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HEADACHESThe TMJ Connection HoW To Tell Which Vitamins You Really Need FISH In Your Diet Protects Your

ur Health Danger In Secondhand smoke



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I have u ncharacteristically somber thoughts as I write this month. In gazi og out over the San Francisco Bay on this blissfully sunny day I can not escape the awareness that potentially the greatest modern health plague is increasing its death toll.
HIS COLUMN IS ABOUT the immune system, and how it might be possible to prevent aging and degenerative disease by bolstering that system. At the same time, it is impossible to escape discussion of the warfare against immunity waged by a virus thought to be LAV or HTLV-III, infamously known as the AIDS virus. AIDS eventually destroys the ability of the body to fend off disease. Researchers now believe that the incubation period for this uniformly fatal disease may be up to 14 years, then the effects of AIDS appear and death follows hastily. This city with a total population of about 750,000 can expect to have 750 of its residents diagnosed with AIDS in the next twelve months. Before you cancel your vacation by the Bay, understand that the official number of AIDS cases reported nationwide has passed 10,000. Almost half of that group has already died. Up to 300 new AIDS cases are reported in the U.S. every week. Shockingly, close to 500,000 Americans now carry immune antibodies which reflect exposure to AIDS, and the number is quickly ascending. Is each of these persons likely to develop a full-blown case of AIDS? Can they communicate the disease

to others? I will leave you to imagine the logical progression of questions. AIDS has introduced many people to the immune system in much the same way that war introduced Americans to Vietnam. It was there all along but we ordinarily lived quite happily without knowing it. When we did meet it wasn't on the best of terms. Now there is no going back. The immune system is the first line of defense against illness. A primary reason we no longer are limited to a lifespan of 50 years and do not die largely from infectious disease is the strengthening of immunity through good nutrition and sanitation. For the first time in many decades, we now find ourselves confronted with new infections, such as AIDS and Toxic Shock Syndrome, diseases which challenge the immune defense. Immunity, obtained by various means, is the complex method of protecting living cells against destruction by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens. Inherited immunity is possessed by most people long before birth. An alternative method of obtaining immunity is through contact with other people or, of less importance, through drugs. Most immunity is afforded by cells called lymphocytes which continuously search and destroy invading pathogens and body cells which have lost their original value. T lymphocytes (T-cells), produced primarily in the thymus gland, actually feed on cells which have been identified as "foreign," including cancer cells, and viral and bacterial pathogens. B-cells, produced in bone marrow and in the spleen, disarm microbes and viruses by producing antibodies known as immunoglobulins. Interferons are another key element in the immune system. They selectively prevent the RNA of viruses from transmit. ting information essential for their reproduction, without hindering the body's

own normal cell reproduction. A great deal of research is being conducted into medical uses for these chemical defenders, though their value as drugs is unknown at present. One convincing theory suggests that aging is the sum effect of the long-term breakdown of the immune system. Whether as a cause or effect of aging, immunity certainly declines over the years. The ability to produce new cells, which is essential for immunity, declines measurably, reducing the potency of attack against invaders. Thus, in old age one is more susceptible to infectious disease, as well as cancer and heart disease. The immune system also loses much of its selectivity with age. With cruelist irony, the system begins to increase production of antibodies which attack the body itself. Known as the autoimmune response, the body begins to reject its own parts as if they were foreign, exactly as occurs with individuals who have received organ transplants. Autoimmunity plays a key role in many diseases, including arthritis and diabetes. It is clearly possible to limit the immune decline which comes with age, and several influential scientists believe that this will lead to tremendous increases in lifespan. Normally, the thymus begins to shrink in size and function rather early in life. This obviously limits the gland's ability to produce the T-cells which are so essential. By supplementing regularly with zinc, it is apparently possible to avoid at least part of this thymic decline. Furthermore, it seems that zinc supplementation can effectively bolster the thymu5 even when begun later in life. In one published study, a group of healthy volunteers over age seventy received zinc supplements (160 mg. daily for one month). As compared to the control groups which did not receive extra zinc, those who did showed increased levels of T -cells indicating better immune function. Zinc has also been shown to improve the ability of cells to fend off disease. Unfortunately, zinc is commonly deficient in American diets, particularly among the elderly who need it most, so it is an important first place to begin a life extension program based on enhanced immunity. Several gerontologists have recommended daily zinc supplements of 25-50 mg. Personally, I choose the higher potency since zinc has such critical value and relatively low toxicity. It is not uncommon


