The general topic of men’s health is quite broad and can include issues that are part of women’s health too. Good examples here are cardiovascular wellbeing and weight loss. However, prostate health and conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED) are peculiar to men.
In men, vascular health and sexual function are very closely related. Erectile dysfunction not only adversely affects intimate relationships but it can also indicate potential cardiovascular health problems. In many cases, erectile difficulties may be a sign of an underlying cardiovascular disorder. Because vascular health reflects erectile function, it’s not surprising that nutritional supplement ingredients that support healthy erectile performance also contribute to cardiovascular health.
Supplements that are intended to combat ED usually contain ingredients that will support optimal nitric oxide (NO) levels in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels to facilitate improved blood flow. The amino acid arginine is well known for its cardiovascular benefits primarily because of its conversion to NO in the endothelial cells that line the internal surfaces of arteries. Increased vascular smooth muscle relaxation and the resulting improved blood flow to erectile tissue are due to enhanced NO production. It has been shown that oral arginine supplementation supports erectile function when compared with placebo (1).
Horny goatweed (Epimedium sagittatum) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries because of its aphrodisiac effects and support of erectile health. Scientists have isolated and characterized icariin and have shown this flavonoid derivative to be the major Viagra-like active component (2). Recent research has demonstrated that icariin selectively inhibits phosphodiesterase type 5 (PPE-5), an enzyme that causes a rapid termination of male sexual activity. By blocking this enzyme, sexual activity in men is sustained. Additionally, icariin enhances the production of NO from arginine. As we now know, increased production of NO by cells in the arterial wall results in dilatation of the penile blood vessels, which increases blood flow and maintains erectile function. This mechanism of action for natural icariin is amazingly similar to that of synthetic Viagra (3).
Other herbs and nutrients have a long history of safe and effective use in ED and complement the actions of arginine and horny goatweed. These include maca root or Peruvian ginseng (Lepidium meyenii), yohimbe root bark (Pausinystalia yohimbe) and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). All three of these ingredients act as aphrodisiacs and are noted for their erectile and sexual health benefits in men.
Another men’s health issue that is fairly widespread in men is enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Keep in mind that BPH is not prostatic cancer but it can be bothersome. Men usually know when they encounter BPH because of difficult urination and frequent nocturnal urination. The currently accepted and most plausible theory supporting the etiology of BPH centers on prostatic testosterone and its excessive conversion to the more potent dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The enzyme 5-alpha reductase catalyzes this conversion and once formed, DHT stimulates the proliferation of prostatic cells. It appears logical that high levels of DHT leads to excessive numbers of prostatic cells, which can result in an enlarged prostate.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is the most popular and best understood ingredient that provides benefit in cases of BPH. The lipophilic (fat soluble) fraction from saw palmetto berries is most active and it appears that fatty acids from this fraction inhibit 5-alpha reductase to lower prostate levels of DHT. The bark of the African plum tree (Pygeum africana) has also shown significant benefit in cases of BPH. Evidence suggests that pygeum bark actives may inhibit growth factors that contribute to prostate cell growth and the resulting hyperplasia. Also, there is evidence that points to pygeum actives having anti-inflammatory activity in the enlarged prostate (4). A third herbal ingredient that has shown value in relieving BPH is the root of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Research on the root extract is not definitive but seems to suggest an anti-inflammatory effect as well as an interference with proliferation of prostatic epithelial cells. Interestingly, the root contains an active(s) that blocks the binding of prostatic androgens, testosterone and DHT, to an essential binding globulin (5). There have been anecdotal reports of the carotenoid lycopene and the mineral zinc producing prostate health benefits.
Maintenance of men’s health is an important priority and should not be ignored. Several nutritional approaches that offer meaningful benefit are available. My belief and the long-standing goal of all should be to optimize the proper functioning of all body systems and to preserve their highest achievable health. These beliefs must be embraced and the goals can and should be achieved.
Created by Dr. William J. Keller
- Melman A. This month in investigative urology. L-arginine and penile erection. Journal of Urology. 1997 Sep;158(3 Pt 1):686.
- Dell’Agli M, et al. Potent inhibition of human phosphodiesterase-5 by icariin derivatives. Journal of Natural Products. 2008 Sep;71(9):1513-7. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18778098
- Xu, HB, Huang ZQ. Icariin enhances endothelial nitric-oxide synthase expression on human endothelial cells in vitro. Vascular Pharmacology. 2007 Jul;47(1):18-24. Abstract available at:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17499557
- Levin, RM, Levin SS, Zhao Y, Buttyan R. Cellular and molecular aspects of bladder hypertrophy. European Urology. 1997;32 Suppl 1:15-21. Abstract available at:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9218938
- Jellin, J. 2010 Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 12 ed. pp 1592-1595.
