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Calcium, Folic Acid Yield Cost Savings, Health Benefits

December 2004

LE Magazine December 2004
Calcium, Folic Acid Yield Cost Savings, Health Benefits

A new study released in September 2004 found that daily use of calcium would prevent 734,000 hip fractures and save $13.9 billion in health care costs over the next five years.* According to the same report, daily use of folic acid by women would prevent 600 cases of neural tube birth defects yearly, saving $1.3 billion in lifetime medical costs over five years. The study, commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance and conducted by the Lewin Group, included a systematic literature review of the most rigorous scientific research available.

The $13.9 billion estimate of the five-year (2005-2009) net savings in hospital, nursing facility, and physician expenditures assumes a reduction in the occurrence of hip fractures among those over age 65, through daily intake of 1200 mg of calcium with vitamin D. If just 10.5 million women of childbearing age began taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily, approximately 600 fewer babies would be born with neural tube defects per year, saving as much as $321,853,000 as a result. Taking into account the very low cost of the supplement, $1.3 billion in lifetime medical costs could potentially be saved over the next five years.

The study authors also found that omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and saw palmetto supplements showed substantial promise for improving health and quality of life and potentially reducing health care costs.

“Many studies over the years have demonstrated the positive effects of calcium and folic acid. This report reinforces those findings by demonstrating the cost savings that could be achieved by taking these two supplements,” said Allen Dobson, PhD, senior vice president at the Lewin Group. “The results on omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and saw palmetto were also extremely encouraging in their ability to offset health problems and costs associated with chronic conditions.”

For more information about the study, visit


* DaVanzo J, et al. “Improving Public Health, Reducing Health Care Costs: An Evidence-Based Study of Five Dietary Supplements.” September 22, 2004.

Red Wine Protects Prostate Health

Men who regularly drink red wine have a reduced risk of prostate cancer, according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Cancer.* Moderate consumption of red wine has previously been reported to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle investigated the association between consumption of various alcoholic beverages and the incidence of prostate cancer in middle-aged men. The researchers used data from a population-based, case-controlled study in King County, WA. A group of 753 newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients, ranging from 40 to 64 years of age, were matched by age to a control group of 703 men. All the participants completed a personal interview on lifetime alcohol consumption and other risk factors for prostate cancer.

Red wine consumption was associated with a decreased risk for prostate cancer, the researchers reported. Men who drank four glasses of red wine weekly demonstrated a 50% reduction in prostate cancer risk. Red wine appeared to be especially beneficial in offering protection against more aggressive cancers of the prostate. Consumption of white wine, beer, or liquor did not affect prostate cancer risk, according to the study.

Alcohol consumption is a modifiable lifestyle risk factor that may affect cancer risk. Alcohol alters hormonal factors and contains chemical substances such as flavonoids that may alter tumor growth. The researchers noted that resveratrol, an antioxidant that naturally occurs in the skin of red grapes, may be responsible for red wine’s protective effects on the prostate gland. Resveratrol may help modulate prostate cancer risk by reducing inflammation and neutralizing dangerous free radicals.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Schoonen WM, Salinas CA, Kiemeney LA, Stanford JL. Alcohol consumption and risk of prostate cancer in middle-aged men. Int J Cancer. 2004 Aug 25. [Epub ahead of print.]

Soy Protein Reduces Atherosclerosis Risk

Canadian scientists have reported that soy protein promotes a pattern of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles that is less likely to cause lipid deposits in the arteries, thus favorably altering one of the most dangerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease.*

Until recently, LDL was thought of as a single compound that increased risk for coronary artery disease. Recent findings have shown, however, that LDL exists as either small or large particles. The smaller, denser LDL particles are dangerous promoters of cardiovascular disease, while the larger, more buoyant LDL particles are protective.

In their study reported in the Journal of Nutrition, the Canadian researchers examined men and women with high blood cholesterol levels who consumed four different diets in a random order for six weeks each. One diet included soy protein depleted of isoflavones, another contained soy protein with added isoflavones, and the other two diets contained animal protein either with or without added isoflavones. LDL particles were measured and assessed for size before and after each dietary intervention.

Consumption of soy protein was associated with a larger peak LDL particle size relative to animal protein. Soy protein decreased levels of small LDL particles by 12% and raised levels of large LDL particles by 14% relative to animal protein. Isoflavones did not affect LDL particle characteristics.

By helping to optimize LDL particle size, soy protein may be a valuable therapeutic tool in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Life Extension Foundation offers the VAP™ laboratory test to assess LDL particle size and other cardiovascular risk factors.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Desroches S, Mauger JF, Ausman LM, Lichtenstein AH, Lamarche B. Soy protein favorably affects LDL size independently of isoflavones in hypercholesterolemic men and women. J Nutr. 2004 Mar;134(3):574-9.

Vitamins Avert Immune Suppression from Chemotherapy

Supplementation with vitamin E or with a multivitamin prevents the depression in neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, associated with chemotherapy, according to a recent study in the journal Cancer.*

Neutrophils are one of the most abundant types of white blood cells in the human body, and are responsible for much of the body’s protection against infection. Neutropenia, which is a diminished level of neutrophils in the blood, is associated with an increased susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections. Neutropenia commonly occurs as a byproduct of chemotherapy, making these patients vulnerable to infection due to a weakened immune system.

Researchers at the University of Vermont investigated the role of nutritional supplements on common side effects of chemotherapy, including neutropenia. Women with breast carcinoma completed a questionnaire that detailed their use of dietary supplements. Weekly blood counts were obtained throughout the trial. Of the 49 women involved in the study, 71% used dietary supplements. On average, patients took three supplements. The most commonly used supplements were multivitamins, vitamin E, and calcium.

Women taking either multivitamins or vitamin E supplements experienced less of a depression in neutrophil count from chemotherapy than did women who were not taking supplements. The study authors concluded that multivitamin and vitamin E supplementation may be useful tools to help ameliorate neutropenia associated with chemotherapy and help protect cancer patients from potentially dangerous infections.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Branda RF, Naud SJ, Brooks EM, Chen Z, Muss H. Effect of vitamin B12, folate, and dietary supplements on breast carcinoma chemotherapy-induced mucositis and neu- tropenia. Cancer. 2004 Sept 1;101(5):1058-64.

Zinc Prevents, Treats Dyslexia in Children

Zinc supplementation can help prevent and treat developmental dyslexia in children, according to a report in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet.*

Dyslexia is marked by difficulty with learning and movement skills. A deficiency of zinc, an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, impairs the function of B vitamins and blocks essential phospholipid pathways. In dyslexia, there is evidence of reduced incorporation of docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid into phospholipids’ cell membranes.

Dyslexic children have been found to be severely zinc deficient in comparison to unaffected children. In animal studies, zinc deficiency in offspring causes impaired learning that is corrected by zinc supplementation. Maternal zinc deficiency in early fetal development, however, can cause permanent learning difficulties. Therefore, it is extremely important to correct nutritional deficiencies, particularly of zinc, before conception, and to maintain adequate zinc status throughout pregnancy, lactation, and growth. This strategy may help to prevent dyslexia, even in families with a genetic susceptibility to the disorder.

Doctors who practice nutritional medicine have noted that the earlier a zinc-deficient child is repleted with zinc, the more rapid is the improvement in learning and behavior. Controlled trials with vitamin and mineral supplements have been found to improve intelligence scores and brain-function tests, and to reduce brain-wave abnormalities. Correcting zinc deficiency is a crucial yet often overlooked component of preventing and treating developmental dyslexia.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Grant, EC. Developmental dyslexia and zinc deficiency. Lancet. 2004 July 17; 364(9430): 247-8.