Again, uneasiness regarding the pill

July 31, 2006

The pill (contraception in pill form) drains the body of the antioxidants, vitamin E and Q10. This could mean that a supplement would make it much safer to take the pill.

More than 100 million women worldwide use the pill as contraception. The pill is believed to be remarkably safe, and it is easy to forget that it can have serious side effects. According to a Dutch report from 2003, users of the pill have a 3-6 times higher risk of developing blood clots in the veins, which is a dangerous condition. In addition, they have a 2-5 times higher risk of developing blood clots in the heart or of suffering from stroke. These numbers are the same for the modern forms of the pill, which have few other few side effects.

If the risk of disease is low, (because of being young and otherwise healthy) than a low percentage increased in risk does not so important. But why is there any increase at all? Light has been thrown on this question by researchers of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. They have proven that users of the pill have lower vitamin E and Q10 levels in their blood than women who do not take the pill. Vitamin E and Q10 are well known antioxidants.

This is nothing new. Already 15 years ago, researchers believed that vitamin E could reduce the risks associated with the pill. It was also known that the pill drains the body of antioxidants, which can be directly linked to an increased risk of blood clot formation. When one lacks vitamin E, the fats in the blood become oxidized, thereby stimulating the platelets to stick together causing the formation of blood clots. Logically, it was suggested that vitamin E should be combined with use of the pill.

The pill uses up the body’s vitamin E and Q10 reserves. This has been proven again, this time in a study where 15 users of the pill in their forties were compared with women in the same age group who did not take the pill. The differences found were statistically valid, and although this was a small study there were no doubts regarding the results. These results were known before the study was completed; the problem was that nobody had been paying any attention to them.

Unsolved problems
Why does the pill strain the bloods vitamin E and Q10 contents? The pill raises the body’s oestrogen levels. This is why the ovaries go into hibernation so that ovulation is inhibited. The body registers a hormone level high enough that the ovaries can take a break. Even normal (physiologic) levels of oestrogen stimulate the formation of free radicals and therefore cause an increased use of antioxidants. This has been shown in an American study of the cells which compose the inner walls of the blood vessels (endothelium cells). They also showed that free radicals resulting from the presence of oestrogen caused the cells to grow, causing the blood vessels to thicken. It is believed that this increases the risk of blood clots. It also indicates that antioxidants could prevent such side effects.

For practical purposes, women with an increased risk for side effects are advised not to take the pill. This includes women over the age of 35, women with high blood pressure, and so on. All women with an increased risk of blood clots should refrain from using the pill. This causes some amount of contemplation. Who knows if they are in the high risk group? Is their risk so low that a five fold increase in risk is acceptable?

Aside from these problems it is important to know that if you use the pill, your defence against the formation of free radicals is weakened. Even though this is well known, no one has, until recently, thought to reduce this risk with the use of antioxidants.

An important question follows: What is the long term prognosis for women who took the pill for many years when they were young? During the many years they took the pill, they had reduced levels of vitamin E and Q10 in their blood. In the short term, this increased the oxidation of the blood’s fats which increased the risk of blood clots. But does it cause problems in the long term like smoking and high blood pressure? As yet, we can only guess.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Palan PR Magneson AT, Castillo M, Dunne J, Mikhail MS. Effects of menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive use on serum levels of lipid soluble antioxidants. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 May;194(5):e35-8. Epub 2006 Apr 21
2. Felty Q. Estrogen-induced DNA synthesis in vascular endothelial cells is mediated by ROS signaling. BMC Cardiovasc Disord 2006 Apr 11;6:16
3. Ciavatti M, Renaud S. Oxidative status and oral contraceptive. Its relevance to platelet abnormalities and cardiovascular risk. Free Radic Biol Med. 1991;10(5):325-38
4. Saha A, Roy K, De K, Sengupta C. Effects of oral contraceptive norethindron on blood lipid and lipid peroxidation parameters. Acta Pol Pharm. 2000 Nov-Dec;57(6):441-7.
5. Tanis BC, Rosendaal FR. Venous and arterial thrombosis during oral contraceptive use: Risks and risk factors. Semin Vasc Med. 2003 Feb;3(1):69-84
6. Crook D, Godsland I. Safety evaluation of modern oral contraceptives. Effect on lipoprotein and carbohydrate metabolism. Contraception. 1998 Mar;57(3):189-201

Dietary Supplement Strengthens Immuno-Therapy Against Breast Cancer

November 7, 2005

An American study has shown that the pioneering cancer medicine against breast cancer, Herceptin, can be made 30-40 times more effective when used in conjunction with a harmless dietary supplement: gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The study’s results are preliminary but calls for further investigation.

Every year, almost 3,500 Danish women get breast cancer. Approx. every fifth of them have a particularly aggressive form of cancer, which you may fear in particular, if you find cancer in the lymph nodes of the armpit during surgery. The aggressive cancer is due to a gene in the affected women which is particularly active and forms large amounts of HER2, a protein. When HER2 adheres to the surface of a breast cell, it reacts with growth agents in the blood that can transform the cell into a cancerous cell and stimulate it to growth.

However, since 1998, there have been medicine available that, in the same way as an antibody, have been able to block HER2 and thus weaken the growth stimulation. The name of the drug is Herceptin® (Trastuzumab) and so far only women have been offered this, who in addition to being “HER2 positive”, have had recurrence of breast cancer that has spread.

……………………………………..

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Piccart-Gebhart et al. Trastuzumab after adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2005;353:1659-72.
2. Romond EH et al. Trastuzumab plus adjuvant chemotherapy for operable HER2-positive breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2005;353: 1673-84.
3. Menendez JA et al. Effect of gamma-linolenic acid on the transcriptional activity of the Her2/neu (erbB-2) oncogene. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1611-15.

Breast Cancer Cannot Tolerate Iron Deficiency

September 21, 2005

Breast cancer is fought just as effectively by utilising the body’s iron deposits as by using chemotherapy. This has been shown in an American animal study.

TV and radio sometimes gives the impression that researchers have lost interest in antioxidants. Meanwhile, research in this field continues.

The following describes a study which has recently been published in the worlds leading journal for research in the field of free radicals. Free radicals are neutralised by antioxidants such as vitamins E and C etc.

The journal is called Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine. It comes out every 14 days with about 125 large pages which contain summary articles as well as 10-12 descriptions of new research. It has an editorial staff with nine members and an international review board with 73 members, all of whom are university-researchers. It is unfortunately written in such technical, biologic-biochemical, language that it is not understandable for normal nutrition experts and doctors. But the size and format of the journal is an expression of the intense international research which is still producing new information for the understanding of the roles of antioxidants and free radicals in disease.

The study in question has special interest for doctors who treat atherosclerosis with EDTA. EDTA is given intravenously and binds the bloods heavy metals as well as iron. Because both iron (excess) and heavy metals strain the organism with free radicals, EDTA works as an antioxidant.

In the study, mice were given a human form of breast cancer. The mice did not receive EDTA, but a related substance called desferal (desferoxamine) which is an old medication which removes iron from the blood. The question was whether the mice would be better off after, thanks to the desferal, they were drained of their iron deposits. They were!

Desferal halved the cancer growth and was just as effective as the much more poisonous chemotherapy (in this case, doxorubicin, which is commonly used against breast cancer). When the mice received both desferal and the chemotherapy, the cancer inhibiting effect was slightly larger than with each of the two treatments alone.

Antioxidants support chemotherapy
The method of action is unknown. It is known that an excess of iron can create free radicals and that desferal, like EDTA, can be regarded as an antioxidant. But some conditions of the study showed that that was not the determining factor. The explanation is more rather that the fast growing cancer cells need more iron than normal cells. Desferal starves them of iron which stops their growth.

