SpectraCell Blog

Understanding Obesity and Nutrition

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 @ 10:22 AM

Obesity and NutritionIn the past, obesity was understood in fairly simple terms: excess body weight resulting from eating too much and exercising too little. Obesity is now regarded as a chronic medical disease with serious health implications caused by a complex set of factors.

Micronutrients and Obesity:

Obesity is a complex, chronic disease involving multiple components. It is the second leading cause of preventable death in America, second only to cigarette smoking, and increase the risk of illness from over 30 medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, infertility, arthritis and heart disease. Prescription medications and procedures used to treat many of
these conditions often induce micronutrient deficiencies as well.

Availability of NutrientsAvailability of Nutrients:

Obesity often reduces the availability of certain nutrients. In a recent study, over 50% of obese patients were evaluated for Vitamin D status and found to be deficient. Since fat cells have
their own nutritional requirements, fat cells will draw from nutritional reserves in much the same way other organs do in order to perform normal cellular functions. The combination of reduced availability and increased demand for nutrients caused by excess fat cells ultimately causes multiple deficiencies that need to be corrected.

Regulation of Hormones Linked to Obesity:

Niacin (Vitamin B3) treatment has been shown to increase hormone levels that regulate metabolism of glucose and fatty acids. Decreased levels are associated with obesity and heart disease. Vitamin B5 helps breaks down fat cells so they can be used up by the body.

Low Zinc status is also associated with obesity. This may be due, in part, to the relationship between Zinc and leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite. Zinc depletion reduces leptin levels, while Zinc repletion reverses this effect.

Obesity and NutritionFat Cell Formation:

Studies suggest that a form of Vitamin E (tocotrienol) inhibits pre-fat cells from changing into mature fat cells, resulting in a decrease in body fat. Calcium intake has also been associated with weight loss through its ability to inhibit the formation of fat cells. It also promotes the oxidation, or burning of fat cells, therefore reducing the risk of obesity.

The Effect of Amino Acids on Body Composition:

Carnitine is an important nutrient that helps muscle cells utilize energy and burn calories. Evidence shows that supplementation with carnitine when combined with an exercise program may induce positive changes in body composition by reducing (belly fat) more efficiently than without supplementation. Glutamine has been shown to reduce fat mass and improve glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and the relatively unknown amino acid Asparagine can improve insulin sensitivity by increasing the amount of sugar taken into muscle tissue to be burned for fuel.

Obesity and Insulin Resistance - Partners in Crime:

Obesity severely impairs the body’s ability to efficiently burn dietary carbohydrates. This is caused primarily by the body’s inability to use insulin, which is the hormone that helps the transport of sugars into muscles where they can be used for fuel instead of being stored as fat. Optimal micronutrient and mineral status are necessary for proper insulin function.

Vascular Health and ObesityVascular Health in Obesity:

Blood vessels in overweight individuals are typically not as pliable and healthy as normal weight people. Vitamin C supplementation has been demonstrated to improve vascular function in overweight people. Similarly, minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc, Calcium and Copper have all shown positive effects on blood pressure and vascular health. Overweight people tend to have high blood pressure, which is intensified by vitamin deficiencies. Since so many nutrients (Folate, Biotin, Carnitine, Vitamins A, C, and E and several minerals) are involved in the maintenance of healthy blood vessels of both normal weight and overweight people, a comprehensive evaluation of how they are performing in the cells of obese patients is crucial.

Oxidative Stress and Inflammation:

Numerous studies link oxidative stress and inflammation with  obesity. Visceral adiposity (belly fat) is particularly high in dangerous enzymes that cause oxidative stress. Weight loss certainly counteracts this phenomenon and studies show that the amount of weight lost directly correlates to decreases in oxidative stress. Belly fat also causes inflammation of the liver, which is particularly common in obese people. One recent study  demonstrated that Coenzyme Q10 decreased obesity-induced inflammation of the liver. Similarly, inflammation in blood vessels of obese patients contributes to heart disease and stroke, which can be alleviated in part through proper antioxidant supplementation. It is imperative that antioxidant status be optimized, especially in obese patients. SpectraCell’s micronutrient testing measures several specific antioxidants and gives an overall picture of how well all the antioxidants are working together.

