Manganese: The Multifaceted Mineral


Manganese is an essential mineral needed in trace amounts by the human body.

It's involved in the production of energy, bone development, and the synthesis of collagen and protein.

The mineral forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme produced in the body that protects against oxidative stress and is necessary for life.

Manganese Deficiencies May Cause Osteoporosis

In addition to its vital role in the body's antioxidant defense, manganese helps protect bones and joints.

In the January 2012 issue of Frontiers of Bioscience, it was suggested that manganese deficiency, rather than calcium deficiency, could be the primary cause of osteoporosis.

The authors of the study also suggested that osteoporosis due to a lack of manganese could precede such disorders as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Another study reported that manganese improved learning and memory in mice.2

Manganese May Help Prevent Arthritis

Manganese may help prevent or reduce the severity of osteoarthritis, due to its role in the synthesis of glucosamine and chondroitin.

For this and other reasons, manganese has been added to a number of arthritis formulas.

Manganese Supports Nutrient Absorption and Lowers Glucose Levels

In his book, Zinc and Other Micronutients, Carl C. Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, observed that elevated copper levels associated with schizophrenia or other diseases can be lowered with increased intake of manganese and zinc.3

He noted that manganese is needed for fat metabolism, and the utilization of thiamin, biotin, choline, and vitamin C.

Dr Pfeiffer additionally noted that manganese insufficiency can increase blood glucose levels, and that the mineral may be deficient among diabetic individuals.

A study published in Biological Trace Element Research uncovered manganese deficiency in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.4

Top Sources of Manganese

Manganese occurs in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and tea. However, modern food processing and soil erosion have resulted in foods that contain less than optimal amounts of manganese.

Fortunately, it’s also found in most multivitamin formulas.

Take the Right Amount of Manganese

Like all minerals, manganese has a potential for toxicity due to its ability to accumulate in the body.
Toxicity is likelier to be observed following inhalation in industrial settings.

Around 4 mg daily is suggested. This small amount can easily be obtained by consuming a healthy diet and supplementing whenever necessary.

Also worth noting is that the upper tolerable limit for manganese intake has been set at 11 milligrams per day.

References:

  1. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jan 1;4:1385-90. 
  2. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2013 Jun;31(6):409-12. 
  3. Zinc and Other Micronutrients. New Canaan: Keating, 1978. 
  4. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Dec;156(1-3):79-90.

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6 Hidden Health Benefits of Melatonin

Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN

While your body is asleep, it’s raging an internal war. Melatonin, which we often refer to as the “sleep hormone”, serves as a useful ally.

The multi-faceted nature of melatonin is for the most part unknown. Currently, there is research suggesting it may protect, and even treat, certain diseases.

Below we’ve described some of the lesser-known benefits of this widely used supplement.

Melatonin is a Powerful Antioxidant

Did you know that melatonin is a powerful antioxidant? In fact, it’s about twice more potent than vitamin E, and it’s superior to glutathione and vitamin C in reducing oxidative damage.1-2

Studies indicate melatonin protects multiple organs against free radical damage, including the kidneys, brain, pancreas, and eyes.3-6

Melatonin Combats Obesity

The link between poor sleep and obesity is no longer a mystery. Melatonin, interestingly enough, is thought to play a role.

In animal studies, melatonin was found to suppress abdominal fat, plasma leptin (a hunger hormone), while also reducing weight and food intake.7

In addition, melatonin activates brown fat, which causes the body to burn fat rather than to store it8.

Melatonin Prevents Migraines

The cause of migraines has continued to baffle scientists. There is some information suggesting the pineal gland may play a role in the condition.9 Interestingly, this is the same gland that produces melatonin.

Research shows melatonin helps to alleviate migraine pain and reduce the frequency of headaches.10

In one particular study,more than two thirds of migraine patients using melatonin experienced at least a 50% reduction in the number of headaches per month.11

Melatonin Protects Your Bones

Preserving bone mass and strength should be a priority for all aging people, and melatonin could potentially help.

According to a recent study, melatonin was found to improve bone strength and thickness in aging rats.12 Several studies revealed that melatonin increases osteocalcin, a bone-building hormone.13

Melatonin Has Anti-Cancer Benefits

Melatonin supports the role of your immune system. That’s probably why it has notable anti-cancer effects.

According to a review of eight clinical trials, melatonin taken along with conventional treatments was shown to significantly increase the one-year survival rate of cancer patients.

