Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Protect Yourself Against Blood Sugar Spikes!

As I have previously written, glycation may be the main driver behind the aging process, as high blood glucose levels lead to unused sugar getting tangled in proteins and fat, which causes a vicious cycle of oxidation, inflammation and tissue damage. To make things worse, one effect of aging is less control over blood sugar spikes! (Croat Med J.)

Fortunately, a unique form of vitamin B1, known as benfotiamine, has been found in multiple studies to protect against the effects of elevated blood sugar. "Regular" B1, known as thiamine, also prevents the formation of glycation molecules, but it is quickly used up and excreted partially because it is water soluble. Benfotiamine is fat soluble, which boosts absorption and makes it more difficult to excrete. In one study, benfotiamine increased thiamine uptake into the liver and heart by 10-40%; and in the muscles and brain, it was increased 5-25 times over! (Arzneimittelforschung). Supplementation has also been shown to reduce the formation of AGEs in blood cells by 40%. In a study on human subjects taking 1,050mg of benfotiamine for three days, it completely prevented endothelial blood flow impairment after a meal rich in AGEs (Diabetes Care).

Benfotiamine has several mechanisms of action that reduce damage from sugar. It can activate an enzyme known as transketolase, which converts dangerous glucose-induced metabolites into safe compounds. It inhibits nuclear factor-kappaB activation, which is a major inflammatory molecule. Additionally, a study from 2012 showed that benfotiamine increases glucose breakdown by 70% in hyperglycaemia, and up to 49% in normal glucose conditions (Genes Nutr). It is also superior to thiamine alone in reducing neurodegenerative diseases and cancer (Clin Lab), as well as kidney and nerve damage seen in diabetic patients (Biochem Soc Trans).

Conventional "wisdom" says that you cannot reverse the damage caused by sugar. However, when benfotiamine was given to mice with Alzheimer's disease for eight weeks, it reduced both amyloid plaque and phosphorylated tau proteins, alongside a dose-dependent memory improvement (Brain). It was then determined that a reduction in glycation end products was behind the reversals in Alzheimer's pathophysiology (Mol Cell Neurosci). In another animal study, benfotiamine was found to reverse the accumulation of AGEs in the retina, as well as increasing their excretion! (Diabetologia) So there is hope for the already-aged, but benfotiamine really should become more widely available! B vitamins are commonly thrown into magnesium and iron supplements, because they are often needed together, so maybe at least some of the thiamine should be replaced with benfotiamine.                                            

Monday, 28 December 2015

The Many Benefits of Resveratrol

One of the most publicised nutrients in the media is the stilbene known as resveratrol. Actually, reading something about resveratrol was my original inspiration for wanting to work in antiaging. This organic compound has been found to cut down cardiovascular disease, prevent certain cancers, help retard aging and possibly aid in weight control. It can even improve spinal bone density in men with metabolic syndrome and may be one reason why people belonging to wine loving cultures are often so healthy. However, scepticism abounds with many naysayers claiming that there is not enough evidence and that any purported benefits are just an excuse for red wine fans.

Despite the aforementioned scepticism, new research has uncovered one mechanism behind resveratrol’s medicinal properties. As it mimics the amino acid tyrosine, the enzyme TyrRS is activated when bound to resveratrol, which “tricks” the enzyme into moving them to the cell nucleus, where it can then protect DNA from damage. This enables resveratrol to enact much of its anticancer and antiaging effects. The TyrRS enzyme has been described as a mechanism that works in “virtually all” lifeforms, even adding weight to the vast number of animal studies on resveratrol. Another way that resveratrol assists in CVD prevention is by improving flow-mediated dilation, as seen in one study on people at risk of CVD. In a different study, patients with stable coronary artery disease receiving a grape extract containing resveratrol showed increases in anti-inflammatory chemicals and inhibition of chemicals and genes that promote inflammation. Additionally, angina patients experienced a decrease in C-reactive protein and brain natriuretic peptide after receiving resveratrol and calcium fructoborate supplements.

