SpectraCell Blog

Vitamin A: Functions and Benefits

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 @ 11:30 AM

vit A.jpgVitamin A was one of the earliest vitamins to be discovered – hence its top rank in the alphabetical vitamin nomenclature.Vitamin A is a family of fat soluble compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, and immune system regulation. Most people associate vitamin A with carrots, and for good reason: the common orange veggie has high amounts of beta-carotene, which is actually a vitamin A precursor and also the reason carrots got their name. But vitamin A is actually a group of chemicals that are similar in structure, and include retinol (the most biologically active form of vitamin A), retinal, and retinoic acid.

β-carotene is slightly different in that it is cleaved in the intestinal mucosa by an enzyme to form retinol. Other carotenoids include lycopene and lutein but, although similar to vitamin A, they are not actually vitamin A in the truest sense. One distinction is that excessive amounts of vitamin A from over-supplementation, can cause toxicity (although deficiency is much more common). On the other hand, β-carotene does not cause vitamin A toxicity because there exists a regulatory mechanism that limits vitamin A production from beta carotene when high levels are ingested.

A large number of physiological systems may be affected by vitamin A deficiency which is most often associated with strict dietary restrictions and excess alcohol intake. Patients with Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and pancreatic disorders are particularly susceptible due to malabsorption.  Vitamin A is also essential for the developing skeletal system and deficiency can result in growth retardation or abnormal bone formation. 

The functions of vitamin A are very diverse:

  • Eyesight: Vitamin A forms retinal, which combines with a protein (rhodopsin) to create the light-absorbing cells in the eye. This explains why a common clinical manifestation of deficiency is night blindness and poor vision.
  • Skin: In addition to promoting healthy skin function and integrity, vitamin A regulates the growth of epithelial surfaces in the eyes and respiratory, intestinal, and urinary tracts. Deficiency impairs epithelial regeneration, which can manifest as skin hyperkeratization, infertility, or increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.
  • Anemia: Vitamin A helps transfer iron to red blood cells for incorporation into hemoglobin; thus, a vitamin A deficiency will exacerbate an iron deficiency.
  • Weight management: Vitamin A reduces the size of fat cells, regulates the genetic expression of leptin (a hormone that suppresses appetite), and enhances the expression of genes that reduce a person’s tendency to store food as fat.
  • Cancer prevention: Vitamin A deficiency impairs the body’s ability to launch cell-mediated immune responses to cancer cells. Vitamin A inhibits squamous metaplasia (a type of skin cancer) and inhibits breast cancer cell growth.
  • Fertility: Vitamin A plays a key role in the synthesis of sperm.
  • Autism: Vitamin A is part of the retinoid receptor protein (G-alpha protein), which is critical for language processing, attention, and sensory perception. Some autistics have a defect in this protein that vitamin A supplementation can modulate.
  • Sleep: Vitamin A deficiency alters brains waves in non-REM sleep, causing sleep to be less restorative.

Vitamin A also interacts with other micronutrients. For example, zinc is required to transport vitamin A into tissues, so a zinc deficiency will limit retinal binding protein (RBP) synthesis and thus limits the body’s ability to use vitamin A stores in the liver. Oleic acid, a fatty acid found in olive oil, facilitates the absorption of vitamin A in the gut.

Find out if you have a vitamin A deficiency, and take steps to correct it, by ordering a micronutrient test today. 

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Topics: micronutrients, Vitamin A, Vitamins, Fertility, Cancer Prevention, Celiac Disease, Supernutrients, Weight Management, Vitamin A Deficiency, Chron's Disease, Anemia, Nutrients, β-carotene

Serum vs. Intracellular Micronutrient Status

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 @ 01:49 PM

Knowing one’s vitamin status can be incredibly empowering when it comes to health. In truth, “vitamin status” is somewhat of a loaded phrase because vitamins, like other micronutrients, exist both outside the cell (extracellular) and inside the cell (intracellular). Vitamin status outside a cell may be considered “within range” or “adequate” by conventional terms (e.g. when measured by standard lab testing), while vitamin status inside the cell – where metabolism actually occurs - may be depleted. Since vitamins function inside cells, extracellular measurements (such as serum testing) can be potentially misleading. Intracellular micronutrient levels, as opposed to what is present outside of cells (where it is not physiologically useful), is more clinically significant.

