Nutraceutical Improves Cognition

April 30 2014

by alex

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An abundance of epidemiologic research has shown an association between diets high in polyphenols (found in certain plant foods such as blueberries and green tea) and better cognitive performance in aging populations.

A group of researchers at the University of South Florida developed a nutritional supplement containing extracts from blueberries, green tea and grapes along with with vitamin D3 and carnosine.

They evaluated the effect on cognitive performance in 105 healthy older adults, ages 65 to 85 over just 2 months. Participants took a battery of memory tests at baseline and again after 2 months.

The subjects who received the supplement demonstrated improvements in cognitive processing speed, while those who received placebo did not. Reduced cognitive processing speed, which can slow thinking and learning, has been associated with advancing age.

Preclinical trials in aging rats had revealed that the supplement promoted the growth of stem cells in the brain, produced an overall rejuvenating effect, benefitted animals with simulated stroke, and led to better cognitive performance.

Further human clinical trials are planned.


Nutraceutical Intervention Improves Older Adults’ Cognitive Functioning

Brent Small, Kerri Rawson, Christina Martin, Sarah Eisel, Cindy D Sanberg, Cathy McEvoy, Paul Sanberg, R. Douglas Shytle, Jun Tan, Paula C Bickford.
Rejuvenation Research, 2013; 131017084344003 DOI: 10.1089/rej.2013.1477

Interventions to improve the cognitive health of older adults are of critical importance. In the current study, we conducted a double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial using a pill-based nutraceutical (NT-020) that contained a proprietary formulation of blueberry, carnosine, green tea, Vitamin D3 and Biovin to evaluate the impact on changes in multiple domains of cognitive functioning. One hundred and five cognitively intact adults aged 65 to 85 years of age (M = 73.6 years) were randomized to receive NT-020 (n = 52) or a placebo (n = 53). Participants were tested with a battery of cognitive performance tests that were classified into six broad domains: episodic memory, processing speed, verbal ability, working memory, executive functioning and complex speed at baseline and two months later. The results indicated that persons taking NT-020 improved significantly on two measures of processing speed across the two month test period in contrast to persons on the placebo whose performance did not change. None of the other cognitive ability measures were related to intervention group. The results also indicated that the NT-020 was well tolerated by older adults and the presence of adverse events or symptoms did not differ between the NT-020 and placebo groups. Overall, the results of the current study were promising and suggest the potential for interventions like these to improve the cognitive health of older adults.

Health Benefits of Kimchi

April 28 2014

by alex

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Kimchi is a Korean fermented food that is highly nutritious.

This publication is a review of the researched health benefits of this food. If you have never tried kimchi, you might want to consider it.


n-3 fatty acids for Dry Eyes

January 27 2014

by alex

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Dry eye symptoms can be quite bothersome. Here is a study with over 900 subjects that found a dietary supplement containing n-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to be effective for dry eye symptoms.


Effectiveness and tolerability of dietary supplementation with a combination of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants in the treatment of dry eye symptoms: results of a prospective study.

Oleñik A.
Clin Ophthalmol. 2014;8:169-76. doi: 10.2147/OPTH.S54658. Epub 2014 Jan 6.


We assessed the effectiveness and tolerability of a dietary supplement based on the combination of omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants on dry eye-related symptoms.

A total of 905 patients (72% women, median age 60 years) with dry eye syndrome and using artificial tears to relieve symptoms participated in an open-label prospective intervention study. They were recruited during a routine ophthalmological appointment. Patients were instructed to take three capsules/day of the nutraceutical formulation (Brudysec® 1.5 g) for 12 weeks. Dry eye symptoms (categorized as 0, none; 1, mild; 2, moderate; and 3, severe) included scratchy and stinging sensation in the eyes, eye redness, grittiness, painful eyes, tired eyes, grating sensation, and blurry vision.

