Iron Deficiency May Increase Risk of Maternal Depression in Pregnancy

Iron Deficiency and DepressionAccording to researchers pregnant women who were Iron deficient were more likely to have increased levels of peri-natal depression.

Women between the ages of 18 and 25, who were either in the middle or towards the end of their pregnancy, participated in this retrospective study.  In a retrospective study, researchers look at past data of the participants.  Participants completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) questionnaire and had their blood drawn to assess their serum ferritin level, which is a biological marker of Iron storage.  31% of the participants were Iron deficient and on average these women (who were Iron deficient) scored significantly higher on the EPDS questionnaire compared with the participants who were iron sufficient.  By studying the ferritin level of women later on in their pregnancies researchers suggest a link exists between iron deficiency and antenatal (during or related to pregnancy) depression.

Several limitations were noted during the study.  Being a retrospective study did lead to the possibility that a reverse causality could exist, meaning antenatal depression could be what lead to an iron deficiency.  Additionally using a survey to determine depression levels was not the same as having a diagnosis of depression from a professional.  Lastly when designing the study researchers did not take into account the nutritional status of the participants during their pregnancy which along with the diagnosis of Iron deficiency could be a sign of general poor health and nutrition.

Further studies with a larger sample group are needed.



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.


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.


Immune System Primer

Immune System PrimerThe immune system is a culmination of molecules, proteins, cells and organs all intended to protect the body against things like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites also called pathogens.  When the immune system is working the way it is supposed to work, it goes unnoticed: pathogens are eliminated or neutralized and the body continues to function normally.  Aggressive pathogens, unfamiliar pathogens or a compromised immune system may interfere with the process of neutralizing or eliminating pathogens.

The immune system is made up of 2 parts:

Innate (Non Specific) immune system-We are born with this system.  The innate immune system is fast acting.  It is the body’s first line of defense.

Adaptive (Specific) immune system-The adaptive immune system is slow moving and needs time to learn and adapt to or recognize infections.  Once this happens the adaptive immune system’s response can be efficient, accurate and rapid.

The minerals involved in supporting a healthier immune function are Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Manganese and Copper.  Zinc supports immunity by assuming the role of a secondary messenger.  Additionally, Zinc plays a role in immune cell function.  There is a competition for Zinc between the host and the pathogen.  Selenium has been shown to support immune function in aging populations.  Selenium helps boost protection against certain pathogens.

Vitamin D benefits both the innate and adaptive immune systems.   A deficiency of Vitamin D increases a person’s susceptibility to infections.  Other Vitamins like, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B6, B12, and Folate all play a role in supporting a healthier immune function.

The amino acid Glutathione is considered a master antioxidant and helps fight free radicals.  Glutathione also helps regenerate Vitamins C and E to work more effectively and stimulates the natural ability of certain immune cells.

MSM known for its anti inflammatory benefits has been shown to improve immune response especially after exhaustive exercise.

Probiotics, friendly bacteria, are also very important for boosting your body’s immune support system.  The microbiomes in the gut are at the core of immune health.



Blood Calcium May Be Linked to Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Calcium and Sudden Cardovascular ArrestA recent study has found patients have an increased risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) when they have a lower serum Calcium Level.  The risk of SCA was found to be over 2 times higher in patients with the lowest quartile of serum Calcium when compared with patients in the highest quartile of serum Calcium levels.

In the lowest quartile, participants had less the 8.95 mg/dl (Milligrams/deciliter) of serum Calcium.  In the highest quartile group, levels over 9.55 mg/dl of serum Calcium were seen.  Data for the study was taken from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (Oregon SUDS).  This study is the first of its kind to identify an association between low serum Calcium levels as measured prior to a SCA event and the elevated risk of this adverse event.  This was deemed important since many of the individuals who experience a SCA are not considered as a high risk for this type of catastrophic event under the usual guidelines used to evaluate risk.

There were however some limitation seen in the study findings.  Some of the participants with lower serum Calcium levels also had other issues which may have added to their risk factors of SCA.  Additionally the study was designed to be an observational one and therefore a causal mechanism could not be concluded.

Researchers agreed that additional study was needed.



Dietary Potassium May Alleviate Hardening of the Arteries

Potassium and Hardening of the ArteriesA new mouse study recently published shows Potassium may protect against vascular calcification (hardening of the arteries).  Additionally increased aortic stiffness was also seen in the mouse model when compared with normal Potassium fed mice.  Arterial stiffness in humans is usually a predictor of heart disease and cardiovascular mortality.

Mice prone to atherosclerosis were fed a diet with low (.3% by weight), normal (.7% by weight) or high (2.1% by weight) levels of Potassium.  The study lasted 30 weeks.  Researchers found that mice fed a diet low in Potassium had a significant increase in vascular calcification and mice feed a diet high in Potassium had noticeably reduced levels of vascular calcification.  Increased aortic stiffness as using pulse wave velocity measured by echocardiography in live animals was seen in the mice fed a diet low in Potassium.  The three different levels of dietary Potassium were seen in the serum blood levels of Potassium taken from the three different groups.

Researchers found even a small change in mean serum potassium levels when compared to the group in the normal level of dietary Potassium supplementation caused changes in both vascular calcification and arterial stiffness.  Researchers also believe that this study established a potential causative role of Potassium intake in the regulation of atherosclerotic vascular calcification and stiffness.  This opens the door for a new strategy for controlling vascular disease.


Should Women on a Paleo Diet be Taking Iodine Supplements?

Iodine and the Paleo DietA new study found that women following the paleo diet, the “Caveman” diet which excludes both dairy products and iodized table salt, may increase their risk for an Iodine deficiency.

70 healthy postmenopausal women who were obese or overweight participated in this prospective randomized weight loss trial.  The study lasted 2 years.  The participants were randomly assigned to follow the paleo diet or a diet based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR).  At the beginning of the study both diet groups had matching Iodine levels which were measured by 24-h urinary iodine excretion (24-UIE) and 24-h urinary iodine concentration (24-UIC).  The paleo group experienced decreases in Iodine measures during the course of the study but no decreases were observed in the NNR group.

The paleo diet has experienced an increase in popularity among American fitness enthusiasts and the number of foods targeting paleo dieters is growing.  The diet encourages followers to eat lean meats, vegetables and most fruit but avoid corn, dairy, grains, potatoes and legumes.  This new study is the first to evaluate the effects of this diet on Iodine levels in the body.