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Food Coloring And Behavior

food-coloringListen to a lie long enough and you’ll start to accept it as the truth. Didn’t the tobacco industry use images of physicians and athletes to sell cigarettes back in the last century? Babe Ruth hawked White Owl cigars and Raleigh cigarettes. William Bendix sold Chesterfield. The highly-trusted and unquestionably credible FDA had a meeting last March to discuss the properties of artificial food colorings and evaluate their relationship to hyperactivity in children. Based on their review of the published data, “FDA concludes that a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established.” For certain susceptible children, however, they admit their condition “may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

The toxicity potential of synthetic food additives is hard to pin down. Just because a single substance demonstrates no harmful effects doesn’t explain what happens when it’s combined with another “harmless” substance.  Many foods contain more than one colorant. An example of single-substance safety is ammonia. Used with adequate ventilation it’s a relatively harmless cleaner unless abused.  The same for chlorine bleach.  But mix the two and you get a toxic gas, hydrazine, used to make rocket fuel.  That’ll clean the scum off the shower walls!   With the amount of adverse publicity about artificial colorings, you’d think the makers would look for something more natural, like beets.

Companies use artificial colors to make their products look pretty.  Foods with vibrant, saturated colors are more appealing than those without.  Hot dogs are naturally gray.  When’s the last time you saw one?  The color of a food tells us that it has value.  Red apples are more valued than green ones.  The natural medicines in foods are colorful.  Beta-carotene is associated with yellow and orange; anthocyanins with red and purple.  Even purple cabbage has its fans.  Some oranges don’t turn that color unless growing conditions are perfect: cool nights, warm days.  Many folks won’t buy green oranges from Florida, so what’s the broker to do?  Spray ‘em orange.  Now the mind is fooled into thinking this orange is healthier than the blotchy one next to it.

Most studies on food additives last for too short a time to render meaningful results.  A comet assay is a sensitive but uncomplicated testing procedure that detects DNA damage at the level of the cell.  Using this procedure, scientists at Japan’s Laboratory of Genotoxicity at Hachinohe National College found that, of the types of food additives, dyes are most genotoxic.  Dose-related DNA damage from commonly-used food dyes was found in the stomach, colon, and bladder of test animals, with colon damage appearing at doses close to the acceptable daily intake.  (Sasaki. 2002) (Tsuda. 2001)

Coal tar and petrochemicals are the main sources of the artificial colors that go into our foods, and these are ultimately dangerous to our health.  It makes little sense to put these into our food supply if we’re not designed to ingest them in the first place.  But selling products and making money are the bottom line.  Without at least a little prior knowledge, the unsuspecting consumer would never know that yellow #5 is cleverly disguised by its chemical name, tartrazine, sometimes called E102.  If mixed with blue #1, called E133, it makes green. Blue #1 may contain aluminum, although potassium and calcium salts are more common.  Most of E133 ends up in the feces, which could be green.  Tartrazine has provoked allergic reactions in sensitive persons, but you never know who that is until it happens, and most of us never make a connection.  (Kashanian. 2011)  To its credit, the FDA will seize products that do not declare the presence of tartrazine, which also is alleged to exacerbate asthma symptoms.  There is a blue #2, but it’s seldom used in foods because it fades at alkali pH.  Its use in snacks and candies may evoke a hyperactivity reaction.

Red #40 is an azo dye, meaning that it contains two nitrogens.  It’s also known as allura red or E129.  Originally made from coal tar, red #40 is now made from petroleum.  Isn’t that a comfort?  Contrary to popular misconception, it is not made from insects.  Carmine is, made from the female cochineal insect, whose body is dried and pulverized or otherwise processed.  From intensive European studies it was concluded that behavioral anomalies in children arise especially when the blues and the reds are combined with benzoate preservatives.  (McCann. 2007)  Red #3 is called erythrosine, E127, and is not that common in the U.S., having been replaced by #40.  Number 3 was found to be a potent inhibitor of a substance that blocks and destroys cancer cells, named tumor necrosis factor.  So, while some research says it may not directly cause cancer, red #3 interferes with the body’s protection against it, while simultaneously showing cytotoxicity, particularly to breast tissue.  (Ganesan. 2011) (Dees. 1997)

Why take the chance when there are natural colorants?  Read the labels.  Sweets and sports drinks, blueberry muffins and cereals with “fruits,” yogurt and canned icing could give you more than you bargained for.  Caramel coloring from sugar, annatto red-orange from achiote, chlorophyll green, turmeric yellow, paprika red, elderberry purple, butterfly pea blue, beet red, and blue from red cabbage are real.

