Glucosamine

GlucosamineImage via Wikipedia

Other names: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl glucosamine, chitosamine

Definition:
Glucosamine (C6H13NO5) is an amino sugar and a prominent precursor in the biochemical synthesis of glycosylated proteins and lipids. A type of glucosamine forms chitin, which composes the exoskeletons of crustaceans and other arthropods, cell walls in fungi and many higher organisms. Glucosamine is one of the most abundant monosaccharides. It is produced commercially by the hydrolysis of crustacean exoskeletons or, less commonly and more expensive to the consumer, by fermentation of a grain such as corn or wheat. Glucosamine is commonly used as a treatment for osteoarthritis, although its acceptance as a medical therapy varies.

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Glucosamine is a compound found naturally in the body, made from glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Glucosamine is needed to produce glycosaminoglycan, a molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage and other body tissues. Production of glucosamine slows with age.

Glucosamine is available as a nutritional supplement in health food stores and many drug stores. Glucosamine supplements are manufactured in a laboratory from chitin, a substance found in the shells of shrimp, crab, lobster, and other sea creatures. In additional to nutritional supplements, glucosamine is also used in sports drinks and in cosmetics.

Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin sulfate, a molecule naturally present in cartilage. Chondroitin gives cartilage elasticity and is believed to prevent the destruction of cartilage by enzymes. Glucosamine is sometimes combined with methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, in nutritional supplements.

Biochemistry:
Glucosamine was first identified in 1876 by Dr. Georg Ledderhose, but the stereochemistry was not fully defined until 1939 by the work of Walter Haworth.[1] D-Glucosamine is made naturally in the form of glucosamine-6-phosphate, and is the biochemical precursor of all nitrogen-containing sugars.   Specifically, glucosamine-6-phosphate is synthesized from fructose-6-phosphate and glutamine[3] as the first step of the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway.[4] The end-product of this pathway is UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc), which is then used for making glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, and glycolipids.

As the formation of glucosamine-6-phosphate is the first step for the synthesis of these products, glucosamine may be important in regulating their production. However, the way that the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway is actually regulated, and whether this could be involved in contributing to human disease, remains unclear.

Health effects:
Oral glucosamine is commonly used for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Since glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans are a major component of joint cartilage, supplemental glucosamine may help to rebuild cartilage and treat arthritis. Its use as a therapy for osteoarthritis appears safe, but there is conflicting evidence as to its effectiveness. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found glucosamine sulfate is no better than placebo in reducing the symptoms or progression of hip osteoarthritis.

There is promising evidence that glucosamine may reduce pain symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and possibly slow the progression of osteoarthritis. For example, a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine examined people with osteoarthritis over three years. Researchers assessed pain and structural improvements seen on x-ray. They gave 202 people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate a day or a placebo.

At the end of the study, researchers found that glucosamine slowed the progression of knee osteoarthritis compared to the placebo. People in the glucosamine group had a significant reduction in pain and stiffness. On x-ray, there was no average change or narrowing of joint spaces in the knees (a sign of deterioration) of the glucosamine group. In contrast, joint spaces of participants taking the placebo narrowed over the three years.

One of the largest studies on glucosamine for osteoarthritis was a 6-month study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Called GAIT, the study compared the effectiveness of glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL), chondroitin sulfate, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the drug celecoxib (Celebrex), or a placebo in people with knee osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine or chondroitin alone or in combination didn’t reduce pain in the overall group, although people in the study with moderate-to-severe knee pain were more likely to respond to glucosamine.

One major drawback of the GAIT Trial was that glucosamine hydrochloride was used rather than the more widely used and researched glucosamine sulfate. A recent analysis of previous studies, including the GAIT Trial, concluded that glucosamine hydrochloride was not effective. The analysis also found that studies on glucosamine sulfate were too different from one another and were not as well-designed as they should be, so they could not properly draw a conclusion. More research is needed.

Still, health care providers often suggest a three month trial of glucosamine and discontinuing it if there is no improvement after three months. A typical dose for osteoarthritis is 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate each day.

Other Conditions
Other conditions for which glucosamine is used include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), chronic venous insufficiency, and skin conditions, although further evidence is needed.

Use:
A typical dosage of glucosamine salt is 1,500 mg per day. Glucosamine contains an amino group that is positively charged at physiological pH. The anion included in the salt may vary. Commonly sold forms of glucosamine are glucosamine sulphate and glucosamine hydrochloride. The amount of glucosamine present in 1500 mg of glucosamine salt will depend on which anion is present and whether additional salts are included in the manufacturer’s calculation. Glucosamine is often sold in combination with other supplements such as chondroitin sulfate and methylsulfonylmethane.

Glucosamine is a popular alternative medicine used by consumers for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is also extensively used in veterinary medicine as an unregulated but widely accepted supplement.

Bioavailability and pharmacokinetics:
Two recent studies confirm that glucosamine is bioavailable both systemically and at the site of action (the joint) after oral administration of crystalline glucosamine sulfate in osteoarthritis patients. Steady state glucosamine concentrations in plasma and synovial fluid were correlated and in line with those effective in selected in vitro studies

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Clinical studies:
There have been multiple clinical trials of glucosamine as a medical therapy for osteoarthritis, but results have been conflicting. The evidence both for and against glucosamine’s efficacy has led to debate among physicians about whether to recommend glucosamine treatment to their patients.

Multiple clinical trials in the 1980s and 1990s, all sponsored by the European patent-holder, Rottapharm, demonstrated a benefit for glucosamine. However, these studies were of poor quality due to shortcomings in their methods, including small size, short duration, poor analysis of drop-outs, and unclear procedures for blinding. Rottapharm then sponsored two large (at least 100 patients per group), three-year-long, placebo-controlled clinical trials of the Rottapharm brand of glucosamine sulfate. These studies both demonstrated a clear benefit for glucosamine treatment. There was not only an improvement in symptoms but also an improvement in joint space narrowing on radiographs. This suggested that glucosamine, unlike pain relievers such as NSAIDs, can actually help prevent the destruction of cartilage that is the hallmark of osteoarthritis. On the other hand, several subsequent studies, independent of Rottapharm, but smaller and shorter, did not detect any benefit of glucosamine.

