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Top Ten Most Overlooked Supplements

August 26th, 2008

The supplement industry has enjoyed periods of rapid growth and expansion, not only in terms of sales and market statistics but also in terms of products. There is a constant stream of new supplement products coming onto the market, but for a variety of reasons, some of the most promising supplements fail to attract the attention which their benefits and properties would seem to merit. It can be many years from the time a new supplement is introduced to the time it “catches on” among consumers, doctors, practitioners and the market as a whole.

That’s a shame because every day people are suffering or dealing unsuccessfully with their health challenges unaware that an inexpensive supplement may do them a world of good. Here is a look at ten supplements with which many people are unfamiliar, but offer significant and sometimes unique health benefits not provided by other, better-known supplements.

1 AHCC (active hexose correlated compound). AHCC may be the most legitimate “immune booster”, among the thousands of products that claim to be immune boosters. Immune boosters are a type of supplement many consumers are searching for. Maybe someone in their family has a major illness and needs the most nutritional support possible. Maybe there’s a bug going around the office or home. Maybe a business trip is coming up and they need to get over that illness quickly. So, they’ll ask, what do you have to boost my immune system?

When you get right down to it, despite a glut of products that suggests otherwise, there are very few types of nutrients that could legitimately be called “immune boosters”. Not many nutrients have been shown to directly, significantly increase or enhance immune function. Whey protein comes to mind. Maitake mushroom extracts, and IP-6 too perhaps. Echinacea gets mixed reviews. Yet 20 years after its introduction, most people are unaware of AHCC.

AHCC is a specialized extract of medicinal mushrooms that has been shown to safely increase the activity of important immune cells like Natural Killer cells, T and B cells. In other words, it really does boost the activity of immune cells. AHCC was discovered in Japan, where meedicinal mushrooms and herbs are taken much more seriously than here in the west. There is a substantial amount of research supporting these claims which can be viewed here and here.

AHCC is an extremely safe supplement and can be taken with or without food, with or without other supplements. The main drawback to AHCC is its relatively high cost. The next time you or someone you know is looking for immune system support, don’t overlook AHCC.

2 Nattokinase Nattokinase is a healthy type of “blood thinner”. Also discovered in Japan, nattokinase is an enzyme extracted from a fermented soybean preparation eaten as a health food, known as natto. Nattokinase is able to dissolve fibrin, the protein that thickens blood and forms the basis of bloodclots, without side-effects in healthy people. Most other types of blood thinners such as coumadin and aspirin interfere with the biochemistry of fibrin formation, and because of that, they carry side-effects and risks. But since nattokinase only affects preexisting fibrin, it doesn’t have the side-effects of aspirin or most blood thinning drugs. It may be desirable for all adults to consider hemodynamic factors like blood viscosity (thickness) and clotting tendency as they get older, since poor circulation, unhealthy clots and strokes become ever more likely as we age. Keeping blood at a healthy consistency benefits circulation and overall cardiovascular health at any point in life. Fish oil helps, but don’t overlook nattokinase.

3 Chromium Whether you use chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate, you are covering a critical but usually-overlooked nutritional base. You need chromium in order to use insulin as efficiently as possible, but unless you have a bizarre diet, food won’t supply optimal amounts and your multi may not have that much either. Perhaps many people tune out when they hear the word “insulin”, believing incorrectly that insulin is only important to diabetics. But insulin holds the key to a robust metabolism and lean healthy physique for everyone. If that’s the kind of body you want, with high, sustained energy levels also, then you want to do the same thing diabetics need to do, which is keep blood sugar and insulin levels low and stable around the clock. But you can’t do that unless you’re cutting out the refined carbs and sweets, eating small protein and fat meals 5-6 times a day and getting enough chromium. If you’re dieting and exercising properly but the fat’s just not coming off, or if you crave carbs, or if your energy level is up and down all day, make sure you’re not overlooking chromium.

4 Vitamin D After being more or less ignored for decades, there has been an explosion of interest and research into Vitamin D recently. “Vitamin D” actually functions as a hormone in the body. Vitamin D is an important regulator of the immune system and many other vital processes. But you don’t get much from food, and unless you’re out in the sun everyday, you can’t make optimal amounts. That’s bad news for anyone not taking a vitamin D supplement, since low vitamin D levels are associated with everything from higher rates of mortality to higher rates of cancer. Besides being important biologically, vitamin D is extremely inexpensive, small and easy-to-take. So unless you’re a lifeguard, farmer or otherwise outside every day, you’re either taking Vitamin D or overlooking Vitamin D.

