Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease — A Direct Link and a Health Tip

Magnesium is an essential mineral required in human nutrition. Among nutritional minerals, it’s also one of the most versatile: a broad range of physiologic processes depend on magnesium to function properly. A co-factor for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, magnesium plays a key role in generating metabolic energy in cells. Magnesium helps regulate the contraction and relaxation of blood vessels and muscles. It’s no mystery that the heart, the body’s hardest working muscle, needs magnesium. Magnesium also helps prevent calcification of blood vessels; in the heart this is known as Coronary Artery Calcification or “CAC.”

CAC, an indicator of advanced atherosclerosis, is seen as a predictor of cardiovascular disease. The Framingham Study, a long-term research study conducted by the USDA’s Human Nutrition Center on Aging, examined the magnesium intakes of people who were free of cardiovascular disease at the start, over a period of 11 years. “We observed strong, favorable associations between higher self-reported total (dietary and supplemental) magnesium intake and lower calcification of the coronary arteries,” the researchers reported. In study participants with the highest magnesium intakes, compared to those with the lowest, the odds of having CAC were 58 percent lower. The reports concludes as follows: “In community-dwelling participants free of cardiovascular disease, self-reported magnesium intake was inversely associated with arterial calcification, which may play a contributing role in magnesium’s protective associations in stroke and fatal coronary heart disease.”

So here’s an important health tip: If you’re not consuming an abundance of magnesium-rich foods on a daily basis, taking a magnesium supplement is a safe, low-cost way to make sure you’re adequately nourished with this potentially life-saving essential mineral.

Hruby A, et al. Magnesium intake is inversely associated with coronary artery calcification: the Framingham Heart Study. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2014 Jan;7(1):59-69.

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Hyaluronic Acid and Vision

Hyaluronic acid is synthesized within the human eye and is secreted into both tears and the aqueous humor of the eye in its non-acidic form, hyaluronidate. On the ocular surface, tears with normal hyaluronidate content exhibit greater lubrication during blinks. Yet while the eyelid is still, hyaluronidate maximizes the thickness of the protective fluid covering the surface of the eye – another reflection of the special properties of hyaluronidate. Within the eye itself, hyaluronidate forms part of a web of large molecules that confer structural stability to the retina and help keep it attached to the underlying cell layers.

Both advancing age and dry eyes reduce tear production and the amount of hyaluronidate that is secreted in tears; complaints about burning, itching, a sensation of the presence of a foreign body, redness and heaviness of the eyelids are common. Hyaluronic acid replacement, via drop form, can promote normal eye functions, as shown by the results of a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, which assessed the effects of eye drops containing hyaluronic acid.5

Research consistently demonstrates that the insertion into the eyes of drops containing sodium hyaluronidate several times daily decreases burning, dryness, “foreign body” sensation, itching and mucous discharge. At the same time, tear formation is increased. These tears help protect the cornea from environmental insults, indicating that hyaluronic acid acts both on the surface of the eye and within the eye. The chemical process of vision produces a number of oxidizing by-products.6 The gradual steady accumulation of oxidative damage interferes with the functions of all parts of the eye. The hyaluronic acid in tears acts as a powerful antioxidant that preserves the structure and function of the visual apparatus.7

5. Aragona P, Papa V, Micali A, Santocono M, Milazzo G. Long term treatment with sodium hyaluronate-containing artificial tears reduces ocular surface damage in patients with dry eye. Br J Ophthalmol 2002;86:181-184.
6. Rotstein NP, Politi LE, German OL, Girotti R. Protective effect of docosahexaenoic acid on oxidative stress-induced apoptosis of retina photoreceptors. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2003;44:2252-2259.
7. Debbasch C, De La Salle SB, Brignole F, Rat P, Warnet JM, Baudouin C. Cytoprotective effects of hyaluronic acid and Carbomer 934P in ocular surface epithelial cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2002;43:3409- 3415.

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For many centuries alliums have been grown for their characteristic flavors and beautiful flowers. In addition to its esthetic and culinary attributes, the root bulb (“clove”) of garlic (Allium sativum) has been cherished by many cultures as a powerful promoter of good health.

