Amla, an ancient remedy from India making a major comeback on the wings of modern science

Amla is a berry that is native to the Indian subcontinent and neighboring areas. It has a long history of medicinal use as a remedy for everything from vision problems, to almost every digestive complaint, allergies, low immunity, and even hormonal imbalance in women.

A flurry of recent research has given a new scientific validation to this unique healing berry. Among other things, it was found to be one of the most potent antioxidants known. When compared to 1,000 herbs with well-established antioxidant properties, it was found to be among the top four in terms of beneficial effects and the ability to prevent cell-damaging effects from the strongest oxidants and carcinogens.

Amla was found to protect the liver from oxidative damage caused by chemicals or alcohol. It was found to protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation, thus slowing aging of the skin and – of course – preventing skin cancer. In studies performed on diabetics, it was found to protect the heart as well as the kidneys. Read More »

The vitamin critics are at it again…

The headlines have been everywhere and it seems that we are back in the dark days of vitamin bashing, perhaps prompted by reports that even in these hard economic times vitamin sales are booming. As in the past, for every negative study on vitamins there are many positive ones, except that only the research with negative findings gets reported, no matter how poorly designed or unreliable it is! Among the latest news you may have heard or read about, vitamin E was supposedly found to cause prostate cancer. As simple as that, or maybe not…

Let’s take a closer look at the data that prompted this “finding.” (1) When taking low-quality synthetic vitamin E or a placebo, the risk of prostate cancer was found to be higher in people taking vitamin E with no other supplement by an astounding 0.63%! Whenever the difference is less than 1% it is hard to attribute much significance to it, because any study done on a sample of the population will have a margin of error. To conclude that vitamin E causes prostate cancer based on a 0.63% rate increase in a single study is preposterous.

There is more. In this very same study, when people took Vitamin E plus Selenium the increased risk fell to just 0.24%. Selenium does only one thing: it makes vitamin E more effective. So if vitamin E causes cancer, the rate should go up, not down, when it is taken with selenium. In reality, it has been common knowledge for years that antioxidants like vitamin E should not be taken alone but in a balanced complex containing all the major antioxidants. When taken alone they can be counterproductive and even lead to worse health. Read More »

Glutathione, the master health protector, can also prevent the flu

Glutathione is a peptide or small protein that the body makes to protect itself from free radicals, oxidative stress and the harmful effects of environmental toxins. Oxidative stress refers to damage at the level of DNA and other cell structures resulting from exposure to free radicals or toxins. This damage is often where critical illnesses like cancer or heart disease originate.

Glutathione is considered to be the most powerful antioxidant in the body. It is also a detoxifier in that it binds to toxic metals or cancer-causing chemicals and safely “escorts” them out of the body. The efficiency of detoxification depends to a large degree on how much glutathione is available, and glutathione levels vary dramatically from person to person.

One cause of this variability is a difference in genetic traits. Genetic variants determine how much glutathione will be produced in a given individual and the difference is dramatic. Even under optimal conditions glutathione produced in one person can be half as much as in someone else (Richie et al, Clin Chem 42:64, 1996). Research is now showing that people with a gene variant named GAG-7 who produce the least glutathione have a higher rate of cancer (research presented at a recent conference by John P. Richie, PhD of Penn State University College of Medicine and currently submitted for publication). Read More »

Antioxidants, aging and health

If you’re like me, you are aging and you see some sign of this every day in the mirror: graying hair, wrinkles, sagging skin, new spots on the skin, and so on. Though we rarely think of it, the inside of our bodies undergoes similar changes but with far more serious consequences.
Muscles and organs shrink and function less efficiently until, one day, they begin to fail.  For example, the brain has been shown to lose one-third of its size between ages 35 and 70. Other organs experience similar decline and this makes us more susceptible to illnesses now considered typical of aging, from heart disease to diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and more.
Cells are the basic building blocks of organs, and aging begins at the level of each cell, where structures become damaged and energy production goes on less efficiently. Some cells die without being regenerated and, over time, this is reflected in smaller, less active organs, decreased metabolic rate, and more.
Read More »

Antioxidants Protect from Ozone Damage

High levels of ozone in the air we breathe are a major public health problem. It is estimated that more than 130 million Americans live in areas where ozone levels exceed safety standards. Exposure to ozone is known to cause decreased breathing capacity, airway hyperreactivity, and inflammation of the airway passages. In a study last year, (Am J Resp Crit Care Med 2001 164 819) participants were given a combination of antioxidants that included vitamin C, vitamin E and a vegetable cocktail. Antioxidants were found to be protective against decline in lung function but not to reduce markers of inflammation caused by ozone exposure.

Atherosclerosis, Cataracts and Antioxidants

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study (J Int Med, 2000;248:377-386) looked at 52 men and 58 women who had elevated cholesterol levels and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). These individuals were given a placebo, vitamin E, vitamin C, or both Vitamins E and C.

After three years, the researchers found that in individuals receiving both vitamins, the increase in thickness of the arteries was reduced by 74%, a very significant result. Those who were given only one vitamin had more modest benefits, and no side effects were noted. .

Antioxidants and Cancer

Antioxidants include the vitamins A, E and C; the minerals selenium and zinc; and other products like lipoic acid, bioflavonoids, coenzyme Q10, and melatonin. Cancer patients tend to have low blood levels of antioxidants and conventional treatments further deplete them.

It was therefore theorized that antioxidant supplements could be helpful in an integrated approach to cancer, but experts cautioned that not enough was known about their effects and that they could possibly prevent medications from working.

An in-depth analysis of existing studies can be found in the Alternative Medicine Review (2000; 5 (2): 152-163). The authors evaluated more than 100 previously published studies and concluded that, in almost all cases, antioxidants either did not interfere with medical treatments or actually helped them by reducing side effects while at the same time enhancing the medical treatment’s therapeutic effects.