Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carotenoids - The Internal Sunscreen

Did you know that you can protect your skin from sun-damage by simply eating and supplementing with certain nutrients and phytochemicals? Well, it's true! The key is to choose your foods and supplements wisely. On the top of the list, with regard to sun-protection, is a class of antioxidants called carotenoids.

Carotenoids are the fat-soluble substances that bless many of our favorite fruits and vegetables with their vibrant colors. They make carrots orange. They kiss tomatoes with a rosy-red skin. They color the meat of avocados with an assortment of greens. Heck, they even account for the pink flesh of wild salmon.

And, the best part is that they're really, really good for you. :)

That's all fine and dandy but where's the proof that they help protect against sunburn?

There's a lot of evidence to back up this statement. I'll first introduce you to a recent summary about the skin-protective effect of beta-carotene. Then, I'll provide some more links, if you'd like to research on your own. And, I'll all share a personal story about how diet and supplementation can protect you from a wicked, tropical sunburn.

First, let's briefly review the beta-carotene study.

The researchers performed a meta-analysis of all the human studies (found in the medical literature) through June of 2007. They basically collected all the data from the available studies (seven studies total) and analyzed it.

Their findings were that, oral supplementation of beta carotene, for a minimum of ten weeks offers protection against sunburn. It also appears that the longer you supplement with beta carotene, the greater the over-all protection. This is referred to as "time-dependent" protection.

The study abstract doesn't provide the average dosages used but a separate commentary of this same study revealed that the dosages ranged from 15 to 180 mg a day.

Why should I try to eat and supplement with beta carotene when I can just put on sunscreen?

A few reasons. First of all, this isn't necessarily an either-or situation. You can apply a natural sunscreen AND eat/supplement with an internal sunscreen as well. That way, you get added protection.

Secondly, some people have sensitive skin (like me) and prefer not to use sunscreen - unless it's absolutely necessary. I'm not necessarily suggesting that others do this but this is what I personally do.

Do you think I'm nuts?

Maybe I am but consider this: A few years ago, my wife and I vacationed in Costa Rica. It was beautiful but also quiet hot, humid and sunny of course.

I didn't use any sunscreen but I did supplement with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and antioxidants (like lycopene, vitamin C, CoQ10 and more). I also made sure to eat plenty of colorful vegetables (and a few fruits).

What happened? I didn't get burned. And, I'm pretty faired-skinned (and therefore expected to burn quite easily).

And now, let's take a look at some other sun-protecting supplements ...

+ Lycopene (the red pigment in tomatoes)

+ Fish Oil and Skin Cancer Prevention

+ Green Tea, Grape Seed Extract and Silymarin (Milk Thistle Extract)

+ Vitamins C, E and Pycnogenol

I hope this blog was of value to you. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.

The Vitamin Tutor

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekend Lesson #2 - Selecting a Fish Oil Supplement

One of the most popular supplements is fish oil. This is with good reason. Fish oil can be helpful for such a wide-variety of conditions and can help promote general wellness and possibly longevity.

Some of the longest living societies live in regions of the world where fatty-fish is eaten regularly. This appears not to be a coincidence.

Another interesting aspect to the fish oil story is that conventional physicians (who typically do not endorse alternative medicine) will often recommend fish under certain circumstances - generally for cardiovascular-related conditions. In fact, there's even a prescription-only fish oil that doctors sometimes prescribe.

What should you look for when looking for a fish oil supplement?

There are three primary points to consider when shopping around.

1. The quality of product.

2. The dosage, of omega-3 fatty acids (the "active" ingredients in fish oil), that you're looking to take.

3. The price.

How can you determine the quality of the different products?

This will require a little observation and homework on your part. You may need to visit the manufacturers' websites to see how they ensure a high-quality product.

Here are a few examples of what you might find:

Nordic Naturals Quality Assurance

Coromega FAQ's

If you're interested in a specific product and you can't find information on the manufacturer's website ... try e-mailing the manufacturer or calling their toll-free number.

