Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lygodium japonicum Promotes Hair Growth by Inhibiting Testosterone to DHT Conversion

Japanese climbing fern may be helpful in preventing hair loss.
Japanese climbing fern may be helpful in preventing hair loss. (Photo by homeredwardprice)

Lygodium japonicum, also known as Japanese climbing fern, is a vine-like fern that can climb and twine around other plants. It spreads rapidly by dispersing spores with the wind.

The raw spores of the climbing fern are also sold as health products, with claimed health benefits ranging from improving kidney and urinary functions to relieving cold symptoms and acting as a general blood tonic. According to Matsuda et al., the spores of Lygodium japonicum – for which they use the name Lygodii Spora – may also help with hair growth.

To make the experiment, the authors of the paper used 250 ml of 50% ethanol and 50 grams of spores to make an extract. They then studied how well it inhibited the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestostorone (DHT) in vitro and also whether it acted as an anti-androgen in vivo. For the latter experiment, mice and hamsters were used.

All the animals had a part of their hair shaved and treated with either testosterone or DHT. Topical Lygodii Spora extract was then applied to the animals in the treated group, while only ethanol was used in the control groups. The hamsters also had a positive control group that was treated with oxendolone, a known anti-androgen.

Effectiveness in vitro

According to the authors, the spore extract "showed remarkable activity" in inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, the process that converts testosterone to DHT, in vitro. They tried different fractions of the extract to find out which showed the most inhibition. The most effective was found to be the ethanol-hexane soluble fraction, which inhibited 82.7% of the conversion from testosterone to DHT.

Effectiveness in hamster flank organs

In hamsters, the effectiveness was measured by the growth of flank organs, which are often used to study anti-androgenic properties of various substances. Since hamster flank organ growth is stimulated by testosterone and DHT, less growth means higher effectiveness.

In hamsters treated with testosterone, the strongest Lygodii Spora extract showed the highest inhibition of growth, 37.6%. Next best was oxendolone with 29.7% inhibition. Weaker Lygodii Spora extracts were less effective. When treated with DHT, oxendolone showed 21.5% inhibition of growth. Lygodii Spora extracts, from strongest to weakest, inhibited 15%, 11.3% and 7.8%, respectively.

So what does this tell us? Since the spore extract was very effective in inhibiting flank organ growth caused by testosterone but only moderately effective in inhibiting growth caused by DHT, it seems that the strongest thing the extract has going for it is that it significantly inhibits 5-alpha-reductase.

Effectiveness in mouse skin

Shaved mice treated with topical testosterone showed, unsurprisingly, a marked suppression of hair regrowth. However, when a 2% topical Lygodii Spora extract was applied after the testosterone treatment, they grew significantly more hair. In fact, hair growth in these mice was only slightly worse than in the mice that received no topical testosterone.

The authors conclude that the ethanol extract of Lygodii Spora showed a significant anti-androgenic activity. They suggest that the effect is caused by the fatty acids in the extract, namely oleic, linoleic and palmitic acids, which were shown to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase in another experiment of the study. Palmitic acid was about three times as effective as oleic and linoleic acid.


Lygodii Spora extract, an ethanol solution made from the spores of the Lygodium japonicum plant, appears to be an effective topical treatment for hair loss caused by DHT. The anti-androgenic effect may be due to the fatty acids present in the extract: oleic acid, linoleic acid and palmitic acid.

For more information on hair growth, see these posts:

Hair Growth with Vitamin E Tocotrienols from Palm Oil - Experiment Conclusion
Topical Ketoconazole (Nizoral) Increases Hair Growth in Mice
Chinese Hibiscus Leaf Extract Increases Hair Growth in Mice
Asiasari Radix Extract Grows Hair in Mice and in Human Skin Cells

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Green Tea Extract Enhances Abdominal Fat Loss from Exercise

Green tea extract and exercise reduces abdominal fat
Green tea extract together with exercise reduces abdominal fat. (Photo by mikebaird)

Whether or not drinking green tea helps with weight loss is not entirely clear, especially when it comes to humans. However, a new study by Maki et al. suggests that green tea does have a positive effect on overweight individuals.

Specifically, the authors report that the catechins in green tea enhance abdominal fat loss in obese adults who are put on an exercise program.

Exercise alone vs. exercise and green tea extract

All of the 107 participants who completed the 12-week study had a BMI between 25 and 40, which put them in the overweight category. They were randomly assigned to receive either a drink containing green tea extract and 625 mg of catechins or a control drink with no catechins. Both drinks had the same amount of caffeine.

The main catechins in the green tea drink were epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epigallocatechin (EGC). The catechin distribution was similar to those found in normal teas, but the amount of catechins in the drink was much higher than in green tea, which has the highest catechin content.

The participants were also put on an exercise program with a goal of at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Diets did not change in either group, but caffeine intake was lower in both groups during the experiment.

Reduced abdominal fat and triglycerides in catechin group

The catechin group had a greater loss of body weight than the control group, but changes in waist circumference and fat mass percentage were not significantly different. However, total abdominal fat areas and abdominal subcutaneous fat areas were lower in the catechin group.

Green tea extract, exercise, and abdominal fat mass
So what exactly happened here? As you can see from the figure above, both the group that received the green tea extract and the group that received the control beverage lost some fat mass during the experiment. That's to be expected, of course, since both groups got on an exercise program.

What's interesting is that even though both groups had the same level of physical activity, the green tea group lost more weight and more total fat mass (though the latter was not statistically significant). After 12 weeks, the average weight loss in the control group was 1 kg, while in the catechin group it was 2.2 kg. Nothing spectacular here, but still a noticeable difference.

If you look at the changes in the total abdominal fat area, you can see that there was almost no difference in the control group. That is, exercise alone did not reduce the total abdominal fat area. In fact, even though the intra-abdominal fat (the "dangerous one" around your internal organs) area decreased slightly, subcutaenous fat (the one just under the skin) area actually increased slightly.

