July 20, 2011
Nerve cells in the eye require vitamin C in order to function properly—a surprising discovery that may mean vitamin C is required elsewhere in the brain for its proper functioning, according to a study by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
“We found that cells in the retina need to be ‘bathed’ in relatively high doses of vitamin C, inside and out, to function properly,” said Henrique von Gersdorff, PhD, senior scientist at OHSU’s Vollum Institute and a co-author of the study. “Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, this suggests there’s likely an important role for vitamin C throughout our brains, to a degree we had not realized before.”
The brain has special receptors, called GABA-type receptors that help modulate the rapid communication between cells in the brain. GABA receptors in the brain act as an inhibitory “brake” on excitatory neurons in the brain. The OHSU researchers found that these GABA-type receptors in the retinal cells stopped functioning properly when vitamin C was removed.
Because retinal cells are a kind of very accessible brain cell, it’s likely that GABA receptors elsewhere in the brain also require vitamin C to function properly. And because vitamin C is a major natural antioxidant, it may be that it essentially ‘preserves’ the receptors and cells from premature breakdown, von Gersdorff explained.
The function of vitamin C in the brain is not well understood. In fact, when the human body is deprived of vitamin C, the vitamin stays in the brain longer than anyplace else in the body. “Perhaps the brain is the last place you want to lose vitamin C,” von Gersdorff said. The findings also may offer a clue as to why scurvy, which results from a severe lack of vitamin C, acts the way it does. One of the common symptoms of scurvy is depression, and that may come from the lack of vitamin C in the brain.
The findings could have implications for other diseases such as glaucoma and epilepsy. Both conditions are caused by the dysfunction of nerve cells in the retina and brain that become over excited in part because GABA receptors may not be functioning properly.
“For example, maybe a vitamin C-rich diet could be neuroprotective for the retina—for people who are especially prone to glaucoma,” von Gersdorff said. “This is speculative and there is much to learn. But this research provides some important insights and will lead to the generation of new hypotheses and potential treatment strategies.”
For more information, visit www.ohsu.edu.
Natural Products Association President Jeff Wright will talk about the growth of the nutrition industry and implications for the future during the panel session “Retail Futurecasting” at The 14th Annual NBJ Summit on Friday, July 22. Wright and fellow panelists will discuss emerging brands, opportunities in the marketplace, and lessons learned from the successes of today.
Wright, owner of Wright’s Nutrients, a retail store in New Port Richey, FL, serves as NPA’s president. He was sworn in during the NPA annual business meeting at Natural Products Association MarketPlace 2011 on June 25 in Las Vegas, NV. Wright has been active in NPA for nearly two decades, serving on the NPA-South regional board and four years on the national NPA board of directors. His term as NPA president will last for two years.
• Date: Friday, July 22
• Time: 10:15-11:30 a.m.
• Location: St. Regis Resort, Dana Point, CA
• Registration: Open to summit attendees
For more information, visit www.nbjsummit.com.
Nicole Mitchell, founder of M7 Marketing, Inc. (Omaha, NE), a full-service transportation and organic solutions company, launched My Organic Nation, a nonprofit resource to help educate and build relationships among producers and consumers of organic foods.
“The idea for My Organic Nation came from talking with individuals from all levels of the organic industry, from producers to millers to consumers,” said Mitchell. “The response to having a central connection point for information, education and resources to promote organic information sharing and sustainability locally in Omaha and beyond has been overwhelmingly positive.”
In addition to Mitchell, five board members serve an advisory role for the organization. Advisory board members are Erin Berryman, vice president of sales and marketing for M7 Organic Solutions; Glen Borgerding, organic crop consultant and nutrient management specialist; Nicky Giusto from Central Milling, a producer of organic and conventional flour; Joe Roberts of Roberts Seed Inc., a marketer of seeds and organically grown grain; and David Vetter, president of Grain Place Foods, named the 2011 Organic Farmers of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.
The mission of My Organic Nation is to serve as a common ground and connection point for organic producers, retailers and consumers who have an interest in the production, marketing and consumption of organic foods. Through the website, visitors will be able to participate in a community forum, read organic news from local, regional and global experts and view a calendar of organic-focused events.
“My professional interest in organics began about five years ago when I started to learn more about the process in the work I did in the transportation industry,” said Mitchell. “I then converted my family of seven to an organic lifestyle, and it has had a huge positive impact on our lives.”
For more information, visit www.myorganicnation.org.
Rodale Institute has announced the launch of Your 2 Cents, an innovative program that unites consumers and companies in support of the next generation of American farmers. The Your 2 Cents program is designed to raise funds to support student scholarships for sustainable agriculture degrees, military veterans establishing careers in organic faming, and new organic farmers while establishing research grants for farmers in the Your 2 Cents network. Inaugural program partner Uncle Matt’s Organic (Clermont, FL) will kick off support by donating two cents per case good of their organic juice sold to the fund.
