The Top 3 Sports Supplements for Women

    You train hard and eat healthily. But if you’re a woman who wants to optimize her workouts and nutrition, adding the right sports supplements can give you an extra edge.

    With the vast array of sports supplements available, it can be confusing to know where to start. Here are 3 supplements that women should put at the top of their list for consideratio

    Protein

    Protein is probably the most common workout supplement and for good reason.  Having an adequate amount of protein intake is important to build, repair and maintain muscle. So even if you are not looking to build a muscular physique, protein is vital for your body’s recovery if you’re a female with an active lifestyle.

    There are many types of protein, but whey is the most popular because it is rapidly absorbed and contains a wide range of branched-chain amino acids. However, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell recently showed that plant protein can be just a beneficial as animal protein for building muscle mass and strength.

    BCAA

    Amino acids are basically the building blocks of protein, and some are called essential because the body cannot make them. Therefore, you must obtain them from food, supplementation or a combination of both. Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are essential amino acids which include leucine, isoleucine and valine.

    BCAA is a popular nutritional supplement for both endurance and strength sports because research has demonstrated that they can reduce exercise-related muscle soreness, prevent mental and physical fatigue during exercise, and build more muscle following resistance training.

    A review of the studies available to date suggests that a reasonable dose of BCAA is 100 mg per kilogram of body weight per day to prevent fatigue, reduce muscle soreness, and help build or maintain muscle.

    When Should You Take Protein and BCAA?

    Most evidence-based fitness professionals agree that you should consume protein following exercise. After training, muscles are more responsive to the muscle-building stimulus that protein provides. The rate of muscle protein breakdown begins to quickly rise after a workout, and protein intake during this time helps to negate this.

    You can also take protein first thing in the morning to feed your body after several hours of no caloric intake during sleep. Another option is to use a protein supplement to replace a protein in a meal.

    BCAA can boost your energy during a workout. So, if you sip on BCAA during training, not only will it hydrate your body, it can also help you train longer and with more intensity.

    Creatine

    The muscles of your body contain creatine which provides your cells with quick energy. It is used as a supplement to increase your potential energy, helping your muscles work harder and longer. Creatine also has an antioxidant effect which can reduce muscle damage, improve recovery and preserve lean muscle.

    When first starting to take creatine, it used to be popular to do an initial “loading phase” where you consume 20 to 25 grams daily and later decrease the amount. However, there is no strong evidence that taking more than 5 grams of creatine daily is necessary to “load” your muscle stores.

    When Should You Take Creatine?

    Take 3 to 6 grams of the creatine monohydrate with a meal (or in a shake) each day. It’s actually best to consume creatine before resistance training and in combination with a simple sugar like glucose or dextrose, or with a meal containing protein and carbohydrates. This stimulates the release of insulin which drives creatine and other nutrients into your muscle cells giving them an energy boost for your workout.

     

    Published in Nutrition

    Simple and Delicious Protein Powder Recipes

    Protein powder is not just a supplement for shakes or other bodybuilding drinks. This versatile ingredient has a texture that makes it work well for a variety of other recipes. Since it is made from protein instead of grain, protein powder is ideal for crafting keto, low-carb or low-calorie treats. Here are a few great recipes that add protein to a diet while also creating tasty meals and snacks.

    Protein Powder Pancakes
    Enjoy a tasty and protein-packed breakfast by using protein instead of flour to make pancakes. This recipe can be made with any type of protein powder, including those with a chocolate or vanilla flavor. It is low in carbohydrates and contains no processed sugars, so it can accommodate most diets. One can easily toss in mix-ins like chocolate, fresh blueberries or nuts if desired.

    Ingredients:

    1 cup oats
    2 scoops protein powder
    2 Tbs. ground flax seeds
    2 eggs
    3 egg whites
    4 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1 banana
    1 pinch salt
    1/2 cup optional mix-ins
    Instructions:

    Place all ingredients besides the mix-ins in a blender or food processor and mix until a smooth batter forms.
    Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Keep in mind that the pancakes may fall apart if the heat is too low.
    Pour 1/4 cup of batter at a time into the pan.
    If desired, gently sprinkle some mix-ins on the pancake in the pan.
    Wait two to three minutes until the edges look slightly dry, and then flip the pancake.
    Cook a minute or two more and serve warm.


