Vitamins, Minerals and the Prostate Gland

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Prostate Gland

Selenium
Selenium is a potent supporter of prostate health. According to scientists who published the results of a detailed analysis of the scientific evidence dietary supplementation with 100 mcg of selenium every day can contribute substantially to the long-term health and healthy function of a man’s prostate.28 It seems that the way in which selenium works is that it “seeks out” the cells of the prostate and, by helping to maintain a healthy oxidant/antioxidant balance, promotes sustained health of these all-important cells.29

In fact, in promoting prostate health, the US Food and Drug Administration announced on February 21, 2003, that “Selenium may reduce the risk of certain  cancers. Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of selenium may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer” and “Selenium may produce anticarcinogenic effects in the body. Some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of selenium may produce anticarcinogenic effects in the body.” These statements highlight the importance of receiving an adequate supply of this nutrient.

Vitamin E
While selenium powerfully protects the inner workings of prostate cells, their cell membranes also need defense against oxidative invasion. This is where vitamin E fits in. Recent scientific evidence illustrates the important role of vitamin E in maintaining prostate health by promoting its antioxidant effects on prostate cells.30,31

Zinc
Prostate health isn’t just a matter of antioxidants. It also depends on proper metabolic control of energy processing within the gland. Even early loss of a small part of regulatory control can decrease prostate health. Although the regulation of energy processing is a complex process in any cell, a few quirks in the way prostate cells handle this challenge have placed the mineral, zinc, in a pivotal position. Recently published research illustrates the role of zinc in prostate function and highlights the special needs of the prostate for zinc.32 The prostate needs zinc for health – so all men need zinc for prostate health.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Normal Blood Glucose Regulation

References:
28. Etminan M, FitzGerald JM, Gleave M, Chambers K. Intake of selenium in the prevention of prostate cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control 2005;16:1125-1131.
29. Sabichi AL, Lee JJ, Taylor RJ, Thompson IM, Miles BJ, Tangen CM, Minasian LM, Pisters LL, Caton JR, Basler JW, Lerner SP, Menter DG, Marshall JR, Crawford ED, Lippman SM. Selenium accumulation in prostate tissue during a randomized, controlled short-term trial of L-selenomethionine: A Southwest Oncology Group Study. Clin Cancer Res 2006;12:2178-2184.
30. Weinstein SJ, Wright ME, Pietinen P, King I, Tan C, Taylor PR, Virtamo J, Albanes D. Serum a-tocopherol and .-tocopherol in relation to prostate cancer risk in a prospective study. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:396-399.
31. Kirsh VA, Hayes RB, Mayne ST, Chatterjee N, Subar AF, Dixon LB, Albanes D, Andriole GL, Urban DA, Peters U; PLCO Trial. Supplemental and dietary vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C intakes and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006;98:245-254.
32. Costello LC, Franklin RB. The clinical relevance of the metabolism of prostate cancer; zinc and tumor suppression: Connecting the dots. Mol Cancer 2006;5:17 (13 pages). doi:10.1186/1476-4598-5-17 (http://www.molecular-cancer.com/content/5/1/17).

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Vitamins, Minerals and the Brain

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Brain

Folate:
Folate sufficiency has long been associated with protection of mental ability and particularly so in older adults. The link between folate and brain health was confirmed by the results of a “gold standard” randomized, placebo-controlled human clinical trial, reported very recently in the prestigious medical journal Lancet.2 During the 3 years of this study, men and women who were over 50 years old consumed either a placebo tablet or 800 mcg of folic acid daily (folic acid is a commonly used form of folate in dietary supplements). After 3 years, the subjects who had been supplementing their diets with folic acid had experienced greater memory and recall skills, quickness of thought and ability to react physically to a visual stimulus.

In these same subjects, as reported separately in the Annals of Internal Medicine this amount of supplemental folic acid was shown to support hearing function and prevent normal decline of hearing with age.3 In addition, after 3 years of folic acid supplementation, all of the supplemented subjects who had higher levels of homocysteine at the beginning of the study, but none of the initially hyperhomocysteinemic “placebo” subjects, had normalized their blood homocysteine concentrations. What is surprising is that in spite of massive governmental efforts to convince adults to consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily, none of the subjects in this study were consuming more than 250 mcg daily before the study began.

