Archive for June, 2008

Zinc & Testosterone in Healthy Adults

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This article, co-authored by a team of five researchers headed by Ananda S. Prasad, M.D., Ph.D., has enormous implications for all bodybuilders, especially those who are “natural.” It was originally published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nutrition, Volume 12, No.5, 1996, pp. 344-348.

Dr. Prasad is considered to be the world expert on the trace mineral zinc and its metabolic effects on human beings. He has somewhere between 200 and 300 peer-reviewed publications to his credit and knows very well how to design a research project. He notes at the beginning of the research report’s abstract that “Zinc deficiency is prevalent throughout the world, including the USA.”

In this article, Dr. Prasad discusses an investigatioin of the effect of “mild zinc deficiency” on the serum testosterone levels of men.

BACKGROUND: Testosterone, as the reader may know, is the male sex hormone that many steroids are formulated to mimic. It is produced naturally in men and signals the body to develop male characteristics, including increased muscle mass. Certain background information here is very important. At BALCO Laboratories, Inc., of Burlingame, California, where the trace mineral levels of more than 200,000 people, including thousands of athletes, have been measured, a test called multi-element analysis has shown that approximately 70% of all athletes tested have been shown to have either a depletion (which is what Prasad calls a “mild deficiency”) or an outright deficiency. In either case, in one or more ways health and performance may be impaired. In the case of a deficiency, the individual will have one or more overt symptoms identifiable by any knowledgable physician.

Let us emphasize this point more strongly. Over 70% of the serious athletes BALCO has tested have proven depleted or deficient in zinc. This includes entire professional football and basketball teams, many amateur and professional bodybuilders, hundreds of Olympic athletes scattered among many different events, karate champions, and even elite tennis players.

By and large, these athletes are people who pay careful attention to their diet, yet the majority are still they are depleted or deficient in zinc.

According to a conversation we have had with Dr. Prasad, bodybuilders are prone to zinc depletion or deficiency for a number of reasons.

First, one of the best sources of zinc is red meat. Many bodybuilders eat a reduced amount of meat, concentrating instead on chicken and fish as their main protein sources.

Second, bodybuilders lose more zinc than do non-exercisers. Zinc exits the body in a number of ways, including through sweat. On an exercise day, an athlete will lose 50% more zinc through sweat than on a non-exercise day.

Third, bodybuilders require significantly more zinc than do non-exercisers.

In fact, because bodybuilding involves the infliction of a great deal of micro-damage to cells and tissues that must be repaired, and because the muscle are stimulated through exercise to grow, the director of BALCO Labs estimates that bodybuilders may require up to twice as much zinc as do non-exercisers.

This means that if you are a bodybuilder, you are very likely to have either a zinc depletion or deficiency. And if you are using steroids, which depress the body’s zinc, magnesium and copper levels, you are even more likely to be zinc deficient.

PRASAD’S METHODS AND FINDINGS:
Dr. Prasad’s study involved several different populations.

The most important for bodybuilders is the group of four normal adult men approximately 27 years old. He measured their serum testosterone levels, then fed them a diet low in zinc for six months, thus inducing a “mild zinc deficiency” in them. As they progressed through the diet, he measured their serum testosterone levels two more times, once after eight weeks and once again after 20 weeks. As these men became progressively zinc depleted, their serum testosterone concentrations dropped. The chart Dr. Prasad has included on page 347 of the study indicates that by the end of the 20 weeks they had approximately ¼ the testosterone that they had had at the study’s beginning.

The implictions of this for bodybuilders and other athletes is clear. If you are depleted or deficient in zinc—and BALCO’s clinical experience indicates that you probably are—you can significantly increase your testosterone level through zinc supplementation.

In another group of nine older men 55 to 73 years old, Prasad and his fellow researchers measured serum testosterone levels. These men, he notes, were “marginally zinc deficient” (what BALCO calls “depleted”) at the time of the first measurement. After three to six months of zinc supplementation, he measured their serum testosterone levels again. Their testosterone levels had approximately doubled.

For many bodybuilders, this also has important implications. As you get older, your testosterone levels decline. That’s one reason why older bodybuilders have more difficulty adding muscle mass than the younger men in the gym. Many bodybuilders begin to sense at the age of 35 or 40 that adding muscle has become more difficult. For someone around this age who is zinc depleted or zinc deficient, supplementation with a highly absorbable form of zinc (monomethionine or asparate or a combination of the two) can make a noticeable difference.

