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Supplement News You Can Use

February 25, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The majority of positive research on nutritional supplements never makes the mainstream news. In fact, if you used the information presented in the most popular magazines, newspapers and television news programs exclusively, you’d probably have a relatively negative impression about the utility of non-prescriptive herbs, essential fatty acids and various other so-called “nutraceuticals”. The reality is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of relevant studies published each year in prestigious medical journals about dietary supplements that you probably should know about.

There are several general principles about nutraceuticals that I try to instill in my clients, family and friends. On the whole, dietary supplements are safe when used judiciously. It’s not uncommon for any given supplement to have multiple health benefits. More is not necessarily better – finding the appropriate dosage is a key to success. It’s better to use fewer, high quality supplements than to take many inexpensive, questionable products. Last but not least, supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle. They work best when used in conjunction with other fundamental wellness strategies.

Healthcare workers are generally at high-risk for acquiring infectious diseases. When flu season comes around, this population is the first in line for influenza vaccination. For all of the healthcare workers in my audience, I would urge you to also consider supplementing with green tea and theanine. Here’s why: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study involving 200 healthcare workers found that a daily dosage of 378 mg of green tea catechins and 210 mg of theanine, an amino acid present in tea, offered statistically meaningful protection against influenza infection. In the trial, 200 study participants were given either a placebo or the green tea supplement blend. Those receiving the placebo were 3 to 5 times more likely to develop the flu. As a bonus, two other recent studies involving green tea and theanine report that it can: a) improve alertness, memory and selective attention in middle-aged men and women with mild cognitive impairment; b) alleviate anxiety and benefit overall mental health – even in patients with serious psychiatric conditions, including schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. (1,2,3)

Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid that is probably best known for its inclusion in cat food to prevent blindness. Those who use popular “energy drinks” may also recognize it as one of the ingredients added to these caffeinated brews. But beyond that, it’s not widely known or used. On the scientific front, taurine is known to play a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease and potentially as an adjunct treatment option. Two current studies in the the Journal of Cardiology and the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism provide the latest evidence for many people to consider using this protein-derivative: (4)

  • A daily dosage of 1,500 mg (500 mg 3x/day) improved exercise performance, metabolic markers and stamina in a group of patients with congestive heart failure. The results were apparent expeditiously, as this was only a 2 week trial. (5)
  • A study involving 11 “endurance-trained male cyclists” failed to show any benefit in exercise capacity when they were given a noncaloric beverage containing 1,660 mg/day of taurine. However, there was a significant rise (+16%) in fat burning activity or total fat oxidation. (6)

The results of these two studies suggest that taurine should be considered for those with established cardiovascular conditions as a means of improving physical ability and, thereby, quality of life. The latter trial may be of interest to anyone who’s looking for a non-stimulating, safe “fat burner” that may also provide side benefits to the cardiovascular system and beyond.

Common Food Sources of Taurine

Source: J Biomed Sci. 2010; 17 (Suppl 1): S6. (link)

Acne isn’t a life threatening disease. But it can dramatically impact the self image of many adolescents and some adults. This undeniable fact has given rise to powerful medications which can sometimes improve symptoms, but are also capable of inducing numerous adverse reactions. Lactoferrin is a bioactive milk fraction that may offer a gentler, more natural solution for acne and problem skin. A new German study examined the effects of a chewable lactoferrin supplement in 43 adolescents and young adults with “mild to moderate facial acne vulgaris”. After 8 weeks of treatment a mean reduction of 22.5% in total lesion count was observed. A total of 76.9% of the study participants demonstrated some degree of improvement. No safety issues or side effects were reported. These results are supported by a previous study appearing in the September 2010 issue of the journal Nutrition. In that 12-week investigation, Korean researchers revealed that a fermented milk product containing 200 mg of lactoferrin/day resulted in similar benefits, but also added that a positive shift in oily skin (sebum content and total skin surface lipids) was verified. (7,8,9)