Sanskrit records contain evidence that garlic was being used “medicinally” about 5,000 years ago and about 4500 years ago Charak, the father of Ayurvedic medicine, claimed that garlic maintains the fluidity of blood and strengthens the heart. The 3500-year old Egyptian Codex Ebers touts garlic, Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder were garlicophiles, Pasteur wrote about garlic’s activity in 1858 and garlic preparations were used on the battlefield in the 20th century.

Garlic and Healthy Blood Vessels

Modern research continues to affirm the health benefits that can be obtained by including raw garlic, whole garlic powders or extracts of garlic in the diet or consuming them as dietary supplements. As pointed out by the authors of a review published recently in the Journal of Nutrition, the evidence from studies in humans shows that the consumption of garlic supports many aspects of blood vessel health.1 The blood vessels are the all-important corridors of the cardiovascular system. While the heart is the engine that pumps our blood, without healthy blood vessels, it can’t reach the tissues where it’s needed.

As an example of garlic’s blood vessel-supportive prowess, the results of a human clinical trial published recently in the Journal of Nutrition indicated that the daily consumption of a modest amount of an extract of whole garlic cloves for 6 weeks on average doubled the ability of the brachial artery to expand in response to increased need for blood flow in healthy men and women.2 Not only were the big blood vessels affected – the small capillaries in the skin also increased their ability to circulate fresh blood after 6 weeks of garlic consumption. Increased ability of an artery to respond to increased demand for blood flow to tissues without impacting blood pressure (“arterial compliance”) and increased capacity of the small blood vessels within tissues to distribute that blood reflect a healthy cardiovascular system; this investigation provides persuasive evidence that garlic consumption is a major contributor to healthy cardiovascular function.

The results of other studies in healthy humans, also published recently in the Journal of Nutrition may explain how garlic can help maintain pliable arteries and open vessel channels in tissues.3,4 In these studies investigators found that garlic has potent antioxidant properties and slows the rate of oxidation of circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles and promotes the integrity of blood vessel walls. Researchers agree that these two factors are of primary importance to maintaining excellent cardiovascular health. Keeping arteries healthy and discouraging the oxidation of lipids and fats in the blood go a long way to living a productive and heart-healthy life.

Another way garlic supports healthy blood vessels is by promoting the healthy metabolism of glucose in the blood. High blood glucose levels may adversely impact blood vessel health over time by reacting with proteins in the blood and vessels. This reaction effectively damages the protein, leading it to lose its functionality. Research published recently in the Journal of Nutrition shows how the bioactive compounds in garlic can prevent the formation of these sugar-protein complexes and keep your blood vessels healthy.5 Let the proteins play their role and let blood sugar perform its function and go where it’s meant to.

Where Does Allicin Come In?

A clove of garlic contains an extremely large amount of biologically active sulfur-containing phytonutrients. However, allicin, the most intensively studied phytonutrient associated with garlic and the source of garlic’s distinctive fragrance, is not found in the clove but instead is formed when a clove is chopped, crushed, cut or chewed (breaking up the garlic cells in the clove stimulates an enzyme to produce allicin quickly). Allicin is absorbed into the human bloodstream and either exerts its benefits directly or is converted into an effective alternative compound.

Experiments in mice published recently in Pathobiology “connect the dots” linking allicin to garlic’s vascular protective actions.6 Dietary supplementation with pure allicin resulted in the incorporation of allicin into all lipid-containing particles produced by the intestines and liver. As the lipid particles contained allicin, they contained less cholesterol and were more resistant to oxidation. This experiment was conducted in mice that were genetically programmed to produce numerous arterial plaques as a model for atherosclerosis. The daily consumption of pure allicin drastically decreased the size of the plaques that were formed. While these mice had a genetic predisposition to a chronic condition, this dramatic illustration suggests that healthy humans with no pre-existing cardiovascular disease may benefit greatly from the consumption of garlic and allicin, as this compound promotes arterial health and wellness. The dose used in this mouse study was the equivalent of daily supplementation in humans with about 500 to 600 mg of pure allicin daily.

