SpectraCell Blog

Clearing up the Cholesterol Confusion – So Your Patient Can Understand It

Posted by Nichole Herms on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 @ 03:09 PM

Heart HealthThere has been a lot of talk about cholesterol recently in the news.  This is largely due to one startling statistic to which most people are unaware: 50% of people who have heart attacks have "normal" cholesterol.  What??? Stated differently, that means that half of all heart attack victims may have had a routine cholesterol test done on the very day they had the heart attack and felt fine because their cholesterol (by routine testing standards) was "normal."  So, why do so many practitioners use a diagnostic test that is only 50% accurate?
The reason is simple:  that's what doctors have been using for years, decades really.  But now there is more accurate testing available.  Basically, it's an evolution of the former, out-dated cholesterol testing.  Knowing your HDL and LDL - the "good" and "bad" cholesterol is only the beginning.  SpectraCell’s LPP (Lipoprotein Particle Profile) test goes much, much further.
Here is the basic scenario of heart disease:  When our blood vessels are "scratched," or injured, plaque builds up in our arteries to repair the injury, sort of like a scab on the inside of  the blood vessel, causing reduced blood flow. Since plaque buildup is our bodies' response to injury of the blood vessels, reducing the injury to our arteries is key.  
Human HeartThat's where cholesterol comes in.  Actually, cholesterol is good.  Everyone needs it.  In fact, it protects us in many ways.  Cholesterol is actually a response to vascular injury - not the cause of it.  Cholesterol is really not the culprit.  Lipoproteins are.  Lipoproteins are what "scratch" or "burrow" into our arteries causing injury.  They are actually tiny balls in our blood that carry the cholesterol, our vascular scapegoat.  Lipoproteins are what do the damage, not the cholesterol inside them.  In fact, a lipoprotein can be almost empty of cholesterol and it can still wreak havoc on our arteries, depending on its size and characteristics.  Cholesterol is really just along for the ride.  Lipoproteins, at least the dangerous ones, are the real villain.
There are different sizes of lipoproteins.  In general, bigger is better.  Here's why: Larger, fluffier LDL particles cannot lodge into your arteries (which is an injury to the artery) as easily as the smaller LDL particles can.  Less injury to the artery means less plaque formation and clearer, more pliable blood vessels - a good thing.  So it is imperative to understand what kind of LDL (low density lipoproteins) you have floating around in your blood.  There are some that are extraordinarily dangerous and some that are completely benign.
MedicationsFor example, RLP (also called remnant lipoprotein) has been cited by the government as a very high risk factor for heart disease.  But statins, which lower LDL, will do nothing to help your RLP.  Omega 3 fatty acids effectively lower RLP.  So, if you don't know what kind of lipoproteins you have, you're shooting in the dark in terms of what treatments you should take.  
Here's another example:  Lp(a) - so dangerous that it is sometimes called the widowmaker - is lowered by the simple vitamin B3 (also called niacin).  Again, you may be taking statins or fish oil pills, but they won't affect Lp(a).  You can see why measuring just plain old LDL is certainly not enough.  That is why 50% of the people who have fatal heart attacks have "normal" cholesterol - they are not getting the right cholesterol/ lipoprotein test done.
Here's the best part:  SpectraCell's LPP test costs about the same as an outdated cholesterol test and it is also usually covered by insurance.  Why wouldn't you want an LPP done?

Topics: SpectraCell, lipoprotein particle profile, LPP, Cholesterol, Heart Disease, Lipoproteins, Heart Attack, LDL and HDL

Discrepancy or Deficiency? Vitamin D

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 @ 04:04 PM

Vitamin DIt seems that there is a consistent issue with variances of serum and functional measurements of vitamin D.

In short, serum determinations give a static quantitative measurement while functional intracellular assays reflect the long term status of Vitamin D levels.

The results of the serum and functional tests may or may not be in agreement, but this apparently conflicting information is still useful to physicians and patients. If a patient has a low serum level of vitamin D, yet the functional test is normal, these results suggest a short term deficiency of vitamin D and the patient should be repleted. If the serum test is normal, yet the functional test is deficient, the cell may need more vitamin D for optimal function and the patient should be repleted. Therefore both tests are useful in assessing the vitamin D status of patients.

The same principal described for vitamin D may occur with any analyte for which we are reporting functional test results.

What are your thoughts on the difference between functional testing and serum testing?

Topics: micronutrients, micronutrient testing, Vitamin D, deficiencies, intracellular

Nutritional Considerations of Pain Management

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Nov 12, 2010 @ 04:01 PM

Chronic PainVitamin D & Musculoskeletal Pain

Vitamin D deficiency often presents clinically as musculoskeletal pain. Correcting this deficiency can improve bone and muscle pain dramatically in patients with fibromyalgia and the painful bone disease osteomalacia.

Coenzyme Q10 & Migraines, Myopathy

Supplementation with CoQ10 helps prevent migraine headaches, according to recent clinical trials. In addition, CoQ10 has been shown to relieve statin-induced myopathy by improving energy metabolism in muscle.

