Natural Foods Merchandiser

Nutrition Q&A with Dan Lukaczer

Q: Isn't the movie "Super Size Me" just the experience of one person? Can eating all that fast food really cause those health issues?

A: It seems like the answer is yes, fast food really can cause health issues. And there is data to back this up. Swedish investigators evaluated whether a Super-Size-Me-like diet affected serum levels of the enzyme alanine aminotransferase, which, when elevated, often suggests the existence of medical problems, such as liver damage and congestive heart failure.

For the study, 18 healthy volunteers were assigned to fast-food-based diets for four weeks with the goal of doubling baseline caloric intake and increasing body weight by 5 percent to 15 percent. Physical activity was limited, and alcohol consumption was maintained at baseline levels. As the study progressed, average ALT levels increased significantly. Overall, 14 of 18 participants developed abnormal ALT levels within the first week. Eleven of the 18 subjects persistently showed ALT above reference limits. However, participants' ALT levels returned to normal within several weeks after stopping the fast-food diet.1

Q: What is vitiligo, and are natural treatment options available?

A: Vitiligo is a disease in which patches of skin lose their pigment and thus become lighter in color. Melanocyte cells in the skin produce melanin, which is the pigment that darkens the skin. In vitiligo, something destroys these melanocyte cells. There are actually a number of studies looking at vitiligo and the effects of diet, nutrition and herbal medicines.

I suggest you take a comprehensive approach with an integrative practitioner well-skilled in this area. One supplement of particular interest is the amino acid L-phenylalanine. In several clinical trials, oral LPA increased the extent of vitiligo repigmentation when it was combined with ultraviolet-A light therapy. One group of researchers suggested that the optimal LPA dose was around 50 mg/kg/day.2 Another group used oral and topical LPA together and reported some improvement in 83 percent of participants.3 A study of vitiligo in children reported that oral LPA followed by UVA was an effective treatment in a majority of the children. Of 13 children so treated, three experienced repigmentation of all vitiliginous areas, six showed 50 percent to 90 percent improvement, and four failed to respond.4

Q: I've heard that vitamin D may be important to prevent type 1 diabetes. Is there anything else that may be effective?

A: For some time now, it has been shown that if vitamin D is given in the first few years of life, it has a preventative effect in type 1 diabetes.5 Diabetes results from the immune-mediated destruction of pancreatic cells and is linked to genetics. However, genetics alone will not bring on the disease. Although the environmental triggers of the disease are not fully known, early diet is believed to be among the strongest candidates.

One study found that another possible dietary factor may be omega-3 fatty acids.

In a case-controlled retrospective study of 545 cases of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes and 1,668 population-control subjects, researchers in Norway asked parents about use of cod liver oil with their infants and then assessed whether there was a correlation with the development of type 1 diabetes. The researchers found that when infants were given cod liver oil in the first year of life, these children later had a significantly lower risk for the disease.6

What is baffling about the study is that the use of other vitamin-D supplements during the first year of life was not associated with a reduction in the incidence of type 1 diabetes—nor were maternal use of cod liver oil or other vitamin-D supplements during pregnancy. The authors conclude: The reasons for this difference are not known, but it may in part be explained by differences in study design and in customs for use and recall of vitamin-D supplements in different populations."

Whatever the inconsistency of vitamin-D results, it does appear likely that fish oils are of importance—perhaps through the anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p.112

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