Monday, October 30, 2006

Folate intake still below recommendations despite fortification

Despite significant improvements in public health measures to increase folate intakes through fortification of grain products, dietary intakes still fall well below recommendations. Regular use of a multivitamin supplement containing folic acid is an easy way to ensure that you receive an adequate intake.

Folate is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, chick peas and lentils, and it is increasingly accepted that folate deficiency in early pregnancy is linked to a risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly in infants. This connection led to the introduction of public health measures in the US and Canada, whereby all grain products are fortified with folic acid " the synthetic, bioavailable form of folate. A new study, published in October's American Journal of Public Health, concluded that since fortification was implemented folic acid intake has in fact increased, but not nearly enough to meet FDA goals and recommendations. Even with significant improvements and widespread fortification, only 39 percent of white women, 26 percent of black women, and 28 percent of Mexican American women attained the 400 microgram per day target for folate consumption. In addition, over half the subgroups showed a decrease in folic acid intake since fortification began in 1998. The FDA recommends at least 400 micrograms of folate daily for nonpregnant women, and adult men, as well as children four and older. However, the daily recommendation for pregnant women increases to at least 800 micrograms per day. Despite the fact that recent surveys show that the majority of women know the importance of folic acid, daily folic acid supplementation appears to be critical since dietary intakes still fall well below recommendations.

Source: Population-Level Changes in Folate Intake by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity after Folic Acid Fortification, Tanya G.K. Bentley, Walter C. Willett, Milton C. Weinstein, and Karen M. Kuntz, American Journal of Public Health, November 2006, 96(11), 2040-2047

Friday, October 13, 2006

Good news for Alzheimer’s sufferers

Alzheimer's is a cruel and progressive disease,
which affects memory, emotion and thought processes.
It is estimated that there are approximately 18
million sufferers worldwide - some 5 per cent of the
world's elderly population. Worryingly, experts
claim that the condition is on the increase and
predict that by 2020, Alzheimer's will affect up to
30 million people.

Although exactly what causes the condition is still
not clear, significant data exists supporting the
build-up of plaque in the brain from beta-amyloid

Now scientists from the US have found that curcumin
- the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric
(a common ingredient in curries) its yellow colour -
could boost the body's ability to clear the build up
of plaques in the brain that are linked to
Alzheimer's disease.

The new research appears to indicate that curcumin,
could help the body's immune system clear away these
beta-amyloid deposits and reduce the risk of
developing the disease.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Milan Fiala from the
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said:
"Curcumin improved ingestion of amyloid beta by
immune cells in 50 percent of patients with
Alzheimer's disease. These initial findings
demonstrate that curcumin may help boost the immune
system of specific Alzheimer's disease patients."

The many health benefits linked to curcumin

Curcumin has increasingly come under the scientific
spotlight in recent years, with studies
investigating its potential benefits for reducing
cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular health
and cancer-fighting abilities.

The current US research adds to this by reporting on
a small laboratory study using blood from six
Alzheimer's disease patients (aged 65 to 84) and
three healthy controls. The focus was on
macrophages, the 'foot soldiers' of the immune
system that clean up harmful waste products in the
body, including beta-amyloid deposits.

The isolated macrophages were exposed to a curcumin-
derived compound for 24 hours before beta-amyloid
was introduced. It was found that macrophages from
three out of six Alzheimer's disease patients showed
improved uptake or ingestion of the waste product
compared to the patients' macrophages not treated
with curcumin.

The age of the patient and the stage of the
Alzheimer's disease appeared to be key factors in
the effectiveness of the curcumin compound, reported
the researchers, with younger patients and patients
with early-stage Alzheimer's apparently more
receptive to the benefits.

No effects were reported for the macrophages from
the healthy controls when exposed to the curcumin-
derived compound.

"We are hopeful that these positive results in a
test tube may translate to clinical use, but more
studies need to be done before curcumin can be
recommended," said Dr Fiala.

