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NUTRITION NEWS

You Are What You Digest

Enzymes are needed to help break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into smaller particles, thereby increasing nutrient absorption and utilization of food.

Processing kills enzymes in fresh foods, resulting in some food particles passing along the gastro-intestinal tract further than they should without being broken down. This can lead to gas and bloating.

For some people, enzyme supplements tend to decrease gas and increase the frequency of bowel movements, which means that harmful bacteria spend less time in the colon where they may contribute to disease conditions such as colon cancer. Protease breaks down proteins, amylase breaks down carbohydrates, and lipase digests fats. In addition, several herbs have been proven effective for easing digestive problems.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has a long history of use as a digestive stimulant because of its lack of side effects and ability to provide aid for nausea and vomiting. Ginger has been shown in some studies to enhance intestinal lipase activity, as well as that of the enzymes sucrase and maltase. It has been proven to be superior or equally effective as conventional drugs in preventing motion sickness in clinical trials.

Chamomile is used widely as a digestive aid in Europe. It is carminative, meaning it soothes the gut wall, easing pain and the production of gas.

Licorice has been shown to be as effective as Tagamet in reducing ulcer pain with no side effects.

Probiotics can help increase the number of good bacteria and limit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, thereby improving digestion.

Lactobacillus acidophilus strains are some of the best-researched and popular among probiotics. L. acidophilus may help reduce diarrhea occurrence and urinary and vaginal infection, and reduce der-ma-titis and other skin disorders by improving gastro-intestinal balance of microbes, among other benefits.

Over 30 human studies have been conducted on probiotic strains. Such published trials have shown probiotics to positively affect intestinal health, immunity, constipation, diarrhea, and lactose tolerance in various groups.

Reference: Int J Food Sci Nutr, 1996;47(1):55-9.

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Breakthrough Sports Supplements

Here is an overview of nutritional supplements that are designed to improve performance and that have received recent attention in the literature, and notoriety in the athletic community.

HMB-The human body makes HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate) as a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine. Supplemental HMB is used as a tool for adding muscle strength and lean muscle mass and endurance, and for removing body fat, easing muscle soreness, and promoting muscle recovery in times of repair.

Scientists think that HMB prevents muscle breakdown and is involved in fat metabolism. In the early 1980s, a veterinarian used the substance to increase the weight of animals, and since then it has proven effective in building lean tissue in poultry, cattle, and sheep.

Some studies show that HMB increases muscle mass and strength, and reduces fat in some people. One study gave 3 grams of HMB every day for 4 weeks to trained male athletes. This group increased its lean muscle mass by 3% and decreased body fat by 7%.

Leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the three essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are classified as nutritional ergogenic aids. BCAA supplementation before and during exercise, as compared with a placebo, has been shown to increase mental performance following a soccer game and after a 30-km race, and has improved cycling endurance time under conditions of heat.

When runners were subdivided into slower and faster groups, the slower runners who received BCAAs ran faster than the slower runners who did not receive BCAAs. The investigators suggested that the slower runners might have depleted their muscle glycogen sooner than the faster runners, thus decreasing their blood levels of BCAAs earlier in the race and achieving greater benefit from supplementation.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, researchers at the University of Virginia reported that well-trained cyclists improved their times by 6.8 minutes in a rp-km cycle test after 2 weeks of BCAA supple-mentation, while the improvement after placebo was only 1.4 minutes.

Reference: Intl J Sports Nutr 6:191-7, 1996.

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Natural Support For Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are an increasing problem. Nearly 10% of all men will experience a kidney stone attack during their lifetime. This is double the occurrence in women. Kidney stones come in four varieties: calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite and cystine stones. The different types of kidney stones form for different reasons and must be accurately diagnosed before they can be treated.

The most common is the calcium oxalate stone, which appears to form when calcium and oxalate both precipitate out of solution. This generally happens when a person has too much oxalate in his system, not enough water to keep oxalate in solution, or both.

First and foremost, drink lots of water. After that, the most important nutritional therapies are magnesium and vitamin B6. Although it has long been suggested that cutting down on calcium-containing foods prevents kidney stones, research suggests calcium intake isn't the problem, but an imbalance of calcium and magnesium is. Magnesium increases the solubility of calcium oxalate crystals, and supplemental magnesium has been shown to effectively prevent recurrences of kidney stones.

Dan Lukaczer, N.D., director of clinical services at the Functional Medicine Research Center suggests that someone with a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones take 400-600 mg daily of a well-absorbed magnesium supplement such as magnesium citrate and 25-50 mg of vitamin B6.

