More Health Benefits of Pycnogenol

Health Benefits of Pycnogenol

Happy Blood Vessels and Well-Supported Peripheral Circulation

The circulation in the lower limbs can be effected over time as a result of free radical damage to the walls and valves of healthy arteries and veins. This may result in inefficient flow through these vessels back to the heart and throughout the body. The supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues may be disrupted and affecting the body’s natural healing abilities.

Pycnogenol’s antioxidants absorb and quench free radical electrons with great efficiency and can vastly maintain the resistance of small blood vessels and capillaries throughout the body to oxidative damage. The results of human clinical trials published recently in Angiology4 and Clinical Applications in Thrombosis and Hemostasis5 showed clear improvements in the ability of veins to expand and dilate, and blood flow and nutrient delivery to the lower legs with the consumption of 50 mg of Pycnogenol three times daily for 4 to 6 weeks.

Further research shows that dietary supplementation with 150 mg of Pycnogenol daily promotes optimal microcirculation in capillary networks of the lower legs in men and women.6 A recently published study also found that taking 200 mg of Pycnogenol daily was effective for reducing muscle cramps in healthy adults who experienced occasional cramps while consuming placebo.7 These researchers yet again confirmed previous findings that consuming Pycnogenol daily facilitates healthy blood flow and nutrient supply throughout the body.

Stay Healthy in the Air

Prolonged air travel has been associated with cardiovascular issues caused by inactivity (sitting in one place for extended periods of time) and dehydration.8 Compression of veins by the edge of a seat could contribute to slowing of venous return of blood to the heart and pooling of fluid in the lower legs. Dehydration in an aircraft cabin also can cause some swelling in the lower legs. The inability to move freely combined with the subnormal air pressure and oxygen content within an airplane can also interfere with healthy circulation. Long airplane flights are especially concerning because of their prolonged nature and potential to have a greater impact on cardiovascular health.

Effective preventive measures while traveling include standing and stretching exercises, drinking copious amounts of water, and avoidance of tightly-fitting clothes, salty foods and alcoholic beverages.

Dietary supplementation with Pycnogenol, which is rich in veno-supportive nutrients, can be highly beneficial. The results of a placebo-controlled clinical trial published recently in Clinical Applications in Thrombosis and Hemostasis suggest that every traveler should add Pycnogenol to their travel preparations. In this study, 200 mg of Pycnogenol or of placebo were consumed 2 to 3 hours before take-off and again after 6 hours in the air.8 As opposed to the placebo, Pycnogenol was found to be highly supportive of venous circulation during the flights – an indication that Pycnogenol promoted circulation while supporting healthy vascular function within the adverse environment of an aircraft at high altitude for many hours.

Pay Attention, Please!

Several studies in recent years have looked at Pycnogenol’s ability to support cognitive function, mood, and attention and concentration. A double-blind, placebo controlled pilot study was conducted in which 61 children aged six to fourteen years were given a daily dosage of 1 mg of Pycnogenol per kilogram body weight or a placebo for four weeks.9 The researchers found that Pycnogenol intake for one month significantly enhanced concentration and attentiveness in these children. Scientists have suggested that these effects may be due to the antioxidant activity of Pycnogenol and may also be a result of Pycnogenol’s ability to enhance the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that supports increased circulation through arteries and veins, thus making it easier for nutrients to reach organs and systems, including brain tissue. In fact, further research on Pycnogenol in children found that the same dose (1 mg per kilogram body weight) given over a one-month period increased total antioxidant status and was able to induce a highly significant increase in the level of reduced to oxidized glutathione in the blood.10 As is widely known, glutathione is one of the most abundant antioxidants in cells throughout the body. What is interesting is that research shows that the lower the intracellular glutathione concentrations go, the faster cells (and hence tissues!) age. Glutathione is the key antioxidant protector of proteins, fats and DNA in cells. Maintaining glutathione concentrations in cells is critical for healthy aging. Even more important is ensuring that there is a healthy balance of the reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione. The reduced form is crucial for glutathione’s free-radical scavenging capability. Pycnogenol recycles glutathione and keeps more of it in the free-radical attacking reduced form.

Pycnogenol also has shown the ability to support memory function in the elderly. A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology highlighted research looking into the effects of Pycnogenol supplementation over a three-month period on cognitive function and memory.11 In this placebo-controlled trial, healthy elderly individuals were asked to take Pycnogenol at a daily dose of 150 mg per day or placebo. The results of the trial showed significant benefits in memory function in the Pycnogenol group after 3 months, indicating Pycnogenol’s beneficial effect on cognitive function. Once again, researchers attribute this benefit of Pycnogenol to its powerful antioxidant functions and its ability to protect brain cells from free radical damage.

