March 2018 – Vol. 12, Issue 3


In This Issue…                                                                            

·         This amino acid may help quell allergic responses

·         Blood cell “clone” increases risk for heart disease

·         This nutrient combo protects kidneys from cancer treatment

·         Study sheds light on how vitamin K helps glycemic control

·         Landmark trial shows vitamin D helps autistic children



CLINICAL UPDATE – This amino acid may help quell allergic responses
            The amino acid cysteine may play an important role in regulating allergic reactions, according to new research.  In this experiment, cysteine was introduced to human mast cells – a type of white blood cell that is most known for its role in anaphylaxis and acute allergic responses due the high amount of histamine contained in them.  When cysteine was introduced to human mast cells, it changed the cellular signals from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory, thus down-regulating (slowing) the allergic response.  Specifically, the introduction of cysteine to human mast cells caused a decrease in the production of a protein called TSLP (thymic stromal lymphopoiten).  This protein – which cysteine reduced – is sometimes considered to be the initiating factor in the allergic response as it is linked to eczema, asthma, arthritis and even seasonal rhinitis, suggesting cysteine may benefit people who suffer from allergies.
          (Nutrition Research, March 2018)
LINK to ABSTRACT Cysteine ameliorates allergic inflammatory reactions by suppressing thymic stromal lymphopoietin production in activated human mast cells.



CLINICAL UPDATE – Blood cell “clone” increases risk for heart disease
            A unique type of blood cell is gaining attention as the results of a large case-control study at Harvard Medical School were recently published. The study enrolled over 4700 people with heart disease and compared their blood to over 3500 healthy controls.  They found that a certain type of “mutated blood cells” are strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.
          The cells are called CHIP - for clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential – and they are gaining attention since their presence nearly doubles the risk of coronary heart disease.  What makes these cells unique is that they are actual clones, as the name suggests, of a very young but damaged blood cell. As in any tissue, when blood cells replicate, sometimes DNA mutations occur. When a mutation occurs in stem cell, as in the case of CHIP, the millions of clones that arise from that blood stem cell will also contain that mutation.  Mutations in blood cells are very common in several blood cancers but this research is suggesting the mutated blood cells increase cardiovascular risk as well. In fact, people that had many of these mutated clones (“CHIP” cells) in their blood had a risk of heart attack that was four times greater than people with fewer CHIP cells. 
          The CHIP cells contain specific mutations that are associated with inflammation.  These mutated cells release pro-inflammatory cytokines that promote the formation of plaque in blood vessels that cause atherosclerosis. Although everyone develops these mutations over time, lifestyle choices can profoundly affect the rate at which these mutations occur.  For example, smokers are likely to develop the mutations faster than non-smokers. 
          Currently, there are no treatments for CHIP other than the conventional treatments to lower cardiovascular disease risk in general.  And although the results were confirmed in animal studies, testing for the presence of CHIP cells in blood is cost-prohibitive for most, yet some suggest new avenues of research into the inflammation-heart disease link may emerge from this study.
          (New England Journal of Medicine, July 2017)
LINK to ABSTRACT Clonal Hematopoiesis and Risk of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.


CLINICAL UPDATE – This nutrient combo protects kidneys from cancer treatment
            Cisplatin is a chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of several types of cancer.  It is a drug that interferes with cell replication, thus potentially halting the growth of rapidly dividing cells, such as those that occur in tumors.  However, its use has serious side effects, most notably damage to the kidneys, which can be permanent.
            In this animal study, five groups of rats were studied:  Group 1(control) – no cisplatin, no nutrients; Group 2 – cisplatin only; Group 3 – cisplatin + vitamin C; Group 4 – cisplatin + carnitine; Group 5 – cisplatin + vitamin C + carnitine.  After a month, a series of tests to measure kidney function was performed.
           All animals given cisplatin showed signs of kidney damage compared to the control group.  However, the groups that received either vitamin C, carnitine or both showed significantly less kidney damage.  They also measured antioxidants (glutathione and superoxide dismutase, for example) in kidney tissue which were decreased in rats who were given the chemotherapy drug.  However, once again the animals treated with vitamin C or carnitine (or both) showed less negative affect on their antioxidant status in kidney tissue than those who were not given these nutrients, suggesting the antioxidant effect of these nutrients protected from drug-induced chemotherapy tissue damage.
           (Journal of the American College of Medicine, February 2018)
LINK to ABSTRACT Combined Administration of l-Carnitine and Ascorbic Acid Ameliorates Cisplatin-Induced Nephrotoxicity in Rats.



CLINICAL UPDATE – Study sheds light on how vitamin K helps glycemic control
            Evidence from past studies has suggested a connection between vitamin K and glucose metabolism and a recent study helped shed light on the physiological reasons behind the link.  Unlike in a human study, this animal study could precisely control the total amount of vitamin K ingested without confounding factors like food intake.  Thirty rats were divided into five groups:  a control group, a diabetic group and three groups that were given different doses of vitamin K.
            After 8 weeks of precisely controlled vitamin K supplementation, there was a dose-dependent benefit of vitamin K on glycemic control, both short term (measured by fasting blood sugar level) and long term (measured by hemoglobin A1c).  The researchers also found a dose-dependent increase of the hormone osteocalcin in the animals taking vitamin K. Osteocalcin is a vitamin K-dependent protein secreted by bone cells (osteoclasts).  Osteocalcin has two relatively lesser known, but equally important roles – it causes the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin and it tells fat cells to release the hormone adiponectin, which tells cells to burn fuel for energy (increases metabolism).
            Not surprisingly, this study confirmed that adiponectin was increased with vitamin K, but only at the highest dose of vitamin K.   They also found that the group of rats receiving the highest dose of vitamin K had higher levels of a hormone called thermogenin (also called UCP-1, or uncoupling protein 1).  Thermogenin is found in the mitochondria of some fat cells and enables fat cells to burn off excess metabolic energy, creating body heat in the process (hence the name).  The study demonstrated that vitamin K can improve glycemic control due to it increasing the gene that makes osteocalcin, which then “turns on” other hormones (adiponectin and thermogenin) to affect glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
           (Nutrition, March 2018)
LINK to ABSTRACT Vitamin K2 alleviates type 2 diabetes in rats by induction of osteocalcin gene expression.



CLINICAL UPDATE – Landmark trial shows vitamin D helps autistic children
            Studies have shown that many autistic children are deficient in vitamin D but a recent trial goes one step further – it demonstrates that vitamin D supplementation may improve some symptoms of autism.  Although small, this double-blind, randomized controlled trial – considered the gold standard in medical research – showed promising results. 
           109 autistic children between the ages of 3 and 10 were evaluated, most of which were boys (85 boys, 24 girls).  They were randomly assigned to received either placebo or vitamin D supplementation for four months.  The dosage of vitamin D was different for some of the youngest children as it was calibrated with the children’s weight but in general, for a child that weighed at least 38 pounds, the dosage was at most 5000IU daily, a relatively high dosage when compared to some previous studies.
            Four standardized tests were used to assess symptoms such as maturity, aberrant behavior and social responsiveness. The symptoms of the children receiving vitamin D supplementation improved significantly but those taking placebo showed no change. In addition, the high dose of vitamin D was well tolerated in the children. The authors state that this is “the first double-blinding RCT proving the efficacy of vitamin D3 in [autistic] patients.”
           (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, January 2018)
LINK to ABSTRACT Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder.