Mayo Clinic recommendations: cholesterol-lowering supplements

The Mayo Clinic has a post, updated in 2012, on the topic of “Cholesterol-lowering supplements: Lower your numbers without prescription medication.” As always, we advise you to check with your healthcare provider before starting to use any of these for cholesterol management.

Most of these suggestions have been in the New York Buyers’ Club repertory for quite a while, but we are happy to repeat them here:

Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids): can lower triglycerides

Green tea: some research on its cholesterol-lowering capacity; epidemiologic evidence suggests that green tea may lower stroke and cardiovascular disease risk. There are several choices for green tea supplements: see Green Tea; Green Tea Decaffeinated; and Green Tea Organic.

Plant sterols: see Cardio Edge for a supplement featuring plant sterols in a formula designed to support healthy cholesterol levels

Garlic extracts: contact NYBC for information on allicin, a garlic extract that has been studied for cardiovascular health

The Mayo Clinic guide also mentions grains, including oat bran and flaxseed, which can lower cholesterol.

Last, the guide discusses red yeast rice, a supplement that can lower LDL cholesterol. Note the caution that some forms of red yeast rice may contain a naturally occurring form of the prescription medication lovastatin. Lovastatin in the supplement may present some dangers to the user, because there is no way to know the quantity or quality of this prescription medication equivalent. For that reason, it is especially important to consult with your healthcare provider and monitor your usage of this supplement.

See the Mayo Clinic guide at

Mayo Clinic: Cholesterol-lowering supplements: Lower your numbers without prescription medication

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Resveratrol and Resveratrol Synergy supplements

We were interested to see in today’s online edition of our hometown newspaper, The New York Times, a news report on the latest research about resveratrol and related compounds:

“Drug Is Found to Extend the Lives of Obese Mice”

The article points to the promise of continuing research on resveratrol derivatives, while also reviewing some of the questions that remain before large-scale human trials of the sort that can lead the breakthroughs in drug development. One of NYBC’s concerns, as always, has been that the real benefits of the non-prescription supplement itself could be ignored in the quest for some patentable super-drug (which would undoubtedly make the pharmaceutical company rich, no doubt!)

So, to review, there have been a number of research developments in just the past couple of years about the basic resveratrol molecule itself–the very same one that you can find in supplements now stocked by NYBC. Here’s an excerpt from our post earlier this year:

For a while it seemed like the excitement about resveratrol–the molecule famously found in red wine–had died down.

A few years ago widely publicized studies showed that resveratrol had potential as a life-extending supplement (it showed that capacity in lab animals). And there was buzz when companies raised hundreds of millions in venture capital to explore the possibilities further. One catch with that high-profile research was that it involved very high doses of resveratrol. (The equivalent of drinking hundreds of bottles of red wine a day!)

However, in just the past couple of years, scientific interest has come back to resveratrol, and this time it is pointing to substantial health benefits without those massive doses.

First, cardiovascular health. In 2009, a Univ. of Wisconsin research team reported that low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice could have many of the same effects as the high dose reseveratrol, especially in terms of protecting heart health. Second, in 2010, Johns Hopkins researchers reported on a mechanism by which resveratrol shielded mice from stroke damage to the brain. A single small dose of the compound increased levels of an enzyme that protects nerve cells in the brain from damage when blood flow is disrupted by stroke.

It’s also just been announced that the scientific research organization of Denmark will run a multi-year study of resveratrol for diabetes. This announcement follows the news from December 2010 that our hometown Albert Einstein Medical Center has been awarded an NIH grant, also for a study of resveratrol and diabetes.

All in all, resveratrol seems to remain a very promising research topic!

You can find resveratrol in two forms at the NYBC. (Resveratrol Synergy adds some of the additional parts of the grape that are thought to have health benefits, and combines those with green tea extract, another food extract that researchers believe may have health benefits.)

Resveratrol

Resveratrol Synergy

Supplement recommendations from Fred Walters / Houston Buyers’ Club

It was great to see an extended interview with our friend and colleague Fred Walters of the Houston Buyers Club in a recent posting on the website thebody.com.

