Natural Foods Merchandiser

Folic acid, arnica and selenium get science boost

The cause of science keeps marching on, and the first part of this year brought some interesting findings for folic acid, selenium and arnica.

Further evidence of folic acid's pregnancy benefits hit the British Medical Journal online in January. Researchers in North Carolina and Norway studied infants with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, infants with cleft palate alone and a control group. Folate-rich diets, along with folic acid supplementation, were associated with the lowest risk of cleft lip. Folic acid provided no protection against cleft palate alone. However, supplementing with folic acid during early pregnancy showed a reduced risk of isolated cleft lip with or without cleft palate. Diet alone showed a "somewhat" reduced risk, researchers concluded.

Arnica gel was found to be at least equally effective as a 5 percent ibuprofen gel in a randomized, double-blind study to be published in Rheumatology International. The study, carried out in Switzerland, was done with Swiss-based Bioforce AG's Arnica Rub. Researchers studied 204 people with osteoarthritis in their fingers. Participants were divided into groups, and members of each group applied either arnica gel or ibuprofen gel to their fingers three times per day. Subjects were evaluated through questionnaires on their first and second or last visits. The arnica was found to be as clinically effective as the ibuprofen and was equally well tolerated. Further, the patients and doctors evaluated the arnica gel to be more effective. Eileen Sheets, managing director of Bioforce USA, said, "This study shows that there is a solid, efficacious choice out there for people who do not want to use a [nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug] topical," such as ibuprofen.

Selenium was the focus of two studies. In January, an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported on selenium's benefits in the fight to keep HIV-positive individuals healthy. Researchers in Florida studied 262 people, 174 of whom completed the nine-month follow-up assessment. Greater levels of selenium predicted decreased HIV-1 viral load, which predicted increased CD4 count, a measure of immune response. A serum selenium increase greater than 26.1?micrograms/liter was associated with the positive outcome. No adverse events were reported for the selenium group. Researchers wrote, "Daily selenium supplementation can suppress the progression of HIV-1 viral burden and provide indirect improvement of CD4 count. The results support the use of selenium as a simple, inexpensive and safe adjunct therapy in HIV spectrum disease."

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also published a study in January finding positive news for selenium. Researchers performed a case-control study within the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial on 724 prostate cancer case subjects, compared with 879 controls. They concluded, "Greater prediagnostic serum selenium concentrations were not associated with prostate cancer risk in this large cohort, although greater concentrations were associated with reduced prostate cancer risks in men who reported a high intake of vitamin E, in multivitamin users and in smokers."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 3/p. 20

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