References

http://www.ift.org/knowledge-center/focus-areas/product-development-and-ingredient-innovations/~/media/Knowledge%20Center/Focus%20Areas/ProductDev/ArtificialColors.pdf
Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC;  Attorneys at Law;  Suite 400; 1400 Sixteenth Street, NW; Washington, D.C. 20036  www.ofwlaw.com

Sasaki YF, Kawaguchi S, Kamaya A, Ohshita M, Kabasawa K, Iwama K, Taniguchi K, Tsuda S
The comet assay with 8 mouse organs: results with 39 currently used food additives.
Mutat Res. 2002 Aug 26;519(1-2):103-19.

Tsuda S, Murakami M, Matsusaka N, Kano K, Taniguchi K, Sasaki YF.
DNA damage induced by red food dyes orally administered to pregnant and male mice.
Toxicol Sci. 2001 May;61(1):92-9.

Kashanian S, Zeidali SH.
DNA binding studies of tartrazine food additive.
DNA Cell Biol. 2011 Jul;30(7):499-505.

McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, Kitchin E, Lok K, Porteous L, Prince E, Sonuga-Barke E, Warner JO, Stevenson J.
Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.
Lancet. 2007 Nov 3;370(9598):1560-7.

Ganesan L, Margolles-Clark E, Song Y, Buchwald P.
The food colorant erythrosine is a promiscuous protein-protein interaction inhibitor.
Biochem Pharmacol. 2011 Mar 15;81(6):810-8.

Dees C, Askari M, Garrett S, Gehrs K, Henley D, Ardies CM.
Estrogenic and DNA-damaging activity of Red No. 3 in human breast cancer cells.
Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Apr;105 Suppl 3:625-32.

Shimada C, Kano K, Sasaki YF, Sato I, Tsudua S.
Differential colon DNA damage induced by azo food additives between rats and mice.
J Toxicol Sci. 2010 Aug;35(4):547-54.

Shaw DW.
Allergic contact dermatitis from carmine.
Dermatitis. 2009 Oct;20(5):292-5.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

The Great Pumpkin is Not Just for Decoration

pumpkinsMany of us associate pumpkin with autumn, especially Thanksgiving. That’s a shame because there’s a wealth of goodness in that winter squash, and it deserves more than mere seasonal entertainment. It’s low in calories and fat, and provides vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals essential to a healthy diet. A cup has only 83 calories and one gram of fat, which is just enough to allow its use in recipes that call for shortening or oil. Measure for measure, you can use canned pumpkin puree for half the fat in a cake or cookie recipe. Some people even add it to their morning oatmeal with cinnamon and a little, like a teaspoon, of brown sugar. Here we’re talking about the nutritive value of canned pumpkin, which is denser than what you would get from spending a few hours trying to hatchet out and distill the flesh from a fresh pumpkin.  The only virtue realized from a fresh squash is the potential to roast the seeds for a snack later on… if you have the composure to separate the seeds from the stringy fibers in the core.

The Color of Vitamin A
Because of its color, pumpkin is immediately identified as being a source of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A that has no measurable level of liver burden. Beta-carotene is a molecule that the body easily changes to vitamin A in the intestine, and is found in plants, as opposed to pre-formed vitamin A common to animal products, as from butter and eggs. This fat-soluble vitamin is known to fight infections, to help treat skin disorders, to improve night vision and to ameliorate dry eyes, all the while performing anti-oxidant functions. Although beta-carotene does not, pre-formed vitamin A can lead to orange skin and yellow eyes, a state that disappears when levels are adjusted or intake is temporarily discontinued. The bioavailability of beta-carotene—the proportion that can be absorbed, transported and utilized by the body—is influenced by a few factors: supplemental beta-carotene is better absorbed that that from foods; food processing and cooking can enhance availability; the presence of fat in the gut aids absorption (only about three grams per meal is needed).

