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Category Archives: Vitamins

“B” Smart for Brain Health

“B” Smart for Brain Health</p> <p>: Newswire - Logo
By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Older adults with symptoms of depression may benefit from a folic acid and vitamin B12 supplement
From misplaced car keys to the forgotten name of a new acquaintance, “senior moments” affect all of us from time to time. Fortunately, there may be something we can do to sharpen our brains as we age. Even better, this small action—making sure we get enough of certain B vitamins—may be particularly helpful for those affected by depression, a condition that can negatively affect brain performance.

Boosting the brain

To study how folic acid and vitamin B12 affect brain function, researchers randomly selected 909 older adults with symptoms of depression to receive a supplement providing 400 mcg of folic acid and 100 mcg of vitamin B12 or a placebo (no vitamins) pill. Participants completed phone questionnaires and tests to measure their thinking (cognitive) function at the beginning of the study and 12 and 24 months later.

Compared with the group not taking folic acid and vitamin B12, certain measures of thinking function significantly improved in those who received supplements:

  • Overall score on a test of cognitive function.
  • Immediate memory, which is the ability to remember small amounts of information over a few seconds to minutes.
  • Delayed memory, which is the ability to remember events or information after a time delay or from the past.

There were no differences between the groups in other aspects of cognitive function, such as attention and processing speed.

B vitamins and beyond

This study suggests older adults with symptoms of depression may benefit from a folic acid and vitamin B12 supplement, but these vitamins will not work miracles by themselves. In addition to getting your “Bs,” there are many things you can do keep your brain sharp as you age.

  • Seek support. If you feel down, depressed, or unable to enjoy your life, talk to your doctor. It may feel hard to accept help, but depression can be a medical condition, just like diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. You’d accept medical care for these issues, and you should for mental health too.
  • Manage total health. If you have other chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, make sure you’re taking medications as prescribed and following your doctor’s advice about other self-care measures. These conditions not only affect blood flow in the body, they can affect blood flow to your brain. Poor blood flow means poorer brain function.
  • Get social. Having an active social life is associated with better brain function. Feeling part of a group and enjoying common interests improves health, especially as we age.
  • Volunteer. “It’s better to give than to get” is never truer than when it comes to brain health. Volunteering improves both physical and mental health. Find a cause you’re passionate about—walking dogs at the local shelter, serving meals in a soup kitchen, visiting with the homebound—and lend a hand.
  • Move more. If possible, get some physical activity every day. Even 30 minutes of walking is enough to improve brain and body health.

(Am J Clin Nutr 2012; 95:194–203)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

Copyright © 2012 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Aisle7.com

 
 

Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

The newest tips to keep you hale and hearty
By Terra Wellington

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, every three minutes on e woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Yet when looking into the disease’s cause, only 5 to 10% of breast cancers are due to heredity, which means there is great hope for reducing your risk. The latest research points to promising prevention strategies.

Sunshine and vitamin D may be key

Recent study results by Dr. Julia A. Knight of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, suggest that exposure to sunlight and dietary sources of vitamin D may be two of the best ways you can reduce your breast cancer risk.

Combining the right food with sunshine exposure can produce sufficient vitamin D levels in your body (1,000 IU per day). Here’s how:

  • Getting about 10 to 15 minutes two times per week in the sun without sunscreen and with exposed skin (face, arms, hands, or back) allows the sun’s rays to penetrate the skin and synthesize vitamin D.
  • Besides getting vitamin D from sunshine, you can also get it from specific foods—including butter, eggs, and vitamin D–fortified foods, such as milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals. Oily fish are an animal source of vitamin D3, such as salmon (wild caught is better for the environment), trout, tuna (not every day due to potential mercury levels), sardines, and mackerel.
  • Vitamin D supplements might also help, though research has not yet shown that this is as effective as sunlight and vitamin D gotten through food.

Live well and prosper

Overall healthy living may also reduce breast cancer risks.

  • Get moving—Exercise in the sunshine and outdoors if possible. Many magazines such as Self, Shape, and Yoga Journal offer exercise and outdoor adventure ideas.
  • Watch the waist—If you are overweight, look for low-calorie foods and drinks.
  • Kick the habit—Avoid second-hand smoke and use over-the-counter products to help you quit smoking, such as nicotine gums, inhalers, lozenges, nasal sprays, or patches.
Terra Wellington is a wellness lifestyle television personality, writer, and actor. She takes walks in the sunshine everyday and loves the outdoors.
 

Natural Cold & Flu Remedies: Do They Work?

Find easy ways to make yourself better when battling winter germs

By The Aisle7 Editorial Team

With the increased attention on the cold-and-flu season this year has predictably come stronger claims on both ends of the treatment spectrum: from those who cling fervently to favorite remedies that may or may not be supported by research, to conservative practitioners who dismiss anything but flu shots and decongestants as a waste of time and money.

