Quick Survey: Nutritional Supplements Are A Huge Benefit In Slowing HIV Progress
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Nutritional Supplements Are A Huge Benefit In Slowing HIV Progress

Dr. Chester Myers is a Canadian scientist who devotes much of his time outside work to researching the nutritional aspects of AIDS and making this information available to the AIDS community. Dr. Myer's review of the scientific data to date has led him to the conclusion that it is tantamount to malpractice not to prescribe nutritional supplements to people with HIV/AIDS.

Myers, who backs his recommendations with extensive references from the medical literature, says, "It is easier to go over the cliff, then to get back on top." Two 1993 studies showed that supplementation was associated with significant slowing of HIV disease in terms of years, not just months. Says Myers, "Deficiencies in HIV/AIDS are common and may occur early. It is far better to prevent problems caused by such deficiencies than to treat them later."

Eating a well balanced diet is a good start, but not nearly enough. People with AIDS often have preexisting nutritional deficiencies or can develop them in the course of the disease. Reasons why people with HIV infection can develop nutrient deficiencies include loss of appetite, diarrhea, malabsorption, poor eating habits, past history of drug and alcohol use, smoking history, and increased nutrient requirements because of illness and/or medications used.

The most recently published data were from the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Dr. Alice Tang and her colleagues studied 310 gay and bisexual men. Those that had adequate blood levels of vitamin-B-12 remained free of the disease for about eight years compared with four years for those deficient in this essential nutrient. The same type of relationship was also proven for vitamin-B-6 and folic acid.

Vitamin-B-12 works with folic acid in many essential body processes including the making of DNA, red blood cells, and the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves.

Dr. Barbara Abrams and her colleagues at the University of California found that the daily use of a multivitamin supplement for six years was associated with a 40 percent reduction in the risk of a low T-cell count. In fact, those whose supplement consumption was within the highest third were about half as likely to develop AIDS compared to those in the middle or lowest thirds. Intake of vitamin-E and iron from supplements alone was also significantly associated with a reduced risk of AIDS. There was no association between AIDS risk and the intake of food alone.

An earlier 1993 study by Tang showed that progression rate to AIDS was also decreased in subjects with the highest intake for vitamins B-1, B-2, B-6 and C. "The apparent protective effects observed in the B-group vitamins were primarily due to the intake of vitamins from supplements rather than food," commented the researchers.

Another interesting nutrient for AIDS is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). Cysteine is an amino acid required to make a compound called glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant present in every cell and in high concentration in the liver and lungs.

"NAC supplementation has been shown to discourage muscle wasting, lower immune cell destruction, lower production of certain immune suppressive compounds, and enhance production of glutathione," says Myers. The usual recommended dosage is between 400mgs and 1.5gms a day.

A new whey protein concentrate, Immunocal (TM), may inhibit HIV replication while stimulating the production of glutathione. At Montreal's McGill University, Dr. Sylvain Baruchel and his colleagues have shown in preliminary trials that this whey protein is beneficial for muscle wasting in children and adults with AIDS. A double blind randomized controlled study of Immunocal (TM) in patients with AIDS and wasting syndrome is now in progress in Canada and France.

All the vitamins and minerals are required in balance. An individualized supplement programme should be geared to specific needs and problems. Among other important nutrients recommended by Myers are co-enzyme-Q-10, vitamin-E, zinc, selenium, magnesium, the amino acid carnitine and essential fatty acids.

Myers recommends the work of Washington DC researcher Dr. Lark Lands, "the original guru for promotion of good nutrition including aggressive supplementation among people living with AIDS." Both Myers's and Land's research articles are available through the Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange at 1-800-263-1638 or www.catie.ca

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