One cup of pumpkin yields more than 500 milligrams of potassium, an essential mineral in which most North Americans are shallow, often getting much less than the RDI of 4700 milligrams. In the body, potassium helps to keep blood pressure under control (Barri, 1997) (Hajjar, 2001) (Geleijnse, 1996), may help to encourage positive bone mineral density (New, 1997, 2000) (Tucker, 1999), and may reduce risk of stroke (Ascherio, 1998) (Fang, 2000) (Bazzano, 2001). Epidemiological evidence indicates that potassium intake and blood pressure are inversely correlated, with the greatest hypotensive effect found in those with the highest blood pressure. Inclusion of potassium in the management of hypertension was suggested in the late 90’s (Barri, 1997).  Knowing your potassium intake might be more important than you think.

Another of the vision-friendly carotenoids in pumpkin is lutein, a pigment for which spinach has been lauded. Concentrated in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision, lutein rescues the eye from oxidative stressors and the high-energy photons of blue light that are known to increase risk for macular degeneration (Richer, 2004). Naturally combined with its isomer, zeaxanthin (the yellow pigment also in corn, saffron and paprika), lutein may also lower the risk of cataracts (Barker, 2010) (Moeller, 2008) (SanGiovanni, 2007).

Hypoglycemic Activity of Pumpkin
Though the foregoing is reason enough to eat pumpkin more often than once a year, another virtue was made public earlier in this century. China has received some bad publicity in the recent past, with melamine in baby formula, toxic bean sprouts and contaminated pet foods, but its scientific community looks less toward dollar signs and more toward humanitarian ventures. While examining the medicinal properties of plants, pharmaceutical researchers in Shanghai found pumpkin to be among the species that exhibit hypoglycemic activity. Specific polysaccharides in pumpkin and a few other plants apparently are able to restore the function of pancreatic cells and cause an increase in insulin output by the functional beta cells. Scientists noticed that lower dosages of anti-diabetes drugs were needed when the plant compounds were concomitantly administered. Frequency of drug administration and its unwelcome side effects were also reduced (Jia, 2003). As with many natural approaches to the management of disease, dose makes the difference. Later study in Beijing found that 1000 mg/kg doses of protein-bound pumpkin polysaccharide were considerably more effective than half that amount (Quanhong, 2005).

Much of what we all learn as students is based on prior knowledge, using it as a springboard for additional investigation. One of the active pumpkin factors that eventually “sprang from the board” and found to be most effective in lowering glucose is trigonelline (TRG), an alkaloid also appearing in coffee, sea urchins and jellyfish, the latter two not being suggested as complementary to the pie. A derivative of vitamin B6, trigonelline is believed also to have anti-migraine, antiseptic, and anti-carcinogenic properties. If roasted at temperatures greater than 230° C (446° F), this alkaloid yields nicotinic acid—niacin. Experimental use of TRG attenuated triglycerides as well as serum glucose in laboratory animals bred to mimic human disorders (Yoshinari, 2009).  Anti-oxidant status is severely compromised in diabetes, causing an increase in damage by free radicals. TRG was seen to ameliorate oxidative stress and to return related blood markers to near normal levels (Zhou, 2011, 2012).

The Gentle Giant
You’d think that, as big as they can get, pumpkins are rough and tough. They’re actually very tender, starting with seeds that don’t do well in cold soil and seedlings that succumb to frost. If planted too early, they often rot before you’re ready to pick them.  What is truly surprising about pumpkins’ cultivation is that they fare poorly if fertilized with the typical N-P-K fertilizers used in the garden. To ascertain initial results, researchers duplicated experiments five more times in order to remove doubts that high fertilizer rates decrease anti-oxidant concentrations in the fruits (Oloyede, Apr 2012 and May 2012).

Preparing fresh pumpkin is more work than fun unless you do it once a year, and just for the novelty of it. Uncut pumpkins can be stored for weeks in a well-ventilated space, but once you cut ‘em you got to use ‘em. Canned keeps seemingly forever. Fruit, leaves, flowers and seeds are edible. But we think of the flesh in pies, pancakes, muffins, custards, soups, soufflés, and yes, even ravioli. Now you can eat for health as well as flavor.

