Life Extension Update
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Ginkgo improves attention in MS patients
Dr Lovera and his colleagues at OHSU provided 20 multiple sclerosis patients with a twice daily 120 milligram ginkgo biloba supplement and gave 19 patients a placebo for 12 weeks. Participants were tested them on attention skills before and after treatment. The researchers used a test known as a "Stroop," which measures attention and includes planning, decision making and goal directed behavior. The two groups were similar in their education level, type of multiple sclerosis, years with the disease, neurophsychological test scores, and number of men and women.
Test results determined that the ginkgo group was 13 percent faster on average than those who received the placebo. Dr Lovera described the difference in scores as comparable to that which would be observed between healthy people in their thirties compared to those in their fifties. Minimal side effects were reported.
As ginkgo appeared to be more helpful to participants who had specific problems in the Stroop test, Dr Lovera stated that his team "would like to do another study in which we choose patients that are impaired in this particular test. We would also like to test it at higher doses."
Cognitive dysfunction occurs in about half of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Fortunately, only about 10% of MS patients develop cognitive dysfunction severe enough to significantly impact daily life. Family members of MS patients are usually the first to notice changes in personality or changes in their daily routine. Cognitive dysfunction can range from not being able to find the right word in conversation to impaired reasoning ability. Measuring cognitive dysfunction requires specially trained medical professionals known as neuropsychologists. Neuropsychologists conduct a series of tests to determine the level of cognitive dysfunction present and the strengths still retained by the MS patient.
Studies were conducted at the University of Wisconsin to examine the relationship between vitamin D and MS. Working with the basic research used to study the effects of vitamin D3 on mouse models, it was found that vitamin D3 could "completely prevent experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)." EAE is the widely accepted mouse model of human MS. The working hypothesis was that vitamin D produced in the skin a selective immune system regulator capable of suppressing MS. The theory is supported by anecdotal evidence from Switzerland where a profound difference between MS rates exists between the high-altitude Swiss and the low-altitude coastal Norwegians. The study concluded that early intervention with a protocol of hormonally active vitamin D might prevent genetically susceptible people from developing MS (Hayes et al. 1997).
Research into the use of vitamin B12 has been conducted in Japan and England. In Japan, researchers found that massive doses of vitamin B12 (60 mg a day for 6 months) improved visual and auditory potentials over the treatment period (Kira et al. 1994). The study in England arrived at the conclusion that for those patients below the age of 18, early symptoms were associated with lower vitamin B12 levels, compared to those patients who were older than 18 when MS was first detected (Sandyk et al. 1993).
Vitamin D is necessary for utilization of calcium and phosphorus and in many ways acts as a hormone. The two most important forms of vitamin D are cholecalciferol (D3), which is derived from our own cholesterol and ergocalciferol (D2), a plant analogue derived from the diet. The cholecalciferol supplied by the Life Extension Buyers Club is synthetic, but its form is identical to that which is derived from cholesterol and synthesized by sunlight on the skin. Cholecalciferol Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and maintenance of bone density.
A dietary deficiency of vitamin D inhibits the production of the protein that binds calcium in the intestines, so that calcium cannot be absorbed, even if there is adequate intake. Deficiencies of vitamin D are often found in the elderly and in women who have low intake of milk and receive inadequate exposure to sunlight.
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