It is clear that serum micronutrient testing can yield important information. One obvious example is serum vitamin B12; when a person’s level is low, this can manifest as fatigue or anemia. Often, however, serum B12 may appear to be “normal,” but clinical symptoms of fatigue or B12 deficiency still exist. Why? Because serum B12 is a reflection of extracellular B12, whereas the intracellular reserve of B12 is what’s important; it matters little how much of a nutrient is present in one’s blood – if it is not getting into the cell, it won’t improve cellular or overall health. Consider this analogy: imagine being totally dehydrated, overwhelmed with thirst. If you jumped into a pool but could not drink the water, you remain thirsty because the water doesn’t make it into your body. Cells will be similarly starved if B12 doesn’t get assimilated.

So why has intracellular testing not replaced the serum variety? One simple reason is that serum testing has been used for so long that reference ranges are well established and understood, albeit potentially misleading. Another reason is that intracellular testing is more technologically advanced and fewer labs offer it. Finally, serum testing has been useful for detecting serious nutrient deficiencies that have progressed into obvious symptoms. But it is worth noting that intracellular testing helps detect deficiencies long before overt (and sometimes debilitating) symptoms occur –serum levels often fall in the “normal” range when a true intracellular deficiency exists. 

SpectraCell’s micronutrient test is a true intracellular test – NOT a serum measurement. 

For additional information and medical publications supporting intracellular testing over serum tests, click
here.

Find out your intracellular micronutrient status today!

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Topics: micronutrients, micronutrient testing, Vitamins, micronutrient status, serum vs. intracellular, serum B12

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. 

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

The Role of Nutrition in Hormonal Health

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Jan 09, 2015 @ 10:57 AM

Hormone Balance Logo resized 600Micronutrients profoundly affect hormonal health.  It is difficult to achieve hormonal balance if micronutrient status is inadequate, and like nutrients, hormones affect cellular metabolism, energy production, detoxification efficiency and mental health so balance is Key. 

Like nutrients, hormones influence all aspects of health and disease - mood, sleep, metabolism, immunity, heart health and appearance.  An imbalance of one hormone can initiate a cascade of events that alters other hormones.  
  • Fatigue & Energy Levels
  • Cardiovascular health (Blood pressure, clotting, lipids)
  • Neurology (migraines, sleep, pain)
  • Mental Health (depression, anxiety, cognitive function)
  • Immunity (infections, autoimmune disease)
  • Metabolism (blood sugar regulation, tissue repair)
  • Bone density (Osteoporosis)
  • Physical appearance (skin, muscles, hair)
SpectraCell Laboratories offers comprehensive male and female hormone panels that reveal the overall state of hormonal balance in a patient.

A comprehensive look at your hormone status is key.

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Topics: SpectraCell, Vitamins, micronutrient, Hypothyroidism, Hormones, Menopause, infertility, Women's Health

A Look at Carnitine

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 @ 03:37 PM

anatomy of nutrition blank resized 600

L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative of the essential amino acids L-lysine and methonine. The conversion to carnitine requires niacin (B3), vitamins B6 and C, and iron.  It is found in nearly all cells of the body but chiefly in the liver and kidney.  Carnitine is essential for the transportation of long-chain fatty acids across the inner mitochondrial membranes in the mitochondria, where they are metabolized by beta-oxidation to produce biological energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

L- carnitine also is required to remove short- and medium-chain fatty acids from the mitochondria.  This removal optimized energy production by maintaining coenzyme A at optimal levels for normal metabolism and energy production.

Deficiency Symptoms:

Deficiencies of carnitine may result from 1) deficiencies of essential amino acids lysine and methionine, 2) deficiencies of cofactors (B3, C, B6 and iron), 3) defective gastrointestinal function, 4) increased requirement because of high-fat diet, metabolic stress or disease.  The consequences of carnitine deficiency are impaired lipid metabolism and lipid accumulation in skeletal muscles, heart and liver. Patients usually exhibit muscle weakness and fatigue.

Normal heart function depends on adequate concentrations of carnitine.  While the normal heart stores more carnitine than required, if the heart does not have a good oxygen supply, carnitine levels quickly decrease.  This lack of oxygen leads to decreased energy production and increased risk for angina and heart disease.  Carnitine benefits blood lipids by lowering triglycerides and total cholesterol, while increasing HDL.  L-acetylcarnitine (LAC) may be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, senile depression and age-related memory loss.

Download the nutrient correlation chart on Fibromyalgia, Pain and Testosterone all include a deficiency in carnitine.

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Topics: SpectraCell, Carnitine, Vitamins, deficiency, micronutrient test, micronutrient, vitamin deficiencies, weakness

Magnesium, Vital for Proper Cell Function

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 @ 02:32 PM

Magnesium is predominantly found intracellularly, wheremagnesium it is vital for proper cell functions. Magnesium is the second most prevalent intracellular cation (after potassium).  Magnesium functions are numerous and essential, including enzyme activation (over 300 types), neuromuscular activity, membrane transport and interactions, energy metabolism (carbohydrates, fats, proteins), and roles in calcium and phosphorus metabolism. 