Supplements provide viable alternatives and complementary options to anyone who’s willing to consider and/or discuss them with his/her health care team. The three examples presented today have not yet made the rounds via conventional media outlets. That’s why it’s important to look outside of traditional news sources. But beyond that, I think that we should also begin to consider ourselves a part of the news sharing process. One way to do so is to disseminate what you learn here and elsewhere with others who might not otherwise be exposed to this type of content.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Exercise, Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements

19 Comments & Updates to “Supplement News You Can Use”

  1. Mark Says:


    Thanks for another good article. In regards to taurine, I currently do not take this amino acid. The whey I supplement my protein intake with does not list it as part of the BCAA’s included. Being an energy “booster”, is there a problem with disturbing sleep at that the levels you suggest? I have never had a problem with caffeine keeping me up even with a late cup of coffee.

  2. JP Says:


    I know it may seem odd, but the opposite is likely true. Some sleep formulas actually include taurine because at higher dosages it can produce a calming effect. However, when small dosages are combined with caffeine, it appears to enhance the energizing effect of caffeine.


    Be well!


  3. Keith Says:


    I had no idea that when small doses are combined with caffeine, it energizes the effects of caffeine!

  4. JP Says:

    There’s always something new to learn in the field of nutrition, Keith. That’s what I love about it!

    Be well!


  5. Liverock Says:

    The energy drink Red Bull is an example of taurine prepping up caffeine.

  6. Vadim Says:

    I am catching up on your articles. Life has been one fast track lately. How are you? Love the picture on top of the article. I loooooooove scallops, they are absolutely my favorite food in a whole world however they are so pricey and I cant find fresh ones in my corner except the frozen or farmed ones. But after trying fresh, succulent scallops locally caught at Prinston University prepared by world’s renowned chef I cant seem to settle for the frozen ones.

  7. Vadim Says:

    By locally caught I meant in New England and not at Prinston University lol. That didnt come out right.

  8. JP Says:


    Indeed. It’s shockingly popular of here in the US.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:


    Nice to hear from you. I’m doing relatively well. That’s always my favorite answer to give since everything is relative. 🙂 How has life been treating you? Busy, I know. But kindly, I hope.

    Be well!


  10. john Says:

    Wow, this is a very compelling post, thank you. I have just seen a new documentary by film maker Mark Wexler that is relevant to what you’re talking about called How to Live Forever. The film allows the audience to gain knowledge through the personal experiences of people whom have lived past the age one hundred! Exercise tips and healthy living are key components in Wexler’s work and throughout, it is a fantastic film. http://www.liveforevermovie.com/

  11. JP Says:

    Thanks, John. I appreciate the kind words and the heads up about the film. Looks interesting.

    Be well!


  12. Kris Says:

    I’m sure a ton of supplements have some research behind them, but the problem is, doctors need more than just a few research studies in order to be able to treat a patient with something.

    I do believe strongly in some supps such as Creatine and vitamins D and K. It would be nice if doctors would be a little more aware of these things, especially with D.


  13. Dr. Gibson Says:

    Let’s not forget that we are supposed to get these nutrients from real food. What if we focused on teaching people how to eat and live congruently with our genetic requirements…how many supplements would most people really need? Omega 3s, Probiotics, Vitamin D (in Northern climates) …but probably not much else except in special cases.

  14. JP Says:

    Dr. Gibson,

    As I always say: supplements should be used to supplement an already healthy diet and lifestyle. Using supplements as a replacement for the fundamentals of good health (diet, exercise, stress management, etc.) isn’t a wise approach, IMO.

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Update 05/27/15:


    Nutrients. 2015 May 19;7(5):3796-812.

    Improved blood biomarkers but no cognitive effects from 16 weeks of multivitamin supplementation in healthy older adults.