Tree Bark and Human Health – Strong Links

Pycnogenol – the unique water extract from the French maritime pine tree – has numerous tonic effects for the human body. This well-researched product deserves to be included as a core component of everyone’s health and wellness armamentarium. Pycnogenol reinforces the establishment of a healthy balance between oxidative stress and antioxidant capacity throughout the body. By doing so, Pycnogenol is a strong and potent ally of visual health, vascular health, immune wellness and in the management of the inflammatory response, cognitive function and memory, and as a key nutrient for Healthy Aging.

4. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi BM, Ledda A, Di Renzo A, Stuard S, Dugall M, Pellegrini L, Rohdewald P, Ippolito E, Ricci A, Cacchio M, Ruffini I, Fano F, Hosoi M. Venous ulcers: Microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with local use of Pycnogenol. Angiology 2005;56:699-705.
5. Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M. Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: A prospective, controlled study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost 2006;12:205- 212.
6. G. Belcaro, M. R. Cesarone, B. M. Errichi, A. Ledda, A. Di Renzo, S. Stuard, M. Dugall, L. Pellegrini, G. Gizzi, P. Rohdewald, E. Ippolito, A. Ricci, M. Cacchio, G. Cipollone, I. Ruffini, F. Fano, M. Hosoi. Diabetic ulcers: Microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with Pycnogenol. Clin Appl Thromb Hem 2006;12:318-323.
7. Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Rohdewald P, Stuard S, Ricci A, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Dugall M, Ledda A, Cacchio M, Acerbi G, Fano F. Cramps and muscular pain: Prevention with pycnogenol in normal subjects, venous patients, athletes, claudicants and in diabetic microangiopathy. Angiology 2006;57:331-339.
8. Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ippolito E, Scoccianti M, Ricci A, Dugall M, Cacchio M, Ruffini I, Fano F, Acerbi G, Vinciguerra MG, Bavera P, Di Renzo A, Errichi BM, Mucci F. Prevention of edema in long flights with Pycnogenol. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost 2005;11:289-294.
9. Trebatická J, Kopasová S, Hradecná Z, Cinovský K, Skodácek I, Suba J, Muchová J, Zitnanová I, Waczulíková I, Rohdewald P, Duracková Z. Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006;15(6):329-35.
10. Dvoráková M, Sivonová M, Trebatická J, Skodácek I, Waczuliková I, Muchová J, Duracková Z. The effect of polyphenolic extract from pine bark, Pycnogenol on the level of glutathione in children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).Redox Rep. 2006;11(4):163-72.
11. Ryan J, Croft K, Mori T, Wesnes K, Spong J, Downey L, Kure C, Lloyd J, Stough C. An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population. J Psychopharmacol. 2008;22(5):553-62.

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Hyaluronic Acid and Vision

Hyaluronic acid is synthesized within the human eye and is secreted into both tears and the aqueous humor of the eye in its non-acidic form, hyaluronidate. On the ocular surface, tears with normal hyaluronidate content exhibit greater lubrication during blinks. Yet while the eyelid is still, hyaluronidate maximizes the thickness of the protective fluid covering the surface of the eye – another reflection of the special properties of hyaluronidate. Within the eye itself, hyaluronidate forms part of a web of large molecules that confer structural stability to the retina and help keep it attached to the underlying cell layers.

Both advancing age and dry eyes reduce tear production and the amount of hyaluronidate that is secreted in tears; complaints about burning, itching, a sensation of the presence of a foreign body, redness and heaviness of the eyelids are common. Hyaluronic acid replacement, via drop form, can promote normal eye functions, as shown by the results of a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, which assessed the effects of eye drops containing hyaluronic acid.5

Research consistently demonstrates that the insertion into the eyes of drops containing sodium hyaluronidate several times daily decreases burning, dryness, “foreign body” sensation, itching and mucous discharge. At the same time, tear formation is increased. These tears help protect the cornea from environmental insults, indicating that hyaluronic acid acts both on the surface of the eye and within the eye. The chemical process of vision produces a number of oxidizing by-products.6 The gradual steady accumulation of oxidative damage interferes with the functions of all parts of the eye. The hyaluronic acid in tears acts as a powerful antioxidant that preserves the structure and function of the visual apparatus.7

5. Aragona P, Papa V, Micali A, Santocono M, Milazzo G. Long term treatment with sodium hyaluronate-containing artificial tears reduces ocular surface damage in patients with dry eye. Br J Ophthalmol 2002;86:181-184.
6. Rotstein NP, Politi LE, German OL, Girotti R. Protective effect of docosahexaenoic acid on oxidative stress-induced apoptosis of retina photoreceptors. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2003;44:2252-2259.
7. Debbasch C, De La Salle SB, Brignole F, Rat P, Warnet JM, Baudouin C. Cytoprotective effects of hyaluronic acid and Carbomer 934P in ocular surface epithelial cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2002;43:3409- 3415.

