new approaches

Wednesday Bubble: The “De’s” have it

Posted by on Sep 1, 2010 in new approaches | 0 comments

This week’s Bubble is truly straight out of bubble-land. Flashing? There’s a drink for that. Not on your game? There’s a drink for that. Finding that you can’t handle the demands of daily life? There’s a drink for that too?


Yes ladies, you can ‘deFlash,” deBug” and “deCompress” with EYL – Enrich your Life drinks.

Look, I’m a huge supporter of alternative therapies, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal remedies, etc, so long as they are thoroughly studied. But time and again, we see enriched nutritional products that are long on promises and short on delivery. And while functional foods — foods that deliver more than nutritional benefits — are certainly the wave of the future, I do believe that these foods need regulation and evidence behind them. Japan may be one of the few countries that actually regulates functional foods.

So before you spend your hard-earned dollars on drinking your flashes away, why not do some research and see which alternatives actually pack a powerful punch beyond their marketing claims?

The “De’s?” How about “deceptive?”

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Wednesday Bubble: Is S-equol the next big thing?

Posted by on Jul 14, 2010 in new approaches | 5 comments

Last year I wrote a few posts about the potential of the isoflavone S-equol for addressing menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and mood swings.

If you are unfamiliar with S-equol, it is actually a metabolite of a one of the three soy isoflavone compounds (i.e. daidzein), and is produced by bacteria that live in the intestines. One of the most interesting things about S-equol is that is one of the principal types of isoflavones that are found in soybeans and most soy foods. However, up to 80% of the U.S. population and about half of the Japanese population (who consume inordinate amounts of soy) cannot manufacture S-equol on their own and need to obtain it in supplement form.

This month’s Journal of Nutrition has devoted an entire supplement to S-equol research, and I’ve been fortunate to take a more detailed look at the evidence supporting the role of S-equol for menopausal symptoms. Notably, some of the  researchers actually say that “to conduct menopausal medical care appropriately [which, in their opinion, should be geared towards a better quality of life on an individual basis), it is necessary to provide evidence-based alternative medicines as much as possible.” It is wonderfully refreshing to find such esteemed colleagues backing my view of how menopause should be approached.

Hence, without further ado, following is what you need to know about the recap of study findings, and what still needs to be explored before we all start taking S-Equol.

In three randomized studies conducted in pre-, peri- and menopausal Japanese women who were or were not able to produce S-equol naturally, researchers found specific benefits in three areas:

  • Mood improvement: 134 women who produced S-equol naturally and took a 10 mg daily S-equol supplement had significant reductions in anxiety; those who took 10 mg three times a day had significant declines in tension-anxiety and fatigue, and an increase in overall energy. Note that these women also limited their daily intake of soy products to no more than 20 mg/day.
  • Hot flashes and other symptoms: In 320 women taking 10 mg S-equol daily or placebo for 12 weeks, S-equol supplements reduced the frequency of hot flashes by as much as 58%. Decreases in muscle and neck stiffness were also reported.
  • Bone health: In 54 women who had undergone menopause within 5 years of the study, those who were able to produce S-equol naturally and took 75 mg  isoflavones daily supplement (mostly consisting of daidzein) lost a significantly lower percentage of bone in their hip area than women who were not able to produce S-equol naturally but also took the daily supplement. Researchers believe that S-equol actually mimics the action of estrogen in the body in terms of its ability to maintain bone mass and the balance between the build up of bone (bone formation) and the loss of bone (bone resorption). However, studies looking at how it acts in the body have only been conducted in mice and at relatively high doses. Information reported in the Journal supplement does show that at higher dosages, S-equol can negatively affect the tissues lining the uterus.

A few key take-away points to think about when we think about S-equol:

Researchers believe that the research in S-equol helps to show that soy isoflavones work best in individuals whose bodies are able to produce S-equol naturally. However, you’ve read the stats – the majority of people who live in the US do not produce S-equol naturally. Dosing and the exact type of S-equol may also influence outcomes. Likewise, They still aren’t sure how bacteria in the intestines influence S-equol’s effects and wonder if somehow, some other mechanism is at play. Further research is also needed to see if the beneficial effects of S-equol on menopausal symptoms can be extended to women who do not produce it naturally.

It’s too early to boost this bubble and I’m excited by this evidence-based alternative. Naysayers love to point out that alternative therapies are sham and snake oil. While this may be true of some preparations, it’s clear that researchers are taking natural substances to a higher level to see if they offer efficacy without the risks of hormone replacement.

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Wednesday Bubble: An ‘Evolutionary’ not ‘Revolutionary’ Rx for Hot Flashes?

Posted by on Jun 23, 2010 in menopause, new approaches | 2 comments

This week’s bubble brought to you by the manufacturers of Amberen™, a new menopausal treatment that bills itself as revolutionary not evolutionary. What they mean by this is that Amberen, a novel, non-hormal treatment for menopausal symptoms, does not represent an evolution of the same herbs (e.g. black cohosh, chaste berry) used by other manufacturers but a revolutionary new approach and strategy to addressing troublesome symptoms during menopause. Personally, I believe that anything that isn’t HRT based is evolutionary, however that aside, this week’s bubble is pretty darn solid and early data, pretty encouraging!

What is Amberen?

Amberen is a food supplement mostly composed of an enzyme known as succinate that is involved in metabolism. Dramatic swings in estrogen that result during menopause significantly affect the sensitive functioning of the  hypothalamic-pituitary-ovary (HPO) axis (part of the neuroendocrine system that regulates many processes in the body, including interactions between the glands and hormones).  According to published research, very small doses of succinate help to restore the way that the aging HPO axis functions, thereby promoting hormonal balance. In turn, this appears to boost estradiol levels and alleviate menopausal symptoms.

In small clinical studies, Amberen appeared to act as hormones in the body, resulting in self-reported reductions in the frequency of hot flashes, declines in insomnia and headache, and improvements in mood, anxiety and impaired sexual desire. Honestly, it sounds a bit too good to be true, so I am not entirely convinced. However, the researchers are quoted as saying that this approach to jump-starting HPO sensitivity could open the way for safer treatments for a variety of conditions, and not just menopause.

Amberen is not for everyone as it is not inexpensive, requiring at least a $90 commitment upfront (although there is an offer on the website for a 30 day free trial, a further dive shows that it takes at least 90 days to realize its full effects). However a three month on, three month off dosing schedule might be more convenient for women who have trouble remembering to take pills regularly.

Importantly, I did not see any reported details on side effects in the clinical studies I looked at, although the website cautions against women using Amberen if they have any thyroid or high blood pressure issues. I”d like to see more information on that as well.

Like any treatment for menopause, it’s essential to speak to your healthcare professional before diving in and trying Amberen. Personally, I’d like to see larger studies and specific information on side effects before making any real commitment to the product. However, I am intrigued by Amberen’s potential and certainly by this new approach to treatment, a seemingly viable and effective alternative to hormone replacement.

Have you tried Amberen? What do you think?

[Disclosure – I was approached by Amberen’s PR agency to see if I’d be interested in the product. After requesting and reviewing the clinical studies, I decided to write about it. I was not compensated for this piece nor was I sent or accepted any product.]

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