Due to these controversial results, some reviews and meta-analyses have evaluated the efficacy of glucosamine. Richy et al. performed a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials in 2003 and found efficacy for glucosamine on VAS and WOMAC pain, Lequesne index and VAS mobility and good tolerability.

Recently, a review by Bruyere et al. about glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis concludes that both products act as valuable symptomatic therapies for osteoarthritis disease with some potential structure-modifying effects.

This situation led the National Institutes of Health to fund a large, multicenter clinical trial (the GAIT trial) studying reported pain in osteoarthritis of the knee, comparing groups treated with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and the combination, as well as both placebo and celecoxib. The results of this 6-month trial found that patients taking glucosamine HCl, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of the two had no statistically significant improvement in their symptoms compared to patients taking a placebo. The group of patients who took celecoxib did have a statistically significant improvement in their symptoms. These results suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin did not effectively relieve pain in the overall group of osteoarthritis patients, but it should be interpreted with caution because most patients presented only mild pain (thus a narrow margin to appraise pain improvement) and because of an unusual response to placebo in the trial (60%). However, exploratory analysis of a subgroup of patients suggested that the supplements taken together (glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate) may be significantly more effective than placebo (79.2% versus 54%; p = 0.002) and a 10% higher than the positive control, in patients with pain classified as moderate to severe (see testing hypotheses suggested by the data).

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Marc Hochberg also noted that “It is disappointing that the GAIT investigators did not use glucosamine sulfate … since the results would then have provided important information that might have explained in part the heterogeneity in the studies reviewed by Towheed and colleagues” But this concern is not shared by pharmacologists at the PDR who state, “The counter anion of the glucosamine salt (i.e. chloride or sulfate) is unlikely to play any role in the action or pharmacokinetics of glucosamine”. Thus the question of glucosamine’s efficacy will not be resolved without further updates or trials.

In this respect, a 6-month double-blind, multicenter trial has been recently performed to assess the efficacy of glucosamine sulfate 1500 mg once daily compared to placebo and acetaminophen in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (GUIDE study). The results showed that glucosamine sulfate improved the Lequesne algofunctional index significantly compared to placebo and the positive control. Secondary analyses, including the OARSI responder indices, were also significantly favorable for glucosamine sulfate.

A subsequent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, including the NIH trial by Clegg, concluded that hydrochloride is not effective and that there was too much heterogeneity among trials of glucosamine sulfate to draw a conclusion.[46] In response to these conclusions, Dr. J-Y Reginster in an accompanying editorial suggests that the authors failed to apply the principles of a sound systematic review to the meta-analysis, but instead put together different efficacy outcomes and trial designs by mixing 4-week studies with 3-year trials, intramuscular/intraarticular administrations with oral ones, and low-quality small studies reported in the early 1980s with high-quality studies reported in 2007.

However, currently OARSI (OsteoArthritis Research Society International) is recommending glucosamine as the second most effective treatment for moderate cases of osteoarthritis. Likewise, recent European League Against Rheumatism practice guidelines for knee osteoarthritis grants to glucosamine sulfate the highest level of evidence, 1A, and strength of the recommendation, A.

Safety:
Clinical studies have consistently reported that glucosamine appears safe. Since glucosamine is usually derived from shellfish, those allergic to shellfish may wish to avoid it. However, since glucosamine is derived from the shells of these animals while the allergen is within the flesh of the animals, it is probably safe even for those with shellfish allergy. Alternative sources using fungal fermentation of corn are available. Another concern has been that the extra glucosamine could contribute to diabetes by interfering with the normal regulation of the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway, but several investigations have found no evidence that this occurs. A review conducted by Anderson et al in 2005 summarizes the effects of glucosamine on glucose metabolism in in vitro studies, the effects of oral administration of large doses of glucosamine in animals and the effects of glucosamine supplementation with normal recommended dosages in humans, concluding that glucosamine does not cause glucose intolerance and has no documented effects on glucose metabolism. Other studies conducted in lean or obese subjects concluded that oral glucosamine at standard doses does not cause or significantly worsen insulin resistance or endothelial dysfunction.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health is currently conducting a study of supplemental glucosamine in obese patients, since this population may be particularly sensitive to any effects of glucosamine on insulin resistance.

In the United States, glucosamine is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for medical use in humans. Since glucosamine is classified as a dietary supplement in the US, safety and formulation are solely the responsibility of the manufacturer; evidence of safety and efficacy is not required as long as it is not advertised as a treatment for a medical condition.

In Europe, glucosamine is approved as a medical drug and is sold in the form of glucosamine sulfate. In this case, evidence of safety and efficacy is required for the medical use of glucosamine and several guidelines have recommended its use as an effective and safe therapy for osteoarthritis. Actually, the Task Force of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) committee recently granted glucosamine sulfate a level of toxicity of 5 in a 0-100 scale, and recent OARSI (OsteoArthritis Research Society International) guidelines for hip and knee osteoarthritis also confirm its excellent safety profile.

Most studies involving humans have found that short-term use of glucosamine is well-tolerated. Side effects may include drowsiness, headache, insomnia, and mild and temporary digestive complaints such as abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. In rare human cases, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin has been linked with temporarily elevated blood pressure and heart rate and palpitations.

Since glucosamine supplements may be made from shellfish, people with allergies to shellfish should avoid glucosamine unless it has been confirmed that it is from a non-shellfish source. The source of glucosamine is not required to be printed on the label, so it may require a phone call to the manufacturer.

There is some evidence suggesting that glucosamine, in doses used to treat osteoarthritis, may worsen blood sugar, insulin, and/or hemoglobin A1c (a test that measures how well blood sugar has been controlled during the previous three months) levels in people with diabetes or insulin resistance.