1. Rahman K, Lowe GM. Garlic and cardiovascular disease: A critical review. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):736S-740S.
2. Weiss N, Ide N, Abahji T, Nill L, Keller C, Hoffmann U. Aged garlic extract improves homocysteine-induced endothelial dysfunction in macro- and microcirculation. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):750S-754S.
3. Lau BH. Suppression of LDL oxidation by garlic compounds is a possible mechanism of cardiovascular health benefit. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):765S-768S.
4. Ide N, Keller C, Weiss N. Aged garlic extract inhibits homocysteineinduced CD36 expression and foam cell formation in human macrophages. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):755S-758S.
5. Ahmad MS, Ahmed N. Antiglycation properties of aged garlic extract: Possible role in prevention of diabetic complications. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):796S-799S.
6. Gonen A, Harats D, Rabinkov A, Miron T, Mirelman D, Wilchek M, Weiner L, Ulman E, Levkovitz H, Ben-Shushan D, Shaish A. The antiatherogenic effect of allicin: Possible mode of action. Pathobiology 2005;72:325-334.

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Creatine for Strength in Older Women

Creatine is well-known for its potent ability to build muscle strength, enhance exercise performance and increase lean body mass. Backed by a noteworthy dossier of research studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, creatine is a hugely popular dietary supplement among body builders of both sexes. It works for men of all ages. A recent study now shows that older women are not left out. And this is important news: while the average senior woman may not be that interested in joining ranks with body builders, maintaining muscle strength and lean (fat-free) muscle mass is vitally important to healthy aging and longevity in women.

Published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, this double-blind clinical trial assessed the effects of creatine supplementation in a group of healthy 60 to 70 year old women. The ladies took 5 grams of creatine a day or a placebo while participating in a resistance training regimen three days a week for twelve weeks. At completion of the program those taking creatine realized greater increases over the placebo group in bench press strength, knee extension and biceps curl. As stated in the published report: “These results indicate that long-term creatine supplementation combined with resistance training improves the ability to perform submaximal-strength functional tasks and promotes a greater increase in maximal strength, fat-free mass and muscle mass in older women.”

Aguilar AF, et al. Long term creatine supplementation improves muscular performance during resistance training in older women. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):987-96.

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Astaxanthin, the “Natural Brain Food” That Benefits Cognitive Function

In a previous Research Spotlight, we summarized research showing that astaxanthin—the beta-carotene-like natural pigment that makes salmon red—protects brain cells from damage by toxic free radicals, a biological phenomenon known as “oxidative stress.” Astaxanthin is described in a report published in Forum of Nutrition as “a potential candidate for natural brain food.”

While inhibition of oxidative stress in brains cells is important enough by itself, does the protective effect make any difference in thinking? A placebo-controlled, double-blind study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition — a peer-reviewed scientific publication—found evidence that it does. Ninety-six heathy middle-aged and elderly people who experienced the kind of mild forgetfulness that commonly occurs with aging were recruited to participate in this research. The volunteers took astaxanthin, extracted from Haematococcus pluvialis, an algae naturally-rich in astaxanthin, or a placebo (“dummy pill”) daily for 12 weeks. Two modest doses of astaxanthin were used: 12 mg in the “high-dose group” and 6 mg in the “low-dose group.” Tests of cognitive function were administered to all subjects every four weeks. Improvements were seen in both dosage groups at the end of the 12-week study period. Interestingly, the low-dose group raised their scores earlier than the high-dose group in one of the tests:the Groton Maze Learning Test. The sample-size, i.e. the number of subjects, was too small for the data to reach “statistical significance,” nonetheless the report concludes that “the results suggested that astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract improves cognitive function in the healthy aged individuals.” No side-effects occurred; astaxanthin, like other carotenes, is completely safe as nutritional supplement that can be taken on a daily basis.

High quality natural Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis, grown under controlled conditions to ensure purity and safety, is available as a supplement in the US.

Liu X, Osawa T. Astaxanthin protects neuronal cells against oxidative damage and is a potent candidate for brain food. Forum Nutr. 2009;61:129-35.

