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Inflammation, Memory, and Hormone Balance: Three Supplements

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March 4, 2014 (Updated: August 21, 2018)
Lily Moran

Every month, thousands of new clinical trials are published in scientific journals. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of studies, few physicians have the time to explore new research. But years ago, I discovered that combing through these publications is an excellent way to turn up new developments that could help my patients. As time consuming as it is to go through the journals, it’s  the best way to gather information that seldom makes it onto the nightly news.

Drug companies use heavy advertising to bring prescription drugs to the attention of consumers as well as doctors. In addition, the drug company sales reps lobby doctors very hard to write prescriptions for their drugs.

A big problem with direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs  (which is banned in some countries) – is that it leads people  to believe there is a simple drug solution for their health problems. Here’s a good example: advertisements for a major cholesterol-lowering statin drug that basically tells people to eat whatever they want…and just take their drug to avoid a heart attack.

Most physicians are intelligent, decent people. But too many of them are also pressed for time and eager for the same easy solutions that their patients want. So they accept the drug reps’ descriptions of how a particular medicine can benefit their patients without asking too many questions.

The process of teasing out worthwhile herbal and nutrient supplements is completely different. Natural remedies aren’t represented by a high-powered sales force handing out free samples and gifts for the doctors. If a physician wants to know how a specific nutrient might affect a patient, she often has to comb through years of research, separate well-designed studies from those that aren’t, and then figure out how to apply the results to a specific individual. Many times, I simply use myself as a guinea pig to see what sort of results I get from a certain supplement. When the benefits are clear – as they were with UCII in easing my tender joints – I feel confident recommending supplements to my patients. It may be a bit unconventional, but it’s a method that has worked well for my patients and me for years.

Today, I’d like to share information about three lesser known (but very powerful) supplements: carnosine, PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), and pueraria mirifica (PM). These supplements have been extensively studied, and are showing great promise as remedies for some difficult conditions, including hormone imbalance, aging, cardiovascular issues, and neurological disorders. If you’re interested in reducing the signs and symptoms of aging, maintaining a healthy heart and brain, reducing your risk of developing neurological disorders – like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – and balancing hormones, please read on for some groundbreaking solutions.

Carnosine

It’s quite possible that you have never heard of carnosine. In spite of nearly 2,000 studies on the substance, carnosine is not well known…yet. Don’t confuse this with another beneficial supplement called L-carnitine, which is a completely different material. Carnosine (sometimes labeled as L-carnosine) is a unique material which has some distinct advantages. For example, carnosine can:

  • Inhibit production of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”) cholesterol;
  • Inhibit growth of cancer tumor cells;
  • Keep blood vessels flexible and healthy;
  • Reduce levels of triglycerides (blood fats) and protect against plaque instability that could cause a heart attack;
  • Protect your cells and their contents (including your genes) from free radicals, damaging rogue molecules linked to aging and various illnesses;
  • Prevent glycation, a process that damages proteins and promotes aging, particularly problematic for people with diabetes;
  • Rejuvenate and revitalize old cells, so that they live longer and function better;
  • Interfere with the production of beta-amyloid, a substance identified as one of the most damaging elements in Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Rejuvenate and strengthen muscles, while increasing energy and endurance;
  • Minimize inflammation;
  • Promote wound healing;
  • Fight the formation of cataracts (in eye drop form);
  • Minimize wrinkles and age spots (applied topically in cream form).

An impressive list, but that’s not the end of the good news about carnosine. During decades of experimentation, carnosine has rarely caused side effects of any kind, and even then only at exceptionally high doses. In addition, there are no known drug interactions.

Carnosine is primarily found in muscle tissue, so much of your body’s own carnosine supply is found in the heart, as well as in the brain, lens of the eye, and in nerve cells known as neurons. Levels of carnosine in the human body decline as you grow older, contributing to common signs of aging, such as frailty, weak muscles, and cataracts. Supplements and carnosine eye drops have been found to improve these conditions.

Since meat is the best source of carnosine, it might seem like a high-protein diet would work as well as supplements. Unfortunately, consuming a protein-heavy diet is very hard on your liver and kidneys, so supplements are the best way to get this nutrient, especially if you’re a vegetarian. Fortunately, carnosine supplements are derived from fermenting beneficial bacteria, much like the probiotics that I encourage my patients to take, so they are suitable for those who avoid meat. I suggest taking 500 mg of carnosine daily.

PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinone)

Your body contains billions of cells. Within each one, there is a microscopic organelle known as the mitochondrion. In spite of their small size, mitochondria are enormously important to your health, producing energy, supervising the growth and lifespan of your cells, and facilitating communication among them.

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Your heart is home to a very significant number of mitochondria. (To give you an idea of what I mean by ‘significant,’ a bicep muscle cell has roughly 40 mitochondria, while just one tiny cell from your heart muscle has about 4,000!) As years pass, mitochondria wear out and don’t function as efficiently as they once did. As a result, you may become fatigued more easily, or develop heart disease or neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Research has shown that it is possible to create brand new mitochondria, but that requires serious calorie restriction (reducing food intake by about one-third each and every day) or committing to an intense exercise regimen. Clearly, those are not realistic options for most people. That’s why I consider PQQ to be so important. It is the only natural substance that has been proven to generate healthy new mitochondria!  My patient Jennifer found PQQ really helped with her memory and her energy.

PQQ has been widely studied since its discovery in the 1960s. Although PQQ is found in such foods as green tea, egg yolks, a few types of meat, green peppers, papaya, and citrus fruit, the best source is a fermented food called natto, which is popular in Japan. Natto is not likely to catch on in this country, due to its gelatinous texture and pungent smell. Luckily, the supplements are dry and have a neutral odor.

Although we can’t stop the clock, we can take measures to slow it down, and I consider PQQ one of those measures. For example, although the mitochondria have their own DNA (the genetic code that serves as a blueprint for your body), it can be damaged fairly easily. Yet studies have shown that certain substances, including coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and PQQ, protect mitochondrial DNA, which, in turn, protects you from developing a long list of diseases.

Like CoQ10, PQQ is an antioxidant, combating the free radicals that can harm your health. Although it is not yet considered essential for human health – the criteria for being promoted to vitamin status – PQQ is found in cells throughout the body. And studies have shown that an absence of PQQ definitely impacts health. In one animal study, for example, scientists found that even well-fed animals that were deprived of PQQ produced less energy and had fewer healthful substances in their blood. Meanwhile, animals that received PQQ supplementation had blood fat levels two times lower than those without PQQ, as well as less injury to the heart after a simulated heart attack.

Another study involving human subjects found that subjects consuming PQQ supplements had significant decreases in blood markers for inflammation, as well as signs of enhanced mitochondrial functions. Early predictions indicate that PQQ will soon overtake resveratrol when it comes to popular anti-aging supplements, so this is one nutrient I would recommend for anyone with concerns about aging. Side effects appear to be minimal to non-existent. I recommend a 10 mg daily dosage for PQQ.

Pueraria mirifica (PM)

If your hormones are out of balance, you probably feel miserable.  This is true for both men and women, but women are more likely to experience the difficult symptoms of hormonal imbalance during menopause. These symptoms often include:

  • Irregular or nonexistent menstrual periods;
  • Hot flashes;
  • Night sweats;
  • Weight gain;
  • Vaginal dryness;
  • Urinary tract infections or discomfort;
  • Fatigue or sleep issues;
  • Memory problems;
  • Moodiness;
  • Bone loss.

Conventional physicians often prescribe synthetic hormones made from the urine of pregnant horses (conjugated equine estrogen or CEE) as a way to ease menopause. Some studies, however, have cast serious doubt over the safety of these products, which have been linked to certain types of cancer, blood clots, dementia, stroke, and urinary incontinence. Fortunately, there is a far better solution – an herb from Southeast Asia known as pueraria mirifica (PM).

Extensively studied, PM has a proven ability to alleviate menopause symptoms without the risky downsides. One recent clinical trial, for example, found that PM worked as well as CEE with no side effects noted. This confirms earlier research showing PM was effective at treating menopausal difficulties.

In addition, PM contains at least 17 different phytoestrogens, compounds that have been shown fight free radicals and inhibit growth of tumor cells. As research on PM continues, I have no doubt that we’ll discover other health benefits. As for dosage, simply follow the directions on the product you choose.

While these supplements can be beneficial, please don’t assume that they are wonder drugs that can make up for a bad diet, sedentary lifestyle, or other unhealthy habits. Like all supplements, they can fill in gaps that sometimes occur or provide an additional layer of protection. If necessary, review my Pillars of Health newsletters for detailed reminders on the foundations of good health.

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