You may have received an email from us last month informing you that we had made the painful decision to close the purchasing co-op component of the New York Buyers’ Club after ten years.
BUT NOW WE HAVE A PLAN FOR CONTINUING AND EXPANDING THE CO-OP!
A longtime member with significant nonprofit experience and passion about NYBC’s mission, Bob Lederer, has presented a plan that the board has accepted, to lead an effort to revitalize the organization. Bob will spend the next 3 months fundraising for and conducting a needs assessment of current and former Club members. To the extent the fundraising is successful, he will then spend up to another 7 months researching ways to strengthen the Club’s online and in-person marketing, and exploring partnerships in NYC and nationwide with healthcare organizations and groups representing people with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Bob estimates that this work, and a very necessary upgrade of our software to a state-of-the-art online commerce site so we can better compete with supplement retailers, will require a total of about $100,000.
We have already begun to receive generous contributions and pledges. So we have decided to keep the purchasing co-op open, even as we continue to reorganize, and, most importantly, as we continue our fundraising campaign to stabilize and strengthen NYBC. Please spread the word to your friends! (Order through our website or (800) 650-4983).
We don’t know whether this revitalization effort will succeed, but we want to give it our best shot. Key to the plan’s success will be the involvement of our members. That’s where you come in. There are several ways you can get involved, whether you are in New York or ANYWHERE.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us how you can help us revitalize by:
• Joining us at the first of a series of NYBC Membership Meetings on Thursday, July 17 at 6:00 PM at DC 1707 (the union that houses us), 420 W. 45th St., in Manhattan, bet. 9th & 10th Aves. (room to be announced). Refreshments at 6 PM, meeting promptly at 6:30. We will put forward our preliminary analysis of fiscal and technological challenges that we face, as well as our initial revitalization plans, seek your input and suggestions, and break into working groups to begin the tasks of outreach, fundraising, and marketing that are necessary to revitalize this grassroots organization! We are also arranging for remote participation using conference call, Google Hangout (somewhat like Skype), and perhaps other online methods – details to follow. Please RSVP.
• Making a donation. Please be as generous as you can. We are grateful to those who have already stepped forward.
• Reaching out to your friends and colleagues to raise funds. But note that while we always welcome any contributions that people can comfortably afford to give, at this time we are focusing on obtaining major donations of $1,000 or more. So we’d welcome any introductions to such potential donors. We can send a board or staff member along with you to a meeting with such folks if you’d like.
• Helping with:
o grant writing
o writing/editing educational or marketing materials
o doing design/layout work
o computer work
o outreach to other health and community organizations about our services.
• Offering suggestions either for fundraising or marketing to expand the pool of people we serve.
• Sending us a short testimonial (1 to 4 sentences) that we can use publicly about why NYBC’s services and/or particular products have been particularly important in maintaining your health or staving off symptoms or side effects.
• Joining us in a follow-up briefing/work session by conference call and/or online services such as Google Hangout, to be held later in the summer (details to be announced).
You the members are our strength. Together, we can save and grow NYBC!
Thanks for all you’ve done,
George Carter, NYBC Administrator/Education Director
and the Board of Directors of NYBC
At the end of 2013, there was much buzz about new studies showing that curing insomnia in people with depression might double the chance of a complete recovery from depression. The studies, financed by the National Institute of Mental Health, were welcomed as the most significant advance in treating depression since the introduction of the “selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor” (SSRI), Prozac, twenty-five years ago. In effect, the new research findings turn conventional wisdom on its head, since they suggest that insomnia can be a main cause of depression, rather than just a symptom or a side effect, as previously assumed. If you can successfully treat a depressed person’s insomnia, according to the new view, you eliminate one of the main factors causing the depressed state.
New research findings turn conventional wisdom on its head suggesting that insomnia can be a main cause of depression rather than just a symptom or a side effect as previously assumed
As we followed reports on this breakthrough research on insomnia and depression, we were especially encouraged to read comments like the one from Washington DC psychiatrist James Gordon, who has advocated an integrative approach to treating depression. Here’s his letter to The New York Times:
I welcome a new report’s finding that cognitive behavioral therapy is improving the outcome for depressed people with significant insomnia (“Sleep Therapy Seen as an Aid for Depression,” front page, Nov. 19).
