~ Multivitamins and Other Natural Compounds Delay HIV Progression and Death

A report published in the July 1 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (http://content.nejm.org/) provides the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of HIV positive women which found that daily supplements of vitamins B, C and E delay the progression of HIV and reduce mortality from the disease.

The trial enrolled 1078 HIV positive pregnant women in Tanzania starting in 1995 and followed them until August 2003. The women were administered 5000 units vitamin A plus 30 milligrams beta carotene per day, a multivitamin regimen consisting of B complex with 500 milligrams vitamin C and 30 milligrams vitamin E, both regimens combined, or a placebo. All participants received prenatal folic acid and iron supplements.

The women were examined monthly throughout the follow-up period. Blood samples taken at the beginning of the study and every six months were analyzed for T-cell subgroup levels. At the study’s conclusion, 31.1 percent of the placebo group experienced disease progression compared to 24.7 of those who received the multivitamin regimen. Additionally, the multivitamin regimen reduced the risk of mortality from the disease, improved T-cell CD4+ and CD8+ counts, and lowered viral loads significantly. The effects of vitamin A and beta-carotene alone did not differ significantly compared to the placebo, and reduced some of the benefits experienced by the multivitamin regimen when added to it.

In an accompanying editorial, Barbara Marston MD and Kevin M DeCock MD recommend a larger trial of nutritional supplements in African patients with HIV to confirm these results, yet write that "individual treatment programs and clinicians would be justified in routinely prescribing this nutritional support, since it may provide a benefit and does no harm."

Green Tea Compound Prevents HIV from Binding to T Cells

The November 2003 issue Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published the findings of Kuzushige Kawai, MD, and colleagues from the University of Tokyo that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a green tea catechin found to be responsible for many of the drink's health benefits, prevents the binding of HIV to human T cells, which is the initiation step in becoming infected with HIV. The description of EGCG's mechanism in blocking HIV is the first of its kind to be published.

The researchers discovered that EGCG prevented the envelope glycoprotein of the human immunodeficiency virus from binding to CD4 molecules located on human T cells, which are the immune cells that are attacked by HIV. In an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal, William T. Shearer, MD, PhD and colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston , Texas report on their use of computer programs to help define the nature of these effects. Dr Shearer stated, "It might be possible to locate the precise EGCG binding spot on the CD4 molecule and compare that spot to where the HIV glycoprotein normally binds, in an attempt to explain the exciting discovery of Dr. Kawai. Molecular modeling of a drug form of EGCG for HIV infection might be a further development of these investigations."

Green tea polyphenols have been demonstrated to provide many health benefits, such as the scavenging of free radicals and protection against cancer and heart disease. The concentrations of EGCG used in this study were are many times greater than what could be achieved by drinking green tea in normal amounts, but ECGC as an isolated agent may prove to be an effective drug in the battle against HIV infection.

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