As stated above, resveratrol has also been found to have anticancer properties. After only 8 daily doses at 500 or 1000mg, colorectal cancer patients had shown a reduced proliferation of tumour cells by 5%. Resveratrol may even inhibit cancer stem cells, which may be the primary drivers of tumour development and cannot be defeated by even the “best” in chemo and radiation. Not even type II diabetes is safe from resveratrol’s effects, with the compound showing the ability to significantly decrease insulin resistance and urinary excretion of orthotyrosine. Resveratrol has also been found to have properties that prevent or slow neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain ischaemia and even Huntington’s disease. Brain ischaemia and HD models demonstrated resveratrol’s ability to rescue neurons from cell death, despite the latter being a genetic disease. As for Alzheimer’s disease, resveratrol can reduce production of beta-amyloid proteins and destabilise preformed beta-amyloid fibrils. It is even more effective than curcumin at inhibiting beta-amyloid formation – at a rate of 63% as opposed to 45% - and curcumin’s effects on Alzheimer’s are quite well publicised. The most powerful inhibitor was epsilon-viniferin glucoside, at 93%. Epsilon-viniferin glucoside is a conjugated dimer of resveratrol, found in red wine, the grape species Vitis vinifera and in the medicinal herb known as white peony, or Paeonia lactiflora. Resveratrol’s third effect on Alzheimer’s disease is the ability to protect neural cells from dying of beta-amyloid induced toxicity, partially by its antioxidant properties.

Resveratrol and its health benefits can be obtained from several sources, most famously by drinking red wine; Pinot Noir and St Laurent grapes have been found to contain the highest levels of resveratrol. For those who are unable to drink wine for personal or religious reasons, other sources include cranberries, blueberries, pomegranates and of course, the red grapes which wine is made from. This is why I decided to post this article today, as I expect many of you to have enjoyed something containing resveratrol over Christmas.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

"Stoner Sloth" Government Propaganda

So lately a state government in my country has decided to insult our collective intelligence with the "You're Worse on Weed" campaign, despite planned trials testing limited medical use and mounting scientific evidence proving the health benefits of a particular herb. Really? If I had or wanted children, I'd be more angry at them for drinking alcohol, which is worse for your health, or if they were abusing painkillers for whatever reason.

What do I see? I see people quietly shrinking their children's tumours back into nothing with full strength oil but being chased by "the law", I see people almost reaching "remission" and then running out of money to buy supplies to make the oil because of prohibition prices. There is even a case study of a girl who was almost saved, but "the standard of care" killed her. This is not good enough. Take your bald-heads-and-brave-hearts discourse and shove it where it will no longer see the light of day.

When I was in high school, I didn't see any "sloths", I saw kids whose lives had been ruined by pharmaceutical medications for epilepsy and Crohn's disease. If I knew about a certain natural alternative, twice as powerful as hydrocortisone (but without a list of side effects that literally make me almost vomit just by thinking about them too much), I would have been more optimistic about life, but I may have been expelled for not towing the line.

You, New South Wales government, do not speak for me. Give us Colorado-style legalisation with provision for up to two plants for personal use. I want to live, I want to be in control over my life, none of this "medicated and mighty" thing that went around social media recently. If years of food intolerance-induced damage are yet to catch up with me, I do not want the pharmaceuticals for IBD, I want what may be the best natural alternative available. By the way, the method of administration used in the study I just linked to is the weakest.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Another Common Herb That Can Fight Aging

A new study has found that a constituent of the herb comfrey, known as allantoin, can extend the lifespan of worms by about 20% by mimicking the effects of caloric restriction. Caloric restriction has been found to extend the lifespans of several animal species, from worms up to mammals, but is one of the least pleasant anti-aging remedies. Fortunately, at least for worms, those given allantoin lived for 28.32 days, compared to 23.14 days for the wild-type worms and 27.01 for the calorie-restricted worms. This was an increase in lifespan by 21.86%, to be exact. Movement had also improved in comparison to the non-treated worms, at least for a while.