Protecting brain health is imperative for meaningful and healthy aging. Scientific and medical wisdom suggest that some degree of cognitive decline is part of the aging process. The possibility of living longer and healthier lives is within reach, but brain health must be preserved while achieving this goal. For this reason, it’s quite encouraging to learn that scientists have discovered that neurological structure and function can be preserved and even restored. We can now offer scientifically substantiated approaches to enhancing our cognitive health with brain health supplements.
Various factors contribute to the gradual decline of mental acuity as we age. Recent studies suggest that inflammation, high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, obesity, arterial inelasticity and a condition known as metabolic syndrome are all risk factors and can lead to a decline in brain health. Anxiety and depression can also predispose an individual to a deterioration of brain health. A good strategy for preserving brain health starts with preventing illnesses that are known to contribute to cognitive decline. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” definitely applies here. Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are obviously beneficial to brain health and a great place to start. A healthy neurological system is also dependent on keeping blood pressure and body weight in check, avoiding diabetes and its precursor metabolic syndrome, as well as treating depression and anxiety disorders.
A number of well-known dietary supplement ingredients support brain health. Nerve cells (neurons) have a high energy demand, and hence free radicals are abundant due to a high level of oxidative metabolism within neurons. Antioxidants scavenge these free radicals and thus minimize neuronal damage and support brain health. Alpha-lipoic acid is quite valuable for neuronal protection because of solubility characteristics that allows considerable free radical neutralizing activity within nerve cell mitochondria. Inflammation is implicated in a wide variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Ginkgo biloba leaf extract (GBE) is well-known for its neuroprotective effects mediated through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. GBE has been used extensively for memory enhancement as well as in a wide variety of dementias. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been used quite frequently to combat neurological damage, inflammation and deteriorating brain health. Phosphatidylserine (PS) and related phospholipids are integral components of every cell membrane and are particularly abundant in brain neuronal membranes. In Europe and Japan, PS is sold as a prescription drug to remedy memory loss and learning deficits.
For a long time it’s been known that declining levels of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine is responsible for a wide range of cognitive deficits (1). By boosting acetylcholine levels in the brain, cognitive deficits are reversed. One approach to increasing brain acetylcholine levels involves inhibiting acetylcholine esterase, the enzyme responsible for acetylcholine metabolism or breakdown. Many of the prescription drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias act as cholinesterase inhibitors. A naturally occurring cholinesterase inhibitor sold as a nutritional supplement is called huperzine A. This alkaloid is isolated and purified from extracts of the Chinese club moss, Huperzia serrata. Huperzine A has been found to be both potent and effective in elevating brain levels of acetylcholine (2).
I have always thought of progesterone as having an important role in female health. It has been known for quite some time that progesterone is also produced by males but at much lower levels. Recently, it was discovered that progesterone is synthesized in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves from the precursor molecule pregnenolone (3). I was surprised to learn that within the brain, and the nervous system in general, progesterone offers neuroprotection and is intimately involved with the formation of myelin sheaths. These findings suggest that progesterone, now referred to as a neurosteroid, has the potential to preserve cognitive functions and overall brain health because of these neuroprotective and promyelinating effects. Very recently, animal studies revealed that progesterone inhibited the inflammatory response and enhanced the recovery from traumatic brain injury and stroke (4). At this point, the conclusion is that progesterone supports brain health and combats neurodegeneration that may occur during the aging process.
The brain, like any other organ or system in the body, is subject to the aging process. During this process, physical and biochemical changes in brain cells can lead to various degrees of cognitive impairment. This loss of brain function as we age is not inevitable. Scientific research has demonstrated mechanisms that explain cognitive decline as well as nutrients/supplement ingredients that can slow and even reverse the progression of age-related brain health degeneration. Brain health supplements containing some of these key ingredients provide a smart option for maintaining brain health throughout life.
Created by Dr. William J. Keller
- Bartus RT, Dean RL, Beer B, Lippa AS. The cholinergic hypothesis of geriatric memory dysfunction. Science. 1982 Jul 30;217(4558):408-14. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7046051
- Jellin, JD. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 2010. pp. 926-929.
- Schumacher M, et al. Local synthesis and dual actions of progesterone in the nervous system: neuroprotection and myelination. Growth Hormone IGF Research. 2004 Jun;14 Suppl A:S18-33. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15135772
- Wang J, et al. The protective mechanism of progesterone on blood-brain barrier in cerebral ischemia in rats. Brain Research Bulletin. 2009 Aug 14;79(6):426-30. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19477244.
