Today at Examine.com, we’re bringing you a new page on Piceatannol, a molecule structurally very similar to the wine phenolic known as Resveratrol. Resveratrol was the first major 'stilbene' to be discovered, and research has since progressed to similar molecules in order to determine which offer the most benefits for the human body.
Piceatannol can be considered to be very similar to resveratrol, since their structures have only a few differences. Piceatannol boasts an anti-inflammatory mechanism (COX2 inhibition) that has been shown to be fairly potent in vitro. Piceatannol also inhibits a small protein known as Syk. Syk is involved in a variety of signaling pathways, so the potential of this inhibition is quite wide in scope.
Preliminary evidence suggests piceatannol could potentially be used as a replacement for Resveratrol, since it confers a few more anti-inflammatory properties (its inhibition of COX2 is more potent, for example). The ramifications of piceatannol’s Syk inhibition requires further study.
Though there is no human evidence on the topic yet, in vitro evidence suggests the two stilbenes are comparable in regard to resveratrol’s three major functions: antioxidant defense, blood flow, and potential anticancer properties. More evidence is needed to confirm the interchangeability of piceatannol and resveratrol. For now, Piceatannol remains a potential alternative.
Today we're bringing you an update on a new and popular dietary substitute: yacon syrup. This syrup is derived from a tuber that is sometimes referred to as the ‘Diet Potato.’ It adds some healthy fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to your diet and is useful as a sugar substitute, due to its sweetness.
The research on the composition of this syrup shows that it is a source of FOS, which is a prebiotic fiber also found in vegetables like the Jerusalem artichoke and chicory. While there is nothing remarkable about the FOS in yacon, it is a cheap and palatable option, when in a sweet syrup form. The syrup does contain calories and fiber, so it should be seen as a vegetable, rather than a supplement.
Most, if not all, benefits of yacon are due to the FOS and thus replicated by other sources of plentiful FOS. These benefits come from the effect of FOS on intestinal bacteria and through the standard properties of dietary fiber. The benefits of yacon are more practical than they are doused in impressive biochemistry, as consumption of the syrup seems to suppress appetite (like many soluble fibers), which can lead to weight loss.
There are not many human studies on yacon, but we have confirmed an attenuation in intestinal motility (how long it takes a food to get from point A to point B) and weight loss properties, when yacon was paired with a weight loss diet. The one study we have with weight loss results is a bit lackluster, due to poor calorie tracking (the study did not disclose much good data), but it is in consensus with previous data on other FOS sources.
The magnitude of weight loss reported in that single study was greater than one would expect with yacon. Since previous research on FOS did not observe such an effect and the study had poor calorie tracking protocols, it is possible that the weight loss was a gross overestimate. While yacon is likely to be a good adjuvant to a weight reducing diet, it is unlikely to be a magic bullet by any means.
Yacon is a viable alternative sweetener that can be used in meals to boost your daily fiber intake.
We're putting our new editing team to the test by bringing a battery of updates to one of our most popular pages: creatine. This round of research brings new information to the table in regard to creatine’s influence on cardiovascular health, including its effects on the heart, blood flow, plaque buildup and much more. What we found might surprise you.
It seems that creatine is a cardioprotective agent. This has to do with creatine suppression, since supplementing creatine does put a damper on how much creatine the body produces. And yes, this is a good thing. Creating creatine requires a fair bit of one particular molecule: S-adenosyl methionine, or SAMe. Suppressing its own synthesis appears to cause a refractory increase in whole body SAMe levels. This also preserves trimethylglycine levels in the body, so creatine supplementation appears to confer a bit of benefit in terms of increasing the bodily levels of both of these supplements.
The main topic being fleshed out is creatine’s possible reductive effect on homocysteine. While homocysteine is a biomarker for cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis, it may not be a causative molecule, meaning a reduction in homocysteine may be indicative of other benefits, but the reduction of homocysteine itself is not beneficial per se. Creatine does appear to reduce homocysteine levels, but it is not yet known if this means a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.
This finding, combined with creatine’s ability to increase the energy status of endothelial cells (those that line the arteries and veins), which results in less molecular adhesion, suggests that creatine is protective against plaque buildup. There is not enough evidence to claim that it’s a good intervention right now, but it is a nice side-effect of supplementation.
Surprisingly, the clear increase in triglycerides seen with trimethylglycine supplementation might not occur with creatine. We say 'might not' because the results we’ve examined have varying results, but there is the possibility that the increased usage of fatty acids in peripheral tissue (body fat and contracting muscle) seen with creatine supplementation could negate the triglyceride increase seen with TMG. TMG increases triglyceride levels because it causes an efflux of triglycerides from the liver (the fatty acids have to go somewhere),which leads us to another preliminary, but surprising benefit of creatine.
