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Vitamin K May Improve Cognitive Health in the Elderly

You know that Sesame Street skit that goes, "...one of these things is not like the others, one of these things don't belong..." (or something like that). Isn't this wrong?! I never really gave it much thought until a few days ago (I'm sure it's discussed all over the internet if I were to look into it...I can't imagine I'm the only one), but why are we teaching kids to identify the thing that's different? ...and even worse, why do we suggest that the thing that's different "doesn't belong?!" I think this teaches racism, homophobia, starts religious wars, etc... instead of focusing on the things that made us different, let's focus only on those things that make us the same. It'll take a total reprogramming of the way we think, and it may take a generation or two before we see the social and global benefits from this way of thinking, but it'll be worth it.

Sesame Street and other kids shows (if you let your kids watch TV in the first place) should teach kids to identify those things that are similar. Show the kids a number of objects that are quite different from one another, and ask them to figure out what is common between all of them. I know I've seen similar exercises in some toddler's activity books...but this should be wide-spread... and drop the whole find the difference thing.

That's my rant for the day, and now that I got that off my chest, let's geek-out...

In a previous study, researchers showed vitamin K to preferentially accumulate in brain regions rich in white matter and to positively correlate with certain sphingolipids (like ceramides). In previous studies on rodents, vitamin K deficiency has resulted in behavioral disturbances. To gain insight on the role of vitamin K status on brain function, the authors of this new study investigated learning abilities, motor activity, and anxiety in distinct groups of 6-, 12-, and 20-month old rats that had been fed diets containing low, adequate, or high levels of vitamin K since weaning. 

Results revealed that a lifetime of consuming a low-vitamin K diet resulted in cognitive deficits in the 20-month old rats, with those in the low-K group having impaired learning abilities compared to those in the high-K group. However, the low-K diet did not affect cognition at 6 and 12 months of age, nor did it affect motor activity or anxiety at any age.

Although this was an animal study, and much remains to be elucidated about the mechanism of action of vitamin K in cognition, this study points to vitamin K as an important nutritional factor contributing to cognitive health, especially as we age.

As more research is done on vitamin K, I believe you'll continue to hear more and more benefits of this severely under-rated nutrient. Here are some other recent studies on vitamin K (or other posts where vitamin K was discussed)...
A few years ago, vitamin D studies started to trickle in, and now we're seeing a full-on, double rainbow of studies. I see the same thing happening with vitamin K, and it's going to impress a number of you in the coming years.

Source: Lifelong Low-Phylloquinone Intake Is Associated with Cognitive Impairments in Old Rats

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Most Cost-Effective Way to Reduce Premature Death? Double Vitamin D Levels

This is getting a little ridiculous...this is the third study on vitamin D I'm covering in three days, so even if I come across another study tomorrow, I'm not going to cover it because you should know by now, how important this nutrient is for all aspects of health.

However, before I get to the study... the answer to my riddle from last week...

If you've tried to guess -- or even better, posted an answer -- to the riddle, the answer, as a couple of commenters have figured out, was water... the letters "H to O" were listed on the barrel.

I got this from an interactive story app I downloaded on my iPhone to read with my oldest son last year while he was learning to read. That was a tough one for us.

Well, on to discuss this study on vitamin D, where the goal was to estimate the reduction in mortality rates for six geopolitical regions of the world under the assumption that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels increase from 54 to 110nmol/l (21.6 ng/mL to 44 ng/mL).

To make a long story short, the results showed a reduction in "all-cause mortality rates" ranging from 7.6% for African females to 17.3% for European females. Reductions for males averaged 0.6% lower than for females. The estimated increase in life expectancy is 2 years for all six regions studied.

Considering the low cost of vitamin D supplements, or the fact that "smart" exposure to UVB rays from the sun is free, it's one of the easiest ways we can improve or maintain our health.

Most vitamin D experts are saying 5000 IU daily from supplements is what is needed to ensure the whole body has enough of this essential nutrient. Apparently, according to surveys, even those those doctors who take a cautious and conservative approach by only recommending 2000 IU/day for their patients, are taking 5000 IU/day themselves. Hmmm...

In the ideal situation, when taking large doses of vitamin D3 as supplements, you'll want to get a product that contains a little vitamin K2 as well, or in the absence of a D3 product that contains some K2, I would advise you take some K2 separately. This is because vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium by the intestines. Vitamin K2, will help maximize the calcium's benefit to bones, while minimizing the risk of calcium's undesirable side-effects like arterial calcification or kidney stones (as discussed in previous posts).