Contrary to the expected, the study said nothing about the combination of chemotherapy and antioxidants. Cancer doctors in Denmark advise against this combination. They believe that chemotherapy works by creating free radicals and that the treatment therefore is ruined by antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, selenium, Q10, etc.

This is rejected by the article as an antiquated way of thinking. Typical chemotherapy (doxorubicin, cisplatin, etc.) does not work by creating free radicals, but by blocking vital enzymes with difficult names such as topoisomerase etc. This has been proven by a number of researchers (see ref.)

It is actually more probable that antioxidants support chemotherapy. In any case, studies have shown that chemotherapy can be weakened by adding free radicals (hydrogen peroxide). It therefore seems wise to get rid of them with antioxidants, and thereby both streamline chemotherapy and make it less poisonous.

The American researchers who published the study (and who, in addition, work for the American Food and Drug Administration) showed, sensationally, that breast cancer cells can be held in check if they are starved of iron. They also believe, based on their own research as well as the research of others, that cancer doctors should sooner ban free radicals than antioxidants.

This is just basic research. In the future there will be clinical trails which may show that this method works on humans.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Hoke E.M et al. Desferal inhibits breast tumor growth and does not interfere with the tumoricidal activity of doxorubicin. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 2005;39:403-11.
2. Senturker S et al. Induction of apoptosis by chemotherapeutic drugs without generation of reactive oxygen species. Arch Biochem Biophys 2002;397:262-72.

Vitamin D Together With NSAID Medicine Fights Prostate Cancer

September 3, 2005

A world-famous Vitamin-D researcher has initiated a study with a very simple treatment of cancer of the prostate. If expectations are met, then it could result in a revolution in the treatment of the most frequent form of cancer in men.

Among men over 60 at least every other have cancer in the prostate, usually without knowing it. It has been discovered many years ago by investigating men who died for some other reason. Cancer in the prostate is typically a disease that you do not die from – but with! Nevertheless, it is the most frequent cause of cancer among men after lung cancer.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Moreno J, Krishnan AV, Feldman D. Molecular mechanisms mediating the anti-proliferative effects of Vitamin D in prostate cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Nov;92(4):317-25

Cholesterol reducing pills: Do they have a downside?

August 3, 2005

Medications taken against cholesterol may prolong life in the event of arteriosclerosis and perhaps even heart failure. However, new figures seem to indicate that many patients get serious side effects from taking such medications, which side effects could have been avoided had they also taken Co-enzyme Q10.

Millions of people worldwide use cholesterol reducing medicine in the form of statins. These people most often have clogged coronary arteries and the statins are used to protect them against further atherosclerosis, blood clots, and strokes. They work, but to a lesser degree than many people think.

If they are given to one hundred 40-80 year old people who are at high risk due to atherosclerosis or diabetes, they prevent about one coronary blood clot or one stroke per year. In the course of five years, about two deaths are avoided.

Many of the treated meanwhile develop heart failure, which is reduced pump function of the heart, because atherosclerosis damages the heart muscle permanently. They begin to complain of tiredness and increasing shortness of breath.

Is it risky to take cholesterol lowering pills in this situation? There can be debated. The debate is due to the way that the medicine works. It blocks the livers production of mevalonic acid, which is necessary for the production of cholesterol, but it also blocks the production of vital Q10! Not only does the blood’s cholesterol level fall, but also the bloods Q10 level.

Because Q10 is necessary for the tissues to create energy it is easy to imagine that a heart muscle which is weakened by heart failure, is further weakened when Q10 is removed.

Apparently statins work anyway. Statins are believed to lengthen life in heart failure. Not because they lower cholesterol, which may actually be damaging when suffering from heart failure, but because statins have other effects than reducing cholesterol. They are antioxidants and counteract inflammation. In addition they promote the creation of new blood vessels in the heart. None of these effects have anything to do with cholesterol.

Maybe the positive effects of statins outweigh the dramatic Q10 loss that they cause. Nonetheless, it is hard to believe that this loss is completely harmless, especially with heart failure.

