December 23, 2013

248 Phosphatidyl Serine [23 Dec 2013]

Last week I discussed the uses of phosphatidyl choline in cell membrane function; this week we’ll look at its molecular cousin, phosphatidyl serine (or PS for short) and its role in the brain. Like its choline counterpart, PS is a phospholipid found in the cell membrane, but in much smaller amounts. PS is particularly abundant in nerve cell membranes of the brain where it plays a role in inter-cell communication. Our bodies can create PS from phosphatidyl choline but can also obtain some directly from our food. PS occurs in meat, fish, and organ meats particularly brain, but by far the most abundant food source of PS is soy lecithin. As with phosphatidyl choline, our production of PS decreases as we age which may contribute to a decline in brain function.

Double-blind studies in the USA and Europe have shown that PS supplementation can reverse this trend. Specifically, taking PS has been found to improve short and long-term memory and concentration in people with mild to moderate cognitive dysfunction (it doesn’t help much with more severe dementia). PS has also been shown to improve mood, reduce depression and increase social interaction in older people. Phosphatidyl serine supplements, in dosages of 200mg per day, have been used successfully for children with ADHD. PS has also been used, in higher doses, by athletes to reduce exercise-induced stress and soreness.

Phosphatidyl Serine supplements used to be extracted from bovine brain but since the BSE (mad cow) epidemic manufacturers have switched to making it from either soy or sunflower lecithin. Most of the early studies were done with bovine PS – more recent studies with soy based PS have shown less consistent results.

Because phosphatidyl serine is found in every cell of the body, it is a very safe nutrient with only a few rare, mild side effects. The goal of supplementation is to bring the levels of PS in the cell membranes back to what it was when we were younger. Therapeutic effects are dose dependent. For prevention 100mg per day is recommended; to treat age-related mental impairment 200-300 may be needed. PS is commonly sold in 60 and 100mg strengths.

Wikipedia Phosphatidylserine
Web MD PS Overview Information
Web MD PS Uses, Side Effects, Interactions
Soy PS study in Japan
Natural Factors monograph

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 16, 2013

247 Phosphatidyl Choline & Cell Membranes [16 December 2013]

Healthy bodies depend on healthy cells which in turn require healthy cell membranes. Cell membranes (CM) are the “skin” around each of the 100 trillion cells in our body that protect the cells, control movement of nutrients and waste products in and out of cells, and help give cells their shape. CMs are composed of proteins, cholesterol, and special fats called phospholipids, of which the most important is phosphatidyl choline (PC).

Phosphatidyl choline keeps cell membranes strong, supple and functioning properly. When we are born, 90% of the phospholipids in our CMs are PC; as we age this decreases until by 70 it can be as low as 10%. This affects all aspects of our health including our heart, blood vessels, liver, brain and other organs causing cardiovascular problems, memory loss, poor sleep, and much more. PC is also a precursor to acetylcholine, an important brain neurotransmitter.

Fortunately increasing our intake of this vital nutrient can reverse many of these conditions – turning the clock back as it were. Supplementing with PC can:
• normalize cholesterol and reduce triglycerides
• lower homocysteine levels, a known risk factor for heart disease
• improve health of arteries and veins and improve circulation
• reduce inflammation
• improve liver health and function
• improve digestion of fats
• improve brain health and function (memory)
• be used to treat Alzheimer’s, PMS, bipolar disorder and tardive dyskinesia
• boost the immune system
• increase production of glutathione, our body’s most important antioxidant
• make your skin look and feel healthier
• increase energy and endurance

Food sources of PC include egg yolks, liver, peanuts, sunflower seeds and soybeans. It is also available as a supplement in capsule form. PC is similar to, and is a component of, lecithin.

Institute for Natural Healing newsletter 9 Dec 2013
Wikipedia "Phosphatidyl Choline"
WebMD "Phosphatidyl Choline"
Natural Factors (a manufacturer of PC) "Phosphatidyl Choline"

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 9, 2013

246 Fruit and Fruit Juice [9 Dec 2013]

Last week I wrote about the benefits of eating nuts. Today I want to warn you of the risk of eating too much fruit, including dried fruit, and especially fruit juice.

Fruit is included in the Canada Food Guide for a reason. It provides us with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other plant based nutrients like flavonoids, resveratrol and polyphenols, which are essential for good health. The drawback is that it also contains a lot of sugar (and most of it is fructose, the worst sugar as previously discussed).

The Food Guide (which I understand is greatly simplified to improve understanding and compliance) unfortunately lumps fruit in with vegetables, giving a range of 8-10 total servings for adult males aged 35-50. It is assumed you will choose a variety from both as there is a big difference nutritionally between 10 bananas and 5 cups of broccoli!

I also disagree with the Guide’s inclusion of canned fruit and fruit juice. Canned fruit is peeled and cooked so is depleted of most of its nutrients, and has added sugar (or pear juice which is really no better). Fruit juice is just as bad and is not much better than soda pop. There are few nutrients and little fiber left in juice but it has all (or more) of the sugar. And it’s much easier to over-consume juice than whole fruit.

A recent study from Harvard (published in the August 2013 British Medical Journal) using data from the Nurses Health Study (1991-2009) – the same source as the nut study in last week’s article – found that certain whole fruits, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, reduced the risk of Type 2 Diabetes while fruit juice significantly increased the risk. Because of its high fructose content, fruit juice also increases your risk of gout, high blood pressure and, of course, obesity.

Dried fruit has most of the nutrients and fiber but also has all of the sugar of whole fruit. The problem, as with juice, is that it’s easy to overdo it. Eat no more of it than you would the whole fruit, and drink extra water to help with digestion.

The best way to eat fruit is fresh, whole and raw. Berries have the most nutrients and the least sugar. Other fruits with lower sugar are prunes, apricots and kiwifruit. The highest are mango, pears and watermelon. If you are diabetic or insulin-resistant be especially careful to limit these. See Dr. Mercola's fructose chart here.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 2, 2013

245 Enjoy Nuts and Live Longer [2 Dec 2013]

A recent study out of Harvard brings good news for nut lovers – just in time for the holidays. Published November 21, 2013, in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors showed that those who ate a handful of nuts daily lived longer and healthier.

The data was taken from the Nurses’ Health Study (1980-2010) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010) which followed 76,464 women and 42,498 men over 25 to 30 years making it the largest study of its kind. Total mortality and cause-specific mortality was correlated with nut consumption. They found that those who ate more nuts had:
• 11% reduction in cancer deaths (during the study period)
• 29% reduction in deaths from heart disease
• 20% reduction in deaths from any cause

Those who ate nuts more frequently generally had a healthier lifestyle – they were also leaner, less likely to smoke, and more likely to exercise, take multi-vitamins, and to eat more fruits and vegetables. Curiously they also drank more alcohol (beer and peanuts watching TV sports?). The study was designed to isolate the effect of nut consumption from these other factors. Both peanuts and tree nuts provided similar reductions in mortality.

The more frequently that nuts were consumed, the lower the risk of death. The reduction in mortality varied from 7% for once a week through to 20% for once a day. While this study does not prove cause and effect, it is (to quote the authors)
“consistent with a wealth of existing observational and clinical-trial data in supporting the health benefits of nut consumption for many chronic diseases. In addition, nutrients in nuts, such as unsaturated fatty acids, high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins (e.g., folate, niacin, and vitamin E), minerals (e.g., potassium, calcium, and magnesium), and phytochemicals (e.g., carotenoids, flavonoids, and phytosterols), may confer cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.” [NEJM 21 Nov 2013]
See my column #43 21 Dec 2009 for more on “nut-rition”.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.