Monthly Archives: December 2015

Zinc – the mineral that fights diabetes

Zinc is the second most abundant mineral in the human body and plays a crucial role in glucose regulation, proper insulin operation and weight control.

A series of factors, more and more present in our modern lives (modern farming and food processing practices) have led to a decrease of the zinc content of our food and, subsequently, to an increasing zinc deficiency in people of all ages. Zinc deficiency exposes our bodies to a great risk of contracting and developing a wide array of conditions and illnesses.

A study carried out on 3575 adults from both rural and urban environments has shown that the prevalence of coronary heart disease, diabetes and glucose intolerance was significantly higher among those who consumed mostly zinc-deficient foods. On the other hand, the same study found that subjects who had a sufficient daily zinc intake registered a significantly lower prevalence of high blood pressure, a high level of triglycerides, low levels of HDL and abdominal obesity.

Zinc and insulin

Zinc helps the pancreas produce insulin, allows insulin to act efficiently and protects insulin receptors within cells. In healthy individuals, insulin is secreted by the pancreas right after the consumption of carbohydrates, and this hormone reduces the level of glucose in the blood and leads sugar to our cells, where it can be used as fuel for the production of energy.

When the zinc level is low, two things can happen:

  1. The pancreas cannot secrete enough insulin, so the level of sugar in the blood stays high.
  2. The insulin released cannot function as efficiently as it should.

When these things happen, glucose cannot get into cells and remains suspended in the blood, in alarming levels. The body usually responds to the high level of blood sugar by pumping even more insulin, in an effort of reducing the glucose, but the insulin does not work properly, so the level of insulin grows and stays high. When this happens, diabetes is triggered; in time, this imbalance causes a series of other health issues.

A complex study led by Professor Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy from the University of Michigan shows that zinc can play an important role in preventing major complications that type 2 diabetes patients can suffer from or in protecting the body against them. The chemistry and biophysics professor, together with his team, claim that amylin, a protein found in the human body, blocks insulin producing cells, which is a disaster for the natural blood sugar control process. Here, zinc could play an extremely important role, by preventing the activity of this protein against insulin producing cells.

Yet, amylin taken individually is not harmful to the human body; in healthy individuals, with a normal level of zinc in the insulin producing cells within the pancreas, it helps regulate blood sugar levels. “Amylin is useful when zinc acts similarly to a security guard at a rock concert, by taking care that fans do not inflict any damage,” explained Professor Ramamoorthy. “On the other hand, in a zinc-devoid cellular environment of a type 2 diabetes patient, amylin has no security guard keeping it in control, and thus it is free to group with other molecules and act with hostility against the body.”

Sources:; Jack Challem and Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D., The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance

What is Lutein? Its major role in the diet of diabetics.

Each diabetic is aware of the fact that, since their diagnosis, they must pay extra attention to certain problems that this health condition causes. One of them is the health of their eyes.

For proper eye care, diabetics must schedule periodic checks with specialists and also take food supplements, which can be of massive help in maintaining the health of their eyes. In this case, the basic active substance is lutein.

Lutein is a carotenoid, a group of compounds in the vitamin A family. It can decrease the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease and eye degeneration, according to reports published by the International Carotenoid Society.

Our body can extract lutein from various foods (bright colored fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, corn, tomatoes, spinach) as well as from dietary supplements.

Lutein and eye health. Lutein is present in our body especially in the eye lens, the retina, the macula and plays an extremely important role in visual clarity It is an antioxidant that protects cells against free radical and UV damage.

Free radicals harm the immune system and thus trigger the apparition of various infectious and degenerative diseases. One of these major issues is the considerable deterioration of the macula, which is present at the center of the retina, and which leads to loss of eyesight. Lutein is extremely efficient in this case.

Lutein works as a natural filter for the eyes and protects the retina from direct exposure to the damaging sunlight. It increases the density of the macular pigmentation – the protective tissue that covers the macula. This pigment consolidates the vital structures of the eye as well as their capacity to protect themselves. It helps the filtering of the damaging blue and UV light and thus protects against macular degeneration, caused by free radicals.

Also, lutein plays an important role in protection against cataract, which usually comes with age. Cataract is characterized by an opaqueness of the natural eye lens, causing blurry vision. Lutein helps consolidate the cells in the eye lens and improve vision.

Lutein in our diet. Lutein is found in various green vegetables (cabbage, spinach), in corn, zucchini, orange bell peppers, kiwis and grapes. Vast amounts of lutein are also found in eggs.

Dietary supplements are also a highly efficient manner of providing the organism with its daily lutein requirements in controlled quantities, accompanied by other vitamins and minerals necessary for the correct operation of our body. Generally, the recommended dose is between 10 and 20 mg per day, but it is important to know the exact quantity required by each person. Our recommendation is to ask your doctor.

