Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Dec 2003

Improving Blood Supply to the Limbs

Intermittent claudication and ginkgo, NaPCA and dry skin herbs to treat tachycardia, acetyl-L-carntiine and Peyronie’s disease.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on January 2021.

Q Do you have any product suggestions for someone who suffers from intermittent claudication?

Intermittent claudication is caused by a buildup of atherosclerotic deposits in the blood vessels of the limbs. This is an early symptom of peripheral arterial disease. Characterized by lameness and pain brought on by walking, claudication occurs when arteries narrow and restrict the flow of blood and oxygen to the leg muscles, which causes calf pain and difficulty in walking. Ginkgo biloba extract has been shown to significantly improve the supply of blood to the limbs. As resting blood flow and peripheral circulation improve, intermittent claudication diminishes. Two double-blind trials found that 120 mg of ginkgo biloba extract per day increased pain-free and total walking distance among people with intermittent claudication [Vasa 1996;25:265–74, Arzneimittelforsschung 1984;34:716–20]. A cholesterol-lowering supplement called policosanol may also be helpful. Policosanol was compared to lovastatin in a randomized, double-blind trial on 28 patients with moderate to severe intermittent claudication. After 20 weeks, the policosanol group showed a 34% increase in average walking distance (before pain set in) vs. 12% for the lovastatin group [Angiology 2003;54:25-38].

For more information on peripheral arterial disease, please refer to the Cardiovascular Disease protocol. If you are under a doctor’s care, please be sure to inform him of any supplements you receive from the Foundation.

Q I read the ingredients in your Dream Cream (RejuveNight). Can you tell me what NaPCA is? I am worried about using something that I have never heard of on my skin.

NaPCA stands for sodium salt of pyrollidone carboxylic acid. NaPCA is a non-toxic humectant that helps to attract and hold water to the skin. It is naturally manufactured in human skin by an amino acid conversion; however, as we age we become depleted of this humectant, which is why aged skin tends to be drier. The ability of skin to hold moisture is related to the amount of NaPCA it contains.

Q I believe you sell a product with a very high percentage of GLA that also includes a fish oil extract. I have searched but have been unable to locate it. What is the name of the product and what is it used for?

The product you are referring to is Super GLA/DHA. This product contains GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Both have been shown to protect against chronic inflammation, a condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke, elevated cholesterol levels and other age-related disorders. When we are young, the fatty acids GLA, DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are produced through metabolic processes involving an enzyme called delta-6 desaturase. Unfortunately, this enzyme diminishes with age, leading to a deficiency of fatty acids that are needed to regulate inflammation and the immune system. Supp-lementation with the right proportions of fatty acids can maximize the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (E1 and E3), while suppressing pro-inflammatory prostaglandin E2. In addition to avoiding saturated fats and high glycemic foods that contribute to chronic inflammation, eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and consuming supplements that provide GLA, DHA and EPA can help control inflammation by bringing balance to the essential fatty acids.

Q Do you know of any supplements that can help tachycardia?

According to research, there are a few products that can be of benefit to those suffering from this disorder. German researchers reported success in treating ventricular tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and fibrillation with garlic. They also noted that the duration of arrhythmias was shortened [Arzneimittelforschung. 1993 Feb;43(2): 94-8]. The herb Hawthorn can help by increasing exercise tolerance and reducing the incidence of tachycardia and palpitations. It may take 4 to 8 weeks for improvement in subjective tolerance. Although Hawthorn is regarded as gentle and safe for chronic use, you should inform your physician of any supplements or advice you receive from the Foundation. Some types of premature ventricular contractions and arrhythmias respond to taurine because the amino acid tends to dampen activity in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the outpouring of epinephrine. As the SNS is quieted, the heart tends to beat less aggressively and blood pressure is lowered. Research also shows that the incidence of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia were significantly reduced when taurine therapy was utilized [Arzneimittelforschung 1998 Apr;48 (4):360-4].

Q A search on your website produced no results on Peyronie’s disease, which can make intercourse very painful. Do you have any information?

Peyronie’s disease results in a build-up of plaque that forms in the penis and in the fibrous sheaths in the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. The type you are referring to is usually found on the upper or lower side of the penis in layers between erectile tissue. It can begin as inflammation and develop into a hardened scar. In the worst cases, the hardened plaque can reduce flexibility, which can cause pain and force the penis to arc during erection. This can make sexual intercourse difficult and painful. The British Journal of Urology, July 2001, reported on the use of acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) in a double-blind, clinical trial for treatment of patients suffering from Peyronie’s disease. ALC was compared with Tamoxifen. Twenty-four patients treated with 2 g daily of ALC for three months showed encouraging results and statistically significant benefits.