Archive for November, 2007

Nov 08 2007

Pharmaceutical Grade Vitamins (supplements) vs. Regular Vitamins (supplements)

Published by under Vitamins & Supplements

Vitamins are necessary for human life and health. They are required in minute amounts, and with the exception of Vitamin B12, cannot be manufactured in your bodies. These organic compounds need to be obtained from diet, and if deprived of a particular vitamin, you will suffer from disease specific to that vitamin. It is a matter of record that you are not getting enough vitamins. Though we Americans are living longer, our quality of life leaves much to be desired.

The thirteen different vitamins are classified into two main categories:

· Water Soluble Vitamins – They dissolve easily in water. They are Vitamin C and the eight types of Vitamins B, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-7, B-9, and B-12.
· Fat Soluble Vitamins – With the help of lipids, they are absorbed through the intestinal tract. These vitamins are Vitamins A. D, E, and K.

The term Vitamin does not mean to include essential nutrients, such as, dietary minerals, essential fatty acids, or essential amino acids; neither does it mean to include other nutrients that just promote health, and may not be essential.

The Different Grades of Vitamins
Vitamin supplements are taken by more than 75% of the world’s population. With the plethora of different brands, it becomes difficult to know what is what. Vitamins and other nutritional supplements are made from three different grades of raw materials:

· Pharmaceutical Grade – It meets pharmaceutical standards
· Food Grade – It meets standards for human consumption
· Feed Grade – It meets standards for animal consumption

The main difference is of quality and purity. Due to the addition of various other substances, no product is 100% pure. Pharmaceutical Grade Vitamins must be in excess of 99% purity containing no binders, fillers, excipients – substances used as diluents for a drug – dyes, or unknown substances. Regular Vitamins of the other two grades are available as Over The Counter (OTC) products, whereas pharmaceutical grade vitamins are only available through prescriptions.

Pharmaceutical grade vitamins are formulated to yield a higher degree of bioavailability – the degree at which the vitamin is absorbed into a living system. As these vitamins can be absorbed into your body quickly, they improve and enhance the quality of your life rapidly.

Of late, the American vitamin and supplement industry has gained a bad reputation, and many feel it is rightly deserved. People walk into stores and pharmacies to buy regular vitamins. In some of the cases, the ingredients specified on the label are not in conformity with what they find inside the bottle. A variety of ingredients do not absorb into the body. The ingredients could be rancid or stale. One of the biggest culprits is omega 3 fish oil. It is probably the most bastardized supplement in the market today. Most over the counter fish oil is rancid and may contain dioxins, PCBs, aflatoxins, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides as well as unacceptable levels of heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and aluminum). Fish oil must be ultra-purified and Pharmaceutical grade. At Griffin Medical Group we prescribe our patients an ultra-purified pharmaceutical fish oil that I have taken for the past two years.  

More and more people are opting for pharmaceutical grade vitamins and supplements, as they are available through prescriptions from doctors and licensed medical practitioners. Pharmaceutical grade vitamins, vis-à-vis regular vitamins, have been tested for their quality and ability to give results. They are tested by third parties to confirm that the bottles contain what they profess to contain.


Yours in health, 


       Dr. Alan C. Ivar


A special thank you goes out to Cathy Taylor for contributing to this article.     

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Nov 08 2007

Description of Niacin – Sustained Vs. Immediate Release…

Published by under Niacin

Nicotinic acid, the water-soluble vitamin also known as niacin, has been used for many years as a cholesterol-lowering drug. It is considered a drug of first choice because it is safe and effective and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack.Niacin lowers total and LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, and raises HDL-cholesterol as well. Niacin can lower LDL cholesterol levels as much as 30 percent. It is also the least expensive cholesterol-lowering drug.

To produce such lipid lowering, niacin is given in therapeutic doses of one and one half grams (1,500 mg) daily or more; doses of up to six grams have been used in clinical studies. Therapeutic doses usually do not exceed 3 grams daily.

Since niacin can cause severe redness and itching of the skin, therapy is usually begun with small doses and gradually increased. An aspirin given one half hour before the drug helps to reduce flushing. In addition, flushing and itching are lessened if the drug is taken on a full stomach, or if a timed-release preparation is used.

It is also helpful to begin the therapy on a non-working day to avoid any potential embarrassment that may occur from the flushing, which gradually diminishes as the body adjusts to the drug.

Sustained Release And Instant Release Niacin

The side effects of itching and flushing are minimized when taking sustained-release niacin, which allows the drug to enter the bloodstream more slowly.

However, a new study comparing two generic versions of niacin, a conventional immediate-release (IR) form and a sustained-release (SR) preparation showed that the lower rates of flushing for the SR preparation may be offset by its effect on liver function.

In the trial, 46 adults with elevated cholesterol levels were randomly assigned to take either IR or SR niacin in dosages that increased from 500 mg per day to 3 grams per day. In addition, they followed a diet that restricted saturated fat and cholesterol.

The good news for the SR niacin users was that their total cholesterol levels were lower than in patients who took the IR preparation. Also, at a dosage of 1,000 mg per day, only 22 percent had flushing, tingling, headache, warmth, or itching with SR niacin, versus 53 percent with the IR medication.

The bad news is that the patients who took the SR niacin were more likely to develop abnormalities of their liver function, which occurred with dosages as low as 1,000 mg per day. These abnormalities caused more than half of the patients taking the SR niacin to withdraw before completing the study. IR niacin did not appear to have any such effects, although other studies have shown that IR niacin can also cause serious liver-function abnormalities.

The results of this study should not lead people to discontinue taking an SR preparation that has been effective and is not causing side effects. There are a wide range of sustained-release preparations, with varying degrees of complications and effectiveness, and patients should not generalize about these agents.

Both SR and IR niacin preparations are available without prescription, and these data provide a reminder that over-the-counter drugs, like all drugs, can have side effects, and that niacin can cause liver abnormalities.

Patients taking niacin – whether IR or SR preparations – should undergo liver function tests. Before starting or stopping either form of niacin, patients should discuss the issue with their physicians.

Griffin Medical Group – Center for Anti-Aging & Aesthetics  (714) 549-6550

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Nov 08 2007

HDL and risk reduction – Sustained release niacin

Published by under Niacin

Higher HDL cholesterol for lower health risk

Many studies point to the important role of HDL cholesterol in lowering the risk of heart disease. Here are some facts from major studies:

  • For every additional point you increase HDL cholesterol, there is a 2-3 percent decrease in heart disease risk.
  • For every 10 point increase in HDL cholesterol, there is about a 50% reduction in heart disease risk

HDL cholesterol is protective.

Having high HDL cholesterol (>60) is so good for you that it can even minimize other risk factors (like high LDL cholesterol). That’s why, if your HDL level is low, your doctor will try to get it higher. (niacin sustained-release tablets) can help.

Sustained-release niacin raises HDL to lower risk

There are several kinds of cholesterol in your bloodstream.

  • LDL cholesterol carries cholesterol into your arteries, where it can form plaques that clog the flow of blood.
  • HDL takes the “bad” cholesterol out of your body.

By helping to keep plaques from forming, HDL cholesterol helps keep your blood flowing and reduces the risk of major problems like heart attack. Sustained-release niacin can help lower your risk by raising your HDL cholesterol levels.

Ask Griffin Medical Group whether sustained-release niacin may be right for you, based on your cholesterol levels and personal risk factors

(714) 549 -6550 ask for Alan

Judi Goldstone, M.D.

Alvin Yee, M.D.

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Nov 08 2007

Coenzyme Q10, Riboflavin, and Niacin Supplementation May Reduce the Risk of Cancer Recurrence and Metastases in Breast Cancer Patients

Published by under Niacin

In a study involving 84 breast cancer patients, supplementation with coenzyme Q10 (100 mg/d), riboflavin (10 mg/d), and niacin (50 mg/d), in addition to the drug, tamoxifen (10 mg/twice a day), was found to reduce circulating breast cancer markers, indicating a reduced risk of relapse. The authors point out that it is metastases at distant sites rather than the primary tumor that are the main cause of death among breast cancer patients. Levels of CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) and CA 15-3 (carbohydrate antigen 15-3) – circulating breast cancer tumor markers – were elevated among breast cancer patients who remained untreated. After one year of treatment with tamoxifen (a drug which interferes with estrogen activity – acting against estrogen in breast tissue and acting like estrogen in other tissues), levels of circulating tumor markers decreased. When patients received supplementation with coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, and niacin, along with tamoxifen for 45 days or for 90 days (two groups), significant reductions in CEA and CA 15-3 were found. This study suggests that breast cancer patients may reduce the risk of relapse – as suggested by reduced circulating tumor markers – by adding coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, and niacin supplementation to standard tamoxifen therapy.

Reference:”Effect of coenzyme Q10, riboflavin and niacin on serum CEA and CA 15-3 levels in breast cancer patients undergoing tamoxifen therapy,” Premkumar VG, Yuvaraj S, et al, Biol Pharm Bull, 2007; 30(2): 367-70. (Address: Department of Medical Biochemistry, Dr. ALMP-GIBMS, University of Madras, Taramani Campus, and Department of Medical Oncology, Government Royapettah Hospital, Tamilnadu, India).

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Nov 08 2007

▪ Melatonin Protects Against Breast Cancer

Published by under Melatonin

It has been observed that women who work night shifts have an increased risk for breast cancer. It appears that prolonged exposure to light at night interferes with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced in response to darkness. Production of melatonin peaks at night during sleep. A study published in Cancer Research investigated the role of melatonin and breast cancer. Rats with tumors composed of human breast cells were utilized in the study. Researchers injected rats with women’s blood samples of melatonin collected at various times of the day. Rats that were injected with blood samples that were low in melatonin, their tumor growth increased and rats that were injected with high melatonin samples, tumor growth significantly slowed down. The results of this study suggest that higher blood samples of melatonin may protect women against breast cancer. According to the abstract, “These results are the first to show that the tumor growth response to exposure to light during darkness is intensity dependent and that the human nocturnal, circadian melatonin signal not only inhibits human breast cancer growth but that this effect is extinguished by short-term ocular exposure to bright, white light at night”.

*Blask DE, Brainard GC, Dauchy RT, et al. Melatonin-depleted blood from premenopausal women exposed to light at night stimulates growth of human breast cancer xenografts in rats. Cancer Res. 2005 Dec 1;65(23):11174-84.

The moral of the story is “take your melatonin”

Griffin Medical Group – Center for Anti Aging &  Aesthetics  (714) 549-6550

Dr. Judi Goldstone

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Nov 08 2007

Old World Red Wines May be Healthier

Published by under Resveritrol - Red Wine

Nov. 29, 2006 — The same ingredient that helps red wines become better with age may help people live longer by protecting against heart disease.

A new study shows dry red wines high in tannins, such as those made in southwest France and in Italy, have a greater protective effect than less tannic wines produced in other parts of the world.

Tannins are compounds extracted from the seeds, skins, and stems of grapes that give red wines their characteristic dry, full taste. As a high-quality red wine ages, its sharpness softens and the flavor becomes more complex.

The amount of tannin in a red wine like cabernet sauvignon varies, depending on the winemaking methods used.

The study’s researchers say their results suggest the Old World winemaking techniques that ensure a higher amount of tannins produce wines that are healthier for the heart and may contribute to the longer longevity seen in regions known for producing such wines.