Fred talks about his conservative Catholic background, his early vocation that took him to seminary, and his subsequent adventures as he began and nurtured the Texas-based nutritional supplements purchasing co-op for people with HIV, the Houston Buyers Club. HBC has been a beacon for so many when it comes to information about, and access to, supplements. And treatment activists that we admire a great deal, including Nelson Vergel and Lark Lands, have found a welcome forum at HBC over the years–we’re all better informed as a result.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview, in which Fred describes what he considers to be the most significant nutritional supplements for people with HIV:

I would say number one, a potent multivitamin. The top mistake people make with multivitamins is they are hypnotized by the words “one-a-day.” And there is no such thing as a potent one-a-day multivitamin for people with HIV. If you’re going to do a multivitamin you have to do several, several times a day. My favorites are Superblend by Super Nutrition and the K-Pax [KaiserPax] by Jon Kaiser [M.D., an HIV specialist in San Francisco]. Those are my two favorites. The second thing I would do is NAC, and that is a supplement that helps to increase gluthathione levels. It’s very good for the liver. The third one is fish oils, even if you don’t have high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Fish oils are real important for skin and other things in the body. They help reduce inflammation. That’s probably my biggest thing, the inflammation part. The other would be if you’re taking a high potency multivitamin you should add the selenium […]

If people are taking HIV drugs they have to take Coenzyme Q10, because what happens is that the drugs go into the body, as they’re winding their way through the cave with their guns drawn waiting to shoot at the HIV viral cells, by the time they walk up to a dead body they say, “Oh no, that wasn’t an HIV viral cell. That was a mitochondria.” And so Q10 helps to protect the mitochondria, and if you don’t protect the mitochondria in the body then you start opening yourself up to all kinds of organ and liver issues.

“Oh, how could I forget this one. […] Actually it’s getting a lot of press locally because Baylor University is studying this, but … green tea capsules. We are seeing more and more people who are doing two grams a day of green tea capsules and their T-cells are going up between 40 and 100%. Dr. Christina L. Nance is studying that at Baylor and we see that here, and today I was watching a local television show and of all days for you to call, there was a show on about food as medicine and they talked a lot about HIV, and one of the things they talked about was green tea liquid. They mentioned that it was being studied locally for HIV. So we’re not the only one on the soapbox about this. We’ve seen amazing results with that.

Read the full interview with Fred Walters at

http://www.thebody.com/content/art48991.html?mtrk=10922635

NOTE: As far as multivitamins go, NYBC has followed its predecessor DAAIR in stocking Douglas Labs multis, which are highly bioavailable (= can be easily absorbed and used by the body):

Added Protection Without Iron (a no-iron formula is recommended especially if you have elevated liver enzymes or hepatitis)

Added Protection With Iron

Ultra Preventive Beta This is a version of Added Protection that replaces the Vitamin A with beta carotene and a good mix of carotenoids–a good idea for people with any kind of liver trouble.

(NYBC also stocks the SuperNutrition multivitamins.)

Last, we have to say that a major concern for NYBC members has been the cost of supplements. That’s why in 2007 the buyers’ club began offering its MAC-Pack, which is a close equivalent of the K-PAX, but at about half price. The MAC-Pack uses the Douglas Labs Added Protection multis as its base, then adds NAC, lipoic acid, B vitamins and a substantial amount of acetylcarnitine to round out the package:

MAC-Pack (See other entries on this blog for more details.)

Red wine, green tea and epidemiological paradoxes

As they’re scanning data on populations and health, epidemiologists sometimes happen upon an association that they identify as a “paradox.” A classic example is research in the 1970s on Greenlanders, who had a very high comsumption of fats–and yet, paradoxically, also showed low rates of heart disease.

A high-fat diet was generally associated with a high rate of heart disease elsewhere in the world, so why not in Greenland? The secret, it turns out, was that prominent among the fats consumed by Greenlanders were marine fats–fish oil, with its omega-3 fatty acids. (You’ve read about steadily increasing interest in the cardiovascular health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in several postings on this blog.)

Then there’s the “French paradox.” Again, epidemiological studies pointed to a population with a rather high rate of saturated fat consumption (think cheeses, pate, sauces)–and yet the incidence of cardiovascular disease was not so elevated. Although many causes for this paradox have been set forth, probably the most popular explanation focused on red wine, a typical accompaniment to those high-fat French meals, and the source of a number of intriguing compounds, including one called resveratrol.

Resveratrol has attracted much research scrutiny over the years, and has been linked to multiple health benefits, including anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects, blood sugar lowering properties, and cardioprotective effects. Other research has focused on the ability of resveratrol to extend the life span of several short-living species of animals. Widely publicized investigations from just the last few years have looked to genetics to help explain how resveratrol might exert a life-extending effect similar to extremely low-calorie diets (we’re talking about near starvation)–but without the extreme caloric deprivation.

And here’s still another “paradox” being mulled over by the epidemiologists: the “Asian paradox.” In a 2006 study, investigators at Yale’s School of Medicine reviewed more than 100 studies on the health benefits of green tea, finding lower rates of heart disease and cancer in Asia despite high rates of cigarette smoking. Their theory? The average of 1.2 liters of green tea consumed by Asians each day would seem to provide high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants. These compounds may improve cardiovascular health in several ways, including preventing blood platelets from sticking together and countering the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)–which, in turn, can reduce the build-up of plaque in arteries.

