A new study: Vitamin D, Fish Oil and Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases are a category of conditions where an individual’s immune system acts abnormally, often attacking and destroying healthy tissues by mistake. Many triggers can cause an individual’s body to start making components referred to as antibodies. Usually, antibodies help the body fight off infections. However, in patients with an autoimmune disease, they attack the body’s healthy tissues instead. These diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or thyroid disease to name a few (possibly 80 of them) and usually affect women more than men. Symptoms vary, but can include pain, fatigue, skin problems, and other chronic conditions. A new study suggests that vitamin D and fish oil supplements may offer over 50 protection.

Study Methods

The study called the VITAL study was published Jan 26, 2022 in the BMJ and was a randomized controlled trial that included 25,871 racially diverse people over the age of 50 who were split into two groups. One group took 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day; those in another group took 1000 mg of fish oil and a third group took both. Another group took two placebos. The study was blinded – i.e. no one knew which group they were in.

Results

“During a five-year follow-up, participants reported any diagnoses of any autoimmune disease that were verified with medical records.

Compared with a placebo, vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 22% reduced risk of autoimmune disease overall. The improvement was greater (39%) after the first two years of treatment. Fish oil alone showed less robust results, but still showed fewer participants with confirmed autoimmune diagnoses compared with placebo.”

Toxicity

Both vitamin D and fish oil may have some effects due to the ability of each to regulate or tame the inflammatory response that “drive autoimmune disorders.” It is too soon based on one study to make recommendations that people take either vitamin D or fish oil supplements – but those with a strong family history should consult with their primary health care provider about these decisions. The vitamin D dose used in the study is more than twice the recommended daily intake of 600 IU or 800 IU for people 71 and older. The consequences of overdoses or toxicity can occur at 10,000 IU daily.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Volume 29, Number 10 June 2022.

PROS AND CONS OF TAKING PROBIOTICS

Probiotics and or prebiotics seem to be the hot new nutrition topic. Every supplement company and the yogurt industry is offering their own proprietary probiotic guaranteed to “fix “your microbiome. We don’t know why we have “sick” microbes, but we often do. Processed foods can be suspect – antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, hormones, preservatives for long shelf lives are not ideal environments for keeping them healthy and happy. Just read an ingredient label and you will find a plethora of other candidates.

CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE.

Species of bacteria found in Culturelle: Lactobacillus rhamnosus plus inulin (a prebiotic – not a bacteria)

Species of bacteria found in Align: Bifidobacterium longum

Also can find species on most yogurt products.

Warning; These products are quite expensive and as all dietary supplements have not met any regulation standards from the FDA. Please consult your physician before taking any probiotic or any other dietary supplement. Often, they are not what they claim.

Omega-3 fatty acids and Cancer

Omega -3 fats were found to have no significant effect on total tumor burden or affect latency period, tumor weight, or tumor regression. (Sally J. Feltner. Influence of type and level of dietary polyunsaturated fat on incidence of chemically -induced mammary tumors and on selected immune responses in rats. (Unpublished dissertation, 1988)

These were the results of my dissertation a couple of decades ago; however a new study wakes us up to the possibility that omega 3 fish oils (EPA and DHA) may have an positive effect (less growth) of tumors when fed fish oils as an adjunct to immunotherapy in mice.

CLICK HERE.

What happened here?

In my study there were no effects on tumor incidence; the new study found that omega -3 fatty acids may have a positive benefit if they are used with certain cancer treatments with the ultimate suppression of tumor growth. In my study, however, “the animals fed a high or low fish oil diet (omega 3)) produced a significantly higher antibody titer in response to sheep red blood cells than those fed the low or high corn (omega 6) oil diet.” This indicates a positive effect on the immune system at least in animals.

Study results of omega-3/6 fatty acids can be complex resulting in conflicting results in both human and animal studies.

This may be due to the imbalance of intake between the 3’s and the 6’s. in the Standard American diet. The optimal ratio of omega-3 fats in the diet is in a range of 2:1 to 4:1 (6s to 3s). The typical ratio in the U.S. diet is 16:1 – that is bad!! This means that inflammation can “run rampant”, increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. We simply eat too many omega-6 and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Additional studies are planned. Very interesting.!

