Playing Your ACE’s

The next time you hear that someone is playing their ACE’s, don’t be surprised if it has nothing to do with casinos or even card games. Antioxidants are very much the Cinderella’s in the field of nutraceutrics right now, and for good reason. Several recent scientific articles quote epidemiological data that have indicated that the consumption of antioxidants can be beneficial in the prevention of cancers particularly cancer of the respiratory and upper digestive tract. There is also evidence that cardiovascular disease and the risk of cataracts are reduced in people consuming increased levels of antioxidants. Vitamin A, C and E are the principal antioxidants in the diet. Many fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants.

The evidence is mounting supporting the benefits of antioxidants and so it is not surprising that vitamins in the supplement section of stores are a hot item, and that tablets of vitamins A, C and E are starting off the day for many people.

Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is a fat soluble vitamin that was first studied as a growth factor found in milk in the early 1900’s. We often consume vitamin A in the form of carotenoids that are found in plants. Foods that contain carotenoids pass down the intestinal tract, the carotenoids are partially converted to vitamin A as they are absorbed through the intestinal wall into the body. Liver, fish liver oils, carrots and green vegetables such as spinach, parsley and turnip greens are the best dietary sources of vitamin A or carotenoids. Over time, if high levels are consumed, vitamin A can build up in the body and reach toxic levels.

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid may be best known as the vitamin that Nobel Prize winner (actually winner twice) Dr. Linus Pauling claimed could prevent and reduce the severity of the common cold. Vitamin C deficiency has been known since the European sailors set off in boats with insufficient supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables. Scurvy that caused bleeding gums, skin sores and lose of teeth was avoided in those pioneer days by eating limes. The British are referred to as “limies” even to-day for that reason. Strawberries, citrus fruits of all kinds and cabbage are all good sources of vitamin C.

Tocopherol or vitamin E has received a lot of press lately. The list of beneficial claims that have been made for vitamin E seems to grow daily. Once the chemical structure of vitamin E was described it became obvious why it has antioxidant properties, and why it works so well in combination with vitamins C and A. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and so it is not surprising that vegetable oils and margarines that are made from vegetable oils are the best dietary sources of vitamin E, although lower levels can be found in everything from fruit - blackberries and pears - to nuts such as peanuts and coconuts

Selenium Makes the News

Selenium has been one of those elements that has been around forever, but no-one really could find a use for it. Now that is all changing. The latest report by researchers in the United States indicates that selenium may have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers at the Arizona Cancer Center have reported that the daily intake of selenium reduced the incidence of lung, colon / rectal and prostrate cancer. Over 1300 people participated in the three year study, which contained a control group that received a placebo containing no selenium. Although the original purpose of the study was to evaluate the usefulness of increased selenium intake on skin cancer, the investigators were able to monitor the incidence of other cancers. The groups results for skin cancer were not encouraging. However, after three years, lung cancer in the group receiving selenium was reduced by 46%, colon / rectal cancer was reduced by 58% and the incidence of prostrate cancer dropped by 63%compared to the group receiving no supplemental selenium.

Not only did the extra selenium reduce the number of people contracting cancer, the article reports that when subjects did get cancer, they were 50% more likely to survive the cancer if they were receiving additional selenium.

Both the authors of the original paper and an accompanying editorial caution about over reaction to the findings, and stress the need for additional studies to confirm their findings. But there is no doubt that selenium now shares the lime light with other antioxidants as possible tools in the fight against cancer.

Table 1
CHEMISTRY:in the same family as sulfur. Has been shown to substitute for sulfur in compounds of plants grown in selenium rich conditions. Some of its toxic properties may be due to its similarity to sulfur.
METABOLIC FUNCTIONS:has been shown to spare vitamin E in some metabolic processes; involved in electron transport reactions
FOOD SOURCES OF Se:levels usually very low and depend on the selenium content of the soil. Some cereals have been shown to bio-concentrate selenium.
SELENIUM DEFICIENCY:not observed in man; has been shown in experimental and domestic animals
TOXICITY LEVEL:can occur in man when selenium concentrations in the diet exceed 3 ppm.

