Here is a terrific YouTube post by Dr. Terry Wahls. She is a person living with secondary, progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). By 2008, she could not walk more than a short way with two canes. At this point, she began a journey into understanding how her disease progresses and ways in which diet and supplements can have an impact on that disease. Check out the video and see her remarkable results–one of the always remarkable and inspiring TED talks series!
A recent report suggested that the use of cod liver oil may improve outcomes in those under treatment for TB. One speculation is that the oil, high in vitamin D, may be the most important and immune enhancing agent. Deficiencies of vitamin D are widespread, particularly among African Americans in general and people living with HIV in particular.
Note that cod liver oil also has significant amounts of vitamin A and the omega-3 fatty acids found in other fish oils. It may well be the combination of these agents that may help to improve outcomes and possibly act as a prophylaxis against tuberculosis–as well as being salutary for health in general!
A study published in Jan, 2011 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation improved heart function, exercise function, and peak oxygen uptake in heart failure patients on standard therapies. This study, led by Mihai Gheorghiade, MD, of Northwestern University in Chicago, added detail to a large, long-term investigation demonstrating that omega-3 fatty acids reduce mortality and cardiovascular hospitalizations in patients with chronic heart failure.
The study randomly assigned 133 heart failure patients to receive either a placebo or the omega-3 fatty acids. (Active treatment consisted of 1-gram capsules containing about 850mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Patients took five capsules daily for the first month, followed by two capsules daily for the rest of the study). After a year, the patients who took the omega-3 fatty acids had a significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction (a measure of heart function), whereas those on placebo showed a decline in this measure. Furthermore, while 30% of the patients on placebo required cardiovascular hospitalization during the year, only 6% of those taking the omega-3 supplements were hospitalized due to cardiovascular condition.
In addition to the high-quality Pro Omega Nordic Naturals fish oils supplements, NYBC now stocks Jarrow’s EPA-DHA Balance, which provides another convenient way to match the omega-3 fatty acid supplementation levels used in research studies:
We don’t often put up such a “believe it or not” / “popular science” sounding headline on this Blog, but here’s a rather neatly done scientific study from 2010 that seems to confirm those old sayings about fish being “brain food.”
University of Pittsburgh researchers recently reported on an interesting study about the connection between omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish oil) and cognitive function. The research study followed 280 healthy adults, aged 35-54, and looked at how they performed on tests of nonverbal reasoning and working memory. Researchers found that those who registered higher blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenonic acid (DHA) performed significantly better on these tests. They did not find any association between two other omega-3 fatty acids, a-linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and mental performance measures. They conclude that “DHA is associated with major aspects of cognitive performance in nonpatient adults [up to 55 years old]. These findings suggest that DHA is related to brain health throughout the lifespan…”
Our comment: in recent years there have been several studies relating dietary intake of fish or omega-3 fatty acids and better early brain development and lowered risk of cognitive disorders in late life. (Also , higher fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids intake has been linked to lower rates of depression.) This 2010 study adds evidence that it is specifically DHA that delivers cognitive benefit such as improved reasoning and working memory.
Reference: Matthew Muldoon et al, Serum Phospholipid Docosahexaenonic Acid Is Associated with Cognitive Functioning during Middle Adulthood. The Journal of Nutrition – J. Nutr. 140: 848–853, 2010
NYBC stocks this supplement, which, as the tradename suggests, focuses on providing a substantial dose of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid found to be effective in the Univ. of Pittsburgh study:
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:
NYBC’s Low-Cost Alternative to the Pricey “Ultramind Solution”
The UltraMind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman is one of many recent books that attempt to translate the piles of research from the last few decades about nutrition and brain function into useful guidelines for improving and maintaining good mental functioning and psychological well-being.
The Ultramind Solution contends that changing your diet–your “nutritional intake”–can often make a huge difference with conditions like depression, memory impairment, or “brain fog.” Dr. Hyman’s recommendations focus both on weeding out elements that harm 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 from an often-cited US government survey), many people realistically will need to supplement 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 absorption of nutrients).
And yes, you can even go to the ”Ultramind” online store, where you can purchase a kit containing these supplements. The problem is that, at $121.50 for a month’s supply, this package is way overpriced. But never fear—NYBC, as a nonprofit supplements co-op, can offer an alternative that’s a close equivalent (or slightly better), but at only $90 for a month’s supply ($80 if you sign up for a $5 minimum annual membership in the co-op).
Here’s NYBC’s BrainPower Multi-Pak:
Multivitamin: Added Protection without Iron (Douglas)
Fish oil: Max DHA (Jarrow)
Calcium/magnesium/Vitamin D: Ultra Bone Up (Jarrow)
B: Methyl B-12 (other B vitamins included in the multi)
Probiotic: Ultra Jarrodophilus
By the way, you can purchase any of these items individually at NYBC if you like. Again–at lower prices than in the “Ultramind” store.
“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.