What dosage do you need/want to take?

The dosage you'll want to take will vary based on the reason why you're taking the fish oil. If you're trying to lower your triglycerides (to support heart-health), you'll take a different dosage than if you were taking the fish oil to help improve your mood and yet a different dosage if you're trying to combat psoriasis.

You also need to consider what form of fish will help you to be achieve your desired dosage. For instance, if you want to take 1,000 mg (1 gram) of fish oil per day, you'd likely want to buy a softgel (a liquid-filled capsule) form. But, if you're shooting for 10,000 mg (10 grams) a day, you may want to try a liquid form of fish oil. *

* There are some really pure and pleasantly flavored (liquid) fish oils out there. I use one myself. So, don't let the thought of liquid fish oil turn you off. It just might surprise you.

Here's a tip, one way to take your liquid fish oil is to add it to a smoothie/shake or to mix it in with some yogurt.

What's your budget?

There are some excellent but expensive fish oils out there. Nordic Naturals is one example. But, there are also some really pure (and tasty) fish oils that are much cheaper (but still high-quality).

So, if you find a product (that is from a reputable manufacturer) that is a great deal ... don't necessarily dismiss it.

You see, fish oil is one of those supplements that many people use on an on-going basis. Because of this, some manufacturers try to offer it at a lower-price because they want to ensure repeat-business.

Is there anything else we should know about fish oil?

Yes. First of all, always take your fish oil with food. Secondly, fish oil may not be appropriate if you're taking certain medications.

Also, when you're establishing your desired dosage, make sure you know if the dosage is based on the omega-3 content or the general fish oil content.

Let me explain. If your doctor says to take 2 grams of omega's a day ... that doesn't mean that you should take 2 grams of fish oil a day. Here's why:

1 gram of fish oil may only provide 400 mg of omega-3's. So, to get 2 grams (of omega-3's), you'd need to take 5 sofgels (400 mg x 5 = 2,000 mg/2 grams).

If this isn't clear, please let me know and I'll be happy to clarify.

If you have any trouble with "repeating the fishy-flavor" (sometimes called "fishy-burbs") ...

1. Make sure you're taking your fish oil with food.

2. If you're taking a softgel, try freezing it, and see if that helps. Freezing the fish oil will (slightly) delay the release of the fish oil after your consume it.

3. If all else fails, consider buying an enterically-coated fish oil supplement. Enteric-coating is a process where a naturally-coating is applied to the exterior of the softgel. This will allow for the fish oil to release much further down in your digestive system. This makes it highly unlikely that any "fishy-burps" will result from this type of supplement.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment or to e-mail me.

The Vitamin Tutor

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Few New Alternatives for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling, limited-mobility and deformity (in severe, chronic cases) in the joints. It's a horrible condition that is often treated with very powerful medications that can have very powerful side-effects.

Thankfully, there are some natural (and safer) options that one can consider. I'll present a few options that have recently been reported on in the medical literature.

What are the two natural options you've eluded to?

The first is an extract from pomegranates called POMx. It comes in a powder form, contained within a capsule.

In a recent study, this natural extract was shown to reduce inflammation and lessen bone and joint damage in a rheumatoid arthrities model. By that, I mean that it was a study conducted on rats who were "given" symptoms comparable to those of rheumatoid arthritis.

Will these same results hold true for us, two-legged, human beings? Let's hope so. I certainly would consider trying this if I suffered from RA.

Here's a link to the study I'm referring to:

Pomegranate May Protect Against RA

The second exciting alternative can be found in the dairy section of your local market. I'm talking about the potential of a probiotic (a beneficial bacteria) called Lactobacillus casei .

You've probably tried this bacteria many times in your life ... in yogurt and other cultured dairy foods.