We are beyond ecstatic to announce that the research team on Examine.com has significantly grown over the past week. Sales on our Supplement-Goals Reference Guide have been so strong (more on that later) that our team now boasts an all-star line up we could have only dreamed of a year ago. Our three new editors are:
Gregory Lopez obtained a BA in biochemistry & molecular biology from Reed College, an MA in molecular biophysics from The Johns Hopkins University, and a PharmD from The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. He enjoys bringing his quantitative and analytical skills to bear on issues relevant to people's health and wellbeing.
Bill Willis PhD received a Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry and PhD in Biomedical Science at The Ohio State University. An avid member of the fitness industry for the past 15 years, Bill is currently a postdoctoral fellow where he is examining the role of metabolic stress in the control of protein synthesis and inflammation in health and disease.
Kamal Patel has an MPH and MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and is a PhD candidate in nutrition, researching the link between diet and chronic pain. He has published peer-reviewed articles on vitamin D and calcium as well as a variety of clinical research topics. Kamal's also been involved in research on fructose and liver health, mindfulness meditation, and nutrition in low income areas.
Combined with our current team of Kurtis Frank and Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, we now have an expert in almost all disciplines of nutrition and supplementation. We are really looking forward to seeing what their collective efforts will bring to Examine.com
We've always been very particular about our independence and neutrality - our strength lies in the fact that we have no affiliations. Even then, we were pragmatic about it - we knew we had to generate revenue, and the cleanest solution was to simply to link to Amazon.com and let the user figure out which brand and type they wanted.
We have now removed all links to Amazon.com. The only source of revenue for Examine.com is our Supplement-Goals Reference Guide.
We now have six team members. Five of them exclusively deal with research, and the sixth, our co-founder Sol Orwell, makes sure that the site is running fine, emails are dealt with, and so forth. If there was any doubt about how serious we take our work, this should help clarify that.
To celebrate our new hirings and to celebrate us completely removing ourselves from product sales, we are having a quick 60 hour sale. From noon till Friday midnight (EST), the Supplement-Goals Reference Guide, regularly priced at $39, will be discounted $10 and sold at $29. If you want the best reference on supplementation (which includes free lifetime updates), now is the time to make it happen.
We recently updated the Ashwagandha page was updated to be much more expansive, currently residing at position 8 of our most cited pages (300+). We go back every year or so to revamp pages, and it was Ashwagandha's turn.
With the complete summary and the Ashwagandha page themselves being enough reading (both on Examine.com and through the cited sources) for any scientist out there, we are just going a recap on the most promising or at least most well talked about properties of this interesting herb:
Adaptogen-like effects: Ashwagandha is one of the primary Adaptogen compounds (alongside Rhodiola Rosea and Panax ginseng). If you want to reduce stress, consider them all viable options and then choose one of them based on safety or the other attributes of the herb.
Sedative/Anxiolytic: It seems that taking it in the morning or early afternoon can help sleep quality, and it's also non-sedating. Oddly, there are many anecdotes of ashwagandha making it hard to fall asleep if taken right before going to bed.
Physical Performance: Currently there are two studies showing increased VO2 max with this herb, and one of them is in elite athletes. Furthermore, a study in sedentary persons noted increased power output in the lower back and legs (no training required, but just a small boost in power) suggesting that Ashwagandha may be an ergogenic aid. Needs more evidence, but having something benefit the performance of elite athletes is indeed rare for supplements.
Social Anxiety: The sedative mechanism (enhancing GABA signalling without really acting like a benzodiazepine) is known to be anti-anxiety, but it is not very potent.
Anti-cancer: In short, Ashwagandha seems to enhance other anti-cancer agents including pharmaceuticals (but only has weak anti-cancer effects itself). The immune boosting properties may also be therapeutic, and (high doses) have been tested in women with breast cancer; improvements in quality of life, fatigue, and all functioning (social, emotional, and psychological) were found.
Immunity: Most of ashwagandha immunity benefits are because it reduces stress (by reducing cortisol).
Safety: It appears to be safe if used within the recommended dosing guidelines, although adequate drug-drug interaction testing has not been completed yet (kind of like Bacopa monnieri); it would be perfect if we just had this data).
It seems that ashwagandha has very promising pre-clinical evidence and pilot studies for its benefits, which mostly seem to anti-stress and anti-anxiety. Larger trials are definitely needed to confirm these benefits.
We went through a lot of user requests this time, with most of them being pretty underwhelming.
Two of them are pretty impressive (especially as immunity boosting agents), and one of them you already have in your house.
Let's get the underwhemling ones out of the way:
Now, there are two very impressive immune boosters to follow.
Definitely worth taking a look.
