March 12, 2013
Resveratrol, found in red wine and now widely used as a supplement, is back in the news this month. A research report in the highly respected journal Science identifies the precise mechanism by which resveratrol regulates sirtuins, proteins in the body which have been linked to the prevention of many age-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Type-2 diabetes.
This finding adds further support to the idea that resveratrol or a derivative of resveratrol might represent a breakthrough treatment for some of the major disease threats faced by humans as they age.
We first read about the new research in our hometown paper, The New York Times, but the story has been widely reported. (See reference to the article in Science below.)
Reference: Hubbard, et al. Evidence for a common mechanism of SIRT1 regulation by allosteric activators. Science, March 8, 2013.
March 12, 2012
The “Well” Blog in our hometown newspaper, The New York Times, frequently deals with nutritional supplements, and sometimes expresses a bit more skepticism about their value than we believe is merited. So we were interested to see this post by author Jane Brody, which gives a rather sympathetic profile of a doctor and public health specialist who is “placing a bet on Vitamin D”:
…Dr. Kevin A. Fiscella, a public health specialist and family physician at the University of Rochester, has decided to take 1,000 international units of vitamin D each day, based on data from his studies linking racial disparities in vitamin D levels to disease risk and his belief that “it can’t hurt and it may help.”
In an interview, Dr. Fiscella emphasized that his findings strongly suggest, but do not prove, that vitamin D deficiencies cause or contribute to diseases like colorectal cancer, high blood pressure and kidney and heart disease, which affect black Americans at higher rates than whites. The findings are bolstered by known biological effects of vitamin D and by the fact that widespread vitamin D deficiencies occur among blacks living in the Northern Hemisphere.
Read the full blog entry at
For more on Vitamin D dosage recommendations, see NYBC’s entries for this very inexpensive supplement:
January 6, 2012
Lower Vitamin D level associated with larger breast cancer tumor size, greater likelihood of relapse
An international symposium on breast cancer at the end of 2011 featured a presentation from researchers who looked at the Vitamin D levels of women at the time they were diagnosed with breast cancer. The main finding: women with higher levels of D at diagnosis had significantly smaller tumors. Additional analysis of the follow-up data in this study showed that there was some relationship (termed of “borderline significance”) between higher levels of Vitamin D and lower risk of death from breast cancer. Furthermore, researchers detected a significant relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and risk of breast cancer relapse over a three year period.
The researchers suggested that Vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory effects might be the main mechanism by which Vitamin D levels influence breast cancer tumor size. The scientists presenting this research also called for further study to establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship between Vitamin D supplementation and breast cancer prevention. They also urged more research to determine the usefulness of Vitamin D supplementation as an additional therapy to bolster standard breast cancer treatments.
We accessed information about this presentation at the Dec. 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium at
For more on Vitamin D dosage recommendations, see NYBC’s entries for this very inexpensive supplement:
September 23, 2011
We’ve had a recent comment on our own post regarding the importance of B12 and folate supplementation for people with HIV. The comment expressed concern about some reports that folate may be associated with increased cancer risk. Here’s a reply to that comment:
We recommend this web page for a recent study of folate and REDUCED colorectal cancer risk:
The 2011 article cited, by a well-known nutrition scientist, finds folate from diet and folate from supplements both associated with reduced colorectal cancer incidence–when taken over a long period (we’re talking about 15-20-30 years). This fits with what is generally understood about the value of vegetables in reducing cancer risk. Not surprising to us is the other finding of the study: that short-term folate intake, around the time of the development of pre-cancers, is not going to help reduce cancer incidence! Indeed, many supplements do not necessarily produce pronounced short-term effects, but rather show health benefits over the long term.
September 22, 2011
Curcumin is one of the main components of the Indian spice turmeric, and gives the spice its characteristic yellow color. Aside from its use in cooking, curcumin/turmeric also holds a position of esteem in the ancient Indian medical tradition called Ayurveda, where it is most frequently recommended to treat gastrointestinal disorders.
In recent decades, this old spice has drawn the attention of a large crop of US-based scientific researchers, who have focused on its powers to address illnesses including cancers, liver disease, and Alzheimer’s. A 2007 review of research concluded that curcumin could protect against skin, oral, intestinal and colon cancers by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, by restricting blood supply to tumors, and by other mechanisms as well. As a researcher at the M. C. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has put it: “The reason curcumin is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signalling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer.”
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has also been adopted as a potential therapeutic agent by scientists investigating difficult-to-treat liver disease. Preliminary research published in 2010 found that curcumin blocks several types of inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis (=scarring of tissue and destruction of liver function). The study authors suggest that the botanical, as a natural substance with few side effects, may ultimately prove a better treatment than currently available medications for some liver disease.
Frequently, supplement research looks for refinements and synergies in investigating the medicinal powers of traditional botanicals like curcumin. That’s been the case with a recent study involving Vitamin D3 and derivatives of curcumin known as curcuminoids. This combination of supplements, remarkably enough, proved helpful in clearing the kind of plaque in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Of course the University of California researchers who conducted this study are now looking for further confirmation of D3/curcuminoids as a preventive and as a therapy for Alzheimer’s.