Warning: Do not buy an ineffective zinc supplement. Do not buy tablets. Capsules are more absorbable. Do not buy zinc oxide. This is not a very absorbable form of zinc. Do not buy any zinc supplement that lists any calcium compound in the ingredients because the presence of calcium will reduce your absorption of zinc.

If the capsule contains a filler, it is probably a calcium compound, which will reduce your absorption of the zinc. Fillers are often not mentioned on the list of ingredients. If you are buying a supplement from a health food store and the clerk doesn’t know what the filler of a product is, ask him or her to call the company to find out.

Zinc – Natures Most Precious Metal

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
Zinc, often described as the most ubiquitous trace element in the body, is of great importance in human nutrition. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to 80% of western society may be mildly zinc deficient. More severe zinc deficiency can be seen in developing countries where the population eats less meat and more vegetables.

Who is at risk?

In Western society moderate to severe zinc deficiency is restricted to certain groups. These include the elderly who have a reduced ability to absorb zinc, vegetarians who are not diligent on zinc intake, alcoholics who excrete a lot of zinc via the kidneys, and athletes and body builders who loose more zinc through sweat and have an increased demand to their exercise regimes.However, most of us at some time or other experience stress, fatigue, overwork and may not eat, or may not have time to eat, a proper balanced diet. It is at these times that we all run the risk of becoming zinc deficient. As zinc is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, the symptoms of zinc deficiency are very diverse.

What are the symptoms?
One of the first areas to suffer from zinc deficiency is our immune system. Zinc helps the thymus gland to produce thymulin which in return promotes T cell and T4 helper cell production. For this reason zinc is very beneficial for anyone with compromised immunity. It is also the reason a large percentage of the population decide to take zinc lozenges and zinc supplements of all kind coming into the winter to help off set the common cold and the flu.

Zinc helps the skin to maintain it’s elastin and collagen supply. It can improve wound healing and in certain conditions like acne, psoriasis and dermatitis it has proven benefits to help prevent flare-ups. It has a triple role in the case of acne as:

  1. It controls the production of sebum, the oily liquid which clogs the pores before a flare-up.
  2. It can help prevent or control the ensuing infection by stimulating the immune response.
  3. It can improve wound healing and therefore reduce scarring from any such flare-ups.

Zinc is very important for keratin production and both nails and hair are the first to suffer, even in mild zinc deficiency. Brittle nails, spilt ends, lack lustre hair, falling hair and nails that peel are but a few symptoms of zinc deficiency.

One of the very common symptoms of zinc deficiency is fatigue. Zinc is very important for testosterone production and when levels of the hormone fall in both men and women fatigue and exhaustion can result, especially when coupled with a hectic modern lifestyle. Because zinc is so important for testicular health it can help increase free testosterone in the blood and thereby re-invigorate and increase energy levels. It is also essential for prostate health and the prostate gland has more zinc in it than any other organ in the body. In women, whose testosterone levels are about one tenth that of males, the increase in testosterone not only improves energy levels but it can help prevent osteoporosis.

How do I know if I have a zinc deficiency?
Zinc deficiency is very hard to quantify. It varies from individual to individual and depends a lot on life style and diet. A normal adult consuming a well-balanced diet and not abusing alcohol or drugs should at worst be very mildly zinc deficient. For most of us it gets worst from there.
What are the best sources of zinc?
The best sources of zinc are from diet. For correct absorption of zinc into the bloodstream, that zinc must first bind to active transport molecules during the process of digestion. Zinc uptake is also inhibited by compounds called phytins ( phytic acid) which are found in wholegrains and plant fibres. This is where the efficacy of many synthetic zinc supplements is questioned. These large pills have to disintegrate and bind to transport proteins before leaving the stomach or the zinc is useless. The zinc receptor cells are located in the duodenum and once it passes here very little uptake can occur.

This is why eating foods rich in zinc is the best policy. These foods have the zinc already bound to active transport molecules such as amino acids and certain acids. Red meat and poultry provide much of the zinc in the Western diet but fish, nuts and some cereals are also good sources, just don’t forget the phytic acid dilemma.

The world is your oyster!
One of the best sources of zinc are oysters and oyster extract powder is an excellent supplemental source of zinc. However not all oyster powders are the same. Most use oysters harvested when the oysters meat yield is high and this is when the zinc concentration is lowest. These tend to be the cheaper ones from New Zealand, China and Japan. Water quality from the growing areas is also something not easily traced in countries who do not have trade agreements with the US and Europe. Other oyster extracts are in pill form so half the weight is binding agents and excipients with no nutritional value.
Which brand is best?
There are however some very potent ones on the market who harvest the oysters at the right time and process the oysters with this same potency in mind. While more expensive, they far out weigh the synthetic alternatives on the market and are ultimately money well spent. If you feel you are zinc deficient or have any of the symptoms of zinc deficiency consult your health adviser and decide on a zinc replenishment plan that is suitable for your lifestyle. Think before you zinc!