In Australia, comfrey is only "allowed" for topical and cosmetic use, but grows very well so many people have it in their backyards for personal use regardless of whether they are going to make a face cream with it or eat it. This also makes the above study especially relevant, as comfrey is much more accessible than the prescription drugs that have been found in this and other research to have antiaging effects (do you have a rapamycin tree?). Comfrey has been clinically proven to relieve pain and inflammation in muscles and joints, such as in arthritis, sprains and strains. For example, a study of 120 patients with acute back pain found that a cream containing comfrey root fluid extract reduced pain during "active standardised movement" by 95%, compared to 37% with placebo. The comfrey cream was also superior in all secondary outcomes compared to the placebo, and began to work within one hour! Using the same preparation, another double-blind trial was conducted on 220 people with knee osteoarthritis. Scores of pain and pain on movement decreased by 54.7% in the treatment group and 10.7% in the placebo group, while scores in an osteoarthritis index score dropped by 58% in the treatment group and 14.1% for placebo. Quality of life and joint movement also improved more in the comfrey patients. Additionally, comfrey was found to be superior to diclofenac in another trial.  Comfrey root has also been used for knee joint injuries and non-active gonarthrosis, as well as in the treatment of tendinitis syndrome, insect bites, mastitis, fractures, skin inflammation, multiple abscesses of sweat glands, gangrenous ecthymas, furuncles, dicubital ulcers and chronic varicose ulceration, in both trials and individual case reports. Reports of "liver damage" from comfrey use, which is why we cannot legally prescribe it internally, were based on baby rats being given doses far exceeding what is humanly possible, and possibly reports from people who already had liver conditions and were therefore more vulnerable to any possible adverse effects. But it seems to work best in a cream anyway.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

You Can Speed Up Fracture Healing!

For people of all ages, there aren't many things more inconvenient than breaking an arm, leg or something else entirely. On top of waiting for the fracture itself to heal, weeks or months of restrictive inconvenience often follows as the muscles need to be retrained. But is there another way? Are there therapies to speed up the healing of fractures? Yes of course!

Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) are two options used by a number of athletes for promoting repair, with a review of 8 studies showing that both of these treatments can be effective in speeding tibial fracture healing. One of the papers reviewed found a reduction in healing time of 12 days among non-smokers treated with LIPUS (84 days versus 96 days) for clinical healing, and a reduction of 33 days for healing with PEMF (96 days instead of 129). Even in smokers using these therapies the healing time was reduced, 103 days versus 175 in the control group using LIPUS and 96 days versus 175 in the control group using PEMF. In another of the studies, this time evaluating fractures of the radius in the arm, the effects of LIPUS treatment on patients receiving 15 minutes of therapy per day were tested. For patients in the treatment group, clinical fracture healing time was 32 days on average, as opposed to 40 days in the placebo group. These figures do not count the time required to rebuild muscle tissue, so they do not fully describe the benefit of these therapies. Mechanical stimulation with whole body vibration may be another effective way to enhance bone healing and muscle strength, though results vary with the level of frequency and amplitude used. As these can be very expensive, I think they should be publicly funded due to their economic value from helping people return to work sooner. 
Fractures can also be treated nutritionally. For example, it is recommended to increase protein intake in fracture patients by 20 grams daily, as one study found that patients receiving a protein supplement remained in rehabilitation wards for 33 days as opposed to 54 days for the group receiving a placebo of similar caloric value. These patients also had greater increases of growth factor IGF-1, which is necessary for healing in bone fracture patients, and they experienced less than half of the loss in bone mineral density and half as many vertebral deformities compared to controls. Dairy products and some grains can also increase levels of IGF-1, so this is one time when you should not be on a Paleo diet. 
There are micronutrients that can also play a role in fracture healing. For example, an antioxidant vitamin E deficiency can disrupt maintenance of calcium stores, resulting in overactive parathyroid glands and bone loss. In animal studies, antioxidant administration completely prevented bone loss in mice with their ovaries removed, while inhibiting glutathione synthesis (the “master antioxidant”) resulted in a significant level of bone loss in mice with intact ovaries. Because of this, antioxidants are particularly important for post-menopausal women. Vitamin C, an antioxidant that often works with glutathione, may inhibit the bone destroying osteoclasts and sustain the growth of the bone building osteoblasts, by mechanisms such as upregulating collagen type I synthesis. Collagen synthesis is also essential for bone fracture healing in and of itself, because it is part of bone tissue. Certain pro-oxidant and inflammatory chemicals such as TNF-alpha, hydrogen peroxide, nuclear factor kappa-B, IL-8, IL-1 and IL-6 are known to work against bone building in support of the osteoclasts. Therefore, anti-inflammatory nutrients and herbs like turmeric, widely known for its effects against IL-6, may assist in healing. One of my mentors has a liking for potato poultices, and if they can be used, they have an effect against hydrogen peroxide due to the catalase present in raw potato. 
However, certain types of inflammation can benefit bone healing, therefore non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided as much as possible in favor of alternatives including vitamin C (500mg), quercetin, and bromelain. Of course, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are always indispensable in bone growth and repair, but silicon supplementation as an adjunct may increase the rate of healing, though absorption rates vary.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

What are Castor Oil Packs?