“The traditional production methods used in Sardinia and southwestern France ensure that the beneficial compounds, procyanidins [tannins], are efficiently extracted,” says researcher Roger Corder of Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute of the University of London, in a news release.

“This may explain the strong association between consumption of traditional tannic wines with overall well-being, reflected in greater longevity,” he says.

Old World Reds Healthier?

Several studies have shown that moderate drinkers of red wine have less heart disease than non-drinkers; and much of the heart-healthy effects of red wine have been attributed to the antioxidant polyphenols found in the wine. These antioxidants are thought to have beneficial effects on blood vessels and arteries.

In the study, published in Nature, researchers analyzed the polyphenol content of several types of red wine produced in various parts of the world and compared the wines’ effects on blood vessel cells.

“We purified the most biologically active polyphenols, and identified them as procyanidins [condensed tannins],” says Corder.

Wines richest in these tannins had the greatest protective effect on the cells and were from regions — Sardinia and southwest France — that use Old World winemaking techniques.

Further research showed these areas are also associated with lower heart disease rates and higher longevity, he says.

The study found that wines made from the Tannat grape in southwest France were highest in these beneficial tannins. That grape is rarely grown elsewhere.

SOURCES: Corder, R. Nature, Nov. 30, 2006 online advance edition. News release, Queen Mary University of London.

Griffin Medical Group – Center for Anti-Aging & Aesthetics  (714) 549-6550

Dr. Judi Goldstone

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Nov 08 2007

A Compound in Red Wine Makes Fat Mice Healthy

Published by under Resveritrol - Red Wine

A substance found in red wine protected mice from the ill effects of obesity and extended their life spans, raising the tantalizing prospect that the compound could do the same for humans and may also help people live longer, healthier lives, researchers reported yesterday.

The substance, called resveratrol, enabled mice that were fed a high-calorie, high-fat diet to live normal, active lives despite becoming obese — the first time any compound has been shown to do that. Tests found that the agent activated a host of genes that protect against aging, essentially neutralizing the adverse effects of the bad diet on the animals’ health and longevity.

The findings could lead to the long-sought goal of extending the healthy human life span, experts said. Preliminary tests in people are underway.

“We’ve been looking for something like this for the last 100,000 years, and maybe it’s right around the corner — a molecule that could be taken in a single pill to delay the diseases of aging and keep you healthier as you grow old,” said David A. Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School molecular biologist who led the study. “The potential impact would be huge.”

The findings triggered excitement among scientists studying aging. They hailed the findings as groundbreaking.

“This represents a likely major landmark,” said Stephen L. Helfand, who studies the molecular genetics of aging at Brown University. “This really pushes the field forward. It’s quite exciting.”

The research, published online by the journal Nature, helps explain a host of observations that have long intrigued researchers, including why French people tend to have fewer heart attacks even though they have high-fat diets and why severely restricting the amount of calories that animals ingest makes them live longer.

“This gives us hope that the idea of harnessing the power of calorie restriction is not a fantasy and can be brought to reality,” said Leonard P. Guarente, who studies the biology of aging at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This could produce a whole new approach to preventing and treating the diseases of aging.”

Previous research has shown that laboratory animals fed very-low-calorie diets live significantly longer, which has prompted some people to try arduous “caloric restriction” diets as a possible fountain of youth, even though their effectiveness in humans remains unproven.

In the hope of finding a drug that could harness the natural life-extending capabilities activated by caloric restriction, Sinclair and his colleagues identified a number of promising compounds, including resveratrol, which is found in red wine, grape skins, peanuts and other plants. The compound, which increases the activity of enzymes known as sirtuins, prolongs the life span of every organism scientists have tested it on, including yeast, worms, fish and fruit flies.

To examine for the first time whether resveratrol could also extend longevity in mammals, Sinclair and his colleagues studied year-old mice, which are the equivalent of middle-aged humans. One-third of the mice were fed a standard diet. Another third ate the equivalent of a junk-food diet — one very high in calories, with 60 percent of the calories coming from fat. The last third lived on the unhealthful diet combined with resveratrol.

After a year, the researchers found that both groups of mice that ate the junk-food diet got fat, and those that did not get any resveratrol experienced a host of health problems, including bloated livers and the early signs of diabetes and heart disease. They tended to die prematurely.

But the mice that received resveratrol remained healthy and were about 30 percent less likely to die, living as long as the animals that ate a normal diet and stayed thin. Preliminary results indicate resveratrol increases their life span by about 15 percent, which is the equivalent of adding perhaps about 10 human years.

Moreover, the hearts and livers of the animals getting resveratrol looked healthy, the activity of a host of key genes appeared normal, and they showed some of the biological changes triggered by caloric restriction. They also appeared to have a better quality of life, retaining their activity levels and agility.

“It is really quite amazing,” Sinclair said. “The mice were still fat, but they looked just as healthy as the lean animals.”

The researchers cautioned that the findings should not encourage people to eat badly, thinking resveratrol could make gluttony safe. They also noted that a person would have to drink hundreds of glasses of red wine a day or take megadoses of the commercially available supplements to get the levels given to the mice — doses that may not be safe. Until human studies are done, no one knows whether the findings apply to people.

But the findings indicate that resveratrol or molecules like it could have myriad benefits, and Sinclair has started taking it. Several other researchers on aging said the results tempted them to start using the supplements as well.

“I’m usually a very cautious person,” said Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California at San Francisco. “But I’m seriously thinking about taking resveratrol myself. It seems pretty wonderful.”

Said Helfand: “I actually told my mother she should take it. I even went out and got her some.”

The researchers are continuing to study the remaining living mice to gauge all the benefits, as well as other mice fed a normal diet or a calorie-restricted diet along with resveratrol to see whether the substance extends life in non-obese animals. So far the results appear promising, researchers said.

“This appears to have a lot of potential,” said Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging, which helped conduct and fund the study.

Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotech company in Cambridge, Mass., that Sinclair helped start and that also helped fund the mouse study, has started testing a version of resveratrol on diabetic humans. Other researchers are studying similar substances to reduce the risk of cancer.

“For now, we counsel patience,” Matt Kaeberlein and Peter S. Rabinovitch of the University of Washington wrote in an article accompanying the study. “Just sit back and relax with a glass of red wine. . . . If you must have a Big Mac, fries and apple pie, we may soon know if you should supersize that resveratrol shake.”

 For a pharmaceutical resveratrol click on the link below:

Griffin Medical Group – Center for Anti-Aging & Aesthetics  (714) 549-6550

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Nov 08 2007

Breast health and Iodine’s supportive roll

Iodine and Other Nutrients Play a Crucial Role
Jorge D. Flechas M.D., M.P.H. Over the next few weeks, the country will nationally be focusing on breast cancer. Of all the cancers women develop, 29 percent are breast cancer. By age 25, 1 in 19,608 women will develop breast cancer. By age 50, this number changes to a shocking 1 in 50 and by age 75 an even more dismal statistic: 1 in 11. In a total lifetime, one woman in 8 will develop breast cancer.

In January 2005, cancer became the leading cause of death in the United States. Each year about 211,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the USA. The number of new breast cancer cases increased from 82 per 100,000 women in 1973 to 195 per 100,000 women in 2000. The main cause of death prior to that was heart disease. The estimated death rate from breast cancer is 40,600: 40,200 females and 400 males.

Much is said in the public media about a genetic link with this cancer. Yet, genetics play only a small role in the development of breast cancer—less than 7 percent. In the September 8, 2006 issue of USA TODAY one of the lead articles was on Killer Cancer Genes ID’d. It mentioned that 122 breast cancer-causing genes have been identified. The scientist quoted in the article mentioned that we may not be able to tackle all the genes in a tumor but that we may have to work on silencing the cancer-causing genes. Doctors in the future may find that silencing even one of these genes could be enough to keep a tumor in check or kill it. They mention in the article that treatments could be a decade or more to develop.

Yet, the technology for tomorrow is here today in the supplements we have at our disposal. For example, methylation of DNA and gene silencing are affected by nutrition. Many articles exist on silencing genes and how the use of methyl-folic acid, methyl-vitamin B12, selenium, trimethylglycine powder and zinc help to methylate the DNA.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Many breast cancer risk factors have been identified such as a high-fat diet, low-fiber diet, tobacco use, and alcohol use. These risk factors can be modified by an individual. There are other factors that are mostly out of a woman’s control. The longer a woman is exposed to estrogen in her body, for example, the higher her risk. This would include early age at menarche, late age at menopause, long-term use of birth control pills and nulliparity (never having given birth). There seems to be a group of women whose use of birth control pills for more that 4 years puts them at higher risk before age 45. Women who take thyroid hormone are also at higher risk for developing breast cancer.1 Conversely, a lower risk for breast cancer is seen in women who are late in age at menarche, early age at menopause, and early age at first pregnancy.

Fibrocystic Breasts
In the New England Journal of Medicine, July 22, 2005 issue, there was a lead article showing that benign breast changes in women are associated with breast cancer. Benign breast changes is a new term for what we have called fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) in the past. FBD is currently affecting about 84 percent of the female population in North America.2 FBD is a misnomer because the medical problem is not a disease in the strictest sense. It is more a problem of cyclic breast pain that is associated with the menstrual cycle. In some patients the breast pain is seen daily, regardless of their menstrual cycle. Tissue biopsy for these benign breast changes that do grow larger are called proliferative lesions and if they do not grow they are called non-proliferative lesions.

Non-proliferative lesions (non-growers) can include cyst of the breast, radial scars, apocrine cells which generally make up sweat glands—the breasts are classified as a modified sweat gland—fibroadenoma, and hyperplastic cells that are normal in appearance under the microscope but are more numerous than usual. Proliferative lesions with normal cells are called sclerosing adenosis, which have a slightly increased risk (1.5 to 2 times). There are proliferative lesions with abnormal or atypical cells that are called hyperplasia—high degree with a moderate increased risk of breast cancer of (4 to 5 times), lobular neoplasia and intraductal papilloma. As a rule in medicine, the more abnormal cells look under the microscope, i.e., the more atypical the cells look, the higher the risk of cancer being present.

Iodine’s Supportive Role
Back in the early 1990s it was noted that patients who had iodine deficiency had associated benign breast changes. By giving these patient’s iodine the breast changes that were present would regress.2 It had been noticed a few years earlier that in animal studies, where the animal had been denied access to iodine, the animals developed benign breast changes like humans.3-5 In animal studies, researchers have been able to produce breast cancer in animals by depriving them of iodine.4

In my own personal medical practice I have literally seen the regression of cysts, nodules, scar tissue, and painful breast with the use of 50 mg of Iodoral® per day for 2-3 years. The breast pain goes away in just a few weeks, but the cyst/cysts, scar tissue and breast nodules take up to 2 to 3 years to resolve. On mammograms I have seen a 50 to 80 percent reduction in the scar tissue present in the breast. Studies are needed to show via biopsy that the many different types of FBD will regress with iodine supplementation.

Before starting on iodine therapy, a patient should have their thyroid hormone values investigated. A doctor should check the size of the thyroid for enlargement and or nodules. An iodine-loading test should also be done prior to starting iodine therapy to establish the need for iodine therapy. In this test the patient is given 50 mg of iodine and a 24-hour urine test is then collected. The iodine level in the urine is measured. The more saturated the body is with iodine the higher the level of iodine excreted. The more saturated the body is, the less breast abnormalities have been seen. The test is repeated at 3 months to document increasing saturation. If saturation is not occurring then further investigation is called for to find out why saturation isn’t happening.