It reminds us that changes in attitude and perspective, and a therapeutic relationship, can right biological imbalances — like disordered sleep — and significantly enhance the lives of troubled people. The study also puts the therapeutic role of antidepressant medication in perspective: the depressed participants who received behavioral therapy did equally well whether or not they were taking the drugs.
I hope that these results will encourage the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers, clinicians and all of us to expand our horizons.
There are a number of other nonpharmacological therapies, including meditation, physical exercise, dietary change and nutritional supplementation, acupuncture and group support, that show promise for improving clinical depression and enhancing brain function.
At NYBC we have long believed that non-prescription therapies, such as supplements, are valuable alternatives for treating mood disorders and sleep disorders When the Centers for Disease Control surveyed use of antidepressant drugs in 2008, it found that one in 10 Americans was taking an antidepressant, and many had taken these drugs for years. Over a period of ten years, antidepressant use in the U.S. had shot up by 400%! So the question arises: how much of this spectacular increase represented real gains in treatment, and how much was over-prescribing? As Dr. Gordon mentions in his letter above, in some cases behavioral therapy for depression has worked just as well whether people were taking antidepressants or not—hardly a strong argument for the value of the prescription drugs.
A well-publicized 2008 report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that pharmaceutical companies had consistently reported only the most favorable trial outcomes for their popular antidepressants
A well-publicized 2008 report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that pharmaceutical companies had consistently reported only the most favorable trial outcomes for their popular antidepressants, passing over evidence that suggested a more limited effectiveness. Furthermore, as with many drugs, especially those used over a long period, antidepressants have side effects. Higher bone fracture risk and multiple cardiovascular risks have been identified; sexual side effects are common with antidepressants in both men and women; and withdrawal symptoms for those tapering off antidepressants include a long list of problems, such as panic attacks, insomnia, poor concentration and impaired memory.
Turning to the alternatives, we describe below supplements that NYBC has highlighted over the years for sleep and mood disorders. Note cautions about their use, but also note that some of these products may actually carry added benefits, rather than unwanted side effects.
1. Melatonin is a hormone occurring naturally in the body, but some people who have trouble sleeping have low melatonin levels. Melatonin has been used for jet lag, for adjusting sleep-wake cycles for people doing shift work on varying schedules, and for insomnia, including insomnia due to high blood pressure medications called beta-blockers. It is also used as a sleep aid when discontinuing benzodiazepines (Klonopin, Xanax, etc.) and to reduce side effects when quitting smoking.
2. Fish Oil. Epidemiologists have noted that populations that eat fish regularly have low rates of depression. And research has found that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements can be of benefit in treating depression and bipolar disorder. Fish oil can also be taken with other anti-depressants as an adjunct therapy. Doses found effective in treating depression are quite high, 3 to 9 grams per day, so be aware of potential problems related to the supplement’s blood-thinning properties. Added benefit: fish oil can help manage cholesterol, and supports cardiovascular health.
3. Deficiencies in the B Vitamins, especially B12 and folate, can result in neurologic symptoms — for example, numbness, tingling and loss of dexterity — and the deterioration of mental function, which causes symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, disorientation, depression, irrational anger and paranoia. A number of studies have shown that vitamin B12 is deficient in a large percentage of people with HIV, and the deficiency can begin early in the disease. Supplementing with a B complex protects against deficiency and supports cognitive health and mental function.
4. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depressed states. Lack of the “sunshine vitamin” may be especially associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the “winter blues.” Vitamin D also supports bone health, and may protect against colds and flus.
5. Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, acts as a relaxing agent by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters (=brain chemicals that shape your mood), including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). Human studies have been limited to date, but one small study showed that theanine decreases stress responses such as elevated heart rate. Another investigation compared theanine’s calming effect to that of a standard anti-anxiety prescription drug, and found that theanine performed somewhat better. Note that NYBC stocks Theanine Serene (Source Naturals), a combination supplement that includes theanine and GABA.
6. Probiotics. Very recent research has looked into the communication between the digestive system and the brain, with a goal of understanding how gut health may influence chronic conditions, including mood disorders like depression and anxiety. For example, it has been shown that certain probiotics promote production of the calming, anti-stress neurotransmitter GABA in the body, pointing to a direct influence of probiotics on mood. Other potential links between the gastrointestinal system’s microorganisms and brain function are currently being explored.
