When it comes to micronutrient name recognition, vitamins and minerals typically get the spotlight (think vitamin C, vitamin D, Magnesium). Less well known are antioxidants, the superstars when it comes to protection from oxidative stress and free radicals. Lipoic acid (AKA thioctic acid) is one such nutrient. This particular substance is unique in that it has antioxidant properties in both water and lipids (most antioxidants protect only one, but not the other). Its unique chemical structure makes it soluble in both, which is a physiologically important attribute. Fat-soluble nutrients protect cell membranes (which are made of fats), and water-soluble nutrients protect intracellular fluid.
Another biologically important feature is its ability to regenerate (and therefore activate) other antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, cysteine and coenzyme Q10 when they have been “used up.” It can bind to insulin receptors, and consequently enhances glucose uptake into muscles, making it useful in improving glucose tolerance in persons with Type 2 Diabetes. Lipoic Acid can also be effective in the treatment of certain diabetic complications such as peripheral neuropathy. Given its ability to protect against damage to fat-soluble cell structures (lipid peroxidation), it’s not surprising that this antioxidant may also help protect against the neuron injury often seen in Alzheimer’s patients. This powerful micronutrient’s impressive list of roles at the cellular level provides clear justification for its designation as a “supernutrient,” making it an effective therapy in a variety of conditions from cataracts to erectile dysfunction.
Interested in knowing how your antioxidant levels stack up? Get tested today!
Did you know that everything you’ve learned about cholesterol and its association with heart attacks is only partly correct? Consider this startling statistic: 50% of people who have suffered a heart attack, have "normal" cholesterol. Another way of saying this is that among heart attack victims, standard cholesterol testing would have detected “normal” ranges in half of this population had it been performed on the day of their event. This begs the question: why do so many practitioners use a diagnostic test that only identifies 50% of those at risk? The reason is simple: it is the test with which they are familiar and has been in use for decades. But did you know that HDL and LDL (the “good” and “bad” cholesterol), are only some of the pieces of the puzzle? Knowing your HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol is only the beginning; SpectraCell’s LPP (Lipoprotein Particle Profile) test identifies these and other components, shedding light on a spectrum of factors that provide detailed information about one’s cardiovascular health.
Here is one way to look at heart disease: when blood vessels are injured or inflamed, lipoproteins containing cholesterol and other lipids penetrate the arterial lining and build plaque. This is akin to a scab on the inside of a blood vessel, causing a reduction in blood flow. Since plaque buildup is the physiological response to injured and inflamed vessels, reducing these factors is critical.
This is where cholesterol comes in. Plaque is actually a response to vascular injury - not the cause of it. Cholesterol, a component of plaque, is rarely the culprit, but lipoproteins are. Lipoproteins are particles that penetrate the arterial lining and build plaque as a result of the injury. These tiny particles carry cholesterol (the vascular scapegoat) through the bloodstream, and cause damage (cholesterol is really just one component of lipoproteins). In other words, lipoproteins are often the real villain (some are extraordinarily dangerous, others are completely benign).
Lipoproteins are classified by size. In general, the bigger, the better, and here’s why: larger, fluffier low density lipoprotein (LDL) particles cannot penetrate the arterial lining as easily as smaller LDL particles can. Less injury to the artery over time results in less plaque formation along with clearer, more pliable blood vessels (this is a good thing). Remnant lipoproteins (RLPs) are cited as having a very strong relationship with heart disease. Statins, which are often prescribed to lower LDLs, will do little to lower RLPs – these are best lowered by high-dose omega-3 fatty acids. Understanding one’s own lipoprotein profile (number and type of LDLs) floating in the bloodstream, is key to promoting improved vascular health outcomes through lifestyle change.
Without any objective information regarding one’s lipoprotein profile, many people are simply shooting in the dark in terms of treatment for these types of cardiovascular issues. The message is clear: simply measuring cholesterol without taking into account lipoprotein particle numbers and density is certainly not enough, as suggested by the 50% statistic cited above. Talk to your health care provider about pursuing a lipoprotein profile test to get a comprehensive assessment of your cardiac risk factors. We saved the best part for last: SpectraCell's LPP test costs about the same as an outdated cholesterol test, and is often covered by insurance!
