Resveratrol: more evidence of its potential benefits

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.)

NYBC stocks Resveratrol and Resveratrol Synergy from Jarrow. Of course we’d welcome any reports from our members about their use of these products.

Reference: Hubbard, et al. Evidence for a common mechanism of SIRT1 regulation by allosteric activators. Science, March 8, 2013.

Supplements for the Brain (and Nerves)

“For Your Peace of Mind…”

Recent research on supplements for memory, cognition and other neurological functions
You may remember (we hope you remember!) the Scarecrow’s petition to the Wizard of Oz for a brain. Be advised–we at NYBC do not stock new brains, so don’t come to us with that request.

However, we do follow the sometimes startling new research on supplements, brain function and related neurological issues. In this department, there’s special cause for concern for people with HIV. According to a Canadian study released in 2010, in a group of 1615 people receiving treatment for HIV during the decade 1998-2008, one fourth had neurological problems, including memory loss, cognitive impairment and peripheral neuropathy. Of course being worried about brain function–and neurological function in general–is not unique to people with HIV. As people age, they are more likely to experience memory loss or forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. And the nerve condition called peripheral neuropathy (pain, tingling in the feet and hands) is found not just in people with HIV, but also among the growing population with Type 2 diabetes.

Now, on to what we see as some of the most valuable recent findings about supplements and brain or neurological function:

B vitamins can be considered a foundation because they are needed in so many processes essential to the brain’s operation, from energy supply and healthy blood flow, to the formation of neurotransmitters (=chemical messengers of neurologic information from one cell to another). Furthermore, there is evidence that several groups of people, including those over 60 and those with HIV, have a greater risk for Vitamin B deficiencies. So supplementing with a B complex vitamin is a sensible start to cognitive health. More specifically, there is good research linking deficiency of vitamins B12 and B6 to mood disorders like depression—and depression earlier in life is associated with higher risk of dementia in later life. Last, there is also some evidence that B vitamins may reduce stroke risk in older people.

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) support cognitive health in a variety of ways. In 2008, UCLA researchers reported on a lab study showing that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, together with exercise, improved cognitive function. This caught our attention, because there is wide agreement that regular exercise strongly supports brain function as we age, and here the suggestion is that omega-3 fatty acids multiply that known benefit. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil has also been linked to lower risk of depression—another plus. And still more: recent research found that omega-3 fatty acids block the development of retinopathy, a chief cause of blindness as we age. (The retina of the eye is actually part of the brain–it is full of nerve cells essential for vision.) All in all, the neurological benefits of omega-3 fatty acids seem both wide-ranging and quite convincing, so it’s high on our recommended list.

The amino acid acetylcarnitine has shown benefit for brain function in a number of studies with humans. In the last decade, acetylcarnitine has also been investigated for peripheral neuropathy in people with HIV. (Some recommend using it with evening primrose oil and Vitamin C.) A 2008 study found that acetylcarnitine influences a chemical process in the brain that triggers Alzheimer’s, so researchers are continuing to puzzle out how this supplement produces its neurological benefits.

Antioxidants. There’s much suggestive research about how antioxidants counter destructive oxidative processes in the brain, thus blocking memory loss and cognitive decline. For example, a 2003 report found that the antioxidant combination alpha lipoic acid and NAC reversed memory loss in aged laboratory mice. And there’s also been a lot of attention to the combination acetylcarnitine and alpha lipoic acid for memory impairment. Furthermore, other antioxidants such as curcumin are under study for their potential to fight the processes that lead to declining brain function.

Acetylcholine. The first neurotransmitter to be identified, acetylcholine is closely associated with memory, with lower levels linked to memory loss. NYBC currently stocks two combination supplements that support acetylcholine levels in the brain, while also providing other nutrients for neurological function: Neuro Optimizer (Jarrow), which includes acetylcholine enhancers, acetylcarnitine, and alpha lipoic acid; and Think Clearly (SuperNutrition), which includes B vitamins, as well as acetylcholine enhancers and a botanical traditionally used for cognitive support, ginkgo biloba.

Resveratrol. In the past decade, there has been intense scientific interest in this compound, most famously found in red wine. While some research ventures have hoped to find in resveratrol a life-extending supplement (a capacity demonstrated in animal studies), others have focused on its therapeutic value for conditions like diabetes or cognitive decline. For example, Cornell researchers reported in 2009 that resveratrol reduced the kind of plaque formation in animal brains that causes Alzheimer’s. And a year later another lab investigation, this one at Johns Hopkins, found that a moderate dose of the compound protected animal brains from stroke damage.

Ginkgo biloba, a botanical derived from Earth’s most ancient tree species, has been widely used for cognitive function. In the late 1990s, two reviews of dozens of ginkgo studies concluded that it could improve symptoms of dementia. However, a long-term trial of ginkgo published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008 found that the supplement did not prevent development of dementia in a group of more than 3000 older people who had normal cognitive function at the start of the research. One possible conclusion: ginkgo may help symptoms of cognitive decline, but doesn’t address underlying causes.

