Antioxidants

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Overview

Lipoic acid (LA) is an organosulfur compound, considered to be an antioxidant, a substance that renders harmless certain chemicals called free radicals. LA is a compound where a disulfide bond binds sulfur atoms and this distinction classifies it as “oxidized”. Alpha-lipoic acid is converted into dihydrolipoic acid on the body.

This oxidization and conversion is the very process by which Lipoic Acid terminates the damaging oxidization of free radicals. Free radicals are destructive chemicals produced by the body and they are thought to be a major contributing factor in aging, age-related disorders and other ailments such as stroke or heart disease.
alpha lipoic acid definition
Lipoic Acid is also referred to as Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), a synthetic form of Lipoic Acid, and was discovered over 30 years ago but up until 1989, was classified as a vitamin. Research scientists discovered the anti-oxidant properties of the molecule and studies continue in the remarkable ways it works in the human body.

It is the start of a revolutionary breakthrough in research of some illnesses, since some scientists believe ALA is more potent than its popular cousins, Vitamin C and E.

Key Differences

Alpha Lipoic Acid is not to be confused with alpha linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that may contribute to a healthy heart. Since both are abbreviated with ALA, the confusion can de understood. Alpha Lipoic Acid is also classified as thiotic acid and presented as such in research and medical papers.

There are two sub-forms of ALA. The natural form (racemic) of RLA is pure and found is nature and the human body. SLA is a by-product of chemical manufacturing processes. A combination of the two R/S-LA is often found in the available commercial products found in health stores and vitamin shops. SLA alone or mixed with RLA is considered safe and non-toxic unless there is a thiamine deficiency. SLA can have an adverse effect in these incidences, even causing death.

History

RLA has existed since the dawn of time, essential to all life forms, known as a protogen in aiding metabolism. The substance was first isolated in a crystalline form by Dr. Lester Reed from the University of Texas, when he extracted a miniscule amount from over 10 tons of beef liver in 1951. Collaboration with chemists at Eli Lilly Company provided a means for structural identity and composition.

It was not until 1952 that the chemical sister SLA was produced by chemical synthesis. Germany and Japan were forerunners in the study and synthesis of Alpha Lipoic Acid. Despite the evident that the two sub forms of ALA were not bioequal, studies continued in different clinical trials using RLA and SLA.

Leonardo Donatelli

However, it was the first animal trial profiles presented by Professor Leonardo Donatelli at the International Symposium on Thiotic Acid in 1955 that evidence was set forth on the wide variety of chemical toxins that were rendered benign by ALA. The entire globe responded with a stimulated interest in discovering new applications for the ALA.

The first clinical studies conducted using humans for research occurred in the 1970’s. These studies were held in an association formed by Dr. Frederick C, Bartter, Dr. Burton N. Berkson and the National Institute of Health.

Clinical trials

Diabetes

Since the 1960’s when ALA was used in research clinical trials in Germany, it has proven its efficacy in treating diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy is a painful condition where the myelin sheaths of nerve endings are damaged or disintegrated.

Alpha-lipoic acid with its ability to kill free radicals helps reduce the debilitating symptoms of neuropathy. Patients diagnosed with neuropathy experience burning, itching, swelling, tingling and numbness in their extremities. It has also been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. ALA’s greatest success in this treatment is when it is administered by intravenous injection. A second diabetes related illness known as autonomic neuropathy is greatly improved with oral dosages of ALA repairing nerves responsible for the heart.

Both peripheral and autonomic neuropathy can be caused by other diseases or conditions. Injuries, chemotherapy, alcoholism, shingles, Lyme disease, kidney failure, thyroid disease and nutritional deficiencies can lead to nerve damage.

  • Liver disease
  • Two of the original American researchers, Drs. Bartter and Berkson, administered LA to 79 patients across the United States. These patients suffered from acute and severe liver damage and an astonishing 75 of the patients regained full liver function. Dr. Berkson took his research further, administering ALA to patients suffering from chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, jaundice and alcoholism. The doctor’s treatments were successful and at the time, ALA was thought to work through the same biochemistry of a B-vitamin. Today, some call ALA the answer to an alcoholic’s dream, repairing damaged liver organs and tissues to the former state of health, while others cite the fact that more research is needed before that claim is made.

  • Brain function
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid is the only antioxidant that can cross the blood-brain barrier and passes directly into brain cells. This promotes great hope for victims of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

    Because the brain-heart link is so potent in the life-threatening conditions, ALA protects the brain cells from free radical damage, lowering the risks of further complications for these patients. While no human studies have been performed, animals treated with ALA suffered less brain damage and survived at a rate four times greater than the animals who received no ALA.

  • Age-related conditions
  • Because ALA has the ability to pass directly into the brain, research continues to ascertain the effect of Alpha-Lipoic Acid in patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, cerebral dysfunction and psychiatric conditions as they apply to aging and the human body.

  • Poison control
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid has had a remarkable success rate when administered alone or in conjunction with other drugs on poison-related incidences. ALA has been shown to halt or reverse damage done by reverse barbiturate anesthesia. mushroom and mercury poisoning, and antimony poisoning, among others.

  • Other studies
  • ALA continues to be used in clinical studies, predominantly by German, Italian and Japanese physicians who have reported a wide range of clinical or experimental success.
    alpha lipoic acid uses
    Researchers from the United States, Poland, Switzerland, France and other countries have now begun researching and publishing papers on ALA and their own successful clinical studies. Studies have been conducted on conditions as diverse as weight control, metabolic syndrome, burning mouth, migraines, erectile dysfunction and multiple sclerosis.

  • Bodybuilding
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) has gained a great deal of popularity with bodybuilders. More and more products are manufactured with RLA and R/SLA then ever before. Bodybuilding enthusiasts claim the insulin-mimicking properties of ALA leads to Glut-4 transporters ferry the glucose into muscles cells rather than fat cells.

    Bodybuilders believe this increase of glucose uptake to muscle cells increases muscle size, less fat accumulation, increased creative, insulin sensitivity and amino acid transportation. Bodybuilders and weight loss advocates hold the opinion that as less glucose is stored in fat cells; metabolism and fat burning are increased exponentially.

    Daily doses of Alpha Lipoic Acid are much higher than a normal dietary supplement. Dosage recommendations from bodybuilders and product manufacturers targeting the same market believe that doses of 1000 mg to 3000 mg per day is optimal for “bulking and cutting”, the process of building muscle and losing fat, creating the perfect body physique. It is recommended that the high dosages be broken up throughout the day and taken with food. The FDA has not approved the high dosage of ALA for individual use nor has it banned the practice.

Dietary sources

There have been two food groups identified as lipoid-acid containing foods. The first category is plant-based and has a high concentration of chloroplasts, which are key energy spots in plants. Green leafy vegetables are a source of ALA such as chard, collard greens, broccoli, and spinach.

The other food source is animal-based. Again, it is cellular mechanisms involved that produce ALA. Mitochondria are as critical to animals in energy production as chloroplasts are to plants. Mitochondria are found in organ meats and skeletal muscle. Foods such as heart, kidney, liver and round steak are good sources of body tissue rich in mitochondria. Yeast is also a vessel known to house this important nutrient.

Dietary supplements

IRS/LA and RLA, the combination and pure form of Alpha Lipoic Acid is readily available in the world in tablet, capsule and liquid forms. There is no correlation data established between therapeutic and supplemental doses. A Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) has been not yet been established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA, however, is considering the establishment of new labels for ALA to promote and establish dietary needs and recommendations.

Currently there are no established daily doses for ALA supplementation. However, a general dose of 20 to 50 mg daily is considered sufficient for dietary needs. ALA can be found in vitamin formulas at a concentration of less than 10 mg per dose. The antioxidant can be purchased in doses ranging from 30 to 100 mg in all available forms. Higher or therapeutic doses should be discussed with a doctor and a regimen planned for the stated purpose.

Contradictions

Side effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid are usually minimal and mild. They can include headache, tingling sensations, skin rash or muscle cramps. A rare side effect is called insulin autoimmune syndrome, which causes hypoglycemia and reactive antibodies directed against the body’s own insulin.

The safety of ALA is nursing or pregnant women, children and people who have liver or kidney disease is not known and therefore, not recommended.

Patient currently taking diabetic medications should check with their doctor before taking supplementary ALA. This caution would also apply to person taking thyroid medications.

Alternative names

There are a large number of names for Alpha Lipoic Acid. If cautionary warnings apply to an individual or family member, check for these alternate names as they may appear on supplementary or proprietary formulations.

Acetate Replacing Factor, A-lipoic Acid, Alpha-Lipoic Acid Extract, Biletan, Lipoicin, R-ALA, R-alpha-lipoic acid R, S-alpha Lipoic Acid, (R)-Lipoic Acid, RS-alpha-lipoic acid Thioctacid, Thioctan, Thioctic Acid, 1,2-dithiolane-3-pentanoic acid, 1,2-dithiolane-3-valeric acid, 6,8-dithiooctanoic acid, 6,8-thioctic acid, 5-(1,2-dithiolan-3-yl) valeric acid.

Antioxidants

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10

What is it?

Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone as it is sometimes called, is a fat-soluble compound found in nearly every cell in the human body. Extremely high concentrations are found in organs, especially the heart and the liver.

CoQ10 is called a vitamin-like substance, because the human body needs small quantities of it to maintain normal bodily functions. The compound’s primary purpose is to aid in the conversion of carbohydrates and fats into a form of energy that the body can use.

History

The compound was first discovered during the analysis of a cow’s heart by University of Wisconsin Professor Fredrick L. Crane in 1957. The chemical structure and function in the human body was discovered shortly thereafter.
using coenzyme q10
It was first used as an experimental treatment in the 1960s, when it was given to patients with heart disease.

Japanese scientists figured out how to mass produce CoQ10 in the 1970s, which has allowed researchers to conduct thousands of more studies.

CoQ10 has shown promise in the treatment of many conditions and diseases in clinical trials around the globe.

Where Does it Come From?

The human body naturally synthesizes Coenzyme Q10, as well as absorbs it from dietary intake.

Only a few foods are good sources of CoQ10, but meats and fish generally have the highest concentrations. Organ meats such as beef hearts have exceptionally high concentrations of the compound. Certain types of oil such as soybean and canola, as well as nuts, are also good sources of CoQ10.

Fruits and vegetables are poor sources of CoQ10, with avocados and leafy green vegetables as the exceptions. As so few healthy foods provide high concentrations of CoQ10, most people look to supplements to increase their CoQ10 intake. Supplements generally contain many times the amount of CoQ10 than a normal person could ever consume in their regular diet.

Benefits

Coenzyme Q10 serves a vital role in the production of ATP, the molecule which provides energy for nearly every cellular process. As such, maintaining proper levels of CoQ10 can boost energy levels and efficiency in many different areas of the body, such as the immune system and cardiovascular system.

Furthermore, CoQ10 is an antioxidant, meaning that it can absorb free radicals found in the body. Free radicals can damage DNA and kill cells, and are thought to be major contributors to the aging process. Antioxidants can help prevent this damage from occurring by destroying free radicals.

Treatable Diseases and Ailments

Coenzyme Q10 Deficiency

Due to certain rare metabolic disorders, some people’s bodies may not be able to produce a proper amount of CoQ10 to maintain normal body function. As such, supplements help provide the body with enough dietary CoQ10 to offset the lack of natural production.

