Archive for July, 2008

Oyster extract can boost the immune system response.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

When one thinks of fresh oysters the mind usually races to images of Casanova, seduction and sexual libido. Not many people think immunity, cold and flu prevention or infection resistance. And yet, down there in the depths of the ocean, the oyster has an incredible story to tell about it’s own immunity and it also has some pretty remarkable benefits for those bold enough to partake of this delicacy. And for those who just can’t handle that slithery sensation, happy days, oyster extract has arrived to boost the immune response and lift those winter blues.

Oyster extract is the dried meat of the oyster. It is then powdered and placed in a capsule or made into a tablet. 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 highest can boast this claim, and very few of the companies making oyster extract recognise this.

It is this natural, organic, bio available zinc which is of great interest to us. The oyster accumulates zinc to much higher levels than any other animal known. The reason for this, while not clearly defined by science, has a lot to do with the oysters own immunity. The oyster operates an open circulation system and when invading bacteria enter it, the oyster’s immune response springs into action. During this defence a process called the ‘metabolic burst’ occurs which results in the destruction of the invading pathogen but also results in the release of large amounts of free radicals which could harm tissues and organs if not eliminated. To mop up these free radicals the oyster produces large quantities of an anti-oxidant called SOD or superoxide dismutase. However to make SOD the oyster needs lots of zinc, and this is most likely the reason they have such high levels of zinc in the body.

The good news for us is that if we take an extract that is produced with due regard for these SOD molecules, we will be taking a very potent form of zinc supplement that will have a very beneficial effect on our own immunity. This zinc will come bound in transport molecules that will make it highly bio available as opposed to the many synthetic and chelated alternatives available.

This zinc stimulates the immune response by causing the Thymic gland to produce thymulin. Thymulin stimulates the T-Cells and the T4 helper cells and both these cells are critical to a healthy immune system. This same zinc also helps our bodies produce human SOD just like in the oyster, and when our bodies are fighting infection and producing free radicals, it mops these up preventing further tissue damage in our bodies.

A strong immune system can help offset the common cold and influenza when winter looms large. An improved immune system response is also of great benefit to anyone with compromised immunity like HIV patients or people undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Certain groups who are prone to zinc deficiency will also benefit greatly from a course of oyster extract. These include the elderly whose zinc absorption slows with age, alcoholics, and athletes who secrete a lot of zinc during training.

Finally, a cautionary note for those planning to take a course of oyster extract. Not all oyster extracts are the same. In the last year alone 2 products of Chinese origin have been taken off the market because of contamination from banned substances. Only use an extract which comes from manufacturers with proper certification such as FDA or European Union approval. Both these entities have similar high standards. Ask your supplier where the oysters used to make the extract come from, if it is a pure extract with no additives, and then make an informed decision.

Acne treatment, in a shell.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

From the depths of the ocean comes a product that few have considered as a possible treatment for acne. However sitting there in it’s shell on the bottom of the ocean, the oyster possesses some remarkable properties that can have a marked effect on the progression of acne and other skin disorders. Fresh oysters are of course delicious but are hard to get and are not to every ones liking. Oyster extract offers a way to get all the benefits without the oral sensation.

The reason for this is because the oyster has very high levels of key trace elements and bioactive enzymes, which can be very useful in the treatment of acne. One of these is zinc. Not just any zinc, like the synthetic zinc supplements one finds in the health food store or pharmacy, but natural, organic, bio available zinc. And not just zinc alone, but zinc with co-factors like copper, manganese and selenium. All bound in protein structures which make them highly bio available.

Do not underestimate the bio availability issue. Zinc uptake is greatest in the jejunum, which is the part of the intestine directly after the stomach. However for uptake to occur the zinc must first bind to active transport molecules. For synthetic zinc this is a problem, but for zinc from an oyster it is not, as that zinc is already bound to these transport molecules and ready for uptake. This raises certain issues about the efficacy of synthetic zinc supplements.

So why is this zinc so important I hear you say eagerly? Zinc plays a key role in almost 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Many of these happen in the skin. For example, zinc enzymes control the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, both of which keep it supple and young looking. For acne sufferers the major issues are the flare-ups and the scarring.

Acne is caused when pores get clogged and sebum production runs riot. The ensuing infection is what causes the redness and soreness. The scarring can be permanent in severe cases. Zinc helps in several ways.

  1. Zinc controls the production of vitamin B6. This vitamin in turn helps regulate the production of sebum.
  2. Zinc stimulates the immune system to produce thymulin with activates T-cells and T4 helper cells. These can help fight any infections, which might be threatening in an infected follicle.
  3. If a flare up has occurred, zinc can reduce scarring as it is essential for new cell growth and it is involved in many enzymes, which regulate tissue repair and tissue regeneration.

So how do you know if you are zinc deficient? The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to 80% of Western society may suffer from mild zinc deficiency. It is caused mainly by poor nutrition and certain groups can be more prone than others can. Athletes loose more zinc through sweat than normal people and should therefore be careful about zinc supplementation. Sexually active males, alcoholics and the elderly are also groups that have a higher incidence of zinc deficiency than normal. However poor nutrition and processed foods depleted of micronutrients are the biggest culprits. This is a big problem nowadays as corporate agriculture and corporate food processors are more concerned about profits and less concerned about nutrient availability in the products they create.

The solution is to seek out fresh ingredients and try to have a healthy diet. Think Slow Food not Fast Food. Taking a good zinc supplement is also wise if you suspect you are zinc deficient. Oyster extract is by far one of the best forms of zinc supplement available on the market today. However, beware of cheap products that come from countries with dubious records on environmental quality. Oysters must be grown in clean waters and the process must be conscious of preserving the key elements in high concentrations to be effective.

Some oyster extracts can have 20-30 times less zinc than others as they process the oysters not for nutrient concentrations but for bulk yields and profits. The bulkier extracts can be high in glycogen but low in the micronutrients that can aid acne treatment. Much research has been carried out on zinc and acne and the results are very encouraging. If you wish to try an oyster extract find one that is high in zinc and be prepared to pay that little extra for the extra benefits you’ll receive. Lastly, try to remember that oyster extract is not just the best form zinc supplement you can take, it is a whole food supplement that contains 59 trace elements, vitamins, amino acids and omega 3 & 6 fish oils. Quite a big offering from the little oyster.