Oyster Extract Improves Mens Sexual Health

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

For centuries many have debated as truth or myth the fact that oysters are an aphrodisiac. The oyster lover will always agree, the oyster hater will always refute the claim. The problem for the poor old oyster in claiming it’s well deserved title, is that eating one can be quite a disconcerting experience for the not so seasoned gourmet. The taste and texture are most definitely an acquired taste and if eaten at the wrong time of the year when they are slightly milky, the virgin oyster eater may never wish to repeat the experience. However when eaten in season with a few condiments to ease the novice on board, they are quite simply an experience, the very thought of which, will cause the thinker to salivate with all the gusto of a ravenous canine. Many gourmets throughout history report them as being the ultimate hors d’oeuvres and no food can compare to them for setting the gastric juices flowing.

What’s the Alternative?
Ok, you say, they still look like something an emphysema patient coughed up. There is an alternative for those of you who want the effect but just can’t endure the oral sensation. It’s called oyster extract powder and it is available at a web site near you.

What is it and what does it do?
Usually, but not always it is the dried meat of the oyster, which is then powdered and put into a capsule. Some brands include the shell and are of very dubious quality. Others are in pill form where half the pill weight is made up of binders and excipients of no nutritional value whatsoever. Some however are from very reputable sources and contain all the ingredients of the fresh oyster, minus the taste and texture of course.

Are all brands the same?
Very few of the oyster extracts available really measure up however in terms of potency and this is because the oysters are harvested at times of the year when the oysters are very full of glycogen starch. This leaves very low concentrations of trace minerals and as such they lack potency. These tend to be the cheaper brands from China, New Zealand and Japan. Others recognise this fact and harvest when trace elements like zinc are at their maximum and these oyster extracts are very powerful and closest to the raw oyster in effect.

Ze Zinc, Monsieur!
It is these trace elements that give the oyster it’s potency and in particular the trace element zinc. Oysters are the highest natural source of zinc and they accumulate large quantities of it to help regulate certain physiological functions unique to the oyster. Science remains unclear on the exact functions but the levels of zinc are certain. In relation to men’s sexual health, zinc is very important for testicular health and prostate health. The prostate gland contains more zinc than any other organ in the body. Zinc supplementation has been shown to increase free testosterone levels in the blood which increases libido, reduces fatigue, and improves overall sexual health. Zinc deficient men develop a condition called hypogonadism in which the testicles shrink and loose function. Another interesting aspect of this zinc is that sperm contain very high levels zinc, 700 times more than in blood plasma. Again the reason for this is unclear but with every ejaculation an adult males looses approximately 0.7mg of zinc per ml of semen. Therefore each ejaculation can result in a loss of several mg’s of zinc for the adult male. The cumulative effect is a decrease in overall libido if suitable replenishment of zinc is not observed. So while it is this high level of natural zinc that can enhance the sexual vigour by way of free testosterone, it also improves testicular and prostate health resulting in fuller ejaculations which ultimately enhance sexual well being.

What about other sexual health supplements?
While many of the herbal supplements on the market report sex enhancing benefits none can compare to the oyster for nutrient values specific to men’s sexual health. And while many of the synthetic sex enhancing drugs of the Vxxx genre make wild claims none can replace the nutrients the body looses during sexual intercourse.

The World is Your Oyster
Oyster extract is a very clear contender to be the supplement of choice for those seeking good sexual health. It is in reality a whole food which contains amino acids, vitamins, omega 3 & 6 fish oils and all of the 59 trace elements the body needs including very high, the highest in fact, levels of natural organic zinc known in any foodstuff. Be sure to source a brand of reputable quality and origin, and one that shows respect and knowledge of the micro nutrient levels in the finished oyster extract. Think before you zinc!

About the Author
Stephen Kavanagh is a Marine Biologist and nutrition activist. His company, Gaia Biotechnology Ltd. is developing a range of bio active whole food supplements.

Oyster Extract: The Whole Food Supplement

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The food supplement business is booming, No where is this more evident than on the internet where thousands of companies compete to offer the latest cure all’s and at the best discounted prices. Americans will spend $30 billion this year alone on anti-oxidants. Europe is catching up fast with growth in the bio actives market reaching 35% last year. <!–more–>All very good news for the manufacturers and large multinationals who have jumped on the band wagon, but what about the unfortunate consumer who wants to augment their nutrition with a supplement, but doesn’t want to waste half their life searching through thousands of identical brands, gaining a PhD in nutritional studies along the way, before purchasing that all important anti-oxidant, which promises to be the elixir they have been searching for all along.