Malabsorption Issues After Bariatric SurgeryMalabsorption Issues After Bariatric Surgery:

The impaired ability to absorb nutrients after bariatric procedures routinely causes multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies in patients. Due to fat malabsorption after bariatric surgery, deficiencies in fat soluble Vitamins (A, D, E and K) are extremely common. Neurological complications such as confusion, impaired muscle coordination, even seizures may occur after bariatric procedures, due to a lack of B Vitamins, especially Thiamine. These complications can occur acutely or decades later. A comprehensive evaluation of nutritional status in bariatric patients is critical in maintaining post-op health.

Also, share with us your experience with the role micronutrients have played in obesity with your patient population! Do you have a particular success?

Topics: Coenzyme Q10, Asparagine, zinc, folate, Vitamin D, Carnitine, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Copper, Calcium, biotin, Glutamine, Vitamin B5, Hormones, Oxidative Stress, Insulin Resistance, Niacin, Obesity

A New Twist on a Common Supplement: Using Omega 3’s to Lower Homocysteine

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 @ 09:54 AM

Omega 3's and HomocysteinGuest Blog by: Dr. Arland Hill (D.C.)

Homocysteine continues to gain acceptance as a risk factor in a number of conditions.  Once thought to be associated with mostly cardiovascular disease, homocysteine is now recognized as a contributor to numerous states of dysfunction, including arthritis, cognitive decline, osteoporosis and many more.  Given the vast reaching effects of homocysteine, having an ideal treatment protocol in place to address elevations seems necessary, if not even absolutely crucial.

Examination of the literature to lower homocysteine can be confusing at times, with some studies showing lack of efficacy of B vitamins.  However, these studies were not without criticism and ultimately a return to the basics of physiology has shown B vitamins to be an efficacious intervention.  When looking at the methionine cycle and delving deeper into the biochemistry of homocysteine, it becomes rather clear that without methyl donors, B Vitaminshomocysteine conversion to methionine gets stalled and homocysteine begins to build up.  As such, the methyl donors B12 and folate have become the primary interventions for homocysteine lowering therapy.

For some however, B12 and folate therapy are not enough.  Most of these individuals fall under the category of having a variant for the methyltetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme, commonly abbreviated MTHFR.  Variants in this enzyme impair the ability to reduce folate, thus making the conversion of homocysteine to methionine inefficient and promoting accumulation.  This is seemingly overcome fairly easily in elevated cases by the use of L 5-methyltetrahydrofolate.  Upon normalization of homocysteine in this manner, levels can generally be kept in an ideal range by the use of folate, a non-synthetic, as compared to folic acid.

As relatively straightforward as this all seems, the story does not end here.  A deeper look at the influences on our genes shows the complexity of modulating homocysteine.  There must exist a constant balance between homocysteine and methionine.  If the objective is to lower homocysteine, downregulating the enzymes that lead to its conversion and upregulating those that convert it to methionine would appear ideal.  To do this very thing, one should look no further than omega 3’s.  The polyunsaturated omega 3’s, known to most of us as fish oils, canOmega 3s directly affect the expression of the genes that control the enzymes linked to homocysteine metabolism.  Since the omega 3’s do not directly insert into the biochemical pathway of the methionine cycle, their actions clearly have to be based on another mechanism of action, one we now recognize as genetic.

Consider the therapeutic potential here for a number of patients.  Let’s take the aforementioned conditions for which homocysteine is known to affect.  Equally validated in the literature to support cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cognitive decline, and osteoporosis, omega 3’s will not only reduce inflammation but will also modify genetic expression of those enzymes metabolizing homocysteine.  This makes testing and adding omega 3’s to any clinical protocol at minimum a consideration given the considerable effects of homocysteine and the therapeutic potential of omega 3’s.

Please review the website below for more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22260268

Dr. Arland HillArland Hill, DC, MPH, DACBN- Complete Care Chiropractic and Wellness

For more information about our client Dr. Hill, please visit his website or his blog. Or contact him at 281-557-7200.

