July 3rd, 2015

The Collagen Connection

As we age, it’s critical to ensure we have enough of this key protein

iStock_000011966465XSmallCollagen—along with hyaluronic acid—forms the “intracellular cement” that literally holds us together. There are several different types of collagen, but type II is by far the most abundant in our bodies, representing 30 percent of total body protein and up to 70 percent of the proteins in our connective tissues.

Aging and Skin Health

As we age, a lot happens in the collagen-rich support structure of the skin (the dermis). First and foremost, the activity of the fibroblasts—the cells responsible for making collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid—slows down. The dermis is also less able to protect itself from damage and is more prone to dehydration. All of these factors ultimately lead to a thinner dermis and structural changes that lead to skin looking old and weathered.

Clinical studies with ChOSA showed impressive results in women age 40–65 with signs of premature aging.

Joint and Bone Health

As we grow older, natural collagen production also slows in our joints and may lead to osteoarthritis. The ligaments and tendons may also weaken. Bone is also rich in collagen. In fact, about 30–40 percent of bone is composed of collagen. It provides the structural matrix upon which mineralization of bone occurs. Collagen is to bone what 2x4s are to the frame of a house. Decreased collagen content of the bone is a key underlying factor in osteoporosis and low bone density. The amount of collagen determines the number of “bone mineral binding sites.” If the collagen content is low, the bone becomes more brittle and fracture risk increases dramatically.

Increasing Collagen Content

Collagen supplements can provide the building blocks of collagen manufacture, but the key to increasing collagen levels is to increase the activity of collagen-producing cells. Collagen supplements have shown mixed results in promoting joint health. In one study, a collagen supplement (2 grams per day) was shown to produce considerable relief of symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.

However, this collagen supplement also contains low molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HA). Studies with HA supplementation in osteoarthritis have also shown beneficial effects, so it’s difficult to know if the results are due to the collagen or HA.

Natural eggshell membrane (NEM) is another source of collagen and HA. Studies show that NEM helps relieve the pain, stiffness, and impaired mobility of osteoarthritis and other joint health problems. In one clinical study, NEM reduced pain by an average of 72 percent and improved flexibility by 44 percent after 30 days of use—without side effects.

Rather than simply supply collagen, it is thought that NEM boosts the production of critical joint molecules such as type II collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), including chondroitin sulfate. GAGs are important components of cartilage, providing resistance to compression and contributing to the tensile strength of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

One of the most interesting and well-documented approaches to increasing the manufacture of collagen is the use of a highly bioavailable from of silica—choline stabilized orthosilicic acid or ChOSA (sold as BioSil). Initially, research focused on the ability of ChOSA to increase the levels of hydroxyproline, the key amino acid required for the production of collagen and elastin. Clinical studies with ChOSA showed impressive results in women age 40–65 with signs of sun damage and premature aging of the skin. Those receiving 10 mg of ChOSA daily experienced 30 percent improvements in shallow, fine lines and 55 percent increased skin elasticity.

ChOSA can also promote bone health through increasing the manufacture of collagen. In a double-blind study of postmenopausal women with low bone density, ChOSA was able to increase the collagen content of the bone by 22 percent and increase bone density by 2 percent within the first year of use. The recommended dosage is 6–10 mg per day.

Flavonoids Are Critical

Flavonoids are plant pigments that are more potent than traditional antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. This effect goes a long way in protecting collagen structures from damage. Especially beneficial to collagen structures are the blue or purple pigments—the anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidin oligomers (PCOs)—that are found in grapes and blueberries, as well as in pine bark and grape seed extracts. They affect collagen metabolism in many ways:

  • They can crosslink collagen fibers, which reinforces connective tissue.
  • They prevent free radical damage with their potent antioxidant action.
  • They prevent the release of compounds that promote inflammation.
  • They protect collagen structures from enzymes secreted by white blood cells during inflammation.

To insure sufficient levels of these beneficial flavonoids, increase your intake of richly colored berries and other fruits. It’s also a good idea to supplement your diet with a PCO extract, such as grape seed or pine bark, at a dosage of 50–150 mg daily for general support.

June 30th, 2015

Avocado Component Fights Cancer

Avocado Health BenefitsIntroduction:

While many people are somewhat afraid of eating avocados because of their high fat content, research shows many health benefits are attributed to this wonderful fruit. In fact, in an exciting new study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Canada, a component of avocado was shown to possess significant action against acute myeloid leukemia.

Background Data:

Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins and fiber. One avocado will have the potassium content of 2-to-3 bananas (about 1,000 mg of potassium). Of course, an avocado will also have about 3 times the calories as a banana. A 3-1/2 ounce (100g) serving is about ½ of an avocado and provides 160 calories, 2.0 g protein, 14.7 g fat, 8.5 carbohydrate and 6.7 g fiber.

Avocado oil consists of 71% monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), 13% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and 16% saturated fatty acids (SFA), which helps to promote healthy blood lipid profiles and enhance the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals from the avocado or other fruits and vegetables. The consumption of avocados with salads or salsa increases the bioavailability of carotenoids multi-fold, which may add to the potential health benefits.

Avocados contain a moderate level of phytochemicals, especially polyphenols that show antioxidant activity. Avocados have the highest fruit antioxidant capacity in protecting against the formation of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the blood.

A total of eight clinical trials have shown consumption of avocados produce cardiovascular benefits including improvements in cholesterol levels. In subjects with high blood cholesterol levels, avocado enriched diets improved blood lipid profiles by lowering LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing HDL-cholesterol, compared to high carbohydrate diets or other diets without avocado.