People with diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, HIV/AIDs, and various cancers have been shown to have abnormally low CoQ10 levels. Though it is currently unclear what specific effects this produces, CoQ10 supplementation can return these levels to normal.

In addition, patients with general malnutrition usually have low amounts of CoQ10 in their bodies. CoQ10, along with other vital vitamin and nutrient supplements, can help return a malnourished person to health.

Aging

CoQ10 supplements can help fight aging in several ways. The first is due to its properties as an antioxidant. CoQ10, along with other antioxidants such as Vitamin E and C, can help limit the damage of free radicals, which contribute to many of the symptoms related to aging.

The second is due to the fact that the body naturally starts to produce less CoQ10 as it ages. Supplementation can return blood levels of CoQ10 to a normal state and therefore increase energy levels and improve various bodily processes. In addition. several studies also point to CoQ10 helping slow down, though not cure, Alzheimer’s disease.

A few preliminary studies have also pointed to CoQ10 helping halt muscular degeneration related to the aging process.

Heart Disease

Most of the trials and studies dealing with CoQ10 over the last few decades have related to the treatment of heart disease. This is partially due to the fact that the cells of the heart contain the highest concentration of CoQ10 in the human body. CoQ10 has been shown to be quite effective in gradually improving heart function as well as alleviating symptoms such as chest pain and fatigue in patients with heart disease.

There have been some cases where a CoQ10 regimen helped drastically return the heart to a normal level of function. These cases all occurred when the CoQ10 regimen was started immediately after the disease was diagnosed. As such, it stands to reason that CoQ10 is most effective when taken in the very early stages of the disease. Nevertheless, it has been shown to be somewhat helpful in the later stages as well. It is important to note that CoQ10 was taken alongside traditional drug treatments and lifestyle changes in all of these studies.

Hypertension

Initial results from several studies show that CoQ10 may be helpful in reducing blood pressure. People with hypertension have been shown to have low blood levels of CoQ10. It is not clear whether that the low amounts of CoQ10 are a cause of hypertension or merely a side effect.

However, placebo-controlled trials have produced results showing that a daily regimen of CoQ10 can lower blood pressure by a moderate amount over the span of a few months. It should take at least four weeks to see any changes in blood pressure from a CoQ10 regimen.

High Cholesterol

People with high cholesterol tend to have lower blood levels of CoQ10 than their peers with normal cholesterol. In addition, the class of drugs commonly used to lower blood cholesterol, statins, are known to deplete the body of CoQ10.
risks of coenzyme q10
Taking supplements can counter this deficiency without adversely impacting the cholesterol-lowering effect of the statins.

Angina

Limited studies show that CoQ10 supplementation may help decrease the chest pain related to angina and alleviate some of the chest discomfort that occurs during exercise.

Parkinson’s Disease

Coenzyme Q10 has been the subject of several promising studies related to Parkinson’s Disease. While more research is needed, the limited data shows that CoQ10 supplementation helps limit the degradation of muscle function caused by the disease.

Other Diseases

CoQ10 may be helpful in treating various types of cancer, HIV/AIDS, gum disease, and many other diseases that are accompanied by low levels of CoQ10. More comprehensive studies are needed before any preliminary or definitive conclusions can be made.

Dosage

Positive results have been seen from Coenzyme Q10 supplementation with dosages as low as 10-30 mg per day. However, people absorb the compound differently, so a dose that is enough for one person may not be enough for another.

Over-the-counter supplements range from 30 mg to 200 mg per pill. 100 mg should be more than enough for the daily requirements of the vast majority of healthy adults. Soft-gel tablets are the best way to supplement with CoQ10, as they provide the highest rate of absorption.

In addition. eating a meal containing some type of fat also ensures better absorption. It is recommended that young children do not take CoQ supplements unless under the direction or supervision of a pediatrician. Pregnant women are also discouraged from taking CoQ10, due to the unknown effects of supplementation on pregnancy.

Side Effects

There are no known serious side effects to CoQ10 supplementation. An extremely low percentage of people have reported an upset stomach, mild nausea, fatigue, and headaches. CoQ10 may slightly lower blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes or hypoglycemia should be cautious while taking CoQ10 supplements.

It is not known to have any toxicities. Despite this, following the dosage guidelines is recommended. If taking prescription medication, consult your doctor before beginning a CoQ10 regimen, as the compound has been known to negatively interact with some medications.

Where Can I Get It?

CoQ10 can be found in nearly every major pharmacy and health store in the United States, as well as larger retailers like Walmart and Target. Any online retailer that sells vitamins or nutritional supplements is likely to have CoQ10 in stock.

CoQ10 is legal in every state in the U.S., and can be purchased over the counter without a prescription.

How Much Does it Cost?

CoQ10 is relatively expensive compared to other vitamin supplements. A generic 30 count bottle of 100 mg pills can be found at Walmart for around $10-15, while name brand products at specialty stores can cost much more.

Part of the reason for the high price is that nearly all the CoQ10 in the world is produced through a costly manufacturing process in Japan and must be exported.

Should I Take It?

As there are few negative side effects and plenty of benefits, there seems to be no reason not to add a moderate amount of CoQ10 to your daily supplement routine. However, CoQ10 is not some sort of magic cure-all, and is certainly not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle.

It is quite costly, and the benefits are not as clear for young, healthy adults. Older adults and those with specific concerns such as heart disease stand to benefit the most from a CoQ10 regimen. If in doubt, ask your doctor or medical professional.

Antioxidants

Oleocanthal

Oleocanthal is nature’s ingredient for pain relief. The reaction is similar to ibuprofen, with additional health benefits as well. Oleocanthal comes from extra-virgin olive oil. No other oil, from any source contains the anti-inflammatory drug.

Oleocantahal is widely believed to help or control many diseases. One of the latest discoveries is oleocanthal’s ability to stop, or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The substance is one of the reasons so many Mediterranean people who exist on a diet containing large amounts of extra-virgin olive oil have fewer problems with heart disease, cancer, stroke, or dementia.

How it Works

Oleocantahal works by changing the existing structure of protein in the body. This prevents protein from damaging the cells in the brain, heart, lungs, or other major organs. The protein, also known as ADDLs are a toxic division of normal body protein.
Oleocanthal Benefits
These have a devastating effect on older individuals and are a leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease. The ADDLs adhere to synapses in the brain and close them off. Oleocantahal alters the protein enough that it cannot bind to the synapse, thereby crippling its effect on the patient and stopping the advance of the disease.

Another theory on the way the enzymes in Olive Oil work to prevent disease and stop the onset of devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease is by singling out the ADDLs they make them easier targets for the body’s own natural anti-body defense.

Oleocanthal contains the same properties as other NSAIDS such as ibuprofen. The enzymes COX-1 AND COX-2 create an anti-inflammatory effect and are non-steroid in nature.

Discovery

Like many of its medicinal counterparts, oleocanthal was a scientific stumble upon drug. A researcher who participated in many ibuprofen experiments recognized a familiar ‘sting’ in the back of his throat when swallowing premium olive oil. That sting became part of the drug’s name: oleo=olive, canth=sting, al=aldehyde). Many tests followed to make sure the properties came from the oil itself and the particular ingredient in the oil before proclaiming the healing properties of the extract.

Source

Oleocanthal comes from the purest form of olive oil—extra virgin olive oil. That oil comes from olive juice and is a mainstay in most Mediterranean diets.

Remember that only extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal. Other oils and even other olive oils do not. Regardless of what they are called, other olive oils go through some form of refining process that destroys the oleocanthal compound. Extra virgin olive oil is squeezed directly from the olive where other olive oils (pure, light, or otherwise labeled oil) are refined through a distillery. Pomace oil is another commercial form of olive oil, and the cheapest. It is made from the discards extracted from oil refinement.

Tasting It

The best way to tell if the EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) you have has a high level of olencanthal in it is by taste. It is not yet listed in the breakdown of daily dietary percentages on food labels yet. Experts still haven’t figured out the best way to relate that information, and it doesn’t exist in any other food on the planet so it is hard to incorporate into a template of use for all foods.

The “bite” of peppery sensation on the back of your throat is a key indication of strength. The stronger, sharper, and more tangy that feeling is, the higher the level of olencanthal in the oil. That “sting” is what triggered the investigation of olive oil’s similarities to ibuprofen in the first place.

The stronger EVOOs often have a label that reads “robust” while others have “mild” on the label. The robust oil is the one with the higher levels of oleocanthal in it. It is true that EVOO made from younger plants have a higher level of oleocanthal and are more bitter, and sharp.

Indications

The properties in extra virgin olive oil, or the derivative oleocanthal, is known to prevent heart disease, calcium buildup in arteries, and veins, and is the target of many studies for other cardiovascular disease therapies. It has strong indications as a therapeutic measure against degenerative joint disease due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The effects of many diseases associated with inflammation such as asthma’s inflammation of the lungs are reduced with regular consumption of olencanthal.

Dosage

Another pleasing property of oleocanthal is the decreased dosage for equal effectiveness. It only takes about 10% of the dose for ibuprofen to achieve the same results. For an adult that would be approximately 50 grams, or 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day. There are no indications specifically for a child’s dose. Typical daily consumption in a normal, healthy diet is sufficient for the buildup of benefits. If a child develops illnesses normally treated with ibuprofen or other anti-imflammatory drugs, seek the advice of a physician before attempting to medicate using oleocanthal or any other herbal remedy.
What is Oleocanthal
Olencanthal is elusive and somewhat difficult to process since most distillation methods or extraction methods destroy the compound. For that reason, the best way to consume olencanthal is still by naturally assimilating it through its source, extra virgin olive oil.

Liquid Capsules

There are, however, liquid capsules containing extra virgin olive oil so that you can take your daily requirements of oleocanthal without actually putting oil in your diet. Beware that since the only way to create the capsules is to use the full oil source since the oleocanthal is not removable as yet, you may still be subject to the calorie increases of the full serving of oil.

Some of the capsules advertising extra virgin olive oil are really extracts of several oils, and claim oleic acid as an ingredient. This may not be as helpful as the actual oleocanthal compound due to the processing so read labels carefully.

Cost

Extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than any other type of oil on the market, including other forms of olive oil. Those interested in the healing effects of EVOO pay the price to get the compound at its source. The average bottle of extra virgin olive oil costs about ten dollars for a sixteen-ounce bottle. Pills cost between sixteen and twenty dollars for 100 capsules.

Limits

As potent as olencanthal is, and in spite of the great prospect for delayed, reduced, or even stopped Alzheimer’s disease, cardiac problems, and other serious illness, it is not a total replacement for drugs such as ibuprofen.

It would take a very large dose of olencanthal to get rid of headaches, or serious pain the way other anti-inflammatory drugs will. However, when consumed regularly, it will help the body’s own natural defenses conquer serious illness.

Dangers

Oleocanthal is one of the natural herbal medicines that do not have a true danger of consumption. However, too much of anything is usually a bad thing. There are reasons for the body’s defense systems and consuming even helpful foods with the desire to thwart inflammation more harm than good.

The good thing is, that no matter how where it is necessary may cause much oleocanthal you consume it will not hurt your stomach, or have other harsh interactions with your system the way ibuprofen or other NSAIDs may. Chemical NSAIDs are very harsh to the stomach, kidneys, and other soft tissues.

