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Life Extension Magazine

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November 2006

Magnesium May Help Manage Asthma in Children

Asthmatic children who supplement with magnesium have less severe symptoms and require less medication, scientists recently reported.6

Magnesium promotes dilation of the airways known as bronchioles and helps relax blood vessels. Children with moderate, persistent asthma supplemented with 300 mg of magnesium each day for two months, while continuing to use prescription asthma inhalers as needed. After two months, the magnesium-supplemented children had an average of 28% fewer days of severe asthma, reduced their use of a prescription asthma medication by 40%, and demonstrated improved airway responsiveness, an important indicator of respiratory function.

Magnesium thus appears to support healthy respiratory function in children who suffer from asthma.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Vitamin K Supports Bone Health, Prevents Fractures

Increasing one’s intake of vitamin K boosts bone strength and prevents fractures, according to a recent review of the medical literature.8

Vitamin K1 (phytonadione) is found in dietary sources such as green leafy vegetables, while vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is manufactured by microorganisms in the gut. Scientists who reviewed trials in which adults supplemented with oral vitamin K for six months or longer found numerous studies indicating that vitamin K1 and K2 help reduce bone loss. Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin K2 reduced rates of all types of fracture, including hip and vertebral fractures.

Vitamin K may help support healthy bone mass and prevent fractures by its effects on osteocalcin, a protein considered crucial for healthy bone matrix. Along with calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and boron, vitamin K may be regarded as an essential nutrient for promoting lifelong bone health.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Lack of Sleep Tied to Weight Gain in Women

Women who get little sleep are more prone to weight gain and obesity, according to an analysis of more than 68,000 women.10

Over the course of 16 years, women who slept five or fewer hours nightly gained an average of 2.3 pounds more than those who slept at least seven hours. Women who slept six hours a night gained 1.5 pounds more than those who slept seven or more hours.

Less sleep dramatically increased the risk of major weight gain during the study period. Compared with women who slept seven hours a night, women who slept five or fewer hours had a 32% higher risk of gaining more than 30 pounds, while women who slept six hours had a 12% greater risk of gaining more than 30 pounds. Likewise, the risk of developing obesity was higher in women who slept less than seven hours a night.

The association between lack of sleep and weight gain was independent of physical activity and dietary habits. In fact, women who slept less actually had a lower caloric intake than those who slept more. One scientist proposed that reduced sleep could slow a person’s basal metabolic rate, and that sleep deprivation may compromise insulin sensitivity and facilitate fat deposition.

These results suggest that ensuring adequate sleep should be a cornerstone of every healthy lifestyle.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Sesame Offers Benefits for Postmenopausal Women

Consuming sesame may promote healthy blood lipids and enhance cancer protection in postmenopausal women, according to a recent study.9

After healthy postmenopausal women consumed approximately 1.7 ounces of ground sesame powder each day for five weeks, researchers noted improvements in several critical blood markers. Levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and a measure of oxidative stress all decreased, while levels of an estrogen metabolite associated with cancer protection increased.

Eating sesame on a daily basis may help optimize blood lipids, support antioxidant status, and promote healthy estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Probiotics Protect Elderly Against Bowel Disorders

Supplements of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, may help protect older adults against bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, according to a recent report.11

These “friendly” bacteria, which include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are found in yogurt and other fermented foods, as well as in dietary supplements. The human gut contains many different types of bacteria, some of which are beneficial and some that contribute to disease. Maintaining a healthy balance of gastrointestinal flora is believed to prevent harmful bacteria from taking hold and causing illnesses such as food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea.

Older adults have dramatically reduced levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut; in fact, the elderly may have 1,000-fold less beneficial bacteria compared to younger adults. Older people are also more susceptible to gastrointestinal infections and conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, and boosting levels of healthful bacteria may help protect against these ailments.

Probiotics may also benefit healthy people of all ages, particularly those using antibiotics, which kill all types of bacteria in the gut.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND

Curcumin, Quercetin May Help Fight Colon Cancer

Curcumin, a component of the curry spice turmeric, and quercetin, an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables, may help fight colon cancer, concludes a promising new study.12

Scientists studied a small group of patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited form of precancerous polyps in the lower bowel. People with this condition tend to develop hundreds of colorectal polyps, or adenomas, and eventually colon cancer. For six months, individuals with FAP received regular doses of curcumin (480 mg, three times daily) and quercetin (20 mg, three times daily). After six months, their average number of polyps dropped by a remarkable 60%, and the average polyp size decreased by 51%.

While previous studies have suggested that curcumin and quercetin may help prevent or fight colon cancer, this study was the first to demonstrate their efficacy against FAP. Although the substances were administered together, the scientists believe that curcumin is the key agent in protecting against the development of colon cancer.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND