Counting Down the Top 10 Nutritional Studies of 2014
10. Vitamin E tocotrienols show brain health benefits –- The largest ever human study on the effects of vitamin E on brain health was conducted in 2014. In the past decade, vitamin E has gotten a bad rap as a potentially dangerous vitamin at high doses despite evidence of its cardiovascular, eye, and anti-cancer health benefits. But 2014 may have been a pivotal year for this important vitamin.
The study followed 121 people with cardiovascular risk factors and white matter lesions in the brain, which have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Subjects who supplemented with vitamin E for two years saw the worsening progression of brain lesions halt completely, while those in the placebo group saw brain lesions either form or worsen. Vitamin E was also found to boost cognitive development in underweight/premature infants and subsequently improve IQ in another recent study. These studies represent big wins in the quest to turn public perception of this vital nutrient around.
9. Green tea regains the spotlight for heart health — The antioxidant benefits of green tea are rarely questioned due to its rock-solid place in our culture as a healthy drink consumed for centuries, but it is often forgotten among the fancy new “superfoods” of the hour. That’s why we’re impressed by a large five-year study out of China published this year that followed over 1,000 subjects and determined that green tea consumption significantly lowered blood pressure in non-smokers.
Our Bill Henderson followers are well-attuned to the bold antioxidant benefits of green tea, which are absolutely vital to immune and cell health, but among all the hype of the popular “superfoods” of the moment, it’s all too easy to forget about the time-tested benefits of green tea.
8. Widespread adulteration of grape seed extract identified — In recent years, three organizations came together to form a watchdog group to blow the whistle on adulterated supplements and help the public make wise choices when it comes to their health. In the past year, we’ve seen gingko biloba and, more recently, grape seed extract under the spotlight for being polluted with phony or unlisted additives. In the case of grape seed extract, scientists discovered that 11 out of 21 grape seed extract supplements tested were adulterated with unlisted compounds including peanut skin extract and pine bark extract just a few weeks ago. Yikes!
News stories like these are so important because they remind us that until the FDA takes action against companies practicing intentional adulteration, it’s up to the honest players to educate consumers and provide strictly-tested products.
We conduct independent laboratory testing—on each and every production. Quality costs money and time, and still we strive to offer really affordable pricing. Read more about our independent laboratory testing.
7. Pomi-T makes waves as a breakthrough prostate health supplement — Ok, so this study was actually published in 2013, but its findings reverberated throughout integrative channels in 2014. For those of you who haven’t heard the news, British researcher Robert Thomas uncovered that a combination of four polyphenol-rich whole foods – broccoli, pomegranate, turmeric, and green tea – dramatically lowered PSA levels (a marker of inflammation implicated in prostate cancer) in men.
In fact, we found his research so exciting, we broke the science down into an easy-to-follow animated video for those of you who tend to tune out when you see words like protein-specific antigen and tyrosine kinase (say what?!). Check it out!
6. Turmeric climbs the ranks for cognitive health, plus over 700 other benefits — The longest study to date on the effects of turmeric on brain health occurred this year. In addition to turmeric’s known 700 benefits, researchers began looking at the “superfood” spice as a potential replacement for over one dozen pharmaceutical drugs.
But back to the brain benefits: Of 56 volunteers, half received 500mg of curcumin per day for eight weeks and the other half received placebo. After just four weeks, subjects in the turmeric group saw significant improvement in their moods, while a subgroup of participants experienced even greater relief from excessive weight gain, overactive appetite, and hyperinsomnia. These brain benefits are likely the result of turmeric’s potent anti-inflammatory abilities.
5. Omega-3s found to reduce ALS risk — Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, became a hot topic this year as the Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness of this terrible neurodegenerative disease. A study published in September found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help prevent the risk of ALS due to their potent inflammation-reducing, antioxidant properties.
The study followed 995 subjects over 9 to 24 years and monitored fatty acid intake. Subjects in the top 20% of omega-3 intake dramatically lowered their risk of developing ALS by one-third. Researchers also discovered that alpha-linoleic-acid, a component of nuts and vegetable oils, seemed to reduce ALS risk as well. This is a big breakthrough for a big disease topic of 2014!
4. Glutathione’s role in cancer prevention –This year, glutathione hit the nutritional scene as a rockstar antioxidant with the ability to ward off cancer. Here’s a refresher on how it works: In healthy cells, DNA methylation ensures that genes are either expressed (turned “on”) or silenced (turned “off”) properly. Methylation disturbances are seen in virtually all types of cancer, and this is where glutathione matters. According to one hypothesis, glutathione pathways and the methylation cycle are biochemically linked.
When the body is exposed to toxins, it needs to produce more glutathione to get rid of those toxins. However, when glutathione levels are too low, toxins accumulate, methylation fouls up, and the conditions for cancer emerge all too predictably.
3. Probiotics become breakthrough for skin health, cognitive function, & weight management — Probiotics have become extremely popular in recent years for their role in digestive and immune health, and in 2014, the list of their benefits continued to grow. One study found that probiotics replenished moisture and boosted sebum content in the skin of young women. Another found that by saturating the gut with health bacteria — from probiotic supplements or probiotic-rich foods twice a day for only four weeks — healthy subjects experienced improved brain responsiveness and function, thereby combating depression.
A follow-up study also confirmed that altering the gut microbiota with probiotics may prevent low-grade inflammation and fight fatty liver, which promotes weight gain and other symptoms of metabolic dysfunction. We can’t stress our love of these friendly bacteria enough – and our bodies simply can’t function properly without them!
2. Vitamin D3 supplementation should start at birth — This bold statement uttered by researchers at the University of Iowa this year demonstrates the extreme importance of the sunshine vitamin. While the necessity of adequate vitamin D3 for bone health is well known, about half of American adults are nonetheless deficient in the essential nutrient. The study found that vitamin D3 is so crucial to our bones and biological processes that vitamin D3 supplementation should start at birth to ensure blood levels are high enough (around 75ng/mL) in growing children. So the message bears repeating: Vitamin D3 (along with calcium and vitamin K2) is vital for strengthening bones.
After studying fracture patients for one year, researchers from the University of Missouri found an even more drastic connection between vitamin D3 levels and bone health: 77% of orthopedic trauma patients had low vitamin D levels. While a lack of vitamin D3 contributes to brittle bones and can increase a person’s risk of fracture in the first place, it can also derail the healing process.
1. Multivitamins are anything but unnecessary — Remember that rather bold (or as we are now aware, misinformed) article from the Annals of Internal Medicine that called multivitamins a waste of money? Well, that ran in December of 2013. In June of 2014, four renown nutrition researchers authored an article in that same journal debunking the previous assertion that multivitamins are useless. The authors of the first study “ignored decades of nutrition research and diet monitoring of the U.S. population to reach this misleading conclusion,” according to the four researchers.
The authors of the rebuttal also noted that multivitamins play an important role in filling the nutrition gap in typical Western diets and improve overall health. For example, 92% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D and E, 61% are low in magnesium, and still 50% don’t get enough vitamin A or calcium in their diet.
And here’s the real reason we chose this as our number one news story of 2014: these researchers reminded us that the Physicians’ Health Study II found an 8% reduction in cancer risk among those who took a daily multivitamin. Apparently the original authors didn’t find this statistic important, but we sure do.