In a presentation at the 2nd Hohenheim Nutrition Conference this month in Stuttgart, Germany, Dr Georg Lietz of England's Newcastle University reported that many women in the UK could be at risk of vitamin A deficiency due to genetic variation.
Vitamin A's fat soluble property means that the vitamin can accumulate in the body. Concerns regarding potential toxicity have led to the suggestion that much of our vitamin A requirement could be met by consuming beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A when needed.
Dr Lietz and his colleagues examined the gene that encodes an enzyme known as beta-carotene 15,15'-monoxygenase (BCMO1) in 62 female volunteers. The enzyme is responsible for the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A, a process that varies in up to 45 percent of healthy individuals. The team found that 47 percent of the women had a genetic variation that reduced their ability to convert beta-carotene.
"Vitamin A is incredibly important – particularly at this time of year when we are all trying to fight off the winter colds and flu," noted Dr Lietz, who is affiliated with Newcastle University's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. "It boosts our immune system and reduces the risk of inflammation such as that associated with chest infections. What our research shows is that many women are simply not getting enough of this vital nutrient because their bodies are not able to convert the beta-carotene."
"Worryingly, younger women are at particular risk," Dr Lietz added. "The older generations tend to eat more eggs, milk and liver which are naturally rich in vitamin A whereas the health-conscious youngsters on low-fat diets are relying heavily on the beta-carotene form of the nutrient."
Dr Lietz and his associates' research was described earlier this year in the Federated Association of Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal. The scientists plan to assess whether body composition also affects the ability to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Age, stress, and poor nutrition can sap our immune system of its effectiveness. Influenza provides one example. During young adulthood, when the body can mount a robust immune response to this common virus, influenza is rarely fatal. Among the elderly, however, the virus is associated with significant rates of death and hospitalization (Nichol KL 2005). The impact of aging on the immune system is profound. As people age, a number of critical immune system components are reduced or slowed, including cellular response, response to vaccines, and antibody production. At the same time, susceptibilities to infection and cancer are increased. Some of this increased susceptibility to disease is linked to chronic inflammation, which is associated with many disorders of aging (Ershler WB et al 2000; Hamerman D 1999; Taaffe DR et al 2000).
Age, however, isn't the sole culprit in reduced immune function. There is no question that exercise, stress, and nutritional status play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Consider just a few of the research findings:
Dietary deficiencies and malabsorption alter metabolism and exacerbate chronic disorders (Kaput J et al 2004). An imbalance in the intake of dietary fat, carbohydrate, and protein can contribute to the development of diseases (Kaput J et al 2004). On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence of the benefits of a good diet on reducing the risk of many chronic diseases (Ames BN 2001; Kaput J et al 2004).
Malnutrition causes a decline in immune function and increased susceptibility to infection (Brussow H et al 1995; Lotfy O et al 1998; delaFuente M et al 1998). Likewise, a vitamin or mineral deficiency can suppress immune system function (delaFuente M et al 1998). Correct choices of supplements, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, probiotics, and botanicals have been shown to boost immunity and may also reduce the risk of diseases in healthy individuals (Kaminogawa S et al 2004).
In 2003, the Life Extension Foundation® introduced a purified resveratrol supplement that was later documented to favorably alter some of the changes in gene expression that cause us to age. On January 25, 2009, CBS News 60 Minutes featured an in-depth report on the multiple benefits that resveratrol may confer in slowing and even reversing certain aspects of aging.
What differentiates Life Extension®’s resveratrol: It provides 100% standardized trans-resveratrol plus a full spectrum of natural compounds from the grape that have demonstrated remarkable biological properties. Most products currently on the market contain varying quantities of trans- and cis-resveratrol, and fail to provide enough trans-resveratrol for optimal results. In addition, Life Extension has added pterostilbene, which researchers have found works in a synergistic fashion with resveratrol to activate one’s “longevity genes.”
Medical science has documented the ability of certain nutrients to exert powerful effects that can significantly bolster the body’s natural defenses against chemical assault. DNA Protection Formula provides standardized potencies of curcumin, chlorophyllin, wasabi, and broccoli extract.
The turmeric extract contains the gene-protecting nutrient curcumin. It helps maintain healthy cell function, and provides antioxidant protection against cell injury by inhibiting the formation of free radicals and quenching already-formed superoxide and hydroxyl radicals.
In addition to protecting against cell-damaging free radicals, the chlorophyllin binds and forms irreversible complexes with certain toxic chemicals, allowing the body to safely eliminate them before they can enter the bloodstream.