Lutein: For the Brain? Adults and Children May Benefit

Lutein and Brain for Adults and KidsLutein, a carotenoid, is usually associated with its benefits for ocular support.  This carotenoid is commonly found in both vegetables and fruits.  Research supports the role Lutein plays in the retina and its ability to decrease the risk of age related eye diseases.  Currently, Lutein is beginning to be recognized as support for the brain.

Lutein is taken up into brain tissue on a selective basis and is the main carotenoid in adult and infant brains.  Increased levels of Lutein correlate with improve cognitive function in older individuals.  Interestingly enough Lutein concentrations in the macula of the retina correspond with the levels of Lutein found in the brain tissue, and provides a non invasive means to measure Lutein in the brain.  This reinforces research showing increased macular pigment density in adults being significantly associated with improvements in cognitive performance.

Lutein also plays a role on cognition in early life.  Lutein is the preferred carotenoid taken up in cord blood and in breast milk.  Young brains show the ratio of Lutein to total carotenoids to be twice those found in adults which accounts for over half the concentration of total carotenoids.

The increased proportion of Lutein found in young brains suggests Lutein is needed during neural development.  Recent studies in children 8 – 10 years of age, shows macular pigment density was significantly related to academic performance and better memory.

Lutein’s role as an antioxidant and a natural anti-inflammatory may be why Lutein is so important.  In a randomized double blind placebo controlled study in healthy newborns supplementing Lutein significantly increased serum antioxidant activity providing a benefit when in brain tissue.



Taking Folic Acid Around Conception May Help Reduce Autism Risk from Pesticides

Autism and Folic AcidAccording to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, mothers who were exposed to pesticides but had taken high doses of Folic Acid around the time they had conceived, had a reduced risk of giving birth to a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Data from the CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) trial was used in this case-controlled study.  The children in the study varied in age from 2 to 5 years of age and included almost 300 children who had developed ASD and over 200 healthy controls.  The researchers used interviews to evaluate Folic Acid consumption and peri-conceptual exposure to household pesticides.  California Pesticide Use reports were used to link mothers’ addresses to agricultural pesticide exposure.

Because it is well known that pesticides can adversely affect DNA methylation, Folic Acid, a major methyl donor, plays an important role in DNA repair and synthesis as well as DNA methylation.  This becomes especially important during periods of rapid cell growth, like when a fetus is developing.

Risk of a child developing ASD was halved in mothers supplementing with 800 mcg of folic acid in the first month of pregnancy who had been exposed to agricultural pesticides at any time in the 3 months either before or after conceiving. Low folic acid intake and regular exposure to foggers and outdoor pesticide sprays increased the risk of offspring developing ASD by 4 times when compared with mothers not exposed to pesticides and supplementing with high Folic Acid.

Researchers agree it is best for women to avoid chronic exposure to pesticides while pregnant, however higher Folic Acid consumption seems to lower ASD risk.



Vitamin E Deficiency May Lead to Increased Colorectal Cancer Risk

Vitamin E and Colorectal CancerA new meta-analysis and systematic review found a Vitamin E deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Researchers looked at 11 studies published between 1950 and 2016.  Over 520 colorectal cancer patients and almost 6,000 healthy controls participated in these various studies that looked at the link between serum Vitamin E levels and the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer patients were found to have lower serum Vitamin E levels than the healthy control subjects in the hospital based studies.  This relationship (Vitamin E levels and colorectal cancer risk) was not found in the population based studies.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer throughout the world, the third most common type of cancer in men and the second most common type of cancer in women.  The most worrisome aspect of this type of cancer is that its possible causes are not completely understood.

Due to flaws in some of the study designs, “prospective cohort studies should be conducted to assess the effect of serum Vitamin E on the risk of colorectal cancer”.



Omega-3 May Help Fight Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty Liver DiseaseAccording to a new pilot study a high dose Omega-3 supplement may improve Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) markers.

This pre-specified sub study of the WELCOME Trial (Wessex Evaluation of Fatty Liver and Cardiovascular markers in NAFLD with Omacor Therapy), a double blinded randomized controlled trial, looked at 16 individuals with NAFLD.  These participants were randomized to receive either 4 grams per day of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids or a placebo.  Red blood cell counts (RBC) of DHA were taken at the beginning of the study and at the end of the study.  Additionally various parameters of NAFLD, hepatic and whole-body insulin sensitivity, existing liver fat, triglyceride levels, Fatty Acid (FA) oxidation and DNL(de novo lipogenesis), were also assessed.  Significant improvements in hepatic insulin sensitivity (not whole body insulin sensitivity) and liver metabolism were seen in participants whose red blood cell (RBC) DHA levels increased by over 2%.  A 26% reduction in existing liver fat content was also seen although this was not considered statistically significant.