Stay in the Pink

When it comes to choosing your grapefruit, you might want to think pink. Grapefruit comes in two varieties: white and pink. There are some people who will only buy brown shelled eggs and there are some people who will only buy pink grapefruit. Whether the egg shell is brown or any other colour, there is no difference in the egg inside. However. the same isn’t true for pink and white grapefruit.

Pink grapefruit gets its colour from carotenoids Carotene:; pink grapefruit contains over fifty times the carotenoid of white grapefruit. In the body, carotenoids are partially converted to functional food : or vitamin A. So eating pink grapefruit adds vitamin A to your diet. Vitamin A is an Antioxidant: that is required in the diet for good growth, skin development and is important in the maintenance of colour and peripheral vision. There are many other foods that are better sources of vitamin A, but if you have a choice, and the price is the same, choosing pink grapefruit rather than white will boost your vitamin A intake.

Table 1
Grapefruit Facts
Namecitrus maximus
Vit. Apink variety 180 IU;
white variety 3 IU
Vit. C44 mg / half section
Energy pink variety 50 kcal/ half section
white variety 45 kcal/ half section

What We are Trying to Do

More and more we all are becoming concerned about our health and general well being. Perhaps it has to do with the aging of the North American population. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the rising costs of medical treatment and hospital stays. Or maybe we simply want to take more control of our lives. We are being bombarded by the news that just about everything around us is bad for our health: the air we breathe, the water we drink, many of the foods we enjoy. The statistics on the causes of the major chronic diseases that still plague us indicate that, in spite of all the advances that have been made in the areas of medicine, we are still paying the price for our modern lifestyle.

A growing number of people believe that many foods contain more than the traditional nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Belief in the health promoting aspects of food has been handed down from generations past in various cultures around the world. Long before drugs were known, aboriginals used foods and herbs to fight infection and cure disease. But the curative properties of foods has gone beyond mere folklore. Evidence is accumulating which shows that certain foods and components of foods can have a positive impact on disease and infection.

A new term has been coined to describe these health promoting foods - functional foods. Although this term may be new, the growing number of foods that are being added to the functional food list are not. Foods such as garlic, Yogurt, and olive oil and food components such as fiber, calcium and fructans have all on the functional list.

What.. continued

We have started this magazine to provide a source of news and information about the ever growing field of foods that have medicinal properties. We do not and will not suggest that functional foods should be a replacement for prescribed drugs or other medicinal interventions. Like many people we feel that including functional foods in our diet is a way for each of us to take more control over our own health and well being. It is natural, it can be relatively inexpensive, and we can control it.

Our first articles will explain in more detail what are functional foods and sort out the differences between functional food, Nutraceutical and Probiotic You will be informed of the latest scientific findings and what they mean to you and your health. We will keep you up to date on what is happening world wide. For example, there are currently many exciting developments in places like Japan, that may be on our store shelves tomorrow. We are going to try to provide information at a level that is useful and understandable.

We want Medicinal Food News to be your regular source of information about foods that are good for your health: functional foods, nutraceuticals and probiotics.

Edward R. Farnworth Ph.D.

Functional Foods in Japan

Whenever the subject of functional foods or nutraceutics is raised, reference to Japan is almost inevitable. Compared to North America or Europe, Japan is far ahead in labelling legislation, product development and consumer awareness of products. This in part is the result of pressure by Japanese food manufacturers, but there can be no doubt that the Japanese consumer is also a factor.

As early as 1984 the term “functional food” was used by Japanese Ministry of Education Science and Culture as the Japanese began to recognize the health problems associated with an aging population. At the same time there was an ever increasing desire to verify the reports that certain foods and their ingredients could be useful in combating many chronic diseases. The Japanese in their wisdom decided to both increase funding of basic research related to food / health matters and also to set up a mechanism whereby food manufacturers could receive official approval for the claims they wished to make about their food products. It was decided that eleven categories of foods or ingredients could be identified that had potential health benefits based on the current scientific evidence. These categories ranged from dietary Fiber, to Lactobacillus bulgaricus to minerals.

By 1991 the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare had in place a policy that allowed food manufacturers to declare that their product was a “food for specific health use’ or FOSHU if it could be shown that the food or an ingredient was on the approved list of eleven. The Japanese consumer was therefore assured that any food designated as FOSHU was expected to have a specific effect on health due to it composition. By early 1996 a total of sixty-nine products had been approved as FOSHU.

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