Additional Support
Several other nutrients/hormones are also important to breast health and can be used in conjunction with Iodoral. DIM (diindolylmethane), the nutrient derived from cruciferous vegetables, for example, is influential in helping the body metabolize estrogen. DIM has been shown to change the way estrogen is metabolized. Metabolism of the natural estrogen estradiol occurs via one of two pathways. The tumor enhancer metabolic pathway, 16 alpha-hydroxylation, is elevated in patients with breast and endometrial cancer and in those at increased risk of such cancers. This increased 16 alpha-hydroxylation activity has been shown to precede clinical evidence of cancer, and it represents a significant risk factor for developing estrogen-dependent tumors.

Conversely, when estrogen veers away from the 16-alpha pathway and takes another route out of the body, the incidence of cancer decreases. This alternate route, which acts as a tumor suppressor metabolic pathway, is called 2-hydroxylation, a process that transforms estrogen into 2-hydroxyestrone (20HEI), an antiestrogen. Healthy individuals not at risk for breast or endometrial cancer bypass the 16-alpha route and instead metabolize estrogen through this preferable pathway. DIM signals the body to metabolize estrogen via the tumor suppressor 2-hydroxylation pathway.

In addition to this more well known estrogen-related mechanism of action of DIM, recent research also indicates that DIM can prevent angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels develop. Cancer cells use the development of new blood vessels to spread throughout the body. In mice, DIM inhibited angiogenesis by up to 76 percent.6 In addition, in mice implanted with human breast cancer cells, tumor growth was inhibited by 64 percent in animals treated with DIM.6

Another means of supporting breast health is by using natural progesterone cream. A syndrome known as Estrogen Dominance is prevalent in women, especially postmenopausal women. According to progesterone researcher Dr. John Lee, estrogen unopposed by progesterone results in a number of adverse effects including painful breasts, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer.

Estrogen dominance usually occurs at menopause, when progesterone production falls to approximately 1 percent of its pre-menopausal level. At this time, the production of estrogen falls to about 50 percent of its pre-menopausal levels. This dramatically alters the estrogen: progesterone ratio, causing estrogen to become toxic without progesterone to oppose it. As a result, the risks for breast and uterine cancer and fibrocystic breast disease increase.7 Therefore, progesterone also has a crucial role to play in maintaining breast health.

Vitamin D is another breast-supportive nutrient. Women who have mutations in their vitamin D receptor gene are nearly twice as likely to develop breast cancer compared to women who do not have the mutation. The vitamin D receptor gene controls the action of vitamin D in the body. Scientists have found that Caucasian women with certain versions of this gene not only have an increased risk of breast cancer but also may suffer from a more aggressive form of the disease if it spreads. The results suggest that vitamin D does indeed play a part in protecting the body against breast cancer, as past studies indicate.

Five to ten percent of breast cancer cases are due to already established gene mutations such as BRCA1. However, the underlying cause of breast cancer in women who do not have this gene and have no family history of the disease has remained a mystery. The study suggests that the mutation in the Vitamin D receptor gene may have a role to play in disease development in women who would not ordinarily be expected to develop the disease.8

1. Ghandrakant C, Kapdim MD, Wolfe JN. Breast Cancer. Relationship to Thyroid Supplements for Hypothyroidism. JAMA. 1976; 238:1124.
2. Ghent WR, Eskin BA, Low DA, et al. Iodine Replacement in Fibrocystic Disease of the Breast. Can J Surg. 1993; 36:453-460.
3. Eskin BA, Bartuska DG, Dunn MRea. Mammary Gland Dysplasia in Iodine Deficiency. JAMA. 1967; 200:115-119.
4. Eskin BA. Iodine Metabolism and Breast Cancer. Trans New York Acad of Sciences. 1970; 32:911-947.
5. Eskin BA. Iodine and Mammary Cancer. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1977; 91:293-304.
6. Chang X, Tou JC, Hong C, Kim HA, Riby JE, Firestone GL, Bjeldanes LF. 3,3’-Diindolylmethane inhibits angiogenesis and the growth of transplantable human breast carcinoma in athymic mice. Carcinogenesis. 2005 Apr;26(4):771-8.
7. Lee, John R., What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. Warner Books, May, 1996.
8. Guy M, Lowe LC, Bretherton-Watt D, Mansi JL, Peckitt C, Bliss J, Wilson RG, Thomas V, Colston KW. Vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms and breast cancer risk. Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Aug 15;10(16):5472-81.

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Nov 08 2007

The Wonderful Effects of Iodine

Iodine in combination with the amino acid tyrosine is manufactured into the thyroid hormone thyroxin. Iodine intake is grossly insufficient, and since Americans have begun restricting their salt intake at the advice of their physicians, deficiency has become epidemic. The average person takes in 170-250 mcg/day of Iodine. Japanese ingest about 100 times more because of their consumption of seaweed. Japanese subjects were fed Chinese cabbage, turnips, buckwheat, and noodles with 2.0 mcg of Iodine, soybean or seaweed – goiter developed in all groups except the seaweed group.

Some 50 million Americans have a hypothyrold (low, underactive)  condition. Thyroid hormones control and regulate digestion, heart rate, body temperature, sweat gland activity, nervous and reproductive system, general metabolism and body weight.

Just because you don’t have a goiter does not mean that you have enough iodine. Deficiency has been recently associated with breast and prostate cancer.

During the early 1900’s, the iodine/iodide solution called Lugol solution was used extensively, effectively and safely in medical practice, for both low activity and above normal activity of the thyroid gland. The recommended daily intake for iodine supplementation was 2 to 6 drops of Lugol solution containing 12.5 to 37.5 mg total iodide. (Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004.)

In the 1960’s, one slice of bread in the USA contained the full RDA of 0.15 mg iodine. The risk for breast cancer was then 1 in 20. (Epstein, S.S., et al, Breast Cancer Prevention Program Macmillan, NY, 1998, pg 5.)

Over the last 2 decades, iodine was replaced by bromine in the bread making process. Bromine blocks thyroid function and may interfere with the anticancer effect of iodine on the breast (Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004)

Now, the risk for breast cancer is 1 in 8 and increasing 1% per year (Epstein, S.S., et al, Breast Cancer Prevention Program Macmillan, NY, 1998)

The RDA limits for vitamins and minerals were established after World War II. One of the last essential elements included in the RDA system was iodine, established in 1980 and confirmed in 1989 . The RDA for iodine was based on the amount of iodine/iodide needed to prevent goiter, extreme stupidity and hypothyroidism. The optimal requirement of the whole human
body for iodine has never been studied. Therefore, the optimal amount of this element for physical and mental well being is unknown. (Abrahams)

Iodine (iodide ions) is an essential trace mineral nutrient required to produce thyroid hormones. The element iodine occurs in food and in the body as the ionized or chemical form called iodide. The thyroid gland combines iodide with the amino acid, tyrosine, to produce thyroxin and triiodothyronine. These hormones control the body’s idling speed (Basal Metabolic Rate) and support normal growth and development.

Symptoms of iodine deficiency include sluggishness (hypothyroidism), weight gain and, in extreme cases, an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). During pregnancy, iodine deficiency can cause severe mental retardation (cretinism) in children. Before salt was iodized in the 1920s, goiters were common in areas of the United States, especially the South, with iodine-deficient soils. Though rare, goiter sometimes occurs in women and children in certain areas of California, Texas and the South, and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada. Goiter is still common in parts of Africa. Certain substances called goitrogens in vegetables like cassava and rutabagas block iodine uptake and may contribute to the occurrence of goiter when excessive amounts of these foods are consumed.

Sources of iodide include seaweed (kelp & dulse), shellfish like shrimp, clams and oysters, marine fish and iodized salt. Iodine occurs in food in other chemical forms besides iodide. Sodium iodate, a commercial dough oxidizer, occurs in some commercially baked goods. Milk and milk products may contain traces of free iodine, used as a disinfectant for milk cows and in milk production (a Betadine-type solution is applied to the teats and udder of the cows during the milking process as an antiseptic).

The typical diet supplies more than twice the U.S. Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of 150 mcg. Consuming 2 mg per day is generally considered safe for healthy adults. Breast milk contains iodine to provide for the infant’s requirements, and lactating women require extra iodide in their diets. An additional 50 mcg of iodine per day is recommended. Iodine as supersaturated potassium iodide (SSKI) has been used clinically in the treatment of asthma, slow lymphatic drainage, sebaceous cysts, fibrocystic breast disease and to promote desirable balance of estrogens. Iodine, as a water purifier, possesses antiviral and antibacterial activity (5 drops of Tincture of Iodine per quart of water). Excessive amounts of iodide can cause iodine-induced goiter. Other side effects include rash and allergies.

Sources of Iodine that are derived from kelp or dulse (sea lettuce) are much less apt to cause any of the nasty side effects you can get from using Tincture of Iodine (antiseptic) or in the form of Potassium Iodide (expectorant) or Sodium Iodide (table salt) which are not water-soluble.
Iodized Salt
In the United States, sodium iodide has been added to table salt (sodium chloride) to create “iodized salt” since 1924. It provides 76 mcg of iodine per gram of salt. With this enrichment, goiter virtually disappeared in America. Small amounts of additives stabilize iodine in iodized salt and prevent caking: They include glucose, sodium thiocyanate, sodium aluminum silicate or sodium bicarbonate. Sea salt is not a good source of iodine. Although seawater is rich in iodide, iodide is lost during purification. Note that sea salt and iodized salt contributes the same amount of sodium as standard table salt.

Hetzel, Basil S., “The Control of Iodine Deficiency,” American Journal of Public Health, 83:4 (April 1993), pp. 494-95.

Iodine is an essential constituent of the thyroid hormones thyroxine [3,5,3'5'tetraiodothyronine (T4)] and 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine (T3). The major role of iodine in nutrition arises from the important part played by the thyroid hormones in the growth and development of humans and animals. Iodine nutritional status can be assessed by means of goiter surveys, the determination of urinary iodine excretion and the measurement of levels of thyroid hormones and of the pituitary thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Fatigue, Cold intolerance, Muscle aches & pains, Heavy or more frequent periods, Low sex drive, Brittle nails, Weight gain, Hair loss, Muscle cramps, Depression, Constipation, Elevated blood cholesterol, Puffy face, Dry skin and hair, Inability to concentrate, Poor memory, and Goiter.
See the link below for iodine supplementation:

Griffin Medical Group – Center for Anti-Aging & Aesthetics (714) 549-6550

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Nov 08 2007


By Dr. James Howenstine, MD.
November 5, 2005

Lack of iodine is widespread in the United States today. For many years iodine was added to bread in generous quantities which prevented iodine deficiency. Each slice of bread contained 150 mcg. of iodine filling the whole days RDA of iodine In 1960 the average diet consumed about 1 mg. of iodine daily with bakery products accounting for about 75 % of the total. This quantity of iodine was enough to decrease the thyroid glands ability to absorb radioactive iodine and it was also sufficient to prevent excess release of thyroid hormone thus preventing many cases of hyperthyroidism (Grave’s Disease).