In a recent study (click here to read it), researchers found that giving L. casei to rats (with RA symptoms) helped to modulate (balance) the immune system and thereby lessened inflammation, swelling and joint damage.

This is fantastic news - if it translates to human RA sufferers.

Now, keep in mind that the dosage of L. casei needed, to modulate the immune system, may be higher than what you can get in a typical serving (or two) of yogurt. The study abstract doesn't specify a dosage.

Fortunately, there are also high-potency supplements with this beneficial bacteria available. In fact, there are many such products (and fortified foods) out there. The higher the potency (measured by the number of viable cells - which is listed on the label) the better.

Probiotics are considered to be very safe in most instances - even when taken in very high dosages.

If you'd like to learn more about probiotics, you may want to visit this site: http://www.usprobiotics.org/basics.asp

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about this topic.

The Vitamin Tutor

Thursday, May 22, 2008

CoQ10 - The Antifatigue Supplement

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance that naturally occurs in our bodies. It's an antioxidant that plays an important role in the energy production of our cells.

For the most part, Coenzyme Q10 has been used to support heart health. But, in the past few decades, it's role in supporting good health has expanded into other areas.

In today's blog, I'll share a little bit about CoQ10 and give an overview of a recent study that highlights it's fatigue-fighting effects.

Why would someone consider taking CoQ10?

CoQ10 may be a valuable supplement for the following conditions (and more):

+ various heart conditions
+ Parkinson's disease
+ an adjunvant for certain cancers
+ migraine headaches
+ chronic fatigue syndrome
+ gum disease

If I don't have any of those conditions, should I bother reading on?

Yes, please do! Even if you don't have any of the conditions I listed ... CoQ10 may also help with the prevention of some of these same conditions.

If you have a family history of heart disease or periodontal disease ... you don't have to wait to be diagnosed before trying to take steps to prevent it. Be proactive!

Also, keep in mind that CoQ10 levels naturally decrease as we age. Countering this loss may help to keep us healthier and more vibrant.

You mentioned something about a new study showing that CoQ10 can fight fatigue?

That's right. A recent study, coming out of Japan (the world's leading source of CoQ10 expertise), has indeed shown that larger amounts of supplemental CoQ10 can fight fatigue.

Here's the scoop on the study:

+ 17 healthy people took either 100 mg or 300 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo for 8 days.

+ All the participants were made to exercise/work-out (they call it a "fatigue-inducing physical task") on a stationary bicycle.

+ Those who took 300 mg of CoQ10 experienced a lesser sensation of fatigue (based on their own assessment, using a measurement known as a "visual analog scale"). And, their physical performance also improved. In this case, they were able to peddle faster at key points of their work-out.

It's important to note that the 100 mg dosage of CoQ10 (and the placebo) were not found to be of benefit.

What's the real-world value of this study?

Well, if we look at this study rather narrowly, I would say that the take home message is this:

CoQ10, at a 300 mg dosage, may help you to improve your work-out (possibly leading to greater gains) and it may help you not to feel so worn out afterwards.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

Want to see the actual study? Great! Check it out here:

Antifatigue Effects of CoQ10 During Exercise

Is CoQ10 appropriate for everyone?

Nope. No supplement is right for everyone. Here's a site where you can learn more about CoQ10. Among other things, it describes certain instances where CoQ10 may not be appropriate.

CoQ10 - Interactions and General Information

CoQ10 and Cancer Support

Please let me know if you have any questions.

The Vitamin Tutor

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Weekend Lesson # 1 - The Seven Rules

Every weekend, I'd like to devote a blog to (hopefully) help you make the most out of your health food store experience.

This week, I want to start from the very beginning. What should you do prior to visiting your local health food store?

Rule #1: Know what you're looking for.

Are you just looking to buy a basic multi-vitamin? Do you have a specific health concern that you'd like to address? Are you looking to put together a more comprehensive program? How much are you willing to spend? How often are you willing to take your vitamins/supplements?