Topics: Homocysteine, B Vitamins, supplements, Omega 3s, Dr. Arland Hill

Nutritional Considerations of ADHD & Autism

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 @ 01:58 PM

Recent years has seen an unprecedented rise in autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Although researchers speculate on the reason for this rise, many factors likely contribute, including more accurate diagnosis. However, overwhelming evidence suggests that nutritional deficiencies may be a contributing factor.

Our brain and nerves are composed mostly of fat. The most important of these are called omega-3 fatty acids and are found primarily in fish or fish oil supplements. Also called EPA and DHA, they are absolutely necessary for human health, and their concentration in the brain makes them key players in neurological disorders such as autism and ADHD. Brain and nerve growth throughout childhood is extraordinarily rapid, and the need for omega-3 fatty acids remains critical all the way through adolescence and into adulthood. Overwhelming evidence implicates deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids for the rise in autism and ADHD. Research shows that children with low scores on behavioral assessment tests consistently have lower omega-3 fatty acids levels, and when supplemented with fish oils, the symptoms of ADHD in these children such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inability to pay attention - dramatically improve.

We are familiar with the expression that a child’s brain is like a sponge, ready to absorb information at an astounding rate. A truly appropriate analogy, it stems from the fact that our brains can actually create nerve pathways in response to new experiences and learning environments. Called “neuronal plasticity,” this phenomena is crucial for long-term memory and learning. Proper levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), is important for membrane fluidity. The ratio of omega-6 fatty acids, which differ in structure and function, to omega-3 fatty acids affect neuronal plasticity as well. Scientists now agree that the ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats is as important as the actual levels, especially in autism and ADHD. A lower ratio is better and when this ratio is improved, symptoms of autism and ADHD can improve as well.

Zinc deficiency is often implicated in ADHD because it is an important co-factor to several neurotransmitters, which directly affect mood and learning ability. Specifically, zinc affects the production of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in our brains that is needed for learning and certain emotions like motivation and pleasure. In fact, studies show that zinc levels correlate with anxiety and behavioral problems, as well as have a significant effect on information processing in boys with ADHD. Since zinc levels are much lower in autistic and ADHD individuals, children with ADHD show positive behavioral and cognitive results after zinc supplementation.In addition, zinc is essential for proper elimination of the toxic metal mercury from our brain tissue, which has also been linked to autism and ADHD.

Low levels of vitamin D have been linked with autism and in some cases of severe deficiency, high-dose vitamin D therapy actually reversed some of the autistic behaviors. Some research even suggests that the nutritional status of the mother during gestation can affect behavior in children. One study confirmed that low folate status in pregnancy was associated with hyperactivity in children. Other studies show that persons who carried a common gene that predisposes them to folate and vitamin B12 deficiency (called the MTHFR gene) were more likely to suffer from ADHD. Supplementation with thiamine (vitamin B1) has shown clinical benefit to some autistic children. Specifically, a deficiency in vitamin B1 has been associated with delayed language development in childhood.When deficient, biotin (vitamin B7) can potentially cause neurological problems associated with autism since the brain is quite vulnerable to biotin deficiency.

Like most nutrients, magnesium and vitamin B6 work together in improving clinical symptoms of autism and ADHD.

When a group of autistic children were supplemented with magnesium and vitamin B6, 70% of the children showed improvement in social interaction and communication. Interestingly, when the supplements were stopped, the clinical symptoms reappeared. In another study, physical aggression and inattention improved after supplementation with magnesium and vitamin B6 for a few months.

Neurotransmitters are tiny chemicals that transmit information from the outside world to various parts of our brains and from our brains to the rest of our bodies. Although neurotransmitters, such as choline, glutamine, asparagine and inositol may not be recognized as household names, they profoundly affect emotions, thinking and social behavior. For example, levels of glutamine and asparagine are lower in autistic children and some adults with ADHD.

Carnitine is an amino acid whose primary function is to transport fatty acids, including the ever-so-important omega-3 fatty acids into cells so they can be used for energy. In autistic individuals, carnitine levels are significantly reduced, which then affects the patient’s ability to use the fatty acids that are so critical to their learning and social development.
A recent study demonstrated that carnitine can reduce hyperactivity and improve social behavior in boys diagnosed with ADHD, and may actually represent a safe alternative to the use of stimulant drugs for the treatment of ADHD in children.