References

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Bakuradze T, Lang R, Hofmann T, Stiebitz H, Bytof G, Lantz I, Baum M, Eisenbrand G, Janzowski C.
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Barker FM 2nd.
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Barri YM, Wingo CS.
The effects of potassium depletion and supplementation on blood pressure: a clinical review.
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Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, Loria C, Vupputuri S, Myers L, Whelton PK
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Czok G.
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Do dietary lycopene and other carotenoids protect against prostate cancer?
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Glucose-lowering activity of novel tetrasaccharide glyceroglycolipids from the fruits of Cucurbita moschata.
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Mishkinsky J, Joseph B, Sulman FG.
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Moeller SM, Voland R, Tinker L, Blodi BA, Klein ML, Gehrs KM, Johnson EJ, Snodderly DM, Wallace RB, Chappell RJ, Parekh N, Ritenbaugh C, Mares JA; CAREDS Study Group; Women’s Helath Initiative.
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Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Mar;126(3):354-64.


Mohamed Makni, Mediha Sefi, Hamadi Fetoui, El Mouldi Garoui, Nabil K. Gargouri, Tahia Boudawar, Najiba Zeghala
Flax and Pumpkin seeds mixture ameliorates diabetic nephropathy in rats
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Oloyede FM, Agbaje GO, Obuotor EM, Obisesan IO.
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Oloyede FM, Obisesan IO, Agbaje GO, Obuotor EM.
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Quanhong L, Caili F, Yukui R, Guanghui H, Tongyi C.
Effects of protein-bound polysaccharide isolated from pumpkin on insulin in diabetic rats.
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Richer S, Stiles W, Statkute L, Pulido J, Frankowski J, Rudy D, Pei K, Tsipursky M, Nyland J.
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Carolina Médici Veronezi, Neuza Jorge
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Yoshinari O, Sato H, Igarashi K.
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Zhou J, Zhou S, Zeng S.
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Zhou J, Chan L, Zhou S.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Tomatoes Lower Stroke Risk

tomatoes-on-the-vineBotanically a fruit and culinarily a vegetable, the tomato belongs to the nightshade family, a group that includes potatoes, eggplants, paprika, chili peppers, tobacco and petunias. These plants are known for possessing a wide range of chemicals called alkaloids, some of which have medicinal or toxic properties. Among the common alkaloids are nicotine, cocaine, morphine and quinine.  It’s the alkaloids in hot peppers that burn. The amount in nightshade foods is vastly different from that in the others of the family. Although it’s good to know that cooking reduces alkaloids by half, the ultra-sensitive among us may still have an uncomfortable reaction. For this reason we avoid the green spots and the eyes of a potato, where the heaviest concentrations are. It is believed, but not definitive, that food plant alkaloids may contribute to joint damage caused by inflammation and altered mineral status. Speculation suggests that nightshade alkaloids move calcium from bone and deposit it in soft tissue, thus adding to the discomfort of arthritis and other joint problems, like gout (Childers, 1993) (Slanina, 1990). From a gustatory perspective, we are elated to announce that tomato, eggplant and pepper alkaloid content is extremely low, in contrast to that of green potatoes and plant parts other than the tuber, the poisoning from which is rare (Friedman, 1997) (Davis, 2006).

Most of us can enjoy a daily dose of tomatoes, either in pasta sauces and juices, on sandwiches and salads, as soup or as dried… or even as ketchup. Tomatoes are not only low-cal and low-fat, but also high in anti-oxidants, especially lycopene, a carotenoid that protects the cardiovascular system from damaging free radicals. Although lycopene is chemically a carotene, it has no vitamin A activity because it cannot be converted to that vitamin. But that’s all right because its other virtues are to be heralded. Lycopene gives the tomato—and watermelon—its red color. As an intermediate working inside the plant, it helps in the manufacture of other carotenoids, including beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor. Lycopene isn’t an essential nutrient, but it sure is nice to have it in the diet, where it accumulates in the liver, adrenals and testes, and is found to help reduce (prostate) cancer risk (Giovannucci, 1995, 2002), to ameliorate the ravages of cardiovascular diseases by capturing free radicals (DiMascio, 1989), to mitigate osteoporosis and, now, to prevent stroke (Karppi, 2012).

Karppi and colleagues found that those with the highest values of lycopene in their blood were fifty-five percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those with the lowest. More than one thousand men between ages 46 and 65 participated in the study for an average of twelve years. From that group, 25 out of 258 men with the least lycopene had a stroke, while 11 of 259 with the highest levels suffered. After looking at stroke caused by a blood clot, the results were stronger. Those whose lycopene values were the greatest were fifty-nine percent less likely to have a stroke.