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For many centuries alliums have been grown for their characteristic flavors and beautiful flowers. In addition to its esthetic and culinary attributes, the root bulb (“clove”) of garlic (Allium sativum) has been cherished by many cultures as a powerful promoter of good health.

Sanskrit records contain evidence that garlic was being used “medicinally” about 5,000 years ago and about 4500 years ago Charak, the father of Ayurvedic medicine, claimed that garlic maintains the fluidity of blood and strengthens the heart. The 3500-year old Egyptian Codex Ebers touts garlic, Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder were garlicophiles, Pasteur wrote about garlic’s activity in 1858 and garlic preparations were used on the battlefield in the 20th century.

Garlic and Healthy Blood Vessels

Modern research continues to affirm the health benefits that can be obtained by including raw garlic, whole garlic powders or extracts of garlic in the diet or consuming them as dietary supplements. As pointed out by the authors of a review published recently in the Journal of Nutrition, the evidence from studies in humans shows that the consumption of garlic supports many aspects of blood vessel health.1 The blood vessels are the all-important corridors of the cardiovascular system. While the heart is the engine that pumps our blood, without healthy blood vessels, it can’t reach the tissues where it’s needed.

As an example of garlic’s blood vessel-supportive prowess, the results of a human clinical trial published recently in the Journal of Nutrition indicated that the daily consumption of a modest amount of an extract of whole garlic cloves for 6 weeks on average doubled the ability of the brachial artery to expand in response to increased need for blood flow in healthy men and women.2 Not only were the big blood vessels affected – the small capillaries in the skin also increased their ability to circulate fresh blood after 6 weeks of garlic consumption. Increased ability of an artery to respond to increased demand for blood flow to tissues without impacting blood pressure (“arterial compliance”) and increased capacity of the small blood vessels within tissues to distribute that blood reflect a healthy cardiovascular system; this investigation provides persuasive evidence that garlic consumption is a major contributor to healthy cardiovascular function.

The results of other studies in healthy humans, also published recently in the Journal of Nutrition may explain how garlic can help maintain pliable arteries and open vessel channels in tissues.3,4 In these studies investigators found that garlic has potent antioxidant properties and slows the rate of oxidation of circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles and promotes the integrity of blood vessel walls. Researchers agree that these two factors are of primary importance to maintaining excellent cardiovascular health. Keeping arteries healthy and discouraging the oxidation of lipids and fats in the blood go a long way to living a productive and heart-healthy life.

Another way garlic supports healthy blood vessels is by promoting the healthy metabolism of glucose in the blood. High blood glucose levels may adversely impact blood vessel health over time by reacting with proteins in the blood and vessels. This reaction effectively damages the protein, leading it to lose its functionality. Research published recently in the Journal of Nutrition shows how the bioactive compounds in garlic can prevent the formation of these sugar-protein complexes and keep your blood vessels healthy.5 Let the proteins play their role and let blood sugar perform its function and go where it’s meant to.

Where Does Allicin Come In?

A clove of garlic contains an extremely large amount of biologically active sulfur-containing phytonutrients. However, allicin, the most intensively studied phytonutrient associated with garlic and the source of garlic’s distinctive fragrance, is not found in the clove but instead is formed when a clove is chopped, crushed, cut or chewed (breaking up the garlic cells in the clove stimulates an enzyme to produce allicin quickly). Allicin is absorbed into the human bloodstream and either exerts its benefits directly or is converted into an effective alternative compound.

Experiments in mice published recently in Pathobiology “connect the dots” linking allicin to garlic’s vascular protective actions.6 Dietary supplementation with pure allicin resulted in the incorporation of allicin into all lipid-containing particles produced by the intestines and liver. As the lipid particles contained allicin, they contained less cholesterol and were more resistant to oxidation. This experiment was conducted in mice that were genetically programmed to produce numerous arterial plaques as a model for atherosclerosis. The daily consumption of pure allicin drastically decreased the size of the plaques that were formed. While these mice had a genetic predisposition to a chronic condition, this dramatic illustration suggests that healthy humans with no pre-existing cardiovascular disease may benefit greatly from the consumption of garlic and allicin, as this compound promotes arterial health and wellness. The dose used in this mouse study was the equivalent of daily supplementation in humans with about 500 to 600 mg of pure allicin daily.

