Nutrition

Welcome to the Nutrition section of the Vitamedicine Institute. Dr Brad McEwen PhD is involved with nutrition, herbal medicine, lifestyle medicine, and public health education and research. Brad’s academic interest and research focus is on the effects of nutrition on chronic disease, particularly cardiovascular disease; omega-3 PUFA; chronic disease prevention; complementary and integrative medicine; and public health.

The Vitamedicine Institute officially opened in 2002 as part of the clinic (established 1999). The Vitamedicine Institute has had various names over the years with its running name in the background. Nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle medicine play an integral role in promoting health.

Courses in nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle medicine are currently being written. The launch date is 2023.

The following information is a brief overview of vitamins and minerals and is referenced from articles found on the Publications page (Publications).

VITAMINS

VITAMIN A

Vitamin A plays an essential role in both cell-mediated and humoral antibody response. Vitamin A is involved with the activation of retinoic acid receptors, leading to the proliferation of lymphocytes. It supports a Th2-mediated anti-inflammatory cytokine profile.

Vitamin A deficiency impairs both innate immunity (mucosal epithelial regeneration) and adaptive immune response to infection, resulting in an impaired ability to counteract extracellular pathogens. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with altered integrity of the mucosal epithelium and reduced phagocytic and oxidative burst activity of macrophages.

VITAMIN B1

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is involved in energy metabolism, the metabolism of glucose, mitochondrial metabolism of glucose, Kreb’s cycle activity, immune system activation, cell signalling, metabolism of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, nerve structure and function, is essential for nerve conduction and excitability, cell-membrane dynamics, and modulates cognitive performance.

Vitamin B1 is beneficial for fatigue, weakness, peripheral neuropathy, irritability, ataxia, and memory impairments.

VITAMIN B2

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is necessary for energy production, normal cell function and growth, the proper functioning of the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, and immune systems, the normal functioning of glutathione reductase, and the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids. It is involved in the conversion of vitamin B6 and folic acid into their active coenzyme form.

Vitamin B2 deficiency signs and symptoms include degenerative changes in the nervous system, dysfunction of the endocrine system, skin disorders, and anaemia.

VITAMIN B3

Vitamin B3 (Nicotinamide, Niacinamide, Nicotinic acid) plays a major role in energy metabolism, modulation of inflammation, DNA metabolism, gene expression and differentiation, and cell signalling, reduces oxidative stress, triglyceride levels, lipid peroxidation, and insulin secretion, and improves liver health and the metabolism and conversion of folate to tetrahydrofolate. Vitamin B3 assists in managing depression, anxiety, memory issues, headache, elevated cholesterol, dermatitis, and diarrhoea.

VITAMIN B5

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) is involved in energy metabolism, triggers immune cells to produce cytokines, and is a precursor of coenzyme A. It is involved in the synthesis of cholesterol, phospholipids, fatty acids, and amino acids.

The uses of Vitamin B5 include reducing stress, fatigue, malaise, depression, headache, and numbness and tingling in the extremities, and improving wound healing.

VITAMIN B6

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) supports a Th1 cytokine-mediated immune response and modulates immune cell function. It is involved in the metabolism of one-carbon units, trans-sulphuration, protein, carbohydrates and lipids, in gluconeogenesis, metabolism of homocysteine, neurological development, and formation of haemoglobin. Pyridoxyl-5-phosphate (PLP) is a cofactor in more than 160 different catalytic functions. PLP is involved in the conversion of tryptophan to niacin and plays an important role in the metabolism of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

A deficiency of vitamin B6 has been associated with inflammation, anaemia, impaired glucose metabolism, depression and confusion. Additionally, low plasma levels of vitamin B6 are associated with an increased risk of arterial and venous thrombosis.

FOLATE

Folate is required for critical enzymatic reactions, including those involved in amino acid metabolism, purine and pyrimidine synthesis, and DNA methylation. It supports a Th1 cytokine-mediated immune response.

A deficiency of folate results in reduced DNA synthesis and cell division, altered synthesis of purines and pyrimidines, peripheral neuropathy, and macrocytic anaemia. A deficiency of folate during preconception and during early pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects.

VITAMIN B12

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is essential for synthesis and regulation of DNA, cell metabolism, normal synthesis of purines and pyrimidines, fatty acid synthesis, and energy production. It supports a Th1 cytokine-mediated immune response.

A vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with a higher incidence of neurological disorders.

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is highly concentrated in leukocytes and is used rapidly during infection. It modulates immune cell function and supports Th1 cytokine-mediated immune responses. Vitamin C enhances neutrophil chemotaxis and T-lymphocyte proliferation in response to infection, and increases cytokine production and synthesis of immunoglobulins. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory effects and is also involved in the synthesis and metabolism of collagen, carnitine and catecholamines, and the metabolism of tyrosine.

A deficiency of vitamin C leads to poor wound healing, vasomotor instability, and connective tissue disorders.

VITAMIN D

Vitamin D plays an essential role in both cell-mediated and humoral antibody response. It regulates immune system response, increases the oxidative burst potential of macrophages, and supports a Th2-mediated anti-inflammatory cytokine profile. Vitamin D stimulates the expression of potent anti-microbial peptides. These peptides exist in neutrophils, monocytes, natural killer cells, and in epithelial cells lining the respiratory tract, where they play a major role in protecting the lung from infection. Vitamin D is involved with the absorption and metabolism of calcium, calcium homeostasis, metabolism of phosphate, bone metabolism, differentiation, and overall metabolic function. Vitamin D and its metabolites are steroid hormones and hormone precursors.

