Acupuncture, Macular Degeneration and Osteoporosis UpdatesJune 19, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
When it comes to health care, most of us would prefer to have plenty of options. I don’t just mean a choice of which physicians to see, but also what forms of treatment we can access. I believe an important step to increasing the availability of treatment options is to spread the word about alternative/complementary therapies that are scientifically validated but relatively unpublicized. Greater awareness opens doors and minds.
In April 2009, I wrote a column about the importance of vitamin C in maintaining bone strength. Since then, additional research has furthered the theory that vitamin C and other antioxidants may play an important role in preserving bone density in the aging population. The most prominent of the new studies will be published in the July issue of the journal Osteoporosis International. Here’s a brief overview of the design and results of that trial.
- 34 postmenopausal women with an average age of 66 were divided into 4 groups: a) received only a placebo; b) received 1,000 mg of vitamin c and 600 mg of vitamin E; c) received the placebo and engaged in resistance exercise; and d) received the antioxidants and exercised.
- Bone density measurements were directed at two key skeletal points, the femoral neck and the lumbar spine before and after the 6 month trial.
The results indicate that both antioxidant therapy and resistance exercise helped to preserve bone density. The portion of the group that received only the placebo demonstrated bone loss in the lumbar spine. The authors summarized their findings by saying that, “Antioxidant vitamins may offer some protection against bone loss in the same extent as resistance exercise although combining both does not seem to produce additional effects”. I would add that this type of information could prove invaluable for those who are unable to engage in regular bouts of resistance training. (1)
Two other newly released trials also provide support for the view that antioxidants may be a valuable player in supporting skeletal integrity. The first study looked at the levels of antioxidant enzymes and oxidative stress levels in 45 women diagnosed with osteoporosis as compared to 42 non-osteoporotic women. The women with osteoporosis evidenced greater levels of oxidative stress and a smaller quantity of key antioxidant enzyme activity. The researchers involved determined that this environment may contribute to bone loss and “might be considered when pathogenesis of postmenopausal osteoporosis” is being investigated. (2) A second study recently found that a Ginkgo biloba extract, which is rich in plant-based antioxidants, such as kaempferol and quercetin, helped to “restore bone mass” in rats without ovaries. This animal model is used to mimic the effect of a postmenopausal environment on bone parameters. (3)
In the past few months, I’ve discussed the importance of diet and supplementation for those suffering from and at risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Those recommendations are strengthened by three new articles that are important to note.
- 400 volunteers with early stage AMD recently participated in a trial that set out to determine whether a combination of concentrated carotenoids (antioxidant pigments found in fruits and vegetables) could slow the progression of this incurable eye disease. The experimental supplement used also contained vitamins C, E and the mineral zinc. The results of the trial indicate that the supplement did, in fact, slow AMD progression. It seemed to do so by preserving the the levels of antioxidant pigments in the macula. The portion of the test subjects that received a placebo demonstrated a significant decline in macular pigment levels and an expected advancement in disease severity. (4)
- Earlier this month, a study was presented in the British Journal of Opthamology that offered some specific dietary suggestions about how to counter the effects of AMD. The recommendations were based on food questionnaires and diagnostic eye exams performed on almost 3,000 AMD patients who were followed for 8 years. The use of an antioxidant and nutrient rich supplement (AREDS) and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (DHA and EPA) showed benefits in terms of reduced AMD progression. Eating a low-glycemic diet, which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable, was also strongly endorsed. (5) Other newly uncovered evidence indicates that oxidative damage caused by excessive iron in the body may also cause ocular damage. Consuming additional antioxidants is believed to help counter this risk factor. (6)
Late in 2008, I highlighted the role that acupuncture could play in taming persistent headaches and supporting women’s health during pregnancy. But there’s a lot more to this type of needlework than that. Let’s take a quick look at a few encouraging studies that show the range of acupunctures potential.
- In August 2009, a study will be published in the journal Neuroscience Letters. In it, stimulation of the acupuncture point PC6 led to a reduction in anxiety and stress levels in a group of mice over the course of an 8 week trial. The same treatment appeared to discourage sugar intake in this group of mice. This phenomenon may translate to a decrease in “comfort food” eating during times of stress. The authors of this experiment concluded that “acupuncture has a therapeutic effect on chronic stress and related diseases such as depression and anxiety”. (7)
- One of the most promising areas of acupuncture research is its use in improving symptom management in very severe conditions. An example is found in the July issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. There they describe a decrease in Tamoxifen related hot flashes of nearly 60% in a group of women receiving Chinese acupuncture. It’s interesting to note that the benefits continued on and actually increased in the subsequent 12 weeks following acupuncture treatment. (8)
- Another instance of acupuncture improving a very serious medical condition can be found in the July edition of the journal Clinical Rehabilitation. A group of 60 patients with diagnosed schizophrenia were administered either real electro-acupuncture (pictured above) or “sham electro-acupuncture” over the course of 6 weeks – consisting of five 30 minute sessions each week. No side effects were noted in either group, but a big difference was found in response rate. The degree of auditory hallucinations, as measured by a test called the Psychotic Symptom Rating Scale Auditory Hallucination Subscale and the Negative Syndrome Scale, reduced by 43% in the 30 patients receiving the authentic electro-acupuncture. The authors of this groundbreaking research concluded that, “Electro-acupuncture might provide improvement in auditory hallucinations and positive symptoms for patients with schizophrenia partially responsive or non-responsive to risperidone monotherapy.” (9)
It’s unlikely that most conventional doctors will advise you to use antioxidants to support bone health and/or to protect against AMD progression. It’s even less likely that your psychiatrist will suggest electro-acupuncture to help reduce anxiety or auditory hallucinations. But you can bring these issues up. Don’t ever be afraid to discuss alternative treatments with your physicians. Inform yourself first and then present your case thoughtfully. By doing so you may just discover that your doctor is more open minded than you’ve assumed. Even if that’s not the case, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried. Finally, keep in mind that a seed you plant today may take root in your doctor’s mind down the road. Keeping the lines of communication between patient and physician open will generally help to improve health care for us all.
Tags: Acupuncture, Anxiety, Macular Degeneration
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Nutritional Supplements