Theoretically, glucosamine may increase the risk of bleeding. People with bleeding disorders, those taking anti-clotting or anti-platelet medication, such as warfarin, clopidogrel, and Ticlid, or people taking supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding, such as garlic, ginkgo, vitamin E, or red clover, should not take glucosamine unless under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

The safety of glucosamine in pregnant or nursing women isn’t known.

Resources:
http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/herbsvitaminsek/a/Glucosamine.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucosamine

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Fucoxanthin

Definition:Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid, with formula C42H58O6. It is found as an accessory pigment in the chloroplasts of brown algae and most other heterokonts, giving them a brown or olive-green color. Fucoxanthin absorbs light primarily in the blue-green to yellow-green part of the visible spectrum, peaking at around 510-525 nm by various estimates and absorbing significantly in the range of 450 to 540 nm. Some metabolic and nutritional studies carried at Hokkaido University indicate that fucoxanthin promotes fat burning within fat cells in white adipose tissue by increasing the expression of thermogeniIt is a type of carotenoid found naturally in edible brown seaweed such as wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) and hijiki (Hijikia fusiformis), which are used widely in Asian cuisine. Wakame is the seaweed used in miso soup….CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Fucoxanthin is also found in much smaller amounts in red seaweed (the kind typically used in Japanese sushi rolls) and green seaweed.

Both wakame and hijiki are available at Japanese specialty food stores, some health food stores and online. Although brown seaweed is the richest source of fucoxanthin, you would have to eat an unrealistic amount of it daily to get fucoxanthin levels close to those used in research studies.

Fucoxanthin is also available as a nutritional supplement in capsule form and can be found in some health food stores and online.

Medicinal Uses:

Weight Loss
Fucoxanthin is being explored for weight loss. So far, only animal studies have been done. Japanese researchers have found that fucoxanthin (isolated from wakame) promotes the loss of abdominal fat in obese mice and rats. Animals lost five to 10% of their body weight.

Although it’s not fully understood how fucoxanthin works, it appears to target a protein called UCP1 that increases the rate at which abdominal fat is burned. Abdominal fat, also called white adipose tissue, is the kind of fat that surrounds our organs and is linked to heart disease and diabetes. Fucoxanthin also appears to stimulate the production of DHA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as salmon.

Although it’s promising and already a popular nutritional supplement, more research is needed to determine if fucoxanthin will work in the same way in humans. If it does prove to be effective, fucoxanthin could be developed into a diet pill for obesity.

You may click to see:->Brown Seaweed that may Help Fight Obesity

Diabetes
Fucoxanthin has also been found in animal studies to decrease insulin and blood glucose levels. Researchers hypothesize that fucoxanthin anti-diabetes effect may be because fucoxanthin appears to promote the formation of DHA (the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil). DHA is thought to increase insulin sensitivity, improve triglycerides and reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Cancer
Preliminary research in test tubes suggests that fucoxanthin may have anti-tumor effects. No studies have looked at whether this holds true in humans or if taken orally. It’s far too early for fucoxanthin to be used as a complementary treatment for cancer.

Side Effects
Because there hasn’t been research on fucoxanthin in humans, the possible side effects aren’t known.

People shouldn’t consume large amounts of wakame or other types of seaweed as a source of fucoxanthin. Seaweed is rich in iodine and excessive consumption may result in iodine poisoning. High levels of iodine can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland. Also, consuming excess amounts of iodine-rich foods isn’t recommended if there is a known allergy or hypersensitivity to iodine.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucoxanthin
http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/fucoxanthin.htm

Star Anise

Japanese star aniseImage via Wikipedia

Botanical Name: Illicium verum
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Austrobaileyales
Family: Illiciaceae/Magnoliaceae
Genus: Illicium
syn: I. anisatum
Other Names:-Anise Stars, Badain, Badiana, Chinese Anise
French: anis de la Chine, anise étoilé, badiane
German: Sternanis
Italian: anice stellato
Spanish: anis estrllado,badian
Chinese: ba chio, ba(ht) g(h)ok, bart gok, pa-chiao, pak kok, peh kah
India:Chakra Phool
Indonesian: bunga lawang

Habitat: Native to China and Vietnam, star anise is today grown almost exclusively in southern China, Indo-China, and Japan. It was first introduced into Europe in the seventeenth century.

Plant Description and Cultivation:
A small to medium evergreen tree of the magnolia family, reaching up to 8m (26ft). The leaves are lanceolate and the axillary flowers are yellow. The tree is propagated by seed and mainly cultivated in China and Japan for export and home markets. the fruits are harvested before they ripen, then sun dried.

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Spice Description:
Star anise is the unusual fruit of a small oriental tree. It is, as the name suggests, star shaped, radiating between five and ten pointed boat-shaped sections, about eight on average. These hard sections are seed pods. Tough skinned and rust coloured, they measure up to 3cm (1-1/4”) long. The fruit is picked before it can ripen, and dried. The stars are available whole, or ground to a red-brown powder....CLICK & SEE
Bouquet: Powerful and liquorice-like, more pungent and stronger than anise.
Flavour: Evocative of a bitter aniseed, of which flavour star anise is a harsher version. Nervertheless, the use of star anise ensures an authentic touch in the preparation of certain Chinese dishes.

Star anise is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavor, obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of Illicium verum, a small native evergreen tree of southwest China. The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, in Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala, and in Malay/Indonesian cuisine. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia. Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking. It is also one of the ingredients used to make the broth for the Vietnamese noodle soup called ph?. It is used as a spice in preparation of Biryani in Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian State.

Medicinal Properties:
Like anise, star anise has carminative, stomachic, stimulant and diuretic properties. In the East it is used to combat colic and rheumatism. It is a common flavouring for medicinal teas, cough mixtures and pastilles.

Medicinal uses:
Star anise has been used in a tea as a remedy for colic and rheumatism, and the seeds are sometimes chewed after meals to aid digestion.

Shikimic acid, a primary feedstock used to create the anti-flu drug Tamiflu, is produced by most autotrophic organisms, but star anise is the industrial source. In 2005, there was a temporary shortage of star anise due to its use in making Tamiflu. Late in that year, a way was found of making shikimic acid artificially. A drug company named Roche now derives some of the raw material it needs from fermenting E. coli bacteria. There is no longer any shortage of star anise and it is readily available and is relatively cheap.