In the News

In the News: Updates

Mediterranean Diet Can Lower Risk Of Sudden Death by 25-26%.

Either a Mediterranean Diet (vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, and fish) or U.S. Southern Diet pattern (added fats, fried food, eggs, organ meats, processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages) was given to 21, 069 men and women 45 years and older and compared for adherence to each diet using diet scores.

The results showed that 402 sudden cardiac deaths occurred during an average of 9.8 years of follow-up. People whose Mediterranean scores placed them among the top third of participants had a 25-26% lower risk of sudden cardiac deaths than subjects whose scores were among the lowest third. People whose Southern dietary pattern scores was among the top quarter of participants had a 46% higher risk of sudden cardiac death than those among the lowest quarter.

J. Am Heart Association 2021 July 6;10:e019158.

At a Glance

  • A study found that a diet high in added fats, fried foods, processed meats, and sugary drinks was associated with a greater risk of sudden cardiac death, while a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk.
  • The findings provide evidence that adopting a healthier diet may decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death.

What Do We Know About Diet and Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Changes in the brain can occur years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease occur.  It also should be noted that the focus of diet factors on diseases should be the prevention or delay of the disease in question and not a “cure.” Unlike other risk factors for Alzheimer’s that we cannot change such as age and genetics, the current thought is that with lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and cognitive training, many chronic diseases can possibly be avoided adding health to our lifespans.

How could our diet affect our brains?

“It’s possible that certain diet patterns affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation that underlie many chronic diseases. Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other disease risks, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes in the digestive system and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimer’s.”

Reference: National Institute on Aging

Several diet patterns show some promise. One is the Mediterranean Diet or its variations, the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) or the DASH diet. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. All are based on leafy green vegetables and colorful vegetables, berries, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, wine (1 glass a day), whole grains and preferably olive oil.

“For example, two recent studies suggest that, as part of the Mediterranean diet, eating fish may be the strongest factor influencing higher cognitive function and slower cognitive decline. In contrast, the typical Western diet increases cardiovascular disease risk, possibly contributing to faster brain aging.”

The problem with the research is that most is called observational (subject to recall from the participants). To rectify this, several organizations like National Institute of Aging are conducting clinical trials (considered the gold standard of medical proof to shed more light on any cause and effect.

What About Supplements?

Clinical trials in humans have had mixed results, some with positive effects, others with negative results. These types of studies often attempt to measure the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. However, at this time: despite early findings of possible benefits for brain health, no vitamin or supplement has been proven to work in people. Overall, evidence is weak as many studies were too small or too short to be conclusive.

Note: A deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate due to aging or strictly following a vegan diet may cause memory problems that are reversible with proper treatment. Please consult with your physician. If you are over 65, it may be prudent to have your Vitamin B12 status checked. Sometimes, the deficiency may be due to problems with absorption of the vitamin, not the intake. Also, healthy humans are equipped with a number of adaptive mechanisms that partially protect the body from poor health due to fluctuations in dietary intake. Vitamin B12 can be stored within body tissues for later use. Meats and seafood are good sources

Omega-3, Omega 6 and Breast Cancer

Note: I personally conducted animal research using high or low omega-3 or omega-6 diets on breast cancer incidence. The study was repeated two times and no significant differences in breast cancer incidence, tumor weight or immune system parameters were found between the study groups. This content is partly provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) scientists and other experts review this content, so it is accurate and up to date. This content was reviewed November 27, 2019.

Influence of Type and Level of Dietary Polyunsaturated Fat on Incidence of Chemically-induced Mammary Tumors and on Selected Immune Responses in Rats. Sally J. Feltner, June, 1988.

More About Garlic?

I am not a promoter of supplements except in situations when you don’t want to smell like a raw garlic bulb every day.

