All About Vitamin B2: Riboflavin


Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, was the second vitamin in the B complex to be discovered. Like its predecessor, vitamin B1, riboflavin is used by the body to processes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Riboflavin is found in yeast, liver, wheat bran, eggs, meat, milk, cheese and some fruits and vegetables.

The United States and other countries fortify white flour with riboflavin, making deficiencies rare, although subclinical deficiencies often exist.

So what exactly does vitamin B2 do for your health? Here's the lowdown.

Vitamin B2 Protects the Eyes

Vitamin B2 is needed by the entire body, including the eyes. Because it removes oxidized glutathione from the eye lens, riboflavin could help protect against the development of cataracts.1

Individuals who are deficient in vitamin B2 may experience sensitivity to light and decreased vision.

Vitamin B2 Prevents Migraines

While riboflavin is essential for general health, it may also play a role in migraine prevention. A study of 49 patients suffering from migraines who received 400 milligrams (mg) of riboflavin for three months or more experienced a 68% improvement in the frequency/severity of migraines.2

Another study using the same dose uncovered a reduction in migraine frequency and the need for pain relief.3

Vitamin B2 Supports Heart Health

Although other B vitamins (folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) have been recognized for their ability to lower the level of homocysteine (an amino acid linked to heart attacks) in the blood, riboflavin can also help reduce this harmful compound, particularly in people with a genetic mutation associated with high homocysteine levels.

In a study of older men and women with low levels of riboflavin, supplementation with 10 mg per day significantly lowered homocysteine levels after four weeks.4

Vitamin B2 May Prevent Colon Cancer

In addition to its role in the prevention of heart problems, B2 may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

In a study of 88,045 postmenopausal women, the total intake of riboflavin from food and supplements was associated with a reduced risk of disease by 19%.5

Greater intake of B2 has also been associated with a reduction in the risk of breast6 and lung cancer.7

Vitamin B2 Helps with Parkinson’s Disease

Ensuring optimal riboflavin levels could also help men and women with Parkinson's disease. A study of 31 Parkinson's disease patients, all of whom had low B2 levels, found that supplementation with 30 mg every eight hours plus the elimination of red meat resulted in better motor function, which is impaired in the disease.8

How Much Vitamin B2 Do You Need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for riboflavin is a little more than one milligram for adults; however, no toxicity has been observed at 400 milligrams daily.

Because B2 is readily excreted in the urine, intake of amounts greater than the RDA could safely guarantee optimal B2 levels if taken in divided doses.

Use of a B complex formula several times per day (or in a multivitamin formula) is the best way to supplement with B2.

References:

  1. Am J Ophthalmol. 2001 Jul;132(1):19-26.
  2. Cephalalgia. 1994 Oct;14(5):328-9.
  3. Eur J Neurol. 2004 Jul;11(7):475-7.
  4. J Nutr Health Aging. 2009 May;13(5):441-6.
  5. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Feb;97(2):332-43.
  6. Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Aug;24(8):1555-63.
  7. Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Dec;23(12):1965-75.
  8. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2003 Oct;36(10):1409-17.

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Melatonin Preserves Bone Mass


By Michael A. Smith, MD

Age-related bone loss is a serious condition. It not only increases the risk for fractures, but also increases the risk for death from heart and lung disease and all-cause death, especially if bone loss occurs quickly.1

This is why it’s so important to stay active as we age, as this can preserve bone mass and strength. We also need to obtain adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K2 through diet and supplementation.

For many aging people, however, this still isn't enough. Bone loss continues despite all their efforts. This means that a lot of people end up taking prescription drugs called bisphosphonates. Unfortunately, although these drugs are effective at increasing bone density (but not necessarily bone strength), they also come bundled with a host of side effects. So what else can we do?

Melatonin - An Unlikely Natural Remedy

This is where melatonin comes into play. Yes, that’s correct … melatonin! The “sleep hormone” also protects our bones. This was first discovered in animal studies that showed melatonin’s potential effects as a bone mass regulator.

But these earlier studies were not done on older animals — in terms of bone health, older animals, including humans, is really the population we’re most interested in studying. Well, researchers have finally put melatonin to test with the appropriate population … in rats at least.

Old Rats, Old Bones and Melatonin

The aim of the study was to assess the effects of melatonin supplementation on bone mass and volume. Twenty 22-month-old male Wistar rats (that’s old for Wistar rats) were divided into two randomly assigned groups.