One danger unrelated to the chemical itself, but to the oil in the foods you eat is that olive oil contains approximately 100 calories per tablespoon. The average daily requirement for medicinal purposes is 3 tablespoons and that boosts your daily calorie intake quite a bit.

Do not be fooled into thinking that you can avoid the calories by using “light” olive oil. All of the oils have the same relative calorie count, but do not have the oleocanthal that extra virgin olive oil has.

Myths and Realities

Not all oils are created equal. There are some who believe any oil is as good as extra virgin olive oil. That simply is not true. The benefits from EVOO come from the single compound oleocanthal and that is not found in any other oil. There is some debate about the origin of the oil. Some feel the best EVOO comes from Australia where other research shows that it doesn’t matter as much where the oil comes from as it does the sting it possesses.

Some truths often confused with myths are that EVOO definitely is an antioxidant. EVOO is a good fat that is best when it is freshest. However, contrary to some beliefs it is nearly impossible to tell the freshness of a product if it isn’t labeled with dates. The biggest reality of EVOO that is not widely known, and that some believe is a myth is that you should not cook the oil when you are using it for medicinal purposes.

It is best drizzled over foods such as salads, or even mixed in raw with smoothies or other drinks that will mask the sharpness of the taste.

Best forms

The younger the olives used to create extra virgin olive oil, the stronger the chemical compound oleocanthal will be. Oleocanthal reacts badly to heat so avoid cooking with the oil when you desire the most benefits from it. That does not mean do not eat olive oil that is used in cooking, it means that oil will not count as your daily consumption for therapeutic purposes.

Research

The ongoing research into what the active properties of olive oil do and how they react with the body’s defenses and illnesses continues to impress health professionals.

There are many things yet to know about olencanthal. We do not know all that it will, and will not do. However, it is certain that the benefits are outstanding even as we know them now.

Antioxidants

Curcumin

Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric, a popular spice often used in Indian foods and curry. Curcumin is classified as a polyphenol and it is the compound that gives turmeric its bright yellow color. Besides being a popular dietary supplement, it is used as a food coloring.

Turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa plant, a member of the same family as ginger. Turmeric is from the rhizomes of the plant, which is part of the stem that resides underground.
What is Curcumin Used For
Along with curcumin, the turmeric rhizome also contains demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Turmeric has traditionally been used as a medicine for thousands of years in India, but more recently, it has been used to treat inflammation, cancer, and liver disease, among others.

History and Traditional Uses

The first medicinal use of turmeric comes from Ayurvedic medicine in India. Evidence suggests it has been used since at least 1900 BCE.

The rhizomes and roots of the turmeric plant, which grows wild in the Himalayas and South Asia, would be ground into a powder and used both externally and internally to treat a wide variety of ailments.

Turmeric was said to be the most beneficial for the liver, heart, lungs, and the skin.

A paste of ground turmeric was applied externally to cuts, scrapes, and burns. It was said to have a variety properties when applied externally: as an analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent.

When eaten, turmeric was said to treat the following conditions:

  • Anemia
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Food poisoning
  • Gallstones
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel and other digestive disorders
  • Poor circulation
  • Staph infections
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Impure breast milk
  • Low semen production
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Cough and excess mucus
  • Liver toxicity

Modern Uses of Curcumin:

Today, curcumin is still used by some people for all of the traditional uses, but the long list has been expanded even further. Curcumin is used by people of all ages, but the highest demographic is people in their late 30s and older.

Curcumin is not widely used by the mass population, except some places in India, where its use originated. In North America and Europe, curcumin use is limited to those seeking natural remedies and trying to reduce modern medications in their life.

Antioxidant Properties

Curcumin has been shown to be effective as a scavenger of reactive oxygen and nitrogen in a test tube environment, but no clear results show that it works as an antioxidant inside of a living animal. Because of its low absorption rate in humans, most prepared curcumin doses are too low to even enter the bloodstream.

However, some studies have found that accumulated curcumin in the gastrointestinal tract did inhibit oxidative damage in the immediate areas of accumulation. Curcumin has also been shown to have indirect antioxidant properties by inhibiting enzymes that play a role in oxidation.

Cancer

Curcumin, in initial trials, has been shown to produce apoptosis is in a variety of cancerous cells. Apoptosis is a programmed cell death that happens suddenly without accompanying inflammation. So far, only Phase I trials have been completed in humans.

These are studies of very small groups of people. In these trials, where 3.6 g of curcumin was taken per day for 7 days, traces were found in both normal and malignant tissues of colorectal cancer patients.

In one of the few Phase II trials that have been conducted, some anticancer properties were shown in two out of the 21 study participants suffering from pancreatic cancer. Because of its low bioavailability, however, it is thought only to be effective in a liposome encapsulated form injected intravenously.

Inflammation

Although full clinical trials in animals have shown curcumin to have anti-inflammatory properties, only a very few limited trials have been conducted on humans. In one preliminary study of 18 patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin supplements were taken at doses of 1200 mg per day for two weeks.

Patients reported similar improvements in swelling, stiffness, and general movement that had been experienced with NSAID treatment. Another preliminary trial of 40 men recovering from hernia surgery showed that curcumin administered at 1200 mg per day for 5 days was more effective in reducing pain, tenderness, and edema than a placebo.

Two other studies showed that 1125 mg/day of curcumin, taken for 12 weeks, relieved inflammatory conditions of the eyes. Larger clinical trials are still required to make a final determination on the effects of curcumin and inflammation due to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Cystic Fibrosis

Curcumin has been taken by people suffering from this genetic disease as a pain treatment. A study done on mice showed that curcumin, orally administered, can correct the abnormal protein folding and ion transportation that causes the pain in cystic fibrosis.
Treatments with Curcumin
Mice, however, which have the same genetic mutation as humans with cystic fibrosis only experience gastrointestinal effects of the disease, not the pain or lung complications associated with humans. Furthermore, a second trial based on the exact same model as the first found no benefits whatsoever.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation conducted one human clinical trial using curcumin, and, they too, found it to be of no benefit. The foundation, therefore, has officially recommended patients not to use curcumin for management of cystic fibrosis.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease causes deposits of peptides to be deposited in the brain. These are called amyloid plaques. The plaques are known to cause oxidation damage and inflammation. Curcumin injections have been shown to inhibit the formation of these plaques in the body, even crossing the blood-brain barrier in animal test subjects.

Inflammation and oxidation damage seems to have been reduced. Biomarkers show that reduction may be in the areas that cause the memory deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is not certain, however, if orally-administered curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is necessary in the treatment of symptoms.

So far, clinical trials in humans have shown that 4 g/day of orally administered curcumin is safe to use. Effects on Alzheimer’s disease in humans have yet to be studied.

Curcumin Dosage and Availability

Curcumin is available today as a standardized extract, which is powdered and put into gel caps, often with other ingredients, such as black pepper or ginger. Raw curcumin is taken in doses of 3 to 10 grams, but it is usually taken as a standardized extract in doses of 300 mg to 1 gram. Doses are repeated from 1 to 5 times per day, usually with food.

Unfortunately, curcumin is very slowly absorbed by the body, so unless it is prepared with oils in food, it can take hours before it reaches the bloodstream.

The reason why curcumin is often found capped together with black pepper or piperine (black pepper extract) is because studies have shown that, when taken together, curcumin absorption is increased by 2000 percent within the first hour after consumption. In 2007 and 2008, two new forms of curcumin were manufactured: nanoparticle and lipidated. Both forms show increased performance and absorption but are still not widely available.

Studies show that curcumin itself is only found in very low concentrations in plasma and serum. Curcumin metabolites, however, are detected, but there is no evidence that the processed metabolites have the same benefits of curcumin. In fact, curcumin, taken orally, is not detected in serum at all when taking less than 4 g per day. Evidence suggests that curcumin can accumulate in the lining of the intestine where it is absorbed by the body at a later time.

Legal Status of Curcumin

Curcumin is legal as both a food additive and dietary supplement everywhere in the world. It can be found at natural food stores and, as turmeric, in open markets and supermarkets.

Side Effects

Curcumin is labeled as a generally safe product in the U.S. and no other country places a limit on its use. No serious side effects have ever been reported from high doses. Studies show that up to 12 g taken in one dose is safe, and dosage did not increase the quantity or severity of side effects. Long-term usage at 8 g/day for three months was also shown to be safe in studies.

Participants had very few, if any, side effects. The safety of curcumin in pregnant and lactating women has not been studied, but no historic evidence indicates any adverse effect. Mild side effects of curcumin experienced by some people include only nausea and diarrhea.

Curcumin Availability and Cost

Curcumin is readily available as turmeric in most food stores where it sells for about $5.00 per pound in the U.S.

As a dietary supplement, curcumin is found at natural foods and vitamin shops in a standardized extract form of usually 95% purity. Standardization claims of dietary supplements are not tested in the U.S. 100 capsules of curcumin at 500 mg can sell for anywhere between $10 and $25 per bottle, depending on the manufacturer and retail store.

Antioxidants

Melatonin

The Mayo Clinic defines the natural chemical melatonin as being “a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland from the amino acid tryptophan.” This is an accurate statement, however, melatonin is much more than that one sentence would lead one to believe. Melatonin is produced not just in the brain, but in many areas of the body, and serves many necessary functions.

Though its association with the brain chemical tryptophan may suggest a primary role in sleep and feelings of drowsiness, there is much more to this naturally occurring chemical than making us feel the need for a nap after a large meal.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, produced by humans and other mammals, but it is also found in microbes and plants. A light-sensitive hormone, natural melatonin production in most cases is stimulated by darkness.
melatonin benefits
Synthetic melatonin is regarded as a legal substance in the United States and much of Canada, popular drug information source, Erowid, lists melatonin as being available by prescription in Norway, Finland and Australia.

Melatonin as an Antioxidant

Melatonin is also defined as an antioxidant, and is thought by some in the medical field to possess powerful protective qualities and benefits to the immune system. Melatonin has been widely studied in both human and animal trials to see what effects the compound may have on various medical conditions.

The quality, length and significance of these trials and studies varies greatly, and most medical professionals and academics agree that more research is needed to fully understand what benefits or risks melatonin may hold. In some cases, the effects of melatonin were studied for a period of only several days to a week, and this is not enough time to get a broad range of accurate and significant results from participants.

Melatonin is not classified by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription drug, and so it is most commonly sold simply as an over-the-counter health supplement.

It is important to note that herbal health supplements, vitamins and non-prescription synthetic hormones that can be purchased in the grocery store, online or at a retail health food outlet are not typically regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This will be changing slightly in the near future, as new requirements are set in place for supplements, however, “buyer beware” is still a good phrase to operate under.

Non FDA Regulated

Because melatonin is not an FDA-regulated drug, there is no way to know for certain what is in any given supplement preparation, or how much of the advertised active ingredient is really being administered with each dose. Inactive ingredients in supplements, often referred to as “filler” ingredients, are often not listed on the label at all.

Especially in those patients who are under a physician’s care for serious medical conditions, taking prescription medications or undergoing any sort of medical treatment, the use of unspecified ingredients of any kind is not typically recommended.