All of these questions and more are vital to know before you walk into the store. If you don't know what you're looking for ... you're likely to end up getting products that you may not need, understand and you'll probably spend more than you intend or can afford.

Rule #2: Put the important information down in writing.

Pull out a note-pad. Jot down the main points you want to remember when you're shopping.


+ I want to look for a one-a-day mutli-vitamin.

+ I want to look for a high-potency liquid calcium formula specifically made to support bone-health.

+ I can afford no more than $50 a month for all my supplemental needs.

You can even show your note paper to a salesman or manager. That way, they'll know exactly what you want and it'll save you both time and effort.

Rule #3: You have to look out for yourself at a health food store.

There are some wonderful employees/owners working at your local health food stores. But, there is also a lot of bad-advice floating around (often times given with the best possible intentions).

And, as a former-member of the natural health industry, I want you to understand that ultimately ... it is a business intended to make money. The advice you are often given factors in the profit-incentive. This is a necessary part of any business but you need to be aware of this reality.

Everything I tell you, in this and upcoming blogs, will be intended to help you protect yourself when you shop for supplements. The safest and most appropriate supplements at cheapest price ... that's the goal we're aiming for.

Rule #4: Research and Ask Questions

Before you start taking (almost) any new supplement, it's a good idea to research it and/or to ask a knowledgeable health professional about it.

I understand that many conventional doctors and pharmacists often aren't very familiar with natural supplements. But, it doesn't hurt to ask. You may ocassionally be surprised by how much they know.

If it turns out that they're "clueless" or consistently bashing natural supplements ... consider consulting with someone else who is more knowledgeable and/or open-minded (a new doctor or pharmacist, a nearby naturopath, etc.).

But, before you even consider consulting with health pro, I would first do as much research (on my own) as possible. You are the first-line of defense in this process. You know more about yourself than any body else. If, after doing a reasonable amount of research, you think something may be right for you ... then proceed to get some additional advice.

Remember, it's your body and your decision about what you take. You have the power (in most instances) but also the responsibility to do as much or as little about your wellness as you choose.

Rule #5: Look out for some important considerations.

Make sure to pay close attention to any possible supplement and medication interactions. Your doctor and pharmacist may be able to help you with this.

There are also some websites that provide information about known interactions. Please note that the information, that these sites provide, isn't and cannot be considered comprehensive.

Supplement/Medication Interactions

Also, keep your own individuality in mind.

For instance, green tea extract is a wonderful supplement for promoting wellness. But, if you're very sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid it.

Another example would be using red yeast rice or high-dosages of niacin with a pre-existing liver condition. This is generally not be a good idea.

Rule #6: Remember that these are supplements.

Supplements are intended to supplement a healthy lifestyle. That's how they work best.

Do not fall into the common misconception that supplements allow you to live-hard but not die young.

Use supplements to fill-in-the-gaps. Use more supplements if you have more gaps than average. But, do try to live as well as you can and get off any unnecessary supplements when you no longer need them.

Rule #7: Let your doctor(s) know what you're taking.

This is especially important for several reasons.

1. Your doctor(s) will need to keep this in mind in case they prescribe you any new medication. They may also identify any known interactions between a medicine you're taking and any supplement you may also be taking (as mentioned in Rule # 5).

2. If you ever require any type of surgery, you may need to temporarily discontinue certain supplements.

3. Your doctor(s) may want to monitor certain markers, in your routine blood work, to determine if your supplements are helping (and possibly hurting).

An example of this would (again) be niacin. Your doctor could monitor if it's lowering your cholesterol but (s)he may also want to see if it's irritating your liver.

4. By letting your doctor(s) know about what you're taking ... you are educating them. And that not only helps them (and you) but other patients as well.

More to come ... next weekend!

The Vitamin Tutor

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stevia - The Natural, Calorie-Free, Sugar-Substitute

It's not a done-deal yet but it looks like stevia may officially make it's way into the USA marketplace later this year.

