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The Incredible Benefits Of Soy

Providing a rich source of protein and nutrients, soy contains plentiful amounts of unique therapeutic compounds and phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals are the nutritional substances found in many plants. Because of their tremendous potential for clinical application, soy and its phytochemical constituents are being investigated by several major health organizations.

Saponins are complex glycosidic compounds present in a diverse array of plants. Soybeans are one of the major sources of glycosidic compounds found in the human food supply.

A detergent-like action has been attributed to saponins that arises from the water-soluble carbohydrate molecules being mixed with the fat-soluble sapogenic portion.

Characteristically, saponins have been associated with cholesterol reduction.

Saponins have also been shown to provide antioxidant and cell-protective properties. Other research points to the antibiotic and potential anticancer benefits that saponins may yield.

Soy contains a broad range of isoflavones, but research has centered predominantly on two: genistein and diadzein.

Isoflavones are among the most investigated ingredients of soy. A key reason for this appears to be their ability to offer protection against various male and female hormone-related cancers, including those affecting the prostate and breast.

Because they resemble and act like estrogens in the body, isoflavones have the ability to compete and interfere with the body's natural estrogens.

Studies indicate that isoflavones either administered or present in the diet may be protective against high levels of synthetic estrogens.

Genistein, the predominant soy isoflavone, has been shown to provide specific anti-tumor, cell growth-regulatory benefits.

In a study of pre-menopausal women it was found that a daily intake of 60 grams of soy protein containing 45 mg of isoflavones had various hormone regulatory effects.

Whether used as a primary dietary protein source or as part of a nutritional supplementation program, the benefits of soy cannot be overlooked.

References: Milgate, J., Robert, D.C.K. Nutritional and biological significance of saponins. Nutr Res 15(8):1223-49, 1995. Setchell, K. The role of soy products in reducing risk of cancer. J Nat Cancer Inst 83:8, 1991.

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Ginseng: More Than Energy

There are three types of ginseng commonly found in the US market and they are identified by the use of the word "Panax": Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, and Panax notoginseng. The species Panax ginseng often is called Oriental ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng or Panax ginseng. The species Panax quinquefolius is American ginseng, which is the common name recommended by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).

An important distinction that marks true ginseng is the presence of ginsenosides.

The particular composition of ginsenosides affects the actions to be expected from a given herb-the higher the quantity of ginsenosides, the better the quality of the ginseng.

In addition to identifying the properties of a true ginseng, it is important to distinguish between a "red ginseng" and a "white ginseng."

Red and white ginseng are not plant species, but rather are terms used to describe the processing that the root has undergone. All ginseng roots, when picked and dried, are white. Processing the root with steam is what makes it red. In addition to changing its color and preserving it, the process makes the ginseng more "warm." Consequently, red Oriental ginseng is more stimulating than white Oriental ginseng.

The recommended dosage for Oriental ginseng ranges from 2 to 8 grams daily and should be taken according to a schedule of two to three weeks on and two weeks off.

Although not many studies have been conducted on American ginseng, recommended dosage is 2 to 9 grams daily. Large amounts can cause over-stimulation, which may result in increased blood pressure, diarrhea, skin eruptions, and insomnia.

The Journal of Sports Science reported that ginseng may exhibit estrogen-like effects on estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells and may play a protective role against breast cancer.

Korean red ginseng showed a therapeutic effect on erectile dysfunction on 60% of a total of 90 patients tested, according to a 1995 study.

References: Yun T.K., Choi S.Y. "Preventive Effect of Ginseng Intake Against Various Human Cancers: A Case-Control Study on 1987 Pairs." Cancer Epidemiology-Biomarkers and Prevention. 4(4):401-8, 1995. Choi H.I., et al. "Clinical Efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng for Erectile Dysfunction." Int J Impot Res 7(3):181-6, 1995.

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Olive Leaf Extract: Nature's Antibiotic

Recent studies indicate that the olive tree leaves may contain our best weapon against a host of disease-producing bacteria. As more bacteria mutate and resist commonly prescribed antibiotics, scientists are searching for alternatives.

After 40 years of using antibiotics for many ailments, physicians are now confronting bacteria that have built defenses against drugs. Some infectious bacteria that were once treatable are stronger and sometimes deadly. The reappearance of highly infectious bacteria is caused in part by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, but the resilience of bacteria also stems from the ingenious biochemistry of the microorganisms themselves. To survive, microorganisms and fungi mutate into resistant strains.

Oleuropein, the bitter glucoside lodged in leaves of the green olive tree (Olea europaea), contains components that may be valuable for treating both infectious and degenerative diseases.

In a document describing how oleuropein works, Dr. James R. Privitera, M.D., of Covina, Calif., reports that olive leaf extract brings about a critical interference with certain amino acid production processes necessary for the vitality of a specific virus.

The researchers conclude that olive leaf extract could be taken by people exposed to any type of pathogenic microorganism, both on a preventive basis and, if disease symptoms are present, as a medication.

Dosages recommended by health professionals include one or two tablets or capsules totaling 250-500 mg daily for preventive purposes. For treating symptoms, the dosage varies with the severity of disease and ranges from four to eight tablets or capsules daily.

References: Walker, M. Explore! 7(4): 31-7, Sept. 1996. Pooley, R.J., & Peterson, L.R. In Shulman, S.T., & Phair, J.P., et al., eds. The Biologic and Clinical Basis of Infectious Disease, 5th Ed.: 550, 1997.

