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Chitosan: An Effective Diet Aid

According to the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Surgeon General, most of the top 10 causes of death are attributable to health risks associated with excess body fat. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that even a small amount of extra body weight increases the risk of disease and may affect longevity. Recent research indicates that Chitosan promises safe and effective weight loss, as well as a reduction in cholesterol.

Chitosan is a natural product derived from shellfish that has the ability to dissolve and capture fats and cholesterol in the stomach, preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream and carrying them out of the body in the normal process of elimination. Chitosan can absorb between six and 10 times its weight.

Chitosan is chemically similar to cellulose, a plant fiber, and possesses many of the same properties as fiber. Unlike plant fiber, however, chitosan acts like a "fat sponge" in the digestive tract and has no caloric value.

Chitosan works by binding fat and removing it from the gut before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps reduce LDL cholesterol by binding to bile acids secreted into the intestine by the liver, and preventing their reabsorption into the bloodstream.

A number of studies have testified to the potential of chitosan in promoting weight loss. The most significant appeared in the journal ARM Medicina-Helsinki. In this study, moderately obese patients were given chitosan, while a control group received a placebo. Within four weeks, members of the chitosan group lost an average of 15 pounds each, while members of the control group lost just 5.5 pounds. This study confirmed the findings of another study conducted in Norway.

Results from a study performed at the MATS Medical AB in Sweden found subjects consuming chitosan also lost 15 pounds in four weeks compared to the placebo group who lost only 5 pounds.

Chitosan appears to be safe, with no side effects, but two dietary considerations must be taken into account. There's a potential for allergic reaction for people with known shellfish allergies. Second, since chitosan binds to dietary fats as well as fat-soluble vitamins, it is recommended taking fat soluble supplements at different times than when chitosan is taken.

Reference: Eur J Clin Nutr, 1999;53:379-81.

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Colostrum: Immune Builder

Before birth, the mother's system begins storing immune agents from her own body, which are then passed through her mammary glands to her offspring in colostrum. Produced for only 36 to 48 hours, colostrum is passed before the flow of true maternal milk begins. Colostrum is filled with immunizing agents, antibodies, growth factors, and proteins. It works to prevent bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections, autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, tissue damage, and many other potential problems for the newborn infant.

In India, bovine colostrum is collected and used as an antibiotic and for other medicinal applications. Currently many investigators believe that colostrum contains a "transfer factor" that is essential to conveying its immunologic effects from the mother mammal to her offspring. Of the colostrum produced by various species of mammals, bovine colostrum appears to be highly effective for humans.

Among diseases against which research has shown colostrum to be effective are candida infections, lupus, gingivitis, arthritis, and diabetes. In order to be effective, bovine colostrum must be collected from the cow within 6 to 8 hours after the birth of a calf. After leaving an adequate portion for the calf, the manufacturer collects the remaining fluid and processes it. It must be processed under strict controls and while still fresh so as to preserve the bioactivity of its proteins.

As a supplement, colostrum is available in capsules or as a powder. The manufacturer of any particular dosage form of colostrum should furnish independent quality evaluations of the manufacturer's product.

Reported side effects of colostrum include headache, muscle aches, or stomach distress. These are usually mild and disappear quickly, and most persons taking colostrum do not experience any side effects.

Reference: Infect Immuna, 1993;61:4079-84.

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Vitamins For Good Kids

A new study has concluded that if you want well-behaved children, make sure they take their vitamins. Researchers from California State University (CSU) in Stanislaus compared behavioral problems such as disorderly conduct, vandalism, and refusal to work in two randomly assigned groups of school children.

One group took a daily supplement providing the nutritional equivalent of a well-balanced diet, while the other received a placebo.

The results, recently published in the International Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed that after four months, the children taking placebos needed twice as much discipline as those taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

In earlier research, lead investigator Stephen Schoenthaler, Ph.D., a CSU professor of sociology and criminal justice, discovered that low blood concentrations of key vitamins and minerals impaired the brain function of incarcerated teenagers, and correcting those concentrations improved both brain function and behavior. The research is important, Schoenthaler says, because "fighting adult crime starts with children."

Schoenthaler recommends, "a multivitamin supplement should be an insurance policy in case efforts to eat well fail from time to time."

Reference: Psychology Today, Jan-Feb 2001.

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Making Babies: Natural Fertility Boosters

It is estimated that 10-15% of couples have problems with infertility. The causes of infertility are many, and can be due to factors in both males and females.