Source: An estimate of the global reduction in mortality rates through doubling vitamin D levels

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Vitamin D Cuts the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Back-to-back...here's a second study on vitamin D in as many days. This is a nice study on vitamin D's ability to reduce the risk of diabetes. You may not think this is anything new, and you're right. This study was a meta-analysis which pools the results of previous studies on this topic together to develop an overall picture (19 previous studies on this subject were included in this analysis).

According to data published, intakes greater than 500 IU/day reduced the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 13%. When grouping people according to levels of vitamin D in the blood (as 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the inactive "storage" form), those who had more than 25 ng/mL, had a 43% lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes than people with the lowest blood levels (less than 14 ng/mL).

To convert ng/mL (conventional US
units) to nmol/L (the international
standard), multiply by a factor of 2.5
Keep in mind that according to vitamin D researchers/experts, even 25 ng/mL is considered low, with many now considering 30 ng/mL the low end of "normal." What does that translate to in terms of IU/day from a supplement? Well, it differs between individuals based on many factors, but you're likely looking in the range of at least 2000 IU/day. It's thought that 5000 IU/day will result in blood levels of 50-70 ng/mL (125-175 nmol/L), which seems to be optimal according to the latest research.

Source: Vitamin D and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review

So, if you haven't yet publicly recorded your answer to my riddle last week, this is you last chance... I'll be revealing the answer in my next post. If you haven't signed up for email notifications (which you can do below), check back to read the answer.

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Vitamin D Reduces Muscle Pain and Inflammation from Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs

It's great to see a study like this because vitamin D deficiency is seldom talked about when people are taking "statin medications," which happen to be among the most prescribed class of drugs in the world (with Lipitor® being the single best-selling medication in the world).

I think most people know by now that if they're taking a statin like Lipitor®, they've got to be taking CoQ10 (ideally ubiquinol form of CoQ10). This is because statins inhibit an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase -- which is essential for the body's own production of cholesterol. However, this same enzyme is essential for the body's own production of CoQ10. So by taking a statin, you're inducing a state of CoQ10 deficiency, making supplementation paramount. Makes sense? Great.

What most people overlook, including many healthcare professionals, is that HMG-CoA reductase is also essential for our bodies to make 7-dehydrocholesterol (A.K.A. provitamin D), which is the the precursor to vitamin D. Following the same logic above for CoQ10, anyone taking a statin medication would be wise to be supplementing with vitamin D3.

Without supplementing, it's theorized that statins could induce a state of vitamin D deficiency. In a state of vitamin D deficiency, you start to see a lot of adverse physical symptoms, like inflammation and pain in the muscles.

So in this study at hand, 150 patients with high cholesterol were recruited. More specifically, these patients were unable to tolerate treatment with one or more statin drugs, and had low vitamin D status (less than 32 ng/mL).

Subjects were then given 50,000 IU vitamin D, twice/week, for the first 3 weeks, and then once/week for the duration of the intervention. After the first 3 weeks of vitamin D treatment (the loading phase), statin drugs were re-started.

Results found that after a median 8.1 months, vitamin D supplementation (with the re-instituted statins) was found to be associated with reversal of muscle inflammation and pain in 87% of subjects. In addition, vitamin D status normalized in 78% of patients who were previously vitamin D deficient. Lastly, as expected due to statin therapy, LDL cholesterol also decreased significantly.

The authors conclude, "Symptomatic myositis-myalgia in hypercholesterolemic statin-treated patients with concurrent serum 25 (OH) vitamin D deficiency may reflect a reversible interaction between vitamin D deficiency and statins on skeletal muscle causing myalgia." (I should paraphrase this to reduce the tech-talk, but you get the idea.)

So if you're taking a statin drug (and I'm sure many of you are), or even the natural source of statins (red yeast rice, available as a dietary supplement), you should also be taking CoQ10 and vitamin D3.

Source: Vitamin D deficiency, myositis-myalgia, and reversible statin intolerance

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Lutein, Lycopene, and Beta-Carotene Benefit Eyes in Preterm Infants

Here's a quick and dirty post on lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene.

Dietary carotenoids may be important in preventing or ameliorating complications due to prematurity. However, little is known about carotenoid status or the effects of supplementation in a premature population. So, these researcher studies this in 203 preterm infants in a randomized, controlled, multi-center trial.

Results showed supplementation with lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene was found to be associated with lower plasma C-reactive protein (CRP), and plasma carotenoid levels rose to levels that are similar to those found in human milk-fed term infants. Furthermore, infants who received supplementation were found to have greater rod photoreceptor sensitivity.

The authors conclude, "Our results point to protective effects of lutein on preterm retina health and maturation."

You may also remember another study on lutein that I recently discussed, which can be found by clicking HERE.

