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December 2006

Vitamin E, Lipoic Acid Help Slow Vision Loss

The antioxidants vitamin E and lipoic acid help slow the loss of vision associated with the sight-robbing disease known as retinitis pigmentosa, according to a recent study.15

A degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa involves a genetic mutation that affects the low light-sensing “rod” cells in the eye’s retina, leading to gradual loss of night and peripheral vision. Later, the surrounding “cone” cells of the retina, which detect bright light and color, may also die, which may result in complete blindness. Currently, there is no effective medical treatment for retinitis pigmentosa.

Scientists hypothesized that high levels of oxidative stress in the retina may cause the destruction of the cone cells following damage to the rod cells. To determine whether antioxidants can prevent this vision-robbing effect, they administered vitamin E, vitamin C, or lipoic acid to mice with a form of retinitis pigmentosa. In test subjects that received vitamin E or lipoic acid, nearly 40% of cone cells survived, nearly twice the cell survival rate seen in the vitamin C and control groups.

Vitamin E and lipoic acid may thus offer protection against the vision loss associated with retinitis pigmentosa. This finding lends further support to a growing body of evidence linking antioxidants with improved eye health.

—Robert Gaston

Vitamin D Cuts Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by nearly 50%, reports the American Association for Cancer Research.20 The fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, pancreatic cancer is rapidly fatal, and surgical treatment is often not effective.

Scientists who analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses’ Health Study—which examined the long-term health and dietary practices of more than 120,000 men and women—found that people who consumed 400 IU of vitamin D daily demonstrated a 43% reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Adults who consumed up to 150 IU of vitamin D experienced a 22% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.

Until now, avoiding cigarette smoking has been the only strategy known to help prevent pancreatic cancer. This exciting development suggests that vitamin D may represent a crucial nutritional strategy for reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer. Scientists are planning additional studies to investigate whether vitamin D may help reduce pancreatic cancer mortality.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Fish Oil Tops Defibrillators in Preventing Cardiac Deaths

A recent report suggests that fish oil may save more lives than cardiac defibrillators.21 Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil is associated with a reduced risk of fatal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias.

To estimate the potential public impact of raising dietary intake of omega-3 oils using fish oil supplements, scientists performed a computer simulation of Americans, utilizing past medical data. Based on this model, they estimated that raising omega-3 levels would save 58 lives per 100,000 Americans each year, equivalent to a 6.4% reduction in total deaths, largely due to the prevention of sudden cardiac death in apparently healthy people.

Far fewer lives would be saved by defibrillators, which are devices that deliver an electrical shock to correct a fatal, irregular heartbeat. Even if automated external defibrillators (portable devices that can be used by laypeople to shock someone in cardiac arrest) were present in every home and public area, the devices would only lower the annual death rate of a community by an estimated 1%. Implantable defibrillators would lower the cardiac death rate by 3.3%, approximately half the death rate reduction that could be achieved with fish oil supplements. However, since roughly half of adults who suffer from sudden cardiac death exhibit no warning signs before the fatal event, most would never be candidates for implanted defibrillators.

By preventing fatal heart rhythms, fish oil supplements may represent a safe, effective means of preventing sudden cardiac death in adults.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


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2. Baron P. The 10 most important blood tests. Life Extension. May, 2006:42-51.

3. Ferrando SJ, Rabkin JG, Poretsky L. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and testosterone: relation to HIV illness stage and progression over one year. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 1999 Oct 1;22(2):146-54.

4. Rabkin JG, McElhiney MC, Rabkin R, McGrath PJ, Ferrando SJ. Placebo-controlled trial of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for treatment of nonmajor depression in patients with HIV/AIDS. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Jan;163(1):59-66

5. Shores MM, Matsumoto AM, Sloan KL, Kivlahan DR. Low serum testosterone and mortality in male veterans. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Aug 14;166(15):1660-5.

6. Williams LM, Brown KJ, Palmer D, et al. The mellow years? Neural basis of improving emotional stability over age. J Neurosci. 2006 Jun 14;26(24):6422-30.

7. Davis-Searles PR, Nakanishi Y, Kim NC, et al. Milk thistle and prostate cancer: differential effects of pure flavonolignans from Silybum marianum on antiproliferative end points in human prostate carcinoma cells. Cancer Res. 2005 May 15;65(10):4448-57.

8. Shlipak MG, Katz R, Sarnak MJ, et al. Cystatin C and prognosis for cardiovascular and kidney outcomes in elderly persons without chronic kidney disease. Ann Intern Med. 2006 Aug 15;145(4):237-46.

9. Shlipak MG, Sarnak MJ, Katz R, et al. Cystatin C and the risk of death and cardiovascular events among elderly persons. N Engl J Med. 2005 May 19;352(20):2049-60.

10. Lippman ME, Cummings SR, Disch DP, et al. Effect of raloxifene on the incidence of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis categorized by breast cancer risk. Clin Cancer Res. 2006 Sep 1;12(17):5242-7.   

11. Morganti P, Fabrizi G, Bruno C. Protective effects of oral antioxidants on skin and eye function. Skinmed. 2004 Nov-Dec;3(6):310-6.

12. See WA, Tyrrell CJ. The addition of bicalutamide 150 mg to radiotherapy significantly improves overall survival in men with locally advanced prostate cancer. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2006 Aug;132(Supplement 13):7-16.

13. Cui Y, Shu XO, Gao YT, Cai H, Tao MH, Zheng W. Association of ginseng use with survival and quality of life among breast cancer patients. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr 1;163(7):645-53.

14. Sato K, Dohi Y, Kojima M, et al. Effects of ascorbic acid on ambulatory blood pressure in elderly patients with refractory hypertension. Arzneimittelforschung. 2006;56(7):535-40.

15. Komeima K, Rogers BS, Lu L, Campochiaro PA. Antioxidants reduce cone cell death in a model of retinitis pigmentosa. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2006 Jul 25;103(30):11300-5.

16. Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davidson KS, Candou DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer T. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Sep;11(3):349-64.

17. Chrusch MJ, Chilibeck PD, Chad KE, Davison KS, Burke DG. Creatine supplementation combined with resistance training in older men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Dec;33(12):2111-7.

18. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2006.

19. Shao A, Hathcock JN. Risk assessment for creatine monohydrate. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Aug;45(3):242-51.

20. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2006.

21. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2006.