Appliance of Science

Vinca's Stroke Of Luck
The periwinkle (Vinca minor) plant is a source of a modified constituent called vinpocetine. In Europe, vinpocetine is a drug used to treat strokes;1 in the US, it is a dietary supplement. In a recent study, researchers compared vinpocetine with two neuroprotective drugs and a water-soluble synthetic derivative of vitamin E (Trolox). They found vinpocetine to be a superior antioxidant compared with similar drugs.2

In a soon-to-be-published study, one of the same drugs (piracetam) and vinpocetine were shown to stimulate the function and viability of nerve cells in cultures that had been deprived of oxygen for 24 hours, mimicking a stroke.3

In another study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a combination of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and vinpocetine on cognitive performance in normal, healthy adults.4 Subjects ranging in age from 22 to 59 years took a supplement containing 120mg of standardised ginkgo extract and 30mg vinpocetine (along with B vitamins and DMAE [dimethyl-amino-ethanol]) for 14 days. Subjects experienced significant improvements to memory, specifically in speed and accuracy.

Bovine Blood Booster?
Although the thought of ingesting cow blood derivatives may seem unappealing, studies suggest that it may fight infections. Bovine serum concentrate derived from adult cows is widely used in the US as an incidental food additive in ham and sausages and has recently entered the market as a dietary supplement.

A recent study of new-born calves showed that 57g/day bovine serum concentrate (ImmunoLin) for 18 days helped mitigate some adverse effects of infection with Cryptosporidium,5 a parasitic organism that is a major cause of diarrhoea in humans.

In a human study with bovine serum, 10 severely malnourished Peruvian children ate increasing doses of bovine blood serum concentrate sprayed on their food. They showed growth and food utilisation responses equal to or better than with milk supplementation.6

Adult studies are needed to dispel concerns that the ingestion of bovine blood products increases unwanted hormone exposure. Bovine blood serum naturally contains estrogens and androgens and insulin-like growth factors I and II.7-9

Get The Blues
The plump blueberry has long been hailed for its antioxidant and brain-protecting effects. A study published earlier this year confirmed that European blueberries, both wild and cultivated, may be one of the richest sources of plant-derived antioxidants.10 More recent studies showed that blueberry antioxidant potency may vary, depending on the type of cultivated blueberry.11

Animal studies have shown that eating a blueberry-enriched diet can slow age-related decline in mental and behavioural functions.12 In this study, two blueberry extracts showed different biological effects, reinforcing the axiom that kinds of plants and fruits differ, even within the same species.

In a recent human study, subjects who took 100g freeze-dried wild blueberry powder mixed with water were benefitted by significantly increased blood antioxidant activity.13 In another study, a blueberry extract inhibited human cervical and breast cancer cell cultures.14 However, a potential concern related to high-dose blueberry intake is that it may destroy beneficial probiotic intestinal bacteria (Lactobacilli).15

Anthony Almada, BSc, MSc, is a nutrition and exercise biochemist and has collaborated on more than 50 university-based clinical trials. He is the co-founder of EAS and founder and CSO of IMAGINutrition.


1. Bereczki D, Fekete I. A systematic review of vinpocetine therapy in acute ischaemic stroke. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1999;55:349-52.

2. Horvath B, et al. In vitro antioxidant properties of pentoxifylline, piracetam, and vinpocetine. Clin Neuropharmacol 2002;25:37-42.

3. Gabryel B, et al. Piracetam and vinpocetine exert cytoprotective activity and prevent apoptosis of astrocytes in vitro in hypoxia and reoxygenation. Neurotoxicology (in press).

4. Polich J, Gloria R. Cognitive effects of a Ginkgo biloba/vinpocetine compound in normal adults: systematic assessment of perception, attention and memory. Human Psychopharmacol 2001;16:409-16.

5. Hunt E, et al. Oral bovine serum concentrate improves cryptosporidial enteritis in calves. Pediatr Res 2002 Mar;51(3):370-6.

6. Lembcke J, et al. Acceptability, safety, and digestibility of spray-dried bovine serum added to diets of recovering malnourished children. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1997 Oct;25:381-4.

7. Honegger A, Humbel RE. Insulin-like growth factors I and II in fetal and adult bovine serum. J Biol Chem 1986;261:569-75.

8. Draisci R, et al. Quantitation of anabolic hormones and their metabolites in bovine serum and urine by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. J Chromatog 2000;870:511-22.

9. Draisci R, et al. Development of an electrochemical ELISA for the screening of 17ß-estradiol and application to bovine serum. Analyst 2000;125:1419-23.

10. Halvorsen BL, et al. A systematic screening of total antioxidants in dietary plants. J Nutr 2002;312:461-71.

11. Subramani S, et al. Phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity of Georgia-grown blueberries and blackberries. J Agric Fd Chem (in press).

12. Youdim KA, et al. Short-term dietary supplementation of blueberry polyphenolics: beneficial effects on aging brain performance and peripheral tissue function. Nutr Neurosci 2000;3:383-97.

13. Kay CDC, Holub BJ. The effect of wild blueberry consumption on postprandial serum antioxidant status in humans. Presented at the WorldNutra Conference; 2001; Portland, OR.

14. Wedge DE, et al. Anticarcinogenic activity of strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry extracts to breast and cervical cancer cells. J Medic Fd 2001;4:49-51.

15. Puupponen-Pimia R, et al. Antimicrobial properties of phenolic compounds from berries. J Appl Microbiol 2001;90:494-507.

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