Forty years ago the food industry decided to remove iodine from baked goods and replace the iodine with bromine. Iodine and bromine appear similar to the thyroid gland and bromine easily binds to the thyroid gland’s receptors for iodine. Bromine, however, is of no value to the thyroid gland unlike iodine and it inhibits the activity of iodine in the thyroid gland. Bromine also can cause impaired thinking and memory, drowsiness, dizziness and irritability. This substitution of bromine for iodine has resulted in nearly universal deficiency of iodine in the American populace. Iodine therapy helps the body eliminate fluoride, bromine, lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum and mercury. Could this substitution of bromine for iodine have been carried out to increase diseases and thus create more need for pharmaceutical drugs?

Among the problems caused by iodine deficiency are:

  • Underactivity of the thyroid gland produces fatigue. In rodents iodine deficiency leads to abnormal pituitary-adrenal function. The adrenal gland provides energy and stamina.
  • When iodine no longer binds to thyroid cell membranes enzymes called peroxidases are able to damage these membranes and produce autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Hyperthroidism (Graves Disease). Researcher Dr. Guy Abraham has observed several cases of thyroiditis and hyperthyroidism that have been corrected by the simple replacement of iodine. For more than 100 years high doses of iodine have been known to benefit both underactivity (hypothyroidism) of the thyroid gland and overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Iodine therapy allows the sluggish thyroid gland to resume normal production of thyroid hormone leading to resolution of hypothyroidism. Provision of iodine stops the peroxidase injury to the thyroid membranes in hyperthyroidism which permits hyperthyroidism to resolve. Thus thyroid surgery for hyperthyroidism is no longer necessary.
  • Several human organs need iodine but can not absorb it until blood iodine levels reach high values (stomach, salivary glands). Most persons exhibit impaired production of stomach acid as they age. This impaired capability to produce adequate stomach acid may be a result of iodine deficiency as iodine promotes stomach acidity.
  • Resolution of cysts Iodine therapy resolves nearly every case of breast cysts. This treatment also can heal ovarian cysts and works well on skin cysts when rubbed over the cyst.
  • Iodine is found in large quantities in the brain and the ciliary body of the eye. Lack of iodine may be involved in production of Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma.
  • Lipoprotein (a) This dangerous substance is quite important as it produces plaques in arteries because it is very sticky and collects platelets, calcium and fibrin from the blood circulating inside our arteries. Excessive clotting and vascular disease resulting from high levels of lipoprotein (a) can be reversed by iodine treatment.
  • Other Health Problems Iodine has proven value in treating headaches, keloids, and parotid duct stones.

How Can Iodine Deficiency Be Detected?

An accurate test for diagnosing iodine deficiency exists. Dr. Jay Abrahams has developed a loading test to settle this issue. The patient takes 4 iodine tablets (12.5 mg each). If there is sufficient iodine in the individual the excess iodine is excreted in the urine in the next 24 hours. If iodine is lacking the body retains most of the iodine with little iodine appearing in the urine. Use of this test has shown that nearly every patient with any condition known to be associated with iodine deficiency tested positive for iodine lack. Therefore, it often is sensible to assume iodine lack and proceed to treat with iodine.

However, when a patient takes iodine for several months and has shown no improvement this test can be used to exclude a problem with absorption of iodine. Iodine lack is known to be a factor in the development of breast and prostate cancer. Sixty patients with a variety of cancers were studied. All sixty patients were found to have serious iodine deficiency.

To correct iodine deficiency by taking iodized salt is not feasible. You would need 20 teaspoons of iodized salt daily to get adequate quantities of iodine. Dr. Abrahams has developed an iodine preparation named Iodoral to treat iodine deficiency. This is composed of dried Lugol’s solution containing 12.5 mg of iodine per tablet. A person with adequate iodine stores who takes 4 of these tablets (50 mg.) will excrete 90 % of the iodine in their urine.

Dr. Abrahams thinks that the correct quantity of iodine needed to maintain sufficient amounts of iodine in the body is 13 mg. daily. This is 100 times more than the government recognized RDA for iodine. This quantity of daily iodine would be distributed as follows –six mg. to thyroid gland, five mg. for the breasts in females and two mg. for the remainder of the body. Males appear to usually, but not always, need slightly less than females.

Prominent thyroid researcher, Dr. Benjamin Eskin, has shown that the thyroid gland and skin prefer to concentrate the iodide form of iodine while the breasts concentrate iodine. His research suggested that the body needs both the iodide and iodine form of iodine. This is easy to accomplish with Lugol’s solution developed by French physician Dr. Jean Lugol in the 1820s. His solution mixed iodine (5 %) with potassium iodide (10 %) and 85 % water. Dr. Lugol’s solution killed germs and was used with success in treating infections and many other conditions. This solution in the recommended 2 drop dosage contains 5 mg. of iodine and 7.5 mg. of iodine which is exactly the quantity of iodine recommended for daily intake by Dr. Abraham. Lugol’s solution tastes metallic unless greatly diluted and stains clothing and skin.

A third solution that works well in correcting iodine deficiency is Triodide made by Scientific Botanicals of Seattle, Washington. This has the same dosage of iodine and iodide combined with a sea vegetable called bladderwrack. This can be obtained from natural food stores, Tahoma Clinic Dispensary and compounding pharmacies. This contains 12.5 mg of iodine in the same 2 drop dosage.

Dr. Abrahams recommends taking 50 mg of Iodoral (four 12.5 mg. tablets), Lugol’s solution (8 drops)or Triodide (8 drops) daily for 3 months as a loading dose. Then this dose should be gradually reduced to the 12.5 mg. maintenance dosage under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care professional. Dr.Abraham feels that 14 to 15 mg. of iodine/iodide daily is the upper maximum of safety. This is close to the recommended dose of 12.5 mg daily so caution is necessary in managing iodine repletion. Japanese researchers have discovered patients with hypothyroidism who were taking 20 mg. of iodine or more daily.

Another valuable iodine preparation is saturated solution of potassium iodide. This does not have the correct ratio of iodine iodide recommended by Dr.Abrahams for correcting iodine deficiency but it does have a multitude of valuable healing properties. It can help open up blocked arteries, disinfect water, cure bladder infections, reduce or eliminate ovarian cysts, diminish unsightly keloids, loosen thick bronchial secretions, reduce or eliminate Peyronie’s Disease and Dupuytron’s contracture.

Endocrine Cancers And Iodine Stores

Iodine deficiency is a recognized risk factor in the development of cancer of the breast, prostate, and probably the ovary and endometrium. Breast cancer is twice as common (12.1 %) in women taking natural thyroid hormone or synthetic thyroid hormone as in women not taking thyroid hormones (6.2 %). The risk for breast cancer in women taking thyroid hormones increases with time. Women who had taken thyroid hormone for 15 years had a 19.5 % incidence of breast cancer while women who had been on thyroid hormone therapy for five years had only a 10 % incidence of breast cancer. This increase in breast cancer with time suggests that correction of a iodine deficiency might well eliminate the need for thyroid hormone and would also lower the incidence of breast cancer.

Japanese women, who are eating lots of seaweed, have the highest iodine intake (13.8 mg. daily) of women anywhere in the world. They also have the lowest incidence of breast cancer in the world. Japan has one of the lowest worldwide rates of every type of cancer with the exception of stomach cancer. In addition Japan has one of the lowest incidences of iodine deficiency, goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), and hypothyroidism. Iceland, another high iodine intake country, has low rates of goiter and breast cancer. Two countries with low iodine intakes (Thailand, Mexico) have high rates of breast cancer and goiter.

Patient Studies.With Iodine Therapy

A patient of Dr. Rowen named Betty had severely painful breast cysts. She took 5 mg. of iodine daily with complete disappearance of painful breast cysts.

Veronica, another patient of Dr. Rowen, had advanced breast cancer with severe hip pain from a bone metastasis. Iodine loading test showed severe deficiency of iodine. After three months of Iodoral she still has not restored her iodine levels but her excretion of bromine has increased 10 fold. Her cancer therapy with IPT and artemisin has been stable with only an occasional IPT and she continues with 25 mg. of Iodoral three times daily. Dr. Abrahams relates that he has seen two remissions of breast cancer in persons taking 75 mg of Iodorol daily. Iodine deficiency plays a role in allowing breast cancer and prostate cancer to develop.

Another physician has seen a case of prostate cancer go into remission after taking Iodoral and supplements.

George Flechas MD relates that many of his diabetic patients need lowering of insulin dosage and diabetic drugs after repletion of iodine deficiency. Dr. Rowen has observed the same thing.

Food Sources Of Iodine

Iodine from fish must be limited because of mercury problems. However, sardines have such a short life span they do not get contaminated with mercury. My suggestion would be to buy tins of sardines packed in tomato sauce so you can avoid the transfats used in oil packed sardines.

Brown and red seaweeds contain the most iodine (kombu, focus, etc.).of sea vegetables. You may still need supplemental iodine to get an adequate quantity for repletion of iodine deficiency. unless you are eating lots of seaweeds.

Iodoral can be purchased from Optimox 310-618-9870 if you are willing to buy a case. Otherwise you can probably find this in health food stores. Lugol’s solution is a satisfactory way to obtain iodine but you will need a prescription. The dose is 2 drops daily. Be careful in measuring as 3 drops daily can lead to toxic symptoms.

The evidence presented here proves that iodine is vital to human health. Many persons will experience improved health when their iodine deficiency is corrected.

Dr. James A. Howenstine is a board certified specialist in internal medicine who spent 34 years caring for office and hospital patients. After 4 years of personal study he became convinced that natural products are safer, more effective, and less expensive than pharmaceutical drugs. 

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Nov 08 2007

Don’t Buy Omega 3 Supplements Before Reading This …

Published by under Omega-3 - Fish Oil

Not all Fish Oil and Omega 3 supplements are the same. Most supermarket and health food store brands are useless at delivering the essential fats that your body needs. Worse still, some are rancid and contaminated with toxic levels of mercury and organic pollutants. Supplement companies do not perform the stringent testing that is required to certify that their fish oil is ULTRA-PURIFIED and does not contain pollutants or contaminants. It takes 100 gallons of health food supplement grade fish oil to produce 1 gallon of ultra-purified pharmaceutical grade fish oil.

Not All Omega 3’s Contain DHA and EPA


Not all Omega 3’s will provide you with DHA and EPA. This is because these essential fatty acids are not present in a lot of Omega 3 products. For example, ground flax seed is an excellent oil for certain uses and contains Omega 3’s but does not actually contain any DHA or EPA at all. Instead it contains ALA which your body has to convert to DHA and EPA.

In many people, particularly the elderly this conversion process is very inefficient. To give you an idea, it is estimated that most adults would have to consume 10 – 40 grams of flaxseed oil to produce just 0.2 grams of DHA.

So, if you want to get the proven benefits of DHA and EPA, which include opening of blood vessels, decrease in blood clotting, decrease in inflammation and pain, killing cancer cells, improving immune system, improving mental function, stopping heart irregularities and sudden death and preventing heart disease,  don’t rely on getting your Omega 3’s from vegetable oils such as flaxseed.  Griffin Medical Group prescribes to their patients, an ultra-purified pharmaceutical grade omega 3 fish oil that is loaded with high quality DHA and EPA so patients can achieve an optimal level of health.

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Nov 08 2007

How much fish oil or DHA/EPA do I really need?

Published by under Omega-3 - Fish Oil

The Best Source and Optimal Dosing of this Anti-inflammatory Nutrient

When recommending fish oil to my geriatric and baby boomer patients the most common response I get is, “My grandmother used to make me take cod liver oil from a spoon.” As it turns out, grandma was right.