The Solution
The answer, in a nutshell, is not in fact in a nutshell, it may in fact, be in an oyster shell. There are few supplements on the market that contain the variety and quality of micro nutrients, in the one place, as oyster extract.

The Product
Oyster extract is the dried meat of the oyster, usually but not always excluding the shell. It is then powdered and placed in a capsule or made into a tablet and packaged ready for oral consumption. Assuming it is manufactured with due regard for the time of harvest, it contains all 59 of the trace elements needed by the body, vitamins, amino acids, taurine, omega 3 & 6 fish oils and it is the highest natural source of the trace element zinc. Only oyster extract harvested at times of the year when zinc potency is high can boast this claim, and very few of the companies making oyster extract recognise this.

The History
Oyster extract has been used for centuries in eastern medicine for liver cleansing and healthy male sexual functioning. In recent decades however our knowledge of micro nutrients has grown. Research in the last 50 years into the role of zinc in human biochemistry has drastically increased the uses to which oyster extract can be put in human nutrition.

The Science
We now know that zinc controls over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. These enzymes govern the way we look, feel and think. Everything from immunity, to sexual health, to skin condition and DNA synthesis rely on the correct levels of zinc for proper physiological functioning. However oyster extract also contains all of the 59 trace elements the body needs, vitamins, fish oils, amino acids and good levels of taurine. It is this combination of essential nutrients that make it a whole food and a food supplement all in one.

The Co-factors
One of the unique aspects of oyster extract powder is that it contains not only high levels of zinc but also significant levels of zinc’s co-factors. These include copper and manganese. This is a very important fact as taking zinc on it’s own can lead to imbalances in other trace elements in the body as they can have a negative feedback effect on each other. For example taking zinc on it’s own can lead to copper deficiency. Oyster extract has both elements in a balanced form, just as nature intended.

The Various Brands
Not all oyster extract powders are the same. Most use oysters harvested when the oyster’s meat yield is high and this is when the zinc concentration is lowest. These tend to be the cheaper ones from New Zealand, China and Japan. Water quality from the growing areas is also something not easily traced in countries who do not have trade agreements with the US and Europe. Other oyster extracts are in pill form so half the weight is binding agents and excipients with no nutritional value. Some brands actually include the shell, which means there is very little extract in the product and even less potency.

The Best Brands
There are however some very potent ones on the market who harvest the oysters at the right time and process the oysters with this same potency in mind. While more expensive, they far out weigh the synthetic alternatives on the market and are ultimately money well spent when one considers the benefits of taking a superior product.

The Alternatives
There are many synthetic zinc supplements on the market. The efficacy of many of these synthetic zinc supplements is questionable. These hard pills and lozenges have to disintegrate and bind to transport proteins before leaving the stomach or the zinc is useless. The zinc receptor cells are located in the duodenum and once zinc passes here very little uptake can occur. This is why eating foods rich in zinc is the best policy. These foods have the zinc already bound to active transport molecules such as amino acids and certain acids. This makes zinc from natural sources much more bio available. This is the case with oyster extract powder.

The High Risk Groups
In Western society moderate to severe zinc deficiency is restricted to certain groups. These include the elderly who have a reduced ability to absorb zinc, vegetarians who are not diligent on zinc intake, alcoholics who excrete a lot of zinc via the kidneys, and athletes and body builders who loose more zinc through sweat and have an increased demand to their exercise regimes. Sexually active males should also be careful about zinc intake.

The Benefits
High potency oyster extract is a very good supplement to treat any of the symptoms of zinc deficiency. These include skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis and psoriasis. Likewise brittle nails and weak or falling hair are early signs of zinc deficiency.People with compromised immunity or those trying to prevent and eliminate infection can use it as an immune booster. For men’s sexual health it is excellent for prostate health, testicular health and better all round libido. In women it can also boost hormone levels which counteract osteoporosis and increase libido. Oyster extract also contains useful amounts of taurine which has a cardio protective effect.

The Conclusion
If you feel you are zinc deficient or have any of the symptoms of zinc deficiency consult your health adviser and / or decide on a zinc replenishment plan that is suitable for your lifestyle. Think before you zinc!

About the Author
Stephen Kavanagh is a Marine Biologist and nutrition activist. His company, Gaia Biotechnology Ltd. is developing a range of bio active whole food supplements.