HEALTH

Research finds vitamin D helps prevent multiple sclerosis

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN FRANCISCO Researchers have found evidence that a direct interaction between vitamin D and a common genetic variant alters the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. The research, published Friday in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, suggests that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and the early years may increase the risk of the offspring developing MS later in life.

“Our study implies that taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years may reduce the risk of a child developing MS in later life,” stated lead author Sreeram Ramagopalan. “Vitamin D is a safe and relatively cheap supplement with substantial potential health benefits. There is accumulating evidence that it can reduce the risk of developing cancer and offer protection from other autoimmune diseases.”

The researchers found that proteins activated by vitamin D in the body bind to a particular DNA sequence lying next to the DRB1*1501 variant, in effect switching the gene on.

“In people with the DRB1 variant associated with MS, it seems that vitamin D may play a critical role,” stated co-author Julian Knight. “If too little of the vitamin is available, the gene may not function properly.”

“We have known for a long time that genes and environment determine MS risk,” stated Professor George Ebers, University of Oxford. “Here we show that the main environmental risk candidate – vitamin D – and the main gene region are directly linked and interact.”

MS is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults. More than 85,000 people in the United Kingdom and 2.5 million worldwide are thought to suffer from the condition, which results from the loss of nerve fibres and their protective myelin sheath in the brain and spinal cord, causing neurological damage.

The causes of MS are unclear, but it has become evident that both environmental and genetic factors play a role. Previous studies have shown that populations from Northern Europe have increased MS risk if they live in areas receiving less sunshine. This supports a direct link between deficiency in vitamin D, which is produced in the body through the action of sunlight, and increased risk of developing the disease.PLoS Genetics is published by the Public Library of Science, a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.

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HBI to expand U.S. distribution of Sambucol black elderberry supplement

BY Michael Johnsen

NOTTINGHAM, England Devotees of Sambucol black elderberry dietary supplements now will have more access to the product, thanks to expanding U.S. distribution, noted new distributor Healthcare Brands International.

Previously distributed and sold under the Nature’s Way name, Sambucol now is being distributed by HBI and sold nationwide under its own brand name in newly designed packaging, the company stated.

“There has been some confusion regarding black elderberry extracts currently being sold in the United States,” stated Michael Magarian, VP U.S. sales and marketing at HBI. “The confusion surfaced recently when Nature’s Way launched a different black elderberry product, but one using similar packaging and a similar name to the original. However, only the Sambucol brand has been researched and tested in published clinical trials. Additionally, Sambucol’s unique formulation and extraction process preserves the naturally-occurring health benefits of the black elderberry, known to have twice the antioxidant value of both blueberries and cranberries.” Other formulations, Magarian noted, can’t make this claim.

In a recent Harris Interactive survey conducted for Sambucol, 65% of Americans said that they would be more open to taking a natural health remedy if it was clinically proven to work. “We believe this to be an important distinction between Sambucol and other elderberry brands,” Magarian said. “Sambucol has the clinical science with published studies showing its effectiveness for immune support.”

The Sambucol Harris survey also found that two-thirds of adults are open to taking a natural health remedy if their doctor or healthcare provider recommended it, and more than half (55%) would take one if it was recommended by their pharmacist.

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Organic Food Bar launches new bar to boost immune system, promote good digestive health

BY Michael Johnsen

LOS ANGELES Organic Food Bar on Friday launched Organic Food Bar — ONE, a bar with 10-times more probiotic cultures as compared with yogurt, to boost the immune system and promote good digestive health that retails for less than $1.

Organic food production is a $16 billion-a-year industry, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organics account for just 3% of overall food sales, but they are growing at 17% to 20% per year as compared with 2% to 3% growth for conventional foods. The 2002 Organic Consumer Trends Report found that 39% of the U.S. population uses organic products.

Organic Food Bar — ONE comes in three varieties: blueberry muffin crunch, raspberry muffin crunch and chocolate macaroon crunch.

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