Exercise with daily green tea extract on the other hand led to a 7.7% decrease in total abdominal fat area, with reductions in both subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat areas. According to the authors, however, the difference in intra-abdominal fat area between the catechin and control groups was not statistically significant.

The participants in the catechin group also reduced their triglyceride levels more than the control group. Similar differences between groups were not seen in HDL and LDL levels. Fasting glucose and fasting insulin levels did not change during the study.


A daily beverage containing green tea catechins combined with moderate exercise was more effective in reducing abdominal fat in obese individuals than moderate exercise alone. Specifically, the total abdominal fat areas and abdominal subcutaenous areas were reduced in the catechin group.

For more information on green tea, see these posts:

Green Tea Increases Weight Loss during Caloric Restriction in Rats
Green Tea Extract Increases Insulin Sensitivity & Fat Burning during Exercise
Green Tea and Capsaicin Reduce Hunger and Calorie Intake
Green Tea, Black Tea & Oolong Tea Increase Insulin Activity by More than 1500%

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Anti-Aging in the Media: Houston Press on Caloric Restriction

An eggplant salad suits the calorie restriction lifestyle
Low-calorie meals can look tasty too. (Photo by yomi955)

The press just don't seem to get enough of caloric restriction these days. The latest article on the subject of living longer through being hungry appeared last week in Houston Press.

Of course technically, the goal of caloric restriction is not being hungry per se but rather living longer. Some practitioners do report not feeling hungry, even though their calorie intake is much lower than average. Apparently the distinction between staying hungry and eating less is not so important to these scientists.

Semi-starvation doesn't sound like a party, but calorie restriction — a scientific term meaning undernutrition without malnutrition — is now being touted as the latest fountain-of-youth secret for extending the human "health span" and possibly the life span. Gerontologists, oncologists, biochemists and biologists like Bauer, engaged in calorie restriction studies on lab animals, believe they've found an effective way to stave off cancers, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's and many other ailments. Staying hungry and living lean, say some researchers, is the only mechanism scientifically known to slow down the aging process and prevent age-related illnesses.

The interesting part of the article are the interviews with members of the Caloric Restriction Society, a community of people devoted to living la vida low-cal. One of them, Shannon Vyff, is on a pretty strict CR diet, and based on her meal times, also on a condensed-window version of intermittent fasting:

Vyff now eats once a day, usually a lean chicken breast poached in water, some steamed broccoli or squash and maybe a glass of fresh orange juice. She eats red meat once every two weeks and prefers it cooked rare. Her daily calorie count hovers around 1,200 if she's not exercising and 1,600 to 1,800 if she runs five or ten miles on the treadmill. She's also on a local roller derby team. When she's in training for that, she might help herself to a few extra morsels. Her favorite treat: six raw walnut halves and three Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

On a side note, like myself, she also posts at the Immortality Institute forums, a worthwhile place to visit if you're looking for up-to-date information and discussion on matters related to life extension. If I have questions about specific supplements, this is the place I'll ask first.

What I found most strange in the article was the comment by Jonathan Bauer, a scientist working at a center for ageing center. He's correct in saying that there's no proof of caloric restriction working on humans (because the scientists making such an experiment would die before the participants), but where he comes up with his "best guess" is unclear:

The best guess in the scientific community is that starting a program of calorie restriction in your thirties might add two years, says Bauer. "If you start in your forties, it's six months. Start later than that, it's negligible. It could be a few extra weeks."

First, based on the animal data, the effect of CR depends on how strict the diet is; i.e. the less the animals eat, the longer they live (up to a point, of course). So where exactly does this two year number come from? Does it refer to people on a 10%, 20% or 40% caloric restriction diet?

Second, it's not clear whether Bauer is talking about maximum lifespan or mean lifespan here, but since we already know that people who eat healthy can live more than a decade longer than people on unhealthy diets (due to less cancer, less cardiovascular disease, less diabetes), two years seems much too conservative an estimate. Not to mention the ridiculous claim of a few extra weeks.

The key question when discussing lifespan (and a lot of other things, for that matter) should always be: "Compared to what?" Perhaps Bauer means that when you compare a non-CR'd person eating a healthy diet to a CR'd person, the difference in lifespan is only a few years. There he may be correct, but I would like to see just where he got this number from, since as he himself says, we don't know how CR affects longevity in humans.

In addition to caloric restriction, the article also discusses resveratrol and raw food diets. Nothing new here, but getting the word out on resveratrol is still good. Most people still don't know what resveratrol is, so at this point, it's all good publicity. The raw food part is mostly about losing weight rather than extending lifespan.

There's also a very special bonus at the end of the article, so be sure to read the whole thing. Hint: it's a joke about caloric restriction that every writer just has to mention to appear witty. I wonder if putting that joke on a CR diet would make it seem less old.

For more information on anti-aging and calorie restriction, see these posts:

Caloric Restriction Improves Memory in the Elderly
Anti-Aging in the Media: National Post on Caloric Restriction
Anti-Aging in the Media: 60 Minutes on Resveratrol
Anti-Aging in the Media: Newsweek on the Search for Longer Life

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Anti-Aging in the Media: Rolling Stone on Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil predicts the Singularity will happen in 2045
Ray Kurzweil, Google and NASA have launched the Singularity University. (Photo by null0)

The February issue of Rolling Stone magazine has an interesting interview with Ray Kurzweil (read it here), a techno-progressive and avid supporter of the Singularity – a theoretical future point in time where technological progress far surpasses anything we've experienced before.

If you don't know who he is but the name sounds vaguely familiar, it's probably because of the famous Kurzweil synthesizer, which he invented in the 80's. The 61-year-old inventor has also worked with pattern recognition and artificial intelligence, but he's most famous for his predictions on where technology is headed. More precisely, he's famous for his correct predictions, which include the fall of the Soviet Union, the Internet, and the ubiquity of wireless networks.