Deficiency  Symptoms

Deficiency symptoms are both acute (Trouseau and Chvostek signs, muscle spasms, tetany, cardia arrythmias, ataxia, vertigo, convulsions, organic brain syndrome) and chronic (thrombophlebitis, hemolytic anemia, bone loss, depressed immune function, poor wound healing, hyper irritability, burxism, hyperlipidemia, fatigue, hypertension). Those at risk for Magnesium deficiency include:  malabsorption, malnourished, alcoholics, diabetics, diuretic therapy, children, elderly, pregnant and lactating women, post menopausal women with osteoperosis, athletes, digitalis therapy, long-term therapy with antibiotics, chemotherapeutic and immunosuppressive medications.  In addition, the following diseases are associated with Magnesium deficiency:  cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, renal disease, parathyroid diseases, thyroid conditions.

Repletion  Information
Dietary sources richest in Magnesium (per serving) are:
  • Nutritional Supplements  
  • Seeds (especially  pumpkin)
  • Nuts 
  • Soybeans
  • Whole Grains     
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Fresh Vegetables
Watch or download Dr. Grabowski's presentation on "Connecting the Nutrients" here

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Topics: SpectraCell, micronutrient testing, Multivitamins, Vitamins, Minerals, micronutrient, Nutrient

The role Copper plays in YOUR body

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 @ 02:00 PM

copperLike most trace minerals, copper acts as an enzyme cofactor in several key metabolic processes in the body.  Among its many functions, copper aids in the formation of bone, hemoglobin and red blood cells, therefore enabling the efficient transport of oxygen throughout the body. 

In addition, copper works in balance with vitamin C and zinc to manufacture elastin (skin protein) as well as collagen and other structural proteins in cartilage and tendons.  It is also involved in the healing process, energy production, hair and skin coloring (production of melanin) and taste sensitivity. 

Copper stimulates the absorption of iron through the copper transport protein ceruloplasmin.  Copper also aids in the metabolism of several fatty acids and helps prevent oxidative damage by serving as a cofactor to superoxide dismutase.  In addition, copper is needed for proper insulation (mylination) of nerve cells and serves as a cofactor for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.

Deficiency Symptoms:

Due to copper's role in the formation of collagen, copper deficiency can manifest as osteoporosis.  Other possible signs of deficiency include anemia (due to its role in hemoglobin formation), baldness, diarrhea, general weakness, impaired respiratory function, myelopathy, decreased skin pigment, reduced resistance to infection and increased triglyceride levels.  Evidence also links copper deficiency with increased oxidative damage to cell membranes.

Download SpectraCell's Nutrient Correlation Chart on Inflammation and Hypertension, both handouts provide information as to how important is Copper in maintaining overall health.

Check your Copper levels and all other essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and how your immune system is performing. Stop Guessing, Start Testing!

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Topics: SpectraCell, zinc, Copper, immune system, Vitamins, micronutrient test, Inflammation, micronutrient, vitamin deficiencies

Folate, how vital is it to YOU?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 @ 09:32 AM

Folate also known as folic acid is needed to folate produce blood cells and other new tissue cells. 

Folate is a generic term for a group of pteridine compounds essential for one-carbon unit metabolism.  Folates are involved in the synthesis of DNA, RNA and tRNA necessary for cell growth.  Folates are required for metabolism of methionine, histidine, tryptophan, glycine, serine and formate.  Interactions with vitamin B6 and B12 also occur from common metabolic pathways.  Folate function is necessary to prevent accumulation of homocysteine.  Deficient folate status of pregnant females is also directly linked to incidence of birth defects, especially neural tube defects such as spina bifida. 

Deficiency symptoms:

Symptoms of folate deficiency include birth defects (neural tube defects, spina bifida), fatigue, anorexia, constipation, glossitis, headaches, insomnia, restless legs, paranoia, memory impairment, megaloblastic anemia (identical in appearance to vitamin B12 deficiency), hypersegmentation of neutrophils and with severe deficiency, intestinal lesions.  However, the neurological complications of vitamin B12 deficiency do not occur with folate deficiency. Thus, a regulatory limit on folate levels in dietary supplements of 400 mcg per unit is in effect, to prevent a potential missed diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Those at risk for folate deficiency include: Vitamin B12 deficiency, malnourished, malabsorption, pregnant and lactating women, increased rate of cellular division (burns, trauma, malignancies, hemolytic anemias), alcoholics, anti-convulsant therapy (phenytoin, barbiturates, primidone), folate antagonist therapy (nethotrezate, 5-fluoroacul, pyrimethamine), tuberculosis therapy (isoniazid plus cycloserine), oral contraceptive users, sulfasalzine therapy, elderly, infants and inherited folate disorders.