1. Rahman K, Lowe GM. Garlic and cardiovascular disease: A critical review. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):736S-740S.
2. Weiss N, Ide N, Abahji T, Nill L, Keller C, Hoffmann U. Aged garlic extract improves homocysteine-induced endothelial dysfunction in macro- and microcirculation. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):750S-754S.
3. Lau BH. Suppression of LDL oxidation by garlic compounds is a possible mechanism of cardiovascular health benefit. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):765S-768S.
4. Ide N, Keller C, Weiss N. Aged garlic extract inhibits homocysteineinduced CD36 expression and foam cell formation in human macrophages. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):755S-758S.
5. Ahmad MS, Ahmed N. Antiglycation properties of aged garlic extract: Possible role in prevention of diabetic complications. J Nutr 2006;136(Suppl.):796S-799S.
6. Gonen A, Harats D, Rabinkov A, Miron T, Mirelman D, Wilchek M, Weiner L, Ulman E, Levkovitz H, Ben-Shushan D, Shaish A. The antiatherogenic effect of allicin: Possible mode of action. Pathobiology 2005;72:325-334.

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Colon Ecology, Probiotics, and Prebiotics

The colon is a dynamic ecologic system in which human colon cells and immune cells, microbes and ingested foods interact in the near-absence of oxygen. The human gastrointestinal tract normally contains trillions14 of living bacteria, representing over 400 individual species. Most live in the colon. The goal of dietary maintenance of colon health is to foster a symbiotic relationship, with the human host and its microbial guests living in harmony and balance.

The colon harbors a large variety of microorganisms. The most common bacterial species in the healthy human colon are the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. In addition, even the healthy colon normally contains pockets of Clostridia, yeasts and protozoa. The species of bacteria that most quickly and efficiently produce butyrate in the human colon, and which therefore are the most beneficial and the most desirable, are the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

Beneficial Probiotic Organisms

The Bifidobacteria are the most common microorganisms in the healthy human digestive tract and are the predominant microbes in human breast milk. Bifidobacteria comprise about 50% of all intestinal microflora in the healthy colon and ferment dietary fiber to short chain fatty acids, especially butyrate. By producing large amounts of butyrate, the Bifidobacteria support the health and function of human colon cells. In addition, the Bifidobacteria suppress the growth of harmful bacteria by keeping the acidity of the colon interior just high enough to inhibit bacterial growth but not too high to affect the colon cells. Bifidobacteria also compete with unhealthy bacteria for space within the colon.

Lactobacilli (the “lactic acid bacteria”) comprise about 25% of all intestinal microflora. The Lactobacilli perform many of the same colon-friendly functions as the Bifidobacteria but produce a little more lactic acid, helping the Bifidobacteria keep the colon slightly acidic. The Lactobacilli also secrete an enzyme that breaks down lactose from milk.13

Species of Saccharomyces, a yeast commonly living in both the small and large intestines, help stimulate intestinal digestive activities. In addition, they are antagonistic to Candida albicans and keep them at bay. These yeasts also enhance immunity in the gut and dietary supplementation with Saccharomyces boulardii has been found to support the consistency of healthy bowel movements.14

The most common and beneficial bacteria and yeasts share an important fundamental characteristic. They all prefer to feast on soluble dietary fiber. Feed them and they will produce all the butyrate your colon can eat. Starve them and risk the health of your colon.

Disturbances of Colon Ecology

The colon is a dynamic system. Its health is directly influenced by our dietary choices. These choices impact the supply of nutrition to the gut bacteria and our intestinal cells. A number of common dietary and medical practices can disturb the symbiotic relationship between microorganisms and human cells that is absolutely vital to the health of the colon. Among these are infant formula feeding, low fiber diets, and oral antibiotic therapy.

Infant Formula Feeding — The human gastrointestinal tract is sterile at birth. During birth, the tract is seeded initially by organisms living in the maternal vagina. During breastfeeding, mammary gland microflora contribute the early populations of Bifidobacteria that begin to populate the infant’s colon. Food borne microflora and self-inoculation also contribute to early intestinal ecology. Species distribution in the newborn digestive tract is modulated for the first few days of life by maternal antibodies transferred in colostrum. In breastfed infants, over 90% of intestinal bacteria consist of Bifidobacterium infantis. In contrast, the intestinal tracts of infants who are not breastfed are characterized by low numbers of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and high numbers of less healthy Enterococci, Coliforms and Clostridia. The lack of proper healthy gut bacterial species in childhood has been associated with a number of digestive health issues.14

Low Fiber Diets — Lack of dietary fiber for fermentation reduces the supply of butyrate available to colon cells and interferes with their ability to seal the colon off from the bloodstream, increasing the likelihood of toxins and bacteria from the guts entering circulation. As discussed above, butyrate starvation also slows the renewal of colon cells. Insufficient amounts of nonfermentable fiber slows the rate of passage of the digesta, increasing the time available for water absorption by colon cells and providing increased exposure of the longer-lived colon cells to free radicals.15 Increased water absorption results in stool hardness and affects the consistency of bowel movements.16 Fiber provides the food for intestinal bacteria and the bulk for optimal bowel function.

