Fighting Malnutrition:High-Dose Vitamin D Aids Weight Gain and Brain Development

Vitamin D and MalnutritionAccording to a new study supplementing with a high-dose of Vitamin D may improve language and motor skills development as well as improve weight gain in malnourished children.

185 severely malnourished children between the ages of 6 and 58 months provided the data for this trial.  All the participants were given high energy food sachets and were randomized to either receive a Vitamin D supplement or a placebo.  The study lasted 8 weeks.

The group who were receiving the supplement of Vitamin D experienced a significant improvement in weight (.26 kg compared to the control group).  Additionally Vitamin D seemed to considerably reduce the proportion of children experiencing delayed global development, delayed language development and delayed motor development, which were defined by reaching milestones like learning to talk or walk.

Throughout the world may children live with severe malnutrition which increases their risks of suffering from both physical and mental health conditions.  Currently only modest amounts of Vitamin D are included in the high energy food sachets, which are the typical protocol for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

Further studies are planned.




Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose OilEvening Primrose Oil, EPO, is derived from a plant found in North America. This plant grows yellow flowers that bloom in the evening time, which is how the name of this essential fatty acid came to be.  EPO is found in the seeds of the plant and is approximately 25% essential fatty acids.  This means these oils are essential to our health however our bodies cannot make them.  Raw material manufacturers cold press the seeds of the flower to make the oil and then they encapsulate the raw material into a dietary supplement.   Evening Primrose Oil is an Omega-6 essential fatty acid and is a source of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and LA (linoleic acid).

Evening Primrose Acid may help the following:

  • Promote Healthy Joints
  • Support the symptoms of PMS
  • Balance gastrointestinal health
  • Support a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Nourish the skin
  • Protect the integrity of the cell membrane
  • Balance hormones
  • Provide healthy nerve support
  • Improve brain function
  • Support the health of the central nervous system
  • Aid in the absorption of vitamins K, E and D

Here are 6 areas where research has shown EPO may provide healthy results:

1) Hormone Balance

Essential fatty acids are considered to be the building blocks of hormones.  Hormones are required for most every metabolic process in the body.  The essential fatty acids found in EPO reduce inflammatory prostaglandins, support hormone balance and support endocrine disorders like PCOS which can affect menstrual cycle regularity, fertility and ovulation.

Prostaglandin, hormone like chemicals found in the body, production is modulated by Evening Primrose Oil.  Prostaglandins also play a role in water retention, normal blood clotting and even in labor initiation in the birthing process.  Although there are many kinds of prostaglandins they all play a role in the functioning of a healthy body.  EPO helps to maintain and promote healthy prostaglandin levels.

2) Fertility

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to increase metabolic function and cervical mucus.  These are two key factors needed for healthy menstruation and ovulation.

3) PMS and Women’s Health

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to support several symptoms associated with PMS like bloating, water retention, mood swings, acne, breast pain and irritability.  Usually these symptoms are related to imbalances in hormone levels and research shows EPO can moderate these symptoms when taken consistently.  EPO can also help support symptoms associated with menopause making it an essential nutrient for women’s health.

4) Healthy Skin

Evening of Primrose Oil which contains GLA is essential for skin health.  GLA has shown benefits in supporting skin issues related to inflammation as well as hormone imbalances.  The skin which is the body’s largest organ, needs the Omega-6 essential acids found in EPO to improve skin elasticity and to optimize cell membrane structure.  Research has found some benefits for individuals suffering from psoriasis, eczema and generalized skin redness and EPO supplementation.

5) Reducing Inflammation

Evening Primrose Oil is often used to promote balance throughout the inflammatory pathways in the body especially in the joints.  It is been use to support the diseases involving chronic inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and atopic dermatitis.  Research shows EPO can aid in dealing with symptoms associated with RA.

6) Health Hair

Hair loss common in both men and women is often associated with hormonal changes.  DHT, a male hormone, can cause hair follicles to shrink.  This reduces the hair’s lifespan and actually can actually slow down hair growth.  If DHT is high, which can happen to women with thyroid issues, PCOS and other chronic health issues, hair growth slows.  EPO can aid in stopping this hair loss.


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.