    Chocolate Protein Pudding
    This is a quick and easy snack that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It is ideal for those who are on a low-carb diet but miss rich desserts like pudding. This recipe makes a single snack-sized serving, but it can easily be doubled.

    Ingredients:

    1 scoop chocolate egg white protein powder
    1 tsp. cocoa powder
    3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
    1 - 3 tsp. milk
    Instructions:

    Mix together protein and cocoa powder.
    Gently stir powder mixture into Greek yogurt.
    Depending on the consistency of the yogurt, add a splash of water to make the mixture slightly thinner.


    Vegan Coconut Popsicles
    These Popsicles are the perfect treat for a hot summer day. They are very low in calories, so they are a great dessert for those trying to maintain a healthy weight. Another great benefit is that they are both vegan and vegetarian. Depending on flavor preferences, any type of frozen or fresh berry can be used. A Popsicle mold will make the whole process easier, but these Popsicles can be made without a mold if desired.

    Ingredients:

    1 1/2 cups strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries
    2 scoops vanilla protein
    1 cup soy milk
    1/2 cup coconut milk
    1 banana
    Instructions:

    Finely dice 1/2 cup of berries and set aside.
    Blend remaining berries, protein powder, milk and bananas until smooth.
    Set out the Popsicle molds and put a few of the sliced berries in each mold. If no molds are on hand, small cups or an ice cube tray can be used.
    Pour the Popsicle mixture on top of the berries.
    Insert Popsicle sticks into each serving.
    Freeze at least four hours or until firm.


    Chocolate Protein Cookies
    This recipe uses coconut flour and Brazil nuts instead of wheat, so it is gluten-free as long as a gluten-free powder is used.

    Ingredients:

    1/2 cup chocolate pea protein powder
    1/4 cup coconut flour
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 cup dried coconut flakes
    1/4 cup ground Brazil nuts
    1/4 cup milk
    1 egg
    1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
    Instructions:

    Preheat the oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Mix together protein powder, flour, baking soda, coconut flakes and ground nuts in a large bowl.
    Mix together milk and egg in a small bowl.
    Slowly add milk mixture to protein powder mixture, stirring to combine the entire time.
    Gently fold in chocolate chips.
    Divide cookie batter into 12 equal balls and put them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
    Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until cookies are firm but slightly soft in the center.
    Cool completely and serve.
    Cinnamon Protein Powder Oats
    Adding protein powder to a morning bowl of oatmeal might seem like a great idea, but many people realize that it can be quite tricky. Using whey protein with super-high heat can lead to curdling that causes an unpleasant texture to form. Follow these steps to make a filling bowl of oatmeal that also contains plenty of protein.

    Ingredients:

    1/2 cup rolled oats
    2 cinnamon sticks
    1 chopped apple
    1 cup almond milk
    1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    Instructions:

    Combine rolled oats, cinnamon sticks, apple and milk in a small pot.
    Place pot over medium-high heat until it boils.
    Turn heat down until the oatmeal simmers.
    Let the oatmeal cook, anywhere from five to 15 minutes, until it reaches desired level of softness.
    Remove from heat and gently stir in whey.
    Serve topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
    Nutty Protein Powder Bites
    Those who are bored of eating plain protein powder or dry granola bars will enjoy this snack. These protein balls taste delicious, and they contain plenty of healthy fats. They can be stored at room temperature for quite a while, so they are a great protein boost on a hike. If desired, these protein bites can be customized with any tasty mix-in.

    Ingredients:

    1/2 cup whey protein powder
    1 cup nut butter
    1/4 cup agave nectar
    1 - 2 Tbs. coconut oil
    1/4 cup coconut flakes, crushed nuts, dried fruits or other mix-ins
    Instructions:

    Place all ingredients, except coconut oil, in a bowl and stir to combine.
    Start with 1 Tbs. of coconut oil and slowly add more if the mixture seems dry.
    Divide mixture into 1/8-cup size portions and roll into firm balls.
    Store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

    Published in Health

    5 BIG Reasons to Love Whey Protein

    Whey is a natural byproduct of the cheese making process. Cow’s milk has about 6.25% protein. Of that protein, 80% is casein (another type of protein) and the remaining 20% is whey. When cheese is made, it uses the casein molecules leaving the whey behind. Whey protein is made via filtering off the other components of whey such as lactose, fats, and minerals. Whey protein is a soluble, easy to digest, and is efficiently absorbed into the body. When taken prior to a meal, it improves blood sugar control.

