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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine October 2001


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DNA damage from micronutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major cause of cancer.

A deficiency of any of the micronutrients: folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron or zinc, mimics radiation in damaging DNA by causing single- and double-strand breaks, oxidative lesions or both. For example, the percentage of the US population that has a low intake (<50% of the RDA) for each of these eight micronutrients ranges from 2 to >20%. A level of folate deficiency causing chromosome breaks was present in approximately 10% of the US population, and in a much higher percentage of the poor. Folate deficiency causes extensive incorporation of uracil into human DNA (4 million/cell), leading to chromosomal breaks. This mechanism is the likely cause of the increased colon cancer risk associated with low folate intake. Some evidence, and mechanistic considerations, suggest that vitamin B12 (14% US elderly) and B6 (10% of US) deficiencies also cause high uracil and chromosome breaks. Micronutrient deficiency may explain, in good part, why the quarter of the population that eats the fewest fruits and vegetables (five portions a day is advised) has about double the cancer rate for most types of cancer when compared to the quarter with the highest intake. For example, 80% of American children and adolescents and 68% of adults do not eat five portions a day. Common micronutrient deficiencies are likely to damage DNA by the same mechanism as radiation and many chemicals, appear to be orders of magnitude more important, and should be compared for perspective. Remedying micronutrient deficiencies should lead to a major improvement in health and an increase in longevity at low cost.

Mutat Res 2001 Apr 18;475(1-2):7-20

Chronic heart failure and micronutrients.

Heart failure (HF) is associated with weight loss, and cachexia is a well-recognized complication. Patients have an increased risk of osteoporosis and lose muscle bulk early in the course of the disease. Basal metabolic rate is increased in HF, but general malnutrition may play a part in the development of cachexia, particularly in an elderly population. There is evidence for a possible role for micronutrient deficiency in HF. Selective deficiency of selenium, calcium and thiamine can directly lead to the HF syndrome. Other nutrients, particularly vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, are antioxidants and may have a protective effect on the vasculature. Vitamins B6, B12 and folate all tend to reduce levels of homocysteine, which is associated with increased oxidative stress. Carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and creatine supplementation have resulted in improved exercise capacity in patients with HF in some studies. In this article, we review the relation between micronutrients and HF. Chronic HF is characterized by high mortality and morbidity, and research effort has centered on pharmacological management, with the successful introduction of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and beta-adrenergic antagonists into routine practice. There is sufficient evidence to support a large-scale trial of dietary micronutrient supplementation in HF.

J Am Coll Cardiol 2001 Jun 1;37(7):1765-74

Host selenium status selectively influences susceptibility to experimental viral myocarditis.

The purpose of the present work was to determine whether dietary selenium (Se) deficiency could influence the injurious effect of human viruses other than Coxsackie virus B3 (CVB3) on mouse heart. Weanling C3H/HeN mice were fed a Se-deficient or Se-adequate diet for 4 wk and then were inoculated intraperitoneally with one of the following viruses: Coxsackie virus B1 (CVB1), echovirus 9 (EV9), Coxsackie virus A9 (CVA9), or herpes simplex 1 (HSV1). Polio virus 1 (PV1) was employed as a negative control. Prior to inoculation, mean serum Se levels were 430 versus 61 ng/mL in adequate versus deficient mice, respectively. Ten days later, hearts were removed and processed by routine histological procedures. Cardiac lesions were scored according to the number and size of myocarditic foci. Significantly greater heart damage resulting from CVB1 and EV9 was observed in Se-deficient than in Se-adequate mice, and the Se status had no influence on CVA9-induced myocarditis. In contrast, heart damage caused by HSV1 was significantly milder in Se-deficient than in Se-adequate mice. Therefore, it may be concluded that the Se status of the murine host selectively influences the degree of viral-induced myocarditic lesions.

Biol Trace Elem Res 2001 Apr;80(1):23-31

Selenium deficiency is associated with shedding of HIV-1—infected cells in the female genital tract.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the relation between selenium deficiency and vaginal or cervical shedding of HIV-1-infected cells. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of 318 HIV-1 seropositive women in Mombasa, Kenya. METHODS: Vaginal and cervical swab specimens were tested for the presence of HIV-1 DNA by polymerase chain reaction. Multivariate logistic regression models, adjusting for CD4 count and vitamin A deficiency, were used. RESULTS: Selenium deficiency (defined as levels <85 microg/L) was observed in 11% of the study population. In unstratified multivariate analyses, there was no significant association between selenium deficiency and vaginal or cervical shedding. In stratified analyses, however, significant associations became apparent after excluding women with predictors of shedding with strong local effects on the genital tract mucosa. Among women who did not use oral contraceptives and who did not have vaginal candidiasis, selenium deficiency was significantly associated with vaginal shedding (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0--8.8, p =.05). Effect modification was also observed in the relation between selenium deficiency and cervical shedding, with a significant association seen among those women who were not using oral contraceptive pills or depot medroxyprogesterone acetate and who did not have Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection (AOR 2.8, 95% CI 1.1--7.0, p =.02). CONCLUSIONS: We found selenium deficiency to be associated with a nearly threefold higher likelihood of genital mucosal shedding of HIV-1-infected cells, suggesting that deficiency may increase the infectiousness of women with HIV-1. Nutritional interventions to prevent HIV-1 transmission warrant investigation.

