In recent weeks there have been some negative articles regarding the value of vitamin supplementation. The reporting has been extremely biased and misleading. I can make this statement with reasonable objectiveness. I have been a practicing neurologist for approximately twenty years and was traditionally trained in both internal medicine and neurology.
Up until ten years ago, I too was of the opinion that vitamin and mineral supplementation was both a waste of time and money. However, over the years as I’ve critically analyzed many of the tens of thousands of medical studies published in the field of nutritional supplementation, I have come to realize that my basic training in medicine was flawed and insufficient. For reporters who lack medical and biochemistry training or knowledge to make blanket statements that vitamin and mineral supplementation are of no value and potentially even harmful are not only wrong but could literally cost thousands of lives.
This post is not meant to be a rebuttal but for the recent negative publicity. Another post will be devoted to this. When reporters, uninformed or biased scientists and doctors dismiss the field of nutritional supplementation, they potentially cause much damage. To illustrate that point, I would like to give just a few small examples. As a neurologist I take care of many patients with the complications of diabetes mellitus. One horrible complication is a condition known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy. In this condition, the nerve endings slowly die leading to loss of sensation in the feet, legs and hands which at times can be painful and can lead to weakness and difficulty walking. In extreme situations, patients can be incapacitated by this condition. “Modern” medicine has nothing of any significance to treat this condition. However, there are some natural nutrients that can make a difference.
There is an amazing nutrient known as acetyl L-carnitine (ALC). This nutrient is an amino acid responsible for transporting certain fatty acids into the energy producing portion of the cell known as the mitochondria. In the last two decades, there have been multiple studies demonstrating the benefit of ALC for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive disorders. In more recent years, researchers have looked at the benefits of ALC for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.
A study out of Italy was published last year. In the study, 333 patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy were randomized in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled fashion. Half of the patients received initial doses of 1000 mg daily of intramuscular ALC for 10 days followed by 2000 mg a day for the remainder of the year. At the end of the study, those patients treated with ALC showed a statistically significant improvement in nerve conduction responsiveness compared to placebo. In addition, after twelve months of treatment the ALC group had a statistically significant reduction of pain by 39% compared to 8% in the placebo group. The conclusion was that ALC was effective and well tolerated in improving neurophysiological parameters and reducing pain over a one year period. It was felt to be a promising treatment option in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
There have been other studies published within the last year also demonstrating the incredible benefits of ALC. In one study published out of England, animals pretreated with ALC seemed to have a protective effect on peripheral nerves that were experimentally destroyed. The authors of this study suggested that ALC may be the first agent suitable for the clinical use of prevention of nerve death after peripheral nerve trauma.
ALC is not the only nutrient that has shown benefit for peripheral neuropathy. There is another amazing nutrient called alpha lipoic acid which I had previously written about. This is a sulfur-containing, vitamin-like substance that has the unique property of being able to recycle both water-soluble and fat-soluble antioxidants. Alpha lipoic acid in doses of 600 to 1200 mg daily has been shown in clinical studies to show some benefit in patient with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. For the last year, I have been prescribing alpha lipoic acid to my patients with peripheral neuropathy and have been getting extremely satisfactory results. I now plan to start adding acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) to the nutritional supplement regimen which I believe will further enhance nerve recovery. Other studies in animals have indicated ALC and alpha lipoic acid combined can actually reverse and repair the neurological and cognitive declines that occur with aging. Certain B vitamins including B1, B6 and B12 (must be the active form of B12 called methylcobalamin at dosages of 500 mcg – 2,000 mcg per day) can have additive benefits as well for nervous system repair and protection.
This is just a few examples out of thousands for the benefits of nutritional supplementation. Traditional medicine has absolutely nothing to offer for nerve regeneration for the hundreds of thousands to millions of people who suffer with peripheral nerve disorders. Because of some negative publicity and misinformation, too many doctors and patients are closing their eyes and turning their backs on the nutrients that could provide so much benefit. Fortunately, with readily available, proper and accurate information people and doctors are experiencing positive health benefits from vitamin and nutritional supplementation. The good news is that there are more and more studies providing the necessary proof that no one can ignore.
We are constantly reviewing the medical literature and looking at supplements based on the most current science. Because of the numerous medical studies proving the incredible benefits of both acetyl L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid, we recommend these products as individual nutrients or in combination.
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