Star anise is grown in four provinces in China and harvested between March and May. The shikimic acid is extracted from the seeds in a ten-stage manufacturing process which takes a year. Reports say 90% of the harvest is already used by the Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche in making Tamiflu, but other reports say there is an abundance of the spice in the main regions – Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan.

Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum), a similar tree, is not edible because it is highly toxic; instead, it has been burned as incense in Japan. Cases of illness, including “serious neurological effects, such as seizures”, reported after using star anise tea may be a result of using this species. Japanese star anise contains anisatin, which causes severe inflammation of the kidneys, urinary tract and digestive organs.

Culinary Uses:
Star anise is used in the East as aniseed is in the West. Apart from its use in sweetmeats and confectionery, where sweeteners must be added, it contributes to meat and poultry dishes, combining especially well with pork and duck. In Chinese red cooking, where the ingredients are simmered for a lengthy period in dark soy sauce, star anise is nearly always added to beef and chicken dishes. Chinese stocks and soups very often contain the spice.. It flavours marbled eggs, a decorative Chinese hors d’oeuvre or snack. Mandarins with jaded palates chew the whole dried fruit habitually as a post-prandial digestant and breath sweetener – an oriental comfit. In the West, star anise is added in fruit compotes and jams, and in the manufacture of anise-flavoured liqueurs, the best known being anisette. It is an ingredient of the mixture known as “Chinese Five Spices”.

Star anise contains anethole, the same ingredient which gives the unrelated anise its flavor. Recently, star anise has come into use in the West as a less expensive substitute for anise in baking as well as in liquor production, most distinctively in the production of the liquor Galliano. It is also used in the production of Sambuca, pastis, and many types of absinthe.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/staranis.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_anise

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Fo-Ti

 

Organic dried Polygonum multiflorum root. Phot...Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name: Polygonum multiflorum
Common Name: He-shou-wu
Habitat: Fo-ti is a plant native to China, where it continues to be widely grown. It also grows extensively in Japan and Taiwan.

Description:Fo-ti is the dried or cured root of a twining vine in the knotweed family, found throughout China, except in the extreme northeast. It is also occasionally grown in American gardens as an ornamental. Ask Chinese herbalists about “fo-ti” and they wont know what you’re talking about. The name was given to the plant by a marketer in the early 1970s for the American herb business. In China, it is known as he-shou-wu.

click to see the pictures

The sprawling twining runners of Fo Ti very quickly reach 30 feet and can cover four square feet of fence or trellis in about two months. This is a beautiful deep green vine that has stayed evergreen at just below freezing. In England it is sometimes referred to as fleeceflower and it is certainly an appropriate name. When Fo Ti flowers, the little cream colored flowers are in such great abundance it is as if the whole plant is covered with fine cotton.

Active constituents: The major constituents of fo-ti are anthraquinones, phospholipids (e.g., lecithin), tannins, and tetrahydroxystilbene glucoside. The processed root has been used to lower cholesterol levels in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to animal research, it helps to decrease fat deposits in the blood and possibly prevent atherosclerosis.2, 3 However, human clinical trials are lacking to support this use. Test tube studies have suggested fo-ti’s ability to stimulate immune function, increase red blood cell formation, and exert an antibacterial action.4 None of these effects has been studied in humans. The unprocessed roots have a mild laxative action.

Traditional Use
Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)
The Chinese common name for fo-ti, he-shou-wu, was the name of a Tang dynasty man whose infertility was supposedly cured by fo-ti. In addition, his long life was attributed to the tonic properties of this herb.1 Since then, Traditional Chinese Medicine has used fo-ti to treat premature aging, weakness, vaginal discharges, numerous infectious diseases, angina pectoris, and erectile dysfunction.

In Chinese medicine the dried (unprocessed) root and the cured (processed) root are considered two different herbs. The unprocessed root is used to relax the bowels and detoxify the blood. The processed root is used to strengthen the blood, invigorate the liver and kidneys, and supplement vital energy (qi). Processed fo-ti is one of the more widely used tonics in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which employs it to enhance longevity, increase vigor, and promote fertility. It is also an ingredient in TCM formulas for premature gray hair, low back pain, angina pectoris, low energy, and other conditions.

Medicinal Uses: The unprocessed root is sometimes used medicinally. However, once it has been boiled in a special liquid made from black beans, it is considered a superior and rather different medicine according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The unprocessed root is sometimes called white fo-ti and the processed root red fo-ti. According to Chinese herbal medicine, the unprocessed root is used to relax the bowels and detoxify the blood, and the processed root is used to strengthen the blood, invigorate the kidneys and liver, and serve as a tonic to increase overall vitality.

Dosage
How much is usually taken?

The typical recommended intake is 1-1 1/2 teaspoons (4-8 grams) per day.5 A tea can be made from processed roots by boiling 1/2-1 teaspoons (3-5 grams) in 1 cup (250 ml) of water for ten to fifteen minutes. Three or more cups are suggested each day. Five fo-ti tablets (500 mg each) can be taken three times per day.

In Chinese medicine, fo-ti is a longevity tonic that is used for greying hair, premature aging, weakness, vaginal discharge, and erectile dysfunction. Red fo-ti is considered a tonic to increase vitality and energy, strengthen the blood, kidneys and liver. White fo-ti is used for constipation.

There is evidence that fo-ti can lower serum cholesterol, decrease hardening of the arteries, and improve immune function.

*Atherosclerosis

*Constipation

*Fatigue

*High cholesterol

*Insomnia

*Immune function

*Erectile dysfunction

*Parkinson’s disease

*Alzheimer’s disease

There are no controlled studies on the effectiveness or safety of fo-ti in humans. Preliminary studies with animals have found that fo-ti may attenuate diet-induced increases in plasma cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and plasma triglycerides. In animal studies, there is some evidence that fo-ti may enhance learning and memory and prevent the degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in the brain.

