Selenium May Protect Against Epileptic Seizures, Mouse Study Suggests

Selenium and Epileptic SeizuresA new study finds the presence of Selenium in an enzyme involved in fighting oxidative stress may be necessary in preventing epileptic seizures.  The anti-oxidative enzyme, Glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) normally contains Selenium in the form selenocysteine, an amino acid.  Mice that were missing Selenium in this GPX4 enzyme did not develop specialized brain cells (paravalbumin interneurons) and as a result suffered epileptic seizures that were fatal within three weeks.

Researchers found that the protein selenocysteine needs to be found in the enzyme GPX4 and is critical for providing the anti-oxidative protection of the interneurons.  As shown in prior studies, the paravalbumin interneurons play a role in regulating excitability in the cortex of the brain.  This neuronal hyperexcitability is associated with epilepsy.

Researchers believe when translated to humans, the study shows Selenium plays a vital role in post-natal brain development and may be important since neurons themselves contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) which are needed for synapse formation as well as migration.  This makes these neurons vulnerable to cell death (ferroptosis).

Further studies are recommended.



Maternal Use of Folic Acid and Vitamins Linked to Reduced Autism Risk in Children

Folic Acid and Autism RiskAccording to a study done in Israel, mothers who supplement with a Multivitamin and Folic Acid, both before and during their pregnancy, reduce their child’s risk factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Researchers studied Israeli children born between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007.  Participants were followed up from birth to January 26, 2015 to determine the risk of ASD.  A random sample of 33% of all live-born children were chosen, this group contained cases of all children diagnosed with ASD and a control group.  The mother’s supplement use was classified for Folic acid, Multivitamin Supplements containing Vitamins A,B,C and D and and a combination of the two groups.  Additionally the intervals for supplementation (before and during pregnancy) were noted.

A statistically significant reduction in the likelihood of ASD was seen in women who supplemented with Folic Acid and/or a Multivitamin Supplement before pregnancy when compared with women who did not supplement either before or during pregnancy.  This is consistent with other studies which showed maternal Folic Acid supplementation 4 weeks prior to conception and 8 weeks into the pregnancy had a reduction in the risk of offspring with ASD.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) is well known for its benefits in the reduction of neural tube defects, like spina bifida in newborns, in addition to its support for reductions in developmental problems like placental abnormalities and heart defects.  Also a mother’s Folic Acid level during pregnancy has been associated with cognitive functioning in their offspring.


Sports Nutrition and the Brain

Sports Nutrition and the BrainGetting fit for the New Year should be more than just about the body.  The brain also benefits with proper nutrition.  Athletes train for hours exercising and taking supplements to enhance their physical performance but investing some extra effort in supporting cognitive function can be just as important as feeding the muscles.  Combining brain health with sports nutrition gives a new synergy to a fitness routine.

Natural ingredients can not only promote motivation, but they can increase focus and concentration, increase reaction time, provide neuroprotective properties and reduce stress caused by exercise.  Excessive training is now being seen as a major stress on the body and is considered a natural risk of working out and can lead to injury, reductions in the body’s immune function, performance reversals and depression.  Athletes often experience muscle soreness, increases in cortisol levels, decreases in testosterone levels and increases in resting heart rate.  Consistent overtraining can interrupt the ratio between the catabolic hormone cortisol and the anabolic hormone testosterone.

Phosphatidylserine (PS), a type of fat found in cell membranes can be effective for reducing exercise-induced stress and the breakdown in the body that comes with overtraining according to recent studies.  PS is readily found in the brain and actually makes up 15% of the total phospholipids.  Studies show PS might aid athletes by accelerating recovery, improving well being and reducing muscle soreness.  One study showed cyclists supplementing with PS had a 30% lower cortisol level when compared to the group supplementing with a placebo, demonstrating PS’s ability to lessen the severity of the stress response to exercise.

Acetyl L-Carnitine, naturally found in plasma, kidneys, liver, heart, and skeletal muscle, is necessary for fat metabolism and energy production and is best known for its ability to help burn stored fat, however,  it is now being recognized for its ability to improve metal agility and enhance alertness and physical performance.  New studies show the cognitive brain functions associated with Acetyl L-Carnitine are improvements in memory, increases in learning capacity, and improved memory recall speeds and thought processing.  Additional studies show that participant’s memory recall speeds and thought processing in addition to overall concentration and focus were improved with Acetyl L-Carnitine.

Vinpocetine extracted from the periwinkle plant, may increase blood flow to the brain and enhance reaction time.  In a rehabilitative setting with NFL players, Vinpocetine combined with Acetyl L-Carnitine, Fish Oil, Huperzine-A and Alpha Lipoic Acid, showed increased reaction speeds and processing speeds.  Vinpocetine has also been shown to provide support for traumatic brain and concussions by providing a neruoprotective role and reducing neural inflammation.  In a recent study athletes supplementing with Phosphatidylserine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Vinpocetine and other nutrients showed significant increases (over 50% increases for many of the athletes) in motivation, memory, blood flow and cognitive scores within 6 months.  Standard neuropsychological tests and SPECT images were used to measure blood flow related to cognitive function and proficiency related to mood, language, memory, attention, information speed and accuracy.