Ginkgo biloba is well known as a cognitive enhancer, and is perhaps the world's most famous Nootropic. It has a plethora of studies on its effects and mechanisms of actions, but (at least for the brain) its benefits can be summed up as 'a potential good choice as a bandaid for cognitive decline'. It doesn't seem curative, although there is some benefit associated with supplementation, and this does not necessarily extend to youth trying to use something for cognitive enhancement.
Other benefits of ginkgo include ocular health (increasing blood flow to the eyes without causing an increase in intraocular blood pressure) and an unreliable yet pretty notable reduction in symptoms of acute mountain sickness. Topical application of ginkgo flavonoids (at a modest 0.3%) may also greatly increase moisture content of the skin, but there is not much evidence for that claim; mostly everything else is either a general antioxidant effect or not really significant.
Iodine has been added to the vitamin and mineral database, and while it is indeed an interesting page to read, there is not much supplemental usage for it. There is a perfect storm of events that must occur for supplementation to be a good idea, and the chance of this perfect storm occurring is quite small (ie. a vegetarian or vegan pregnant women who actively avoids salting their food and does not consume seaweed). Iodine supplementation does not increase the metabolic rate of thyroid hormones despite being used to make them; if anything, there is an acute suppression of thyroid hormones with high doses of iodine.
Moringa oleifera is an up and coming supplement due to its 'antioxidant' properties, and it has a collection of molecules with a structural similarity to Sulforaphane and actually has a paracetamol content (probably too small to matter). There are a few promising avenues with moringa including its antiinflammatory effects and interactions with colon cancer, but at this moment it cannot be recommended as a supplement. Despite what marketing claims, moringa does have a toxicity level to it when overconsumed, and may also be an abotifacient (causes abortion).
Rooibos is a tea from Africa that is rising in popularity due to its pleasant taste and antioxidant content. Similar to moringa, however, it seems that the antioxidant properties have been mostly overhyped since the main bioactive is not well absorbed from the intestines. Interestingly, rooibos is one of the few plants that is healthier when not fermented (ie. green rooibos) but even then it is a very small health boost.
Sesamin has been updated since its page was made on Examine a year ago, and while back then it was claimed to hold promise in promoting circulation, fat loss, and neuroprotection, this update lessens the hope for those roles somewhat but clarifies on a potential usage for sesamin, particularly in multivitamins; sesamin can promote bodily retention of Vitamin K and a particular vitamer of Vitamin E known as γ-tocotrienol. Sesamin is somewhat of an indirect vitamin due to this.
The fat loss effects of sesamin have been severely downgraded since the last update (from 'some promise' to 'little to no promise') and it is still quite unclear how sesamin works with estrogen. The 'incredible promise' associated with neuroprotection in Parkinson's has still not been explored or replicated but seems to be related to antioxidant effects.
Celastrus paniculata is a seed touted to be a cognitive enhancer, but there is not enough evidence to either refute or prove this (limited evidence does accept a positive effect, but due to how limited it is, celastrus cannot yet be recommended). Oddly, it is a very potent intestinal relaxant in vitro and, pending future research, could have clinically relevant anti-spasmolytic and anti-constipative effects.
Anethum graveolens is dill, the plant that confers the characteristic potato chip flavoring. It has some preliminary evidence for reducing triglycerides, but it seems that human studies have both failed to find any effect. The only interesting thing at this moment in time is the hallucinogen content in immature dill plants; the same molecule found in nutmeg.
Asteracantha longifolia is an ayurvedic libido enhance and cognitive enhancer with traditional uses somewhat similar to both Ashwagandha and Anacyclus pyrethrum, that being said there is way too little evidence to conclude anything about this plant at this moment in time aside from 'might be a potent antioxidant'.
We are proud to announce that Dr. Spencer Nadolsky will be joining our team as our Medical Editor. Dr. Nadolsky is an osteopathic family physician who specializes in weight loss (bariatric medicine) and cholesterol (lipidology), and thus brings a wealth of knowledge to Examine.com
We want to note that this is not connected with our job search for another researcher. We've had a plethora of highly-qualified individuals apply, and are looking forward to announcing a hire or two in the coming weeks!
Be sure to visit our facebook page to drop in a congratulations!
This update is housecleaning some older entries (not happy with their quality, so have to bring them up to snuff), and also a few new supplements. This week we have supplements that range from highly effective to little-evidence to even dangerous!
Tribulus terrestris, the world's most popular herbal T-booster, got an interesting update. Now, it would actually be incorrect to say that tribulus never increases testosterone, since one study in infertile men noted a very small increase, but even then, tribulus severely underperforms and it is still not a practical intervention for Testosterone. Despite that, there is some promise for cardioprotection and it appears to actually be a potent antioxidant in organs (exceeding the potency of Vitamin E in some preclinical data). It can still, however, only be recommended for libido enhancement as all other info is preliminary.