Reference: Int Urol Nephrol 1988; 20(4):353-9.

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Vitamin E-2000

For decades Vitamin E has maintained a position as one of the most popular dietary supplements. As scientists continue to examine the role of free radicals in disease, research substantiates this potent antioxidant's ability to treat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, suggest that vitamin E may be a potent protector against certain types of stroke. The study period lasted 6 years, during which time participants took the supplements and were followed for stroke incidence outcomes.

Results of this study suggest that vitamin E significantly decreased the risk for cerebral infarctions.

Cardiovascular disease is a condition in which vitamin E has shown great promise. Two recent studies have provided evidence that vitamin E supplementation can protect against heart problems by reducing plasma levels of C-reactive protein (C-RP). An elevated level of C-RP is a major predictive factor for cardiovascular disease incidents.

One New Zealand study examined the effects of four weeks of daily supplementation with either 800 IU d-alpha-tocopherol or placebo. Only the vitamin E supplementation significantly reduced plasma C-RP levels.

Two recent studies have revealed further insight into the beneficial effect of vitamin E on prostate cancer. In the first study, conducted at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, vitamin E caused cell death of prostate cancer cells in the cell line that was most responsive to changes in levels of androgens. In other words, vitamin E may help fight hormone-dependent cancers of the prostate. The second study suggested that vitamin E induced apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells but did not compromise the growth of healthy prostate cells.

We look forward to the coming years as researchers clarify the important ways that vitamin E can positively affect health and disease prevention.

Reference: The Prostate 2000;44:287-95; Int J Sports Med 2000;21:369-74.

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Study Reveals Vitamins Block Toxic Effects

One-fourth of all North American adults have excessively high blood levels of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine translate into a significant increase in hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).

Researchers at the Department of Geriatrics, Second University in Naples, Italy, examined homocysteine's effects on healthy young men and healthy young women. The subjects were each given three loads of oral methionine in fruit juice, the same methionine dose immediately after taking 1,000 mg ascorbic acid and 800 IU vitamin E, and a methionine-free fruit juice placebo. Since the body normally converts methionine into homocysteine, loading up on methionine was expected to cause homocysteine levels to rise. In this case, the methionine-only group experienced a homocysteine increase nearly three-fold.

At the same time, there was a marked increase in the blood levels of several biochemicals that increase blood's tendency to clot. For a high-risk person with moderate or severe arteriosclerosis, this increase in homocysteine could be enough to trigger a heart attack.

The good news is that when researchers added the 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 800 IU of vitamin E along with the methionine load, homocysteine's pro-blood-clot effects were almost completely prevented. The blood clotting parameters remained normal despite a drastic increase in blood homocysteine levels. It appears that the combination of vitamins C and E may be an antidote to homocysteine, and one that works more quickly than traditional treatments.

Reference: JAMA 1999;281:2113-8.

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Clinical Study Reveals Natural Aid For Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis affects 20% of the general population and 85% of those over 70 years of age.

In a double-blind, randomized, multicenter trial performed in France, 122 patients with active knee or hip osteoarthritis were recruited. Patients were excluded if they had other diseases. Subjects received 100 mg of diacerhein or 2,610 mg of standardized devil's claw daily for four months. Measurements of pain intensity and functional ability were taken at baseline and 4, 8, and 16 weeks into the study.

Devil's claw reduced spontaneous pain at least as effectively as diacerhein. At the end of the study, significantly fewer patients on devil's claw were taking NSAIDS, compared to those on diacerhein. Both devil's claw and diacerhein were judged by the investigators to be good or very good. A statistical analysis showed that devil's claw was better tolerated. The authors conclude that devil's claw is a good alternative for treatment of osteoarthritis as it is at least as effective as diacerhein and is better tolerated.

Devil's claw is a traditional herbal remedy from Southwestern African deserts and has been employed in folk medicine for a variety of uses, including promoting appetite and its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. A previous clinical trial showed effectiveness in helping to reduce low back pain as an adjunct therapy with a conventional drug.

Reference: The American Botanical Council HerbalGram #50.

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It is no surprise that vitamin C has numerous health benefits. This vitamin has a role in preventing the top two killers: cancer and heart disease. In both cases, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C are key. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey II measured vitamin C levels and tracked subsequent health for 12-16 years. The men with the lowest vitamin C levels had a 57% greater risk of dying from any cause than the men with the highest vitamin C levels. Likewise, low vitamin C was correlated with a 62% higher risk of death from cancer. The researchers suggest that the low vitamin C levels may have an increased risk of mortality, probably because of an increased risk of dying from cancer.

Reference: Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:139-45.

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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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