Health supplements sold over-the-counter should generally be used only by healthy adults who bear a full understanding of the consumer’s risk, and with the advice of a physician. Those taking melatonin and other supplements should also be aware of the lack of conclusive evidence of any true medical benefits or proven ability to cure any disease as recognized by the FDA.

In June 2010, the Food and Drug Administration will be introducing new requirements on health supplements, but this measure will still not include the same oversight and scrutiny that pharmaceutical drugs receive.

Melatonin: Possible Effects On Various Medical Conditions

Many small-scale human and animal studies involving melatonin have produced varied results as far as benefits are concerned. The Natural Standard research Collaboration, as published on the Mayo Clinic web site, have compiled data surrounding the use of melatonin in clinical research studies. According to this information, synthetic melatonin has been shown to have some possible benefits as pertains to several medical conditions.

In almost all cases, more high-quality, long-term clinical research is deemed necessary to determine the full potential benefits and risks of the use of melatonin. Melatonin is not currently viewed to be a stand-alone treatment for any particular medical condition in the United States.

Melatonin has long been touted for its potential benefits as pertains to sleep health. In those suffering jet lag or sleep disorders, melatonin has been shown to boost the establishment of healthier sleep patterns. Possible benefits of melatonin on the sleep cycle include falling asleep faster, adjusting to new sleep conditions more quickly, enhanced deep-sleep cycles and better morning alertness.

Adjusting to Sleep Cycles

For those who travel frequently or have trouble adjusting to new sleep cycles, it is thought melatonin may assist in re-setting our internal 24-hour clocks. The internal body clock, scientifically referred to as the circadian rhythm, can be disrupted by changes in exposure to light and darkness.

Melatonin has shown to have some effect on helping the circadian rhythm stabilize and allow someone experiencing a disrupted sleep cycle to adjust and improve more quickly. This possible effect is of particular interest and potential benefit to those finding themselves trying to adjust to new time zones frequently due to regular business travel.

Other conditions that may be helped by using a synthetic melatonin supplement include high blood pressure, thermo-regulation issues, aging issues, and even mental health disorders. In some cases, melatonin has been studied in terms of being a part of cancer therapy.

Dr. Rodney Samaan, MD, of New York, New York, views melatonin as “a very strong antioxidant”, and implied in a research paper that it may be more powerful and more effective that other antioxidants. Dr. Samaan goes on to cite that melatonin may slow the growth of tumor-causing cells, especially in reproductive organs.

Natural Melatonin

Melatonin has been the focus of several studies, including those centered around the role of natural melatonin, as well as the use of synthetic melatonin in treating several types of cancer, including skin and breast cancer. More research is needed, though some reported results in a 2005 Journal of Pineal Research study indicated a “reduced incidence of death” among some of the 643 participants. The study reported no noted adverse affects.
melatonin benefits
As an antioxidant, melatonin may boost the immune system and promote cell protection in many areas of the body. Besides being produced in the brain, melatonin is also produced in the gut and the eye. Melatonin is important to the entire body, and has been shown to be closely linked to sleep health, chemicals in the brain that may affect mood, bile production, the onset of puberty and healthy levels of eye pressure.

Melatonin: Commons Doses, Preparations, Cost

Synthetic melatonin is fairly inexpensive, and is sold in several forms. The most common form of melatonin is an over-the-counter oral supplement. Consumers can choose from many popular brands of melatonin products, including Nature’s Bounty, Spring Valley, GNC and Natrol. Prices vary widely in the health supplement market, but the average price of a 30-day supply is around $5-$10 in the United States.

Because melatonin is a supplement, dosage guidelines vary greatly. No accepted dosage guidelines for melatonin exist for children under 18 years of age, and melatonin should not be used in these patients for any reason without the advice and supervision of a doctor.

Melatonin is also not advised for use in pregnant women, women who intend to become pregnant while using the supplement, or in breastfeeding mothers. Animal studies have established that melatonin will pass into the breast milk of an animal given the supplement, and this is thought to be the case in humans, as well.

Common dosage levels for healthy adults over the age of 18 vary between 3-5 milligrams taken nightly as a sleep aid. In some cases, the actual dose recommended on the label of a specific melatonin product may be higher or lower than these average dosage levels.

Cancer Treatment

Particularly as relates to use in cancer treatment, melatonin is sometimes administered as an intramuscular injection. This use is not currently approved or available in the United States, and more long-term clinical research will have to be conducted before that will change.

High Blood Pressure

For use in patients with high blood pressure, or for those who simply do not like taking pills or capsules, melatonin may be delivered in a liquid intranasal spray form via a bottle with an applicator tip. A brand called Health Genesis sells a two ounce bottle of Melatonin nasal spray, called NutraSpray, online for $6.10 each, though it does not specify that it treats or in any way benefits those suffering from high blood pressure or any other medical condition.

Availability and How to Take It

Melatonin is also available as a topical cream or lotion preparation. There are many melatonin creams available, and many tout the antioxidant properties as having positive effects concerning aging and skin. The cream form of melatonin is more expensive than the oral form, and it can cost up to $20 for a small bottle.

Doses of melatonin creams are typically measured through metered doses, usually via a pump-dispense system in the bottle. For example, consumers may be instructed to use one pump of cream nightly for a certain length of time.

Some melatonin creams or lotions have a label which will instruct the user to apply the cream in a rotating fashion between the face, chest, arms or other parts of the body, rather than applying the preparation over the same part of the body daily. There have been limited-scale research studies on the effects of melatonin creams in those suffering various types of skin cancers. No conclusive evidence currently supports the use of melatonin as a sole or primary treatment option for any form of cancer.

Any serious medical condition should be evaluated by a medical professional skilled in the field concerned. Health supplements supplement traditional health care, they do not in any way replace it. This information has been presented for educational and informational purposes only, and does not replace advice from a qualified medical professional.

Antioxidants

Resveratrol

Resveratrol: Is It The Next Fountain Of Youth?

You may have been hearing about the new “wonder drug” or “fountain of youth pill, either on TV, radio, or internet. Resveratrol has been proclaimed as a “miracle drug” by many people. You may be wondering, “What is Resveratrol?” “Where can I get it?” “What does it do?” Let’s start with the basic information.

What is Resveratrol?

Resveratrol is formed through chemical synthesis from Japanese knotweed. It’s a phytoalexin which is produced naturally by an assortment of plants when they are under attack by fungi or bacteria.

Main Source

Resveratrol comes in two primary sources: from Japanese knotweed and also, the skin of red wine grapes. Modern advances in science have allowed Resveratrol to be taken from natural sources. Fortunately, because it would take hundreds of glasses of wine to reach the equivalence of the amount of Resveratrol that you could get in the form of a supplement.
resveratrol natural remedy
These are not the only forms where Resveratrol is found. You can also find smaller doses of Resveratrol in cranberries, blueberries, peanuts, and pomegranate.

History and Origin

In early 1990 is when the interest of Resveratrol began, it was then discovered that it was found to be in red wine. Over the years Resveratrol was studied, but it was in 2006 when a study conducted on mice at Harvard, showed the longevity and life span of 31% of the mice.

The mice also experienced healthier aging, and also a healthier and stronger heart. What were these mice given? Resveratrol. Once word was out about this “life saving drug” everyone couldn’t help but be curious if it actually works.

Myths

As with all new drugs on the market, there are many misconceptions linked with this “wonder drug.” Even though Resveratrol is found in the skin of red wine grapes, it is not extracted from this source.

The majority of Resveratrol comes from the Japanese Knotweed. Although, the method of extracting this supplement from red wine grapes would work, the Japanese Knotweed provides a better quality product and is a less expensive.

It is also believed that only red wine grapes contain Resveratrol, although the white grapes do contain levels of Resveratrol, it is simply incomparable to the red white grape, which contains a larger quantity.

Benefits of Resveratrol

There are many benefits that you can obtain from taking Resveratrol to improve your overall health. Some of the claimed benefits from Resveratrol include:

  1. Extend longevity of life as well as assist with healthy aging
  2. Less visible signs wrinkles that come with aging.
  3. Reduces the risk of heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes
  4. Works as an anti cancer treatment as well as an anti inflammatory
  5. Aids in the process of weight loss and speeds up your metabolism
  6. Improve and boost energy levels

Although these benefits are claimed to be controlled by Resveratrol, there are still proven cases that are still up for debate. We all realize how serious cancer is, and may have even affected someone we know, it would be great if Resveratrol could alleviate cancer, and however scientists and researchers are still studying this theory and have not confirmed 100% that Resveratrol can prevent or treat cancer at this time.

Weight Loss

Many say Resveratrol assists to increase a person’s metabolism. Your metabolism plays a large role in how rapidly you shed excess. When you have a speedy metabolism it breaks down food more rapidly so fewer calories are absorbed and converted into fat.

Resveratrol is also said to help boost your energy level. When your energy level is increased you are more likely to sustain exercise and movement longer. Weight loss, although difficult to incorporate, is actually a fairly simple process. Just remember calories in means calories out. This means in order to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you take in.
resveratrol benefits
Resveratrol is also suggested to help suppress your appetite. The leading cause of obesity is eating too much, so if you can suppress your appetite and exercise regularly, then you have the odds in your favor to start losing that weight.

Different Forms

There are several forms in which you can find Resveratrol; however, they are not all as effective.

  • Transdermal- This form comes in a cream or lotion that you apply directly to the skin. There are also transdermal patches that you can get and apply to the skin, such as that of a band aid, or a nicotine patch and the Resveratrol releases into your skin. The success rate of this method is still undetermined at this time. Researchers can not be sure how much, if any of the Resveratrol is being absorbed by your skin.
  • Powder- This form is simply added to your water or drink, you can also add it to your food, it is said to be tasteless. As of right now, the clarity if you actually absorb enough Resveratrol through this form has still yet to been confirmed. Many believe that your body processes it as waste and gets rid of it.
  • Capsule- This is the most effective form, this is believed because each dose is said to contain the equivalence of 100 glasses of red wine. Your body is also said to absorb Resveratrol in this form greater than with the other forms available.

Dosage

How much should you take? The recommended dose of Resveratrol depends on what kind of health a person is in, how old they are and several other factors. Due to the research that is ongoing with Resveratrol, a set dosage has not currently been standardized. Just because it is a natural product, don’t think that it can’t harm you if taken too much. You want to make sure to follow instructions completely, if you have any questions be sure to contact your doctor of medical professional.

As Resveratrol is still undergoing many tests and discussions, it is not a product recommended for children at this time. Their bodies are not fully developed, and even though there have not been any harmful side effects to Resveratrol, why take the change and risking your child’s health? Besides they are still young and don’t need to worry about wrinkles, or slowing down the signs of aging.

The two chief complaints for Resveratrol not working is because people either consumed too much or it, or didn’t take it in enough to make a difference.

Side Effects

Even though Resveratrol is all natural there are still risks and side effects from taking Resveratrol, or taking too much of it. Resveratrol can act as a blood thinning agent, so if you are currently being treated for any blood thinning issues you are going to want to check with your doctor and see how it is going to interact with Resveratrol.

Pain in the joints or tendons that connect to the bones is also said to be a side effect, if taken too much of the supplement, researchers are still puzzled as to why this might be.

Others who have taken Resveratrol have complained about not being able to sleep, stomach pain, diaherra, and aching in the feet, hips, and hands.