The mean intensity of dry eye symptoms varied from 1.1 (± standard deviation [SD] 0.9) for painful eyes to 2.0 (0.9) for grittiness, with a mean value of 11.9 (4.8) for all symptoms together. At week 12, all individual symptoms improved significantly (P<0.001). The mean value for all symptoms together decreased from a mean value of 11.9 (± SD 4.8) at baseline to 6.8 (± SD 4.5) after 12 weeks of treatment (P<0.001). There was a decrease in the percentage of patients in which dry eye symptoms predominated nearly all the time (53.5% versus 34.1%). A total of 68.1% of patients reported better tolerance to contact lenses after treatment. The mean number of daily instillations of artificial tears also decreased significantly (3.8 [± SD 1.6] versus 3.3 [± SD 1.6], P<0.001). A total of 634 patients (70.1%) did not report any adverse events. In the remaining patients with adverse events, the most frequent was fish-tasting regurgitation in 13.5% of cases, followed by nausea in 4.9%, diarrhea in 1.3%, and vomiting in 0.3%.

Dietary supplementation with a combination of omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants was an effective treatment for dry eye.

Full text link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3888348/

Here is another study with positive results.

A randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome.

Bhargava R1, Kumar P2, Kumar M3, Mehra N1, Mishra A1.
Int J Ophthalmol. 2013 Dec 18;6(6):811-6. doi: 10.3980/j.issn.2222-3959.2013.06.13.


To evaluate the role of dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome.

A prospective, interventional, placebo controlled, double blind randomized trial was done at two referral eye centers. Two hundred and sixty-four eyes of patients with dry eye were randomized to receive one capsule (500mg) two times a day containing 325mg EPA and 175mg DHA for 3 months (omega-3 group). The omega-3 group was compared to a group of patients (n=254) who received a placebo (placebo group). There were 4 patient visits (at baseline, 1 month, 2 months and 3 months). On each visit, recording of corrected distance visual acuity (CDVA), slit lamp examination and questionnaire based symptom evaluation and scoring was done. A symptomatic score of 0-6 was mild, 6.1-12 moderate and 12.1-18 severe dry eye. Response to intervention was monitored by routine tear function tests like Schirmer I test, tear film break-up time (TBUT), Rose Bengal staining and most notably, conjunctival impression cytology.

Sixty-five percent of patients in the omega-3 group and 33% of patients in placebo group had significant improvement in symptoms at 3 months (P=0.005). There was a significant change in both Schirmer’s test value and TBUT values in the omega-3 group (P<0.001), both comparisons. However, there was a larger drift in TBUT values in omega-3 than the placebo group, in comparison to Schirmer’s test values. The mean TBUT score was 2.54±2.34 in the omega-3 group and 0.13±0.16 in placebo group, respectively. The mean reduction in symptom score in omega-3 group was 2.02±0.96 as compared to 0.48±0.22 in placebo group (P<0.001). Despite a slight increase mean score, the Schirmer scores did not correlate well with symptomatic improvement.

Omega-3 fatty acids have a definite role for dry eye syndrome. The benefit seems to be more marked in conditions such as blepharitis and meibomian gland disease. The role of omega fatty acids in tear production and secretion needs further evaluation.

Full text link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874521/

Low Zinc in Depression

January 10 2014

by alex

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This is an interesting meta-analysis of 17 studies comparing serum zinc levels in depressed and non-depressed subjects. They found that depressed patients had lower levels of zinc and severely depressed patients had the lowest levels.

There is a wide range of nutrients known to play a role in depressive disorders, with zinc being but one of them. Nutrition matters, always.


Zinc in Depression: A Meta-Analysis

Walter Swardfager, Nathan Herrmann, Graham Mazereeuw, Kyle Goldberger, Tetsuhiro Harimoto, Krista L. Lanctôt
Biological Psychiatry, Volume 74, Issue 12 , Pages 872-878, 15 December 2013

Zinc is an essential micronutrient with diverse biological roles in cell growth, apoptosis and metabolism, and in the regulation of endocrine, immune, and neuronal functions implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. This study sought to quantitatively summarize the clinical data comparing peripheral blood zinc concentrations between depressed and nondepressed subjects.

PubMed, Cumulated Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and PsycINFO were searched for original peer-reviewed studies (to June 2012) measuring zinc concentrations in serum or plasma from depressed subjects (identified by either screening or clinical criteria) and nondepressed control subjects. Mean (±SD) zinc concentrations were extracted, combined quantitatively in random-effects meta-analysis, and summarized as a weighted mean difference (WMD).