LDL and HDL,
Standard Cholesterol Testing
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis) is notoriously difficult to diagnose since it manifests with esoteric symptoms that often overlap with other disorders such as fibromyalgia, depression, and hormone imbalances. However, new research from the University of California sheds light on the metabolic abnormalities seen in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), regardless of cause. Although several factors can trigger its onset (viral infection, illness, traumatic injury, severe emotional stress or something else), the “chemical signature” among patients with CFS is strikingly similar.
The UC study confirms that CFS is a hypometabolic state, similar in some ways to a type of hibernation. Specifically, most CFS patients have lower amounts of a type of fat (“sphingolipids”). This substance physically protects cells, and appears to be an adaptive response that may oppose viral or bacterial infection within a cell. By entering into a hypometabolic state, cells permit survival under conditions of environmental stress, but at a price: severely curtailed function and quality of life. The research seems to suggest that science may be closer to developing a lab test that removes diagnostic uncertainty about this common disorder.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,
We’ve all heard the proverbial advice for achieving a healthy body and maintaining our weight: exercise and “eat right.” But for those who really want to delve further into the science behind an enviable metabolism, we offer a list of vitamins with an explanation of their role in the body’s ability to burn fat and build muscle.
- Vitamin A: This vitamin is particularly good at regulating how genes are expressed. Although genes do determine to an extent how the body stores or burns fat, our genes are, simply stated, not our destiny. Two persons with the same gene may express it very differently, depending on their individual cellular environment. This is where vitamin A enters the picture. It can actually enhance the expression of certain genes that lower a person’s tendency to store food as fat. If one is vitamin A deficient, s/he may be pre-disposed to storing fat tissue. On the other hand, correcting a vitamin A deficiency may have a different, more positive effect, as studies have indicated that vitamin A may reduce the size of fat cells.
- Vitamin D: Similar to vitamin A, vitamin D (commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”) affects genetic expression, including the way that fat cells develop. A vitamin D deficiency is strongly linked to poor carbohydrate metabolism: instead of efficiently burning carbohydrate for fuel (which consequently helps impart energy and mental focus), the body instead stores carbohydrate as fat. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency can boost metabolism by reversing this deleterious effect.
- Vitamin E: This micronutrient affects metabolism by inhibiting immature fat cells from developing into mature fat cells, which are more “stubborn,” metabolically speaking. The cumulative effect of this is a reduction in fat storage.
- Vitamin B3: Also called niacin, vitamin B3 can increase the hormone adiponectin, which is secreted by fat cells. Adiponectin’s main function is to signal cells to burn fuel. It also has a role in helping muscles use glucose for energy rather than storing it as fat.
- Vitamin B5: Some evidence suggests that vitamin B5 (AKA pantothenate or pantothenic acid) might be helpful for weight loss because it has been associated with less hunger when dieting. At the cellular level, vitamin B5 activates the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down fat cells.
This list is by no means exhaustive: in fact, there are multiple micronutrient influences on weight loss. These micronutrients work both individually and synergistically, and repletion often promotes clinical benefits throughout the body. It should come as no surprise that micronutrient adequacy also supports heart health and energy levels. Therefore, discovering (then correcting) micronutrient deficiencies becomes a critical first step in improving overall health.
Tired of not getting the results you want? Interested in learning how you can improve the efficacy of your weight management routine? Get tested and find out how your micronutrient status stacks up!
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Did you know that these two chronic diseases are similar? Both conditions are characterized by a loss of insulin sensitivity at the cellular level. This means that cells (regardless of whether they are muscle, liver, fat, nerve, or brain cells) are no longer responsive to the hormone insulin (they have become insulin resistant). In other words, these cells have become unable to use glucose effectively as a source of metabolic fuel. As a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream because the insulin needed to carry it into a cell does not work anymore. When glucose remains in the blood (“high blood sugar”), it combines with proteins that are also in the blood, and will eventually form plaques. In blood vessels, these “plaques” cause heart disease. In the brain, these “plaques” lead to loss of cognition and brain function, both of which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease - leading experts to label it Type 3 Diabetes.
Interested in learning more about Alzheimer's Disease? Register for our upcoming webinar on Targeting Alzhimer's Disease via Lifstyle Modications.
Type 3 Diabetes,
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Every January, many of us are inspired by the prospect of a healthier self to begin important lifestyle and behavior changes. In the United States, losing weight is among the most common of New Year’s resolutions. Here, we outline some tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index). We won’t go on to describe the mechanics of doing a proper push-up, or offer healthy recipes, but we will offer you practical information to help you achieve more optimal health, of which fitness/ body composition is a byproduct.
Lean body mass and weight loss are very dependent on the following:
- Eliminating/ reducing inflammation. Most people associate inflammation with redness and pain after an injury or illness. This is how acute inflammation manifests itself, and it is easy to see and feel. But subacute, or “chronic” inflammation is the type of inflammation that manifests as heart disease, cancer, fatigue, and – you guessed it – extra pounds. Chronic inflammation is not something we directly feel, hence the phrase, “silent killer.”
It is true that eating fresh fruits and vegetables in copious amounts can help quell inflammation, but the key is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. One strategy is to eliminate sugar, as it is extremely inflammatory: eating sugar increases inflammation. This is a simple enough concept, but did you know that fat cells, too, are inflammatory? Contrary to popular belief, adipose tissue (AKA “fat”) is not an inert substance in the body: it is, in fact, a living organ that secretes inflammatory hormones. This in turn exacerbates metabolic dysfunction. Therefore, weight loss generally helps reduce inflammation. And when you reduce inflammation, it helps you lose weight.
- Maintaining stable blood sugar. Many people believe that hunger is mostly caused by an empty stomach when the reality is that hunger is a response to blood glucose levels. This is why it is possible to eat hundreds, even thousands of calories (such as candy bars and other sweets), then feel hungry relatively soon after. This is also the reason why it is possible to go long periods of time without eating (despite an empty stomach, there is a lack of hunger). The bottom line? It’s all about blood sugar control.
When starting a new weight loss program, one of the many obstacles that eventually trips people up is wild blood sugar fluctuations, which leads to unrelenting cravings and mood swings. The goal, then, is to optimize blood sugar stability/ prevent insulin resistance. Doing so helps drive a metabolic shift that facilitates weight loss and weight management. Blood sugar control can be easily assessed via pre-diabetes biomarkers including fasting glucose, HbA1C, and insulin.
Optimizing gut health. This means establishing and colonizing the gastrointestinal tract with diverse beneficial bacteria (AKA a healthy microbiome). Healthy gut flora not only help protect against pathogens, they also help synthesize vitamins and impact neurotransmitter levels, ultimately affecting not only one’s immune system function, but how one looks and feels.
A healthy gut ecology is supported through the consumption of prebiotic and probiotic foods. Fermented foods, such as vegetables and dairy, are such examples. On the other hand, sugar and refined carbohydrates promote the growth of pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria, which often cause weight gain.
The good news is that these three pillars of health work synergistically: reducing inflammation helps promote healthy gut bacteria; optimizing blood sugar results in a smaller inflammatory burden; and a healthy gut helps drive blood sugar stabilization with greater efficiency. All work together; fortunately, you can quantify more than just what you see on the scale.
Did you know that many biomarkers are available to measure inflammation, blood sugar control, and gut health? Contact SpectraCell Laboratories to find out more!
Maintaining stable blood sugar,
New Year Weight Loss Solutions,
Optimizing gut health,
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Serine, an amino acid, is a micronutrient with which many people are unfamiliar. This may be a reason why its role in mental health remains largely underappreciated. Serine’s major role is in the production of neurotransmitters. Specifically, it increases the “feel-good” hormones dopamine and serotonin, but it does so without the corresponding hyperactivity or compulsive behavior that often occurs with drug therapies that stimulate a single neurotransmitter. It also buffers the adrenal response to physical, mental and emotional stress. In doing so, it protects the body and mind against cellular damage from chronically high cortisol. Serine deficiency has been linked to the severity of depression; in one study, the administration of serine reduced combat-related anxiety in a clinical trial on 22 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients.