    1.   Protein Quality

    Whey protein has the highest biological value of all proteins. In order to assess the quality of a protein, scientists measure the proportion of the amino acids that are absorbed, retained, and used in the body to determine the protein’s biological value (BV).

    Whey protein is a complete protein in that it contains all essential and nonessential amino acids. One of the key reasons why the BV of whey protein is so high is that it has the highest concentrations of glutamine and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) found in nature. Glutamine and branched chain amino acids are critical to cellular health, muscle growth, and protein synthesis.

    2. Its Rich in Glutamine

    Glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body, is involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid.  Glutamine is important as a source of fuel for white blood cells, and for cells that divide rapidly, such as those that line the intestine. Supplementation with glutamine has been shown to heal peptic ulcers, enhance energy levels, boost immune function, and fight infections.

    Although bodybuilders and athletes use whey protein to increase their protein intake, almost everyone can gain benefit by adding whey protein to their diet. Whey protein is especially important as an aid for weight loss, nutritional support for recovery from surgery, and to offset some of the negative effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

    Research has shown that individuals who exercise benefit from diets high in the essential amino acid leucine and have more lean muscle tissue and less body fat, compared to those whose diets contain lower levels of leucine. Whey protein concentrates have approximately 50% more leucine than soy protein isolate.

    3. Whey Protein Boosts Glutathione Levels

    Whey protein has been shown to boost immune function by raising the levels of the important antioxidant glutathione that is found in all cells including white blood cells. Sufficient glutathione levels are critical to proper immune functioning. In immune cells, glutathione stimulates antibody production and the ability of white blood cells to engulf and destroy invading organisms.

    Glutathione is also involved in the body’s detoxification reactions and is able to bind to fat-soluble toxins such as heavy metals, solvents, and pesticides, transforming them into a water-soluble form, allowing for more efficient excretion via the kidneys. Eating additional whey protein is one of the best ways to raise glutathione levels in the body and assist in effective detoxification.

    4. Whey Promote is a Dieter’s Friend

    Whey protein ingestion has been shown to reduce feelings of hunger and promote satiety making it a valuable aid in weight loss programs. It contains bioactive components that help stimulate the release of three appetite-suppressing gut hormones: cholecystokinin (CCK), peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY), and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).

    One of the best strategies for utilizing whey protein is taking it before or between meals.  Studies have shown that consumption of whey protein in small amounts prior to a meal, improves after-meal blood sugar control and also leads to greater satiety and appetite control. Many of these benefits are the result of bioactive components in whey that stimulate the release of three appetite-suppressing hormones found in the gut: cholecystokinin (CCK), peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY), and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). By stabilizing blood sugar levels and reducing hunger, dieting is easier and success more likely.

    Vegan sources of protein do not seem to be able to duplicate these weight loss benefits.  In a study conducted at University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, 40 overweight men and women completed a 14-day calorie restricted diet and were randomly assigned, double blind, to receive twice-daily supplements of isolated whey (27g) or soy (26g), or maltodextrin (25g). Using a blood measurement for muscle fiber synthesis, results indicated that muscle breakdown was significantly less in the whey protein group than that seen in the soy and maltodextrin groups. In fact, soy protein had no effect on reducing muscle loss. These results indicate that whey protein supplementation can help preserve muscle mass during weight loss.

    5. Whey Protein Fights Aging

    One of the most preventable changes associated with aging is the loss of muscle mass and strength, which is called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is to muscle mass what osteoporosis is to bones. While osteoporosis gets all the media attention, sarcopenia is a more significant factor. The degree of sarcopenia is the major predictor of physical disability and is linked to decreased vitality, poor balance, walking speed, falls, and fractures, especially with elderly people.

    Just like building strong bones when young is important in preventing osteoporosis later in life, building and maintaining muscle mass is essential for avoiding sarcopenia. Muscle mass increases throughout childhood and peaks during the late teens through the mid-to late 20s. After that, a slow decline in muscle mass begins. From the age of 25 to 50 the decline in muscle mass is roughly 10%. In our 50’s the rate of decline is slightly accelerated, but the real decline usually begins at 60 years. By the time a person reaches 80 his or her muscle mass is a little more than half of what it was in their twenties. Taking whey protein and engaging in weight bearing exercises and lifting weights can help preserve muscle mass and can even help those with sarcopenia rebuild.