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Choline, Lecithin, And Your Health

Lecithin is a special type of fat called a phospholipid. About 13% by weight of the lecithin molecule is choline. Most choline in the diet is derived from lecithin. Some foods contain it in the free form or as a component of other phospholipids.

One tablespoon of lecithin granules provides about 1,725 mg of phosphatidylcholine and 250 mg choline, a little less than the content in an egg.

In many of the studies that convinced nutritionists that choline is an important nutrient, lecithin appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease several ways: by contributing cholesterol-lowering polyunsaturated fats, inhibiting intestinal absorption of cholesterol, increasing the excretion of cholesterol and bile acids, and favorably affecting lipoprotein profiles.

In one study, people with high blood lipids were given 10.5 grams of lecithin for 30 days. Their average total cholesterol and triglycerides decreased by an impressive one-third, LDLs decreased by 38% and HDLs increased by 46%. The researchers concluded that "lecithin . . . should be administered for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis."

Human studies suggest lecithin and choline may also benefit memory. In one study, investigators gave healthy adults either 2 tablespoons of lecithin or a placebo for five weeks. By the end of the study, memory test scores of the lecithin group improved significantly, exceeding those of the placebo group.

References: Wojcicki, J., Pawlik, A., et al. "Clinical evaluation of lecithin as a lipid-lowering agent." Phytotherapy Research, 9:597-79, 1995. Meck, W.H. "Choline and development of brain memory functions across the life span." Seventh International Congress of Phospholipids, Brussels, Belgium, September 1996.

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Food For Thought

One of the most common indications of deteriorating brain function is memory loss. Many older people, when they become aware of memory lapses, jump to the conclusion that they are experiencing the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, when in fact their declining memory may be rooted in a nutritional deficiency.

Scientific research clearly showed that healthy brain functioning depends on sufficient amounts of two B vitamins: Thiamine and Inositol.

B1 (thiamine) helps convert glucose to energy. It also mimics acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter involved in memory) and plays a role in brain functions related to memory and cognition. A recent study shows that high-dose thiamine supplementation (3-8 grams per day) may actually decrease the deleterious effects of senility.

Thiamine supplementation also appears to elevate mood. In another study, 120 women took either placebo or 50 mg of thiamine daily for two months. Before-and-after tests assessed mood, memory, and reaction times. Women who took the thiamine supplements reported feeling significantly more clearheaded, composed, and energetic.

Inositol occurs in cell membranes as phosphatidylinositol. Two clinical trials have shown that rather large amounts of inositol can improve certain psychiatric disorders. In a double-blind, controlled crossover study of 13 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder conducted by Mendel Fux, M.D., and colleagues at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva, Israel, 18 grams per day of inositol for six weeks significantly lowered scores on the Yale- Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.

Another study conducted by Joseph Levin, M.D., looked at the effects of taking inositol for four to six weeks in patients with depression, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Inositol had a significant therapeutic effect for depression, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder illnesses that respond to Prozac.

The sophisticated chemistry of the brain depends on many nutrients, and further research is needed to uncover the effects of supplementation on various central nervous system disorders.

References: Benton, D., et al. "Thiamine supplementation for mood and cognitive functioning." Psycho-pharmacology, 129: 66-71, January 1997. Fux, M., et al. "Inositol treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder." Am J Psychiatry, 153: 1219-21, 1996.

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Vitamin E Reduces Prostate Cancer

A recent study suggests that alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E) may reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

A prospective, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial carried out by Olli P. Heinonen and his colleagues at the University of Helsinki in Finland studied 29,133 men aged 50 to 69. The subjects received either 50 IU daily of alpha-tocopherol, 20 mg daily of beta-carotene, both supplements together, or a placebo. The treatments were continued for five to eight years.

Compared with the placebo group, the men taking only alpha-tocopherol developed 36% fewer prostate cancers. The men taking both supplements had a 16% lower incidence.

Combined, the two groups receiving alpha-tocopherol developed 32% fewer prostate cancers than the two groups that did not receive it. Their incidence of advanced cancer was 40% lower, and their mortality from prostate cancer was 41% lower.

These results suggest that vitamin E may help prevent prostate cancer from moving from the latent to the progressive stage. There is evidence that alpha-tocopherol may also reduce benign prostatic enlargement. If this were so, men who take vitamin E would have fewer symptoms-and would therefore be less likely to receive tests that might lead to cancer diagnosis. As such, further clinical trials are suggested to confirm vitamin E being recommended for prostate cancer prevention.

Reference: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1998;90(6):4406.

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Vitamin C may be working behind the scenes to prevent heart disease say scientists at the Lipid Research Laboratory at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer, Israel.

Based on a popular hypothesis that vitamin C helps recycle the vitamin E that is spent gobbling up free radicals, the Israeli researchers studied healthy men with no known risk of cardiovascular disease. The men ate a diet relatively low in vitamin C for one month before being split into two groups.

For three months, one group continued on the low-C diet, and the second received fresh-squeezed orange juice to raise their daily vitamin C intake to 500 mg.

Shifting to a high-C diet raised vitamin C plasma levels nearly fourfold to a level shown to maximize protection from coronary artery disease. Because vitamin E levels did not change, the authors concluded that vitamin C regenerated the vitamin E spent in quenching free radicals.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1998;67:2405.

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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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