Click here to download our nutrient correlations wheel on Depression.
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The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces a variety of thyroid hormones. These regulate virtually every aspect of metabolism: body temperature, mood, sex hormones, energy levels, and even impact one’s appearance, from hair and nails to skin and waistline. Less understood about thyroid hormones is that there are two basic types – T3 and T4 (so named for the number of iodine molecules each has) – and they serve different biological functions. T4, which is made in the thyroid gland, serves as the precursor hormone to T3. It is entirely possible, even common, for the thyroid gland to produce plenty of thyroid hormone in the form of T4, but not be converted into T3. Because T3 is the more biologically potent thyroid hormone and acts directly on bodily tissues, one may exhibit signs of hypothyroidism (fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, thinning hair, mood swings, etc) even when T4 is in the normal range.
It is worth noting that the conversion of precursor thyroid hormone T4 into active thyroid hormone T3 occurs outside the thyroid gland, mostly in the liver and kidneys. This conversion into active thyroid hormone occurs through the action of enzymes that are dependent on the mineral selenium (these enzymes are called deiodinases because they remove aniodine in T4 to convert it to T3). Therefore, a selenium deficiency can cause a person to be low in active thyroid hormone, even if their thyroid gland is producing plenty of precursor thyroid hormone. To complicate things, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is often found to be “normal” despite poor thyroid conversion. In essence, a reliance on simple thyroid tests may suggest a person is not hypothyroid when in fact they are hypothyroid due to a selenium deficiency. Both low zinc and antioxidant status can also impair the conversion of T4 (precursor) to T3 (active) hormone. The most concentrated dietary source of selenium is the Brazil nut, because the soil where Brazil nuts are grown is particularly rich in selenium.
Find out whether you have a selenium deficiency today!
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Chromium is a trace metal that plays a role in metabolizing carbohydrates. It is the central molecule of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), a compound that helps insulin attach to a cell’s receptors. This allows glucose to be taken up by a cell and used for fuel, rather than continue circulating in the bloodstream and eventually wreaking havoc on blood vessels and organs.
When chromium is deficient in the body, glucose cannot be metabolized properly. This sets the stage for insulin resistance. The good news is that when a chromium deficiency is corrected, blood sugar regulation improves. Unfortunately, supplemental chromium, such as chromium picolinate, may not be absorbed efficiently. Chromium competes for the binding site of a protein that transports iron, which may also inhibit absorption. The solution? Increase your dietary intake of chromium-containing foods. Among the best sources of this mineral are broccoli, barley, oats, and green beans. You’ll want to limit your intake of foods high in simple sugars, on the other hand, as these actually increase the rate of excretion, thus promoting chromium deficiency.
Find out whether you are chromium deficient today by asking about our Micronutrient Test!
Did you know that November is National Diabetes Month? This is extremely appropriate after Halloween and the sugar binging that usually accompanies it. While feasting on leftover candy, you might want to keep the following information in mind. After ingestion, sugar is not simply “burned off.” Even if you are fit and lean, sugar is harmful because it accelerates cellular aging. Sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins, creating something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These end products render those proteins inactive, and are commonly used as a marker for aging. In fact, one of the hallmark diagnostic tests for chronically elevated blood sugar/ diabetes is HbA1C, which is an AGE of a hemoglobin molecule. Sugar profoundly alters hormone balance, especially over time, which can set off a cascade of metabolic dysfunction that further accelerates aging systemically, from the arteries to the liver and skin. The dangers of sugar extend beyond a few extra pounds – this ubiquitous substance (found in everything from salad dressings to condiments to your favorite desserts) – actually ages the body from the inside out.
advanced glycation end products,
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