These experimental findings echo an avalanche of observational studies published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For example, the greater the dietary intake of folate by men and women over the age of 69, the better their language skills (word recognition and use), memory recall, ability to copy simple drawings (a test of visual-motor integration) and ability to think abstractly.4

Similarly, the abilities of Chinese men and women over 55 years old to learn and use new words and to remember facts were greater the more folate and folic acid they consumed on a daily.5 In another study the diet and cognitive abilities of men over 50 years old and participating in the Veterans’ Affairs Normative Aging Study were measured. Compared to the men who were consuming the current RDA for folate, those men consuming at least 25% more folate exhibited better visual-motor integration and were better able to remember the meanings of words. 6

Yet another study reported that the overall cognitive functioning ability of 85-year old men and women improved as daily folate intake increased.7 Still more research reported that in men and women over the age of 65, as dietary folate intake increased, so also did verbal learning ability, problem-solving ability and the speed of mental information processing.8 Finally, the onset of clinically important age-related loss of overall cognitive function was delayed in men and women with the greatest dietary intakes of folate9, indicating the memory-supportive ability of this critical vitamin.

All of these benefits occurred whether folate was consumed as foods or as supplements in the form of folic acid.

Clearly, folate and folic acid are staunch supporters of brain health – especially healthy brain aging.

Thiamin:
The importance of the B-vitamins during human fetal development cannot be overemphasized. Certainly, the prevention of neural tube defects with folate is “proof of principle” – contrary to some old misconceptions among obstetricians, maternal nutrition has a profound impact on even the earliest stages of the formation and development of the human mind. As shown most recently in work published in Brain Research poor thiamin status during pregnancy (which affects between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 of all human embryos) stunts the size of the newborn brain by effectively shortening the lives of the first generations of brain cells.10

Choline:
Choline is a B-vitamin-like nutrient that is required for the synthesis of essential components of nerve and brain cell membranes. In humans, the rate of synthesis of these components is governed by the availability of choline in the brain, which itself is determined by dietary choline intake. When incoming supplies of choline are inadequate, existing neuronal cell membranes will be “cannibalized” for their choline – obviously a losing proposition in the long run. In contrast, dietary supplementation with choline prevents such avoidable loss of brain cell integrity.

Vitamin E:
Because vitamin E is a strong antioxidant, especially in tissues with large ratios of cell membranes to total cell volume (such as the brain), it has long been thought that this vitamin must play an important, health-sustaining role in protecting brain membrane lipids from oxidation. Such a role has been confirmed by the research results that have been published very recently in the Chinese medical journal, Acta Biochimica et Biophysica Sinica.11 When human brain cells were grown in the laboratory and were exposed to ß-amyloid plaques, the cells suffered widespread oxidative damage. However, when vitamin E also was present, the cells were protected from such damage. These findings confirm that vitamin E is a strong antioxidant protector within the human brain and promotes healthy brain structure.

Selenium:
The usefulness of any nutrient to the brain depends on the ability of that nutrient to reach and enter the brain. Several systems, together called the “blood-brain barrier,” work to regulate the nature and amount of both desirable and undesirable compounds and nutrients that can gain access to the human brain. For example, selenium is a very beneficial antioxidant for the central nervous system, once it passes through the blood-brain barrier. However, as shown in research on live mice published recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry the ability of selenium to reach the brain is hindered unless the amount of selenium in the blood is sufficient to activate the carrier proteins that transfer selenium from the blood into the brain.12 In other words, if dietary selenium is inadequate, the brain can become effectively “selenium starved.” Of course, selenium has immense usefulness as an antioxidant in other tissues. Hence, the body requires selenium for other needs, ultimately potentially depriving the brain when levels are inadequate.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Cardiovascular System

References:
2. Durga J, van Boxtel MP, Schouten EG, Kok FJ, Jolles J, Katan MB, Verhoef P. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: A randomised, double blind, controlled trial. Lancet 2007;369:208-216.
3. Durga J, Verhoef P, Anteunis LJ, Schouten E, Kok FJ. Effects of folic acid supplementation on hearing in older adults: A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 2007;146:1-9.
4. McCracken C, Hudson P, Ellis R, McCaddon A; Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study. Methylmalonic acid and cognitive function in the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:1406-1411.
5. Feng L, Ng TP, Chuah L, Niti M, Kua EH. Homocysteine, folate, and vitamin B-12 and cognitive performance in older Chinese adults: Findings from the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:1506-1512.
6. Tucker KL, Qiao N, Scott T, Rosenberg I, Spiro A. High homocysteine and low B vitamins predict cognitive decline in aging men: The Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:627- 635.
7. Mooijaart SP, Gussekloo J, Frolich M, Jolles J, Stott DJ, Westendorp RG, de Craen AJ. Homocysteine, vitamin B-12, and folic acid and the risk of cognitive decline in old age: The Leiden 85-Plus study. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:866-871.
8. Duthie SJ, Whalley LJ, Collins AR, Leaper S, Berger K, Deary IJ. Homocysteine, B vitamin status, and cognitive function in the elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:908-913.
9. Ravaglia G, Forti P, Maioli F, Martelli M, Servadei L, Brunetti N, Porcellini E, Licastro F. Homocysteine and folate as risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:636-643.
10. Oliveira FA, Galan DT, Ribeiro AM, Santos Cruz J. Thiamine deficiency during pregnancy leads to cerebellar neuronal death in rat offspring: Role of voltage-dependent K(+) channels. Brain Res 2007;1134:79-86.
11. Dai X, Sun Y, Jiang Z. Protective effects of vitamin E against oxidative damage induced by Aß(1-40)Cu(II) complexes. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin 2007;39:123-130.
12. Hill KE, Zhou J, Austin LM, Motley AK, Ham AJ, Olson GE, Atkins JF, Gesteland RF, Burk RF. The selenium-rich C-terminal domain of mouse selenoprotein P is necessary for supply of selenium to brain and testis but not for maintenance of whole-body selenium. J Biol Chem 2007 Feb 20 (www.jbc.org/cgi/doi/10.1074/jbc.M700436200).