Costs of Resveratrol

Since Resveratrol first came to light and everyone is hearing the hype, companies want to cash in on these products. Companies are competing for your business for this wondrous cash crop. This is both good and bad for consumers. With all of the different products out there and all promising the same results, and that they offer the purest form, which one is the best? The jury is still out on the exact answer to the question, as with any product you are going to want to research each and make a choice that is based on your needs. Here are some of the leading competitors out there.

  • ResVer XP- This product contains 100mg of Resveratrol per serving. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee. If you try it for 30 days and you are not satisfied you can simply send back what you have left of the Resveratrol and you get 100% of your money back. A 30 day supply costs about $40 if you make your purchase from their website. They are also offering a 21 day free trial.
  • RevGenetics-This product has a Resveratrol purity rate of 99%, and has been tested independently by 3 different US laboratories. RevGenetics did not only meet the FDA minimum requirements, they exceeded them. A bottle of 60 capsules can cost about $ 49, and can be found online at Amazon.com or Drugstore.com.
  • ResV Max- ResV Max is also currently offering a free 30 day trial. You are responsible to pay shipping and handling charges, but you do get to try this product and see for yourself if it works for you.
  • Vital ResV- Here is another company that is offering a full 30 day money back guarantee for you to try their product. They are also offering the free 14 day trial period as well.

As mentioned there are a lot of products to choose from if you want to try and get the most effective, purest form of Resveratrol, which is the bad news, however, with all of these companies competing for your business and offering free trials, why not take advantage of the deals. What do you have to lose besides wrinkles and weight?

Conditions

Ear Infection

Ear infections are very painful and are one of the most common complaints to primary care physicians. In children, ear infections are usually caused by bacterial or upper respiratory infections. Ear infections in adults are often secondary to other medical problems, such as sinus infections or dental disease. Understanding what ear infections are, how they are treated and ways to prevent them is important in preserving hearing.

Types of Ear Infections

Acute otitis media (AOM) is an infection of the fluid in the middle ear or ear drum. This type of infection is commonly referred to as a middle ear infection. Acute otitis media is caused by bacteria such as streptococcal pneumonia or haemophilus influenzae. This is the most common type of ear infection and predominately affects children.
ear infections
Otitis externa (OE) is an infection of the ear canal. This type of infection can be caused by bacteria or fungal organisms. Otitis externa is commonly known as swimmer’s ear, as it frequently occurs in the summer months as a result of swimming.

Labyrinthitis is an infection of the inner ear that is commonly known as Meniere’s disease. There is an increase of fluid and pressure in the labyrinth in this type of ear infection.

Symptoms of Ear Infections

Pain is the most common symptom of ear infections and is normally present in patients with both acute otitis media and otitis externa. Patients with ear infections also commonly have other respiratory symptoms, such as a cold, nasal congestions or sinus infection.

People with acute otitis media will often have a high fever that can develop rapidly, and have intense, sharp pain. Children will often pull or tug at the effected ear and will cry and be fussy. Ear infections can cause pain when swallowing, so children will often refuse to eat or drink. As the infection of acute otits media causes increased pressure in the ear drum, the ear drum can rupture. Once the ear drum ruptures, thick drainage that can be bloody will drain from the ear. It is interesting to note, however, that pain subsides once the ear drum ruptures. Due to the fluid in the ear drum hearing can be diminished with this type of ear infection.

The most common symptoms of otitis externa are pain, especially when the ear is touched or moved, and itching. The ear canal will be red and swollen, at times to the extent that it swells completely together. Otitis externa can cause drainage and often causes a foul odor in the ear.

People who have labyrinitis or an inner ear infection will have dizziness, ringing in the ear and hearing loss. This type of ear infection can also cause nausea and vomiting and make the person unable to carry out activities of daily living.

Causes of Ear Infections

The causes of ear infections vary with each type. Acute otitis media is caused by bacterial or upper respiratory infections. In children, the eustachian tube is short and curvy, which allows fluid to back up into the ear drum. The warm, moist environment of the ear canal is the perfect place for bacteria to grow and multiple.

Otitis externa is caused by either bacterial or fungal infections. Swimming, especially swimming underwater or in rivers, lakes or streams, allows the bacteria or fungus to enter the ear canal. Trauma from cleaning the ear canal with objects like cotton swabs or hair pins also can lead to otitis externa.

The cause of labyrinthitis is unknown, although it is known to occur after a viral or bacterial infection. Colds, upper respiratory infections, influenza and acute otitis media have also been known to proceed labyrinthitis.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for developing acute otitis media. Some of the risk factors or modifiable, or can be changed, while others are not. Modifiable risk factors for acute otitis media include being around cigarette smoke, drinking from a bottle or cup while lying down and group day care. Second hand smoke and smoke fumes in the clothing and hair are a major risk factor for ear infections. Never smoke around or in the house of a child and take special care when holding a child after smoking.

Children who are put to sleep with a bottle are also at an increased risk of ear infections. The liquid from the bottle or cup often rolls into the ear canal when a child is lying down. Children who stay in a group day care environment are also more likely to develop ear infections. This is due to the increased exposure to upper respiratory infections that spread easily from child to child.

There are some risk factors for acute otitis media that cannot be prevented or modified. This type of ear infection occurs more often in children. As a person ages, the incidence of acute otitis media decreases. This type of ear infection also occurs more frequently in males.
treating ear infections
There are two major risk factors for otitis externa. Swimming is the top risk factor for this type of ear infection.

Swimming in rivers, lakes, oceans and streams carries an increased risk because multiple organisms live in this type of water.

Swimming pools are still a risk factor for otitis externa, but the number of organisms in the water is reduced by chemical treatments. Children who lay in the bath tub are also at an increased risk of developing otitis externa.

The second major risk factor for developing otitis externa is cleaning inside the ear canal with a foreign object. Many people routinely clean their ears with cotton swabs or other objects like hair pins. Not only can cleaning the ears this way scratch the ear canal and make it susceptible to infections, it can also burst the ear drum.

The only known risk factor for labyrinthitis is a recent viral or bacterial infection.

Preventing Ear Infections

There are many strategies to prevent ear infections. To prevent acute otitis media, avoid the modifiable risk factors of smoking, putting a child to bed with a bottle or cup and group day care. Keeping your child current on vaccinations can also reduce the incidence of this type of ear infection.

Otitis externa can be prevented by limiting the amount of water that gets into the ear canal. Ear plugs can be worn while swimming and hair can be rinsed using a cup instead of lying down in the bath tub. Some people advocate placing a few drops of alcohol into the ear canal after swimming to aid in the evaporation of any water that gets into the ear canal.

One should also avoid cleaning the ear canal with any foreign object. Generally, the ears are self-cleaning and do not require cleaning beyond wiping the visible areas with a damp wash cloth. Over the counter ear wax removal products can be used to help remove excessive wax. As a general rule, nothing smaller than the end of the pinkie finger should be inserted into the ear canal.

Tests to Diagnose Ear Infections

The most common way to diagnose acute otitis media is by a physician looking into the ear with an otoscope. With this type of infection, the ear drum will be red and dull. At times, the ear drum will appear bulging as the pressure of the fluid increases. If the ear drum has busted, the physician will see yellow or bloody drainage from the ear. This drainage can be cultured to identify the exact organism causing the ear infection. In fact, in some instances the physician will open an ear drum that has not ruptured by cutting a small hole into it to culture the fluid.

The pressure or fluid in the ear drum can be measured by a non-invasive test called a tympanogram. Sound waves are administerd into the ear to calculate the movement of the ear drum. This is not a definitive test to diagnose ear infections, but can aid the physician in determining the effects of the increased fluid and pressure on the ear drum.

Otitis externa is normally diagnosed by the presence of swelling in the ear canal and drainage. The drainage can be cultured to determine the infecting organism. Pain upon touching or moving the ear is also a diagnostic tool for otitis externa.

Labyrinthitis is normally diagnosed based upon its symptoms. A MRI will normally be ordered to rule out other conditions that mimic the symptoms of this type of ear infection.

Treating Ear Infections

The treatment for ear infections vary depending on the type of ear infection a person has. There are both medical and home treatments to help alleviate the causes and symptoms of all types of ear infections.

Although there is some debate on the most appropriate treatment of acute otitis media, antibiotics are generally prescribed to treat this type of infection. First generation antibiotics such as amoxicillin are normally effective in treating acute otitis media. Many physicians will also treat the respiratory or cold symptoms that are also present to aid in relieving the increased fluid and pressure that contribute to this type of infection. The medications commonly used to treat acute otitis media are generally inexpensive.

There are two surgical procedures that can be used with this type of infection. Tympanocenteis, or opening the ear drum with a small incision, can help relieve the pain and pressure of otitis media and also allows the physician to obtain a sample of the fluid for a culture. Ventilation tubes can be placed in the ear drum to relieve pressure and allow fluid to drain off of the ear drum. Ventilation tubes are normally used after recurrent ear infections in children.

Home Remedies

There are home remedies that will not cure the infection, but can help with the related symptoms of pain and increased pressure. Applying heat to the ear can help reduce pain. Placing a warm wash cloth or heating pad on the ear generally provides pain relief. Tylenol or Ibuprofen (if the child is over 6 months of age) can also help reduce the fever and pain associated with acute otitis media. Placing a few drops of warmed mixture of pure almond carrier oil, lavender essential oil, chamomile essential oil and tea tree essential oil into the ear can also help relieve pain. Finally, chewing gum can help open the eustachian tubes, reducing the amount of fluid and pressure in the ear.

Many people feel that acute otitis media will get better without treatment. This is generally not recommended as untreated ear infections can cause serious, life-threatening complications.

The treatment for otitis externa is normally limited to antibiotics and keeping the ear dry. The ear drainage may be cultured to determine the most effective antibiotic to use. Swimming is normally restricted until the ear infection completely resolves.

Labyrinthitis will normally get better without treatment. An antibiotic may be prescribed if the cause is thought to be bacterial in nature. Medications can also be given to help the accompanying symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

Complications of Ear Infections

As with most diseases, ear infections can cause serious complications if left untreated. Recurrent ear infections can cause hearing loss in children. Children who have multiple ear infections are at a greater risk of developing speech delays or problems. Due to the close proximity to the brain, untreated ear infections can also cause meningitis, a serious, deadly infection of the brain.

Otitis externa can cause a temporary hearing loss if the canal is extremely swollen. If untreated, this type of ear infection can also spread to the mastoid bone, located behind the ear.

The most common complication of labryinthitis is a disruption in the daily life of the patient. Severe dizziness, nausea and vomiting cause many people with this disease to stay in bed. They are unable to work or meet other responsibilities.

Vitamins

D2

D2 (Ergosterol, Ergocalciferol)

Vitamin D is present in numerous sources of food, such as cod liver oils, fish, eggs and fortified milk. The sun is also responsible for contributing a significant level of vitamin D to a daily production, and it is believed that obtaining just ten minutes of sun exposure is enough to prevent a person from developing deficiencies in vitamin D.