Kurzweil's latest – and most controversial – prediction is that the Singularity will occur by 2045. If he's correct, what it will mean in practice is that we'll have the technology to use intelligent nanorobots operating on a molecular scale to repair and prevent damage from happening inside our bodies, among other things. When these machines become intelligent enough to repair all the damage, they will inevitably allow humans to dramatically increase their lifespans.

Many have criticized Kurzweil's theory of accelerated change for being too simple. His theory is based on the observation that the rate of technological progress is constantly increasing. A famous example is microprocessors: not only do they keep getting more powerful, but they keep getting more powerful faster than before. Effectively, a doubling in their processing power takes fewer and fewer years as time goes by.

Even though Kurzweil has been correct more times than many other people claiming to know the future, some say his estimate is not based on actual facts but on hope that he himself might live to see the Singularity. If he predicted the Singularity to occur in a hundred years, he might not be around to experience it.

I think this criticism is valid, and the year 2045 if probably too precise a guess based on too imprecise data to be true. However, the fact that Kurzweil has decided to come up with an exact year that is not too far away has very likely been one reason for his popularity and the excitement around his predicitions. It's good marketing, and I don't see anything wrong with it if it gets the masses thinking about the possibility of technology helping us to live longer and healthier lives.

Besides, even if the date is wrong, his vision of the future probably isn't far off from the truth. As I've mentioned in my other posts about current inventions in the world of anti-aging, we already have some very promising things going on, and it does seem like the rate of progress is indeed increasing. Smart nanorobots in the bloodstream fixing diseases are not really a question of "if" but "when".

And who knows, they might even be closer than Kurzweil predicts.

For more information on anti-aging and technology, see these posts:

Taking Life Sciences to an Extreme: From Homo Sapiens to Homo Evolutis

Anti-Aging in the Media: The Globe and Mail on Telomerase
End Aging to End Anxiety: Filmmaker Jason Silva Talks about Immortality
Growing New Body Parts: Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine

Read More......

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taking Life Sciences to an Extreme: From Homo Sapiens to Homo Evolutis

The ultimate reboot: when we learn to truly improve ourselves.

In a fascinating presentation at TED, Juan Enriquez describes current and future technologies used in genomics and other life sciences. It's not just about having cleaner robots around the house, but about improving humans through technology.

One good example he gives is hearing aids. Not that long ago they were these huge horns you had to hold next to your ear while the other person was shouting at you, and after a while they became small enough to wrap around the ear, and now we have small microphones that are inserted inside the ear. The next generation of hearing aids will undoubtedly be even better.

The fact that it won't be long after deaf people will be able to hear as well as the rest of us is of course exciting, but even more exciting is that after that, it won't be long before their hearing will be better than ours. And there's no reason why a person with normal hearing couldn't improve their hearing with this technology. The same applies to a lot of other things as well.

Enriquez also speaks about stem cells, tissue engineering, robotics, and the financial crisis. While I think Juan Enriquez definitely has a point about the current state of the economy, the most interesting part is at the last half of the video. So if you just want to see the cool new things happening in the world of science, you can skip straight to 07:30.

For more information on science and anti-aging, see these posts:

Anti-Aging in the Media: The Globe and Mail on Telomerase
Anti-Aging in the Media: 60 Minutes on Resveratrol
End Aging to End Anxiety: Filmmaker Jason Silva Talks about Immortality
Growing New Body Parts: Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine

Read More......

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hyaluronic Acid for Skin & Hair – Experiment Begins

Hyaluronic acid is sourced from chicken sternal cartilage
Hyaluronic acid is sourced from chicken sternal cartilage. (Photo by ~MVI~)

Hyaluronic acid is one of those supplements that you might have heard about but probably haven't seen mentioned in any studies. That's because only a few studies exist, and the results are not really spectacular enough to make you want to look for more information.

That said, the anecdotal evidence of hyaluronic acid supporting healthy joints, improving skin quality and possibly increasing hair growth are questionable and interesting enough for me to begin a human experiment. As I don't have joint problems, the success or failure of the experiment will be determined by effects on skin or hair.

The product I've chosen to aid me in my quest is Doctor's Best Hyaluronic Acid with Chondroitin Sulfate. Don't know what this product all about? Don't worry, it's patented! I'll let the marketing speak for itself:

Doctor's Best Hyaluronic Acid with Chondroitin Sulfate contains patented BioCell Collagen II (US patents 6,025,327; 6,323,319; & 6,780,841). BioCell Collagen II is sourced from chicken sternal cartilage and provides bioavailable, low molecular weight hyaluronic acid. It is standardized to contain 10% Hyaluronic Acid, 20% Chondroitin Sulfate, and 60% Collagen Type II.

Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen are vital structural components of skin that decline as we age, and are partly responsible for the skin's moisture, suppleness and elasticity. BioCell Collagen II contains key components that can help support healthy skin and joint function.

At a price of $12 for a month's supply, this product is not exactly the cheapest supplement out there. The amount of actual hyaluronic acid (100 mg per serving) in the capsules also seems fairly low, so I'm tempted to increase the dosage. However, as I only have one bottle of the stuff, I'm going to make an exception to my usual protocol and actually stick to the recommended amount this time.

Due to limited funds and a long queue of other stuff to try, this is going to be a shorter than usual experiment. I'll report back with results in a month.

For more information on skin quality and hair growth, see these posts:

Hyaluronic Acid for Skin & Hair – Experiment Conclusion
Topical Ketoconazole (Nizoral) Increases Hair Growth in Mice
How I Accidentally Grew Hair on My Left Temple with Retinol - Experiment Conclusion
3 Quick Ways to Find Out Whether Your Hair Growth Product Is Working

Read More......

