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Food For The Brain

Alzheimer's disease and other forms of senile dementia affect 25% of people older than 80. Certain types of mental decline result from exposure to toxins and oxidizing agents. Brain inflammation may result from the presence of toxins, allergies, stress, or low nutrient levels. The inflammatory process creates free radicals that cause oxidative damage. Expo-sure to free radicals can be especially damaging when brain tissues lack adequate levels of antioxidants and other nutrients. The aging brain can have low levels of nutrients as a result of a poor diet or inadequate nutrient absorption. As such, several nutrients are key.

Antioxidants such as beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, essential fatty acids, selenium, and vitamins C and E reduce inflammation. Studies have shown antioxidant levels in the brain decline with age. The lowest levels are associated with the greatest neuronal impairment.

Low levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid are associated with forgetfulness, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. Supplementation with these and antioxidant vitamins may be useful for preventing and treating cognitive impairment.

In addition to antioxidants and B vitamins, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has been researched as a treatment for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Studies demonstrate that ALA can reduce damage to neurons caused by toxic substances that are byproducts of inflammatory processes.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 long-chain fatty acid, is one of the primary structural components of the brain. In a European study, elderly persons treated for six months with 90 mg per day of DHA showed marked improvement in apathy and social withdrawal symptoms.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is present in large amounts in brain tissue. In research trials conducted in Italy, researchers noted that PS improved depression, memory, and behavior.

Ginkgo biloba has been well documented to improve cerebral blood flow and to have antioxidant activity on the nerves.

Although studies are not yet conclusive about how certain supplements affect brain function, many nutrients certainly hold promise.

Reference: Kieszek S. Trials and perspectives in pharmacotherapy of Alzheimer's disease. Psychiatr Pol May-Jun 1999; 33(3):331-40.

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Relieving Pain With Enzymes

Nearly every disease or injury involves some form of inflammation, which frequently is manifested as pain. Many are not aware of the fact that in addition to drugs, natural enzymes can effectively be used to ease inflammation. Because enzymes occur naturally in the body, using them to ease inflammation does not incur the side effects common with their synthetic counterparts.

Upon injury, a series of biochemical changes take place. Capillary permeability increases, which allows excess bodily fluid to accumulate in the injured area, leading to swelling. This results in a deposit of insoluble proteins that leads to circulatory interference, which causes the pain.

Using enzymes is most effective at this stage of inflammation because they hydrolyze the peptide bonds that join amino acids and allow more oxygen to reach and revive tissue cells. Excess fluid is also reabsorbed, reducing inflammation.

A double-blind study on dental patients found anti-inflammatory effects using a mixture of pancreatin, bromelain, papain, lipase, mg amylase, and trypsin. The patients received the enzymes prior to dental surgery and post-operatively for several days. By the third day after the operation, levels of C-reactive protein-a measure of inflammation-were threefold higher in the control group.

A separate German review of studies also found that enzymes have analgesic effects. This explains the therapeutic effects of such enzymes in cases where the inflammatory processes are not in the forefront, particularly degenerative rheumatic diseases.

References: Quintessenz 1991;42(7):1053-64. Wien Med Wochenschr 1999;149(21-22):577-80.

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Natural Vitamin E Outshines Synthetic

There's little question these days that increased intake of vitamin E is beneficial in maintaining good health. An abundant body of research reveals the impressive nutrient role in helping to stave off age-related diseases such as cancer, cataracts, and heart disease.

While the RDA of the nutrient is only 15 IU for men and 12 IU for women, the latest research suggests that 400 IU daily may be necessary to reap the plentiful health rewards.

So what's the best source of supplemental vitamin E? Dr. Robert Acuff, Ph.D., a leading researcher in the study of vitamin E, is the director for the Center for Nutrition Research and a professor at East Tennessee State University. A study conducted by Acuff and his colleagues concluded that natural supplemental vitamin E is more readily absorbed and retained in the body than the synthetic form. In a revealing study, Acuff found that plasma levels of natural vitamin E in umbilical cord blood were 3.5 times higher than levels of the synthetic form, though both types were administered to the mother in equal amounts.

Natural vitamin E is one structure. The synthetic form is made of eight different structures, only one of which is the same chemical configuration that we find in nature. So only one-eighth of the synthetic E is actually structurally identical to natural E. If you take 100 IU of synthetic vitamin E, only about 12 IU are in the form that the tissue hungers for. There is a tocopherol-binding protein in the liver, and that binding protein knows the difference between synthetic and natural. It's very discriminating.