Blood vessels are part of the cardiovascular system. Any substance that can inhibit clogging the roadways is worth investigating. Medical literature shows that oxidized low-density lipoprotein is the most important first step of atherosclerotic disease and, therefore, the first step of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular events that include myocardial infarction and stroke. Scavenging singlet oxygen, which is the main player of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that oxidize LDL, is a primary function of carotenoid anti-oxidants. Including these protective molecules in one’s diet to decrease LDL oxidation and adverse consequences is a prudent measure (Giordano, 2012). The carotid arteries of the neck carry blood to the head. Their thickness can be measured by an external ultrasound. By tracking thickness changes, doctors can determine the presence of, and evaluate the progression of, the atherosclerotic process. It is worth noting, though, that not all thickening is due to atherosclerosis. Finnish scientists discovered that men with the least carotid artery wall thickening also had the highest concentrations of carotenoids, including lycopene and cryptoxanthin (a relative of beta-carotene), leading to the conclusion that carotenoids such as lycopene are associated with decreased risk of carotid atherosclerosis (Karppi, 2011). Even earlier study found that low levels of lycopene are associated with higher danger of atherosclerotic vascular episodes (Rissanen, 2001).

Generally, a diet high in fruits and vegetables affords resolution to more physical problems than we pay attention to. Nutrition plays a significant role in the prevention of many chronic diseases. Plants contain substances that we have yet to discover. As for those substances about which we know a little, we know only a little and cannot ascertain the value of a single molecule without considering those molecules that may act synergistically. It has been established that patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke display markers associated with serious inflammation (Chang, 2005), and that attenuation of such may be realized in the presence of carotenoids, lycopene included.  Some studies link oil-based tomato products, as seen in pizza and pasta sauces, with cardiovascular benefits (Sesso, 2003), while others see any tomato-rich foods as preventive (Rissanen, 2002).

Knowing that tomatoes can help to prevent serious disease is not a license to pile your rye bread high with processed cold cuts, such as re-amalgamated ham and ersatz cheese, slathered with hydrogenated mayonnaise, joined by super-saline pickles, chips and salads on the side. Now that you have some direction, see where it goes.

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The science of cellulite treatment and its long-term effectiveness.

J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2012 Apr;14(2):50-8.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Gut Health, Body Health

stomachThe large intestine is seldom the topic of conversation, with the possible exception of surgeons and gastroenterologists. Most “civilians” don’t pay attention to it until it isn’t working right. The inability to move material out of it is one reason. Unusual egesta might be another. Regardless of its laid back persona, the colon is actually an interesting character. It runs from the cecum (the beginning of the large intestine, where the appendix hangs) to the rectum (the dumpster), and extends about five or six feet. If you want to be technical, the colon runs between these two points. The large intestine has no digestive function, but lubricates wastes and absorbs water and remaining salts, and stores useless stuff for eventual removal. It takes about sixteen hours to evacuate the hold. You need to know that the large intestine absorbs vitamins made by colonic bacteria, such as vitamin K and the vitamin A converted from beta-carotene.

Despite that the colon is known for removal of material, there exists inside a raft of bacteria that keep a permanent residence. In fact, there are more bacteria in the colon than cells in the body. If you have ten trillion cells in your body, you have ten times that many microbes, weighing from two to five pounds. This microflora is sometimes called the microbiome or microbiota. Whichever term is used, the activities performed by these bacteria parallel that of an organ, rivaling the metabolic capacity of the liver (MacFarlane, 2010). For example, carbohydrates are fermented to form short-chain fatty acids that support epithelial cell growth, which helps to reduce the absorption of toxic products. The flora recycle carbon and nitrogen, manufacture methane, metabolize steroids, convert lignans and phytoestrogens to other compounds and fight invasion by unwelcome species. Although people can survive without them, these bacteria are among the best of friends. Damaged or abnormal gut flora is the cause of much human agony as a prime factor in disease. Treating the microbiome with dignity and respect may prevent, or even reverse, disorders that include heart disease, autoimmune conditions, allergies and cancer (deVrese, 2008) (Garcovich, 2012).

