For the past ten years or so I have been an “On again off again” supplement taker. It seems one minute popular media is praising a certain vitamin or herbal supplement and the next they are discussing the hazards!

I have read so much about so many that it’s hard to keep a real and accurate sense about which ones are actually proven to help and which ones are mostly unsubstantiated hype.

The three I have here are proven winners. No doubts about them at all. I am also currently investigating Essiac Tea, B17, shark cartilage, and L-Theanine.

Garlic: (Taken from the National Cancer Institute)

Do findings from population studies offer evidence that garlic may prevent cancer?

Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast. Population studies are multidisciplinary studies of population groups that investigate the cause, incidence, or spread of a disease or examine the effect of health-related interventions, dietary and nutritional intakes, or environmental exposures. An analysis of data from seven population studies showed that the higher the amount of raw and cooked garlic consumed, the lower the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer (5).

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) is an ongoing multinational study involving men and women from 10 different countries. This study is investigating the effects of nutrition on cancer. In the study, higher intakes of onion and garlic were associated with a reduced risk of intestinal cancer (6).

Several population studies conducted in China centered on garlic consumption and cancer risk. In one study, investigators found that frequent consumption of garlic and various types of onions and chives was associated with reduced risk of esophageal and stomach cancers, with greater risk reductions seen for higher levels of consumption (8). Similarly, in another study, the consumption of allium vegetables, especially garlic and onions, was linked to a reduced risk of stomach cancer (9). In a third study, greater intake of allium vegetables (more than 10 g per day vs. less than 2.2 g per day), particularly garlic and scallions, was associated with an approximately 50 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk (10).

Evidence also suggests that increased garlic consumption may reduce pancreatic cancer risk. A study conducted in the San Francisco Bay area found that pancreatic cancer risk was 54 percent lower in people who ate larger amounts of garlic compared with those who ate lower amounts (11).

In addition, a study in France found that increased garlic consumption was associated with a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer risk. After considering total calorie intake and other established risk factors, breast cancer risk was reduced in those consuming greater amounts of fiber, garlic, and onions (12).

How much garlic may be useful for cancer prevention?

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for general health promotion for adults is a daily dose of 2 to 5 g of fresh garlic (approximately one clove), 0.4 to 1.2 g of dried garlic powder, 2 to 5 mg of garlic oil, 300 to 1,000 mg of garlic extract, or other formulations that are equal to 2 to 5 mg of allicin.

Acai Berry: (Taken from University of Florida news)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Brazilian berry popular in health food contains antioxidants that destroyed cultured human cancer cells in a recent University of Florida study, one of the first to investigate the fruit’s purported benefits.

Published today in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the study showed extracts from acai (ah-SAH’-ee) berries triggered a self-destruct response in up to 86 percent of leukemia cells tested, said Stephen Talcott, an assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Acai berries are already considered one of the richest fruit sources of antioxidants,” Talcott said. “This study was an important step toward learning what people may gain from using beverages, dietary supplements or other products made with the berries.”

He cautioned that the study, funded by UF sources, was not intended to show whether compounds found in acai berries could prevent leukemia in people.

“This was only a cell-culture model and we don’t want to give anyone false hope,” Talcott said. “We are encouraged by the findings, however. Compounds that show good activity against cancer cells in a model system are most likely to have beneficial effects in our bodies.”

Other fruits, including grapes, guavas and mangoes, contain antioxidants shown to kill cancer cells in similar studies, he said. Experts are uncertain how much effect antioxidants have on cancer cells in the human body, because factors such as nutrient absorption, metabolism and the influence of other biochemical processes may influence the antioxidants’ chemical activity.

Another UF study, slated to conclude in 2006, will investigate the effects of acai’s antioxidants on healthy human subjects, Talcott said. The study will determine how well the compounds are absorbed into the blood, and how they may affect blood pressure, cholesterol levels and related health indicators. So far, only fundamental research has been done on acai berries, which contain at least 50 to 75 as-yet unidentified compounds.

“One reason so little is known about acai berries is that they’re perishable and are traditionally used immediately after picking,” he said. “Products made with processed acai berries have only been available for about five years, so researchers in many parts of the world have had little or no opportunity to study them.”

Talcott said UF is one of the first institutions outside Brazil with personnel studying acai berries. Besides Talcott, UF’s acai research team includes Susan Percival, a professor with the food science and human nutrition department, David Del Pozo-Insfran, a doctoral student with the department and Susanne Mertens-Talcott, a postdoctoral associate with the pharmaceutics department of UF’s College of Pharmacy. Acai berries are produced by a palm tree known scientifically as Euterpe oleracea, common in floodplain areas of the Amazon River, Talcott said. When ripe, the berries are dark purple and about the size of a blueberry. They contain a thin layer of edible pulp surrounding a large seed. In the current UF study, six different chemical extracts were made from acai fruit pulp, and each extract was prepared in seven concentrations. Four of the extracts were shown to kill significant numbers of leukemia cells when applied for 24 hours. Depending on the extract and concentration, anywhere from about 35 percent to 86 percent of the cells died.

Turmeric: (Taken from  Dr. Andrew Weil M.D.)

3 Reasons to Eat Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice that spans cultures – it is a major ingredient in Indian curries, and makes American mustard yellow. But evidence is accumulating that this brightly colored relative of ginger is a promising disease-preventive agent as well, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory action.

One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in the July, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication HerbClip.

Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects. Here are some of the diseases that turmeric has been found to help prevent or alleviate:

Alzheimer’s disease:

Duke found more than 50 studies on turmeric’s effects in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. The reports indicate that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.

Arthritis

: Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including sixdifferent COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme). By itself, writes Duke, curcumin – the component in turmeric most often cited for its healthful effects – is a multifaceted anti-inflammatory agent, and studies of the efficacy of curcumin have demonstrated positive changes in arthritic symptoms.

Cancer:

Duke found more than 200 citations for turmeric and cancer and more than 700 for curcumin and cancer. He noted that in the handbook Phytochemicals: Mechanisms of Action, curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, murine hepatocarcinogenesis (liver cancer in rats), esophageal cancer, and oral cancer. Duke said that the effectiveness of the herb against these cancers compared favorably with that reported for pharmaceuticals.

How can you get more turmeric into your diet? One way is via turmeric tea. There are also extracts in tablet and capsule form available in health food stores; look for supercritical extracts in dosages of 400 to 600 mg, and take three times daily or as directed on the product.

And, of course, one can simply indulge in more curried dishes, either in restaurants or at home. However you do it, adding turmeric to your diet is one of the best moves toward optimal health you can make.

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4 responses

  1. slowborg says:

    Another informative post. I’m studying naturopathic nutrition, and of course we can get everything we need from a balanced diet (expensive and hard work) but supplements are great in my opinion when we can’t get what we need from out diet and these particular ones are fabulous!

  2. I’ve not tried acai berries but I can imagine in the future researchers will find all kinds of as-yet unknown elements in such foods which protect us against cancer, heart disease etc.

  3. I added tumeric to my rice at lunchtime – a very easy way to eat tumeric to the diet!

  4. Thank you for this info- I am so an on again off again with my vitamins, but since I turned 40….it’s another story- will add these to my others!