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Anti-Aging in the Media: The Globe and Mail on Telomerase

Astragalus is said to increase telomerase
Locoweed is a member of the Astragalus genus. (Photo by MiguelVieira)

The Globe and Mail, Canada's biggest newspaper, seems to have jumped on the anti-aging bandwagon. Their surprisingly positive piece on increasing telomerase appeared last month, but I ran across it only now.

The article is about multimillionaire life-extensionist Noel Patton, who apparently is not completely satisfied with the idea of dying of old age. Fair enough, but how exactly does he plan on conquering death? Enter the Patton Protocol:

It begins with taking 14 vials of blood from the customer and sending them to four different labs to undergo 90 different tests, including measurements for telomere length. Six months after the customers start taking the astragalus-derived pills, they return to have their biomarkers retested.

Telomeres are like protective caps at the end of chromosomes. With every cell division, telomeres get shorter, which ultimately limits cells to a fixed number of divisions (known as the Hayflick limit). This is why telomere shortening has been suggested as one cause of aging.

Astragalus membranaceus, the key ingredient of the Patton Protocol, is a plant that is said to activate telomerase. Telomerase is an enzyme that increases telomere length. The idea, then, is that by increasing telomerase you increase telomere length and ultimately prevent aging. Whether or not it will increase lifespan in humans is unknown, but it does seem like a promising strategy in fighting at least one aspect of aging.

I certainly think such strategies are very welcome, and even if they do prove to not be useful, we're better off knowing sooner rather than later. Without extensive clinical trials behind the protocol, Patton's clients are acting as guinea pigs, and I commend them for it. We need more human experimenters!

And while I said the piece is surprisingly positive, perhaps it's not so surprising after all, since Canadians seem to be more interested in studying aging than a lot of other countries:

And next year in Canada, 160 investigators from several universities will launch the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, which will follow 50,000 men and women 45 to 85 years old for at least two decades, probing the subjects' biological, psychological, social and economic changes over time. It is being billed as the most comprehensive aging study ever undertaken.

While this study won't tell us how to prevent and reverse aging, it will likely give us insight into some of the causes of aging and tips on what kind of lifestyles result in longer lifespans. This kind of data, along with evidence from people like Patton and his clients, is surely going to be very beneficial in the long run for everyone interested in living as long and as healthy as possible.

For more information on anti-aging, see these posts:

Anti-Aging in the Media: 60 Minutes on Resveratrol
Anti-Aging in the Media: Newsweek on the Search for Longer Life
End Aging to End Anxiety: Filmmaker Jason Silva Talks about Immortality
Growing New Body Parts: Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine

Read More......

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Topical Vitamin C, Vitamin E & Ferulic Acid – Experiment Conclusion

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic acid
Watch what you buy: not all vitamin C is created equal. (Photo by audreyjm529)

This post marks the end of my experiment with SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic acid, a skincare product with vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid. The idea was to see whether applying the product on my face would result in "more youthful looking skin" as promised.

Unlike with many other experiments, this time I didn't divide myself into treated and control groups, but applied the stuff on my entire face instead. Exact comparisons between now and then are thus difficult, but I think I can safely say that there have been no significant visible improvements. Granted, things haven't changed for the worse, but a "more youthful looking skin" has not manifested itself either.

That said, I can't say I'm disappointed in the product. The fact that it contains l-ascorbic acid and alpha-tocopherol in an absorbable form makes it better than probably 90% of anti-aging creams out there. The science seems to back up the claim that the combination of the two is photoprotective, and according to one study, the addition of ferulic acid further adds to the effect.

So basically, I have more faith in the protective effects than the repair effects of the product; even though SkinCeuticals claims it also helps build collagen. Perhaps a longer time is needed to see improvements in collagen production, but then again, I began the experiment last summer, so it's been almost eight months of meticulous (well, almost) application.

The good thing about the product is that it absorbs well. After less than a minute it's not even noticeable on the skin. The bad thing is that it's ridiculously expensive. Granted, a small amount will get you pretty far, but still, I can't see this one becoming mainstream anytime soon with the current price tag.

Another thing that worried me was that in some of the small sample bottles I purchased for the experiment, some of the liquid had turned from light yellow to dark orange, which means the ascorbic acid had oxidized. I'm not sure whether just getting rid of the oxidized parts away gets rid of the problem completely, but discarding a whole bottle would be like pouring liquid gold down the drain (speaking of which, I actually did manage to pour some of the stuff down the sink by accident). In any case, I don't recommend putting the oxidized liquid on your face.

So what is the final verdict? Even though I failed to see visible improvements, I still consider the product much more promising than a lot of other stuff out there, simply because the ingredients are things that have actually been shown to do something instead of just sounding impressive. The price is not quite right, but if a good deal comes along, I think I'll grab it.

For more information on skin care, see these posts:

How I Accidentally Grew Hair on My Left Temple with Retinol - Experiment Conclusion
1,000-8,000 mg of MSM Has No Effect on Hair & Nails - Experiment Conclusion
How to Get Natural Sun Protection by Eating the Right Foods
Biotin Supplements for Hair & Nails - Experiment Conclusion

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Hair Growth with Vitamin E Tocotrienols from Palm Oil – Experiment Conclusion

Tocotrienols are said to help with hair growth
Tocotrienols are said to help with hair growth. (Photo by mauroguanandi)

This post marks the end of my experiment with Toco-Sorb, a supplement that contains tocotrienols meant to increase hair growth.

As I wrote in the first post of the experiment, the patent study related to a similar product called Toco-8 suggests tocotrienols might help with hair growth. These results haven't been reproduced in other studies, however, so it seemed like a worthwhile experiment.

Unfortunately, the only noticeable increase I've recently seen in hair growth was from the retinol cream, which I was using as part of another experiment. The bottle of Toco-Sorb contained 120 gelcaps, so at a rate of 2 caps per day, it lasted me exactly two months. Admittedly, a longer time is recommended for any hair growth product, but for now, this'll have to do.