    How to Get More Whey Into Your Diet

    The amount of whey protein you need depends on how active you are. If you are active and workout regularly, 50g of whey protein daily is often recommended. If you exercise infrequently, the recommended intake is 25g per day.

    The easiest way to use whey is by adding whey powder to smoothies or drink mixes. Whey protein powder is available in a variety of flavors including vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry available in pre-measured individual serving packets.

    Published in Nutrition

    Benefits of Collagen Supplements

    Muscles, bones, skin and tendons are composed primarily of collagen, the most abundant type of protein in the human body. To be specific, collagen consists of 30-35 percent of  all the protein in the human body. Collagen protein is also known as connective tissue and is responsible for stabilizing our skin and maintaining joint movement and flexibility.  In addition, collagen provides our skin with elasticity. Studies show that collagen supplementation has many benefits, which include reduced facial wrinkles and helping to get rid of cellulite.  I will discuss this further in this article.

    As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and becomes more wrinkled. The are many reasons for this- reduced ability to manufacture collagen is partly responsible while life’s stressors and oxidative damage also play a significant role. Those with extra melanin in their skin are more protected from ultraviolet sunlight and ultraviolet damage, which I call “melanoprotection”.   However, those  with less melanin are at higher risk for solar damage and increased risk for premature aging.

    Collagen supplements usually consist of the following amino acids, which scientists separate amino into three categories:

    • Essential amino acids- This type of amino acid needs to be consumed in the diet and cannot be manufactured by the body. They include lysine, serine, threonine, leucine, valine, phenylalanine, methionine, isoleucine, histidine and hydroxylysine.
    • Conditionally-essential amino acids- This type of  amino acid the body can usually make, but under physically stressful states, the body may not make enough and supplementation may be helpful.  They include glycine, proline, glutamine (glutamic acid), alanine and tyrosine.
    • Non-Essential amino acids- This type of amino acid is  very  important to the body, but they are labeled non-essential as the body is able to make them.  Consuming this amino acid in the diet is not required but doing so is NOT harmful.  They include hydroxyproline, arginine and aspartic acid.

    Various collagen manufacturers use different sources for their product.  While some use bovine (cow) sources, others use fish.  California Gold Nutrition uses a quality marine sourced collagen which makes it perfect for pescatarians, that is, those who avoid all meat aside from fish.

    Collagen supplements contain a wide variety of amino acids necessary for hair growth as well as skin, tendons and bone health. Collagen is a good option for those who may want to ensure they are getting adequate amino acids but want to consume them using a gluten- and dairy-free supplements. Weight lifters frequently use collagen supplementation to ensure they maximize muscle growth.  Sometimes  they chose whey protein powder.

    Types of Collagen in the Body

    Scientists have identified at least 28 types of collagen.  However, 90 percent of the collagen in the human body is Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 5.

    • Collagen Type 1 – Composes tendons, organ and bone. Type 1 collagen accounts for 80-90 percent of our collagen.
    • Collagen Type 2- Cartilage in knees, shoulders and other joints
    • Collagen Type 3 – Main type of cartilage of reticular fibers. Commonly present with Type 1.
    • Collagen Type 5 – Use to make hair and present on skin surface.

    How We Destroy Our Collagen

    Collagen levels start to diminish after age thirty five.  While we cannot stop time, there are some lifestyle behaviors many undertake that speed up the loss of collagen and subsequently, aging. Smoking is the number one thing a person can do to destroy and lose their collagen—it is the main reason a smoker often appears older than his or her chronological age. Exposure to excessive sunlight and frequent sunburns damage our collagen, as does a high-sugar diet  that is low in antioxidants.

    Foods Which Increase Collagen Production

    While a supplement can help ensure a person is getting adequate collagen, there are also dietary measures a person can take to optimize collagen production. Holistic nutritionist Kim D’Eon recommends a list of foods to help one’s body make more collagen.

    • Vitamin A rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and eggs
    • Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli
    • Onions are rich in sulfur, which is important for cartilage production
    • Garlic is also rich in sulfur, which is important for cartilage production
    • Blueberries provide antioxidant protection
    • Raspberries provide antioxidant protection
    • Oranges are high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production
    • Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production
    • Strawberries are high in vitamin C, which is needed for collagen production
    • Nuts, like almonds, walnuts, legumes, and seeds are high in amino acids
    • Bone broth is high in amino acids, which are the building blocks of collagen

    Joint and Bone Health

    Scientific studies have shown that collagen supplementation can be helpful in optimizing joints and helping bone strength. Consuming a healthy diet and being physically active is also crucial to joint health.