Last week at my association meeting, two of my association buddies, the most experienced in the room, got to talking about the use of castor oil packs for inflammation and detoxification. This was particularly for endometriosis and fibroids, as one of them specialises in women's and children's health. I had no idea what they were, how to use them or what they were for, because we have never learnt anything about them or many other more hands-on therapies at college. Mostly we learn nutritional, herbal and lifestyle medicine, with herbal medicine almost always being liquid-extract formulas or creams.

Of course I wanted to research these outside of our meeting. Castor oil packs were popularised by Edgar Cayce, and then later researched by the physician William McGarey, author of The Oil That Heals. He wrote that when used correctly, castor oil packs can improve the function of the immune system, specifically, in two separate studies, patients saw significant increases in lymphocyte production (a category of immune cell) compared to those using placebo packs. This was repeated in a 1999 animal study, where the average number of T-11 lymphocytes significantly increased over seven hours after a two-hour treatment with castor oil packs. Increased lymphocyte levels speed the removal of toxins and cellular garbage from tissues, which also promotes healing. In one study on rats, the main compound in castor oil was more effective in relieving and preventing inflammation than the capsaicin in chilli, with inflammation peaking earlier and then later falling to lower levels than both capsaicin and control. On day eight, the inflammation had gone in both capsaicin and castor oil. When testing a subchronic model of inflammation (I would say this is very relevant to the real world), the lowest levels of inflammation during all weeks in both tests were found in the group treated with castor oil. In a study on humans with knee osteoarthritis, the 50 patients given just 0.9mL of castor oil, three times daily for 4 weeks, while the other 50 were prescribed 50mg of diclofenac sodium three times daily for 4 weeks. After being evaluated by clinical, radiographic and laboratory tests, it was found that both treatments were effective, but castor oil had no negative side effects whereas the drug had a high rate of adverse effects.

Besides castor oil packs, you can simply rub the oil in to wherever the affected area is or apply it to a Band-Aid. Basically a castor oil pack involves soaking a large enough (often folded, depending on the size) piece of cloth, preferably flannel, in room-temperature castor oil; covering this over with a sheet of plastic and then placing a heat pack or heating pad on top. This is meant to be left on for 45-60 minutes, and it is recommended to wash your skin with soap afterwards and wash the cloth separately. For best results it is said you should apply castor oil packs for four consecutive days a week, for one month. However, the brand of castor oil is very important as much of what is currently commercially available has been sprayed with pesticide and chemically treated. (since my bob style first appeared in 1923, can it take me back to that year so I can shop chemical-free much easier? :-D ) Unless you want a powerful laxative, I don't recommend you use castor oil orally either, just topically, and, only if you know you are not allergic to the oil. Fortunately, the highly toxic ricin found in castor beans is not present in the oil, but still don't go overboard. Castor oil may also have anticancer and contraceptive effects, but these need more research before any conclusions can be drawn.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

An Anti-Aging Drug?

In what is being called a world first, metformin will be soon tested on 3,000 70-somethings for its reputed antiaging properties, according to scientists. Those trialling the drug hope that it will help people live in good health even in their 110s and 120s, which could also prevent diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. This is not without reason: when metformin was tested on the roundworm C. elegans, the worms stayed visibly younger and healthier for longer, looking less wrinkly and well, more elegant. Mice had their lifespan increased by 40% and stronger bones, while it has been observed in humans that diabetics on metformin even lived longer lives than non-diabetics, despite an average life expectancy that is 8 years shorter. Metformin can also increase survival in cancer patients with Type II diabetes.