NYBC’s RECOMMENDATIONS: A B complex supplement (like Jarrow’s B-right) and fish oil (like Jarrow’s Max DHA) are foundations for maintaining cognitive health, especially important for people with HIV or people over 60. There is some evidence for acetylcarnitine, alpha lipoic and acetylcholine supplementation for memory impairment and possibly for cognitive decline. Acetylcarnitine and other supplements can be used to address peripheral neuropathy. And stay tuned for emerging research on preserving brain function with compounds like resveratrol, NAC and curcumin.

Green Tea for your Brain

The benefits of drinking green tea have been expanding over the years. The latest research looks at the potential benefit in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Compounds called polyphenols are thought to be responsible. As they are being digested, they become chemicals that seem to help by binding to toxic proteins that, when they accumulate, contribute to the development of dementia like that seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

So far, this is test tube work and needs to be investigated in humans. But green tea is healthful and a good beverage (far superior to the toxic garbage generally known as soda pop!) If you want to try a supplement, Jarrow’s Green Tea contains 40% polyphenols in each cap. More research may help us to understand whether something like a supplement can have any benefit as well as what kind of dose might produce physiologically relevant activity.

Alzheimer’s and Curcumin

Curcumin is the yellow pigment in turmeric, a spice well-known in Indian cuisine. It contains antioxidants that endow it with anti-inflammatory activity, which has been recognized for centuries by the Ayurvedic medicine tradition of India. Curcumin has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies in recent decades, most dealing with cancer, but some also addressing Alzheimer’s Disease.

One of the leading research groups on curcumin and Alzheimer’s is based at the University of California at Los Angeles, so we were interested to check in and see their current posting about this research:

Many spices as well as fruits and vegetables have polyphenolic antioxidants that also have antiinflammatory acitivity. These compounds can give these food their color. We have found that the yellow pigment in turmeric, curcumin, can act at multiple steps in Alzheimer pathogenesis to stop and even reverse damage.

Curcumin is the Asian version of aspirin. Our wonder drug aspirin was originally purified from willow bark extracts that were used in European and American Indian traditional medicines to control inflammation. Eventually aspirin was synthesized by German chemists and developed by Bayer as one of the most successful drugs in the Western medicine cabinet. Today aspirin is used not only in pain remedies and other analgesic applications, but to control minor fever and inflammation and, at low doses, to prevent heart attack and stroke. Curcumin has been used in traditional Indian (Ayruvedic) and Chinese medicine for thousands of years largely because of its proven efficacy in treating conditions with inflammation. They also used it in foods as an effective food preservative, just as we use synthetic additives like BHA. These ancient civilizations have vast trial and error experience with many different herbal remedies and food preparations and they selected curcumin as a food additive and major tool for medicinal use based on efficacy–not superstition.

Curcumin and Alzheimer’s Disease. Our group has tested curcumin in several models for Alzheimer’s and found that it not only reduces oxidative damage and inflammation (as expected), but also reduces amyloid accumulation and synaptic marker loss and promotes amyloid phagocytosis and clearance. Curcumin worked to prevent synaptic marker and cognitive deficits caused by amyloid peptide infusion and a beta oligomer toxicity in vitro.

Read more, including references and information on clinical trials, on the UCLA research group’s website:

http://alzheimer.neurology.ucla.edu/Curcumin.html

For additional information, see the NYBC entry

CURCUMIN

B vitamins and brain function: the latest studies

The evidence continues to pile up that levels of the B vitamins, in particular B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), and B12 (cyanocobalamin), are closely related to maintaining cognitive function and warding off brain-related disorders like Alzheimer’s as we age. Well-designed studies, including the Veterans Affairs (VA) Normative Aging Study, have pointed particularly to Vitamin B deficits being associated with buildup of homocysteine, which in turn may be responsible for impairment to cognitive function.

B Vitamins are central to the preservation of mental capacities as we age. At the same time, the aging digestive system may not absorb nutrients as effectively as it once did; so an obvious strategy is to consider B complex supplementation as well as good dietary habits as we get older.

Read more on the B vitamins on the NYBC site:

B-right (Jarrow) We selected this as a good comprehensive B vitamin supplement.

B-12 Methylcobalamin (Jarrow) Studies have suggested that this is a very effective way to supplement with B12, which may not always be well-absorbed by the body when taken in other formats.

Some References:

Kim JM, Stewart R, Kim SW Changes in folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine associated with incident dementia. J Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry 2008;79;864-868.

Tucker KL, Qiao N, Scott T, et al. High homocysteine and low B vitamins predict cognitive decline in aging men: the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;82(3):627-35.

Wang HX, Wahlin A, Basun H, et al. Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology 2001;56:1188-94.

Supplement recommendations in “The Ultramind Solution” by Dr. Mark Hyman

NOTE: NOW SEE NYBC’S LOW-COST ALTERNATIVE TO THE ULTRAMIND SOLUTION MULTIVITAMIN PACK–

https://nybc.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/nybcs-brainpower-multi-pak-low-cost-ultramind-solution/

One-third less than the over-priced “Ultramind Solution” supplements!

The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First
Mark Hyman, M.D.