What is stevia?

Stevia is a no-calorie, all-natural sweetener taken from the leaf of a Paraguayan plant called Stevia rebaudiana.

Is this something that's been newly discovered?

No. It's actually been used, for culinary and medicinal purposes, for over 200 years in South America. And, it's been commercially available since the 1970's in Japan.

It's been around for well over a decade, in the USA, but it is only permitted to be sold as a "dietary supplement". In other words, you can find it at your local health food store but you can't find it in sugar-free foods - because the FDA did not grant it an official GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) stamp of approval.

But, as is often the case, with consumer demand comes commercial interest.

That takes us to the present.

Yesterday, a press release from Cargill (and Coca Cola) announced new safety-research on their proposed (stevia-based) sweetener called Truvia.


What does this new research show?

1. This recent study presents compelling evidence that this "new" sweetener is essentially non-toxic - even when consumed at dosages much higher than what would normally be used.

2. The safety evaluation also found that Truvia has no apparent effect on reproductive health or on the growth and development of offspring (rats, in this case).

3. Of particular interest, is the fact that this stevia extract did not appear to have any significant effect on blood pressure. Some prior research had shown that certain stevia extracts may actually lower blood pressure. This may be a good thing for some but it would not be desirable for a mass-marketed sweetener.

The subjects, in this part of the study, all had low-normal blood pressure to start with. According to the data I have, it doesn't seem like they tested this extract on hypertensive subjects (those with high blood pressure).

4. Truvia also did not appear to affect blood sugar levels - not even in type 2 diabetics. Some stevia extracts may slightly lower blood sugar. This extract seems to be blood sugar neutral.

5. The dosage of Truvia, used in the human-leg of the testing, was about 29 packets worth. This is more than most people will likely use in the course of the day.

The toxicology portion of the study exposed rats to the equivalent of 1,000 to 2,000 servings of Truvia.

What's your take on all of this?

I believe that stevia extract is safe (based on it's historical use and several decades worth of scientific testing). I personally use it to sweeten my coffee and for an occasional low-carb dessert.

This product basically looks like a highly purified version of stevia. It's all about the taste. And, that is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It's good because the taste is likely to be excellent.

It's bad because all the potentially therapeutic properties of stevia are likely lost in the purification process. We can see this in the study I cited earlier - no effect on blood pressure, no effect on blood sugar, etc.

All-in-all, Truvia will likely be an empty but harmless option. I certainly think it's a better way to go than any of the artificial sweeteners on the market.

Any final comments?

If you'd like to learn more about this "new" sweetener, click on this link:


If you'd like to try the stevia product I (already) use, check out this link:

Stevia Balance

Please note that Stevia Balance also contains inulin and chromium. Inulin, which is derived from chicory root, is a prebiotic which may feed the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. Chromium, is a trace mineral that, may help to manage blood sugar levels.

The Vitamin Tutor

Blog Update and Some Good News

Ladies and Gents,

I wanted to update you all on my future plans for this blog. One of the things I'll strive to do is to demystify the health food store shopping process. It doesn't matter if you shop at an actual store or if you buy online. The number of options/supplements can be overwhelming. And, the advice that goes along with all those options is sometimes rather questionable. So, I'll make it one of my goals to help you through the supplement-buying experience.

Also, I wanted you all to know that you can send me any questions you may have - about the blog or about health issues. You can always e-mail me at:


I'd like to point out another objective of mine. I'd love it if you'd share some of the information, that I post here, with friends, family and your doctors. It's vital, in my opinion, that we help to educate the one's we care about and our health care providers. This is a way that we can give-back, improve the quality of numerous lives and contribute something more to our fellow man.