Some of the synthetic producers would like to think there's no difference between these two compounds. As more and more sound research comes out, the scientific evidence will speak for itself. Bottom line: make sure your vitamin E is natural.

References: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 1998, April 1998.

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Effective Alternative Prostate Cancer Therapies

The North American rate of prostate cancer is 10 times higher than that in Japan. These statistics support the theory that men with a high saturated fat intake have a significantly higher prostate cancer risk than do those with a low intake. About 200,000 North American men are stricken with prostate cancer each year.

Medical tests that measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA) can help detect prostate cancer. Perhaps the best preventive approach is diet. A diet that is high in fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans offers powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals that limit damage to cells. In addition to dietary changes, various dietary supplements are being studied in their ability to decrease prostate cancer risk.

Most promising is research at the Department of Urology from the New York Medical College. They presented results of a study that used a maitake mushroom extract, Grifron Pro D-Fraction, on human prostate cancer calls. The study demonstrated a significant cytotoxic effect on prostate cancer when treated with this extract.

Researchers found a correlation between high fish oil intake and low cancer risk, noting that fish oils may prevent the progression of prostate cancer. Docosahexanoic acid, or DHA, is the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish. The suggested dosage from Barbara Levine, R.D., Ph.D., director of nutrition for the Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center, is 100 mg of DHA daily.

Vitamin E appears to inhibit prostate cell lines by encouraging apoptosis, or cell death, in one recent in-vitro study. The commonly recommended dosage for cancer prevention is 400 IU of natural vitamin E.

Numerous studies have found a relationship between lycopene levels and prostate cancer risk. According to one study men who consumed 10 or more servings of tomato products per week reduced prostate cancer risk by 35%. Tomato sauce is an especially good way to get lycopene. Supplements are becoming convenient sources of this antioxidant.

Finally, the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study Group found that patients supplemented with selenium had only one-third the number of prostate cancers as did the placebo group. Studies conclude that 200 mcg of selenium daily appears to cut risk significantly.

Reference: Deneo-Pellegrini H, et al. Foods, nutrients and prostate cancer; a case-control study. British Journal of Cancer, 1999; 80(3/4):591-7.

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Beating The Blues With Folic Acid

Several studies have reported that individuals suffering from depression have low blood levels of folic acid. Furthermore, those with low folic acid levels tend to respond poorly to antidepressants. Researchers recently checked to see if folic acid supplements would enhance the action of antidepressants. In this study, 127 depressed patients randomly received 500 mcg of folic acid or a placebo along with their daily dose of Prozac. After the 10 weeks of treatment, the Prozac plus folic acid group reportedly showed significantly greater improvement, compared to the Prozac only group.

Considering that folic acid is a safe and inexpensive supplement, it would be prudent for depressed individuals to consider supplementing with this B vitamin.

Reference: J Affect Dis 2000; 60:121-30.

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An Herbal Approach For Heart Attacks

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer in North America. Almost 50% of heart attacks occur without warning. Every 18 seconds someone in North America has a heart attack and every 30 seconds someone dies from one.

Besides working on the lifestyle changes, there are several botanicals that may reduce the incidence of CVD and assist in the recuperation or prevention of recurring problems.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is the most prominent herb used in cases of CVD. Reishi has been shown to lower blood pressure while strengthening the heart and lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides. One study of patients with an average blood pressure of 165.5 over 106.4 found that blood pressure dropped to 136.6 over 92.8 after six months of reishi supplementation.

Garlic and onions have both proven to be very effective in CVD and for reducing blood pressure and blood lipids. Some studies have shown remarkable results in as little as 24 hours, but most results were realized in 30-90 days for significant improvement.

Cayenne is one of the best known folk remedies for CVD. Studies suggest it will strengthen the heart, regulate blood pressure, lower blood lipids, reduce peripheral resistance in the capillary beds, and dilate blood vessel diameter.

Hawthorn berries have been shown to be effective in reducing blood pressure, angina attacks, blood lipids, and as an overall cardiac tonic. It is widely used in both Europe and Asia against hypertension.

Reference: Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology 1988; 34(4):433-8.

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A group of researchers tested the antioxidant ability of grape seed extract in several different experiments. They found in one of the laboratory experiments that grape seed extract "is highly bioavailable and provides significantly greater protection against free radicals and free radical-induced lipid peroxidation and DNA damage than vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene."

Additional tests showed that this extract is toxic to breast, lung, and stomach cancer cells, while benefiting the growth and viability of normal stomach cells.

It appears that grape seed extract has numerous potential health roles.

Reference: Toxicology 2000; 148:187-97.

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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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