Lipoic Acid. Perhaps The Medicine Of The Future?

January 25, 2006

Lipoic acid is a simple fatty acid which is produced in all human cells. It is considered to be the ideal antioxidant and it may actually be highly beneficial against diabetes, neurological damage, and more. However, it is banned in Denmark.

Is lipoic acid the medicine of the future? There are many who believe this is so. One of the worlds leading experts in the field of antioxidants, Lester Packer of Southern California University, has emphasized that lipoic acid is the ideal antioxidant and a recent article by Polish researchers cautiously comes to the same conclusion.

Packer maintains that “from a therapeutic viewpoint, few natural antioxidants are ideal.” He continues by indicating that an ideal antioxidant should fulfil many demands: It should be absorbable by the intestines, occur in a form useful to the cells and have many antioxidant effects (including interaction with other antioxidants) in both cell membranes and the organism’s aqueous phase. It also must be completely non-toxic. Packer believes that lipoic acid is unique among antioxidants because it fulfils these demands. Lipoic acid is a potentially very effective medicine in many situations where free oxygen radicals are implicated.

Lipoic acid is a small sulphur containing fatty acid. It was discovered in 1950, but its special anti-oxidative properties were first noticed during the 1980’s. It is a very strong antioxidant, considerably stronger than vitamin C. It is also both fat and water soluble, which means that it can enter and have effects both outside and inside the cells. When other antioxidants such as vitamins E and C are used up, they can be “recharged” by lipoic acid so that they can be used again. It is also necessary for the cells’ metabolism and for a period it was considered to be a vitamin, but when laboratory animals did not suffer damage from lipoic acid deficiency, this idea was dropped.

Diabetes and nerve damage
The question of whether or not it is a good idea to take lipoic acid supplements should be addressed. The previously mentioned Polish researchers analysed some of the as yet very limited knowledge in this area and found that lipoic acid may be especially interesting for diabetics. Studies on animals with type II diabetes have shown strong improvement of their diabetes with lowered blood sugar levels and better utilization of their bodies own insulin with lipoic acid supplements. Many studies have shown that lipoic acid improves nerve function in diabetics with nervous inflammation.

Just as interesting, lipoic acid may be an effective weapon against the protein damage caused by heightened blood sugar. In a process called protein oxidation the proteins change structure in a way which is similar to what happens when an egg is boiled. This oxidation is an important part of the explanation for diabetics’ tendency to get cataracts, where the lens of the eye becomes clouded. In animal studies this is counteracted by lipoic acid.

The apparent nerve protective properties have lead to studies in Alzheimer’s treatment. In two studies it was found that the disease was halted by lipoic acid, but these results should be considered as provisional. The same result has been found in studies of Parkinson’s disease.

Does lipoic acid prevent cancer? The Polish researchers are uncertain. Their tissue studies indicate that small doses promote growth, while large doses inhibit growth. Dare we claim that this effect speaks for supplementation? We produce small doses of lipoic acid without help.

Only about 1,000 articles on lipoic acid can be found in the medical database, Medline. Research is still in its infancy. Even so, entering lipoic acid into Google gives over two million links (search “lipoic acid”).

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Bilska A et al. Lipoic acid – the drug of the future? Pharmacological Review 2005;57:570-77.

Vitamins against aging

January 9, 2006

The need for many vitamins increases with age. A deficiency can be compared to radiation exposure, which causes mutations, decreased energy production, cancer, and age-related changes in the body, according to one of the World’s leading nutrition scientists.

When Bruce Ames was 70, President Clinton surprised him with U.S.A.’s highest scientific recognition, The National Medal of Science, for his research in nutrition, cancer, and aging.

Today he is 77, but still an almost incomprehensibility active researcher and professor at the famous Berkeley University in California. He is also the man behind the world renown Ames test, a lightning fast method to find out whether a specific chemical can cause mutations, and thereby cancer.

This introduction shows that Ames it a researcher to be listen to, and therefore we have decided to discuss one of Ames’s latest and most important scientific articles.

The article was published in a periodical for the European organization of molecular biologists (EMBO reports). It describes how it is possible to reduce the tendency for cancer and aging by taking more than the recommended dose of diverse vitamins and other important substances.