However, there seems to have been a reduction in the amount of hairs shed daily. Following my own advice on how to determine whether a hair growth product is working or not, I counted the average numbers of hairs shed before the experiment and got about 70 hairs per day. This fits within normal limits, but after about a month or so into the experiment, I've regularly counted about 40 hairs per day.

I'm not sure whether this effect is only temporary or whether it can be attributed to tocotrienols, but in any case, even these results seem more positive than a lot of other things I've tried. If anyone else has similar experiences from palm oil tocotrienols, be sure to leave a comment and share them.

In case you're wondering about absorbing tocotrienols from natural foods like palm oil instead of taking supplements, unless you're ready to consume ridiculous amounts of palm oil, it's not going to work. Not in the amounts used in the patent study that showed hair growth, at least.

If you don't want to take the supplement route and are willing to settle for less tocotrienols, a good way to improve the absorption of tocotrienols is to add sesame seeds to your meal. Sesame seeds increase the absorption of tocotrienols by up to five times.

Even if you do decide to buy either Toco-8 or Toco-Sorb (I'm unaware of other products at the current time), taking them with sesame seeds is very likely to help. During the experiment, I poured about a tablespoon of sesame seeds into my morning smoothie and chased the gelcaps down with the smoothie. I also consumed about a tablespoon of palm oil each day, as I mentioned in the post about my typical intermittent fasting meal.

I've also ran across some studies that suggest tocotrienols may have other health benefits as well, so I may continue supplementing with them at a later time. For now, however, it's onward and upward to new fascinating experiments in the bizarre world of hair growth.

For more information on hair growth, see these posts:

Topical Ketoconazole (Nizoral) Increases Hair Growth in Mice
Hair Growth Battle: Emu Oil vs. Hair Again® Topical Gel
Chinese Hibiscus Leaf Extract Increases Hair Growth in Mice
Mixture of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid and Iron Increases Hair Growth in Mice

Read More......

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Typical Paleolithic High-Fat, Low-Carb Meal of an Intermittent Faster

Wild salmon has a good omega-3/omega-6 ratio
Wild salmon has a good omega-3/omega-6 ratio. (Photo by woodleywonderworks)

I wrote a short while ago about my typical day of intermittent fasting. I also mentioned I'd share the details of my diet in later posts. Analyzing it with the help of CRON-o-Meter has led me to categorize my typical warm meal as a high-fat, medium-protein, low-carb meal with a paleolithic twist.

While I don't subscribe the paleolithic way of eating in its entirety, I think we can learn a lot of useful things by studying how and what our ancestors ate. I see our evolutionary history as a useful starting point for drawing up healthy diet plans, which can then be further improved upon through modern science.

Olive oil is one example of a food item regularly consumed by paleo dieters, even though cavemen didn't actually pour cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil on their buffalo meat. In my opinion, it's more about learning the basics by studying the past and then tweaking the discoveries to make them suitable for the modern world. Whether or not a diet with olive oil, butter and spices can be called a true paleo diet is questionable, but in many ways, they're still closer to a stone age diet than for example processed grains are.

I haven't really measured my calorie and especially fat intake after my caloric restriction experiment, so the amount of fat in my diet surprised even me a little. Apparently my high-fat diet is still going on, even though I haven't purposedly chosen to consume ridiculous amounts of fat like I used to during the experiment; it's just that by cutting out grains (with the exception of oats) and starchy vegetables, fat intake almost inevitably goes up. Since a true high-protein is practically impossible, low-carb diets are usually synonymous with high-fat diets.

So what is the recipe, you ask? Here are the basic ingredients for a meal I consume 3-4 times a week with slight variations (replacing the salmon and shrimp with red meat, usually):

The high-fat, medium-protein, low-carb recipe

100 g wild salmon
100 g shrimp
400 g crushed tomatoes
150 g coconut milk
100 g zucchini
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1,5 tbsp red palm oil
1,5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame seed oil

I'll spare you the details of preparation for now and concentrate on analyzing what's happening inside this beast of a meal, but if you have questions about the recipe, do leave a comment. While the fat content may not seem that big at first, here's what CRON-o-Meter has to say:

High-fat, low-carb, medium-protein meal
First of all, this baby packs a whopping 1,273 kcal, which is more than half my daily energy intake. If that seems like too much for one meal, trust me, eating it all at one sitting is not a problem after you've fasted for 24 hours.

Second, as you can see from the pie chart on the right, the fat/protein/carbohydrate percentages are 68/16/15, respectively. If we look only at the numbers, you could of course call this a high-fat, low-protein, low-carbohydrate meal, but in terms of daily recommendations, the protein content is medium or even high.

The distribution of different types of fat is: 48 g saturated, 32 g monounsaturated, 13 g polyunsaturated. The omega-3/omega-6 ratio is 1:5, which is pretty good compared to the average modern diet.

So there you have it, the macronutrient composition of the main element of my current diet. I don't, of course, eat the exact same things every day, but the distribution of fat, protein and carbs has remained pretty stable for the past two years or so. It may not be optimal, and I'm constantly seeking to improve it, but my arteries haven't clogged yet, my HDL/LDL ratio looks good, and I maintain a BMI of ~18 with less than 10% body fat, so it can't be all bad.

The other staple of my diet is my morning (or sometimes evening) smoothie, which is what I take all my supplements with. I'll post the details of that one later.

For more information on diet and health, see these posts:

A Typical Day of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity Even without Weight Loss
Coconut Lowers LDL, VLDL and Triglycerides, Raises HDL
How to Get Natural Sun Protection by Eating the Right Foods

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Topical Ketoconazole (Nizoral) Increases Hair Growth in Mice

Ketoconazole may help with hair growth
Ketoconazole has an anti-fungal effect. (Photo by Benimoto)

Ketoconazole, a synthetic antifungal drug, is the active ingredient in Nizoral shampoo. It's marketed as an anti-dandruff shampoo due to FDA regulations, but some studies suggest it may also stimulate hair growth.