Katagiri M, et al. Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Biochem Nutr 51(2):102-7.

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Flavonoids in Fruits and Vegetables – Protection for Your Heart

An ever-increasing volume of evidence from research studies has built a strong case for the heart health-protecting benefits of a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables. Eating multiple servings every day appears to benefit the heart and reduce the risk of death from heart disease. Do fruit and vegetables contain natural constituents can confer this protection? In search for the answer, science has focused on a diverse group of compounds called “flavonoids” that are abundant in plants. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been identified in the plant kingdom. These substances are also commonly known as “bioflavonoids”; meaning they are found in living things, in this case fruits and vegetables.

Flavonoids are plant-based phytonutrients with cardiovascular protective properties that have come to light in studies on cellular biology. A 2012 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined data on lifestyle behaviors, food consumption and medical histories from questionnaires completed by nearly 100,00 people (38,180 men; 60,289 women. Using a sophisticated statistical analysis method called “cox regression”, the researchers found a strong association between total dietary flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. Compared to those in the lowest fifth of flavonoid consumption, people in the highest fifth had a nearly 20 percent lower risk. In men, there was a particularly strong link between flavonoid intake and reduced risk of death from stroke. As stated in the report: “Flavonoid consumption was associated with lower risk of death from CVD.”

How do flavonoids deliver their heart health benefits? There appear to be a number of physiological mechanisms. According to a research review published in the scientific journal Pharmacological Reviews: “The mechanism for a cardioprotective role of flavonoids likely involves more than one pathway, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions and vascular effects.”


McCullough ML, et al. Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95(2):454-64.

Middleton M, et al. the effects of plant flavonoids on mammalian cells: implications for inflammation, heart disease and cancer. Pharmacol Rev 2000;52(4):677-751.

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Colon Ecology, Probiotics, and Prebiotics

The colon is a dynamic ecologic system in which human colon cells and immune cells, microbes and ingested foods interact in the near-absence of oxygen. The human gastrointestinal tract normally contains trillions14 of living bacteria, representing over 400 individual species. Most live in the colon. The goal of dietary maintenance of colon health is to foster a symbiotic relationship, with the human host and its microbial guests living in harmony and balance.

The colon harbors a large variety of microorganisms. The most common bacterial species in the healthy human colon are the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. In addition, even the healthy colon normally contains pockets of Clostridia, yeasts and protozoa. The species of bacteria that most quickly and efficiently produce butyrate in the human colon, and which therefore are the most beneficial and the most desirable, are the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

Beneficial Probiotic Organisms

The Bifidobacteria are the most common microorganisms in the healthy human digestive tract and are the predominant microbes in human breast milk. Bifidobacteria comprise about 50% of all intestinal microflora in the healthy colon and ferment dietary fiber to short chain fatty acids, especially butyrate. By producing large amounts of butyrate, the Bifidobacteria support the health and function of human colon cells. In addition, the Bifidobacteria suppress the growth of harmful bacteria by keeping the acidity of the colon interior just high enough to inhibit bacterial growth but not too high to affect the colon cells. Bifidobacteria also compete with unhealthy bacteria for space within the colon.

Lactobacilli (the “lactic acid bacteria”) comprise about 25% of all intestinal microflora. The Lactobacilli perform many of the same colon-friendly functions as the Bifidobacteria but produce a little more lactic acid, helping the Bifidobacteria keep the colon slightly acidic. The Lactobacilli also secrete an enzyme that breaks down lactose from milk.13

Species of Saccharomyces, a yeast commonly living in both the small and large intestines, help stimulate intestinal digestive activities. In addition, they are antagonistic to Candida albicans and keep them at bay. These yeasts also enhance immunity in the gut and dietary supplementation with Saccharomyces boulardii has been found to support the consistency of healthy bowel movements.14

The most common and beneficial bacteria and yeasts share an important fundamental characteristic. They all prefer to feast on soluble dietary fiber. Feed them and they will produce all the butyrate your colon can eat. Starve them and risk the health of your colon.

Disturbances of Colon Ecology

The colon is a dynamic system. Its health is directly influenced by our dietary choices. These choices impact the supply of nutrition to the gut bacteria and our intestinal cells. A number of common dietary and medical practices can disturb the symbiotic relationship between microorganisms and human cells that is absolutely vital to the health of the colon. Among these are infant formula feeding, low fiber diets, and oral antibiotic therapy.

Infant Formula Feeding — The human gastrointestinal tract is sterile at birth. During birth, the tract is seeded initially by organisms living in the maternal vagina. During breastfeeding, mammary gland microflora contribute the early populations of Bifidobacteria that begin to populate the infant’s colon. Food borne microflora and self-inoculation also contribute to early intestinal ecology. Species distribution in the newborn digestive tract is modulated for the first few days of life by maternal antibodies transferred in colostrum. In breastfed infants, over 90% of intestinal bacteria consist of Bifidobacterium infantis. In contrast, the intestinal tracts of infants who are not breastfed are characterized by low numbers of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and high numbers of less healthy Enterococci, Coliforms and Clostridia. The lack of proper healthy gut bacterial species in childhood has been associated with a number of digestive health issues.14

Low Fiber Diets — Lack of dietary fiber for fermentation reduces the supply of butyrate available to colon cells and interferes with their ability to seal the colon off from the bloodstream, increasing the likelihood of toxins and bacteria from the guts entering circulation. As discussed above, butyrate starvation also slows the renewal of colon cells. Insufficient amounts of nonfermentable fiber slows the rate of passage of the digesta, increasing the time available for water absorption by colon cells and providing increased exposure of the longer-lived colon cells to free radicals.15 Increased water absorption results in stool hardness and affects the consistency of bowel movements.16 Fiber provides the food for intestinal bacteria and the bulk for optimal bowel function.

Oral Antibiotic Therapy — Antibiotics can also kill beneficial Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. As the numbers of these beneficial bacteria decrease, there is a compensatory increase in the unhealthy species that have been kept under control by the beneficial bacteria, resulting in disturbances in gut ecology. This shift in microbial populations can have a severe impact on colon health. Most importantly, this disturbance of gut ecology may lead to decreased levels of butyrate as most of the overgrown microbial species are inefficient fermenters of dietary fiber. The combination of reduced ability to seal off the colon and increased populations of unhealthy organisms can compromise the colon lining and affect immune function.

Supplemental Prebiotics and Probiotics

The colon is dependent on its microbial residents for nourishment and defense. In turn, our microbes need to eat foods that are healthy for them. Ideally, good food sources of fiber would have been a major part of our diet all of our life, and our colon and its residents would require very little attention from us. Realistically, the average American is fiber deficient and has a colon to reflect it. Restoring the healthy ecological balance in the colon is absolutely mandatory if health and healthy aging are your objectives.

Prebiotics — Starter Foods for Your Microbes

Prebiotics are dietary ingredients often consumed in the form of foods and dietary supplements that stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli species and foster the production of butyrate within the colon. The most widely available prebiotics are fructans (fructooligosaccharides; FOS), inulin and the oligofructoses, galactooligosaccharide and the levans (occurring in tubers and grasses). Foods that contain large amounts of these prebiotics include wheat, onions, asparagus, chicory, banana and artichokes.

These compounds all are indigestible by humans within the small intestine, are converted to short chain fatty acids in the colon and are essentially calorie-free. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – These long-chain indigestible sugars are specifically fermented to short-chain fatty acids (especially butyrate) by Bifidobacteria. The results of a study published recently in the Nutrition Journal confirm that the daily consumption of as little as 2.5 g of FOS increases the proportion of Bifidobacteria in the colon.17 The consumption of FOS by infants has been documented to be safe and to decrease the incidence of infant emesis and regurgitation. In addition to fostering colon health, the products of FOS fermentation may promote cardiovascular health.

Probiotics — Dietary Supplements to Repopulate Your Colon

Probiotics have been defined as oral dietary supplements containing live microbes that enhance colon health. When effective, such supplements increase the numbers of intestinal Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and decrease the numbers of those microbial species that do not produce butyrate. An ideal probiotic supplement will have the following characteristics:

1) The bacteria must survive passage through the stomach and small intestine so that they reach the colon while still alive,

2) They must produce short-chain fatty acids from dietary fiber while in the colon

3) They must maintain a slightly acidic colonic pH, and 4) They must be capable of eventually permanently repopulating the colon themselves or stimulate other healthy bacterial species to do so.