Oxidative stress is a term used to describe damage to our cells that occurs on a daily basis throughout our bodies. Fortunately, our bodies have built-in defenses against the onslaught of internal and external toxins causing oxidative stress in our tissues. Interestingly, several studies show an increase in oxidative stress in both autism and ADHD, resulting in an impaired ability to eliminate toxins. Specifically, adults with ADHD have extremely low levels of some of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. One study linked damage in fatty tissue surrounding our cells to symptoms of autism and ADHD. Minerals such as selenium and copper, antioxidants such as cysteine and vitamin E and several other nutrients ensure the body’s powerful defense systems work optimally.

Since so many nutrients are needed to keep our amazingly complex brain and nervous system functioning properly, a comprehensive assessment of your nutritional status is key. In disorders like autism and ADHD, the potential improvement of symptoms when even a single deficiency is corrected can often be quite dramatic.

For more information, contact us at spec1@spectracell.com or call 800-227-5227.

Topics: zinc, Carnitine, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Omega 3 Fatty Acid, vitamin, autism, Omega 3s, Neurotransmitters, ADHD, Nutritional Deficiency, Oxidative Stress, Omega 6

COMING SOON to a Lab Near You! Immunidex...

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 @ 05:21 PM

SpectraCell ImmunidexWhat Does the Immunidex Measure?
A patient’s Immunidex score is one measurement to evaluate a person’s cell-mediated immune system performance. Specifically, it measures T-cell lymphocyte proliferation. Since immune function is a systemic measure of general health, a higher Immunidex score is generally desired since it means a person can respond efficiently not only to exogenous threats such as pathogens or allergens, but also to endogenous threats like tumors. The immune system, comprised of both cell-mediated (Th1) and humoral (Th2) components, when balanced and performing optimally, affords us critical protection and promotes health and wellness.

How is the Immunidex Performed?
A patient’s lymphocytes are isolated from whole blood and introduced to a protein that stimulates growth. The protein mitogen used to trigger mitosis, or cell division, is PHA (phytohemagglutinin), which stimulates T-lymphocytes to proliferate. The proliferative response is measured by the incorporation of radioactive thymidine into newly synthesized DNA. Your patient’s response is compared to responses of a reference population and results are reported to you as an Immunidex score.

Calcium DeficiencyWhat Affects the Immunidex Result?
Micronutrient deficiencies will undermine a person’s immune function, and thus lower the Immunidex. Since the highly complex immune system is dependent on the intracellular availability of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, correcting specific micronutrient deficiencies typically raises the Immunidex and contributes to tangible clinical benefits, such as reduced infections and may assist in achieving Th1/Th2 balance.

How does the Immunidex correlate with antioxidant function?
In general, the higher the antioxidant score (Spectrox™), the higher the Immunidex score. Antioxidant function plays an important role in promoting optimal T-cell (lymphocyte) function. It is important to find out if a patient has deficiencies in specific antioxidant nutrients so they can supplement wisely. But it is also important to measure a total antioxidant function because the metabolic pathways in which antioxidants are involved are Spectroxhighly complex, sometimes redundant and often overlapping. Research confirms that taking excess antioxidants that are not needed (i.e. where no deficiency exists) can actually cause them to become pro-oxidants and decrease antioxidant function.

How is Immunidex related to aging?
As we age, our immune function typically decreases as seen in the figure below. Although many factors are involved in this complicated process of decline, the Immunidex is one of many relevant aging biomarkers since age diminishes the ability of a person’s lymphocytes to respond to challenges. The effects of both good and poor antioxidant function on the Immunidex is shown and emphasizes the importance of testing for antioxidant function (Spectrox™) and individual antioxidant deficiencies.

How do you order the Immunidex?
The Immunidex is part of SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Testing panel. There is no additional charge for this calculated test result. Ordering instructions are the same – same kit, same blood draw instructions.

Please contact your local representative for more details or email us at spec1@spectracell.com with any questions or comments!  Thank you.