Oral Antibiotic Therapy — Antibiotics can also kill beneficial Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. As the numbers of these beneficial bacteria decrease, there is a compensatory increase in the unhealthy species that have been kept under control by the beneficial bacteria, resulting in disturbances in gut ecology. This shift in microbial populations can have a severe impact on colon health. Most importantly, this disturbance of gut ecology may lead to decreased levels of butyrate as most of the overgrown microbial species are inefficient fermenters of dietary fiber. The combination of reduced ability to seal off the colon and increased populations of unhealthy organisms can compromise the colon lining and affect immune function.

Supplemental Prebiotics and Probiotics

The colon is dependent on its microbial residents for nourishment and defense. In turn, our microbes need to eat foods that are healthy for them. Ideally, good food sources of fiber would have been a major part of our diet all of our life, and our colon and its residents would require very little attention from us. Realistically, the average American is fiber deficient and has a colon to reflect it. Restoring the healthy ecological balance in the colon is absolutely mandatory if health and healthy aging are your objectives.

Prebiotics — Starter Foods for Your Microbes

Prebiotics are dietary ingredients often consumed in the form of foods and dietary supplements that stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli species and foster the production of butyrate within the colon. The most widely available prebiotics are fructans (fructooligosaccharides; FOS), inulin and the oligofructoses, galactooligosaccharide and the levans (occurring in tubers and grasses). Foods that contain large amounts of these prebiotics include wheat, onions, asparagus, chicory, banana and artichokes.

These compounds all are indigestible by humans within the small intestine, are converted to short chain fatty acids in the colon and are essentially calorie-free. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – These long-chain indigestible sugars are specifically fermented to short-chain fatty acids (especially butyrate) by Bifidobacteria. The results of a study published recently in the Nutrition Journal confirm that the daily consumption of as little as 2.5 g of FOS increases the proportion of Bifidobacteria in the colon.17 The consumption of FOS by infants has been documented to be safe and to decrease the incidence of infant emesis and regurgitation. In addition to fostering colon health, the products of FOS fermentation may promote cardiovascular health.

Probiotics — Dietary Supplements to Repopulate Your Colon

Probiotics have been defined as oral dietary supplements containing live microbes that enhance colon health. When effective, such supplements increase the numbers of intestinal Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and decrease the numbers of those microbial species that do not produce butyrate. An ideal probiotic supplement will have the following characteristics:

1) The bacteria must survive passage through the stomach and small intestine so that they reach the colon while still alive,

2) They must produce short-chain fatty acids from dietary fiber while in the colon

3) They must maintain a slightly acidic colonic pH, and 4) They must be capable of eventually permanently repopulating the colon themselves or stimulate other healthy bacterial species to do so.

As suggested by the results of a recently published study, successful reseeding of the colon’s microbial populations can support increased immune defenses.18 According to articles published recently in Gut and the American Journal of Physiology, this benefit may result from an effect of the probiotic organisms leading to an increase in the stimulation and vigilance of the immune cells that are interspersed within the lining of the colon.19,20

Successful reseeding with probiotic species requires at least 6 months of daily ingestion of at least 10 billion “colony forming units” (1010 CFU) per species. Successful reseeding may not be possible in some individuals with chronically compromised colon health; they may well require life-long daily supplementation in order to maintain appropriate microbial populations in their colon.

Bacillus coagulans: A Novel, Unique Probiotic Organism

Bacillus coagulans is a bacterial species that may offer unique benefits to digestive health. This bacterium is a spore former and is especially hardy with respect to different intestinal environments. A specific strain of Bacillus coagulans known as BC30™ is available as a dietary supplement for digestive health. Research indicates that this particular strain has beneficial immune effects while it also enhances the repopulation of the digestive tract with other friendly bacterial strains. While BC30™ is a transient organism in that it does not colonize the digestive tract itself, it promotes optimal gut ecology and aids in crowding out other non-beneficial organisms.

BC30™ can be an effective nutritional tool on its own or in combination with other multi-strain probiotic dietary supplements to support digestive tract wellness. Since BC30™ is a spore former and is a hardy strain of bacteria; it does not need to be refrigerated.

Combinations of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Because probiotics are the bacteria you want to live in your colon and prebiotics are the food they love best, it would make sense to combine the two, so that you can be sure that the newly-arriving residents have plenty to eat after their trip through your digestive tract. The benefits of “combination supplementation” are well-documented.