    Arthritis

    Osteoarthritis results from destruction of cartilage within joints. It is estimated that more than 250 million people are affected worldwide.  In an attempt to avoid prescription medications, which have potential side effects, many choose  natural arthritis supplements to reduce pain associated with inflammation. Perhaps we can help rebuild collagen and prevent loss of cartilage?

    A 2017 study using an animal model showed the collagen supplementation not only reduced inflammation in joints but also prevented loss of cartilage in the joint.

    Osteoporosis

    As one ages,  bones become thinner.  Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a doctor when bone density is thinner than expected for a person’s age. A doctor will order a bone density test  to determine if the condition is present. Those with osteoporosis are at increased risk of bone fractures, the most common seen is a hip fracture during an accidental fall. Risk factors for osteoporosis include smoking, vitamin D deficiency and being a female 65 years of age or older.

    According to studies using animal models, collagen can help increase bone strength.  A 2005 study showed increased bone strength when a collagen supplement was taken.

    Tendon  Strength

    Tendons are thick fibrous cords made of collagen. Tendons connect muscles to bones and are responsible for movement.  Ensuring strong tendons is important to help prevent injury.  Tendon injuries are common among athletes and weekend warriors.  According to a 2005 study, collagen supplementation improves tendon strength while a 2016 study showed collagen supplements can help increase the Achilles tendon thickness in animal models.

    Skin  Health

    It is estimated that worldwide, women spend 382 billion dollars on makeup and beauty supplies.  Most of these products do very little to reverse the signs of aging though some do protect against solar damage.  Due to exposure to chemicals and toxins, many elect to use natural beauty supplies and soaps. However, the question is, how can we also improve our skin from the inside out?

    Studies show that collagen supplementation has numerous benefits for skin.  Studies have shown that oral collagen supplementation could be helpful for those with cellulite and wrinkles. It may also improve growth of hair and nails. It is estimated that during our mid-thirties, we start lose about one percent of our body’s collagen yearly- supplementing with collagen should be considered.

    Less Cellulite?  

    Cellulite is a condition that people have tried to reverse for decades. A double- blind placebo controlled 2015 study concluded “…long-term therapy with orally administered BCP (Bioactive Collagen Peptides)  leads to an improvement of cellulite and has a positive impact on skin health”.  In this study, women took collagen for at least 6 months. Improvement was seen as early as 3 months.

    Fewer Facial Wrinkles    

    According to a 2014 study in Clinical Intervention in Aging, collagen replacement helps reduce skin wrinkles. In addition, a double-blind placebo controlled study in 2014 showed improvement in skin elasticity in test subjects who took 2,500 mg  of collagen daily for eight weeks, when compared to those who took a placebo pill.  Another study in 2012 showed improvement in wrinkles and dryness when 1,000 mg of collagen was taken for 12 weeks. 

    A 2016 study in the Journal of Science of  Food  and Agriculture concluded  that the use of oral collagen “led to more improvement in facial skin conditions, including facial skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles and roughness”.

    Anti-aging

    A 2008 study concluded “These results suggest that collagen peptide is beneficial as a dietary supplement to suppress UV-B-induced skin damage and photo-aging”.  A 2015 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported similar result with oral collagen supplementation. The researchers concluded, “The oral supplementation with collagen peptides is efficacious to improve hallmarks of skin aging”.

    Nail and Hair Growth

    Strong nails and healthy hair are an indicator of one’s overall health. A 2017 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatologydemonstrated that supplementation with 2,500 mg of collagen resulted in a 12 percent increase in nail growth rate and  42 percent decrease of broken nails.  Also, four in five agreed their overall nail appearance improved.

    Other Benefits

    Studies show that collagen can also be beneficial in those striving to improve their gut health. Collagen can also be helpful in optimizing cardiac health.

     

    Cardiovascular  Health

    A large component of blood vessels consist of collagen, Type IV specifically.  Vitamin C, lysine and proline are key components required for healthy collagen formation. In 1989, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling proposed “A Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease”. He proposed that sufficient vitamin C, proline and lysine could help keep the arteries strong and prevent atherosclerosis.  Collagen supplementation provides these important nutrients.

    Published in Nutrition

    What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin K2?

    Is Vitamin K2 the Next D3?