So what does metformin actually do? It stabilises blood sugar levels! But what about just changing your diet, instead of relying on pharmaceutical drugs, which can have negative side effects and are often subject to unfair price hikes? One study on a low sugar diet involved 43 children on eating plans where sugar was around 10% of their diets, instead of an average of 28%, still found positive results even though it only ran for 9 days! There was a reduction of diastolic blood pressure by 5 mmHg, while lactate dropped by 0.3 mmol/L; glucose tolerance and insulin resistance also improved. These results were similar among both the children who lost weight and those who didn’t. All children had obesity and metabolic syndrome, which result in a faster rate of aging due to increased tissue damage. Therefore, a reduced tissue damage from consuming less sugar can have other health promoting, antiaging effects when these dietary changes are kept up for longer than 9 days. This is because much of aging is caused by Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) accumulating in the body, creating structural damage and inhibiting normal functions. This is why people with diabetes, especially poorly controlled diabetes, are aging faster than normal, with higher risks of age related diseases and worse health. While a “normal” person would have a glycation rate of their blood’s haemoglobin (HbA1c) of less than 6.5%, diabetics often have 8, 10 or even 12% glycation rates! These AGEs cannot be removed, which is why it takes several months (the life of a red blood cell) to see the full effects of changing one’s diet on HbA1c. Fortunately, nutrients such as carnosine can inhibit glycation and may even improve tissue health, but these cannot be patented unlike metformin, so are not mentioned in articles about the aforementioned study. However, Life Extension does seem to sell a good anti-glycation formula.

Metformin, in fact, is actually derived from the herb known as Goat’s Rue, or Galega officinalis. This is able to inhibit fatty acid synthesis and increase glucose uptake into cells, thus reducing blood sugar levels. Another herbal medicine that can control blood glucose, even in non-diabetics, is cinnamon. Thirty participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test, either with or without immediate administration of cinnamon tea, in order to measure its effects. After 30 minutes, there was a difference in blood sugar of 1.27 mmol/L (10.14 vs 8.87) between the control and cinnamon groups. At 60 minutes, the control and cinnamon groups had blood sugar levels of 8.75 and 8.24 mmol/L respectively; at 90 minutes this was 7.66 and 7.29 mmol/L respectively. The cinnamon tea also exhibited a strong antioxidant effect. It was stated that these results were independent of which species of the Cinnamomum genus used. Another study showed a positive effect of cinnamon in insulin resistance among women with PCOS. While the upcoming study on metformin (abbreviated as the TAME study for those who are interested) sounds like it may yield a promising treatment for aging, we may not have to rely on a drug to achieve the same effects. I have not really had any experience with this drug, but one of my teachers does say that it is relatively innocuous, however individual experiences and choices are more important than insisting on one teacher's views (which are more pro-pharmaceutical than usual).

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

An Undervalued Trace Mineral for Longevity

Most people know the importance of keeping minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium at adequate (or optimal) levels in order to maintain health, but a very often over looked mineral has been shown to possess a multitude of disease and age fighting benefits. This mineral, which we did not learn about in those Life Education vans (yay air conditioning!) is selenium! Discovered to be essential when laboratory rats developed liver disease from being fed the selenium-deficient torula yeast instead of the usual baker's yeast, it functions as a regulator of many metabolic and physiological pathways.

One of the benefits of selenium is of course increasing longevity. For example, a study of 446 people in China, 208 of which were centenarians (those 100 years old or over), found that the highest levels of selenium and zinc were in the oldest participants. In a nine-year study of older adults in France, those with the highest blood levels of selenium had lower death rates. Compared to those with the highest selenium levels, people with the lowest levels had a 54% higher risk of dying during the study period, and a 79% higher risk of dying from cancer.

Yes, selenium has been shown in many studies to help protect against cancer. Nine randomised controlled trials involving over 152,000 people in total show that selenium supplementation reduced the risk for all cancers by an average of 24%; this rose to 36% in people with low starting levels of selenium. More specific studies have found protective effects against prostate, colorectal, liver, stomach, bladder, oesophagus and lung cancers. However, there are three specific forms of selenium that are most effective in cancer prevention; which are sodium selenite, L-selenomethionine and selenium-methyl L-selenocysteine. These each have their own mechanisms of action, and so each is better at fighting certain cancers than others. The first boosts the natural immune response against cancer cells, killing them off before they develop into noticeable issues. The second makes cancer cells kill themselves in the very early stages, before they lose the "suicide genes", while the third can kill abnormal cells that have lost those genes.

Have there been human clinical trials to back these up? Yes! In one of these, patients with head and neck cancers took either 200ug of sodium selenite or placebo, with the treated patients showing a better ability to destroy tumour cells. In another, patients with precancerous damage to the oesophagus were prescribed 200ug of L-selenomethionine. This not only slowed progression of some abnormal cells, but also caused the regression of precancerous cells back to normal states! Clinical trials have even shown risk reductions in BRCA gene-related breast cancers. Strikingly, L-selenomethionine was found to lower prostate cancer risk by 63% in men with a history of this disease.