Possible Side Effects and Safety Concerns:
Rarely, people develop an allergic skin rash after taking fo-ti. Other side effects include loose stools. Taking more than 15 grams of the processed root can cause numbness in the arms and legs.

There have been three published case reports of acute hepatitis following the use of a fo-ti product called Shou-wu-pian, which is manufactured in China. It is not known whether it was due to fo-ti or product contamination.

One study tested 32 plants used for menopause in traditional Chinese medicine. They found that fo-ti had the greatest estrogenic activity. People with estrogen-related cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, and prostate should take extra caution because the effect of fo-ti in humans is not known.

The unprocessed roots may cause mild diarrhea.6 Some people who are sensitive to fo-ti may develop a skin rash. Taking more than 15 grams of processed root powder may cause numbness in the arms or legs.

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with fo-ti.

Cautions:
The unprocessed root can cause loose stools or diarrhea, sometimes with intestinal pain and nausea. The unprocessed root is considered potentially more toxic than the processed form. One case of allergic reaction to the cured root has been reported, although this form of fo-ti is considered to be minimally toxic when taken in proper doses. Large doses have resulted in numbness of the extremities as well as skin rashes.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://myhealth.ucsd.edu/library/healthguide/en-us/Cam/topic.asp?hwid=hn-2092003
http://www.allnatural.net/herbpages/fo-ti.shtml
http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/FoTi.htm
http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/polygonum_multiflorum.htm

 

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Natural Cures for Allergies

4 Drug-free options for seasonal allergies:-….CLICK & SEE

Drug-free antidotes are nothing to sneeze at, especially if you’re susceptible to side effects such as drowsiness and dry mouth from popular OTC allergy pills. Below, some promising alternatives that can help get you through the remaining weeks of hay-fever season symptom free.

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
Like many OTC meds, this perennial shrub is believed to block histamines. Studies show it can work as well as Zyrtec or Allegra at relieving allergy symptoms—with less drowsiness. A common brand is Petadolex; take as directed. Make sure the label specifies that pyrrolizidine alkaloids have been removed; they’ve been linked to side effects.

Nasal irrigation
The sinus cavities are rinsed with lukewarm saline water. Decades’ worth of clinical tests have found that washing allergens out of the nose is safe, effective, inexpensive, and free of side effects. Ceramic Neti pots, a plastic squeeze bottle such as SinuCleanse ($11), or sprays like ENTsol ($18) all work well. Use warm, distilled water and ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt per 1 cup for the Neti pot.

Spirulina….CLICK & SEE
A type of blue-green algae supplement, it’s rich in beta-carotene, protein, and chlorophyll. A University of California, Davis, study found that 2 g of spirulina daily for 12 weeks eased allergies better than did a placebo. Earthrise Farms (earthrise.com) grows much of the spirulina in the United States; recommended daily doses cost less than $1.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
This flowering plant isn’t soft to the touch, but the powdered form has been helpful for centuries. A handful of promising studies since 1990 show it eases allergies, though results vary. Try up to 9 g of pills daily, suggests Roberta Lee, M.D., medical director at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York City.

You may also click to  learn more

Sources:msn.health & fitness

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Physical Activity Controls Obesity Gene

Vigorous physical activity can help even people genetically prone to obesity keep the weight off, US researchers said .

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A study among a group of Amish people found those who had an obesity-related gene called FTO but were very physically active weighed about the same as others who did not carry the gene. “When we looked at the Amish who were the most active, there is suddenly no effect of that gene,” said Dr Soren Snitker of the University of Maryland.

The findings may help inform the debate over whether changes in diet or physical activity will make the biggest difference in fighting obesity.

Consumer groups have pushed for laws such as a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in certain Los Angeles neighbourhoods, while the food industry often maintains that a lack of exercise is more to blame.

Snitker and Evadnie Rampersaud of the University of Miami were looking to see if physical activity might offset the effects of obesity associated with the FTO gene, found in more than half of all people of European descent. People with two copies of the FTO gene on average weigh nearly 3kg more.

The researchers found those who were less active and had the FTO gene variant were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese. But among the most physically active, the FTO gene made no difference.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Enjoy a Happy Digestive System Once and for All

Gastrointestinal tractImage by AJC1 via Flickr

When it comes to staying healthy — and keeping your digestive system happy and working well, probiotics are an option used all over the world.

The reason? Science now recognizes that 80% of your immune system is actually living right in your digestive tract. Incredible, but true.

And while any honest healthcare professional will admit that no one probiotic is the solution for everyone, New and Improved Complete Probiotics consistently providing support for digestive and immune health with a high percentage of success for most people .

Sources: http://products.mercola.com/probiotics/?source=nl

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Introduction:
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants (including purslane), and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week. It is advised that pregnant women and mothers, nursing mothers, young children, and women who might become pregnant not eat several types of fish, including swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. These individuals should also limit consumption of other fish, including albacore tuna, salmon, and herring. They can take omega-3 fatty acids in quality dietary supplements that are certified mercury-free by a reputable third-party lab.

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There are three major types of omega 3 fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by the body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids more readily used by the body. Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.

It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet, as these two substances work together to promote health. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 – 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.

In contrast, however, the Mediterranean diet consists of a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. It also contains another fatty acid, omega-9 fatty acids, which have been reported to help lower risks associated with cancer and heart disease. The Mediterranean diet does not include much meat (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids) and emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption.

Uses:
Clinical studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in treating a variety of health conditions. The evidence is strongest for heart disease and problems that contribute to heart disease, but the range of possible uses for omega-3 fatty acids include.

High cholesterol
Those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet tend to have higher high density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” )cholesterol levels. Similar to those who follow a Mediterranean diet, Inuit Eskimos, who consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, also tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides (fatty material that circulates in the blood). In addition, fish oil supplements containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been reported in several large clinical studies to reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Finally, walnuts (which are rich in alpha linolenic acid or ALA) have been reported to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in individuals with high cholesterol levels.

