24 colds lasting 1.52 days compared to 65 colds lasting 5.01 days for the placebo group.

Dr. Ron Eccles, PhD, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, UK, believes this is a very encouraging result. "Plants do not have an immune system as we do.

They fight viruses and infections with in-built chemical defenses. Allicin is one of the chemical defenses of garlic which helps keep it healthy. In this study we are simply using the plant's natural defense to fight our own virus," Dr. Eccles said. Future research will be needed to corroborate these findings.

Reference: Advanced Therapy; July-August 2001, Vol. 18, No. 4, 189-93.

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Vinpocetine For Cognitive Function

Vinpocetine is derived from an alkaloid found in the peri-winkle plant (Vinca minor) and has been used for over 20 years in Europe to enhance memory and mental function. Studies indicate that vinpocetine may help the brain make better use of oxygen, as well as increase cerebral metabolic rate and blood flow. Those with cognitive disorders due to poor blood flow to the brain, such as hardening of the arteries, are most likely to benefit.

Vinpocetine has been shown to be effective in symptoms such as confusion, loss of attention, lack of concentration, irritability, vertigo, visual and acoustic alterations, and mood changes, and has also been shown to enhance lucidity of thought. One of the studies involved 882 patients with neurological disorders ranging from cerebral insufficiency to stroke. Patients were asked to memorize a list of 10 words. Without vinpocetine the subjects were able to memorize an average of six words. After a month of treatment the patients were able to memorize all 10 words. Vinpocetine improves circulation and brain metabolism by passing through the blood-brain barrier, increasing glucose consumption in the brain. Glucose is the fuel normally used by brain cells.

Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD, the associate editor of the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association stated, "Until vinpocetine, we have had nothing to prevent cognitive decline. We only have drugs to treat [the condition] after the fact. According to clinical data, consumers will see improvement in memory function as well as enhancement of learning, recall, and overall alertness. Results can be expected in seven to 10 days." The standard recommended dose is one 5 mg tablet, three times per day, for a total of 15 mg per day of vinpocetine.

Reference: Free Radical Research; 2000, Vol. 32, No. 1, 57-66.

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May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Free radical damage is thought to be one of the underlying causes of bronchial asthma. Free radicals are highly charged, extremely unbalanced molecules that have a destructive effect on cells in the absence of antioxidant protection. Antioxidants such as CoQ10 facilitate normal cell energy production.

Some researchers now believe that taking adequate doses of antioxidants can have a beneficial effect in patients with asthma. A recent study of allergic asthma sufferers consisted of 56 men and women between the ages of 19 and 72. There was a control group of 25 healthy volunteers, aged 25 to 50. Researchers found that concentrations of CoQ10 were significantly lower in both the plasma and whole blood of the asthma sufferers compared to the healthy volunteers. A normal blood level of CoQ10 is considered to be 2.97 mg per ml.

Asthma affects approximately 14.6 million Americans and can be triggered by allergies, drug reactions, exercise, stress, infection, and chemical and toxic metal exposure. When active, asthma constricts the bronchial airways with spasms that limit airflow in and out of the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and difficult breathing. Health care providers may prescribe bronchodilators, steroids, and allergy medications that can have side effects such as drowsiness, headache, and dry mouth. Environmental controls include changing furnace filters at least twice a year, avoiding the use of humidifiers or vaporizers, and using hypo-allergenic bedding.

Reference: Allergy; September 2002, Vol. 57, No. 9, 811-4.

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Fifty-one female university students with iron-deficiency anemia were treated with a typical iron preparation for 20 weeks. Half of the women were also given 1,000 mg per day of taurine, while the other half received a placebo. At the end of the study, the group receiving taurine had a greater increase in blood count than the placebo group, equivalent to more than three-quarters of a pint of additional blood. The body-iron stores were greater in the taurine group, and no adverse effects attributable to taurine were reported. The researchers concluded that supplementation with the amino acid taurine enhances the effect of iron therapy in young women with iron-deficiency anemia.

Reference: European Journal of Haematology; 2002, Vol. 69, 236-42.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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