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March 2005

Artichoke Extract Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome

English researchers have re-ported that the administration of artichoke leaf extract showed impressive results in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and dyspesia.*

As many as 20% of adults suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, which is characterized by abdominal discomfort and altered bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhea. Many of those with irritable bowel syndrome also experience functional dyspepsia, which is defined as upper abdominal pain without apparent cause.

Dietary and lifestyle changes remain first-line therapy for two thirds of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Common treatments—such as bulking agents, anti-spasmodics, and gastric motility agents—may partially or temporarily relieve symptoms, but do not modify the disease itself. Though not a life-threatening condition, irritable bowel syndrome can significantly impact the quality of life in sufferers.

In their study, researchers at the University of Reading, England, enrolled more than 200 adults who were asked about symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia after two months of treatment with artichoke extract. Improvement in bowel function approaching “normal” occurred in 26% of the subjects, while marked improvements in dyspepsia and quality-of-life scores (41% and 20%, respectively) were also reported. While new drugs are being developed to treat irritable bowel syndrome, the study results suggest that artichoke leaf extract may be a safe, effective alternative to costly prescription medications.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


* Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Marakis G, Booth JC. Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Aug;10(4):667-9.

Glycine May Relieve Insomnia, Gastric Ulcers

A Japanese agricultural products firm, Ajinomoto Co., recently announced that it may develop an insomnia treatment based on the amino acid glycine. According to a report published by Asia Pulse news service, Ajinomoto researchers conducted studies on men and women with sleep difficulties that appear to show that glycine supplementation promotes deep sleep.

Subjects who took three grams of glycine within an hour of bedtime reportedly fell asleep—and exhibited brainwave patterns associated with deep, non-REM sleep—sooner than control subjects who did not supplement. Subjects reported feeling refreshed on waking, with no indication that glycine produced “morning hangover,” a foggy feeling often associated with the use of prescription sleep aids.

Glycine, an amino acid, is known to accumulate in the pineal gland of rodents during sleep,1 and is believed to play an important role in “disconnecting” the brain from the body during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycles.2 REM is a recurring sleep state characterized by rapid eye movements and vivid dreaming. Previous research has shown that glycine supplementation improves memory and attention in young, middle-aged, and older adults.3,4

Glycine has received attention recently as a potential treatment for other maladies. Japanese researchers, for instance, investigated its potential as an anti-bacterial agent for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant H. pylori bacteria, which often infect the stomach lining. H. pylori infection is believed to be an underlying cause of many gastric ulcers. In laboratory experiments, the scientists demonstrated that glycine acted alone to reduce H. pylori infection. When combined with amoxicillin, a common generic antibiotic, glycine reduced by a factor of 10 the amount of amoxicillin needed to kill the troublesome bacteria.5

—Dale Kiefer


1. Redecker P, Pabst H, Loscher W, Steinlechner S. Evidence for microvesicular storage and release of glycine in rodent pinealocytes. Neurosci Lett. 2001 Feb 16;299(1-2):93-6.

2. Chase MH, Soja PJ, Morales FR. Evidence that glycine mediates the postsynaptic poten- tials that inhibit lumbar motoneurons during the atonia of active sleep. J Neurosci. 1989 Mar;9(3):743-51.

3. File SE, Fluck E, Fernandes C. Beneficial effects of glycine (bioglycin) on memory and attention in young and middle-aged adults. J Clin Pyschopharmacol. 1999 Dec;19(6):506-12.

4. Schwartz BL, Hashtroudi S, Herting RL, Handerson H, Deutsch SL. Glycine prodrug facilitates memory retrieval in humans. Neurology. 1991 Sep;41(9)1341-3.

5. Minami M, Ando T, Hashikawa SN, et al. Effect of glycine on Helicobacter pylori in vitro. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 Oct;48(10):3782-8.

Vitamin C Restores Healthy Blood Flow in Smokers

Japanese scientists report that regular consumption of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C may help reverse vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the arteries, in smokers, specifically by targeting the impaired endothelial function that causes this condition.1

Smoking boosts oxidative stress and produces vasoconstriction,2 which may increase the risk of related conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, aortic aneurysm, and stroke.3 The endothelium, a layer of cells lining the interior of blood vessels, produces coronary-related compounds that regulate vascular tone, such as nitric oxide.4

To test vitamin C’s effects on coronary health, researchers at Chiba University, Japan, recruited 25 patients, 13 of whom were otherwise healthy smokers and 12 who were nonsmokers. Using a monitoring test known as transthoracic Doppler echocardiography, the team evaluated coronary blood flow in each patient, both while at rest and during moments of increased blood flow. Blood flow and levels of vitamin C were measured at baseline and then at two and four hours following intake of vitamin C.

At the study’s onset, blood flow was greatly increased in nonsmokers compared to smokers. However, at the study’s end, the smokers’ blood flow rates had increased significantly, while the nonsmokers’ blood flow was unchanged. The study authors concluded that vitamin C helps relieve the vasoconstriction that can occur in chronic smokers.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


1. Teramoto K, Daimon M, Hasegawa R, et al. Acute effect of oral vitamin C on coronary circulation in young healthy smokers. Am Heart J. 2004 Aug;148(2):300-5.

2. Winniford MD. Smoking and cardiovascular func- tion. J Hypertens Suppl. 1990 Sep;8(5):S17-23.

3. Martys R. Adverse cardiac effects of smoking. [Translated from German]. Wien Med Wochenschr. 1994;144(22-23):556-60.

4. Maiorana A, O’Driscoll G, Taylor R, Green D. Exercise and the nitric oxide vasodilator system. Sports Med. 2003;33(14):1013-35.