How does it do this? In his study Ames found that deficiencies of vitamins C, E, B6, and B12 as well as of folic acid and zinc can have exactly the same effect on cells as radioactivity. This means that such deficiency causes mutations, for example as a result of breakage of the chromosomes.

Folic acid deficiency causes such breakage because it leads to the introduction of a wrong substance (uracil) in uncountable places along the DNA molecules. These mutations affect the cells the same way as a virus affects a computer. In the worst cases, the system beaks down.

But deficiency does not only lead to mutations. Another result is weakening of the energy producing mitochondria, otherwise known as the cells’ power plants. In order for the mitochondria to function, they must have access to certain enzymes, which can be regarded as the power plant’s machinery. The enzymes work together so that the product from one “machine” is processed further by the next in a chain of reactions which result in the conversation of oxygen and hydrogen into water, and the production of energy. But where do the enzymes come from? Without the necessary building blocks they do not exist at all!

Ames has among other things proven that deficiencies of zinc or the B vitamins biotin and pantothenic acid weaken the fourth reaction in this chain of reactions. They are the building blocks of the “machines” which carry out this step in the process. Not only is the production of energy reduced by such deficiency, but oxygen is also insufficiently converted to water. As a result the mitochondria empty free radicals into the surrounding cell where they can cause mutations, cancer, and weakness.

More Energy
Why does Ames believe that it is necessary to take more vitamins than recommended? This is as a result of the third and last point in his thought process. It regards the consequence of the uncountable mutations which by the aforementioned methods unavoidably arise during ones life. These mutations cause the cells to produce less effective enzymes that bind less effectively to the vitamins which they need to aid their function. Ames maintains that this poor binding can be overcome simply by increasing the amount of vitamins. This makes the enzymes work again.

A particular problem in this regard is the weakening of the mitochondria which occurs with age. Without energy, nothing functions within the cell and the degeneration of the mitochondria is central to what we call aging. But Ames emphasizes that it is possible to make old rats faster by giving them supplements of the two vitamin-like substances lipoic acid and carnitine.

Both substances are important intermediates for energy production in the mitochondria. With age they bind poorly to the enzymes which cause the mitochondria to function poorly. But this poor binding can also be overcome with supplements. As well as making the rats faster it was possible to measure that their mitochondria once again functioned normally. Clinically such treatment has been able to result in improvement in people with mild Alzheimer’s.

The unique thing about Ames is that his arguments are based on biochemistry. This means that he refers to elementary chemical reactions which are demonstrable in the organism. Many others base their views of more or less uncertain clinical trails, sometimes without knowledge of the biochemistry behind them. It might not be coincidental that The Nobel Prise in medicine typically is given to a biochemist.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Bruce N Ames. Increasing longevity by tuning up metabolism. EMBO reports 2005;6:S20- S23.
2. Memory loss in old rats is associated with brain mitochondrial decay and RNA/DNA oxidation: Partial reversal by feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and/or R-a-lipoic acid. J. Liu et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA.2002;99:2356-61.
3. B N Ames et al. High-dose vitamins stimulate variant enzymes with decreased coenzyme-binding affinity (increased Km): Relevance to genetic diseases and polymorphisms. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:616-58.

Vitamin D as a Universal Remedy

September 13, 2005

Vitamin D, which most people lack in the winter and many lack in the summer, has an increasing number of roles to play. A deficiency in Vitamin D increases the risk of multiple sclerosis, several types of cancer, skin diseases, and even increased blood pressure.

Vitamin D plays an important role in the public consciousness, but even a bigger role in the minds of those who develop new medicine. Substances which are related to vitamin D are central to the treatment of many serious diseases. This is shown by a comprehensive and very well documented summary from the American pharmaceutical giant Eli-Lily.

In this summary the status and possibility of vitamin D treatment for (among others) prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, leukaemia, multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes, skin cancer, hypertension, and of course osteoporosis is examined.