7. L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP (5-hydroxy L-tryptophan). These closely related supplements are converted in the body to serotonin and to melatonin. (Take L-tryptophan with carbohydrates to make it effective.) Their use as antidepressants has been studied, and they have also been found to aid sleep and suppress appetite. (To minimize appetite suppression, take the supplement an hour before bedtime.) Although L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP are close relatives, people may respond somewhat differently to them, so it may be worthwhile to try the other if the first doesn’t produce an effect An added benefit: 5-HTP may also decrease symptoms of fibromyalgia and migraine headaches.
8. In research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) was found to be an effective therapy for mild-to-moderate or severe midlife depression, on par with some prescription drugs. Moreover, the research showed that taking DHEA promoted both a significant lifting of depressive symptoms and an improvement in sexual functioning. Note that dosing recommendations vary for men versus women, and DHEA is not recommended for those diagnosed with prostate conditions or cancer.
9. SAMe (S-adenosyl-l-methionine) is produced naturally in the body from the amino acid methionine. Supplementing with SAMe increases concentrations of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Several studies show SAMe having an antidepressant effect comparable to that of some prescription drugs. SAMe should be avoided in people with bipolar disorder, and should be used cautiously with other antidepressants, because the combination may push serotonin levels too high. Taking a B-complex vitamin while using SAMe can counter build-up of homocysteine, which has been linked to heart disease SAMe may also support joint health and liver function. Caution: the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has posted a warning that SAMe may increase likelihood of pneumocystis infection in immune-compromised people. Note: see also Trimethylglycine (TMG), which includes the raw materials that the body uses to manufacture SAMe. TMG is much less expensive than SAMe.
10. St. John’s Wort is a widely used herb with clinically demonstrated (multiple, well-controlled studies, mostly in Europe) anti-depressant effects for mild to moderate depression – generally without the side effects of prescription antidepressants. High doses of the herb may cause a sensitivity to light (phototoxicity), so avoid direct sunlight or sunbathing while using. Do not take St. John’s Wort with 5-HTP, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (like Prozac), or with protease inhibitors, as it may affect beneficial liver enzymes. St. John’s Wort may also have activity against Epstein-Barr and herpes infections.
11. Finally, we’ll mention another combination supplement that NYBC has stocked: GABA Soothe (Jarrow). The GABA in this supplement is the neurotransmitter that promotes calmness coupled with mental focus. Also included is theanine (see above for a description of its anti-anxiety effects) and an extract of ashwagandha, an herb which has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition of India to reduce fatigue and tension associated with stress.
Turner, E et al. Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy. New England Journal of Medicine, 2008; 358:252-260 January 17, 2008 doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa065779
Logan, A.. Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional. Lipids Health Dis. 2004; 3: 25; doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-3-25
Sudden cardiac death secondary to antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, March 2008; 7(2):1081-194
Alramadhan E et al. Dietary and botanical anxiolytics Med Sci Monit. 2012 Apr;18(4):RA40-8.
Rogers PJ, Smith JE, Heatherley SV, Pleydell-Pearce CW. Time for tea: mood, blood pressure and cognitive performance effects of caffeine and theanine administered alone and together. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2008;195(4):569–77.
Kimura, K et al. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45.
Carpenter, D J. St. John’s wort and S-adenosyl methionine as “natural” alternatives to conventional antidepressants in the era of the suicidality boxed warning: what is the evidence for clinically relevant benefit? Altern Med Rev. 2011 Mar;16(1):17-39.
Foster, J A et al. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression Trends in Neuroscience. 2013 May;36(5):305-12. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2013.01.005.
Rao, A V & Bested, A. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Gut Pathog. 2009; 1: 6 doi: 10.1186/1757-4749-1-6
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at the relationship between consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and some physical measures of the brain that have been linked to “brain health” and “cognitive health.” This research was a bit different from many other studies of omega-3 fatty acids and potential health benefits, because most other studies have looked for relationships between dietary intake of these compounds (found especially in deep water fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel) and major health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease or depression. The JAHA article, on the other hand, narrowed the focus by examining measurable small-scale physical changes in the brain over a period as long as five years.
