SpectraCell Blog

Lipoprotein(a) and L-carnitine

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 @ 02:24 PM

Lipoprotein(a) and L-carnitine

heart-health.gifMost people assume that standard cholesterol testing offers an adequate assessment of heart disease risk. If you, like many, have never heard of a lipoprotein profile test, you may be surprised to learn that this test assesses an important risk factor called Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) (“lipoprotein little a”). Influenced by genetics and strongly linked to heart disease and blood clotting problems, this risk factor unfortunately is not part of routine cholesterol tests or standard lipid panels. In fact, lipoprotein(a) is so strongly linked to heart disease, that it is one of the four lipid-related risk factors cited by the National Institutes of Health National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) as worthy of monitoring. Unfortunately, Lp(a) has been notoriously difficult to treat pharmacologically, as statins have shown little efficacy in lowering Lp(a) levels*.

In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, patients with elevated cholesterol and elevated Lp(a) were divided into two groups, each with 29 people: Group 1 received a statin only and Group 2 received the same statin plus 2 grams/day of L-carnitine, a supplement that plays a key role in fatty acid transport within cells. After 12 weeks, the group receiving only a statin showed about a 7% reduction in Lp(a), but the group receiving the L-carnitine in conjunction with the statin demonstrated over 19% reduction in Lp(a) levels. Authors suggest that co-administration of L-carnitine (whose primary function is fatty acid metabolism), may enhance efforts to lower Lp(a) compared to using a statin alone.

* See our blog post, “Shedding some light on cholesterol,” from January 19, 2017. 

For additional reading refer to the abstract L-Carnitine/Simvastatin Reduces Lipoprotein (a) Levels Compared with Simvastatin Monotherapy: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study published in the January 2017 issue of Lipids

 



 

Topics: Heart Disease, Heart Health, Lipoprotein(a), L-carnitine, Lower Lipoprotein(a), Standard Cholesterol Testing

Exercise: A Fountain Of Youth?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 @ 02:25 PM

Young Woman_Old Woman.jpgEveryone knows that exercise is good for health: after all, it not only does the obvious (burns calories and builds strength), it furthermore helps balance hormones, lifts mood, and fights depression. Did you know that it also has a role in maintaining memory and cognitive function as we age?  A new study has shed light on yet another interesting way that exercise helps keep one young.  Researchers recently found that physical activity may help preserve telomeres, the strands of DNA at the end of chromosomes that protect genetic material from unraveling (like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelace). Each time a cell divides (a process that happens during cellular growth or repair), telomeres in that cell get a tiny bit shorter as DNA is lost, and shorter telomeres = faster aging. The cell is programmed to die when telomeres get too short. The cumulative effect of this process in cells throughout the body manifests as diseases of aging, and this is the reason for the preponderance of studies connecting telomere length with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases. 

Fortunately, there are ways to protect these cellular “clocks.” Recent research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with shorter telomeres. In one study, scientists observed 1,481 older women (average age was 79 years old) and correlated telomere length with sedentary time. They found that among generally inactive women, the more sedentary the lifestyle, the shorter the telomeres (meaning they were aging faster). However - despite stretches of time engaged in sedentary activities (working at a desk, for example) - engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity somewhat regularly appears to offer protection against shorter telomeres. In other words, 30 minutes of activity in a day despite inactivity most of the rest of the day (as in working at a computer or watching TV) did not contribute to cellular aging.  From a cellular standpoint, it truly does appear that a little exercise goes a long way.

Interested in knowing your true biological age? Find out with our Telomere Test
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Topics: telomere length, Telomere testing, Fountain of Youth, biological age, premature aging

What Is Nutrigenomics?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 @ 11:03 AM

nutrigenomics.jpgRecent years have seen the entry of unfamiliar words into the mainstream, no doubt promulgated by widespread use of the Internet and social media. The health and wellness sphere is no exception; new buzz words seemingly enter the healthcare lexicon constantly, and you may already have noticed given the prevalence of words ending in the suffix, “-omics”: genomics, nutrigenomics, metabolomics, to name a few. Countless news articles including these words and their concepts appear to be published with great frequency – on a nearly daily basis, or so it seems. 