Here are some examples:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a so called autoimmune disease, which means that it is a disease where the body’s immune system turns against parts of the body itself, in this case nerve tissue. In animal models of this disease it is possible to avoid outbreaks with the help of calcitriol. Calcitriol is the active version of the vitamin and is created as needed by the body so long as the vitamin D deposits are sufficient. MS is most common in temperate countries, where the sun in relatively low in the sky and vitamin D deficiency is common.

Rheumatoid arthritis is also an autoimmune disease, but with this disease the joints are attacked by the immune system. People with small vitamin D depots more often suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and the risk is higher in temperate countries than in subtropical climes. In animals it is possible to avoid worsening of symptoms if calcitriol is given early enough.

Psoriasis is already treated with salves which contain the vitamin D containing substance calcipotirol (Daivonex), which helps at least 70% of sufferers. Sunlight also helps. Like vitamin D, calcipotirol has the ability to help cells become mature and specialized without growing uncontrolled.

Death rates from prostate cancer are lowest in sunny countries, and the risk of getting this disease is highest in men who have small vitamin D deposits. In a study prostate cancer growth was inhibited in six out of seven patients with the help of calcitriol tablets (0.5-2.5 microgram per day). This is also explained by the vitamin’s effects on the cells. Because normal prostate cell growth is also slowed, researchers also see a possibility of using such treatment for enlarged prostate.

Breast cancer and colon cancer are more common in people who do no get much sun. Both the growth and the spread of breast cancer are reduced by calcitriol in animal studies. Regarding colon cancer, increased growth has been seen in animals that were artificially given vitamin D deficiency. This cancer inhibiting property is predicted to play an important role in future treatment.

Finally, hypertension should be considered. Lack of sunlight and vitamin D in the blood are believed to contribute to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is quickly caused (in mice) by avoiding vitamin D.

All of the above illnesses have the common factor that they can be provoked by lack of sunlight, the most important source of vitamin D. They are also counteracted by vitamin D and vitamin D like substances.

One could wish that it would be possible to treat and prevent these illnesses with the active form of vitamin D, calcitriol. But this is a risky method which can lead to increase calcium levels in the blood and kidney stones. Therefore we must be content with getting vitamin D the natural way, which is to say from sunlight or by eating fatty fish, and then let the organism create calcitriol as needed.

Unfortunately at our latitudes the fours summer months from May to August are the only months where there is enough sun that we create vitamin D in the skin. Those who do not come out in the sun or are covered in clothing, do not create near enough. This makes it necessary to take vitamin D in pill form.

The task is to get enough vitamin D. This is not possible during the dark months without vitamin supplements or eating a lot of fatty fish. Deficiency creates a larger problem than many are aware.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Nagpal S et al. Noncalcemic actions of vitamin D receptor ligands. Endocrine Reviews 2005;26:662-87.

edrv.endojournals.org
www.iom.dk

No Danger from Vitamin E and C

May 23, 2005

Many of the worlds reknown scientist state that vitamin E and C are safe to take, even in high dosages. At the same time, the theory that the two vitamins prevent chronic illnesses, is still very much alive.

A number of world-leading researchers in vitamin E and vitamin C have concluded that the two antioxidants are completely safe over a very wide dose range. Thus, they reject claims to the opposite which are expressed in particular to the public, and to a lesser degree to the scientific community.

………………………………………

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Hathcock JN et al. Vitamins E and C are safe across a broad range of intakes. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:736-45.

www.ajcn.org
www.iom.dk

Not All Antioxidants Prevent Cancer

October 1, 2004

The Cochrane Institution is very well-respected for its objective consideration of medical issues. The last report from The Lancet today does not actually reveal anything truly new, despite a very useful summary of results from earlier prevention studies made with antioxidants. The results are listed after each antioxidant and after each type of cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.

The good news is that it looks as if selenium may very effectively prevent cancer diseases in the gastrointestinal region, as selenium both halves the frequency of cancer as well as the rate of death in the group of people taking selenium compared with the group taking placebo.

The disappointing news is that certain other antioxidants do not have any cancer-preventive effect in the studies mentioned and in some cases they even have harmful effects – mainly attributed to beta-carotene. This is a well-known fact.

The authors are inclined to think that the ones who might be harmed by antioxidants are people who are not very strained by the harmful free radicals in the first place. However, the authors will not warn against taking moderate doses of antioxidants or eating fruits and vegetables, and they thereby recognize the importance of getting moderate amounts of these antioxidants.