Benefits were seen for breast, colorectal, brain, and lung cancers.14

Melatonin Protects Your Brain

Melatonin demonstrates its power especially in the brain, where it combats neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies indicate that melatonin protects against beta amyloid plaque, one of the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease.15

In addition it slows the cognitive decline associated with the condition.16

The Bottom Line

Even if you’re not having trouble sleeping, supplementing with melatonin may not be a bad idea, especially considering all of its newly emerging benefits.

Thinking of trying it? A good starting dose ranges between 300 mcg to 3 mg daily.

References:

  1. J Neural Transm. 2005;112:349-58. 
  2. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2008 Sep;1(2):137-49. 
  3. Pharmazie. 2007 Sep;62(9):693-8. 
  4. J Pineal Res. 2001 Jan;30(1):22-8. 
  5. Exp Eye Res. 2004 Jun;78(6):1069-75. 
  6. Histol Histopathol. 2014 Apr;29(4):423-31. 
  7. Endocrinology. 2000;141:487-97. 
  8. Obes Rev. 2011 Mar;12(3):167-88. 
  9. Int J Neurosci. 1992 Nov-Dec;67(1-4):145-71. 
  10. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Aug;6(4):383- 9. 
  11. Neurology. 2004 Aug 24;63(4):757. 
  12. Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Aug;17(4):341-6. 
  13. Int J Mol Sci. May 2013; 14(5): 10063–10074. 
  14. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2012 May;69(5):1213-20. 
  15. J Pineal Res. 2004 May;36(4):224-31. 
  16. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2010 Sep;8(3):218-27.

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The Health Benefits of Iodine


Iodine was discovered in seaweed ash by chemist Bernard Courtois. Its name derives from the Greek word iodes, which describes the element's violet vapor.

Iodine is abundant in the sea and its life forms, as well as in the soil and air of coastal areas.

Since much of the world's population resides inland, deficiencies are relatively common.

Iodine is Essential for Thyroid Function

Iodine is best known for its role in thyroid function. It helps the synthesis of the thyroid hormones T4 or thyroxine and T3 or triiodothyronine.

T3 plays an important role in the body's control of metabolism. Iodine deficiencies may result in the enlargement of the thyroid, also known as goiter, which is less common since salt has been fortified with iodine.

Decreased iodine levels have been linked to lower IQs in children between the ages of 6 and 16.1

Iodine Shields Your Thyroid Against Radiation

Because of iodine's affinity for thyroid tissue, exposure to low doses of radioactive iodine from nuclear fallout could lead to the development of thyroid cancer.

For this reason, ingestion of potassium iodide tablets, which prevent radioactive iodine uptake by the thyroid, is recommended in the event of a nuclear accident or attack.

Potassium iodide must be administered from up to 48 hours before to approximately eight hours after exposure to be effective. It is more effective in those with sufficient dietary intake.2

Iodine Alleviates Symptoms of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Iodine may be helpful in alleviating fibrocystic breast disease, a painful condition characterized by breast cysts. In one study, women taking iodine experienced improvements in their symptoms.

There is also evidence that links insufficient iodine intake to an increased risk of breast cancer. A study of rats treated with a breast cancer-inducing agent found a protective effect for iodine in animals that received continuous treatment.4

How to Get More Iodine

People on a low-salt diet, vegetarians, and vegans can all easily become iodine-deficient. Athletes are also at risk due to the amount of iodine lost in sweat.

Iodine is found in fish, shellfish, kelp, milk and in most salted foods (due to the addition of iodine to salt). Kelp tablets are a good source of iodine, as are many multivitamin formulas.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 150 micrograms per day but larger amounts have been taken safely. The Japanese consume up to 3,000 micrograms daily with no adverse effects.

Like anything, iodine has a potential for toxicity, yet its relative safety has permitted many uses in medicine. There are, however, people with a sensitivity to iodine-containing compounds who should avoid their use.


References:

  1. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Aug;89(8):3851-7. 
  2. Health Phys. 2000 Jun;78(6):660-7. 
  3. Can J Surg. 1993 Oct;36(5):453-60. 
  4. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2005 May 31;236(1-2):49-57.

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All About Chromium


Chromium is a mineral whose name derives from the Greek word chroma, meaning colored, referring to the red compounds the mineral is found in.

The intense red color that defines rubies is, in fact, due to their chromium content.

While the dangers of hexavalent chromium became widely known with the film Erin Brockovich, the version found in food (trivalent chromium) is safe and healthy.

Trace amounts of chromium are helpful in maintaining normal blood sugar levels in diabetics and people who have hypoglycemia.

Chromium Prolongs Life

Chromium's effect on glucose might be a reason for its ability to extend life.1

Using diabetic rats, researchers fed one group a diet supplemented with chromium, while a second group received a diet with a lower dose of chromium plus four herbs. A control group received unsupplemented diets.