The first group was treated for 10 weeks with melatonin, whereas the second group was left untreated. Rat femurs were collected and analyzed.2

Rats treated with melatonin had higher bone volume and thickness in comparison to the control group. Histological analyses (bone tissues analyzed using microscopes) confirmed the increase of bone volume in melatonin-treated rats.2

Melatonin-treated rats also demonstrated higher bone stiffness and the ability to withstand greater tension, an indication of increased bone strength.2

Melatonin Protects Against Age-related Bone Loss

These compelling results are the first evidence indicating that melatonin supplements are able to exert beneficial effects against age-related bone loss in old rats, improving the structure and biomechanical properties of aged bones.

 Who knows? Perhaps humans can reap the bone benefits too. Only time will tell!

References:

  1. J Bone Miner Res. 2000 Oct; 15(10):1974-80. 
  2. Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Mar 11.

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Thiamine: First Among the B Vitamins


Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is the first vitamin discovered in a series that came to be known as the B complex. These water-soluble vitamins include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12, along with folate and biotin.

In addition to possessing their own unique properties, all have a role in cellular metabolism.

Thiamine is found primarily in whole grains, including brown rice, oatmeal, and rye, in addition to flax and sunflower seeds, kale, liver, eggs, asparagus, and other foods.

What Can Thiamine Do for Your Health?

In 1905, Dr. William Fletcher discovered that whole, unpolished rice, which contains bran, prevented the disease known as beriberi, a neurological and cardiovascular disorder associated with a white rice diet.

Research conducted by Japanese Surgeon General Kanehiro Takaki had previously shown that the addition of barley, meat, milk, bread and vegetables to a white rice diet eliminated the disease, but he failed to identify B1 as the protective factor. Dr. Casimir Funk eventually made the discovery in 1926.

In addition to beriberi, thiamine is needed to prevent alcoholic brain diseases, including Wernicke's encephalopathy and Korsakoff's psychosis, which is characterized by amnesia and other impairments. These diseases are reversible in many cases when alcohol is discontinued and thiamine levels are restored.

Thiamine Supports Sugar Metabolism and Brain Function

Because thiamine plays a role in the conversion of fat and carbohydrates into glucose, sufficient amounts must be present for glucose metabolism.

Thiamine is also necessary for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory amino acid, both of which are involved in brain function.

Benfotiamine (a form of Thiamine) Treats Diabetic Problems

Although deficiency diseases such as beriberi are rare in the West due to the fortification of white flour, a subclinical deficiency may exist, particularly among the malnourished and diabetics.

Reduced thiamine levels are involved in the development of some neuropathies. Benfotiamine, a fat-soluble form of thiamine, has been used to treat diabetic neuropathy. Benfotiamine's fat solubility allows it to readily enter cells where it reduces glucose levels.

In a randomized clinical trial, three weeks of benfotiamine use, given four times per day, improved nerve function in diabetic neuropathy patients.1

In another trial, benfotiamine taken for two weeks reduced oxidative stress levels in the brains of diabetic mice.2 And in yet another study, thiamine as well as benfotiamine reduced the development of kidney dysfunction in diabetics.3

The results of these studies indicate that both fat and water-soluble forms of the vitamin can be taken to maintain optimal vitamin B1 levels.

Supplementing With Thiamine

While plants and yeasts make their own thiamine, humans need to get it from food. Certain foods and beverages can lower thiamine levels, including raw fish, tea and coffee. It’s especially important to obtain extra vitamin B1 if you include these in your diet.

If you decide to supplement with thiamine, most nutritionists feel it’s best to use a complete B complex rather than just one member of the B vitamin family.

Also note that thiamine should ideally be taken several times per day, since excess amounts of the vitamin are excreted in the urine.

References:

  1. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Feb;43(2):71-7.
  2. Neurosci Lett. 2006 Feb 13;394(2):158-62.
  3. Diabetes. 2003 Aug;52(8):2110-20.

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Can Fish Oil Prevent Damage from Strokes?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US.1 Can fish oil help? Potentially yes, according to the results of a new study.

Scientists administered DHA, a component of fish oil, to mice and found that it reduced the damage inflicted by a stroke.

Strokes affect millions of people annually and are a major cause of disability. This new study brings hope into novel therapies for stroke recovery.

DHA in Fish Oil Decreased Brain Damage by up to 51%

Strokes were induced in mice. The animals were divided into different groups and received one of three treatments: an emulsion rich in omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, or saline. Treatments were given during different time intervals and responses were measured by examining infarct volume (the area of brain death caused by a stroke) and brain circulation.