Probably the most often quoted study is the one by Jiang et al., though no one seems to have read the actual paper. The authors applied topical ketoconazole on the backs of mice to see whether hair growth was affected. I, too, was unable to get a hold of the paper, since it originally appeared in a Japanese journal, but at least the abstract is available:

Topical application of ketoconazole stimulates hair growth in C3H/HeN mice

Ketoconazole (KCZ) is an imidazole anti-fungal agent that is also effective in topical applications for treating seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. Recently, topical use of 2% KCZ shampoo has been reported to have had a clinically therapeutic effect on androgenetic alopecia. The present study was conducted with the purpose of quantitatively examining the stimulatory effect of KCZ on hair growth in a mouse model.

Coat hairs on the dorsal skin of seven week-old male C3H/HeN mice were gently clipped, and either 2% KCZ solution in 95% ethanol or a vehicle solution was topically applied once daily for three weeks. The clipped area was photographed, and the ratio of re-grown coat area was then calculated.

The results demonstrated that 2% KCZ had a macroscopically significant stimulatory effect compared with the vehicle group. Repeated experiments showed similar effects, confirming the efficacy of KCZ as a hair growth stimulant. Although the therapeutic mechanism of topical KCZ for hair growth is unclear, our results suggest that topical applications of the substance are useful for treating seborrheic dermatitis accompanied by hair regression or male pattern hair loss.

It's not entirely clear how much more hair the ketoconazole group grew compared to the control group, but there was a stimulatory effect nonetheless. The authors also point out that, like with minoxidil, the mechanism of ketoconazole for hair growth is still unclear.

Now, a 2% ketoconazole solution in 95% is not the same thing as a ketoconazole shampoo such as Nizoral (there are generic and often cheaper brands with as well). However, most ketoconazole shampoos are actually available in a 2% version, which means that the products contain the same amount of ketoconazole as was used in the study; only the carrier is different.

For some people, 2% is too strong and irritates the skin. In these cases, the lighter 1% version is recommended. Though once a week is recommended to prevent dandruff, many people have used ketoconazole products daily without problems. Personally, I haven't seen any adverse effects from using one twice a week.

Ketoconazole shampoos are a bit expensive, but unlike a lot of other hair loss remedies, it may actually be worth the money. This study, and others that I will post about in upcoming posts, suggests that not only does ketoconazole prevent dandruff, it can also increase hair growth through mechanisms not yet known. There's also quite a lot of anecdotal evidence of ketoconazole's effectiveness in male pattern hair loss, which explains why Nizoral is often listed among the so-called "Big 3" of hair loss treatments, along with Finasteride and minoxidil.

For more information on hair growth, see these posts:

2% Nizoral Shampoo Increases Hair Growth in Men with Male Pattern Baldness
2% Nizoral Shampoo Increases Hair Growth More than 2% Minoxidil
Hair Growth Battle: Emu Oil vs. Hair Again® Topical Gel
Chinese Hibiscus Leaf Extract Increases Hair Growth in Mice
How I Accidentally Grew Hair on My Left Temple with Retinol

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Peak Increase in Antioxidant Activity Occurs 20-40 Minutes after Drinking Green Tea

Even the unabsorbed antioxidants of green tea may be good for you. (Photo by mckaysavage)

So far in the series of posts about green tea and antioxidants we've seen that green tea significantly increases antioxidant activity in human plasma and that it does so even when milk is added. Black tea has a similar but slightly smaller effect.

I stumbled upon a somewhat older paper by Benzie et al. who were among the first to study how well antioxidants from green tea are absorbed by humans. In their own words:

However powerful the in vitro anticarcinogenic activity of tea antioxidants may be, potential health benefits are unlikely to be realized if tea antioxidants are inactivated in the gut or are not absorbed.

We already know from other studies that something in green tea has to be absorbed, because the results are so overwhelmingly positive, but whether it's the antioxidants or something else that is behind the health benefits of tea is a different question.

Strong green tea and peak increases in antioxidant activity

To make the tea used in the study, 500 ml of boiling water was poured on 20 grams of green tea leaves (8-10 tea bags), and the tea was then allowed to infuse for 10 minutes. That makes for a very strong tea, much stronger than the ones used in the other studies. The volunteers drank 300-400 ml of the tea, after which blood samples were collected at different time intervals.

Once again, green tea caused a significant increase in plasma antioxidant activity. The peak increase occurred 20-40 minutes after ingestion. The mean increase at 40 minutes was 4%. The result is very similar to the one I wrote about in my previous post: the method of measuring antioxidant activity was the same in both studies, and as the tea was much stronger in this one, a more significant increase is logical.

Interestingly, though, there was no difference between the participants who consumed 400 ml of green tea and those who consumed only 300 ml (due to the bitter taste). The authors suspect that this may be due to the absorption mechanism being saturated at the lower dose; this may mean that it's better to spread your daily 10 cups of green tea throughout the day instead of drinking it all at once.

Green tea and peak increase in antioxidant activity
In the figure above, the circles represent plasma antioxidant values measured in the controls, who were given only water. The squares represent the tea drinkers. The subjects were the same in both groups, with at least four weeks between the two experiments.

The authors seem a little disappointed that the antioxidants in tea are rather poorly absorbed. On the other hand, they point out that the antioxidants that are not absorbed in the gut may conserve other antioxidants from food and thus have a local protective effect. This might help explain some of the many health benefits of green tea.


Strongly brewed green tea increases plasma antioxidant activity in humans by up to 4%. The effect lasts at least two hours, but the most significant increase is seen 20-40 minutes after ingestion.