Lutein in the treatment of diabetes mellitus Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition characterized by hyperglycemia and is often associated with complications, such as cataract and high sensitivity to frequent and prolonged infections. The high level of blood sugar induces oxidative stress in the cells of the immune system. A study carried out by Muriach M and his collaborators has shown that lutein intake inhibits oxidative stress. Thus, the researchers reached the conclusion that lutein can play an important role in the reduction of sensitivity to infections among patients suffering from diabetes mellitus.

Also, diabetics suffer from a high risk of developing cataract, the main cause of loss of eyesight. Multiple scientific studies have focused on the protective effect of lutein against the development of cataract. Researcher Arnal E together with his team, subsequent to a study conducted on lab rats, found that a treatment of lutein and insulin prevents the development of cataract in rats suffering from diabetes mellitus. The lutein intake significantly inhibited the peroxidation of lipids in the lens of diabetics.

[1] Luteina previne efectul de niveluri ridicate de glucoza asupra celulelor sistemului imunitar in vivo și in vitro. J. Physiol Biochem. . June 2008, 64 (2): 149-57 [2] Luteina previne dezvoltarea cataractei si progresia la sobolani cu diabet zaharat. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2009 Jan; 247 (1): 115-20. 


What is Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)? Role, action, benefits for diabetics.

ALA is the universal antioxidant.

Each of us depends on its existence and proper operation in order to survive. Each cell of our bodies contains ALA and needs it in order to produce energy. ALA, also known as Thioctic Acid, is the coenzyme involved in the transformation of glucose we take from food into ATP, a form of energy that the body can use. Our body produces ALA, but in very small quantities. Also, our body can receive ALA from food (potatoes, spinach, red meat), but also in reduced quantities.

Studies have shown that an additional ALA intake, by means of dietary supplements, can help us in various ways and even treat certain conditions.

The role of ALA

Universal antioxidant. Most antioxidants normally operate in a specific environment and protect a single part of the cell. For instance, vitamin E can protect plasmatic membranes from free radical damage, while vitamin C operates in the watery areas of the cell. Vitamin E is fat soluble, while vitamin C is water soluble. Yet ALA operates in both areas: in fatty membranes and watery areas alike. Soluble in fat and water at the same time? Yes, ALA can do it all! Alpha Lipoic Acid is the antioxidant that is soluble in all areas of the cell, and therefore can protect the entire cell from the impact of free radicals.

Recycling antioxidants. ALA recycles other antioxidants, improving their function and increasing their duration of life in our bodies. Antioxidants deactivate free radicals by absorbing their additional electron or by boding to them. As soon as an antioxidant, for instance ascorbic acid, has absorbed that extra electron, the antioxidant is eliminated. It must transfer that extra electron to another antioxidant that can recycle ascorbic acid, such as alpha lipoic acid. After the ascorbic acid transfers the extra electron to the ALA, it can go on defending the cells and destroying other free radicals. This recycling is extremely important for keeping antioxidants on the first line, ready to eliminate free radicals.

Because ALA is the universal antioxidant, it can recycle both fat soluble and water soluble antioxidants. Studies show that ALA can recycle a great variety of antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione. A higher level of ALA should intensify the antioxidant recycling process and improve defense mechanisms within cells and overall operation of antioxidants. 

Anti-aging. Preliminary studies on ALA suggest that it cannot only prevent aging, but reverse it, too. Two different studies carried out by Berkley University in California have investigated the additional effects of ALA on the aging process. Mitochondria are the parts of the cell that produce energy: they use oxygen in order to convert glucose into a usable form of energy by means of a complex process whose byproducts are often free radicals. As we age, antioxidant biosynthesis decreases and mitochondria become less and less efficient, leading to an increased level of oxidants. Therefore, our body produces more harmful molecules and the number of antioxidants that defend it decreases. These antioxidants stay in the body and attack cell and biomolecule structures.

Researchers have compared measurements of mitochondria functions after additional ALA intake with a control group that had not received an ALA supplement. The group that had not received the supplement showed a decrease of mitochondria functions and of ambulatory activity and an endogenous level of vitamin C and glutathione. After two weeks of ALA supplementation, clear signs of reversal of all three signs of aging were noticed.

A similar study researched the effects of aging on the ascorbic acid concentration, on antioxidant recycling and on biosynthesis. Researchers have noticed a decline in all these functions subsequent to the aging process, as well as a decrease of the body’s ability to fight oxidant stress. Two weeks of ALA supplementation increased the ascorbic acid concentration, biosynthesis and recycling process. These promising results suggest that ALA can partially reverse some of the biological processes associated with aging, especially antioxidant decline, which is dictated by aging.

ALA is researched as potential treatment for a few major health issues – of interest here, diabetes and associated complications. In Germany, ALA is used as treatment for diabetic neuropathy. In USA, studies are carried out in order to assess the efficiency of ALA in the treatment of insulin immunity associated to type 2 diabetes and to the multiple neuropathies caused by diabetes complications.