    Supplementation with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients may be beneficial for cognition, especially in older adults. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of multivitamin supplementation in older adults on cognitive function and associated blood biomarkers. In a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial, healthy women (n = 68) and men (n = 48) aged 55-65 years were supplemented daily for 16 weeks with women’s and men’s formula multivitamin supplements. Assessments at baseline and post-supplementation included computerised cognitive tasks and blood biomarkers relevant to cognitive aging. No cognitive improvements were observed after supplementation with either formula; however, several significant improvements were observed in blood biomarkers including increased levels of vitamins B6 and B12 in women and men; reduced C-reactive protein in women; reduced homocysteine and marginally reduced oxidative stress in men; as well as improvements to the lipid profile in men. In healthy older people, multivitamin supplementation improved a number of blood biomarkers that are relevant to cognition, but these biomarker changes were not accompanied by improved cognitive function.

    Be well!


  16. JP Says:

    Updated 12/18/16:


    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:3092828.

    The Effects of Four-Week Multivitamin Supplementation on Mood in Healthy Older Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    Objective. Nutritional deficiencies have been associated with cognitive decline and mood disturbances. Vitamin intake can influence mood and randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that multivitamin supplements are capable of reducing mild symptoms of mood dysfunction. However, few studies have focussed on healthy older women. Methods. This study investigated the effects of four weeks’ multivitamin supplementation on mood in 76 healthy women aged 50-75 years. Mood was assessed before and after intervention in the laboratory using measures of current mood and retrospective experiences of mood over the past week or longer. Mobile phones were used to assess changes in real-time mood ratings, twice weekly in the home. Results. There were no multivitamin-related benefits identified for measures of current mood or reflections of recent mood when measured in the laboratory. In-home assessments, where mood was rated several hours after dose, revealed multivitamin supplementation improved ratings of stress, with a trend to reduce mental fatigue. Conclusions. Over four weeks, subtle changes to stress produced by multivitamin supplementation in healthy older women may not be detected when only pre- and posttreatment mood is captured. In-home mobile phone-based assessments may be more sensitive to the effects of nutritional interventions compared to traditional in-laboratory assessments.

    Be well!


  17. JP Says:

    Updated 06/17/17:


    Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Jun 1:1753944717711138.

    Taurine supplementation has anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects before and after incremental exercise in heart failure.

    BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to examine the anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effect of supplemental taurine prior to and following incremental exercise in patients with heart failure (HF).

    METHODS: Patients with HF and left ventricle ejection fraction less than 50%, and placed in functional class II or III according to the New York Heart Association classification, were randomly assigned to two groups: (1) taurine supplementation; or (2) placebo. The taurine group received oral taurine (500 mg) 3 times a day for 2 weeks, and performed exercise before and after the supplementation period. The placebo group followed the same protocol, but with a starch supplement (500 mg) rather than taurine. The incremental multilevel treadmill test was done using a modified Bruce protocol.

    RESULTS: Our results indicate that inflammatory indices [C-reactive protein (CRP), platelets] decreased in the taurine group in pre-exercise, post-supplementation and post-exercise, post-supplementation as compared with pre-exercise, pre-supplementation ( p < 0.05) whereas these indices increased in pre-exercise, post-supplementation and post-exercise, post-supplementation as compared with pre-exercise, pre-supplementation in the placebo group ( p < 0.05). Our results also show that atherogenic indices [Castelli's Risk Index-I (CRI-I), Castelli's Risk Index-II (CRI-II) and Atherogenic Coefficient (AC)] decreased in the taurine group in pre-exercise, post-supplementation and post-exercise, post-supplementation as compared with pre-exercise, pre-supplementation ( p < 0.05). No such changes were noted in the placebo group ( p > 0.05).

    CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that 2 weeks of oral taurine supplementation increases the taurine levels and has anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects prior to and following incremental exercise in HF patients.

    Be well!


  18. JP Says:

    Updated 09/30/17:


    Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2017 Jan 1;28(1):1357417.

    Bacterial biota of women with bacterial vaginosis treated with lactoferrin: an open prospective randomized trial.

    Background: Bacterial vaginosis is the most frequent condition associated to the vaginal microbiota imbalance, affecting about the 40-50% of women in the world. Even if antibiotics are effcetive for bacterial vaginosis treatment a long-term recurrence rates, higher than 70%, is recorded. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding glycoprotein with bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties. It owns the ability to protect the host against infection, by binding and regulating the iron needed for the bacterial proliferation.

    Objective: The present study was an open prospective randomized trial (registration no. SHI-EVE-2014.01) aimed at characterizing the bacterial biota of women affected by bacterial vaginosis (BV) and assessing the effects of two different lactoferrin concentrations (100 mg and 200 mg vaginal pessaries) on the composition and dynamics of the vaginal bacterial biota.

    Design: Sixty women with BV were recruited and randomized into two groups to receive lactoferrin pessaries for 10 days. Clinical evaluation was based on Amsel criteria and Nugent scores. Culture-dependent methods and Ion Torrent PGM sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene were applied to study in depth the overall structure of the vaginal bacterial biota and its dynamics during the treatment.

    Results: Vaginal lactoferrin administration modified the vaginal microbiota composition in patients with BV. During treatment, both 100 mg and 200 mg lactoferrin vaginal pessaries significantly decreased the occurrence of bacteria associated with BV, such as Gardnerella, Prevotella, and Lachnospira, and increased the occurrence of Lactobacillus species. The bacterial biota balance was maintained up to 2 weeks after treatment only in women treated with 200 mg lactoferrin pessaries.

    Conclusions: This study indicates that lactoferrin could be proposed as an alternative therapeutic approach for BV. Our data showed, for the first time, the dominance of Lactobacillus helveticus species during and after vaginal lactoferrin treatment.

    Be well!


  19. JP Says:

    Updated 11/03/17:


    Benef Microbes. 2017 Oct 25:1-16.

    Effect of a yoghurt drink containing Lactobacillus strains on bacterial vaginosis in women – a double-blind, randomised, controlled clinical pilot trial.

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is characterised by a depletion of lactobacilli in favour of an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria. It is associated with increased risk for urogenital infections and abortion. In this study we assessed the effect of a yoghurt drink containing Lactobacillus strains on BV. The strains had been isolated from healthy pregnant women and selected for acidification capacity, production of H2O2, glycogen utilisation, bile salt tolerance and inhibition of pathogens. Using Amsel criteria BV was diagnosed in 36 women aged ≥18 years with stable menstrual cycle or menopause. They were treated with oral metronidazole for 7 days (2×500 mg/d). Starting with the treatment, women consumed twice daily either verum or placebo during 4 weeks. Verum was 125 g yoghurt containing (besides Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus) living strains Lactobacillus crispatus LbV 88 (DSM 22566), Lactobacillus gasseri LbV 150N (DSM 22583), Lactobacillus jensenii LbV 116 (DSM 22567) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus LbV96 (DSM 22560), each 1×107 cfu/ml; placebo was 125 g chemically acidified milk. After 4 weeks of intervention 0 of 17 had BV in the verum group versus 6 of 17 in the s.a. control (0.018 in Fisher Exact test). Amsel score decreased during the intervention period by 4.0 (median) (4.0; 3.0) (25th; 75th percentile) in the verum group compared to 2.0 (4.0; 0.0) in the control group (P=0.038 in Mann-Whitney test). Discharge and odour (Amsel criteria 2+3) also decreased by 2.0 (2.0; 1.0) in the verum compared to 1.0 (2.0; 0.0) in the control group (P=0.01) and differed after 4 weeks intervention between the groups 0.0 (0.0; 0.0) versus 1.0 (0.0; 2.0) (P=0.001). Nugent score decreased during the intervention period by 5.5 (7.0;2.3) in the verum compared to 3.0 (6.0;0.5) in the control group (P=0.158). Additional intake of yoghurt containing these probiotic strains improved the recovery rate and symptoms of BV and tended to improve the vaginal microbial pattern.

    Be well!


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