The American cardiologist P.H. Langsjoen is one of those who warn that we find ourselves in an epidemic of heart failure with unclear reasons and who believe that statins could be one of the reasons.

At a congress in Los Angeles he put forth data which indicates previously unrecognised side effects. Two thirds of 51 newly referred statin treated patients complained of muscle pain, more than 80% were abnormally tired, and almost 60% had shortness of breath. When they stopped using statins and instead received Q10 (240 mg/day), most became symptom free.

At the same congress a randomised trial showed that muscle pain and tiredness was present in one out of every ten on those treated with statins, but disappeared when they took Q10 (100 mg/day). Just as important, more than half experienced an improved quality of life and many showed improved heart function.

Pills against cholesterol lengthen life, but it is necessary to take Q10 if quality of life also increases so that a longer life is a life worth living.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Heart Protection Study Collaborative Group. MRC/BHF Heart Protection Study of cholesterol lowering with simvastatin in 20 536 high-risk individuals: A randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2002;360:7-22.
2. Langsjoen PH et al. The clinical use of HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors and the associated depletion of coenzyme Q10. A review of animal and human publications. Biofactors. 2003;18(1-4):101-11.
3. Liao JK. Statin therapy for cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure. J Investig Med. 2004 May;52(4):248-53.
4. Bandolier. Statins in heart faikure. http://www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/cardiac/statHF.html
5. Fourth Conference of the International Coenzyme Q10 Association. Los Angeles April 14-17 2005.

www.thelancet.com
www.iospress.nl/html/09516433.php
journalseek.net/cgi-bin/journalseek/journalsearch.cgi
www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/cardiac/statHF.html
www.coenzymeq10.it/home.html
www.iom.dk

St. John’s Wort Outdoes Antidepressant Drugs

February 14, 2005

It is better to take St. John’s Wort than Anti-Depressant Drugs, even when
suffering from a moderate to a severe depression. It not only works better but it has fewer side effects. But every second patient needs a double dose.”…

Taking St. John’s wort is better than taking antidepressant drugs, even in the case of moderate to severe depressions. The effect is better and it has fewer adverse effects. However, every other patients needs a double dose for the herb to be effective.

The fact that St. John’s wort can be used for other things than making schnapps has been known for some time. As early as in 1994 it turned out that the plant can be used for even serious depressions, and St. John’s wort has been an unlicenced herbal remedy for some time now.

On account of the usual hypocrisy of the authorities, the remedy is only approved for treating “melancholy, despondency, and sadness”; concepts that are not used in the scientific world of approved licensed medical drugs. It has been documented, however, that St. John’s wort is effective against depression; but the hyprocrisy forbids informing about this even though it is specifically the word of “depression” that is used in the scientific articles.

In Germany, the authorities are truthful and here, St. John’s wort has been officially approved for “mental disturbances, depressive conditions, anxiety, and nervous restlessness” since 1984.

For this reason, German doctors have used far more St. John’s wort than their British colleagues and have spared their patients of nausea, tiredness, impotence, oral dryness, dizziness, sleeplessness, and what else might come from using antidepressants – also called SSRI preparations. In Germany, St. John’s wort is prescribed twice as often as standard antidepressants.

So far, it has been known that St. John’s wort is just as effective against light depression as SSRI preparations and other antidepressants. When it comes to severe depressions, there has been more doubt about its effectiveness even though a study indicated that the effect was fully equal to prescription drugs. However, the study was too small for the results to be valid.

This uncertainty has now been removed. An unusually well accomplished German study performed with typical German thoroughness has documented that not only is St. John’s wort fully equal to the SSRI remedies; it actually outdoes them. In a study involving 244 severely depressed patients, St. John’s wort had both a better effect and caused fewer adverse effects than the widely used SSRI preparation paroxetine.