The published human clinical trials have been summarized recently in the Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering and the World Journal of Gastroenterology.14,21 This large body of scientific evidence demonstrates conclusively that dietary supplementation with prebiotic/probiotic combinations consistently yields health benefits that extend beyond digestive wellness on several fronts. A review article published recently in the World Journal of Gastroenterology recommended Lactobacillus-containing “combination supplements” for enhancing digestion of lactose.22 Conversely, because it encourages normal water management by colon cells and healthy contractions by colonic smooth muscles, “combination supplementation” also promotes the consistency of healthy bowel movements.21,23

The Bottom Line

Maintaining healthy digestive function consists of supporting multiple aspects of the complicated physiological function of the gastrointestinal system. While the process of digestion itself is complex, supporting several fundamental aspects of the process can lead to tangible benefits for overall health. Dietary factors are critical as the foundation for digestive health. This entails consuming foods that are healthy and eating an adequate amount of dietary fiber. Nutritional interventions are also a key element. These include supplemental enzymes, fiber supplements, prebiotics and probiotics. An optimally functioning digestive system can yield dividends that can lead to a lifetime of health and wellness.

13. He T, Priebe MG, Harmsen HJ, Stellaard F, Sun X, Welling GW, Vonk RJ.Colonic fermentation may play a role in lactose intolerance in humans. J Nutr 2006;136:58-63.
14. Nomoto K. Prevention of infections by probiotics. J Biosci Bioeng 2005;100:583-592.
15. Topping DL, Clifton PM. Short-chain fatty acids and human colonic function: Roles of resistant starch and nonstarch polysaccharides. Physiol Rev 2001;81:1031-1064.
16. Kay RM. Dietary fiber. J Lipid Res 1982;23:221-242.
17. Bouhnik Y, Raskine L, Simoneau G, Paineau D, Bornet F. The capacity of short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides to stimulate faecal bifidobacteria: A dose-response relationship study in healthy humans. Nutr J 2006;5:8 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-5-8 (http://www.
18. Tubelius P, Stan V, Zachrisson A. Increasing work-place healthiness with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri: A randomised, doubleblind placebo-controlled study. Environ Health 2005;7;4:25 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-4-25 ( content/4/1/25).
19. Rook GA, Brunet LR. Microbes, immunoregulation, and the gut. Gut 2005;54:317-320.
20. Shanahan F. Physiological basis for novel drug therapies used to treat the inflammatory bowel diseases. I. Pathophysiological basis and prospects for probiotic therapy in inflammatory bowel disease. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 2005;288:G417-G421.
21. Chermesh I, Eliakim R. Probiotics and the gastrointestinal tract: Where are we in 2005? World J Gastroenterol 2006;12:853-857.
22. Montalto M, Curigliano V, Santoro L, Vastola M, Cammarota G, Manna R, Gasbarrini A, Gasbarrini G. Management and treatment of lactose malabsorption. World J Gastroenterol 2006;12:187-191.
23. Hamilton-Miller JM. Probiotics and prebiotics in the elderly. Postgrad Med J 2004;80:447-451.

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How Does Oral Hyaluronic Acid Work?

Traditionally, hyaluronic acid has been used as an injectable to promote joint health and support joint structure. There have also been questions regarding the absorbability of hyaluronic acid when taken orally. Research shows that oral hyaluronic acid is in fact absorbed and that it functions in at least three important ways. Hyaluronic acid is a large molecule with repeating subunits that, when taken orally, naturally goes through the process of digestion in the digestive tract. Studies show that 1) A portion of the hyaluronic acid is absorbed intact, 2) A portion of it is broken down into its component sugars and absorbed in this way (providing building blocks the body can use to remanufacture hyaluronic acid, and 3) Hyaluronic Acid acts to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, which promote immune system health and lead to overall health of the joints, skin and connective tissue throughout the body. These three unique and distinctly separate mechanisms of activity illustrate the ability of oral hyaluronic acid to benefit and support the body’s connective tissue.

To reaffirm the efficacy of oral hyaluronic acid for joint support, let’s look at the results of an important Japanese study. This study, which was published in 2008, was carried out to assess the efficacy of oral hyaluronic acid in promoting healthy joint function and mobility. Fifteen individuals with achy knees were supplemented with 240 mg of highly purified hyaluronic acid daily for twelve weeks. Positive results were evident after 4 weeks of supplementation as the individuals had significant improvements in knee joint function and comfort. The benefits continued throughout the duration of the study, showing that oral hyaluronic acid supplements are effective for promoting healthy joint function.11