High blood pressure
Several clinical studies suggest that diets or supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure significantly in individuals with hypertension. An analysis of 17 clinical studies using fish oil supplements found that supplementation with 3 or more grams of fish oil daily can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure in individuals with untreated hypertension.

Heart disease
One of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat a low-fat diet and to replace foods rich in saturated and trans-fat with those that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids). Clinical evidence suggests that EPA and DHA found in fish oil help reduce risk factors for heart disease including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There is also strong evidence that these substances can help prevent and treat atherosclerosis by inhibiting the development of plaque and blood clots, each of which tends to clog arteries. Clinical studies of heart attack survivors have found that daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements dramatically reduce the risk of death, subsequent heart attacks, and stroke. Similarly, people who eat an ALA-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack.

Strong evidence from population-based clinical studies suggests that omega-3 fatty acid intake (primarily from fish) helps protect against stroke caused by plaque buildup and blood clots in the arteries that lead to the brain. In fact, eating at least 2 servings of fish per week can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 50%. However, people who eat more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equivalent to 3 servings of fish per day) may be at an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, a potentially fatal type of stroke in which an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures.

Diabetes

Individuals with diabetes tend to have high triglyceride and low HDL levels. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can help lower triglycerides and apoproteins (markers of diabetes), and raise HDL, so people with diabetes may benefit from eating foods or taking supplements that contain DHA and EPA. ALA (from flaxseed, for example) may not have the same benefit as DHA and EPA because some people with diabetes lack the ability to efficiently convert ALA to a form of omega-3 fatty acids that the body can use readily. There have been slight increases reported in fasting blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes while taking fish oil supplements.

Weight loss
Many individuals who are overweight suffer from poor blood sugar control, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Clinical studies suggest that overweight people who follow a weight loss program that includes exercise tend to achieve better control over their blood sugar and cholesterol levels when fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, mackerel, and herring) is a staple in their low-fat diet.

Arthritis
Most clinical studies investigating the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for inflammatory joint conditions have focused almost entirely on rheumatoid arthritis. Several articles reviewing the research in this area conclude that omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduce tenderness in joints, decrease morning stiffness, and allow for a reduction in the amount of medication needed for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition, laboratory studies suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids (and low in the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids) may benefit people with other inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis. In fact, several test tube studies of cartilage-containing cells have found that omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and reduce the activity of enzymes that destroy cartilage. Similarly, New Zealand green lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), another potential source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been reported to reduce joint stiffness and pain, increase grip strength, and enhance walking pace in a small group of people with osteoarthritis. In some participants, symptoms worsened before they improved.

An analysis was conducted of 17 randomized, controlled clinical trials assessing the pain relieving effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea). The results suggest that omega-3 fatty acids are effective treatment, along with conventional therapies such as anti-inflammatory drugs, for joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and dysmenorrhea.

Osteoporosis
Clinical studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA help increase levels of calcium in the body, deposit calcium in the bones, and improve bone strength. In addition, studies also suggest that people who are deficient in certain essential fatty acids (particularly EPA and gamma-linolenic acid [GLA], an omega-6 fatty acid) are more likely to suffer from bone loss than those with normal levels of these fatty acids. In a study of women over 65 with osteoporosis, those given EPA and GLA supplements experienced significantly less bone loss over 3 years than those who were given a placebo. Many of these women also experienced an increase in bone density.

Depression
People who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids or do not maintain a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in their diet may be at an increased risk for depression. The omega-3 fatty acids are important components of nerve cell membranes. They help nerve cells communicate with each other, which is an essential step in maintaining good mental health. In particular, DHA is involved in a variety of nerve Cell processes.
Levels of omega-3 fatty acids were found to be measurably low and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were particularly high in a clinical study of patients hospitalized for depression. In a clinical study of individuals with depression, those who ate a healthy diet consisting of fatty fish 2 – 3 times per week for 5 years experienced a significant reduction in feelings of depression and hostility.

Bipolar disorder
In a clinical study of 30 people with bipolar disorder, those who were treated with EPA and DHA (in combination with their usual mood stabilizing medications) for 4 months experienced fewer mood swings and recurrence of either depression or mania than those who received placebo. Another 4-month long clinical study treating individuals with bipolar depression and rapid cycling bipolar disorder did not find evidence of efficacy for the use of in EPA in these patients.

Schizophrenia
Preliminary clinical evidence suggests that people with schizophrenia experience an improvement in symptoms when given omega-3 fatty acids. However, a recent well-designed study concluded that EPA supplements are no better than placebo in improving symptoms of this condition. The conflicting results suggest that more research is needed before conclusions can be drawn about the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids for schizophrenia. Similar to diabetes, individuals with schizophrenia may not be able to convert ALA to EPA or DHA efficiently.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have low levels of certain essential fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) in their bodies. In a clinical study of nearly 100 boys, those with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids demonstrated more learning and behavioral problems (such as temper tantrums and sleep disturbances) than boys with normal omega-3 fatty acid levels. In animal studies, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the concentration of certain brain chemicals (such as dopamine and serotonin) related to attention and motivation. Clinical studies that examine the ability of omega-3 supplements to improve symptoms of ADHD are still needed. At this point in time, eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is a reasonable approach for someone with ADHD. A clinical study used omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplementation in 117 children with ADHD. They study found significant improvements in reading, spelling, and behavior in the children over the 3 months of therapy. Another clinical study found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation helped to decrease physical aggression in school children with ADHD. More studies, including comparisons with drug therapies (such as stimulants), should be performed.

Eating disorders
Clinical studies suggest that men and women with anorexia nervosa have lower than optimal levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (including ALA and GLA). To prevent the complications associated with essential fatty acid deficiencies, some experts recommend that treatment programs for anorexia nervosa include PUFA-rich foods such as fish and organ meats (which include omega-6 fatty acids).

Burns
Essential fatty acids have been used to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing in burn victims. Animal research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids help promote a healthy balance of proteins in the body — protein balance is important for recovery after sustaining a burn. Further research is necessary to determine whether omega-3s benefit people in the same way.