Selenium can also increase efficacy of immune cells to fight infections, thus reversing age-related immune decline. One example of its immune-boosting properties is a study of people with type one diabetes, where the hepatitis B vaccine was 74% effective with 200ug of selenium, as opposed to 48% in the placebo group. With these benefits, as well as protective effects against cognitive decline, stroke-induced brain damage and cardiovascular disease, it is surprising that selenium is so overlooked. The main mechanism behind these, by the way, is the requirement of selenium for glutathione to function as an antioxidant.

Derived from "How To Obtain Optimal Benefits from Selenium", Life Extension Magazine, November 2015.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Natural Alternatives for Shingles

So last week, for a change, I decided to cut off my almost waist-length hair in favour of a shingle bob (think Phryne Fisher, but without the fringe), with plans to eventually grow it out. Since then I have been meaning to write a blog post about shingles-the-disease and how to treat it naturally. Why? Sure it's usually not as serious as diabetes/aging/cancer/etc, but from all accounts I have heard, it is a painful, debilitating problem that can put you out of action for 3-4 weeks!

One treatment for shingles that should be more available is vitamin C injections, however I have heard of people achieving similar results with liposome-coated vitamin C as this apparently aids absorption. In one study, Dr Frederick Klenner gave 2,000-3,000mg of vitamin C by injection every 12 hours, as well as 1,000mg by mouth in fruit juice every two hours to eight patients with shingles. In seven of these eight, complete pain relief was observed within two hours of the first injection! Those lucky little - Anyway, their blisters also healed very quickly, with complete resolution in 72 hours (three days)! However treatment must go on for a few more days in order to prevent recurrence, according to Dr Klenner, who saw similar results with chickenpox (caused by the same virus as shingles, chicken pox is the original infection, shingles is the recurrence). Another study from 1950 showed complete resolution of shingles again within 72 hours in all 327 patients! These results are amazing, and with all of the other studies and case reports of viral infections being wiped out by vitamin C injections or intravenous administration, I am surprised that research and use did not continue.

Despite all of this success, upon describing the study with 327 patients to a teacher, he asked me, "is it right?" in terms of naturopathic philosophy.'s natural, safe and effective so I would say YES! We are treating the cause (by also boosting immunity); using the power of nature; teaching patients of vitamin C's benefits; and doing no harm! I would much rather have this than another vaccination (I know very damaged young men), and if I did get chickenpox or shingles, I would seek out vitamin C injections or highly bioavailable oral supplements. I am not, nor will I ever be, another "wellness warrior" who makes her money off martyrdom and does not use the best natural therapies available because they do not fit in with narrow, arbitrary principles! I do not care if it appears to be "green allopathy" from a distance, as long as it works and I am not poisoning myself/giving myself another disease in the process then I'm for it. That is why I still mentioned chilli/capsaicin in another post on neuropathy. And also why I am linking to this study here, showing that reishi mushrooms, among other things, can reduce pain associated with this infection. Capsaicin can help with post-herpetic neuralgia too, but because these are symptomatic treatments only, I would recommend them alongside things to actually boost immunity and kill off as much virus as possible.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Magnesium and All-Cause Mortality Rates

Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. These reactions include those in DNA and RNA production, energy production, cell migration and communication between cells. In fact, the importance of magnesium is so great that it has been shown in a German study to dramatically reduce not only cardiovascular mortality rates, but also all-cause mortality.

Inspired by the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP), rates of all-cause and cardiovascular related mortality in 4,203 patients were analysed in relation to magnesium levels. The mean follow-up duration was 10 years. Among people with magnesium levels of 0.73mmol/L or less, the all-cause mortality rate was 10.95 deaths per 1,000 person-years, and the death rate for cardiovascular disease was 3.44 per 1,000 person-years. However, this was 1.45 per 1,000 and 1.53 per 1,000 in participants with magnesium levels of over 0.73mmol/L. This is a reduction in all-cause mortality rates by over 85%, and of approximately 55% in cardiovascular mortality rates!

So what do the results of this study mean? One could argue that the massive drop in death rates is due to the patient’s diets and lifestyles as a whole, with a high magnesium intake just being another effect. This is a possibility because the authors excluded those taking magnesium in supplement form, meaning that only dietary intake of magnesium through foods such as green vegetables was responsible for the aforementioned health benefits. However, the inverse association between magnesium intake and dying was independent of cardiovascular risk factors including hypertension and antihypertensive drug therapy. In addition, multiple studies have found that magnesium deficiency is associated with increased inflammation, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, meaning that the mineral itself is likely to be of particular importance.