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Vitamins, Minerals and Longevity

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Longevity

-Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals

The antioxidant mineral, selenium, and antioxidant carotenoids (especially ß-carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin and B-cryptoxanthin) have been shown to increase your chances of living longer. The results of a study published recently in the Journal of Nutrition clearly showed just that – women with the most selenium and carotenoids in their bodies tended to live the longest.1 And since, in this respect at least, men and women are not different, the same conclusion can be applied to men. Increasingly, research is showing that sufficient antioxidants in the body that quench potentially harmful free radicals promote health and longevity.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Brain

References:
1. Ray AL, Semba RD, Walston J, Ferrucci L, Cappola AR, Ricks MO, Xue QL, Fried LP. Low serum selenium and total carotenoids predict mortality among older women living in the community: The Women’s Health and Aging Studies. J Nutr 2006;136:172-176.

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Vitamins and Minerals – Helping Hands of Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins and Minerals – Helping Hands of Health

The vitamins and essential minerals are just that – essential. They must be part of the diet every day, day after day, year after year. Long-term failure to include enough of even one vitamin or essential mineral from the diet will cause disease, cell death and tissue degeneration. Eventually, the entire body will begin to die. Obviously, this is not a scenario consistent with the goal of Healthy Aging, as deficiencies of essential minerals and vitamins are the unhealthiest way to age. In the paradigm of healthy aging, ensuring adequate intakes of these essentials is the first step. Without this essential foundation, the other pillars of healthy aging crumble fast.

By now, in this enlightened, affluent, highly-educated era, it would seem reasonable to expect that no one in the US could possibly suffer from a deficiency of a vitamin or essential mineral. Or so the US government and the American Medical Association may have you believe. Unfortunately, it just isn’t so.

According to US government data, over 90% of all adult Americans do not consume enough calcium every day to satisfy the current government-sanctioned (that is, minimal) dietary standards. The same holds true for magnesium and vitamin E. Another 75% of all US adults are deficient in copper or zinc; half are deficient in vitamin C, vitamin D or chromium; and between 10% and 15% are deficient in one or more of the B-vitamins. Amazingly, even in the face of the current epidemic of obesity, widespread nutritional deficiencies are rampant in the US. We’re eating more than ever in the history of human existence. Yet, what we’re eating more of is empty calories. Processed foods are a high percentage of the Standard American Diet (So SAD!) and these foods are devoid of many essential vitamins and minerals. So while we’re eating more, we’re not consuming enough of the essentials.

You might ask, “So what? I don’t feel unhealthy.” It’s not like we have problems with:

Gum Health (vitamin C and magnesium);
Hair Health and rough skin (B-vitamins);
Prostate Health (vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium and zinc);
Healthy Blood Sugar (chromium, magnesium and vanadium);
Bone Health (calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K);
Memory Issues (folate/folic acid, thiamin, choline, vitamin E, selenium);
Heart Health (selenium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin D);
Periodontal Health (calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin D);
Weak Immune Systems (selenium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D); or
Feeling Tired (B-vitamins and magnesium).

These issues are so prevalent in our population that it’s easy not to be concerned about them. The more one thinks about them, though, the more one realizes the problems they can lead to. The irony of it all is that these areas can all be supported simply by ensuring adequate intakes of essential vitamins and minerals.

In addition to the prevention of the classically recognized nutritional deficiency diseases, healthy intakes of vitamins and minerals can do the body a world of good. A few stellar examples should make the point.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and Longevity

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