Seventeen studies, measuring peripheral blood zinc concentrations in 1643 depressed and 804 control subjects, were included. Zinc concentrations were approximately −1.85 µmol/L lower in depressed subjects than control subjects (95% confidence interval: [CI]: −2.51 to −1.19 µmol/L, Z17 = 5.45, p < .00001). Heterogeneity was detected (χ217 = 142.81, p < .00001, I2 = 88%) and explored; in studies that quantified depressive symptoms, greater depression severity was associated with greater relative zinc deficiency (B = −1.503, t9 = −2.82, p = .026). Effect sizes were numerically larger in studies of inpatients (WMD −2.543, 95% CI: −3.522 to −1.564, Z9 = 5.09, p < .0001) versus community samples (WMD −.943, 95% CI: −1.563 to −.323, Z7 = 2.98, p = .003) and in studies of higher methodological quality (WMD −2.354, 95% CI: −2.901 to −1.807, Z7 = 8.43, p < .0001).

Depression is associated with a lower concentration of zinc in peripheral blood. The pathophysiological relationships between zinc status and depression, and the potential benefits of zinc supplementation in depressed patients, warrant further investigation.

Mediterranean Diet Superior to DASH Diet in this study

January 7 2014

by alex

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The Women’s Health Initiative is a long-term prospective cohort study with a very large cohort of women. Long-term outcomes can be evaluated in such studies.

This study looked at degree of adherence to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) or to the Mediterranean diet and evaluated the risk of sudden cardiac death.

The results are striking: greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a large reduction in risk of sudden cardiac death, whereas there was no risk reduction in those with greater adherence to the DASH diet.

The DASH diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure, however cardiovascular outcomes (heart attack, stroke, death) are what matter.

So, in women at least, the Mediterranean diet is superior in reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death.


Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension dietary patterns and risk of sudden cardiac death in postmenopausal women

Monica L Bertoia, Elizabeth W Triche, Dominique S Michaud, Ana Baylin, Joseph W Hogan, Marian L Neuhouser, Lesley F Tinker, Linda Van Horn, Molly E Waring, Wenjun Li, James M Shikany, Charles B Eaton
Am J Clin Nutr February 2014 ajcn.056135


Background: The Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets are characterized by higher intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fatty acids. All of these foods and nutrients may affect cholesterol, inflammation, the development of atherosclerosis, and, therefore, risk of cardiac death.

Objective: Our objective was to examine the association between the Mediterranean and DASH dietary patterns and risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in women.

Design: We used a prospective cohort of 93,122 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study between 1993 and 1998 and followed for an average of 10.5 y. Women completed a food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) twice during follow-up. We scored their diets according to how closely the reported diet resembled each dietary pattern. SCD was defined as death that occurred within 1 h of symptom onset.

Results: A higher Mediterranean diet score was associated with lower risk of SCD (HR: 0.64; 95% CI: 0.43, 0.94) when women in the highest quintile were compared with women in the lowest quintile after adjustment for age, total energy, race, income, smoking, and physical activity. After adjustment for potential mediators, the association was similar (HR: 0.67; 95% CI: 0.46, 0.99). A higher DASH diet score was not associated with risk of SCD. However, sodium intake, which is a crucial component of the DASH dietary pattern, was not well characterized by the FFQ.

Conclusion: The Mediterranean dietary pattern may be associated with lower risk of SCD in women.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan

December 9 2013

by alex

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan
Serves: 6
This is a very tasty way to increase your intake of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables. If your diet is dairy-free, then simply omit the parmesan and adjust the salt to taste.
  • ½ small red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • Salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts, shaved or thinly sliced
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, honey, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.
  2. Trim all of the Brussels sprouts, slice thinly or use slicing blade of a food processor. Use your fingers to gently separate the leaves so that the shredded sprouts resemble a very fine slaw.
  3. Put the sprouts into the bowl with dressing and toss gently with the onions. Fold in the parmesan, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately.


Mediterranean Diet Reduces All Causes of Mortality

December 6 2013

by alex

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Yet another study examining the impact of adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been published.
This study looked at men and women with existing cardiovascular disease. Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer and all causes.