Because of their health-promoting abilities, omega-3 fatty acids have received recognition from some of the top medical organizations in the world including, the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, World Health Organization, United Kingdom Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, European Society for Cardiology, and The British Nutrition Foundation.

Fish Oil and Health
The health benefits of fish oil boil down to a few simple concepts.

First and foremost, EPA and DHA are absolutely essential for proper cellular health. EPA and DHA are required constituents of ALL cell membranes from our head to our toes and inside out. As constituents of cell membranes EPA and DHA are determinants of cell receptor action, hormone binding, cell fluidity, signal transduction, ion channel function, and membrane-bound enzyme activity.1

Let’s pause for a second to ponder the significance of these actions.

There are literally thousands of prescription drugs designed to modify one or more of the cellular functions mentioned above. In regards to fish oil, we are talking about one single non-toxic health promoting substance that can influence ALL of these actions.

The second major benefit of EPA and DHA is related to their function as precursors to eicosanoids. In my years of providing technical support for nutritional supplement companies and talking with doctors about eicosanoid production I have come to the conclusion that few doctors really appreciate the power and complexity of the eicosanoid cascade.

Eicosanoids are short lived, potent, hormone-like molecules that act as messengers and mediators of the immune/inflammatory response. There is a wide variety of eicosanoids produced during an immune response each with a different action and intensity.

Every cell in the body is surrounded by a cell membrane, which consists of a lipid bilayer and embedded proteins and glycoproteins. The lipid bilayer is made-up of individual fatty acids arranged in such a manner to create a semi-permeable barrier that protects a cell from its surroundings. Fatty acids within the cell membrane not only provide a protective envelope, but also serve as a reservoir of individual fatty acids for making eicosanoids.

When the immune system is triggered into action, phospholipase A2 releases individual fatty acids from the cell membrane. While in the extra-cellular space these fatty acids are taken up by enzymes such as cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) and converted into eicosanoids.

The predominant fatty acids consumed via the Standard American Diet are the omega-6 linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Americans consume excess linoleic acid by eating a variety of vegetable oils including corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower that are ubiquitous in our food supply. Arachidonic acid comes mainly from animal products such as meat and eggs.

All dietary fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are incorporated into cell membranes. When the immune system is stimulated by allergens, injury, or infection fatty acids are released from cell membranes. Omega-6 fatty acids are converted into eicosanoids by the same enzymes (COX and LOX) that act on omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are actually in competition for binding sites on the COX and LOX enzymes. The critical difference is that the corresponding eicosanoids synthesized from omega-6 fatty acids drive a very aggressive and potent inflammatory response.

On the flip side when omega-3 fatty acids are converted into corresponding eicosanoids, these eicosanoids direct an anti-inflammatory response. Studies have shown that EPA blocks the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes and reduces the production of prostaglandin E2, a very potent inflammatory and platelet aggregatory eicosanoid.2

The relative amount of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids found within cell membranes will determine the body’s inflammatory status. Excess omega-6 consumption results in a high omega-6:omega-3 ratio in cell membranes. When the immune system is challenged by allergy or infection, predominantly omega-6 eicosanoids are formed. This results in an aggressive and sustained inflammatory response. When optimal omega-6:omega-3 ratio (2:1) is maintained, a balanced immune/inflammatory response occurs.

In my years of following fish oil research I have often wondered why only EPA gets recognition for having anti-inflammatory activity. What about DHA? EPA and DHA are molecularly similar. They both reside in the cell membrane, and both are released from the cell membrane by phospholipase A2. I have always been suspicious that DHA may play a role in the inflammatory/immune response as well.

Conventional wisdom up to this point has told us that DHA functions only as a structural component of cell membranes. It helps with cell membrane fluidity and signal transduction. DHA has a clinical reputation for treating conditions involving the eyes, brain, and nervous system where DHA is found in higher concentrations within those cell membranes.

My intuition was correct. Recently researchers have discovered that DHA is also a substrate for COX-2. A newer class of compounds, known as resolvins, docosatrienes, and neuroprotectins has been identified in healing inflammatory tissue. It has been determined that these compounds are generated from EPA and DHA and posses anti-inflammatory, protective, and immunoregulatory properties.3 As more data becomes available we may discover that DHA is a partner to EPA in dampening inflammation and neutrophil mediated injury.4

Proper Dosage
When speaking to doctors about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids the most common question I receive is, “What is the dose?” In my earlier days I would comb through Medline and investigate published studies, looking for information on the particular condition in question, and try to figure out the correct dose.

Anyone who has tried these same steps knows the number of published articles pertaining to fish oil is currently in the thousands with a wide range of doses being investigated. To add to the confusion institutions such as the American Heart Association heed caution with doses higher than three grams per day while influential physicians such as Barry Sears recommend mega-doses in the 10 gram and higher range.

A further complication to the dosing question is that not all fish oil provides the same amount of EPA and DHA. There is cod liver oil, fish body oil, and fish oil concentrates with a broad range of EPA and DHA. Some doctors recommend fish oil in grams and forget to specify if they are referring to grams of total oil or grams of elemental EPA + DHA (total milligrams of EPA and DHA combined). As you can see the dosing question is as murky as the ocean waters.

Recently, I was lucky enough to hear a presentation by Dr. Alex Richardson who shed some light into these murky waters. In his presentation Dr. Richardson made a profound, yet simple, correlation between the optimal dose of omega-3 and its direct correlation to the background intake of omega-6. It finally all made sense to me—clinical benefits, cell membrane function, and the inflammation/immune connection are all based on getting the correct balance of omega-6:omega-3 within the cell membrane.

We need omega-6 fatty acids. In and of themselves, they are not villains. The key is in the relative amounts of omega-6:omega-3. We have all heard how the Paleolithic diet was closer to a 2:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio while our modern diet is closer to a 20:1. The high omega-6 ratio drives excess inflammation, which is possibly the single biggest underlying cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.

As physicians we discuss the notion of “balancing our fatty acid intake” but Dr. Richardson took it one step further. He did a thorough analysis of the amount of omega-6 fatty acids consumed by different cultures throughout the world and estimates the amount of omega-3 fatty acids necessary to achieve a target ratio of omega-6:omega-3 (approximately 2.5:1 omega-6:omega-3). Amongst the cultures he analyzed he found the intake of omega-3 fatty acids necessary to achieve a protective tissue level varied more than 10-fold. (Figure 1)

This information has helped to shape my dosing recommendations tremendously. Based on the average consumption of omega-6 oils in the American diet, he has shown that it takes approximately 2 grams of elemental EPA + DHA daily to achieve a protective balance. Dr. Barry Sears, originator of the Zone Diet, has recommended 2.5 grams/day of EPA+DHA for a healthy maintanance dose, 5.0 grams/day for excellent cardiovascular protection, 7.5 grams/day for treatment of chronic pain / chronic inflammatory disease, and over 10+ grams/day for treatment of neurological diseases such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Bipolar depression, etc. Dr. Nicholas Perricone has recommended over 6 grams/day for optimal thermogenesis / fat-burning heat production and optimal skin complexion.

Remember, a 2-gram per day recommendation does not simply mean take two 1,000 mg capsules. We are talking about 2 grams of elemental EPA + DHA, which can range from around 3 to 9 capsules depending on the concentration of EPA and DHA in the capsule. (Figure 2)

In my practice the most common fish oil recommendation I make is Vital Nutrients RS Fish Oil 2 teaspoons twice a day or 1 1/3 tablespoons once a day (20ml) for 6 grams of EPA+DHA with a simultaneous reduction of dietary soy, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils.

Rancid Fish Oil: More Harm Than Good?
Recently I was taking the history of a new patient who is a pharmacist. When reviewing his supplements, I learned that he was taking a commodity grade fish oil purchased at a discount grocery store. I encouraged him to do a taste test and chew a Nordic Naturals EPA capsule, then chew one of his commodity grade capsules.

To no great surprise the EPA Capsules tasted great and the commodity oil had the characteristic rank taste and smell of a bad fish oil product. The surprise was that the pharmacist’s response was, “This fish oil is very inexpensive and fish oil is fish oil—right?” My response: “WRONG!”

Any oil exposed to light, heat, or oxygen is subject to free radical attack and oxidative damage. Fish oil is made up of many long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which have many double bonds in the chain. Everywhere there is a double bond there is good opportunity for free radical attack.

Recently researchers have discovered that free radical catalyzed peroxidation of omega-3 fatty acids leads to the formation of a family of compounds that may be harmful to the body. For instance, free radical damage to DHA leads to the formation of neuroprostanes. Neuro¬ prostanes are currently being investigated as markers for oxidative stress in the brain that may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’ s.5 Rancid oil will simply add to the body’s oxidative stress load and expose it to molecules such as neuroprostanes.

The best fish oil manufacturers test their oil for freshness by analyzing it for peroxide value, anisidine value, and totox value. These measurements give a good indication of how much free radical damage has occurred in the oil. In addition, if fish oil smells or tastes rank, it should be thrown out.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Best Sources
Fish oil is unequivocally the best source for omega-3 fatty acids. Some purists still recommend eating fish to achieve optimal omega-3 levels. Unfortunately contamination of our oceans has made reaching optimal omega-3 levels via eating fish a potential health hazard. Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have sounded the alarm regarding the potential dangers of consuming too-much fish because of the associated toxins.6 In addition, studies have compared levels of mercury and organochlorines in fish versus fish oil supplements and concluded fish oil provide the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids without the risk of toxicity.7-8

Because there are no fish oil quality standards in the United States, individuals must determine what standards a manufacturer is voluntarily following—if any—to ensure the fish oil is without contamination. The highest standards in the industry today are the Norwegian Medicinal Standard (NMS) and the European Pharmacopoeia Standard (EPS). By following these standards a manufacturer can guarantee quality products by setting maximum allowances on peroxides, heavy metals, dioxins, furans, and PCBs.

During new patient visits I am dismayed to find patients still take flax oil as a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Flax and flax oil can be a part of a healthy diet, but it is not an adequate source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Flax oil is an excellent source of the long chain omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This 18-carbon fatty acid is a precursor to EPA (a 20 carbon omega-3 fatty acid) and DHA (a 22-carbon omega-3 fatty acid). ALA is not associated with the many health benefits attributed to EPA and DHA. To get EPA and DHA from consuming ALA requires several metabolic steps (elongation and desaturation) that are governed by two important enzymes known as delta-6 desaturase (D6D) and delta-5 desaturase (D5D).

Metabolic studies have shown that the enzymatic activity of D6D and D5D are impaired by intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, alcohol, stress-hormones, smoking, viral infections, ionizing radiation, and aging. It is hard to find a patient without these obstacles to converting ALA to EPA and/or DHA.

In general, the exact rate of conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is a matter of debate. A thorough review of the literature reveals a range of estimated conversions of ALA to EPA with a maximum being around 15 percent and a minimum of 2-3 percent. The estimates are even less promising for conversion to DHA.

Therefore, in conditions that have been shown to be supported by EPA and/or DHA, pre-formed EPA and DHA from fish oil is the most effective means to nourish the body with these essential fatty acids.