As suggested by the results of a recently published study, successful reseeding of the colon’s microbial populations can support increased immune defenses.18 According to articles published recently in Gut and the American Journal of Physiology, this benefit may result from an effect of the probiotic organisms leading to an increase in the stimulation and vigilance of the immune cells that are interspersed within the lining of the colon.19,20

Successful reseeding with probiotic species requires at least 6 months of daily ingestion of at least 10 billion “colony forming units” (1010 CFU) per species. Successful reseeding may not be possible in some individuals with chronically compromised colon health; they may well require life-long daily supplementation in order to maintain appropriate microbial populations in their colon.

Bacillus coagulans: A Novel, Unique Probiotic Organism

Bacillus coagulans is a bacterial species that may offer unique benefits to digestive health. This bacterium is a spore former and is especially hardy with respect to different intestinal environments. A specific strain of Bacillus coagulans known as BC30™ is available as a dietary supplement for digestive health. Research indicates that this particular strain has beneficial immune effects while it also enhances the repopulation of the digestive tract with other friendly bacterial strains. While BC30™ is a transient organism in that it does not colonize the digestive tract itself, it promotes optimal gut ecology and aids in crowding out other non-beneficial organisms.

BC30™ can be an effective nutritional tool on its own or in combination with other multi-strain probiotic dietary supplements to support digestive tract wellness. Since BC30™ is a spore former and is a hardy strain of bacteria; it does not need to be refrigerated.

Combinations of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Because probiotics are the bacteria you want to live in your colon and prebiotics are the food they love best, it would make sense to combine the two, so that you can be sure that the newly-arriving residents have plenty to eat after their trip through your digestive tract. The benefits of “combination supplementation” are well-documented.

The published human clinical trials have been summarized recently in the Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering and the World Journal of Gastroenterology.14,21 This large body of scientific evidence demonstrates conclusively that dietary supplementation with prebiotic/probiotic combinations consistently yields health benefits that extend beyond digestive wellness on several fronts. A review article published recently in the World Journal of Gastroenterology recommended Lactobacillus-containing “combination supplements” for enhancing digestion of lactose.22 Conversely, because it encourages normal water management by colon cells and healthy contractions by colonic smooth muscles, “combination supplementation” also promotes the consistency of healthy bowel movements.21,23

The Bottom Line

Maintaining healthy digestive function consists of supporting multiple aspects of the complicated physiological function of the gastrointestinal system. While the process of digestion itself is complex, supporting several fundamental aspects of the process can lead to tangible benefits for overall health. Dietary factors are critical as the foundation for digestive health. This entails consuming foods that are healthy and eating an adequate amount of dietary fiber. Nutritional interventions are also a key element. These include supplemental enzymes, fiber supplements, prebiotics and probiotics. An optimally functioning digestive system can yield dividends that can lead to a lifetime of health and wellness.

