A study followed 700 Swedish women between the ages of 70 and 92 years, who were all initially free from dementia. After five years, the researchers collected data on which women took calcium supplements (and dosage), as well as which women were clinically diagnosed with dementia. The odds among women who took supplemental calcium of developing dementia were twice that for women who did not take calcium. Further, among the women with a history of stroke, the odds of developing dementia among those who also supplemented calcium were six times the odds compared to women who did not take calcium. Although limited in sample size, the study results suggest that in elderly women, calcium supplementation may be potentially harmful, especially if they have a history of stroke or vascular problems.
When 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Glutamine: This amino acid improves glucose uptake by muscle, which can ultimately reduce fat mass.
- 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!
Minerals 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:
- 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.
- Calcium: This bones health mineral inhibits the formation of fat cells and burns fat cells by oxidizing fatty acids for energy.
- Chromium: This mineral makes cells more sensitive to insulin, thus helping reduce body fat and increase lean muscle.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Previous studies have linked low folic acid with an increased risk of ischemic stroke (stroke caused by oxygen deprivation) but new research sheds light on how damage occurs. In this animal study, scientists demonstrated that after a stroke, brain tissue is damaged both from lack of oxygen and through the prolonged activation of autophagy, a process whose function is to degrade dysfunctional parts of a cell. When folic acid is deficient, autophagy is accelerated to the point where nerve cells die, thus exacerbating damage to the brain after an initial stroke.
For more details, download the abstract entitled Folic acid deficiency increases brain cell injury via autophagy enhancement after focal cerebral ischemia.
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!
Topics: micronutrients, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B3, Vitamins and weight loss, Role of micronutrients in weight management, Effective weight loss, Effective weight management
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.
Topics: serine, micronutrients, root cause of depression, nutrients and depression, amino acids that affect depression, nutrients and PTSD, serine and neurotransmitters, serine and depression, what causes depression, PTSD
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!
Topics: micronutrients, micronutrient testing, Chromium, micronutrient deficiency, micronutrient profile, barley, green beans, chromium picolinate, blood sugar, chromium deficiency, super foods, broccoli, oats
Also known as pantothenate or pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is sometimes referred to as the “anti-stress” vitamin because it can reverse some biological damage caused by stress. Physical, emotional, and psychological stresses trigger the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol (a long-term stress hormone) and adrenaline (a short-term stress hormone). Chronic stress drives the production of too much of any of these hormones, which causes damage in the body long after the stress signal has ended. When vitamin B5 is present in adequate amounts, it is able to down-regulate the secretion of cortisol, and the body is able to recover. However, in a deficiency state, the adrenal glands are unable to cope. Under these circumstances, they cannot launch a healthy response against the multiple daily stressors that assail us, and the chronic (often unavoidable) stress eventually takes a physiological toll.
Find out what whether you're vitamin B5 deficient today with our Micronutrient test!
Breast cancer is often caused by a compromised ability to detoxify estrogen. Although this hormone is essential– it contributes to skin, bone, psychological, and reproductive health – excess estrogen and the conversion of estrogen into dangerous metabolites can drive cancers in hormone-sensitive tissues (breasts, cervix, uterus, and ovaries).
Estrogens are a group of structurally similar hormones that are metabolized continuously in the body. Sometimes these forms are protective, and sometimes they are metabolized into harmful forms that can stimulate tumor formation or initiate breast cancer. Whether estrogen becomes protective or damaging depends on micronutrient availability in bodily tissues that drive these metabolic pathways. One example is vitamin B6. This nutrient helps detoxify excess estrogen so that it does not cause tumors. Similarly, magnesium drives the enzyme that removes toxic forms of estrogen from the body. Cysteine – a powerful antioxidant - prevents estrogen from being oxidized into a dangerous form that promotes breast cancer. In short – when the appropriate micronutrients are biologically available, toxic forms of estrogen can be minimized, thus diminishing the potential for breast tumor development.
Download our Estrogen - Nutrient Correlations Wheel.