Alpha Lipoic Acid and Heavy Metals

Alpha lipoic acid is a short chain fatty acid that can act as an antioxidant in humans and animals. Alpha lipoic acid is synthesised in cells, but is also present in the diet and as supplements. The main biological form of lipoic acid is the “R” form of the molecule, and supplements often contain a mixture of both “L” and “R” forms. Alpha lipoic acid contains sulphur in its structure and the dihydro form of the molecule contains two sulfhydryl (thiol) groups. These thiol groups are able to bind transition metals and this process may be useful in helping eliminate heavy metals from the body. Metals known to form complexes directly with alpha lipoic acid and dihydro alpha lipoic acid include manganese, zinc, cadmium, lead, cobalt, nickel, iron, copper, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. The antioxidant properties of alpha lipoic acid may also protect cells and tissues from the free radicals generated by heavy metals. Alpha lipoic acid and dihydro alpha lipoic acid may therefore be important in protecting from heavy metal toxicity. 

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El Barky, A. R., Hussein, S. A. and Mohamed, T. M. 2017. The Potent Antioxidant Alpha Lipoic Acid. Journal of Plant Chemistry and Ecophysiology. 2(1): 1016
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Glutathione as a Chelator of Heavy Metals

Glutathione is the most common low molecular weight sulfhydryl-containing compound in human and animal cells and is present in all cells in low amounts. Evidence suggests that glutathione is able to bind to heavy metals, particularly mercury and this aids elimination of the metal and reduces the damage to the cells. As mercury has a high affinity of sulfhydryl (thiol) groups) this explains the ability of glutathione to eliminate mercury. Studies show that levels of reduced glutathione decrease on exposure of the cells to mercury, suggesting that the glutathione is being used up as mercury enters the cell. Optimising cellular glutathione levels is therefore paramount in protecting cells from mercury poisoning. One way to achieve this is to consume a diet high in antioxidants, as this spares the glutathione and has been shown to increase cellular levels. As some of the damage of mercury stems from its ability to generate free radicals, the antioxidant effects of glutathione are also beneficial in this regard. 

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Patrick, L. 2002. Patrick L. Mercury toxicity and antioxidants: Part 1: role of glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of mercury toxicity. Alternative Medicine Review. 7(6): 456-471
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Mercury as a Toxin

Mercury is a heavy metal that has significant detrimental effects on humans and animal health. Behind lead and arsenic, mercury is the third most frequently encountered and most toxic heavy metal. Elemental mercury is the metal form of the element and it is present in thermometers, dental amalgams and in some paint. Inorganic mercury is referred to as mercury salt, and this form is present in cosmetics, diuretics and antiseptics. Lastly organic mercury (methylmercury) is the most toxic form of mercury and the most frequently exposed to. It is found in many foods where there is contamination by pesticides and insecticides, and in thimerosal in vaccines. In tissues over time methylmercury and elemental mercury are converted into inorganic mercury  and become bound to sulfhydryl-containing (thiol) macromolecules. Mercury is toxic because it can interfere with normal metabolic regulation leading to biochemical damage. The first indication that damage is occurring is the presence of increased oxidative stress. 

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RdB

Patrick, L. 2002. Patrick L. Mercury toxicity and antioxidants: Part 1: role of glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of mercury toxicity. Alternative Medicine Review. 7(6): 456-471
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Vitamin C As A Chelating Agent

Heavy metals can have a significant detrimental effect on health. There are three main ways that this can happen. Firstly, the heavy metals can interfere with the absorption of trace minerals. Secondly, the heavy metals can interfere with trace mineral binding sites on enzymes. Thirdly, heavy metals can generate free radicals which cause oxidative stress. Evidence suggests that vitamin C is able to accelerate the excretion of heavy metals, particularly lead. One mechanism for this is that vitamin C may increase the mobilisation of lead from tissue storage, and in doing so allows the excretory systems to increase the rate of lead excretion. In addition, vitamin C can also decrease the absorption of lead from the gut. From animal experiments it appears that the degree of lead absorption is proportional to the intake of vitamin C and therefore higher intakes of vitamin C are more protective that lower intakes. Vitamin C may also decrease the generation of free radicals by heavy metals, thus reducing their damage to tissues. 

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RdB

Lihm, H., Kim, H., Chang, H., Yoon, M., Lee, K. and Choi, J. 2013. Vitamin C modulates lead excretion in rats. Anatomy & cell biology. 46(4): 239-245
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Can Stress Be Good For The Health?

Stress is often considered detrimental to the health and this can be true. Certainly chronic stress that becomes unmanageable is the cause of detrimental health outcomes. However, stress is a requirement of all life as it is the stress applied to cells and tissues that allows them to adapt to different environmental conditions and this makes the organism more efficient. Exercise is one form of stress that is clearly beneficial to the health and regular exercise diminishes the overall detrimental effects of subsequent bouts of physical stress. Other stresses that can be good for the health include fasting and exposure to detrimental weather conditions. Both of these stresses, if manageable and acute in nature, can increase general resistance to detrimental environmental conditions. Any applied stress will generally improve stress tolerance, and the tolerance gained will be specific to the stress applied. Therefore exercise generally improves exercise tolerance, whereas fasting will improve tolerance to periods of abstinence of food. 