Secondly is Anacyclus pyrethrum, which is a testosterone boosting aphrodisiac from Ayurvedic medicine. Not much can be said about this compound aside from it being an alkylamide source (similar to Maca or Spilanthes acmella) and suggesting that the entire molecular class of alkylamides are interesting for male sexuality. Anyways, there is not enough evidence to recommend this herb for anything.
The updates of past herbs in our database, tribulus and anacyclus, expanded upon the herbs but did not yield any new therapeutic usage of these herbs. Both are still faith buys with insufficient evidence to recommend for any real usage beyond a possible libido enhancement
For the new herbs, starting from the most promising to the least:
Peppermint (oil) has been added to the database, and it has also been added to the stack for irritable bowel syndrome. In short, peppermint oil is a potent muscle relaxant that is thought to have poor absorption (thus only relaxing the stomach, throat, and intestines) and reliably and effectively reduces abdominal pain in persons with IBS. It should reduce abdominal pain in all persons actually, and this may be the only symptom it beneficially influences.
Tinospora cordifolia (Guduchi) is an ayurvedic immune booster, and while it has limited human evidence, it appears to be very potent in reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies) with a 'strong' rating and potency comparable to Spirulina. It shows beneficial effects on many other parameters (depression, diabetes, androgen-like effects, etc.) but these are either underpowered relative to other herbs or under-researched as a whole. By far, the most interesting effects are the anti-allergic properties and the potent stimulation and protection of macrophage functions (supporting the idea that it is immunosupportive).
Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) has been added on request. Oddly, this herb appears to be recommended as interchangeable with Bacopa monnieri for cognition yet has no research in humans on that (and thus it cannot yet be recommended for cognition). It appears to be most well-known for wound regeneration, which is a claim that shows plausibility and benefits in rats yet does not have good human evidence for, and appears to be quite promising for heart health in regards to chronic venous insufficiency (similar to Pycnogenol and Horse Chestnut). Overall, centella asiatica might be an interesting supplement if you want to support venous circulation (varicose veins in particular) yet there is some reason to use if over the aforementioned two supplements, perhaps to try out the wound regeneration or cognitive enhancement bits.
Now on to the lackluster updates; Angelica gigas is a Korean traditional medicine that is recommended for women's health. It is known to increase estrogen in rats, and in vitro is a potent anti-androgen; its immunosupportive effects may be pretty much negated by itself (different molecules in the plant act against each other), and there is no human evidence overall. If anything, this would be something to keep an eye out for in hopes that it gets more research in menopausal women.
And finally, the dangerous. Acorus calamus contains a molecule known as beta-asarone which is a surprisingly potent stimulator of GABAA neurotransmission and may have cognitive enhancing properties, it also appears neuroprotective and anti-epileptic. Why isn't this recommended? Well, doses lower than the active dose (i.e. if you supplement this herb you will be subject to the following) over a prolonged period of time induce intestinal tumors. This plant has literally been deemed unfit for human consumption, and as such the buy links on this page have been revoked.
Today marks three weeks since we launched our tiny little Supplement-Goals Reference. To say that it's been a whirlwind is a bit of an understatement, and while our research continues unabated, we finally have a few moments to catch our breath and update everyone with what is going on.
First off - it's been a success. A massive success. Just yesterday we sold our 4000th copy. A lot of fitness products are geared towards "launches" - they get a ton of attention when they’re initially released, but by the second week they are lucky to get a few sales a day. Not us. We're still managing 30+ sales a day.
The best part is - we're just getting started.
Every day, we have roughly 12-15,000 visitors to Examine.com. Those visitors look up over 30,000 pageviews every day, and spend almost 3 minutes on our site. That's equivalent to the city of Miami visiting us each month and spending over 20,000 hours reading over our site.
Why does it matter? It means we're onto something. There is a need for a sane look at supplementation and nutrition. Internally, we talk a lot about responsibility. Our assessments, our statements, our conclusions - they have an impact on people's lives. It's important we never lose sight of that.
With that said, with a reliable revenue stream, our first order of business will be hiring another researcher. While Kurtis has done a phenomenal job so far, he will be the first to admit that another set of eyes can only do us good. We will be finalizing our requirements this week, and will be announcing our search early next week.
That our #1 priority is to hire another researcher should help clarify what is most important to us.
Let us be very clear - we are just getting started. For the past 2.5 years we've been saying our goal is 50,000 visitors/day, and we're on our way. We have a long way to go, but we're in no rush - and we've been very very appreciative for all the support we've received so far. We encourage everyone to help spread the word on Examine.com (almost 10,000 likes on Facebook!) - the more people know about us, the more sanity to supplementation and nutrition we can spread.
We're really excited to see how the next 12 months unfold.