There are hundreds of different species of micro-organisms living in the gut, more than 95% of which are anaerobic and genetically diverse. A lactobacillus is more different from a bifidobacterium than a human is from a rabbit. Identification of all species is difficult because not all can be cultured, but you can rest assured that your bacteria belong to you, remaining fairly constant throughout your life time. Talk about close friends!  The healthy bacteria provide a natural barrier against pathogenic bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, toxins and whatever else would wreak havoc with our health. Basically, there are half a dozen main groups:  Bacteroides, Firmicutes (Clostridia, Lactobacilli, Streptococci), Actinobacteria (Bifido-), Proteobacteria (Entero-), Fusobacteria and Verrucomicrobia. Not all of these offer salubrity. Some are so complex they almost defy taxonomy, but to our benefit, the good control the evil (Vedantam, 2003) (Beaugerie, 2004).

Analyses have determined that specific gut microbes are associated with what we eat. Some are associated with carbohydrates and some with animal proteins, fats and amino acids. It appears they come to the front of the class when it’s their turn to perform. Changing diet from one type of macro-nutrient to another can alter which bacterial strain is on stage at the time. A baby’s gut is clean and sterile until it entertains bacteria from its mother. Vaginal birth may afford bacterial strains directly from mom’s gastrointestinal tract, while caesarean might present strains from the ambient environs, including the air and the attending medical folks. The infant doesn’t establish his own microbiota for up to six months after caesarean delivery, only one month for normal birth. In any case, the microbiota shapes the development of the immune system, and the immune system in turn shapes the composition of the microbiota (Nicholson, 2012).

The influence of gut microbes on immunity is profound and, therefore, associated with long-term health, particularly since microflora is relatively stable throughout adulthood. The dynamics of the gut environment are subject to perturbations, though, such as from stresses or dietary changes. It’s comforting to know that there is considerable interest in developing modalities that can manipulate biome composition to benefit the host through a kind of metabolic communication, such as would affect obesity and type 2 diabetes (Kootte, 2012). In these matters, therapeutic pathways may be designed by enlisting short-chain fatty acids, prebiotics, bile acids and probiotics. Realizing that antibiotics are non-selective in destroying bacteria—they kill the good as well as the bad—this give us the means for resolution of myriad complaints. In general, the host immune system can prevent the overgrowth of pathogens, which, upon ingestion, fall to this complex integrated structure.

Probiotics are helpful in many cases, but are not silver bullets. When used as part of a broad nutritional protocol, they are likely effective in establishing or re-establishing a healthy microbiome. Stress management, elimination of detrimental medications and dietary interventions need to be included in such a protocol. Because they are many and varied in their composition, probiotics are often viewed tentatively until they are administered and monitored for efficacy. Eating fermented foods, like sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir, fosters a nurturing environment for your own microbiome. The florae best known are the Lactobacilli (there are more than 50 strains) and Bifidobacteria (there are more than thirty). Lacto-, in one strain or another, have been used to treat and to prevent a variety of conditions, from bacterial vaginosis to childhood abdominal distress and diarrhea, to childhood respiratory infections. Bifidobacteria comprise about 90% of the intestinal community, and appear in an infant’s gut within days of parturition, especially if breastfed. The Bifido- species has been used to address irritable bowel syndrome, dental caries, blood lipids and glucose tolerance.  A knowledgeable nutrition professional can guide you in the choice of probiotics to meet a specific need if you have one. Oh, yeah, there is a yeast probiotic, called Saccharomyces boulardii, which is quite effective in treating diarrhea associated with antibiotic use, and may even be helpful with Clostridium difficile and acne.

Hey, what about short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), especially butyrate?  We’re glad you asked. Butyrate is derived from the bacterial fermentation of resistant starches and fibers. Its multiple beneficial effects have been demonstrated beyond the colon, mostly because SCFA can be absorbed across the colonic epithelium. Now that gut health has its own fan club, what with renewed interest in the GI barrier defense system, SCFAs are the darlings of moneyed research. These 2-carbons to 5-carbons fatty acids include acetate, propionate, butyrate and valerate, but the 4-carbon butyrate is the featured performer due to its multiplicity of virtues. Among butyrate’s mechanisms of action are the regulation of gene expression, inhibition of histone deacetylase (an action which helps to make copies of DNA), sequestration of ammonia (ammonia causes cloudy thinking), mobilization of renegade fats, and clearance of biotoxins (Soret, 2010) (Fusunyan, 1999) (Yin, 2001). Because butyrate availability in the colon is lower than the other SCFAs, supplementation is highly recommended. You can’t eat enough resistant starches to make enough butyrate to be physiologically significant. However, even at low concentrations, butyrate can inhibit cell proliferation of several colon cancer lines. At high concentrations, it works like gangbusters against cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone (Omaida, 1996) (Gamet, 1992).