The suffix “-ology” refers to the study of a general subject (e.g. biology = study of life, psychology = study of the mind, theology = study of God), while “-omics” is more specific in that it refers to a field of study within molecular biology. In the same way that words like “selfie” and “social media” were not in our vocabulary even a decade ago,  the terms below are relatively new but will likely become household words in the future. 

In an age of personalized medicine, these are some basic “-omics” with which to become familiar:

  1. Genomics: a field of study in biology that focuses on genes, typically in humans. The entire set of genes that humans carry is referred to as the human genome, and the study of the human genome is called genomics.  This is slightly different from the study of specific genes, which we know as genetics. Simply stated, genomics refers to the study of all genes while genetics refers to the study of specific genes.
  1. Nutrigenomics: the study of nutrient impact (from either food or supplements) on gene expression. Scientists have confirmed that nutrition can affect genetic expression profoundly. The interaction of nutrients (or lack of nutrients) and genes and how they are expressed is currently a trending research focus.
  1. Metabolomics: a field of study in molecular biology that focuses on metabolites (the products of cellular metabolism). Like a genome, a metabolome is the entire set of metabolites that occurs in an organism. The study of the entire system of metabolic processes is called metabolomics. 
  1. Microbiomics: the study of the microbiome, which refers to bacteria (and their genes) present in the human body, especially in the gastrointestinal tract.
  1. Pharmacogenomics: this refers to the study of identifying how a person’s genetic makeup affects their response to pharmaceutical drugs, including how they metabolize or absorb certain medications.
  1. Lipidomics: the study of lipids (fats) within biological systems, such as how fats convert into healthy or unhealthy fats, and how certain lipids influence obesity, inflammation, or heart disease.
  1. Proteomics: the study of all the proteins relevant to a biological system. 

Advances in molecular biology are constantly shedding new light on the way the human body functions at the cellular level. As innovation continues, you can expect the terms above will become more commonplace, and related terms more numerous: the –omics are here to stay!


 

Topics: Metabolomics, Pharmacogenomics, Lipidomics, What is nutrigenomics, Nutrigenomics, Genomics, Microbiomics, Proteomics

How Do Amino Acids Affect Fat Metabolism?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 @ 02:42 PM

weight-loss.jpgWhen it comes to nutrients and bioactive substances, most people are familiar with vitamins and minerals, but less knowledgeable about amino acids. These biologically important compounds, much like vitamins and minerals, can impact fat metabolism and weight loss in profound ways.  These are some examples of amino acids with roles in weight management:

  1. Asparagine: First isolated and so named due to its presence in asparagus, this amino acid increases insulin sensitivity, which helps the body store energy in muscle instead of storing it as body fat. Asparagine supplementation has been shown in studies to reduce fatigue after intense exercise.
  1. Carnitine: A combination of the individual amino acids lysine and methionine, carnitine is a compound whose primary role is to transport fatty acids into a cell so that they can be burned for fuel.  Carnitine can help reduce visceral adiposity (fat around the midsection) by increasing the availability of fatty acids for energy.
  1. Glutamine: This amino acid improves glucose uptake by muscle, which can ultimately reduce fat mass.
  1. Cysteine: Supplementation with this sulfur-containing amino acid has been shown to reduce fat in obese patients.  It also has powerful antioxidant properties, which helps keep oxidative stress (linked to obesity) at bay.

Despite their lower profile, amino acids can have an equally powerful effect on overall health as vitamins and minerals.  SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test measures these and many other micronutrients. Detecting and addressing deficiencies are critical steps in enhancing metabolism, promoting health, and looking and feeling your best – be sure to get tested today!