The Mediterranean-style diet pattern and mortality among men and women with cardiovascular disease

Esther Lopez-Garcia, Fernando Rodriguez-Artalejo, Tricia Y Li, Teresa T Fung, Shanshan Li, Walter C Willett, Eric B Rimm, Frank B Hu

Am J Clin Nutr January 2014 ajcn.068106
ePub ahead of print October 30, 2013
doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.113.068106


Background: The role of the Mediterranean diet among individuals with previous cardiovascular disease (CVD) is uncertain.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the association between the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (aMED) score and all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality in men and women with CVD from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study.

Design: This study included 6137 men and 11,278 women with myocardial infarction, stroke, angina pectoris, coronary bypass, and coronary angioplasty. Diet was first assessed in 1986 for men and in 1980 for women with a food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and then repeatedly every 2–4 y. Cumulative consumption was calculated with all available FFQs from the diagnosis of CVD to the end of the follow-up in 2008.

Results: During a median follow-up of 7.7 y (IQR: 4.2–11.8) for men and 5.8 y (IQR: 3.8–8.0) for women, we documented 1982 deaths (1142 from CVD and 344 from cancer) among men and 1468 deaths (666 from CVD and 197 from cancer) among women. In multivariable Cox regression models, the pooled RR of all-cause mortality from a comparison of the top with the bottom quintiles of the aMED score was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.72, 0.91; P-trend < 0.001). The corresponding pooled RR for CVD mortality was 0.85 (95% CI: 0.67, 1.09; P-trend = 0.30), for cancer mortality was 0.85 (95% CI: 0.65, 1.11; P-trend = 0.10), and for other causes was 0.79 (95% CI: 0.65, 0.97; P-trend = 0.01). A 2-point increase in adherence to the aMED score was associated with a 7% (95% CI: 3%, 11%) reduction in the risk of total mortality.

Conclusion: Adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet pattern was associated with lower all-cause mortality in individuals with CVD.

Probiotics and Mesalazine for Diverticulosis

December 5 2013

by alex

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Diverticulosis is common. While many have no symptoms, others are symptomatic.

This study looked at patients with symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease and compared:
active mesalazine plus probiotic placebo
active probiotic plus mesalazine placebo
active probiotic plus active mesalazine
probiotic placebo plus mesalazine placebo

The specific probiotic used was Lactobacillus casei subsp. DG 24 billion/day.
The mesalazine dosage used was 1.6 g per day.
Both drugs or placebos were dosed cyclically for 10 days of each month for 12 months.

They found that both mesalazine and the probiotic reduced recurrence of symptomatic disease, while the combination of the two reduced recurrence to zero. If these findings are replicated, this combination treatment may become standard of care to reduce the risk of relapsing symptomatic disease.


Randomised clinical trial: mesalazine and/or probiotics in maintaining remission of symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease–a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study.

Tursi A, Brandimarte G, Elisei W, Picchio M, Forti G, Pianese G, Rodino S, D’Amico T, Sacca N, Portincasa P, Capezzuto E, Lattanzio R, Spadaccini A, Fiorella S, Polimeni F, Polimeni N, Stoppino V, Stoppino G, Giorgetti GM, Aiello F, Danese S.
Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Oct;38(7):741-51.
doi: 10.1111/apt.12463


Placebo-controlled studies in maintaining remission of symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease (SUDD) of the colon are lacking.

To assess the effectiveness of mesalazine and/or probiotics in maintaining remission in SUDD.

A multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted. Two hundred and ten patients were randomly enrolled in a double-blind fashion in four groups: Group M (active mesalazine 1.6 g/day plus Lactobacillus casei subsp. DG placebo), Group L (active Lactobacillus casei subsp. DG 24 billion/day plus mesalazine placebo), Group LM (active Lactobacillus casei subsp. DG 24 billion/day plus active mesalazine), Group P (Lactobacillus casei subsp. DG placebo plus mesalazine placebo). Patients received treatment for 10 days/month for 12 months. Recurrence of SUDD was defined as the reappearance of abdominal pain during follow-up, scored as ≥5 (0: best; 10: worst) for at least 24 consecutive hours.