“America needs more farmers—organic farmers,” said Mark “Coach” Smallwood, executive director of Rodale Institute. “One possible scenario of the project in action: help a student earn a degree in sustainable agriculture, grant them initial start-up costs for their farm operation, literally bring in the Marines to provide a labor force and incorporate a research project in partnership with Rodale Institute.”
Companies like Uncle Matt’s Organic participate by donating two pennies per case good sold to the Your 2 Cents fund, which is governed by an advisory board consisting of representatives from companies partnering with Rodale Institute on the Your 2 Cents program. The advisory board will review applications quarterly, and allot funds for the education, training and establishment of new organic farmers who will feed America sustainably in coming generations.
“Rodale Institute is a pioneer and leader in organic agriculture and farm research,” said Matt McLean, founder and CEO of Uncle Matt’s Organic. “We are proud to partner with the organization on this endeavor to help support the next generation of American farmers. We hope to inspire other companies to join the campaign to make Your 2 Cents a success for our future organic farmers.”
For more information, visit www.rodaleinstitute.org/your2cents.
The Natural Products Association held the dietary supplement industry’s first education session about the recently released New Dietary Ingredients (NDI) Draft Guidance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NPA webinar, “NDI Guidance: What You Need to Know,” was attended by nearly 150 manufacturers, trade media and industry stakeholders on July 11.
Speakers included Dr. Daniel Fabricant, director of the Division of Dietary Supplement Programs at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), and Scott Bass, head of the Global Life Sciences Team at Sidley Austin LLP. Dr. Cara Welch, NPA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, served as moderator. The webinar lasted about 90 minutes and included a spirited exchange between Fabricant and Bass on the important issues raised by the draft guidance. They also took questions from the audience.
NPA Executive Director and CEO John Gay said, “We are pleased that so many signed up to learn about the impact that the NDI draft guidance may have on the industry. NPA’s education session, the first in the industry, provided an excellent opportunity to hear directly from the FDA about what this guidance means and get additional perspective from industry experts.”
“The FDA estimates there are about 55,600 dietary supplements on the market, yet we’ve only received 700 NDIs in the past 16 years, approximately 50 NDIs per year …” Fabricant said during the session. “We believe, as I hope the industry believes, that consumers should have access to supplements that meet quality standards, that are free from contamination, accurately labeled and that, especially for new ingredients, have an assurance of safety.”
“I think everybody has had the reaction that this document elevates NDI submission to the food additive or GRAS levels,” Bass said during the session. “There are problems inherent in that…A great concern that I have, and I think that exists, is that we may be condemning products that have been on the market for almost 20 years that people have presumed to be legal, other than your basic vitamins and minerals. It could be that every product is in play.”
For more information, visit www.NPAinfo.org/NDIGuidance.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) will present a top-tier line-up of scientific experts who will provide insight and perspective on critical aspects of dietary supplement research at the one-day symposium, The Workshop: CRN’s Day of Science, which will be held Wednesday, October 19 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
Maret G. Traber, PhD, director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, will open the scientific symposium with a keynote address entitled, “The science of reactive oxygen species and antioxidants—Is antioxidant supplementation justified?” Following Traber’s presentation, the day will be divided into three scientific sessions, each focused on significant areas related to the science surrounding dietary supplements.
The first session, “Assessing the safety of dietary supplement ingredients,” will feature presentations from: William Allaben, PhD, senior toxicologist, Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, LLC, on the role of the National Toxicology Program in FDA’s monitoring of dietary supplements; Joseph E. Pizzorno, ND, president emeritus and founder, Bastyr University, and editor-in-chief of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal (IMCJ), on assessing the safety of naturally derived products; and Henk van Loveren, PhD, head of the Immunotoxicology and Infection program, the Netherlands’ National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), on immunotoxicology and issues related to food and nutrient safety.
The second session, which will focus on “Progress in dietary supplement research,” will feature insights from: Jesmond Dalli, PhD, post-doctoral fellow, Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, on lipid signaling; Benoit Lamarche, PhD, chair, the Institute for Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods, Laval University, Quebec City, on nutritional interventions for known mechanisms in the progression of metabolic syndrome; and Joshua Miller, PhD, associate professor in residence, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of California Davis Medical Center, on the relationship between B vitamins, homocysteine and cognitive function in the elderly.
The final session will focus on “Controversies,” during which Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, scientist, Carotenoids and Health Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, will discuss lutein and where current science is related to its potential dietary reference intake (DRI) status.
For more information, visit www.crnusa.org.