Finally, I'd like to share a recent blog by Jimmy Moore. Jimmy hosts one of the most popular (and entertaining) low-carb blogs on the 'net. Recently, his wife Christine found out that she had severely elevated triglycerides (a risk-factor for heart disease, stroke and more). By adding fish oil to her diet and significantly lowering her intake of processed carbohydrates ... she was able to reduce her triglycerides by more than half (and she lowered her high/normal blood sugar as well).

Check out this blog if you'd like to read the whole, inspiring story. This is a great example of what a healthy diet, smart supplementation and determination can do for one's health.

The Vitamin Tutor

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Green Tea Extract May Protect Against Sleep Apnea

Do you snore loudly? Do you frequently toss-and-turn in bed because you feel like you can't breathe very well? Do you often wake-up, after a full-night's sleep, feeling tired and "foggy" headed? Are you overweight and/or out-of-shape?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing, for short periods, during your normal sleep cycle.

This is obviously a very bad thing. And, since this can be a chronic (long-term) problem ... the health consequences can be very dire indeed. But don't despair, there are some natural options that just might help.

What does green tea have to do with Sleep Apnea?

Green tea is a powerful antioxidant and anti inflammatory agent.

People who suffer from sleep apnea often show signs of increased oxidative-stress and high-levels of inflammation. Both of these symptoms are considered to be health-risks.

Another common problem, in those with sleep apnea, is poor mental functioning. If you can't sleep well and your brain is deprived of oxygen ... damage occurs, to your brain, and it just doesn't work very well. And, these effects will likely worsen the longer you suffer from this condition ... unless you do something about it.

In this study, the researchers used a rat-model, to try and determine if green tea could help protect from the damaging effects of oxygen-deprivation.

How exactly did they do that?

The researchers first provided one group of rats with green tea supplemented water and another group with just plain water.

All the rats were exposed to a laboratory-model of sleep apnea (referred to as intermittent hypoxia).

After the induced sleep apnea, researchers took measurements of several markers of oxidative-stress and inflammation. They also put the rats through a "water maze" test. A "water maze" is a test that helps to establish how mentally-sharp the rats are.

What were the results of the testing?

The rats that received the green tea infused water were protected from some of the brain-damaging effects of oxygen deprivation. The researchers believe the protection occurred because of the antioxidant effects of the green tea.

The group of rats that received water-only suffered the expected brain-dysfunction.

What's the take-home message of this study?

Green tea isn't a cure for sleep apnea but it may be able to offer some protection until you can find a real solution.

Please keep in mind that green tea does contain a small amount of natural caffeine. If you're caffeine-sensitive, you may wish to consume green tea earlier in the day.

You can learn more about green tea here:


Want to see the actual study I've been commenting on? Great! Check it out.


What is a real solution for sleep apnea?

If you're overweight, even just slightly overweight, lose those extra pounds. If you do it in a healthful way - a healthy diet and regular exercise ... your sleep apnea may just be lost as well.

The Vitamin Tutor

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Heartburn Medications May Cause Magnesium Deficiency

GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a common condition in our modern-day society. Most doctors prescribe a class of medications, called proton-pump inhibitors (PPI) to manage GERD symptoms. But, and there's always a "but", when it comes to medications ... these PPIs can cause unwanted side-effects.

In today's post, I'll describe a little-known consequence of long-term use of these top-selling medications.

What's the scoop on today's blog?

It's widely accepted that PPIs often affect the absorption of many nutrients. The most commonly known absorptive-issues relate to certain vitamins and minerals like: vitamin B12, folic acid, iron and zinc.

Today's research, taken from the journal of Clinical Endocrinology, focuses on two case-reports of severe nutritional deficiencies that were brought about by the use of a PPI called omegprazole (sold under the names Losec and Prilosec).

Magnesium Deficiency in Long Term PPI Users

If this research only involved two people, why should it matter to all the rest of us?

Two reasons. Firstly, the cases were identified because these patients had severe hypomagnesaemia (severe magnesium deficiency) which lead to seizures.

