Nutritional Supplements – A Simple Solution to Complex Problems? (1st part)
Today, nutritional supplements are sold everywhere — in almost any store you can find a shelf with multi-colored jars, full of names of herbs and vitamins. And consumer demand for nutritional supplements is supported by articles in women’s magazines, in which the merits of a particular substance are described in detail, with links to scientific data, with intelligible pictures and examples from life. Therefore, for those who have decided to deal with appearance and health, their eyes run wide from the amazing variety of “natural” health-improving preparations. Sometimes nutritional supplements are used to solve certain problems — improving sleep (valerian, melatonin), mood (St. ), Alzheimer’s disease (Ginkgo biloba), etc. In fact, there is nothing new in this, because herbs have been treated since time immemorial. It’s just that now herbal medicine has become convenient and easy, thanks to gelatin capsules that preserve the natural qualities of herbs, and free consumers from the laborious procedures for preparing infusions and extracts. What is new is that nutritional supplements, among which there are many medicinal herbs, have become considered an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and they are no longer taken for treatment, but just like that, for general recovery. The commercial success of nutritional supplements is prompting researchers to look for new magic cures. Now intensive research is being carried out all over the world, both already known active ingredients and new substances. New discoveries lead to the birth of new nutritional supplements. And in the glow of the rays of glory of the next nutritional supplement, there is usually a place for cosmetics containing the same active substances. Top list of nutritional supplements When compiling the top list, we were guided by the frequency of mentioning this supplement in popular publications, the number of links to it on the Internet, the intensity of the advertising campaign and the range of supplements containing this substance on the shelves of American stores. We did not take into account multivitamin preparations, the demand for which is quite constant, and specialized nutritional supplements — for combating excess weight, for athletes, etc. The leader in consumer demand were antioxidants. The number of articles on the harmful effects of free radicals and the usefulness of antioxidants in American women’s publications is so large that, probably, every American woman who monitors her health can explain why free radicals are harmful, even if she is woken up in the middle of the night. First of all, it is necessary to mention antioxidant vitamins — vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, although plant polyphenolic compounds (flavonoids) and plants containing them have recently become more popular. Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), to which countless scientific works are devoted, resembles an aging prima donna — no one doubts its merits, but the time for stormy enthusiasm, alas, has passed. Nevertheless, it is worth recalling that it is a fat-soluble antioxidant, which means that it penetrates well both through cell membranes and through the skin. This makes it not only a useful food supplement, but also an indispensable ingredient in cosmetics. In particular, it protects the skin from damage by UV rays, reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, reduces the severity of the inflammatory response in allergic diseases, slows down the development of cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease and some other diseases. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), as well as vitamin E, is a leading figure among antioxidants. However, interest in it is periodically fueled by new discoveries. So, it turned out that vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of collagen in the skin, stimulates the immune system, and has a whitening effect. In the autumn and winter months, vitamin C preparations fill the shelves of stores, as it increases the body’s resistance to cold infections. Beta-carotene has a reputation as an anti-cancer agent. It is believed to prevent the development of tumors, as it is a trap for singlet oxygen, a molecule that turns into an extremely toxic and long-lived hydroxide radical. It is the hydroxide radical that can cause DNA damage, leading to tumor degeneration of the cell. Recently, they have been trying to attract public attention to other carotenoids — lycopene, alpha-carotene, but they have not yet become quite popular. Vitamins E and C are the body’s main antioxidants. However, these are not the strongest known antioxidants. Plant polyphenols, or flavonoids, have more powerful antioxidant properties. It is thanks to flavonoids that vitamin C can be stored for months without being destroyed in fruits and berries, such as sea buckthorn, citrus fruits, etc. Pycnogenol, an extract from the maritime pine bark, is the most widely promoted antioxidant herbal preparation. There is also Pycnogenol, derived from grape seeds, which is also quite popular. Following the manufacturers of Pycnogenol, other companies began to produce antioxidant preparations based on grape seeds. One of these drugs is OPC (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins — oligomers of proanthocyanidins, active ingredients of grape seed extract). Somehow less popular, though probably no less useful, is green tea extract, which entered the ranks of nutritional supplements after it was found to inhibit the development of malignant tumors. Plant polyphenols are also included in cosmetics, and their protective and anti-inflammatory effect when applied to the skin has been experimentally confirmed. In addition to the antioxidant effect, flavonoids have a number of other useful properties — they improve the properties of the walls of blood vessels (horse chestnut is the leader here), improve blood circulation (flavonoids and other components of ginkgo), and have wound healing and anti-inflammatory effects. In second place after antioxidants, oddly enough, were phytohormones and DHEA, a precursor of steroid hormones. On the shelves of American stores, phytoestrogens are presented in abundance. These are, first of all, soy isoflavones, wild Mexican sweet potato (yam) extract, damiana, red clover extract. There are also complexes of herbs containing phytoestrogens, which are recommended to eliminate menopausal troubles, prevent cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis, improve mood, and slow down skin aging. DHEA is touted as the molecule of youth and highly recommended to slow down aging. To be continued….