Study Finds Probiotics May Improve Cognition in Alzheimer’s Patients

Probiotics and Cognition in Alzheimer'sAccording to a new study, probiotics may improve cognitive function in humans.  This is the first time research has shown supplementation of probiotics, friendly bacteria, may aid individuals with Alzheimer’s.

52 women and men between the ages of 60 and 95 with Alzheimer’s Disease participated in this randomized, double blind, controlled clinical trial.  The study lasted twelve weeks.  Half the patients were given milk enhanced with four strains of friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum and Bifidobacterium Bifidum) the other half of the participants received only milk.  Blood samples for biochemical analysis were taken at the beginning and at the end of the study period.  Additionally cognitive function tests with MMSE (Mini-Mental State Examination, a standard measure of cognitive impairment) questions were also given; this includes tasks like repeating a phrase, copying a picture, counting backwards from 100 by sevens and giving the current date.

Significant increases (from 8.7 to 10.6 out of a maximum of 30) on the average score on the MMSE questionnaire were seen over the 12 week study period in the group receiving the probiotics.  The control group did not see the same results (from 8.5 to 8.0 out of a maximum of 30).  The participants remained severely cognitively impaired even after the study ended, however the researchers believe the results seen in this study are important because they are the first to show probiotics can improve human cognition.  Prior studies showed probiotics could improve memory as well as impaired spatial learning in diabetic rats.

Probiotics are known for their benefits of provinding protection against irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, eczema, allergies, tooth decay and infectious diarrheas.  Scientists have believed for a long time that probiotics might improve cognition due to the continuous communication between the brain through the nervous system, immune system and hormones and between the intestinal microflora and the gastrointestinal tract (“microbiota-gut-brain axis”).

Further research is needed to determine if the benefits of probiotics grow stronger over a longer period of time.



Magnesium Status and Dementia: Is There a Link ?

Magnesium and DementiaA new study published in Neurology, shows people with either low or high blood levels of Magnesium may have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Approximately 9,500 individuals participated in this prospective study.  Participants with an average age of 65 who did not have dementia were followed for an average of 8 years.  Serum Magnesium levels were measured at the start of the study.  Results were adjusted for variables like alcohol intake, body mass index, smoking status and kidney function, which may affect dementia risks and Magnesium levels.  Participants were divided into quintiles based on their serum Magnesium levels.

During this follow up period, over 800 individuals developed dementia.  Over 650 of these individuals were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The incidence of dementia was found to be 30% higher in both the lowest blood Magnesium groups and the highest blood Magnesium groups.  Since this was an observational study only, no causality could be determined from the study outcomes.

There was however a few limitations on the way the study was set up.  First, Magnesium levels were only taken at the onset of the study, so changes in these blood levels may have occurred during the follow up period.  Second, blood levels of Magnesium may not be a reliable measure of total body Magnesium, meaning a person can have a normal serum Magnesium level and still have a Magnesium deficiency.  These limitations confirm that further research is needed.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists Magnesium as being involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, such as helping to maintain normal nerve and muscle functions, keeping our bones strong as well as supporting a healthier immune response.  This important mineral is also necessary for supporting healthy blood pressure and blood sugar management.  70% – 80% of the population in the United States is not achieving the recommended intakes of daily Magnesium.


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.


Lutein Levels Linked To A More Agile And “Youthful” Brain

Lutein and CognitionA new study finds a high intake of Lutein may slow down cognitive decline.

60 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 45 participated in this study.  Carotenoid levels were assessed by measuring MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density), which is considered a trusted indicator of Lutein levels in the brain. Event related brain activity was used as a gauge of cognitive function and was recorded as the participants performed cognitive control testing.  Study results showed MPOD was related to both specific electrical brain activity and age during the decision making process, known as the P3 wave.  Younger adults showed a larger abundance of P3 than the older participants however, the older participants with higher MPOD levels displayed P3 measures equal to the younger participants.  Researchers concluded that Lutein appears to have a protective role in the brain since the study data indicated that participants with more Lutein were able to utilize more cognitive resources to finish their tasks.

Besides being beneficial to brain health, Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been shown to provide support for vision and vision diseases since Lutein appears to accumulate in both the brain and in the eyes.  The ability of Lutein in brain processing, memory, speed and processing is intriguing since Lutein cannot be manufactured on its own in the body.

Further study is warranted.