The term “vitamin D” does not technically refer to a single type of vitamin, but rather, it refers to several different kinds. Two forms in particular are of the most importance with regards to human: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D2 (cholecalciferol). The former kind of vitamin D is synthesized by plants, whereas the latter kind of vitamin D is synthesized by humans upon the exposure of ultraviolet-B rays directly from the sunlight onto the skin. Some foods may be fortified with both kinds of vitamin D.
d2 deficiencies
The primary biological function that vitamin D has is to make sure the blood have normal levels of phosphorus and calcium in it. It is also capable of aiding with the absorption of calcium, which allows bones to remain strong and for the strong bones to form in the first place.

In recent times, it has been suggested by research that vitamin D may prove to be beneficial in protecting people from several autoimmune diseases, cancer, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.

Two Known Cases

Osteromalacia and rickets are the two classic cases of deficiency of vitamin D. When children experience a deficiency of vitamin D, they will typically develop rickets, the end result of which is a deformity in the skeletal system.

Adults who allow themselves to become deficient in vitamin D will likely develop osteomalacia, the end result of which is weakness in the muscles and the bones becoming weaker than normal.

Those who are at a high risk for developing deficiencies of vitamin D are those who are elderly, are an obese individual, are infants who are exclusively breastfed, and are regularly limited from sun exposure.

Other people at risk are those who have cystic fibrosis, or any other malabsorption syndrome or those who have an inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease.

Synonyms

Vitamin D is known by many names, including:

  • 1 alpha D3
  • 19-nor-1
  • 1 alpha-hydroxyvitamin D2
  • 1,25-DHCC
  • 1,25-dihydroxy-22-ovavitamin D3
  • 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol
  • 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
  • 1,25-diOHC
  • 1,25 2D3
  • 1-alpha-hydroxycholecalciferol
  • 22-oxacalcitriol
  • 25-dihydroxyvitamin D2
  • 25-dihydroxyvitamin D2
  • 25-HCC
  • 25-hydroxycholecalciferol
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D3
  • 25-OHCC
  • 25-OHD3
  • activated 7-dehydrocholesterol
  • activated ergosterol
  • alfacalcidol, calcifediol
  • calcipotriene
  • calcipotriol
  • calcitriol
  • cholecalciferol
  • colecalciferol
  • dichysterol
  • dihydrotachysterol 2
  • dihydrotachysterol
  • ecocalcidiol
  • ED-21
  • ED-71
  • ergocalciferol
  • ergocalciferolum
  • hexafluoro-1
  • 25dihydroxyvitamin D3
  • irradiated ergosterol
  • MC903
  • paracalcin
  • paricalcitol
  • viosterol
  • vitamin D2 and
  • vitamin D3

Evidence

Familial Hypophosphatemia

Familiar hypohosphatemia, which is the instance of the blood having low levels of phosphate, is a disorder that is both rare and inherited, which consists of the transport of phosphate being impaired in the blood, as well as the vitamin D metabolism present within the kidneys being diminished. Familial hypophosphatemia is a known kind of rickets. Familial hypophosphatemia suffers are able to take phosphate supplements, in addition to dihydrotachysterol or calcitriol in order to effectively treat some of their bone disorders. However, management should be made beneath the supervision of a physician.

Fanconi syndrome related hypophosphatemia

Fanconi syndrome, associated with renal tubular acidosis, is a defect associated with the proximal tubules within the kidney. Taking oral dosages of ergocalciferol has been found to be useful towards treating instances of hyophosphatemia that is associated with the presence of Fanconi syndrome.

Hyperparathyroidism Associated With Low Levels of Vitamin D

Some patients who have low levels of the essential vitamin D may find themselves with secondary hyperparathyroidism. As people may expect, the necessary and initial treatment for resolving this issue is to supplement a person with vitamin D. It is commonly recommended to have surgical removal of the parathyroid glands in those who have either refractory or primary hyperparathyroidism, however. There are some studies which suggest the supplementing a person with vitamin D should reduce the occurrence of hypoparathyroidism that may follow an instance of surgery in order to treat primary hyperparathyroidism, whether the parathyroid glands were partially or wholly removed.

Hypocalcemia Resulting From Hypoparathyroidism

It is rare to experience hypoparathyroidism, or having low levels of the parathyroid hormone in the blood, and it usually only occurs after removing the parathyroid glands through surgery. Taking in large doses of calcitriol, dihyrotachysterol or ergocalciferol may help with increasing concentrations of serum calcium in people who suffer from pseudohypoparathyroidism and hypoparathyroidism.

Osteomalactia, or Adult Rickets

Adults that allow their levels of vitamin D to sink far enough below to undergo severe deficiency turn out to develop osteomalacia, the loss of mineral content in the bones, the weakness of bone muscle and pain in the bones. Elderly people who do not have enough vitamin D in their diets, those who do not get an adequate amount of sun exposure, those who have an inability to absorb vitamin D, those with kidney disease and renal osteodystrophy, those who have had intestinal or gastric and those who have had a bone disease due to aluminum are all at risk of developing osteomalacia. The underlying cause of the osteomalacia ultimately determines what the best course of treatment is. For the most part, it involves taking phosphate binding agents, vitamin D, orthopedic surgical intervention and controlling the pain.

Psoriasis

There are a few different ways to treat the different forms of psoriasis skin plaques. A couple of the more mild approaches might include stress reduction, light therapy, moisturizers or even salicylic acid in order to remove the areas where scaly skin develops. In cases that are a little more severe, it may be necessary to include treatments of retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), UV-A light, corticosteroids, psoralen plus UV-A light or cyclosporine. Vitamin D3 appears to be able to control the growth of skin cells and is thus used when skin plaques are moderately severe.

Uses Based Upon Theory and Tradition

The uses as described below are based upon studies and tradition. Because some of these conditions may be very serious, it is important to first consult a doctor prior to taking any vitamin D for treatment.

  • Actinic keratosis;
  • Alzheimer’s disease that results in fractures of the hip;
  • Ankylosing spondylitis;
  • Autoimmune disorders;
  • Graves disease;
  • Hyperparathyroidism, particularly in renal dialysis;
  • Hypocalcemia;
  • Hypocalcemic tetany;
  • Kidney transplant causing bone loss;
  • Metabolic disorders;
  • Nervous system disorders, such as hemichorea;
  • Osteitis fibrosa through dialysis;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Scleroderma;
  • Squamous cell carcinoma;
  • Systemic lupus erthematosus;
  • Vaginal disorders; and
  • Vitiligo.

Dosages

Adults (over 18 years old)

Most multivitamins have vitamin D included in them, and it is usually in strengths ranging from 50 IU to 1,000 IU when they are in tablets, softgels, liquids and capsules. The following levels of AI, or Adequate Intake, have been established herein by the United States Institute of Medicine.

It is recommended for all individuals, whether male, female, lactating or pregnant, to take in 5 micrograms of vitamin D on a daily basis, which also amounts of 200 IU. This only applies to those under the age of 50 years. Individuals who are between the ages of 50 years and 70 years should consider taking 10 micrograms on a daily basis, which also amounts to 400 IU. Those who are over the age of 70 years are recommended to take 15 micrograms on a daily basis, which also amounts to 600 IU per day.

There have been some authors who questioned the validity of these results, stating uncertainly with whether or not it is sufficient to meet with a person’s physiological needs, especially if they are an individual that does not regularly expose themselves to the sun adequately. The upper limit for obtaining vitamin D has been recommended to be 2,000 IU on a daily basis, based on reported toxicities with higher dosages.

Not all listed doses have previously been proven to be affective for certain conditions. However, in an oral dosage of 400 – 800 IU per day, ergocalciferol has previously been used to treat and prevent osteoporosis.

Children (under 18 years old)

It is recommended for newborns and children of all ages to take only five micrograms on a daily basis, which amounts to 200 IU per day. Children who are older than a year should not take more than the upper limit for their age, which is 50 micrograms on a daily basis, which amounts to 2,000 IU per day. Children who are below the age of one year are recommended to not exceed the maximum limit of 25 micrograms on a daily basis, which amounts to 1,000 IU per day.
d2 uses
It is potentially unsafe to take vitamin D in excess amounts orally, with potentially advertise affects such as high levels of calcium in the blood, or hypercalcemia.

There have been some authors who questioned the validity of these results, stating uncertainly with whether or not it is sufficient to meet with a person’s physiological needs, especially if they are an individual that does not regularly expose themselves to the sun adequately.

A review from 2008 has recommended that all infants and children, as well as all adolescents, should only take 400 IU on a daily basis based on evidence resulting from historical precedence and current, new clinical trials.

Safety

The United States Federal Drug and Food Administration is not known to strictly regulate the usage of herbs or supplements. There is no way to guarantee any strength or purity based on the usage thereof. Prior to beginning any new therapies, it is recommended to consult a physician.

Allergies

Anybody who is known to have a hypersensitivity to vitamin D or its derivatives or analogues should avoid taking it.

Side Effects and Warnings

With the recommended AI dosages, vitamin D is mostly well tolerated, though a study found that patients who took vitamin D analogues did experience a greater likelihood in experiencing daytime sleepiness.

It is possible to experience toxicity when regularly taking excess dosages of vitamin D. The end result may include excess bone loss or hypercalcemia. Those who have kidney disease, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, hyperparathyroidism or histoplasmosis are at especially high risk. Pre-existing instances of chronic hypercalcemia should be managed by a doctor due to its potential to lead to serious or life threatening complications.

Early symptoms of this condition may include anorexia, nausea, vomiting, excess thirst, excess urination, fatigue, weakness, somnolence, dry mouth, headache, tinnitus, vertigo and ataxia. Function of the kidneys may become impaired and there may be an instance of calcium being deposited into several organs, which will also affect the kidneys. The necessary treatment for these is to stop taking calcium or vitamin D and to lower the levels of calcium under only the strictest medical supervision. It may be necessary to use corticosteroids and to acidify urine.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

It is recommended for pregnant women to take the same level of vitamin D as if they were not pregnant. There have been some authors who felt that pregnant women should take in more vitamin D, especially if sun deprived, but this has yet to be clearly established. Discuss higher doses of vitamin D with a physician due to the risk of vitamin D toxicity.

Maternal milk does not have much vitamin D to it, so it may be necessary to supplement an exclusively breastfed infant for the first two months of life in order to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamins

Tocopherol

Vitamin E – Tocopherol (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta)

Tocopherols are a group of four chemical compounds discovered in 1922 by anatomist and embryologist Herbert McLean Evans. Evans was conducting feeding experiments on rats using vitamins B and C. During these experiments, Evans concluded that despite the rats being feed every known nutrient, they were still infertile.

Upon feeding them wheat germ, the rats were able to become pregnant. After years of experiments and studies attempting to isolate the unknown compound in wheat germ that allowed the rats to become fertile, Evans found the formula C29H50O2 and concluded that it reacted like an alcohol, making it part of a hydroxyl group. Evans named the compound after the Greek words “tokos” (birth) and “pherein” (to bear or carry) meaning, “to bear young”, adding the –ol to indicate the alcohol property of the compound. The structure of Tocopherols was later determined in 1938, over twenty years after the initial experiments.

Types

Tocopherols are a lipid-soluble (fat-soluble) antioxidant that, when combined with corresponding tocotrienols, make up the common dietary supplement Vitamin E. However, almost all Tocopherols and tocotrienols have Vitamin E activity and properties, and can be correctly referred to as Vitamin E on their own. The four forms of Tocopherols are alpha, beta, gamma and delta.

