It's Nice To Share
A customer takes prescription medications as well as dietary supplements and wonders if she should tell her her doctor about her supplements intake.
Yes, I think she should, although she doesn't appear to be alone. Dietary supplements sales have jumped nearly 80 percent since 1994, with half the population in America taking supplements. However, a recent study revealed that most of those people do not discuss supplements use with their physicians.1 Many do not discuss this issue because they believe their doctor knows little or nothing about these products and may be biased against them. One useful book for physicians and patients is Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook (Lexi-Corp, 2001).
Friendly Bacteria Unfriendly To Viruses
Can lactobacillus prevent viral infections?
Evidence of the health benefits of lactobacillus and other probiotics—also known as "friendly bacteria"—is impressive. Many studies have investigated the role of various strains of bacteria in preventing and treating such illnesses as inflammatory bowel disease, urinary tract infections, diarrhea and even colon cancer. Last year the American Journal of Gastroenterology published an entire supplemental issue dedicated to the use of probiotics in disease treatment.2 A recent study on the prevention of gastrointestinal infections suggests that probiotics may also be effective against viral infections. In this study, a group of 81 children was randomized to receive either a strain of lactobacillus (Lactobacillus GG) or placebo after hospital admission. Because many infections are acquired in the hospital (termed nosocomial infections), the researchers decided to test the protective effects of probiotics in this setting.
Of the 81 children in the study, 15 (18.5 percent) experienced diarrhea during their hospitalization. Stool analysis revealed that rotavirus was the most common cause. Probiotic supplement use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of diarrhea; only three children (6.7 percent) in the group given probiotics had diarrhea, yet 12 children (33.3 percent) in the placebo group experienced diarrhea during their hospital stay.3 The prevalence of rotavirus infection was similar in both groups, but the number of children with symptoms was dramatically lower in the probiotic group.
Probiotics appear to work through a variety of mechanisms, from decreasing pathogen adherence to the intestinal wall to stimulating the systemic immune response. And they seem to be a safe, effective way to prevent virally induced gastrointestinal infections.
Fiber May Protect The Colon
I am confused by the conflicting news stories about fiber intake for colon cancer. What is your opinion?
Colon cancer ranks among the top three forms of cancer in the United States, for both men and women. Prevention is the key, and researchers have attempted to clarify what nutritional and dietary habits are most important. Fiber has long been thought to act as a preventive agent against colon cancer, but some recent studies show no protective effect, or worse, possibly a negative effect as a result of certain fiber supplements.4,5
However, initial results from the largest study of diet and health ever undertaken, the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer study, indicates that dietary fiber provides strong protective effects against colon and rectal cancers.6 EPIC involves more than half a million people in 10 European countries. It is expected to produce much more detailed information about the effect of diet on long-term health than previous studies. EPIC data on the relationship between fiber and colon cancer are not yet published, but have been reported at medical conferences.
Fiber supplements are generally safe, but we need to continue monitoring research to ensure supplements' safety. Increasing fiber intake through foods, however, has little downside.
Dan Lukaczer, N.D., is director of clinical research at the Functional Medicine Research Center, a division of Metagenics Inc., in Gig Harbor, Wash.
1. Blendon RJ, et al. Americans' views on the use and regulation of dietary supplements. Arch Intern Med 2001;161(6):805-10.
2. Am J Gastroenterol 2000 Jan;95(1 Suppl).
3. Szajewska H, et al. Efficacy of Lactobacillus GG in prevention of nosocomial diarrhea in infants. J Pediatr 2001;138(3):361-5.
4. Alberts DS, et al. Lack of effect of a high-fiber cereal supplement on the recurrence of colorectal adenomas. N Engl J Med 2000;342;1156-62.
5. Bonithon-Kopp C, et al. Calcium and fiber supplementation in prevention of colorectal adenoma recurrence: a randomized intervention trial. Lancet 2000;356:1300-6.
6. Bingham S, et al. Plant polysaccharides, meat and colorectal cancer. European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer; 2001 Jun 21-24; Lyon, France. [Abstract # 0.21].
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 8/p. 40