Griffin Medical Group Center for Anti-Aging & Aesthetics 714 549-6550

1. Lerman R. Essential Fatty Acids. Integrative Medicine. 2006;5:34-44.
2. James MJ, Gibson RA, Cleland LG. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory mediator production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(1 Suppl):343S-348S.
3. Serhan CN, et al. Resolvins, docosatrienes, and neuroprotectins, novel omega-3 derived mediators, and their aspirin-triggered endogenous epimers:an overview of their protective roles in catabasis. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2004;73:155-172.
4. Serhan CN. Novel omega-3-derived local mediators in anti-inflammation and resolution. Pharmacol Ther. 2005;105:7-21.
5. Montine KS, Quinn JF, Zhang J, et al. Isoprostanes and related products of lipid peroxidation in neurodegenerative diseases. Chem Phys Lipids. 2004;128:117-124.
6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WEBSITE:
7. Melanson SF, et al. Measurement of organochlorines in commercial over-the-counter fish oil preparations: implications for dietary and therapeutic recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids and a review of the literature. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2005;129:74-77.
8. Foran SE, et al. Measurement of mercury levels in concentrated over-the-counter fish oil preparations: is fish oil healthier than fish? Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2003;127:1603-1605.

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Nov 08 2007

Fish Oil Helps Childhood Depression

Published by under Omega-3 - Fish Oil

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry analyzed the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in pre-adolescent children diagnosed with depression. The researchers investigated 28 depressed children between the ages 6 and 12 years old and were randomly assigned to omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo. A combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was used. At the end of their trial, 7 out of 10 children in the treatment group and none of the children in the placebo group had a reduction in depression scores of more than 50%. The researchers found significant improvement in subject’s scores on depression inventory tests.According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one in every 33 children may suffer from clinical depression and depression in adolescents could be one in eight.

The balance of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain may be imbalanced in depressed individuals. Fish oils may influence serotonin function in brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates emotion and is deficient in depressed brains. The Western diet has lower omega-3 intake than in other countries and tends to have higher depression rates.  A study linked fish consumption by country with low depression. (NY Reuters 9/3/98.). Other fatty acid benefits were found in studies for children with learning difficulties, behavioral problems and ADHD. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry  have shown that a daily dose of 1 gram of an omega-3 fatty acid for 12 weeks reduce symptoms of depression. Another study from Crete showed that higher long-term dietary intake of DHA from fish or fish oil is associated with a decreased risk for depression in adults.

Fish oils have been known to provide many benefits for the body. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Please consult your physician before beginning fish oil supplementation.
Consume Omega -3 for the health of your brain!
We can balance our own brain chemistry through proper diet and supplementation. Call Griffin Medical Group to get your body and mind on the right path to total health.
(949) 549-6550


Nemets H, Nemets B, Apter A, Bracha Z, Belmaker RH. Omega-3 treatment of childhood depression: a controlled, double-blind pilot study. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Jun;163(6):1098 100

Mamalakis G, et al. University of Crete, Iraklion, Crete, Greece. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 8 February 2006

Archives of General Psychiatry October 2002; 59: 913-919

Griffin Medical Group – Center for Anti-Aging & Aesthetics (714) 549-6550

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Nov 08 2007

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Decrease Anxiety in Substance Abusers

Published by under Omega-3 - Fish Oil

A new study has found that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil decrease feelings of anxiety in substance abusers, adding to the mounting evidence that fish-oil-derived fatty acids can improve well-being.

Past studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have a role to play in alleviating depression and that their deficiency is associated with bipolar disorder. Preclinical studies also have shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease anxiety-like behaviors. Because there is a strong association between anxiety disorders and substance use disorders and because substance abusers have poor dietary habits, researchers investigated the theory that omega-3 supplements would decrease anxiety in a group of substance abusers.

In the three-month, randomized, double-blind trial, researchers gave 13 patients capsules containing 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid plus docosahexaenoic acid) per day. Eleven patients received placebo capsules.

At the study’s start and on a monthly basis thereafter, the researchers administered a scale assessing anxiety feelings. Six patients consuming the omega-3 supplements and 8 placebo group patients were followed for an additional three months after treatment discontinuation and administered the same questionnaire monthly.

Subjects who received the omega-3s for three months showed a progressive decline in anxiety scores. This same improvement was not noted in the placebo group. A comparison of the two groups showed that there was a significant difference between those taking the omega-3s and the subjects taking the placebo. Furthermore, for three months after treatment discontinuation, anxiety scores remained significantly decreased in the omega-3 group.

“In conclusion,” the researchers wrote, “these preliminary data indicate that n-3 PUFA [omega-3 fatty acid] supplementation could be beneficial in the treatment of some patients with anxiety disorders.”

Buydens-Branchey L, Branchey M. n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Decrease Anxiety Feelings in a Population of Substance Abusers. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. December 2006;26(6):661-665.
Griffin Medical Group (714) 549-6550

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Nov 08 2007

Analysis finds inverse relationship between serum vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk

Published by under Vitamin D3

The results of a pooled analysis of 1,760 women confirmed that having higher levels of the vitamin D metabolite serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. The finding was reported at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held April 1-5, 2006 in Washington DC.

Cedric Garland, Dr PH, and Edward Gorham, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego, and their colleagues evaluated data from cancer studies conducted by Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson and colleagues at Harvard, and L.C. Lowe and associates at Saint George’s Hospital Medical School in London to arrive at their conclusion. “There is a strong inverse dose-response relationship between the serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and the risk of breast cancer,” Dr Garland stated. “It’s a close fit to a linear model.”

The research team found that having a serum vitamin D level of 52 nanograms per milliliter was associated with a 50 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. To attain this level of the vitamin, it would be necessary to consume at least 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day–more than three times as much as most Americans receive. Although the National Academy of Sciences has established 2,400 IU per day as the upper limit for vitamin D intake, there have been no toxic effects associated with up to 3,800 IU per day. “There is no substantial downside to a serum level of 52 nanograms per milliliter of Vitamin D,” Dr Gorham noted. “Such levels are common in sunny climates. There is no known adverse effect of serum levels below 160 nanograms per milliliter.”

The researchers recommend that at least 1,000 IU per day vitamin D3 be consumed until further studies are conducted.

Alvin Yee M.D. recommends up to 5,000 IU per day for patients concerned or have a familial history of breast cancer. See link below

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Nov 08 2007

Vitamin D3: New Studies on Weight Management, Colon and Prenatal Health

Published by under Vitamin D3

Three new studies have emphasized the role vitamin D3 may play in an effective weight management program, reduction of colorectal cancer risk and helping in healthy pregnancies.In the first study, researchers determined the effects of daily vitamin D combined with calcium during a weight-loss intervention program. The researchers set out to determine whether the vitamin D plus calcium affected blood pressure, plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, and glucose and insulin concentrations in people who are low calcium consumers.

The study included 63 healthy, overweight or obese women with a daily calcium intake of greater than 800 mg per day. The subjects were randomly assigned in a double-blind manner to 1 of 2 groups: one group consumed 2 tablets per day of a calcium plus vitamin D supplement (600 mg elemental calcium and 200 IU vitamin D3 per tablet) while another group consumed a placebo. Both groups observed 700 kcal/day energy restriction. The subjects then completed a 15-week weight-loss intervention.

After the 15-week intervention, significantly greater decreases in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) were observed in the calcium plus vitamin D group than in the placebo group. In addition, the LDL:HDL ratio also decreased substantially in the calcium plus vitamin D group. The differences were independent of changes in fat mass and waist circumference. A tendency for more beneficial changes in high-density lipoprotein (HDL “good” cholesterol), triglycerides, and total cholesterol was also observed in the calcium plus vitamin D group.

According to the study authors, “Consumption of calcium + D during a weight-loss intervention enhanced the beneficial effect of body weight loss on the lipid and lipoprotein profile in overweight or obese women with usual low daily calcium intake.”

In the second new study on vitamin D, scientists reviewed the medical literature to determine the vitamin’s effects on colon health. The reviewers identified five studies that investigated the relationship between serum vitamin D in association with colorectal cancer risk. The researchers then compared the study subjects with the lowest vitamin D levels to those with the highest.

The studies included in the review involved follow-up periods that ranged from two to 25 years. During the follow-up period of 1,448 total participants, there were 535 cases of colorectal cancer and 913 controls.
After analyzing the data, the reviewers concluded that there was a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer when serum vitamin D levels were greater than or equal to 33 ng/mL, compared to less than or equal to 12 ng/mL.

The results of the data was so compelling that the researchers concluded, “The evidence to date suggests that daily intake of 1,000–2,000 IU/day of vitamin D3 could reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer with minimal risk.”

In the third study, University of Pittsburgh researchers determined that pregnant women in America are not receiving enough vitamin D and that the amount contained in prenatal multivitamins is not enough to completely meet their needs. In the study of 200 black women and 200 white women, randomly selected between 1997 and 2001, 92.4 percent of African-American newborns and 66.1 percent of white babies had deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels at birth. These results occurred even though more than 90 percent of the subjects used prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, indicating that pregnant women should consider supplementing with additional vitamin D beyond what’s in a standard prenatal multivitamin.

Additional vitamin D is especially recommended if the prenatal period occurs during the winter or spring, when individuals are not receiving much vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, or if sunlight exposure in the summer is restricted. In both groups in the current study, vitamin D concentrations were highest in summer and lowest in winter and spring. But differences were smaller between seasons for African-American mothers and babies, whose vitamin D deficiency remained more constant no matter what the season.

The study authors concluded, “Higher-dose supplementation is needed to improve maternal and neonatal vitamin D nutriture.”

Past studies have shown that in utero or early-life vitamin D deficiency is associated with skeletal problems, type 1 diabetes, and schizophrenia. Results of previous studies also have led researchers to suggest that anyone who is not receiving regular sun exposure in winter should consume 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.

Griffin Medical Group recommends a minimum of a minimum of 1000 IU and up to 5000 IU of pharmaceutical vitamin D3 per day. See the link below:
Major GC, Alarie F, Dore J, Phouttama S, Tremblay A. Supplementation with calcium + vitamin D enhances the beneficial effect of weight loss on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):54-9.

Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, Grant WB, Mohr SB, Lipkin M, Newmark HL, Giovannucci E, Wei M, Holick MF. Optimal Vitamin D Status for Colorectal Cancer Prevention: A Quantitative Meta Analysis. Am J Prev Med. March 2007; 32(3):210-16.

Bodnar LM, Simhan HN, Powers RW, Frank MP, Cooperstein E, Roberts JM. High prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in black and white pregnant women residing in the northern United States and their neonates. J Nutr. 2007 Feb;137(2):447-52.