For more information on green tea and black tea, see these posts:

Green Tea Catechin Reverses the Effect of DHT in Prostate Cancer Cells
Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Green Tea, Black Tea, Oolong Tea & Pu-Erh Tea
How Black Pepper Increases the Bioavailability of the Healthiest Green Tea Catechin
Drinking 10 Cups of Green Tea Daily and Not Smoking Could Add 12 Years to Your Life

Read More......

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Green Tea and Black Tea Increase Plasma Antioxidant Capacity Regardless of Milk

Green tea, black tea, milk and antioxidants
Adding a dash of milk to your tea may retain its antioxidant effect after all. (Photo by floluong)

I wrote in my previous post about a study that suggested 2-3 cups of green tea raises antioxidant concentrations in plasma of healthy subjects, both male and female. Any less than that didn't have a noticeable effect on plasma antioxidants.

I also mentioned I'll be looking at other papers studying the relationship between tea and antioxidants, so here goes.

Green tea, black tea and antioxidants in humans

The results were reproduced by Leenen at al. who found that tea, green or black, increases antioxidant activity in plasma. The authors gave 21 healthy volunteers a single dose of tea. The dose refers to 2 grams of freeze-dried tea solids in 300 ml of water. According to the authors, this is equal to about three cups of tea (when I first looked at the study I made the mistake of assuming 2 grams of ordinary tea leaves was used; however, this is not the case).

This is an interesting study, because both green tea and black tea were studied, and both were studied with or without the addition of milk. Mineral water was used as control. In a cross-over design, each volunteer received the six possible combinations (green or black tea or water with or without milk) on six different days with at least two days in between treatments. For the milk treatments, 60 ml of pasteurised full-fat milk was used.

After an hour of drinking green tea without milk, antioxidant levels rose from 1.144 to 1.178 mmol/l, an increase of 0.034 mmol/l. With milk added, concentrations increased from 1.132 to 1.167 mmol/l, the difference being almost the same, 0.035 mmol/l. After two hours, the increases were 0.032 and 0.024, respectively.

After an hour of drinking black tea without milk, antioxidant concentrations rose from 1.147 to 1.170 mmol/l, an increase of 0.023 mmol/l. When milk was added, the increase was from 1.122 to 1.141 mmol/l, the difference being 0.019 mmol/l. After two hours, the increases were 0.015 and 0.006 mmol/l, respectively.

When water or water and milk were used, no similar increases in antioxidant concentrations were seen.

Black tea, green tea and plasma antioxidant concentrations

So what can we say about these numbers? Clearly, both green tea and black tea increased plasma antioxidant concentrations, regardless of whether milk was used or not. Green tea increased the antioxidant concentrations of plasma more than did black tea. Adding milk to either black tea or green tea still caused an increase, but after two hours, the increase was smaller than without milk.

Comparing the results with other studies

Comparing these results to the ones I wrote about in the previous post, we can see that the effect here was similar but more modest. In the study by Sung et al., one hour after drinking three cups of green tea the increase in antioxidant concentrations was 12%, and after two hours, it was 12.7%.

In this study, the increase after one and two hours of drinking green tea was about 3%. When milk was added to green tea, the increase was 3% after one hour and 2% after two hours. After one and two hours of black tea, the increases were 2% and 1.2%, respectively. When milk was added to black tea, the numbers were 1.7% and 0.5%.

The variation between the results from the two studies may be due to differences in preparation of the teas and methods of measurement.


3 cups of green tea or black tea increases plasma antioxidant concentrations in healthy humans by up to 2-3%. When pasteurised full-fat milk is added, the effect is slightly diminished but still noticeable.

For more information on green tea and black tea, see these posts:

Green Tea Catechin Reverses the Effect of DHT in Prostate Cancer Cells
Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Green Tea, Black Tea, Oolong Tea & Pu-erh Tea
How Black Pepper Increases the Bioavailability of the Healthiest Green Tea Catechin
Drinking 10 Cups of Green Tea Daily and Not Smoking Could Add 12 Years to Your Life

Read More......

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Drinking 3 Cups of Green Tea Increases Plasma Antioxidant Activity in Humans by 12%

Green tea has an antioxidant effect in vivo
The antioxidant effect of green tea lasts at least 2 hours. (Photo by modomatic)

Antioxidants have been all over the media in the past few years. Even people who have no idea what antioxidants are know that they're something positive. Green tea has also had more than its fifteen minutes of fame (this blog is just one example). Unsurprisingly, the health benefits of green tea are often attributed to its antioxidant activity.

The truth, however, is more complicated. Studies done in vitro (literally "within the glass") certainly give us a clue on what green tea does, but the human body is more complicated. The fact is that we're still not exactly sure what happens when people drink green tea.

That's why I'm going to review some of the studies comparing the in vitro and in vivo (literally "within the living") effects of green tea. Specifically, I will be looking at studies related to the antioxidant activity of green tea and other teas.

Green tea and antioxidants in human plasma

The first one is by Sung et al. In the study, the authors gave 10 healthy subjects of both sexes green tea and measured the amount of antioxidant capacity in their plasma.

This is a particularly interesting study not only because the subjects were humans but also because the amounts of green tea were small. So small, in fact, that I for one drink more green tea almost every day than the subjects did when consuming the highest dosage.

In the first week, the subjects drank 150 ml of green tea made by boiling 2.5 grams of dried green tea leaves in 80°C for 2 minutes. That's pretty close to one tea bag in one cup of water. In the second and third weeks the amount was doubled and tripled, respectively.

green tea and antioxidant activity
After one hour of ingesting 150 ml of green tea, the plasma antioxidant concentrations of the subjects increased to 1.33 mmol/l. After two hours, the concentration was 1.34 mmol/l. Compared to baseline levels of 1.31 mmol/l, the increases were 0.02 and 0.03 mmol/l.