The extraordinary complexity of the human microbiome is only recently revealed, despite having been known for decades. The interdependence between beneficial bacteria and the immune system demands recognition. If the florae can fight the inflammation that threatens them, they can fight whatever threatens their host.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Photosensitivity and Supplements

sun-burnAh, the red, painful skin that feels hot to the touch. Many of us have had the pleasure…or, rather, the pain. In our youth we were not told of what was to come from repeated aspirations to the beauty of the bronze. And, if we were told, we didn’t listen. If you’re a fair-haired beauty, you’re more likely to burn than your darker peers. Skin types range from very light to very dark, but you already knew that. What you may not know is that the sun’s rays penetrate all skin types and wreak havoc on your DNA. Yes, dark brown and black skin tans and burns, though burning is not so common. Ultra-violet damage can lead to serious problems, not only with your skin, but also with your eyes.

There should be a familiarity with the name, “Mayo Clinic.”  Its philosophy of putting the patient first is amply demonstrated in the high percentages of positive outcomes.  When Mayo speaks, people listen.  If you’ve had sunburn, you know the symptoms.  In a recent article by Mayo staff, the Clinic admonishes to, “See your doctor if you notice a new skin growth, a bothersome change in your skin, a change in the appearance or texture of a mole, or a sore that doesn’t heal.”  (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sunburn/DS00964).  But the Clinic adds that, “The sun can also burn your eyes.  UV light damages the retina…” and can also damage the lens, leading to “…progressive clouding of the lens (cataracts).”

If you’ve taken all the precautions and still get burned, there must be another reason.  Let’s see, hmmm, you’ve avoided the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, when it’s the strongest, right?  You’ve been careful to cover up.  Not, if you’re looking for a tan.  You’ve slathered on gobs of sunscreen, too, eh?   Of course, you did don the shades.  How else to look cool, right?

There are alternative ways to combat the results of too much time in the sun, whose tanning effects will last for a few hours after exposure.  While it is safest to spend only twenty, or so, minutes at a time in the sun for the first few days of your vacation, that caveat is ignored.  There may be a saving grace in the judicious use of foods and supplements that provide beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.  A German study published in 2006 states that, “Beta-carotene is a major constituent of commercially available products administered for systemic photoprotection.”  (Stahl. 2006) This piece goes on to say that beta-carotene needs to be taken at doses of almost 50,000 IU a day for about three months before such an effect becomes evident.  That’s about 30 milligrams.  There is no current tolerable upper limit for beta-carotene as there is for vitamin A, which is 10,000 IU for adults.  In an earlier study by the same research group, it was noted that, “Carotenoids are efficient in photoprotection…”  (Sies and Stahl. 2004)  Here, a decreased sensitivity against ultra-violet-induced erythema (redness) was noted.

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, found in green leafy vegetables and in supplements, are photoprotective for the eyes, where they are present in the retina and absorb blue light, thereby “protecting the underlying photoreceptor cell layer from light damage, possibly initiated by the formation of reactive oxygen species during a photosensitized reaction.”  (Krinsky. 2003)  The addition of green tea to our armamentarium helps protect skin against UV radiation and, for women especially, improves overall skin quality.  (Heinrich. 2011)  If tea is not your “cup,” you might give a go to chocolate.  UV-induced redness is inhibited and blood flow to the skin enhanced by cocoa flavonols.  (Heinrich. 2006)

But what about the PABA?  Topically, used before exposure to the sun, it absorbs ultra-violet radiation, and it will last through heavy perspiration (but not after going into the water).  It even is alleged to soothe the burn after the fact.  Orally, PABA has not shown sufficient photoprotective activity in organized studies to be recommended for everybody, but it might work for you.  However, too much PABA can backfire and cause more problems than it’s worth because it’ll stop the burn but not the alterations to DNA.  It seems to have fallen out of favor.  (Knowland. 1993)

How about the other side of the coin, the one where a supplement can cause photosensitivity?  St. John’s Wort, an herbal used to treat mild depression, may induce light / sun sensitivity, so sun avoidance is suggested—strongly.  There is no evidence to blame other supplements for photosensitive reactions.