BESTWAYS August 1985

for zinc tablets to cause a bit of stomach upset so they are best taken shortly after a meal. Iron is another mineral which positively affects the production ofT-cells, perhaps through its involvement with the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase and several bacteria-killing enzymes. Candida and herpes simplex infections are both more common in individuals who are iron-deficient. While there has lately been some antiiron propagandizing by one or two manufacturers there is no demonstrated hazard for most people in supplementing moderate amounts of the mineral, on the order of 15-25 mg. daily. I take my iron

As a powerful antioxidant, selenium protects cells throughout the body from damage by free radicals.
as ferrous gluconate and after a meal. It is especially important for a new mother to have sufficient iron levels and to consider breastfeeding since iron-related immunity is conferred through human milk . Vitamin A, and its precursor beta carotene, have been shown to increase immunity in animals. Improved antibody levels and cellular immunity have been produced by supplementation with these nutrients. Even the American Cancer Society now recommends a diet high in beta carotene-which is converted in the body to Vitamin A-as a cancer preventive due to its ability to deactivate singlet oxygen, which can severely damage cells. Individuals who are deficient in preformed Vitamin A, derived from animal sources, or beta carotene from plants, heal less efficiently and are more susceptible to infection. Diabetics cannot convert carotene to Vitamin A and are very likely to be deficient in the vitamin . Preformed Vitamin A can be toxic and should only be taken in small doses, usually not exceeding 10,000 IU. Beta carotene, though, has very low toxicity and is converted to Vitamin A only as needed . It also has functions which are distinctly different than that associated with its role as a provitamin. Thus, beta carotene is almost always the supplement of choice for someone seeking additional Vitamin A protection (except for diabetics), and my daily supplement contains 25 mg. of the ingredient in the dry form. Selenium is yet another essential



mineral which is associated with cancer body and is actually a powerful antiprevention and a strengthened immune carcinogen and immunostimulant (stimsystem. It activates production of co- ulates the immune system). Selenium enzyme Q, which in turn stimulates the supplementation can be very useful and immune system. In one study, mice treat- safe when done wisely. Soil levels of the ed with coenzyme Q showed significant mineral (and therefore food levels) vary immune enhancement. widely in the U.S., so it is a good idea to Researchers at Colorado State Univer- investigate the soil content in your area. sity have stimulated antibodies in mice Richard Passwater's book Selenium as up to 30-fold by feeding them selenium. Food and Medicine supplies basic inforOther studies have used selenium to im- mation on geographical distribution of prove immunity in sheep, dogs, and the mineral and your public library guinea pigs. The nutrient also enhances should be able to help you obtain further the effects of certain vaccines, such as for details . There is great controversy over which malaria. Selenium deficiency causes a reduction form of selenium makes the superior of lymphocytes and phagocytes, a type dietary supplement. I will enlarge on this of immune cell which consumes foreign issue in the near future, but for now I will pathogens. As a powerful antioxidant, reveal that my daily selenium dose is 150 selenium protects cells throughout the micrograms (meg.). Of course, none of the above guaranbody from damage by free radicals. This may bestow three related physiologic tees that you personally will have inbenefits. First, it might diminish the con- creased lifespan or totally avoid disease, stant level of immune response necessary just as it can't be guaranteed that you will to deal with free radical damage. Second, not get lung cancer if you don't smoke. it might reduce the autoimmune damage However, there is ample evidence that associated with aging. Third, immune you can bend the odds greatly in your cells can themselves be protected from favor with these simple measures . Next time I will continue the discusfree radical damage. At one time scientists thought that sion of beneficial ingredients, focusing selenium had no beneficial role in human on Vitamin C and arginine, and consider nutrition and was itself a potential car- some prudent measures for minimizing cinogen. Now it is very clear that selen- insults to the immune system caused by D ium has several important roles in the diet and lifestyle.

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