Repletion Information:

Dietary sources richest in folate (per serving) include:

  • Nutritional Supplements
  • vitamin-fortified cereals
  • wheat germ
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Liver

Download the nutrient correlation chart on Autism, and anxiety, as well as a case study highlighting 50 year old female with chronic fatigue all include a deficiency in folate.

To find out your micronutrients levels, click here!

Topics: SpectraCell, micronutrient testing, folate, Folic Acid, Vitamins, micronutrient

Are YOU Biotin deficient?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Dec 04, 2013 @ 03:34 PM

Biotin is a coenzyme and is also known as vitamin H. As a supplement, biotin deficiency symptomsbiotin is sometimes used for diabetes, brittle nails, and other conditions. Biotin is a coenzyme and a B vitamin and is also known as vitamin H. As a supplement, biotin is sometimes used for diabetes, brittle nails, and other conditions.

Function:

Biotin is required for proper metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. 
Biotin-dependent enzymes catalyze the addition of carboxyl groups (COO-) from bicarbonate, for use in fatty acid biosynthesis, gluconeogenesis, lipogenesis, propionate metabolism and leucine catabolism.

Deficiency Symptoms:

Symptoms of biotin deficiency include erythematous exfoliative dermatitis, thinning hair, fatigue, irritability, mild depression, somnolence, muscle pains, anorexia, nausea, mild anemia. Dietary symptoms include fatigue, dry skin, body hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite and mild depression. People at risk for biotin deficiency are those who consume excessive amounts of raw egg whites, inherited disorders of biotin metabolism, extended total parenteral nutrition (biotin-free), loss of enteric gut micro flora from antibiotic therapy or altered gut motility, pregnant and lactating women, anti epileptic drug therapy, alcoholics, trauma (burns and surgery), elderly, malabsorption (especially achlorhydria).

Want to check your micronutrient levels click here to be contacted by one of our SpectraCell representatives.

Topics: SpectraCell, micronutrient testing, B Vitamins, Vitamins, biotin

Having problems losing weight? It could be a vitamin K deficiency

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 09:51 AM

Vitamin K is a group of structurally similar, fat-vitamin k
soluble vitamins that th
e human body needs for post translational modification of certain proteins required for blood coagulation, and in metabolic pathways in bone and other tissue.

The primary function of vitamin K is to aid in the formation of clotting factors and bone proteins. It serves as a cofactor in the production of six proteins that regulate blood clotting, including prothrombin. In addition, it helps to form osteocalcin, a protein necessary for the mineralization of bone. Vitamin K also aids in the formation of glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver. In addition, it promotes the prevention and reversal of arterial calcification, plague progression and lipid peroxidation. Deficiency may increase the risk of calcification of arterial walls, particularly in individuals on vitamin D supplementation (Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption). Vitamin K exists in three forms: K1, a natural form found in plants (phylloquinone); K2, which is synthesized in the intestine (menaquinone); and K3, a synthetic form that must be activated in the liver (menadione). Vitamin K is absorbed in the upper small intestines and transported throughout the body in chylomicrons. 

Deficiency Symptoms:

Excessive bleeding, a history of bruising, appearance of ruptured capillaries or menorrhagia (heavy periods) are the most common clinical symptoms of overt vitamin K deficiency, although subclinical deficiency may not affect clotting mechanisms. Due to its critical role in bone formation, long-term vitamin K deficiency may impair bone integrity and growth, eventually predisposing a person to osteoporosis. Antibiotic usage can induce vitamin K deficiency since it upsets the balance of normal intestinal flora. Anticoagulants such as Coumadin and warfarin can also deplete vitamin K by blocking the activation of prothrombin. However, patients on warfarin or other blood anticoagulants should not supplement with vitamin K unless specifically recommended and approved by their physician. Other causes of deficiency include celiac disease, liver disease, certain medications (i.e. aspirin, Dilantin), very high doses of vitamins A and E (over 600 IU) and gastrointestinal disorders associated with the malabsorption of fats, such as bile duct obstruction, pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease. 

Download your very own copy of the Nutrient Correlation Chart on Weight Management the Nutrient Chart and an abstract on adult obesity

To find out your micronutrients levels, click here

 

 

Topics: SpectraCell, Vitamin K, Weight Loss, Vitamins, micronutrient test, micronutrient, vitamin deficiencies, Wound Healing