Monday, June 24, 2013

Excess Calcium Doubles the Risk of Cardiovascular Death in Women

Cardiovascular disease continues to rank as the leading cause of death among men and women in western cultures. Many lifestyle factors, including processed food diet, lack of physical activity and daily stress contribute to this largely preventable disease and cause of early death. While there are many natural compounds and nutrients that help to help lower the risk of developing heart disease, taking supplemental calcium to prevent bone loss and osteoarthritis is now shown to be a significant factor that promotes the development of cardiovascular disease and advancing mortality, especially in women.

Excess Calcium Intake Disrupts Homeostatic Balance to Double Heart Disease Risk in Women
A research team from Uppsala University in Sweden has published the results of a study in the British Medical Journal that explains how high intakes of calcium (corresponding to diet and supplements) in women are associated with a higher risk of death from all causes, but cardiovascular disease in particular, compared with women with lower calcium intake. For decades, women have been advised to supplement with a daily course of calcium ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 mg to prevent bone loss. This study demonstrates how that advice may be a leading cause for the development of heart disease and early death.

Researchers studied 61,443 Swedish women over an average period of 19 years to test the association between heart disease risk and calcium intake. Data was gathered on total calcium received from both dietary and supplemental sources. The team grouped the women from the lowest mean calcium intake of 572 mg/day to the highest (2,137 mg/day). The scientist factored in lifestyle data including menopausal status, postmenopausal estrogen therapy, weight and height, smoking habits, leisure-time physical activity and educational level to help parse the results.

Women Need to Closely Monitor Calcium Intake from Food and Supplements to Lower Heart Disease Risk
Over the course of the study, 11,944 women, or 17 percent died. The team determined that 3,862 died from cardiovascular disease, 1,932 from heart disease and 1,100 from stroke. The study did not further differentiate specific diagnoses between cardiovascular disease and heart disease. The highest rates of death from all heart disease related causes were associated with a daily calcium intake higher than 1,400 mg/day or lower than 600 mg/day. Women in the top quartile that took a daily calcium supplement were found to be twice as likely to die when compared to those in the ideal range of 600 to 999 mg/day.

The researchers concluded that either high or low calcium intake can override normal homeostatic control causing changes in blood levels of calcium. Although not mentioned in this study, past work has also found that vitamin K is necessary to move excess calcium from the blood into the bones and teeth. Without this critical nutrient, calcium remains in circulation where it is easily bound with oxidized LDL cholesterol to form deadly arterial plaque. Individuals consuming a healthy diet rich in vegetables, nuts seeds and fruits should receive sufficient calcium from diet and naturally benefit from a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, without the need for supplementation.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Zinc Fights Infection and Inflammation by Boosting the Body’s Immune Response

Infection from bacterial and viral agents can pose a significant threat to human health, as it fuels the flames of systemic inflammation known to contribute to cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes and stroke. Many lifestyle factors, including diet, stress and exposure to environmental and household toxins contribute to elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body that never subside, creating a cellular environment that is favorable to disease propagation. Fortunately there are a number of natural compounds and nutrients that help combat inflammation and lower risk of infection and chronic disease.

Zinc Activates the Innate Immune Response to Help Fight Viral and Bacterial Pathogens
A research team from Ohio State University has released the result of a study revealing how zinc helps control infections by gently tapping the brakes on the immune response in a way that prevents out of control inflammation that can be damaging and even deadly. Working with human cell cultures, the scientists have demonstrated how a specific protein ushers zinc into key cells that stimulate a critical immune response to fight against infection. The mineral interacts with a cellular process that neutralizes infection and helps balance the normal immune response.

Scientists present groundbreaking work that demonstrates for the first time how zinc disables an important pathway to effectively ensure that the immune response does not spiral out of control in response to an infection, and similarly to perpetually elevated levels of inflammation referred to as systemic. Senior study author, Dr. Daren Knoell commented “Without zinc on board to begin with, it could increase vulnerability to infection… our work is focused on what happens once you get an infection… if you are deficient in zinc you are at a disadvantage because your defense system is amplified, and inappropriately so.”

Include Dietary Sources of Zinc and Supplement as Necessary to Improve Immune Defenses
Monocytes, which are white blood cells that provide the first line of defense against an invading pathogen, were extracted from human blood samples to determine what happens when the immune response is launched. Researchers found that when a pathogen is detected, a series of complex responses occur to wake the innate immune response utilizing the nuclear-factor kappa beta pathway (NF-kB). The team showed that once NF-kB is activated, a gene is expressed that allows zinc to be ushered from the bloodstream into the cell where it can bind with proteins that block the activity of the pathogen and halt excess inflammation.