Alpha

Tocopherol is the form of vitamin E most easily absorbed by the human body, and found in the largest quantities in human blood serum. It is believed to be responsible for protecting cell membranes and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. It is the most found tocopherol in vitamin E supplements and in European diets.

Beta

Beta-tocopherol has lower vitamin E activity than the other three tocopherols and amounts found in human blood serum are lower than with alpha, gamma and delta tocopherols. While technically providing the same benefits of the other three tocopherols, it is not as easily absorbed by the human body and therefore is used only in small amounts in vitamin E supplements.

Gamma

Tocopherol is second only to alpha-tocopherol in its vitamin E activity, and is the most common tocopherol found in the American diet. While it is higher in concentration than alpha-tocopherol in food sources, the liver removes it from human blood serum, causing it to be found in lesser amounts in the human body than alpha-tocopherol. Because of this, it is not an effective lipid antioxidant.

Delta

Tocopherol has a lower concentration in food sources than alpha-tocopherol or gamma-tocopherol, yet is more easily absorbed by the human body than gamma-tocopherol. Therefore, it is primarily used with alpha-tocopherol in vitamin E supplements, and it is believed that when delta tocopherol is combined with other tocopherols in a vitamin E supplement, the supplement is more easily absorbed by the human body.

Sources and Dosage

Doctors recommend that a 25-year-old male ingest 15 milligrams a day of vitamin E. Due to the fact that high amounts of vitamin E can act as an anticoagulant (preventing the clotting of blood), it is recommended that vitamin E intake not exceed 1,000 milligrams per day. Two American surveys in 1991 and 1994 indicated that most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of vitamin E, though a study by the Institute of Medicine in 2000 suggested that the surveys could be flawed because added fat during cooking is often under-reported. They believe that most Americans actually do receive the recommended amount of vitamin E from their normal diets, though caution those who consume low-fat diets to take a vitamin E supplement due to the lack of vegetable oils, a main source of vitamin E.

Besides vegetable oils, vitamin E is also found in high concentrations in nuts, seeds and whole grains. However, most Americans receive the bulk of their vitamin E from breakfast cereal and tomato sauce. Vitamin E is found in these sources, listed from highest to lowest: Wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, walnut oil, peanut oil, olive oil, poppy seed oil, peanuts, pollard, maize, poppy seeds, asparagus, oats, chestnuts, coconuts, tomatoes, walnuts, carrots and goat’s milk. While wheat germ oil contains 215.4 milligrams of vitamin E per 100 grams, goat’s milk only has .1 milligrams of vitamin E per 100 grams.

Synthetic Types & Supplements

Synthetic vitamin E is also added to packaged foods, especially cereals. Most fortified breakfast cereals can contain upwards of 24 milligrams of vitamin E per serving, which is well above the recommended intake of 15 milligrams per day.

For those consuming a low fat diet, vitamin E supplements are recommended. Natural supplements usually derive vitamin E from soybean oil, while synthetic supplements usually use straight alpha-tocopherols or a combination of alpha-tocopherols and one or two of the other tocopherols. Natural vitamin E supplements, while often more expensive, are recommended over synthetics as they are absorbed by the human body in larger quantities and more efficiently than synthetic vitamin E. Some supplements contain both natural and synthetic tocopherols, and are usually priced between the all natural and all synthetic versions of vitamin E.

Medical Usage and Health Benefits

The proper intake of vitamin E can help prevent and theoretically treat a host of common health concerns.

Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive form of dementia, is believed to be partially caused by oxidative stress. Studies suggest that high intake of vitamin E can prevent cell membranes from oxidizing, and therefore can be used as both a preventative measure and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. However, studies are mixed as to whether vitamin E actually helps, with some trials indicating it does and others that it does not. Nonetheless, vitamin E has not been found to speed up the progression or onset of this disease.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E have been proven to help prevent the effect of free radicals on the human body, which are known to contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer. Studies indicate that vitamin E may block carcinogens, a known cancer causing substance, from accumulating in the body, thereby preventing the development of certain cancers.

Vitamin E is also known to boost immune function, protecting those already with cancer from additional threats to their already weakened immune system. Most studies suggest that vitamin E primarily protects against prostate cancer and breast cancer, though it has not been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. On the contrary, recent studies have indicated that high intake of vitamin E by smokers can actually increase the risk of lung cancer by seven percent for each 100 IU of vitamin E taken daily.

Protect Your Eyes

Vitamin E has been found to protect the human eye from a host of diseases. When combined with other antioxidants, has been found to slow the onset and progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is an eye disease that usually develops after the age of 60 and the leading cause of vision problems and blindness among the elderly. However, vitamin E by itself has not been found to have any effect on the development of AMD.

Observational studies have indicated that regular use of vitamin E supplements in those that already consume the recommended amount of vitamin E in their diets reduces the risk of developing cataracts. In 2007, a study found that when vitamin E supplementation was added to other treatments for glaucoma, a disease damaging the optic nerve of the eye, it helped protect the spread of glaucomatous damage to the retina. Those treated with additional vitamin E showed significantly less vision impairment than those who were not.

Preventing Parkinson’s

In 2005, a study was published suggesting that vitamin E could help prevent the onset of Parkinson’s disease, a degeneration of the central nervous system that progressively impairs motor skills and speech. People who consumed foods high in vitamin E were found to have a lower risk of developing this devastating disease, though consuming these foods after the onset of Parkinson’s disease has not been shown to have any effect on the progression of the disease. In addition, use of supplemental vitamin E had no effect on either the onset of the disease or the progression.

Preventing Heart Disease

Vitamin E is widely believed to prevent or delay coronary heart disease, though this has only been found in small studies and disputed in larger studies. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce LDL-cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol) and the formation of blood clots. LDL-cholesterol increases the risk of blockages in coronary arteries, which leads to atherosclerosis and heart attacks. Observational studies have indicated that those with a higher than usual intake of vitamin E were thirty to forty percent less likely to develop heart disease.

Despite this, clinical trials do not show the same outcome, though research is ongoing. Some studies indicate alpha-tocopherol only vitamin E supplements actually increase the risk of heart failure. When alpha-tocopherol was combined with gamma-tocopherol, this was not the case. The most promising use of vitamin E in regards to heart problems was found by the American Heart Association in 2007, when they stated that women taking regular doses of a vitamin E supplement were 21% less likely to suffer a blood clot than those who were not, though continuation of blood thinners was recommended for treatment.

Other Uses

Tocopherols are often used as a preservative in foods to prevent oils from going rancid, especially in dry pet food. A mix of all four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) has been found to be most effective for this application. Vitamin E is also widely used in cosmetics and as an additive in packaged foods. It is believed to be good for the skin, and is found in most moisturizers and foundations. Its predominance in these products, while possibly beneficial, is primarily because vitamin E is inexpensive. While marketing often preaches the benefits of vitamin E when applied topically, the research behind this claim is shady at best. Recent studies have indicated that 90% of study participants noticed no improvements in their appearance when vitamin E was added to a product and a third of these actually developed rashes from synthetic versions of vitamin E.

While vitamin E, when consumed according to guidelines, can be beneficial to one’s overall health, it can also increase morbidity rates when taken in excess. As with all things regarding one’s health, it is best to discuss vitamin E supplementation with one’s doctor.

Sources:

Vitamins

B9

B9 (Folic acid, Dihydrofolic acid, Folinic acid)

Vitamin B9 is commonly referred to as folic acid. Most individuals who have conceived are familiar with vitamin B9. Physicians often recommend vitamin B9 to females who are trying to conceive and who are pregnant. Studies have shown that vitamin B9 reduces the risks of birth defects in infants if consumed by the mother before and during pregnancy. Since neural tube development occurs during the first month, women should consume a considerable amount of folate during conception.

Vitamin B9 is water soluble. The body utilizes folate to synthesize and repair DNA. Therefore, it plays a vital role in the cell division process. The vitamin also aids in the production of red blood cells and white blood cells. Vitamin B9 deficiencies may prompt a reduced production of white and red blood cells. A low blood cell count is referred to as anemia. Anemia manifests in the body as fatigue, weakness and inability to concentrate.
vitamin b9

Recommended Daily Allowances

The recommended daily allowances for folic acid are 400 micrograms for men and women who are not pregnant or trying to conceive. Experts recommend 600 micrograms of folic acid for pregnant women.

Sources of Vitamin B9

While most pregnant mothers will receive folic acid through a supplement, individuals may also find vitamin B9 in a host of natural foods. Many experts recommend natural sources of vitamin B9 because it is easier for the body to absorb. Synthetic vitamins are more difficult to absorb.

Vitamin B9 is most commonly found in the following sources:

  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Dried or Fresh Beans
  • Peas
  • Beer
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Orange Juice
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Banana
  • Raspberry
  • Grapefruit
  • Strawberry
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Tomato Juice
  • Bok Choy
  • Liver
  • Baker’s Yeast
  • Dried Cereals

History of the Vitamin

Scientists, in the early 1900s, noticed that a deficiency of folate presented itself in the form of anemia. Dr. Lucy Wills demonstrated that anemia could be alleviated through the consumption of brewer’s yeast. She sought to prove this finding to eliminate anemia during pregnancy. In the 1940s, folate was isolated and extracted from spinach leaves. In the mid 1940s, folate was isolated in crystal form by scientist, Bob Stokstad, under the supervision of Dr. Yellapragada Subbarao. This research occurred at the Lederley Lab in Pearl River, NY.

This research later led to the production of the anti-cancer drug known as antifolate Aminopterin. This research was conducted under the guidance of Dr. S. Farber in 1948. Scientists discovered the role of folate in neural tube development in the 1960s. In the 1990s, scientists pushed for inclusion of the vitamins in foods to assist individuals in meeting their daily allowances for defects. They accomplished this goal through the folic acid fortification program. Most of the fortification in the United States and other countries occurred through breads and cereals.

Health Benefits

  • Vitamin B9 plays a significant role in the neural tube development of an unborn fetus. The neural tube forms during the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy. Pregnant mothers are recommended to consume between 600 to 800 micrograms to avoid neural damage and birth defects.
  • Studies have shown that a diet consisting of 5 to 27 micrograms of folic acid per week will assist in the fight against rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Patients suffering from diabetes mellitus typically have lower levels of folic acid present in the blood. These individuals may also benefit from folic acid supplements or foods fortified with folic acid.
  • Folic acid may prove beneficial in fighting some cancers. Studies have shown benefits of folic acid in fighting colorectal cancers and breast cancers. The findings are inconclusive. More studies must be conducted to prove the findings conclusively.
  • Vitamin B9 is also beneficial in fighting certain heart disease. Folic acid has been known to lower homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels indicate low vitamin B9 levels. Elevated levels may encourage blood cells to stick together and form clots. A blocked artery may cause a heart attack or stroke.

Ailments from Vitamin B9 Deficiencies

Several problems may occur if the body does not receive the daily allowance of vitamin B9. Deficiencies in Vitamin B9 can lead to the following health problems:

Birth Defects

Pregnant women who do not consume between 600 and 800 micrograms of folic acid per day put their unborn fetus at risk for improper development of the brain, skull, and spinal cord. Risk also increases for low infant birth rate, retardation of fetal growth, and pre-term delivery.