The second reason is that magnesium awareness is not very great - among the general public and among many doctors. Everyone knows about calcium and why it's important but magnesium is another story.

And, magnesium is incredibly important if we intend to maintain and promote wellness.

What can be done about this potential side-effect?

The authors of this paper concluded that this problem could be partially corrected by taking high dose magnesium supplementation. But, they don't state what type of supplemental magnesium they tested. So, it's possible that one of the more bio-available forms of magnesium may be even more effective.

It's also important to note that the hypomagnesaemia was entirely corrected when the drug was withdrawn.

What are a few of the better absorbed forms of magnesium?

+ magnesium citrate
+ magnesium taurinate
+ magnesium glycinate

What's the take home message?

Taking a PPI for prolonged periods of time can lead to a variety of nutrient deficiencies. It's important to be aware of this and to counter this possibility by way of a nutrient-dense diet and appropriate supplementation. It would be preferable to do this under a doctor's supervision - which would hopefully include periodic nutrient testing.

Any parting thoughts?

Yes. Take a look at the following links. The first one focuses on the many health benefits of magnesium. The second link offers some potential alternatives to PPI medications.

The Importance of Magnesium in Human Nutrition

GERD - Natural Alternatives

The Vitamin Tutor

Supplements Can Lessen Depression in Nursing Homes

Depression is a common condition in our society as a whole. There are however certain segments of our population that are more likely to suffer from depression than others.

In today's blog, I'll highlight a recent study that indicates that a simple nutritional-supplement may help to lessen depressive symptoms in older people living in nursing homes. But, as is often the case, we may be able to apply these findings to other segments of society that aren't in residential homes as well.

What's the scoop on this study?

It's estimated that about one-third of nursing home residents suffer from depression. This not only impacts their quality-of-life but it likely affects their overall health status.

There is some evidence that indicates that certain nutrients (like vitamin C, selenium and folic acid) may play a role in depressive symptoms in other age-groups.

So, the researchers of this study set out to find if supplementing with these three nutrients could help to improve the mood of these depressed elderly subjects.

More details please ...

The researchers found that 29% of the subject-pool suffered from depression and 24% suffered from anxiety - at the beginning of the study.

Their testing found that depression was associated with sub-optimal levels of selenium. And, when supplementation was provided (for eight weeks) symptoms of depression were significantly reduced. As expected, blood levels of selenium also increased after supplementation.

It appears that those who suffered from more severe depression, as assessed by a test called the Hospital Anxiety and Depression rating scale (HAD), benefited the most from selenium supplementation.

It's important to note that vitamin C was also found to be deficient in 67% of the test subjects. But, it doesn't appear that vitamin C or folic acid played a direct role in the mood of these senior citizens.

What's the take home message?

It's important to protect ourselves and our families from nutrient deficiencies. In this case, we can see how an inexpensive supplement can help improve the health and outlook of an often neglected population.

Also, it's important to note that periodic nutrient-testing is an invaluable tool. A deficiency of vitamin C (or virtually any other nutrient) can have serious ramifications.

Generally speaking, I believe that all patients in nursing homes should (at a minimum) be taking a high-potency multi-nutrient formula. This is especially important because of a less than optimal diet (and impaired digestion) that often occur at this age and in that type of setting.

One nutrient I wished they had also tested for, in this study, is vitamin D. In future blogs, I'll explore the exciting research that's been accumulating about this vital (and often deficient) nutrient.

In the meantime, here's a link for the study I summarized. Check it out!

Supplements May Improve Depression in Nursing Homes

The Vitamin Tutor

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pycnogenol - A Valuable Tool for Diabetics

In today's post, I'm going to present some recent information that could possibly improve the health of countless diabetics.

What is Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is a patented extract that is derived from French maritime pine bark. It is one of the best studied natural supplements currently available.

Pycnogenol - Research Home Page

Why do you think this study is important? What's it all about?