Topics: Antioxidants, Nutritional Deficiency, Aging, Spectrox, Immunidex, Immunity

The Role of Micronutrients in Sports Medicine

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 02:22 PM

AthleteSpectraCell has created an educational guide to discovering the important role micronutrients play in sports medicine.  In this guide, you will find information about:
  • Individualized nutrition for the athlete
  • Demand, synergy and balance of micronutrients
  • Muscle recovery and fatigue
  • Cellular energy production
  • Minimizing oxidative stress
  • Omega-3 fats for concussion protection
  • Immunity and hormone regulation in the athlete
Download a copy of this guide HERE.

Topics: micronutrient testing, Fatigue, Nutrition, immune system, Omega 3s, Hormones, Oxidative Stress, Athlete, Muscle recovery

Can Nutrient Deficiencies Provide Insight into the Health of a Neuron and Your Brain?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jan 09, 2012 @ 10:55 AM

Nutritional Brain HealthGuest Blog by: Dr. Arland Hill (D.C.)

Most of us are familiar with the saying use it or lose it.  Many times when individuals say this, they are likely referring to muscle tissue.  However, this saying is equally valid regarding the health of the brain and nervous tissue.  Since the brain has impact on every system in the body, keeping it healthy is of the utmost importance.  Doing so takes 3 key ingredients; energy, fats, and stimulation.

While most probably don’t think about the energy demands of the nervous system, they are in fact quite high.  The production of energy for a neuron, or nerve cell, goes beyond just good function.  The ability to produce energy is the difference between life and death.  As with all cells, an energy substrate must be available, preferably glucose.  Uptake of glucose by neurons depends on healthy insulin receptors.  Healthy insulin receptors that are sensitive optimize neuron function by efficiently controlling synapse density, promoting neuronal growth, or neuroplasticity, and refining the function of the involved neurocircuitry.  In short, neurons function better and extend their network when insulin receptors are sensitive.  But as attractive as this sounds, it fails to happen when nutrient deficiencies such as chromium and B3 exist.  Chromium and niacin help make up the glucose tolerance factor which has significant bearing on the glucose-insulin interaction.

Neuron Once glucose is taken in by the neuron, it must enter the mitochondria to produce ATP, the energy molecule.  However, to get ATP, several key nutrients must be available.  These nutrients fuel each step of the energy cycle and include B1, B2, B3, B5, glutamine, and magnesium just to name a few.  For the neuron, the importance of this cannot be understated.

When the neuron is able to receive adequate oxygen, it can combine the metabolites formed from the energy production cycle and generate ATP.  In the absence of adequate nutrient stores, ATP is not produced efficiently leading to the demise of the neuron.  This can be the early onset of neurodegeneration.  Moreover, since neurons depend on stimulation from each other to maintain functional neurocircuitry, losing a neuron will in turn have effects on adjacent neurons.  The potential “snowball-like” effect of neurodegeneration emphasizes the consequence of allowing seemingly harmless nutrient deficiencies to persist.

Lastly, a protective coating is needed.  Think about this as insulation for the wiring of your neurocircuity.  With it, neurological impulses are transmitted at a faster rate.  Our insulation is fat.  Micronutrient assessment provides a window into how we might be producing insulation Neuronsaround our neurological tissue.  Not only does such testing show how fats are being utilized by living cells, it also illustrates the status of nutrients such as B12 that are equally needed for production of our insulation, otherwise known as myelin.

The health of the nervous system is a commonly overlooked.  When it is functioning appropriately, it is given little attention.  In contrast, by the time a neurological condition manifests, it is difficult to make up lost ground to neurodegeneration.  However, altering its effects can take place, but only in the presence of adequate nutrient status.  Given proper precursors and stimulation, the ability of the neuron to produce energy is regained, promoting an environment of neuroplasticity.

Dr. Arland Hill


Arland Hill, DC, MPH, DACBN- Complete Care Chiropractic and Wellness

For more information about our client Dr. Hill, please visit his website or his blog. Or contact him at 281-557-7200.

Topics: micronutrient testing, Magnesium, B Vitamins, Glutamine, Brain, Nervous System, Chromium, Dr. Arland Hill, Glucose