The mechanism behind these apparent effects is not
clear and significant further study is needed to
further examine the potential effects. "Our next
step will be to identify the factors that helped
these immune cells respond," said co-researcher
Laura Zhang from UCLA.

The researchers concluded that: "Immunomodulation of
the innate immune system by curcuminoids might be a
safe approach to immune clearance of amyloidosis in
Alzheimer's Disease brain."

The new study extends previous findings examining
the neuroprotective effects of curcumin. Experts
recommend however that consumers wishing to make use
of curcumin's properties consume it in supplement
form rather than eating more curries, which tend to
be rather high in fat in their Western form.

Source: Health Sciences Institute e-Alert, 13 October 2006
from The Healthier Life

N.B. USANA's Essentials has CURCUMIN EXTRACT (CURCUMA LONGA L., ROOT) 15.0 mg † - see full ingredients here

Mediterranean-style diet cuts risk of Alzheimer's disease by 68 percent

New research indicates that the Mediterranean diet rich in antioxidants and polyphenols reduce oxidative stress and protect against the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in cereals, wine, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil, has been linked to lower incidence of heart disease, protection against some cancers, and a longer life. The diet's main nutritional components include beta-carotene, vitamin C, tocopherols, polyphenols and essential minerals. A new study published on-line in the Archives of Neurology indicates that it is these antioxidants and polyphenols that appear to offer protection, not simply an improvement in heart health. After adjusting the results for age, education, BMI, smoking status, and ethnicity, the researchers reported that people with the highest adherence to a model Mediterranean diet were associated with a 60 per cent lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared to people with the lowest adherence to the diet. When the researchers took into account general heart health, such as history of stroke, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol, the associations for the high adherence group grew stronger, with an associated risk reduction of 68 per cent. These results indicate that the protection gained by following a Mediterranean- type diet is not a result of the cardiovascular factors, and it may be more related to factors such as inflammation and oxidative stress. The researchers noted that the Mediterranean diet contains high levels of important antioxidants and polyphenols, and it could be the combination of these various dietary compounds that could partially explain the reduced risk of Alzheimer's Disease. The study follows another study by the same researchers, published earlier this year in the Annals of Neurology (Vol. 59, pp. 912 - 921), in which elderly individuals whose diet closely resembled the Mediterranean diet had a 40 per cent lower risk of Alzheimer's than those who followed the diet the least.

Source: Mediterranean diet and risk for Alzheimer's disease, Nikolaos Scarmeas, Yaakov Stern, Ming-Xin Tang, Richard Mayeux, Jose A. Luchsinger, Annals of Neurology (Vol. 59, pp. 912 - 921)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fish oil supplements may reduce heart disease risk more effectively than statin drugs

A large research review showed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil were more effective than statin drugs in reducing the risk of death from heart disease.

A large research review published in the April 11, 2005 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine analyzed the effects of various dietary and drug regimens on overall mortality and mortality from coronary heart disease. Researchers reviewed 97 clinical trials that, in total, included 275,000 men and women. This analysis evaluated the risk of death as a function of diet, the use of lipid lowering drugs, intakes of omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in fish and fish oil supplements), and intakes of the B vitamin niacin. Statins (a class of lipid lowering drugs) and omega-3 fatty acids significantly lowered both overall mortality and death due to heart disease during the trial periods. When compared to controls, overall mortality risk was reduced 13% by statin drugs and 23% by omega-3 fatty acids. When the risk of death from heart disease alone was examined, statin drugs and omega-3 fatty acids lowered mortality by 22% and 32%, respectively. Omega-3 fatty acids did not reduce cholesterol levels significantly. As such, researchers suggested that their benefits may have been due to protection against heart arrhythmias and systemic inflammation.

Source: Effect of Different Antilipidemic Agents and Diets on Mortality, Marco Studer, Matthias Briel, Bernd Leimenstoll, Tracy R. Glass, Heiner C. Bucher, Arch Intern Med. 2005; 165:725-730.