Source: Effect of carotenoid supplementation on plasma carotenoids, inflammation and visual development in preterm infants

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Krill Oil Shows Anti-Obesity Effects

Here's a riddle to get your brain going for the middle of the week. A wooden barrel, whose contents are unknown, has a label with nothing else but "HIJKLMNO" written on it. Can you guess what's contained inside the barrel? (Post your answer in the comments section, and I'll reveal the answer in an up-coming post.)

Ok, now on to the study, which showed krill oil may help prevent biochemical changes related to obesity.

It's known that a high-fat diet, rich in omega-6 fatty acids, is associated with increased levels of compounds called endocannabinoids. These are messengers in the body that influence appetite, mood, pain perception, energy balance, and memory. Altering some of these parameters contributes to over-eating and excessive calorie intake, which ultimately leads to a build-up of fat.

What this study found was that krill oil supplementation for eight weeks reduced levels of these endocannabinoids in mice fed a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids.

While this was only a study on mice, it does confirm exactly what was seen in a human clinical trial that was published a few months ago (click HERE to read the discussion on that study).

For me, this is good news because krill oil is one of the few supplements I take on a daily basis.

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Alpha-Lipoic Acid Reduces Drug-Induced Oxidative Stress

Ok, so this was just a study on rats, but I think it's still of interest. Well, it's not even something "new" since we already know that alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a great antioxidant, but what's interesting about this one is that the oxidation in the test subjects was induced by the antipsychotic drug, haloperidol.

Haloperidol in known to significantly decrease levels of the antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase in the brain. In this study, ALA administration was found to significantly reduced the oxidative effects of haloperidol in the brain.

The authors state, "...the study proves that alpha lipoic acid treatment significantly reduces haloperidol-induced neuronal damage."

I've said this before for ALA products... just make sure your healthfood retailer is selling them from the fridge as ALA is not very stable at room temperature. The exception being if it's "stabilized" ALA (would be stated on the label, or identified by looking for the sodium salt of ALA in the ingredient list).


Dark Chocolate Reduces LDL (Bad) & Total Cholesterol

Woman! ...whoa, man.
That's a big bar.
Less is more, ok?

Here's another study on dark chocolate and cocoa products reducing LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels. This was a meta-analysis, so not a new clinical trial, but a pooled overall analysis of previously conducted clinical trials.

This meta-analysis was based on results from 10 clinical trials which included 320 participants, who consumed dark chocolate or cocoa products for a period ranging from 2 to 12 weeks. The analysis found cocoa consumption to be associated with significant reductions in serum LDL and total cholesterol levels.

The authors conclude, "These data are consistent with beneficial effects of dark chocolate/cocoa products on total and LDL cholesterol...in short-term intervention trials."

There was a recent clinical trial that I covered that also found exactly what this meta-analysis confirmed. Click HERE to read the discussion on that study.

Here are a couple other posts where I covered studies on dark chocolate:
So when you get that crazy feelin'...just eat it up. No guilt.


Nutritional Interventions that Reduce Arterial Stiffness

Yes, it's been a slow month for newly published research (of interest to me), but here's one...

This new study was a systematic review of randomized, controlled, human clinical trials examining the role of dietary and nutrient interventions in the treatment of arterial stiffness (a total of 38 studies were included in the analysis). Results of the analysis found omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. fish oil, krill oil) and soy isoflavones to be beneficial in the treatment of arterial stiffness. Consumption of fermented milk products containing bioactive peptides was also found to be beneficial. Caffeine intake was found to acutely increase arterial stiffness according to limited but consistent evidence.

The authors state, "Current evidence from several small studies suggests that omega-3 and soy isoflavone supplementation provides an effective means of reducing arterial stiffness."

The researchers also state that "there was little research that explored intakes of herbal medicines or micronutrients in the treatment of arterial stiffness, and this remains an area of potential research."

So while soy isoflavones are likely a "niche" supplement not widely consumed (unless you have a diet that includes a significant amount of soy), most should be taking a fish oil (ideally the natural TG form) or krill oil supplement by now, so this is good news.

Source: The effects of dietary and nutrient interventions on arterial stiffness: a systematic review

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More Evidence for Alpha-Lipoic Acid's Benefit to Type 2 Diabetics

This is just a quick research update on a new study on alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). In a study involving 57 patients with type 2 diabetes, supplementation with ALA (300 mg/day) for a period of 8 weeks was found to be associated with significant decrease in fasting blood glucose and post-prandial glucose levels, IR-Homeostasis Model Assessment index, and glutathione peroxidase levels.

The authors state, "This study supports the use of ALA as an antioxidant in the care of diabetic patients."

What most people don't realize about ALA is that only the R(+) form is active in humans. Many supplements have an equal amount of the S(-) isomer, which in the best-case-scenario is inert, and in the worst-case, may counteract the benefits of the R(+) isomer (this I've heard a number of times, but haven't confirmed it with my own research, FYI).