Skin disorders
In one clinical study, 13 people with a particular sensitivity to the sun known as photo dermatitis showed significantly less sensitivity to UV rays after taking fish oil supplements. Still, research indicates that topical sunscreens are much better at protecting the skin from damaging effects of the sun than omega-3 fatty acids. In another study of 40 people with psoriasis, those who were treated with medications and EPA supplements did better than those treated with the medications alone. In addition, many clinicians believe that flaxseed (which contains omega-3 fatty acids) is helpful for treating acne.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
When added to medication, such as sulfasalazine (a standard medication for IBD), omega-3 fatty acids may reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — the 2 types of IBD. More studies to investigate this preliminary finding are under way. In animals, it appears that ALA works better at decreasing bowel inflammation than EPA and DHA. Plus, fish oil supplements can cause side effects that are similar to symptoms of IBD (such as flatulence, belching, bloating, and diarrhea).

Asthma

Clinical research suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplements (in the form of perilla seed oil, which is rich in ALA) may decrease inflammation and improve lung function in adults with asthma. Omega-6 fatty acids have the opposite effect: they tend to increase inflammation and worsen respiratory function. In a small, well-designed clinical study of 29 children with asthma, those who took fish oil supplements rich in EPA and DHA for 10 months had improvement in their symptoms compared to children who took a placebo pill.

Macular Degeneration
A questionnaire administered to more than 3,000 people over the age of 49 found that those who consumed more fish in their diet were less likely to have macular degeneration (a serious age-related eye condition that can progress to blindness) than those who consumed less fish. Similarly, a clinical study comparing 350 people with macular degeneration to 500 without the eye disease found that those with a healthy dietary balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and higher intake of fish in their diets were less likely to have this particular eye disorder. Another larger clinical study confirms that EPA and DHA from fish, 4 or more times per week, may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. Notably, however, this same study suggests that ALA may actually increase the risk of this eye condition.

Menstrual pain
In a clinical study of nearly 200 Danish women, those with the highest dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the mildest symptoms, such as hot flashes and increased sweating, during menstruation.

Colon cancer
Consuming significant amounts of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids appears to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. For example, Eskimos, who tend to follow a high-fat diet but eat significant amounts of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have a low rate of colorectal cancer. Animal studies and laboratory studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids prevent worsening of colon cancer while omega-6 fatty acids promote the growth of colon tumors. Daily consumption of EPA and DHA also appeared to slow or even reverse the progression of colon cancer in people with early stages of the disease.

Clinical studies have reported that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body are a marker for an increased risk of colon cancer.

However, in an animal study of rats with metastatic colon cancer (in other words, cancer that has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver), omega-3 fatty acids actually promoted the growth of cancer cells in the liver. Until more information is available, it is best for people with advanced stages of colorectal cancer to avoid omega-3 fatty acid supplements and diets rich in this substance.

Breast cancer
Although not all experts agree, women who regularly consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids over many years may be less likely to develop breast cancer. In addition, the risk of dying from breast cancer may be significantly less for those who eat large quantities of omega-3 from fish and brown kelp seaweed (common in Japan). This is particularly true among women who substitute fish for meat. The balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids appears to play an important role in the development and growth of breast cancer. Further research is still needed to understand the effect that omega-3 fatty acids may have on the prevention or treatment of breast cancer. For example, researchers speculate that omega-3 fatty acids in combination with other nutrients (namely, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and coenzyme Q10) may prove to be of particular value for preventing and treating breast cancer.

Prostate cancer
Laboratory and animal studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids (specifically, DHA and EPA) may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. Similarly, population based clinical studies of groups of men suggest that a low-fat diet with the addition of omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil help prevent the development of prostate cancer. Like breast cancer, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids appears to be particularly important for reducing the risk of this condition. ALA, however, may not offer the same benefits as EPA and DHA. In fact, one recent clinical study evaluating 67 men with prostate cancer found that they had higher levels of ALA compared to men without prostate cancer. More research in this area is needed.

Other
Although further research is needed, preliminary evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may also prove helpful in protecting against certain infections and treating a variety of conditions, including autism, ulcers, migraine headaches, preterm labor, emphysema, psoriasis, glaucoma, Lyme disease, systemic lupus erythmatosus (lupus), irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), multiple sclerosis, and panic attacks. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may also help to reduce stress and the effects it has on the body.

Dietary Sources
Fish, plant, and nut oils are the primary dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sea life such as krill and algae.

Available Forms:
In addition to the dietary sources described, EPA and DHA can be taken in the form of fish oil capsules. Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, fish and krill oils should be kept refrigerated. Whole flaxseeds must be ground within 24 hours of use, otherwise the ingredients lose their activity. Flaxseeds are also
available in ground form in a special mylar package so that the components in the flaxseeds stay active.

Be sure to buy omega-3 fatty acid supplements made by established companies who certify that their products are free of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.

How to Take It
Dosing for fish oil supplements should be based on the amount of EPA and DHA in the product, not on the total amount of fish oil. Supplements vary in the amounts and ratios of EPA and DHA. A common amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil capsules is 0.18 grams (180 mg) of EPA and 0.12 grams (120 mg) of DHA. Five grams of fish oil contains approximately 0.17 – 0.56 grams (170 -560 mg) of EPA and 0.072 – 0.31 grams (72 – 310 mg) of DHA. Different types of fish contain variable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and different types of nuts or oil contain variable amounts of a-linolenic acid. Fish oils contain approximately 9 calories per gram of oil.

Children (18 years and younger)
The precise safe and effective doses of all types of omega-3 fatty acid supplements in children have not been established. Omega-3 fatty acids are used in some infant formulas, although effective doses are not clearly established. Ingestion of fresh fish should be limited in young children due to the presence of potentially harmful environmental contaminants, including mercury. Fish oil capsules should not be used in children except under the direction of a health care provider.

Adults
Individuals taking more than 3 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules should do so only under the supervision of a health care provider due to an increase risk of bleeding.

For healthy adults with no history of heart disease: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish at least 2 times per week.