GET TESTED


 

Topics: micronutrients, Metabolism, Amino Acids That Affect Metabolism, Amino Acids

Minerals and Metabolism – What Is the Association?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Thu, Feb 09, 2017 @ 12:52 PM

woman running1.jpgMinerals are substances required within cells to catalyze metabolic reactions. These chemical reactions largely determine the ability of the body to carry out metabolism and ultimately, health status. When it comes to weight management, mineral deficiencies can compromise metabolism. Below are some examples, among many, of familiar minerals with a role in this process:

  1. Zinc: A zinc deficiency can reduce the hormone leptin (this hormone regulates appetite and promotes satiety), therefore signaling you to stop eating for the short-term following a meal. Leptin is released in a dose-dependent manner in response to insulin. Any alteration in the efficiency of either hormone (insulin or leptin) can potentially affect the other.
  1. Calcium: This bones health mineral inhibits the formation of fat cells and burns fat cells by oxidizing fatty acids for energy.
  1. Chromium: This mineral makes cells more sensitive to insulin, thus helping reduce body fat and increase lean muscle.
  1. Magnesium: Low magnesium in cells impairs a person’s ability to use glucose for fuel, instead storing it as fat.  Correcting a magnesium deficiency stimulates metabolism by increasing insulin sensitivity, and may also inhibit fat absorption.
  1. Copper: A copper deficiency can lead to the inability to metabolize fructose efficiently, which can lead to decreased energy levels and high blood triglycerides. Copper also has a role fatty acid metabolism; repletion can help optimize metabolism.
  1. Selenium: In some, a selenium deficiency can reduce thyroid hormone levels since it is a cofactor for the conversion of precursor thyroid hormone (T4) to active thyroid hormone (T3). Reduced thyroid function resulting from selenium deficiency will lower metabolism throughout the body.
  1. Manganese: This mineral is a cofactor to the powerful antioxidant, superoxide dismutase, which works to quell inflammation, one of the key contributors to obesity and weight gain.

Since they work synergistically, mineral balance is key. The “if-some-is-good, more-is-better” approach can be dangerous when it comes to micronutrients because too much of one can induce a deficiency in another. This is why a comprehensive analysis of micronutrient status is essential. SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test measures not only these minerals, but several other micronutrients including vitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, and metabolites. 

GET TESTED


 

Topics: micronutrients, Vitamins, Minerals and Metabolism, Weight Management, Metabolism-Boosting Vitamins

Can Excess Weight Influence Gene Expression?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 02:34 PM

DNA Strand 2.jpgNew research suggests that the answer to this question is YES.  As you might have noticed, a lot of information regarding the impact of environment on genes has been published recently. Take cancer, for example. One may be genetically predisposed to a certain cancer that runs in one’s family.  However, simply possessing this gene does not determine one’s health outcomes or health destiny. It has become clear that in many cases, we can profoundly compensate for the genetic hand that we been dealt by controlling our environment.  Smoking is a clear example: it is common knowledge that abstaining from cigarette smoking dramatically reduces one’s risk for lung cancer. This is a widely understood and powerful example of epigenetics, a concept referring to the idea that environment influences genetic expression. This represents a departure from the traditional view of genetics. Scientists now know that it’s not simply a matter of whether one carries a gene for a disease (cancer, heart disease, dementia, etc), but whether one expresses that gene. And whether we express that gene has much to do with our lifestyle choices (environment) – these lifestyle factors may influence genes in a way that disease does not manifest.  Another way of saying this is that we are not entirely at the mercy of our genes.

So, what does this have to do with overweight? A recent study demonstrated that high BMI (body mass index) due to excess fat can modify a person’s DNA in several places on the DNA strand. These changes resulted from an alteration in methylation patterns (methylation is a process where methyl groups are added at specific sites in DNA molecules and is influenced by the cellular environment). Inflammation and micronutrient availability within cells are examples of these alterations that affect methylation patterns. This study confirms that cellular environment – specifically, excess fat tissue – affects genetic expression. Carrying excess weight can therefore impact genetic expression.  

For more details, download the abstract entitled, Epigenome-wide association study of body mass index, and the adverse outcomes of adiposity, published in the January 2017 issue of Nature.  (Abstract 2581)


 

Topics: MTHFR Genotyping, Epigenetics, Environmental Influence on Gene Expression