Children need good food and excellent supplemental nutrition to achieve their full potential. Nature’s Sunshine Products provides high potency supplements that are safe and effective for children. Sunshine Heroes ensure maximum nutrition in a chewable product line formulated specifically for children.
Omega-3 with DHA
Since 2004, the FDA has allowed qualified health claims for omega-3 fatty acids in food supplements. These health claims are based on the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to promote cardiovascular health. Prior to the FDA approval of these claims, the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) had already been added to infant formulas. Since DHA is poorly synthesized in the body, it must be obtained from the diet or from mother’s milk. Even then it is only found in breast milk when a nursing mother consumes a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. There is no current recommended daily intake (RDI) for these fats, so the savvy consumer must find them in the diet or in supplements.
So why are EPA and DHA being discussed in children’s health? These essential fatty acids are highly valued for their support of nervous tissues. DHA is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain and is required for normal growth and development of the nervous system.(1) DHA is also found in the eye and in nerve synapses, which suggests that it may play a role in nerve transmission.(1) In summary, EPA and DHA are beneficial to children as well as adults who want to promote proper nervous system development and function.
Nature’s Sunshine Products has valued these essential fatty acids for years knowing that they support both the nervous system and cardiovascular health. Sunshine Heroes Omega-3 with DHA makes ingesting omega-3 fatty acids easy and fun. Each serving of Omega-3 with DHA provides 140 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (100 mg DHA and 20 mg EPA). This product gives children the benefit of these healthy fats in addition to the amounts found naturally in their diet.
Probiotic supplements are commonly known as “friendly flora.” These microbes live naturally in our intestinal tract and perform three main functions. They metabolize foods, aid in the absorption of nutrients and help maintain intestinal flora. This translates to better digestive performance and improved immune and intestinal health. Probiotics have been researched extensively with regard to addressing gastro-intestinal issues. Bifidobacterium infantis (found in Probiotic Power) is the most common bacteria found in breast-fed infants. It is believed that this specific strain of bacteria helps provide immune support to infants as they enter a world surrounded by microbes. Much like DHA (mentioned above), it is another gift from mother to child that can be added to the diet in supplement form.
Probiotics should be supplemented regularly, because over time healthy bacteria populations can dwindle. Nature’s Sunshine Probiotic Power provides 11 different strains of bacteria (1 billion organisms per tablet) in an appealing chewable tablet for children. Astute users may note that the tablet is chewable and not enteric coated. While enteric coating helps protect the probiotic bacteria as they pass through the acidic environment of the stomach, it is not required. These bacteria are extremely hearty and will survive the acidity of the stomach and continue on to thrive in the intestines. Probiotics should be stored in a freezer or refrigerator to ensure potency. Shipping probiotics in heat and humidity does not destroy the bacteria. But to maintain a long shelf life they should be refrigerated.
Calcium Plus D3
Growing children need calcium to form healthy teeth and bones. Calcium is also required for nerve transmissions, muscle contractions, and hormone secretion. Calcium is readily available in the diet from dairy foods and to a lesser extent, green leafy vegetables. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium in children has slowly increased over the years. This helps demonstrate the importance of calcium in the diet of children. The current RDA for calcium is as follows: Age 1-3 years, 700 mg; 4-8 years, 1,000 mg; 9-18 years, 1,300 mg.(2) The body is limited in the amount of calcium it can absorb during a meal. To insure maximum absorption of calcium, it is best to take supplements periodically throughout the day with meals and with vitamin D. Chewable calcium supplements are not new, they have been on the market for years to address stomach discomfort and bone mineral density. But now calcium supplements have added vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the active form of vitamin D. The body makes vitamin D from cholesterol and requires exposure to sunlight. Sunlight is important in this conversion, which is why children need extra vitamin D3 supplements throughout the winter months when daylight is short and skin exposure is brief.(3) Vitamin D3 promotes the absorption of it from the diet and deposits calcium into the bones. It makes good sense to add vitamin D3 to all calcium supplements.
Vitamin D3 supplements have been hot in the supplement market for several years now due to a large body of evidence that suggests higher levels of vitamin D3 offers immune system support not observed with other forms of vitamin D. While larger doses of vitamin D3 may be beneficial, we recommend following the RDA for the specific age group. Sunshine Heroes Calcium Plus D3 contains 300 mg of calcium and 300 IU of vitamin D3 per serving. This is a safe and effective dose of both vitamin D and calcium for children.