This study enrolled 48 diabetic patients (type 2 diabetics to be exact) for a twelve-week trial. The specific goal of the study was to determine if Pycnogenol could help reduce the need for anti-hypertensive medication (medication that lowers high blood pressure).

The researchers also checked to see if Pycnogenol (at a dosage of 125 mg a day) would have a positive impact on other parameters of both heart health and blood sugar management.

What were the results of the study?

The researchers found that 58.3% of the participants, who were taking Pycnogenol, were able to reach a healthy blood pressure reading while cutting their medication intake by half. In other words, 58.3% of the people that took Pycnogenol, were able to reduce their medication by 50%.

The researchers also found that those taking Pycnogenol showed improvements in other measurements relating to cardiovascular and diabetic health.

Specifically, they found that Pycnogenol:

+ lowered LDL cholesterol and endothelin-1 (cardiovascular factors)

+ lowered HbA1c and fasting plasma glucose (diabetic factors)

What's the take home message?

Pycnogenol is a well-researched supplement that has many clinically proven health benefits (for diabetics and far beyond).

This study provides strong-evidence that the use of Pycnogenol should be considered by many type 2 diabetics who are also taking hypertensive medication.

As always, I suggest you thoroughly research any supplement and/or consult with a knowledgeable health professional prior to combining medications with nutritional supplements.

It's your body and your health care ... participate in the process!

Here's a link to the original study. Check it out!

Pycnogenol - Diabetes Support and More

The Vitamin Tutor

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Can Fish Oil Help with Barrett's Esophagus?

This is a topic that is close to my heart. My father struggles with this condition and he's not alone. So, first I'd like to explain what Barrett's Esophagus is and why you may want to consider fish oil if you've got it.

What is Barrett's Esophagus?

Barrett's esophagus is a relatively-rare condition that is caused by chronic exposure of the esophageal tissue to stomach acid. It's basically an extension of what you'd experience with gastric reflux disease (GERD) but higher-up.

If you have this condition you're at higher risk for a deadly form of cancer called esophageal cancer.

More Info. About Barrett's Esophagus

What does fish oil have to do with Barrett's Esophagus?

Population-based studies have found that Barrett's esophagus may be less common in areas where fish is eaten regularly.

Researchers have also determined that omega-3 fatty acids (like fish oil) can help to lower inflammation in conditions like Barrett's esophagus.

What did a recent study conclude? Is fish oil a possible tool in the fight against Barrett's Esophagus and possibly a preventive agent against esophageal cancer?

First, let's be clear. This is only a preliminary study. But, the results of this research are promising. Here's why:

1. Researchers provided 27 patients with 1,500 mg of fish oil (in the form of EPA - a fatty acid found in fish) for six-months. Another 25 patients were provided with a placebo (an inactive agent) as a control for the study.

2. The researchers found that the 27 patients, who took the fish oil, had a higher level of EPA in their esophageal tissue. This is important because it shows that the affected tissue was directly being impacted.

3. Another important finding is that the 27 fish oil patients also had a lower level of COX-2 concentrations. COX-2 proteins are a marker of inflammation. And, as you can imagine, Barrett's esophagus has a strong-inflammatory component (because of the stomach acid corroding the esophageal tissue).

4. The 25 patients, in the control group, did not show any significant changes in their condition (as expected).

What's the take-home message, in your opinion?

If you have Barrett's esophagus, you may want to ask your doctor about adding fish oil to your diet.

I know that it's something that I would personally consider.

Any other comments?

Yes. Fish oil isn't for everyone. I certainly believe it's a valuable supplement (and food) but there are some instances where it may not be appropriate.

If you're on any medication or have any pre-existing health condition, please inquire and research about any known interactions or contraindications prior to adding any supplement to your routine.

Want to see the original study? Great! Check it out.

Fish Oil May Soothe Barrett's Esophagus

The Vitamin Tutor