As might be expected, for many people the answer lies somewhere in between: There is simply too much research to completely dismiss some traditional remedies, but not enough to call any one treatment an actual “cure.” While it is common to have studies with differing results, it is important to look at both the study details and the entire body of research to really understand what they are telling us. Keep in mind too that sometimes “a lack of evidence” means that a treatment has simply not been studied, but traditional use may in some cases suggest benefit.

1. Boost immunity with supportive supplements

While evidence on the effectiveness for preventing infections is mixed, immune-boosting supplements may help strengthen your body’s defense system. A short list includes:

• Vitamin C—Studies have shown a higher-than-normal dose of 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day may make your cold shorter and milder. (These amounts are tolerated by most people but may cause diarrhea in others, so pay attention to how your body reacts.)

Echinacea—At the onset of a cold or flu, 3 to 4 ml of echinacea in a liquid preparation or 300 mg of a powdered form in capsule or tablet can be taken every two hours for the first day of illness, then three times per day for a total of seven to ten days. Though inconclusive, some studies have shown it may shorten the duration of a cold in adults. It has not been shown to be effective for children.

• Zinc lozenges—Lozenges containing zinc gluconate, zinc gluconate-glycine, or zinc acetate, providing 13 to 25 mg every two hours, may help slow the cold virus and shorten the illness. (Avoid zinc sprays, however, as recent reports confirm that they may sometimes seriously damage sense of smell.)

Andrographis—Studies have supported using 48 to 60 mg of standardized andrographolides (the active constituent in this herb) in two to three divided doses daily to improve cold symptoms.

Remember, if you are managing other health conditions with medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist to check for interactions.

2. Get your Zs and your fluids

In addition to the common courtesy of keeping your germs to yourself and thereby not infecting coworkers and schoolmates, Dr. Woodson Merrell of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City advises staying home if you are ill. “You are more likely to rest and drink more fluids in an unstructured home environment,” she says.

• Stay hydrated—Noncaffeinated, nonalcoholic drinks, including water and low-sugar juices, may help loosen and clear out mucus, soothe a sore throat, and replace fluid loss due to a fever or runny nose. Warm liquids, like herbal teas or soups, not only hydrate but their heat may also help fight off the infection and relieve congestion. According to Jane Lininger, DC, hot ginger tea with lemon and honey may help decongest and just generally make you feel better.

• Take it easy—Lie down, stay warm, and sleep if you feel tired. This keeps all the body’s energy available for combating the virus. If you have trouble relaxing, dim the lights, watch your favorite movie, or take a bath.

3. Don’t dry out—humidity helps

Because the cold and flu thrive in cold, dry environments, you can help boot out the virus infection by staying warm and raising humidity levels. Also, at very low levels of humidity, the nose mucus dries up and isn’t able to defend as well against harmful viruses and bacteria.

• Use a nasal mist to keep your nose mucus moist. A saline rinse with a “neti pot” has been shown in some studies to decrease sick time.

• Use a humidifier at work and home.

• Warm your hands and face over the rising steam as you sip your herbal tea.

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What Makes a Good Multivitamin?

Know Your Options to Best Support Health
Designed for people whose diets don’t meet all their nutritional needs, multiple vitamin–mineral supplements (“multivitamins”) are convenient nutrient combinations, usually taken one to six times per day. While it’s generally agreed that a healthy diet is the best foundation for health, everyday life makes that goal challenging for many people. So, some people supplement in hope of preventing disease-causing deficiencies and providing higher nutrient amounts than they can get through diet alone, which may help prevent or manage certain diseases.

Who decides how much is enough?

In the US, official Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) recommendations were developed by a government-appointed panel in the 1940s to broadly cover healthy people of any age or gender. Used to design mass food programs, such as for the armed forces and food relief/ration programs, RDA’s were the basis for the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) values, which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses to create the Daily Value (DV) packaging labels.

Many multivitamins contain at least 100% of RDA recommendations. However, decades of research on human nutrition have led many researchers and healthcare professionals to conclude that a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not address the increased need for certain nutrients by certain groups, such as calcium for children, vitamin C for smokers, or vitamin D for seniors. Though sometimes inconclusive, abundant research still suggests therapeutic benefits to supplementing with certain nutrients, even when eating a healthful diet.

For a list of the recommended optimal amounts of each nutrient, go to a Healthy Person’s Guide to Vitamins & Minerals.

What’s the best multivitamin for me?

Multiples are available as a powder inside a hard-shell pull-apart capsule, as a liquid inside a soft-gelatin capsule, or hard-pressed as tablets that may be chewed or swallowed. Common products on the market include:

* Low-potency/one-a-day multiples: These mixtures often contain 100% of the vitamins and minerals many people require, though not enough to make up for deficiencies or other therapeutic amounts. For example, people eating a Western diet may be deficient in minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which one-a-days may not help correct.[REF1 from V&M]
* High-potency multiples: These mixtures may provide higher amounts of desired nutrients sometimes designed to support particular health goals, such as heart health. To evenly distribute nutrition to the body, these are sometimes optimally taken two to six times per day in divided doses.
* Timed-release: Theoretically, releasing vitamins and minerals slowly into the body over a period of time is better than releasing them all at once. However, except for some studies showing better absorption of time-released vitamin C, this assumption has not been well studied and some concerns have been raised about the safety of the chemical agents used to cause the timed-release (though they have not well researched).
* Vegetarian: Most capsules are made from animal gelatin, so vegetarians need to carefully read supplement labels to ensure they are getting a vegetarian product.