NYBC stocks Curcumin (Jarrow) in two formats:
As new studies of Curcumin have emerged, NYBC also began stocking additional forms from Vibrant Health, which add bioperine (black pepper extract) for enhanced absorption:
Surh YJ, Chun KS. Cancer chemopreventive effects of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007.
Champeau, R. Vitamin D, curcumin may help clear amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s. Press release, UCLA, July 15, 2009.
Baghdasaryan, A et al. Curcumin improves sclerosing cholangitis in Mdr2-/- mice by inhibition of cholangiocyte inflammatory response and portal myofibroblast proliferation. Gut, 2010.
September 2, 2011
The well-known Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle Washington is the source for a large recent survey on supplements for cancer prevention. (We’ve already discussed on this blog their 2010 survey highlighting an association between fish oil supplements and lower risk of breast cancer.) This new research, published in May 2011, focuses on grapeseed supplements and reduced risk of prostate cancer.
More than 35,000 male participants from 50 to 76 years old were recruited for a detailed baseline questionnaire in 2000-2002. Upon follow up five years later, 1,602 prostate cancers had been registered among study participants. Any use of grapeseed supplements among the 35,000 participants was associated with a 41% reduced risk of total prostate cancer. There were no associations between prostate cancer risk and use of chondroitin, coenzyme Q10, fish oil, garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, glucosamine, or saw palmetto.
This large survey study follows after a number of preliminary lab studies of the anti-cancer effects of grapeseed. See the Memorial Sloan/Kettering website for more information: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69243.cfm
NYBC stocks Grapeseed Extract from Jarrow.
Reference: Brasky TM, Kristal AR, Navarro SL, Lampe JW, Peters U, Patterson RE, White E. Specialty Supplements and Prostate Cancer Risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. Nutr Cancer. 2011 May;63(4):573-82.
May 17, 2011
According to a large survey study conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, taking fish oil supplements may have a protective effect against breast cancer for postmenopausal women.
The study used data from a very large survey of women in western Washington, who filled out questionnaires between 2000 and 2002 about their diet, supplement intake, exercise routines and general health. The analysis included more than 35,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 76 who didn’t have breast cancer at the start of the survey. By the end of 2007, 880 of these women had developed breast cancer.
Women who reported taking fish oil from the start of the study were about half as likely to develop ductal carcinoma of the breast, the most common form of breast cancer, during the follow-up years. Women taking fish oil showed no reduced risk of the less-common lobular breast cancer.
How fish oil might prevent cancer remains unknown, but inflammation — linked to cancer by many researchers — may play a crucial role. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which inhibit a major inflammatory molecule in the body, a compound called nuclear factor kappa-B.
The study was published in the July, 2010 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
NYBC stocks fish oil supplements as:
May 12, 2011
Yet more reason. In the study described, people with melanoma who had low levels vitamin D had much worse survival. D may help to prevent and/or be a part of a program to manage some cancers.
Here’s the start of a May 12, 2011 story from the UK publication, The Independent:
A vitamin pill available for a few pence in any local chemist’s shop may have a bigger impact in extending the survival of cancer patients than drugs costing tens of thousands of pounds, says a leading cancer specialist.
Guess what the vitamin is? Vitamin D, the very same one that’s been the protagonist of so many other news stories in the past few years about its hitherto unsuspected health benefits. The British cancer specialist cited, who’s about to present findings at a major conference, has found in his clinical practice that Vitamin D has more benefit for survival in melanoma patients than far more expensive treatments that have been tried.
We were interested to note that another speaker at the same conference will be Joan Lappe, professor of medicine at Creighton University in Nebraska, US, who is one of the authors of an often-cited study from a few years ago, which showed that women taking Vitamin D and calcium supplements had substantially lower risk of developing cancer. (The study was originally focused on the role of these supplements in preventing osteoporosis–for which they are also useful.) Prof. Lappe’s more recent research, according to advance word, points to dramatic improvement in cancer patients’ survival with use of Vitamin D supplements.
NYBC stocks Vitamin D at some of the current common recommended dosages:
April 5, 2011
Click on this link for a fascinating graphic that reviews literature on a wide array of supplements. The larger the bubble, the more searches. The higher up it is, the more robust the data (so far). When you click on a particular bubble, it opens up to a study on that particular compound.
January 18, 2011
Nutrivir is a protein powder with digestive enzymes, NAC and other antioxidants and nutrients added, and it’s especially designed as a nutritional support to counteract weight loss in people with HIV or those undergoing cancer treatment. One special feature of this formula is that, unlike most protein powders, it’s “no sugar added.”
See the Nutrivir entry at NYBC website for more details: http://nybcsecure.org/product_info.php?cPath=42&products_id=172
Other protein powders are also available at NYBC: http://nybcsecure.org/index.php?cPath=42
November 17, 2010
A Talk by Nelson Vergel: “Survivor Wisdom: Advances in Managing Side Effects, Living Well, and Aging with HIV” – New York City, November 9, 2010
How could you not be impressed by the schedule HIV treatment activist Nelson Vergel keeps? A few days before he arrived in New York to share his “Survivor Wisdom” with New York Buyers’ Club members and guests, he was an invited participant at the 12th International Workshop on Adverse Drug Reactions and Co-morbidities in HIV in London. The founder and moderator of the “pozhealth” group on Yahoo—the largest online discussion group for HIV issues–Nelson also finds time to answer questions on a forum hosted by thebody.com. In addition, he serves as a community member of the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services HIV treatment guidelines advisory board. And did we mention that he’s the author of a new book, “Testosterone: A Man’s Guide,” especially useful for people with HIV who are considering testosterone therapy to address fatigue and other problems?
As you might expect, Nelson also covered a lot of territory in his NYBC talk, which was co-hosted by the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. He briefly updated the audience on new treatments and guidelines, then reviewed the exceptional case of the HIV+ “Berlin patient,” whose apparent cure following a bone marrow transplant has opened up, at least tentatively, some new lines of research about curing HIV.
Most of Nelson’s talk, however, dealt with familiar issues in managing HIV symptoms and medication side effects: cardiovascular health challenges, lipoatrophy (facial wasting especially) and body fat accumulation (lipohypertrophy), aging with strong bones, fighting off fatigue, minimizing the risk of anal cancer.
Amid this discussion of symptoms and side effects, Nelson spent time on the topic of supplements. His first point, which NYBC would certainly agree with, is that a lot of good evidence has accumulated about the benefit of multivitamin supplementation, and a multivitamin plus antioxidant combination, for people with HIV. These “micronutrients,” as they’re called in the scientific literature, can enhance survival, delay progression of disease in people not yet on HIV meds, and increase CD4 counts in people taking the meds. We have to admit we were pleased when Nelson also took a moment to praise NYBC (and especially our Treatment Director George Carter) for making available an inexpensive, “close equivalent” of the multivitamin/ antioxidant combination that was the subject of Dr. Jon Kaiser’s well-known research and that led to the development and marketing of K-PAX. New York State residents, as Nelson pointed out, have access to many such supplements through formularies. But for residents of other states, this half-price version of the multivitamin/antioxidant combination (MAC-Pack or Opti-MAC-Pack) can provide welcome relief in the budgetary department.
Our speaker then ran through a list of about a dozen supplements that have reasonably good evidence to support their use by people with HIV. He chose to focus more closely, however, on just a few:
Niacin. Despite “flushing” that makes it difficult for some to use, niacin can be very effective in bringing up levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in people with HIV. Since cholesterol control is a major long-term health issue for many people on HIV meds, and since recent research suggests that raising HDL cholesterol levels may be an extremely important factor in reducing cardiovascular risk, niacin may be a top choice for many. (Fish oils/omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols, pantethine, carnitine, and CoQ10 are other supplements that NYBC and many others put in the category of “supports cardiovascular health.”)
Vitamin D. Seems that, even at the London conference Nelson had just attended, the “sunshine vitamin” was a hot topic. Partly that’s because people with HIV have recently been found to have a high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency, and then because Vitamin D, calcium and other mineral supplementation is a logical approach to addressing long-term challenges to bone health in people taking HIV meds. (Look on the NYBC blog for a whole host of other recent studies about Vitamin D’s potential benefits, from reducing cardiovascular risk to cancer prevention—even as a way of warding off colds and flu.)
Carnitine. This is a supplement, Nelson told the audience, that he’s taken for many years. Reported/perceived benefits: to improve fatigue, lipids, brain function and neuropathy. (NYBC Treatment Director George Carter put in that “acetyl-carnitine”—a form of the supplement that crosses the blood/brain barrier–has shown the most promise for dealing with neuropathy.)
Probiotics. The vulnerability of the gut in HIV infection, and the well-documented problems people with HIV experience in absorbing nutrients, make probiotics a very helpful class of supplements for long-term health maintenance. (Probiotics, good or “friendly” bacteria residing in the gut, are available in a variety of products, from yogurt to supplements. There’s quite a bit of research about the effectiveness of different varieties, and note as well that there are some newer formats that don’t require refrigeration.)
Above and beyond the treatment issues involving supplements, meds, and other strategies, Nelson referred several times to areas where there’s a need for advocacy. He mentioned the cure project, for one, but also a national watch list to help people follow and respond to the devastation created by recent funding cuts and the resultant waiting lists in the ADAP programs of many states, such as Florida.
All in all, NYBC members and guests would doubtless agree: a very thought-provoking presentation, with much helpful information to take away. For more on these and other issues, be sure to check out the NYBC website at:
[A version of this article also appears in NYBC's free e-newsletter, THE SUPPLEMENT, along with additional reporting on a new Mayo Clinic guide to supplements, and a look at the current state of regulation and research on supplements in the US.]