Along with the benefits to cardiovascular health, several preliminary clinical studies indicate that avocados can support weight control. The calories of the avocado seem to be offset by the promotion of satiety. For example, in a randomized single blinded, crossover study of 26 healthy overweight adults when the subjects ate one-half an avocado at lunch they reported significantly reduced hunger and desire to eat, and increased satiation as compared to the control meal.

New Data:

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal stem cells of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. Treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) currently involves chemotherapy regimens that only produce limited benefit to long-term survival.

Canadian researchers identified a compound in avocados, avocatin B, as a substance that causes selective toxicity to the abnormal cells in AML. Specifically, their research using functional cell assays showed that avocatin B reduced the viability of AML stem cells without effects on normal stem cells.

Their next step was explaining this observed effect by discovering the mechanism. What they discovered was that avocation B was toxic to the cancer cells of AML because it inhibited their mitochondria – the energy producing compartment of cells. It inhibited the ability of mitochondria in the leukemia stem cells to utilize fats as an energy source. Basically, the avocation B turned off the cancer cells leading to a process known as apoptosis – a type of cellular suicide.

What is exciting about this research is the selectivity of the avocatin B as it had no effect on normal cells. Although there is obviously a lot more research required before avocatin becomes a proven treatment for AML, this line of research is clearly encouraging.

Commentary:

I love reading these sorts of studies because it shows us the tremendous potential of food as medicine, even in serious health conditions like cancer. When I read a study like this one, it makes me realize that we have not even scratched the surface in understanding the healing power of food.

In addition to regularly eating a moderate amount of an avocado (no more than ½ per day), avocado oil can be used as cooking oil. It may turn out to be a healthy and economical alternative to olive oil. It has a higher smoke point than olive oil (500 degrees F vs. 400) and is also rich in antioxidant polyphenols.

Reference:

Lee EA, Angka L, Rota SG, et al. Targeting Mitochondria with Avocatin B Induces Selective Leukemia Cell Death. Cancer Res. 2015 Jun 15;75(12):2478-88.

Dr. Micheal Murray
6/30/15

June 26th, 2015

Menopause & Anxiety

Hormonal changes can create imbalances in brain chemicals, leading to anxiety and depression. Discover herbal options that ease tension naturally

postmenopausal-women_1Although hot flashes grab most of the attention when it comes to menopause, anxiety is an equally common symptom among menopausal-age women. And overall, anxiety is twice as common in women as in men. During menopause (as well as the time leading up to it), hormonal changes can set the stage for anxiety.

The Anti-Anxiety Diet

Two of the most important things you can do to alleviate anxiety is to increase your consumption of plant foods—especially those high in phytoestrogens—and reduce your consumption of animal foods.

Phytoestrogens are plant substances that bind to estrogen receptors in mammals. Soy foods and flax seeds are rich in phytoestrogens, but they’re also found in other legumes, as well as apples, carrots, fennel, celery, and parsley. A diet high in phytoestrogens is thought to explain why menopausal symptoms, including anxiety, appear to occur less frequently in cultures that consume a predominantly plant-based diet. In addition, such a diet is promising for disease prevention, with some research showing a lower incidence of breast cancer and heart disease in women consuming high-phytoestrogen diets.

Increased lactic acid levels may be a factor in many cases of anxiety. There are at least six nutritional factors that may be responsible for elevated lactic acid levels: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, B-vitamin deficiency, calcium or magnesium deficiency, and food allergens. By avoiding alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and food allergens, people with anxiety can go a long way toward relieving symptoms. In fact, something as simple as eliminating coffee can result in complete relief from anxiety symptoms.

It’s also important to note that a full-spectrum, high-quality multivitamin is essential, regardless of how healthy you eat. Take consistently for best results.

Fish Oils

Fish oils high in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have shown positive effects for patients with many different types of psychological disorders, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD).

Fish oil trials in menopausal women showed particularly interesting results. In a 2009 study conducted in Quebec, Canada, 120 women going through menopause were given either a fish oil supplement providing 1,200 mg of EPA and DHA or a placebo for two months. The baseline level of hot flashes was an average of 2.8 per day. After 8 weeks, hot flash frequency decreased by 55 percent in the EPA and DHA group, but by only 25 percent in the placebo group.

Botanical Medicines

Black cohosh is the most studied herbal alternative for menopause symptoms. Research indicates that it is most effective for hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disorders, and body aches. It also appears to be helpful in reducing anxiety, as well as symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations. Some studies have used black cohosh in combination with St. John’s wort, red clover, soy, and/or chaste tree berry.

Motherwort, a traditional herbal remedy for heart and nerve health, is another option for anxiety, particularly for those whose chief anxiety symptoms include palpitations and a pounding heart.

As most people familiar with herbal medicine know, St. John’s wort is known for its benefits for mild to moderate depression. But scientists have also evaluated its effects on menopausal symptoms. These studies have not only shown that St. John’s wort can improve mood, but that it also reduces hot flashes. In regard to improving mood, the effects were most obvious after 2 months of treatment (at 900 mg per day). Women in the St. John’s wort group reported improvements in psychological symptoms linked to menopause, significantly better quality of life scores, and fewer sleep problems.

Another botanical medicine that can be of great benefit in relieving anxiety during menopause is maca. Research indicates that unlike hormone replacement therapy (HRT), maca helps increase the body’s production of estrogen and lower levels of cortisol. It has been suggested that maca’s therapeutic actions rely on plant sterols stimulating the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal, and ovarian glands, and therefore also affecting the thyroid and pineal glands—thus improving sleep, mood, energy, and hot flashes.

In a 4-month study, patients were given a placebo or two 500 mg capsules of maca twice daily (for a total of 2 grams of maca per day). After 2 months, maca stimulated estrogen production, suppressed cortisol, and alleviated menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia, depression, and nervousness.