What’s the best way to take a multi?

The best time to take most supplements is with meals, to avoid stomach upset they sometimes cause and to help the body better absorb the nutrients.

* Capsules vs. tablets: Occasionally B vitamins react with a product’s other ingredients, especially when exposed to moisture or heat; this can cause discoloration and a bad smell. While the multiple is still safe and effective, the smell is off-putting and usually not very well tolerated. Liquid multiples in a soft-gel capsule—or tablets or capsules that are kept dry and cool—do not have this problem. Capsules are usually not as large as tablets, so some people find them easier to swallow. Properly made tablets and capsules will dissolve readily in the stomach, allowing the nutrients to be absorbed.
* Chewables: Multiples do not taste very good and to make them palatable to both children and adults, bad-tasting ingredients are reduced or eliminated and the rest are masked with a sweetener (sometimes more sweetener than any other ingredient). Debates continue, but healthcare professionals generally recommend avoiding regular consumption of both artificial sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet®) and sugars. (Xylitol, a natural sugar, does not cause tooth decay or other known problems but is rarely used in chewables because it is relatively expensive.) Chewable vitamin C products should contain buffered vitamin C, rather than the acidic form (ascorbic acid), to avoid damaging tooth enamel.

Does a multiple ensure good nutrition?

Nothing beats a nutrient-rich, whole foods diet to as a foundation for good nutrition, and quality supplements may help support that goal. However, there is some speculation that the nutrients found in a multiple are better utilized if taken separately, as certain nutrients compete with each other for absorption, whether in food or supplements. For example, magnesium, zinc, and calcium compete; copper and zinc also compete. However, the body is designed to cope with this competition and it is less likely to be a problem if nutrition is derived from several sources and supplementation is spread out over the day.

Are multiples good for kids?

While a whole food diet is the preferable route, a high-quality multivitamin might be recommended for children eating an unbalanced diet. In one double-blind trial, schoolchildren received a daily low-potency vitamin-mineral tablet for three months that contained 50% of the USRDA for most essential vitamins and the minerals. About 20% of participants (working class, primarily Hispanic, children, aged 6 to 12) experienced dramatic gains in certain measures of IQ, possibly due to correction of specific nutrient deficiencies found in these children. However, it was not possible in this study to identify which nutrients caused the improvement.

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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Diet, Health, Vitamins

 

Can Vitamin D Prevent the Flu?

by Jane Hart, MD

The newest of many emerging studies on the health benefits of vitamin D touches on an issue lately of particular interest to parents: According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who take vitamin D supplements during the winter months may be at lower risk for flu.



The link between the sunshine vitamin and winter health


The fact that people’s vitamin D levels tend to decrease in the winter and flu incidence tends to increase has led researchers to question whether the two might be related. This study explored the link between vitamin D and the most common type of seasonal flu (influenza A). Four hundred and thirty schoolchildren between 6 and 15 years old were randomly assigned to take vitamin D supplements (in the form of vitamin D3; 1,200 IU per day) or a placebo starting in December and ending in late March.

It turns out that the children who took vitamin D supplements had a slightly lower incidence of flu compared with those who did not: 10.8% of the children in the vitamin D3 group got the flu, compared with 18.6% in the placebo group (a 42% risk reduction).

So can the sunshine vitamin reduce flu risk? The study authors comment, “This study suggests that vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A, especially in specific subgroups of schoolchildren.” But further research is needed to determine if vitamin D supplements help prevent flu, and to determine what doses and duration of treatment are optimal.

Expanding awareness of vitamin D’s role in health

We are learning more and more about how optimal vitamin D levels are essential for good health, preventing disease, and now perhaps even preventing infections (such as the flu). This latest study is just another reason to make sure your vitamin D levels are healthy:

• Talk with a doctor. Talk with a doctor or pediatrician about the vitamin D requirements for you and your child and whether your levels should be checked, especially if you live in northern latitudes with lots of cloud cover or you and your child don’t spend much time outdoors. People who live in less sunny climates or who suffer from chronic disease may particularly be at risk for low vitamin D levels.

• Follow a doctor’s advice about supplementation. If vitamin D levels are low a doctor may recommend vitamin D supplements for you or your child. It is important to take supplements under the care and advice of a physician—you want to optimize the benefit of a supplement and minimize the potential for harm, which may occur from taking too much of a vitamin or from interactions between supplements and/or medications.

(Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094.)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Vitamins