Recurrence of SUDD occurred in no (0%) patient in group LM, in 7 (13.7%) patients in group M, in 8 (14.5%) patients in group L and in 23 (46.0%) patients in group P (LM group vs. M group, P = 0.015; LM group vs. L group, P = 0.011; LM group vs. P group, P = 0.000; M group vs. P group, P = 0.000; L group vs. P group, P = 0.000). Acute diverticulitis occurred in six group P cases and in one group L case (P = 0.003).

Both cyclic mesalazine and Lactobacillus casei subsp. DG treatments, particularly when given in combination, appear to be better than placebo for maintaining remission of symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease.

Cold? Flu? What to do?

December 4 2013

by alex

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1) Make sure that you are not deficient in Vitamin D.
Get your blood level tested (25 OH Vitamin D target = 40 – 60 ng/mL) and/or take a supplement.

2) Avoid being deficient in zinc, important for immune function.
Eat nuts 2-3 times per week or take a multivitamin with about 15 mg of zinc.
Do not use Zicam nasal; you can lose your sense of smell permanently.

3) Eat a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of produce and healthy fats.  Include raw garlic.
(see Garlic Oxymel recipe)

4) Remember to wash your hands frequently and clean frequently-touched surfaces.

5) Get enough rest.  Sleep deprivation impairs immune function.

6) Manage your stress levels.  Too much stress impairs immune function.

7) Regular exercise, as long as it isn’t excessive, improves immune function.

8) Vitamin C 500 mg 1 – 2 x daily reduces the incidence of URI / flu slightly.

9) There are some supplements that can reduce your risk of getting colds & flu with regular use:
(specific products* have clinical trial data)

ColdFX* – Canadian product – Panax quinquefolius (North American ginseng)

Astragalus – limited research, but long traditional use; Andrew Weil, MD uses it himself for prevention
(Nature’s Way purple top standardized is a good brand)

Probiotics – one specific blend reduces duration and severity of colds when taken preventatively:
Lactobaccillus GG + Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactic BB-12
(sold as Pronutrients Probiotic* by Centrum)


What to do if you DO get a cold or influenza…


There are some things beyond medications that can ease your symptoms:

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and loosen mucous

Warm / hot beverages do help with some symptoms temporarily
(see Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey recipe)

Honey reduces cough (not safe for infants / children under 18 months of age)

Slippery elm (Thayer’s lozenges) – reduces cough, soothes sore throat

Licorice root – reduces cough, soothes sore throat (careful if you have high BP)


There are some things that can reduce the duration and severity:
(specific products with * have good clinical trial data showing safety and efficacy)

Get extra rest to help your immune system to do its job

Vitamin C – 1 g 2 – 4 x daily can reduce the duration of a cold (flu not studied);
antihistamine-like effect at higher dosages also reduces nasal congestion

Echinacea, various species – data is strongest for E. purpurea  (avoid if you have autoimmune disorder)
Echinaforce* by Bioforce USA used in several clinical trials

Garlic – antibicrobial effect best if raw (or see Garlic Oxymel recipe)

Ginger – expectorant and antimicrobial, can include in teas, foods
(see Lemon Ginger Tea w Honey recipe)

Swedish Herbal Institute Kan Jang* – Andrographis paniculata + Eleutherococcus senticosus
[Kan Jang Plus adds Sambucus nigra]

Nature’s Way Umka Cold Care*– Pelargonium sidoides

Sambucol* syrup – Sambucus nigra (kids like this)

ColdFX* – (Canadian) Panax quinquefolius (North American ginseng)


Note: This is not intended be to a comprehensive list. It focusses on lifestyle interventions and readily available products that have good evidence behind them.
In addition to foods, I keep on hand:
Vitamin C
Thayer’s Slippery Elm lozenges
Kan Jang Plus
Nature’s Way Cold Care
Garlic Oxymel

Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey

December 2 2013

by alex

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This tea goes beyond comforting when you have a cold or influenza.  Lemon is full of Vitamin C.  Ginger has anti-microbial properties and acts as an expectorant.  Honey reduces cough.

Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey
  • 1 whole lemon, sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 4 cups water
  • Honey, to taste
  1. Wash lemon well before slicing thinly.
  2. Add to small saucepot with water and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain.
  4. Drink with honey to taste. (don’t simmer the honey)