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Smart Prenatal Nutrition

It is the view of the American Dietetic Association that "women of childbearing potential should maintain good nutritional status through a lifestyle that reduces the risk of birth defects. The key components of a health-promoting lifestyle include appropriate weight gain, consumption of a variety of foods, and appropriate and timely vitamin and mineral supplementation."

The March of Dimes has made folic acid supplementation in women a priority in their quest to reduce neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Research has shown that women who take 400 mcg of folic acid per day, starting before pregnancy, can reduce neural tube defects by up to 70%.

Studies have linked choline supplementation during pregnancy with improved memory and brain responsiveness in the child. Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA), especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are important for the development of the fetal brain, nervous system, and eyes. DHA is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the brain. DHA can be taken as a supplement, or the body can convert EPA into DHA.

Studies show that women who have iron-deficiency anemia run the risk of delivering shorter, lighter babies. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found that iron supplementation for anemia often fails because women don't take iron long enough.

They suggest beginning iron supplementation before conception and continuing until breast-feeding is finished. Since iron can interfere with the absorption of other minerals such as zinc and copper, the American Dietetic Association recommends 30 mg per day of iron, 15 mg per day of zinc, and 2 mg per day of copper during pregnancy.

Calcium is used for building fetal bone and teeth. Calcium also aids in the release of neurotransmitters, which carry messages between nerve cells, control heartbeat, clot blood, and contract muscles. If the mother does not replenish calcium, the fetus will draw calcium from maternal stores, leaving her at risk for osteoporosis later in life. In an Argentinean study, children of mothers who took calcium during pregnancy had lower blood pressure than those in the non-supplement group.

Magnesium can treat pregnancy-related leg cramps and alleviate severe pre-eclampsia, which is characterized by hypertension, headaches, and water retention. Taking magnesium prenatally may also reduce risk for cerebral palsy and mental retardation among very low-birth weight infants.

Reference: Lancet; 2002, Vol. 359, 1877-90.

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Creatine For Muscle Recovery

Muscle disuse due to physical inactivity, aging, and disease can result in muscle atrophy and reduced muscle function. Creatine is produced by the body and contributes to muscle growth, but natural levels decline with age. Recent evidence suggests that oral creatine supplementation is effective in reversing and preventing neuromuscular degeneration.At the University of Saskatchewan, 30 men aged 60 to 84 took part in a 12-week double-blind study. Half the participants took a placebo. During the first five days, the active group took a creatine dose of 3 grams per day per 2.2 pounds of body weight. The creatine dose for the remainder of the study was .07 grams per day per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Both groups did resistance training three times per week for 12 weeks. The creatine group scored significantly higher on average power, lean tissue mass, endurance, and improved leg strength compared to the men who only exercised.

In the October 2002 issue of The Journal of Physiology, researchers reported that creatine taken orally during leg immobilization and rehabilitation may reverse atrophy faster than placebo. In a double-blind trial using 22 healthy volunteers-13 males and nine females aged 20 to 23-a cast was used to immobilize each subject's right leg for two weeks. Half the subjects received creatine, gradually decreasing from 20 grams to 5 grams per day, while the other half took a placebo. Lack of movement decreased the cross-sectional area of the quadriceps in both groups. After three knee-extension exercise sessions per week for 10 weeks, the creatine group experienced a greater increase in the cross-sectional area of their quadriceps, and a quicker return to maximum knee extension power than the placebo group.

These studies suggest that creatine may help forestall or reverse muscle atrophy and the progressive weakness that occurs with age. Creatine may also be useful as an intervention to improve the ability of the elderly to perform the tasks of daily living, thereby decreasing dependency and enhancing quality of life.

Reference: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; Dec. 2001, Vol. 33, No. 12, 2111-7.

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Glucosamine Sulfate For Osteoarthritis

Glucosamine sulfate is a natural substance found in the joints of bones, and plays an important role in the maintenance of joint cartilage. Long-term treatment with glucosamine sulfate has been shown to slow the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, signified by the deterioration of cartilage that cushions bones in joints, leading to pain and limited movement.A recent double-blind, three-year trial conducted by the Institute of Rheumatology at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and the Rotta Research Laboratorium in Monza, Italy, consisted of 202 volunteers between 45 and 70 years old. The participants each had mild to moderate osteoarthritis for more than ten years based on two criteria: the average joint space width was less than 4 millimeters (mm), compared to a joint space width of 6 to 7 mm in healthy individuals; and a Lequesne pain symptom index was less than nine points, indicating severe to moderate symptoms.