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Nov 08 2007

New Research on Vitamin D Benefits

Published by under Vitamin D3

Bone Health
A recent meta-analysis of twelve double blind, randomized controlled trials indicates that vitamin D3 promotes bone strength. The study involved almost 20,000 people supplementing with 400 to 800 i.u. cholecalciferol, vitamin D3. Results indicate that 700-800 i.u. cholecalciferol promoted hip and nonvertebral bone health, however 400 i.u. did not have the same effect. In another 3-year randomized controlled study, cholecalciferol and calcium supplementation lessened the risk of falling in women aged 65 or older.*

Emotional Health
A recent trial selected a cross-sectional group of 80 elderly individuals from a longitudinal study researching cognitive function. The trial indicated that higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were associated with positive mood and cognitive performance.*

Nerve Health
A prospective, nested case-control study involving more than 7 million U.S. military personnel indicates that vitamin D may promote nerve health. The study reveals that high circulating levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were associated with nerve and myelin health. Another cohort study involving women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II indicates that supplemental vitamin D greater or equal to 400 i.u. per day promotes nerve health.*

Cellular Health of the Colon, Breast and Prostate
A review of 63 observational studies reveals the importance of healthy vitamin D serum levels for supporting normal cellular health of the prostate, colon and breast. A recent cohort study involving 1,095 men indicates that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with cellular health, particularly for the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, a meta-analysis involving 5 trials suggests that a daily intake of 1,000-2,000 i.u. per day of vitamin D3 promotes colon cell health. A case-control study from within the Nurses Health Study indicates that healthy 25-hydroxyvitamin D plasma levels are associated with breast cell health. Furthermore, healthy plasma levels of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D, the most active vitamin D metabolite, may also be associated with healthy breast cell function.*

1. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Willett WC, Wong JB, et al Fracture prevention with vitamin D supplementation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. JAMA. 2005 May 11;293(18):2257-64
2. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Orav EJ, Dawson-Hughes B. Effect of cholecalciferol plus calcium on falling in ambulatory older men and women: a 3-year randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Feb 27;166(4):424-30.
3. Wilkins CH, Sheline YI, Roe CM, Birge SJ, Morris JC. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and worse cognitive performance in older adults. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;14(12):1032-40.
4. Munger KL, Levin LI, Hollis BW, Howard NS, Ascherio A. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis. JAMA. 2006 Dec 20;296(23):2832-8.
5. Munger KL, Zhang SM, O’Reilly E, et al. Vitamin D intake and incidence of multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2004 Jan 13;62(1):60-5.
6. Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED, et al. The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Am J Public Health. 2006 Feb;96(2):252-61.
7. Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Rimm EB, Hollis BW, Fuchs CS, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Prospective study of predictors of vitamin D status and cancer incidence and mortality in men. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006 Apr 5;98(7):451-9.
8. Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, et al. Optimal vitamin d status for colorectal cancer prevention a quantitative meta analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2007 Mar;32(3):210-6.
9. Bertone-Johnson ER, Chen WY, Holick MF, et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and risk of breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1991-7.
10. Pendas-Franco N, Gonzalez-Sancho JM, Suarez Y, et al. Vitamin D regulates the phenotype of human breast cancer cells. Differentiation. 2006 Dec. 


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Nov 08 2007

Guarding Against the Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency

Published by under Vitamin D3


The long, dark days of another winter have come and gone. Tens of millions of Americans would be surprised to learn that winter has left them deficient in vitamin D. Your chances of being one of them are probably much greater than you imagine.

Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin in response to sunlight exposure, but few people achieve optimal levels this way, in part due to the limited ultraviolet light available during the winter months. This seasonal deficit is compounded by the fact that many people avoid sun exposure during the spring and summer months because of concern about premature skin aging and cancers like melanoma. Alarming new research suggests that these factors are contributing to a year-round epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, particularly in elderly adults.

Vitamin D does far more than promote healthy teeth and bones. Its role in supporting immunity, modulating inflammation, and preventing cancer make the consequences of vitamin D deficiency potentially devastating. A growing number of scientists who study vitamin D levels in human populations now recommend annual blood tests to check vitamin D status.

In this article, we examine the factors that contribute to the widespread prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, the latest studies supporting vitamin D’s critical role in preventing disease, and how much supplemental vitamin D you need to achieve optimal blood levels.

Vitamin D Deficiency: An Overlooked Epidemic

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble prohormone—that is, it has no hormone activity itself, but is converted to a molecule that does, through a tightly regulated synthesis mechanism. Its two major forms are vitamin D2 (or ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol). Vitamin D also refers to metabolites and other analogues of these substances. Vitamin D3 is produced in skin exposed to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B radiation.

While vitamin D is best known for promoting calcium absorption and bone health, researchers have recently discovered important new roles for this versatile vitamin.1 As an active hormone,2 vitamin D is now seen as playing a central role in controlling immunity and inflammation,1,3,4 two vital processes that are tied to a host of age-related disease conditions.5-10

Just as scientists are discovering critical new roles for vitamin D, they are also finding that shockingly few people have blood levels of vitamin D adequate to support their daily needs.5,6 One leading researcher has referred to this deficit as a “vitamin D epidemic.”7 Estimates of the percentage of US adolescents and adults who are vitamin D deficient range from 21% to 58%,11 while as many as 54% of homebound older adults are believed to be vitamin D deficient.12

Because vitamin D3 is obtained in humans primarily as a result of exposure to sunlight,8 this puts people living outside the tropics at particular risk for vitamin D deficiency, especially from late fall to early spring.9 Further compounding the problem, many public health officials are concerned that their warnings about avoiding the sun because of skin cancer risk may in fact be causing people to limit their sun exposure to an unhealthy extent.10,13

Because sun exposure does pose significant health risks, and most Americans live outside of the regions where they can get adequate sun in winter, perhaps the best way to address this dilemma is by paying close attention to your blood levels of vitamin D and optimizing them through appropriate supplementation. To meet all of the body’s needs for proper vitamin D activity, many scientists now advocate supplementing with doses that are considerably higher than the minimums currently recommended by the Institute of Medicine.14 While vitamin D can be obtained through a few dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and dairy products, these foods fail to provide the daily levels required by most individuals, thus necessitating vitamin D supplementation.

How Vitamin D Controls Cell Functions
Vitamin D’s applications in promoting optimal health stem from its ability to control production of vital proteins by switching genes on and off, and thus helping to determine the fate of cells. Cells affected by the active form of vitamin D, known as calcitriol,15-17 stop growing and reproducing, and rapidly mature into their final forms.3,4,17,18These effects help prevent the proliferation (uncontrolled growth) of potentially cancerous cells,19-24 while stimulating cells to differentiate (mature) so that they can carry out their mature functions, such as stimulating immune system activity.3,4,25-27

Since uncontrolled reproduction of immature cells is the defining feature of cancers, vitamin D may have important cancer-preventive effects. Because of its unique ability to switch cell functions on and off, vitamin D has a dual effect that can modulate immune function3 by both boosting deficient immune function and quieting overactive autoimmunity.28

Vitamin D may further help to reduce the excessive inflammation and oxidative damage implicated in conditions such as osteoarthritis,29,30 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (such as emphysema),31-33 cardiovascular disease,34,35 and metabolic syndrome.36,37 Low vitamin D levels are linked to increased risk for all these conditions,38-46 highlighting the importance of regular vitamin D blood tests to detect and correct deficiencies before they contribute to the onset of disease.

Applications for Preventing and Treating Cancer

Strong epidemiological data now implicate low vitamin D levels in at least 16 different malignancies.47 Powerful clinical evidence indicates that vitamin D may be useful in preventing and even treating colon and prostate cancers, while suggestive evidence points to its effects in countering lung, breast, skin, and other cancers.16,47

Colon Cancer

Twenty-five years of research suggests that detecting and correcting vitamin D deficiency may be especially important in averting colon cancer, a disease that claims approximately 56,000 lives each year in the United States.48

An early study of 1,954 men found that those with the lowest vitamin D intake had more than double the risk of colon cancer compared to men with the highest intake.49 Colon cells reproduce very quickly, placing them at risk for becoming malignant. When active vitamin D was applied to colon cells in culture, reproduction rates fell by 57% in normal colon tissue and by 52% in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis, an inherited syndrome characterized by many pre-cancerous polyps.50 In a laboratory study, pretreatment with vitamin D made colon cancer cells easier to kill with hydrogen peroxide and other natural oxidants present in the bowel.51

A large randomized trial from 2003 helped to establish a clinical role for vitamin D in preventing colon cancer.52 Eight hundred three subjects with previous colorectal adenomas (which can lead to cancer if they recur) were given calcium supplements or placebo, and their rates of adenoma recurrence were measured. Calcium supplements reduced the risk of adenoma recurrence by 29% in subjects with normal D levels. This study demonstrated that both calcium and adequate vitamin D levels are needed to reduce colon cancer risk.

In a 2006 study,53 researchers surgically divided individual adenomatous (potentially precancerous) polyps, removing approximately 50% from 19 patients. They marked the remnants of the polyps in the intestine so they could identify them later, and studied cell proliferation in the polyp tissue before and after six months of treatment with oral vitamin D3 (400 IU) and calcium carbonate (1500 mg, three times daily) or placebo. Adenomas from patients treated with calcium and vitamin D3 showed marked declines in cell proliferation and other signs of cancerous change, while there was no change in tissue taken from the control patients.

Cancer prevention specialists at the University of California recently conducted an extensive review of scientific papers published worldwide between 1966 and 2004. Their analysis suggested that taking 1000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily lowers an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer by 50%. The researchers recommended increased intake of vitamin D3 as an inexpensive, non-toxic preventive therapy for colon cancer. Specifically, they hope to see the federal government officially recommend intake of 1000 IU per day of vitamin D3 for cancer prevention.48

Prostate Cancer

Optimal levels of vitamin D may also help protect prostate health.19,54

Aware that low vitamin D levels are a major risk factor for prostate cancer,40,55,56 researchers examined the vitamin’s preventive effect in a cancer-prone mutant strain of mice.57 Mutant and control mice were given vitamin D for four months either before or after developing the first signs of cancer. Vitamin D substantially reduced the occurrence of early cancerous changes in tissue, yet appeared to have no effect on the androgen (male hormone) system. This is crucial, because many conventional prostate cancer drugs impair androgen function. Human prostate cancer cells in culture show similar reductions in cancerous changes and proliferation when treated with vitamin D3 and a synthetic retinoid (a vitamin A-like compound).58

A 1998 study demonstrated that vitamin D can reduce prostate cancer growth in human subjects. Seven men with recurrent prostate cancer following surgery or radiation (as measured by increasing levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA) were given a prescription form of vitamin D called calcitriol (Rocaltrol®) at increasing doses from 0.5 to 2.5 mcg (20-100 IU) per day. The rate of PSA increase (an indicator of disease progression) during treatment fell significantly compared to the rate before treatment in six of the subjects, suggesting a slowing of prostate cancer progression.59 In a related study, weekly dosing with calcitriol (at 20 IU per kilogram of body weight) increased median PSA doubling time in men who had been treated for prostate cancer.60,61 An increased PSA doubling time means that it takes longer for the PSA cancer marker to elevate (double), which is a favorable sign.

Treatment of existing prostate cancers with vitamin D also shows promise. In a 2006 Phase II clinical trial,62 researchers administered calcitriol three times weekly (at up to 12 mcg [480 IU] per dose) with the potent steroid dexamethasone. Thirty-seven men with androgen-independent prostate cancer were treated for at least one month. Eight patients had notable decreases in levels of PSA, a marker for tumor size. The researchers concluded that because there was minimal toxicity from this combination, it is a safe and feasible anti-tumor treatment.

Vitamin D: What You Need to Know
  • Low dietary intake and limited sun exposure have led to an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. Health experts now advise adults to regularly check their blood levels of vitamin D and to address deficiencies with supplemental vitamin D.

