Natural Foods Merchandiser

Nutrition Q&A

Q: My customers are asking whether or not they should use antibacterial soaps. What should I tell them?

A: This is, indeed, a controversial issue. There seems to be quite a bit of advertising that suggests we all should be washing and wiping down everything and anything lest we be exposed to—heaven forbid—"germs." However, the truth seems to be a bit more complex.

First, are antibacterial soaps really any better than traditional soaps at killing bacteria? A recent review article assessed numerous studies that have examined the efficacy of products containing triclosan—the common ingredient in various antibacterial soaps—as compared with plain soap. It found that soaps containing triclosan were no more effective than plain soap at reducing bacterial levels on the hands and preventing infectious illness. Here is where the second factor comes in: There is actually a drawback to using the antibacterials. These same scientists also found several studies demonstrating evidence that triclosan may result in bacteria developing resistance,1 becoming what are known as supergerms.

Clearly we should maintain good hygiene in our normal day-to-day activities, but the idea that we need to do it with the help of an antibacterial soap doesn't seem to be the case.

Soaps containing triclosan were no more effective than plain soap.

Q: Is there a natural teatment that I can suggest to my customers diagnosed with diabetic peripheral neuropathy?

A: Diabetic polyneuropathy is a condition in which nerves are damaged by high blood sugar and can result in significant pain and numbness in the legs and feet, particularly interfering with sleep. It has been estimated that neuropathic pain affects 16 percent of diabetic patients.2 Treating this condition remains a challenge. However, evidence indicates that the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid may help. ALA probably improves blood flow and thus, potentially, nerve health.3 Previous studies have looked at ALA and diabetic neuropathy, but the nutrient was often administered intravenously.

A recent large, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with diabetic patients showed significant improvement in polyneuropathy in as little as two to three weeks using oral ALA. While oral doses of 600, 1,200 and 1,800 mg were employed in this study, it appears that the 600 mg dose given once daily provided the greatest positive benefits and minimized side effects. Scientists noted no improvement in higher versus lower dosages, and the higher dosages created some digestive complaints.4

What else can be done? Aerobic exercise. Recent investigations have demonstrated that the combination of exercise training and antioxidant treatment using ALA provides a synergistic effect on blood-sugar control, resulting in a greater improvement than either intervention individually.5

1. Aiello AE, et al. Consumer antibacterial soaps: effective or just risky? Clin Infect Dis 2007;45 Suppl 2:S137-47.
2. Daousi C, et al. Chronic painful peripheral neuropathy in an urban community: a controlled comparison of people with and without diabetes. Diabet Med 2004;21(9):976-82.
3. Sola S, et al. Irbesartan and lipoic acid improve endothelial function and reduce markers of inflammation in the metabolic syndrome: results of the Irbesartan and Lipoic Acid in Endothelial Dysfunction (ISLAND) study. Circulation 2005;111(3):343-8.
4. Ziegler D, et al. Oral treatment with alpha-lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy: the SYDNEY 2 trial. Diabetes Care 2006;29(11):2365-70.
5. Henriksen EJ. Exercise training and the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Free Radic Biol Med 2006;40(1):3-12.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 1/p.44

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