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.

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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.

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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.

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Burnt Out? Rhodiola Rosea Supplements May Help

Burn OutData from a new study finds daily supplementation with Rhodiola Rosea Extract can improve the symptoms of burnout.

Over 100 women and men, between the ages of 30 and 60, who were suffering from symptoms of burnout, participated in this study. Participants took 400 mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract daily.  The study lasted 12 weeks.

Improvements in symptoms like “loss of zest for life”, “lack of joy”, “depersonalization”, “emotional exhaustion”, fatigue and “exhaustion” were seen.  Increases in sexual function and sexual interest were also seen.  Burnout has been known to impair sexual function.  Participants had a high rate of compliance during the course of the study and very few adverse events were reported with the supplementation of Rhodiola Rosea.

These results are encouraging and can be used as a basis for additional clinical trials.

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Short-Term Fish Oil Consumption Helps Prevent Type-2 Diabetes in People with Existing Metabolic Disorders

Omega-3 and DiabetesAccording to a new meta-analysis supplementation with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids could increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of diabetes in people who suffer from metabolic disorders.

17 studies with over 670 participants over the age of 18 were reviewed by researchers.  In individuals experiencing at least one symptom of a metabolic disorder Omega-3 supplementation heightened their insulin sensitivity, however the same benefits were not seen the participants who were healthy or already had Type-2 Diabetes.  A 47% decrease in insulin resistance was seen in the group supplementing with Omega-3 and had metabolic disorders but did not have Type-2 Diabetes.

Researchers found that serum Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels took approximately 4 weeks to reach equilibrium.  They stressed that duration of supplementation and not dosage was crucial for the Omega-3 to be most effective.

More research is needed.

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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.

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Could Probiotics Restore Microbiome Imbalance Linked to Auto-Immune Disorder?

Probiotics and ImmuneA new study finds that probiotics may aid in restoring imbalances in gut bacterial in patients with the auto-immune disorder systemic sclerosis.  Systemic sclerosis affects connective tissue in the body.  It is not a common condition, but results in the skin thickening and becoming hard.  Occasionally this condition creates problems with blood vessels and internal organs.

17 adults with systemic sclerosis from UCLA, 17 adults with systemic sclerosis from Oslo University Hospital and 17 healthy adults participated in this trial.  Stool specimens were used to determine the amount and types of bacteria present.  Participants with systemic sclerosis had significantly lower amounts of gut bacteria believed to protect against inflammation like Bacteroides.  Additionally the participants with systemic sclerosis were found to have higher amounts of bacteria, like Fusobacterium, which actually promote inflammation when compared to those without this auto-immune disorder.

Researchers believe that probiotics are helpful in restoring the bacterial balance in the gut in individuals suffering from systemic sclerosis and play a role in improving these patients quality of life.

Further testing is planned using larger patient groups.

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