Vitamin D deficiency is correlated with a higher susceptibility to infections due to impaired localised innate immunity and defects in the antigen-specific cellular immune response. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with osteoporosis, osteopaenia, osteomalacia, and rickets and has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, of fracture, muscle weakness, pre-eclampsia, neurocognitive dysfunction, type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin D is an essential, underutilised nutrient. I note here that most cells and organs in the body have a vitamin D receptor, thereby showing its importance.

VITAMIN E

Vitamin E as tocopherols and tocotrienols are antioxidants and free radical scavengers. It optimises and enhances the immune system. Vitamin E increases lymphocyte proliferation in response to mitogens, increases the production of IL-2 and natural killer cell cytotoxic activity, and phagocytic activity by alveolar macrophages. It also supports a Th1 cytokine-mediated immune response and modulates immune cell function. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from oxidative damage.

VITAMIN K

Vitamin K, particularly K2, is involved in calcium transport, calcium homeostasis, is essential for coagulation and production of prothrombin and coagulation factors, prevents calcium deposition in the lining of blood vessel walls, synthesis of matrix Gla protein, production of osteocalcin, improves cardiometabolic health, and is necessary for normal bone metabolism.

Vitamin K2 has numerous uses, including acting on abnormal clotting and clotting disorders, arterial stiffness, vascular calcification, osteoporosis, lower bone mineral density, osteoarthritis, and cognition deficits.

OMEGA-3

Omega-3 is a multipurpose nutrient. Essentially, omega-3 has too many uses to include in this page. Some of the uses of Omega-3 involve reducing inflammation, eicosanoid metabolism, cell membrane phospholipid composition, improving cell membrane function, reducing depression, stress and anxiety, improving lipid profile, reducing platelet aggregation, coagulation, inflammation, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, and improving cardiometabolic profile in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

COENZYME Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is involved in mitochondrial energetics, antioxidant action, reducing inflammation, improving vasodilation, reducing statin-related fatigue and fatigue in people with fibromyalgia, and improving exercise capacity.

A deficiency of coenzyme Q10 has been implicated in cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, and muscular disorders.

MINERALS

CALCIUM

Calcium plays a central role in numerous essential functions and affects nearly every aspect of cellular life. Calcium is involved in the mineralisation of bone, structural components of bones and teeth, regulation of muscle contraction, enzyme regulation, blood clotting, signal transduction, and cell signalling.

Chronic untreated calcium deficiency can have many severe consequences, including osteomalacia, osteopaenia, osteoporosis, bone fracture, rickets, hypertension, and insulin resistance.

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions. It plays an important physiological role, particularly in the brain, heart, and skeletal muscles. Magnesium is involved in the synthesis of ATP, DNA, and RNA, mitochondrial health, neurotransmission, nitric oxide metabolism, and the maintenance of normal muscle and nerve function, neurotransmitters, bone strength, heart rhythm, and the immune system.

A deficiency of magnesium has been associated with muscle spasms, cramping, nervousness, anxiety, numbness and tingling, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, elevated blood pressure, osteoporosis and inflammation in chronic disease. Additionally, magnesium can be beneficial for headaches and migraines as serum levels have been found to be lower in migraine sufferers.

SELENIUM

Selenium is an antioxidant, a cofactor for glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductases, plays a role in the functioning of the thyroid gland, and is functionally essential for the immune system, particularly for the Th1 cytokine-mediated immune response. Selenium is involved in redox reactions that can affect cellular processes, such as DNA repair. It is essential for the endocrine system, the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, reproductive biology, and muscle function.

Selenium deficiency has been linked to cardiomyopathy, osteochondral diseases, oxidative stress, and various chronic degenerative diseases. Development of depression and intensification of anxiety has been observed in people with selenium deficiency.

ZINC

Zinc is a component of at least 300 metalloenzymes that catalyse more than 50 different physiological reactions. Zinc is also a component of thousands of transcription factor proteins characterised as “zinc fingers” and related structures. It supports a Th1 cytokine-mediated immune response. Zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient.

Zinc is essential for growth and development, the metabolism of RNA and DNA, signal transduction, synaptic plasticity, and gene expression. Cell culture studies of high zinc concentrations have been found to inhibit the replication of various RNA viruses, including influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and several picornaviruses. A 2010 paper found that zinc inhibited the replication and activity of coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in vitro. This is very interesting and more research should be conducted as a priority.

Zinc deficiency has been linked with decreased immunity, taste abnormalities, abnormal water balance, skin lesions, growth impairment, emotional instability, irritability, depression, and impaired cognition and learning. Low intracellular zinc has been found to be associated with oxidative stress, reduced antioxidant defences, DNA damage, and altered DNA repair.

AMINO ACIDS

N-ACETYLCYSTEINE

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that contains a thiol group. NAC has numerous properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and mucolytic actions, along with improving lipid profile and decreasing oxidative stress. NAC is one of the precursors of glutathione, which is an important antioxidant. The use of NAC has led to reductions in systolic blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and parameters of insulin resistance. NAC reduces paracetamol toxicity.

PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are involved in immune system development, immunomodulation, digestive health, and intestinal wall integrity. The uses of probiotics include depression, anxiety, mood, stress, memory, sleep, anger, fatigue, digestive disorders, skin conditions, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

Please contact Dr Brad McEwen PhD if you are interested in collaborating in writing articles or undertaking a research project.

This information is presented for informational purposes only. It does not replace or substitute medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose or treat, and should not be used to do so. Always consult a health professional. See Terms and Conditions for more information.

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