Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat with Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D, and Maureen Williams, N.D., Healthnotes Inc.

Gluten-free diet may benefit people with osteoporosis
People with osteoporosis are more likely to have celiac disease than those with healthy bones, reports the Feb. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Celiac disease is an important, though often unrecognized, cause of osteoporosis, and treatment of the disease with a gluten-free diet will often reverse bone loss.

Celiac disease is an inflammatory condition caused by an immune-system reaction to gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats, spelt and kamut) that affects the lining of the small intestine and can cause additional problems such as infertility and disorders of the nervous system. In people with celiac disease, gluten (a protein fraction) triggers the formation of antibodies that attack the intestinal lining. These antibodies cause inflammation and degradation of the small intestine?s walls, impairing digestion and causing a malabsorption syndrome that results in many nutrient deficiencies. People with celiac disease may experience gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea, or other symptoms due to resulting nutrient deficiencies, such as anemia, weight loss, skin disorders, edema and numbness.

Osteoporosis is one consequence of poor mineral absorption. Previous studies have found that people with celiac disease frequently have low bone-mineral density, which can be restored to normal by eating a gluten-free diet.

The study analyzed 840 women and men who were being screened for osteoporosis. In addition to measuring bone density, researchers asked participants questions about their history of diarrhea, weight loss and celiac disease, and gave blood tests for antibodies associated with celiac disease. Those participants who had positive tests for any of these antibodies were offered intestinal biopsies to look for the changes in the intestinal wall that confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease. At the end of the study, 266 people had osteoporosis and 574 did not. A significantly higher proportion of those with osteoporosis tested positive for all of the antibodies linked to celiac disease. Furthermore, biopsies confirmed the diagnosis of celiac disease in more people with osteoporosis (3.4 percent) than without (0.2 percent).

The results of this study suggest that approximately one of every 29 people with osteoporosis has celiac disease, a substantially higher number than is seen in the general population.


Supplement can relieve nerve pain among diabetics
The nutritional supplement acetyl-L-carnitine appears to decrease pain and improve nerve function in people with diabetic neuropathy, according to the January issue of Diabetes Care.

A complication of advanced type 1 and type 2 diabetes, diabetic neuropathy is probably related to long-term elevations in blood sugar and is often difficult to treat. Neuropathies that develop in the hands, legs and feet may tingle, itch or be very painful for months or years. People with neuropathies may also develop a decreased ability to perceive vibration or temperature changes in affected areas, and eventually lose sensation in those areas. Foot ulcers and other complications can then develop, as a person may be unaware of trauma in the areas affected by neuropathies. The medication amitriptyline (Elavil) is used to treat peripheral neuropathy, but it may cause drowsiness, irregular heartbeat or anemia.

Neuropathy can also affect the branch of the nervous system involved with digestive, cardiac and sexual functions, causing symptoms such as dizziness, constipation, rapid heartbeat and impotence. Each of these symptoms is usually treated individually.

ALC is an amino acid that may be found in lower concentrations in people with diabetes than in healthy people. Several studies have shown that ALC helps relieve pain associated with neuropathies.

In the recent study, more than 1,200 participants received either 500 mg of ALC three times per day, 1,000 mg of ALC three times per day or placebo. Several measures were taken to assess response to treatment: microscopic examination of nerve fibers, nerve conduction velocity studies (to see how quickly the nerves transmit information), vibration perception, and analysis of symptoms related to diabetic neuropathy, including pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, dizziness, sexual dysfunction and gastrointestinal problems.

When examined under a microscope, the number of nerve fibers and clusters of regenerating nerves were found to be significantly greater in the group taking 500 mg of ALC three times per day than in the placebo group. Vibration perception increased significantly among those participants taking 1,000 mg of ALC three times per day compared with placebo. At the outset of the study, 27 percent of the participants said that pain was their most bothersome symptom; taking 1,000 mg of ALC three times per day significantly reduced this pain. Those participants who had been diagnosed with diabetes most recently experienced the greatest pain reduction, which highlights the importance of early intervention in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. ALC did not affect nerve conduction velocities.

Adverse events associated with ALC included pain, tingling and increased sensitivity in the affected areas. However, these symptoms were reported less frequently in the group taking 1,000 mg of ALC three times per day than in the placebo group.


Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D., is co-founder of South County Naturopaths Inc. in Wakefield, R.I. Maureen Williams, N.D., has a private practice in Quechee, Vt. Copyright ? 2005 Healthnotes Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 6/p. 79

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