Unfortunately, most people are deficient in magnesium, but symptoms such as fatigue, muscle cramps and headache are so generalised and common that many never have any idea of the true cause of these problems. One of my teachers (If I remember correctly he works at Herbs on the Hill) says that sugar cravings are often just a craving for the nutrients usually paired with sugar in nature, such as magnesium. However, most of us are raised to reach for lollies or soft drink, which leave you with persistent cravings because they aren't really what you want. This is part of my theory that whether or not someone is making a good decision for themselves is totally relative, because even if it's physically harming them, then it's an attempt at self-medicating that society/corporations/dealers have hijacked. Besides dietary inadequacies, stress, fluoride and prescription drugs such as diuretics can also deplete magnesium from the body.

For those wishing to increase their magnesium intake, there are many foods that contain this vital mineral, such as hemp seeds. Some others, that are legal in all countries (what do you think my position on government is after the previous paragraph? Very negative) are:  
  • Oat bran, which has 96mg per ½ cup
  • Brown rice, which contains 86mg per cup
  • Mackerel, a fish that has 82mg for every three ounces
  • Spinach, which contains 78mg per ½ cup
  • Almonds (77mg per ounce)
  • Lima beans (63mg per ½ cup)
  • Bananas (32mg per banana)
  • Peanuts and blackstrap molasses (both 48mg per ounce) 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Maritime Pine and Skin Aging

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, while far from being the worst effect of aging, the decline in skin quality that results from it is most undesirable. Apart from aloe vera, which I discussed in another post, French maritime pine bark extract is yet another remedy that can at least reduce the skin aging caused by too much UV light.

French maritime pine bark is high in bioflavonoids, especially the oligometric procyanidins (OPCs). These are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and so target two main drivers of aging, and are also found in a wide range of foods such as chocolate. In one study, 112 women with age spots and other symptoms of skin aging such as wrinkles, roughness and uneven pigmentation were given either a 100mg supplement of pine bark extract for 12 weeks, or one of 40mg for 24 weeks. Objectively, there was a significant decrease in the pigmentation of age spots over the course of 12 weeks in the high dose group, and also the 24 weeks in the low dose group. Additionally, corneocyte size significantly decreased, which suggests an ability to repair existing skin damage, since these are "supposed" to increase in size with aging. In the photographs included, you can see that skin firmness visibly improved and wrinkles were beginning to fade. Once again, this was achieved by taking something internally, which still had noticeable effects on skin despite being transported to other areas of the body. So, particularly if you were otherwise very healthy on the inside, maybe a cream would have an even greater effect using less extract? Pine bark extract can prevent skin aging too, especially that caused by UV radiation, as it has been found to protect against sunburn when taken as an oral supplement. Sunburn involves a lot of oxidative stress and inflammation.

In other research, 20 post-menopausal women were given pine bark extract for 12 weeks in order to compare both their outward appearance and expression of certain molecular markers. Especially in women with dry skin conditions, hydration and elasticity significantly improved after the 12 weeks. There were increases in the enzyme hyaluronic acid synthase-1, which helps to produce hyaluronic acid, as well as upregulation of the expression of some genes involved in collagen synthesis. So you can have your cake and eat it too - have youthful beauty, but no inconveniences of menstruation or threat of pregnancy if those looks lead to meeting someone! Another study, this time on 62 women taking a supplement that included maritime pine bark as part of the formulation, found an improvement in skin elasticity by 9% after 6 weeks, and an improvement in elasticity by 6% after 12 weeks, when compared to placebo.

Maritime pine bark extract has also been found to be effective in treating venous insufficiency and retinal microhaemorrhages, which may also be a mechanism behind its antiaging effects as oxygen and nutrient delivery is preserved. So how does it do all of these things? Pine bark extract acts as an antioxidant by increasing production of your cells' own antioxidant enzymes, and by regenerating vitamins C and E, as well as its own direct effects. This is why it has even been found to improve lung function in asthmatics, modulate the immune system and reduce premenstrual symptoms. Overall maritime pine bark extract could be another alternative to toxic Botox injections, as these have beneficial side effects and target the causes of aging as opposed to just masking the symptoms.