The study should be a memento for the authorities who prevent the public from being informed with fair and useful information on effects as well as side effects of dietary supplements. This censorship conceals positive as well as negative research results to the consumer who is left only to pure speculation about the use and dosage of the antioxidants which could be very beneficial if used correctly.

Antioxidants prevent atherosclerosis with great probability, but, naturally, this must happen before the atherosclerosis is far advanced. Based on his own research, the Californian Nobel Prize Winner Louis Ignarro, one of the world’s leading experts in vascular surgery, has recently in very clear terms encouraged anyone who want to avoid having blood clots to take supplements of vitamin C and -E.

In the last three months alone, the Vitality Council have posted at least six press releases about new scientific research regarding antioxidants; all involving important – in some cases essential – new knowledge from the leading research centres around the world.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Goran Bjelakovic, Dimitrinka Nikolova, Rosa G Simonetti, Christian Gluud Antioxidant supplements for prevention of gastrointestinal cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis Lancet 2004; 364: 1219-28.

www.lancet.com
www.cochrane.dk/index.htm
www.iom.dk

Related articles:
Vitamin E or False Indication of Goods – 12-11-04 09:15
Biased Cochrane Study – 07-10-04 12:00
A Dangerous Cocktail – 03-10-04 12:00

The First Table of the Antioxidant Content of Food

August 12, 2004

Because of the growing interest in antioxidants, two scientific institutions under the American Ministry of Agriculture have prepaired the first extensive table of antioxidants in the diet.

The growing interest in antioxidants has made two scientific institutions under the American Ministry of Agriculture compile the first comprehensive table of the antioxidant content of food.

The reason for this is the increasing belief in antioxidants protecting against atherosclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, old age blindness – and for that matter ageing in general. The latest news is that people who develop oesophageal and gastric cancer generally get significantly less dietary antioxidants than others.

The new table has required an enormous amount of laboratory work and comprises 100 foodstuffs from the vegetable kingdom which, as we know, are the main source of dietary antioxidants. Not only does it show which foodstuffs contain the most antioxidants, it also points out the one with the fewest antioxidants. The type of antioxidants (vitamin E or -C, phenols, carotenoids) is not specified – only the total effect.

Among berries and fruits, the most antioxidants can be found in cranberry, blackcurrants, raspberry, red apples, prunes, and plums. By contrast, bananas, kiwis, mangoes, watermelons, and pineapples are quite poor sources.

In the vegetable group, artichoke is number one, but also dried beans, onions, cabbage, peppers, spinach, and boiled potatoes are good sources of antioxidants, while salad (particularly Iceberg salad), green peas, and raw tomatoes contain significantly less antioxidants. At the bottom is cucumbers with a very low content of antioxidants.

90% of the antioxidants are water-soluble while the rest are fat-soluble and have other properties. It is difficult to get enough of these through the diet but they are present in nuts, oatmeal, avocadoes, broccoli, and artichokes.

Incredibly rich sources of fat-soluble vitamins are the spices cinnamon and (particularly) clove, followed by oregano and basil quite a way down the list. Even small amounts of these spices can have important effects. Chocolate also provides a decent supplement.

Compared to vegetables, berry, fruits, and nuts, cereals such as cornflakes and white bread contain only few antioxidants. People who live on a diet of bread and meat without many spices, who have a traditional breakfast, rarely get other kinds of fruits than bananas, and stick to Iceberg salad with cucumber and tomato will not get many dietary antioxidants!

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Xainli Wu, Gary R Beecher, Joanne Holden et al. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric. Food Chem. 2004;52:4026-37.

pubs.acs.org/journals/jafcau
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Alcohol Counteracts the Effect of Folic Acid in Women

October 29, 2003

Epidemiologic study shows folic acid deficiency in women with a daily alcohol consumption of 2-3 drinks and thereby increased risk of chronic joint disease, coronary disease (blood clots) and breast cancer.

By. Vitality Council

Reference:
American Journal of Epedemiology 2003;158:760-771.

aje.oupjournals.org
www.iom.dk