5 Melatonin Melatonin is another hormone that like, vitamin D, helps to regulate the immune system as well as other hormones. Melatonin is overlooked in the sense that it’s usually regarded as just a sleep supplement. And it’s even misunderstood in that regard. Melatonin isn’t really a relaxant or sedative in the way that valerian root is. Instead, melatonin helps you establish or reestablish a sleep cycle when you haven’t been sleeping well or sleeping consistently. But melatonin does more than that. It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the brain. And as mentioned, it helps regulate the function and levels of other hormones and the immune system. Sound sleep is the foundation of good health and a robust metabolism, but it can be hard to get a good nights sleep consistently. Helping you achieve that is what melatonin does best. Don’t overlook this inexpensive supplement.

6 Fiber As important as fiber is, fiber supplements have a few things going against them. They are neither new, nor sexy, nor exciting. Fiber brings to mind topics that aren’t easy or polite to bring up in casual conversation such as bowel health and constipation. And supplement companies have had a hard time making products that are easy to take. But the fact remains that fiber is just as essential to health as any other nutrient and that increasing fiber intake benefits virtually everyone in several ways. Glucomannan fiber is an overlooked but clinically proven fiber supplement that safely promotes weight loss. Soluble fibers like glucomannan and others can safely help lower cholesterol. All fiber supplements are detoxifying to the bowel by helping eliminate waste material. Fiber supplements in capsules are an easy-to-use and effective option, so don’t overlook this critical aspect of your health.

7 Astaxanthin (as-TAX-an-thin) Like fiber, antioxidants really can’t claim to be exciting supplements. And the nature of antioxidants is such that you don’t often see noticeable improvements from using them. But, just as you don’t change the oil in your car because it results in more power or efficiency, antioxidants are still one of the most important ways you can support long-term health. Astaxanthin needs a catchier name, but what an impressive resume of FDA-approved health claims:

  • Supports Joint Health
  • Supports Healthy Tendons
  • Supports Eye Health
  • Supports Healthy Immune Function
  • Supports a Healthy Cardiovascular System
  • Supports Anti-Aging through Cellular Health
  • Supports Healthy Skin
  • Supports Skin during Sun Exposure
  • Supports a Healthy Oxidative Balance
  • Supports Increased Energy Levels

Don’t stop taking other antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid or green tea extract, but don’t overlook this new antioxidant powerhouse either.

8 D-ribose D-ribose may be unfamiliar to you, but it’s not unfamiliar to your body. D-ribose is a totally natural and non-stimulating cellular energy factor. Chemically, D-ribose is classified as a pentose sugar (contains only 5 carbon atoms, most simple sugars contain 6). Cells use D-ribose to produce their primary fuel source, ATP. D-ribose thus complements and could be used with creatine, which helps to recycle spent ATP. Some doctors are now ecommending D-ribose for a wide range of disorders related to impaired energy production such as chronic fatigue syndrome and cardiovascular problems. If you’re looking to effectively enhance your overall energy levels, without the side-effects of stimulants, don’t overlook D-ribose.

9 Xylitol (SIGH-li-toll) Xylitol may be the most perfect sugar substitute ever. It has a granular appearance and texture just like sugar. It has a cool, neutral sweetness just like sugar. It can be mixed into any drink or food, baked, blended, frozen or boiled and it retains its very agreeable sweetness just like sugar. But unlike sugar, xylitol won’t promote tooth decay. Unlike sugar, it won’t spike blood sugar levels because as a polyol or “sugar alcohol”, it is metabolized very slowly and harmlessly. There’s really no reason to use any other sweetner, artificial or otherwise. So why is xylitol still overlooked by so many people, including those who could most benefit?

10 Theanine Some of the most stressful situations, such as public speaking, job interviews or traveling on a deadline demand that you keep on your toes at all times. That means that most of the usual anti-stress supplements such a valerian root, kava kava, GABA and 5-HTP would best be avoided since they can undermine mental and physical energy levels and induce a sense of drowsiness, the last thing you need in those circumstances. The great and unique about theanine, an amino acid derived from green tea, is that it’s able to promote a calm, centered state-of-mind without undermining your energy or making you feel tired. There’s really no other supplement that does that. So next time you anticipate a stressful situation but need to stay sharp, don’t overlook theanine.

One Response to “Top Ten Most Overlooked Supplements”

  1. January 06, 2009 at 1:29 pm, Betsy S said:

    enjoyed the info and have found it to be quite helpful.

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