Additionally, when homocysteine levels rise in the blood due to low folate levels, pregnant women are more at risk for spontaneous abortion, placental abruption and preeclampsia. During the first four weeks of pregnancy, most women do not even realize that they are pregnant.

Therefore, it is important to maintain a diet rich in folate if there is a possibility of conception. Neural tube defects will ultimately manifest as a spine defect in an infant. Spine defects are often referred to as spina bifida. Brain defects may also occur. The brain defects are referred to as anencephaly. Folic acid supplements also have been shown to reduce the risk of cleft lip, limb defects, urinary tract anomalies, and congenital heart defects. Women who take folic acid supplements reduce the risk of birth defects by 3.9 times.

Alternatively, a recent study by University of Adelaide showed that pregnant mothers who consumed excessive amounts of folic acid during the last trimester of pregnancy may increase the chances of the child developing childhood asthma by 30 percent.

Cancer

A deficiency in Vitamin B9 may lead to problems during DNA synthesis. These problems may cause the DNA to accelerate the growth of cancerous cells instead of normal cells. Colon cancer or colorectal cancer is most often associated with folate intake. Folic acid intake appears to decrease the development of colorectal cancer.

Folate accelerated prostate cancer by 67 percent in those individuals who had a progressive case of cancer. These findings were a result of a European study with 520,000 men participating. Another study showed that 1 mg of folic acid was found to increase the risks associated with prostate cancer. Scientists speculate that this phenomenon occurred because of folic acid’s role in nucleotide synthesis and promotion of cell growth and division.

When cancer is present, folic acid may promote the division and growth of those cells as well. Folate receptors increase during cancer. Folic acid also plays a role in “DNA methylation” in cancer development. Folic acid deficiency inhibits the production of cytosine methylation in DNA. When the production ceases, proto-oncogenes become active and malignant cells begin to form in the body and more specifically, the prostate. The entire process increases the risk for cancer. More studies should be conducted before these findings are conclusive.

Other studies show that diets high in folate also increased the risk for leukemia in children. More studies should be conducted to conclusively prove this finding.

The findings for the effects of folic acid intake on breast cancer reduction are inconclusive. One Swedish study suggests that diets high in folate result in a decreased development of breast cancer. Other studies refute this finding. More studies must be conducted to prove the findings conclusively.

Heart Disease

Studies indicate that homocysteine levels are an indicator or risk factor of heart disease. Experts speculate that high levels of homocysteine may damage arteries or form blood clots that contribute to heart related problems. The data is not conclusive that vitamin B9 will lower homocysteine production and thus, reduce the risk of heart disease. However, the risks of heart disease decreased by 15 percent since the new folate regulations were introduced in the 1990s. Scientists estimate that 13,500 coronary-related deaths are associated with folate deficiencies.

Folate Deficiencies

Deficiencies in folic acid may lead to diarrhea, confusion, anemia, depression, and glossitis. Scientists suggest that increase homocysteine levels may indicate an anemia or decreased folic acid consumption. Individuals who have problems absorbing the vitamin may choose to take a supplement to replenish the presence of vitamin B9 in the body. Patients with celiac disease often have a problem with absorption and may develop a folate deficiency. Obese people who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 50 or more may also develop a folate deficiency.

Elderly Population

The results from studies regarding elderly populations and folic acid are mixed. One major concern is the ability of the vitamin B9 to mask a deficiency in vitamin B12 levels. Experts recommend consuming vitamin B9 in conjunction with vitamin B12 to avoid such masking issues. In a study of 747 elderly subjects, experts found that vitamin B9 reduced the risk of heart disease and lowered the homocysteine levels. Each of the subjects consumed 140 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of grain product.

The subjects ranged in age from 67 to 96. Because of this study and similar studies, Canada fortifies its food supply with 150 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of grain. Much of their elderly population also consumes 400 micrograms. Experts recommend not consuming over the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

Folic Acid Supplements and Vitamin B12 Masking

Experts are often concerned about the consumption of vitamin B9 without vitamin B12. The concern arises because vitamin B9 can alleviate anemia symptoms that are a result of a vitamin B12 deficiency. However, vitamin B9 does not address the deficiencies in the nervous system that result from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Experts grow concerned because although the patient may feel better after taking folic acid, they still may experience nerve damage from a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Patients should not exceed 1000 micrograms or 1 mg of folic acid per day to avoid masking the symptoms associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency. Canadian studies show that no conclusive evidence indicates that high folic acid levels mask vitamin B9. However, more studies must be conducted to determine the effectiveness. In the elderly population, studies have shown that high folic acid levels in conjunction with low vitamin B12 levels promoted “significant cognitive impairment.” The elderly should consult with a physician prior to beginning a vitamin B9 or B12 regimen.

Bone Health

Elevated homocysteine levels related to a folic acid deficiency may lead to osteoporosis, reduction in Bone Mass Density (BMD) and bone fractures. The results are not conclusive and more studies must be done to prove the findings conclusively.

Menopause

Postmenopausal women who consume folic acid supplements may find relief from related symptoms, such as hot flashes. Folic acid is thought to interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically norepinephrine and serotonin, to reduce the effects of hot flashes.

Infectious Disease

Folic acid deficiencies are linked to Plasmodium flaciparum malaria. This type of malaria is linked to anemia. Areas where malaria is endemic, such as Columbia, could benefit from folic acid consumption.

Depression

Some studies link folic acid to a reduction in depression. Studies are not conclusive. More data must be collected to prove this assumption.

Memory

In a study of over 800 people, scientists measured short term memory, mental agility and verbal fluency. During this study, scientists found improved concentration and memory in those individuals over the age of 50 who consumed 800 micrograms or more of folic acid daily. Folic acid is important for cells to divide. Cancer cells divide rapidly. Those who want to curb cancer growth should not consume high amounts of folic acid.

Obesity

Obese patients who consume folic acid may increase the presence of lipolysis in adipocytes. This process may prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Folic acid may also play a role in lowering the accumulation of cholesterol in the liver and in the blood by increasing bile production.

Stroke

Studies have shown that patients at risk for a stroke have decreased their chances of having a stroke by consuming folic acid. Experts found that a folic acid supplement of 5 micrograms per day significantly reduced pulse pressure. Pulse pressure is an indicator of stroke risk.

Parkinson’s Disease

Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease may benefit from a folic acid supplement. Studies have shown that folic acid lowers homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels contribute to bone loss and a host of other problems. Additionally, patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease may take a drug known as levodopa. Levodopa is a psychoactive drug taken to treat Parkinson’s disease. The drug may also decrease Bone Mass Density (BMD). Experts have cited improvements in femur bones and lumbar spine as a result of increased Vitamin B9 intake.

Renal Disease

Folic acid supplements have been found to reduce the risk of developing renal diseases in children. Microalbuminuria is a common childhood renal disease associated with a folic acid deficiency.

Macular Degeneration

Several studies have been conducted and documented in a journal article entitled, “Women’s Antioxident and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study” regarding folic acid and the developmental risks of age-related macular degeneration. These studies found that patients who consumed a folic acid supplement, along with pyridoxine and cyanocobalmin, reduced their risk of developing macular degeneration by 34 percent.

Antifolates

Experts recommend folic acid to promote cell growth and division. Cancer cells characteristically grow fast and divide rapidly. Cancer patients are given drugs to counteract folate metabolism. Antifolate methotrexate is a drug used to treat cancer. It is given to the patient to inhibit the production of the active for of THF from dihydrofolate.

Methotrexate may become toxic to a person’s body and produce undesirable side effects. Some of the most common side effects include inflammation of the colon, bone marrow depression and renal failure. Inflammation of the colon often makes it difficult to eat properly.

While antifolates are designed to eliminate cancer dividing cells, folate intake will not counteract the drug. The folate supplement will be depleted rapidly by the cancerous cells. Methotrexate is used to treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, schleroderma, psoriasis, sarcoidosis, asthma, polymyositis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Precautions when taking Vitamin B9

Consuming excessive amounts of folic acid daily may pose some serious side effects. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 400 micrograms per day for non-pregnant individuals. Pregnant women should consume between 600 and 800 micrograms per day. An excessive amount translates between 5,000 to 10,000 micrograms per day.

Consuming excessive amounts of B9 may mask a B12 deficiency. For this reason, some experts suggest consuming vitamin B12 in conjunction with vitamin B9. In 2007, scientists proved that vitamin B9 in excess makes the effects of a vitamin B12 deficiency worse by inhibiting its absorption rates. The excessive consumption may lead to nerve damage. These instances are rare. In most cases, the side effects are minimal. Consult a physician or go to an emergency room if the patient experiences negative side effects.

Vitamin B9 is water soluble; therefore, the vitamin is regularly excreted from the body through urine. Some research also suggests that folic acid consumed in excess may also interfere with anti-malarial treatments.

Allergic Reactions

Some individuals experience allergic reactions from folic acid intake. Individuals who are prone to allergic reactions should consult their physician prior to consuming folic acid.

Some of the symptoms may include the following:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness

Individuals who experience these symptoms should seek the guidance of a physician if the problems become severe. One study involving 8083 subjects found that atopy, wheezing, and asthma were related to the dosage levels given to the patients.

Folic acid taken after in vitro fertilization may improve chances of producing twins.

Role in Biological Processes

Biologically, the folic acid process in the body begins by forming tetrahydrofolate from folate. Folate reduces to dihydrofolate, which then forms tetrahydrofolate (THF). This process is catalyzed by dihydrofolate reductase. NADPH also assists in the synthesis. Methylene-Tetrahydrofolate (CH2FH4) is formed from THF by adding a methylene from a carbon donor. The carbon donor may be serine, glycine or formaldehyde. Vitamin B12 is the only acceptor of methyl-THF. Additionally, homocysteine is the only acceptor for methyl-B12. Since Vitamin B12 defiencies are often masked by vitamin B9, it is important to understand how homocysteine plays a role in the biological process of these vitamins.

Folic Acid Use Around the World

Australia

Australia and New Zealand have decided to fortify foods with folic acid. Folic acid has been included in the flour since 2009. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand regulates the process. The countries have agreed to add 0.135 mg of folic acid per 100 g of bread. The two countries debated over its inclusion before adding the beneficial vitamin.

Canada

Canada has fortified their food supply since 1998 with a synthetic form of folic acid called pteroylmonoglutamate. Canada includes 150 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of enriched flour or cereal. In 2003, the University of Toronto released a study indicating that the fortification movement has dramatically decrease neuroblastoma and congenital heart defects. After a study conducted by McGill University in 2009, experts noticed a 6.2 percent decrease per year in infants born with congenital heart defects.

New Zealand

Though New Zealand and Australia agreed jointly to include folic acid in a fortification plan in 2009, the country has since decided to wait until more research is conducted. New Zealand is against fortification citing it as mass medication. The country is afraid of overconsumption of folic acid and its effects.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is currently debating the inclusion of folic acid in bread and flour. The Food Standards Agency recommended the fortification, but the inclusion has not been mandated to date.

United States

According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, the number of neural tube defects has decrease 25 percent since the mandatory introduction of folic acid into the diet. Because the results remain positive, the United States Public Health Service is urging people to consume an extra 0.4 mg per day in supplement form. Since most of pregnancies are unplanned, this will reduce the risk of defects in infants.