13. He T, Priebe MG, Harmsen HJ, Stellaard F, Sun X, Welling GW, Vonk RJ.Colonic fermentation may play a role in lactose intolerance in humans. J Nutr 2006;136:58-63.
14. Nomoto K. Prevention of infections by probiotics. J Biosci Bioeng 2005;100:583-592.
15. Topping DL, Clifton PM. Short-chain fatty acids and human colonic function: Roles of resistant starch and nonstarch polysaccharides. Physiol Rev 2001;81:1031-1064.
16. Kay RM. Dietary fiber. J Lipid Res 1982;23:221-242.
17. Bouhnik Y, Raskine L, Simoneau G, Paineau D, Bornet F. The capacity of short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides to stimulate faecal bifidobacteria: A dose-response relationship study in healthy humans. Nutr J 2006;5:8 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-5-8 (http://www.
18. Tubelius P, Stan V, Zachrisson A. Increasing work-place healthiness with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri: A randomised, doubleblind placebo-controlled study. Environ Health 2005;7;4:25 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-4-25 ( content/4/1/25).
19. Rook GA, Brunet LR. Microbes, immunoregulation, and the gut. Gut 2005;54:317-320.
20. Shanahan F. Physiological basis for novel drug therapies used to treat the inflammatory bowel diseases. I. Pathophysiological basis and prospects for probiotic therapy in inflammatory bowel disease. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 2005;288:G417-G421.
21. Chermesh I, Eliakim R. Probiotics and the gastrointestinal tract: Where are we in 2005? World J Gastroenterol 2006;12:853-857.
22. Montalto M, Curigliano V, Santoro L, Vastola M, Cammarota G, Manna R, Gasbarrini A, Gasbarrini G. Management and treatment of lactose malabsorption. World J Gastroenterol 2006;12:187-191.
23. Hamilton-Miller JM. Probiotics and prebiotics in the elderly. Postgrad Med J 2004;80:447-451.

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Researchers Continue to Find Heart Health Benefits to Omega-3s

Study after study continues to affirm the heart health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Experts say that the evidence is fairly conclusive and that anyone who is concerned about their cardiovascular condition should consider adding more of the nutrient to their weekly diet.

The latest in this string of research came from the University of California, San Francisco. Investigators from the school assessed the heart health of a group of patients after a period of five years and examined the level of omega-3 consumption during the study period, according to news station THV.

Their results showed that those who consumed the highest levels of the nutrient had the best heart health. The researchers said that their findings confirm the understanding that omega-3s benefit the cardiovascular system.

“The results of our study do underscore the recommendations of the American Heart Association, that patients with known coronary artery disease should be getting at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil,” lead researcher Raimin Farzaneh-Far told the news source.

The findings confirm the results of a 2002 study published in the journal Circulation, which was among the first to assert the heart health benefits of omega-3s.

New findings indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can positively affect ocular health. A research team at the Children’s Hospital in Boston found that omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish oil, promote the growth of healthy blood vessels while simultaneously hindering the development of abnormal vessels.

A previous study of the impact of omega-3, which was conducted by the same researchers, examined the effects of omega-3 on mice. The study revealed that the pathologic vessel growth in the retinas of mice that were fed an omega-3 diet was 50 percent lower than in the mice that were fed diets rich in omega-6. Western diets are more likely to contain omega-6 than omega-3.

In the recent study, the researchers isolated the compounds and enzymes within omega-3 that caused the positive outcome observed in the mice. An examination of the components of omega-3 revealed that its benefits are not inhibited by taking aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication.

Lois Smith, a senior researcher and an ophthalmologist at the Children’s Hospital, is also collaborating with the National Eye Institute to study the effects of omega-3 on ocular diseases.

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Organic Really is Better For You – the Latest Research Shows It!

Scientists, cautious as they are, have debated as to whether organic vegetables and fruits are indeed healthier than inorganic. Even though studies have found higher levels—as much as nearly 70 percent higher – of antioxidant compounds in organic foods when compared to inorganic foods, the research data as a whole has been called inconclusive, from a strict scientific point of view. Just the same, there’s little argument that organic crops have lower levels of toxic substances; that alone is enough for many consumers to make the switch. Expectedly better nutritional value is an added value to the safety factor that comes with lower toxicity.

But now, one of the largest data reviews performed to date should settle the issue once and for all. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, meta-analyses of data pooled from 343 scientific studies “indicate statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops and crop-based foods,” according to the report. The content of antioxidant plant-based nutrients such as flavonoids, “were found to be substantially higher” in organic crops. Non-organic crops, on the other hand have four times more pesticide residues. Levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, are also higher in conventional crops. And this holds true regardless of where the crops are grown, showing that organic farming practices do make a difference. “Organic crops, on average, have much higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentration of Cd (cadmium) and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and produce seasons”, the report concludes.

For those of you who’ve made the transition to organic shopping, you can now be assured that, where your health is concerned, it’s well worth the effort and expense.

Barański M, et al. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jun 26:1-18. [Epub ahead of print].

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