Now that we know that studies affirm the effectiveness of oral hyaluronic acid, let’s look at evidence supporting the three mechanisms of activity. Bioavailability studies in animals show that hyaluronic acid taken orally reaches joint tissue. Radioactively-labeled particles of hyaluronic acid were found to reach the skin, bone and joints of rats after oral administration, showing that a percentage of orally administered hyaluronic acid is absorbed intact.12 A further percentage of hyaluronic acid taken as supplements is digested and broken down into its component molecules. These components are absorbed into the bloodstream, providing the body with the building blocks necessary to produce hyaluronic acid on its own, allowing it to replenish its own stores. Finally, a very interesting study was carried out in which rats were administered hyaluronic acid orally. Researchers found that the orally administered nutrient was fermented by gut bacteria as a source of nutrition. Hyaluronic acid was shown to act as a prebiotic, as it increased the level of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in the intestinal tract.13 Taking these important studies into account, we can see that oral hyaluronic acid supplements have both direct and indirect effects in supporting the health of our joints, skin and connective tissue. Given its broad range of potential benefits, hyaluronic acid is a crucial and important nutrient for healthy aging.

11. Sato T, Iwaso H. An Effectiveness Study of Hyaluronic Acid (Hyabest® (J)) in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee. J New Rem & Clin 2008;57(2):128-137.
12. Balogh L, Polyak A, Mathe D, Kiraly R, Thuroczy J, Terez M, Janoki G, Ting Y, Bucci LR, Schauss AG. Absorption, uptake and tissue affinity of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan after oral administration in rats and dogs. J Agric Food Chem 2008 Nov 26;56(22):10582-93.
13. Ishibashi G, Yamagata T, Rikitake S, Takiguchi Y. Digestion and Fermentation of Hyaluronic Acid. Journal for the Integrated Study of Dietary Habits 2002; 13(2): 107-111.

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CoQ10 and Cholesterol

The effectiveness of the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor drugs, the so-called “statins,” in lowering serum cholesterol concentration cannot be denied. However, CoQ10 production and cholesterol synthesis share the same biochemical pathway. As could be predicted from these pathways in the liver effectively blocking cholesterol production can also lead to blocking CoQ10 production. Numerous studies have proven this to be the case.14,15

The results of this drug-induced mild CoQ10 deficiency is not without harm – it is associated with damage to hard-working muscles. These potentially detrimental effects have been reported in several journals.16,17 In terms of the side effects of statin therapy, published studies have found fundamental derangements in muscle cell metabolism with exposure to statins.18 Several recent reports indicate that these drugs impact the nerves that communicate with muscles in addition to affecting the mitochondria of all muscles, including the heart muscle.19,20 Depleted levels of CoQ10 could play a major role in these side effects of statin drugs.

The good news – dietary supplementation with CoQ10 may help overcome the potential interference of statin drugs with CoQ10 metabolism.21 And CoQ10 is very safe – amounts of up to 3000 mg daily are considered safe.22

Thus, if you choose to use cholesterol-lowering medication to protect your heart and circulatory system, don’t be counterproductive. Really protect yourself – supplement with CoQ10 to replenish what you lose with the use of statin drugs. Add this vital nutrient to your Healthy Heart program.

14. Rundek T, Naini A, Sacco R, Coates K, DiMauro S. Atorvastatin decreases the coenzyme Q10 level in the blood of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Arch Neurol 2004;61:889-892.
15. Thompson PD, Clarkson P, Karas RH. Statin-associated myopathy. JAMA 2003;289:1681-1690.
16. Tomlinson SS, Mangione KK. Potential adverse effects of statins on muscle. Phys Ther 2005;85:459-465.
17. Baker SK. Molecular clues into the pathogenesis of statin-mediated muscle toxicity. Muscle Nerve 2005;31:572-580.
18. Paiva H, Thelen KM, Van Coster R, Smet J, De Paepe B, Mattila KM, Laakso J, Lehtimaki T, von Bergmann K, Lutjohann D, Laaksonen R. High-dose statins and skeletal muscle metabolism in humans: A randomized, controlled trial. Clin Pharmacol Ther 2005;78:60-68.
19. Baker SK, Tarnopolsky MA. Statin-associated neuromyotoxicity. Drugs Today 2005;41:267-293.
20. Nawarskas JJ. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors and coenzyme Q10. Cardiol Rev 2005;13:76-79.
21. Ferrante KL, Shefner J, Zhang H, Betensky R, O’Brien M, Yu H, Fantasia M, Taft J, Beal MF, Traynor B, Newhall K, Donofrio P, Caress J, Ashburn C, Freiberg B, O’Neill C, Paladenech C, Walker T, Pestronk A, Abrams B, Florence J, Renna R, Schierbecker J, Malkus B, Cudkowicz M. Tolerance of high-dose (3,000 mg/day) coenzyme Q10 in ALS. Neurology 2005;65:1834-1836.
22. Chopra RK, Goldman R, Sinatra ST, Bhagavan HN. Relative bioavailability of coenzyme Q10 formulations in human subjects. Intern J Vit Nutr Res 1998;68:109-113.

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Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What about in the Mediterranean?

