B vitamins for eye health

A heart disease study sponsored by the NIH has also yielded some interesting information about the relationship between B vitamins and eye health. The research study, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, found that taking a mixture of B vitamins, including B-6, folic acid and B-12, lowered the chance of middle-aged women developing macular degeneration (a common form of vision loss in older adults) by one-third. The study, which tracked more than 5000 women age 40 and older, was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb. 23, 2009.

Note that NYBC stocks this B vitamin supplement:

B-right (Jarrow)

B-right includes folic acid, B-6 and B-12; one of the rationales for its formulation is to prevent buildup of the chemical homocysteine, which in studies has been associated with heart attacks.

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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.

UCLA Division of Geriatrics/David Geffen Medical School on “Four Supplements Seniors Should Take”

We took a look at the recent issue of the Healthy Years newsletter (Volume 4G) from the UCLA David Geffen Medical School’s Division of Geriatrics, and were pleasantly surprised to find a good balance of advice ranging from exercise, diet, medication regimens when called for…and a number of on-target recommendations for promoting long-term health with the aid of dietary supplements.

The UCLA newsletter, which is directed especially to people 60 and older, offers several general supplement recommendations to promote healthy aging: a multivitamin/mineral supplement (because diet and digestive capability tend to change as you age); Vitamin D plus calcium for bone health; fish oil supplements to keep triglyceride levels down; glucosamine and chondroitin for moderate to severe arthritis knee pain; and CoQ 10 to help keep blood cholesterol down when taking a statin drug.  

A couple of other recommendations emerge for specific conditions: non-smokers with early-stage macular degeneration may want to consider an NIH panel’s advice to supplement with zinc and the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta carotene. And niacin and/or a fibrate drug could be beneficial in raising HDL (the so-called “good cholesterol”) levels in a person taking a statin.

Thanks, UCLA Division of Geriatrics! It’s nice to see a general-audience publication from a mainstream medical source include balanced information about supplements, and not just fixate on prescription drugs as the only possible choice for every condition.