The study group was randomized to receive 1,500 mg per day of oral glucosamine sulfate or a placebo. To determine the progression of knee osteoarthritis, changes in joint space width were assessed at one, two, and three-year intervals. Fourteen percent (14%) of the placebo group had progressive joint space narrowing by an average 0.19 mm. Only 5% of those in the glucosamine sulfate group experienced joint space narrowing.

Symptoms were assessed throughout the study. Disease symptoms improved modestly in the placebo group, but improved as much as 20% to 25% in the glucosamine sulfate group. The researchers concluded that treatment with glucosamine sulfate successfully retarded the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine; 2002, Vol. 162, No.18, 2113-23.

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Selenium For Thyroid Health

German researchers have found that supplementing with selenium may slow the progression of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), and may be most effective at the onset of thyroiditis. AITD refers to a number of different disorders in which the immune system attacks the cells of the thyroid gland, causing symptoms of thyroid disease. AITDs include both disorders of hypothyroidism-reduced thyroid hormone production-and hyperthyroidism-excess thyroid hormone production.

Researchers believe that a deficiency in selenium may contribute to the development of AITD because selenium has a direct impact on immune system enzymes. Dr. Barbara Gasnier, MD, of the Medizinische Klinik University, Munich, Germany, led a study that consisted of 72 women with a mean age of 47. All had AITD, and all had thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies greater than 350 units per milliliter of blood. TPO antibodies are not present in healthy individuals. Half the participants received 200 mcg of selenium per day for three months, while the other half received a placebo. All patients were normalized on their thyroid hormone treatment.

TPO antibody levels were measured at the conclusion of the three-month study period. Nine of the patients taking selenium had TPO antibody levels return to normal. By contrast, only two members of the placebo control group had TPO antibody levels return to normal. In the selenium group, the TPO antibody levels had a mean decrease of 40%, compared to a 10% increase in the placebo group. The higher the TPO antibody levels at the onset of the test, the greater the reduction at the end of the three-month study period. The researchers concluded that selenium supplementation may reduce thyroid inflammation in patients with AITD.

Reference: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism; Vol. 87, No. 4, 1687-91.

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DHEA For Addison's Disease

Addison's disease-acute adrenal failure-occurs in about one in every 100,000 people. The adrenal glands rest on top of the kidneys and produce some of the body's essential hormones.

This disorder gradually destroys the outer layer of the adrenal glands, disabling the production of hormones.

Researchers have linked abnormally low levels of dehydro-epiandrosterone (DHEA) with Addison's disease, which can be diagnosed by testing DHEA levels in the blood. The main symptoms of Addison's disease are fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and sometimes darkening of the skin.

Chronic stress exhausts the adrenals and leads to "burn out" of the glands. Known as the "anti-stress" hormone, DHEA occurs naturally in every cell in the body. DHEA is secreted from the adrenal glands, and then converted into whatever hormones the body needs. After the age of 30, there is a steady decline in natural DHEA production.Dr. Eleanor Gurnell and her colleagues at the University of Cambridge, UK, recruited 106 Addison's disease patients-44 males and 62 females-aged 20 to 64 years for a one-year double-blind study to assess psychological well-being and bone mineral density. The group was randomized to receive 50 mg per day of micronized DHEA or a placebo.

At the end of the study, the DHEA group showed significant improvement in general well-being, bone mineral density, and lean body mass. The positive changes were reversed after washout-discontinuation of DHEA-at the end of the trial.

It appears from this study that a dose of 50 mg per day of DHEA has a positive effect on adrenal function. The authors concluded that patients with Addison's disease are deficient in DHEA, and correcting this deficiency can improve both psychological well-being and bone mineral density. The researchers noted that longer term, variable-dosage studies are required to establish whether there are cumulative beneficial effects, and to confirm the long-term safety of DHEA.

Reference: Endocrine Abstracts; October 2002, No. 4.

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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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