More Good News for Garlic Lovers

Editors Note: Metabolic syndrome is becoming a marker for good health especially in the older population; however its presence can occur even in younger people. It is diagnosed as having three of the following disorders: high triglycerides, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and low levels of HDL cholesterol. These disorders collectively are thought to contribute to a higher risk of developing diabetes and/or heart disease

A randomized clinical trial included 90 men and women with metabolic syndrome were supplemented with tablets containing 1600 mg of garlic powder daily for three months, or a placebo.

Garlic supplementation Improves metabolic syndrome. Phytother Res. 2021, May 11.

In the garlic group, results were as follows:

All parameters were reduced along with appetite, fatty liver index,and waist circumference. Additionally,  beneficial HDL cholesterol was significantly higher than at the beginning of the study compared to the placebo group. 

The Power of Plant-Based Nutrients. Life Extension, October, 2021.

“Then, there is cancer. Compounds in garlic have been shown in many laboratory studies to be chemoprotecive. Epidemiological studies shows a decreased risk in stomach and colon cancer in areas where consumption of garlic is high. An article In the Journal of Nutrition stated that “evidence continues to point to the anticancer properties of fresh garlic extracts, aged garlic, garlic oil.”

Source: Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. 2007.

In The NEWS

Aging, Activity and Telomeres

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 1500 women, ages from 64 to 95. Results reported that elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours a day, have shorter telomeres – tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes of DNA strands.

Telomeres protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age. As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorter and fray, but unhealthy lifestyles such as obesity and smoking may accelerate this process. Shortened telomeres are associated with heart disease, diabetes and major cancers. This study was funded, in part, by the National Institute on Aging and conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Tea May Protect Against Coronary Artery Disease

A review of randomized trials published in the journal Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, concluded that regular intake of green tea may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regular tea consumption was associated with lower blood pressure and enhanced bioavailability of nitric oxide, which indicate a beneficial effect for tea on endothelial function. In some studies, tea was associated lower markers of oxidative stress and inflammation (C-reactive protein and oxidized low -density lipoprotein (LDL).

NOTE: ENDOTHELIAL= the tissue which forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels.

Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2021 Feb;41:77-87.

More Good News for Garlic Lover

Garlic supplementation Improves metabolic syndrome. Phytother Res. 2021, May 11.

I am not a promoter of supplements except in situations when you don’t want to smell like a raw garlic bulb every day.

Editors Note: Metabolic syndrome is becoming a marker for good health especially in the older population; however its presence can occur even in younger people. It is diagnosed as having three of the following disorders: high triglycerides, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and low levels of HDL cholesterol. These disorders collectively are thought to contribute to a higher risk of developing diabetes and/or heart disease

A randomized clinical trial included 90 men and women with metabolic syndrome were supplemented with tablets containing 1600 mg of garlic powder daily for three months, or a placebo.

In the garlic group, results were as follows:

All parameters were reduced along with appetite, fatty liver index,and waist circumference. Additionally,  beneficial HDL cholesterol was significantly higher than at the beginning of the study compared to the placebo group. 

“Then, there is cancer. Compounds in garlic have been shown in many laboratory studies to be chemoprotecive. Epidemiological studies shows a decreased risk in stomach and colon cancer in areas where consumption of garlic is high. An article In the Journal of Nutrition stated that “evidence continues to point to the anticancer properties of fresh garlic extracts, aged garlic, garlic oil.”

Source: Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. 2007.

Does Your Liver Need a Cleanse?

“The liver is a unique organ in that it can regenerate and repair itself. That means there is a lot you can do to prevent and possibly reverse liver disease. There is a troubling trend of an increase in what is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that is unrelated to alcohol intake.”

“No one – especially if they suspect or know they have liver disease should turn to detox supplements unless they are approved by their doctor. These product are not tested by the FDA, so the purity and amount of ingredients in them are unpredictable. Some may have compounds that may irritate the liver and do more damage.”  Why make the liver work harder? CLICK HERE.

Source:

How to Take Care of Your Liver, Consumer Reports On Health. September, 2021, Volume 33 Issue 9

Turmeric/Curcumin: The Facts

Turmeric is a spice that has long been recognized for its medicinal properties and has received interest from both the medical/scientific community and as well from culinary enthusiasts as it is the major source of the polyphenol, curcumin (a phytochemical).

It aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).

In addition, a relatively low dose can provide health benefits for healthy people. Its drawback is its problem with poor absorption; therefore, it should be used with foods to enhance this issue. Some supplements contain compounds known to increase absorption – one is a component of black pepper.

Turmeric is a staple in India, where most of it originates. It is the spice that gives food its flavor color. It is use in curries and is especially good on scrambled eggs and omelettes. It can be used as a supplement, but it’s best as a food since curcumin is only one of a family of what is called curcuminoids that may also contain beneficial components.

Turmeric is known for alleviating arthritis and joint inflammation. In one study, it was found to be virtually as effective as an anti-inflammatory medicine (without the side effects). Curcumin has been claimed to be a cancer fighter. There are at least 30 published studies that indicate that it has an anti-tumor effect that reduced the number or size of tumors in animal studies. One study in 2006 found that it inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells (cell culture study, I presume).

Curcumin lowers cholesterol in animals and humans suggesting it may be heart healthy. Other studies have shown antioxidant capabilities. In a rat study, a group of rats treated with curcumin provided significant protection from cataracts (Induced by a powerful oxidizing chemical.)

For more on this fascinating spice,

CLICK HERE.

The Facts of Vitamin D (What We Think We Know)

Can Vitamin D Prevent or Ameliorate Covid-19 Infections?

Previous research has reported that vitamin D can increase the incidence and severity of infectious diseases like influenza or the common cold. The question remains as to whether this applies to Covid-19 infections. During these times, people are searching for a new way out to combat this virus as more reports of vaccine dangers (legitimate or not) become the major news of the day. The purpose of this post is to educate on the facts about about vitamin D as an alternative.

The primary role of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation and muscle function.  A deficiency can also increase the risk of chronic inflammation, a common cause of several major chronic diseases.

Vitamin D is produced to its most active form from cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common. It is reported that vitamin D deficiency can be common in the elderly, homebound or darker skinned individuals. Obesity is another risk factor for severe COVID-19 and low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in these patients.

Another primary function of Vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation and can stimulate the release of anti-microbial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. A study at Northwestern University suggests that vitamin D could suppress what is known as the “cytokine storm” that has been reported to be fatal in some coronavirus patients.

People are scrambling to the supplement stores for vitamin D, but there are certain caveats to supplementation at high doses of any supplement on the market, including vitamin D.  Here is what you should know about its efficacy and/or safety.

It can become very easy to be deficient in vitamin D since it is found in very few foods like fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk (not commonly found in the highly processed Standard American Diet).

It is recommended that people ask their doctors for a blood test to determine their vitamin D status.  Deficiency is defined as a blood level below 10 nanograms per milliliter. Blood levels of 20-50 nanograms per milliliter are generally considered normal.

The Institute of Medicine recommend that most adults get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D from food and supplements daily or 800 IU if they are 70 years or older. Most experts agree that D is safe at doses up to 2000 IU and that 4000 IU a day is established as the Tolerable Upper Intake. The dose you take should be established by your physician and your blood levels. Toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily.

The consequences of overdose include:

  • Mental retardation in young children
  • Abnormal bone growth and formation.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss.
  • Deposition of calcium and organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.

What the Research Shows

A recent study at the University of Chicago reviewed the medical records of about 4300 patients who had been tested for COVID-19 early last spring. After controlling for factors like age, race, and chronic medical illness, they found that people with a vitamin D deficiency (defined as less than 20 nanograms/millilter of blood) before the pandemic began were 77% more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to people who had normal levels of vitamin D.

 Other studies have mixed results, however, there is enough compelling evidence to suggest that a randomized trial is needed to specially test to see whether assigning people to take vitamin D every day will reduce the severity of their illness, if infected. However, it is important to know the facts of overdosing any dietary supplement on the market since none have been under any scrutiny as to safety and efficacy. Consult with your primary physician.

Source:

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition

Anahad O’Connor, Exploring the Links Between Coronovirus and Vitamin D. The New York Times, June 10, 2020.