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April 2011

In The News

Magnesium Supplements May Reduce Diabetes Risk

Magnesium Supplements May Reduce Diabetes Risk

Supplementing with magnesium may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new findings from German scientists.1 Diabetes affects an estimated 24 million Americans, or 8% of the population.2

Fifty-two overweight, insulin resistant, non-diabetic individuals with normal serum magnesium levels were randomized to receive 345 mg of magnesium or placebo each day for 6 months. Magnesium supplements improved fasting blood glucose by about 7% and improved 2 out of 3 markers of insulin sensitivity. The supplemented group also displayed a trend toward improved blood pressure.1,2

While magnesium occurs in dietary sources such as leafy green vegetables, grains, nuts, and milk, previous research indicates that many adults do not meet the RDA (320 mg/day for men and 420 mg/day for women).2 The researchers estimate that each 100 mg increase in magnesium intake may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 15%.2

—E. Wagner, ND


1. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2011 Mar;13(3):281-4.
2. Accessed January 26, 2011.

Green Tea May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

A research team from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom recently concluded that consuming green tea on a regular basis may provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.*

“There are certain chemicals we know to be beneficial and we can identify foods which are rich in them, but what happens during the digestion process is crucial whether these foods are actually doing us any good,” Ed Okello of Newcastle says in a news release.

In the case of green tea, the beneficial compounds are called polyphenols, which, when ingested, are broken down to produce a concoction of compounds. These are the compounds that the researchers tested.

“What was really exciting about this study was that we found when green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer’s development than the undigested form of the tea,” Okello said. “In addition to this, we also found the digested compounds had anti-cancer properties, significantly slowing down the growth of tumor cells which we were using in our experiments.”

—J. Finkel


* Accessed January 24, 2011.

Vitamin D Insufficiency Linked to Autoimmune Lung Disease

Vitamin D Insufficiency Linked to Autoimmune Lung Disease

The journal Chest reports the finding of researchers at the University of Cincinnati of an increased incidence of vitamin D insufficiency in patients with connective tissue disease-related interstitial lung disease (ILD), an autoimmune condition characterized by lung fibrosis.*

Dr. Kinder’s team compared serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 67 patients with connective tissue disease-related ILD to vitamin D levels measured in 51 patients with other forms of ILD. Insufficient levels of vitamin D were found in 79% of those with connective tissue disease-related ILD and deficiency was revealed in 52%, compared with 31% and 20% of those with other interstitial lung diseases.

“These findings suggest that there is a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with ILD, particularly those with connective tissue disease,” Dr. Kinder stated. “One of the next steps is to see if supplementation will improve lung function for these patients.”

Editor’s note: Vitamin D insufficiency has been examined as a modifiable factor in a number of autoimmune disorders, including connective tissue diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

—D. Dye


* Chest. 2010 Aug 5.

Timing Important in Cancer Chemoprevention

Timing Important in Cancer Chemoprevention

An article published in Carcinogenesis reports a protective benefit for vitamin E and selenium against esophageal cancer, particularly if administered early after exposure to a carcinogen.*

Scientists gave five groups of rats a diet that contained reduced amounts of vitamin E and selenium. All but one group were administered a carcinogen for 5 weeks. One of the carcinogen-treated groups received the diet supplemented with vitamin E and selenium for the first 10 weeks of the study, while a second group was supplemented between 11 and 25 weeks. A third group received a supplemented diet throughout the 25-week experiment.

Although a benefit for late supplementation was observed, rats that received diets containing sufficient vitamin E and selenium throughout the course of the study and those that received the vitamins for the first ten weeks had a significantly lower number of visible tumors and esophageal carcinomas compared with the other carcinogen-treated animals.

Editor’s note: The findings support the results of a clinical trial of supplementation with vitamin E and selenium which found a significant reduction in esophageal cancer deaths among younger participants, but not among older subjects who are likelier to have precancerous lesions.

—D. Dye


* Carcinogenesis. 2010 Dec 24.

A Truly Healthy Glow

Contrary to what the tanning industry might have people believe, the way to the most attractive glow is not via skin-damaging sun exposure, but may be had by consuming fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids.

In a study described in Evolution and Human Behaviour, Ian Stephen and colleagues at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found that individuals with a greater intake of carotenoids due to fruit and vegetable consumption have an increased yellow skin tone consistent with enhanced carotenoid absorption.* When viewing photographs of Caucasian faces, volunteers judged the golden color associated with carotenoids as appearing healthier than tones typical of tanning. A preference for a yellow tone was also observed in research involving an African population.

“Most people think the best way to improve skin color is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective,” Dr. Stephen stated.

Editor’s note: Carotenoids, which include alpha- and beta-carotene and other antioxidant compounds, give red, orange, and yellow fruit their color, and also occur in green vegetables.

—D. Dye


* Evol Hum Behav. 2010 Dec 23.

Greater Zinc Intake Associated with a Lower Risk of Death from Prostate Cancer

Pomegranate May Help Prevent Prostate Cancer Metastasis

An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals a protective effect for a higher dietary intake of zinc against mortality from cancer of the prostate.*

Researchers evaluated data from 525 men enrolled in a case-control study in Sweden. Participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer between January, 1989 and July, 1994. Responses to dietary questionnaires were analyzed for the intake of calories and zinc from food sources.

Over the 6.4 year average follow-up period there were 475 deaths, of which 218 were attributed to prostate cancer. Men whose intake of zinc was among the highest 25% of participants had a 36% lower adjusted risk of dying from prostate cancer compared with those whose intake was among the lowest fourth. For those whose tumors were localized, there was a 76% lower risk among those whose intake was highest.

Editor’s note: The authors of the report note that the results of previous research concerning a protective effect for zinc in the prevention of prostate cancer have been inconsistent, and suggest that zinc could play a greater role in determining outcome of the disease rather than in its development.

—D. Dye


* Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jan 12.