This is one of many books published in recent years that seek to translate the enormous body of research findings from the last few decades about nutrition and brain function into simple, useful guidelines for improving and maintaining good mental functioning and psychological well-being. While it’s a popularizing text (Dr. Hyman has even been on Martha Stewart–see link below!), this book does, we feel, accurately register many important trends in our knowledge of nutrition and nutritional supplements and how these factors relate to mental health.

Here’s the statistic that sets off Dr. Hyman’s project: one in three Americans suffer from some kind of “brain dysfunction” (one term in use: “brain fog”), including symptoms such as depression, anxiety, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, autism, and dementia.

“The Ultramind Solution” contends that revising your diet–changing your nutritional intake–can often make a huge difference in these symptoms. Dr. Hyman’s recommendations focus both on weeding out elements that adversely affect the system (too much sugar, poorly chosen carbs, alcohol, cigarettes), and sticking to a menu of what’s good, especially what’s good for brain function: 1) omega fatty acids (found in salmon, sardines, flaxseed); 2) amino acid sources (nuts, lean meats); 3) high-quality carbs (for example, beans, peas, and lentils); 4) phyto-nutrients (plant foods containing antioxidants and other helpful substances, like blueberries, cilantro, etc.).

Finally, Dr. Hyman observes that, since more than 90% of Americans don’t get adequate nutrients from food (a finding of an often-cited US government survey), people realistically will need to supplement at least periodically in several key categories: 1) a multivitamin; 2) fish oil (omega fatty acids); 3) Calcium/Magnesium; 3) Vitamin D; 4) B complex vitamins; 5) probiotics (for good digestion/absorption of nutrients); and 6) occasionally a sleep aid like melatonin to insure a good amount of rest.

Here are some NYBC suggestions for supplementing in the categories recommended by Dr. Hyman:

Multivitamins: Added protection with Iron (Douglas) ; Added Protection without Iron (Douglas) – recommended for those with liver conditions; Opti-Pack – iron-free (SuperNutrition); Super Immune Multivitamin – iron-free (SuperNutrition)

Fish oil: Max DHA (Jarrow); ProOmega (Nordic Naturals) 60 caps; ProOmega (Nordic Naturals) 180 caps;

For Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, NYBC recommends Bone-Up (Jarrow), which provides all three nutrients in the most useful dosages.

B complex vitamins: B-right (Jarrow)

Probiotics: NYBC recommends Jarrodophilus EPS (Jarrow) because it doesn’t require refrigeration. But other probiotics may be useful as well–see the Probiotics entry on the NYBC website.

NYBC also stocks Melatonin in several formats.

See Dr. Hyman on Martha Stewart:
http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.3a0656639de62ad593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=0f545e9ea969e110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default

Ginkgo biloba: new research on a traditional botanical used for cognitive decline and circulatory health issues

Ginkgo biloba, thought to be the oldest living tree species on Earth, is also the source for one of the most widely used medicinal botanicals in the world. It is widely prescribed in Europe as a treatment for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and for memory loss and cognitive decline. In the US, where it is available as a dietary supplement, ginkgo has been the subject of intensified research in the last few decades, which has highlighted its capacity to improve blood flow/circulation and the benefits of its particular blend of antioxidants (called “flavonoids” and “terpenoids”).
There are a number of impressive findings from research on gingko:
1. Several investigations have found that ginkgo is comparable in effectiveness to leading prescription medications for Alzheimer’s in delaying the symptoms of dementia. In people with Alzheimer’s it has been shown to improve thinking, learning, and memory, and may also relieve depression.
2. A clinical study suggested that ginkgo can reduce the side effects of menopause and the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Menopausal women seeking to avoid hormone replacement therapy due to the side effects (such as increased risk of breast cancer) may be able to use ginkgo as an alternative.
3. The flavonoids in ginkgo may lessen problems in the back part of the eye (the retina). In particular, research suggests that ginkgo may help preserve vision in people with age-related macular degeneration, a retinal condition that is the number one cause of blindness in the US.
4. Ginkgo has been used for erectile dysfunction, especially in people who experience sexual dysfunction as a side effect of antidepressants. In one study of 60 men with ED, there was a 50% success rate after six months of treatment with ginkgo.
5. Three research centers at the National Institutes of Health are collaborating on a large-scale, long-term study to find out if ginkgo can prevent or delay the kinds of changes in memory and thinking that can occur as people get older. A secondary aim of the study is to assess the botanical’s ability to reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease as people age. This research may provide further guidance about the potential of ginkgo to prevent the onset of cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease.
6. A two-year study of health outcomes for HIV positive people who use botanical or herbal remedies concluded that ginkgo was associated with beneficial results in several measures of health status. This research was presented at the 15th International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand in 2004.
For further information, see the description of the MMS standardized Ginkgo Biloba Extract on the NYBC website. Concentrated extracts, which are prepared from the green leaves of the tree, appear to be the most clinically effective form. Note that ginkgo is well tolerated and has few side effects, but should not be used with blood-thinning medications (like aspirin or Coumadin), since one of its main actions is also to thin the blood.

NYBC also stocks the SuperNutrition product Think Clearly, a formula that includes Ginkgo biloba along with other nutrients that support cognitive function.