Sperm may be deficient in terms of low number produced, their ability to propel themselves forward, and the shape of their heads.

Female infertility can be caused by ovulation problems, or failure to ovulate. Heavy metals, toxic trace elements, and hydrocarbons in food may also negatively affect fertility.

A strategy to increase fertility through diet and supplementation includes the following:

L-carnitine is important to fertility due to its role in sperm function. Hypomotility, or a problem with movement of sperm, is thought to be due to intrasperm L-carnitine deficiency, so administration of L-carnitine could improve sperm motility, potentially improving fertility.

In one recent study, supplements of the amino acid L-arginine improved ovarian response as well as improving other factors related to fertility. Patients treated with L-arginine had an increased number of eggs collected and increased plasma and follicular fluid concentrations of factors required for reproduction. Three pregnancies among supplemented subjects occurred, while no pregnancies were observed among controls.

Zinc is needed for growth, sexual maturation, and reproduction. Serum zinc and semen zinc levels have been found to be significantly lower in infertile patients than in fertile males.

Among subfertile males in a double-blind, clinically controlled study, selenium supplementation significantly increased sperm motility.

CoQ10 is correlated directly with sperm count and motility. Higher concentrations of CoQ10 in sperm cells may represent a way that it protects sperm cell membranes from free radical damage.

Although there are other natural supplements that show promise for increasing fertility, those discussed here have been the most well-researched.

Reference: Dawson, E.B., et al. Fertil Steril, 1992;58:1034-9.

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Foods Contain Less Vitamin A Than Previously Thought

In its latest report on Dietary Reference Intakes, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine (IOM) has concluded that the most common food sources of vitamin A-carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli-only provide half as much of this essential nutrient as previously thought.

In order to meet the daily requirement of vitamin A, the IOM recommends "significantly" increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables.

According to the report, "the most obvious symptom of inadequate vitamin A consumption is vision impairment, especially night blindness, which occurs after the body's vitamin A stores have been depleted. Up to 500,000 children worldwide go blind each year because of vitamin A deficiency. Estimates of intake from national surveys of food and nutrient consumption indicate that between 25% and 50% of young adults in the U.S. may not get enough of the nutrient in their diets to assure adequate vitamin A stores."

The full report is available on the National Academy of Medicine's Web site at http://www.nas.edu.

Reference: National Academy of Science, Fruits and Vegetables Yield Less Vitamin A Than Previously Thought; Upper Limit Set for Daily Intake of Vitamin A and Nine Other Nutrients; January 9, 2001.

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Beta-glucan Strengthens Immunity

Beta-glucan is a natural polysaccharide having powerful and immune-boosting anticancer properties. Beta-glucan is isolated from a variety of sources such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms, brewers' and bakers' yeasts, and from oat and barley bran.

In three separate randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, researchers tested the effects of beta-glucan on patients undergoing high-risk major abdominal and thoracic surgery. Results showed that patients who received beta-glucan had significantly fewer postoperative infectious complications compared with placebo. The investigators concluded that beta-glucan was safe and well tolerated and could potentially decrease postoperative infections.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of a study reviewing the anti-cancer effects of beta-glucan on cancer patients. The patients, who had skin, breast, or lung cancer, had beta-glucan injected into their tumors. In all cases, beta-glucan reduced the size of the tumor within five days, a result associated with an infiltration of immune cells into the cancerous area and their destruction of the cancer cells.

Beta-glucan recommended doses range from 30 to 500 mg per day, and twice that during illness, and is available in capsule, liquid, or tablet form.

Reference: Betafectin Gastrointestinal Study. Arch Surg, 1999;13:977-83.

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A cognitive test shows that a lack of vitamin B12 during the formative first six years of life could result in long-term reduced cognitive function. Researchers from the Nutrition and Food Research Institute in Zeist, Netherlands, studied children who had been raised on a strictly vegan macrobiotic diet until age six. The children ate a lacto-vegetarian or omnivorous diet after that age.

Between ages 10 and 16, the 48 adolescents underwent a series of tests designed to determine cognitive function. They were compared with 24 adolescents fed omnivorous diets from birth. The psychological tests were designed to measure fluid intelligence, spatial ability, concentration, short-term memory, psychomotor development, and information-processing speed. Almost two-thirds of the vegan-fed children were found to be B12 deficient. Almost a third had B12 intakes below 50 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance. The control subjects, all of whom had normal B12 status, performed better on most psychological tests-including those measuring fluid intelligence, spatial ability, and short-term memory-than those who had been macrobiotic.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2000;71:762-9.

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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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