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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nutrition Noteworthy

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The Effects of Gingko Biloba on Learning and Memory

Gingko Biloba and its extract, EGb761, have been widely promoted for a variety of functions, including the enhancement of learning and memory. A review of the results of studies in animals supports this assertion, but studies in humans have not had the statistical requirements for any definite conclusions. Multiple mechanisms of action have been proposed, most focusing on effects on the hippocampus; however, the exact nature of the effects of Gingko Biloba has yet to be determined. Because Gingko Biloba has various side effects, more research is needed in order to determine if supplementation would be truly beneficial.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Nutritional Supplementation

Over the last several decades, much research has been carried out to determine the cause, progression and prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration which is currently known to be the leading cause of blindness in elderly Americans. By in large, studies have yielded insignificant results. This paper reviews three key areas of research including associations between 1) macular pigment density, 2) omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, 3) antioxidant vitamins (including vitamins C, E and beta-carotene) and the incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The ensuing discussion attempts to convey to the reader that much of what is understood by the general public about nutritional supplementation and Age-Related Macular Degeneration is at best inconclusive and potentially hazardous.

The Failure of the Fat Avoidance Diet

The dominant dietary advice at present in the US of fat avoidance arose from a need to decrease serum cholesterol levels in order to decrease coronary heart disease. During the past 40 years, this dietary approach has been adopted by the US population with a resultant decrease in both cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease mortality. However, the decrease in dietary fat has failed to prevent the increase in the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases. Given the impact of obesity on the health of the US population today, a need to modify dietary advice is warranted. Although dietary fat ought to remain low, other dietary changes are needed because simply reducing dietary fat has demonstrated itself to be ineffective in protecting the health of the US population. A proportional increase in mono and polyunsaturated fats relative to saturated fats, an increase in the consumption of foods with a low glycemic index and a low energy density, and an increase in physical activity should become the focal points of dietary advice.

Ephedrine: Be Still My Beating Heart

Ephedrin, derived from the Asian plant known as Ephedra (Chinese Ma Huang), is a non-selective agonist of adrenergic receptors. At large doses, ephedrine can lead to a variety of adverse health problems including increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, chest pains, myocardial infarctions, strokes, and ephedrine nephrolithiasis. More cases are being reported about harmful side effects from ephedrine as consumers are increasing the dosage they take to obtain results faster. The main cause for this growing epidemic are discussed and include the unregulated dietary supplement industry due to lack of oversight from the Federal Drug Administration.