  • Vitamin D plays many essential roles throughout the body—enhancing calcium absorption, contributing to healthy bone mass, supporting immune function, quelling inflammation, and helping to fight cancer.
  • Clinical studies support vitamin D’s role in preventing and treating colon and prostate cancers, and emerging studies suggest vitamin D may help avert cancers of the breast, ovaries, head, and neck, among others.
  • Vitamin D quells inflammation that may exacerbate chronic heart failure, and in combination with other nutrients, benefits people with chronic heart failure. Vitamin D also shows promise in preventing both type I and type II diabetes, and offers important support for immune health. Vitamin D may help prevent wound infections and flu, support the body’s defense against tuberculosis, and boost immune function in patients with kidney failure.
  • Vitamin D likewise may help to alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression experienced during the winter months due to decreased sunlight.

Breast and Other Cancers

Abundant laboratory research demonstrates that vitamin D prevents human breast cancer cell proliferation and enhances the differentiation of cells into normal, healthy tissue.18,21-23,63,64 Powerful evidence also indicates that rates of breast cancer, like those of many other cancers, are lower in populations with greater exposure to sunlight or greater dietary intake of vitamin D.65-67

Similarly, enticing (though not yet clinically proven) evidence suggests a role for vitamin D supplementation in preventing or treating other cancers, including ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and cancers of the head and neck.20,47,68-70 Many cancer specialists advise checking vitamin D levels at least once a year, and supplementing with vitamin D if a deficiency is detected.6,40

Vitamin D Helps Alleviate Heart Failure

Heart failure—the heart’s inability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s requirements—is a leading cause of death in industrialized nations.71 Scientists believe that elevated levels of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines may contribute to heart failure, and that vitamin D may offer heart-protective benefits by quelling these inflammatory mediators.72

Scanning electron micrograph of prostatic cancer cell.

In a recent double-blind clinical trial, 123 patients with congestive heart failure were randomly assigned to receive either vitamin D3 (50 mcg [2000 IU] per day) plus 500 mg of calcium or placebo plus 500 mg of calcium.72 Over the nine months of the study, patients who supplemented with vitamin D had greatly increased levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Scientists believe that by reducing the inflammatory environment in congestive heart failure patients, vitamin D3 holds promise as an anti-inflammatory therapeutic for people suffering from heart failure.

A 2005 study reported on the use of vitamin D and other nutrients in chronic heart failure.71 In a randomized trial, 28 chronic heart failure patients supplemented with 200 IU of vitamin D, 150 mg of coenzyme Q10, minerals, antioxidants, and B vitamins or placebo for nine months. The supplemented patients had an impressive 17% decrease in the heart’s left ventricular volume, which typically is increased in chronic heart failure and adds to the work required of the already-fatigued heart muscle. By contrast, left ventricular volume increased 10% in the placebo group. Supplemented patients also had a modest increase in quality-of-life scores. These findings indicate that vitamin D supplementation, in combination with coenzyme Q10, vitamins, and minerals, can offer important support for people with chronic heart failure.

Ensuring Optimal Vitamin D Levels
Health experts urge all adults to have regular (at least annual) checks of vitamin D levels in their blood. There is a good chance that you will be deficient for at least part of the year if you live in North America, according to those experts. Once a deficiency is identified, supplementation can safely restore levels to the normal range. Checking vitamin D status again after a few months of supplementation is also advised.While the federal government’s recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is 400 IU (10 mcg) daily, many health experts now advise daily doses of at least 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D. Dr. Yee recommends that healthy adults supplement each day with at least 1000 IU of vitamin D. Elderly adults may benefit from higher doses such as 2000 IU daily, and even up to 5000 IU daily. Research published over the last decade suggests that vitamin D toxicity is unlikely at daily intake levels of less than 10,000 IU (250 mcg).

Comprehensive research reviews conducted by a leading authority on vitamin D, Dr. Michael Holick, suggest that a healthy serum level of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) is 75-125 nmol/L. Serum levels within this range have been associated with improved bone health and muscle strength, as well as protection against numerous cancers.

As with many supplements, an appropriate dosage is critical for efficacy and safety. Long-term supplementation with very high doses of vitamin D can cause dangerous elevations in blood calcium levels. Too much calcium in the blood can rapidly cause poor muscle and nerve function, and long-term elevations increase the risk of kidney stones. Anyone taking extremely high doses of vitamin D should be monitored for signs and symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which include nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, heart arrhythmias, kidney stones, and elevated blood levels of cholesterol, calcium, or liver enzymes. Vitamin D is contraindicated in individuals with hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels). People with kidney disease and those who use digoxin or other cardiac glycoside drugs should consult a physician before using supplemental vitamin D.

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Nov 08 2007

Vitamin D May Help Prevent Diabetes

Published by under Vitamin D3

Exciting research also indicates a possible therapeutic role for vitamin D in preventing diabetes.

Vitamin D supplementation may reduce susceptibility to type II diabetes by slowing the loss of insulin sensitivity in people who show early signs of the disease.  Researchers studied 314 adults without diabetes and gave them either 700 IU of vitamin D and 500 mg of calcium daily or a placebo for three years.73 Among subjects who had impaired (slightly elevated) fasting glucose levels at the study’s onset, those taking the active supplement had a smaller rise in glucose levels over three years than did the controls, as well as a smaller increase in insulin resistance. The researchers concluded that for older adults with impaired glucose levels, supplementing with vitamin D and calcium may help avert metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes is an autoimmune condition, in which the body’s immune system attacks its own insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Low vitamin D levels are associated with the development of autoimmune conditions,40,74,75 including type I diabetes,38 and scientists have proposed that vitamin D supplementation may help prevent the disease.76

A very large population-based study in Europe demonstrated the powerful effect of vitamin D supplementation in protecting children against the development of type I diabetes.77 Data from 820 diabetics and 2,335 non-diabetic controls showed that children who received vitamin D supplements in infancy reduced their risk of developing type I diabetes by approximately 33%. The researchers believe that activated vitamin D may protect growing children from autoimmune attack on insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

Vitamin D May Help Alleviate Depression

It is well established that for people with major depression, symptoms tend to worsen in winter, and also that some people without baseline depression develop depressive symptoms in winter (so-called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD).94,95 Light therapy has been found to be useful for treating wintertime depressive symptoms,96 and it seems likely that at least some of the benefit of light therapy is related to increased activation of vitamin D.

To test this idea, researchers conducted a randomized trial in 15 people with SAD.95 Eight received a single dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D, and seven received one month of light therapy.  All of the supplemented patients—and none of the light-treated patients—had major improvement in depression scores.  Interestingly, similar studies using much lower doses of 400-800 IU per day did not yield improvements in SAD symptoms,94,97 again suggesting that we simply need more vitamin D than has been thought.

Vitamin D’s benefits for mental health may not be limited to depression. A 2004 study from Finland98 showed that the risk of developing schizophrenia in adult men was greatly increased in those who had never had vitamin D supplementation as infants, compared to those who had had at least some supplementation. Another recent paper proposes that prenatal vitamin D deficiency could be linked to adult schizophrenia.99 Finally, a laboratory study showed that prenatal vitamin D deprivation was associated with certain behaviors in adult rats that are typical of schizophrenia in humans.100

Vitamin D Provides Essential Immune Support

Vitamin D appears to be essential in maintaining healthy white blood cells and a robust immune system.75

A recent paper presented persuasive evidence that seasonal infections such as influenza may actually be the result of decreased vitamin D levels,26 not of increased wintertime viral activity, which has been the longstanding conventional wisdom.78 This makes sense, because vitamin D receptors are present on many of the immune system cells responsible for killing viruses and deadly bacteria, and the vitamin—which is less environmentally available in the winter—appears to be a requirement for proper activation of these cells.79,80

A randomized, double-blind study published in 2006 found that vitamin D may support recovery from tuberculosis, a common and deadly infection that most commonly affects the lungs. When patients with moderately advanced tuberculosis supplemented with 0.25 mg (10,000 IU) per day of vitamin D for one week, they had significantly higher rates of improvement than patients who received a placebo.81

Kidney dialysis patients often demonstrate decreased vitamin D levels as well as impaired cellular immune response. Dialysis patients with decreased vitamin D levels and impaired function of anti-viral and anti-cancer natural killer cells experienced substantial increases in natural-killer-cell activity after just one month of supplementation with prescription vitamin D (calcitriol) at 0.5 mcg (20 IU) per day.27 In the laboratory, the same researchers demonstrated that vitamin D treatment of “generalized” white blood cells called monocytes caused them to mature into active natural killer cells within 24 hours.

Further evidence of vitamin D’s ability to bolster protective immune function comes from a laboratory study published earlier this year.82 Researchers discovered that skin cells responding to injury require vitamin D3 to “switch on” vital proteins involved in recognizing and responding to the microbes that cause wound infections. This finding has tremendous implications for preventing and treating wound infections.


Even in people who take vitamin D supplements, the percentage of those with sub-optimal levels remains surprisingly high. Humans cannot arbitrarily consume massive doses of vitamin D (unlike water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C). For this nutrient, individualized dosing is of particular importance, and the only way to accomplish this is through vitamin D blood testing. With deficiencies likely to be most pronounced following the long winter months, spring is an excellent time to investigate your own vitamin D status.

Detecting deficient levels allows you and your physician to implement vitamin D supplementation to help avert illnesses associated with inadequate vitamin D levels. Optimizing your vitamin D intake may be a safe, low-cost way to protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune disorders, and depression, among other serious health conditions.

Vitamin D Basics
Vitamin D occurs in nature in two main forms: vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, and vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. While vitamin D2 is obtained from plant sources, vitamin D3 can be either obtained through animal sources, supplements, or synthesized in the skin when its precursor molecule absorbs light energy from ultraviolet B rays.83

In the liver, both vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are converted into 25-hydroxy-vitamin D, the primary circulating form of vitamin D. Conversion into its active form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, occurs in the kidney. Pharmaceutical drug forms of activated vitamin D include calcitriol, doxercalciferol, and calcipotriene.83

Supplemental vitamin D is available as vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is only about 20-40% as effective as D3 in maintaining serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, since it is more rapidly broken down in the body. For this reason, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplements are considered more beneficial than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) supplements.7

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Nov 08 2007

Greater vitamin D levels associated with protection from cardiovascular risk factors

Published by under Vitamin D3

A report published in the June 11, 2007 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that having higher serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with a lower risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and elevated triglyceride levels, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Researchers at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard examined data obtained from 7,186 men and 7,902 women enrolled in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), conducted from 1988 through 1994. Blood samples were tested for serum vitamin D, cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting blood glucose and other factors, and height, weight, body mass index, and blood pressure were determined. Interviews with the subjects confirmed pre-existing diabetes and hypertension.

Mean serum vitamin D levels, particularly in women, people aged 60 and older, and minorities, were well below the recommended national goal. The team found significant relationships between lower vitamin D levels and the presence of cardiovascular disease risk factors. Participants whose vitamin D levels were in the lowest one-fourth of the study population had a 30 percent greater risk of hypertension, a 98 percent higher risk of diabetes, more than double the risk of obesity, and a 47 percent greater risk of having high serum triglyceride levels than subjects whose vitamin D levels were in the top 25 percent.

The study is the first, to the authors’ knowledge, to show a significant association between reduced vitamin D levels and risk factors for cardiovascular disease risk factors in a nationally representative sample. They conclude that “Prospective studies to assess a direct benefit of cholecalciferol (vitamin D) supplementation on cardiovascular disease risk factors are warranted.”

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