No guidelines were given to the participants to avoid consuming oily fish during the trial period which most likely accounted for one of the placebo group participants showing increased RBC DHA levels over 2%.  Another drawback of the study design was that the primary outcome studied by researchers was the effect of raising RBC DHA on NAFLD markers.  No attempt to determine if EPA levels had any effect on these markers was made.  Future testing might attempt to determine the effect a DHA only oil would have on NAFLD markers.



Heart Failure 12 Times More Likely in People with Vitamin D Deficiency

Heart Failure and Vitamin DIn a recent study the risk of heart failure (HF) was over 12 times higher in elderly individuals who were Vitamin D deficient that in individuals who had an adequate Vitamin D status.

Over 130 elderly people 60 years and older who were receiving care for cardiac issues participated in this study.  Vitamin D deficiency was established at below 30 ng/ml for the purposes of this study.  Below 20 ng/ml was considered severely deficient.  This is in contrast with the more widely recognized practice of considering Vitamin D deficiency to be below 20 ng/ml.  Researchers also looked at the health ABC scale to analyze a participant’s risk of heart failure, a higher percentage score showing a higher heart failure risk.

65% of the participants were considered to be Vitamin D deficient (62% of these participants were considered to be severely deficient).  Participants with a Vitamin D deficiency were over 12 times more likely to have heart failure compared with participants who did not have a Vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D deficient men participants were over 15 times more likely to have heart failure when compared with women participants and heart failure was over 4 times more likely to occur in obese participants with a Vitamin D deficiency than participants who were not obese.  Vitamin D deficient participants who also experienced hearth arrhythmias had an almost 4 times higher risk of experiencing heart failure when compared with participants who had other forms of cardiovascular disease.

 Researchers concluded that “The risk of HF was present in more than half of the elderly and was strongly associated with Vitamin D deficiency”.  These results are consistent with earlier studies showing the importance that adequate Vitamin D status plays in the elderly for providing both cardiovascular benefits and in supporting bone health.

The study was observational and no causal effect of Vitamin D deficiency on heart failure could be established.  The size of the study was small making the need for larger more randomized controlled studies important in the future to further strengthen these study results.




Zinc Plus Antioxidant: A Cost-Effective Solution to Macular Degeneration?

Age Related Macular DegenerationAccording to a new study a supplement containing Antioxidants plus Zinc may be a cost effective way to slow down the progression of the wet form of the common degenerative eye disease, Macular Degeneration.

Data from the AREDS study in addition to real world outcomes using the National Health Service EMR, a multicenter Neovascular (wet form) Age Related Macular Degeneraton (nAMD) database, denoting the use of Anti-VEGF injections. These Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor injections (Anti-VEGF) are the principal medical treatment for the wet form of Age Related Macular Degeneration.  These Anti-VEGF injections are costly in addition to possibly increasing inflammation and stroke risk.  The study looked at the use of AREDS formulated supplements containing the following:

AREDS1 contains 80 mg Zinc, 2 mg Copper, 500 mg of Vitamin C, 15 mg Beta-Carotene and 400 IU Vitamin E.

AREDS2 reduced the Zinc to 25 mg and removed the Beta-Carotene but added 10 mg of Lutein, 2 mg of Zeaxanthin, and 1000 mg of Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids.

Using the Markov Model, a statistical method used to predict an outcome between non supplemented and supplemented participants, 5 different states of visual acuity were incorporated into the research.  These 5 states cast the progression of the nAMD while projecting the necessity of the Anti-VEGF injections.  Estimating the injection costs and the costs of the specialist exams were also added to the economic model.

Researchers determined that supplementation with the AREDS combination was effective in category 3 and category 4 AMD participants.  This conclusion was consistent with previous research.  Additionally researchers advocated that supplementation was” an attractive strategy to avoid the chronic and costly Anti-VEGF therapies and to preserve visual function”.


Omega-3 Supplements May Slash Cardiac Death Risk

Omega-3 Reduces Cardiac Death RiskAccording to a new meta-analysis supplementing with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids may reduce the risk of coronary mortality by an average of 8%.  The reduction in the risk of death in people with elevated LDL cholesterol or triglycerides was higher at 17%.

Data from 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) which encompassed over 71,000 participants was reviewed.  Each of the trials lasted over 6 months and looked at cardiac deaths as the primary outcome.  Researchers compared frequencies of coronary mortality between groups supplementing with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and the control groups.  In addition to seeing the statistically significant 8% reduction in cardiac death risk for participants supplementing with Omega-3’s, participants who were supplementing with more than 1 gram of total Omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) saw a reduction of cardiac death of almost 30%.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cardiac deaths account for almost 66% of all cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States and 42% of all cardiovascular disease deaths in the world yearly.  The results of this meta-analysis match up with the conclusions in a recent Science Advisory put out by the American Heart Association which points to EPA and DHA Omega-3 supplementation as being a “reasonable” secondary preventive measure of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

More studies are planned.