For adults with coronary heart disease:
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (as fish oils), 1 gram daily of EPA and DHA. It may take 2 – 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.

For adults with high cholesterol levels: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (as fish oils), 2 – 4 grams daily of EPA and DHA. It may take 2 – 3 weeks for benefits of fish oil supplements to be seen.

Precautions
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.

Omega-3 fatty acids should be used cautiously by people who bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medications, including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix), because excessive amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may lead to bleeding. In fact, people who eat more than three grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equivalent to 3 servings of fish per day) may be at an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, a potentially fatal condition in which an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures.

Fish oil can cause flatulence, bloating, belching, and diarrhea. Time-release preparations may reduce these side effects, however.

People with either diabetes or schizophrenia may lack the ability to convert alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the forms more readily used in the body. Therefore, people with these conditions should obtain their omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources rich in EPA and DHA. Also, individuals with type 2 diabetes may experience increases in fasting blood sugar levels while taking fish oil supplements. If you have type 2 diabetes, only use fish oil supplements under the supervision of a health care provider.

Although studies have found that regular consumption of fish (which includes the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA) may reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a recent study including 2 large groups of men and women found that diets rich in ALA may substantially increase the risk of this disease. More research is needed in this area. Until this information becomes available, it is best for people with macular degeneration to obtain omega-3 fatty acids from sources of EPA and DHA, rather than ALA.

Similar to macular degeneration, fish and fish oil may protect against prostate cancer, but ALA may be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer in men. More research in this area is needed.

Fish (and fish oil supplements) may contain potentially harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals (including mercury), dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). For sport-caught fish, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that intake be limited in pregnant or nursing women to a single 6-ounce meal per week, and in young children to less than 2 ounces per week. For farm-raised, imported, or marine fish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant or nursing women and young children avoid eating types with higher levels of mercury (such as mackerel, shark, swordfish, or tilefish), and less than 12 ounces per week of other fish types. Unrefined fish oil preparations may contain pesticides.

Possible Interactions:
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use omega-3 fatty acid supplements, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), without first talking to your health care provider.

Blood-thinning medications — Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the effects of blood thinning medications, including aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and clopedigrel (Plavix). While the combination of aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids may actually be helpful under certain circumstances (such as in heart disease), they should only be taken together under the guidance and supervision of a health care provider.

Blood sugar lowering medications — Taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may increase fasting blood sugar levels. Use with caution if taking blood sugar lowering medications, such as glipizide (Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL), glyburide (Micronase or Diabeta), glucophage (Metformin), or insulin, as omega-3 fatty acid supplements may increase your need for the medication(s).

Cyclosporine — Taking omega-3 fatty acids during cyclosporine (Sandimmune) therapy may reduce toxic side effects, such as high blood pressure and kidney damage, associated with this medication in transplant patients.

Etretinate and topical steroids — The addition of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA) to the drug therapy etretinate (Tegison) and topical corticosteroids may improve symptoms of psoriasis.

Cholesterol-lowering medications — Following certain nutritional guidelines, including increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and reducing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, may allow a group of cholesterol lowering medications known as “statins”, including atorvastatin (Liptor), lovastatin (Mevacor), and simvastatin (Zocor) to work more effectively.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — In an animal study, treatment with omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of ulcers from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Alleve or Naprosyn). More research is needed to evaluate whether omega-3 fatty acids would have the same effects in people.

Sources:
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm

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When Should You Go Out in the Sun?

New research shows that to get an optimal vitamin D supplement from the sun at a minimal risk of getting cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM), the best time of sun exposure is noon.

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That means that common health recommendations given by authorities in many countries — that sun exposure should be avoided for three to five hours around noon and postponed to the afternoon — could be wrong and may even promote CMM.

This is in part because the action spectrum for CMM is likely to be centered at longer wavelengths than that of vitamin D generation.

Sources: Advanced Experiments in Medical Biology 2008; 624: 86-88

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Bacteria to Clean Arsenic Spills

Scientists have stumbled on a new bacteria that can clean up arsenic spills even in previously inhospitable terrains.

The Giant Mine in Canada is in the sub-arctic region. The presence of over 230,000 tonnes of arsenic-containing dust makes it one of the most polluted places on earth, as well as one of the most inhospitable.

“Water seeps through the mine cracks carrying the arsenic with it as it drips down the walls,” said Thomas Osborne of University College London. “We discovered new types of bacteria living in biofilms on the walls of Giant Mine that consume arsenic compounds contained in the polluted water seeping through.”

Arsenic is toxic to all living cells, and in people causes fatal cancers of the lung, liver, kidney and bladder. It also causes cirrhosis and gangrene, and on a wider scale seriously damages wildlife in fragile environments.

Arsenic contamination is a global problem, with parts of India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, Argentina and the US severely affected.

“Until now, no bacteria have ever been isolated that can thrive in cold temperatures and deal with arsenic contamination. The new bacteria we discovered function at temperatures between minus 20 degrees Celsius and four degrees C,” said Osborne.

“These bacteria also live in a community called a biofilm, which means that we can build them into a new system to clean up contaminated areas by removing the arsenic from soil or drinking water, even in the cold far north and south, or in winter.

“The other exciting possibility that this opens up is that we can isolate the enzyme from these new strains of bacteria and develop an arsenic biosensor to use in cold environments.

“This will warn when traces of arsenic are escaping from areas like mine workings, industrial chemical facilities, or even laboratories, alerting us before pollution manages to get into water courses or drinking water supplies. We could also use it to test newly drilled wells in countries like Bangladesh where water supplies are known to be contaminated.”

Many organisms, including all plants and animals, ultimately get their energy from the sun via photosynthesis. But over the last few decades scientists have discovered more and more microbes that can get their energy directly from breaking down chemical bonds.

This enables them to survive in extraordinary and dark environments such as deep inside the earth or at the bottom of the coldest, deepest oceans, where previously no life was expected to exist at all.

These findings were presented on Monday at the Society for General Microbiology‘s Autumn meeting being held this week at Trinity College, Dublin.

Sources: The Times Of India

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