We all know that vitamins are important to our health, but do you really know what vitamins do? As essential nutrients, vitamins function as coenzymes or components of coenzymes, catalyzing critical biochemical processes in the human body, including growth and metabolism. Because of this, they support everything from brain function and heart health to immune defenses, bones and joints—pretty much every organ and system in the human body. Recently published trials support the benefits of supplementing with key vitamins for diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and hearing deficits.
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Vitamin K2 for Arthritis
Studies have shown that different forms of vitamin K2 (menaquinones) may benefit those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by supporting apoptosis (programmed cell death) in RA synovial cells.(1)
A recent study led by researchers from Taibah University (Madina, Saudi Arabia) investigated the benefits of vitamin K2 (as menaquinone-7) supplementation in individuals receiving standard therapy for RA.(2) A total of 84 RA patients (average age 47.2 years old) were randomized into two groups. One group supplemented with menaquinone-7 (100 mcg/day for three months). The second group received only standard therapy for RA.
At the end of the study, those who supplemented with meanquinone-7 had significant decreases in several clinical and biochemical markers of RA, including in the following inflammation measures: erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-3). Furthermore, significant improvements were seen on DAS28-ESR (a standardized measure of disease activity score), indicating the potential of menaquinone-7 to augment standard drug therapy for RA.
1. Okamoto H et al., “Vitamin K and rheumatoid arthritis,” IUBMB Life, vol. 60, no. 6 (June 2008): 355–361
2. Abdel-Rahman MS et al., “Menaquinone-7 as a novel pharmacological therapy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: A clinical study,” European Journal of Pharmacology. Published online June 11, 2015.
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Vitamin D for Multiple Sclerosis
Research indicates that low serum vitamin D levels are associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and that low vitamin D levels can affect the severity of the disease. For this reason, patients with MS are often advised to supplement with vitamin D.(3)
A recent study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD), Duke University (Durham, NC) and Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA) investigated the immune-health effects of vitamin D supplementation in 40 patients with MS.(4) The study also evaluated the tolerability of a low dose versus a high dose of vitamin D in these patients. During the six-month, double-blind trial, subjects took (daily) a multivitamin containing 400 IU vitamin D3 and 1000 mg calcium, as well as either an additional 10,000 IU or 400 IU of vitamin D3.
Serum vitamin D levels improved significantly more in the high-dose group (whose serum levels averaged 34.9 ng/ml) versus the low-dose group (whose serum levels averaged 6.9 ng/ml). Moreover, subjects in the high-dose group saw a significant decrease in the number of immune T cells that expressed the cytokine IL-17. No such changes were seen in the low-dose group. IL-17 is a cytokine thought to play a significant role in MS because it increases inflammation in the nervous system.
In the high-dose vitamin D group, further beneficial changes were seen in other T cell numbers as well, indicating the vitamin’s ability to broadly impact immune parameters in MS patients. Vitamin D3 was found to be safe and well-tolerated, lending further support for its use in individuals with MS.
3. Simpson S et al., “Higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with lower relapse risk in multiple sclerosis,” Annals of Neurology, vol. 68, no. 2 (August 2010): 193–203
4. Sotirchos ES et al., “Safety and immunologic effects of high- vs low-dose cholecalciferol in multiple sclerosis,” Neurology, vol. 87, no. 13 (September 27, 2016): 382–390
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B-Vitamins for a Healthy Heart
Earlier research has shown that supplementation with B vitamins—specifically, vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid—lowers homocysteine levels(5), a risk marker for heart and cognitive health. As newer research now shows, however, the effects of B vitamins for supporting the heart go beyond lowering homocysteine levels.
A recent study conducted in China sought to evaluate whether low-dose vitamin B supplements could reduce the risk of heart and vascular diseases. Researchers evaluated this by assessing improvements in Framingham risk score, a standardized algorithm used to estimate an individual’s 10-year cardiovascular risk.(6)
The year-long, double-blind clinical trial included 390 healthy individuals aged 60 to 74. Subjects were asked to supplement with either 1) 50 mg of vitamin C daily, or 2) the vitamin C supplement along with 400 mcg folic acid, 2 mg vitamin B6, and 10 mcg vitamin B12.
After 12 months, the Framingham risk score decreased significantly in the B-vitamin group compared to the control group, with an average decline of 7.6%. The improvement was even more evident in those who were folate deficient. Furthermore, B vitamins increased levels of HDL cholesterol by 9.2% after 12 months of supplementation. Another indication the B vitamins had an impact? The magnitude of improvements seen in the study were reversed once subjects had discontinued supplementation for six months.
5. Debreceni B et al., “The role of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamins in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” Cardiovascular Therapeutics, vol. 32, no. 3 (June 2014): 130–138
6. Wang L et al., “Low-dose B vitamins supplementation ameliorates cardiovascular risk: A double-blind randomized controlled trial in healthy Chinese elderly,” European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 54, no. 3 (April 2015): 455–464
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Antioxidants for Hearing Loss
Sudden deafness, or idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL), is a condition in which an individual suddenly (or over a few days) experiences a loss of hearing of 30 decibels or more. These losses usually occur in one ear.(7) The causes are often unknown but may be associated with infections, trauma, neurological disorders, or circulation issues.
Oxidative stress is also thought to contribute to the progression of ISSHL, with the thought that antioxidant therapy may thus aid hearing recovery. In a recent study on patients experiencing ISSHL, investigators at the ENT Clinic at Bakırköy Dr.Sadi Konuk Teaching and Research Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, evaluated the effect of standard drug therapy combined with an antioxidant cocktail that included vitamins A, C, E and the mineral selenium.(8)
In the 30-day study, 126 individuals received (twice daily) either standard drug therapy plus an antioxidant cocktail, or else they received only the standard drug therapy alone. The antioxidant cocktail contained vitamin A (natural beta-carotene; 26,000 IU), vitamin C (ascorbic acid; 200 mg), vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol; 200 IU), and selenium (50 mcg).
Those supplementing with the antioxidant cocktail plus drug therapy experienced average hearing gains of 36.2 decibels, while the group receiving standard drug therapy only averaged gains of 27.1 decibels. The difference between the two groups was statistically significant, indicating that antioxidant supplementation is effective in aiding hearing recovery from sudden deafness.
7. Sudden Deafness | NIDCD. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/sudden-deafness. Accessed August 12, 2016.
8. Kaya H et al., "Vitamins A, C, and E and selenium in the treatment of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss,” European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, vol. 272, no. 5 (May 2015): 1119–1125
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