    Just as there has been an explosion of positive science on the importance of vitamin D3, another nutrient, vitamin K, is showing tremendous promise in the treatment of a wide range of health conditions. In fact, since most people are not getting anywhere near the level of vitamin K in their diet, it is one nutrient that you simply need to learn more about.

    Vitamin K as a Supplement

    The importance of vitamin K supplementation has been known for a long time. Case in point is that since 1961, vitamin K1 injection has been given to all newborn babies to prevent hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. This condition occurs because of a lack of vitamin K. When a baby is born the intestinal tract is sterile. Since a major source of vitamin K (in the form of K2) is synthesized from gut bacteria and most women do not have high concentrations of vitamin K in their breast milk, the baby must rely on the amount of vitamin K delivered through the placenta before birth until the gut microflora gets established.

     It now appears that it is not just newborns that can benefit from vitamin K supplementation as new clinical data shows tremendous benefits in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.

    Vitamin K Primer

    Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is most famous for its role is in the manufacture of clotting factors. However, recent studies have shown that vitamin K is also necessary for building healthy bones and may play a role in treating and preventing osteoporosis. 

    There are several forms of vitamin K designated as K1, K2, and K3. The first form, K1 or phylloquinone is derived from plant sources. K2 or menaquinone is produced by bacteria and found in some fermented foods. There are several different forms of K2 based upon the number of molecules known as isoprenoids that are attached to the menaquinone backbone. MK-7 is the most important commercial form of vitamin K2. It contains seven isoprenoid residues attached to menaquinone. K3 is a synthetic form.

    Vitamin K is often neglected as a vitamin because the conventional wisdom is that deficiency is thought to be quite rare because there are good dietary sources of K1 and gut bacteria can produce K2. Rich sources of vitamin K1 are dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, and green tea. Good sources are asparagus, oats, whole wheat, and fresh green peas. MK-7 is found in high concentrations in natto (a fermented soy food popular in Japan). A three ounce serving of natto provides 850 mcg of MK7.

    Vitamin K in Osteoporosis

    Vitamin K plays an important role in bone health as it is responsible for converting the bone protein osteocalcin from its inactive form to its active form. Osteocalcin is the major non-collagen protein found in our bones that anchors calcium into place within the bone. Low intake of vitamin K1 is linked to osteoporosis and hip fractures. Since vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables, it may be one of the protective factors of a vegetarian diet against osteoporosis.

     Various forms of vitamin K supplements have been used in human trials examining its effects on bone health: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), menaquinone-4 (MK-4, a form of K2) and menaquinone-7 (MK-7). The results with these first two vitamin K supplements (K1 and MK-4) are much different than those achieved with MK-7. Most of the double-blind studies with vitamin K1 have shown only modest or mainly no effect on bone density and while studies with MK4 have shown positive results in reducing bone loss and fracture rates, the dosage used (45 mg/day) was well beyond a nutritional effect and more likely the positive results are due to a drug-like effect at such high dosages.

     MK-7 has been found to be more potent and more bioavailable as well as to have a longer half-life than MK-4. MK-7 is also more effective than K1 in activating osteocalcin and stays in the blood circulation much longer.

    In a landmark major clinical published in the March 23, 2013 issue of Osteoporosis International, MK7 . 2013 Mar 23, MK-7 supplementation at relatively low dosage levels (180 mcg per day) produced tremendous effects on improving bone health. In the study, 244 healthy postmenopausal women took either the MK-7 or a placebo for 3 years. Bone mineral density of lumbar spine, total hip, and femoral neck was measured by DXA; bone strength measures of the femoral neck were also calculated. Vertebral fracture assessment was performed by DXA and used as measure for vertebral fractures. Measurements occurred at baseline and after 1, 2, and 3 years of treatment.

    MK-7 intake significantly improved vitamin K status and active osteocalcin levels, and decreased the age-related decline in bone mineral concentration (BMC) and BMD at the lumbar spine and femoral neck. It did not increase either measure at the total hip. Bone strength was also favorably affected by MK-7 – a key determinant of fracture risk. Lastly, MK-7 significantly decreased the loss in vertebral height of the lower thoracic region at the mid-site of the vertebrae. These results highlight the importance of MK-7 supplementation in postmenopausal women.