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2001 Apr 1;26(4):360-4

Role of micronutrients in HIV-infected intravenous drug users.

Nutritional deficiencies are widespread among HIV-1-seropositive male and female drug abusers (injecting drug users, or IDUs), among men who have sex with men (MSM), and among children, although the prevalence of nutritional alterations varies among the groups. Low levels of vitamin A, vitamin B12, zinc and selenium are common and have been demonstrated to be associated with disease progression and HIV-1 related mortality, independent of CD4 count <200 cells/mm3 at baseline and CD4 count over time. When all nutrient factors that are associated with survival are considered together, only selenium deficiency is a significant predictor of mortality. The profound effect of selenium on disease progression may reflect selenium’s action in antioxidant defense systems, as well as gene regulation.

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2000 Oct 1;25 Suppl 1:S49-52

A conservative triple antioxidant approach to the treatment of hepatitis C. Combination of alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid), silymarin, and selenium: three case histories.

BACKGROUND: There has been an increase in the number of adults seeking liver transplantation for hepatitis C in the last few years and the count is going up rapidly. There is no reliable and effective therapy for chronic hepatitis C since interferon and antivirals work no more than 30% of the time, and liver transplant surgery is uncertain and tentative over the long run. This is because, ultimately, residual hepatitis C viremia infects the new liver. Furthermore, liver transplantation can be painful, disabling and extremely costly. TREATMENT PROGRAM: The author describes a low cost and efficacious treatment program in 3 patients with cirrhosis, portal hypertension and esophageal varices secondary to chronic hepatitis C infection. This effective and conservative regimen combines 3 potent antioxidants (alpha-lipoic acid [thioctic acid], silymarin and selenium) that possess antiviral, free radical quenching and immune boosting qualities. CONCLUSION: There are no remarkably effective treatments for chronic hepatitis C in general use. Interferon and antivirals have less than a 30% response rate and because of the residual viremia, a newly transplanted liver usually becomes infected again. The triple antioxidant combination of alpha-lipoic acid, silymarin and selenium was chosen for a conservative treatment of hepatitis C because these substances protect the liver from free radical damage, increase the levels of other fundamental antioxidants, and interfere with viral proliferation. The 3 patients presented in this paper followed the triple antioxidant program and recovered quickly and their laboratory values remarkably improved. Furthermore, liver transplantation was avoided and the patients are back at work, carrying out their normal activities, and feeling healthy. The author offers a more conservative approach to the treatment of hepatitis C, that is exceedingly less expensive. One year of the triple antioxidant therapy described in this paper costs less than $2,000, as compared to more than $300,000 a year for liver transplant surgery. It appears reasonable, that prior to liver transplant surgery evaluation, or during the transplant evaluation process, the conservative triple antioxidant treatment approach should be considered. If these is a significant betterment in the patient’s condition, liver transplant surgery may be avoided.

Med Klin 1999 Oct 15;94 Suppl 3:84-9

Oxygenated carotenoid lutein and progression of early atherosclerosis: the Los Angeles atherosclerosis study.

BACKGROUND: Carotenoids are hypothesized to explain some of the protective effects of fruit and vegetable intake on risk of cardiovascular disease. The present study assessed the protective effects of the oxygenated carotenoid lutein against early atherosclerosis. METHODS AND RESULTS: Epidemiology: Progression of intima-media thickness (IMT) of the common carotid arteries over 18 months was determined ultrasonographically and was related to plasma lutein among a randomly sampled cohort of utility employees age 40 to 60 years (n=480). Coculture: The impact of lutein on monocyte response to artery wall cell modification of LDL was assessed in vitro by quantification of monocyte migration in a coculture model of human intima. Mouse models: The impact of lutein supplementation on atherosclerotic lesion formation was assessed in vivo by assigning apoE-null mice to chow or chow plus lutein (0.2% by weight) and LDL receptor-null mice to Western diet or Western diet plus lutein. IMT progression declined with increasing quintile of plasma lutein (P for trend=0.007, age-adjusted; P=0.0007, multivariate). Covariate-adjusted IMT progression (mean+/-SEM) was 0.021+/-0.005 mm in the lowest quintile of plasma lutein, whereas progression was blocked in the highest quintile (0.004+/-0.005 mm; P=0.01). In the coculture, pretreatment of cells with lutein inhibited LDL-induced migration in a dose-dependent manner (P<0.05). Finally, in the mouse models, lutein supplementation reduced lesion size 44% in apoE-null mice (P=0.009) and 43% in LDL receptor-null mice (P=0.02). CONCLUSIONS: These epidemiological, in vitro, and mouse model findings support the hypothesis that increased dietary intake of lutein is protective against the development of early atherosclerosis.

Circulation 2001 Jun 19;103(24):2922-7

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