In the second week, drinking 300 ml of green tea increased antioxidant concentrations from 1.29 to 1.38 mmol/l after one hour and 1.37 mmol/l after two hours. Thus, even though the increase was more significant than with the lower dose, there was a slight decrease after two hours compared to levels measured after the first hour.

After the third week, when the amount was 450 ml of green tea, antioxidant concentrations increased from 1.33 to 1.49 mmol/l at 1 hour and 1.50 mmol/l at 2 hours.


After drinking one cup of green tea, the increase in the total antioxidant capacity of plasma was not statistically significant. However, one hour after drinking two cups of green tea the increase was 7%, and after two hours the increase was 6.2%. After 3 cups and one hour, the increase was 12%, and one hour later rose to 12.7%.

Based on this study, green tea seems to have an antioxidant effect in humans. The effect is dose-dependent and lasts at least 2 hours.

For more information on green tea, see these posts:

Green Tea Catechin Reverses the Effect of DHT in Prostate Cancer Cells
Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Green Tea, Black Tea, Oolong Tea & Pu-erh Tea
How Black Pepper Increases the Bioavailability of the Healthiest Green Tea Catechin
Drinking 10 Cups of Green Tea Daily and Not Smoking Could Add 12 Years to Your Life

Read More......

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hair Growth Battle: Emu Oil vs. Hair Again® Topical Gel

Emu oil and hair growth
The fat of the emu bird is used to treat wounds and bruises. (Photo by CmdrGravy)

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to begin another hair growth battle. The old one between Korean red ginseng and tea tree oil is still running, but since I have no interesting results to post, I'm going ahead and starting a new one alongside it.

In this match I will be pitting emu oil against a product called Hair Again®. Whereas the former is simply a natural oil made from the fat of the emu bird, the latter is a more complex topical gel consisting of several ingredients that are said to help with hair growth. The fight between nature and science is on.

Emu oil is sometimes used to treat burns and wounds, and there is even some science (which I will get to in another post) to back this idea up. It's also claimed to be anti-inflammatory and sometimes sold as a hair growth product, even though there are no studies that suggest emu oil has anything to do with hair. This, of course, makes it ideal for a human experiment.

Hair Again®, on the other hand, claims to be "the most advanced hair growth topical gel in the world", a rather bold claim to say the least. The product contains the following ingredients: coenzyme Q10, glutathione, superoxide dismutase, beta glucan, beta carotene, retinol, vitamin D3, beta-sitosterol, quercetin, progesterone, and melatonin.

Admittedly, some of the ingredients look pretty good, and in my experience retinol really does grow hair in humans. This product is from the same company (Young Again) as the retinol cream I used, so it will be interesting to see whether this one has an effect too.

I will apply the topical gel on my left temple, which has already received a few months' worth of retinol before this. The right temple will get the emu oil treatment. And since emu oil is also sold as a skin care product, I'm going to apply it on the right side of the face as well just to see what happens.

I'll get to the scientific studies related to emu oil and the ingredients in the gel in later posts. Until then, let the battle begin.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

A Typical Day of Intermittent Fasting

Water is an integral part of intermittent fasting.
Water is an integral part of intermittent fasting. (Photo by Koshyk)

If you're wondering what intermittent fasting (IF) is like in practice, look no further. In this post, I'll describe a typical day (well, two actually) in the life of an intermittent faster.

As I mentioned a while ago, I've been doing intermittent fasting for more than six months now. During that time, I've gotten into a kind of routine where how and what I eat is pretty much fixed from week to week. I don't mean that in a boring way; it's just that when you combine working or studying with fasting, your eating schedule tends to gravitate towards certain patterns.

Since I'm doing the 24/24 hour cycle version of intermittent fasting, it means that at any given day I either start or stop the fast in the afternoon or evening. This moment, known as the break point, may vary slightly from day to day, but recently it's been more or less 6 PM.

Here's a typical day, beginning with a fast (continued from the previous day):

8:00 AM - Wake up
8:15 - drink some water, get to work
8.45 AM - A cup of coffee
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM - Sip on water, drink green tea
2:00 PM - Another cup of coffee
4:15 PM - 5.30 PM Get off work, go to the gym
6:00 PM - Break the fast, eat a warm meal
8:00 PM - Eat some dark chocolate
9:30 PM - Make a smoothie
01:00 AM - Go to bed

The eating window then continues to the second day, which usually looks something like this:

9:00 AM - Wake up
9:15 AM - Drink rest of the smoothie from yesterday, get to classes
10:00 AM - A cup of coffee
12:00 PM - A warm meal
2:00 PM - Another cup of coffee
5:00 PM - A second warm meal
6:00 PM - End the eating period with some dark chocolate
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM - Several cups of green tea
01:00 AM - Go to bed

And repeat from beginning.

Though it may look like I'm eating very little, that's not the case. I'll explain my current diet in more detail in another post, but based on my calculations, I average about 2,000 kcal per day.

How is this possible? By eating large meals. For example, the warm meal that I break the fast with is usually close to 1,300 kcal, much more than an average lunch or dinner. The smoothie is slightly over 300 kcal, and the chocolate is close to 400 kcal.

On the second day, the first warm meal is often something like two chicken breasts, which is about 400 kcal. The second warm meal is again over a 1,000 kcal. The rest of the calories come from the smoothie and the chocolate.

When it's time to break the fast I'm naturally very hungry, but not starving. When I began this experiment, I wasn't working, so I had much more free time. I also slept more and exercised less than I do now, and yet keeping up with the 24/24 hour routine hasn't gotten more difficult as my activity level has increased.

Patience and adaptation, that's really all there is to it.

For more information on intermittent fasting, see these posts:

Intermittent Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity Even without Weight Loss
Intermittent Fasting Experiment – Update after 5 Months
The Psychological Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Controlling Hunger During a Fast: Does Green Tea Help?

Read More......

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