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March 2006

Lipoic Acid Protects Central Nervous System

Lipoic acid inhibits inflammatory mediators associated with multiple sclerosis in adults, according to a recent report.* A potent antioxidant, lipoic acid has been found to both suppress and treat an experimental animal model of multiple sclerosis.

Researchers investigated the effects of varying oral doses of lipoic acid on two markers of inflammation and tissue damage: soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and matrix metalloproteinase-9. Thirty-seven adults diagnosed with multiple sclerosis were randomly assigned to one of four groups that received: 1) placebo twice daily; 2) 600 mg of lipoic acid twice daily; 3) 1200 mg of lipoic acid in the morning and placebo in the evening; and 4) 1200 mg of lipoic acid twice daily. Blood samples were taken at the study’s onset and then 24 hours, one week, and two weeks after the first dose of placebo or lipoic acid was administered.

Lipoic acid decreased the two inflammatory mediators in a dose-dependent fashion. In animal studies, such changes have been associated with decreased progression of multiple sclerosis. Investigators believe that this decrease in inflammatory compounds may help protect the central nervous system against neurodegenerative processes that contribute to multiple sclerosis. Lipoic acid was well tolerated, and the reported side effects did not differ from those noted in the placebo group.

Lipoic acid may thus protect against neurodegenerative processes through a novel mechanism. Since neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis are associated with significant disability and mortality, effective nutritional interventions are greatly needed.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


* Yadav V, Marracci G, Lovera J, et al. Lipoic acid in multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Mult Scler. 2005 Apr;11(2):159-65.

Resveratrol Found to Stop Flu Virus in Cell Culture Study

According to a report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, resveratrol—a health factor found in grapes, wine, peanuts, and other plants—blocks the influenza (flu) virus.*

Italian researchers believe this natural compound has advantages over drugs because it has multiple effects against the virus. Viral infection involves many steps, each of which provides an opportunity for effective treatment. In addition to creating and assembling viral proteins from the host, viruses also send immune-suppressing signals to the host’s immune system, crippling its ability to respond. The virus accomplishes its takeover through signals it sends to the host’s cellular command center. Resveratrol works by intercepting those signals, thus thwarting the virus’ ability to carry out its predetermined plan to manufacture, transport, and assemble viral proteins.

The Italian researchers first tested resveratrol’s ability against flu virus by treating cells with the compound after infection. The antiviral effect was 90%. For resveratrol to be effective, however, it had to be added to the infected cells six hours after infection and continued for an additional 24 hours. This tipped off the scientists that resveratrol interferes with the virus not at the point where it infects the cells or where viral proteins are being manufactured, but later when the proteins are being assembled into new viruses. Further studies confirmed that the viral proteins had been created but had not been “packaged and shipped” to the viral building site. Thus, viral replication was severely hampered. Resveratrol had interfered with viral “package and ship” signals.

Having shown that resveratrol worked in cells, the researchers sought to determine whether the effect could be duplicated in animals. When they administered resveratrol to mice infected with influenza, the survival rate, normally 20%, doubled to 40%. Overall, the amount of flu virus in the animals’ lungs was reduced 98% compared to that of mice that received placebo.*

—Terri Mitchell


* Palamara AT, Nencioni L, Aquilano K, et al. Inhibition of influenza A virus replication by resveratrol. J Infect Dis. 2005 May 15;191(10):1719-29.

Malnutrition Is Epidemic, Overlooked Among Elderly

Malnutrition is highly prevalent yet widely underdiagnosed in the elderly, according to the European Nutrition for Health Alliance (ENHA).* As a call to action for the detection, prevention, and treatment of malnutrition, ENHA recently sponsored its inaugural conference in London, “Malnutrition within an Ageing Population.”

Malnutrition is an imbalance of energy, protein, and other nutrients that causes measurably adverse effects on tissue, body form and function, and clinical outcomes. Ironically, malnutrition among the elderly is occurring at a time when many public health officials are promoting campaigns to reduce caloric intake in an effort to avert the obesity epidemic.

According to ENHA, 14% of community-dwelling adults in the United Kingdom over 65 years of age are malnourished, while 60-100% of nursing home residents suffer from malnutrition. Further, an estimated 10% of nursing home residents lose 10% of their body weight in the first six months following admission. In patients under a physician’s care—including hospitalized patients—malnutrition goes undiagnosed in up to 70% of cases.

Numerous factors contribute to malnutrition in the elderly. In some cases, acquiring and preparing food is prohibitively difficult. Additionally, older adults may experience loss of appetite due to diminished sense of taste, side effects of medication, or depressed mood. Difficulties with chewing or swallowing can also make it challenging for the elderly to maintain optimal nutritional intake. Furthermore, metabolic and physiological changes associated with aging render older people more susceptible to mineral and nutrient deficiencies.

The elderly are not only at higher risk of malnutrition than are younger adults, but also are less likely to recover from metabolic complications accompanying malnutrition. The malnourished are at greater risk for complications of surgery, are more vulnerable to infection, and have longer hospital stays.

Conference attendees recommended addressing malnutrition in the elderly as a public health issue through measures such as promoting screening programs and increasing efforts to educate health care and social care professionals.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


* Available at: Accessed December 7, 2005.