    MK-7 in Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the entire body, but especially the joints. There is abundant evidence that RA is an autoimmune reaction, in which antibodies develop against components of joint tissues, but what exactly triggers this autoimmune reaction has centered on genetic factors, abnormal bowel permeability, lifestyle and nutritional factors, food allergies, and microorganisms. RA is a classic example of a multifactorial disease, wherein an assortment of genetic, dietary, and environmental factors contribute to this disease. 

    Based upon preclinical studies showing another form of vitamin K2 (MK-4) blocked the development of arthritis in the experimental animal model of RA, it was suggested that MK-4 might offer benefit in human RA. Human studies following and it was shown MK-4 supplementation reduced RA disease activity associated with a marked decrease in clinical and biochemical markers. However, since MK-7 has greater bioavailability than MK-4 after oral administration, researchers were quite curious if even better results might be produced with this form. 

    To clarify the therapeutic role of MK-7 added to normal therapeutic regimen of RA in patients with different stages of the disease, 84 RA patients (24 male, 60 female) (average age=47.2 years) were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial. The patients were divided into MK-7 treated group (n=42) and a control group (n=42). MK-7 capsules were administered in a dose of 100 mcg/day for three months in the first group without changing other medications. 

    To assess the benefits with MK-7, the clinical and biochemical markers on RA patients treated with MK-7 and the control group were assessed before and after three months. The results showed a statistically significant decrease in MK-7 treated group for the levels of the following markers of inflammation: erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), RA disease activity score assessing 28 joints, C-reactive protein (CRP) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-3). In addition, MK-7 also increased the level of the active form of osteocalcin, an important marker of bone health. The benefits noted with MK-7 were directly related to increased levels of MK-7 in the blood.           

    The authors’ conclusion was, “MK-7 represents a new promising agent for RA in combination therapy with other disease modifying antirheumatic drugs.”

    Comments:

    Just as the popularity of vitamin D3 increased in health food stores after an explosion of positive scientific investigations, it appears that there is a similar phenomena occurring with vitamin K, specifically MK-7. It is important for health food store retailers to understand the different forms of vitamin K and the effective dosage ranges used in clinical studies. For osteoporosis, the general recommendation is 180 mcg of MK-7 per day. For RA, the dosage used in the clinical trial was 100 mcg of MK-7 per day. For general health, most experts recommend an intake of 80-120 mcg of vitamin K1 or K2.

    Obviously, in patients on anticoagulant therapy with warfarin (Coumadin), vitamin K supplementation is contraindicated. Otherwise there are no other known issues with taking vitamin K1 or MK-7 at recommended dosage levels.

    Published in Health

    The Types of Amino Acids

    There’s a lot of talk in nutrition and fitness circles about amino acids, via foods and supplementation. Many people aren’t sure what amino acids are, exactly, so this article is aimed at clearing up that confusion, and digging a bit deeper into 5 common types of amino acids that you need, and how to choose between them.

    What are Amino Acids?

    Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, to put it simply. Protein is necessary to our survival, as it plays a critical role in everything from acting as the raw material for our tendons, skin, muscles and organs to making hormones and neurotransmitters. Without protein, we would cease to exist.

    Amino acids are smaller molecules that are linked together to form proteins (like a row of beads). These links form long chains, which connect together to form shapes. The human body produces certain amino acids on its own, and others must be obtained from food sources. This is why they are called essential amino acids.

    winkAmino acids are the building blocks of protein

    Optimally, your food sources of protein not only contains some, but all essential amino acids (of which there are nine) in the correct ratios for us to be able to most effectively absorb and assimilate them. This is why protein quality really matters, and is basically what is meant when the quality of a protein is referred to.

    It’s important to know that animal protein sources almost always offer all essential amino acids in the correct ratios, which makes getting adequate dietary protein much easier than if you follow a vegetarian (and even more-so) vegan diet.

    Without further ado, read on to learn about 5 important amino acids, which foods you can get them from, and how to choose between them, in the case of supplementation. As with any supplement, always discuss proper usage and dosage with your healthcare provider.

    5 Types of Amino Acids

    You’ve probably heard of this one, as it’s become a popular supplement for supporting insomnia and mood. 5-HTP is a compound that is a precursor to serotonin, which is one of the primary neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness. Without it, depression can result.

    While 5-HTP can be (potentially) extremely useful in supporting depression, anxiety and insomnia, it can be dangerous when taken alongside an SSRI and other anti-depressant medications. Interestingly, studies show that can also take it alongside a meal, as it works to increase satiety (feelings of fullness), so might be useful for weight loss, as well.