All of the above sounds like excellent detective work on the part of the epidemiologists, but there are certain cautions. So much is now known about the cardioprotective properties of fish oil that both the American Heart Association and its European counterpart now include it as a standard recommendation for lowering cardiovascular risk. Yet it’s probably fair to say that scientists’ understanding of resveratrol and green tea is not so far along, and therefore the assertion of health benefits must be more provisional, awaiting further investigation and refinement. Still, it’s pretty clear that the researchers are onto at least something, so we’re grateful to those who first wondered at the meaning of epidemiological “paradoxes” such as these!

Fish oil, resveratrol, and green tea extract are all available as dietary supplements. For more information on how they are used, see the NYBC entries:

Resveratrol

Green Tea

Fatty Acids (includes Fish Oils – Max DHA from Jarrow and Pro Omega from Nordic Naturals).

You’ll find hundreds of articles on these supplements, but here are two recent references of special interest:

Barger JL, Kayo T, Vann JM, Arias EB, Wang J, et al. (2008) A Low Dose of Dietary Resveratrol Partially Mimics Caloric Restriction and Retards Aging Parameters in Mice. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2264. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002264

Sumpio BE, Cordova AC, Berke-Schlessel DW, Qin F, Chen QH. Green tea, the “Asian paradox,” and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Surgeons 202: 813-825 (May 2006)

Green Tea: potential benefits for people with HIV

The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine website hosts an overview of research on green tea and HIV. Here’s an excerpt:

[…]Dr. Kuzushige Kawai at the University of Tokyo is one of a handful of scientists who have taken an interest in the implications of Green Tea for treatment of HIV. Most specifically it is the Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) scientists are interested in. This is the same chemical compound that has been linked with lower rates of heart disease, stroke, lowered cholesterol, managing diabetes, and better liver health.

What Dr. Kawai found in lab tests was that the EGCG found in Green Tea prevented the virus from bonding to CD4 molecules in healthy T-cells, by bonding with them before the virus.

Read the rest of the article at

http://www.pacificcollege.edu/publications/articles/2006/december/12-03-2006_green_tea.htm

NYBC has stocked a Jarrow green tea extract: http://nybcsecure.org/product_info.php?products_id=260

We’d be glad to hear any reports on use of this product, or any additional information our members may have on green tea.

Theanine: anti-stress activity and other beneficial properties of an amino acid found in green tea

NYBC recently began to stock these a Source Natural formula that includes theanine, an amino acid that’s a key component of green tea. Read some of the recent research about potential benefits of theanine in the entries below.

Theanine Serene

Each TWO tablets contain:
Magnesium (as magnesium chelate) – 300 mg
GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) – 500 mg
Taurine – 450 mg
L-Theanine – 200 mg
Holy Basil Leaf Extract 5:1- 100 mg


Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, also known as N-ethyl-L-glutamine. It has been shown in the test tube to protect neurons against damage caused by glutamic acid (by blocking the receptors in the brain where glutamic acid would bind) and oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol). A recent study showed it to be very safe with a no-observed-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) of 4000 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, the highest dose tested (Food Chem Toxicol, 2006 Jul;44(7):1158-1166).

It acts as a relaxing agent by increasing levels of various brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) including serotonin, dopamine and GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). Behavioral studies in animals suggest it may improve learning and memory. Human studies are largely lacking, so far. One small study, placebo controlled but only among 7 participants, showed a decrease in heart rate as well as a reduction in salivary sIg-A production, indicating a calming of the sympathetic nervous system activation, underscoring a potential mechanism for its anti-stress activity (Biol Psychol, 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45. Epub 2006 Aug 22.). Interestingly, a mouse study suggested that the use of theanine may enhance the tumor-suppressive effects of chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin (Biochim Biophys Acta, 2003 Dec 5;1653(2):47-59).

Taurine is also an essential amino acid that may protect against oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases or atherosclerosis (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2006 Nov;9(6):728-733). Like N-aceytlcysteine (NAC), taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid. It may also have some benefits for liver function.

(For Theanine with Relora) The Relora part is a combination of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense. Magnolia has been used in Chinese medicine for a variety of conditions and a class of chemicals (alkaloids) that it contains have effects on muscle relaxation. Phellodendron bark also contains alkaloids that are used in the Chinese tradition to remove heat and dampness. It may also have some antibacterial activity. The combination of the two was shown to inhibit weight gain (but not result in weight loss) in a study of obese women (Altern Ther Health Med, 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):50-54). This may be a result of a reduction in cortisol levels which may be elevated in HIV disease.

Note: Do not use if pregnant or if using other MAO or serotonin-reuptake inhibitors.