The study showed that adverse effects only appeared half as often in the group receiving St. John’s wort as in the group receiving paroxetine. After six weeks, the patients who had been treated with St. John’s wort noted a decrease in depression score of 57% while the patients who had been treated with paroxetine could only note a decrease of 45% – scored on the basis of the so-called Hamilton depression rating scale.

In all respects, this study lives up to the highest standards. There are therefore very strong reasons for preferring St. John’s wort to other remedies – in both mild and moderate to severe depression.

You should be aware of two things, however: First of all, the recommended dose in the over-the-counter drugs is generally too small: They advise you to take e.g. 3 – 6 tablets which gives you a total of 900 – 1800 mcg. of hypericin if the content of hypericin is 300 mcg. per tablet. The 900 mcg. is too small a dose.

In the German study, 1800 mcg. was the start dose. Approximately every other patient had that dosage doubled after 14 days due to a lacking effect. This means that with the dosage recommended on the package, you should either start out with six and possible increase the dose to 12 tablets a day (again – if the content of hypericin is 300 mcg. per tablet) in order to achieve the same effect as the German trial subjects!

The second thing you should know is that St. John’s wort reduces the effect of several kinds of drugs, including prescription drugs such as contraceptive pills and anticoagulants. The reason for this is that St. John’s wort promotes the breakdown of the drugs in the liver. If you are taking any kind of medicine, you should consult your doctor before starting self-treatment with St. John’s wort!

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Szgedi A et al. Acute treatrment of moderate to severe depression with hypericum extract WS 5570 (St Johns Wort): randomised controlled double blind non-inferiority trial versus paroxetine. BMJ online 11.2.2005, page 1-6.
2. de Smet P.A.G. et al. St Johns wort as an antidepressant. BMJ 1996;313:241-2 (L).
3. Linde K et al. St Johns wort for depression – an overview and meta analysis of randomised clinical trials. BMJ 1996;313:253-7.

bmj.bmjjournals.com
www.iom.dk

Broccoli and Spinach are Not Likely to Affect INR Blood Test

December 10, 2004

Promising Dutch study of Vitamin K. The somewhat cryptic headline is probably nonsense to most people, but nevertheless has great importance to all those taking blood-thinning (anticoagulating) medicines such as Marevan (Warfarin) and who are doing the regular blood test control, called INR.

If you are undergoing treatment with anticoagulant drugs such as Marevan, you should regularly be tested with a blood test called INR.

This blood test is designed to estimate if the dose you receive is correct, but it should also prevent overdosing in which the blood would get “too thin”. This condition is dangerous and can result in internal bleeding.

12 healthy volunteers were included in a study in which they were given a correct dosage of anticoagulants for 13 weeks and adjusted to a maintenance dose with a constant and stable INR value that would prevent them from forming blood clots.

Then, they were given increasingly large daily doses of vitamin K from 50 mcg. to 500 mcg. during the course of one week. Not until the dose reached 150 mcg. of vitamin K a day taken as a dietary supplement, was any effect on INR observed. Even at this dose, INR was only affected in 3 out of the 12 trial subjects.

When the trial subjects were given food that is particularly rich in vitamin K, i.e. broccoli and spinach, there was no clinically relevant effect on INR because the effect was so transient, and the authors suggest that the reason might be a poor bioavailability of the vegetables. This may be surprising, as kale, spinach, and broccoli can contain up to 400 mcg. of vitamin K per 100 g.

Doses of 100 mcg. vitamin K as an easily absorbable dietary supplement had no effect on INR.

If this study on healthy, young trial subjects can be repeated with the same result on patients with a predisposition to forming blood clots, it would make life significantly easier on a great number of people who every day stare in despair at the long list of foods containing vitamin K that they are not allowed to eat while taking Marevan.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Schurgers LJ, Shearer MJ, et al: Effect of Vitamin K Intake on the Stability of Oral Anticoagulant Treatment. Dose-Response Relationships in Healthy Subjects. Blood 2004;104(9):2682-2689.

www.bloodjournal.org
www.iom.dk

Vitamin E Competes with Viagra

October 26, 2004

Diabetic mice who are not able to obtain erection are helped nearly as well by taking vitamin E as with taking Viagra. A combination is even better, and the treatment is recommended for diabetic men with the same problem.