    You can’t get 5-HTP from foods, but the amino acid, tryptophan, is what helps your body form 5-HTP. This is found in pumpkin, turkey, chicken, sunflower seeds, milk and seaweed.

    L-Arginine

    L-arginine is an essential amino acid that is often taken as a supplement by athletes, as it supports blood flow and the production of nitric oxide (NO) levels.

    Nitric Oxide (NO) is a simple molecule with two atoms, nitrogen and oxygen. It serves many essential functions in the body, and has becoming the secret weapon of body- builders and athletes.

    In fact, NO plays such a key role that it was awarded ‘molecule of the year’ by Science Magazine in 1992, and the 1998 Nobel prize in medicine was given to the discovery that NO is a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system.

    L-arginine is also especially important for supporting chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    L-Carnitine

    This amino acid can be produced by the body, but should be obtained from food, as well. It is well known for its unique anti-aging effects, and also works to support fat-burning and increase alertness. Lesser known benefits of L-carnitine are its benefits for increased insulin sensitivity, which can make it a great supplement for diabetics, in some cases.

    Red meat is the best source of this amino acid, along with seafood and dairy.

    Glutamine

    L-glutamine is known as a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that the body can usually produce enough, but during periods of extreme stress will need more from food sources. It is usually used as a supplement only by those who are deficient, such as vegans and vegetarians. While not backed by solid research, anecdotal evidence points to this amino acid also lessening sugar cravings.

    Interestingly, glutamine works effectively to support digestive and immune health. The cells of these systems use glutamine as their preferred fuel source (over glucose), and has also been shown to play a role in cancer support and wound healing after an injury.

    Whey and casein proteins are excellent sources of glutamine (the proteins found in dairy).

    Lysine

    Lysine is one of the essential amino acids, and is often paired with vitamin C as a supplement. Research shows that taking lysine works to reduce the symptoms of herpes simplex infection, which is the main reason you would supplement with this amino acid.

    Other Amino Acids

    While the five amino acids discussed above are of particular importance because many people use them for supplementation, you should know that the essential amino acids include isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine and arginine. The ten non-essential amino acids include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serin and tyrosine.

    The words “essential” and “non-essential” does not speak to one group being more important than the other. The body’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of non-essential amino acids depends on our nutrient stores and overall health (among other factors).

    If you eat a whole foods diet with plenty of high quality animal products (organic, pasture raised and/or grass-fed red meat, poultry, seafood and dairy), you probably don’t need to consider supplementing with amino acids unless you are an athlete (or your doctor recommends doing so). If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you are more likely to be deficient in certain amino acids, and supplementation could be important for your health.

     

    Published in Nutrition

    Vitamin A and its Benefits

    Though considered a key building block for healthy eyes, a strong immune system and cellular growth, Vitamin A is not one of the most talked about vitamins, leaving many to try to search out information on their own. A biologically-active compound, Vitamin A is found in both plant and animal sources. In this post, we’ll take you through the two different types of this vitamin, its numerous health benefits, and ways to incorporate this nutrient into your diet.

    Types & Where to Get It

    The active form of Vitamin A, also known as retinoid or retinol, is fat-soluble and comes from animal products such as eggs, dairy products, kidney and liver. The other version, beta-carotene, is considered to contain the highest A Vitamin activity. This type can be found in plant sources like carrots, spinach, apricots, cantaloupes, and sweet potatoes, as well as some others we’ve mentioned in the past found here.

    Its Benefits

    As mentioned above, beta-carotene is important in maintaining the immune system and healthy eyes but this powerful antioxidant does much more than just that. It keeps skin and tissues of the digestive tract and respiratory system healthy and supports bone growth. You may have also heard the term retinol used in skin care as it’s a common ingredient in topical treatments for conditions such as acne and wrinkles.

    Deficiency

    Most of us get enough Vitamin A from our natural diets but too much can be dangerous. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for healthy adult females is 700mcg/day, while healthy adult males can take up to 900mcg/day. People suffering from Vitamin A deficiency may need more than these amounts but should consult with their physician first as deficiencies are rare. This type of deficiency is more common in those with poor diets or digestive disorders.

    You should have a doctor test your Vitamin A levels first, but if you are looking for retinol beauty creams or Vitamin A supplements, your local Vitamin World Associate can help you determine the right product for you.

     

    Published in Health

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