Natural Foods Merchandiser

Nutrition Q&A with Dan Lukaczer, N.D.

Q: Does Co-Q10 help prevent migraines?

A: Co-Q10 is in the news quite a bit. Study results suggest it may help treat diabetes and Parkinson's disease, and researchers continue to investigate this versatile antioxidant. Its potential new use as a migraine prophylaxis is quite exciting.

An open-label trial assessed Co-Q10's preventive effects in 32 patients with a history of migraine headaches. Each patient was given 150 mg Co-Q10 daily for three months. All but one of the patients completed the study, and more than 60 percent of them halved the number of days they experienced migraine headaches. Overall, the group had a 55 percent reduction in headache frequency by the end of the study.1 Although placebo-controlled studies are needed, this Co-Q10 dose seems safe and affordable. Combining it with natural remedies such as feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and riboflavin (B2) may increase its migraine-preventive effects.

Q: Is Sugar Intake Related To Breast-cancer Risk?
Not sugar itself, but the effects of sugar, as measured by the glycemic index, may be linked to breast-cancer risk. The higher a food's GI rating, the faster carbohydrates are absorbed and the faster blood sugar levels increase. Much research on the GI concept centers on diabetes and heart disease, and studies in-dicate people eating a diet emphasizing foods with high GI ratings may be more likely to develop both.2,3,4 However, other evidence points to cancer risk. Italian epidemiological research now suggests breast and ovarian cancer risk is increased by a diet rich in high-GI foods.5,6 Colon cancer is also linked to high-GI diets.7 Although this is epidemiological data, and no prospective trials comparing dietary programs are underway, the information suggests a high-GI diet may be unhealthy for a variety of reasons.

Q: A customer asked if eating beta-sitosterol would lower her cholesterol. What is this stuff?

A: Beta-sitosterol is part of a family of phytonutrients called phytosterols. This family, including stigmasterol, campesterol and sitosterolins, are cholesterol-like molecules widely found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Absorbed in only trace amounts, they inhibit the absorption of intestinal cholesterol. Natural dietary intake is generally less than 500 mg a day. Results of many studies indicate 2-3 grams a day lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by about 10 percent.8 The research is so compelling the FDA authorized health claims for phytosterol-containing foods to promote them as beneficial for reducing coronary heart disease risk. Beta-sitosterol is commonly added to margarines used as cholesterol-reducing aids. It can also be purchased in pill form; however, the food form may improve absorption.9 Phytosterols are an important, safe addition to first-line therapy for lowering cholesterol levels.

Dan Lukaczer is director of clinical research at the Functional Medicine Research Center, a division of Metagenics Inc., in Gig Harbor, Wash.


1. Rozen TD, et al. Open label trial of coenzyme Q10 as a migraine preventive. Cephalalgia 2002;22(2):137-41.

2. Hu FB, Willett WC. Diet and coronary heart disease: findings from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals' Follow-up Study. J Nutr Health Aging 2001;5(3):132-8.

3. Liu S, Willett WC. Dietary glycemic load and atherothrombotic risk. Curr Atheroscler Rep 2002;4(6):454-61.

4. Willett W, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(1):274S-80S.

5. Augustin LS, et al. Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load, and breast cancer risk: a case-control study. Ann Oncol 2001;12(11):1533-8.

6. Augustin LS, et al. Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load and ovarian cancer risk: a case-control study in Italy. Ann Oncol 2003;14(1):78-84.

7. Franceschi S, et al. Dietary glycemic load and colorectal cancer risk. Ann Oncol 2001;12(2):173-8.

8. Ostlund RE, Jr. Phytosterols in human nutrition. Annu Rev Nutr 2002;22:533-49.

9. Law M. Plant sterol and stanol margarines and health. BMJ 2000;320(7238):861-4.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 5/p.

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