The results: people with higher omega-3 fatty acid levels showed a significantly lower number of the small-scale physical brain changes that may be associated with brain dysfunction or cognitive decline.
The study authors concluded that, among the older men and women who were the study’s subjects, higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, “and in particular DHA, were associated with specific findings consistent with better brain health.”
Our comment: a fascinating study, because it adds another level of evidence contributing to the already widely accepted view that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for your brain, and indeed may provide important help in maintaining brain function as you age.
See the NYBC catalog for a selection of fatty acids, and note especially the Nordic Naturals Pro Omega choices, which are excellent quality fish oil supplements, containing the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids studied in the JAHA article:
Virtanen JK, Siscovick DS, Lemaitre RN, Longstreth WT, Spiegelman D, Rimm EB, King IB, & Mozaffarian D (2013). Circulating omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and subclinical brain abnormalities on MRI in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2 (5) PMID: 24113325
The booklet, available as a pdf by clicking the link above, covers a wide array of topics. The language is clear and the layout is easy to follow. They provide information on mainstream medical and “alternative” or natural remedies to manage what can be debilitating side effects of HIV therapy.
Topics covered include the range found in the table of contents:
This Guide Is One Tool to Healthy Living
4 Dealing with Side Effects
8 My Health Map
10 Body Weight and Body Shape Changes
14 Diarrhea, Gas and bloating
17 Emotional wellness
27 Menstrual changes
31 Mouth and throat problems
35 Muscle aches and pains
38 Nausea, vomiting and appetite loss
42 Nerve pain and numbness
44 Rash and other problems of the skin,
hair and nails
47 Sexual difficulties
49 Sleep problems
53 Less common side effects: lactic acidosis,
pancreatitis and abacavir hypersensitivity
55 Appendix: Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D
57 More Resources
After last year’s widely reported finding that the Mediterranean Diet (fish, poultry, olive oil, fruits, nuts and whole grains, with little meat and dairy) indeed benefits cardiovascular health, now here’s a new study, published in the April 30, 2013 issue of the journal Neurology, and taken up by our hometown newspaper the New York Times, in their online blog “Well”:
Researchers prospectively followed 17,478 mentally healthy men and women 45 and older, gathering data on diet from food questionnaires, and testing mental function with a well-validated six-item screening tool. They ranked their adherence to the Mediterranean diet on a 10-point scale, dividing the group into low adherence and high adherence. […]
During a four-year follow-up, 1,248 people became cognitively impaired. But those with high adherence to the diet were 19 percent less likely to be among them. This association persisted even after controlling for almost two dozen demographic, environmental and vascular risk factors, and held true for both African-Americans and whites.
By 2015, more than 50% of the United States HIV population will be over 50. There are approximately 120,750 people now living with HIV/AIDS in NYC; 43% are over age 50, 75% are over age 40. Over 30% are co-infected with hepatitis.
What does the future hold for people with HIV and HIV/HCV as they get older?
These statistics and this question furnished the starting point for the New York Buyers’ Club March 28 event HIV and Aging: Living Long and Living Well, presented by Stephen Karpiak, PhD, of the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA).
Dr. Karpiak’s background uniquely positions him to paint the full picture behind the bare statistics, and to provide expert guidance through the complex healthcare challenges faced by the growing population of older people with HIV. After two decades as a researcher at Columbia University’s Medical School, Dr. Karpiak moved to Arizona, where he directed AIDS service organizations through the 1990s, including AIDS Project Arizona (which offered a supplements buyers’ club similar to NYBC’s). In 2002, back in NYC, he joined ACRIA as Assistant Director of Research, and was the lead investigator for the agency’s landmark 2006 study, Research on Older Adults with HIV. This report, the first in-depth look at the subject, surveyed 1,000 older HIV-positive New Yorkers on a host of issues, including health status, stigma, depression, social networks, spirituality, sexual behavior, and substance abuse.
Why are there more and more older people with HIV? The first and principal answer is very good news: HIV meds (HAART), introduced more than 20 years ago, have increased survival dramatically. Secondly, a smaller but still significant reason: older people are becoming infected with HIV, including through sexual transmission. (Older people do have sex, though sometimes healthcare providers don’t seem to acknowledge this reality.)
