Emerging Health Threats--A Friend in the Fight
By: Jim Alseth
Three separate headlines appeared recently in my city`s major newspaper stating "Cancer tidal wave looms over country", "Killer flu unstoppable", and "Americans are loaded with chemicals, major study shows."* I wouldn`t have to spend a lot of time convincing our readers that we are facing an increased number of major health challenges which threaten to restrict not only our enjoyment of the outdoors, but our quality of life in general.
These news reports aren`t exactly filled with good news either. In addition to cancer, killer flus and toxins, other foes like Legionnaire`s Disease, SARS and West Nile Virus are also lurking in the shadows. To compound matters, experts are predicting things to get much worse, not better.
In the report on toxins for instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that "most American children and adults are carrying in their bodies dozens of pesticides and toxic compounds used in consumer products, many of them linked to potential health threats." Regarding cancer in Canada, another news story states that "within the next five years, it (cancer) will replace cardiovascular disease as the No. 1 killer" in the nation.
Clearly, the current medical model is not keeping up. "The reason for that," says Dr. Steve Nugent, leading naturopathic physician and North American health expert, "is most research and treatment is based on a faulty health model." This traditional model, he explains, emphasizes a disease-focused, symptom-oriented approach to health. Expensive pharmaceutical and interventional procedures aim to block, alter or manipulate normal body processes in order to reverse symptoms, and almost always have negative side effects.
Is there a health model which better promotes overall health and a complementary science that holds promise for today`s health challenges? Experts at the American Nutraceutical Association believe there is, and it`s built on the premise that the body`s own immune system can fight almost any disease when given the right nutrients. One of those nutrients is a class of foods called glyconutrients and the science behind them is referred to as glycoscience. Over twenty thousand research papers are published annually on this exploding new field of nutrition.
The science is actually quite simple. Glyco means "sugar" or "carbohydrate", and research has found, surprisingly, that our cells can actually "talk" to each other (referred to as cellular communication) by means of a molecular "alphabet" that coats the outside of every cell. This communication is key to immune system function. The molecules of this alphabet are called glycoproteins. Eighty-five percent of glycoproteins are composed of eight specific monosaccharides** (out of approximately 200 found in nature) according to Harper`s Biochemistry.
Herein lies the difficulty and the solution: most North Americans receive only two of these monosaccharides regularly in their diet: glucose and galactose. Under normal conditions the human body is able to synthesize the other six in order to properly construct the cellular alphabet. When the body is fatigued, stressed or injured the process of synthesizing monosaccharides can break down. The language of the cells becomes garbled and since cellular communication is an integral part of immune system function, the immune system weakens. Supplementing the diet with the missing monosaccharides can reverse this effect, allowing the body to rebuild the cellular alphabet and thus help restore immune system function.
While much is still to be learned about this new science, the indications thus far are giving scientists a great deal of optimism. Whole new institutes are emerging solely dedicated to glycobiology research. The effects of glyconutritional supplementation are being documented on websites such as Glyoscience.org. All of this suggests we may have an important new ally in the fight against emerging enemies to our health in the 21st century.
* Two of these articles appeared in October 2005 editions of the Edmonton Journal and the third in August 2005.
** The eight are glucose, galactose, mannose, N-acetylneuraminic acid, fucose, N-acetylgalactosamine, N-acetylglucosamine, and xylose.
Source: Great Camping Spots