Based on animal studies, Canadian researchers believe that male diabetics suffering from erectile dysfunction can be helped with vitamin E.

Diabetic men must, due to a weak erection, often resort to Viagra. However, despite the widespread use of this preparation, its effect is not rarely inadequate.

A supplement with a high dose of vitamin E might help, according to researchers at the Urology Department at St. Joseph Health Care, University of Western Ontario (Canada).

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
De Young L, Yu D, Bateman RM, Brock GB. Oxidative stress and antioxidant therapy: their impact in diabetes-associated erectile dysfunction. J Androl. 2004 Sep-Oct;25(5):830-6.

www.andrologyjournal.org
www.iom.dk

Chemotherapy: Selenium Increases the Effect and Reduces Side Effects

September 20, 2004

There are still a few cancer specialists, who warn their patients against taking antioxidants while undergoing chemotherapy. They think that when antioxidants decrease the side effects of the treatment, they will also decrease the benefits of chemotherapy. However, pursuasive studies now show that this advice is neither correct nor beneficial.

Scientists at the famous and internationally acclaimed American Roswell Park Cancer Institute – the oldest independent cancer research centre in the world – are putting forward these new results.

Highly detailed studies on mice have shown that not only does selenium protect healthy tissue from the destructive effect of chemotherapy – it also quite dramatically enhances the effect of chemo therapy on tumours! For the first time, it has been established that it is possible to increase the effect of chemotherapy with a treatment that is actually harmless in itself.

The studies were carried out on so-called naked mice that had various human tumours surgically implanted and then were given various types of chemo theray. Some of the tumours were moderately sensitive to chemotherapy while the sensitivity of others was very small. However, when the mice were treated with large doses of selenium, they were able to tolerate up to four times as much chemotherapy as they normally would and thereby, not only the usual 20 – 30% of the mice could be cured, but in some cases up to 100% of the mice were cured!

Just as convincing was the effect on moderately sensitive tumours which are usually cured in about 50% of the cases. With selenium, the success rate went up to 100% and, to a very large extent, the mice were also free from side effects.

The preliminary results indicate that there might be several reasons for these results, but selenium in combination with chemotherapy seems to be able to force the cancer cells into committing suicide, so-called apoptosis.

Attention must be paid to the fact that this is an animal experiment. However, the results have been so exceptional and promising that the researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute are already setting up the first studies for testing the treatment on humans.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Shousong Cao, Farukh A. Durrani, and Youcef M. Rustum. Selective Modulation of the Therapeutic Efficacy of Anticancer Drugs by Selenium Containing Compounds against Human Tumor Xenografts. Clin Cancer Res. 2004;10(7):2561-9.

clincancerres.aacrjournals.org
www.roswellpark.org
www.iom.dk

Cholesterol Medicine Halves the Amount of Coenzyme Q10 in the Blood

August 16, 2004

Heart specialists normally shrug off the suggested recommendation that patients treated with cholesterol lowering drugs must take Coenzyme Q10. While it is common knowledge that such medicine interferes with the body’s ability to create Coenzyme Q10, and that Q10 is essential for life, conventional medical thinking still holds that supplementation is superfluous because of the belief that medical treatment is effective and increases life span!

Now this conventional thinking is being challenged by new studies showing that one of the most commonly used cholesterol lowering medicines not only decreases but actually halves the amount of Coenzyme Q10 in the blood.

By: Vitality Council

Reference:
Rundek T, Naini A, Sacco R, Coates K, DiMauro S. Atorvastatin decreases the coenzyme Q10 level in the blood of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Arch Neurol. 2004;61(6):889-92.

archneur.ama-assn.org
www.iom.dk