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Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are trace elements that have a specific gravity at least 5 times higher than that of water and inorganic sources. Heavy metals commonly found in the diets of humans and animals include lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury. For example a wide range of heavy metals have been identified in honey, and the concentration and profile of these heavy metals varies depending on the location of the hives the honey is collected from. Heavy metals cannot be eliminated completely from the diet because they are present in most plant and animal foods and also in drinking water. There are three main ways that heavy metals can affect the health of humans. 

  1. Heavy metal accumulation can interfere with normal metabolic functions of the body because the heavy metals can displace trace elements in enzyme systems. 
  1. Heavy metals can cause the generation of free radicals which increases oxidative stress and causes inflammation. This inflammation can then damage DNA, potentially triggering cancer. 
  1. Heavy metals can prevent the absorption of essential trace minerals and thus cause a deficiency of various elements required by the body for normal metabolic function. 

Avoiding the potential damaging effects of a heavy metal overload is therefore a priority for those that wish to maintain their health. Eating a high quality diet containing high quality food is one step in this process. Diets high in fibre may bind heavy metals in the gut and prevent their absorption, and certain compounds in plants, such as vitamin C and other antioxidants have the potential to prevent the oxidative stress caused by heavy metals. Vitamin C may also chelate heavy metals in the body and increase their excretion rates. 

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RdB

Fu, Z. and Xi, S. 2020. The effects of heavy metals on human metabolism. Toxicology mechanisms and methods. 30(3): 167-176
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Fasting and Mood

Evidence suggests that fasting may have particular benefits on mood. The association between mood and fasting is not fully understood but a number of mechanisms have been suggested to explain why fasting may affect the brain. One explanation involves a possible increase in the uptake of serotonin to the brain that might occur as glucose and amino acid transport into the brain changes. Another explanation is that the ketone bodies that are synthesised in place of the absent glucose are able to alter brain chemistry in some way. One way this might occur is through the ketone bodies affecting transcription of the cellular signal molecule brain derived neurotrophic factor. Higher levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor are associated with improved mood as the peptide is associated with improved plasticity and resistance to stress in neurons. Even short periods of fasting, perhaps as short as 12 hours, appears to show some benefit toward elevating mood in those with mild to moderate mood disorders.  

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Gudden, J., Arias Vasquez, A. and Bloemendaal, M. 2021. The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Brain and Cognitive Function. Nutrients. 13(9): 3166
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Are there Nutritional Advantages to Being a Vegan?

Veganism has become popular in recent times and there is a lot of information and misinformation regarding the benefits of the diet. Clearly there are certain parts of the diet of a vegan that become deficient compared to an omnivore and these need to be carefully considered. Shortfalls in iron, carnitine, creatine, vitamin B12 and total energy have been identified as being potentially detrimental in a vegan diet. However, there are some advantages to consuming a vegan diet. One of the main advantages is that the amount of plant foods increases and this causes a concomitant increase in the main nutrients in plants, particularly fibre and phytochemical antioxidants. Vegan diets therefore tend to be much higher in fibre and antioxidants compared to non-vegan diets. Another potential benefit is the avoidance of toxins and pesticides in animal foods. Plants tend not to accumulate environmental toxins to the same degree as plants and this reduces the toxic burden on the consumer. 

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The Cost of Supplements

Certain supplements appear to provide significant health benefits. Some of these benefits are only available through supplementation and not through the diet. The herb milk thistle shows clear protective effects against liver damage for example, but it would be hard to incorporate the milk thistle plant into the diet as it is not readily available commercially and would necessitate individual harvesting their own produce. Taking certain supplements is therefore justified under certain circumstances. When choosing supplements there is a wide variety in the cost of most supplements, and people assume this reflects quality. However, there is little indication that cost is related to quality for most supplements, but rather the cost reflects the brand image of the supplement and the price is indicative of the target market. Therefore the discerning consumer can make great savings by shopping around to find less expensive versions of supplements without compromising on quality and this approach is recommended.  

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Cold Weather Foods For Joints

Evidence suggests that there is an association between cold damp weather and joint pain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that moving from an area that has cold winters to a more sunny climate is significantly beneficial on the joints. One aspect of this certainly relates to the heat and warmth in the joint which can free movement and thereby reduce paint. However, there may be nutritional aspects that also relate to the presence of the sun, and in particular the amount of vitamin D in the blood. Vitamin D can be synthesised in the skin in the presence of sunlight but can also be taken in the diet. A diet rich in vitamin D may therefore be beneficial to prevent joint pain. In addition, foods with an anti-inflammatory effect including a diet rich in fish oils, herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables may also significantly reduce joint pains and increase range of motion. Certain foods including pineapple, the spice turmeric and fresh and dried ginger, may have specific effects at protecting joints from inflammation and pain. 

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RdB

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