Carnitine & Myalgia, Neuropathy

This important amino acid facilitates the transport of fatty acids into cell mitochondria so they can be effectively used for energy. Studies suggest that a deficiency of carnitine manifests clinically as myalgia, muscle weakness or neuropathy. In fact, supplementation with carnitine has been shown to improve pain associated with chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, HIV-induced neuropathy, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Oleic Acid & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A recent study showed significant correlations between the severity of chronic fatigue syndrome and levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid used by the body in energy storage.

Magnesium & Post Operative Pain

Magnesium alters pain processing by blocking NMDA receptors in the spinal cord. In several recent studies, administration of magnesium reduced consumption of pain killers post-operatively. The analgesic effect has been seen in cardiac, orthopedic, thoracic and gynecological surgery. Low magnesium levels also contribute to headaches and correlate strongly with the frequency of chest pain. Its antinociceptive effect is promising.

Choline & Acute Pain

The activation of specific receptors by choline reduces acute inflammatory pain in mice, suggesting that administration of choline may help reduce the use of medication for inflammatory pain.

Alpha Lipoic Acid & Diabetic Neuropathy

Several clinical trials have documented the beneficial use of alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of pain from diabetic polyneuropathy.

B Vitamins & Neuropathic Pain

A recent study suggests clinical usefulness of vitamins B1, B6 and B12 in the treatment of neuropathic painful conditions following injury or inflammation. Vitamin B1 deficiency has been implicated in myopathy as well. Thiamin (vitamin B1) supplementation can also ease pain from shingles, migraine headaches and arthritis. Similarly, clinical indicators of pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis are inversely correlated with B6 levels. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) has also shown promise in reducing pain associated with inflammatory conditions and acts as a powerful agent in preventing migraine headaches. Since the B-complex vitamins work together, it is crucial to assess the functional status of each one.

Folic Acid & Migraines

A recent study showed that migraine headaches in children were significantly reduced when supplemented with folic acid. Magnesium supplementation has similar beneficial effects on the pain of pediatric migraine attacks.

Copper & Arthritis

Copper is necessary for the production of super oxide dismutase, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory enzyme. When administered to patients with rheumatoid arthritis, copper is effective in reducing inflammatory pain. Copper supplementation has also relieved patients of leg pain associated with sciatic neuritis.

Antioxidants & Inflammatory Pain

The link between oxidative stress and inflammation has been well established. A patient in an inflammatory state will likely experience more pain. Studies have shown that reactive oxygen species are produced during persistent pain, indicating an increased need for antioxidants. Specifically, cysteine may have an inhibitory role in inflammatory pain due to its potent antioxidant effects on tissues. Similar results have been demonstrated with other antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin e, vitamin c, glutathione and coenzyme Q10. Recent studies show that intracellular inflammatory response in white blood cells play an important role in the pathophysiology of chronic fatigue syndrome. Combined antioxidant therapy also reduces pain in patients with chronic pancreatitis and fibromyalgia. Since many antioxidants work synergistically, measure a single antioxidant may not provide an accurate picture of total antioxidant function in patients experiencing either chronic or acute pain.

Topics: micronutrient testing, Coenzyme Q10, Oleic Acid, Arthritis, Vitamin D, Carnitine, Magnesium, Choline, B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Copper, Antioxidants, Pain, Migraines, Fatigue, Myopathy, Fibromyalgia

Why is MTHFR Genotyping Important?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Nov 05, 2010 @ 01:46 PM

MTHFR is an enzyme responsible for converting 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate to the product 5-methyltetrahydrofolate - it is involved in the metabolism of folate and homocysteine. The product of the reaction catalyzed by MTHFR converts homocysteine (a potentially toxic amino acid) to methionine (a useful and necessary amino acid).
MTHFR Genotyping is Important because:
  • Certain mutations in the gene coding for MTHFR produce an enzyme that has reduced activity.
  • Reduced activity can lead to elevated levels of homocysteine (a.k.a. hyperhomocysteinemia), especially when folate levels are low.
  • High homocysteine (>13umol/L) may double the risk of developing illness or complications.
  • MTHFR genotyping can provide information about potential causes of elevated homocysteine and approaches for addressing it.
  • Based on MTHFR and homocysteine results, physicians can develop dietary and medical recomendations - increased intake of folate alone or in combination with vitamins B6 and B12 are recommended.
    • Based on results, recommendations for methotrexate dosage can be adjusted.
Risks Associated with MTHFR Variants/High Homocysteine:
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cerebral Vascular Disease (Stroke)
  • Venous and Arterial Thrombosis
  • Methotrexate Toxicity for Cancer Therapy
Who Should be Tested?
  • Those with high homocysteine levels.
  • Those who have a familial history of cardiovascular disease, stroke or thrombosis.
  • Those who are candidates for long-term methotrexate therapy.
What Are the Variants resized 600






What Are the Possible Genotypes resized 600

Do you currently use MTHFR Genotyping in your practice? Which patients do you target for this assessment?

Topics: Homocysteine, MTHFR Genotyping, Genotyping