Dr. Knoell concluded We believe that our findings help to narrow an important gap that has existed in our understanding of how this relatively simple metal helps us defend ourselves from infection.” Zinc deficiency affects two billion people around the world, representing an estimated forty percent of the elderly in the US, and helps to explain why our aging population is unable to fight the most common infections. Dietary sources of zinc include beans, nuts, some shellfish, whole grains, fortified cereals and dairy products. Health-minded individuals may want to avoid meat, dairy and grain sources and supplement with 15 to 25 mg per day to fight infection and systemic inflammation.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scientists Explain How Vitamin D and Omega-3 Fats Synergistically Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a loss of short term memory, cognition and thought processes that define the personality of a person, and new cases are exploding exponentially. Though allopathic physicians and researchers maintain there is no known cause or treatment for the ultimately fatal illness, alternative practitioners understand the etiology has evolved from decades of living an unhealthy lifestyle. Dietary transgressions, exposure to cosmetic and household pollutants, lack of physical activity and long-term nutritional deficiencies all combine to promote Alzheimer’s disease development and progression.

A group of scientists have published the findings from their research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease that has pinpointed how vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the immune system's ability to clear the brain of amyloid plaques. Researchers identified key genes and signaling networks regulated by vitamin D3 and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that may help control inflammation and improve plaque clearance.

Vitamin D3 and DHA boost immune response to help prevent amyloid protein tangles
Prior studies have identified the loss of normal ability to break down amyloid proteins before they develop into tangles or plaques as a key process in the development of the memory-robbing disease. Lead study author, Dr. Milan Fiala from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA commented “Our new study sheds further light on a possible role for nutritional substances such as vitamin D3 and omega-3 in boosting immunity to help fight Alzheimer's.”

To perform their study, scientists drew blood samples from both Alzheimer's patients and healthy controls and then isolated critical immune cells called macrophages from the blood. Macrophages are responsible for splicing the amyloid proteins before they can aggregate around the nerve synapse, effectively stifling electrical and chemical transmissions throughout the brain. Scientists then incubated the immune cells with amyloid-beta and added either an active form of vitamin D3 or the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to gauge effectiveness on inflammation and amyloid-beta absorption.

Supplement daily with Vitamin D3 and Omega-3 Fats to Slash Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
The researchers determined that vitamin D3 and DHA greatly improved the clearance of amyloid-beta by macrophages in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and found subtleties in the effects the two substances had on the expression of inflammatory genes. The study team concluded “We may find that we need to carefully balance supplementation with vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids, depending on each patient in order to help promote efficient clearing of amyloid-beta…. this is a first step in understanding what form and in which patients these nutrition substances might work best."

The study team observed that each nutrient (vitamin D and DHA) utilized different receptors and common signaling pathways to prevent amyloid protein aggregation leading to disease. Optimizing vitamin D blood saturation levels and supplementing with a molecularly distilled DHA omega-3 formulation can provide critical support in helping the brain to properly clear amyloid metabolic byproducts and help prevent Alzheimer’s dementia.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carotenoids in Diet from Fruits and Vegetables May Help Prevent or Delay the Onset of ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS, is a devastating degenerative illness that incapacitates its victims in a manner similar to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At present, there is no known cure or effective treatment for the illness, believed to be the result of oxidative stress caused by decades of poor diet, stress, environmental toxins and poor physical conditioning. Researchers have now discovered that increased consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of ALS.

Natural Sources of Fruits and Dark Leafy Vegetables Help Lower Risk of Developing ALS
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord known to be responsible for the control of voluntary muscles. As the motor neurons degenerate, the muscles they control gradually weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. A research team from the Harvard School of Public Health has published the results of their research in the Annals of Neurology that builds on prior studies showing that carotenoids, the natural compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright orange, red, or yellow colors, provide critical antioxidant support to help fight this devastating disease.

Scientists evaluated five large studies comprising more than one million participants to develop a basis for evaluation. Researchers reviewed food intake for the group and further broke consumption down to determine carotenoids eaten in the form of fruits and vegetables. Lead study author Dr. Alberto Ascherio noted Understanding the impact of food consumption on ALS development is important. Our study is one of the largest to date to examine the role of dietary antioxidants in preventing ALS.”

Add Five to Nine Daily Servings of Fruits and Vegetables to Your Natural Food Diet
A total of 1093 cases of ALS were identified across the cohort of subjects. The team found that those with the highest intake of carotenoids from any source had the lowest risk of developing ALS. They also determined that individuals who consumed more carotenoids in their diets were more likely to exercise, have an advanced degree, have higher vitamin C consumption, and take vitamin C and E supplements. Participants with the highest dietary consumption of beta-carotene and lutein, most commonly found in dark green vegetables had a reduced risk of developing ALS.

Interestingly, the researchers found that diets high in lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C did not reduce disease incidence, and long-term vitamin C supplement intake was also not associated with lower ALS risk. Dr. Ascherio concluded “Our findings suggest that consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS.” This study acts to support a large volume of prior works that reinforce the critical importance of a natural food diet consisting largely of fruits and vegetables to thwart diseases ranging from cancer and diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease and ALS.