In those areas where the Mediterranean dietary lifestyle is traditional, the people with the greatest health and longevity eat abundant amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grain breads, beans, nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, cheeses made from the milks of species other than cows and the occasional glass or two of red wine, a rich source of antioxidant compounds from grapes such as resveratrol, with a meal. Concentrated sugars, processed flour products, eggs, cheeses made from cow’s milk, lean red meats and dairy products are considered rare treats.

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Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What are Okinawans Doing?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What are Okinawans Doing?

Several “themes” have become apparent when the lifestyles of the longest-lived Okinawans have been examined. Perhaps most importantly, they are not overweight. In fact, they tend to be slightly underweight – naturally! – they have enjoyed a lifetime of lean trimness without any periods of adult excess fat accumulation. In terms of dietary practices, their habit is to stop eating at the first feelings of fullness, instead of stuffing themselves with excess food. If you don’t gain it you never need to lose it.

They begin life active and they remain in motion as much as is possible, exercising every day in the form of dance, soft martial arts, walking and gardening. They seem to embody a type of personification of that old physics adage that a body in motion tends to remain in motion and not collapse under its own inertia.

Of course, they also shun self-destructive use of tobacco products or alcohol to excess.

Personality testing has found that Okinawan centenarians, when they were decades younger and in their prime of life, scored low when it came to feelings of “time urgency” and “tension” and high in “self-confidence” and “unyieldingness.” Interviews revealed optimistic attitudes, adaptability, and an easy-going approach to life. Moderation was found to be a key cultural value. Strong social integration and a deep spirituality were particularly evident among Okinawan women. These all tend to be habits and outlooks that contribute to a low-stress lifestyle. Stress being a major cause of disease, it’s fruitful to avoid stress as much as possible – the Okinawan way of life.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
What about in the Mediterranean?

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Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What Is “Healthy Aging” and How Can It Be Achieved?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What Is “Healthy Aging” and How Can It Be Achieved?

Retaining true physical youth happens nowhere in nature and would be unnatural. That’s why “anti-aging” is a misconception – “aging” cannot be prevented unless you have access to a working time machine. If you do, all bets are off. Otherwise, realize that fighting against “aging” is a fairly futile practice. Not even the Spanish conquistadors could find the Fountain of Youth. As someone once said, “Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.”

“Healthy aging”, therefore, is one part prevention of functional decline and one part extension of longevity. Thanks to today’s understanding of the science of life, remaining as “youthful” as possible for as many decades as possible, with the fringe benefit of a few extra decades – now that is an achievable goal.

Population-based studies suggest that there are practices that healthy people around the world have implemented which show promise for living longer, healthier lives. In fact, a number of population groups around the world are living the “Healthy Aging” dream right now.

In Okinawa, Japan, over 600 men and women have exceeded a century of life and are still going strong ( It’s not just a coincidence that Okinawa has higher than average numbers of centenarians; the average life expectancy of the 1.4 million Okinawans is almost 90 years. And they don’t just live longer, they live better longer. Compared to men and women in the US, Okinawans more than 65 years old have about one-quarter the rate of loss of cognitive functioning, half as many hip fractures, one-fifth as much heart disease, half the rate of colon cancer, one-fifth as much breast cancer and only 10% as many cases of prostate cancer. Yet, so far as researchers can determine, there are no relevant “longevity-enhancing” genetic differences between North Americans and Okinawans. Can lifestyle and diet really be that important? You be the judge – going beyond the “outcomes” statistics quoted above, it is known that on average an Okinawan has less than half as many free radicals circulating in his or her blood as has a North American.

To recap: live right, eat right, suffer half as much chronic oxidative stress, and enjoy a ten to twenty-year longer, and much more disease-free, lifespan. Doesn’t that sound motivating?

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What are Okinawans Doing?

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Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – Is “Aging” Truly Inevitable?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – Is “Aging” Truly Inevitable?

Maybe not as we usually think of it. Evidence from a study published recently in the Journal of Gerontology points to some interesting facts about centenarians. Gerontologists evaluated the reports of 42,398 consecutive autopsies that were performed between 1975 and 1995 in Vienna, Austria. They found that 40 of these men and women were over the age of 100 years when they died. Of these 40, 24 (60%) were completely healthy when they died. All 40 were reported to have suffered an acute fatal heart attack or to have simply stopped breathing – none seemed to have died of “old age.” From all appearances they could have kept on living if whatever triggered their final moments had not occurred. According to these specialists, while “getting older” is inevitable, “dying of old age” is not. Death may also be inevitable; however living healthfully by incorporating healthy practices can lead to “Healthy Aging”. Most of the centenarians in this study seem to have found that “holy grail” of human health – they got older without being harmed by the experience.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What Is “Healthy Aging”?

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