Alan Miller, ND
Executive Director, Medical Education, Thorne Research, Inc.
It’s December and with the holiday season in full swing with all the rich food that often accompanies holiday festivities, we take a look at four nutrients that have been demonstrated to support cardiovascular health.
- The amino acid L-arginine, in addition to being an important cofactor for wound healing, normal inflammation, and immune function, is the nutritional precursor to the production of nitric oxide.The adequate production of nitric oxide in vascular endothelial cells is essential to optimal cardiovascular function.
Nitric oxide functions in endothelial cells as a messenger-molecule to enhance blood vessel regulation, including vasodilation following mechanical and chemical stimuli. With the help of a specific enzyme – endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) – L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide, which then diffuses into the underlying smooth muscle resulting in vasodilation and increased blood flow. In a study of 29 healthy individuals, L-arginine supplementation supported normal vasodilation, blood vessel elasticity, and blood pressure.
- 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF, methyl folate) is the active form of folic acid in the body. 5-MTHF functions as a nutritional cofactor in a number of biochemical processes that involve methylation – which is the transfer of one carbon and three hydrogen atoms from one molecule to another.
Methylation is essential for several reasons: for detoxification, for the recycling of the amino acid metabolite homocysteine to methionine, for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, melatonin, and norepinephrine, and for the production of the amino acid L-carnitine.In the cardiovascular system, in addition to reducing homocysteine concentrations (which helps support normal cardiovascular function), 5-MTHF is a nutritional cofactor for the enzyme eNOS, which, as noted above, is needed to stimulate nitric oxide production and promote healthy blood vessel function.
It is often necessary to supplement with 5-MTHF because approximately 60 percent of the North American population has a genetic mutation that reduces the function of the enzyme 5-methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase, the enzyme that is responsible for converting inactive forms of folate into methyl folate.
- The three branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine are important components of muscle protein synthesis, along with the amino acid lysine. A combination of branched chain and essential amino acids has been shown to improve exercise capacity and heart function in elderly individuals.
In addition to stimulating muscle protein synthesis, these amino acids promote mitochondrial biogenesis – the formation of more mitochondria in each cell, thus resulting in more efficient cellular metabolism and increased production of ATP. Supplementation with these amino acids has also been shown to improve training efficiency in athletes.
- Pantethine is the stable disulfide of pantetheine and the active form of vitamin B5. Pantethine is a nutritional precursor to coenzyme A, which has been demonstrated to help maintain normal blood lipid levels.
Pantethine also assists in the transfer of fatty acids in the mitochondria as an acyl carrier and is a cofactor in the oxidation of pyruvate in the citric acid (Krebs) cycle. In 28 clinical studies, pantethine (at a median amount of 900 mg) helped support the normal metabolism of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.