Also, most don't know that ALA is unstable at room temperature and should be stored in the fridge (and buy this from the cooler section at your healthfood store). There are, however, a number of "stabilized" ALA products on the market, so make sure if you're not buying from the fridge, you look for a stabilized product (typically it will be listed as a sodium salt of ALA in the ingredient list).

Source: Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on blood glucose, insulin resistance and glutathione peroxidase of type 2 diabetic patients

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Coffee and a Healthy Diet May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

No, this is not a picture of the Canadian flag...
it's me paying the price for being stupid.
Happy Canada Day.
So on Friday, we went to the local Canada Day festivities and I totally got sun burnt! First burn I've had in over a decade...and likely one of the worst I've ever had. A true red neck, for sure. Not smart. I'm usually pretty good with covering up, staying under shade, and using natural sunblocks. Not sure where my head was at this time.

It hasn't felt as bad as it looks since I've been playing doctor and taking care of it. I've used the following to keep the burn moisturized and soothed (and it seems to be working):
  • organic Aloe vera gel
  • Franca Organics' Antioxidant Vitamin-Enriched Moisturizing Face Cream
  • Inno-Vite's Liquid K2 Drops (I know I'm reaching here...but I was desperate for anything to work)
  • DermaSense's Stretch Mark Therapy (again, just trying everything I could)
  • and other natural creams/moisturizers

Anyway, one thing I noticed was the amount of junk that was sold by the food vendors. I just read another article that found diabetes rates have doubled in the last 30 years, and just a looking at what people are eating at events like this, it's obvious why.

There were overweight kids gobbling down "snow cones," huge cups of soda/pop, hot dogs, etc. I also noticed their parents eating the leftovers that their kids didn't finish...how are the kids ever going to learn about healthy nutrition if the parents are encouraging this garbage?!

Then you see the Extreme Makeover - Weight Loss Edition after the Bachelorette on Monday nights and you realize that these people have not a single clue that this stuff is killing them! Unbelievable. It's like they've been living under a rock their whole lives and have never read a single sentence on healthy nutrition...or considering the amount of TV they watch (an assumption), they've never seen a news clip (or other) that talked about healthy eating?

Anyway, I'm losing myself here... back to the reason I'm writing...

Talking about eating healthy, in a study on Alzheimer's, it was shown that a "healthy" diet can modulate/alter the biomarkers of the disease. In this 4-week diet intervention study, healthy cognitively intact older adults who stuck to a low-saturated-fat, low-glycemic-index diet experienced decreases in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of β-amyloid 42, a biomarker of Alzheimer's disease risk.

At the same time, in a group of older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), the healthy diet had the opposite effect, raising CSF levels of this protein. However, this was not surprising, and actually expected -- a good sign the diet intervention was working. This is because β-amyloid 42 sticks in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, and so levels are lower in the CSF, and anything that reverses the disease process is going to raise levels in the CSF.

It looks like the "healthy diet" is one that contains a lot of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (like the Mediterranean diet), and this would be important for people who have Alzheimer's disease or conditions that put them at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

A diet that has a lot of saturated fat and sugar has the opposite effect -- it places you at greater risk of Alzheimer's.

Source: Diet Intervention and Cerebrospinal Fluid Biomarkers in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment

And coincidentally, I came across another study on Alzheimer's...this one studied coffee and its potential health benefits. This study on mice provides evidence that caffeinated coffee offers protection against Alzheimer's disease. The benefits seem to come from a yet-to-be-identified compound found in caffeinated coffee, but it's not caffeine itself (mice in the caffeine alone or decaffeinated coffee groups did not get the benefits).

According to the research team, the ingredient can boost blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) -- a substance greatly decreased in Alzheimer’s patients, and also demonstrated to improve memory in Alzheimer’s mice.

The researchers say GCSF can improve Alzheimer’s memory performance in various ways, including:
  • recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease
  • creates new connections between brain cells
  • increases the birth of new neurons in the brain

What's interesting is that decaffeinated coffee didn't produce the same results. This would indicate that there is a synergistic interaction between this unknown compound and caffeine (which is why many times botanical medicines can be more powerful than synthetic isolates or pharmaceuticals), or that this compound is removed (along with caffeine) in the decaffeinating process.

It looks like we need about 4-5 cups of coffee daily to see these effects. My two-a-day doesn't seem to be cutting it... and maybe this is why my short-term memory is... wait-a-sec, what am I talking about?

Source: Caffeine Synergizes with Another Coffee Component to Increase Plasma GCSF: Linkage to Cognitive Benefits in Alzheimer's Mice

Related Alzheimer's disease posts:
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