As Dr. Karpiak noted, HAART prevents the collapse of the immune system, and so it serves its main purpose, to preserve and extend life. And yet, as he reminded the audience, HIV infection initiates damaging inflammatory responses in the body that continue even when viral load is greatly suppressed. These inflammatory responses, together with side effects of the HIV meds, give rise to many health challenges as the years pass. In people with HIV on HAART, research over longer time periods has found higher than expected rates of cardiovascular disease, liver disease, kidney disease, bone loss (osteoporosis), some cancers, and neurological conditions like neuropathy.
That brings us to “multi-morbidity management”—a term we weren’t enthused about at first, since it sounded more like medical-speak than the plain talk our NYBC event had promised. But Dr. Karpiak gave us a simple definition: dealing with three or more chronic conditions at the same time (and HIV counts as one). He then made the case that this is a critical concept to grasp if older people with HIV are going to get optimal care. Multi-morbidity management, he explained, is a well-accepted healthcare concept in geriatric medicine, which recognizes that older people may have several conditions and will benefit from a holistic approach in order to best manage their health. Treating one condition at a time, without reference to other co-existing conditions, often doesn’t work, and sometimes leads to disastrously conflicting treatments.
And here’s where Dr. Karpiak warned about “polypharmacy”–another medical term worth knowing. “Polypharmacy” can be defined as using more than five drugs at a time. Frequently, it comes about when healthcare provider(s) add more and more pills to treat a number of conditions. But this approach can backfire, because, as a rule of thumb, for every medication added to a regimen, there’s a 10% increase in adverse reactions. That’s why adding more and more drugs to treat evolving conditions may be a poor approach to actually staying well.
In closing, Dr. Karpiak focused especially on a finding from ACRIA’s 2006 study: the most prevalent condition for older people with HIV, aside from HIV itself, was depression. Over two-thirds of those surveyed had moderate to severe depression. Yet while depression can have serious conse-quences–such as threatening adherence to HIV meds–it has remained greatly under-treated. It may seem an obvious truth, but as Dr. Karpiak underlined, psychosocial needs and how they’re met will play a big role in the health of people with HIV as they age. What social and community supports are available becomes a big medical question, and how healthcare providers and service organizations respond to it can make for longer, healthier lives for people with HIV.
And now we come back to NYBC’s contribution to the discussion on HIV and Aging. While NYBC doesn’t keep track of such information in a formal way, we do recognize that quite a few of our members have been using supplements since the days of our predecessor organization DAAIR–going back 20 years now. That’s a lot of accumulated knowledge about managing symptoms and side effects among people with HIV! To accompany the March 28 presentation, our Treatment Director George Carter drew up a pocket guide to complementary and alternative approaches: HIV and Aging – Managing and Navigating. Partly derived from his long experience, and partly drawn from a 2012 Canadian report, the guide ranges over those kinds of “co-morbidities” that Dr. Karpiak spoke of, including cardiovascular, liver, kidney, bone, and mental health conditions. Interventions or management strategies include supplements, but also diet and exercise recommendations, as well as psychosocial supports (counseling, support groups, meditation, and activism).
We hope that our HIV and Aging: Living Long and Living Well event has been useful to all. Special thanks to our audience on March 28, many of whom brought excellent questions to the session. Now let’s continue the conversation…
We’ve seen much information in recent years about the relationship between the B vitamins, especially B12, and cognitive function. But a new study fills in details about the mechanisms connecting low B12 levels and declining cognitive health. And one of the study’s authors has suggested that, while there is already a general recommendation for older adults to supplement with B12, there may be cause to advise middle age adults to do the same.
The mechanisms of cognitive decline associated with low levels of B12 include brain atrophy and cerebral infarcts (=blood flow blockage leading to tissue death). Other recent research has suggested that supplementing with B12 may slow brain atrophy as we age, so the current study linking low B12 levels to greater degrees of brain atrophy is not a big surprise.
The Institute of Medicine, an organization that establishes recommended daily allowances for vitamins, currently advises older adults to supplement with Vitamin B12, since seniors frequently are deficient in the vitamin due to declining ability to absorb nutrients. But according to one of the current study’s authors, it may make sense to screen adults for B12 deficiency even before they reach senior status, and address early signs of deficiency with supplementation.
NYBC stocks Vitamin B12 as in a highly absorbable form: