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Preserving And Strengthening Eyesight

Lutein is a carotenoid. Research indicates that lutein may help maintain eye health by preventing free radical damage in the macula and retina. These two lutein-rich and oxidant-sensitive areas are susceptible to age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and cataracts.

ARMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people older than 65, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation in Northampton, MA, and has no known cause or cure.

Oxidation and light damage may cause this macular deterioration, and it appears that lutein acts as a natural sunshade, protecting the eye from too much light. Eyes gradually lose lutein with age, leading some researchers to theorize that lutein loss leads to retinal sun damage and ultimately to degeneration in macular thickness. Research has shown that people with low plasma levels of carotenoids and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E may increase their risk of ARMD.

In a study at Florida International University in Miami, FL, researchers examined the effects of lutein supple-men-ta-tion on macular density. Sub-jects took 30 mg of lutein daily for 140 days. Their macular pigment optical density was measured before, during, and after the supplementation period. Forty days after lutein supple-men-ta-tion began, the subjects showed increased macular pigment density and serum-lutein concentration. At the end of the study, one subject in-creased macular pigment density by 39%.

A study done at the DVA Medical Hospital of North Chicago suggests that lutein may improve vision. Patients between ages 61 and 79 with early symptoms of ARMD such as blurred vision or loss of central vision ate four to seven servings of spinach weekly, which is high in lutein. Researchers saw improvements ranging from 60% to 92% on several visual function tests in all patients.

Another age-related vision problem is cataracts. Lens protein oxidation plays a central role in cataract formation. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, found that those with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin had 22% decreased cataract extraction risk.

Researchers have also shown that increasing consumption of lutein-rich foods increases carotenoid levels in the eyes, thereby helping to protect them from disease. It is a good idea to consume lutein-rich foods; but it may be difficult to get a therapeutic amount every day from food alone. Conveniently, lutein is available in supplement form.

References: Experience Eye Responsibility July, 1997; 65(1):57-62; Am J Clin Nutr October, 1999; 70(4):509-16.

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A Safe, Dependable Sedative

Valerian (Valerian officinalis) roots contain several compounds with demonstrable pharmacological activity. Valerian analyses have primarily focused on the essential oil, valerenic acid, and valepotriates and are commonly used as marker compounds for qualitative and quantitative analysis of valerian root and valerian products. Several clinical studies have been conducted on valerian's effects.

The first of these studies was a double-blind clinical trial wherein subjects received one of three samples: either an aqueous valerian extract, a commercial preparation containing extracts of valerian and hops, or placebo. Both valerian preparations contained 400 mg valerian extract, the dose recommended in the Swiss pharmacopoeia. Subjects reported a reduction in sleep latency and an increase in sleep quality compared with placebo. People who considered themselves poor or irregular sleepers obtained the most benefit.

In a subsequent double-blind placebo-controlled study, volunteers with mild insomnia were given 450 mg or 900 mg valerian extract. Sleep onset was determined by reduction in body movement as measured by wrist-worn activity monitors. Sleep onset was accelerated from an average of 15.8 minutes to 9.0 minutes. The higher dose did not enhance sleep more than the 450 mg dose. The authors concluded that valerian was as effective as small doses of barbiturates.

In more recent studies, children and adults took from three to nine tablets per day. Each tablet contained 45 mg dry valerian extract. Subjects noted improvement in sleep and ability to concentrate in the first two days of treatment, and increasing improvements on subsequent days. Fifty percent of those patients whose primary complaint was difficulty in concentration reportedly were symptom-free within the 10-day valerian supplemented period.

There have been no reports of chronic toxicity when valerian is used at recommended therapeutic doses of 400-600 mg.

References: Schweiz Rundsch Med Prax April, 1996; 85(15):473-81; J Pharm Sci 1961; 50(3):240-4; Planta Med 1994; 60:475-6.

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Study Shows Natural Supplement Reduces Body Fat

A new study published recently concludes that the natural dietary supplement conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) reduces body fat in people who are overweight or obese. The study is the largest published scientific evidence to date showing that the natural supplement reduces the weight of fatty tissue in humans. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study confirms a series of previous studies, which concluded that CLA improves body composition by reducing fat and preserving muscle tissue.

"We found an average reduction of six pounds of body fat in the CLA group compared to placebo," said Ola Gudmundsen, Ph.D., chief executive officer, Scandinavian Clinical Research, Kjeller, Norway. "This new scientific evidence supports previous observations that CLA is quite effective as a fat-fighting supplement."

Almost two thirds of American adults are currently classified as overweight, and more than one quarter of those are considered obese, according to recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control. The total costs attributable to obesity-related disease approach $100 billion annually.

In the study, sixty overweight people were randomly assigned to take a placebo or CLA for twelve weeks. The main objectives of the study were to investigate the effects of different doses of CLA given from 1.7 grams to 6.8 grams per day, compared to placebo. Results showed measurable improvement in the body's fat mass. The study indicates that 3.4 grams of CLA per day is enough to obtain all the beneficial effects on body fat. The group given the highest dose, 6.8 grams of CLA per day also experienced a slight increase in lean body mass. For the study, the investigators used Tonalin conjugated linoleic acid, available in several brands.

Reference: The Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 130 #12, December 2000.

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Securing Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for more deaths than cancer, pulmonary disease, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes, and AIDS/HIV combined. Despite its image, heart disease affects many women as well as men. Post-meno-pausal women are especially at risk, which may be due partly to the of loss of iron on a monthly basis.

Considering that the risk of heart disease increases in men and women with age, it makes sense to consider supplements for heart health to those in their 50s and beyond.

Garlic has actions that regulate blood flow and fight high blood pressure. Subjects taking garlic in one study had a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure and a smaller reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

CoQ10 is crucial in the production of ATP, which the body needs for fuel. It also acts as a chain-breaking antioxidant, halting free radical damage. Patients with cardiac disorders have low levels of CoQ10. Thirty-six of 39 controlled clinical trials with CoQ10 and heart disease have shown benefit.

Research has continually shown that vitamin E reduces heart attack risk, inhibits platelet aggregation, and increases the survival rate of patients who undergo bypass surgery. In the Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study, more than 2,000 patients diagnosed with coronary heart disease who were given vitamin E daily had fewer myocardial infarctions than subjects in a placebo group. Vitamin E supplementation may be especially important for women. The Nurses' Health Study found a 41% reduction in heart disease risk among subjects who took vitamin E for over two years.

A flavonoid found in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin is responsible for its heart benefits, which include reducing blood pressure, preventing and treating atherosclerosis, lowering cholesterol, and preventing LDL oxidation.

For more heart health information, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, M.D., board-certified cardiologist and certified bioenergetic analyst addresses what he terms "new millennium" risk factors in his book Heart Sense for Women.

Reference: Journal of Molecular & Cellular Cardiology 31:1289-97, 1999.

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Dieting With Calcium

While calcium's role in bone health and preventing osteoporosis has been well-known for decades, researchers stumbled onto a new health connection for this mineral-staying trim. While investigating calcium as a way for obese patients to get their blood pressure under control, researchers from the University of Tennessee were surprised when they found that increasing calcium intake caused weight loss. Their curiosity spurred this study.

When subjects were fed a high-fat and high-sugar diet, the addition of calcium supplements to their diet attenuated the weight gain and reduced fat mass by 26-39%. The researchers further examined the calcium/fat relationship by evaluating epidemiological data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is representative of the U.S. population. They discovered a "profound reduction in the odds of being in the highest quartile of obesity associated with increases in calcium and dairy product intake." This high calcium/lower body fat connection held true even when calorie intake and exercise was taken into account.

This means that a low-calcium diet is more likely to lead to extra storage of body fat, while a high calcium diet is less likely to have extra calories deposited as fat. Looks like another good reason for everyone to benefit from calcium supplements.

Reference: FASEB Journal, 2000; 14:1132-8.

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The Miracle Of Milk Thistle

The liver acts like a filtering system that cleanses all types of potentially hazardous substances from the blood. Potentially damaging substances like alcohol, drugs, and pesticides are metabolized by the liver. Diseases or an over-abun-dance of toxins can impair these functions.

Milk thistle (silymarin) has been shown in more than 150 clinical studies to: protect the liver, regenerate dam-aged liver cells, repair liver damage due to alcohol and drugs, reverse hepatitis, and repair cirrhosis.

Silymarin binds to the outside of liver cells to protect them from damag-ing chemicals and toxins. One of the most dramatic examples of this is its protective action against death cap mushroom. An injection of salymarin has become the standard treatment in Germany for poisoning that damages the liver. One of the studies showed that an extract of milk thistle almost completely counteracted liver toxicity from carbon tetrachloride.

Using 200 mg of milk thistle extract three times daily for four to eight weeks has shown dramatic changes in liver enzymes.

In acute hepatitis, milk thistle extract slows down liver cell damage, while shortening the duration of the disease. Used for a period of three to 12 months, it has reversed liver cell damage, increased protein in the blood, and lowered liver enzymes.

It is easy to see why many herb-alists and naturopaths use and recom-mend milk thistle extract regularly.

References: Hepatology 9:105-13, 1989; J. Hepatol 12:290-95, 1991.

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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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