Huperzine-A, isolated from the Chinese herb Huperzia serrata, has been shown to be a cognitive enhancer that blocks acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that damages acetylcholine, the learning neurotransmitter.  The protective effect of Huperzine-A is believed to be its ability to reduce oxidative stress, protect the mitochondria and support nerve growth factor.

Athletes have always paid more attention to nutrition for their bodies and not their minds.  These new studies show that cognitive function plays an important role in supporting athletic performance by reducing exercise-induced stress, promoting concentration and focus, improving motivation and reaction times and providing neuroprotective properties.


Vitamin D Supplementation Or The Sun, Which Is More Effective At Raising Vitamin D Levels?

Vitamin D vs the SunA new study has found that daily supplementation with Vitamin D is more effective than sun exposure on a daily basis for raising pregnant women’s Vitamin D levels.

87 pregnant women with Vitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml participated in this study.  The study lasted 10 weeks.  Half of the participants received 4,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily.  The rest of the participants were told to expose at least 30% of their skin to the sun for 30 minutes, between the 10 AM and 4 PM hours, using no sunscreen. All of the participants were 14-18 weeks into their pregnancies, had 2 or 3 different skin types and worked indoors.

Researchers found that there were no significant differences in the participant’s baseline Vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D levels increased significantly in both groups.  At the end of the 10 week trial period the group of women who had supplemented the Vitamin D had a significantly higher Vitamin D level when compared to the sun exposed group of women.  Researchers concluded that Vitamin D supplementation was the preferred means of increasing Vitamin D levels in pregnant women with a Vitamin D deficiency.


Can Potassium Affect Your Body Clock?

Potassium and SleepAccording to a new study published in Nature Communications, human red blood cells (RBCs) circadian rhythms may be regulated by Potassium. Concentrations of Potassium in RBC increased during the day and declined at night.  These significant fluctuations in RBC Potassium levels followed the circadian rhythms.

Pharmacological chemicals were used by researchers to either block or increase the Potassium ions transported to the cells.  RBC concentrations were analyzed using DEP (dielectrophoresis).  By changing the Potassium levels in the cells, researchers were able to block or extend the circadian cycles.

Unlike other cells, RBC do not contain DNA.  Up until this study the mechanism of RBC circadian regulation has been a mystery.  This study, the first of its kind, actually used external manipulation to change the circadian rhythm period.  Researchers believe these finds may eventually lead them to understand why the frequencies of cardiac events are higher during the early hours of the day.

Past research shows interruptions in the internal body clock is associated with higher risks for chronic diseases and an impairment of the inflammatory processes.

Further studies are needed and may be expanded to determine whether the status of Potassium may be relevant in sleep disorders.  Prior studies have shown oral supplementation of Potassium may increase sleep efficiency.


Study Ties Nutrition to Brain Health and Intelligence in Older Adults

Lutein and BrainA new study has found that the pigment found in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, lutein, may preserve “crystallized intelligence”, the ability to use the knowledge and skills acquired by a person over their lifetime, in older adults.

122 people ranging in age from 65 to 75 years of age participated in this study.  Participants answered questions on standardized tests and solved problems to assess their crystallized intelligence levels.  Blood samples were also taken to determine the blood serum levels of lutein.  MRI’s were used to determine the volume of different brain structures.

Participants with higher serum lutein levels performed better on tests of crystallized intelligence and seemed to have thicker gray matter in the para-hippocampal cortex, a region of the brain that like crystallized intelligence is preserved in healthy aging.  Prior research has shown that lutein actually accumulates in the gray matter of the brain and may actually play a neuroprotective role.

Further studies are planned.


Prenatal Folic Acid Supplementation Helps Lower Postpartum Depression Risk

Folic Acid and Postpartum DepressionSupplementing Folic Acid for at six months before giving birth could lower the risk of postpartum depression.

Almost 1,600 women who had given birth six to 12 weeks earlier were recruited to participate in this study.  Data on prenatal folic acid supplementation, obstetric history, and lifestyle and socio-demographic characteristics was collected.  803 (50.4%) women participating in the study took Folic Acid supplements during their pregnancy but for a period of 3 months or less, 146 (9.2%) supplemented with Folic Acid for 4 to 6 months and 643 (40.4%) women supplemented with Folic Acid for over 6 months.  Researchers noted 29.4% of the participants experienced postpartum depression.  The tendency to experience postpartum depression was lower in the group of women who had supplemented Folic Acid for over 6 months of their pregnancy.

Previous studies done worldwide have found determinants of postpartum depression (PPD) include biological factors, hormones, inflammatory factors, nutrients, cultural and environmental factors, family history and social support, and socio-economic status.  Researchers believe this study shows that prenatal Folic Acid supplementation for over 6 months decreased the risk of PPD regardless of the contributing factors seen in past studies.

Further studies which take into account serum and dietary Folic Acid levels would eliminate any bias found in this study which relied on participants recall and was collected after the participants had given birth.