Compared to the other groups, the infarct volume was 43% smaller in mice given n-3 fatty acids 90 minutes before the induced stroke. In a separate experiment, treatment with triglycerides containing only docosahexaenoic acid (Tri-DHA) decreased the infarct volume by a mean of 51% when administered two hours after the stroke. Mice given the DHA had significant decreases in brain cell death 8 weeks after the stroke.2

So what makes fish oil particularly effective for strokes?

Fish Oil Reduces Brain-Damaging Inflammation and Free Radicals

Fish oil is a beneficial target against strokes for many reasons. For one, it increases the production of neuroprotective compounds that are naturally produced in the brain. One of them called NPD1 reduces inflammation and free radicals that are produced during a stroke.2 Both factors are a major cause of stroke-induced brain damage.

Previous research shows eating fish may lower the risk of having a stroke.3 In addition, having higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation,4 an abnormal heart rhythm linked to an increased risk for stroke.

Take Fish Oil Anyway, In the Meantime

Currently, the only therapy used in hospitals to limit stroke damage is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. To be effective, it can only be given three hours after the stroke. While tPA helps to restore brain circulation, it doesn't have neuroprotective effects.

The idea is to give stroke patients a drug that can minimize the neurological damage inflicted by a stroke. This way, outcomes are improved. So far DHA seems like a promising candidate.

While we don’t know this with 100% certainty, in the meantime, it still makes sense to supplement with fish oil to reap its many benefits. A dose of 2.5 grams containing EPA and DHA is typically suggested daily.

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.strokecenter.org/patients/about-stroke/stroke-statistics/. Accessed March 26, 2014.
  2. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56233.
  3. Circulation. 2002 Nov 19;106(21):2747-57.
  4. Circulation. 2012 Mar 6;125(9):1084-93.

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Can a Mushroom Extract Prevent Cervical Cancer?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is present in most sexually active women. Their lifetime risk of acquiring genital HPV is 80%.1

For the most part, HPV infections do not cause any health problems and are cleared by the human body. Certain strains, however, are more virulent and may cause cervical cancer.

HPV can be detected up to 99% of cervical cancer biopsies worldwide.2

Currently, there are no medications that treat the virus. The only option for prevention (though controversial) is the HPV vaccine, which can be administered to people under the age of 26.

Fortunately, new hope may be found in AHCC (active hexose correlated compound), a compound found in mushrooms. AHCC may help to eradicate the HPV virus and even treat cervical cancer, according to the results of a recent study.

AHCC Eradicated the HPV Virus and Reduced Tumor Growth

Scientists in Texas treated cervical cancer cells with AHCC and incubated them for 72 hours. In addition, in a separate part of the study, they administered AHCC to mice with and without the HPV infection.

They found that AHCC totally eradicated the virus within 90 days and reduced tumor growth in vivo and in vitro.3 The research was presented at the Society of Gynecological Oncology 45th Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer.

To date, no studies have examined the effect of AHCC on cervical cancer in humans. A pilot study is on its way.

Other Studies Show the Anti-Cancer Effects of AHCC

AHCC works by increasing the body’s immune response. It stimulates natural killer cell activity4 — the cells responsible for seeking out and destroying tumor cells.

In other studies, AHCC has been shown to have anti-cancer effects, boosting the effectiveness of chemotherapy5 and even increasing cancer survival rates among liver cancer patients.4

AHCC is well tolerated, with no reported adverse effects.

Screening for Cervical Cancer is the Best Preventive Method

Apart from strengthening your body with supplementation, it is important that women take precautions in screening for cervical cancer.

An annual Pap smear test is the best way to screen for the disease. When caught early, nearly 100% of cases are treatable. Otherwise, there is no other way to detect cervical cancer, since it’s usually asymptomatic.

The Bottom Line

For more information on cervical cancer, please visit our cervical dysplasia protocol. It provides lots of additional suggestions and information on the topic.

References:

  1. Rev Med Virol. 2004 Mar-Apr;14(2):95-105. 
  2. J Pathol. 1999 Sep;189(1):12-9. 
  3. Available at: http://ahccresearch.com/pdf/AHCC%20HPV%20Study%20Press%20Release%20electronic%20version.pdf. Accessed March 25th, 2014. 
  4. J Hepatol. 2002 Jul;37(1):78-86. 
  5. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007 Jul

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