Compared to the controls, the research team found a 21.8% increase in the average life span among rats that received the chromium alone. The death rate among the group that received the lower dose of chromium was similar to that of the controls.

Chromium Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Reduces Carb Cravings

In a cross-over study, diabetics and nondiabetics who received 400 micrograms of chromium daily experienced a decrease in fasting sugar, post-meal glucose, and insulin levels.2

In a different study, diabetics given a daily combination of 600 micrograms of chromium plus two milligrams of biotin had lower levels of glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a measure of long-term glucose control) in comparison with those who received a placebo.

Chromium appears to lower glucose levels by enhancing insulin’s action rather than stimulating insulin secretion. This could be the factor behind chromium’s ability to reduce carbohydrate cravings.4

How to Get More Chromium

Chromium is abundant in brewer's yeast, which can be mixed into drinks or sprinkled onto food. It’s also found in a number of multivitamin formulas.

Chromium is available in different forms including chromium polynicotinate, chromium picolinate, and as "GTF" (glucose tolerance factor), a combination of trivalent chromium and amino acids. (GTF chromium was identified as a compound in yeast and other foods that reversed glucose intolerance in rats.)

Should You Supplement With Chromium?

While overt chromium deficiencies are rare, subclinical deficiency is believed to exist in most Americans. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 35 micrograms (mcg) per day for men and 25 mcg for women aged 19 to 50 years. (After the age of 50, the recommendation drops by 10 mcg.)

The RDA was calculated by levels obtainable in the diet, but it is well below what many would consider optimal.

According to Nicholas V. Perricone, MD, chromium is best taken away from milk and from foods high in phosphorus or phytic acid, which is found in unleavened bread, raw beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and soy isolates.5

References:

  1. J Inorg Biochem. 2011 Oct;105(10):1344-9. 
  2. J Nutr Biochem. 2002 Nov;13(11):690-697. 
  3. J Cardiometab Syndr. 2007 Spring;2(2):91-7. 
  4. J Psychiatr Pract. 2005 Sep;11(5):302-14. 
  5. Life Extension. 2005 Nov.

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Can Ashwagandha Reverse Alzheimer's Disease?

Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN

Ashwagandha is one of the most popular herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.

Native to Asia, it’s been used for thousands of years for different ailments including insomnia, anxiety, and even sexual dysfunction.

Research shows ashwagandha may also have potential in treating Alzheimer’s disease. It clears amyloid plaque, a key feature of the condition.

Ashwagandha Reverses Cognitive Deficits

Building on previous work which demonstrated the neuro-regenerative properties of ashwagandha, researchers tested its effect on Alzheimer’s disease.

A group of rats with the condition were administered a placebo or ashwagandha root for 30 days. After 20 days, the mice receiving the ashwagandha started exhibiting improved cognitive function.

They were able to navigate through maze tests from which they had difficulty prior to supplementation. This demonstrated an improvement in spatial memory and learning.1

In addition, they experienced a reduction in amyloid plaque in different parts of the brain including the cortex and the hippocampus, the area in which memories are stored.

Ashwagandha: A Potential Brain Drug?

Current medications for Alzheimer’s disease target symptoms, but fall short of addressing the underlying contributing factors. They do not reverse its progression or provide a cure. Ashwagandha, on the other hand, attacks multiple aspects of the disease.

Human clinical trials are needed, but so far cell culture and animal studies show promising results. Here are some of the findings showing it may have potential as a future Alzheimer’s medication:

  • It restores synapses, the junctions where nerve cells communicate with other cells, after amyloid-induced injury.2 One characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease is decreased synaptic density.
  • It supports the growth of dendrites, the short branched extensions of a nerve cell.2
  • It regenerates axons, the long threadlike part of a nerve which transmits impulses.2
  • It increases neurite growth.2
  • It protects against glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, which destroys brain cells and plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease.3
  • It decreases reaction times in human clinical trials.4
  • It protects brain cells from beta-amyloid-induced cell damage.5
  • It guards brain cells against free radicals that are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.6
  • It inhibits acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. Current medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease function via this mechanism.7

References:

  1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 February 28; 109(9): 3510–3515. 
  2. Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Mar;23(6):1417-26. 
  3. PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37080. 
  4. Pharmacognosy Res. 2014 Jan;6(1):12-8. 
  5. Phytother Res. 2010 Jun;24(6):859-63. 
  6. Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1567-74. 
  7. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2004 Nov;52(11):1358-61.

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